Don't Let Your Situation Stop You: The 10 Most Nontraditional Places To Network

When it comes to clichés, we're all familiar with the old adage that places all of the importance on networking: “In this world, it's about whom you know, not what you know.” Becoming a connoisseur of the art of networking will leave you with as many connections as possible to test the validity of that theory.

Networking is about more than initiating relationships. In fact, the people you meet with the intent of networking are unlikely to turn into flourishing friendships.

These can turn into your next clients, business partners or sources of information, however. This brings me to my next point. In business, there's another cliché that drives deals: “You're better off with the devil you do know than the devil you don't.”

While most of us have a general idea of the traditional places to network (alumni events, company outings, etc.), there are many other places to meet people who will improve your professional network, as well as your social. Here are 10 nontraditional places to network:

1. Weddings

Ask any newlyweds and they'll probably tell you that cutting down the guest list to their wedding was probably one of the hardest aspects of planning. After all, getting married might be the most joyous occasion in life for those who choose to settle down. Who wouldn't want everyone they know to witness their happiest (and flashiest) moment? A wedding with a long guest list means you’re unlikely to know everyone in attendance, even if you're a best friend of the bride and groom. At a wedding such as this, repeating the question, "So, how do you know such and such?" is a guaranteed way to network.

2. The Gym

In truth, any place that you frequent outside of work and school is a good place to network in a nontraditional sense. Gyms, especially, offer you an opportunity to get fit and friendly at the same time. As you fall into a routine (a set workout time, your favorite spots in the gym, your rotation, etc.), you'll likely begin to notice those who share the same routine as you. This offers you the perfect chance to get to know fellow gym-goers past the occasional hello, as you inevitably spot them during daily workouts or join a pickup basketball team.

3. The Internet/Blogosphere

It may not require face-to-face interaction, but networking on the Internet is a surefire way to meet people, particularly for those who engage in sub-cultures. Take bloggers, for example: If there's a guy who, say, starts a basketball blog and begins to gain a significant following, that guy is likely to catch the eye of other bloggers who are familiar with the niche.

What usually ends up happening, then, is that this community of bloggers begins to interact with each other more often (because who doesn't want to discuss passions with someone who shares their own?), which shapes a resulting relationship that can lead to new opportunities.

4. Religious Events

No matter what religion one practices, there is likely to be one common denominator in the aftermath of all religious events: The vast majority of people will be as amicable as they ever will be during a day. With a positive mood comes a higher tolerance for conversations that might not be otherwise entertained. After all, everyone wants to be nice when the love of G-d has been refreshed, right?

5. Smoke Breaks

Yours truly isn't exactly fond of tobacco, but one can't deny its impact from a social standpoint, especially when you can trace a certain special opportunity to smoke breaks. The amount of conversations incited from the words, "You got a light?" are endless, and people end up spending more time with each other simply because they share the same habit. What do you think goes on while they're standing there on the sidewalk? Small talk can only remain small for so long.

6. Housewarming Parties

The words "all are welcome" are the best friends of anyone who wants to show off their new pad, and everyone knows that showing off is done best when the largest amount of guests possible is able to witness it. This means that, like most places where nontraditional networking can take place, there are bound to be several new faces around, faces that could become familiar if you decide to extend your hand and initiate conversation.

7. Anywhere With An Open Bar

Liquor is a powerful agent; it prompts people to do and say things they otherwise would not. It can actually be pretty annoying if that effect occurs around the wrong people, but if you're around people whom you want in your social network, alcohol might be your best friend. Successful people tend to be two things when they've had too many drinks: braggers and generous people.

This means that you'll hear all about his job, business and any opportunities he might be in the position to hand out, as he’ll be more than happy to give you all of the information you need -- if you ask for it.

8. The Actual Bar

This might go without saying, but the bar is a great place to meet people. The tricky part, though, is actually remembering the names of those people. Often, you might find it tempting to seek only one mutual benefit when linking up with somebody at the bar: having cool people to really enjoy getting sauced with (or hammered, if you will). In the event that you don't end up having to rely on a designated driver, however, you might find that a bar is the perfect place to get to know someone on a civilized level, as well. Imagine that.

9. Sporting Events

It's funny what a win for your favorite team can do to you, isn't it? A big touchdown, a game-tying three, a potential no-hitter and all of a sudden, you're hugging, high five-ing (and kissing?) everyone around you. When it comes to the people around you at any sporting event, you're automatically put on a level that is equivalent to a casual friend.

During timeouts, quarter breaks, halftime or the seventh inning stretch, you'll likely talk to any of your new friends-for-the-day about the very team you've come to support. Then, perhaps you'll go on to talking about how long you've supported the team. You might even discuss the lengths you've gone to show that support and the distances you've traveled to see the event live. Hopefully from there the conversation will flow into even deeper topics of conversation.

10. (Surprise) Birthday Events

Birthday celebrations place the focus all on one person, but not everyone can get a piece of the birthday boy or girl’s attention at the same time. When you're not in the face of the birthday boy or girl, wishing them a happy one, you'll be networking with the other partygoers.

Why not do so by talking to the friend of the friend of the friend who somehow found his or her way to the party, and is now slightly regretting it because he or she has exhausted two conversations with the only two people he or she knows.

Hopefully that painted a familiar picture. The next time you encounter such an opportune networking scenario, though, don’t pass it by.

Photo credit: HBO