How to network like an American
When working in a foreign country, like the US, building up your network can help you become established sooner rather than later.
We often hear that people who are successful in their career are just lucky, but the reality is that luck is the intersection of preparedness and opportunity. While you may be prepared for that next great opportunity, who you know is as important as what you know.
Most people find their opportunities through their connections, but meeting new people who are able to help takes time. The good thing about being in the US is that you can meet people almost anywhere, and Americans are often very willing to introduce their connections with business synergies.
Wherever you go, be sure to bring your business cards so you can exchange contact information. Outside of standard places to network, like conferences, trade shows, professional organisations and alumni events, here’s a list of places to meet new people to give your career some extra, unexpected luck:
If you like to hike, dance, speak a foreign language or just want to talk shop, no matter your professional or personal interests, there’s a Meetup group just for that. These gatherings can attract a handful of people to large groups interested in a specific topic. Talking about your interests is a great way to create new connections. As you become more involved in a group, you’ll be able to create deeper connections.
Americans love their sports. While finding a shinty game may be a challenge, there are amateur leagues you can join to compete in almost every sport. Whether you like team sports, like soccer, American football, basketball, rugby, baseball, kickball, softball or cricket, or prefer individual sports, like tennis, golf, ping-pong, cycling, rock climbing or running, there are groups and leagues for just about every activity.
As you compete for a league championship, practice your short game or cycle those last few miles in a century ride, you’ll build camaraderie and respect with members of that group. Those people you compete with or against could become great friends and valuable connections for your career.
Whatever your passion, be it knitting, roller-skating, drawing, darts, magic or something else, joining a club focused on these is a great way to expand your network. There are groups that meet regularly, and you can find one in your area through Meetup, searching the Internet or asking colleagues who also share that interest.
If you love to read, book clubs meet every month to discuss literature and life while enjoying a glass of wine. Most people are expected to read the book for a planned discussion, but more often than not, discussions tend to go off topic, as these gatherings are really just great excuses to catch up with old and new friends.
Many museums and cultural establishments, like the New York Public Library, have membership organisations that you can join by making a donation. Aside from discounted entries, members can also attend special tours and parties where you can socialise with other members. Mingling while discussing modern art is a great way to break the ice, and that art connoisseur may also work within the same industry as you, to boot.
Rather than rent office space or hold meetings in offices, many people have instead resorted to working and meeting at their local coffee shops. People hold networking meetings, conduct job interviews and hold business strategy meetings while sipping on cappuccinos. If you frequent the same coffee shop, you’ll likely run into writers, lawyers, computer programmers, producers and many other professionals. If you’re able to strike up a conversation with someone, you may be pleasantly surprised about the connection you make, but to do that, you have to be a regular and get to know the other regulars.
Your furry, four-legged friend can be a great conversation starter. Americans love their pets, and they frequent dog parks, agility courses and training classes. Sometimes, people just go for long walks with their pet too. People tend to frequent the same dog parks and classes, so regardless of what your pooch is doing, make an effort to get to know the other dog owners who are open to a conversation. Seeing the same people at the same dog parks and classes only makes socialising easier, and you never know who else is walking their dog.
Giving back to the community is important to many Americans, and they do this by organising and attending fundraisers or by donating their time. Volunteering provides people with an opportunity to get to know people while working on a common cause. These are great ways to expand your network and make important connections with people who may also become lifelong friends.
Grabbing drinks with friends, co-workers or other social or professional groups is a common after work activity. Aside from your group, that popular watering hole is often filled with other professionals. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to meet new people who can help you build your network.
About the author
Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest, Entrepreneur.com, FOXBusiness.com, Global Finance and InstitutionalInvestor.com.