- Millennials are spending less time networking face-to-face with using social media instead to connect with colleagues. But networking in person has been key to my career. When I first moved to Los Angeles four years ago, I didn't know anyone who could connect me to journalism opportunities. So I immediately jumped on Meetup.com and found several groups that could help me get my foot in the door in the city. While climbing the ladder within my career, I later realized I could do the same for my passion — creative writing. Though I've been networking for my passion for a few years, I plan to kick it up a notch in 2018 and below are some tips to get started and stay engaged.
search for groups who meet in person
For in-person networking, social media still helps. Meetup, for example, has thousands of groups worldwide dedicated to various interests. Search for your passion in your region and groups that pertain to what you want should show up. On Meetup, I've found writing groups and book clubs with preferences to women, millennial women, black women, and even black millennial women so be as specific as you want. You can also list interests on your profile and the site can lead you to the new groups sprouting up every day that connect to your interests. When selecting a group, look to see if the group is active by checking out recent and upcoming events.
Lean In, a social media site that stemmed from Sheryl Sandberg's best-selling book, also lets users create circles of like-minded people in their regions for members to meet at events.
Facebook is still the top place to find groups. Many are closed, but once you hit the button that you're interested in joining and answer a small questionnaire, the group should allow you in. There, members might ask and answer questions on how to break into your passion with organizers holding local events to meet in person. Looking for a group that offers support over the web and at events could sustain your spark longer compared to a group that solely depends on web communication.
Google can also lead to stand-alone organizations with their own websites and built-in social features where you can find events to connect with others. Many organizations may also have paid members, so by looking at the opportunities that they offer, decide if investing in membership for better access to the events could move your goals forward. I joined a women's writer association officially with paying member fees, for example, after I found out it was holding a member-only reading event for authors. I wanted to read my work aloud for the first time, so I paid the annual membership of $50 and now have better access to opportunities that were not offered to non-members.
find people who have the 'it' factor
Once you find a group or a few, you'll meet all types of people, but some might stick out as potential collaborators and supporters. If there's a magic connection, grab them! In networking, especially when it's your passion and not career (yet), people will drop off due to other time constraints, so getting their name and preferable contact information could keep you in touch with someone who might be able to meet you for coffee but can't make it to group events.
The creative writing community, for example, tends to be white with ages 50 and up, but there were people in my age group who were black or of color or looked totally cool at events I had been to. I always assumed they would come back, but they didn't. Then they fell off the social media site, or they weren't responsive there. In hindsight, I would've gotten their contact information. Now, I make sure to ask people if we can follow each other on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, exchange digits and business cards, or whatever their preferred route of communication is before either of us leave.
Evolve if the network isn't working
Let's say you go to a group event once or twice and realize you're not going to connect with the people. Don't fret. On paper, the group might have sounded awesome, but in reality, it's not for you, so move to the next group.
When I first started networking with the creative writing community in Los Angeles, I joined a free critique group. For writers, that's like finding gold because most groups focus on writing in coffeehouses, but this group actually looked at 10 pages of work every week and offered insight on improvements. The group was mostly white seniors without literary industry connections who didn't understand the context of my work. So I left. I paid for a writing workshop with my favorite young adult author whom I met at an event sponsored by that women's writer association whose chapter president I met at a book festival (networking to the nth degree!). Working with the author and group of all women, many of them millennials, I received better feedback because they understood my work.
From networking, I recently hosted a writers' reading event in Hollywood under the guidance of a rising black author I met through the same women's writer association in which I'm joining the board soon. That's just one example. If you want to take your side hustle to another level in 2018, try networking with others in person who can not only keep you on track for the rest of the year, but also can connect you to a world where your goals can soar.