Cocktail parties. Crowded conferences. Brief business card exchanges — the tenets of traditional networking. While all those things certainly have their place, they are seldom a good method by which to build a solid network.
Unfortunately, in such environments there is rarely time to form relationships in earnest and of those in attendance, mentalities akin to the hunter are sometimes seen. Like fishermen casting nets, you may even witness some individuals impersonally rushing to collect as many contacts as possible or egotistically boasting only of their own accomplishments in an imprudent effort to be seen as desirable to work with.
But the intent of meeting someone should not be to simply pass off a job title. To build a strong network, one full of people who you know, trust, care about, and collaborate with, it is essential to both listen and share something worthwhile. As Scott Belsky of Behance put it: “Sharing is the new networking.”
The truth is, if you make great things and you have the guts to share them, and share the great things other people are making, great people will find you. In my experience, the best people, people I have later worked with, have been individuals I met while making things together — working on art councils and community volunteer projects. And when you find those individuals, share with each other meaningful things — what inspires you, your aspirations, and the things you’ve learned along the way.
Where do you share? Anywhere. Over coffee. Over drinks. In-person. Online. Sitting next to a stranger. It’s not the forum that matters, it’s the conversation that’s important.