Call it a personal quest, but it’s a mission of mine to help redefine the way people think about the word “networking.” Why? Because “networking” has become synonymous with selfishness, when at its root, I believe it’s about selflessness.
I founded an organization in 2011 called Network Under 40 to help young professionals make friends and business contacts in a peer-to-peer environment. There, many 20- and 30-somethings share with me the challenges they face in building relationships after college. People’s paths diverge, bars aren’t an ideal location to make friends, co-workers aren’t always friend material and most “networking” events are just guises for singles scenes or pushy salespeople.
Recognizing my gift as a connector, I saw that I could create an environment to provide a solution. Ever since, thousands of people in multiple cities have forged new friendships and business relationships as a result.
Yet, all the while, I continue to hear things like, “networking doesn’t work” and “I don’t need to network,” with which I wholeheartedly disagree. Those who think it doesn’t work are generally looking to quickly gain something or are hanging out in the wrong places. And for those who say they have no need, the moment they need a resource from someone, it’s too late.
You need to be growing relationships at a time when you have nothing to take — only something to offer — so that when your time comes to ask, you don’t appear self-serving.
That being the case, consider checking out these organizations that are helping young people to redefine networking as what it should be doing: cultivating authentic relationships with those with whom you naturally connect — with no self-serving agenda.
The impact-event company Breakout takes the innovative, creative and entrepreneurial-minded to some of the most interesting emerging U.S. markets for immersive under-the-hood experiences you won’t get as a tourist (or frankly even as a local).
These weekends take attendees out of their daily routines and plant them in new environments, face-to-face with local leaders and change-makers. As a result, deep relationships are forged, and paths are laid out for collaborative impact through resource-sharing.
Want to meet wellness and fun-minded peers, but not over alcohol? Then perhaps Daybreaker (or its newest incarnation, Dusk) is for you. Meeting at clubs but at dawn or dusk, and without alcohol, attendees share experiences like yoga and “sober dance parties” and subsequently kick-start new connections.
This invite-only group Summit Series could well be described as a “Davos for the next generation.” Whether the setting is a gathering at the organization’s mountain retreat in Utah, or its chartered cruiseliner, those who attend, who want to grow, let loose, collaborate and dream big, meet here. The series is described as a place to “catalyze positive personal and collective growth,” and a place where quick and deep relationships are made.
Specific to entrepreneurs under the age of 40 with $1 million in annual revenue or the same level of funding, YEC mixes digital and in-person connections among entrepreneurial peers nationwide. It’s a powerful group of young business minds who willingly work together to share ideas and resources and inevitably make friends along the way.
Want to make an impact in your city but not sure how? Then perhaps Global Shapers (a division of the World Economic Forum) is for you (if you’re between the ages of 20 and 30). This is a great place to be if you can snag a spot to sit alongside the future leaders of your city who want to give back in a tangible way. More so, this global network of hubs provides for an incredible web of contacts no matter where in the world you find yourself.
This list only scratches the surface, as there are plenty more organizations and methods to help you expand your network through shared interests, stages of life and experiences.
So if none of these is a fit for you, find alternate ways. My challenge to you is to not become content. Continue to challenge yourself by being around the right people and, in turn, seeing the power for growth, learning and sharing that comes from these networking relationships turned to so much more.
This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.