Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Favorite Ways to Expand Your Network

Are you ever looking for something new to get involved in or a way to meet more people? Having moved to a new place a few times now, I’ve found a couple easy and fun ways to meet people and explore the city.
You may have lived in the same place all your life and feel like you’re an expert, but it’s never too late to get involved in something new or be open to meeting other people in the city. The following three recommendations are my favorite ways to meet new people: (1) Volunteering (2) Meet-up groups (3) Sports leagues and community classes are all great ways to become both more active and social, while expanding your network.

One of my favorite ways to discover new volunteering organizations is through Chicago Cares (note that other cities have very similar websites such as New York Cares). This is a great way to explore new neighborhoods with one-time commitments ranging from volunteering at a senior center, homeless kitchen, tutoring, or helping clean parks, etc.

Another great way to volunteer is through tutoring or mentoring programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and Minds Matter. I got involved in Minds Matter and I’m now a mentor for five Chicago inner-city high school students, which is not only extremely rewarding, but also a great way to meet other young professionals in the city. – If you’re interested in taking on a leadership role by joining the board of directors of a non-profit, this is a great website to check out. You can go online and post your information about your work experience and skills and find opportunities that interest you on this site. Through this website, I got involved with Global Youth for Education & Change and joined the Board of Directors last year. It’s been a great way to meet other motivated and passionate individuals who share similar goals in trying to improve the communities we live in.

Meet-up Groups/Grub With Us/Mac N’ Cheese – good way to join groups online based on your interests. I've found a lot of great groups that focus on startups and entrepreneurship, which has been an amazing resource for keeping up with the startup scene (two of my favorites are Chicago Health 2.0 and Chicago Lean Startup Circle)
Grub with Us – explore new restaurants with complete strangers or other people that share the same interests as you. You can create a profile online, follow different interests, and then pay upfront typically about $20-30 for dinners (excludes drinks)
Mac N’ Cheese Minglers – get on Saya’s mailing list, bring something to the potluck (costs $15), and you meet about 20-40 random people – for networking, professional, social or relationships

Sports & Community Classes
Chicago Area Runners / Achilles International – for people who enjoy running and looking for a group
Chicago Sport & Social Club – check out the kickball, flag football, soccer leagues etc. – get a group of friends together and form a team!
Old Town School Classes – great for art, music, dance and theater classes

And by expanding your network with these different activities, you're bound to meet others with great ideas and new ventures!

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