Fri., September 13, 2013 7:38am (EDT)

WORKING: Unconventional Networking
By Joshua Stewart
Updated: 10 months ago

ATLANTA  —  
Job-searching and career advancement are all about building your professional network. Our career expert, Brandon Smith, says you should be thinking about building networks no matter what you’re doing, from shopping for produce at the local farmers’ market to working out at the gym. (Photo Courtesy of Philippe Ramakers via stock.xchng.)
Job-searching and career advancement are all about building your professional network. Our career expert, Brandon Smith, says you should be thinking about building networks no matter what you’re doing, from shopping for produce at the local farmers’ market to working out at the gym. (Photo Courtesy of Philippe Ramakers via stock.xchng.)
Job-searching and career advancement are all about building your professional network – connecting with acquaintances and former co-workers, with social media, and with people at places where you want to work.

Our career expert, Brandon Smith, says you should be thinking along those same lines when you are shopping for produce at the local farmers’ market or working out at the gym.

Those are just two of several unconventional places where Smith says you can build relationships that could lead to a new job.

“In this it’s more about the relationship,” said Smith, a career coach, consultant and business professor. “Be a little more real, be able to just talk about how things are going in life and then what you’re looking for. And, if you can, try to be as specific as possible.”

Farmers’ Markets


These markets – much like the next two places – are what Smith called “community hubs.”

“When you’re maybe going [to the farmers’ market] every week and you’re meeting with the same people – not only the people selling you produce but the other people that are there buying stuff – you have common interests,” Smith said. That opens the door to talking about what you’re buying, how you’re planning to cook it, and eventually, other aspects of your life.

Religious Institutions


Smith said you have advantage of seeing these people almost every week and potentially more often if you participate in Bible study or other religious gatherings through the week.

“You’re learning more about them on their spiritual side, and that can naturally flow into, ‘well, when you’re not here, what do you do Monday through Friday?’” Smith said.

Kids’ School


Parents involved in their children’s school – like through the PTA – can meet other parents who might connect them with new opportunities, Smith said.

That happened recently for one of his clients.

“She was a physician and she left full-time work to be home with her kids but really got involved in her kids’ school,” he said. “Turns out that one of the other moms is also a physician, and she works for another physician medical association where they need a physician to do writing and editing.

“She immediately thought of my client and open the door. Now she’s got a full-time offer.”

Gym


“My experience in the gym is, there are typically two kinds of people,” Smith said. “There are the people who are pretty hardcore that just want to focus on their workout, but then about the other 50 percent are the gym socializers.”

He said these less-serious exercisers are naturally curious about the rest of your life and you already have the common interest of working out.

Smith said other places you frequent – the nail or hair salon, the barbershop, the coffee shop, the neighborhood restaurant – all offer potential relationships you can build and use to find opportunities.

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at theworkplacetherapist.com. While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.