Unique Networking in Traverse City

“Networking” elicits a gag reflex in most professionals. Who likes shuffling around dingy conference rooms under florescent lights, desperately handing out business cards to people who won’t remember you?

Luckily, northern Michigan provides a thriving environment to meet, mingle, and make connections while actually having fun. In my five years of working in Traverse City post-college, I found a lot of great opportunities that furthered my career. Here are my five favorite non-traditional networking opportunities:

Volunteer at Local Events

Volunteering is an incredible way to meet the people making things happen in a small community. I’ve met so many awesome people through my volunteer work in the TC region. The trick is working for organizations that align with your passions so you’ll find people that share your interests. You’ll meet people whose hobbies align with your own, and likely people you never would have met otherwise.

As a History of Art major with a love for the outdoors, I found volunteer work at arts and recreation organizations in the region. Over the years, I’ve volunteered at the Dennos Museum, Traverse City Film Festival, National Cherry Festival, TART Trail clean-ups, the City Opera House, and State Theatre. I’m still close friends with people I met through these opportunities. My husband, a bonafide sports fanatic, connected with parents and kids alike as a baseball coach for high school and summer baseball leagues. One of his former players is a bus boy at our favorite restaurant, and it’s always fun to see him when we go out to dinner (plus, he gives great menu recommendations!).

Join the Traverse City Young Professionals

The TCYP program (part of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce) is geared towards young professionals (ages 20-40) in our region. They meet once a month and host a variety of activities throughout the year. If you’re looking for a low-key setting to meet people and learn about our region, I highly recommend joining.

These dedicated, hard-working people come from a variety of industries.They acquaint transplanted Millennials and Gen Xer’s with our region, sharing both things to do and available jobs. The YPs are some of the most helpful networking catalysts I’ve found.

You can learn more about the TCYPs on their website, or follow them on Facebook.

Shop, Eat, and Drink Locally

Few people have a better understanding of TC’s inner-workings than the local merchants downtown. Next time you’re downtown for dinner, shopping, or catching a drink with friends, take the time to talk with the workers and owners of the places you love. These individuals are dedicated to our region and actively involved in shaping its future. They usually have the inside scoop on what to do and where to go.

Remember, they serve the businesswomen and businessmen of our community. Maybe they’ve caught wind of a new company or a CEO who’s looking to fill some openings. If nothing else, you may make some new friends!

Join a Board

Joining a board is an excellent way to take the next step in your professional career. Seek out organizations with causes close to your heart and ask if there are any leadership committees or board openings.

The great thing about being on a board is you’re encouraged to use your strengths. You can prove your knowledge about a specialty field in the presence of other motivated people. Like most things, it’s all about who you know. By demonstrating your skills to fellow board members, doors will open with other professionals.

Bar Trivia

Ok, hear me out. I know it sounds like a stretch, but bar trivia is a great way to meet awesome, fun-loving people in TC. I spent a few months visiting Rare Bird for trivia night and it’s one of the few times I’ve felt like a “regular” somewhere. It’s lively, competitive, and I always learned something new!

I started going with a couple close friends. If we were short a player, someone would bring a new face along and I’d get to know them while we worked together on our questions. Since many teams play each week, I met other “regulars” during my tenure at Rare Bird. In the end, I’d rather nom on delicious food and challenge my brain than attend another lame networking event.

Do you have a favorite way to make connections? Share in the comments! 

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