As soon as you hit college—and even more so after you graduate—older, wiser people stress the importance of building a strong network. But if you’re like me, formal conferences and happy hours don’t always feel like the most natural places to hand over your business card. Sometimes it just feels way too formal; other times it just feels like there is so much pressure to impress—or be something you’re not.
[Related: Networking While Still Employed]
The good news is you can make connections just about anywhere. Just take it from these ladies, who expanded their social circles in a few unlikely places.
1. At a Concert.
“I got my networking on sans-office when I connected with a fellow media professional at a FADER magazine-sponsored 2Chainz concert. The media line to get in was wrapped around the corner, so I looked to see if there was a familiar face in the crowd. I spotted an acquaintance of mine, Shay. She let me stand in line with her and we chatted about a job interview I had earlier that day. Shay emailed me the next morning, connecting me with another woman in our industry. I ended up having a convo with the woman Shay connected me to, who offered me great advice to prepare me for my second-round interview. I not only got the job but gained a great new contact.” —Shelby Ivey Christie, 24, associate planner at Mindshare
“I went to an album release concert for Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady” album. I brought my friend, who wore a Howard Alumni sweatshirt, which became a conversation starter as we mixed and mingled around the crowd. One alumnus who stopped us to chat was an editor at ESSENCE. We exchanged cards and a few weeks later she treated me to lunch and took me around her office for an informational interview. I kept in touch with her because we had so many things in common—we were both Southern transplants who lived in Harlem and we went to the same church. A year later, she offered me an opportunity to work with her at the magazine and I had my byline in a national magazine for the April 2015 issue!” —Brittney Oliver, 26, freelance writer and marketing communications professional
[Related: How to Write the Perfect Networking Email]
2. At a Restaurant
“About 3 years ago, while I was still in college and before I had even started thinking about moving to DC, I took a summer study class here. One day, I struck up a conversation with a man while eating brunch and studying alone at Busboys and Poets. He was interested in the work I was studying and when I told him that I was interested in working in public relations, he gave me his card and a list of contacts that I should reach out to while I was here for the class.” —Jourdan Lawrence, 24, legislative correspondent at the U.S. House of Representatives
3. On Social Media
“I landed my current position by reaching out to a woman in the marketing department on Facebook. I invited her to coffee and we began emailing regularly. A year (plus several interviews) later, I started working there.” —L’Oreal Payton, 28, media relations manager for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
“A few weeks ago, I was contacted on Instagram by a freshman in college who wanted some advice for a startup venture she and her friends wanted to get off the ground. She found me through a hashtag and realized I went to the same school as she did, just on a graduate level. Coming from an all-business school, it’s rare to find designers and journalists like us, so we decided to meet up for coffee. When I first agreed to meet with her, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was able to give her and her friends advice about next steps for their product, and one of them was able to link me to a local mentoring start-up I’m interested in getting involved in.” —Andrea Reeves, 22, graduate student at Babson College and a campus editor for LinkedIn
4. On the Job
“After I graduated from Clark Atlanta University, I returned home to New York City. I briefly worked at the department store Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, before I landed my first editorial job at a health website. One day a woman came in and I vividly remember she wanted a mint green BCBG dress off the mannequin. I told her she could give me her card and I would call visuals, then let her know when I’d gotten the dress down. When she handed it over I noticed she was the PR director for the New York Post. Instantly, I went into “elevator pitch” mode. I told her my name and that I was a recent graduate and would love some pro tips on how to land a job in media. She instantly invited me to her office so we could chat. She gave me an article that I still hold near and dear to my heart, ‘33 Ways to Stay Creative’ and also gave me the confidence to start my blog.” —Nicolette Tucker, 26, associate digital editor at Haute Living and founding editor of theprimandperverse.com
5. In an Uber
“A few weeks ago, I was getting in a Uber pool (a cheaper alternative to Uber, where you share a ride with someone going in the same direction as you). After picking me up, my driver stopped at the World Trade Center to get the other passenger. Knowing that Conde Nast was located in the building, I suspected that the women might have worked there. I struck up a conversation and turns out she was an editor at Glamour. I used our ride as an informational opportunity and asked her for a few tips about the industry. We ended up really hitting it off and at the end of the ride, she gave me her business card and offered to set up meetings with some of her co-workers. It was definitely a more personal experience than just meeting someone at a networking event!” —Lindsey Murray, 22, assistant editor at Health magazine
[Related: How To Make Your Networking Conversations More Meaningful]