It has been said that the key to life and/or business is personal relationships. Jerry Maguire made it popular, but I, for one, believe that it has been this way since human beings started interacting with one another. We are wired for personal connection and a multitude of things happen when people interact.
With that said, what better way to interact with other people who share an interest with you than at a local User Group? Think about it, when you are meeting someone for the first time, one of the things that makes people nervous is finding things to talk about. At a User Group, you have a built-in conversation point right from the start – the similar interest that brought you to the group.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you have an opportunity to meet and connect with a large group of people in a more intimate setting. At a conference or a larger event, it’s hard to really have a meaningful conversation when there are so many people. User Groups make it much easier given the smaller venue and the intimate set-up.
If you are looking for a new opportunity or looking to do some business development or sales, a user group might be a great way to “prime the pump.” I am not an advocate for actively pitching or selling at a user group; there is a time and place for that down the road. A user group is a great place for someone to show his/her authentic self. It allows other people to see who you are as a human being and connect with you without the pressure of something having to be bought or sold.
Think about it this way: Pretend for a minute that you are contemplating looking for a new career opportunity. Your current role is not shaping up like you thought it would, and you have decided that you need something new. You go to one of the User Groups that you find on meetup.com and you strike up a conversation with another attendee. After asking some questions about their background and interests, you find out that they work for a company you might be interested in. You spend some time in conversation and by your enthusiasm and interest in the subject matter, you two begin to develop a relationship. After the meet-up, you make plans to grab a coffee and talk in greater detail about what you both are doing from a professional standpoint. During that conversation, you mention that you “might” be looking to do something new. Now your new friend can go back to his or her office and tell their boss that they met someone who might be a good fit for the team. That happened organically, without online applications and job boards.
Employee referrals are like gold for companies. You might have found your way in just by being yourself, putting yourself out there, making new friends, and learning something new about a subject that you had an interest in to begin with.
There are a TON of User Groups out there. Find one and go check it out. Meet some new people. Share your knowledge and interests. I promise, you that you won’t be disappointed.
Remember the key to life is personal relationships. Cultivating new friendships is fun. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.
About Chris Spintzyk