Networking doesn't have to feel like a sale. Or an awkwardly ostentatious forum for egotistical schmoozing and one-upmanship.
Networking should feel more like socializing—finding common interests and then sharing ideas and solutions to problems—especially in Portland's diverse but cooperative small business culture.
So-called networking "events" shouldn't even necessarily be formal affairs or paid conferences, but rather a real, honest encounter where you can develop professional collaboration or even a friendship. And while networking often means breaking out of your shell and putting your best foot forward, many difficult situations in life are also moments of growth and require going outside of your comfort zone.
But, you can use new school, digital means to initiate contact with the groups and individuals you're interested in approaching before tackling the in-person encounter. Many small business education opportunities are also great places for networking, but here are few more ideas to help you find the like minds that surround you in your own city.
Make Internet Friends
Social media networks provide immense opportunities to find others with similar tastes and cultivate online relationships. These relationships don't take much effort and there's no cost.
Social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have both private and public groups for every field imaginable. Start with an alumni group or widely recognized association or even just search the listings until some piques your interest. A site that's even more specific is Biznik, a community of independent business people, where you can create a profile, add friends, join conversations, and find events to attend.
Then, the interaction is up to you—simply follow along to see what others are talking about or interact, communicating with people without even joining a paid-group and then feeling bad because you never attended any events or mixers.