You no longer need to network. Yes, I said it; network no more. Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief? Yeah, we all hate networking (even those who claim to love it). And according to a panel of experts at SXSW 2017, the old style of networking is out.

So, forget those horrible cocktail hours wandering around with the ice in your drink melted and dripping down your hand while you scan the crowd for a friendly-looking stranger who isn’t too creepy to talk to.

Let’s roll out the red carpet for the new way to network: community building and authentic relationships.

Now doesn’t that just sound lovely?

Community building

“Formal networking is dumb,” reads the official “Networking Sucks. Build Communities People Love”description. “It is impersonal, one-sided, and even a little awkward. Good networking comes from building awesome communities where it is a natural byproduct. A community should be a safe space where peers can communicate ideas, create lasting friendships, and empower others to break out of their comfort zone.”

Formal networking is dumb. It is impersonal, one-sided, and even a little awkward.

Need we say more? I’m pretty sure we’d all

As the panel discussed community building, some major ideas came forward. To create a successful community that supports this new type of networking, the community needs to create a shared experience and to attract people who are like-minded.

Ben Thoma who is a co-founder of the Creative Mornings chapter in Austin put it this way, “We treat networking as a dirty word. A shared experience is important. It doesn’t take a lot for you to be connected to someone, and that can lead to the next thing and the next thing. Austin is a town where collaboration trumps competition, and I’d like to believe the world is heading that way. You don’t say, ‘I want to work with that guy who gave me a business card.’ You say, ‘I want to do business with my friend.’ Giving you that shared experience ultimately gives you the value you’re seeking in that community.”

After an event, when you review the pile of business cards you collected, the major problem with networking becomes apparent. So often, there’s no connection. The cards and names that stand out will be of those whom you made a personal connection with. Maybe they told a hilarious story or you share a hobby Shared experience bring us together with like-minded people.

After an event, when you review the pile of business cards you collected, the major problem with networking becomes apparent. So often, there’s no connection.

That’s networking in the guise of community building. Building a community is fun and often, you’ll be unintentionally networking.

Authenticity

One of the major keywords that popped up throughout “Networking Sucks. Build Communities People Love” was authenticity.

Another major problem with the way we all currently network is the falseness and surface-level way that we connect with others. The mistake that most people make when networking is that their sole focus is who they can meet and how that person can enhance their career.

When we allow vulnerability and interact authentically with others, we’re more likely to take an interest in their needs and desires. Though counterintuitive, this approach will be more likely to lead you to a personally and professionally beneficial relationship.

Within a community, the authentic factor often presents itself in a lack of competition. Zoha Shafiq, co-founder of the fresh2design community, put it this way, “A community empowers its individuals: there’s no pressure.”

This empowerment from the community builds authentic relationships that can create honest networking and professional growth opportunities. The members support and encourage one another, instead of trying to climb over others to get to the best person to network with.

Remember when working with a community, TK Okada, the panel moderator and co-founder of the fresh2design community says, “It’s hard to measure impact because it’s squishy. That’s what’s great about communities: It’s organic, it’s not quantifiable.”

Shafiq said it best, “If you really want networking, joining a community is even better. In the end, you really are networking.”

Four tips for building your community

If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and get a better type of networking, here are a few tips on how to build your community.

  1. Keep in touch. If you meet someone who means something to you, stay in touch. That might be a quick email periodically, a Facebook message, or even a handwritten thank you note. Courtesy of Dayna Steele, this is one of my favorite ways to stay in touch and leave an impression on someone I met and want to stay in touch with.

    Because seriously, who doesn’t love getting a nice note in the mail? I think even Millennials are fans.

  2. Share. When building your community it’s important to share. Whether that’s a success you had, a failure, a funny anecdote, or an offer to help someone. Keep the lines of communication open by sharing what’s going on with your network. It might be over a Twitter chat, LinkedIn, a spin class, or just with friends over a glass of wine.

  3. Join and invite. Until you join a community, there’s no way to know what you’ll like and dislike. There are so many communities out there that are already built. There’s Meetup groups, professional groups, social activism, and groups online, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

    Don’t forget that this new form of networking doesn’t, and shouldn’t

    Once you find a group you like, stick with it. And invite others to join you and your new community. This is another way of giving back, by introducing others into the fold. And don’t get stagnant. Make sure to search for other groups that are similar or on the edge of your interests.

  4. Trust your gut. When you meet someone and you think they could be a great friend or great business contact, trust that feeling and try to cultivate the relationship.

    According to an unofficial study by Inc., hundreds of successful executives that were interviewed could name 25 or 30 relationships that had made a difference in their careers. For each of those key relationships, they knew from the start that they would make a difference.

Whether you’re looking for a career shift, for a new job, or just to make friends, community building is so much better, and more fun, for professional and personal growth. So ditch the business cards and authentically enjoy the company of your fellow like-minded humans.

Page Grossman became an entrepreneur at 22, knowing that she never wanted to settle down in a cubicle. With a degree in journalism, some money in a savings account, and Millennial-spirit, Page founded her own freelance writing business. Page writes about creating an intentional lifestyle through travel, finances, entrepreneurship, health, fitness, and nutrition. Depending on the day, you can find her writing for various blogs, slaying SEO, researching grammar questions, banishing the Lorem Ipsum, fostering kittens, and traveling the world on Instagram.