Whether you have come to live in New Hampshire as a transplant, a boomerang (glad to have you back), or you are one of the wise ones who never left, I have no doubt that you know the State’s greatest assets are our highly engaged and connected communities. It may take some effort to become a part of the fabric of these communities, but once you are in, it is obvious why New Hampshire is a great place to live! One of the best ways to tap into your community is through the regional Leadership Programs that the local Chambers of Commerce has developed. If ever there is a place to meet young engaged people, these programs are it!
No matter where you live, the best way to meet and get to know other people in your community is to start participating in something. The ten regional Leadership Programs are all a little different as they are tailored to their respective region. However, the programs are all based on the same concept, building community and nurturing the next generation of leaders. The programs are one year long with each session focused on a specific topic. The beauty of these regional Leadership Programs is that they don’t focus on just one topic. If your interests lie with the criminal justice system, they’ve got a session on that! If you fancy seeing how the sausage is made in our state government, they’ve got a session on that! If arts and culture gives you the tingles, they’ve got a session on that! There is a session for everyone’s interest, so come on down!
I am going all used car salesmen on you because I think these programs are great assets to young people in New Hampshire and they are a great place to meet really interesting people in your community! It just so happens that Stay Work Play is about ten steps ahead of me (queue applause for Will, Beth, and Sarah), and they have a convenient webpage that talks about all the regional Leadership Program as well as a few others, complete with those convenient blue hyperlinks that we all love! It couldn’t be easier for you to learn about your local program and consider signing up for the next class. There is a cost associated with them, but ask your employer or talk to the Chamber because many of them have scholarships – they don’t want to turn people away! If you do decide to participate, and I hope you do, you will definitely learn something about your community and you will definitely meet other people who care about where they live.
As we discussed in our first blog, not everyone has the same level of comfort with networking. One benefit of the regional Leadership Programs is that they provide you with a structure to talk to your peers. Each session topic provides fodder for discussion. Moreover, there are readings to help prompt discussion and there are even group projects that will give you a chance to get to know your fellow future leaders. Yes, it’s kinda like being in school; I warned you the blog would have a nerdy streak.
I am currently a participant in Leadership Mount Washington Valley as that is where I spend a lot of my time for work. Without question, the Leadership Program is beneficial to my job, but I don’t think of it as “networking.” It really is deeper than that, so I would caution anyone from dismissing these programs as a year-long marathon of networking events. For the record, I actually hate referring to anything as networking because that term has a very opportunistic feel to it — my goal at events is to connect with people that I have something in common with not to make a sale (luckily, I am not a Girl Scout selling cookies). By framing networking in a less opportunistic cringey way it actually takes some of the discomfort out of the process and reminds me that I am just looking to meet people.
One benefit of the regional Leadership Programs is that they allow you to have a structured framework for meeting people. When I sit down next to one of my Leadership classmates, we might discuss the presentation that we just saw or the project our class is working on. There is a built-in repertoire. Another benefit of the Leadership Programs is that you will keep attending the sessions with the same group of people for a year. That is, you will see these people again and again (so hopefully you like at least one of them).
If you are looking for more advice about how to effectively meet people (network) at one of the leadership programs or at any event, here are a few resources that each have their own angle on the topic.
Five Ways To Get The Most Out Of A Networking Event — This is a very business salesy take on meeting people.
Set a goal for whatever event you are at to define success. I always like to set a goal to have two good conversations with new people, if I do that I feel great.
Making Good Friends — This one is more lovey dovey in a good way.
Focus on others. It can be much easier to talk to people when you don’t have to talk about yourself. So ask good questions (not regarding the weather) and be interested in the answers, maybe even take things to the next level and ask a follow-up question.
6 Ways To Make The Most Of Any Networking Event — These guys love LinkedIn for before, during, and after an event (they might be getting kickbacks).
Do your research and check out who else is going if you can. This sounds a little like I am encouraging you to be a stalker, but it is a great way to make the most of an event. Whether you are networking for business or friends, it’s good to do your homework and get an idea of who will be there. Maybe there is someone that you already have something in common with, it’s nice to know ahead of time that there is someone you want to talk to.