So you've got a passion. You want to be a photographer, a journalist or the resident expert on antiques. Whatever you passion is, there's guaranteed to be other people that are interested in the same thing or better yet, they are in need of someone with your particular skill set. Your job is to smoke them out and convince them why you are the person they've been looking for.
This can happen in a number of ways, all of which I call the art of showing up. Regardless of your particular niche or industry, the first step towards becoming the go to person in your field is making a presence at all the places that like minded people are participating in that particular craft. That might be a convention, an event or even just showing up regularly online to forums, discussions or leaving comments on blogs. You have to first, make your presence known and second, prove that you actually know your stuff. If you show up and people discover quickly that you really have no clue what your talking about, you probably should have reconsidered your field.
When I began my pursuit into the motorsports industry, I started out by attending the single largest gathering of motorsports enthusiasts, companies and fans in the country. I walked around for two days meeting athletes, owners and anyone I could get to hear my story. My mission: land some sort of job within the industry that would allow me to travel to races and events and begin establishing myself as a credible industry insider. I struck gold. I landed an interview with the editor and publisher of my favorite magazine. I wasn't offered a full time gig but I did get to write a featured story which gave me an open door to begin introducing myself as a member of the media. (Credibility) A short time later they came to me and asked if I would be on their panel of experts for a blog they were starting. Just like that I was in and I started hitting up professional athletes and racers with "Hi my name's Seth and I write for XYZ magazine. Can I get an interview?"
My point is this. If you sit back and never make your presence known, no one is going to know who you are or what you have to offer. Make some noise. You might not be the leading expert in your field but if you're polite, professional and you have valuable information to provide to seekers, they'll keep coming back. Whats more, they might tell other people about you and then all of a sudden you've got a following and people are coming to you as an expert in your field.
Networking isn't all about chamber functions and after hours meet and greets. That's certainly part of it, but whats more important is that you SHOW UP to all the places where things are happening that pertain to your particular industry or niche. For the aspiring photographer, go to clinics or expos with thousands of other photographers. If your into antique's follow the antique road show around and mingle with the thousands of people bringing their old heirlooms in to find out how much they're worth. And the journalist? Find some online authors you respect and start commenting on their work. Most comment feeds allow you to enter your own website and somewhere, someone is going to like your response to to an article and click the link to your site and then you might have just made a follower. (See my previous article about the importance of having a Platform.)
Networking doesn't have to be as painful as people make it out to be in fact it can be fun. The most important thing to do is SHOW UP!
How have you SHOWN UP in your perspective industry or field?