How to Become Famous in Your Hometown

This article first appeared at Owner Magazine.

Building your professional reputation can seem like an impossible task. How can I make a name for myself, with seven billion people in the world?

But the truth is, your universe isn’t seven billion. The universe you need to reach – like Manhattan’s famed Social Register in the days of yore – is a few hundred or thousand of the right people, who work in your industry or live in your community.

In other words, your potential clients, employers, and peers. So how do you connect with them?

My friend Robbie Samuels figured it out. First, he identified a problem to solve – as a nonprofit fundraiser, he felt Boston’s nonprofit community was too fragmented. People could benefit from networking and learning from each other, but it wasn’t happening organically.

So he started a Meetup – a great way to build deep, local ties at no cost (unlike joining Chambers of Commerce or other networking groups, which can be excellent, but often have dues in the $200-500 range). Most importantly, he built something people wanted to join by making it fun.

“Socializing for Justice” was aimed at members of Boston’s social change community and their friends, but the purpose wasn’t to trade business cards or listen to bland speeches. Instead, he organized regular events like “Bowling for Justice,” “Cocktails for Justice,” and “Trivia Night for Justice.”

What’s the upshot? Thanks to Socializing for Justice, seven years after its founding, Robbie has one of the best networks in Boston. An astonishing 2400 people are members of the Meetup group, who receive regular notices from him about events, and are sure to recognize his name. You don’t need to be known by seven billion people. If you can get a few hundred or a few thousand people in your community to know who you are and appreciate your efforts as a connector, you’ve created the ultimate career insurance – a grateful network that’s eager to give back.

Have you tried attending – or starting – a Meetup group? How are you building your local network?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter.