First off, why should you network? If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer the answer is obvious. If you’re going to launch a business or get your name out there to offer your services, networking is crucial.
If you’re a salaried worker the benefits might not seem as important but they are. Consider that any time you could be fired or laid off. Now what? Answering job ads if one of the least effective ways to get a new job. What you need to rely upon is your network and if you haven’t already established one then it’s too late.
Networking is a year-long if not lifelong event. People who only spoke to you once briefly eons ago, don’t want to be inconvenienced by you calling them up to ask if they can offer you a job, or if they know anyone who’s hiring. Why should they help you? They barely remember you.
The best time to begin networking is long before you need to network.If you think networking means you have to meet people in person all the time, you’re wrong. That can be time-consuming for some and nerve-wracking for others. There are lots of ways to network.
- Join networking groups such as Meetup.com. They have professional and social groups that cater to virtually anyone’s needs. You can network just by adding comments and starting conversations online.
- Attend industry conventions.
- Sign up for professional workshops, whether they’re online or in person (in person is always the best means of establishing a network).
- Offer a professional workshop or seminar at a convention. Bring lots of business cards.
- Tell family and friends that you are interested in meeting people in your industry or in an industry that you are considering for a career switch.
- Go to informational meetings. Interview with someone to find out about his or her industry or job. You’re not asking for a job. You’re only asking for information.
- Follow-up with your new professional contacts. Make a phone call. Send an email. Invite your new contacts to an even you believe they will enjoy or that you yourself are hosting.
- Host a network event. Its relatively easy to organize. You can find out how to organize a networking event here.
- Attend social events and be prepared to discuss your career interests with other people. You can do this in your own home by throwing a party and inviting your guests to bring friends you don’t know.
- Begin casual conversations with people in public places. Once I had a conversation with a woman in line at a grocery store and discovered she and I had similar professional interests. She ended up sending me an invitation to a networking event via email.
- Engage in activities that are relevant to your industry. For instance, if you are a published author make sure you hold signings. I did this at a local Chapters bookstore and met a number of people who exchanged emails with me. I didn’t attempt to sell them a book, we simply chatted.
- Read your industry magazine. You can find information on upcoming events in your region.
- Join an association in your area. Attend chapter meetings and dinners.
- Read career blogs that appeal to you. Send comments to the author and other readers.
- Write your own career blog. Like this one.
- Join a professional chat network. Just be careful how much information you reveal about yourself. And like personal chatrooms, always meet with people in public places. It’s best to bring a friend or colleague with you.