Networking events can be a great way to meet people who can help you and who you can help in the future. It is about building mutually beneficial relationships and creating a professional network of people who you genuinely like and respect.
The relationships that you build through networking can help you find a job, learn how to be successful in a certain job field or position, build your career and expand your business horizons. The people that you meet can provide valuable insider tips and answers to your questions, help you with your cover letter and resume, or give you an “in” with a company that you are interested in joining.
Networking can help you personally and can benefit your business by introducing you to new clients, business associates, and industry leaders.
Networking is often very informal and can occur with anyone at any time, but one of the most popular ways to network is to attend networking events. These events are created specifically for the purpose of creating new connections. People expect you to network there and these events can provide you with incredible business and personal advantages.
How to find local networking events:
- Check out your local newsstand: Networking events are often listed in local magazines and newspapers. This can be an easy way to find events with new connections.
- Industry/Business organizations: Professional organizations make a point of hosting networking events on a regular basis. Some well-known marketing, advertising, and public relations professional organizations to check out are International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), American Marketing Association (AMA), and Advertising Federation of America (AdFed). Head online or talk to colleagues to find professional organizations in your field.
- Talk to the contacts you already have: Connections that you have already made can be your best way to find new connections, and they may know of some upcoming events that will be of particular interest to you.
- Go online: There are a plethora of ways to find networking events online. NetParty.com (for young professionals) and FindNetworkingEvents.com provide listings of upcoming networking events in most major cities and professional networking sites such NetworkingForProfessionals.com list upcoming networking events for members.
How to network:
- Talk to people: Talk to anyone you run into and keep in touch with those who you like and respect. Even if they can’t help you immediately, they may be able to help you further down the road. Get comfortable asking, “What do you do?” and handing out your business card.
- Communicate effectively: Learn to listen to what the other person is saying and practice different ways of talking about yourself and your skills.
- Join networking clubs and associations in your field: Joining these organizations can be the best way to meet people in your field.
- Follow up on any lead, no matter how minor: You never know what a small lead could turn into: a better job or a new client.
- Think before you network: There are some situations in which networking is inappropriate. Use common sense to judge what is appropriate and what is not.
- Say, “Thank You”: Remember to thank anyone who takes the time to talk with you. Not only is it polite, but also it is socially expected.
Once you have built your network, continue to maintain and build it through regular contact. Many contacts will lead to more contacts, and in a short period of time you can have a strong professional network.