It’s common knowledge that networking is an essential factor toward career success, but it’s also easy to forget just how often we should be making the effort! If you’ve been working in your field for a couple of years, you probably already have some sort of established network. However, expanding your network can be difficult if you already struggle to network in general.
Deciding where to start can be overwhelming at first, but instead of viewing networking opportunities with trepidation, view them as opportunities for professional development. Before you know it, you’ll get the hang of it and have an even more impressive network than you could have imagined!
Here are 5 ways to get started:
Research networking events and trade shows near you
One of the easiest ways to start growing your professional network is by attending networking events or trade shows. Networking events are specifically designed for people with similar interests to come together and discuss their interests, so this is a perfect growth opportunity for you and your network. Not sure how to find an event in your area? There are dozens of websites geared toward helping professionals find events, including LinkedIn, Meetup, and Eventbrite. A quick search of your career field will usually turn up several future networking events, so be sure to look and see what is out there!
Join a professional organization
Regardless of the industry you work in, there are likely several professional organizations you could become a member of. These organizations typically serve as a function to further the success of their particular field, and it is usually made up of people with years of experience, knowledge, and connections. While joining a professional organization offers you the opportunity to build connections, it also gives you a chance to further your own knowledge in your profession.
Don’t limit yourself to your industry
Are you already part of a professional organization? Already a regular on your industry’s networking scene? Don’t assume that networking should only be limited to events specifically targeted to your career field! If you have a hobby or special interest you feel passionately about, don’t shy away from attending these types of events as well. While building up your professional network with people within your industry is important, it’s also valuable to expand your network with those who may not work in your field, but do share a common passion with you.
Pursue volunteer opportunities
One resource for building professional networks that some professionals neglect is volunteering with a charity or advocacy group you feel passionately about. Professional networking events can be limited to small talk, which is frustrating for people looking to make deeper connections with other like-minded people. However, volunteer work often leads to more substantial discussions and presents more opportunities to build stronger and deeper relationships. Plus, building relationships with people from backgrounds that are different from yours will help you establish a stronger network than one that is limited just to your career interests.
Use alumni networks
If you went to college, your school likely has an alumni association that is tasked with hosting networking events for you and your fellow graduates. Similar to non-career volunteering and networking events, alumni networking events expose you to professionals from different fields, but with similar interests. Alumni events are a great place to rekindle old memories, but they’re also an excellent way to discover new career opportunities that you may not have considered in the past. Plus, your fellow alumni tend to be among the most generous in regards to helping you land a new job, so definitely don’t let those opportunities go to waste!