If you are looking for a job, in career transition or have your own business, networking is an essential part of your strategy and if it’s not you aren’t being as effective as you could be. To be honest, the traditional in-person networking event is one of my least favorite activities in life. I’d rather be locked in a cage with a ravenous lion to avoid passing out my business card to a room full of strangers.
With-that-said, I am not special; I have to network so I’ve readjusted how I look at networking. The suggestions below may seem more like volunteering but what better way to develop relationships and trust than working side-by-side with others? I’m a relationship person. I thrive on shared experiences so that’s what I seek out as my networking tool.
This post was inspired by someone I am coaching who’s been out of work for 3 months. It’s the longest stint he’s been in career transition and today he said to me, “When do you know you have to settle? It’s been 3 months.” As we continued to talk about what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for his job search, I shared some of the below suggestions to expand his networking efforts. I thought if he could use the information it may be beneficial to others as well.
I do realize that when you are in a time crunch to get a job it doesn’t seem like the best idea to give away your expertise but what else are you doing? Spend the time you’d otherwise be watching People’s Court (my parents love that show) engaged in ‘networking’ activities, like those outlined below or one’s that suit your interest level and/or location. I believe if you put good out in the world, you will get good back. Some of these activities you should be able to continue even when you get that next great career opportunity.
Activities to Develop a Stronger Professional Network
Contact – Business Office Manager/Activity Manager
Benefit – Develop deeper relationships in-line with your faith; Offer to do pro bono work; Join a Committee; Become part of the Choir
Network With – Other members who share the same faith but have a vast & diverse professional network
Local Professional/Networking Groups
Contact – Check out website, newspaper for weekly/months events.
Benefit – Gain industry knowledge while meeting like-minded professionals.
Network with – I’d suggest checking out Groups that are in & out of your professional wheelhouse to expose you to individuals with a broader scope of professional network. Check out the local HR organization – great way to meet the gatekeepers at local companies. www.SHRM.org
Become involved at your children’s school
Contact – Your Child’s Teacher
Benefit – Offer your expertise to the teacher or an administrator, who knows what doors that may open. Then there’s the old standby – Chaperone on field trips. This one is wonderful because you get to spend more time with your child(ren).
Network with – Teachers, Administrators and other parents. These are important people in your community and in your child(ren)s lives. Don’t discount their rich personal network – remember most teachers have summer jobs – connect with them!
Local Community College or University Classroom
Contact – Department Chair or Professor in your speciality
Benefit – Offer to provide a ‘lesson’ on something you’re an expert at. For example, contact a marketing professor if you can show how to increase market share by leveraging Instagram & Twitter for a unique event.
Network with – Academics and college students are multi-faceted. They do consulting on the side and in graduate school have established careers in your community.
Benefit – Access to millions of professionals in a wide variety of organizations who want to network
Network with – Everyone! It’s your electronic business card.
If you ever see me in at a typical networking event like a mixer know that I’m there with a friend and we are conquering the room together. Whatever types of activities you decide to make part of your networking strategy make sure you are involved in activities that keep you involved, feel meaningful and could have some professional benefit. This isn’t a foolproof way to find your next job it’s merely one tool in your career transition toolkit.
Let me know which ‘networking’ activities you engage in and how you’ve found them as tools for networking and building professional relationships.
Happy ‘Networking’! Liz