Regular readers of my posts know the value I place on networking to building your career either while you are working or when in job search mode. Networking in the 21st century can be done on many different platforms, providing a wide range of options to meet people who can help advance your professional and personal goals.
21st Century Networking – Give of Yourself First
Regardless of the networking platform, many people make the same mistake. They start networking when they need something. Keith Ferrazzi, the best-selling author of the premier networking book Never Eat Alone advises, “The worst time to network is when you are desperate and the best time to network is when you don’t need anything.” Notwithstanding your current need, always network with the idea of being of service to the people with whom you are networking. Ferrazzi councils, “If you give of yourself first you will be amazed by what you will get back for yourself in return.”
21st Century Networking – Location, Location, Location
Just like real estate, networking is all about location, location, location. Why? Because, the best networking plans in the world will not work if you are not meeting in locations online or off where the people whose needs you can best serve – and vice versa – are hanging out.
Alison Doyle the great career blogger has explored the best places for professionals and job seekers to network. I have augmented her findings with some of my own and ranked our combined ideas into The 10 Best Places for Career Networking.
The 10 Best Places for Career Networking
10. Panera Bread
Yes. The coffee is always hot, the bagels are tasty and the “Pick 3” is always divine; but what makes Panera such a great place for networking is its inviting, business friendly atmosphere and free WiFi. Panera Bread was a pioneer in realizing the value of giving the WiFi away in exchange for the customer traffic and sales it generates. On any given day the café is teaming with business people of all stripes; from large corporations to small firms. I have found the most effective way to network at Panera is to bring my laptop, a project, business cards and an open ear. (Many blogs have been written while eating a wonderful Panera salad.) Typically, while working, I may overhear a discussion where I may offer a critical bit of information; or strike up a conversation with a person who I saved from losing an important document to a dead computer batter (I usually carry a multi outlet power cord). At times, someone will engage me out of the blue; because I seem so engrossed in my work. Panera Bread has that comfortable vibe; because the smart networker knows it is a place where business is being done and connections are being made.
Chamber of Commerce associations hold a number of events that allow local business people to connect with other professionals and gain insight into business and government best practices. These events can range from social events like mixers and fundraisers to workshops and seminars. Attending these events will connect you with potential employers, clients, suppliers, and business partners.
Yes, Virginia, you can use the social network Facebook for professional networking. You can “friend” professional contacts and post content relevant to your job search or career. You can also “like” groups, including company pages or groups related to your industry or interests. This will allow you to connect with an even larger network. However, be aware of how much personal information you include on your profile – if you decide to network professionally on Facebook, make sure to only include information in your profile that you would want business contacts to see. For professional job searching through Facebook, job seekers can also use Monster’s Facebook app Beknown.
7. Job Fairs
Job fairs (also known as career fairs) are ideal places to meet employers and recruiters from a variety of companies. Whether it is an in-person event or an online job fair, the event will give you a chance to demonstrate your skills and experience to a number of employers, and learn about job opportunities at their companies. You can also network with the job seekers around you at a job fair. Share your contact information with people you connect with; you might be able to help each other find jobs or contacts in the future.
Corporate Alumni Networks are online networks for former (and sometimes current) employees in an organization. Some networks are provided by companies, but others are hosted by Facebook or LinkedIn. Staying in touch with your former coworkers gives you a large pool of people who can refer you to new jobs and even give you referrals. You can also use the network to talk with people about educational opportunities, industry trends and the latest best practices.
Colleges often sponsor networking events for college students and/or alumni. These events range from cocktail parties to workshops to alumni information panels to athletic events. (Don’t overlook the networking power of Homecoming.) The goal of these events is to network with alumni and employers who might be able to help you develop your career or improve your job search. These events are often run by your college career services office or your alumni office.
A professional association is a group of people with similar careers or career interests (finance, education, recent graduates, etc.). Joining an association allows you to make a number of professional contacts within your industry. These contacts can give you professional advice as well as potential job leads. Professional associations typically hold events such as conferences, seminars, and job fairs; which allow you to look for jobs and develop professionally.
3. Trade Shows
Trade shows (also known as trade fairs or trade expos) are exhibitions in which companies in a specific industry showcase their products and services, and learn about the latest market trends. Whether you are actively looking for a job at a new company or simply hoping to learn more about current industry trends, trade shows are great places to meet industry insiders from any number of companies.
Volunteering is a great way to not only work for a good cause; but, also, meet and network with like-minded people. Fundraisers and other volunteer events can connect you with people from a variety of industries. When you connect with someone at a volunteer event, you have already demonstrated your charitable interests and cast yourself in a positive light. You can network with people through participating in individual volunteer events or by joining a community service/social group like the Rotary Club.
On LinkedIn, the number one professional networking site, you can connect with a number of people from a variety of companies and industries. When applying for a job, use your LinkedIn connections for advice and/or referrals. You can also join LinkedIn groups that relate to your industry, alma mater – or even your favorite hobbies – as a way to connect with people with similar interests and skills.
There are a number of diversity groups based on gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation (for example, the National Association of Professional Women). Sometimes, these groups are also focused on people in a particular industry (ex., Women’s Council of Realtors). These groups typically hold a number of networking events that allow members to connect with people in their industry. Group seminars, lectures, and social events are also great networking opportunities.
Not Quite in the Top 10:
The Bottom Line:
To Network is to Serve
Networking is no longer a luxury confined to those professionals who have the time or are in a job search. Networking is necessary for any professional who wants to get ahead and stay ahead. Lucky for all of us there has never been a better environment for turning networking into a way of life. Why? Because, not only are their wonderful social media tools and face to face interaction opportunities available; but, as humans, we were created to serve. To network is to serve; because you put the needs of others before your own.
Now Go Forth And Network!!!