Where you can go for professional networking

 This is me in action at a networking event in San Francisco.

This is me in action at a networking event in San Francisco.

Business networking is an art.

So let’s discuss how you can make it impactful for your job search.

Networking events - People go to professional networking events to make connections, so the good news is that they want the same thing that you do.  Here are tips on how to make sure the time you spend at one bears fruit:

·      Go with someone else – It makes it easier to meet people.  Why?  Well, most people feel more comfortable when multiple people approach them versus just one person.  This is especially true if you’re trying to break in to the conversation of a group.  Also, admit it, going by yourself and standing sheepishly in the corner isn’t the best way to network with people.  Going with your friend will loosen you up and make it easier to engage with others.  If you don’t have a friend or colleague that can go with you, make a friend with someone else who is also clearly alone (you can identify them as the ones standing in the corner or just looking around with no one to talk to) and then work with him or her to meet other people.

 ·      Get over being shy – For some of us, we can dive right in and introduce ourselves to complete strangers while others will need to take baby steps.  The key here is to get over the mental roadblock of being shy.  Some tips on how to do that include having a meaningful conversation with people you interact with on a daily basis (think colleagues, the person you talk to when you pick up dry cleaning, someone you’re standing in line with at the café, and so forth).  Once you build these little victories in daily conversations, carry it over to a networking event.

 ·      Have a business card handy.  If you’re not employed, make a simple one with your name and contact information.  If you can’t afford the business cards at that time, have copies of your resume.  There has to be a way for someone to contact you later on.

 ·      Seek to understand first – Always try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s role, the company they work for and the company’s goals.  This way you can first qualify it to see if it’s a good fit for you, and whether or not you can offer value to them.   Once you understand more about their company and potential challenges they are having, you can make your value pitch (if it’s a fit) and basically explain to them why you think you’d be a good fit there.  For example, if you met someone and immediately pitched yourself as being a marketing guru, it comes off as soliciting.  In other words, they’ll feel like you’re probably giving that same pitch to everyone in the room to get a job.  Make sure there’s a “give and take” so that they understand you’re qualifying them as well.

Here are some places you can go to for networking:

 ·An industry event – Do a quick Google search and you’ll see that these industry events are quite frequent.  It could be a trade show, it could be a seminar or it could be a speaking presentation.

 ·Chamber of commerce – Every time I’ve been to one I’ve always been able to make new connections.   It’s always been filled with people too. 

·A speaker event where the topic is related to the field you’re interested in

·Cultural events related to professional networking – many cultural organizations put on professional networking events all the time!

·Reach out to your family members and see if they know of anyone working in the industry you’re trying to break into.  Think about this as a way to scale your reach – if you have 10 family members you can reach out to (cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, siblings, parents) and they each have 10 close friends / business clients (and the most likely have many more) that means you’ve just expanded your potential network of influence by 100 people.

·Reach out to your friends – if you don’t have many or any, now’s the time to start making friends.  Invite people out to dinner / lunch / coffee.  Go to happy hour.  Watch movies together.  Always try to get other people involved in your social activities.  You should definitely never have lunch / dinner alone if you’re already planning on eating out – that’s a missed opportunity to connect with a friend!  Remember, even in your personal time, you’re creating a brand impression with a friend and ultimately “networking” with them.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your friends what they perceive your “brand” to be and you’ll most likely be surprised by their response. 

·Reach out to teachers / counselors you’ve had in the past

·Get a mentor – they can be your biggest advocates and also help you to uncover opportunities you weren’t even aware of before.  Here are some tips on how to find a good mentor.

 ·A leader at the current company you work for / a leader in the industry you’re applying to – A person that is a leader in the organization (Think CXO, VP, Director, Manager level) has typically put in a lot of work and differentiated him/herself from the rest of the pack.  They have a ton of information from which you can pull from to learn the secrets on how to become successful.  So ask them about their success stories. Everyone typically likes to share their stories of success and it also shows you’re eager to learn from them as well.  What this also does is show them that you’re the “hungry” type of employee that wants to learn how to improve so one day you can be successful as well.  Thus, from just one or two coffee sessions (although I recommend doing it regularly, perhaps once a month or a quarter), you’ve developed:  a personal network with a leader, a potential reference, mindshare within that leader (so that if he/she finds out about an opportunity, you may come to mind), a repository of new information and best practices, and someone who may be able to guide you in the right direction.

·Join clubs / extra-curricular organizations / charities

·Service organizations - Rotary Club is a great example as it’s an international service organization.  It’s a great way you to help out the community and to network with others

·Volunteer at a charity – You’ll get to meet like minded people who are trying to help others (Think Food Bank, Team in Training, AIDS foundations and so forth).  You get to give back to the community and network at the same time.  Can’t decided which one to help out?  Check out your options at volunteering sites like volunteermatch.org.

·Intramural sports – There’s a ton of sports leagues out there for professionals (soccer, basketball, etc.).  You’d be surprised at how many friends you can make being a part of sports team. After all, what better way to build trust and show your teamwork skills than on the field?

Nelson WangComment