You’re ready to get out there and meet people! Congratulations. Once you’ve come to this decision, next you have to figure out where and how. The truth is, you’ll learn this more as you do it. After you’ve been to a couple events, someone will inevitably ask you if you’ve been to such and such event. Call that level 2 networking. They are the events industry people go to. Level 3 would be insider level but I’m starting here with level 1. How to get going.
Finding Networking Events
Finding networking events isn’t too hard. It’s finding the right ones for you and your industry. Expect to go to some duds. Expect to go on the wrong nights. The truth is some nights are just better than others, depending on who is there and who you need to meet. A great night for you might be a dull drag for others. All this is to say it may be the event or it may just be an off night and you’ll have to go a couple times to figure that out. Lastly, I just want to you to keep in mind that something that does or doesn’t work for you now, this level 1, may or may not in the future as your networking purpose and goals evolve. Are you still with me? It’s subjective and it changes. Nothing is a guarantee but let’s not veer off on philosophic life views now.
Here are some good places to look.
There are a billion trillion quadrillion different Meetups and sure, many of them suck, but many are quite good. Beyond hobby groups and classes, there are social groups and professional groups. Taking a class might be good though unless it’s a class related to your industry, that’s more a shot in the dark, kinda like wandering around Woolworths trying to network. Some of the professional groups will be paid, others will be free. Paying also won’t guarantee quality so start with some free ones and maybe while there you can ask someone what they go to or if they’ve gone to one of the pay ones and what they think. (See. Conversation topics laced in here already.)
Staffing Firm Events
We talked about these in The Devil And The Dogs, Part 2. Many companies have additional resources, from newsletters with tips and updates, to mixers and networking events. Even if you’re not working with one, you can still poke around and find out if they have something going on. Usually they are not recurring events, so scanning the spectrum now and again is worthwhile. Also keep in mind, there will probably be a good amount of folks on the job hunt there. Short term, they might provide some camaraderie during your search, but long run, who knows!
Aside from learning something, chances are there will be lots of interesting people at a speaking event to learn and share ideas. (Mark that as another conversation tip) If you’re a chef, obviously a talk on advances in concrete are not likely to have many people in the restaurant industry. However, if you’re thinking about building a patio, it might be worth your while. And if you’re looking for help on that patio, well then it’s probably a good place to be. So find talks on topics in your industry, or adjacent or related to your interests.
Slack is a chat app, instant messenger if you will. RIP AIM. To chat on Slack, you have to join a group. That group could be your work’s company Slack group, or it could be some type of community slack group. There are many, that cover a wide range of topics and include local and international groups. From coding in the midwest, to knitting on the beach. You can find communities, industries and special interest groups and hobbyists all looking to share ideas, learn, collaborate, and network. Within any given group, you’ll have the ability to join a variety of channels on specific topics and to have small group or 1 on 1 discussions. Many groups have channels for jobs, advice, events and so on. Find a group, follow along, participate and ask questions. Here are a couple lists but by no means are these a complete or exhaustive list of slack groups out there.
Obviously there are other places and opportunities to network or find networking events. Your local coffee shop, bulletin board in the grocery store and so on. Point is, even for introverts there is a way to get meeting people.
Networking Do’s and Don’ts
Some of this stuff should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. These apply generally to various networking events howeever, there are different types of networking events. A “speed networking” event, for example, is not for chit chat. It is an event in which the point explicitly is to quickly make connections. Everyone there knows the rules of the even is looking to make connections, either for something specific or maybe just general industry contacts. The rules are generally 2-3 minutes per person. Introduce yourself, say what you do and what you are looking for. Exchange cards, and move on! Do not use this approach at your son’s little league game or industry cocktail hour mixers. Right place, right time. Know the context. And if all else fails, remember these.
Do make bright, friendly, business cards with all your pertinent info.
Do not leave them in stacks on tables nor hand out a stock to someone and ask them to share pass them out for you.
Do approach others in conversation, listen patiently and join in when appropriate.
Do not interrupt, cut them off, change the subject or hand cards and walk away.
Do find out more than just what the other person does. (Not only is it fun to learn about them, but helps you remember them and them you.)
Do not fake interest or even understanding of what they do if you don’t know.
Do ask how you can help that person, what they are looking for etc. They may not need anything, and you may not be able to help, but do take interest in their needs and goals.
Do not ask them for a job, or if they know anyone hiring. That’s not networking, that begging for a job and being annoying. If the other person is looking for someone or even knows someone looking for someone with your skills and you start to hit it off, they will ask you.
Do follow up with your contacts. Add them to Linkedin (or download the app and connect that way). Email them afterwards and say hi next time you see them.
Do not spend all your time talking to the people you already met next time you see them. It’s tempting to stay in a comfortable circle, but force yourself to continue meeting people.
Networking is meeting people. It’s a long game and not an immediate solution to finding a job. It can and will yield amazing results you didn’t expect, so don’t rule it out. Whether you are on the job hunt or not, make networking a part of your career advancement strategy.