Networking is an important component of your professional life, whether you are just starting out in business, or at a point in your career that you are an established and respected professional. When you join networking groups and attend networking events, you have the opportunity to get together with others in your field outside of the day to day workplace. In these networking environments, you can focus more on professional development, than to-do lists and deadlines. Here are 5 fun ways to network with other business professionals— give them a try:
1. Join local associations and groups—Belonging to the national organization of fundraisers or accountants for women lawyers is great, but your real networking opportunities are at the local level. Find the local chapters of whatever national groups you might belong to and attend events hosted by them. Once you join these local business chapters, staying active in them is very important. These groups often hold networking events such as happy hours, seminars, receptions and field trips. Get to know the people in your industry who are also in your city, town or community. Not only will you increase your professional networking, you might also make some business contacts or even some close friends.
2. Find out what’s happening at your Chamber of Commerce—Before I joined, I thought of the Chamber as a group of old men meeting in darkly paneled rooms to smoke cigars and count their money. That’s not what the Chamber does at all. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a valuable business resource that offer a lot of great professional networking opportunities. Attend a business card exchange, go to a meet and greet or see what it’s all about at a new member orientation. You will meet people in your industry and in other fields as well. Thanks to networking at a Chamber event, I found someone to help me with my website and a local business to host a pancake breakfast for the charity I support.
3. Research online networking groups—LinkedIn is invaluable when it comes to business networking. As an amazing social network for the professional crowd, LinkedIn provides you with the opportunity to shine a spotlight on your career achievements and talk about your plans for the future. When you engage in networking through social media sites like LinkedIn, you can join relevant groups, keep your business contacts up to date on what you’re doing and look for new career opportunities.
4. Volunteer—Get a group of your professional contacts together to do some good in your community. Volunteering is a great way to network as well as give back. You can do a variety of things like clean up a park or serve meals to the homeless. If you have a select set of skills, donate your time and talents to an organization in need. When you spearhead an initiative that connects business contacts with a community in need, you are bringing your professional networking game to a whole new level.
5. Be a mentor—If you have been in your field or industry for a number of years, and you spot that new employee in your department who has wide eyes and eager, take him or her under your networking wing. Reach out to the protégé, and bring them along to your professional networking events. You can help induct him into your networking groups and introduce him to some business contacts to show him the ropes. You probably have just as much to learn from him as he does from you.