Networking is the one thing most of my clients dread.  I encourage clients to network externally if you are looking for another opportunity and internally if you are looking to advance where you are and gain more exposure.  External Networking:  There are networking events, weekly groups, classes, online forums and more.  You get invited to something new all the time and choosing what to go to and what will work best for you can be hard at times.

Networking doesn’t have to be hard.  It should be fun and something you enjoy attending.  Networking is a great opportunity to meet new prospects, other colleagues and connections that can help you as well as you being able to help them.

Here are some networking tips for finding the right groups:

  • Make sure that you are comfortable with the group and the people.  Some groups don’t require a membership.  They may charge a few dollars more for non-members.  Many groups will let you attend a couple live sessions complimentary so that you can see if it is a good fit before you pay the dues.  Be sure to do this.  If you don’t like the group you can save the cost of the dues and move on to something that will fit you better rather than lose money. (Online networking groups are all different.  Make sure that they have a refund policy or a monthly payment option that you can leave at any time if you decide the group isn’t for you.)
  • Talk to people at the group when you attend the first couple ones.  You want to make sure that not only the group is a good fit for you but that the people in the group that attend are a good fit as well.  You get the most from a group when you make connections with the members.
  • Do your research before you sign up.  Visit the group’s website.  Learn everything you can beforehand.  Are there dues at every meeting, is it an annual fee to join, are there fees if you don’t attend a meeting?  Things like this can be very important to know.  You don’t want to have to be paying out dues or fees if the meetings don’t fit your schedule.  See if the meetings are a set day/time and make sure that you will be able to easily attend them.

Internal Networking:  Just like external networking, internal networking can be fun and something to look forward to.  You will learn more about your organization and build an internal network of contacts and colleagues that will become invaluable to you.  People who advance internally are almost always well networked.

Here are some internal networking tips:

  • Step out of youar comfort zone and learn more about your company.  When’s the last time your looked at your company’s website or read an article about your industry?
  • Don’t be a creature of habit and do the same thing every lunch with the same people.  Pick one person from another department and have lunch/coffee with them at least once a month.  Learn about what they do. Stay in touch with them.
  • Participate in cross-functional teams (process improvement or continuous improvement initiatives) or company leagues or volunteer opportunities.  Many companies offer everything from golf/tennis/bowling leagues to community volunteer service events.  It’s a wonderful way to network with those from other areas.  
  • Look for someone to be a mentor for you.  I recommend a person who is a couple of levels above you.  It does not have to be formal.  Ask him/her if it’s okay for you to run career decisions by them because you value their opinion.

Networking has the potential to help you make career contacts for the future if done right.  Next time I will give you tips on how to best network once you have decided on the external groups  or internal people that fit for you.