Networking…it’s a word that can evocate fear and dread in the heart of professionals, both new & seasoned alike. Speaking from my own personal experience, I relocated to Philadelphia about two years ago and I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of having to learn to network all over again in a new city! Yet alas I did just that. Here are my top seven tips on how to efficiently and effectively network as a beginner.
Tip #1: Start Small – Like anything else in life, it’s best to start your networking efforts out on a small scale for them to be sustainable. At least until you feel out the environment and personalities of those within your field. Being friendly with co-workers and attending some events they invite you to will allow you to begin networking without becoming overwhelmed or uncomfortable.
Tip #2: Research Your City – The power of the World Wide Web is at your fingertips to do more than see what Beyoncé wore (and did!) at the Grammy’s. Use the power of the internet to research some of the best places and events for likeminded people in your city.
Tip #3: Join Groups on Meetup.com Going further with the concept of online research, meetup.com can be an extremely helpful tool in meeting others who are interested in networking.
Tip #4: Attend Happy Hours This may sound cheesy but it really works! I’d advise you to look for upscale happy hours around the city. Think 4 & 5 star hotels. Hotel bars and lounges are a great place to network for two reasons: 1) there are lots of people who are just in town for a few days and don’t necessarily want to venture out too far. 2) Since you aren’t likely to run into these people again because they’re traveling (usually for work) you don’t have to be mortified if you make a blunder or mess up during a conversation. This is one of the best places for beginners to network.
Tip #5: Attend cultural events and festivals in your city – Every city usually has something of a cultural nature going on throughout the different seasons of the year. Whether it’s an event sponsored by a museum, an auto show, or a famous entertainer coming to town. There’s usually something going on. If it’s a big event, it’s likely to be well publicized and therefore easy to find out about. However, if it’s something more low-key, you may have to ask around to co-workers and friends with whom you share common interests. These events are great for beginners because you’ll be in an environment in which already interests you. This will make talking to new people less daunting since you’ll have an easy starting point to a conversation.
Tip #6: Attend social gatherings hosted by your job – This is one of the hands-down easiest ways for a beginner to network. With that being said, it’s also one of the easiest ways to damage your reputation if not handled properly. If you do decide to attend social events hosted by your employer, please proceed with caution. Remember these people are your professional peers and managers. This means act like you are still at work and watch what you say as well as how much you drink! I’d advise no more than 2 alcoholic drinks and to leave well before the event is over.
Tip #7: Join Toastmasters – This tip is a two-for-one. Toastmasters is a great platform for networking but it’s also an excellent organization to help you with public speaking skills. As a newbie to networking these are two areas where you want to hone your skills. Go to their website, find a chapter near you, and contact the person listed. You’ll be able to attend one of their meetings as a “guest” which is totally free of charge.
Ready…set…network! Follow these seven tips to begin your life long journey to meeting new people, nurturing relationships, and networking like a pro.
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