How To Find Professional Networking Events
Whether you love it or hate it, networking is an important aspect of job searching and professional development. A face-to-face connection can be much more impactful than a cold call, a random email, or a LinkedIn message, so be sure to prioritize networking as part of your career development strategy.
Of course, networking does take time and energy. There’s nothing worse than clearing your schedule for a networking event that was poorly attended, poorly planned, or simply misaligned with your networking goals.
That being said, even the best event will not be worth attending if you’re too tired to really “show up.” When it comes to networking, “showing up” means a lot more than getting a drink at the bar and standing in the corner. Do your best to arrive well-rested, energized, and ready to put yourself out there.
If, for some reason, you’re having an off day or experiencing a hectic time at work or in your personal life, don’t be afraid to take a break from networking. You’ll be better off showing up when you’re at your best. Also be aware of the things that you shouldn’t do when you’re networking.
Plan Your Networking Strategy
Whether or not you’re actively networking, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what’s out there. Even if you’re not job searching, joining networking groups is a great way to get a head start on your next career move. That way, when it does come time to start looking for a job, you will have already made some connections you can leverage.
When you’re ready to start networking, first define your goals.
- Are you looking to meet people who can provide an “in” to an organization you’d like to work for?
- Are you looking for potential new clients or customers?
- Are you just looking to make new friends in your industry?
- Identifying your goals will help you decide which events are worth it for you.
How to Find Networking Events That Are Worth Attending
Know what to look for. Once you’ve identified your networking goals, start looking for events that are in alignment with them. There’s a lot more to networking than attending chaotic job fairs or pricey conferences. You can also look for “speed networking” events and happy hours, for example, which provide a more casual, informal ambiance for networking. In addition, attending talks by industry thought leaders is a great way to network, as you’ll be learning something new and meeting new people, too. Not to mention, you’ll also have plenty of conversation topics after attending a talk.
Join Meetup.com. Meetup is a great resource for connecting with people in your area. Once you sign up, you can browse events by category, or search by keyword. You can search for groups that are hosting meet-ups specific to your industry, or general professional events. You should be able to find a range of opportunities, from after-work happy hours, to meet-and-greets, to job fairs, to talks and lectures, and more. If, for some reason, you aren’t able to find a group that fits what you’re looking for, you can always start your own group.
Browse Eventbrite. Eventbrite is another website where you can find networking events of all types. You can also search for free events, which is a great way to ensure you’re maximizing the “ROI” (return on investment) of each event you attend.
Volunteer. Volunteering enables you to connect with other professionals while contributing to a good cause. In addition, volunteering unites individuals in a common task, which means you’re more likely to make meaningful connections than if you were just chatting about the weather at a bar. You can find volunteer groups on Meetup.com in the “volunteer networking” category. In addition, look to see if there are any volunteer groups where you can put your professional skills to
Look for “niche” groups and events. It can be much easier to connect with people when you have something in common. For example, say you work as a product manager for a web app in the healthcare field. While you could (and should) certainly network within the technology or healthcare industry, you’d likely get even more value out of opportunities geared towards health tech specifically, or even product managers specifically. If you want to get even more “micro,” look for groups and events related to a specific skill you have or a specific software or platform you use.
Check with your college career center. If you’re a college student or alumni, inquire about campus networking programs and off-campus events geared towards professional networking.
Connect with your community. There are numerous professional groups geared toward women, LGBTQ people, disabled people, or minorities. You can often find groups specific to your industry and your location, too. These groups can help you create strong connections within your field while also functioning as a support network for any challenges you may face in the workplace.
Join a professional organization in your industry. Research professional organizations in your field and see what they have to offer. While there may be a fee associated with membership, there are often many benefits that come with joining these types of groups, and access to conferences and exclusive networking opportunities is just one of those perks.
Browse social media platforms. Social media can be a valuable place for “virtual” networking. In turn, you can find out about awesome events happening in your area. Look for professional groups that have a strong Facebook presence. Tech Ladies is one example of a professional group with an active, supportive Facebook group that hosts ongoing meetups in various cities throughout the U.S. If you’re looking for events specifically, you should browse the ‘Events’ section of Facebook. You can also find groups on LinkedIn that may lead you to cool networking opportunities in your city.
Check local coworking spaces. Coworking spaces are often a hub of activity. While some events may be geared towards members only, in other cases, you can find a range of activities open to the public. Many coworking spots post their events on their website or on social media, but you should also try to stop in, say hello, and check to see if they have a community board where local happenings are advertised.
Contact your local Chamber of Commerce. Many Chamber of Commerce organizations have networking events and mixers where non-members and prospective members are welcome.
Ask the people you meet. When you’re out networking, ask the people you meet what networking groups they’re a part of, or if they’ve been to any awesome events lately. Not only is this a solid conversation starter, but you’ll be able to find out about quality events in your area. If you hit it off with somebody, you can even ask if you can join them the next time they attend one of these events.