Why Networking Matters

When is the last time you attended a networking event? I don’t mean a quick drink with your cubicle mate after work, or a company Christmas party; a real, live, focused event to meet and mingle with other business professionals. Did you say “never”? You aren’t alone. Millennials in particular are eschewing traditional networking events of old, and coming up with new ways to meet other career-minded individuals to grow their professional circles.

While you may not be joining ladies in your community for weekly tea, or attending leadership breakfasts at your local Golden Corral (yes, that’s a thing – just saw it on Facebook!), you should be making a conscious effort to network on a regular basis. Establishing a meaningful connection with someone in your current field, or even outside of it, can open doors for you down the road that you might not ever have anticipated.

Why Your Professional Network is Important:

  • Thinking about transitioning to a completely new field?
  • Looking for a reference?
  • Trying to find the perfect fit for a newly posted position in your office?
  • Want the scoop on the culture of a competitor you have your eye on?
  • Need a neutral sounding board that just “gets” it?

Your professional circle can assist with the above issues, and more. Having a built-in group of friends/associates/colleagues/whatever you wanna call ’em can provide you with an invaluable group that you can call upon when the need arises (i.e., any of the above). You can share tips and tricks, stories from the trenches, and leadership techniques with one another; you have the opportunity to learn and grow from those who have walked the path before you, as well as act as a mentor for those who are coming behind.

If you aren’t actively making an effort to network and connect with others, you may find yourself alone on an island when you find yourself in need of professional advice. You also may come to find that deals are being made, and things are happening on the back end that you are not aware of – simply because you haven’t made an effort to connect with others in the career realm.

Still a newbie to the networking game? Start by brushing up on your LinkedIn profile – that is the quickest and easiest way to get your name out there to new connections! Check out this post on maximizing your LinkedIn profile for tips on how to get started.

But what if you are ready to really get out there? You know you need to just take the leap and go for it. Where do you start?

Options Galore!

Even if you are an introvert who does’t really enjoy getting out and meeting people in a traditional networking environment, there are plenty of ways you can grow your career-circle. Here are a few really creative options I have seen recently if you are not interested in your typical run of the mill networking events:

Bossed Up, an organization I am proud to partner with as an AmBOSSador, hosts regular networking meetings (called Power Hours) and other events across the United States for women to connect. I recently hosted a NetWORKOUT in South Florida for a group of amazing, Bossed Up women.

We had a fantastic workout with a fun group, followed by an hour of networking and chatting at a local juice bar. Fun, right? Not your boring, stuffy, run of the mill networking event. We exchanged business cards, talked about our career plans, and shared our next steps in our lives and our careers. You can check out the Bossed Up website for more information about events in your area, as they have Power Hours happening each month all throughout the U.S.

You can also check out Meetup for opportunities in your area that can connect you with other professionals. While browsing through the site recently I saw a networking kayaking trip (whaaaaat!) as well as a book club for professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to discuss the current leadership books they are reading. (*Side note, I kinda wanna steal their idea and do this – if you are local to me and interested, let me know!)

A new trend that is catching on is Mommy & Me networking, which is an awesome opportunity for all of you moms out there who don’t have the free time you would like to devote to networking. These groups meet at the park, or a kids play area, so they can meet other career-minded mommas while their kiddos play and make friends. Another idea I LOVE that I wish I had come up with myself. Growing your circle AND introducing your kids to new friends? That is a double win.

My newest favorite is online networking via Facebook groups. There are a ton of groups specifically for career-oriented professionals where you can chat, ask questions, share pictures and information in a judgement-free (mostly) zone. I belong to several myself, and have found them to be a great resource for collaborating and asking questions. To find a few, use the Facebook search bar, click on Groups, and type in “networking” or “careers”. This is the perfect option for the most introverted among us, who would rather walk in traffic than walk in a room full of strangers!

So, are you ready to put yourself out there? Bust out of your comfort zone and make a commitment to yourself to attend just one event; chances are, you will be hooked. The relationships that can form and the future benefit to your career far outweighs any hesitations you may have – so give it a shot!

This post was originally published on LinkedIn and shared with permission.