Despite the technology and gadgets that we have available to us today, there is still nothing quite like connecting with others in person. Surrounding yourself with people who you have things in common with can help you grow both in your career and personal life.
Why is networking so important?
Networking fosters professional development, helps you gain access to career resources and can even introduce you to new lifelong friends. In my personal experience, networking has helped me connect with others who I never would have met if it weren’t for a networking group. These individuals have shared their experience with me and provided me with ideas to help me grow professionally. On a personal level, I have formed new friendships and have learned to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone.
Groups and organizations that meet on a regular basis are great places to begin your networking ventures. Before you attend an event or commit to a group make sure that you’ve prepared yourself to get the most out of these networking events. If you’re convinced that you need to begin networking, but are unsure of where to start, explore the following groups that often have a presence and meet in almost every city.
If putting yourself out in front of others, or public speaking scares you, consider joining one of the most well known organizations dedicated to cultivating effective communicators and leaders. Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization with local clubs throughout the world. Members with a variety of professional backgrounds meet on a regular basis, give speeches and gain feedback from their clubs in a safe and supportive environment. If you’re unsure whether Toastmasters International is for you, the organization encourages you to visit different clubs in your area until you find one that you’d like to join.
Meetup.com is a website that helps you find groups ranging from local business professionals in your career field to individuals that share your passion about art or food. The goal of Meetup is to help you get together in person with others in your area, which in turn builds stronger communities.
I recently attended a local Meetup in my city. The Meetup group was made up of women who used the WordPress platform. All of us came to the meeting with different experiences, different levels of expertise and different goals. We gathered in a casual social setting and shared our stories and experiences. I learned so much from those more experienced than I am. It was also gratifying being able to share what I knew with those just beginning to use the platform. This interaction is what makes networking so beneficial to your career and your personal growth.
Whether you are an administrative assistant, paralegal, office manager, graphic designer, teacher or salesperson, chances are high that there is a professional association for your field of work. Meeting regularly with others in your industry can help build credibility in your field and help you stay on top of the latest tools and information. If you can’t find an association in your area, get together with others in your profession and start one. Worried about mingling with your competition? There are plenty of clients and business to go around and connecting with those in your field can actually help you – you will likely be able to find better professional opportunities through the people you meet.
If you are a healthcare professional, consider joining one of these three associations in your field.
Joining groups within your organization dedicated to causes or issues you have an interest in is a fine way to meet others in your company who you don’t necessarily work with on a daily basis. Most companies have groups dedicated to topics like community service and technology training. If your company doesn’t have any groups, or you can’t seem to find one that fits what you are looking for, talk to your HR department about starting a group.
Professional networking groups are tremendously valuable, however sometimes we need a break from our work lives. Social groups make a positive addition or alternative to the conventional business networking group. Groups that gather around social or engaging topics such as book clubs or architecture are an excellent opportunity to meet individuals with a variety of professional backgrounds and personal interests.
To find social groups your local library is a good place to start. Libraries often host events around books and recreational topics. Your local community center will also have resources for finding social groups and clubs. Also don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends and colleagues about any groups or clubs that they may be a part of. Not only might you find an enjoyable group to join, but you might also get to spend more time with someone you already know. Additionally, you can find an array of social groups on Meetup.com, mentioned above. Social Meetup groups range from sports and fitness to language and culture.