February 15, 2018
It’s important to make networking a continuous part of your professional life, no matter where you are in your career. Many people make the mistake of not thinking about networking until they need something – a job, a mentor, a recommendation.
But the purpose of networking is to build genuine relationships with people inside and outside your field, and that’s not something you can achieve overnight. By meeting interesting people doing interesting work, you expandyour professional horizons. You learn about new ideas, ventures, and opportunities. And someday you may be able to help someone out or receive help yourself because of these connections.
At York Solutions, our clients and Barriers to Entry (B2E) participants look to us as a resource, and one question we often hear is, “How do I network outside of my company?” These are the tips we always share:
1. Join a board or association.
Stay in tune with what’s going on in your industry by joining professional associations or clubs. Local chapters often host regular events – ranging from casual mixers to panels with expert speakers. Sign up to attend a few every month and set a goal to talk to one new person at each event.
Joining a non-profit board is another way to make helpful connections and strengthen your skills. Look for an organization that shares your values and interests, and that you could enrich with your capabilities. At York Solutions, we’re committed to partnering with Genesys Works; a non-profit organization we are deeply passionate about.
2. Utilize your alumni network.
Connect with your school’s alumni network – both through the formal association and in online groups. Most colleges and universities have local chapters; look up when the next nearby event is and reach out to the coordinator to introduce yourself.
3. Attend meetings or conferences.
Conferences or meetings in your field are an opportunity for professional development and networking. Go as an attendee, a volunteer, or even a presenter to one in your area. Take advantage of the chance to meet other people doing work you admire. When you find someone you want to keep in touch with, make sure to follow up with a short, personal note via email or LinkedIn.
4. Get active.
Stay active in your networking activities, both online and offline. Join professional groups that interest you on LinkedIn and Facebook. Follow thought leaders on Twitter. Check out Meetup.com, and sign up for an event that sounds fun – whether it’s directly related to your field or not. You’ll get to explore your interest in hiking, photography, or Spanish conversation practice, and you’ll get to know new people.
5. Invest in a cause you care about.
Make time for a cause you’re passionate about: the environment, adult literacy, animal rights, etc. Volunteer for a charity event, attend a fundraiser, or offer your skills pro-bono to a non-profit. You will not only support a mission you believe in, you will also foster new relationships within your community.
Interested in learning more about professional development? Check out York Solutions’ services.