Networking is an important part of a successful job search or even a good way to broaden your existing career and job to include more mentors, clients, customers, and allies. When we think of networking though, we tend to think of things like job fairs, schools, and business social nights, but if none of those really do it for you, you may want to broaden your horizons to capture some more unique networking opportunities. Here, we will give you five unique networking opportunities, just to get your creative juices flowing. After all, anywhere people gather could be an opportunity!
When I’m not teaching or designing curriculum, I’m an independent author, and that means a lot of pounding pavement and networking. One of the easiest and most fun ways to do that is joining active, friendly Facebook groups that align with both my interests and, of course, pushing my books. (To be fair, I do more chatting and book reviewing than I do pushing my books, but oh well).
Facebook groups (or any social media groups, but we will target Facebook here as groups are numerous and easy to find) are a fantastic way to network from your home without having to meet people face to face. This is not an inconsiderable advantage – Covid 19 is still raging in parts of the world and many people are anxious, or too busy, to go places to meet strangers. Instead, Facebook groups bring people to you, from all over the world, all aligned with a particular interest. What a fantastic way to meet people, learn new tricks, get inspired, and maybe pick up some work!
If you are new to groups, there are a few things to understand:
- Many groups are set to ‘private’ and you will have to answer a few questions so that moderators and admin teams know that you are serious about being a benefit to the group
- Most groups have rules to follow which often include contributing more than just advertising yourself. You will have to take some time to actually be of some benefit to the entire group
- You can easily do a search for groups and filter by location, interests, and preferences. It’s worth doing this so that you are joining groups that will be beneficial to you.
- Don’t join too many groups or else you won’t have the time to give them attention it requires to make the most of them
Ok, this one is not particularly unique, but most people treat Facebook groups as something for socializing, so it’s worth reminding you that it can be used for business too.
I’ve written about volunteering before and it’s often pushed as a great way to give back to the community and have something to bolster your resume. But it can also be a great way to get an insider view at an organization and see what needs to be done and where you can offer your skills. For example, many small organizations have a hard time with their social media presence, their website content, or with reaching out to other organizations to network. If you enjoy communicating, writing, website building/maintenance, or talking to people, volunteering your time at these organizations feels good and is helpful. And once you get to know people, you can start talking about what you do for a living and what you have to offer.
Obviously, you want to do this with a gentle touch, and just like Facebook groups, don’t go in advertising right away. Spend some time acting, not just talking and prove that you know what you are doing and have more to offer. Research the organization first and make sure that you’re not out of their affordability and that what you have to offer will actually fill a need. And remember that you probably won’t get a full time job offer out of it, but you may be able to make a little money on the side.
Take advantage of this too in order to learn about an industry that is different than yours! If you’re volunteering, there’s really no strings attached and who knows? You may discover that you have an affinity and passion for something totally different than you thought.
Fairs and Conventions
Do you think of networking when you think of fall fairs and fan conventions? Most people probably don’t! But with Covid-19 fading and events slowly coming back, the vendors are coming back out too and they love to talk about what they do, how they do it, and what could be done better. Have you ever actually talked to the people who sell quilts, run carnival games, or run booths? Didn’t think so, but it’s a goldmine of information about the type of customers they get, where they travel to (and how), where the weaknesses are in the system, and what it’s like to work in that sort of industry. And since many people in fairs, conventions, and farmer’s markets often travel, you may learn about other nearby communities and what they need as well. Talk to your local vendors! You never know what you’ll learn. (And sometimes you may get discounts on your favourite treats).
These can include things like parenting groups (PAC), arts groups, block parties and school functions. Community events are meant to bring people together and there’s no reason to hide in the sidelines when you can meet fellow neighbours, parents, and other people who live in your town. These events tend to also attract people in local politics (or those wanting to be in local politics), small business owners and even proxies from big businesses looking to be more community minded. Take advantage of the relatively informal atmosphere of these events to be more comfortable and talk about what you have to offer and where you think things could be done better.
Whether you hit the gym, go hiking, walk a dog at the park, or want to join a running group, exercise tends to bring people together and talking about work is a natural thing that follows when people are together. Obviously, you should choose exercises you enjoy doing anyway, but by keeping your ears open and staying friendly while you work out, you may meet people who can give you a bead on your next line of work or help you broaden your existing career.
We always get asked ‘what do you do for a living’ (or some variation therein) and instead of feeling like it’s an obnoxious or invasive question, take advantage of it! Networking can be done anywhere, anytime and with anyone, so broaden your horizons and see what other people have to offer in different corners of your life. You might be amazed by the opportunities that come out of more unique networking moments.