Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Networking Activities to Boost Your Career

Boost your career through networking - 10 networking activities to get you started
When I talk with my clients about how important networking is I’m often faced with a look of terror as they envisage themselves anxiously walking into a room full of strangers and awkwardly trying to network with them.

I'm quick to reassure them that networking has changed a lot over the years and doesn't need to be the horrifying and daunting task they fear it will be. The biggest changes that have happened are the result of technological developments as well as the huge growth in range of networking opportunities. There really is something to suit everyone no matter how shy or lacking in confidence you might be.

I prefer to look at networking as an opportunity to connect, learn and develop. Viewed in this way, networking becomes far less fearsome and much more fun. Now that’s got to be better than anxiousness, sweaty palms and panic attacks right?

Here’s my top 10 networking activities you can start working on today that will help boost your career:

Professional networking sites - Specialist professional networking websites such as LinkedIn are a fantastic tool and should be part of every professional’s networking arsenal. A free account takes little time to set up and can see you beginning to grow your network in no time at all.

Seminars - Attending seminars is a great way to increase your knowledge on specific topics whilst growing your network. Arrive early to mingle and meet people. TED Talks are a great way to meet people who share similar interests to your own and often attract business owners and professionals alike.

Exhibitions - Bringing businesses and other organisations together. May or may not be open to the general public. They provide the ideal environment to get to learn more about specific sectors with the added advantage of meeting people face-to-face.

Training courses - Are a great way to meet like-minded professionals. Not all training is face to face. The kind of networking you might do could be via webinars which is excellent for meeting other business people.

Professional or trade associations - Each sector has a professional or trade association which represents the interests of those who work in that field.  Activities vary but usually becoming a member enables you to participate in networking events, professional development activities, conferences/trade shows etc.

Conferences - Typically made up of talks, stalls and workshops, conferences provide loads of opportunities for you to make connections with like-minded professionals. Some conferences offer the opportunity to be added to a networking contact list so that you can connect with attendees after the event.

Chambers of Commerce - There is likely to be a chambers of commerce in your town or region whose aim is to bring together local businesses. Chambers of Commerce run regular networking events, may host an online forum and produce a weekly or monthly newsletter.

University Alumni groups - Joining your university’s alumni group is a great way to stay in the loop of what’s happening in your sector. Alumni groups usually have an active community who keep in touch through organised social, networking or CPD activities.

Breakfast networking clubs - There countless breakfast networking clubs popping up all over the country aimed at bringing local businesses together (over breakfast obviously). This can be a great way to build your network if you are moving into self-employment or becoming a freelancer. Try Business Over Breakfast

Volunteering – Investing your time and expertise by volunteering you will automatically widen your network. Your contribution doesn't have to be a substantial one in terms of hours or days per week. There are many organisations that require support that might demand just a few hours a month. Aside from growing your network, it enhances your CV and most importantly, gives you a sense that you are giving something back. To search for volunteering opportunities try Do It and Volunteering England.

Perhaps you can commit to following through with between one and three of these activities in the next month?

Have any other networking ideas? Want to share your networking success story? Feel free to comment below.

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, BSocSc(Couns&HumServ), DipCareerGuid,  RCDPMAC is a Career Coach and Career Development Consultant at CareerWorx with more than 18 years' experience helping people plan and manage their careers.

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