We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that really matters.” In a perfect world, everyone would be fairly evaluated on their merit, and opportunities would flow to the most deserving based on their hard work and talent. But, we don’t live in a meritocracy, and having a network of people who can connect you to the right opportunities is vital. I’ve spoken before about the importance of building relationships and how to go about creating your network. Today, I’ll share with you some ideas for where to find the people you want to bring into your professional network.
- Work. One of the most obvious places to find people to bring into your network is at work. Your workplace is filled with people with whom you most likely have a lot in common – professional interests and skills, among other things. Take the time to cultivate relationships at work, both with your peers and with your managers. It’s not enough to simply keep your head down and work hard. You have to make it a point to connect with others around you. Make lunch dates, attend the happy hours, talk about things other than work. Building these internal relationships will position you for promotions and and juicy projects. Also, if your colleague moves to another company, you’ll have someone to reach out to when you’re ready to look for other opportunities too.
- Professional Associations. Most industries have professional associations that you can join to connect with others in the same field. These organizations usually put on networking events, panels, and/or outings where people can come together to share experiences, learn best practices, and get to know one another outside of an office setting. Attending even one or two of these events a year can help you build your network and expand your knowledge base. If you’re still a student, most organizations have student membership discounts, and some will even allow students to join for free. Joining a committee or volunteering to work at events is also a great way to meet others in the association.
- Alumni Groups. Some people graduate from school and never look back. But, staying in touch with your alma mater’s alumni groups is a fantastic way to grow your professional network. These groups are usually large, diverse and easy to approach since you have your shared experience of attending the same school. Attend the alumni gala, join a planning committee, volunteer to attend on-campus events. You never know what your fellow alums are up to and how they can enhance your network.
- Neighborhood Associations. Most of us like to separate home and work, but your local neighborhood associations are great places to network. Join a junior league, run for city council, attend local business events or participate in the PTA. These will give you excuses to run into people who may be able to help you down the line.
- Volunteer. Volunteering serves multiple purposes. First, you’re able to give back to your community, which always feels great and is always appreciated. Second, you get to explore passions and perform tasks you usually don’t get to do at work, which will help enhance your skill set and keep you personally fulfilled. And finally, you get to meet people you probably wouldn’t otherwise get to know. Your fellow volunteers will quickly become go-to contacts, and if you’re lucky, also your friends.
Where have you had success in meeting people to bring into your professional network? Share in the comments!
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