Although networking is often cited as the number one way to get your foot in the door at a company, it can be difficult to figure out where to get started. Many people feel like networking for the sake of networking isn’t genuine, but there are a few different settings that lend themselves to meeting others both inside and outside of your industry.
Talk to your co-workers or peers at school.
The easiest way to meet people in your industry is to talk to those you already interact with. Eat lunch with your co-workers, go to company events outside of work hours…or if you are a student, have conversations with your classmates. Since you are in these situations already, it is a simple way to get started with forming connections with others in your field. And don’t feel obligated to make all conversations related to work; you’re forming a relationship, so converse however is natural.
Join organizations and affiliations in your field.
A great way to expand your professional network is to join a professional affiliation in your area. If you’re not sure of what kinds of organizations are in your area, search on Google for your industry and city name, look on LinkedIn for related groups, or ask your peers. Some groups will have membership rates or other information, so be sure to do a little bit of research and then join the organizations that best suit you.
Go to industry-related events.
Sometimes industry-related events will be run by those same organizations you researched, but you don’t necessarily have to be a member. There may also be conferences, informal get-togethers, speakers, presentations, and networking events. Look around and get involved locally to meet people outside your own organization.
Finally, it is important to remember the value of websites like LinkedIn and Twitter. These mediums make it possible to bridge the geographic gaps and connect with others in your industry, especially those who are really making an impact. Since these mediums tend to be more casual as well, they give you an opportunity to chat with those who may be unresponsive to emails or other mediums of contact.
These four settings – at work or school, at an organization or event, or online – can all help you get started with networking in a non-intimidating way. Don’t forget to cultivate the relationships you make after – it’s all about building relationships!