Formal Networking Opportunities

I had an interview today by a local newspaper about my take on unemployment, JibberJobber, networking and various other things.  I can only hope that the article that comes out of it will make me look half-way intelligent :)  I imagine any that has ever been in front of the press has that concern!

Anyway, one of the questions that the reporter posed to me was “where do I network?”  It was an interesting question and I’ve been thinking about it all day – where do people network?  How do you get started if you have no idea WHERE to go?

Of course you can network anywhere, anytime – because you are just trying to establish relationships.  But I have been thinking about some more formal venues in which you could network.  Here are some thoughts I’ve had today:

. Look up some university alumni chapters.  These are geared towards networking and job search help, and I’ve found that many of them will welcome you to their meetings even if you are not an alumnus.  One that I’ve been interested in is the local chapter for Thunderbird – the International MBA school.

. Call your local chamber of commerce.  They typically hold some kind of monthly meeting, maybe various monthly meetings, and it is a great place to meet other people that may be valuable in your network.

. There are a number of networking groups that are kind of exclusive/inclusive (yes, I made that up all by myself) – perhaps you’ve heard of them.  These are groups that want to find ONE dry cleaner, ONE web design shop, ONE marketer, ONE etc. for each group – and they actively share business leads with one another.  Once they get enough people in their group, they may start another group, and begin the process all over again.  So, exclusive in that they only allow one type of “vendor” in each of their groups, but inclusive in that they want to grow and create more groups.  You may not be a vendor, but these are active businesses that like to network, and letting them know who you are and what your skills are may be beneficial.

. Find out from your local church groups what networking opportunities they may have, or know about.  Lots of times people in a church organization, whether congrations members or church leaders, will know about opportunities that you should get involved in, maybe even church sponsered.

. Find out from some folks that already work in professions that you are interested in what associations they belong to, and if there are regular monthly meetings (usually luncheons) that you can attend.  For example, if you are interested in marketing, there are all kinds of marketing associations that you might be able to tap into.  You’ll get to know a number of great contacts in your area in that profession.

One thing I love about networking is the ability to cross-pollinate.  Going to one networking meeting is great – it is a step in the right direction.  I recommend going to various types of networking meetings (in other words, sponsered by various interests – university, local government, industry/trade, church, etc.) AND to different cities.  I’ve found that the different meetings that I go to in a 75 mile stretch on the highway has very different types of people (connections, job leads, professions) in each city.

Where do you network formally?  Are you there yet?  Do you have time for it?