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Looking to move up in your field or searching for new career opportunities? Have you tried the more common networking methods and had no luck? Read below for a few “out of the box” tips.
1) Informational Interviews
Informational interviews help you to learn more about a position or career you may be interested. They also help introduce you to key players who may be able to help you land that opportunity. The result may be gaining a mentor or coming in contact with your future boss. It allows you the chance to explore the field as an outsider while gaining an insider’s perspective.
2) Through common interest groups
This could range from fellow church members, individuals in your workout classes, a hobby group to even an interest course (i.e. cooking class). Talking with people in these groups may uncover other similar interests, hopefully in professional areas.
3) Through parent groups
Do your kids play sports, participate in clubs or have friends they like to hang out with outside of school? Perhaps through connecting with other parents you will find a resource for your professional endeavors. Even if these parents are in different career fields, they may be able to connect you to someone in their network that can help. As the saying goes “everybody knows somebody”.
4) Volunteer opportunities
Recently, I have met a number of professionally like-minded individuals through my volunteer participation. I do recommend doing at least one activity completely different than your professional occupation that’s just for fun. Though participating in volunteer activities related to your desired profession can serve as helpful. Connecting with individuals in similar areas can help boost your chances of finding more professional opportunities in your desired area.
5) At the coffee shop (or out and about)
There are always people to meet when you’re out and about. And more than likely in that bunch you’ll find a few folks that don’t mind talking; especially about themselves or their career endeavors. The key is to chat with people who you anticipate (say through what you see them working on) have the same interests as you. I admit this can be a bit awkward and initiating a conversation with complete strangers may not be your thing. It typically isn’t mine either. Though being open to holding these types of conversations does help – meaningful conversations that is. (There are occasionally those “friendly” people looking for a latte and a date in the same place. Sorry, not that type of party.)
For example, I was in the coffee shop a few months back and I could feel someone looking at me so I looked up. As I made eye contact with a woman she asked “Are you a writer?”. I wasn’t typing, I wasn’t writing intensely. In fact I was just writing a generic to-do list. But perhaps her intuition prompted her to ask. We ended up having a lengthy conversation about my blogging and other writing interests. She shared that she was developing a website which would involve fiction writers.
Ordinarily when I go to the coffee shop I like to be left alone to work. But that situation taught me that you never know who you may end up connecting with and how that connection may influence your career.
6) Personal contacts (friends and family)
Sometimes our untapped resources are those right at our finger tips. When I talk to friends and family who are looking to explore a professional opportunity, location or even hobby I always try to think of who I know that can help. Even if I just connect them for the purpose of receiving further information. It always helps to explore who may know who.
Of course it is more helpful when you reach out to them for the contacts so that you are specific about connecting with someone you can benefit from. Connecting with someone who can give you a job is helpful but ideally you want to network with your long term interests and goals in mind.
7) Create a social media page for your hobby or area of interest
When I first started my blog I created a connected Instagram account to help share my content on another platform. I kept the account on private mode for a while, wishing only to have followers be friends and family. One day I was talking to a friend that shared some great advice. She told me “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If you have a message to share, people aren’t going to be able to see it if you’re account is private”. I took her advice and made my account public. Once I did so, I noticed that the people liking and following my Instagram photos were those who covered similar subjects on their own pages – like minded individuals. Not to mention others who I was able to help empower and inspire through the content.
Even if you’re not looking for a business venture or to share content, put yourself out there. Perhaps your hobby is creating floral arrangements just for relaxation. Putting yourself out there on social media may end up connecting you with others also interested in this hobby and knowledgeable about where you can find new materials or classes.
8) Get together with old co-workers and host a networking party
I’m a fan of the old TV show Girlfriends. There was an episode where the main character, Joan (played by Tracee Ellis Ross), threw an “ex’s” party. The premise of the party was that each person initially invited was to invite one of their ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. This would create a pool of available individuals that could potentially find a new partner. The party ended up being a flop in the episode but the principle could apply in real life.
If you host an event (i.e. a networking party or small dinner) with old co-workers and invite them to extend the invitation to their professional friends, there is now a larger group of individuals to network with. Ideally, individuals at the event would represent a range of industries and/or companies to create a variety of opportunities.
9) Share resources with an influencer you’re looking to connect with
By the term “influencer” I am referring to someone in a vital role that you wish to make a connection with. Influencers are typically well established in the profession/area you are looking to get into. It is common for people to reach out to an influencer to ask for help. Perhaps the request is to speak to them about how they arrived at their current position or if they can assist with job placement. While this is common and (usually) done with good intentions, it doesn’t represent a reciprocal relationship. You are asking them to do a service for you without offering something in return. To take it a step further, suppose that 5 other individuals each send them a similar request for the same purpose. What makes this person want to help you, in particular, if they have 5 other people wanting the same of their time? So how do you solve this?
Try reaching out for help but also offering something in return. Perhaps you send them a professional article you think they would be interested in. Another idea would be to offer them feedback that would help them in their specific role. For example, suppose you were trying to connect with an entrepreneur who owns a coffee shop. You may suggest something like the following: “I noticed that you have coffee cups with a really cool logo. But have you ever thought about advertising to customers to bring in their own cups for a small discount? This could help you save money and have more cups in stock while offering the customer an incentive”. Not only would this show the influencer your genuine interest in their company or role (not that you’re just trying to get a job) but also that you have something to offer them in return for their help.
10) Ask for a “hook-up” (a friend that will connect you with an influencer)
Many people have entertained the idea of a friend “hooking them up” with another friend in hopes of establishing a romantic partnership. Why not use the same principle when it comes to a professional relationship? True, your friend can’t hook you up with their boss in order to guarantee you a job. But this could make for a meaningful professional connection. For instance, I have a friend who is looking to be a Nurse Practitioner. At the time she shared her career goal with me, I was working for a boss whose professional background involved years of experience as a Nurse Practitioner. I connected them so that my friend could set up a meeting with my former boss in order to get more insight into the field. So while I did not hook her up with a job, the knowledge that leader was able to offer my friend helped in her professional journey.
I hope that you have found these ideas to be helpful. If you have any creative networking ideas that I did not mention above, please feel free to share in the comments below! 🙂