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Professional Networking: Finding The Right Networking Group
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Professional Networking: Finding The Right Networking Group - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Finding The Right Networking Group

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Finding The Right Networking Group

In our last article on the subject, we suggested that online networking, for all its blessings, is unlikely to do the whole job. In-person networking events can enhance online connections and nurture personal relationships you might otherwise miss, but it can be a challenge to find a group that feels right for you.

Find a Group of People You Like
Remember: networking is all about relationships, and relationships with people you like are the best kind. If you have a friend who already meets regularly with a networking group (whether or not it calls itself that), ask if you can come along one day. This approach is not quite the focused attack that many would advise, but it has several benefits. First, you’ll be meeting people who are friends with someone you like, so the probability of their also being people you like is a lot less random than at some formal, staged event, and you’ll be forming personal relationships in advance of what could become professional relationships. Second, what makes a networking group successful over a long period of time is regular attendance, and meeting with a group of friends is more likely to be something you look forward to.

Be Patient
You might not click right into place immediately, and it’s possible that you never will. If it doesn’t happen right away, be patient. Keep showing up, keep participating, and keep a positive attitude. Sometimes the most lasting and meaningful relationships take a while to get started. Suffering through painful, awkward get-togethers doesn’t sound like a good way to develop a healthy network, but time and familiarity are often the ingredients for the best friendships. This advice is contrary to a lot of published opinion, yet a certain social stick-to-it-ness can be one of the best things in your networking toolbox. There will come a time when you may have to decide to cut your losses; don’t let that time arrive too quickly. For a group that meets monthly, give it at least six months to a year, especially if it’s a group of people you like.

Find a Varied Gene Pool
If you’re looking for a group that has a stated shared interest (such as a marketers’ lunch, or an HR brown-bag discussion group), don’t sweat whether or not your work fits neatly under the group’s banner. Groups that are too specific to your field may not be as far-reaching in their scope of ideas and influence as groups that are a less obvious fit, or groups whose themes cover a lot of ground, such as technology circles or small-business luncheons. If you like the people, stick it out and try to contribute. It’s often better to be the one person in a group who knows what you know than to know the same stuff as everyone else at the table.

Start Your Own Networking Lunch
If existing groups aren’t doing it for you, start a group yourself using these ideas as a starting point. Invite a few friends with common interests to have lunch somewhere, or drinks after work, and see how it goes. If the vibe is good, invite the same people again a month later. You don’t have to make a thing out of it; to begin, just call it lunch. Then see if you can make it a regular meet-up, the kind of thing people can put in their planners all the time. Someone will eventually ask to bring a friend or colleague along, especially if people in your group are sharing on social media group photos of your get-togethers. If you keep it up, you’ll develop your own little networking event that others will want to be a part of.

Show Up, and Keep Showing Up
If there is a common theme among these pointers, it is the importance of being there. Showing up regularly will strengthen relationships, contribute to the long-term vibrancy of the group, and remind others of who you are and what you offer. The advice presented here takes a long view of networking, something that may not appeal to everyone, but if your focus is on relationships, you may find that this slower approach creates the strongest connections.

 

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Professional Networking: Finding The Right Networking Group - Executive Leadership Articles

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