I did some research on local networking opportunities a while back for a job seeker. She and I met though the Job Angels initiative originally started on Twitter. She recently graduated with an engineering degree and moved from Michigan to Wilmington, NC. She knew virtually no one and was anxious to launch her career. She asked me how to meet and network in this town. I put a call out to my Tweeps on Twitter to get as much info as possible for her. They did not disappoint. Following is what they shared and what I found. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by all the opportunities this “little town” of 91,000+ had to offer.
About two weeks later, I shared the same info with a long time resident of the community, after his company eliminated his position due to a business decision. He had no idea where to start networking or what was out there (should have had a well-established network already, but...) I decided, if these two people were unaware of the resources, then most likely so were many others. Since I’ve already done the legwork, adding the info to my blog was a no-brainer.
I realize this information is specific to one geographic area, but it might give someone a place to start digging for similar opportunities in their own city. Wilmington is not a large metropolitan area, but look at what it has to offer in the way of networking opportunities for local professionals. Imagine what your town offers. If the answer is nothing, then perhaps this will inspire you to get something started.
Several of these events are held in local adult beverage watering holes. As I told my young job seeker, I’m not advocating drinking to get a job. You can order a seltzer or soft drink. In fact, it’s probably best not to drink while networking. If you do, limit yourself to one or two, depending on the length of the event. You want to be remembered, but you don’t want to be remembered as “that guy”.
1. Professional Organizations (Google your profession and see what you find)
2. Wilmington Professional Group
3. Wilmington Young Professional Group
4. Business Networking International (BNI)
5. Strictly Business
6. Downtown Meet & Mingle the first Wednesday of the month
7. Front Street Brewery – Gals on Grapes every Tuesday
5. Front Street Brewery – Guys and Dolls on Hops every Wednesday
10. The Wilmington Networking calendar
11. The 3rd Street Plaza Ning site
More advice I gave her: Google “networking” and “elevator speech” or “elevator introduction” and PLAN what you’re going to do and how you’re going to interact. Ask open-ended questions and don’t make the focus the job search. Be interested in people, but also be interesting. Craft an introduction that allows people to see, smell, taste and touch what you do or what you’re passionate about. Engage. Ask a question up front to encourage that engagement and find a common ground. Make your intro POP (Purposeful, original and pithy). This time it’s not about the job search. It’s about engaging and building relationships. The job search help comes as a natural evolution of people caring about you. (Patience is a virtue...or so they tell me.)
And a quick, unsolicited piece of advice...even if you land a job, cultivate and nurture your network. They’ll be the key to opportunity and advancement for your entire career. Someone always knows someone who knows someone...people are more apt to help someone who has given back as well as asked for help.
While I adore social media, meeting IRL* is even more fun. Is it worth it you ask? I met a woman who later became a client at one of our Tweetups, so I’d say yes. I didn’t go looking for work. I went to get out and meet local Tweeps. It’s always fun. The client I picked up was frosting on the cake. Now get out from behind the computer, breath some fresh air and go make some new connections. “Ya neva know” what might come of it.
*In real life