Networking is essential for career success, and it’s always valuable to start building your network or expanding your professional connections by attending a networking event. There are several types of in-person career networking events, both formal and informal, which will help you to expand the number of contacts which you generate through networking.
Although all networking events share the same goal of getting people together with other people who can help them career-wise, there are some differences in where and how these events are held. Here's a list of some of the different types of events and programs that are available for job seekers and career changers.
Types of Career Networking Events
Employers, recruiters, and schools often gather at career fairs to provide an opportunity for job seekers to meet in one location. Employers may be recruiting for specific job openings or may wish to connect with participants to provide information on the company and future employment opportunities. Career fairs are busy, and things move fast so be sure to practice your elevator pitch before going (and arrive early).
Chamber of Commerce Events
Chamber of Commerce groups hold regional events like mixers, workshops, fundraisers for local charities, and business card exchanges. These events provide an excellent opportunity to meet prospective local employers, business partners, clients, and suppliers. Make sure you have a business card to hand out which is eye-catching and links to other sources of information about your work or business like your LinkedIn URL or a company website.
Church groups provide a forum for casual networking with people holding common spiritual beliefs through participation in socials, coffee after services or church charities.
College Alumni Programs
Colleges sponsor non-career events which afford the opportunity for alumni to meet around a common interest. Gallery and museum tours, sporting events, lectures and cocktail hours at local bars are frequent offerings. Programs like these allow alumni to connect in an informal way which can lead to productive informational interviews at a later date. Be ready to share your own career status as it fits in with the conversation.
College Career Networking Events
Colleges will often sponsor career networking events for alumni and/or students. These programs may take place on campus or in various cities with a significant alumni population or by industry groups. Check with the career services or alumni affairs office at your alma mater for a schedule of events. These events can be structured in many different ways with a common denominator being the opportunity to introduce yourself and hear the introductions of other alumni and/or students. So, having an elevator speech prepared which summarizes your work history and aspirations in 30 - 60 seconds will be essential. Speed networking has become a popular event structure for alumni and other professional groups.
Community Service Groups
Community service groups like the Rotary Club provide the opportunity for volunteers to staff fundraisers and other events whereby they will interact with donors and other volunteers. Your shared charitable tendencies can often serve as a bridge and cast you in a favorable light. Joining a service group is a great way to aid your fellow community members and build up your network. Obviously, you shouldn’t join just to build your network. It’s important that you’re sincere about your service.
Women's groups and other groups based on gender, race or ethnicity (like the National Society of Black Engineers) have long recognized the value of networking and typically integrate this component into their lectures and events.
Job Club Meetings
A job club is a formal or informal group of job seekers who provide each other with job search advice and support. Club members, even if they are unemployed, can assist fellow members with job referrals, job leads, and introductions. It’s an effective way to network with fellow job seekers. Look for job clubs via your local chamber of commerce, public library, community college, or take out an ad in the local paper and start your own job club.
Meetings, workshops, and conferences for professional and trade associations often include formal networking events. They also offer ample opportunities to make contacts during meetings and workshops. By volunteering to help organize a conference you can gain visibility and showcase your work style. Presenting workshops provides another vehicle for exhibiting your knowledge and skills. Or you can attend these workshops and build up your own skills list.