The answer is, “Yes!”
I recently returned home from four days of professional development and networking with colleagues in the career services industry. I confess: I am a total conference geek. I love immersing myself in talking about and sharing best practices about resumes, job search strategies, and career coaching, and especially, hanging with my tribe of other conference geeks.
I love dissecting the event agenda and vetting my choices about which topics to choose and which I’ll read up on later. While I love me a great conference – the learning, the energy, the food (omg the food!), there are many other ways to expand and strengthen your network beyond traveling to attend a big shindig.
Here are a few of my favorites strategies for networking success:
Join an industry-related membership group
These groups are often created at the international, national, regional, and/or local levels, so pick the one(s) which will best serve your professional needs. These organizations promote knowledge enhancement and professional growth and offer conferences, webinars, podcasts, member mixers, and meet and greet opportunities to connect with other members. Beyond networking, another often overlooked benefit of these groups is the opportunity for leadership experience or volunteerism to expand your professional contributions and boost your visibility.
Get on Clubhouse
Tired of having to put pants on to leave the house or talk on Zoom? Then Clubhouse could be the best thing to happen to your networking strategy. Clubhouse is a social audio app where users communicate in real time chat rooms about whatever topic the space is set up for. Topics range from the personal, to the professional, to the offbeat, and to the downright quirky. Come and go as you please and you can start your own room to attract like-minded individuals and build relationships with the people you want to.
Engage more on LinkedIn
You probably already have a LinkedIn profile but have you completely optimized it and are you utilizing it to network with others? Fully optimizing your profile will help you get found by recruiters and other professionals searching for people with skills, qualifications, experience, and interests like yours. Yes, literally searching for you to talk with, learn from, do business with.
Networking on LinkedIn can mean anything from engaging with the posts of others to creating and executing a full-blown content strategy or joining one of the thousands of topic-specific groups available on the platform. From a networking perspective, the goal is to use your posting engagements as a steppingstone to building deeper relationships. Networking is a two-way street, so sharing content and developing an interest in helping others reach their goals will accelerate and strengthen your relationships.
Follow thought leaders in your industry
Follow the industry leaders that you admire and whose content is your go-to for the latest, greatest, and upcoming in your field. Your faves likely have a presence on all of the leading social platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook. Click the follow button and sign up for their monthly newsletters to stay in the know. Even better, engage with their posts and reach out and connect with them and others who share your affinity for their content and explore where the conversations lead.
Some final thoughts on conferences…
Industry conferences are back and thriving in today’s post-pandemic world. With the wide array of in-person and virtual options available for in-depth information sharing, it should be relatively easy to find one that checks all of your preference boxes.
Keep in mind that in addition to all the great learnings that you gain from participating in a conference, and beyond the swag bags and door prizes you receive, many industry conferences also offer continuing education credits toward your professional certifications, so the value in attending can be tremendous!
Let the ancient proverb of “Dig your well before you are thirsty” be your guide for networking success beyond the job search. To neglect your network of trusted and valued colleagues when you are not in the throes of a job search hurts both you and them. While you need them, they need you, and your absence leaves a hole for them.
Whichever approach you choose, remember that no one appreciates being asked to provide an introduction or recommendation for a job or when they have heard nothing but radio silence from you for years. Don’t be that person. Now, get out there to network for success and talk to someone.