Many clients I work with tell me they hate the idea of networking without having given it a fair chance. They tend to avoid networking because they don’t want to be out of their comfort zones, and deep down, they fear being judged, criticized, or appearing too needy.
However, I can tell you that the best way to overcome these fears is to get out there and start networking.
Misconceptions can also make people dismiss the idea of networking completely and prevent them from fully embracing its potential.
One common misconception is that networking is only for business owners, not for those seeking to advance their careers. Then there is the idea that you have to ‘sell yourself’, which can sound sleazy to some people and lead them to avoid it altogether.
Lastly, some believe that networking requires attending events marketed specifically as networking opportunities, which can feel forced or inauthentic.
However, I believe that networking should form a part of your strategy if you are looking to break into a new field or make big strides in your existing career.
Networking can connect you with influential figures, future mentors, or simply that person who can offer inside information to nudge you in the direction of your dream career.
It is a way to get out into the real world and make an impression with your personality and move people with your story, something that online networking and a written CV cannot do justice to. There is nothing like being visible and present in the here and now.
Networking also offers a chance to learn more about the industry you want to work in. You can gain insights into what goes on behind the scenes, where the industry trends are heading, and the skills gaps that exist. Showing interest and knowledge in your industry is going to make you a more attractive prospect to employers.
Moreover, successful leaders understand the importance of networking, as they know that building and nurturing relationships is a long-term investment that can advance their careers.
Different types of networking to try
So before you give networking the brush off, maybe it is time to look at the different ways you could do it.
Many people overlook the power of personal networking. Talk to your friends, family, and acquaintances to see if they know anyone who works in your desired industry. You never know who might be able to introduce you to someone who can offer you valuable insights and help you change to a new career.
Fairs and expos
Job fairs and industry expositions are great ways to immerse yourself and learn as much as you can in a short space of time about your chosen industry, whilst also meeting people who could positively influence your career path.
To get started, you can search for industry-specific events on Google by entering “____ industry events” and filling in the blank with your area of interest, such as marketing, construction, healthcare, or film. The websites of conference organisers typically feature a wide range of events, for example:
- awards ceremonies
Many of these events are designed with networking opportunities in mind, but allowing you to focus on learning and thereby removing the pressure of “selling yourself” in an artificial way.
Attending lectures can be a powerful way to build your network – and you don’t necessarily have to be a member of any societies as you will find many lectures open to the public.
When you attend lectures, you’re likely to meet people who share your interests and are passionate about the same things as you. By engaging with attendees and speakers, you can establish meaningful connections and gain insights into your industry.
At lectures, there are usually opportunities for post-event networking, such as receptions or informal discussions. By attending these events, you can continue the conversation and develop lasting professional relationships.
Join a learning community
Being a part of a community that is learning the same skills as you is another way of networking.
For example, if you were looking for job in web design, you could join a community of people who use the same software, like this Elementor community which holds in-person events around the globe.
Or if you were looking to change careers to become a software developer, you could start participating in Hackathon events, which are open to beginners as well as experienced developers.
Both of these cases are examples that provide opportunities to learn from experts in your field, gain feedback on your work, and exchange ideas with like-minded professionals.
They also offer a platform for sharing resources, asking questions, and seeking advice from others in your industry. But the great thing about this type of networking is that you will be connecting and building relationships with like-minded people, whilst learning and improving your skills.
Persevere with networking
Don’t give up after just one event or conversation. Remember that networking is about building long-term relationships, not just making a quick impression.
Keep attending events, connecting with people online, and following up with individuals you meet. It’s true that one interaction could put your career on the right track, but it’s also true that it may take time and multiple interactions to achieve this goal.
With persistence, commitment, and patience, you can build a strong network that will help you achieve your career aspirations.
What’s stopping you?
Networking can be a powerful tool for advancing your career, but it requires effort, persistence, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone.
If you haven’t given networking a fair chance, take a moment to reflect on what’s holding you back. Listen to your inner voice and ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen?
Remember that successful networking is about building genuine relationships, showing curiosity, and taking an interest in others. So keep attending events, participating in online communities, and following up with new contacts.
You never know what’s around the corner… it could be your dream job.