Whether you're actively looking for a new job or are a fan of keeping your options open, networking is one of the most effective ways to get access to new opportunities. And while it's important to do a good job of staying in touch with your existing contacts, it also helps to continuously go out and meet new people in your industry who might serve as a resource for you down the line. With that in mind, here are a few types of networking events to explore.
1. Career fairs
Though career fairs are usually associated with colleges and involve companies coming on campus to recruit upperclassmen, alumni often get the option to participate as well. In fact, some career fairs are geared toward working adults and are held in public locations like convention centers. Most of these events are free or, in the case of those not held on campus, fairly inexpensive, so if you're looking to make some new connections, they're a decent place to start.
2. Industry conferences
Industry conferences offer a prime opportunity to meet people who are on the same wavelength as you. They're also a great place to mingle, learn new things, and get informed about industry trends that might help you excel at your job. The downside to business conferences, however, is that they can be expensive. It's not unheard of to pay upward of $1,000 for a three-day event, and if your sole goal is to network, it may not be worth the money. This especially holds true for conferences that aren't local, as you'll also need to spend money on travel.
That said, if you find a conference you feel you can benefit from, you might ask your employer to sponsor your attendance. And if that doesn't fly, you can ask about splitting the cost. Just know that if you do get some financial assistance from your employer, you may be asked to present some of the things you learned to your peers in exchange.
3. Local meet-up groups
Local meet-ups are a cost-effective way to get to know new people in your industry. You might, for example, attend a cocktail hour at a local pub for accounting professionals, or join fellow web developers at a neighborhood bistro for a networking breakfast. You'll generally see these events posted online, though you might learn about them via posted signs in local restaurants, coffeehouses, and shops.
There are several benefits to attending local meet-ups. First, they're often cheap or free. Secondly, there's no major cost or time commitment involved in traveling to get there. And finally, chances are, the people you're introduced to at those events will be local to your area, which makes staying in touch easy.
No matter what steps you take to expand your business network, be sure to make it a priority. The more people you know, the greater your chances of developing your career and getting to explore opportunities you otherwise might not find out about.