Everyone tells you to network. They say it's the best way to find a job, make new business contacts, keep up with business developments and grow your business as you socialize with like-minded people. But how do you do it and where do you start? That depends on what you want the networking to do for you.
Are you looking for employment? Then professional groups in your field of work are always a good bet. Go online and check out the local chapter of these groups in your area. Some have face-to-face meetings where you can network, listen to speakers and even receive continuing education credits. Examples are the Suncoast Human Resource Association and the Tampa Bay Association for Financial Professionals. Other organizations meet online only.
Many associations are geared for groups within a group such as the National Association of Black Accountants or the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists. There are also clubs and associations dedicated to furthering the goals of businesswomen such as Business and Professional Women, Working Women of Tampa Bay and the National Association for Female Executives. There are also professional organizations that educate women about specific careers. The Tampa Bay Society of Women Engineers is one example.
Are you trying to build your business and make more contacts? Again, try the professional groups. You'll meet people from outside your day-to-day sphere and many of them can become valuable resources. You can also benefit from civic organizations like chambers of commerce. Or you might try referral groups that meet regularly. Members are required to give business referrals to other members. Network Professionals International and BNI are two examples. You'll meet people who will refer to you, to whom you can refer, and with whom you can collaborate.
Want to keep up with what's going on in your community? Join your local chamber, or become a member of a civic organization like Rotary, the Jaycees, Optimist and Kiwanis. Most of these groups meet regularly and feature speakers who will discuss interesting and current topics, and all of them sponsor some type of charity or community service project you can take part in. And there are also special interest groups like the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club that keeps its finger on the pulse of both parties and on the local, state and national political environment.
Just hoping to find new opportunities by socializing with like-minded people? Choose your category. There are religious groups, hobby clubs, sports groups, alumni organizations — the list is endless. People in these clubs will open your eyes to new concepts; you can bounce off ideas, and generally have fun.
Choose the type of networking group or club that you think is best for you and go to a few meetings. If that doesn't suit you try another. In today's business environment networking is invaluable. Remember, it's not just what you know, it's who you know and who knows about you!
Marie Stempinski is the founder and owner of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and employee motivation. She can be reached through [email protected] or her website www.howtomotivateemployees.org.