My last few newsletter articles have been about networking, but I cannot overemphasize the value of networking when you are new in a community. Whether you are looking for people with similar interests or looking to expand your professional contacts, networking is a necessary skill. In fact, every time you meet a new neighbor or co-worker, you are networking.
When done correctly, networking is the authentic building of relationships that are based on mutual interests.
The good news is that networking is a skill that can be developed. It is not something that you are automatically good at. The key is finding a way that works for you. For example, there are those who walk into a room of people and see it as a place filled with friends they haven’t met yet. Others walk into the same room and see it as a place filled with strangers and fear that they have nothing in common with anyone in the room.
Networking is like planting seeds. That is, don’t expect your first contact with someone to lead you to a job. Seeds take time and nurturing to grow into a full plant. Relationships are like that too; they take time and nurturing. For example, when you start a new job, you don’t ask your boss for a promotion on your first day. You build your relationship with your boss and prove that you are capable over time. Networking is similar. Upon meeting someone for the first time, ask them about themselves, their interests, their career advice. Don’t ask them for a job. Instead, open a conversation with “I’m new in the area and would like to build my professional network. Would you tell me about what you do? Is there anyone else that you’d recommend could help me learn about jobs in my field in the Valley?”
If you are at an event, ask them “What brings you to this event?” Be prepared to tell the person the reason you are at the event. Or you could lead with “This is my first time at this event. Any tips on how I make sure that I get the most out of it?”
To develop your networking skills, it will take practice. Here are some places to do that around the Lehigh Valley:
Lehigh Valley Professionals Group: This group of people seeking employment meets every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at CareerLink. There is a weekly presentation with opportunities to join working committees. This will help build your networking skills in large groups (the general meetings) and small groups (serving on a committee). Cost is free. www.lvprofessionals.com
Friends of Pete Group: This group meets one Thursday a month at a local bar/restaurant from 4pm to 7pm, which are posted monthly on the group’s LinkedIn page. It is open to anyone. You can drop in anytime and stay if you want. There is no theme or presentation, just a way to meet other professional people in our area. Cost: buy your own drink. To join, request to be added to Friends of Pete Group on LinkedIn.
Wine Share: Meets one Saturday a month at an individual’s home from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Contact Michael Millo at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the distribution list. This venue provides an informal setting for new people to the Lehigh Valley to meet each other and connect. The Wine Share is open to friends of LINC clients too. Cost: bring a bottle of wine and an appetizer.