Some people when they think of networking, their mind goes to schmoozing at a bougie event, collecting a bunch of business cards all with the hopes of maybe connecting with someone who can help you land a job.
Sometimes that is the case. But, there’s still so much value in networking. There’s a saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. A food network can benefit you both personally and professionally. In my recent experience traveling to Spain and Switzerland, just the knowledge and ability to share ideas with people from different education systems and related professions around the globe was invaluable.
I got to compare and contrast how things are done academically across similar education systems like A Levels that I work in, and the IB DP program. I learned from other new school counselors, education professionals who still go by “guidance counselors”, independent counselors and those on the tail end of their careers. I also got to speak with university counselors and their role in student support.
It was very enlightening.
And a network is only as valuable as how well you use them. There’s no point in “schmoozing” if you’re not going to be a resource to others or use them as a resource and wealth of information.
I also know that some people are not interested in meeting new people, talking etc, etc, but no man is an island and you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t have to hang out all night or drink (excessively) or spend every weekend meeting with people, but if you’re not where you want to be professionally, it’s worth it to step out.
So some tips on networking:
Join a professional organization or social club. Professional organizations tend to link you with people in similar job/career fields as yourself which can help you improve your knowledge and skills in your current area. These may have an annual fee that allows you access to online resources, private chat groups and discounted rates for special conferences. Social clubs however, connect you with people from different career backgrounds but you have similar hobby interests. This can be helpful if you want to learn about other career fields and possibly make a career shift. You can learn how others got their start in their fields. Professional organizations often require you to have a certain degree or license (or be working towards it) whereas social clubs are more for the hobbyist
Attend a conference. Most of the conferences I have attended have been career related but this past summer I went with my husband to a conference for IT Security, which is both an interest and future career for him. That was cool to see him in his element. Conferences are great for continuous learning in your current field of work.
Join social media networks (and interact). Some people don’t have Facebook or Instagram, which I kinda find odd, but those are the cheapest and easiest ways to network. Some of my most helpful resources have been the counselors I have connected with through social media pages. LinkedIn was literally created for this very purpose of professional networking. But don’t just join and be a lurker. Ask and answer questions, share links to articles and videos that can foster further discussions
I’m no expert but these things have worked for me, and I’ve seen it work for other friends and colleagues. Sometimes though, networking leads to developing new friendships, which is kinda hard as an adult to do. The main thing is you have to put yourself out there in one form or another. Connections aren’t formed without effort.