The idea of networking used to produce a physical reaction in me, similar to riding a roller coaster: sweaty palms, nervous chatter, and a slightly queasy stomach.
Unless you’re a regular performer, no one relishes the idea of planting yourself in a room full of strangers and attempting to be charming—especially when your livelihood is involved!
Despite the universal awkwardness that usually comes with these events, there’s an excess of events to choose from in every city. From happy hours to bowling matches to workshops, it seems like more opportunities to network are popping up every day.
So how do you decide which events are worth your time?
Here’s what to consider when combing through your networking event options:
- Choose an event that will benefit your career objectives. Are you looking for a job? New clients? Start-up capital? Either way, different events (especially the worthwhile ones!) are tailored to specific goals.
- Find out where the right people will be—and go there. If you are looking for a financial backer, you might want to avoid networking events that are lacking the decision-makers. If you’re looking for a job, try to find events attended by hiring managers or HR representatives.
- Ask yourself what you need to learn. Are you looking to attend a meetup or event in your field to escalate your growth? Check out the hosts, the speakers, and the topics being covered. If it’s something you’re already an expert on, look for a more advanced session.
- Does the theme fit your personality? Once your objective is clear, choose an event that will give you a chance to shine. If you’re uncomfortable in big groups, look for events in more intimate settings.
The last “rule” is important in our networking-cluttered world. Because the options are vast, you can—and should—attend events that will suit your needs and your A-game!
Below we’ve listed a few types of networking events that are worth your time:
1. Breakfast Networking
If you’re a morning person, this is a great way to start your day. What better scenario to schmooze than over egg-white omelets? Breakfast meetings allow all of the early risers to get ahead. You’re the first pitch of the day, so you get in front of potential employers or clients before they’re inundated with requests and resumes later that day. Unlike happy hours, you also get to interact with influencers before a potentially stressful workday hits (and before the alcohol starts flowing).
2. Industry-Specific Speaking Engagements
Whether you’re in marketing, retail, accounting, or another field, there are always people around to learn from. Take advantage of networking events in your area that have a speaker or speakers on a topic directly related to your position or department. You will learn from the experts themselves and ask questions you might not be able to in a webinar or online Q&A. You’ll also be surrounded by attendees in your field—take advantage of picking their brains! Bonus tip: If you have the confidence, offer to speak at one of these events yourself!
3. Roundtable Events
Similar to speaking engagements, roundtables are beneficial to those looking to advance their knowledge by communicating with their peers. Roundtables allow for open forums and discussions that, more often than not, lead to creative ideas and new directions. If you’re stuck on a project, story, or proposal, these are great events to get out of your rut and make some new connections in the meantime.
4. Happy Hour Events
If you get the “roller coaster” anxiety about events that I do, happy hour is a tried-and-true tradition in the networking world. It allows for more of a relaxed atmosphere—making small talk and approaching strangers is simpler in a casual environment. Bonus Tip: Avoid happy hours if you are actively looking for a job—given their usually laid-back nature, it might be encourage you to make the wrong impression on a potential boss!
5. LinkedIn Groups
The digital age of networking is a blessing to the introvert in all of us. There are a ton of networking groups and forums on LinkedIn and other networks that allow communication, problem solving, and legitimate relationship-building (both business and personal) on a daily basis. If you’re nervous about jumping into the event pool, this is a great way to dip your toes in.
Even this list will leave you with a mind-spinning number of networking event options. Make sure to follow our rules—and some of your own—in finding the event that’s best suited for you.
This article was originally published on Career Contessa.