In these economic times, the best defense in the job market is a good offense. Building a solid networking base to draw from takes time, planning, and effort. Effective networkers develop and maintain relationships long before they become an aggressive job seeker.
Traditional networking is about getting back to basics and streamlining your networking in a creative and cost effective sort of way. My concept, Shoestring Networking is all about high octane networking and developing relationships for the budget conscious.
- Conference Volunteering. Volunteering at a conference is a way to network and develop relationships with different professionals in an industry or location that is of interest to you. A close, personal friend of mine, who was recently downsized, volunteered to man the registration booth at the Oklahoma State Human Resource Conference. My friend, whose interests lie in the Marketing Industry had access to 400+ Human Resource professionals from throughout the state.
- Local Coffee Shops. Frequenting these establishments is a great way to engage and interact with professionals across industries. Choose peek times to set up shop either at the beginning or end of the day. Ask the management staff if there are any networking meetings or groups that meet on a regular basis.
- Summer Parties & BBQ’s. Not only are summer parties fun and a great way to enjoy the hot summer months, but they are also an effective way to develop relationships and network all for the cost of a few beers and a bag of chips. Perfect your elevator pitch, bring business cards, and a pen and paper to quickly take down a number.
- Hair Salons & Spas. Your hair stylist and massage therapist can be a great resource for networking. Make sure to spell out your intentions and provide him/her several business cards to distribute.
- Your Daily Commute. Those of us in metropolitan areas that use public transportation like the subway and other types of transit can easily strike up a conversation with a stranger leading to job leads, new connections, and other possibilities.
The Travel Bug. The airport is also another great place in which to engage in conversation. Several years ago, a co-worker returned from her vacation only to immediately resign. A contact, she met while in flight led to an amazing job opportunity.
- Gym Rats. This is another great place to engage professionals in a casual atmosphere. Most gyms have great group classes or activities that are included in the cost of a monthly membership. Strike up a conversation with someone in your Spin or Yoga class by complimenting them on their gym bag or other fun accessory. Have you been recently downsized? Many gyms like the YMCA allow you to maintain your gym membership by applying for financial aid or scholarship.