One of the most valuable and challenging parts of switching careers is finding a network of people that will help you and support you in the transition.
If you live an urban area, such as New York City, there is a limitless amount of events, MeetUps, and opportunities to connect with the “right” people. Having this many options can actually make it harder to decide which events are right for you. Regardless of where you live, here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you narrow the playing field and find the networking events that will be most beneficial.
Who do you want to meet?
This sounds obvious, but many people go to event after event and can’t figure out why they are not connecting with anyone. They are looking for love in all the wrong places, so to speak. Before signing up for a MeetUp event or cocktail party, determine who are the people you want to connect with. Think about age, industry, expertise, and personality.
What do you want to accomplish?
There are dozens of reasons to attend a networking event: getting referrals, practicing your elevator pitch, learning about your industry, meeting new people, etc. There is no “right” purpose, it’s just important that you have one. Before you walk in the door and start shaking hands, figure out what you want to accomplish. For example, don’t waste precious time and energy attending workshops with competitors in your industry, if you are look for referrals.
What settings will you thrive in?
Are you a Chatty Cathy that can talk a leg off a table? Then an unstructured Happy Hour with other outgoing professionals could be perfect for you. If you are a little shy, a small mastermind group or an organized panel discussion followed by mingling time might be more suitable. Think about whether you can handle a lot of stimulation and excitement or if you need a more intimate setting. It’s great to get outside your comfort zone, but there’s no need to leave the solar system. Set yourself up for success by finding events where you will feel comfortable enough to be yourself.
Go Get Your Feet Wet!
Now that you have an idea of who you are looking for, what you want to accomplish, and what setting you would like to meet them in, it’s time to venture into the fray. Remember: You may not strike it rich on your first try, but every attempt will give you more incite about what you are looking for. Worse case scenario, you can always leave. I’ve been to dozens of events in the last year, and not once did they lock the door and hold us against our will.
You never know who you are going to meet, and walking away with one powerful contact can make all the difference in the world.