Originally published on LinkedIn.
Until about a year ago, I kept my professional network limited almost solely to work contacts. As a federal employee based in Seattle, I really didn't see a need for networking and like many people, I realized how wrong I was when I decided to make an industry change. I used four methods to expand my network, which I'll talk about in ascending order of impact.
Method 1: Shapr - a.k.a. networking for introverts
I discovered Shapr in late 2017, after hearing about the app from a friend who described it as "networking for introverts." The concept is essentially the same as a dating app. You create a profile (using LinkedIn), identify interests, and the app uses an algorithm to match you based on your interests, location, and professional experience. If both people want to meet, Shapr connects you and you choose how to communicate with each other.
Method 2: Meetup/Eventbrite Events
Meetup and Eventbrite are fantastic resources for finding local events that you might otherwise miss. Do a key word search for something related to your professional interests (e.g. women in technology, professional development, HR) and find local events. During peak job searching, I averaged 4-6 events per month and would have done more if I didn't have a family that I wanted to get home to!
My favorite groups: Learnapalooza (LAP) Lite, Ladies in Seattle Tech, New Tech Seattle.
Method 3: Professional Organizations
I joined the local chapter of the professional organization for learning and development people (Association for Talent Development - Puget Sound). I easily could have joined just for the events, but I'm a "go big or go home" type, so I became the volunteer program manager for the "Under the Hood" event series. Volunteering has been a great experience, as I get to know more people in the local community and help connect other professionals with opportunities.
Method 4: LinkedIn
Last, but not least, is a platform that requires some bravery to use to its full extent. My LinkedIn tactic was to search for people based on their job titles and geography - for example I looked for L&D professionals in Seattle. After connecting, I would send a message asking for an informational interview. Probably 30% of people would respond to those messages, and from there I set up coffee dates and phone calls. Perhaps it is unique to the L&D community, but I found this method most useful because it let me forge personal connections with people who were really willing to help out a stranger.
How do you network?
As an extroverted introvert, expanding my network scary but ultimately worth it.
A) I got a kickass new job
B) I get to give back through event planning, and
C) I met a ton of really cool people.
Have you been working on expanding your network? What have you done and how's it been going?