How to Find a Networking Group That's Worth Your Time

Networking

Americans are always on the move.

Since our nation’s founding, we have roamed our vast country in search of opportunity or a fresh start.

In fact, this interactive map from The New York Times shows where people came from as they entered your own state — dating back to 1800.

California in the 20th century? A lot of folks from the Midwest.

In our 20s, we also tend to bounce around as we’re not ready to “settle” anywhere. Wherever we land, we need a job and perhaps a community of like-minded people. That’s where networking comes in. Yes, I know networking can be tough. Where do we start? How do we find people? What if the group is lame?

The smartest way to find the “right” networking opportunity is to Google this line: 

“[your city] chamber of commerce young professionals”

Odds are, your local Chamber of Commerce, which exists to support area businesses, has a young professional division. That’s an ideal place to meet millennials from all kinds of industries. Plus, Chamber groups may not demand of your time like BNI. (What’s BNI?)

If you find a contact person for the young professional group, send a note and ask about the next meeting.

If you can’t locate the group through the Chamber, then it’s time for Plan B. On your local Chamber website, find a staff person who works in events or communications. Those people tend to be on the “pulse” of the business community.

Then, send an email like this:

Hi there,My name is ______, and I am interested in networking opportunities for young adults here in town. I am curious if you know about anything through the Chamber or in the general community.

Please feel free to connect me with the right person or people.

Thanks so much.

- You

More Google searches for networking opportunities:

- If you want to find a networking group for people in your industry, it’s a bit trickier. That’s because if you search…

“[your industry] networking [your city]“

…you will probably see a list of job postings and not networking groups. So you’ll need to use other keywords. Try these:

“[your industry] society [your city]“

“[your industry] association [your city]“

“[your industry] roundtable [your city]“

For women and ethnic/cultural groups:

“[your industry] women [your city]“

“[your industry] [your cultural or ethnic background] [your city]“

For college alumni groups:

“[your college] alumni association [your city]“

And don’t forget to tap into online alumni networks too. You can find nearby alums who might work at a place where you want to be. I talk more about alumni networking in this short video.

A few tips to keep in mind as you network:

  • The six most powerful words in networking are WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW (explanation).
  • Let people talk about themselves, and they will think you’re great.

If you want people to take an interest in you, then you must first take an interest in them.

  • If someone gives you a business card and there’s potential for a job or business opportunity, make sure to send an email within 24 hours. In that email, reference a specific moment from your conversation (to prove you know how to listen) and ask for a follow-up meeting or conversation. Trust me, it will look impressive. For example:

Hi ____,It was really great to meet you at [wherever you were] earlier today. [Insert friendly line about your conversation or something the person told you. Demonstrate you were paying attention.]

As promised, I want to pass along my resume. It’s attached to this email.

Once you have a look, it would be great to talk further about how my experience can help your company. I have been working hard on [particular skill the company needs], and I would like to discuss what I can bring to the table.

Please let me know if you have time for a short phone call.

Thanks again.

- You

Here’s sample email in case you’re networking but don’t need a job.

Finally, Meetup is another great place to find people with similar interests. When I lived in Washington, DC, I joined ONADC, the Online News Association group through Meetup. ONADC holds networking events and brings in cool media-related speakers.

FYI: Meetup recently created a messaging app to make one-on-one communication easier within your niche group.

Networking takes time and energy but can open doors you would have never found otherwise. I hope this post takes the struggle out of finding a place to network so you can get started on the real thing.

If you have any more questions about networking, let me know!

(This content was originally posted at News to Live By.)