10 Types of Networking Events Actually Worth Your Time

Does just the thought of “networking” make your palms sweat? Here’s how to pick out the events that are perfect for you.

Who said all networking events were created equal? We say, pick your poison.

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.

And now that we’ve added a global pandemic to the mix, well—professional networking might feel tougher than ever.

Unless you’re a regular performer, no one relishes the idea of speaking to a group of strangers and attempting to be charming, especially when your livelihood is involved. But we all know that networking is an important part of growing and advancing in our careers.

These relationships built from meaningful networking can lead to job referrals, introductions to other experts, and help you feel less lonely as you bounce ideas off a trusted mentor you’ve developed. Before we jump into the events you should focus on, let’s dive into a bit more of the reasons why networking matters.

What Are Networking Events?

Simply put, networking events are organized gatherings for people to engage with one another and build valuable connections. The difference between a non-networking event (like a wedding!) and a networking event, is the people who attend usually have the intention to build professional connections.

Moving forward we will see events in a variety of formats including in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Hybrid events include a mix of components meaning part of the event might be in-person while a different part is done virtually.

Why Do Networking Events Matter?

Networking events matter because they play a crucial role in your professional success. They allow career-minded people to meet, connect, and learn.

In-person networking can especially help you build a stronger emotional connection to your work and those in your field. The energy from an in-person conversation or event can re-energize your work or help you find your next job opportunity.

Virtual or online networking events are effective for meeting a wider variety of people. Virtual informational interviews and meet-and-greets enable you to meet others from across the country or the globe, without the hassle of travel.

10 Types of Networking Events Worth Your Time

Despite the universal awkwardness that usually comes with networking, every type offers unique opportunities for you to build relationships depending on your goals.

And now that many events are digitally-based, there are plenty of options worth taking advantage of. Here are 10 types of career networking events we think are worth your time—and some advice on how to get yourself connected

1. 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 that have a speaker or speakers on a topic directly related to your position or department.

You can find these events by following and/or subscribing to industry news outlets or experts in your field. You might also find them via the specific software programs you use at work.

One of the best parts of these events is that the information—and the networking—is guaranteed to be relevant to your line of work. This might include new software that can help you do your job or the lecturer teaches you about email marketing trends, which you can start to implement at work.

Additionally, these are great ways to meet peers in your industry. You can learn more about their roles, companies, and be sure to swap business cards and LinkedIn profiles in case there are future job opportunities.

These engagements are still happening, albeit mostly remotely. But by logging in online, you will still be surrounded by attendees in your field. Take advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

Bonus tip: If you have the confidence, offer to speak during one of these events yourself!

2. Roundtable Discussions

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. Roundtable discussions usually include smaller groups since participation from each attendee is expected. Event organizers might even hand-select who they invite as a more effective way of making sure the group has similar career goals and interests.

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.

3. Happy Hour Networking Meetups

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.

During the happy hour, you can expect things to be informal. Drinks and appetizers are usually served while guests mingle from group to group for shorter discussions until the host (maybe) gives a short speech to welcome people and say a few words about the goal of the event.

Bonus Tip: Active job seekers should avoid happy hours —given their usually laid-back nature, it might encourage you to make the wrong impression on a potential boss.

4. College or University Lectures

If you are lucky enough to live in a college or university town, keep an eye on their events schedule, especially in areas that are connected to your industry. For example, if you are a teacher, check the calendar of events for the Department of Education of your city’s university.

Colleges often bring in industry experts and leaders in the field, and these events are usually very affordable or even free. As a bonus, many of these are happening digitally, so you can enjoy learning and networking right from your living room.

And sometimes the career center might even be hosting open events. For example, I once attended an informational session with Google at a university while I was working full-time somewhere else. Check to make sure you don’t have to be alumni to attend first.

5. Company-Specific Informational Interviews

In an attempt to find potential candidates during this era of digitization, many companies are turning to informal informational interviews.

Similar to in-person events, participants are given a few moments per internal employee to either chat via video or via typing before being moved to the next virtual “room.” These events offer a low-stakes way to learn about a potential company or industry and get your name out to potential employers. Check out the company’s career page or follow them on social to see if/when they might offer an opportunity like this.

Bonus tip: Beforehand, be sure to update your resume and have a digital copy on hand to quickly send over.

6. Career Fairs

You probably remember these from your college days but they are making a comeback thanks to the pandemic. Companies are still showing up to college career fairs but now they are also partnering with organizations like Watermark, brands like Argent, and job search sites like PowerToFly to host virtual career fairs to fill their job openings. And if you’re enrolled in any online learning programs, they might also offer virtual career fairs once you complete a program.

These events are great when you’re actively job searching because you know right away what the goals of the company are and what roles they are looking to fill. At these events, it is expected for you to submit a resume, introduce yourself, and ask a few questions about the role and company so make sure you spend some time prepping your elevator pitch.

Some of these career fairs can also lead right away to job interview invitations and, at a minimum, help you network with recruiters.

7. Professional Conferences or Work Summit

Professional conferences and work summits are often much larger networking opportunities. Like thousands of people who gather around an overarching theme (like leadership), industry (like sales or human resources), or product (like Salesforce or QuickBooks) and for 1-2 days they can attend a wide variety of events. Events might include keynote speakers, workshops, networking, and even an expo hall to meet vendors/products/etc.

Conferences usually cost the most out of all the event networking options we’re sharing so it’s helpful to do thorough research on the conference first and check to see if it’s something your company might pay for. Since you will be meeting lots of people throughout the conference, it’s most helpful to bring some business cards you can exchange.

Also, some conferences might include a career fair, which means they are targeting job seekers and you’ll want to make sure your resume is updated and ready. If the conference doesn’t have a specific job searching portion, then leave your resume at home. Most conferences are more focused on networking with similar people and learning and less focused on filling job roles unless it comes up naturally.
Bonus tip: With so many conferences and format types (in-person, virtual, hybrid) to pick from, make sure you spend some time researching and finding a conference that matches your interest, personality, and budget.

8. Speed Networking

Have you ever heard of speed dating? Well, then you can start to guess how speed networking works. You have a short amount of time to talk with someone before the buzzer rings and you move to the next seat. During these quick interactions, you’ll want to share your 30-second elevator pitch and have some business cards for easy sharing.

Speed networking can be done in-person or virtually as well. And some event organizers will pre-match you with a few people to speed networking with ahead of time. That’s a great way to ensure you’re spending the short amount of time you get with people you might have things in common with.

9. Webinars or Workshops

We’re a bit biased about webinars since we’ve been offering free webinars for 5+ years, but they are a great networking tool as well! Many times people will register online for a webinar or attend in-person a workshop because they want to learn more about the topic being taught or hear from the speaker. That alone makes these great, but then you add in the opportunity to meet and greet with other attendees and you’re in networking heaven.

Attending a workshop can be especially helpful if you’re nervous about networking since the focus isn’t on meeting new people unless it naturally happens. And if it’s a weekly workshop, seeing the same people every week is an easier way to build up that connection.

10. Alumni Networking Groups

Colleges host non-career events that allow alumni to meet around a common interest such as sporting events, local arts and culture exhibitions, guest lectures and happy hours at local restaurants are just some examples.

Alumni know they already have a shared commonality and joining a program like this can be a much more comfortable way to get some informal networking in. This type of networking can lead to informational interviews, connecting with referrals at the company you want to apply to, or even picking the brain of a local entrepreneur who might need some consulting work.

Be ready to talk about your own career as it naturally fits within the conversation. The focus of these events is informal networking so you don’t want to come across as too self-serving.

Original article published in career contessa and can be seen here: https://www.careercontessa.com/advice/5-worthwhile-networking-event-types/