A mid-week post for a slightly different topic.

Most of what I discuss in this blog is strategic, and of course networking is no different. Let’s pause momentarily, however, and consider networking tactically.

Why Network

Because if people do not know you exist, then they can not hire you, promote you, refer you, or even advise you, mentor you and train you.

So much, so universal.

Why should you network, beyond these reasons? Answering this question will build your strategy. And before you head out and network it is best if you perform this exercise. More on this on another day.

Once you know why you are networking and what you hope to achieve, you have to decide where. When it comes to face to face networking, a simple approach is to break the groups and associations into three broad categories.

Trade Associations

This is where you will meet with people who work in your industry, or your same function within an industry. The associations will have these titles in their names: legal, financial, publishing, retail, etc. as well as job functions or titles, such as CPA, Lawyer, Librarian, Marketer, etc.

Many will have two of these in the title. For example, you might find a group for medical translators, or software sales people. These can be standalone or sub-groups and divisions within larger associations.

In these areas you are networking with your industry peers. Here is where you can find out if they share your challenges and victories, what do they know that you have not yet learned, and what other opportunities might be available.

Community Organizations

A community organization will tend to rotate around a shared interest or circumstance. Think of women’s associations, alumni networks, charity or local groups. A group built around a hobby would also fall in this category.

These groups have their place in business networking as well. Do not approach these events with the intent of selling to fellow members, but know that anyone you meet may help you expand your business network and help you learn new ideas.

Business Chambers

Clearly regional or city-based chambers of commerce fall into this category. In addition look up other groups in your area with words like “business” or “referral” in the title.

These are groups which are for business professionals, but open to any trade or function. You can find future clients, referral partners, business partners and many opportunities to learn.

Now What?

Build a list of groups in your area, and start attending events. If any in particular stand out to you, find a current board member and ask them out to lunch so you can find out more about the group and group benefits.

Being in front of people regularly is about both promoting yourself and also learning from others, so make sure you approach each event with more questions prepared than you have statements.