A healthy professional network is a great source of future employees, employers, partners, mentors, and friends. Many people cringe at the idea of “networking”. The thought of forced conversation at an industry event designed for networking is just about the least exciting thing I can think of. But I value my professional network and fabulous things I learn from them. So where can you meet people in a more natural way?
Continuing education classes are excellent places for finding like-minded colleagues. Depending on the length of the class, you may have many weeks together and that kind of time can lead to real relationships and professional opportunities.
I used to teach a 9 month certificate program. In one of the seasons, a graduate hired seven of his classmates at the end of the program. Because I was interested in facilitating a similar experience in my other classes I asked why he did that. He said, “I know them better than anybody I could interview, and I know what they have learned over the last few months.”
In this program we had a number of students from different backgrounds and in fields that were unrelated. One of the Architects in the class said that the best part of the program was to hear opinions and have conversations with classmates outside of his field. He felt that what he learned from his classmates would make him a better Architect. Six years later I am still connected to many of these students and they still get together regularly.
The people you know can have a significant impact on your career. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal says that up to 80 percent of jobs are never advertised, either online or anywhere else; they are given to people known to those looking to fill the position.
If you’re thinking that taking a class to meet people is a good idea, think about who you want to meet. Maybe you are interested in meeting people likely to be customers, or competitors; perhaps you are thinking about changing jobs in the future. In that case choose a class in the field you would like to be in. Choose a course that is likely to have people you want to have conversations with. That said, I bet that any course you take will have a whole array of interesting people and you will come out of it with some professional and personal friendships.
When you meet people in a natural, unforced way they are likely to become true friends, not just contacts in your database.