Informal meetings are ideal for networking. Examples of informal networking events include:
- Parties with colleagues
- Social gathering with friends
- Social gathering with family
Small meetings may include breakfasts, coffee, lunches and dinners. Use these informal networking events to ask questions, update your knowledge of the industry and share information. If asked, don’t be afraid to be specific about what your career goals and intentions are, but make the conversation light. Show that you are truly interested in the conversation and offer your help. Accept any other future invitations that you receive and be sure to exchange business cards.
Your informal network of contacts will probably include family, friends, past classmates, past coworkers, alumni, professors and neighbors. Networking can take place at the homes of your family members, at family reunions, family picnics, and other family events.
This is the ideal forum to ask the host as many questions as possible about their industry, company, profession, career path and the outlook of the market. Alumni coffee and lunch is another way to get a one-on-one meeting with a professional in the field that you are interested in.
Let’s say you are a law student and you are looking for a job, it would be in your best interest to attend alumni events to mingle with other lawyers. This will give you an opportunity to gain insight into the culture at different firms and gauge how busy they are.
LinkedIn, a social media network for professionals, offers a list of informal and formal networking events in your local area that you can choose from. Some of these include Happy Hour, Business Expos, and lunch meetings. You will be able to view the dates and the people who will be attending. Most of these events have no specific format or agenda, so it is easy to mix and mingle. Of course, it is best to RSVP so that your name can be placed on the attendee list.
Industry professionals and other companies will have mixers at specific hotels each month where they meet to network. These gatherings usually start in the evening and are a great way to unwind from a long day. You will find this to be a very relaxed atmosphere and easy way to network.
Professional association meetings are sometimes casual as well. One association met at a large company brewery where guests were given a tour of the brewery. Guests had a chance to speak to executives and CEOs during the beer tasting session.
by John Sylo