One of the first jobs I had in New York City in the early 1990s was with a small public relations firm in Manhattan. I didn’t get the job through a want ad, but rather through connections I made via the NYC chapter of the University of Alabama’s National Alumni Association. The PR firm owner never had to deal with expensive recruiters, classified ads or dozens of interviews over several weeks; she just knew someone who referred me.
In many respects, networking may even be a better way to find employees than a faceless want ad---you get to meet a collection of potential employees and see what they are really like. For example, you may be at a happy hour networking function when you notice the candidate you spoke with earlier doing tequila shots and making a general fool of himself. By meeting someone in a more relaxed setting, you are more likely to learn more about them than in an interview. Further, you could meet five to ten candidates at just one event.
All of the above scenarios are not out of the question, especially in a workforce that is as diverse as New York City’s where there are networking groups based on professions, professional affiliations, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and much more.
There is no time like the present when it comes to networking, especially since so many new networking groups have cropped up in New York recently. Rest assured, no matter what your goals, there is a professional networking group for you!
Quality, not Quantity
“Networking is the perfect process for developing and maintaining quality relationships that are mutually beneficial,” according to Joseph I. Hunt, co-founder of RelationshipLink. “Most people think that networking is just about selling and evaluate their success based on the number of business cards they collect. That’s missing the real benefit. Networking is about the quality of the relationships, not the quantity.”
RelationshipLink sponsors BizExchange meetings on a monthly basis throughout the New York City metro area. The events provide entrepreneurs, presidents, and senior managers the opportunity to meet each other in a structured setting, exchange ideas, problem solve, and refer business to one another. RelationshipLink’s members represent a wide range of professions, all of whom are committed to improving the effectiveness of their organizations and offering their experience, support, and access to their own personal networks to assist others to do the same.
While RelationshipLink’s members cover a broad spectrum of professionals and fields, if you want to get involved with a more specific networking group all you need to do is an Internet search with your own parameters. For example, one recent Google search using key words such as "professional", "networking", and "New York City", turned up networking events for the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, the National Association of Asian American Professionals, the New York Chapter of the Data Management Association, the Association of Women in Computing, and many, many more.
According to Hunt, 70% of new business typically comes from referrals and the average business owner has at least 25 people in their network, so networking to improve your business seems like a no-brainer, but you have to take the appropriate approach, i.e., don’t show up with 200 business cards and think you’ve left the meeting with 200 potential clients. “You can try to sell 12 people you meet for the first time or you can approach networking as a relationship-building activity,” Hunt said. “You can expand your possibilities by 25 each time you develop a relationship with someone new.”
Point and Click Networking
Complementing event based networking are Internet based alternatives that allow you to network from your desktop. One such service is called LinkedIn and it lets you sign up and invite members of your network to sign up as well. Your friends tell their friends and then they sign up, then their friends get people to sign up…well, you get the picture. With over 15,000 subscribers, the number of people contacting you could be daunting but rest assured; you can only be contacted by someone who has passed muster via one of your personal contacts. The service is free for now but there are plans to charge a monthly fee.
Ryze, another online based network (that has networking events in NYC), gives its members a free home page and the ability to communicate with other members. Ryze has more specialized networks—Ryze-NYC, Small Business Owners, Wild Business Women, etc.—that members are free to join. Ryze also has a paid service that lets members do ”premium” tasks such as advanced searches.
A site called Networking for Professionals bills itself as an alternative to traditional networking. NFP allows members to contact each other via email, but stresses privacy; members’ names are never used initially, just an account number. Most of the site’s members are in the tri-state area, but the network is crossing borders, and there is a $20 monthly fee, but for every person you refer, you get a free month.