To be an amazing employee, you need to utilize all the networking tools at your disposal. Some are obvious, like attending corporate functions and chatting up people who work in the same field as you. But what about the more unusual methods of networking, the ones that don’t get talked about very frequently? We like to think of them as aces up your sleeve — the tools you whip out because you know how networking really works. And with that in mind, here’s why Meetup.com is the networking tool you never thought you’d need — but do.
Understand the Purpose of Meetup.com in Terms of Networking
For the uninitiated, Meetup.com is a giant site where people can, well, meet up over shared, mutual interests. If you like hiking in the city, there are meetups for that. Or if you’re into wine-and-book clubs, there are also meetups for that.
What’s also neat about Meetup.com is that it’s city-based, meaning you don’t have to leave your own backyard to connect with other professionals. Lastly, it’s free. All you have to do is create a login, fill out a profile, and you’re good to go. Different meetups may charge fees, but that’s up to them and has nothing to do with the site itself.
Sounds Good, but How Do I Network With It?
Meetup.com is a golden opportunity for you to connect with other people who work in your field or share the same professional interests. Think of it as a happy medium between LinkedIn and online dating: you browse different meetups to find a couple that suit your personality and interests, fill out a profile that shows off your business acumen, and then complement it by talking to people in person.
Because we live in a world where who you know is infinitely more valuable than what you know, it’s crucial that you connect with people in real life. However, chatting someone up at a grocery store or making conversation while waiting for your clothes at a laundromat isn’t always the best or most reliable way, and Meetup.com avoids many of the uncertainties.
Think about it from this angle: if you’re in a foreign city and want to see a particular movie, are you going to hop blindly on the first bus you see and get off after 37 stops? Or are you going to spend a bit of time online, checking where the movie theaters are located and which ones are showing the movie you’re interested in? Using Meetup.com as a precise networking tool is adopting the latter approach. You’re putting in time and effort into further your job prospects, not relying on chance encounters with the right people.
Alternative Strategy: Start Your Own Meetup
Let’s say you’ve done everything by the book: browsed for appropriate meetups in your city, and assembled a professional profile. But what if there are no meetups that can directly enhance your job prospects? Then what do you do?
Simple: start your own.
Instead of trying to bend an imperfect system to suit your needs, maximize its advantages to really make it work for you. If you’re a pottery glazer and live in a small Midwest town, and find there are no meetups in your area even closely resembling your professional interests, go out on a limb and create your own meetup. You may want to broaden its focus to capitalize on attracting a larger audience, which has a side bonus: you may connect with professionals who work in similar fields that can boost your career prospects much better than if you were all in the same boat.
And remember, if you do decide to start your own meetup, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work for it. It’s always more difficult to create something new than to go with the flow, but the results can pay off so much more handsomely for you. You’ll have started a meetup that’s tailored to exactly what you want, you’re in a position of leadership and authority, and recruiting members gives you a very convenient excuse to talk business with others.
Last Bit of Advice
You don’t have to simply rely on meetups in your city to make good networking use of Meetup.com. It’s a site designed to connect others over shared interests, even if you only use the message board within a certain meetup.
If you find a group that suits you as perfectly as though you’d created it yourself, join! You never know how the future will turn out and if you’ll bump into fellow members somewhere down the line.