There have been a few conferences and other networking opportunities in my city recently that I have chosen not to participate in; not because I did not think I could get value out of them, but because they were so expensive! Conference registration, happy hours/mixers, panel discussions, proper attire and transportation to these events…it all adds up! And there are still a few other events taking place this fall that look really interesting, but I will not be partaking in because they simply won't fit in the budget. As a young professional, I am always encouraged to go to these meet-and-greet/networking/conference opportunities, but unless you have an inside track, the expenses adds up. And this is not factoring in hotel and travel because so many events come to my current locale, Washington, DC.
I don’t think networking should just be relegated to those people who are actively job-hunting. And really, whose job is absolutely secure with our shaky economy? So why do I want to network if it’s not just to find another job? I’d like to gain seasoned mentors that could coach and advise me on reaching my career goals. I’d also like to widen my personal network of professional contacts, because knowing a lot of people in your field (or related fields) is normally a good thing. Meeting new people with skill sets that are different than mine can increase the potential of learning new skills that can be useful in my career. Networking can also open up the door to pursue a lucrative side-job that can pursued in addition to full-time employment.
So, what have I learned from this? I will look on the websites of the organizations that hold conferences and other good networking opportunities annually and plan to attend the ones that would offer the most value to me. I will then earmark a portion of my regular savings to pay for these events so I don’t have to charge anything. Networking is not an excuse to rack up debt! I will also continue volunteering as I currently do for organizations that interest me, which tends to have the bonus of free entry to events that you volunteer for. I don’t think any of my goals are out of reach with planning, so here is to being a mover and a shaker next year by planning for it today.