7 Clever Ways to Expand Your Professional Network For Free
It’s a new year BAUCES and while you are plotting your 2017 you might find yourself looking at your calendar trying to figure out how many networking events you can attend without breaking the bank. We live in a world where networking is how you can grow your business and form great relationships. BAUCES, here are a few ways you can network without breaking the bank.
Volunteer at events
Whether it’s a networking event or a conference, event planners can always use a set of extra hands. Find the event that you want to attend and reach out to the event organizer and ask if you can volunteer. By being a volunteer you will be able to attend the event for free. Of course, there will be actual work involved but you can network with other volunteers and make genuine connections. Once you are done working the event you can network with the event attendees and guests. You get the best of both worlds.
Take advantage of your 9 to 5
If you have a part-time or a full-time job you can use your workplace to network. I used to work at a bank in the foreclosure and mortgaging department; while it wasn’t my passion, I realized it was a goldmine for networking. Once I started talking to co-workers more about their interests outside of the cubicle, they began to share their own side hustles and business ideas. Some were event planners, models, writers, graphic designers, bloggers, hairstylists, makeup artists, and they were all sitting right next to me.
By using my 9 to 5 job as a place to network, I made connections that were invaluable. We would exchange resources and ideas every day for free. Start where you are and level up.
Community Centers and Public Libraries
In every community, there is a community center and a public library, we often overlook these places assuming they are outdated. Public libraries are a great place to network for the BAUCE on a budget. They not only offer free resources they host events where you can attend for free and meet new people. Libraries often have event flyers on the main floor and you can sign up to receive your libraries newsletter.
Community centers always host free events that you can attend. This is a great way to network with people who live in your area and find out how they may be of help. Throw out the image of what a networking event looks like and use every resource you have available to turn it into a networking opportunity.
Facebook groups are alive and growing. Now more than ever groups on Facebook are used to network and build connections. A simple search will grant you access to private groups that are in your niche market. In these groups, you can offer your services and receive help from members. You can start by searching your area of interest or doing a search by location.
Slack and GroupMe were started as a way for people to communicate within the workplace. They quickly became tools for people to network outside the workplace for free. You can sign up for either platform and find a group to join or you can create your own. One great group to join is the BAUCE Squad.
Alumni networks are a great place to network for free. When I graduated from college, I did an online search for alumnae groups in my area. I found a group on Facebook and added myself; this group has become invaluable. Group members post job openings within their companies and they also host events. While most alumnae groups make you pay a fee to join, the ones found online (via Facebook, Slack, and GroupMe) are usually free to join.
By joining an alumni group, you will gain access to other BAUCES who can become mentors, provide you with references, and put in a good word if you are looking for a job.
Now, this may come to you as a surprise but church can be a great place to network. A lot of churches work within their communities and have access to community leaders and business networks. If you are a part of a women’s ministry or volunteer at your church, you can network with other members to learn what they do for a living, and how you can help each other.
There is nothing wrong with passing out your business card at the church picnic.
We always overlook the obvious,but friends can be a great resource when networking on a budget. You may believe that your friends can’t help you because you work in different industries but that would be false. Your friends have their own network of people who you can connect with. Group outings is a great way to meet new people within friend circles.
Plus, there is always that one mixxy friend in your circle who knows everyone. Ask your friends for help. They may not be able to provide the help themselves but they can refer you to someone that can.
BAUCES, networking doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use the resources you already have access to build your contact list up.