Well, we talked about getting a new job, and I don’t know a better way to start that process than to engage in my favorite business activity – networking. Networking is far and away one of the most valuable things you can do to improve your professional life. If you’re already established in business, well, you already know that. The thing is, that the very people that can help you be more successful in your current business, are often the very people that can help you in a job search. These are people that will be valuable to you throughout your business career.

This works both ways. Don’t just look for people who can help you when networking. Make the effort to mentor people. As you progress, find people that are not as senior as you are, and help them be successful. They will, in turn, look out for your best interests, and YOUR success.

If you’re just starting out or maybe in need of a refresher, here are some of the best places I’ve discovered to network:

  • Chambers of Commerce. These are often a haven for mortgage brokers and real estate agents. However, it’s still a key place to make lasting business relationships and friendships with like minded people. You won’t find a lot of people that don’t want to be successful at a Chamber of Commerce – Just the kind of people that you should want to hang out with. Here’s a directory on where to find your local chamber: http://www.uschamber.com/chambers/directory/default.htm A couple of hints: Join a regional chamber, or the chamber of the biggest city in your area. It will have more activities and, usually, better speakers.
  • Industry associations and meetings. Google has a great listing of business associations by industry: http://www.google.com/Top/Business/Associations/By_Industry/ . Find one and join it. Offer to speak, if you’ve got something to talk about. These associations will help you meet the best of the best in your industry.
  • Toastmasters is a “Non-profit organization developing public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback in local clubs since 1924”. You can find them at: http://www.toastmasters.org/find/default.asp. What they do is help you become a better public speaker and presenter. Again, this is the type of organization whose members are all focused on their own and their fellow members’ success.
  • Speaking of being concerned about other people’s success – One of the most hardcore examples of this is the Business Network International, found at: http://www.bni.com/. You have to pay to be a member, and you have to commit to showing up every week (or sending someone in your place). However, it’s one of the most straightforward networking type organizations out there. People here are all about exchanging business opportunities. You get to present your business to the other members, and the more business you take to them, the more they’ll bring to you.
  • Linked In is a way for you to both build your business network (internationally) and to look for that next position. They have a great job search engine that allows you to look for a situation, and get referred to people that are “connected” to your business contacts. Check it out here: http://www.linkedin.com.

So, there are a few of the places that I like to spend time networking. Probably the number one thing to remember, however, is give before you get. If you provide something to your contacts first, they’ll look out for you.