Think networking is only for people who work in sales
or who are looking for a new job
? Not the case!
Building your network exposes you to new people who will see you as a professional and a source of knowledge about your career field. It gives you access to other viewpoints so that you can see challenges and opportunities in the marketplace from a perspective outside your own. And it lets you give back to your community, by introducing people who could benefit from a new connection, service provider, or job opening.
Raleigh has an incredibly vibrant networking community, with meetings and events for professionals of every stripe. Whatever your age, your career level, or your industry, there’s a Raleigh networking event or group out there that’s perfect for you. (Click here
to tweet this list.)
If you’re going to jump into a networking event, why not start off with a bang? North Hills Networking puts on a monthly event for business people in the Research Triangle area that they call “The Most Successful Networking Event in the Triangle” -- with good reason. Get-togethers typically boast more than 200 networkers, sometimes as many as 400+. With a group of that size, pre- and post-meeting conversations on the Meetup page are an invaluable resource for helping attendees line up interesting potential connections.
North Hills Networking events are held once a month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., typically on a Wednesday or Thursday. Previous venues have included World of Beer and Sassool. With free admission and free drinks or appetizers, there’s no reason not to check out a North Hills event!
In some cities, the Chamber of Commerce is an anemic occasional gathering of business owners who chat over breakfast and then part ways. In other cities, the Chamber is a vibrant force for local economic development, as well as a great place for business owners to learn from one another and encourage growth. The Raleigh Chamber is absolutely in the latter category. Regular monthly meetings as well as occasional special events give members of all types the plenty of opportunities to connect
with one another, market their business, and learn.
Membership fees for the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce are calculated on a sliding scale depending on business size and number of employees, starting at $425 per year for businesses with five or fewer employees. The Raleigh Chamber also runs a Young Professionals Network for Triangle business professionals aged 23 to 39. Admission to the YPN runs $250 a year for Chamber members, or $350 a year for non-members.
Founded in 2008 to give LGBTQ professionals and allies in the Triangle region a safe, welcoming place to connect with one another, the Raleigh Business and Professional Network is a great place to begin building your network. The group offers monthly networking dinners and speaking events on the second Wednesday of each month, as well as a more casual social gathering on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
Individual memberships in RBPN are only $25 per year, and business memberships run $175 per year. While both membership levels receive discounted speakers’ dinner admission ($33 for RBPN members, $38 for non-members), business members receive additional benefits, including a complimentary listing in the RBPN online directory and certification as a LGBT Business Enterprise by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
If you’re looking for a networking group that focuses more on building connections than on enforcing membership rules, the North Raleigh Leads Group might be the right fit for you. Rather than limit membership slots to one person or business per profession, NRLG welcomes all interested participants to their weekly breakfast meeting.
North Raleigh Leads Group meetings are held at 8:30 a.m. Mondays at Moonlight Swirl in the Shops at Falls Village. Meetings cost $5, light breakfast included. There are no ongoing member fees, but members who attend four meetings in a six-week period are eligible for inclusion on the website directory. If you like the idea behind the NRLG but the location doesn’t work for you, you can also visit associated groups in Alamance, Cary, Chapel Hills, Chatham County, Hillsborough, and Northern Wake.
A networking group for people who don’t have a network, and aren’t even sure they know how to network? Absolutely. While many networking groups focus on entrepreneurs
, small business owners, and sales professions, ETHAN is a networking group focusing specifically on working engineers and other professionals with engineering backgrounds.
Unlike many groups, which have a lot of “open networking” time, ETHAN takes a more guided approach. The group meets on the third Tuesday of every month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for a structured networking event that helps participants learn networking skills, meet other engineers, and learn to enjoy the networking process. Featured guests at each meeting have their bios available on the Meetup site beforehand, making it easier for participants to connect and start a conversation.
This self-described “most productive networking group in the Triangle” gives a whole new meaning to B-to-B networking. Business and Beers offers three locations (Raleigh, Cary, and Holly Springs) for networkers who want to get business done and have a good time, too.
Each location’s group meets once a month, typically at 6:00 p.m. on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. With free admission, and many meetings offering free appetizers, drinks, or giveaways, there’s no reason not to visit a Business and Beers meeting in your area.
If you’re new to the Raleigh area, or looking to expand your social and professional network at the same time, the Triangle-area Young Black Professionals Network is the perfect group. YBPN maintains a full calendar of events, ranging from networking mixers to day trips to mastermind meetings.
Membership in the group runs only $3 per year, with individual meetings costs determined by the event type. There are no age or industry restrictions to join the YBPN -- if you consider yourself a young black professional, and you’re interested in joining a group of vibrant, driven, and passionate people, you’re welcome to attend an event.
Purposed Networking is a small but focused group that takes its message of helping each another’s businesses very seriously. The group’s weekly meetings typically feature 10-20 participants, who are continually learning more about each other’s businesses and therefore better able to make solid referrals.
Whether you’re a morning person or prefer to network during happy hour, Purposed Networking has you covered. Wednesday Night Socials are held at On The Border (across from the Triangle Town Center Mall) at 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month, with 8 a.m. meetings at the same location held every other Wednesday. Meetings are free to attend and guests are always welcome. Be sure to check out the website in advance for the group’s weekly BOLO (be on lookout) list of businesses and industries they would really like to connect with.
Shelby Blanchard Stogner is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps businesses get the word out about the great work they're doing. Visit her on the web at www.sbscopywriting.com