Photo via Flickr by Eugene Kim
Few things in life are as stressful as making a career change. Whether you’re jumping into new territory because you’ve recently lost a job or because you simply want to shake up your 2017, putting yourself out there in an industry where you may not have as many connections can feel lonely and scary. Of course, the best way to start making advances towards your new career is to network with people who already have their foot in the door.
While networking is often a very successful way to find a job, it can be quite stressful, especially for introverts. Let’s face it, the idea of sitting across from a stranger and “selling” them on your experience and job skills can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. But there are more ways to network these days than simply going to a mixer hosted by a professional group, and even better, many of them can actually help you reduce stress. Here are a few great examples:
Join a recreational sports team. Most cities throughout the U.S. offer recreational sports teams of all kinds for adults. From basketball to softball to dodgeball, women and men are teaming up for fun and exercise. Many of these leagues are co-ed, but as a woman, if you feel more comfortable sticking to women-only options, there are plenty of those as well. Just search for women-specific groups for your local area on Meetup.com.
As part of a team, you’ll have many opportunities to network with your teammates and even your opponents, and if you’re unemployed or over-stressed in your current job, team practices and games act as a great motivator to get out of the house (or out of your office!) to have a little fun. And of course, there are also health benefits. Naturally, the exercise you’ll get will be great for your physical health, but it’s also a great mental health booster. It will likely also provide you a with a sense of achievement, which is much-needed when you’re in the depths of a job search.
Take your pooch to the dog park. This is a great option for women who may feel unsafe attending other networking events, especially those at bars or restaurants, on their own. You probably think of your time at the dog park as your pet’s playtime. But what do you do while your dog runs and plays? Chances are there are opportunities for you to get to know the other dog parents. And especially if you go at the same time each day or week, you may start to notice that you see the same familiar faces–those could be great connections just waiting to happen. That said, if you and your pooch and you are dog park first-timers, be sure to learn the ropes first before you start networking. These days most cities, big and small, have free dog parks available to the public. You’ll just need to do a little research to find the one closest to you.
So, the next time you head over to the dog park, go prepared with a few ice breakers. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything major. Simply ask them about their dog or how long they’ve been coming to the dog park. Often, a question or two are all you need to get the conversation flowing.
Attend church. If you’re religious, church services and events are excellent places to network and are additional safe alternatives to events at bars and restaurants. If you’ve been attending the same church for many years, chances are you know some of your fellow congregants quite well, and you may feel more comfortable opening up to them about your career goals. You might even consider starting a career-focused group for members of the church. It could be open to those seeking career advice, the unemployed, those changing careers or jobs, and so on. Meeting once a week to discuss your successes and talk through difficult times is cathartic and can give you the motivation you need to continue bravely navigating the job market.
Take a yoga class. You don’t have to be a yogi to enjoy the stress-reducing benefits of yoga. No matter where you live, chances are a yoga studio is nearby or a local venue is offering classes. And the great news is that most yoga classes are very reasonably priced, often only $5 – $10 a piece, and some are even “pay-as-you-please” classes that allow you to pay whatever you’re able. So, if financial stress has you pinching every penny, donate $2 this week, and then throw in a little more once you’ve found a job.
If you want to take big steps in your career in 2017 but dread networking, you’re certainly not alone, even some extroverts struggle with the task. When you think outside the box and find ways to network outside of traditional settings, you may find that it’s a lot less stressful. So, join a team, head to the dog park or church, or simply get a workout in at a local yoga studio. These are all excellent networking opportunities, and most importantly, they’ll have you feeling less stressed and more fulfilled.
by: Gloria Martinez
Ms. Martinez believes that while women have made many advancements toward “shattering the glass ceiling,” there is still much to be done. It is her aim to help increase the number of women-led businesses by educating others about the topic.