Many financial consultants attend networking events primarily to discover new employment opportunities. However, such a narrow focus can cause you to miss out on the many other advantages these events have to offer. Consultant networking events encompass a wide variety of activities, from conferences to business breakfasts, professional association chapter meetings and roundtables. Many include workshops or seminars with a skills-building component.
Read on to find out how to make the most of your consulting networking efforts — even if you're not looking for a job.
Do a little research on consulting networking events before deciding whether to attend. Look for events that include an educational or training component, such as workshops on planning for healthcare in retirement, or a presentation featuring a guest speaker with expertise in your field. In some cases, merely attending a certain presentation may yield a perk like free continuing professional education (CPE) credit.
Also consider what other types of professionals will attend the event and how valuable their knowledge and insight might be for you. Depending on your current consulting projects and interests, you may benefit from branching out and attending networking events outside of your industry.
Simply talking to your fellow financial consultants and others in the industry creates opportunities to acquire new skills. For example, if you're working on a project that involves a change in compliance laws, ask your colleagues how they're handling the issue. You'll probably pick up a few tips, plus have a chance to share some of your own. You'll also leave with several new contacts to reach out to later if you need advice.
Many consultant networking events feature keynote speakers or presentations. If possible, introduce yourself to the speaker after he or she presents. Even if the exchange lasts only a minute or two, shaking hands with a leader in your industry might be the start of a new and valuable connection.
Cast a wide net
It's possible you'll encounter other consultants who are your competitors at networking events. Try viewing them as colleagues, keeping in mind they could offer good advice. Don't be afraid to ask for their insight, and share your own as well. Exchange business cards with each of your new contacts. After the event, follow up with a quick note, or by connecting with them on social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter.
One of the biggest networking blunders is reaching out to your contacts solely when you need something. This is bound to weaken the relationship. After a consultant networking event, make an effort to keep in touch with your new contacts. This can be as quick and simple as sending a congratulatory email when they receive an industry honor. If you notice a contact reaching out for help, do your best to offer assistance: You'll be more likely to receive something in return when you need it.
Consultant networking events aren't just for active job seekers. By following the suggestions here, thinking expansively and creatively about these valuable events, you could open a treasure trove of career-building opportunities.
Of course, networking in person isn't the only way to connect with other financial professionals. Read our tips for using social media to build your consultant network.