How to Network Without Going Broke

Here are five cheap ways to get your career moving.

(g-stockstudio/Shutterstock)

(g-stockstudio/Shutterstock)

Networking can help you meet new people in the Philly area, find a job, build your connections, and maybe even find a date. But it can get pricy. Lots of events have high fees and it may cost several hundred dollars or more to join an organization. Plus, free drinks don’t last all night.

So if you are not in a position to spend big, how can you still take advantage of networking opportunities? Here are 5 tips:

  1. Meetup is your Friend. Meetup.com offers groups more options than you can imagine. You can join for free and search based on geography or interests. Meetup offers everything from start up entrepreneur help to divorce support groups to finding tennis partners. The great thing about Meetup is that many groups are free or have a nominal fee and no long-term commitment. Many meet in local coffee shops or places of that nature. These groups are an economical and fun way to get out there and meet new folks. Caveat: Do your research. You will find groups on Meetup that have never actually had a meetup or the last one was many moons ago. But many are active and worth your time.
  2. Volunteer/Join a Board. Are you interested in helping children? Supporting the animal rescue community? Tutoring? Think about the interests you have to help out and start volunteering with a local non-profit organization or even join a board. You will be giving back and networking with those who already share a common interest with you. If you are just starting your career or making a career transition, this is a wonderful way to gain experience. For example, if you’re looking to be a full-time event planner but just starting out, volunteer with a non profit on their events committee.
  3. Use LinkedIn Strategically. Join LinkedIn groups that are industry related and have an active voice in those groups. Schedule 15-minute phone calls or coffee meetings with new connections or those in your network you would like to get to know better. For a lot of businesses, summer is a slower time. Take advantage and set up a weekly call or meeting with someone to help build your network. All connections are not equal however. For most of us, we can’t meet with everyone in our network and still have time to grow our businesses. Prioritize who you meet based on things like industry and collaboration potential. It’s also a great idea to put those people you “simply hit it off with” at the top of your list.
  4. Ask an organization if you can attend as a guest or at no cost. It never hurts to ask right? Some organizations allow members to bring guests for one event or meeting at no cost. Often if you speak to the organizer and say you’re considering joining, they may offer you a comped ticket to learn more about the group. Finally, if you are in transition, advise the organizer of this fact. It’s possible they will offer a ticket at no cost or a reduced cost based on your circumstances.
  5. Speaking/Writing. My personal view is that there is no better way to build your network and visibility than by offering value. Look for opportunities to speak or write in your local community or within an industry specific publication. You can build your credibility and your brand without spending any money. This is purely a time investment. Similar to my advice above with LinkedIn though, be strategic. It’s not about speaking anywhere that will have you. It’s about getting in front of your target audience in person or with your writing.

Jennifer Lynn Robinson, is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at on Twitter, at purposefulnetworking.com or [email protected]