Finding work is difficult these days and in small towns it’s even harder. Whether you’re trying to achieve employment or trying to get your business ‘out there’, you’ll want to network. What is networking? Basically, it’s getting to know lots of people in your community and making connections. This is likely the smartest step you could take in seeking out employment or before starting up a new business. It should be obvious that the more people you know and the more people that know you’re looking for employment, the better your chances for getting offers or being in the know of new job opportunities. When considering the start of a new business, what better way to know if the community will support it then to poll as many people as you can in the community. Better yet, the more you talk to people the more they engage in the dream you have, offering ideas and advice, which can result in them feeling like they have a stake in your business. So, let’s take a look at a few of the numerous ways to network in your community or small town.
1. Events: Get involved in the various events that your community puts on. In our town we have festivals galore in the spring, summer, and fall. I could pick from an array of themes and even convenient weekends that suit me best and still have lots to choose from. I love face painting and so this past summer got involved in painting faces at the local Celtic Festival. There are so many ways you can get involved and meet lots of people. This is a good and fun place to start. Don’t just volunteer, but enjoy the event too.
2. Volunteer: Who hasn’t heard this one before? Every town has somewhere that needs volunteers be it a thrift shop, hospital, food bank, parent group, seniors home, etc. If you’re not sure of where to start looking, then find a friend that volunteers and ask them or call a local church. Be sure not to get too involved in any particular group to ensure better coverage throughout the town.
3. Board Member: This one may sound less fun – no one likes to sit through meetings – but it’s a good place to network because those who sit on boards are often a big part of the town. There are often people from the town hall, business owners, church leaders, property owners, and so on that sit on various boards. Try to find one that might suit the work you’re looking for or the business you’re trying to get into. At least this will make it a bit more interesting.
4. Employment Center: For those looking for a job you’re likely already here – if you’re not, what the heck have you been doing? Be sure to present yourself well. These are the people that are the most likely to hear of a job before anyone else, so you want to impress them with your charm, friendliness, dedication to job search, and resume enhancement.
5. Small Business Center: For those wanting to start a new business this is a good place to be. Not all towns may have this, but I’m guessing many do, or at least one close by. These centers often offer trainings, workshops, and special events. They can also offer their own networking seminars or luncheons. Advice on how to gain access to government grants is also available here.
6. Town Meetings: Town meetings are often open to the public. This is a good opportunity to get to know what’s happening in your town and to show your interest to those who make big decisions. This is good for people looking for employment because you’ll be networking with the people who likely know lots of employers. This is good for those looking to start a business because you may find yourself asking some of these folk for permission one day.
7. Community Service Groups: Obviously a lot of this is going to be volunteer based, but then again you’re not being paid at the moment anyways, so spend your time wisely. Service groups generally are groups of people that come together to help out other charities by raising money, volunteering for events, etc. People in these groups know lots of others because they help lots of others and are readily involved in the happenings of the community.
8. Write: If you are a good writer, small towns are more likely to allow a non-journalist to guest write for their newspaper. Perhaps there’s an online blog for your local paper, organization, or business that you could contribute to. This is a way to get your name out into the community and one more thing you can add to your resume to show that you are active with your time.
9. Presentations: Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking, actually most are not, but if you are one of the few then see if there are any places in your community or surrounding area that you could make a presentation. An example of this is speaking at a men’s or women’s breakfast, service group event, other events, etc. This will get your face and abilities out in the open for many to see and speak about later (that probably scares many of you, but if you can then it’s a good one).
10. Teams: Join a sports team, become part of a local club (for example; D.I.N.K’s [Double Income No Kids – this is a real thing!], board gamers, community gardeners, etc). This is another really fun way to get involved in others lives, where you not only get to meet new people that have the same interests as you, but you also get to know more people who can offer you help in job search or business advice.
11. Local Classes: Many communities have somewhere that you can take language, cooking, dancing, music, etc classes. One more enjoyable way to connect with others, learn something new, and make connections
12. Be Sociable: Do your work – resumes, writing, etc – at coffee shops or libraries. Be friendly and make friends with the shop owners and community members. And remember: you may not know if you’re interacting with a potential employer, so look your best and be your best when you’re out and about.
13. Arts and Culture: A lot of small towns revolve around arts and culture. If you’re an artist, then exhibit your art. If you can act, then take part in a play. If you can sew, do hair or make up, build, or are tech savvy, then help behind the scenes.
14. PTA: If you’re a parent (because otherwise you look creepy), join the PTA. You’ll get to be more involved with your child’s school and get to know the parents that have jobs and who may know if there’s one opening up in the near future.
15. Shop Local: When possible, shop locally and use farmers markets. Be a positive presence in your community. People love to know that you try to help out your local businesses and farmers.
16. Friends and Family: Finally, this is actually where your network starts. I don’t think it’s a falsehood that people hire who they know. Tell everyone you know about what you would like to do and see if they know others you can talk to about it.
What do you do in your area to network?