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The Career Collective is ¬†a “collaboration of 21 experts in the career industry.” This group chooses a topic and each of the experts blog about it. Recently the topic was on “Networking.” While each entry offered very useful ideas, it got me thinking about techniques for networking within the nonprofit sector specifically.

Certainly, networking helps you cultivate relationships with colleagues, friends and acquaintances who are often the bridge to future job opportunities. While some folks dislike obvious forms of networking such as meet and greets or professional gatherings, what is often neglected are more informal routes to building networks and gaining important skills.

Rather than approaching networking as obligation to get out and meet potential experts or employers, choosing meaningful activities (whether career-related or not) to meet folks and bolster your skill set will often yield better results.

In the philanthropic sector there are numerous affinity groups that are geared to specific grantmaking goals such as Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) or identity groups such as Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP). Joining a networking group is an excellent way to learn more about the trends in the field, meet like minded people, and learn about job opportunities.

Another excellent way to network is by participating in leadership development programs. In many cities the Chamber of Commerce hosts training programs for up and coming leaders (these may be invitation only or highly competitive programs). These kinds of programs are excellent ways to meet outstanding individuals and make meaningful connections while simultaneously build your network.

Alternatively, consider doing regular volunteer projects through groups like Hands on Bay Area which offer multiple types of opportunities to help your community. Participating in networking groups or ongoing volunteer activities such as the Hands On Network are great ways to give back while simultaneously gaining skills and building your network.

Meanwhile, here are my three favorite entries from the Career Collective experts:

1) Networking for the Shy and Introverted by KatCareerGal – She offers a plethora of useful ideas about networking;

2) 3 Ways to Make Networking Fun for Introverts and Extroverts by Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers; and

3) 5 Little Secrets about Networking by Hannah Morgan.