For many professionals, sitting at a desk is the vast majority of the day is just a fact of life. When not at our desks, we’re between meetings, commuting and running day-to-day errands, meaning being ‘time poor’ is the normal state of affairs – and finding time for social activities and exercise can be difficult.

However, exercise and social events can double up as career development time as well, so it’s important to make time for them in your daily life. Despite the rapid increase of social networking for business, face-to-face contact is still vital for professionals. It creates strong and long-lasting relationships far more than online connections do.

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Better than formal networking events – which, as one-off occasions can be stiff and awkward – combining a hobby you might already enjoy (running, for example) with something that helps your career is a great way to get yourself pursuing an interest outside of work and make new connections.

Here are four reasons why social group activities can help with networking:

Informal settings create a better foundation for relationships

A social interest group provides an opportunity to build trust and get to know people in an environment where there is no pressure or agenda. This informality allows professionals to interact as equals, outside the hierarchies of professional environments, which will lead to more authentic relationships.

Joining a running club, for example, is a great way to keep fit and gives you plenty of opportunities to chat with a whole variety of people.

Share and receive advice

One of the best ways to network is to offer advice on an informal basis. See networking as a way to give, rather than as a way to get ahead. That said, asking for advice is also a time-honoured way to network, as many people are happy to help, especially someone they know socially. So pick someone’s brain at a book club, knitting group or dodgeball game, and you never know where it might lead.

Get to know a new industry

Joining a group that’s formed around an interest rather than a profession means that you’ll be exposed to a wider variety of people than you otherwise would have. This creates an opportunity to find out about someone else’s career and industry, and allows organic connections to be formed.

Hear about job openings

Personal referrals are a major way that people find new jobs – many of which will never hit the jobs listings. By being connected to a wide variety of professionals, you can find out about who’s hiring, when, and why. You can even sound out people and pitch your skills, even if their company isn’t specifically hiring at that point. Keeping an ear to the ground in your pottery class, on the tennis court or in the football change rooms could prove an invaluable asset to your career.

Looking for a new job? Contact a Michael Page specialist today.

Summary

Hobbies can be a great way to expand your professional network. Joining an interest or exercise group can:

·         Allow you to build solid foundations away from formal professional situations

·         Learn about other people’s jobs and industries and give and receive advice

Find out about job openings before they reach the point of being advertised

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