When was the last time you made a connection on LinkedIn, and it helped you out? How many times have you thrown an email out to the wider world and got next to nothing back in return from people within your industry? Networking is getting tougher in 2019, as people are not as receptive to listening to what you have to say.
Trying to cut the wheat from the chaff in the networking world can be difficult if you don’t know where to go. And while LinkedIn may still be the place to have a secret look at who works where, when it comes to actual networking, it’s all about hitting your niche. There has been a sudden rise in the number of industry-specific networking events and tools based on individual industries.
If you’re having a hard time making relevant connections and finding work within your industry, here are some of the current options in the UK for niche networking areas helping everyone from cheese makers to a subcontractor find better networking opportunities.
I’m looking specifically at the Food & Drink, Construction, Technology, and Third Sector as areas to network, but hopefully, there are a few tips in there that can be applied to any UK industry.
Food & Drink
You’d be hard pressed to find a city or town around the county that doesn’t have a market or street food event on the weekly calendar. With the food sector growing year on year, there’s a big need out there for producers and vendors to team up in every which way possible, especially as many of us move away from doing the “big shop” every week to having bespoke items like coffee, beer, snacks and even meat delivered to our doors.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the main networking arm of the industry that has its focus on those in food manufacturing, so if you’re trying to launch a product or find relevant conferences to attend to get training on everything from creating a solid supply chain to marketing your food, they’re great.
Based on Scotland? There are some fantastic networking groups set up around the country, from the highlands to the borders. Scotland Food & Drink is great for getting new business to network with some very big Scottish names, while Borders Food Network, Food from Fife and Ayrshire Food Network gives you a scope of how localised food networking can get in Scotland.
And what about our friends in Northern Ireland? With agriculture the biggest industry there, there’s always a been a well-knit local food community. NIFDA helps with promoting small brands, while Belfast Food Network gets new products seen in the country’s capital.
From getting under the sink fixed to building a skyscraper, a common theme in the construction industry is knowing about jobs from someone who knows someone. The industry is still a little behind when it comes to networking, especially with the level of regulation companies have to follow, but there are some areas where massive strides are being made.
Copronet has been described as “LinkedIn for the construction industry” pulling together tenders, networking opportunities, and accreditation into one platform that’s all online. The company is aiming to streamline the tender process and provide management tools that many construction firms usually have to pay for separately.
Again, the area is very splintered with a lot of the calendar built around big events like Futurebuild, UK Construction Week and Concrete Show some the ones to watch. And if you’re based in Scotland, get yourself to Scotland Build or home in on country-specific events.
If everything is moving online, does it even make sense to have real-life networking events for those in tech?
The simple answer is absolute yes. Even though the UK is becoming a leading tech hub, many people outside the industry don’t know what to think. That’s why if you have a tech company looking for investment or new clients, you need to be seen IRL, even in this day and age.
TechUK is the best place to start looking if you want to attend large scale events that focus on a specific industry. For example, they have dedicated networking events to get tech companies to face to face with those in healthcare, defence, finance, etc. Technation is also great if you fancy yourself something of a keynote speaker and have a product to shout about.
Anyone based in Northern Ireland is very lucky as Sync NI has the entire industry covered, with every tech event in the country listed for free on their site.
Networking for local causes can be akin to pulling teeth at times, especially with budget limitations. That doesn’t mean you can’t act savvy when getting your cause in front of people. While it takes a little digging to perfect, I recommend that you go through all the local Eventbrite events in your area. There are dozens of networking events and business dinners hidden in plain sight there, and many of them are quite cheap to attend.
I would also recommend joining the Small Charities Coalition who do amazing work and giving those with no experience the tools and information on how to get out there. The Funding Network and Charity Connect are also good networks, but I would suggest looking at your council level as well to see if there are better avenues for charities to get noticed.
Every other industry?
I hope you gleaned some networking nuggets in this short post, but when it comes to petty much any industry in the UK looking to network, I recommend starting the local level before working your way up the networking chain. You’ll be surprised how many local bodies and private networking groups there are in your area that could be perfect for partnering with to build your brand.