Being part of a group that enjoys similar interests and shared experiences is not a recent phenomenon.
When we were younger and in school, we’d gather with those who liked playing the same sports or volunteering for the same cause. It was a chance not just to form bonds, but to expand our awareness of a small part of the world. What used to be called “clubs” are now termed “meet-ups.” Are you involved? If not, why not? If so, are you using it both for career as well as social development and opportunities?
The larger the metropolitan area you live in/near, the more meet-ups there are. They are low-key, low pressure opportunities to meet others in your field – or pick the brains of folks in a career area you’ve thought about.
Wondered what it would be like to make the jump from academia to industry? Science to business? Post-doc to career ladder? Discussing things you’re curious about face-to-face is quite valuable. When considering a career change or a career tweak, speaking with those who are where you might want to be provides great insight. Chances are there’s a main subject or sector you’ve been trained for – but may be experiencing or approaching burn-out.
Something new is exciting and scary at the same time. Talking it over helps. Here’s what will happen while listening to someone tell you what they do: you’ll think, “that sounds cool!” Or, you’ll think, “that sounds so boring, I’m glad someone (else) is doing it.” The more you do these interactions, the better formed your ideas of if and when to do a career change or career tweak.
Keep in mind that, since they are almost always free to attend, more people will RSVP ‘yes’ than actually show up. If there are numerous possible attendees, not a problem. However, if there’s a very small number indicated they’ll come, be prepared for interacting with just a few people.
And what if there aren’t any in your area – or aren’t any around an interest in which you’re interested? Then, start one. You can informally gather in part of a restaurant or some other public space. Having name tags is a good idea – if only for those wandering in to find each other. Perhaps either you or someone you know has a conference room that could be used after hours. (Admittedly, security could be a challenge to allowing non-employees into a company space.)
After your meet-up becomes more established, you can try to get a dedicated space. Restaurants and bars may be willing to provide a dedicated space if everyone orders something to eat and drink. After all, you’re bringing in extra revenue. Variety in location is certainly all right – but it is best not to move around too much while people are trying to find you.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with just going to meet people, making friends, or just getting out of the house. Or so I’m told! (Okay, I’m type-A networker.) Good luck, and let me know how it goes!