Networking when on the H4 visa, or when just at home

 In one of my previous posts on how to boost your career when on an H4 visa, I talked about using the time to build your network. But I know very well, through my own inexperience at it when I started, that networking is easier said and done. Plus, when you are looking for work on an H4 visa, or just trying to stay sane all alone all day at home, who has time to think through networking?  So I thought I would share some tips I would have found useful when I began to network.First let me tell you that networking was a new concept to me. In India, we had family lunches and reunions and neighborhood parties, but I had never quite attended a networking meeting. A friend here told me it was very important in getting a job – knowing people in the industry. Since I was starting fresh in this country, looking for a job on my H4 visa, I did not have many contacts. And certainly not the safety net I had back home (friend of my fathers, uncle of my friend and so on). Whew – something for starting fresh J Though I am writing about my time on an H4 visa, there is no reason why it doesnt apply to any amateur networker. And experts – please add!

Some ideas for an easy ramp up.

  • Raid the library (or Barnes and Noble, if you are a browswer there) – Libraries are free, and they often carry books on networking. Did you know that networking is such an important skill here that there are books and classes on it? This was a surprise to me, but when I looked through some, long after I came here, they were very useful. Choose advice that suits your style.
  • Invite people over – friends or colleagues of husbands, or that neighbours son in town. Home dinners, even though they mean cooking are icebreakers. But if you dont love cooking, like I dont, have dinner outside at a nice place, and invite people home for dessert. Bonus – you get to go out of the house, a much looked forward to event on the h4. And of course, visit with friends. Friends form the microcosm of your network, but is certainly not the be all and end all of it. And it should not be.
  • Find associations that you like. The US at least has associations for all trades and interests. For example, Georgia has technology association of Georgia (TAG) which has a womens arm (WIT) – Women in Technology that is pretty good. The first few association meetings maybe awful. And walking into a room full of strangers takes guts. But soon, the speakers will interest you and you will find people with commom interests. Two tips : If you enter and have no one to talk to, head for the buffet  table. Food is a conversation starter and it also gives your hands something to do, and you dont look totally idle. Second, dont feel shy about appraching people and saying ‘Hi, I am …’. It is pretty common here.
  • Dress Western and well. I have found getup to be a key in how I get noticed by men and women here.
  • Volunteer! – At the end or begining of networking meetings with speakers, committe members are introduced. They always introduce someone in charge of membership, and occasionally of volunteering. Now, there is no guarantee that when you approach them, they will not be snobbish. Many people are, but ignore it. They need volunteers. Usually, individual volunteer team members are better. Many orgs have complex forms for volunteering. Fill it. Its a great way to network and contribute.
  • Dont forget the non profits. Choose a cause that will make you happy, and you may find many like minded friends.

Please give me your ideas or questions! I will update the post if I get any more. And if you are looking for fun things to do, check this one.

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