Remember that everyone has a network -- even if you don't join groups set up for that purpose. You have relationships with people who might help you with your business goals (and whom you might help in return). Your relatives and neighbors are part of your network. So are people you meet at the gym, on the sidelines at children's ballgames, at church or just about anywhere you get to know people one-on-one.
Various groups that may not list business networking as their main goal can help you develop relationships. The Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees and other civic clubs offer ample networking opportunities. Local, regional and national professional and trade organizations for specific industries offer great networking opportunities at conventions and workshops and through e-mail lists and online forums. These associations may seek you out, and it's easy enough to find them online. Groups sometimes spring up when a number of colleagues in the same field find themselves out of work.
There are also groups designed just for business networking. Your area may have groups for professional women, people in marketing, young professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs or groups with other common interests. Some combine social gatherings with business networking. Many stage regular networking events in which people mingle, meet and share contact information.
Different groups work well for different people; they may work for you at various different stages in your career as your needs and goals change.
Meeting people face to face is important. But you can also expand your business network through social networking. Keep reading to find out how.