Networking is a priority if you are in a job search or in career development mode.   I’m not a geek by a long shot, but I’m headed to Nashville’s BarCamp 2011 tomorrow along with about 700 other folks.

For those of you who don’t know, BarCamp is a free daylong technology/networking/digital marketing unconference and yes, it is held in a bar.  Many cities have their own version of this type of event.

It’s called an unconference because it doesn’t go by regular conference rules.  The speaking slots are won by lottery.  Those who are professional speakers on a topic may speak in a room right next to someone who is completely inexperienced.  This means that there are a wide variety of topics and the crowd votes with their feet on whether what the speaker is saying is valuable or not.

I make sure to attend several technology events a year and I recommend you do too–especially if you are conducting a job search or focusing on professional development and here’s why:

  1. Access to resources. Who doesn’t need people with tech skills?  Why not meet them in groups where you can evaluate how they talk about what they do or how they interact with potential clients?
  2. Sharpen your technical skills and add to your experience.  Tech events have given me a vocabulary to be able to talk tech but also given me a much deeper understanding of the level of skills I should have to meet my own work obligations.
  3. Opportunity to meet people who may be outside of your typical circle.  Too often, we let our networks get stale.  Charge up your network by letting those alongside your industry point you back to those you might not know within your own industry.  This has lead to some amazing connections that I would have never met on my own.
  4. Learn something that will help you in your field.  You might just pick up something that will give you an edge in your current position.
  5. Create a perception of solid social media and technology skills.  If you are feeling like your skills might be in question, nothing is better than using modern technology to communicate.  If you are worried about ageism in your job search, nothing beats it like fresh skills.

Choose your tech events wisely so you can make the most of your time.  If you are not a tech person, avoid deeply technical topics.  Instead, look for events with topics that are attractive to a large number of people with a wide variety of skills.  Social media, blogging, content strategy or digital marketing are some great topics to explore.  The rewards are worth it.  I promise.