Have you been to any “networking” events lately?
If you have then you know how intimidating these things can be. It’s overwhelming to even enter the room. You’re not sure if you’re good enough. You’re not sure if anyone even wants to talk to you.
How do you master the networking event?
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.” — Margaret Wheatley
This is a guest post from Edward at Entry Level Dilemma. Edward moved to Colorado after graduating and discovered that all the people he knows on the East Coast are worthless for finding a job in the Rocky Mountain State.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard about looking for a job is to attend industry events.
With this in mind, I recently participated in a workshop on strategic thinking hosted jointly by two area industry associations. I really want to attend this to make some connections.
Not only did this give me a chance to get an inside look at some of the common problems and challenges that companies in my area face, but I also got in some great networking with people who work at the places to which I’ve been applying.
This was pretty much the first time I’d ever gone to any sort of convention, conference, workshop, or other interactive gathering to invest in myself.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect and was a little nervous. Aside from the notes I took for the actual workshop, I also detailed my thoughts on the experience itself to share here.
Here’s how you can get the most out of a networking event…
Pick something that will be well attended by a good cross-section of your industry.
After I registered for this workshop, I discovered that there was another workshop dedicated to young professionals. At first I was disappointed that I picked the “wrong” one to attend. But then I realized that the young professionals session was unlikely to be attended by anyone with any power or clout in hiring decisions.
Other workshops available would have been specialized in other ways and probably not have been attended by the companies I’m most interested in.
Always bring your receipt.
This was a joint workshop and the organization I registered through didn’t provide a list of names to the other organization for check-in. Actually, the second didn’t even know that the first had also done registrations! Getting past the front desk may have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t brought proof that I belonged there.
I was the only person in the room wearing a tie. Given the somewhat blue-collar nature of the industry, it really wasn’t surprising that jeans were worn by approximately half the attendees (and one presenter).
Business casual would have said that I can look and act like a professional but not out-dress the people I wanted to impress.
Always try to dress for the job that you want and not the job that you have. You want to do anything you can to leave a good first impression.
Don’t mention the “J” word.
“CAN YOU GET ME A JOB?” — all annoying people at these events.
Most people will be interested in talking and helping you out. Until you ask about jobs.
When you ask if they know of any present or upcoming openings, they will clam up and just refer you to the company’s website. I asked one person about openings and they gave the old song-and-dance about everything posted on the website; after the workshop, I overheard him mention a problem his company was facing and told him that I thought I could solve that problem. THAT is when I got his card.
Don’t beg for a job. Nobody wants to hire the person begging for work. Nobody wants to date the person begging for love. Don’t go begging at these events.
Listen to other conversations at the networking event.
Don’t eavesdrop or butt into others conversations, but keep an ear out to what others are saying, especially in line to talk to the presenters afterward.
By doing this, I now have the possibility to performing a contract with a local company if not an out-right job.
You want to pay attention. This event isn’t about you. This event isn’t an opportunity to talk about your accomplishments. Let others do the talking. You do the listening.
Ask about the company.
I’m scratching one company off my target list because I found out that growth (and therefore need for more employees) wasn’t even on their radar for the next several years. I gained insight at what kinds of skills are sought at another company.
Ask about the company to see if you would even be a good fit.
Don’t wait until the last minute to network.
Sure the presenters stayed to talk and answer questions, but many of the attendees left as soon as the workshop was over, if not sooner. I missed out on a couple of people I wanted to talk to because they left before I even attempted. Talk to other attendees before the start of the event and during breaks. The nice thing about how these types of things are set up, everyone is wearing a name tag so you know what to call them and what they do. Take every opportunity to introduce yourself to others.
DO offer to help.
When your industry’s association puts on an event, they talk to a lot of companies and tend not to have a lot of hands available. After the event is over, ask how you can get involved and help out in the future. Helping shows prospective employers that you are engaged and will put a face to that resume you send in later.
You also have to volunteer and get your name out there when you’re not well known in your field. You don’t start at the top. You have to work your way up there.
Investing in yourself is about spending time and money to day to make more money in the future.
“I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers—in every imaginable field—work the same.” — Keith Ferrazzi
Have you been to any interesting events lately? Let us know in the comments.