Have you been to any “networking” events lately?
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. When not working on his cookbook, he writes about entry level job searching.
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. 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. 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.
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.
Don’t mention the “J” word.
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.
Listen to other conversations.
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.
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.
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.