After 2 plus years, in-person networking events are back. While you may not find pre-pandemic crowds yet, attending these events is an important part of the job-search process.
The truth is that people like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. This philosophy extends when it comes to filling open positions. It’s one of the reasons that companies have employee referral programs.
It’s also one of the reasons you should have been attending virtual events, and have to ease back into in-person. There are many networking opportunities out there.
If you’re looking for a new opportunity industry events are the best way to meet your peers. Attending industry conferences is a great way to meet people at various levels from different parts of the country.
Many organizations have local chapters which hold monthly meetings, generally with lunch, or dinner, and a speaker. This gives you an opportunity to mingle with colleagues and keep up with industry trends.
Not only will you be meeting people and staying current, employers like to see ongoing professional development on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
To get the most out of industry organizations join a committee or serve on the board. A spot on the membership committee where you’ll be working the desk means you’ll meet each person who walks in the door.
Job Seeker Groups
Many communities have networking groups specifically for job seekers. Don’t discount these meetings because most of the attendees are unemployed. Job seeker groups can be a great resource.
First, there are sometimes top-notch speakers offering valuable job search and/or career advice. While some presenters focus more on selling their services than providing information, most, like me, see it as a way to give back and focus on educating their audience.
Second, meeting lots of other people looking for work can work for you. Even if you are seeking similar roles (for example you are both in marketing), the person sitting next to you is unlikely to be your direct competition.
What’s more likely is the attendees you meet can become friends that you trade job leads with. So when a recruiter contacts you about a marketing position that’s not a good fit you will have someone else to refer.
Good karma all around.
There are many national and local organizations formed to help people make connections. Some of these are service organizations, like the Rotary; others, like the Polka Dot Powerhouse, are dedicated to helping specific demographic groups.
There are also groups that, like MENG (marketing executives networking group) and FENG (financial executives networking group), are a mix of employed and unemployed. Whine & Dine is an informal group for human resources professionals.
As with industry organizations volunteering with one of these groups is a great way to expand your network. One of the best things I’ve ever done was serving on a volunteer board of directors. I developed several close friendships that lasted long after my board service.
The key to successful networking is to follow the “give before you get” philosophy. Go to events without any expectations. Focus on how you can help the people you meet rather than how they can help you.
Don’t wait until you’re out of work to begin attending events. Nothing says desperate more than frantically circling a room, shaking hands, and passing out business cards to everyone you meet. That is not what networking is about.
Everyone wants to have a network in place to catch them when they suddenly find themselves out of a job. But, having a group of people eager to help you doesn’t happen overnight. Begin helping others, and building relationships today, so people will be there for you tomorrow.