Though I look forward to and enjoy networking events, it was not always the case. I remember feeling like a fish out of water or a stranger in a foreign land when attending a job fair or professional networking event and not knowing how to act, what to say and even how to stand.
Networking may not appear to be a natural thing; it can seem contrived and less than authentic. But that doesn’t have to be true. Let’s take a step back and think about WHY we are attending the event, whether it be a career fair or your first meeting at a professional organization.
- Know your audience
- Know your purpose
- Anticipate conversations or questions
Don’t Worry; Everyone Has These Strange Thoughts
Don’t let the Thought Gremlins invade and distract. And they can get to anyone. A client of mine, with an outstanding sense of humor, shared some of the thoughts she had during her recent job search.
- “Oh, here comes that Director of Sales”. I met him just a few months ago and I want to see if he has leads for any positions in his company but I can’t, for the life of me, remember his name. Maybe I should just not say anything but then that would defeat the purpose of why I am here. Oh, I know, I will just go right up to him and introduce myself again. Here goes nothing….”
- “I look great in my new dress and heels but my feet are killing me. I don’t know how much longer I can stand here without grimacing. Can other people tell my feet hurt by the way I am hopping from side to side? I must look like I need to go to the ladies’ room.”
- “I just realized that I can’t shake hands because I have my drink in one hand and a plate of appetizers in the other. Why did I do that? It must be some sort of test. Is there a hidden camera somewhere? I don’t see any place to put them down either. Oh, well, my hands are all clammy anyway. Why am I so nervous?”
- “The recruiter just asked for my business card. Doesn’t he know this is a recruiting event? I don’t have a business card. What is that, he said; “perhaps I have a networking card?” Oh, boy; I am not prepared for this job fair and probably should just go home.”
- “That recruiter was so nice and I could really tell she loves her job. Maybe I should look into recruiting or HR as a career. After all, I am learning so much from going to all these career fairs. Now how many have been to this month? Was it 4 or 5? Will I ever find a job?”
Can you relate? You probably have experienced some, if not all, of those thoughts at some point. In the name of your career, you have subjected yourself to job fair after job fair, attended networking meet up events and joined professional networking groups but just never feel like you made a great impression.
3 Counter Intuitive Networking Tips that Work
- “Less is More”. Most job fairs have many organizations represented and it is a common mistake for job seekers to share their resume with as many companies as they can. Often that results in no conversation – just quickly handing the resume and moving on. What impression can you possibly make in a 10 second hand off? Contrary to what you might think, it is often more effective to talk to fewer recruiters and really have the time to connect with them, share your experience and leave them anxious to schedule an interview with the hiring manager.
- “Pretend you are at Disney”. You may have heard that one of the crowd navigating strategies is to either head to the back or to your left, which is against the natural traffic flow of most attendees. If you follow the crowd, you probably won’t have a chance to talk to a recruiter without an audience but if you head to the back of the room or off to the left, you may be privileged to be the only one at their booth. Another counter intuitive technique is to arrive an hour before the event concludes when most job seekers have already departed.
- “Don’t Take Your Resume”. What, you may say; isn’t that the reason I am at the job fair? No; you are at the event to meet people and make an initial positive impression. Either have a networking card (with your name, contact information and 3 bullet points – your strengths or experience areas) to exchange with the recruiter or simply collect their business cards, after talking to them and impressing them with your elevator pitch and promise to send your resume the next business day. When you do the latter, be sure to reference your discussion, something very specific you shared and add another piece of information which is relevant to your experience and the desired job.
Preparedness builds Confidence. Confidence makes you Stand Out. And you must stand out to get noticed in this congested job searcher world.
Help yourself to more information and resources at http://www.CareerWisdomCoach.com or contact me directly. I LOVE helping job seekers find and get hired into their ideal careers.
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