Finding opportunities to meet employers face-to-face or get introduced to other professionals in your field can feel like a daunting task for any job seeker. Fortunately, Chamber of Commerce events, job fairs and industry-specific networking events are great opportunities to connect with employers, meet others with similar interests and increase your contact list. Attending these events can make a huge difference in your job search if you show up ready to network!
So, what can you do to make the most of a networking event?
Arrive early. Arriving while there are only a few people in attendance will help you alleviate some nerves and give you extra time to talk. Jump in, introduce yourself and get to know others. Don’t worry if there is not an immediate fit; get comfortable with having a conversation and then move on to meet others.
Second, when you shake hands, repeat the person’s name to help you remember it. Show interest in what they are sharing, learn from them and share your own interests. I recommend researching the guest speakers, expert panelists and employers at an event to see if there is anyone who you would like to meet and could provide you with advice about your profession. You should prepare two or three key questions to help you with the conversation.
Third, share information about yourself. Practice telling your top two to three skills, experiences or accomplishments to friends and family before you go. Also, create networking cards with that information, your contact information and the job you are seeking or your specialty. Networking cards are easy to carry around and a great way to exchange contact information. A small notebook and pen are also helpful so that you can make notes to reflect on later.
Fourth, add the people that you meet to your contact list and record any other useful information. This will help you grow your network and provide you with details to reference when you speak with them again.
Finally, follow-up with everyone you make a connection with by email, phone or through LinkedIn. Reference something that you learned from them to show that their time with you was memorable. Keep the conversation going, build the relationship and ask them to connect you to others who may be able to help you. The key to networking is to keep going. The more relationships you build the greater the chance of success in your job search.
If this is your first time attending a networking event, you may find it helpful to talk with an Employment Advisor to help you prepare. Contact us for the free support you need.