By Candace Waller
Job seekers, especially those who have been looking for more than six months, must do more than just applying for jobs via job boards. Attending networking events where you connect with other job seekers and perhaps recruiters are critical in helping you land your next job. The hidden job market cannot be ignored and finding these jobs is most likely to happen when you network.
The thought of going into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation can be terrifying. Absolutely Abby (Abby Kohut) invited 200 of her contacts to the Whine and Dine Bon Voyage Networking event to kick off her tour to help a million job seekers: Absolutely Abby Job Search Success Tour. She shared these seven tips guaranteed to make you a Networking Superstar.
1) Wear comfortable shoes and business attire.
Most networking events require you to be on your feet for a long period of time. This is not the time to try out a new pair of shoes. Ladies should leave the high heels and other uncomfortable shoes at home. It may also be a good idea to wear something with pockets so that you can carry business cards, a pen and a small notebook.
2) Bring your business cards.
Even if you are no longer employed, you can have personal cards printed. The purpose of going to networking events is to meet people and get their contact information. It looks much more professional if you are able to hand someone your card instead of reaching for notebook and pen to write things down.
Don’t just let the cards you collected gather dust in your handbag. Make sure you follow up with key contacts. The day after the event connect with people on LinkedIn and reference the event you attended. Make sure to share a lead or other information that you discussed when you met.
3) Wear a professional-looking nametag.
You may be given a sticker on which to write your name but it is more professional to have a printed nametag clipped to your clothes or hung around your neck. The tag should show your name and the job title you are aspiring for in your next position. People may forget your name when you say it; having a nametag clearly visible will help them remember you and the position you are seeking.
4) Remember to smile.
People want to talk with positive people so look like you are happy to be at the networking event. You want people to feel that they can approach you and start up a conversation. All of us have many connections that can be shared. Smile at a person when you make eye contact so that they feel comfortable approaching and talking with you.
5) Talk to people.
Don’t go to a networking event and stand in the corner—and if you see someone doing that, go over and talk with them. Don’t waste your time attending a networking event only talking to people you already know. It may seem difficult to start a conversation with a stranger but remember that they are here for the same purpose you are: to NETWORK. Keep the conversation on neutral topics and really listen to what others are saying. If you are still stuck, try these icebreakers.
- What is your name?
- Do you live around here?
- What industry do you work in?
- What do you do?
- Have you seen any good movies lately?
- Do you have any pets?
- How can I help you with____?
6) Limit your conversation to five to ten minutes.
Make sure you have your elevator pitch down pat. The elevator pitch is a 30 second introduction including your name; job title; accomplishment; company and jobs you interested in.
The purpose of these events is to meet as many people as possible so you don’t want to spend 30 minutes talking to any one person. Breaking off a conversation can sometimes be awkward but there is a way to do it. Simply say, “It was wonderful to speak with you. I see a contact that I need to speak with. Would it be okay for us to exchange business cards so that I can follow up with you for coffee or connect on LinkedIn?”
7) Find out who will be at the Networking Event.
You can make the most of your networking event by making sure you connect with people who may have contacts or job leads in an area that interests you. Most hosts will send out a list of who is attending the event. There may be a speaker there or several recruiters and job hunters. It doesn’t hurt to learn a little about who you may encounter ahead of time. You don’t want to start spewing off facts about the person but having that information can help you steer the conversation to topics that may be of interest. LinkedIn and doing a Google search are the best places to research people.
When you leave the event, take out your pen and notebook and write down notes about the people you have met or any important information that may be useful in your job search. Do this step right away while everything is fresh in your mind.
Eat a snack before your networking event so that you spend your time networking and not eating. Plan out how you are getting to the event (public transportation schedule and driving directions) and come a little early. You may be able to network with people waiting to get into the event.
Abby Kohut is the author of “Absolutely Abby’s Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed” and has presented to hundreds of groups. Her web site is absolulelyabby.com. Abby is planning a bus tour to reach one million job seekers. You can connect with Abby on her website www.absolutelyabby.com.