Throughout my years in career services I have warned job seekers about the dangers of assuming nothing can happen in a job search from Thanksgiving through December 31. For the most concise explanation I’ve ever read on why this assumption is false, read the following blog post by Wright Management Vice President Ralph Haas.
One of the many great points Ralph makes made me think about the job seekers that struggle with networking. For many of these individuals, the networking activity that frightens them most is large networking events. If you come from fields where you’ve never needed to attend such events, the task is more daunting than cold calling or reaching out to people you have not spoken to in a while. Yet many remain aware that to maximize their job search efforts, they need to grow their networks. Events providing immediate access to large numbers of people present a great opportunity to do so.
Ralph indicates that within the holiday spirit, such events take on a more relaxed atmosphere. This could make such an event a perfect setting for someone attending one for the first time. Not only will people be more approachable, you may find to your surprise that people will start conversations with you.
Practice your elevator (30-second introduction speech) and load up on business cards. Find a friend to go with for moral support, but agree to avoid the temptation to hang with each other the entire time. Separate and work the event in thirty minute intervals, then meet back to compare notes. Set a goal to come up with three to five potential follow up meetings-either in person or via telephone. Ralph recommends using such events mostly to arrange follow up meetings instead of seeking referrals on site.
I have always liked Woody Allen’s quote attributing eighty percent of success to just showing up. Meeting people to discuss opportunities will expose you to more possibilities. You won’t find these sitting home at your computer. Plus, contacts can lead in positive, unexpected directions. This past Spring I attended an informal job fair set up around a happy hour. The goal was to let folks meet employers in a less formal setting. As I started speaking with a recent seminar attendee, I noticed another from a different seminar session. As I introduced them, I remembered they had similar backgrounds. They connected quite well. While neither found an employer of interest at the fair, they have remained in touch and are currently considering a consultant partnership. That wasn’t anything they went to the event looking for, but certainly became a positive outcome each received from attending.
So use the holiday season to get your feet wet in the world of networking events. I think you’ll find they’re not as overwhelming as you first thought. Then you’ll have the confidence to attend more next year.