Everyone knows that statistic - only 20% of jobs available are posted publicly. This means you've gotta know people. And it's not just knowing any people. It's knowing the right people. One of the best ways to meet these folks is through networking events.
Ah, yes, the often dreaded but necessary topic of networking. To many, networking can feel slimy and inauthentic. It can feel like a task to check off your list, just like that work assignment due next week. But it doesn't have to be this way.
You'll get much more out of these events if you approach them as a way to learn about others rather than simply as a channel for self-promotion.
Just like those annoying YouTube ads (which now you can actually pay to avoid), no one enjoys being blatantly sold to. Instead learn who is attending the event with you. Strike up a conversation casually by asking:
- If this is the first event of this type/series they've attended
- How they heard about the event
- If they live in the area
- If they're from the area
- What they do for work
- If they've heard the speaker before
Let the discussion flow naturally. You may find you have a shared connection or have lived in the same city previously. You never know who this person's parents are or what kind of company their best friend works for.
Leave every conversation with a business card, whether or not you think the person can directly lead you to a job.
The easiest way to get someone's card is by offering yours up first. I've yet to have someone take my card and not reciprocate the act. This is an especially helpful tactic if you're trying to get the email address of someone but have not had luck through an internet search.
On the back of the card, write down a) where you met them and b) 1-2 details about your conversation.
Then follow up within a day in an email saying how nice it was to meet them, mentioning one of the details of your conversation and ending either with an offer to help them further their professional goals or by sending along a resource that they might find valuable in their work/life. Do not, and I repeat, do not ask them for a favor off the bat if they did not offer something specifically in person. Networking is all about making connections - I prefer authentic ones - and the best way to grow these connections is by developing trust. You don't ask someone to marry you on the first date, am I right?
If appropriate, add this person as a connection on LinkedIn, not on Facebook. Follow their progress. Congratulate them on their successes. Connect them with others that may be beneficial. This is how you become top of mind when job opportunities do become available.
Never underestimate the value of a good conversation. Just one could drastically change the course of your career. So put on those pumps and get out there. Netflix will still be around when you get home.