The Social Network(ing)

will-s-0209 The majority of people who are unemployed, normally think of job/career fairs first when it comes to networking functions. But when you attend job fairs, you are typically canvassing the turf with hundreds, or sometimes, even thousands of other eager job seekers. Here’s a novel idea: Why not try attending other types of key events where almost everyone you encounter is already working?

One great place to start is with your local Chamber of Commerce. Chambers organize numerous ribbon cuttings, luncheons, and other great events each month with local businesses and community organizations. These events can be a great place for you to make connections and acquire good job leads. It would be even better if you knew someone who is firmly connected with the organization who could introduce you to even more people in attendance. If not, use your outgoing personality to navigate yourself around anyway.

While you’re there, ask around to see if there are any upcoming golf tournaments or other major events where you might be able to get involved with volunteering opportunities. Obviously, you need to be spending the majority of your time searching for work, but short-term volunteer events are a perfect venue for making voluminous contacts.

Business Forums are another great way to meet possible contacts. Unfortunately, some of these events may incur a fee to attend, but there are certainly some that are free of charge. You might even find politicians, community leaders or organizational heads in attendance, depending on the size and the scope of the event.

Expos or Tradeshows are great for meeting many others in your industry. There are dozens of high-profile expos and trade shows held in and around Houston each year. Most of the larger events are showcased at either George R. Brown or Reliant Center. Again, some of these events might require a fee or pre-registration to attend, but do your homework to determine the events that might be worth your time and effort.

If you attend any of these events, here are some tips to consider:

Mark Your Target: Make a list of people you want to talk to at the event. The list can be short or long depending on how long the event is. Then, make a list of things you want to talk about with each person on your list. If it helps, write down the list of people and topics on a 3×5 and carry it with you to the event.

Arrive Early: If possible, arrive a little bit early to the event. You can become familiar with the room which will make you more comfortable. In addition, it will give more one-on-one time with people on your list.

Business Cards: Create some business cards even if you are not currently working and give them to as many people as you can. Similarly, get business cards from everyone you meet. If possible, note down some interesting/relevant information about them on the back of the card.

Have Fun: Last but not the least, have fun at the event. You can only do so if you are genuinely interested in meeting other people. Demonstrate sincere interest in people and what their goals are in attending the event.

Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are between job assignments when the timing is right. Almost everyone there has an agenda of their own and you just might be able to help others with your industry knowledge and expertise.

Finally, don’t be pushy or come across as desperate when you attend these events. People do not want be bombarded by your unemployment woes. Keep in mind that these events are not job fairs. Your intent is only to make professional contacts. Follow up in a day or so with a simple email, reminding your contacts of the encounter and politely ask if they might know of any possible openings in their organization.

Good luck with your job search and always remember to keep you head in the game!

Wil Smith is a Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. Wil has collected over 20 years of expertise in the areas of Corporate Training & Development, Recruitment and Operational Management; with the majority of that time working with a Fortune 500 Corporation. He has also worked in the Sports / News industry as a reporter and broadcaster.

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