Somehow, attending a networking event when you are in the midst of a job search seems to evoke more anxiety than attending “just” to expand or strengthen your network. But think about it—the event is the same, and you are the same person—the only difference is the reason you want to interact with your network! Your attitude shifts to focusing on “how do I let people know I’m looking for a new job?” OK, that’s a legitimate reason to add to why you are attending, just don’t make it the only reason. Use these tips to bring the right attitude and approach to networking at an event during a job search.
Attitude. Follow the same networking protocols you use for meeting new people: Say your name clearly. Reach out to others and get to know them—as people, not titles or company recruiters. Be prepared to—and be sure to be seen as someone who can—have a conversation around a number of topics; don’t be that person who came to talk only about him/herself. Have business cards ready to exchange.
Approach. When someone asks, “What do you do?” or “What brought you here tonight?” be sure you can deliver your response with confidence. In other words, be comfortable saying something like, “I’m in a job search, so one of the many reasons I’m here tonight is to meet people in the industries/companies I am targeting. Specifically companies that need someone with a proven track record in [speak briefly to your reputation]….” Or, “I hope to meet people whom I can call on in the next week or so to advise me on my search/give me feedback on my [your function] resume. Or, of course, landing a networking meeting would be ideal.”
Then take your lead from them on how best to proceed. But be prepared and be happy to talk about topics other than your search!
The key to networking at an event when in any career transition—especially during a job search—is to be comfortable with who you are and how you say it! So practice if you need to. Remember, people like to help others. They will appreciate that you are dealing with them in an authentic manner and chances are good that you will get the help you need to move your job search forward.