Not long ago, I wrote about how if you want to meet the right people in networking, you need to change how you do it. Stop the emphasis on job-hunting events, and turn your focus towards learning events. So, what’s really the benefit to that?
From what I’ve experienced, when you invest your own time and money in going to events that your target employers deem important to attend for their own business, it makes a big impression.
Learn to make the right connections, the right way
When I was searching for a job in my dream field a couple years ago, I was struggling to make the right connections and (even more importantly) convince them that they needed me to work for their company. It’s a small industry, and so it’s hard to find people at your target companies – much less ones at places that are hiring.
That year, I was able to get a spot as a blogger for an innovation conference in NYC. Problem was, I was job-seeking and didn’t have much cash to spare. So I bought my flight using frequent flier miles, stayed in a hostel and made sure I got plenty of the provided breakfast and lunch. And the first morning, while I was filling up my coffee cup, I turned around to find the owner of my dream company (who I’d already connected with briefly) in line for coffee behind me! We both jumped and went “What are YOU doing here?”
The next year, I went to another big innovation event where I heard an audience member asked Seth Godin about a creative problem-solving program I’d done as a youth. Excited to meet another fan of that program, I tracked her down and we start talking about our shared interest in creativity. Amazingly, she was from my hometown, so we made plans to connect when we returned. Then she handed me her business card – and I discovered that she worked at my dream company! And when she got back, she promptly told the owner of my dream company about meeting me there.
The other weekend, a job-seeking friend and I signed up for a tech and design event in Minneapolis. He’s looking to get a job as a start-up, and has one in particular that he’d love to work at. He’s been doing a lot of networking recently, and wasn’t sure whether or not going to this event would be worth his time. Until the final schedule of speakers came out a day before the event – and we saw that the CEO of his dream employer was a featured member of the very first panel discussion.
Then, when we walked in, that very CEO was one of the first people we saw at the event, and my friend was able to approach the CEO afterwards for a further discussion of the topic – and the CEO himself asked my friend about his job hunt.
In my case, going to those innovation events led directly to getting offered a job at my dream company. My background and passion for innovation was obvious, but it wasn’t until I took those extra steps that the decision-maker in my company decided he had to meet me. In fact, he sent me an email a week after the event that said “Everyone here keeps telling me about you – we should have lunch.” A couple days later, we had lunch and talked about innovation. I had a job offer 3 days later and started the next Monday.
In my friend’s case, attending that tech event in Minneapolis has pushed the CEO into looking into whether or not their start-up can offer him a full-time job this spring. That’s a great step in the right direction, as it wasn’t really on the CEO’s radar beforehand. Who knows how this will ultimately turn out for my friend – but it was obvious that him being there at 9am on a Saturday morning to learn more about the industry made an impression on the CEO of the company he wants to work at.
When your dream employer or networking connection runs into you at an event that they think is important – either because it’s a learning event or because it’s an event they’re attending to connect with their customers, that makes a greater impact than any traditional networking you can possibly do. Not only are you projecting that you are interested in their field, and that you have a passion to learn, but it shows that you’re savvy about their field.
Going to the right events is not a magic solution – but it is a way to make a massive positive impression (especially since most job-seekers confine their connecting only to actual networking events/venues.) You can try to express your commitment and passion in an email or during a conversation – but that’s ultimately just words. But when you invest your own personal time and/or money in going to the events your dream employer deems important, that is definitive proof of your commitment and passion.