I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Matt Youngquist, owner of Career Horizons, recently and I was impressed. I’ve been receiving his newsletter for a couple of years and have to say he consistently has great information. His blog is also excellent and on the list of blogs I follow. Career Horizons is a career coaching organization. They help while you’re working as well as in between. Their approach reinforces the idea that job search needs to be a continuous process – whether or not you are looking! This is just one more instance.
Living Life Opportunities Speaking of parts of the job search that are really on-going, networking is a process that requires continuous nurturing. Fortunately, it’s also a completely normal, integral part of our lives. At least two of the members of NFJS have gone back to work through contacts developed in their children’s sports. They weren’t doing something strange, like shouting “I NEED A JOB”. They were volunteering, being themselves and consistently providing the kind of quality that is their norm. They also worked on their elevator pitch hard enough so that when someone asked what they are doing, they responded easily and naturally with the pitch. Sooner or later conversations about work led to understanding, combined with watching how these people conduct themselves as volunteers and “voila” a job offer materialized.
Networking Opportunities There are also times when we have specific opportunities to meet people who might be especially important in our search. These are “networking” opportunities. Maybe it’s a Job Search Social, or maybe it’s a Job Fair. Who we are isn’t going to change, and what we’re looking for isn’t changing. These events may seem to be pretty artificial and when you meet someone there, it is difficult to develop a lot of enthusiasm for them. We don’t really know them, and we don’t really understand what they are doing, or the quality of it. So it’s easy to dismiss these as quixotic – a waste of time.
They don’t have to be though. In order to make one of these events useful, the key is focus on yourself, what you bring; then, how well you follow up.
For instance, there’s a local job fair you see advertised for next week. Preparation includes investigating the firms being advertised as participating. Do they recruit for your industry? If not, then don’t go. If they do, then do they ever have openings for someone with yours skill set? It’s a job fair, then it better be a current opening, or don’t waste your time. If it’s a job social, then current is good, but go either way. Job fairs are a grind, what you want is the card of the person recruiting for your position. It allows you to follow up and separate yourself from the stack they got at the fair. Job socials are better, but the goal is still the card of someone who will be recruiting for your position.
Follow Through What you have now is an opportunity to create a relationship with someone who might be able to help. If there is a current position, then start with an email, then follow up with snail mail. Include in your initial communications an invite to meet and a time when you’ll follow up. Something like, “I appreciated meeting you at the job social last night and would love to follow up in a less frenzied atmosphere. I’ll call you Thursday morning to set up a time for a brief meeting.” Do some more research on the company and then call Thursday Morning.
I understand that this kind of socializing is hard. It’s hard for me too, but the job social/fair isn’t a time when you can get the other person’s undivided attention, nor can you give them yours. Finding a way to represent yourself as you are is your real goal. It’s also an opportunity we won’t get without asking. We may not get it then either, but we at least have a chance this way.