Ten things to do to get the most out of Networking when job hunting.
There are some networking events in my area that can help with a job search. I am currently actively participating in two of them. Here are ten ideas to help you get the most out of network meetings when job hunting.
Update July 2020
The current Covid-19 situation will change networking events. The requirements for masks adds a layer of complexity to the situation.
Know the norms before you go
Each state and city will have different norms regarding masks and ‘social distancing’. Trying to hold a networking conversation while 6′ apart will, in most cases, be extremely frustrating. Couple that with the fact that wearing masks will make it difficult if not impossible to read facial clues.
Find out what is expected before you go. When you arrive, see how the rules for the event line up with the reality.
Choose your mask carefully
If masks are required for entry what are people wearing? I think custom masks are a bit crazy and overdoing things. On the other hand, depending on the group, you could consider
- Drawing a smile on the mask
- Getting them printed with “Hi, I’m Chris – Ruby on Rails Developer”
- Avoid anything political including “Masks are idiotic”
In all probability, handshakes are a thing of the past. Take a look at how other people are handling greetings.
Consider the risk
Most networking events are by invitation or registration. IF anyone in the event comes down with Covid, you might find yourself home for 14 days.
Getting the most out of Networking
One networking event, Philly.rb is a meetup centered around Ruby. Unfortunately the group has gone dormant over the last couple of months. When they do have meetings, it is a mix of young developers out of boot camp, some seasoned developers and startup CEOs and/or CIOs. It’s worthwhile just for the Ruby and Ruby on Rails information but it’s also a decent networking opportunity.
The second is the Techinmotion meetup. I was working with Jobspring Partners and Workbridge Associates. They are somewhat related companies and both participate in the Techinmotion meetups. The first meetup was their Timmy awards. It was attended by over 200 people. The Timmy awards are awarded to local tech companies who have excelled in specific areas. Prior to the awards ceremony there was an hour of networking with an open bar. (One of the sponsors was a distributor of Vodka infused drinks).
One of the advantages of attending these types of events is that it puts you in front of the recruiters and gives them a memory bump. Also, I’ve had a number of cases where a recruiter that I was working with will introduce me to someone who is hiring or might be hiring in the near future.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind when attending these events.
1. Set your goals
Every meeting you run should have an agenda in advance. This is true of attending a networking meeting. Consider things such as:
- Are you actively searching for a position.
- What are you open to?: Full time or Part time?, W2 or 1099?, Permanent, Contract or contract to hire?, Gigs?
- What geographic limitations do you have?
2. Practice an ‘elevator pitch’
An elevator pitch is a few sentences that sum up who you are and what you offer.
3. Dress Professionally
Casual is OK but dress as though you will be meeting decision makers in the hiring process because you will. On the other hand, there are startups where purple hair, piercings and tattoos are the norm. Know your market before you go.
4. Clean up your Meetup Profile
Many of the networking meetings use Meetup.com for ‘registration’. Double check to determine what people can glean about you from your meetup profile. You might want to make some of your interests private. Also, make sure you have a clear indication in your profile that shows if you are actively looking for a position or if you are just keeping your options open. Remember that your employer might see your profile.
5. Check the attendees before attending
If it is a Meetup event, there will be a list of people who say they will be attending. If you see a company that you would like to work for, check the LinkedIn profiles of attendees from that company as well as key decision makers in the company.
6. Have your LinkedIn profile up to date
I’ve always seen a strong increase in people looking at my profile immediately after an event. Most employers and recruiters will check your LinkedIn profile as a first step in the vetting process. Be sure that your profile is up to date and is targeted to your employment desires.
7. Make up business cards.
If you do things right, you will meet a lot of people. These events are fast paced and it’s easy to be forgotten. You can purchase business card stock that allows you to print your own cards. They should include:
- Your name
- Your email and phone
- The type of jobs(s) you are seeking (i.e. Full time Ruby on Rails Developer)
- A short summary of your skills (i.e. Ruby on Rails, Git, Agile Environments, SQL, jQuery)
- Your LinkedIn or Portfolio site link.
Note that I rarely see people exchange info via their phones. The environment is usually too distracting to make this effective. Give them your card and they will probably follow up in contacting you.
In general, don’t get ‘stuck’ in one conversation. There are exceptions to this such as finding a decision maker who is definitely interested in hiring. The recruiters you are working with are an excellent choice to start a discussion with. They might be able to introduce you to someone who is hiring. While you are circulating, keep your ears open for other meetings that might be helpful. It might also help to set a mental limit as to the time spent with any one person or group.
9. Get business cards
In many cases, you will find that when you offer your card to someone, they will offer theirs in return. Devise a plan to process these cards. There are specialized scanners that read business cards.
10. Follow Up
When you get back from the meeting, or at the latest early the next morning, follow up with the people you met. If you have business cards, send a quick email to the effect of “It was nice to meet you and discuss ….. “. If you found a solid lead, put the information into your contacts. Have a system for scanning the cards or at least filing them. If someone discussed a specific position, follow up with them. In most cases, an email is preferred over a phone call.
Even if you aren’t in an active job search, meetups can be enjoyable. They will help you establish personal connections with people who can help you when you do actively look for a position.