As a job seeker, it’s crucial that you make networking a part of your job search strategy. In order to successfully land a new job, you can’t rely on a single point of attack, such as applying online. Instead, it will be a combination of all the different job seeking tactics that you can employ that will help you find your next big career move.
And part of that combination of tactics is to go to networking events. A lot of job seekers frown upon networking events as a waste of their time when they could instead be applying for new roles or expanding their skillsets. But to think this way misses the true benefits of these events.
Here are a few reasons why, as a job seeker, networking events can be highly beneficial to you.
You get to talk about yourself
One of the hardest things to practice in a job search is talking about yourself. You’ll have to do a lot of it throughout the hiring process with various companies, yet it seems as though you don’t have a reliable way to train at verbally marketing yourself. That’s where networking events come in.
At any given networking event, you’ll have the opportunity to do two things. First, you’ll be able to rapid-fire introduce yourself to various attendees and give your own 30-second personal pitch. This will allow you to test various ways to introduce yourself and see what works best. A nice side effect is that you’ll be more comfortable with what you say in the first few minutes of any job interview.
The second thing you’ll be able to do is have prolonged conversations about yourself, your work, and the career and work of your conversation partner. This can happen once or several times at an event, depending on how long it runs and how good each conversation is. Hint: usually, the longer the better.
Those prolonged conversations will help you to familiarize yourself with the conversational style you should be approaching job interviews with. Hiring managers don’t want to have a stream of question-then-answer information. They want to have a dynamic conversation with you where you not only show your qualifications, but you also display that you’re someone they’d enjoy working with.
Take advantage of the opportunity to have these chats and introduction opportunities at networking events. It just won’t feel the same when you’re roleplaying it with a practice partner who is actually a friend or family member.
You get to learn from others
Another important part of the job search is to always be learning. Companies love to hire candidates that they don’t have to handhold. It saves them time and allows them to pick up a person who will make an immediate impact on the team. The onus is on you to find out what skills you need to sharpen as you conduct your job search and go out of your way to keep learning.
And part of that education involves learning from people who have already done the things you want to know or gotten to where you want to be. The best place to do that? Networking events! At a networking event, you’ll not only find others of your own caliber that you can meet and mingle with, but also many people a few steps higher on the career ladder. By getting the chance to speak with them, you’ll get to talk about what they do now, what they did to get there, and take those learnings on for yourself.
You’ll find that modeling yourself after one or multiple other people in your profession will allow you to craft a more distinct path for your own progression.
You get to make first and second degree connections
It’s a mistake for job seekers to expect networking events to net them connections with hiring managers who need someone with their skills. And when they don’t end up connecting with people who hire them, they end up feeling let down by the event and feeling like they wasted their time. But in reality, the aim of a networking event should never be to land a job -- that’d just be a very sweet bonus.
Instead, the aim of going to an event is to make new friends, meet like-minded professionals, and expand your rolodex of professional contacts. Go ahead and add everyone you met and had a good chat with on LinkedIn. Send them a follow-up email to show you paid attention during your chat and want to keep it going. And meet them for coffee once in a while to catch up.
Whether immediately or in the months (or even years) after an event, these contacts can and will be useful to you. It might not be in this job search. Heck, it might not be in a job search at all. You never know when a professional contact can refer you for an open position or be a client for a future organization you’re a part of or simply be a sounding board when you need a specific opinion.
Treat these as potential long-term relationships. If you do this right, they’ll become more and more comfortable with the idea of referring you for a role at their own company or connect you with their own friends when they need someone with your skills. If nothing else, you’ll have met potential friends or contacts that add to your list of people you can reference in the future.