I like to go to these because, while networking always has value, I believe we add value when there are people attending who are employed. They bring a different viewpoint.
Here are my suggestions to those looking for a job (I shared many of these ideas with the people at these networking sessions):
(note: if you don't read the books first, you won't get the full value of the remaining points)
- Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie - apply it to all your encounters, and especially to those who you network with and interview with. You'll find this book at your public library most likely
- Read "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi - great book how how to network
- Always offer something (reference: "Free Prize Inside" by Seth Godin) to the people you are talking to. It's sort of the Golden Rule: treat people as you want to be treated. You need to be giving in order to receive. Example: when you talk to someone, don't say "I need a job" instead say "I am looking for a company where I can offer my talents and where I can increase their profit by..."
- Join the Etp Network (etpnetwork.com) it's free. Get involved. Great value!
- Always work on the "warm" network: The "Warm" network is composed of people who know each other, rather than a "cold" connection. Eexample of a cold connection: when you send a copy of your resume to someone you don't know for a job on a job board or job ad. Examples of the warm network: Try to find someone who can find you a contact in the company you're interviewing for (or that you want to join). Use linkedin for this if you must.
- It's a numbers game: Make as many contacts as you can. Sooner or later, one will lead to a job. Don't be discouraged if a contact doesn't work out, just move on to the next contact. When you talk to people, ask if they can recommend at least 2 people you can talk to, not about a job, but just to ask them questions, just to practice talking to people, and maybe to find out if you can help them. This will build your network. Sooner or later you'll find someone to help you. Most jobs are found through networking and there was a study I read about recently that said that most jobs found by acquainances, not from people you know real well. So, make as many contacts as you can. Mention what you can offer in a job situation (rather than what you need) to each person so it's clear, then move on to talking about them (not you).
- Build relationships: Example: When you're networking or on an interview, try to find out something about the person (their passion or hobby or interest) and start asking them questions about it. Time will pass quickly. The conversation will become more friendly. You'll make a friend instead of someone with a business card. You'll have a future contact. Note: there was a study I read about recently that asked managers to rate reasons that they would hire or promote someone. More than half rated "liking someone" higher than any other criteria (including qualifications) that they would use to decide if someone got a raise or were hired.
- Increase you EQ: In light of the above, do some research on the Emotional Quotient (EQ) - this is a recent "hot topic" that expresses how much more important it is to get along with people than it is to have a high IQ
- Don't dismiss anyone as "not a good contact" - while talking to some people, I used to think to myself "They're not even in my industry, this isn't going to be a helpful contact." Later I examined my thinking and realized that anyone you talk with is a powerful person to know. Why? Because you might be able to help them! That in itself is a noble cause! In addition, by helping them, they may feel they owe you something and help you out at some point. Or, maybe you can't help them and they can't help you, but maybe later the relationship might be helpful, or maybe one of you know someone who might be helped or help one of you. There is some value in every person you meet.
- Allow people to be in debt to you - Here's a concept that not many people talk about. Take someone to lunch, work for their company as a volunteer, or give them some information they need. They may in turn "Pay it forward" (i.e. help someone else in return) or they may help you in return.
I firmly believe in this concept of giving. It doesn't always come back the same way, but you'll be taken care of.
God's best to you on your job search!