Why Attend Career Networking Groups?
From Career Tips, 2016 Volume 4, April
Don't confuse attending networking events with true networking.
That said, networking events are important. You just need to make sure you are attending them with the right goals in mind.
In this article, we'll examine the 'career networking' group that is designed primarily to assist job seekers. Next time we'll look at other types of events and dive more deeply into how to use them effectively.
There are career networking groups all over the country, and they are a valuable resource for any job seeker. If you are in the northern DE, Eastern PA, NJ, CT or lower NY area, you can find an exhaustive list of these on my friend Alex Freund's website - just click on the Networking menu item.
These are great places to get recharged, to share your progress and frustrations, to get new ideas, to practice your networking technique and marketing message in a safe environment, and to learn from expert speakers.
What they are NOT is your best source of networking contacts.
Why is that?
The core of the your network should be employed people, particularly those in your target industry or profession, at your target level and above. They are in the best position to help move your search forward.
Most of the people attending these groups are not employed.
That isn't to say that you can't make valuable connections through a career networking group, just that you have to go about it the right way.
Some people I would recommend seeking out at meetings are:
- Job seekers with confidence and an upbeat outlook who might make good 'helpmates' to team with.
- Those who have recently landed, who can give you advice on what worked for them, and often are in a 'giving back' mood that makes them more willing to provide referrals.
- Speakers who have a valuable expertise, or who are well-connected.
- Group leaders.
In addition, most groups have on-line forums filled with 'graduates' who can help you in your search, so getting known can pay huge dividends.
Take, for example, The Breakfast Club NJ. Frank Kovacs (and others on the leadership team) is one of the most giving people I can think of in this regard, who regularly provides attendees referrals. You just have to connect with him, and ask!
On the other hand, I would avoid people who are negative and constantly complaining about what isn't working in their search. You might be tempted to commiserate, but that is generally a waste of time and energy. You can't afford negativity in your search, and it is too easy for that psychology to rub off on you!
Some attendees will volunteer their help, and be sure to take advantage of it! Don't think you can go it alone. Be a sponge and soak up all the advice and help you can.
Even if you feel you don't really need much assistance in a particular area, taking up someone's offer is a great relationship-building step, and you may get surprised by an important nugget. Just be sure to go about gathering the feedback the right way.
I am shocked at how many people fail to take advantage of such offers. In fact, at the Career Networking Group I helped lead for several years, a long-time member who had recently landed handed 7 job seekers his card during the open networking, offering any help he could provide. How many do you think reached out to him? Zero.
So try out several different career networking groups to see which feel right for you. Ultimately make 2 or 3 part of your regular diet, and then go to others when you see a particularly powerful speaker or interesting topic will be spotlighted.
Include at least one group specific to your profession, and one that cuts across professions. The first will give you more focused contacts, and the second will provide a broader set of perspectives and contacts, and insight into how your message resonates more generally.
Next time I'll explore other types of networking events, and some of the tactics you want to employ to ensure you are putting them to the most effective use.