Prosperity Tradeshows, Creative Cocktails, Business After Hours, DBIA breakfasts, Young Professionals Groups, Women’s Business Network, the list goes on. Other than the WBN meetings, I have attended all of these and many others and I can sum up how it can help with your career search in a few words; it helps you meet people.
Meeting people requires effort and an ability to strike up a genuine conversation with other people. Meeting people opens doors to opportunity that you might not have known about before. Some people call it networking, and that’s great, but I don’t want you to think there is always immediate reward to your connecting with someone in the community as that generally takes time.
If you do choose to attend one of these meetings here are a few of my recommendations from what has worked well for me.
- Find out who else is going ahead of time.
Peterborough is well connected via Twitter and Facebook. Follow@chamberconnects to hear from Anne about the Chamber of Commerce. Follow@Ptbo_DBIA to hear about downtown events. Connect with people who are talking about the events online ahead of time and, if you won’t know anyone there, ask if you can connect with them at the event or who would be someone there that could introduce you to other people.
- Seek out those people you connected to ahead of time and ask them to introduce you to a few people.
Being introduced to people by someone brings the anxiety level way down for most people. It’s an easy way to start a conversation and people feel like they have been connected to you via someone they trust.
- If you haven’t connected with someone ahead of time, ask the hosts to introduce you to a few people when they are not too busy.
Stuart Harrison (@stoosnews) is very good at this. As the president of the Chamber of Commerce, he is very quick at identifying new people in the group and connecting him to others of like interest. I would say that this is also the responsibility of the host, to facilitate those connections between people.
- When you’re on your own just walk over to the water cooler, the food table, the bar, and strike up a positive conversation with someone in line there.
Now, this can be the hardest part. If you don’t know anyone at an event, and you have come there alone, how do you connect with people? When it is centred on something else, mainly food, it gets a bit easier. When you are sitting down for a meal, like the DBIA breakfasts, I recommend sitting at a table where people are engaged in interesting conversation. Enter the conversations lightly and ask people who they are… which leads to the next point.
- Ask a couple questions about things you know that they care about.
People like talking about the things that they like. Sounds simple enough eh? However, if you wanted to win me over, you would find out the things that I care about and aim the conversation in that direction. I love my wife, my son, coffee, bicycles, and good Russian novels. I am also passionate about delivering good customer service at the café my wife and I operate. If you start with a few questions about the things I really care about, you’ll have won me over much quicker that asking formal questions about my business. Read social cues and respond.
- Have a way for people to contact you if the conversation leads in that direction.
If you don’t have a business card, make one. You don’t need to have a job to have a name, email address, and phone number. You’re allowed to put that on a small business card. If someone put their job title as ‘Unemployed, but not for long’, it would make me laugh and I would be much more willing to call them later on about a job opportunity that stemmed from our conversation.
These networking events, these opportunities to meet people, are very important to your job search. I don’t see enough people taking advantage of them. If you’re a Trent or Fleming student, come on out to the Creative Cocktails. Check out the Peterborough Economic Development page they have dedicated to these Creative Cocktails at http://gpaedc.on.ca/newsroom/creative-cocktail/.
And if you want to stay in the loop on these events, give @KawarthaNOW a follow or visit their Business Events site regularly athttp://kawarthanow.com/business/column.asp?colID=14. Odds are, I’ll be going to an event so you can look me up at @vanderherberg and say hello.