It is certainly true that “who you know” has an impact on getting a great job but it’s a time-consuming mistake to assume that attending most networking events will result in you knowing “more of the right people.”
In fact, I find that when you leave them after intense preparation, many are so frustrated that their overall job chances are actually damaged because of the resulting lower level of self-confidence. But despite that fact, literally, everyone that advises jobseekers seems to encourage attending physical networking or electronic meetup events.
It is important to realize that networking events did not even appear in the top 10 most effective sources in a recent Jobvite survey. Some of the many reasons why jobseekers should be highly cynical about most general networking sessions include:
1. The wrong people attend – It’s relatively hard as an outsider to determine which events will actually add value. If you attend the wrong event, you will often find that the wrong people attend. And that means that the attendees are often mostly other jobseekers. In many cases, you might have to talk to as many as 20 people to find one person that can help you find a job. Another drawback is that many attendees treat these networking sessions primarily as a pickup place.
2. It’s tough identifying who you should try to interact with – Many make the mistake of trying to meet everyone at the event, which is tiring and has a low ROI. Unfortunately, there is no way easy way to identify which attendees can connect you with an open job. So, many inadvertently spend most of their time drinking/eating or talking to other jobseekers or disinterested professionals.
3. Professionals may actively avoid jobseekers – Jobseekers are often not openly welcomed by attendees, who of course have their own goals. And professionals who are seeking out other employed professionals to learn best practices might find it irritating when those seeking a job “hang on to them.”
4. Jobseekers seldom bring tangible value with them – Many professionals go to networking events to learn about best practice solutions. However, jobseekers frequently bring nothing more than a paper resume and a business card (both are simply awkward in the electronic world of recruiting). Jobseekers don’t go to the event completely up-to-date in their field and ready to share best practices.
5. In-depth conversations are difficult – Even if you have something of value to add, the room is almost always noisy and there is seldom any place to sit and hold an in-depth, extended conversation. And at professional events where a speaker is involved, there is seldom little time to mingle and talk.
6. Being uncomfortable will harm your performance – You may not perform as well at these events because you are uncomfortable or even afraid. (As a result of being unemployed, you may not be able to afford the newest clothes). Fear or lack of confidence may cause jobseekers to spend most of their time eating or lurking in the corner. If the lack of confidence shows, you might turn-off everyone you meet.
7. The session’s location may not be close to where you want to work – The networking session may be held quite a distance away from where you want to work. If you can’t actually reach a job, knowing about it has little value.
8. These events are time-consuming and expensive – Professional events are often expensive to prepare for and attend, especially if admission is required or if you make the mistake of “spamming the room” with expensive business cards and resumes. So, attending multiple networking sessions while you’re not working can break your budget.
9. Most attend without a plan – Most jobseekers attend networking events without measurable goals or a plan. And as a result, this lack of planning hurts their performance at the event, especially if they appear desperate by obviously handing out business cards or resumes indiscriminately to everyone. Many also fail to ask questions after the formal presentation, therefore missing an opportunity to be highly visible. And many others fail to follow up after the event, completely losing any of the initial value that may have been gained.
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10. Most job search pitches are too self-centered to garner interest – The initial pitch of most jobseekers is often ignored because unfortunately the pitch is centered on their own needs. The best sales pitches are instead laser-focused on the needs and the value that you can add to the person you are trying to impress. If you don’t demonstrate your long-term value to the individuals that you meet, they simply won’t commit any time to helping you get a job.
Career fairs may actually be worse
Even though you are seeking a job, you may get the same or better results by avoiding a career fair and instead simply applying online. Once again, paper resumes are awkward and with long lines, you may only get to talk to individual recruiters for less than a minute. Because firms often send rookie recruiters, it is unlikely that you will find out much more about a job opening than you could find on the company’s website. And if you’re unemployed and your experience and training are dated, you might find that even rookie recruiters simply won’t want to talk to you because their hiring managers are prejudiced against the unemployed.
As a recruiter, my advice is to realize that briefly meeting people and letting them know that you’re interested in a job isn’t the best approach. Instead look for online and social media opportunities to show your work and to reveal that you have skills and experience that are in high demand. You can also show your knowledge by commenting on the articles and the blogs written by professionals in your field. You may gain greater value by populating your LinkedIn profile with the keywords that appear in open jobs because that allows recruiters to find you. And because the best way to get a job is through an employee referral, utilize any approach that allows you to have in-depth conversations with employees at the companies you want to work at.
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