Background: I serve on the ‘Ask the Expert’ panel for Proformative.com** answering questions on Job Search and Networking. Below is a question asked by a member:
Original Question: How do I attend professional seminars and “network” effectively without coming across that I am looking for job leads?
DECIDING UPON WHICH EVENT TO ATTEND:
If your goal of attending any professional event is job search networking, before you commit to attend, first determine if there will be a ‘buyer’ for your pitch. In short, when people are attending these events are they in the ‘mindset’ to network. If they are not, then no matter what the pitch – it’s tough to get through.
For more detail on which types of events offer the best networking, please see “Networking Events – Is there a Buyer for Your Pitch”
SETTING YOUR EXPECTATION FOR RESULTS
The goal you want to achieve is to meet people with whom you can follow-up for 1-on-1 networking. Imagine if you met someone in passing over a crowded session or lunch, it’s tough to know enough to if you want to open them up to your network. That said; seek to set up a follow-up meeting.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
If you know the attendee list in advance – try to make connections with people you want to meet ahead of time (either directly or through your network). This does not change your expected outcome, but it sure makes the process easier.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SESSIONS:
If you attend an event to learn a skill or stay current on trends, etc., then you are simply another attendee from the profession.
When you get the question about work, I used “I was most recently CFO at …………. Company, but now I am actively seeking a CFO role”. I’ve practiced this quite a bit, and I find starting with the last title and company name has disarmed the other person’s concern with my current status as in transition.
If they ask about your search, share just a quick overview (e.g. “CFO for a privately held professional services firm in the Seattle area). If they want to learn more, they will ask.
If not, change the topic to the event at hand. You will be more memorable if you can speak intelligently about the topic (tip for your pre-meeting prep), then offering a snappy job search pitch.
PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING EVENTS
I say these events are both the ‘ying’ and ‘yang’. On one hand, there are loads of people you don’t know. On the other hand, they can be tough because these are attended by people that tend to know each other from either the profession or belonging to this group (e.g. Association for Corporate Growth, Private Equity Events, etc.).
If you go on your own, it’s tough to break into group and even tougher once you announce the job transition – because these people came to network for deals or friends.
You need to get a well-known member to be your host and make introductions. Their reputation will be your ticket into the small group discussions.
Same rules apply to above once you get into the small group. Mention your search in brief, but focus your conversation on the other people in the group. See if you can make useful connections from your network. Once you establish a sense of networking, then you can ask to meet in the future to network.
To be memorable, focus on what you bring: your network, skills and knowledge – not your search.
Hope this helps.
** Proformative is a free on-line forum for finance professionals to exchange resources, ideas and get answers – a great resource for finance professionals of all levels to stay current and improve their skills.