When I found myself unemployed in early 2017 for the first time in my entire career, I felt lost, defeated, and with a huge blow to my confidence. My family depended on my salary and not being able to contribute financially was hard to think about. After the initial shock subsided, my partner and I sat down and discussed next steps. He was wonderful in encouraging me to take this time to find the right fit for my career moving forward, which is exactly what I did.
I reached out to my network almost immediately. I called recruiters I had worked with in the past, contacted connections at companies I had always admired, and looked into networking events. Now, networking events weren’t something I was very excited about. The idea of walking into a room with other candidates who are also looking for a job, biding for a spot at one of the hiring companies’ table sounded awful. But being unemployed, I thought why not give it a shot.
I am so glad I put myself out there and gave networking a chance! These events exposed me to new industries, new businesses, generated interviews for employment, and possible hiring prospects for when I had a recruiting job again. Additionally, it added variety to my weeks when I wasn’t employed. The lesson I learned is you never know how a person can impact your career — and how our initial assumptions and hesitations can be wrong. Now as a recruiter, I remind every candidate and client I meet to research job seeker groups, networking events, and hiring events because you never know.
Here are a few benefits from networking events and how they can potentially propel your job search:
Make connections! This seems self-explanatory, but the whole purpose of networking is to meet new people. Even if you don’t get a call or email right away, the amount of first-hand connections you make at networking events is incredibly valuable. A colleague of mine still meets with the contacts she met while networking during her unemployment and she often directs her candidates to the people she met and shares the resources she gained. If the thought of going alone to one of these events gives you anxiety, bring a friend along until you get your networking “sea legs.” Plus, there’s generally complimentary appetizers and drinks! It might be overwhelming at first, but it gets easier the more times you go.
It gives you a chance to refine your message. Networking events are a great place to meet a lot of like-minded people at one time, so take advantage. If you are new to the job search, it is a great place to practice your interview skills, perfect your interview questions, and learn how your message may need to be adjusted based on the job or industry you are pursuing. It’s also a good way to weed out any negative feelings you may have about your former employer. Venting about the last job isn’t the best way to sell yourself at an interview, so make sure to practice delivering a well-crafted message focusing on your skills, strengths, and the value you could add to a company.
It shifts your mindset. When I was unemployed, one of the hardest things to get used to was not getting up every day to go to a job. Routine is important to a lot of people and when you find the routine has changed, it can be hard. Networking and career fairs get you out of the house and into the job seeker space – literally and figuratively. There are even a few job seeker groups that meet on Monday mornings to intentionally jumpstart a job seeker’s week and motivate them with like-minded individuals and mentorship. Once networking becomes a priority, the idea of meeting new people is more intentional and you could find yourself making meaningful connections anywhere from a coffee shop to the gym!
Professional networking is about making contacts and building relationships that can lead to jobs or other work-related opportunities. Being thoughtful and selective about the events and groups you attend can provide a focused way to talk to people about your job search. When done right, it can help you obtain leads, referrals, advice, information, and other support. In return, once you land a position, you can share this knowledge with others, and who knows, you may play an integral role in their professional growth and success. If the key to landing a job is all about who you know, networking to know more people is your secret weapon.