Looking for a Job? Networking at Conferences Can Open Doors: In These Days of Slow Economic Growth, Tapping the Hidden Job Market through Effective Networking at Conferences, Seminars and Meetings Is More Important Than Ever

Article excerpt

Searching for a job during the current economic malaise can be quite challenging, whether you are a new graduate, reentering the job market, looking for a job because of position elimination, or changing jobs by choice. While it is easy these days to find job postings on the Internet, that method of job hunting is a double-edged sword since the easy availability has increased the number of applicants for posted jobs.

Tapping the hidden job market through effective networking is more important than ever before. And that means attending conferences, seminars, workshops and regional meetings. These are excellent ways to explore job opportunities before they become public knowledge.

There are many creative ways to uncover career opportunities at a conference, but some take preparation in advance. When the conference program is available, review it to identify potential contacts at your target companies or organizations. Look for speakers from organizations you'd like to work for and sessions that are likely to attract people who may know of jobs in which you'd be interested. Read speaker profiles and session abstracts that are provided to uncover organizations that are working in your area of interest. Use social networking Web sites such as Linkedln or Facebook to learn more about the potential contact and determine whether you have any colleagues in common in your network. You may want to contact the person prior to the conference to establish a channel of communication in advance. Attend the session and introduce yourself afterwards with an expression of interest in what their organization is doing or desire to learn more about the topic. Most people like to talk about what they do or their area of expertise. Don't monopolize their time, but make a good contact and exchange business cards so you can follow up later on.

A conference can be a gold mine of opportunities for you if you keep one question in mind at all times: "Is what I am doing right now likely to provide me with a job search opportunity?" Apply this philosophy to the selection of sessions and social events you plan to attend. Suppress your natural urge to attend sessions that sound merely educational, will be attended by lots of your friends, or provide a refuge from being out there meeting people. Be less concerned that you sit through every session and more concerned that you make useful contacts.

Visiting with Exhibitors

Even if you are not considering employment with a supplier, do visit the exhibit area and spend time talking with the exhibitors. However, be considerate of the exhibitors' prime reason for being there--selling their products or services and improving customer relations. You should visit the exhibit area when it is not busy. If a supplier is busy with customers, move on to another booth and return at a more opportune time. The exhibitors will be more apt to talk at length with you when they have slack time than when they are trying to make a sale.

When you do approach an exhibitor, be honest about your intent. Tell them that you are job hunting and what type of position you are seeking. Ask them if they know of any openings in any of their clients' organizations, and get the contact information. Also ask which of their accounts are re-organizing and downsizing--that knowledge can be useful if you are considering working for one of those companies. If you have used the exhibitor's products in the past, or hope to do so in the future, tell them that, too--you may be one of their clients when you do find a job! Most importantly, thank them for their time and assistance.

Placement Firms

Often, industry-oriented placement firms attend or exhibit at conferences. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet with these companies during the conference and give them several copies of your resume. Discuss your job search strategy with them and solicit their knowledge of the job market for your specialties, interests and geographic area. …