I don’t know who started it. But someone somewhere started the rumor that the only way to get a new job is to go to as many networking events as possible and network, network, network.
Don’t get me wrong, networking should be a part of your job search tool kit. But before you pile your calendar with networking events, you should know that the secret to effective networking isn’t how often you do it or where you do it, but how well you do it.
In fact, if you know how to network the right way, you could avoid cold lonely conference rooms and awkward happy hour networking events altogether. My clients do it all the time. They confidently build authentic connections with the right people the right way. In return, they have people wanting to help them without attending networking events, randomly sending their resumes, or begging for help.
So now you have full permission to start turning down networking events, guilt-free, and here’s how:
Before you attend any networking event, you must ask yourself these three questions if you want to be sure you get the most out of it and don’t waste your time.
1. Is this event right for me?
Is the event related to something you care about? Is it aligned with the opportunities you’re currently seeking in your career? Rather than attending a networking event for the sake of saying you went, you should ask yourself, “Would I go to this event if I wasn’t looking for a new job?”
If the answer is no, it’s going to be incredibly hard to authentically connect with people who don’t genuinely relate to you. If the answer is yes, it will be so much easier to connect with people who match your interests and values, and you’ll have a much greater chance of having a positive experience at the event.
2. What is my goal for attending this event?
Have you ever left an event and thought, “Wow, I really could’ve stayed home”? Yeah, me too. Setting a goal will help you avoid that. In case you’re wondering, “I need to network,” isn’t a sufficient goal. You need to set a realistic and practical goal for yourself so that you can have a clear focus while you’re there. On top of that, knowing your goal before you attend the event will help ensure that your goal can truly be accomplished by attending that event. Because if you can’t accomplish your goal by attending that particular event, then you probably shouldn’t be going.
Your goal could be as simple as this: “Connect with 3 new people in the new industry I’m looking to transition to next in my career.” Getting clear on your goal will also keep you from hiding in a corner once you get there.
3. Who’s going to be there?
This is huge. Not asking this question is the reason most job hunters attend networking events and leave frustrated because they happened to only meet other job hunters looking for a new job, too. Before you agree to go to a networking event, you should find out the type of people who are going to be there. Sometimes you can discover this by researching the guest list or looking for past attendees, other times you may have to ask around or use context clues. But, this is the due diligence you must complete before you add an event to your calendar. You should only plan to attend events that will allow you to connect with people you genuinely want to get to know.
And, finding the guest list will help you be better prepared and ready to engage with the right people once you get there, rather than aimlessly and awkwardly walking around the room waiting for someone to make eye contact with you.
So, while you don’t have to attend networking events to land a new job, there are certainly benefits to going to networking events if you’re attending the right events that will help you reach your goals. Plus, now you know, if a networking event isn’t right for you after asking yourself these three questions, you can confidently stay home and watch Netflix, guilt-free.
Adunola Adeshola coaches high-achievers on how to take their careers to the next level and secure the positions they’ve been chasing. Grab her free guide.
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