How Many Network Meetings Should You Go To?
The first six weeks of my job search I hardly went out of the house. I was too busy being productive, posting my resume on job boards and applying to posted jobs online.
Finally I dragged myself out of the house and reluctantly went to a network meeting that I heard about through my church (it was on the bulletin board). I was fearful that I’d be the only one there, or I’d be stuck in a room with a bunch of people who had not acheived enough in life to have a real job … I had quite the stereotypes!
That first meeting changed my life. I had beaten myself up for not getting a job, and self-doubt was creeping in. But in that meeting I met very accomplished professionals and executives who were also down on their luck. Seeing others in that meeting helped me understand transition as something that happens to us, not something that happens because we are losers.
I grew to need those meetings and the association with other professionals who were doing what I needed to do: network. It was also cool to talk with people who were in the job search trenches about resume problems, interview questions, etc. It was an awesome support group, and it wasn’t gloomy at all.
I was enamored with the group. At one meeting I heard someone talk about a similar network meeting about 25 minutes up the road. I asked about it, since I hadn’t heard anything about it, and decided to give it a shot. I was amazed as that network meeting had about 5 times the number of attendees, and there seemed to be a different type of person there.
I quickly sought out other transition network opportunities and found 4 within a one hour drive from my house. I went to all of them, whenever I could. Why? I think it’s critical to not go to just one… here are some thoughts:
- Your networking needs to be diverse. One network group I met with was located in the heart of entrepreneurial area, and many of the people at those meetings knew about all of the funded startups. This group was very different from another one, about an hour away, which was right by an Air Force base. Many who went to those meetings had worked for defense contractors or companies who provided services to the contractors – the difference was amazing.
- Getting out is healthy. It forced me to dress nicely, put on a smile, and do all the other things you have to do when you meet with people. I had the opportunity to USE my elevator pitch, evaluate other peoples pitches, and learn from them about what they were doing in their job search. Staying inside for your entire job search can’t be good for you, physically or emotionally.
- People need to know who you are. The only way for people to know me, and recommend me to their contacts, is if they know who I am. Showing up is a significant part of your job search, as you’ll be able to put your name and your brand in front of people on a regular basis.
- You will have opportunities to help others. Even if your job search isn’t going great (read: you didn’t land your job yet!), you still know more about a job search than some of the new people who walk in the door for the first time. As you share what you’ve learned, about things that do and don’t work, and serve them as they get started, you should feel better about yourself. Doesn’t serving others always make you feel better? And a little dose of “feeling better” is a good thing during a job search!
- You never know what opportunities might come from the meetings. You might meet someone who just left your target company (and still has great contacts there). You might meet a recruiter who has some positions to fill that you would be perfect for. Aside from learning about strategies and tactics from others, there’s a bunch of job search intelligence shared at these meetings.
- You can find people to invite to your Job Search S.W.O.T. team. I love the idea of meeting with a smaller group, perhaps five people, who can help one another on a more intimate level. This S.W.O.T. team will be an extension of your networking efforts, and can be a great support for you.
It’s great to be a regular at networking meetings, but make sure you are going to as many as you can. All of the opportunities listed above should be available in as many meetings as you can find.
Properly done, networking is the single best means of conducting a career or job search. A great form of networking is volunteering. Volunteering can be a terrific way to hone or develop new skills, and try out new areas of interest (sort of a “try it you might like it” trial) -in addition to its networking opportunities.
The only way a job seeker could “network too much” is if they network without a plan. Doing so is the equivalent of water cooler socializing -might feel OK in the short term but doesn’t move one forward. Effective networking requires a strategy and supporting plan that targets the key events, companies and individuals critical to your specific search.
Job Search meetings are terrific ways to satisfy several needs. Our group meets each Monday, offering support, networking opportunities, training, and a place to go to be with other professionals each Monday morning.