Events, networking and volunteering are crucial parts of the job search. Great information, ideas, connections and leads can be found when you make the effort. Here are some networking tips that apply especially to conferences and events.
If requested, register or RSVP as soon as possible.
Visit the conference website shortly before the date of the event and look for the list of exhibitors. Write down some names of exhibitors you particularly wish to visit. Follow the links (if available) to find out a little more about them. Or use a search engine to find their website.
Bring a notepad and business cards. You can get business card stock from any stationery store; you can print them using Word or any other word processing software.
Some conferences are expensive, but the "trade show" portion is often much cheaper and sometimes free. If you can't afford it, call the organizers in advance to ask if there are lower rates for students and under-employed (also known as "sliding scale" or subsidies). Better yet, ask if you can volunteer in return for free or reduced admission.
(3) Trade show networking
Go around to the booths and ask questions like:
Tell me about your company/group/organization.
What products/services does ___ offer?
What would you recommend to somebody who wants to get started in this field?
How did you get started / learn about / find work in this field?
Do you have any internship or volunteer opportunities?
Do you have open houses, workshops or other events?
Will you be hiring in the future?
Ask them about their roles, their interests, what they like or dislike about their work, different ways to get involved, etc.
But don't monopolize their time – they've probably paid to be there and are eager to talk to as many potential clients as possible. If others approach the booth, let them step in, but keep listening. Or try again at a less busy time.
Ask for their business card or contact info.
Make point form notes of important thoughts or ideas in your notebook or on the back of their card. After the event you might not remember who they were or what they were about.
(4) Networking at events
Don't run out when the talk, film or workshop is over! The discussion & socializing that follows is often the best part. It's a chance to meet people with similar interests and hear what's going on outside of the formal presentation. There are often informal networking opportunities at the front of the room, outside the room, or at a nearby cafe or restaurant.
Organizers, speakers and exhibitors are very busy during the event itself, and they speak with many different people. They may not remember your name or what you said. It's always a good idea to follow up after the event, by phone or in person.
As much as possible, keep it positive. It's easy to complain and criticize, but it's much more important – and challenging – to create positive solutions.