Seeking a job and networking are a lot like trying to meet new people at any event.
I recently moved to San Diego – knowing only my family and no one else in the area. It was like I was starting all over and seeking to find new contacts.
One of the things I had to do – and job seekers will have to do – is decide that I was going to have to stretch and be assertive if I was going to meet new people.
Even though I am an out-going person, doing this sometimes takes me out of my comfort zone. If you are an introverted or shy person this will be even more of a stretch and takes you into a zone of major discomfort at times.
My advice – Get over it and do it. If you want results, then you will have to move forward. Sitting still and sending out resumes and hoping – will offer a slim chance of results or change. You are going to have to be assertive if this is going to work.
The next problem is where do you meet the “right” people?
I happen to have a passionate interest in movies and film. By attending local events I found out that there was a Cinema Society in my area and knew that I would find people of like-interests. I became a member and have enjoyed every meeting and event. Sometimes I make a new friend and sometimes I don’t, but I am around people who are interested in what I am interested in and have a far better chance of meeting someone than in going to a place where I have no connection. The people in this Society and I have a common bond.
The job seeker can use the same principle. What area of interest could you find a group of “like-minded people?” The more specialized your experience the easier this will be.
For instance if you are an Engineer – The National Society of Professional Engineers would be an organization where you would find people who are in the industry that you have an interest in pursuing.
When your background is more of a generalist you will have to find “job seeker” groups that fit your situation. An example is a group called “Forty-Plus” – a group of people who support people who are over the age of 40 and are seeking jobs. Right away there is an instant bond and goal. There are many job groups in every city and area if you do a little research to find them. You would be amazed at what you can find if you “Google” a question. Once you start researching, you will find that there is an association or group for almost anything -including the Ultimate Frisbee Association.
The really difficult challenge comes when you begin to think of walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. Now things can get really uncomfortable.
How do you walk right up to someone and just start talking. Not so easy. But, “doable” if you are determined. The situation will determine the approach. One way to start a conversation is by asking a question — “Does the event usually start on time? – This is my first time here.” Or, “Hi, I’m Carole and I’m new to this group would you mind if I ask you a few questions about what goes on here?” You may find that the person you just approached is new as well and hasn’t known how to “break the ice.”
The general rule is to find groups of three or more people standing together versus two people so that you are not interrupting a private conversation. On the other hand, sometimes two new people are meeting for the first time and hoping that someone will join them. You will have to use some judgment before you approach the situation.
Some people will be more accepting and friendly than others so don’t beat yourself up if you get a “cold shoulder” once in a while. Dust yourself off – and get back in there. Don’t get discouraged. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth taking a risk.
Like most things in life, it takes time to get “good” at networking and attending group events and making new contacts and friends. If you don’t try, you lose. If you try – what did you have to lose? You probably learned what “not to do” if nothing else.
Hopefully you will get lucky and connect with some really nice folks who are willing to share leads or include you in an effort to find a job.