Friday, October 31, 2008

Networking Events: The Early Bird Has a Good Chance of Catching the Worm

The October 30th Wall Street Journal article “As Layoffs Rise, Jobless Throng Career Fairs” by Dana Mattioli had a concluding paragraph that caught my eye:
Nicholas Schulz, a 23-year-old from Woodbridge, N.J., looking at jobs in the marketing field, has developed his own trick for making the most of his time. He arrives early to reach recruiters before they get burnt out. “If you get there later on, you can see it in their faces that you’re the thousandth person they’ve spoken to,” he says.
This advice is particularly important for all “networking” activities. If you get to an event early and you recognize a speaker or panelist, that’s a very good time to go up to the person and politely introduce yourself. No, you shouldn’t pitch yourself then. You should focus on spending a few quality moments just talking to the person. Before you turn away, you could ask for the person’s card.

Then after the speech or panel when everyone else is storming the barricades trying to get to the speaker or panelists, you can smile to yourself and go home. You can be secure in the knowledge that you can send a follow-up email expressing gratitude for the public presentation and adding a comment about the pleasure of speaking to the person before the formal presentation began.

You can add in that email an appropriate request that follows from the brief chat you had before the presentation. This might be something such as: I enjoyed talking with you about companies offering internships for marketing personnel. Would you have any recommendations of companies that might be interested now in marketing interns?

Obviously, if the person thinks his/her company would be interested, he/she will say so. Yet you’ve given the person an out – permission to say he/she doesn’t know of any companies at this time. Because you haven’t backed the person into a corner by expressing asking about his/her company, the lines of communication are still open for a future email from you.

While I can’t promise you that the early bird always catches the worm, I can promise that you often have a better chance of catching the worm if you arrive early – and use that time to your advantage.

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