Networking with Confidence

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One of the questions that I hear often is how do I find people who know about the role that I want.

To find the right opportunity in your industry for you, it is vital that you network with industry professionals and key decision makers. You will find these people at networking events and job fairs. How you engage with them in the first instance is what will set the tone for your relationship and whether they would be willing to help you to access the hidden job market.

A compelling elevator pitch which succinctly showcases who you are and why they should talk to you is a great way to start a conversation. However, the way that you may start a conversation with an employer at a job fair is likely to be different to when you approach employers at a networking event.

Job Fair

At a job fair, it’s likely that you will be talking to one employer, you’re likely to know who they are and they will expect you to approach them. The challenge is that they usually have a queue of potential candidates behind them so when starting a conversation, you may need to think about which parts of your elevator pitch is going to really wow them and want them to want to talk to you more.

Networking Event

At a networking event, it’s slightly different as employers will have more time to talk to you so you could potentially use your full elevator pitch. The challenge is that they might be in a group and they will scan the room to consider who they want to talk to. Approaching employers within a group and starting a conversation with them can be quite awkward. Industry experts and I would recommend that you approach the group, let the person making a point finish their point, introduce yourself using your elevator pitch and follow this up with a valuable contribution to their conversation. This demonstrates professionalism and a level of respect, two key qualities which are expected in a professional context.

In both situations, the conversation will continue based on what you’ve said in your elevator pitch which is why it’s really important that you have a great elevator pitch that you’re able to deliver confidently.

Employers will have one objective and that is to find potential candidates to recruit; if you’re not this person, they will end the conversation (Harsh, I know, but true!).

You need to demonstrate that you are the person they want to hire and this is where your unique selling point in the elevator pitch comes into play. What makes you stand-out from the potential candidates that they’ve just talked to before you and the ones they will talk to after you?

If they do continue the conversation, well done, you have demonstrated something special about yourself that they want to know more about.

Now:

  1. You need to consider what questions the employer might ask you about your elevator pitch and how you might respond. They may ask you questions relating to a particular job opportunity which they think you might have the potential for.
  2. You need to think about what open questions you could ask and how the employer might respond. Do your research on attendees before a job fair or networking event! This demonstrates your motivation for working with the organisation and that you want to gain a deeper understanding of the projects that they are working on or want to work on.

When the employer is speaking, try to listen to them carefully. It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking about the question that you want to ask them whilst they’re talking but they may ask you a question about what they’ve just spoken to you about.

Following the networking event or job fair, if you’re interested in any job opportunities that the employer is advertising or you want to make a speculative application, you can mention who you spoke to in your application and why speaking to that person has wanted you to apply for a particular role. This will strengthen your application as you can demonstrate a genuine motivation for the role, something which most candidates struggle with.

After each networking event or job fair, I would recommend that you evaluate your interactions in a little networking book or on a notes app on your phone.

Write comments on the following for any significant interactions you had (positive or negative):

  • Who did you speak to, how would you describe your first interaction with this person? A few key words/phrases.
  • What was said before/during/after your elevator pitch – key themes, your unique selling point/s, questions you were asked, anyone they recommended you speak to or they would introduce you to
  • How did your elevator pitch come across – did people want to continue to speak to you, is there anything that you could tweak to make it clear, concise and compelling?

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