I received an email invitation recently from a business acquaintance for a professional networking opportunity.
It was a great idea, and I appreciated his initiative. I also realized what great application there was to do something like this if you were in a job search!
My business contact, who I don't know well but have had some connection with in the past, did the following:
Each invitee had something unique that made them interesting to everyone else on the list, so the lunch promises to be worthwhile for everyone!
For someone in a job search, wanting to take their networking to the next level, creating this kind of event could be a tremendous boost.
In your job search, what if you were to find, and select 10 hiring managers, leaders, or influencers in the same field from 10 companies you may be targeting? Invite them to a lunch as an opportunity to network with others in their same field in order to expand their own networks, exchange ideas, and gain new insight into how other companies tackle various issues.
Let them know, that even though you are currently seeking a new role for yourself, this lunch is primarily intended as a means of building relationships and learning for all involved.
Leaders at companies today don't often get opportunities to build their network and learn from others in their field or industry. This kind of chance to do that is likely to be very appealing for most.
Even if only 3 or 4 choose to attend, the benefits for all who participate can be very worthwhile.
The opportunity to follow up professionally after the event is when you are most likely to benefit.
When you are viewed as someone that was able to connect appropriate peers in their field, take initiative to create a worthwhile event, and present yourself as a competent professional, you will have gained more credibility than the vast majority of other people they might consider for a role at their companies
Be cautious not to use the venue as a platform to sell yourself overtly to the group. It will not be well received. Rather, only if asked, share a brief elevator speech. Focus instead, primarily on facilitating discussion among the group..
Don't make assumptions about your relationship or their interest after the event. Treat them with the same professionalism and respect as if there had been no event. However, you are very likely to find a much greater receptiveness than you would have otherwise.
Select people not only from organizations that you know have an open position, however, from a variety of companies that interest you whether they have a current position open or not.
Contacts at companies that you are pursuing, who may be lukewarm when you reach out strictly for job opportunities, are much more likely to engage with you for an opportunity where they see a greater benefit for themselves.
It's often said that effective networking is a two-way street. That it's always helpful to find ways you can be of value to others, and that it's better to give before you get. This idea is an exceptional way to accomplish that.
It's not necessary to buy the lunch... as that can obviously become quite expensive, especially if you are unemployed. And it can also be awkward, as though you are "buying" attendee time, which may make some people turn it down.
So, make it clear in the invitation that you only hope to provide the networking opportunity, and that it's a BYOL (Buy Your Own Lunch) event.
The value of the event will be apparent and the cost to them will be immaterial. Most are likely to be able to have their respective companies reimburse them anyhow.
This kind of networking certainly takes initiative, boldness, and special attention to your professionalism to be successful. However, if you really want to do your Holiday Networking Like A Pro... this is one way to do it!
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Harry Urschel has over 25 years experience as an independent recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives and on Google +. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org