Don’t confuse a networking event with a job search meeting. Act accordingly.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
Too many times, people in the job search go to every function regardless of type and act like it’s a job search meeting. It goes something like this: “Hi, I’m Dave Smith. I’m a CFO but I’m currently in the job search. My last company laid me off after 15 years. I’ve been looking for six months now. So if you know anyone looking for a CFO, here is my card.” Hey smooth talker. Don’t wait by the phone, that call is NEVER coming!
Here’s what happens when you tell people you’re in the job search. They take pity on you and think you’re going to ask them for a job. They immediately get uncomfortable…as though unemployment might be contagious…and look for some way to make a quick getaway. In reality, you’re not looking for a pity party – nor is your job search contagious. You’re looking for contacts that will lead you to the next opportunity. So, don’t give them an opportunity to take pity on you – or make a quick getaway.
What if you did something crazy…like not tell them you’re in a job search. And I don’t mean make something up (like I’m a consultant – which NOBODY believes anyway – even if you are one). What if you did this:
“Hi, I’m David Smith. I’m in Finance. Mike, tell me more about that trip you just took. It sounds fascinating!”
Try turning the conversation back to focusing on them as quickly as possible. And then ask question after question. Don’t give them an opportunity to take pity on you. Give yourself an opportunity to have a real conversation and create a connection–maybe even make a new friend.
“But…what if they ask where I work?” you say. No problem…don’t tell them (because you don’t work anywhere anyway). Just avoid the question. There’s no such thing as the Networking Police (actually, maybe that’s me!). No one is going to arrest you for not answering a question. I do it all the time, and no one even notices.
If you don’t believe me, then why don’t you try it yourself? The next time you’re at a function and someone asks you a question, just change the subject. Maybe something like this:
Sam: Molly, where do you work?
Molly: (pause) Hey Sam, where do you work?
Now…this is a little difficult to get the point across in written form (I really need to start my video blogs!!!). It’s not confrontational. It’s very casual…the pause, the look – like I’m thinking deeply as they ask me a question – so it’s quite possible in their mind that I didn’t even hear their question, then the “Hey Sam, where do you work?” just comes out. Then I immediately follow it up with another question. After that, another question….the key is to not give them a chance to ask you a question.
The second they ask you a question (which means you paused too long between questions – you need to get better at not letting those pauses linger), just don’t answer, but ask them something else instead. If you think it’s your turn to talk…you’re sorely mistaken! (By the way, I used this technique during interviews…and was offered a job more than 90% of the time.)
Why is it important to ask all the questions? The more people talk about themselves, the more they’ll like you. The more they like you, the more they’ll open up their network to you…which just might be where you find your next job.
You can choose to either scare people away, or you can choose to engage them. Now that you know how…the choice is yours.