How Do I Make the Most Out of Mixers?

Ask Brad: Strategies for Capitalizing on All Those Networking Events

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Lunches, networking events, coffee chats, industry gatherings, oh my!

We all know by now that networking is simply the best way to land a job -- especially in this economy. So how do you make the most of these networking opportunities to land your next gig?

1. Hone your approach.
First, you need to recognize that networking is not asking someone for a job. Networking is simply making a connection that can lead to a job. That being said, even though you are not overtly asking for employment, the people you network with are certainly evaluating you.

Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound and JB Training Solutions. He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.

With that in mind, you do want to approach networking like an interview. Dress professionally, arrive on time and don't say anything inappropriate like, "Hell, I'm just trying to milk as much cash as I can for about a year, and then I plan to start my own company."

Also, remember that it's not all about you. I've gone on a few networking lunches with out-of-work friends, and they spend the entire time talking about themselves and then essentially ask what I can do to help them.

Just like every relationship, it has to work both ways. When you're networking, ask questions, listen to others' stories and allow them to brag a bit. People like that. They will walk out with a much higher opinion of you and will be more likely to offer their help.

2. Prepare.
Like most things in life, a little effort can go a long way. Do some homework before the networking meeting. If you're meeting with some people, check them out online and learn about their background and their career paths. You can go to LinkedIn or Facebook -- or even Google their names.

Of course, you don't want to go stalker on them:

Hey, I noticed that you ran a 5k in 21:08 back in 2006. Nice job.


I see you bought a pretty expensive house in Larchmont last year. It's really amazing how little $1.3 million can get you these days.

However, knowing some information can help you make the most of the session. For instance, you don't want to talk about how excited you are to work on the Kraft business at their company, only to learn they lost the account three weeks ago.

The same is true of a networking event or industry function. Try to discover who might be in attendance, and do your due diligence. Remember, knowledge is power.

3. Set realistic expectations.
As they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.

While networking can certainly help you land a job, it's a process. Some people won't call you back, others will cancel your lunch at the last minute, and the cool networking event you attend might be filled with similarly unemployed job seekers.

But don't give up.

You typically don't walk out of a networking meeting or event with a job. The hope is that you've met new contacts who might be able to point you in the right direction. Here are some possible outcomes. They range from most to least promising:

We may be looking for someone like you. Let me send your resume to HR.

I know Tony over at Digitas; feel free to give him a call and use my name.

You ought to look into digital media sales; there's a lot of hiring going on there right now.

If I hear of anything, I'll let you know.

The mantra you have to keep in your head is "you never know." Sometimes, even "if I hear of anything" could turn into a job at some point.

If you are part of the swelling ranks of the unemployed, networking is quite simply your best way to land a job. Understanding how to approach the process can help you become as successful as possible.

Good luck!

A few pointers to keep in mind as you approach networking events
  • Meeting in person is always better than over the phone. Meeting via phone can work, though, if you can't meet face-to-face.
  • Make yourself as accessible as possible. Meet contacts at their offices or in a place convenient for them.
  • If you ask someone for lunch or coffee, pick up the tab.
  • Be prepared and bring a portfolio or resume, but don't force them on people. Only show a portfolio if they ask.

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