The title of this blog article is the best advice I can give any career seeking school leaver or graduate at the moment. Why? Because it works!
I know that the kind of jobs that you may be aspiring to and may have geared your education towards may not be thick on the ground at the moment and that getting a chance to be interviewed can often feel like constantly hitting the same brick wall but that does not mean that settling for second best and going off the radar of all employers is the way to deal with it. There are loads of cracking job and career opportunities out there but the candidates that get them are the ones who are prepared to do the leg work, build the relationships and get noticed...
Go to everything...
Look on-line, in printed media and through social media for every opportunity to get out into the world with a smile on your face, your best interview gear on and your CV in your pocket. The numbers game of on-line applications, posting your CV on one of the big sites or connecting with an agency is of course worth it because they might find you what you want. But I strongly encourage anyone, of any age, to get out there and find opportunity for themselves.
I am not of the Norman Tebbit school of 80's thought when he encouraged people to get on their bike and find work, patronising as it was, instead I am very much of the school of thought that you live, in person, being brilliant and smart and excited and interested is going to have a far greater chance of being spotted.
Why? Well despite many 'big' employers computerising their recruitment filters to the point of programming key words and qualifications into their selection programmes on-line; there are still vast numbers of employers, decision makers, recruiters and event organisers that understand about personal brand, making an impact, the personal touch and impressing someone with actions and words and not just qualifications and experience.
In my experience SME's particularly take great heed of their 'gut feel' for an individual candidate. Because every single one of their staff matters to them, as there are fewer, then meeting people is a way they still find their stars of tomorrow.
So prepared with a CV that does all of things I have spoken about at length in the past as 'the flier for the brand of you' (see previous blogs) and with a brave attitude to talking to anyone because as I have said in the past 'you never know who the person will be that gives you a break' you should get yourself along to everything that might lead somewhere; careers events, networking events, industry events, university and college events and national employment events at the big venues like the NEC.
Prepare your 'pitch', know what your USP's are and be ready to really sell yourself when you get the ear of someone who wants to listen and is interested in what you have to offer. As a recruiter of 20+ years standing from my point of view you being there already puts you in credit with me and then if you have a positive attitude, something to say and some energy and interest then you are really beginning to get my interest...
Speak to everyone...
Be that person who is interested in what every employer does, find out more, understand when you hear an opportunity that you like that you need to act and project the professional image that you want to promote going forwards; set yourself dress, speech and manners standards and let those things as well as your skills, knowledge and competencies be your message to employers...you will be saying 'I mean business!'
Networking is a very inexact science and actually the more you try and apply scientific methods to it a) the more mercenary you appear and b) the more you remove the random factor... but talking to people and asking questions and being open and honest about what you aspire to does work..
My two best job / career conversations? One was with a lovely Australian lady in a bar in Paris at Christmas time and the other was with a chap by the coffee machine during lunch at a careers event...you never know, who or when but you need to be there to benefit and to be on duty for your brand at all times to get the most from any good fortune.
I think it was Gary Player (the very good South African golfer for you Tiger Woods generation people) who said 'the more I practice the luckier I get' that's kind of my point in a nutshell!
I guess I need to start with a list of things that events get really badly wrong to start to illustrate my answer:
That all pervading smell of cheap coffee (you know they say that the smell of freshly made ground coffee its one of the best ways to sell a house? Well one of the best ways to ruin any event is that cheap coffee smell that seems to get into the very pores of the people who have been there all day!)
Stale pastries (if you say breakfast mean it please - I don't want yesterdays paying customers left-over's, really!)
The local 'cartel' of welcoming /unwelcoming networkers in prominent positions trying to suss out if you will be competition for them (I really hate this - I think that networking can be one of the key celebrations of local business communities but when people are cold shouldered or not engaged with as they might be competition for one of the organisers or long term group members the whole thing falls very sourly short of anything valid)
Badges that you cannot read from a distance (avoids the need to waste time talking to people who you will never do business with and that awkward staring at people's chest close up thing..)
People trying to sell stuff to you before they even know your name (robot salesman who have been taught their pitch word for word and sent to the event to get some 'hot leads', crass and uninteresting and always slightly awkward for everyone involved isn't it?)
Forced 'elevator' pitches (people project their brand, personality and ability to connect in different ways. I know there needs to be a way for people to get started but please find a better way as this is usually excruciating)
Organisers with agenda's that are eventually obvious and nothing to do with how they got you to attend ( I equate this to that horrible realisation that you have been conned into a time-share presentation / sales promotion event thinking you were attending a tapas evening. Authenticity is a must for engagement and for people to not feel you have wasted their time. This sort of thing is never forgotten.)
Events that don't know if they are for business or social purposes (this is one of my pet issues with networking events; is the event an excuse for a loose social gathering with a bit of business thrown in or is it a genuine opportunity to promote your business, services and self?)
So you will have gathered that I have issues with how networking events are conceived and delivered. I am really not knocking those that try to get something started and have the right intentions but to get this kind of thing right is really quite skilled; a cup of coffee, a suitably sized room and a few dozen people does not a networking event make.
I love the events where there is both a purpose for attending and an opportunity to network in a natural, relaxed and professional way.
I enjoy meeting people that have lots of interesting, diverse and exciting things to say about themselves and their business and I listen to people who have the ability to project and connect and who know when to move on.
Networking can be a joy (if that is the right word) when it does not feel forced or hard work.
Some of my best clients and biggest projects have been acquired / earned or initiated through simple one to one conversation in a great environment that has been thoughtfully and intelligently created.
That's all - not difficult....
Paul Goring 2014
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