Networking at recruitment events, even for those of us that would describe ourselves as confident extroverts, can be a nightmare. What do you say? How do you know you are saying it to the right people? Why did you agree to this…?
What are recruitment events?
These are similar to what some describe as job fairs, a chance to mingle and chat with local, national and global businesses about vacancies, opportunities and so on, including those open to graduates and interns.
It is a chance for you to shine and for recruiters looking for their next pool of talent to connect with people too.
It is a room full of people you don’t know. Cue shivers down the spine and heading for the door as fast as you can. STOP! These tips will help.
1. Let go of your phone
We all hang on to our smartphones for fear of missing something important. It is the piece of kit that keeps us connected and for many of us, it is a security blanket.
But your phone and you hanging on to it won’t earn you brownie points in this situation. Recruitment agencies want to meet you, not admire your vast array of useful, life-affirming apps.
2. Have an opening and a closing ready
There are two hard parts of a conversation with someone you don’t know: the opening and the closing.
Make life a little easier on yourself at the next recruitment event by having a few ideas of how to start a conversation and how to end it. Things like, who do you work for? What does your company do? And closing with something like it’s been great to talk, can I take your card or here’s my card.
3. Common ground
The reason why you need a closing or a ‘get out’ ending is that sometimes, no matter how hard to try or how prepared you are, the common ground just isn’t there.
Rather than floundering around, desperately trying to stay afloat, cut the lines, thank them for their time and move on.
4. You are working…
… and so, in some ways, you have the perfect persona to bring to recruitment events. Just like actors take on characters and personas, you too can create the ‘work you’.
This is still you with all the great bits of your personality, character and skills but with a ‘mask’ or a front that protects the ‘real you’. Try it!
5. Avoiding clinging on
It is easy in such a confusing and overwhelming situation to cling on to the first person that smiles in your direction. You might think it makes it easier to survive the whole ordeal, but clinging on to someone for the entire event sends out all the wrong signals.
You need to know when it is time to move on.
6. EVERYONE else is in the same boat
Recruitment events are incredibly useful. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t get the time of day. But they are overwhelming, busy places and for most people, even though they do get results, networking is a painful process.
Bear this in mind: everyone else in that room is in the same boat. It is just that some are better are masking it and making a better shot at handling their nerves and fear than others.
7. Connect with the organisers
There are other people in that room who are incredibly nervous about the whole event but for different reasons: the event organisers.
When it comes to organising recruitment events or drives, the organisers do everything humanly possible to make sure people connect.
But they can serve another useful purpose too: when everything is getting a bit much, when the conversation is stilted, when you feel like bolting, take your foot off the pedal and go and have a chat with the organisers.
Tell them you are having a great time etc. have a pleasant and personal conversation without the pressure of trying to impress.
8. The competitive spirit
You will notice how some people and/or companies enter the recruitment event in the spirit of competition.
Frankly, this is kind-of-missing-the-point. This means that you can miss out on conversations that could make a real difference…
9. Research and Preparation
For anyone attending these kinds of events from events recruitment agencies to CEOs and more, there is a key aspect that must not go undiscussed: being prepared.
We alluded to this with the ‘having conversation openings and closings’ prepared before you enter the big room. You need to know a little more than this: you need to know who is there, who you are targeting, what the objectives of your attendance are and so on.
You can take this process one step back and when you know who is there, and you want to meet them, send them a message or an email, let them know you will be there and why not arrange to meet. To be proactive is to succeed!
10. Practice, practice, practice
You will learn a lot about yourself from attending recruitment events, learning most about them and you the first time you attend one.
There are pros and cons of these kinds of events and although it may feel like you are all ‘fingers and thumbs’ at your first few events, persevere as they drivers for all kinds of businesses and individuals, including events recruitment agencies.
Is it the right event to attend?
Whilst you prepare your opening and closing conversation and practice your anecdotal tales in front of the mirror, consider this question: why are you attending this particular event? There must be a reason and understanding what that is, helps you to work your magic on the right people.
Recruitment events are popular ways for people to network and make contact but networking itself is so much more about conversation. It is about engagement, it is about making worthwhile connections that will serve you well in your career.
Do you attend and enjoy recruitment events? What networking tips would you give attendees?