By Association!

Are you judged by the company you keep?  When it comes to your job search, frequently the answer is Yes!  Networking with the right people can mean the difference between success and failure in your hunt for the right job.  But for many job seekers, where to meet the right people is the problem.  If you have your sights set on a particular industry or even a specific company, targeting the right people is paramount.
In almost every industry, there are organizations of professionals who meet periodically to discuss trends, products, services, best practices and other areas of common interest.  Sometimes these meetings are formal events involving a large number of attendees, and other times they are more casual with fewer numbers.  Must of this is dependent on the industry and how often they meet.
Many industries hold annual conferences and trade shows where people from all over the country, and the world, gather.  Typically at events like this, new products are revealed, there’s an exhibition floor, trade groups elect officers, specialty classes and workshops are offered, and presentations are made.  In many cases, these conferences last three to five days, and for many in attendance, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with old friends or establish new professional and personal relationships.  Some industries hold regularly scheduled regional events, oriented toward professional development, continuing education within that industry, presentations of white papers and research, and product unveilings.
Right about now you might be asking yourself, or me: “How can I attend these things?”
Good question!  True, not all of these events are open to the public.  Unless you live close to where they are being held, getting there alone could be cost prohibitive.  And the cost of being a registered attendee can put a significant dent in your bank balance.
But there are legitimate ways of attending these conventions and trade shows for free or at significant savings.

  • Read industry-related trade publications and check out trade group websites to look for free passes or discount coupons.  Admission passes or coupons can often be found in the business section of newspapers in the host city.
  • Local vendors of related products or services may have passes.  Call and ask if they have any available. You might need to sit through a product demonstration to be eligible for the freebie.
  • Get in touch with the event’s organizers, and volunteer your services at the registration tables, handing out program information, as a room monitor, offer to help set up displays.  Any activity that will put you in front of people in that industry can be helpful.
  • Talk to their press office.  If you’re in a position to write an article or blog about what they’re up to, you can talk them into a press pass.

And another suggestion:  Read all you can before the event, to learn who the major players are – companies and people – so you can target your efforts, recognize names of people and businesses on their ID badges, or when you hear them make a presentation.  Your efforts can be better targeted if you are better informed before you go.
Simply put, many of these events are about professionals helping professionals.  If you have a strong desire to be a part of their industry, your willingness to participate and assist them will speak volumes about your dedication and interest.  Identify and get introduced to the movers and shakers from the chapter/office in your area, who will be very happy to let you attend local meetings because of your efforts at the larger event.  Next thing you know, you’ll be having meaningful conversations about your industry, and have the chance to find out who may have job openings.  Because you have already demonstrated your interest and industry knowledge, these other professionals will take your search for work far more seriously than if you merely applied for an opening as a total stranger.   And they’ll look forward to your continuing participation in their organization.
Remember that these events are not the right place to hand someone your resume (unless they have a specific career section!)!  Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to the people you meet!  Ask for their contact information and say you’d like to connect via LinkedIn.  If they’re local, ask if you can meet with them at a later time – a few days after the event – for an informational interview, to learn more about them, their careers, their efforts, and to ask some well thought-out questions.  And at the end of this meeting, then you can ask about specific opportunities that may be available for someone with your qualifications and interests.  Since the majority of jobs are acquired through personal relationships, associating through professional associations must be a major part of your job search plan.
If you’ve discovered a good place for networking, please share it with us.  And for more tips and ideas about networking, job search and career development, please search this blog and visit: