Whether you are looking for a new job or attending on behalf of your current employer, it can be tempting to think of conferences, professional workshops and other networking opportunities, as “free days” out of the office.
It’s understandable to want to relax at these events, however, they are designed to help you develop as a professional and they can make a positive impact on your career if you make the most of them.
Here are three common mistakes professionals make at these events. Avoid them and you’ll likely end up with much more than a free vacation day away from the office.
Just because you’re out of the office doesn’t mean you get to leave the work clothes in the closet (unless you’re volunteering to build houses or some other type of volunteer work). Much like job interviews, first impressions play a major factor in professional networking.
Also, have your elevator pitch ready at all times – you never know if the person sitting next to you could be a future employer or mentor. It is not at all rare for these types of interactions to help land people their next client or job.
Did your elevator pitch last long enough to reach the penthouse of the largest skyscraper on Planet Boredom? Did you spend five minutes chatting awkwardly about the weather? If so, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Industry events are about more than small talk. In fact, they offer opportunities for deep conversations with others in your field. Use this time to gain industry advice or competitive intelligence. If you aren’t a natural conversationalist, just remember to ask lots of questions and pepper your conversations with small bits of personal information so new connections will remember you.
So you had a few conversations and collected 24 business cards. That’s great, but it won’t mean much if you leave them all in your bag or stick them in your top drawer at work. Take the next step and connect with your contacts on LinkedIn.
Better yet, send an email introducing them to another beneficial contact or organization. However you choose to follow up, remember that reaching out while your interaction is still fresh is much better than sending a message 14 months later when you need something.
So, are you ready to put this advice into action at a few local events?
If so, join JumpStart and Global Cleveland at Lorain County Community College for a free October 29 workshop aimed at helping entrepreneurs who are looking to connect with a more diverse talent pool. Then, check out the November 12 Educational Speaker Series sponsored by Stark Entrepreneurship Alliance – a breakfast event where you can meet me, Patricia Grospiron and Bill Nemeth of JumpStart.
And as always, be sure to check out the JumpStart job board to find open positions at exciting companies all across Northeast Ohio.