How to Leverage Industry Networking Opportunities to Build Your Network

So this was an interesting idea with a huge impact. A young man that I am working with, recently graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and was having trouble getting traction in the job market. He received an unexpected and very generous offer to help his career networking with a free pass to an industry association conference. Businesses in this industry require tons of engineering to design and manufacture their products. So even though he had never done ANYTHING like this, and can be a bit shy in meet-and-greet situations, he packed his suitcase and off he went.

It was an enormous success and gave him an opportunity to put all his self-advocacy and networking skills to great use. When we spoke afterwards he felt like he didn’t really stop talking with people for almost four days! He was fascinated with the businesses and the machinery that they were displaying, got very interested in the industry and came away with all kinds of next steps. He was amazed at the fact that he would talk with someone at their booth about their business, they would ask him what he was up to, he would tell them he was looking for a job and they would give him their card and tell him they were always looking for good new engineers. This happened over and over again – and several times when he got their cards, he realized he had been speaking with the CEO or President of the company.

So fast-forward a week and Alex has had a couple of phone interviews, and has a follow-up today with the COO of one of the companies. He has sent his resume to a slew of people and had them respond (how cool and unusual is that!), and often forward his resume to other people in the position to make hiring decisions. It was a wonderful way to learn an industry, meet people, polish some skills and perhaps even lead to his first job out of college. Obviously you will not all get a free pass to a convention and they can be very expensive, so not everyone can make this move. But, think about this. Those same people who were at this four day event also likely spend time at the local chapters of associations.

Associations like the National Association of Industrial Marketers, or The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, or the National Association of Urban Planners or the Society of Human Resource Management, etc. etc. There are Associations for literally every field out there. Consider joining one of these organizations in your field of interest. Go to local events/meetings. Talk with people. Learn what is most current in the field, offer your skills to the ongoing work of the chapter – have fun!

Remember over 50% of you will get your first job from some form of networking and making connections.