Networking at Conventions & Job Fairs

Networking at Conventions & Job Fairs

In Ch. 3: Social Networking we discussed the three big social networks to use when searching for a new position: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

We also mentioned some other popular social media networks you should consider using like Instagram, blogging, and Google+ for your networking needs.

Networking digitally through social media is a great way for you to connect with others that you wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to, but there are also plenty of great networking opportunities in the traditional face-to-face method.

In this chapter, we're going to look at traditional, face-to-face networking at local conventions and job fairs. Face-to-face networking is a forgotten aspect of networking because of the advent of social media.

Oftentimes, people will avoid going to these networking conventions or networking job fairs because they think they can be more efficient if they just reach out on social media.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 70 percent of jobs are found through personal networks.

The unique thing about conventions and job fairs that social media doesn’t allow you to do is to truly connect with individuals.

You might be able to “connect” or interact with people on social media, but it’s much harder to form a relationship with someone and add them to your networking circle.

There are certain nuances and personality characteristics that you can garner from networking face-to-face that you just can’t get from networking through social media or other digital mediums.

The great thing about face-to-face interactions is that you can truly get to know someone based on how they react to the things you say.

You can tell what they’re passionate about, if they have any concerns about why you’re interested in the job, if they’re concerned about your qualifications for future positions, and more.

Conventions and job fairs are solid ways to traditionally network with people in your industry, and help you make great connections.

Meeting people face-to-face will help you become more memorable and segue to more lasting relationships.

It’s always more helpful for your job search efforts when the individual you’re attempting to get a connection with remembers who you are based on your appearance or facial recall.

That’s why connecting and networking face-to-face is so important in today’s job search environment.

When you connect face-to-face, you automatically increase your chances of landing that job you’ve been working so hard to obtain.

Ultimately, if you’re attempting to network — you want to maximize your efforts in every area that you can.

While it might be true that you can send out networking requests or connection requests to hundreds of healthcare or hospital professionals on some of the social media sites we’ve mentioned in this chapter and previous chapters — ultimately you will have greater success if you connect with individuals face-to-face.

Granted, you won’t be able to connect with as many people as you typically would you sent out one hundred connection requests, but ultimately you’re seeking quality over quantity with your networking efforts.

In this guide, we will not only discuss how you should effectively network with other healthcare professionals at the networking conventions — but also detail how you should maximize those efforts and ultimately scale them so you can get plenty of connections throughout the course of a job fair event.

Furthermore, conventions and fairs allow you to meet like-minded people who are exposed to a environments different than those your close friends and family might experience.

It’s not every day that you get to go to a connection event and meet a gathering of healthcare professionals or hospital professionals who are looking to find talent or learn more about their respective industry.

Like-minded people can allow you to open yourself up to new opportunities, perspectives, attitudes and resources.

Taking advantage of the weak tie principle, which states that your weakest ties can lead to more beneficial opportunities.

Essentially, branching out and going to some of the conventions and job fairs will allow you to expand upon those weak tie connections and potentially foster into job opportunities in the future.

It will allow you to extend your network, and it will connect you with people that could potentially help you land a job you want.

This chapter consists of the best ways to hack these events, tips and tricks for you to follow to maximize your marketing efforts, and the best guide to help you get the most out of them to further your career.


5 Things To Remember About Networking At Conventions Or Job Fairs

There are several things that you need to remember when you begin preparing for the job fair or convention.

These five things will help you feel a little bit more comfortable when you go to these networking events and ensure that you don’t feel so out of place.

If you can remember these five things, then you will already be ahead of the curve when it comes to networking at conventions or networking at job fairs.

The great thing about these five things is that once you learn them — they’re easy to remember and then implement them in your networking efforts.

1.) Everybody Is Human

The first thing to remember at these networking events is that everybody is human.

In many scenarios it can feel like other people are more comfortable than you or that they aren’t affected by the nerves that most of us associate with unfamiliar situations.

The good thing to remember is that everybody is experiencing some form of nerves or apprehension at these networking events.

That means you’re no different than anybody else — and you should rest assured knowing that with a little bit of practice you can become accustomed to the various networking activities and become an expert amongst your peers and networking colleagues in no time.

If you’re like the rest of us, you might be a little nervous when it comes to approaching someone who holds a high position at a hospital or healthcare facility that you wish to work at.

If you could possibly secure a positive connection with them, then you can easily secure a foot in the door and potentially get an interview with ease.

When we think about things like that before approaching a professional superior, our thoughts and emotions can get overwhelmed and then we start sweating all the little details.

The little details like how should you introduce yourself, how should you start a conversation with them, whether or not you should talk about the potential job openings currently available with them, etc.

All of these things could begin racing through your mind — and it’s easy to see how the entire experience could become overwhelming.

That’s why it’s important to remember that everybody is human and that no matter who you’re talking to — at one point or another they’ve all been in the same position as you.

Before they rose the ranks to become C-Level executives at a hospital or healthcare facility they were also at the bottom of the totem-pole and working their way towards the top.

They most likely had to do the same thing to get their foot in the door at these networking events to find a potential connection that would offer them a job interview.

Once you realize that everybody is starting in the same position or has started in the same position as you at these networking events, then it gets a little easier for you when it comes to getting comfortable.

2.) Everybody's Afraid At Networking Conventions

Networking conventions or networking job fairs can be a scary experience.

If you’ve never been to one, you might be apprehensive about what happens at them, how you should go about introducing yourself and making connections, or what to expect.

The good news, is that there’s nothing to be afraid about — because everybody is in the same boat.

Each networking convention or networking job fair is a little bit different. Some networking conventions are focused around different conference speakers — where industry leaders or executives talk about some of the trends that could potentially affect you as a healthcare professional moving forward.

Other conventions allow for some speaking-time and then a general networking event. Whereas other events are strictly for networking with other professionals.

Sometimes the organization or organizations that host these networking conventions or networking job fairs will expressly state how the convention will run, while others will leave some ambiguity as to how everything will be run.

That uncertainty might make you a little nervous about how the event will run — and make you worry about how those networking events will run.

In addition, you might even be a little fearful of feeling like an outsider because you’ve never been to a networking event or job fair in the past. The good news, as we mentioned above, is that everyone else was in your shoes at some point.

There weren’t many moments that they weren’t in the same scenario. Everyone had to go to a networking convention for the first time, or they had to attend a job fair for the first time.

In addition, it’s not like you’re the only one who is going to be the first individual who is attending a convention or networking job fair for the first time when you go.

There will be others like yourself, who will also be there for the first time — and knowing that will help you rest assured knowing that you’re not the outsider that you might think you are.

It also helps to know that everybody is attending these specific networking conventions or networking job fairs for a reason as well.

Healthcare executives and healthcare recruiters are actively attending networking conventions to find and understand the new tips and tricks to find and source the best healthcare and hospital talent available.

This means that they’re actively seeking new healthcare connections to establish qualified talent for the many vacancies that are increasingly becoming available.

This alleviates some of the pressure that you might be feeling because you’re not the only one seeking opportunities — recruiters and executives are seeking talented individuals like yourself.

Knowing that helps you understand that you have some of the leverage in the conversations as well.

This can help you feel a little bit more comfortable and less fearful about the unknowns associated with networking conventions or networking job fairs, as the leverage isn’t completely one-sided in all the networking efforts you make.

3.) Everybody Has Value

The great thing about networking connections and networking job fairs is that everybody has some value that they can provide to others.

Some individuals are qualified professionals like yourself that are seeking new opportunities, others are seeking qualified talent to fill those positions, some are looking to learn more about the healthcare industry in general, and there are those who are just seeking to establish new connections that could potentially pay dividends in the future.

This means that everybody you potentially meet or interact with at these networking connection events can help push your career to the next level.

You could potentially meet someone you were hoping to meet, only to find that they don’t know of any current openings in the hospital or healthcare facility they are currently working at.

The positive thing about this, is that they might know of another facility, hospital, or recruiter who is actively seeking qualified talent like yourself from another facility — and introduce you to them or recommend that you get in touch with them.

What might have seemed like a waste of time to connect with them because they don’t know of an available job at the facility you wanted to work at can quickly turn into potential new job opportunities with a few simple steps.

There will also be plenty of other times where you’re talking to someone and you’re unfamiliar with who they are and what they do. Only to find out that they are in charge of recruitment at a hospital that you had potentially considered applying to.

It’s potential connections like this that can sneak up on you and truly surprise you.

One really good connection at a networking convention can help improve your job search efforts immediately — and you’ll be grateful that you spent the time to attend the event.

It’s also important to remember that you’re not just looking for valuable connections that can aid you — you can provide value and aid others as well in their job search efforts.

For instance, you might be a Medical Assistant looking for a job, and you interact with and meet a Registered Nurse who is also looking for a job.

If you know of a few RN jobs that are available, and mention those job openings to them.

On the solid chance that they apply, get an interview, and then ultimately get a job, they’ll remember who it was that recommended they apply to that specific job — you.

They’ll then be inclined to look out for future job openings for you and happily mention them to you and encourage you to apply.

This potential connection benefit all stemmed from the fact that you were willing to provide your knowledge and value to someone else, and then they were able to secure their own job.

Think about it as an, “I scratch your back, you scratch my back” scenario. Networking conventions and networking job fairs are a great way for establishing fantastic connections — and securing lasting friendships that will help aid you down the road in your job search efforts.

Everybody Is Nice

Another one of the daunting fears that you might be worried about as you prepare to go to a networking convention or networking job fair is that you’re worried that some of the people you meet or interact with will be mean.

While we can’t say that every single person you interact with or come across at these networking conventions will be some of the nicest people you meet — there will be plenty of nice people that will be happy to connect with you and help you in your job search efforts.

As we mentioned earlier, everyone attends networking conventions or job fairs to find value, or provide value. This means that there are plenty of reasons for people to be kind to you — because they also don’t know how well your friendship or professional connection could pay off down the road.

The goal of networking conventions and job fairs is to learn more about the industry, and connect with other qualified professionals and like-minded individuals.

If you go to a networking convention or job fair with that mindset, then you’ll be welcomed by everyone.

Another great thing about healthcare conventions is that people are there to grow and connect, and oftentimes those individuals remember that they were in your shoes so many years ago.

When experienced healthcare professionals remember that they were in your shoes so long ago, they feel obligated to pass on their knowledge to the hungry healthcare professionals who are working hard to build their foundation in a solid career within the healthcare industry.

Those healthcare professionals are more than willing to be nice to those upcoming healthcare professionals and help them along their journey — so you don’t have to worry about those rude people you think might be there.

Everybody Tends To Be Social

Another great thing about networking conventions or networking job fairs is that everyone tends to be social.

If you’re one of those individuals that takes a little bit of time to warm up to the idea of reaching out to get to know others at events and conventions — then you can rest assured that you don’t always have to make the first move.

Oftentimes, others will come up to you and introduce themselves to you before you have a chance to introduce yourself to them.

As we mentioned earlier, most people don’t know everyone at these events — so there is no obligation that prevents them from feeling obligated to come up and introduce themself to you.

You’ll find that if you’re uncomfortable initially, your comfort level will soon rise as others introduce themselves to you.

If you’ve never been to a networking convention or job fair in the past, you can also use these initial introductions as a guideline on how to go about introducing yourself to others in the future.

In addition, when others introduce themselves and begin interacting with you, you can figure out what topics are being discussed, and figure out how to approach conversations with others that you plan on networking with.

By implementing these 5 easy things to remember in your networking efforts at conventions or job fairs, you can separate yourself from those others at these conventions who are going in unprepared.

It’s important to remember that everybody else is in the situation that you are. Once you realize that, you can improve your networking efforts with ease.


Things To Remember When You Network At Conventions Or Job Fairs

There are several things that you need to remember when you begin networking at conventions or job fairs.

Remembering these few things will ensure that your efforts aren’t in vain — and that you maximize your changes of securing that job interview or consideration for a vacant position.

1.) You're There To Network, Not Interview On The Spot

The number one thing that you need to remember when you attend these networking conventions, is that you’re not there to interview on the spot — you’re there to network.

Essentially what this means, is that you’re there to gain professional connections and establish professional relationships.

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when you first introduce yourself to a potential connection, and the first thing you accidentally do is to start spewing all your previous work history or educational background.

If you’re afraid of this happening because you’re nervous, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath before interacting with someone.

At the end of the day, people are going to be interested in you if they understand your personality and passions.

There are going to be tens of others at these networking conventions or networking job fairs that have similar experience or in some cases better experience than you.

This means you need to separate yourself from them by showcasing that you have a better personality and would be a better fit for their respective company’s culture or team dynamics.

One great way of doing this is to remember that you’re reaching out to them to get a solid foundation on who you are and why you might be a valuable asset to their organization in the future.

One way of doing this is to introduce yourself and give a very brief background on who you are.

You’re aiming to establish a foundation on the professional relationship between the two of you.

Your goal shouldn’t be to start spewing all kinds of prepared responses for potential questions. That makes you seem inauthentic and robotic.

If you do that, you’ll automatically be forgotten amongst the crowd of other interactions that the individual connects with throughout the night.

It’s important to remember that you’re networking with the intention of building potential relationships.

Every single person you meet at the networking convention or networking job fair won’t know of potential job opportunities or be able to hire you on the spot.

It’s about what they might be able to do in the future, and what you might be able to do for them down the road as well.

The goal of interacting with individuals at these conventions is to try an establish a relationship and give them a feel for your personality.

Most importantly, you want to give them your contact information so they know how to contact you when they learn about potential positions, or contact you to learn more about how you would be a good fit for their organization.

It’s important to remember that you are working to secure the interview. If you come across as a stale personality, then your chances of securing the interview are going to be extremely limited.

2.) Be Selective With Who You Network With

When you’re at these networking conventions or networking job fairs, you’ll have the opportunity to network or connect with any company, employer, or individual at these conventions.

Unfortunately, you cannot network or connect with every single person — because you’ll never have time for it all.

This means you need to make sure that your networking efforts are as efficient as possible.

Even though it’s beneficial to network with every single person you can, only a handful of individuals will be able to actually help push your career or your job search to the next level.

When you conduct your research on some of the individuals who are attending the networking convention, you can then plan out who all you want to potentially network with.

As we mentioned previously, in some cases it’s not the people you typically expect who might open the most doors for you in your job search or your career.

Therefore, you shouldn’t eliminate some of those other oddball individuals who you potentially want to connect with.

Essentially, what we mean by being selective with who you potentially network with means that you shouldn’t try and connect with individuals or employers who work in facilities or locations that you’re not willing to potentially work at.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t possibly secure a connection from one of them at a hospital or healthcare facility that you’re interested in, but the odds of it happening are slim.

As an example you might connect with one person at the hospital that you hope to work at, and they might be able to connect you with five to six other individuals in the same hospital who could help give you guidance and direction on how to proceed with your application.

Whereas you might connect with someone outside the hospital you’d like to work at, and they can only recommend that you connect with one person — and you already knew that you had to connect with that person.

Who knows how much time you could have potentially wasted trying to connect with them during that time.

You might have struck up a fifteen minute conversation and it only turned out to be a connection that didn’t really help you achieve your goal of landing a potential interview or a solid connection that could lead to an interview.

Typically the networking conventions only last a couple hours — so you have to maximize the time you spend interacting with or talking to each individual.

This means that you need to attempt to plan out who you want to potentially connect with or interact with when you’re attending these events.

Unfortunately, you can’t always plan all of the little interactions that you have or the people that you meet as we’ve mentioned — and in many cases it’s those unplanned interactions that potentially lead to the best results.

If you decide to attend a general networking event, it’s best to conduct a little bit of research on who might attend the event in the hospital and healthcare industry.

This way, you don’t find yourself talking to business analysts when you should be talking to hospital hiring managers.

General networking conventions typically separate the various employers into sections. So if you can narrow down where you need to go to mingle and network with others, then you can increase your chances of having a successful convention.

If everything is located in one general lobby, then figuring out who you need to talk to might be a little bit trickier.

If you decide to go to a specific industry convention or job fair, then you don’t have to worry about those complications because everyone is in the same industry.

You don’t have to navigate your way around the convention floor to find the healthcare section, you just have to mingle with the others and find those individuals that you want to connect with.

Another good idea for making sure that you’re selective before you go to the networking conventions is to review the careers page for the hospital or healthcare facility that you want to potentially connect with.

This will help you determine whether or not the facility you want to potentially connect with even has available jobs or job postings on their career page.

The last thing you want is to try and create networking connections only to waste your time when you realize that they have no available positions.

Being selective with who you network with also means knowing when something isn’t going to work out between you and a potential employer.

If you’re connecting or networking with someone at these job fairs or conventions and you can tell right away that the position doesn’t sound enticing, or the facility doesn’t sound like an environment in which you’d like to work — then it’s ok to walk away.

Networking at conventions or job fairs is a great way for you to determine whether or not you can realistically see yourself working for the individual hospital or healthcare facility.

When you are networking with someone and are trying to figure out whether or not they might be someone you can realistically see yourself working with in the future, you can also get a gauge on whether or not they enjoy their job or the facility they work in.

If someone seems negative about their employer through their conversation, then it is completely acceptable to walk away from consideration of that hospital or facility moving forward.

Another great way of figuring out whether or not they enjoy their employer is to take note of whenever they mention other facilities.

Are they bragging about the investment that the employer is making in other locations if it’s a healthcare system, or are they approaching the conversation as if they want to leave their current position and move on to new opportunities?

There are subtle cues to pick up on when you’re networking at these conventions, and it will help you narrow down potential employers or job opportunities to help you truly identify your ideal job or potential place of employment.

When you’re selective with the people you attempt to network with, you can maximize your efforts to ensure that you don’t waste any time when networking to find a new job.

3.) You Want To Stand Out In A Positive Way

One of the things you want to try to do is stand out amongst the crowd in a positive way. There are going to be plenty of people at these networking conventions or job fairs, and it’s easy to blend into the crowd.

Unfortunately, when you blend in you’re easily forgettable. If you’re attempting to secure a job interview or develop a positive networking relationship, then the last thing you want to do is become forgettable.

Another worst case scenario is when you are reconnecting with the individual at a later time, and they bring up an interaction or a memory with you that you didn’t participate in.

Those can be awkward, and it reinforces the idea that they just don’t remember you and you didn’t really stand out in a positive way at the networking event.

For instance, this might be one example of a bad interaction, Employer: “Yeah of course I remember you! You said you were really passionate about helping others and would volunteer on the weekends right?” Only to reply that you didn’t mention that.

One of the last things that you want to happen is to hand them your resume or your cover letter, and then become a faceless individual amongst the sea of two hundred or three hundred individuals all with a similar background in the healthcare industry.

Therefore you want to make a dedicated effort in standing out from the crowd. You don’t want to dress inappropriately or come across as unprofessional, but you do want to have a memorable interaction.

One way to stand out in a positive way is to say something that would separate you from other candidates.

Do you have a hobby that most of the other individuals at the networking convention don’t have which should make you stand out?

From our example above, volunteering might be a good example — especially for the healthcare industry.

Healthcare professionals are often asked to go above and beyond for their patients, and you can stand out amongst the crowd by demonstrating that you’re passionate about going above and beyond in both your professional life, and your personal life.

A lot of individuals prefer to put in their hours at their job, and then go home and do something else that doesn’t relate to their work. It’s their version of recuperating from the daily stress.

But if you go home and you continue to do things that you’re passionate about, and somehow relate to your job in the healthcare industry on your personal time, then you can truly separate yourself from those individuals who just feel like a job is a job, or that they’re just collecting a paycheck.

If you don’t have any hobbies that you can mention outside of work that would truly make you stand out, then you have to make a personal connection with the individual you’re networking with.

Over the course of your conversation, you might realize that you’re both passionate or interested in the same thing, like cycling or hiking.

When you strike up a conversation about something that the other person is truly interested in, then the communication feels more natural and doesn’t feel so forced.

It’s easy to remember someone when you can recall something about them, and if they recall that you both had a passion for something outside of work — then you’re already a step ahead of those other individuals who just introduce themselves and move on.

Standing out amongst the crowd will help make your follow-ups a little bit easier in the future, and remind them about why they should reach out to you or consider you for a job interview for the position that you’re interested in.

4.) Pay Attention To Your Body Language

One of the key things you need to pay attention to when you’re at the event is your body language.

Your body language is an important piece of the communication between the individual you’re trying to connect with, and yourself.

You might say that you’re really passionate about working in the healthcare industry, but your body language might demonstrate that you could be completely disinterested in working with them.

A recent study showcased that non-verbal communication has become even more important than old adages that were commonly referred to.

In the past, it was estimated that non-verbal communication and body language attributed to roughly 90% of all communication, but the new study demonstrated that it has now increased to roughly 93% of all communication.

This means that your body language has never been more important in potentially securing a professional connection and job interview than it is now.

Understanding the importance of proper body language and implementing positive body language techniques are a great way to ensure that your message is consistent.

The last thing you want is to send off confusing signals as we mentioned above about your desire to work with them or in the potential position.

Imagine the number of bad connections you’ve made in the past or relationships that ultimately fell through that could have led to job interviews because you were conveying that you weren’t really interested due to poor body language.

Here are some key body language tips you want to use when you’re attending networking conventions or job fairs.

• Keep your body posture straight and upright

• Align your body with the person you’re talking to — this means that you’re facing them. You don’t want to be having a conversation and your body appears to be looking in a different direction because you’re disinterested.

• Avoid crossing your arms — this creates the impression that you’re closed off and you’re looking for ways to move on from the conversation or to connect with others.

• Mirror their body language — this is a great way to make sure that your body language is coming across naturally. When you attempt to mirror their body language, you can appear engaged and passionate about the topic that you’re talking about.

• Keep your arms relaxed at your sides

• Use hand gestures every now and then to demonstrate that you’re listening to them and understanding what they are saying or the message that they are conveying.

• Use appropriate nods and genuine smiles — this helps indicate that you’re passionate about what they’re talking about and are following along with what they’re saying.

• Always greet with a firm handshake that conveys confidence — but be careful because you don’t want to create a death grip.

• Maintain solid eye contact and avoid blinking too much — rapid blinking indicates that you might be uncomfortable in the conversation and can be a distraction to the person you’re talking to.

• Monitor the volume of your voice — you don’t want to be talking too loudly or too quietly. One way to make sure that you monitor the volume of your voice is to take a deep breath and speaking confidently in a conversational tone.

• Watch their body language — another important body language tip is to watch their body language and glean information from it. If the other person is using negative body language signs, then it might be a signal for you to conclude the conversation and attempt to network with someone else.

Implementing those body language tips will ensure that you don’t confuse the signals you’re attempting to send to the individual you’re connecting with.

5.) Show Enthusiasm!

One important thing to remember when you’re networking at conventions and job fairs is that you want to show enthusiasm.

If you implement the body language tips that we mentioned above, then you’re already off to a positive start.

When you showcase your enthusiasm, your confidence will naturally rise and you can demonstrate your excitement for new opportunities in the healthcare industry.

Even if you’re a little bit nervous, demonstrating and showing your enthusiasm will help cover up some of those nerves.

6.) Communicate With Confidence

One thing that you want to strive for is to deliver your conversations and your speeches with confidence at these networking events.

One of the hardest things for those individuals who are slightly anti-social or dislike speaking publicly is to brag about themselves or their experience.

When you communicate with confidence, you demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic about working in the healthcare industry and are confident in your abilities as a healthcare professional.

When you’re networking with professionals at networking conventions or at job fairs, they often want a brief synopsis of who you are and what makes you special.

If you walk up to them and sheepishly talk about your experience, it will raise doubts about whether you’re truly passionate in the industry or that your skills align with what you’re saying.

You want to convey that you’re talented and that you’re passionate — do that by communicating with confidence with the individuals you connect with.

To ensure that you communicate with confidence, have a short definition of who you are, what skills you have, and what position you’re seeking — so that you’re ready to recite it when necessary and don’t trip over your words.

7.) Take Notes

One key thing you want to do when connecting and networking at conventions or job fairs is to make sure that you take notes after your interactions.

It can be really hard to remember every little thing that was talked about with each person. It only makes it worse when you add in a few hundred people that you could potentially network with in one event or convention.

Taking notes is a great way to summarize who you talked to, what position they held, what you two talked about, figure out what your follow-up plan was/is, anything you promised them, or remember what you were promised.

When you take notes, you can also recall different things you talked about when you follow-up with them at a later time.

For instance, when you follow-up on LinkedIn or by email, you can mention those interactions or conversations — which helps remind them about who you are and the conversation you had with them.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s always helpful when you can strike up a conversation on something you’re both interested or passionate in, and your notes will help you when you follow-up with them at a later time.

For instance, when you follow-up you can look back at your notes and say something along the lines of, “Hey [name] it’s [your name] the Medical Assistant looking for new opportunities. We met at [networking convention or job fair] and we spoke briefly about biking. I really enjoyed getting to meet you and was just following-up with you about some of the open positions you mentioned at [hospital or healthcare facility]. Looking forward to your reply, thanks!”

This follow-up letter is more personal than a generic one — and it was all made possible thanks to the notes you took when you connected with the individual.

You can choose to either take notes on a notepad, in your phone, or on the back of the business card that you receive.

It’s common practice to hand out business cards at networking conventions or job fairs, and they’re an easy way for you to remember their contact details and then write down any relevant notes you want to keep about them.

This way when you’re taking your own notes without their business card, you don’t have to frantically write down their name and contact details because if you’re like the rest of us you might forget.

Taking notes is essential to making sure that you remember the conversation you had with each person and can recall that information when you are crafting up your follow-up email or letter to thank them for connecting with them at the convention and to create plans to potentially set up an interview.

8.) Offer Everyone You Meet A Business Card One thing that will help you in your networking efforts at conventions or job fairs is to offer everyone you meet a business card.

As we mentioned above, business cards are really helpful for reminding people about who you are and letting them know your contact details.

In addition, business cards are useful for taking notes like we stated above. It’s much easier to just hand the individual your attempting to network with a business card with all your contact details, then to ask them to quickly write down everything to get in touch with you.

When you force them to write everything down, you also run the risk of them forgetting your details or messing something up.

The last thing you want to happen is to spend ten to fifteen minutes networking with someone only to find out that they have accidentally misspelled your name in your email or they have rearranged some of the digits in your phone number.

Take the risk out of the networking uncertainty and hand out business cards that clearly state your contact details and your job details.

In addition, it’s always a nice touch to have a photo on your business card, this way you can help remind them by putting a face to the name.

Individuals will meet a range of people in these large conventions and there will almost certainly be someone else at the convention with the same name as you.

You don’t want to accidentally get mistaken for somebody else, so pay the money and get business cards. One resource that is great for getting business cards is VistaPrint, where you can buy cards for a wide array of prices, sizes, designs, and more.

In addition VistaPrint is great for allowing you to design your own cards, so you can showcase your creative personality in the design process of your business cards that you hand out.

VistaPrint also has different price ranges for you to consider, so you can find cards in your budget as well.

They allow you to buy different quantities so you can have enough to hand out for the various networking connections you go to or the job fairs you attend.

It’s never been easier to stand out amongst the crowd by making sure that you have creative business cards that help remind people who you are and give them the important details they need to contact you in the future.


Plan Ahead

One thing that you want to do before attending any networking convention, networking conference, or job fair is to plan ahead. Planning ahead will ensure that you spend your time effectively.

Planning ahead is relatively easy if you receive a schedule of all the events or a calendar that has the events and speakers on it.

If you receive a schedule of the speakers or events that will take place, then you can plan out where you want to be and at what time.

This will allow you to effectively narrow down the time you should spend connecting with individuals and where.

Planning by using calendars or schedules will also help guide you where you need to go to find where individuals in your career field or industry will be networking at.

We’ve all been in the situation where it feels like we’re lost, but if you effectively plan ahead then you can ensure that you spend your time efficiently.

In addition, you want to make sure that you have a second plan in place in case one of the events you wished to attend gets cancelled or a speaker doesn’t show.

When you have a backup plan, you can have a seamless experience and attend all the speakers or the conferences you want to attend.

If you decide to attend one of the larger conferences in your industry, then you should also take the time to see if there is an app you can put on your phone to help you navigate the convention floor.

These apps help you figure out who is going to be where and are also really convenient instead of having to carry around a map or constantly look for directions.

Not to mention, if you look like you know where you’re going others will come up and potentially strike up a conversation with you.

In other words, planning ahead might make your networking efforts a little bit easier because others feel compelled to talk to someone who looks and acts like they’re a professional at networking events.

Planning ahead will also help alleviate some of the anxiety that you might be feeling if you’ve never been to other networking conventions before or job fairs.


Work In Down Time

When you’re working on your schedule and planning ahead, you also want to work in some down time.

It can be exhausting trying to meet new people, remembering all of their names, writing down all of their contact details, trying to separate each individual from the new ones you meet, therefore you should include some down time when you’re creating your schedule for the networking conference.

Adding in some down time will also allow you to refresh and think back on some of the earlier networking efforts you made in the same event.

When you have the opportunity to think back on some of the efforts that you’ve made in the networking event, you can think about how you can improve your efforts moving forward.

Taking a breather in your networking efforts at networking conventions allows you to think back on ways you can do things better, or how you should approach each conversation or outreach effort moving forward.

If you’re attending the convention or job fair to exclusively watch and listen to some of the conference speakers or review some of the informative discussions, then working in some down time will also allow you an opportunity to go walk around and introduce yourself to some other members of your industry and potentially network.

It’s always a good idea to work in a breather here and there so you don’t get too stressed out.

As we’ve mentioned previously, networking conventions and job fairs can be rather chaotic so you want to work in some time to recuperate and make sure that you’re constantly thinking of ways to improve your networking efforts while you wait for the next conference or gather some more energy to go and network with new individuals.


Connect With The Community Digitally Beforehand and Afterward

One thing that is helpful for your networking efforts is to connect with the community digitally beforehand and afterward.

When you reach out to individuals you believe are going to attend the event beforehand, you have an opportunity to establish a relationship and connection without the pressures of time.

Unfortunately, when you attempt to develop a professional connection at networking events, there is this looming sense that you have to be quick so you can connect with as many people as possible.

As we’ve mentioned before, that’s not necessarily true because it’s the quality of the individuals you network with and not necessarily the number of individuals.

When you connect online you can also learn more about them before the event so you don’t have to ask so many questions. You can just cut straight to the chase of giving them a little bit more info about you.

For instance, you can connect with them and also do a little bit of background research on what positions they’ve previously held, what accomplishments they’ve had in the past, what school they attended, etc.

When you do this, you also have some potential talking points when you officially meet them at the networking convention.

But be careful though, you don’t want to appear like a stalker — as that will most definitely make them feel awkward and eliminate your chances of being considered for a future job.

Therefore you should focus on just learning a little bit more about them so you can just have some conversation starters and be a little bit more familiar with them before you introduce yourself.

In addition, they will be more familiar with you and could potentially do some research on your background and learn more about where you’ve previously worked and your education.

Networking before attending the connection event is easy and only takes a little bit of time and effort.

All you need to do is reach out to them on a social network that we’ve outlined in our previous chapter, and you can set yourself apart from those individuals who are meeting or connecting for the first time.

Ideally, you want them to remember your profile or LinkedIn profile.

For instance, you know your digital networking efforts before the event were successful when you walk up to introduce yourself and they say something along the lines of, “Oh I recognize you,” or “Hey, I was hoping to meet you today.”

You can also connect with groups and teams before the event.

Take the time to do some research to see if there are any Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, or other social media gathering to determine if you can connect with a mass amount of people at the same time.

Try to get involved with some of the conversations that are happening on the various digital or social media platforms ahead of the convention or job fair.

When you become a frequent contributor, it’s easier for people to recognize you and be interested in potentially meeting you and connecting with you on a professional basis.

In addition, when you’re a frequent contributor it showcases your passion for the industry, topic, or career.

When you showcase your passion for the industry or your career, it helps separate you from those other candidates who have difficulty expressing their passion for their career.

As we mentioned earlier, employers and hiring managers are constantly looking for healthcare professionals and hospital professionals who are not only qualified, but are also extremely passionate about what they do on a daily basis.

When someone is passionate about what they do, then they’re more willing to put in the extra work and provide more value for the employer or country.

Online discussion boards or groups related to the networking convention and job fair is a great way to showcase that passion and attract interest in you to help improve your job search.

Social network groups around the event are a great way to increase your personal brand and create awareness about your skills and experience.

In addition, you can create network efforts and create relationships with like-minded individuals who are passionate about the healthcare industry and providing care for patients like yourself.

Connecting digitally before the event is important, along with connecting after the event.

If you didn’t connect with the individual you were hoping to connect with before the event online, then you should make sure that you follow up with them after the event.

Following up digitally after the event will let you reconnect with them and also remind them that you valued your conversation with them.

You can reconnect with them in a variety of ways through email, or social media accounts.

This is where your notes will be incredibly handy that you took at the networking convention or job fair.

There are also ways to connect with more than just individuals, you can connect with groups that attended the event.

As we mentioned earlier, connecting with groups before the event is a great way for you to establish relationships and get your name out there before the event, but you can also accomplish plenty of fantastic things after the event.

You might learn about groups that are relevant to you at the networking event, and can leverage them by joining them and improving your job search prospects.

A lot of times you wouldn’t have learned about these groups if you hadn’t attended the networking convention or job fair.

Networking conventions and networking job fairs are a great way to learn a lot about other resources that can help aid you in your job search.

When you connect digitally before and after the event, you can make sure that you set yourself apart from those candidates who only focus on traditional offline networking methods at conventions.


Go Prepared

When you are planning ahead, you want to make sure that you are also preparing to succeed.

You want to make sure that you go prepared with copies of your resume, business cards, several writing utensils, and a notepad to take notes.

But that’s not all you should prepare, there are other important things to consider.

When you go prepared to the networking convention, you can separate yourself from those individuals who are just winging it and trying to make it up as they go along.

1.) Work On Your Value Proposition

Your value proposition is an abbreviated version of why they should consider you for any open position they have.

A value proposition is very similar to an elevator pitch, where you break down some of the experience you have, the skills you possess, and how they combine to provide value to the employer.

Granted, you don’t want to give a page long speech about who you are and why they should consider you. Your value proposition needs to be short and to the point.

Your value proposition should also be able to explain why the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter should consider hiring you.

Take the time to prepare for a short value proposition statement to give, and you will stand out as a prepared professional who doesn’t stumble through providing a reason why employers and recruiters should consider you.

You also want to make sure that you prepare your outfit before going. Think critical questions when you’re preparing your outfit like, “Does this outfit serve to showcase that I’m a professional healthcare candidate to consider?”, “Does this outfit match the overall professional nature of this conference?”, and “Is this outfit appropriate for this event?”

You should also be prepared to answer several common questions that might come up when you’re networking with each person.

Some of the common networking questions that might come up include questions about your strengths, questions about your weaknesses, your healthcare experience or hospital experience, why you would bring value to an employer, how you would bring value to an employer, and what you’re looking for in your career as a healthcare professional or hospital professional.


Avoid The Helicopter Approach

When you’re waiting to talk to someone at a convention or job fair to network, it can be relatively easy to use the helicopter approach, but you should avoid it at all costs.

Essentially, the helicopter approach is when you just stand around and awkwardly wait until you find an opportunity to go talk or network with the person you’ve been hoping to.

In other scenarios, the helicopter approach is when you start walking across the room to go interact with someone, and your nerves stop you from getting any closer when you hit the five to ten yard mark and you just stand still and wait in one place until you work up the nerve to go talk to them.

The problem with this, is that there is a good chance the individual you were going to talk with noticed your intent to interact with them, and now notice you awkwardly standing still.

On the odd chance that they had moved before you did, it might even create the impression that you’re following them around.

The last thing you want to do is appear as if you’re stalking them through the convention or job fair because you cannot work up the nerve to go talk to them.

Unfortunately, there is no way to work up the perfect introduction or scenario to talk to them.

Therefore, you should just step up to the plate and go introduce yourself. If they are talking with someone, politely wait until they are done and introduce yourself.

You don’t want to interrupt them and create a rude impression. The goal is to just be as natural as you can.

The good news, is that you’re not alone in feeling a little bit nervous about meeting someone and introducing yourself to someone that you’ve been hoping to connect with for a while.

Networking and connecting professionally at job conventions or job fairs gets easier every single time you do it, and to become proficient in it, you have to get started somewhere.

Avoid the helicopter approach, walk up with confidence, be natural, and you’ll do a fantastic job.


Great Conversation Starters To Use

If you’re like the rest of us, then you want some conversation starters to help get things started when you’re attempting to network with some of the healthcare and recruitment professionals at conventions and job fairs.

There are always a few that you can use for any situation, below are some of the best ones to use and why you should use them:

1.) What Interested You In This Convention / Job Fair?

This is a great conversation starter because they will most likely respond with an open-ended answer that can lead to other conversation talking points.

Ideally you want to use conversation starters and talking points that are open-ended.

When you ask questions that typically result in closed answers, you’ll constantly be seeking new ways to get the conversation going and it can be an uphill battle. An easy way to get around this is to ask open-ended questions that are focused around the individual you’re talking to, their experience, their background, their professional workplace, and what interests them.

Think of these conversation starters as a way to get to know them and provide them with an opportunity to flip the question to get to know you a little bit better as well.

For instance when you ask this example question, they can flip around the question and ask you the same thing. This allows you to learn more about them, and in turn they can learn more about you.

2.) How Long Have You Been With (X) ( Company / Hospital / Healthcare Facility)?

This is another great open-ended question to ask the individual you’re attempting to network with.

Typically when people get asked this question, they respond with a timeline and then provide some detail on how their role has evolved over that time.

This is a great way for you to determine if they enjoy working there (based on how long they’ve been there), if there is an opportunity for upward mobility or dynamic role changes, and more.

As we’ve mentioned above, you can glean a lot of information about the company, hospital, or healthcare facility from how someone answers this question.

You might receive answers like this, “I’ve been working at X facility for fifteen years and I’ve loved every minute of it,” versus something that is less exciting, “I’ve only been there for a short time and it’s ok.”

Granted, there can be a whole lot of reasons that someone provides the second answer, and you can ask them to elaborate upon it.

3.) Where Were You Before Joining This Company / Hospital?

This is another really good question, because it showcases what kind of background or experience the hiring managers were looking for when they hired the person you’re networking with.

Every individual isn’t going to have the same background or experience before they were hired in their current position, but it helps to know what kind of things they are looking for.

For instance, if you are networking with this individual and find out that they have a heavy presence in previous healthcare experience, it might indicate to you that you need to have a strong healthcare background to be considered for some of the positions within the hospital or healthcare facility that you’re looking at.

4.) What Are You Hoping To Get Out Of This Convention / Job Fair?

Some people are there for departmental obligations, continuing education requirements, desire to develop connections and more. This question will also be very insightful in the reasoning behind attending conventions or job fairs in the future when you’re an employee for the hospital or healthcare facility that you’re considering.

Perhaps the hospital or healthcare facility mandates that individuals attend these events when they’re employed, and that might be something you’re not interested in.

5.) What Are You Looking Forward To Here?

This helps provide some insight into the individual. Earlier we mentioned how you want to find things you can mutually identify with or connect on, and this is a great way for you to do that.

6.) What Have You Learned From This Convention So Far?

If there are different convention speakers that you missed out on or didn’t attend that the individual you’re networking with did, then you can learn more about what they might have garnered from those speakers or events.

It’s important to remember that you’re not just attending these conventions or job fairs to network and potentially secure an interview with someone.

You’re also attending these networking conventions to learn more about how to conduct an effective job search, how to network better, learn more about the direction of your career/occupation, learn more about the direction of the industry, and so much more.

Take the time to ask this question to become a more well-rounded individual and become a better working professional. In addition, it helps to showcase some brownie points that you’re interested in learning more and developing as an individual.

7.) Will You Be Attending Other Conventions / Job Fairs?

This question serves to provide two different answers that you can use. First, you can learn about potential opportunities you might have in the future to network with them and catch-up with them in the future. Second, you can also learn more about future conventions or job fairs that you should attend to network at.

8.) Do You Have Any Tips?

This is a great question to ask if you’re relatively new to the whole networking world. Even if you have some experience, it’s always a good idea to get different tips and tricks from those who are more experienced than you.

You might even learn some insight as to how you can improve for future conventions or job fairs moving forward. This insight and advice is critical to making sure that you’re doing everything you can to possibly secure an interview or a job down the road.

They might even recommend that you’re doing everything you should be, but that you might have a potential twist on how you go about doing it. For instance they might say something along the lines of, “I think you’re doing everything fine right now, but have you considered adding (X) to your efforts?”

Remember, any tips or tricks that you can learn at networking conventions or job fairs is critical to making your job search easier, and securing that job you’ve been seeking!

9.) I Am A (Profession), What Do You Think I Should Add To My Background?

There are going to be plenty of experienced professionals in your line of work / occupation / career, that you should take advantage of. For instance, you might interact or connect with a Registered Nurse (RN) who has fifteen years of experience compared to your two or three years of experience.

That extra experience is like a textbook of tools and information that you can use as a valuable resource when you’re conducting your job search and networking efforts.

Not to mention, experienced professionals always enjoy the feeling that they’re helping individuals overcome some of the challenges they face.

You can also gain some insight into how they’ve seen their career change in that time period and what they think will be important moving forward.

You might be considering going back to school to get some additional licensure or certification to stand out from the crowd, and the experienced professional you’re talking to might recommend you forego or get a different certification.

The more you can learn, the better. Ultimately, you can learn a lot from other professionals at these networking conventions and truly separate yourself from those individuals who don’t seek this useful advice from their more experienced professionals in the same occupation.

Take the time to learn as much as you can from these individuals, as their insight can be extremely useful for figuring out how your career will change over time, what things you should make a priority as you develop into a healthcare professional or hospital professional, and what things you should continually add to your skill set to separate yourself from those other healthcare professionals you will be competing against in your job search efforts.

Using conversation starters is a great way for you to take a deep breath and have a go-to method of initiating a conversation with someone you’re unfamiliar with. The great thing about them is that you can use them with other people, and you don’t have to constantly think of new conversation starters.

Another great thing about the conversation starters we’ve mentioned is that they are incredibly versatile for any situation, and you won’t be left thinking of new ways to come up with something that might be an open-ended question for them to answer.


Avoid Becoming Too Much Of A Fan, Be Real

If you’ve followed our networking career guide and have planned out or done some research on who all is going to be attending the convention or job fair, you might recognize some names or individuals that you’re passionate about meeting and interacting with.

The thing you need to be careful of, is appearing like a fangirl or fanboy, instead of being a real person.

While it’s a good thing that you have some individuals who you aspire to be or look up to based upon their career accomplishments or track record, you don’t want to limit your networking efforts because you’re solely trying to connect with one or two individuals.

If you happen to run into those individuals that you were hoping to network with and connect with, then you also have to make sure that you’re not drooling over them when you get an opportunity to talk to them.

It can be relatively easy to hang on their words and drool over the fact that they are talking to you if you idolize them or hold their accomplishments to the highest standards, but you don’t want to come across as awkward.

When you’re drooling over their every word, you might have a thousand things running through your mind to make sure that you say the right thing and don’t trip up over something. The problem with this, is that when you do this, you might have awkward gaps of just standing there while you come up with the right thing to say.

The best way to make sure that you don’t have any fangirl or fanboy moments when you get an opportunity is to take a deep breath and realize that they’re a human just like you.

Everybody has to start out somewhere, and they most likely started in the exact same scenario as you. Take the time to use our tips above and try and gain as much insightful information as you can from them.

They might provide a handful of tips that you can use to separate yourself from other candidates and eventually become a pioneer like them.

The thing you want to be careful about is that you don’t solely focus on networking with them only.

When you only try to network with a handful of individuals, you can miss out on some of the best individuals who have more advice or tips to give that can lead to eventual job interviews or job offers.

If you happen to run into some of the people you were hoping to, great. If not, don’t stress the small stuff and focus on those individuals you did get a chance to network with and secure those connections.


Be Approachable

Throughout this career guide for networking at conventions and job fairs, we’ve outlined ways for you to approach others and how to initiate conversations to network with others in your job search efforts — but it doesn’t stop there.

The great thing about networking at conventions or job fairs is that frequently, you’ll be approached by others who are looking to network themselves. It might seem like you’re the one who has to initiate all of the conversations and reach out to network with others, but the truth to the matter is that you will be approached as often as you approach others, if not more!

The key to making sure that others approach you, is to make sure that you’re approachable. It might seem relatively easy to stay buried in your phone or constantly looking down at your notes.

You might even find yourself drifting towards the edge of the room or floor, or sitting on the edges of the convention room.

If you find that you’re doing this, try to position yourself in the center. The hub of activity will typically be in the center of the convention where others are forced to mingle and navigate around. If you find that you’re at the edge of the job fair or convention, you’ll be narrowing down the potential interactions you might have — which is something that you want to avoid.

In addition, you want to pay attention to your body language. Are your arms crossed? Do you have a mean mug on your face? Do you look like you’re ready to skip out at a moment’s notice?

Take the time to make sure that your body language looks like you’re excited to be there and that you’re hoping to learn and connect or network with other individuals.

Even if you don’t really want to be there, you have to take a different mindset and approach the convention or job fair with a positive attitude.

Others will naturally approach someone who looks like they’re having a good time or excited to be there versus someone who looks like they could care less and is looking for any opportunity to leave. Don’t be that person, strive to make sure that you are approachable in every scenario.


Make Your Nametag Visible

It can be easy to forget someone’s name in mid-conversation, and luckily there are ways to avoid that. Make sure that you keep your nametag visible on your outfit. Make sure it’s not hidden behind any accessory you have with you when you’re attending these conventions and job fairs.

You don’t want to have your nametag underneath your tie or covered up when you hold your notepad to your chest as you’re writing notes or shuffling through papers to get another copy of your resume or business card.

In addition, you want to use nametags to your advantage. Nametags are a great way to walk up to someone and introduce yourself with a little bit of a personal touch. For instance, look at these examples:

• “Hey, my name is Sarah.”

• “Hello Jane, my name is Sarah, what brought you to this convention?”

As one can tell, the second example is a little bit more personal. It always feels good when someone calls you out by your name because it shows that they care about actually making a connection, instead of just going through the motions of trying to meet someone and then move on.

When you interact with someone by using their name, you identify them and can recall your conversation with them at a later time.

The same works on the other side of the interaction, as they can personally introduce themself to you by using your name, and can recall the conversation at a later date by matching the name to the face.

If they provide a nametag for you to pick up at a convention, take advantage of it and pick one up.


Be Receptive and Open To Others

This is very similar to our tip about being approachable. You also want to be receptive and open to others. It’s important to remember that you never know what connections you can potentially establish from others.

You might go into a convention with the plan to interact with a few individuals and be disappointed when you don’t get the opportunity to interact with them.

Even if you do get a chance to interact with and network with those individuals you were hoping to, they might not even know of potential job openings for you to consider, or be willing to pass your resume along to someone who is looking for qualified healthcare professionals.

The most likely scenario that you will have is receiving a fantastic recommendation from the individual you didn’t even realize was going to attend the conference.

There are plenty of fantastic connection opportunities and career opportunities from those individuals that you hadn’t even considered, so make sure you’re receptive and open to everyone when considering your networking options.


Have Exit Strategies Ready

There are going to be times when you’re interacting with and or connecting with someone and the conversation isn’t going anywhere. It might even feel like an uphill battle for you to continually try and find ways to push the conversation into an area where they are interested to talk to you.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to hit it off every single time with each person that you connect with. You need to come up with potential exit strategies for individual conversations.

Exit strategies allow you to back out of a conversation with grace and politely excuse yourself to find a new connection opportunity. In addition, a successful exit strategy will allow you to leave the convention when you’re tired or you’ve been there for quite some time and can’t see any new connection or networking opportunities.

There are plenty of ways that you can politely end a conversation and move on to the next one. LifeHack has put together some of the best exit strategies to use for every conversation, and below are some of the best ones.

• Mention that you’re going to go get a drink.

• Mention how you have to go check on a friend to see where they ran off to.

• Politely end the conversation with something along the lines of, “Well it was fantastic meeting you, hopefully we can catch up in the future.”

There’s nothing wrong with backing out of a networking conversation that isn’t going anywhere. Your time is valuable, and so is their’s.

Every single connection or individual you network with isn’t going to be an absolute home run, but the good news is that there are going to be tons of interactions you make at networking conventions and job fairs. So don’t stress about it.


Create Specific Goals

What do you want to accomplish in going to networking events? Before you actually attend a convention or fair, make a list of concrete goals and stick to them.

When you create specific goals that you want to accomplish, you can create a roadmap for how to approach the convention or job fair. When you have a roadmap planned out, you can ensure that you’re not just wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what to do, who to network with, and when you should leave.

Maybe you want to meet specific presenters, or you might want to talk with certain organizations. Make that a top priority. It’s important to map out your top priorities so you have a plan on what you want to accomplish.

Other goals could be collecting business cards, practicing meeting people at a different level than you are — like celebrity presenters or big organizations, or making memorable impressions.

One of the best goals you can shoot for is to set up a coffee date with an influencer or presenter in your field.

If it's a job fair, try to set up a follow up meeting, or at least ask if you can contact them for an interview.

However, this can be difficult to pull off, since many people at the same event are going to be trying to same things. That shouldn't discourage you, though, because if you don't try, you've already failed.

Whatever your goal is, spend time making it meaningful and useful.

If your goal is handing out marketing materials, like business cards to important people, try to have real conversations, and make a great first impressions.

When you set clear goals, with clear objectives, the results you will see from your networking efforts will pay off tenfold.


Research Speakers and Organizations

Take time to check out who will be presenting, and take time to find out the important organizations that will be at the networking event. This strategy will give you a clearer picture of what questions you need to prepare and goals you need to create.

When researching, visit the organization's websites, or Google the speakers to learn more about them — their mission and their backgrounds. Find out what's important to them and their principles.

Create questions geared to fit their expertise; try to engage them intellectually. Try to meet them; however, before meeting the speaker, try to email them before the event to get on their mind. Mention in the email that you look forward to seeing them at the event. If you can build a history with a presenter, it will help break the ice when you see them in person.

Don't be afraid to meet people at the events, and make sure to be clear and time conscious. Come with intelligent, open-ended questions. In most cases time is limited for everyone, so make yours count.


Make a Schedule

Since time is limited and important, make a schedule. It will help you move around the event with purpose and tact. Be sure to spend time listening to the presenters you would like to meet, and also don’t forget to mingle with people in the field you’re interested in.

This tactic allows you to meet with people on your level that are more willing to listen and help.

Pick the most important organizations you want to meet with, and make a list of the presenters you want to listen to. Make it a top priority to make it to their booth or presentation.

Take time to hang out in any lounge areas like lunch rooms or break rooms. You can meet people in a more relaxed setting, and giving you some beneficial connections with like-minded peers. Set appointments with presenters or leaders of the organization prior to the event, so you can use time wisely and meet them at a particular time; instead of, trying to schedule an appointment on the spot.

Go to the parties; schedule a time to go have cocktails with people you meet and attend the after parties. It might cut into your sleep time, but you can engage with people in a loose atmosphere; this is when people have their guards down.

In fact, post-event celebrations are typically the best places to engage with peers on an individual, personal level. Take advantage of the setting, gathering as much information as you can.


Dress Stylish, Stay Fresh

Whether it's a job fair or a convention, you want to have an attire that fits the dress code. You don't want to be the only guy that shows up in a suit and tie, but you don't want to look like a slob either.

It is important to research the event you will attend and match the dress code. It's probably safe to assume that most dress codes are conservative, business attire, but some conventions are casual, so you don't need to wear a three piece suit. Check the itinerary for information. Look stylish and polished.

Just because you don't have to wear a suit doesn't mean you shouldn't look clean. Even if you can wear shorts, make sure they aren't ratty and stay away from the graphic tee.

Keep some mints on hand. Most fairs and conventions last for hours, so it is important to keep yourself looking and smelling fresh. Keep some deodorant and a comb in your computer case, brief case, or bag. You don't want to blow a important meeting because you smell like coffee or onions.


Business Cards

Business cards are an important and overlooked element in your networking plan. Business cards can say what you might not get a chance to. Make sure they are clean, understated, and professional.

A good business card can work for you when you might only get a passing moment for an introduction. State your name, email, phone, and a main deliverable--specific functions and capabilities you possess.

Keep them concise and clean. Don't cloud them with eye garbage. If you don't have any business cards, you can create your own and order them from Vistaprint.

Be prepared to accept and store other peers business cards and information. Keep a card binder or folder to house people's business cards. Don't forget you can store information in your phone as well.


Make An Introduction

Strike up a conversation with anyone who seems interesting or any big presenters who may seem unattainable. Many people are willing to talk as long as you're intelligent about it and ask smart, open-ended questions that engages and prompts a dialogue.

Be friendly. Don't alienate people with a pretentious demeanor, or shut off people whom you think are lesser than you. Be open to any conversation, and be able to maneuver through any situation you find yourself.

Engaging people with a good smile and non-intrusive eye contact will make a good impression, and it shows people you care about what they have to say. Since time is limited, keep introductions to about 30 seconds or a minute. This is plenty of time to gauge if a further conversation is possible or wanted. Don't sound rushed or rehearsed.

Be genuine, and talk to people like they're humans, not opportunists.

Listen to what others have to say, and encourage their speaking over yours. Don't jump in and finish their sentences; sit back and let them talk. Not only will it make them like you, but you can think about more questions, and learn about who you are talking to.


Meet Presenters

Take time to try and meet presenters and people that you think are “out of your league”. Not only will it build your confidence, it might land you some meaningful connections. Be sure to go to their presentations, and take great notes.

Sit close to the stage and listen intently. Stimulate conversations with great questions during the presentation, if given the chance.

After they are done with their speech, try to make an impression, and get some of their time. If they talk to you, ask them two of your most important questions, and try to land an interview or meeting at a later time.

Be short, and don't take up much of their time. If it doesn't work out, try to at least slip them a business card, and send them an email later in the week, if you can.

Although it's important to meet presenters and high profile individuals, don't spend all your time trying to do so. It is also important to meet people on your level, and peers that will be more willing to talk to you and make beneficial connections. Just because they aren't high profile individuals, doesn't mean they can't connect you with someone who is.


Follow Up

After the commotion has died down from the convention or fair, it is important to keep ties with those you met and made connections with. Maintaining your network is just as important as building it.

Email those you want to meet with again,within a few days. You want to stay fresh in their minds, and continue building on your history.

Wait until at least a day or two until you email them; that way you don't seem needy or overly eager. Send them something that will spur a conversation or articles on a topic they shared interest in.

If you share a similar interest, send them something along those lines to connect on a more personal level. Gain more interest from them by sharing any resources you may have that they'd find valuable. They'll appreciate your consideration of their needs, and they may reward you in the future.

When the opportunity presents itself, try to land a follow up interview or coffee meet-up. Be sure to share info and connections to those you connected with at the event.

Keep up with your peers, and send them relevant helpful articles that might advance their job search. Meet up from time to time for a networking mastermind session. Spend time brainstorming and helping each other, even after you have landed a job.


Social Media

Social media has become increasingly more important over the past decade, and will continue to dominate the online networking world. Keep up with all the people you meet from networking events on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You can learn more about them personally and professionally through social media. You can remain fresh in their minds, because they can see your updates and pictures frequently.

Social Media is also important for meeting people and prospective employers. With social media, you can research and find influential players in a company, and make connections to start building a history that you can use later when you prepare for meeting in person.

Similarly, headhunters and employers can search for people like you and, if you sculpt your social media profiles well, find you based on your keywords and professional qualifications.

Be weary of what you post to your profiles though. Change the privacy settings, so potential employers cannot see anything you would find embarrassing, as it could cost you an offer in the future.

Read more about Networking Through Social Media.



When using conventions and job fairs to network, be sure to do your research. Find out who's going to be there, what their company does, and decide who you would like to meet. Also figure out what you want to accomplish by going to these events.

There's not enough time in the day to meet everyone and attend every event, so make a schedule and try your best to stick to it.

Make the most of your time, so don't waste it. These opportunities don't come around every day. Mingle and make as many good connections as you can. Talk to people you are interested in, and be courteous in dismissing yourself from those who are not.

Be genuine, ask good questions, and get people talking. Hand out business cards and accept them ones that are being handed to you. Most importantly, keep up with the connections you make at these events, maintain your network to keep opportunities open, and have fun!

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