By Susie Rantz
Finding a job can be an intimidating, challenging, and frustrating process. There are a million job boards to sift through and resumes and cover letters to customize. How do you stand out in a sea of other job applicants?
The best way to find these opportunities is by connecting with people around you. Your network of friends, relatives, and new acquaintances can be one of the most valuable job search resources. Networking can sound intimidating, but it can also be rewarding and fun—even if, like me, you shudder at the thought of approaching people you don’t know. The very idea of attending one more networking event gets my stomach churning, my palms sweating, and my throat tightening.
So how can you ensure networking advances your job ambitions and is more fun than a chore?
Type “job networking tips” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find a ton of great ideas. I don’t want to duplicate this heap of expert advice. Instead, I invite you to join me in thinking outside the box about job networking. Here are five tips for making the experience fun—and productive!
1. Go where you feel comfortable
There are a lot of career-focused networking events, and those intimidate me the most. Talk about high stakes! Hobby or skill-based groups can be a great alternative. One friend found multiple job opportunities while attending a meetup group for a game-development program he was using for fun. He worked in construction at the time—nothing remotely close to computer programming. In addition, I once attended a casual event for Seattle Sounders fans, and while I wasn’t searching for a job, I had multiple opportunities to talk about my work and skills. Yes, this happened at a soccer meetup, where I felt comfortable and the career stakes were low.
2. Find ways to help others
Networking is a two-way street; it is not just about asking for favors. Your side of the street should focus on helping others. This help can be as big as volunteering regularly for a cause you love, or as small as offering to babysit for a friend. As fellow GeekGirlCon staff member Laurel McJannet put it, “Do good work with people who share your values, and they’ll remember you or be a reference for you when a job opening comes up.” Another friend found a job in her desired career field as a direct result of her volunteer experience with GeekGirlCon.
3. Be the connector
Another form of giving is introducing people. Find ways to introduce friends, colleagues, and acquaintances with one another. Do you have a friend and a coworker who both like to brew their own beer? Offer to introduce them. This makes you a valuable connector and invites others to do the same for you—providing an opportunity to expand your network. One friend started a blog about Pittsburgh, focused on connecting people and businesses across the city, and said the experience was not only a great networking tool, it also helped her gain confidence in talking to people.
4. Don’t discount those chance encounters
I am an introvert, and the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger terrifies me. But I have talked to more people than I can count on my hands and feet whose job opportunities came as a result of random conversations with a stranger. One friend told me she was offered an interview and was eventually hired by the guy sitting next to her on an airplane. They were both coming back from a major industry conference, and the plane was filled with other techies. Be open to putting yourself out there when you least expect it.
5. Attend GeekGirlCon 14
Our annual convention provides one of the best opportunities to meet career mentors or get job leads—especially if you are looking to enter a career field where women are underrepresented. Our Connections Room will feature booths from some of the leading technology, video game, nonprofit, and science companies. We will also host networking hours throughout the convention focused on specific career interests, and we’ll have a Connections programming room for panels, workshops, and Q&A sessions focused on education opportunities and leadership and career development.
These are five tips that can help enhance your networking experience. What other tips would you offer? Please share them below!
Susie Rantz is the Manager of Connections, a GeekGirlCon program focused on providing career mentorship, leadership development, and networking opportunities for women and girls