I received an email invitation recently from a business acquaintance for a professional networking opportunity. It was a great idea, and I appreciated his initiative. I also realized what great application there was to do something like this if you were in a job search!
Let me explain...
My business contact, that I don't know well, however, have had some connection with in the past, sent an invitation to 10 people for a holiday networking lunch. He presented the idea very professionally and graciously as a means for each of us to expand our networks, get to know new people that he found interesting, and share thoughts or ideas that may be beneficial for each of us. He explicitly said there would be no agenda, and he's not trying to sell anything, however, thought it would be a great opportunity for each of us to widen our circles of professional contacts.
He listed the names, titles, and companies of each of the people he sent the invitations to, and it was clearly a well thought out combination. They were a mix of people in the same field or industry, some potential clients, and some potential vendors. Each one had something unique that made them interesting to everyone else on the list.
The lunch promises to be worthwhile for everyone!
For someone in a job search, wanting to take their networking to the next level, creating this kind of event could be a tremendous boost.
In your job search, what if you were to find, and select 10 hiring managers, leaders, or influencers in the same field from 10 companies you may be targeting? Invite them to a lunch as an opportunity to network with others in their same field in order to expand their own networks, exchange ideas, and gain new insight into how other companies tackle various issues.
Let them know, that even though you are currently seeking a new role for yourself, this lunch is primarily intended as a means of building relationships and learning for all involved.
Leaders at companies today don't often get opportunities to build their network and learn from others in their field or industry. This kind of chance to do that is likely to be very appealing for most.
Even if only 3 or 4 choose to attend, the benefits for all that participate can be very worthwhile.
Be cautious not to use the venue as a platform to sell yourself overtly to the group. It will not be well received. Rather, only if asked, share a brief elevator speech. Focus instead, primarily on facilitating discussion among the group.
The opportunity to follow up professionally after the event is when you are most likely to benefit. When you are viewed as someone that was able to connect appropriate peers in their field, take initiative to create a worthwhile event, and present yourself as a competent professional, you will have gained more credibility than the vast majority of other people they might consider for a role at their companies.
Don't make assumptions about your relationship or their interest after the event. Treat them with the same professionalism and respect as if there had been no event. However, you are very likely to find a much greater receptiveness than you would have otherwise.
Select people not only from organizations that you know have an open position, however, from a variety of companies that interest you whether they have a current position open or not.
Contacts at companies that you are pursuing, that may be lukewarm when you reach out strictly for job opportunities, and much more likely to engage with you for an opportunity where they see a greater benefit for themselves.
It's often said that effective networking is a two-way street. That it's always helpful to find ways you can be of value to others, and that it's better to give before you get. This idea is an exceptional way to accomplish that.
It's not necessary to buy the lunch... as that can obviously become quite expensive, especially if you are unemployed. Make it clear in the invitation that you only hope to provide the opportunity, and that it's a BYOL (Buy Your Own Lunch) event. The value of the event will be apparent and the cost to them will be immaterial. Most are likely to be able to have their respective companies reimburse them anyhow.
This kind of networking certainly takes initiative, boldness, and special attention to your professionalism to be successful. However, if you really want to do your Holiday Networking Like A Pro... this is one way to do it!