When you attend a networking event, whether a conference, seminar or business-club meeting, your work has just begun. It's the follow up after the event that can really pay dividends for you.
This includes trading information that is valuable to each other over e-mail and gaining extended connections from a single contact. I spoke with Shama Hyder, president of Click To Client, LLC, a full-service online marketing firm, about the value of networking events and how to make them more meaningful for you as a job seeker.
Hyder, who was named one of the “10 Most Powerful and Influential Women in Social Media" in Ron Hudson’s Immediate Influence blog, suggested specific follow-up activities to get more return on your investment from future networking events. Too many people walk away from networking events feeling good but doing nothing, she said. Instead, take just one of the following decisive actions:
1. Introduce two people to one another.
Hyder said that one of her colleagues, Jim Penny, is a master at this because he finds one person at each event and introduces him to someone else Penny thinks that person should know. According to Hyder, where those two people take the relationship is up to them, but Penny is always remembered as the guy who made the introduction! You can do this, too.
2. No later than 24 hours later, send an e-mail.
Don't wait until the next day or the next week. Chances are you won't get around to it, and even if you do, the recipient may not recall who you are. Hyder suggested that you send an e-mail to everyone you took a card from. Even if you don't see an immediate connection, just say thanks.
3. Contact one PRP (Potential Referral Partner).
For Hyder, a PRP may be someone to whom she can send business or someone whose clients her firm can help. The best PRPs are those who can figure out a win-win situation.
The same applies to your job search. In the case of job hunters, seek out one PRP at each networking event with whom to share job leads and resources. One of the best ways to grow both a business and a network is by collaborating with others. Joint ventures can be amazingly powerful, Hyder said. Whenever she networks, she tries to seek out one referral partner.
4. Make notes on your experiences.
Hyder added that whenever she returns from events, her mind is spinning with new ideas. If she doesn't write them down, they get lost. Bullet-point ideas, or write them across your whiteboard. Just get them down!
5. Check your Web site.
If you have a Web site, make sure it's working well and the links are active. If you met a lot of people, chances are some will check out your Web site. Make sure that it is up to date and a good representation of who you are.
6. Thank the host, if applicable.
This especially applies to local events that are put together by one individual. A quick note thanking that person will go a long way.
7. Check your networking supplies.
Replenish your stock of contact cards, note pads, resumes and other networking materials after each event in preparation for your next one.
As social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter grow in popularity, we tend to forget about that "old-fashioned" approach to networking: face-to-face contact. Sure, it's a lot easier to sit behind the computer all day and network using the point-and-click method. But hires don't happen online; they happen after people talk on the phone or in person.
According to the latest “Source of Hire” study from CareerXRoads, more than 27 percent of external hires in America are from referrals. In fact, it's the No. One external source of hires today. You need a clear, consistent networking strategy if you want to reap the rewards of "being in the loop" for job openings that aren’t advertised.
Spend some of your search time attending networking events to widen your possibilities. To get the biggest payoff, though, don't neglect to follow up. It’s what you do after the event that can make or break its effectiveness for your search.
As a recruiter, Joe Turner spent 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. The author of “Job Search Secrets Unlocked” and “Paycheck 911,” Joe also hosts his weekly Job Search Guy Radio Show on JobRadio.fm as well as other locations. You'll find free tips and advice on landing a job in this tough economy at: http://www.jobchangesecrets.com.