Your success at a career conference completely depends on your ability to network before, during, and after it. My last post, the Career Conference Survival Kit, delves into what you should bring with you. This is the companion piece to that--what you should do once you're there.
If you haven’t set up any interviews or meetings prior to arriving, don’t stress! You can still maximize your time with these simple networking tips and snag an interview for the future.
Ask for contact info.
Whether it’s a recruiter, an employee, or the lady behind you in line, don’t forget to ask for their contact info! Pick your poison:
“Do you have a business card?”
“Can I email you?”
“Can I connect with you on LinkedIn?”
Several recruiters at the last career conference I went to told me I was the first person to ask for their business cards-- and that was on day two, when they’d already spoken with hundreds of people. That’s just sad, y’all.
Want more networking tips? Check out 9 DO’s and DON’Ts of the #Hustle
You don’t have to get contact info for every single person you meet. If you did, you’d have an enormous stack of business cards and no desire to use any of them.
If you have an awesome conversation with somebody or even a mediocre one but the company is on your hit list, then charge full speed ahead and get their contact info. If it’s a “meh” conversation or company, don’t be afraid to thank them for their time and move on. No sense in pursuing something that’s not going to be a good fit.
Determine an action step.
In the course of your conversation with this person make sure you know what you're going to do after the talking is over. This could be applying online about a job you’ve discussed, setting up an interview, or finding an article you mentioned they might like.
Often a recruiter will bring up an action step on their own. The most common one I've heard is “apply on our site”. This might feel like a brush off but it doesn't have to be. Once you get their contact info, remind them you’ll be doing just that and will follow up with them once it’s done. Now you have an excuse to keep up the relationship.
You’ll be talking to a ton of people, so when you have one of these great chats you don’t want to forget them due to sheer volume of conversations. Make it easier on yourself and jot down some info ASAP once the conversation is over.
I usually scribble down a couple things on the back of their business card right after the conversation and then transfer more in depth thoughts into a notebook later. It sounds like I’m taking a crap ton of notes but I’m not-- it’s really just as simple as name, company, action step, and conversation topics (“we talked about pugs and marketing automation!” etc.).
You didn’t think you’d be done when the career fair ends, did you? Make sure you follow up the next week at the latest. Reference your conversation (this is where those handy notes come in) and update them on what action step you took and how it went.
It’s also a good idea to have a question for them in order to continue the conversation. This should be relevant to whatever you two talked about (“you mentioned interviews would start next month, is that correct?”) or a question you thought of about the job/company/industry after your initial conversation ended.