Looking for a job is a full-time job (Part 3: Networking!)

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Networking: Free cheese and crackers, booze and interesting people.

A lot of people hear the word "networking" and squish up their faces like they're avoiding a root canal, but I'm not one of them. Call me a believer. But I actually think networking is one of the ONLY fun things about looking for a job, especially in a fantastic city like Chicago where networking events abound.

I went to a really sweet networking event on Thursday - the OfficePort launch in downtown. If you haven't heard about it yet, OfficePort is a 15,000-square-foot office space at State and Washington Streets that allows independent freelancers, entrepeneurs and other independent professionals to "cowork" together in a single space.

The launch had everything a good networking event should have: free admission, nametags, a putting green, free booze and all the right people.  I stopped to chat with Attorney Ari W. Krigel and Steven Olson, vice president of commercial banking at First Midwest Bank (he's also the guy who helped finance the OfficePort deal).


Olson said networking is all about keeping an open mind (he and Krigel agreed that a little beer helps too). You never know who might be able to send a job lead your way. It isn't always the people you'd expect, he said. Once you get into a conversation, he said, be sure you can confidently express yourself.

"Know what you want, what you're looking for," he said.

I met some really interesting people at the event - a fellow writer, a photographer, a consultant or two and a few vice presidents. A few take-aways for those of you who didn't make it:

1. Have a business card (and a resume can't hurt).

While I'm technically unemployed, I'm also a writer. I really wish I'd thought to create business cards before I started networking. I was the only person at OfficePort handing out my contact information on a piece of notebook paper. You don't have to be employed to have a business card. Slap the word "independent" in front of your specialty, or, if you have a sense of humor about the whole thing, "professional genius" works nicely. Carry a bag stuffed with resumes. You never know who might ask to see it. But unless it's a career fair, I wouldn't recommend handing out your resume right and left. It's a little tacky and makes you look just a tad over-eager. (Of course, you are, but they don't need to know that).

2. Join, Join, Join.

There are some great web sites out there to help you find a networking event for nearly every day of the week. And remember, it doesn't have to say "networking event" on it to be a networking opportunity. Anyone you meet, and I mean anyone, could be the person who needs exactly the skills you have to offer.

Here are a couple of my favs:

Network In Chicago: An aggregate calendar of networking events in the city. Easy to automatically copy any event to your calendar. Maintained by Lisa Ghisolf.

Business Network Chicago: Great networking group, free to join, with lots of helpful portals for job seekers.

Meetup: Enjoy combining bubble tea with rock musicals? There's probably a Meetup group for that. And if there isn't, you can create one. Great way to meet people from all walks of life who have one thing in common. I've joined a bunch. 

3. Follow-up.

If you make a great connection at a networking event, send them an e-mail to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. If you discussed a business or job opportunity, remind them. Offer to meet for coffee. Or, if you met someone you just enjoyed getting to know, start following them on Twitter or send a little business their way if you can. Trust me, eventually the dividends add up.

If you know of any great networking groups around or have a great tip, post a comment!

Comments

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  • It's always good to learn about interesting was to network, but it is better to learn about *FREE* resources for the unemployed or underemployed job seeker out there. Office Port still sounds a little pricey for folks who don't have the extra cash.

  • In reply to ChrisVaughn:

    Check out the Network in Chicago site in this entry. There are a few good free networking events at least a couple of times a week.

  • In reply to ChrisVaughn:

    Thanks for the shout-out about Network in Chicago! Soon to have an email newsletter :)

  • In reply to gizmodesign:

    Thanks for creating it!

  • In reply to gizmodesign:

    True, now a days you can use social media as your resume wizard, it's fast, affordable, and massive. Just make sure you keep your resume template clean and professional, just like any other application.

  • In reply to ChrisVaughn:

    Sign up at the ResuMAYDAY Facebook page for free job search tips, job postings, articles and networking events throughout Chicagoland.

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