So, it's a holiday week ... and not all that much is happening on the "standard" networking calendar ... but I wanted to do a post about the importance of networking. Last night I was off at the "Tweetsgiving" event being hosted by Mark Carter of Networking for a Cause and Veronica Ludwig of 3 Degrees Networking which, while not being as well attended as I had hoped, was still productive.
As I've noted here, I spend a massive amount of time at the computer researching jobs, cranking out resumes, reading up on job search tips, as well as "industry" info to keep myself fresh. However, as often as not, the more productive efforts are those made in attending networking events, and I try to get out to at least two a week. Last night was a good example of how a relatively small crowd (I already knew about 1/3rd of the folks in attendance) can create useful contacts ... one of the folks I met was a recruiter, who (while not "specializing" in my area, had an opening which was "close") asked me to send him my resume, and another was a guy who had been with the "target" company that I mentioned last week, who gave me the name and contact information for the likely hiring manager for that position!
I also chatted with a fellow who does "hard money" funding who would be interested in hearing the pitch from some other folks I know who are doing tech/media start-ups, and a photographer who specializes in pets who I'm putting in touch with my long-time friends at Best Friends Animal Society, just in case there's some synergy there. This is a key element in networking ... even while you're out there looking for work, you have a lot of contacts and experience that can prove useful to others, and making yourself useful to others is a real good way to have others help you out down the line!
Obviously, the sorts of networking events that I tend to go to might not be the sorts which would specifically benefit your job search, although general "charity" and "civic" events cross all categories. Find the organizations which are in your job area (Google is your friend!) and see what sort of events are happening associated with them. Sign up for the MeetUp service (it's free) and look through their listings (there are 379 meetups happening within 25 miles of Chicago this week) for the things that sound interesting to you. Remember, you don't have to concentrate on your job area, as you'll make potentially helpful connections in almost any of these! You will also want to look into the more recent "TweetUp" system ... these are less formal than the "meetups" (which inspired the name), and tend to be scheduled "on the fly" (I've been to several which had only been announced 3-4 days in advance), but can provide another set of networking opportunities.
Another resource to consider is the venerable Career Transitions Center of Chicago, whose calendar includes numerous networking events, and which also provides job-search cubicle space, coaching, and workshops for a very reasonable quarterly fee.
Sure, this week is not the best for getting out there (despite the hundreds of things on the MeetUp calendar) with Thanksgiving coming up, but that gives you some evenings to do your research, and be good-to-go with a list of possible events to jump into next week!