Beware the "scam" networking events ...

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I'm usually a great advocate for getting out and doing networking events in almost any context other than those "room full of unemployed people" functions (which are always depressing and rarely prove to be anything other than useless), however I got suckered into something last night that "is going to leave scars". 

This was an event run by a local "institute" which I'd heard mentioned with a certain amount of  frequency in various settings over the past several years.  I'd never had an opportunity to check them out before, and they were offering a "networking event" with a presentation, which was going to have a few hundred people attending.

I figured, a new networking context, a lot of people, maybe I could make some new connections that would prove useful, right?  Plus, it was both free, and an easy shot from my place. 

Things started out OK, I saw a half a dozen people that I knew in the crowd, it was being professionally run (perhaps too much so, in retrospect), and they had some nice snacks (always a nice touch at 5:30). 

However, then the warning signs started coming, first, rather than "open" networking, there was a "treasure hunt" with a form to fill in the names of people in the crowd with certain attributes, some usual ("have traveled to Europe", "had never gotten a speeding ticket"), some unduly probing (things you'd never ask a stranger). 

Next, a few minutes before the start of the "program" a small army (there were maybe 30 staff/volunteers for about 300 attendees) descended on the meeting room, removing about a quarter to a third of the chairs in the back of the room. 

This is always a "control" move, usually to create an illusion of scarcity ("ooh, we're lucky to have gotten a seat!") and in this case to create uncomfortable levels of proximity. 

The presentation, which promised to be informative ended up being "activity" driven, and was, essentially, a 2-hour commercial for the Institute's programs.  This group frequently gives out "gift certificates" for a 100% discount on their introductory weekend programs, but they push VERY hard to have you put your credit card information on these slips, and then "to win a prize" at the end of the evening, you had to fill out and deposit these. 

The scam is that if you don't end up attending the "free" weekend program in question, you get charged a penalty of nearly $100 ... so if you fill out your certificate in order to win a prize, you're basically committing to a 30-hour weekend program, which, if you don't complete, they also charge you that penalty!

I suppose I should be glad that I attended this last night, as I'm pretty sure there was no way that I wouldn't have walked out of the weekend program, and I'd previously considered signing up for this.  It's amazing how many cult-like enthusiasts they had there, however ... I thought folks learned about that after "Jonestown" in the 70's!

The point I'm making is to check out the group that's hosting the event.  There are a lot of scam artists out there preying on the unemployed, in this case using the "networking" hook to get you in the door and then trying to leverage your desperation to get you to "drink their kool-aid"!

Anyway, this was a pretty good week for job-search stories rolling past on my Twitter stream, and I plucked out 14 of the better ones for you to check out:

• Gallup's U.S. Job Creation Index Highest Since September '08

• Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Hitting 10.3% in February

• Honest and Humble? You're Hired

• 10 Cover Letter Don'ts

• 2011 Job Market to Become Even More Competitive

• Breaking Out of Long-Term Unemployment

• Your Online Footprint and Your Job Search!

• Unemployed? Now What? 4 Things to Do Right After You Lose Your Job

• Be the First Applicant with this Job Search Tip

• What It Takes to Get Your Resume Noticed: Three Sizzling Secrets

• 5 Hiring Process Myths You Need to Know

• What HR People Won't Tell You About the Job Interview

• 5 Job Skills in Demand in 2011

• Are You Job Search Weary?

As usual, I've added this week's items into the alphabetically sorted "Big List of Links" and have that formatted as a 35-page e-book for your convenience. Click here: 

TJS-LinkList-110311.pdf

  to download your copy!

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