Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Networking Lunch

Having a difficult time finding employment around the holidays? Potential employers saying "thanks, but no thanks" to your resume (via email or phone)? One piece of advice: Request a networking lunch.

A networking lunch is just as it sounds. It's a lunch where you network with someone or someones in your field. It allows you to get in front of someone that (hopefully) is established and knowledgeable of the business environment in your area. They know people who know people. They work directly with your ideal future boss. They have contact info for folks you never knew would be interested in what you do. They may not have the answer, but they can help you ask the right questions.

The economy is down, unemployment and job scarcity are up, and businesses are stuck in the middle fielding an onslaught of resumes on a daily basis. That can't be easy. Think of it like newspaper advertisements (no offense ad agencies) and how the print ads often disappear when you're reading like invisible ink. Don't let that be your resume. Make it easier on potential employers by having a chicken salad pita with the head of PR and asking them what they need, how they prefer to receive it, whether they know anybody that can benefit from your skills, and drop off a resume or two to pass along. It can't hurt.

This networking lunch can be mutually beneficial as well. You have the opportunity to sell yourself in a casual setting (rather than an oak desk, perfectly parallel pens and dust-free pictures of family; think bar table, random poppy seed crumbs and ketchup stained menus). Just a wee bit easier to be yourself, right? The individual across the table is a human being too; they appreciate relaxed atmospheres as much as you. It's a chance for them to scout talent for colleagues and friends, establish a freelance contact, and/or promote the local business environment.

Not everyone is going to schedule a lunch with a stranger during their busy work week. However, if you put yourself out there as a professional, you might be surprised at how many people will carve out an hour to chat with you. I've had a couple of these network lunches over the past month. Many thanks to Gotham, LLC and X-Factor Marketing in Hickory, NC, Mark Brock of Wray Ward and Bert Woodard of Next Level Communications in Charlotte. No, I'm not hired yet; I'm hopefully making it on some "to consider in '09" lists though. It really is about who you know these days.

Best of luck, I know I need it too.

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