In my latest Forbes leadership post, I shared 5 reasons why career changers don’t get interviews:
I have made multiple career changes myself, and I have made all these mistakes. One of the hardest things for me was to find a whole new network. I needed to meet a whole new crop of people when I transitioned from financial services to media and from business to acting and from employee to entrepreneur.
The best way to jumpstart your network in large quantities is to go to large events — conferences, professional meetings. Yet, I don’t do well at large networking events. I find it awkward and overwhelming, and I either leave early or spend most of my time at the food table (or both!).
Here are some tips for navigating at large events to expand your network even if you find these venues intimidating too:
Bring a friend and trade introductions.
Don’t just talk to each other. Split up but agree that you will find people to refer to each other. It takes the pressure off of you to pitch yourself as you’ll be promoting your friend, and you listen more closely to find people to introduce.
Make it a numbers game.
If you might get frustrated or flustered and leave early, set a target of 3 or 5 people to meet before you can go. This alleviates the stress of having to meet everybody. Instead, you just need to meet a few people
Give yourself a job.
Don’t just attend the event as a member. Volunteer to register people so you have to gather names. Moderate a panel. Offer to be a gofer to set up for the next panel. With something to do, it gives you a reason to interact with people and takes your mind off of being nervous.
Give yourself some structure.
One of my favorite networking groups was when I transitioned into acting and joined a marketing club comprised of actors pooling resources as part of a structured mastermind program. We each had a publication to read and share with the group — this way, our group of 15 covered 15 publications without each of us having to read all 15. We contributed funds towards an “audition gift basket” that consisted of candy, novelties and our headshots, which we hand-delivered to various agents around the city (again with each of the 15 taking a handful we covered dozens of agents but in a short time for each of us). Finally, we met weekly and reported on what we were working on and where we were stuck. I’m still friends with some of the people I met in this mastermind over 10 years later.
What is your favorite tactic to expand your network quickly and broadly?