Traditional career fairs are a bit outdated in today’s world. Instead, we are seeing more and more companies participate and invest in large scale conferences and summits aimed at bringing the community together. These events consist of keynote speeches, fire-side discussions with industry leaders, and post-event happy hour socials, among other community building activities.
While these networking conferences are not explicitly advertised as career fairs, they are still excellent opportunities to network with top employers in your industry and make a lasting impression as a star candidate. In Hong Kong, we had the Amazon Web Services Summit last week, and we have the much anticipated RISE Conference taking place starting today. Dubbed as “the largest tech conference in Asia” by Korea Times, RISE will feature Asia’s top tech companies and be filled with senior executives, recruiters, and hiring managers.
If you are actively looking for new opportunities or just simply want to make a good impression, consider utilizing these four tips to stand out among the crowd at these networking events and land your dream role.
1. Do your homework before the event
The list of companies in attendance can be overwhelming with some of these events having 100+ companies in participation. To eliminate the stress, review the companies in attendance a few days before the event and select five companies for your wish list. You are welcome to network with as many companies as you’d like on the day of, but it helps when you have five that you can put more effort and focus into.
Once your list is solidified, go on LinkedIn and research the profiles of the recruiters and key stakeholders for the teams you are most interested in. Take note of their vacant roles and understand the key skill sets that are required for each of them. I recommend compiling these data points on a simple spreadsheet and bringing this with you to the event for reference.
2. Warm up to your top five list
On the day of the conference, many candidates make the mistake of making a direct line towards the companies on their wish list. While I respect the enthusiasm, I encourage candidates instead to warm up with a few other companies first.
Go visit some booths that you are unfamiliar with and make casual chat with the recruiters. Continue this until you feel a good rhythm in your conversations and build some confidence along the way. Once you are ready to present your best self, now go approach the companies on your list.
3. Expand your network and ask thoughtful questions
It’s tempting to focus your efforts solely on the recruiters at these booths but don’t overlook the other volunteers. Many times, companies will send employees from different teams and levels of seniority to represent their companies, and their opinion will be worth a lot of weight as well. Be friendly and chat with everyone.
Once you have met a few of their staff, close in on the key members of the team(s) you are most interested in. For example, if you want to join Company XYZ’s Digital Marketing team, it would be beneficial to connect with the team’s Social Media Manager or Content Specialist if they are in attendance.
While it is great to share your own insights, it is most important to direct the conversation towards them and ask thoughtful questions that will help you better understand:
- The team’s biggest challenges, and/or a
- Critical project the team is working on at the moment
Keep these in mind because they will be helpful in Step #4.
Once you finish your conversations, collect their business cards, thank them for their time, and let them know you will be following up later this week…
4. The Follow-up
This final step is the most crucial. There are four main types of people who we commonly meet at these events:
- Those who don’t collect business cards
- Those who collect business cards but never follow up
- Those who collect business cards and follow up with a LinkedIn connection
- Those who collect business cards, add them on LinkedIn, and follow up with a value-added email
Which one of these have you been before? As your career coach, I encourage you all to strive to be more like #4, especially for the companies and teams you are most eager to join.
Remember those thoughtful questions we alluded to in Step 4? This is where they come in handy and become your ticket to making a memorable first impression. If you were able to dig into the team’s current challenges or big projects during the event, the next step is helping them with it.
Take the next couple of days to do thorough research on the specific challenges they are facing. Once you have a strong understanding of the issues, put your thoughts together and email them viable solutions that will positively impact their team’s progress. This can be in the form of a deck, written memo, spreadsheet, video or any other medium you are comfortable with.
This simple exercise — regardless of how accurate your recommended solution is — is what sets you apart. Not only does it show your passion for the role, but also demonstrates your resourcefulness and willingness to go above and beyond. The higher the quality of your work, the more they will remember and applaud your efforts. Trust me, 99% of the other candidates are not doing this. With this simple email attachment, you will be guaranteed to make a lasting impression.
Next, wait for their response and get ready for your upcoming interview 😉 Best of luck, my friends!
Thanks for reading! For those in Hong Kong, check out these networking events to practice these tips this week: