Networking for those who hate networking events...

How I look when entering some networking events...minus the car seat and hair.

It's odd to think that a recruiter wouldn't want to be involved in networking events.  I never thought of myself, prior to going to college, as an extroverted individual...someone who can just walk in to a room of people and start a conversation.  I was always timid when approaching new people, but never so much to where I would avoid it.  I would push myself to meet new people, have a conversation with them if I could.  But what do I say?  What would break the ice and why is there ice to begin with??  Who came up with that phase, break the ice???

College taught me a lot about myself.  Joining a fraternity gave me the confidence in myself I never had.  It brought me out of my shell, which got me into this wonderful field of work.  It takes time to refine the art of gab.  It takes time to understand the nuances of how people carry themselves, what breaks the ice, and how to respond to questions with humor and when needed, directness.  I see a lot of people try to get in to recruiting/sales who don't have the ability to talk...but that doesn't mean they can't get it, they just don't challenge themselves to acquire the wording necessary to carry on a random conversation.

I think Bob Odenkirk is the only person I have ever seen be able to do this...and he was acting.

HOW I GOT OUT OF MY SHELL

Networking events are a common requirement to attend as a recruiter.  Most firms have some kind of policy for it, yet don't have any oversight on it.  They don't help those recruiters use these events to produce connections.  It's a "thrown to the wolves" situation.  Well, I'm not Liam Neeson and I can't fight through the wolves without overcoming my fear of rejection.  How do I get around the awkwardness?  I find the one person sitting by themselves, and I sit next to them.  The train of thought here:

  1. Force myself to meet someone new (duh)
  2. Find an easy target to get myself out of my own head (someone by themselves is less daunting than a group)
  3. Make a connection, taking advantage of the fact that person sitting by themselves probably doesn't want to be there any more than I do (I have a Netflix account like the rest of you)

Joking aside, there is a strange effect that happens here.  Others will join you.  They will see a pod of people developing, and will start sitting close by, if not next to, you and join in on the conversation.  You created the daunting group you thought was too large to tackle.  You are now the center of it, without having to do much in the process other than introduce yourself to 1 person and find common ground ("So what do you think about this Tom Brady thing?").

HOW I USE THIS IN BUSINESS

Being a technical recruiter means I work with the most amazingly weird people in the world, and I love it because I am one of them.  Coming from a developer background, I know how to tactfully hide my head behind my laptop to not be noticed.  I know how to shut down my mouth and listen to the world around, absorbing but not adding.  But, when I get out of my shell, I will talk until my listener dies of dehydration.  So, what kind of groups work for me best?

In Atlanta, the largest and arguably most successful technical networking event is TAG, which stands for Technology Association of Georgia.  There are multiple divisions of it, focusing on all aspects of technology usage in business.  It is also dominated by aggressive sales people and recruiters alike.  Not my kind of place.  I prefer to be with the geeks, and that is why I focus on development groups.  But not just any groups...groups that I have common interest in.  If you aren't interested in the content, you can't engage in the relevant conversations to leverage the networking capacity in its entirety.  So, I joined Drupal about 4 years ago.  ADUG, or the Atlanta Drupal Users Group, was one of the largest groups in Atlanta at the time, and one of the most well organized.  There were large companies involved regularly, like Mediacurrent and The Weather Company, both Drupal organizations.  Good place to get my feet in the door, being a former PHP developer.  I could relate technically to these people, and I enjoyed who I met with.  Every time I go to a meeting, I sit with the first person I see sitting alone, and the group starts to grow.

How else can I use my ability to talk, yet be out of my shell enough to do it?  Well, I created my own user group.  Meetup.com is a hell of a thing (if they ever go public, buy stock...).  This group is mainly designed for basic training in HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, and general computer repair/building.  It is free...all I spend is my time.  Created the courses, set up the Meetup page, and off to the races.  I now have close to 800 members, which rivals the Drupal group that has been around for 8 years in just 2.  This group is mine...I have matured it, created an identity for it, and attracted the type of people who not only I can place, but can relate to.  They are typically introverted individuals, some extroverted, but all with an average age of around 40.  I get random Sr. Oracle DBAs show up to my MySQL for Beginners classes...just to hear it from a different angle.  I have Network Architects show up to my Beginner HTML classes to learn the website they support.

Do I recruit these people?  Nope.  Dumb right?  Not at all.  I don't have to recruit them...they came to me.  I get more resumes and referrals from it than any networking event I have ever gone to, times 100.  They don't even know I'm a recruiter until they see the last slide of the presentation.

Drupal gives me my community involvement, outreach, and takes me out of my head...my Meetup is what I leverage heavily.  I now offer resume writing and mock interviewing classes to help people in their career...spread the knowledge a bit.

MORAL

I can't tell you to create your own event and that will make you successful.  My Meetup is successful because it's me.  It's how I want to run it.  I have confidence in my knowledge and presentation when I walk in the door.  I'm relaxed...you need to find that place that does that for you.  Allows you to be out of your shell.  A place that helps you relax (content, size, location, etc.) yet benefits you in either your person attributes (charisma, confidence, overcoming fear) or your professional ones (project management, business analysis, quality assurance, dog walking, etc.).  You need to push yourself to do great things...no one is going to walk by you and say "Hey, here's $6,000,000."  Either make your own destiny or find a road that will help you along...but it's up to you to drive.

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves." - William Shakespeare

Views: 432

Comment by Daniel Fogel on September 8, 2015 at 10:45am

Zachary,  thanks for posting!  Did you do any promotions or marketing for your group? Or was it all organic word of mouth?

Comment by Zachary Sines on September 8, 2015 at 10:53am

Well, a little bit of both.  Word of mouth mainly, but Meetup.com promotes events on their site.  We also promoted it via TRC's social media, but the following there isn't the core audience.  I also got a QR code for the group put on the back of my business cards.  The nice thing we had happen was the other user groups in town started promoting it, as we filled a void they had...beginner content.  Most user groups focus on pieces of technology with the assumption you already have a basic-intermediate understanding of the technology the group is focused on.  So they started sending people to my Meetup page, due to my networking efforts with the leaders (over the members).  In the first 2 months we hit 200 members...then there has been a steady flow of new members every week since.

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