With B.C.’s unemployment rate scraping near all-time lows, plenty of job vacancies and businesses scrambling to find workers, it is an ideal time to be looking for a new job or one that requires more responsibility and comes with higher pay.
Networking has long been a strategy to help land a new job, although meeting potential employers, investors and new business acquaintances became challenging during the pandemic, when most events were done virtually.
In-person panel discussions, networking functions and gala dinners are starting to be held more regularly by industry associations and organizations that appeal to the broader business community, such as various boards of trade.
Going to these events is important because creating even loose connections with people can be helpful in landing a job. A study in Science magazine last month found that relatively weak ties on the networking site LinkedIn proved twice as effective in helping land a job than did stronger social ties.
Event postponements have made for an extra busy calendar of events this fall.
“We had to reschedule all of our January, February and March events from earlier this year to take place this fall, because of COVID-19,” Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) CEO Anita Huberman told BIV. “Next year we will be back to the regular schedule of events.”
Becoming a SBOT member has its perks given that the organization offers members reduced rates to attend events. Networking functions in advance of events are often open to the public at no charge, Huberman said.
Derek Schofield, membership advisory services director at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT), said there is a “huge appetite” for in-person networking events.
“A recent industry event of ours sold out so quickly we actually changed venues to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend,” he told BIV.
Avid networker and World Referral Network co-founder George Moen advises people seeking networking events to check out sites such as Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com and conduct filtered searches for different business sectors in Vancouver.
Business association websites often have calendars of events where visitors can find relevant events.
Moen recently resurrected his World Referral Network in Vancouver, and has held events, such as a Sept. 14 breakfast on a yacht outside the Westin Bayshore that was open to the public and attracted 82 people who paid $30 each.
He plans to have regular events this fall on the yacht that are $10 each and are after-work socials with a bar where guests can buy drinks.
“We’ll start with about 40 people, but by Christmas I’ll be up to 100 to 150 people again,” Moen said. “I used to run these events at restaurants in Vancouver. It is unstructured networking, and it allows business people just to come in and meet other people.”
LinkedIn surveys support the idea that networking plays a huge role for recruiters and job seekers. One survey in 2020 found 73 per cent of participants reported that they had been hired in the past as a result of someone they know making an introduction or a connection.
Another pre-pandemic LinkedIn survey found that networking helped fill 85 per cent of job openings.
How to network
Networking can be a challenge for some people because they go about it wrong, said Moen, who co-founded Impresario Partners and has held executive positions, such as president of Blenz Coffee.
He advises people to not immediately launch into a sales pitch for whatever business they have or for a job that they are seeking or trying to fill.
Instead treat a first meeting with someone as an opportunity to learn about his or her personality and interests, with the potential goal of setting up a future meeting and building a relationship.
Another of Moen’s tips when networking is to listen to what the other person is saying instead of dominating the conversation. Sometimes, Moen said, the best people at networking events are quiet people.
“I thought the business card was going to go the way of the dinosaur, but it’s going to be here for a while,” Moen said.
He added that business cards help networkers because they contain needed contact information and can be provided quickly without a recipient having to fumble with a smartphone to enter information.
LinkedIn is also a powerful tool, Moen said, because it enables people to quickly become contacts and therefore be authorized to send private messages back and forth.
He added that sending a followup email or social media message to thank someone for a chat is key to establishing a relationship. That note could include additional details, such as a phone number – something that millennials may think of as being an old-school communication method but that can be pivotal to establishing a relationship.
“The biggest mistake in networking,” said Moen, “is when people fail to follow up.”