Get Out From Behind the Desk and Network

Mar 7, 2011

I know, I know… smile and dial.

More phone calls equal more job orders, candidates and send outs. More send outs equal more placements.

I get it  – I really do. But after thirteen years as a sole practitioner, I have learned that I need to get out from behind the desk every now and then, or I fear that the headset will become permanently fixed to my head.

My company recruits information technology professionals. Minneapolis is a very “community” oriented city and we have an abundance of IT user groups and professional associations, so I can get out and be social, learn something new, and do some candidate and client generation while curing my “cabin fever.”

And when I say abundance, it is no joke. In addition to the IT groups I participate in (there are more than 25), there are several professional recruiting associations in which I am involved, including the Minnesota Recruiters group, which I coordinate.

At this point, some of you many be thinking, “How do you manage all of that, and does it distract you from making placements?”

Does it distract me? No. How do I manage all of this? Here’s how:

  1. I focus on the groups and events where I know my “targets” are going to be in attendance. Most of the groups in town use Eventbrite, and usually the attendee list is posted, so I will copy and paste the names I do not recognize into LinkedIn and/or Google to see who they are.
  2. While I attend a lot of events, I make sure not to hang out with just my friends. I also find the people who look like they do not know anyone and introduce myself. I look to see who has “groupies” hanging around them – as I assume they have to be one of the “cool kids” – and introduce myself. Additionally, I focus on looking for the name tags of those I searched for online. (I write them down on a 3×5 card that I bring with me so as not to forget)
  3. If I am attending an event and know no one, I will email the host ahead of time and ask if they will be willing to make some introductions for me. Over a period of time of course I get to know who is who and it makes networking much easier.

Besides being an attendee at events, I am also frequently asked to speak at them. For recruiter and HR groups, topics I am requested to cover range from closing candidates to social media, building talent pools, and so forth. The IT user groups and professional associations typically look for topics on job search, using LinkedIn, find the next consulting gig, and how to find/use recruiters.

So how does this help my business?

For starters, I am not one of those creepy “insurance salesman” networking types who quickly work a room, hand out their business card, and then head for the door. I have a reputation of being “the guy” to go to with a question, and I make it a point to invest time in those with whom I speak – whether they can help me or not. I think a lot of us have forgotten that we are in the people business, and not everyone is an instant means to an end.

Do these activities pay off? Last summer I attended a tech event at Best Buy headquarters and in a small group session of 50 Java developers, the presenter recognized me and said, “Hey, are you the recruiter guy with the blog? Come up here and answer some questions we have about how to ready ourselves for a job search.”

What a great way to be of help to others and allow them to get to know me. The number of emails, calls, and resumes I received over the next week was overwhelming – in a very good way. As a direct result of this opportunity, I was referred to a manager who I later placed. Even now, I am still seeing benefits from this event as several of the technology professionals I met are pursuing contract opportunities with us. Networking events can provide both ‘hunting’ and ‘farming’ opportunities if approached in the right manner.

Right before the holidays, I was invited by a friend to attend an HR event with her. She was surprised to learn that I knew more of those attending than she did. Not only did I know them – they were friends, too. Very rarely do I have to make a true “cold call” on the client generation side of the business.

It is good to remember that there are human beings on the other end of the phone and the other side of the computer screen. Getting out from behind your desk and mixing it up with your target audience helps them to put a face to your name and voice as much as it does the same for you of them. “Smile and dial” is a whole lot easier when the person answering the phone (or email) already knows your name – and what value you have to offer.

This article is from the February 2011 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.

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