Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Industry Tradeshows for Job Seekers

2011-04-23 09:19:22

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine asked my opinion on attending an industry tradeshow as a job seeking strategy. I told him it was brilliant.

Almost every industry has at least one professional association that is a connector for companies, customers, and professionals. Tradeshows are generally set up to for sales opportunities. Vendors that make products or provide services set up booths to companies in the industry that use those products/services. Often is the latest iteration of their product, or something new.

A conference is generally a series of presenters for education purposes, where attendees learn new skills or information in their industry. Conferences usually have a lot more employment opportunities, but are generally much more expensive than tradeshows.

When you do attempt to go to a tradeshow for the purpose of job seeking and networking, it is absolutely vital that you remember that this is a sales event. The vendors are there to market and sell to potential customers. They are not there to recruit new employees. To effectively use this strategy you have to at least research the company enough to know what they sell so that you can strike up a conversation with the professional manning the booth at the show. The object of attending a show should be to research who has new products on the market and to gain contact information (ie business cards) for *future* networking (think LinkedIn).

So I asked my acquaintance for some tips and tricks for his foray into the tradeshow, and below are his suggestions.

Many careers involve trade shows. These trade shows have a lot going on- people selling and buying, networking, and of course, folks looking for a gig. Carry a lot of business cards, and wear extra padding in shoes. I recommend a small backpack, something that you can sling over your shoulder. Keep flexible- the company that laid you off has laid off a resource. Other companies may know this- you knew all of X's customers, dealers, providers, etc. etc. That is potentially valuable to one of their competitors. You can't throw X to the wolves, but you can say- "I know that market REALLY well" and I think I can help you access it. Likewise, be flexible- carry a nice personal card, carry a consulting company card, etc. (Look at what your various talents are- and make a card accordingly- marketing, training, freelance tech support, systems integration, etc. Also be willing to think out of the box (I should have had storytelling cards with me). Also, a show is a great place to bring yourself back up to speed on who is doing what, and learning about trends, and new products, etc. Since you no longer work for X, you might get more intel than when you were a company man. And all the folks at the show want to know what happend at X- don't burn them, but you can say- "I'm sure it was just the economy, etc."

Finally, if you've been around for a while, you'll see many people you used to work with. Don't underestimate yourself- get their cards, and be straight- "I'm consulting and looking for a steady gig." Chances are, if you were'nt a flake, and are an asset- they might be able to turn you on to some leads. Better yet, is when they walk you over and make the introduction. Get business cards from everyone. After you walk away from the booth, any key ones, write a note on it, or put a sticky on it, with a few follow up notes. 5 days later, that will be crucial for your at home follow up. Also, don't be afraid to pimp yourself out to companies trying to break into the american markets-a good consulting gig could be a useful thing- you can look at your market from another perspective (outside in) and possibly help hone a potentially hot product, that may have some traction.

Trade shows are a good place to do market research. A company looking at hiring you is going to be a lot more impressed when you can talk about all the pro's and con's of the competition, and how you might be able to help them excel.

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