Dear Job Seekers at Networking Events: You Are Selfish, and This is Why You Can’t Find a Job

Imagine this common conversation at a networking / business event:

Mike: So John, what do you do?

John: I just moved here from New York, and I’m looking for a full-time job as a Graphics Designer. I’ve always loved Chicago and I’m glad I made the move.

Mike: Oh, great. Welcome to Chicago! Where are you staying?

John: At my buddy’s out west. He’s a good friend of mine from College. I’m staying there until I get situated.

A fairly simple and straight forward conversation, right? It is, but there are two problems with this conversation:

  1. You admitted to being unemployed.
  2. You admitted that the only reason you are at this event is because you are looking for a full-time job. This is why you are selfish.

I know you didn’t straight out say that, but this is what the other person is thinking about you.

Because of this, Mike isn’t going to help you find a job even if he is looking for a graphics designer for his company. In the small chance that he does, he’ll ask for your résumé and most likely not respond. In the even smaller chance that he does offer you a job, he knows you’re unemployed and will give you a lowball offer since he knows you need the money.




What’s wrong with admitting that you’re unemployed?

For whatever reasons, people associate unemployed with unemployable. I don’t agree with this, but unfortunately this is the case for many who meet unemployed job seekers for the first time.

John’s situation also brings up many questions such as to why he left New York without securing a full-time job in Chicago first. Did he not have a job in New York? Did he move to Chicago because his buddy was giving him free rent? Did he get fired from his job in New York? If he’s talented graphic designer, I’m sure he should have no problem finding a new job right?

So many questions left unanswered.

What’s wrong with going to a networking event to find a full-time job? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? 

Yes, you are 100% correct. If someone asked me what they should do to find a new job in a new city, I would tell them to network their ass off. Go to events, work the room and get connected to more people. Keep doing it until you hit jackpot.

Except one thing: Nobody likes job seekers at networking events. By telling someone that you are at an event to find a job, you just lost all credibility. People go to networking events to find interesting people, not people who are looking for a job. They want to find new business relationships and new contacts to help them with their business. There is nothing you can do for them, and this is why many conversations fizzle for active job seekers at networking events.

And here you are meeting people to benefit yourself. How selfish of you! You were correct to not bring your résumé with you or have a business card that says “seeking new opportunities”. Unfortunately, by telling the truth to a stranger, you screwed yourself.

Another thing to consider is that since you will be going to a lot of networking events, you will start seeing the same people again! Do you really want the conversation to be about how you are still looking for a job?

So, what can you do?

Lying is not an option, get that out of your system now. You’re not even allowed to “fake it till you make it” by exaggerating. That’s off the table.

This is what you need to do.

Your #1 goal is to build a relationship first. Once you build a relationship, then you can tell the person you are looking for a job.

The goal of a networking event is to meet someone who knows someone who is hiring a graphics designer. If you go with that mantra, then you can focus on building better relationships with people who can potentially help you.

Here is how the conversation should go:

Mike: So John, what do you do?

John: I do graphics design work. I’m currently freelancing and working on side projects. It’s an exciting time!

Mike: Oh, interesting! What type of freelance work do you do?

John: I do website, print and some social media work. How about yourself?

Ok, so what changed in this conversation?

  1. John didn’t mention he was new to Chicago. Although it’s a great talking topic to say that you came here from another city, he shouldn’t start the conversation with it.   Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a BAD thing to be from another city, your goal is to find a job, not to find new hot spots in the city. By opening with that line, you’ve admitted that you aren’t settled.
  2. John is a freelancer, not unemployed. This opens the conversation to what John’s good at and could potentially lead to short-term money. This also shows that John knows how to make money and is in fact employable. By telling someone you are unemployed and looking for full-time, you just shut yourself out of other opportunities. I understand that some jobs aren’t “freelance-able”, but you get the point. Being an independent contractor is better than being unemployed even if both are making zero money.
  3. The conversation was less about feeling sorry for John, and more about answering the question directly.
  4. John redirected the conversation to learn more about the other person.  John knows he doesn’t have much of a platform to speak off of, so he bounced the question right back to Mike. The goal is to get a coffee meeting with Mike to learn how he can help this new person.

So who can you tell that you are unemployed and are looking for a full-time job?

People that know you, like you and trust you and that’s about it.

I know this is especially tough when you are new to a city, but find the people who you can trust and you can tell them the full truth.

How do you find these new relationships? Do what I did: 250 Coffee meetings in 400 days. If you hate coffee, do tea. If you hate tea, follow me on twitter. I’m not sure what that will do for you, but it will make me feel better that I have a new follower.

PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.