Most people know that networking is critical to international career advancement and the international job search. However not everyone is familiar with networking strategies that can help them reach their expat career or job search goals as efficiently and effectively as possible.
One of the most important but often overlooked aspects of effective networking is setting specific goals for any event or experience – online or offline – in which you may be participating. Having clear goals makes deciding where to invest your time and energy and how to go about networking much easier. It also increases your chances for building mutually beneficial relationships that will help you achieve those goals.Let’s take for example an expat professional who wants a job in advertising. They find out about an upcoming conference. They believe it would be a great networking opportunity and so they go online to find out how to register. When they discover 250 advertising agencies will have booths at the event they think: ‘Fantastic – I am sure to meet lots of industry people and make some good contacts.’
The day of the conference arrives. This expat has their business cards in hand and is dressed in their smartest suit. They arrive early and pick up the conference program to see what the first day holds in store for them. The conference program lists 50 different sessions that will take place over 3 days. It also provides a list of the agencies exhibiting at the event.
Unsure of which sessions would be best to attend, the expat decides to start in the exhibition hall. A sense of overwhelm appears as they start to walk down the aisles. The rows of booths seem to go on and on. There are many people crowding around certain booths so they assume that these might be a good place to start.
After waiting for 10 minutes to speak to someone at a booth, they tell the company representative that they want to find out more about more about this particular agency and ask if they are hiring. The representative gives them a company brochure and tells them that the openings are listed on the website. The day continues on… many different companies… many of the same answers.
At the end of the day the expat may have had a few interesting conversations and collected a lot of business cards, but made no connections that seem particularly promising. They are exhausted, having visited over 30 booths in one day. They are so tired that they are not looking forward to going back the next day. They are wondering how they are going to possibly visit all 250 companies given the limited time left. And they do not even want to think about having to choose which of the 50 sessions they should attend.
If this expat had more specific networking goals, the day could have gone much differently. Knowing that they wanted to work for a mid-size advertising agency with offices in France, Spain or the UK, they could have gone to the event website ahead of time to see which exhibitors might fit that description. That would have taken the list of potential booths to visit from 250 to perhaps 40 or 50.
Had they been clear about which industries they were most passionate about – for example healthcare, technology or finance – they could have further reduced the list to those agencies that have a history of working with clients in those sectors. That could have taken the list down to 20 or 25. Then considering where these agencies are located, which have job openings on their websites, or other factors, the agencies on that list could be prioritized so the one most suited to their goals would be visited first. They would not have wasted time at booths of agencies who did not ultimately offer what they wanted.
Knowing that they were interested in working in account management for a mid-sized international agency that specialized in dealing with healthcare would have also made selecting sessions to attend much easier. Being able to target just a handful of sessions that were highly relevant to their goals would optimize their opportunities for learning as well as increase the chances of meeting the people from the types of agencies for which they were interested in working.
The Bottom Line
As this story illustrates, having clear goals for any networking event or experience can help you save time, energy and increase the chances of that event or experience helping you to move towards your expat career or international job search goals. Specific goals can also make networking an enjoyable experience instead of an extremely unsatisfying or frustrating one.
About the author: Megan Fitzgerald is an expat and international career coach, founder of Career By Choice and expert guide to the world of global careers. She has two decades of experience supporting professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and organizations in 40+ countries. Megan uses a strategic, 360°approach to help expats become highly visible, sought after experts and leaders and succeed abroad. She’s been featured in Fortune Magazine, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal Online and numerous expat and career books and publications. You can read more about expat careers at her blog.
Read Megan's other Expat Focus articles here.