The first-ever “HAPPO Hour” events were held last week in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis, NYC, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and D.C. I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Pittsburgh event, which was quite the success! In case you didn’t know, HAPPO stands for Help a PR Pro Out, a community based effort to help those seeking jobs in the PR industry. HAPPO was founded and run by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon, who coordinated and organized the live (and online) events last week. In Pittsburgh, we casually met at Bar Louie in Station Square, and about 35 people gathered to network and make connections, and we’re still connecting now to talk resumes, cover letters and job searching tips. So, how can you make the most of networking events if you’re a job seeker? Following are some simple tips:
1. Know what to expect
Each HAPPO Hour was different; some formal, some informal, and everything in between. In Pittsburgh, we did the informal thing. Before you go to an event, know what to expect. Should you come with your resume and be prepared for some structure, or is it more of casual chat with professionals of all levels and fellow job seekers? Look on the event website, or e-mail or tweet the host to ask any questions you have.
2. Have an entrance plan
Going to a networking event solo can sometimes be kind of awkward when you first arrive, especially if you have not been to a lot of these type of events before. If it makes you more comfortable, bring a friend or coworker. Or, plan to meet people there. See who will attend from the event website or Twitter (we used the hashtag #happopgh just for Pittsburgh) and meet them ahead of time or have a meeting spot planned out first inside the event. Find other people going alone and go together. Or, just come in and start talking! People expect you to break into conversations; that’s how networking events go. Don’t be afraid to interrupt a conversation – just don’t be rude about it.
3. Write talking points
If you’re a job seeker, you’re on a mission to find a job. So, before the event, write out some things you want to accomplish at the event. It could be talk to five (or more) different people. It could be to talk to a mix of both fellow job seekers and gainfully employed professionals. Also, you need to write out what it is you’re looking for in a job. It could be to work in a PR agency, or for a corporation. If you write out what you want to get out of the event and what you’re looking for ahead of time, you’ll make the most of the event. You don’t need to bring a note card with you, but it’s good to get it on paper to “study” pre-event. Also, know what to converse about. If you simply say to someone hiring, “I’m looking for a PR job, I’m not picky and I’ll take anything,” that doesn’t come across as very strong. Rather, say “I have three years solid agency experience, primarily in B2C PR, and I’m looking for an account executive job in an agency who specializes in B2C.” Or if you’re a student, talk about internship or class experience that pertains to what you’re looking for. That way, you know what you want, and are specific. Especially in the PR world, being specific is key. PR is not one general thing; you have different skills and talents that will resonate better at some places than others.
4. Don’t expect you’ll get a job
What? I just wasted two hours of my life because you’re telling me not to expect a job? Yeah, kind of. But hear me out: A lot of people have very high expectations when going to networking events. Especially for something like HAPPO, it seems like it’s guaranteed you’ll find a job. Which sometimes, it’s easy and that happens, but other times you have to be patient. In Pittsburgh, I had a lot of leads on internships and more senior level positions; there wasn’t anything too entry- or mid-level I came across. Unfortunately, the bulk of our attendees were these levels. But in other places, like NYC, which according to Valerie, there were more employers than job seekers! That is great and the PR industry is definitely picking up steam as the economy bounces back. But it’s different in every city. One of my biggest takeaways being in the corporate world these past five years or so is that making connections is the most important thing you can do when looking for a job. You can meet someone at an event, and it may not turn into anything that day, but if you stay in touch with them, they could be hiring at their company, or know of a job opening at another company. It could take two weeks or two months. Because you made a connection with them and they know you, they may be more likely to recommend you or have you come in for an interview. That’s what I love about the HAPPO community; everyone is rooting for each other and sharing job leads, tips, and making connections. So, be patient, work hard, and eventually, you will land your perfect job.
Follow the hashtags #HAPPO (all over) and #happopgh (Pittsburgh-specific) for those tweeting about job openings and job searching tips. And don’t forget: you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can put you in touch with a professional (via e-mail) for resume, cover letter, and job searching tips.