Conventions, Trade Shows, and Job Hunting

Posted on September 7, 2009

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The weekend before I wrote this, I attended Penny Arcade Expo. I found one booth where a recruiter was part of the company presence (Warner Brothers Interactive, if you’re interested). I know for a fact that one of my former employers sends HR people to certain shows, so I thought that was a pretty good topic for the unemployed and underemployed out there.

My friend Shawn was there, working, and he later complained that he regretted not having enough time to talk to all the friends who stopped by his booth. Shawn works in southern California now, so this was our big chance to see him. He hits on a key point, though: No one has time to talk to you while they’re working the show. There are two ways around this.

First, recognize that even if there is a recruiter at the show, he’s talking to everyone. Focus on what you can do for him (or her). Offer to bring back a bottle of water or some food. If that less-than-subtle bribery doesn’t work or gets rebuffed, exchange business cards and offer to get in touch after the show. Then do it. All you want to do at the show is give the recruiter a reason to remember you positively when looking at your business card, or when receiving your e-mail. Do not attempt to deliver your resume. No one is going to read it at the show. They’re either working or trying to relax before the next day’s work. Your resume will get, at best, tossed into someone’s suitcase and crumpled up in travel. Don’t bother.

Second, make contact before the show. If you’ve targeted companies that will be at the show, and started building relationships within those companies, ask if your contact is attending. If your contact is, try to schedule some time. Buy lunch, or go out to dinner. Go for a movie, and then for drinks. If your contact is not coming, see if your contact can introduce you to someone who is. All you want to do is build relationships, or build them further. Again, no resumes. Do make sure whoever you’re meeting has your LinkedIn address, and possibly your resume, before coming to the show.

Now, there is an exception to the “no resumes” thing. Some companies will schedule portfolio reviews at conventions. This is particularly true at major comic book conventions and similar opportunities for companies to look for new artists. If you can schedule a review in advance, you should. If they won’t schedule specific times, take some bottles of water and be prepared to wait patiently. Remember that the art director is going cross-eyed from critiquing portfolios and try to make his or her day more pleasant.

Do spend time at the show looking around. If your targeted companies are there, it’s a chance for you to get to know your targeted industry better. Educate yourself so you can sound smarter at your interview. Do be open to unexpected opportunities at the show. Most importantly, have fun. The sight of someone smiling and genuinely having a good time always makes a good impression.

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Posted in: Leadership, Marketing