Networking events for IT professionals. Award winning blog series. Weekly podcast. Meet. Read. Listen. By @echodave, @bobwaltenspiel

An Open Response To A Note About Our Events

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A couple days back, we published a note letting you know that we’re not really sure what to do with our Pink Slip Party events at this point.

We’re still pondering…but feedback has started coming in.

Some of it is nice to read (“You guys rock!”) but not very helpful suggestion-wise.

Some of it has touched on topics that we’ll address in a little bit – about how other professions and industries might be able to get out of a group what information technology professionals get out of ours.

Some of it needs to be answered and discussed…

It’s nice to hear that our events are effective for people. Reading things like this note from Eric:

First and foremost, I don’t really care about the name, but the other PSPs I have seen or been invited to, well, SUCK. I have gotten more new contacts every time I have been to a DetroitNet casual networking event than the one time I went to the Lansing area PSP. On the other hand, I made 12 new contacts at the DetroitNet PSP, compared to typically 3-6 new contacts at a networking event.

…just make it easier for us to keep doing what we’re doing, because it reinforces to us that we’re doing something right. Yes, that’s important. Because the day these stop being effective or meaning anything is the day we stop worrying about them or doing them.

But then a much longer response came in from Barbara. One that got me thinking quite a bit, and so I asked if she would mind if I responded in an “open” format here on the site because I think a lot of people have the same questions, problems, and situations that she finds herself in, and so a response might be put to a greater benefit than just in her inbox. She graciously agreed, and so here we go. Her original email will be in italics and indented, and I’ll respond throughout as we get through it.

Bob, Dave, and Jeff, I gave this some thought and before sharing my comments, I should probably let you know about my situation; I may be bringing a very unique perspective to the party (WARNING: another teal deer ahead).

 We definitely appreciate the time and forethought.

I elected to retire from where I worked after 30 years, which is something I planned all along. What I did not plan was the tanking of my 401(k) and stock portfolio, so instead of doing volunteer work, I find myself looking for gainful employment. Since I am coming from a company that essentially relied on a pull process to fill openings, I was generally told what my next assignment would be or even asked if I would pretty-please take a new assignment. I did not have a resume and cannot remember the last time I truly had to interview or “sell” myself for a position. As a result, this whole job-hunting process is very daunting to me.

You’re not in as much of a unique position as you might think you are.

I still vividly remember a conversation from one of our events about a year and a half ago at the BlackFinn.  An older gentleman had arrived, and looked…well, “lost”.  As I usually do, I walked over, introduced myself, and got to talking with him.  His story can be summed up with this:

“I was at Ford for 26 years.  The last time I did a resume, it was on a manual typewriter and my dad’s buddy probably never even looked at it before hiring me.  I don’t even know where to start.”

Sound familiar?

It should, but it’s not just the “older” crowd that has those challenges.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in your early 20’s, mid-30’s, somewhere in your 40’s or beyond…change is hard.  The concept of networking is completely foreign to some people, and scares others witless.

But that’s one of the reasons why we’ve taken the time to create our Frequently Asked Questions out at http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/faq/.  Written some entries about networking basics out at http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/networking-basics/.  Even broken out some specific entries targeted at Job Seekers over at http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/jobseek/.

But we know that everyone doesn’t…or can’t…take the time to read through our entire site before showing up at an event.  That’s one of the reasons why we try and make ourselves available and accessible, which is why this next part concerned me…

I somehow stumbled upon your group last summer and immediately thought it was a great fit for me. The concept of the PSP seemed like a great way for me to start job hunting and I invited my friend to join me at the Novi event. I got there well before Lisa and I have to admit I found it very intimidating, especially since I did not know anyone there. I walked away thinking I would not do another one, learn what I could from the experience, and move on.

That?

Right there?

That’s one of the reasons why we’re thinking that the Pink Slip Party events aren’t the best idea.  They’re too big.  They’re too crazy.  There’s too many people.  We’re always either helping people get in the door or running around like a lunatic trying to help the person that’s managed to grab one of us by the ear to ask for help in finding someone specific.

And that part of her note illustrated a key failure at our events.  Someone walked away intimidated, overwhelmed, and we didn’t track her down to help her.  That’s yet another reason why we’re pushing our casual networking events more and more.  They’re all about actually talking to people instead of the “push” of trying to find a gig.  And like we’ve always said – networking still takes place at the Pink Slip Parties, and people still find jobs at the casual networking events.  In fact, we’re hearing more and more that better things are happening as a result of the casual events, so that’s yet another reason to run with them stronger.

However, good news followed that disappointment:

So, when the format for the December event was announced I decided to go because I had something to contribute to a great cause and it seemed like a better forum for me to meet people in the industry. I met a few folks and was enjoying the event until I ran into That Politics Guy and found an excuse to go introduce myself to Ray Braun. Ray took me under his wing and introduced me to a couple recruiters, resulting in one very strong lead so far. I think that if there had been someone like Ray at the PSP to just quickly explain the format and do a first introduction, it would have helped me. (And, yes, I did read the PSP event description and thought I was prepared, but apparently not.)

Here we have a few “wins” that make me happy:

– The relationship between the members in our group members that participate in our events is, hands-down, some of the best I’ve ever seen.

– She came back and gave us another shot.

– She made it to a casual networking event instead of another Pink Slip Party

– It went better for her.

Based on my last experience, the fact that I now have met a few people in the group, and now know what to expect, I would definitely attend another PSP, especially if it is closer to home for me.

Again, that’s the best we can hope for, and what we keep harping about – there are no silver bullets.  You cannot…and should not…walk into one of our events for the first time the day you get let go, or the day you absolutely, positively have to find a job.  That’s not what we’re about.  We’re about networking and building relationships.   We’ve always said that you’re already three to six months “late” if you’re coming to us on your own personal D-Day.

I have another friend who wants to attend and I told her I would show her the ropes once we got there. Again, I may be in a unique place because I am still so very new to job hunting, however, I wanted to share my thoughts for what they are worth.

Again, we can’t ask for anything more than people getting what they want out of our events…and then bringing in the next generation with them in the future.

Finally (I promise), I really appreicate being a part of this group. You seem to genuinely want to help your members and of all the groups I am in, this is the only group from which I always receive a response to a job inquiry. Even if the answer is “no”, at least there is a sense of closure and I have another contact to add to my growing list in case something else comes up. Bottom line, I thank you for what you do and hope my input has been of some value.

We absolutely appreciate your time in getting us these thoughts, Barb…and I look forward to seeing you, and your friend, at future events.  Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts together, and just for giving us feedback that has some depth to it and helps us think about things as we move forward.

We’ve always grown this group organically – the directions that we take, the things we do, and really every decision that we make is almost always based on feedback from and conversations with people in the group.

Like this.  So, again, “thank you”.  And I suppose “you’re welcome” as well.  We’re glad that you’re getting the hang of us as a group, and see you at our events this year.

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