Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 22 2013

The Job Search Spiderweb

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

In February, long-time PCMA member Bill Lemmon found himself in the same uncomfortable position that many members of the meeting community have been in over the past few years: he was out of a job.

"It caught me completely by surprise," Lemmon says of receiving the news that he was being let go from his position as Director of Tradeshow Sales at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.

After the initial feeling of shock, he dove headfirst into the search, spending as much as eight hours each day to find the next step on his career path. Many of those hours were spent in a familiar place: behind the computer screen.

When the search started, Lemmon's personal network on LinkedIn clocked in near 600 connections. With a firm commitment to expanding what he calls his "spiderweb", Lemmon grew that network to well over 1,000 professionals – and he made plenty of valuable new relationships along the way.

"Bill and I connected through mutual friends on LinkedIn," Brad Kent, VP, Industry Relations, Freeman, says. "We didn't know each other personally, but Bill used the power of his online network to reach out to me for advice."

Lemmon considers his LinkedIn profile his resume, and he wanted to ensure new connections like Kent could easily understand his experiences with a quick glance. His simple approach paid off, too. Throughout his three-month search, Lemmon had 22 significant interviews.

Staying in the Headlines

Outside of LinkedIn, Lemmon's strategic approach to his job search included attending association-sponsored networking events, arranging informal informational outings and making plenty of personal phone calls. All of his efforts boiled down to one basic question: how could he keep his name in front of these friends and industry connections?

"I wanted to make sure that somehow they heard my name every few days," Lemmon says. "My job was trying to find a job, and part of that work relied on reminding people I was still out there."

In addition to reaching out to individuals, Lemmon's reminders also included bi-weekly, bullet-pointed updates to his entire list of connections to keep them informed of his progress. His philosophy was that simple updates made his colleagues and connections feel like a valuable part of his search.

Adding a Personal (and Positive) Touch

Kent says Lemmon's proactive approach also included the crucial ingredient of a positive attitude.

"When we find ourselves in the unexpected position of looking for a new job, we can all kind of sink into self-pity," Kent says. "Bill didn't do that at all."

"Bill was a professional communicator," Kent adds. "I appreciated that he kept sending updates to deliver a more personal touch to his networking."

His strategy included much more than job-related updates, too. Lemmon even synched his Facebook profile with a Nike running application.

"When I got together with friends for lunch or cocktails, many of my friends referred to my running," Lemmon says. "It started a nice conversation that wasn't strictly business-focused."

Online Isn't Everything

While Lemmon leveraged his online networks, he was doing plenty to step out from behind the computer screen. He increased his involvement in a range of association volunteer efforts.

"I said to myself, 'I'm going to get more involved.' I knew that the more I participated in committee work, the more it would benefit me," Lemmon says.

His work included serving on the PCMA Student Affairs Committee and the IAEE Education Committee, along with acting as MPI's Co-Education Committee Chair.

A True Success Story

All those outreach efforts added up. Within three months, Bill's initial feelings of shock and concern were replaced with excitement about a new job. He has transitioned to the hotel side, serving as Senior Sales Manager at the Omni Hotel in Chicago.

When he accepted the new position, he thanked all the existing members of that now-famous spiderweb, and many of them were listening. Of the 972 connections he notified about the conclusion of his search, 495 wrote him notes of congratulations. For all you marketers, those are some pretty good response rates!

Finding his new job took plenty of energy and effort, but Lemmon says that a successful job search relies on one crucial element.

"Create a strategy," Lemmon advises anyone overwhelmed by the sudden entry into the job market. "Stick with it, and execute it daily."

For meeting professionals at the beginning of the job search, Lemmon recommends following four simple steps:

  • Always spiderweb your contacts. Lemmon's search demonstrates just how important it is to connect the dots between who you know and who may be able to give you an opportunity.
  • Avoid overthinking. Because the job search can be a lonely rollercoaster, Lemmon recommends bouncing ideas off another person for tips on filling resume gaps and appealing to potential employers.
  • Keep it short and sweet. From the length of your emails to the length of a phone conversation, Lemmon advises that every job-seeker should be respectful of everyone's time.
  • Take as many informational interviews as possible. Whether you're taking someone to lunch or going to drinks, Lemmon stresses that every informal meeting presents an opportunity.

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