As the next group of millennials hit the streets seeking gainful employment, they’re often told to network aggressively. This includes attending a wide array of events with dozens of other job seekers and individuals vying for attention. Not long ago I attended Honors Night, the annual gala hosted by the Advertising Educational Foundation. AEF is a who’s who in the advertising and marketing worlds, and this year’s reception and dinner didn’t disappoint. In the audience were several executives, senior directors and general managers from advertising, marketing, media and communications agencies such as BBDO, DDB, FCB Garfinkel, iHeart Media, JWT, McCann, R/GA. Weber Shandwick and many, many others. With more than 300 people in attendance, it clearly wasn’t easy to network effectively (or efficiently) at such a well-heeled event.
With cocktails set at 6 p.m., I arrived at 5:30 p.m. While there, I saw a number of leading executives sitting or standing by themselves, including honoree David Bell, an ad icon and one of the most influential leaders in advertising. As they waited patiently for the festivities to begin, their only companion was their mobile device. As I walked around the venue, I wondered: where are the students, recent graduates and alumni who are always asking me for jobs or referrals? My advice to them is simple and straightforward. Do the math and follow this very simple saying: “Be the first to arrive and one of the very last to leave.”
Let me elaborate.
If you’re a student or recent grad interested in networking, why arrive after 6 p.m. when you can have an audience with the early arrivers without any competition whatsoever? If you arrive before the appointed time, simple mathematical equations are clearly in your favor. As in any large city, New York is a place where you must plan ahead in order to arrive at a function on time. And, as a person seeking to meet people of influence, arriving just a few minutes early can tip the balance in your favor. By arriving at 5:30 p.m.—a full 30 minutes prior to the start of the reception—I was able to meet at least a dozen others who had arrived early. That’s 12-to-one or twelve important influencers and me. However, if I arrived 30 minutes after the official start time, the competition for time with other guests would have been closer to 12-to-100. If I’m part of the 100 people vying to meet the top influencers in the room, I’d drown in a sea of other voices. Therefore, if you’re serious about networking, be sure to arrive early.
I also believe in being one of the last to leave an event. Why? It’s simple. As a large group of people scurry out of a venue to find their way home, many of the top influencers find themselves stuck in valet lines, waiting for Uber or catching up with old friends and acquaintances. This is a second opportunity to meet important leaders with fewer people around to distract them. Again, if you do the math, you’ll increase your chances of meeting the right people at all networking events.