This economic downturn has made it even more competitive to stay on the radar of a potential employer or client.  One has to be more creative and proactive about helping others.

In my circle, moving around companies every few years, job hopping and working for startups is the norm for many aggressive individuals looking to advance their careers. Many people that are used to “managing their careers” work in some of the “cool” industries like high-tech, telecomm, entertainment and startups.  They are faced with a higher chance of being laid off, but being able to climb the corporate ladder faster and enjoying their work environment.

The cool industries often attract high caliber talent with an entrepreneur mentality and encourage fraternizing.   Therefore, we have been used to networking norms for some time.  For instance, we (progressive industry folks) look to create our own opportunities rather than wait for the corporate office to come up with an approval.

Something that I never expected to see at networking events are people in transition who were working at banks, financial services and in health care for many years.  I still remember when you would interview with these places.  Their focus was on your length of time at each job – usually a 5 year minimum, rather than what you could bring to table.  I still remember there was a level of arrogance towards candidates who were laid off from a company in their past.

These conservative industries – insurance, banks, financial services and health care – appear to foster a culture of obedience rather than that of being creative.  Based on what I see I am sure employee fraternizing was not encouraged.

With our economic downturn, many conservative companies were hit hard with layoffs, notably the banking sector.  My advice to those who are in transition and currently employed in conservative industries is to act appropriately at networking events.

At networking events, you will meet far more people from the progressive industries and may learn a thing or two to help you in your career should you choose to stay in the conservative sector or leave the dark side.

Be humble and ask what people do instead of wearing a full-blown suit with a tie and being arrogant to people just because they do not work in mutual funds.  You never know if a stranger you meet can lead you to someone else.  In addition, when you are a networking jerk, most people will notice and may not want to help you out down the line.  Networking is for building life long relationships.  Be willing to introduce your colleagues to people you meet at events.  I cannot tell you how many times I meet health care folks who have zero personality and barely converse with you, but as soon as they find out you have contacts, they want to be your best friend.

Even if your industry is conservative, that does not mean you have to be rude.  Be yourself and remember that as employees, we are all dispensable.

Posted by Deepak Gupta

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