By Larry Robbin, Executive Director of Robbin and Associates
A mock networking event is a great collaborative project with your program partners. It works best if you can hold it in a space that is not familiar to the program participants. A meeting room at a business or a business association is ideal. You should hold a networking workshop prior to the actual event. You will cover the principles of networking at this workshop. It is mandatory that people attend the workshop in order to attend the event. On your computer run off business cards for your job seekers with their name, the type of job they are looking for and their contact information. The staff of the various partner agencies will portray business people at this event. Each person should pick a type of business they know well and think about the position they hold in the business. After everyone has arrived, someone should give some opening remarks welcoming everyone to the mixer. Then the networking should start. As each job seeker interfaces with a businessperson, they will give them their card. After the interaction, the business person can jot down something on the back of the card that in a few words says something the person did well or something they need to work on. Comments like “great smile” or “need to make more eye contact” can be very helpful. The business people hold on to the business cards. They keep stacking the cards as they get them keeping the top card slot for the person that was the best at networking with them.
At the end of the networking event, the top cards are collected and the rest of them are given back to the job seekers with the comments on the back. You can lay them out on a table so it is easy for people to take their set of cards. The name of the person whose card was most often kept in the top position is announced. They can be given certificate of achievement or gift cards. The employers should discuss why that particular job seeker was chosen as the best and mention any other people that did something that was particularly effective in the networking. The people that were chosen at the top networkers can share how they do it. The other job seekers can talk about what they learned from the event that will change the way they network at real events. Make sure you do a debriefing in the next few days to drive home the lessons learned about networking. The mock networking event is a powerful experience that can really improve the way your job seekers network!