"NeoCon: Your Own Private Job Fair" - 05/11/22 Edition
Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I am so excited about Neocon coming up June 13-16 and, before that, ICFF in New York from May 15-17 .  I work in sales at a manufacturer and not everybody gets to go to these national shows.  It could be you are chosen because you have an important customer attending, or as simple as it’s “just your turn”. Sometimes I think my boss pulls our names out of a hat or just picks his favorites!  My bottom line strategy is, no matter what, figure out a way to go.  I can always find an important customer who needs me there, or I’ll ask my dealer to go to bat for me because I’m needed for an important presentation. If a design firm or end user tied to a big order is going, I can make the case as to why I should be there.  OK so now I am at the show in Chicago, what is next?

Client-facing business is first, of course. Then new product training so I can talk about it back home. Then socialize with friends from other parts of the country. And exposing (unmasking?) myself to the people from HQ who will be there and may not have met me in person and finally - and here is my secret reason for wanting to be at NEOCON - to learn about new job opportunities at competitors.  Neocon is like a free-for-all job fair and you need to be there to be in it and to hear about the openings first.

My strategy is I always schedule some down time to my see the competitor’s showrooms in The Mart and or Fulton Street. I have taken bathroom breaks that last an hour just so I can tour a floor of competitors.  And it is not just going into other showrooms with my badge showing. I might run into my next employer on the elevator, at a party, or maybe downstairs in the food court.

Why Neocon, beyond the quantity of hiring authorities there? Because NeoCon is when many people change jobs!!   Yes,  just the month prior to NeoCon is when those that are going to leave, leave.  Salespeople, managers, executives, everyone.

I guess they like to do it before NeoCon because they get more bang for their buck being in a new showroom at the start of the show. I get and it and good for them.  This applies not just to manufacturers, but dealers as well.  Every company wants to make the new hire before NeoCon.

Guess what? A new job for one person at a new company means there’s a surprise opening at the company that the person just left. And you never know, that could be just the right job for me.  I will only know about it if I leave my own showroom and venture out into  The Mart or take a hike to Fulton Street.  I hear it live before it hits the street or LinkedIn.

My question is, what do you think of my theory and my strategy?   Feel like I am in the know on what’s going on and yes, sometimes I shamelessly apply for those job.  So, Neocon is great for business but it is also my own private job fair!  What’s your take?

Shameless at Neocon!

Dear Shameless,

Well, you are not only shameless, but you sound like a bit of a scoundrel. Finding a new job on your current boss’s dime. 

That being said, your story rings true.  That is how it works.  Hundreds of people change jobs right before Neocon much to the surprise of the current bosses, and that makes July and August super busy for recruiters all across the country, since every new job for someone somewhere means an employer has an opening somewhere else. 

Post NeoCon openings this year will require extra recruiting effort because the job market today is incredibly tight, controlled by the employee or the candidate, not the employer. Management is painfully aware that the longer a position remains open, the more revenue a company loses, and everyone falls short of their sales goals. But management has to be careful. The goal is not to just fill an open sales slot with a body – it has to be someone good.

Sales managers wonder why they can’t find good salespeople on LinkedIn. It’s because proven performers have a selling mindset – they’re busy out selling – and do not have time to read “Help Wanted “postings on LinkedIn. I see the LinkedIn ads and  wonder why there are so many.  If you are successful in the marketplace, will you get really excited about #Allsteel or #Hon running a post on LinkedIn to attract people?  I do not think so.

So, if you are going to NeoCon, first and foremost remember who is paying for you to be there.  Yet always remember you are the best Ambassador for your brand:  You!

After that, you should be out and about, bathroom break or not, to keep up on the competition, and yes …the job openings.

It’s true NeoCon is a furniture trade show for most, and a job fair for many of the same people.  Happy Shameless Hunting!