Prepare Yourself Before You Get to Oakland

You know that companies are coming to AfroTech intending to connect with Black talent, so there’s no reason to arrive unprepared. Before arriving in Oakland, dust off your resume, update your LinkedIn profile and rehearse your elevator pitch. 

While you’ll have the opportunity to connect with employers at their booths, there are also recruiting and networking events nearly every evening where you can have informal and formal conversations that could lead to potential opportunities. Some companies may have roles open and available at AfroTech while others may be collecting resumes for future use. Regardless of the situation, ensure that you make a connection with someone at the booth and follow up.

This is not the time to walk away, not remembering someone’s name or having their email. If they do not share their business cards, connect on LinkedIn, and thank them for speaking with you and reiterate your interest in the company. 

Prioritize the Companies You’re Most Interested In

There are a lot of companies coming to AfroTech; you can find them on the “Partner” page of the AfroTech website. Before walking into the convention center, make a list of the companies that you’re most excited about. I recommend treating the convention floor as a college fair. Remember when you were applying to college, and you had a prioritized list of reach, target, and safety schools? You’ll want the same thing in this situation.

Your “reach” companies would be considered your tier 1, or dream companies that you may feel are a bit out of your reach, but if given the opportunity, you’d happily rise to the occasion. Your “target” companies, tier 2, are the ones perfectly aligned with your skills, interests, and experience. You’d be excited to accept a role at a tier 2 company, and you’d feel like it’s a comfortable culture and use of your current skill set. Last but not least, are your safety companies, tier 3, where you may not know as much about the company, but you’re interested in learning more and potentially pursuing an opportunity there. 

Use this list as your compass when deciding between competing events or managing your time at the convention. There is a lot to do and see at AfroTech, so you must prioritize the companies that you’re most interested in. 

Connect, Network, and Follow Up

As a past attendee of AfroTech, the connections you make are one of the most important parts of the experience. Make sure you download the app and start speaking with everyone before and after the conference. If you come to Oakland and hang out with people you already know, or worse — don’t make new connections; you’re truly missing out. In every corner or room, you’ll see professionals and entrepreneurs mingling and chatting about their work, upcoming projects, or startups. 

Of course, it’s important to have your elevator pitch ready to go, but don’t be afraid to prepare a few additional questions like:

    • What made you decide to come to AfroTech this year?
    • What kind of projects are you working on?
    • How did you get into your industry/company?
    • What makes your company stand out amongst the other companies here?
    • What types of skills do you feel are the most important for someone to do your type of work?

Whether you’re looking for a role at a major corporation or an up and coming startup, you’ll benefit from maximizing the time you have at AfroTech by making connections that continue long after the conference ends.  

Kimberly B. Cummings is the founder of Manifest Yourself, LLC, a personal and professional development company created to help women and people of color navigate the world of work, make more money, and become industry leaders.