Published first on jennyrebholz.com
Years ago, as a NeoCon newbie, I was overwhelmed with products and cocktails; the entire experience was exciting, inspiring and unlike anything I had ever seen before. The next few NeoCons were filled with client lunches, new product introductions, competitive showroom visits (thank you VP of sales), and utter exhaustion. With each new year all the products began to blend together, the cocktails made me sleepy rather than ready to party and I felt like every showroom offered the same ideas, chairs, and people. Come summer I had started to dread the second week in June…
This year I was faced with attending NeoCon three days after losing my job. I couldn’t decide whether or not to head to the Merchandise Mart and try to network, or to hide in Wisconsin away from the remembrance of a career gone missing. Could I face my ex-boss and my colleagues who still had design positions? Would I find something or someone amidst the masses that could help me, or more importantly, inspire me in my job search?
Well, I went. And what I learned was that NeoCon will never change, but how you approach it can. Instead of scoping out the competition or trying to wine and dine clients, this year I focused on connections. I tried to take notice of the real innovators and explore any potential connections I might have with those companies. I saw a side of NeoCon I had previously overlooked: the people who attend. Overall it was still exhausting, though the elevator lines were a bit shorter, and I still hid from my former boss (um…ran the other way might be a more appropriate description), but overall I made some progress.
As week one comes to a close I have followed up with all the people I spoke with in Chicago and have gotten some great responses. Now I have several more contacts keeping their eyes and ears open for job opportunities for me. It might have been post-lay off optimism (or delusions) that brought me to NeoCon this year, but it was worthwhile. And distracting!