4 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

When I was a kid and made our town’s Little League baseball team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping our friend fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. His response was to tell me not to brag.

I’ve thought for a long time that my father taught me that day an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was a good lesson. It seems that we, as a society, don’t promote ourselves enough.

This is particularly true about my valued customers who need to promote themselves.

I read an article, Why You Should be a Shameless Self Promoter, in which the author, Kevin Daum, speaks of three reasons why entrepreneurs should promote themselves. It resonated with me because he broaches a topic that many people feel uncomfortable about, self-promotion.

While we need to self-promote, the author claims, we also can’t cross that line that is unclear to many. He writes: “So we need to shamelessly self-promote, loud, strong and often. And yet somehow we have to keep from crossing that line of being annoying and offensive.”

I understand there are reasons why my jobseekers don’t feel comfortable promoting themselves. One obvious reason is that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, objective way—which is to say, not brag.

But there are three tips the author provides entrepreneurs for “shameless self-promotion.” I agree with them but have adapted his tips for jobseekers. I have also added a tip of my own.

  1. Be interesting. Know what interests potential employers. If you have the same goals in common, this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job; which is an indication that you can repeat your accomplishments in the future.
  2. Be authentic. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  3. Provide value. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  4. Don’t over-due it. This is my own reason for self-promotion. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. The author talks about how we were taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League team. Don’t brag, but don’t refrain from self-promotion when the time is right, like while networking or at an interview or in your written communications. The time is now.

Job search tip #9: Knock on companies’ doors with approach letters

In the last entry we looked at making your company list. Today we’ll examine knocking on companies’ doors by using approach letters.

The other day during a résumé critique one of my customers told me how he had been networking. Something was in the works with a company as a result of him being proactive and knocking on the company’s door. Not literally; although, that’s a viable option. He had sent an approach letter to one of the directors at the company asking for an informational meeting, which then lead to further consideration.

Of course a phone call might have been quicker for my customer than sending a letter, but he felt sending an approach letter was right for him. (By the way, using LinkedIn’s Search Companies feature is a great way to find people at companies.)

For you jobseekers who lean more toward introversion, an approach letter may also feel more comfortable than calling a director, VP, or an individual contributor. There’s more to an approach letter, though, than simply sending an e-mail telling the person that you’d like to get together with her to meet for a short meeting.

With the approach letter, first you’ll research the company so you can write intelligently about why you’d like to meet. You’ll write highly of the company, selling the company to the recipient of your letter. This will show your enthusiasm. It will also show you took the time to visit the company’s website, read articles in the newspaper, and used other methods to research the company. This is the first step you’ll take to impress the recipient.

Next you’ll throw in some kudos about yourself. What makes it worth her while to meet with you? You gained some valuable skills when you worked at the medical device company in their marketing department. You’ll write about the accomplishments you had, like authoring press releases that drew the attention of many of the media, spearheading a direct mail campaign that garnered new business beyond what the company had achieved.

Don’t forget to indicate that you’ll call the recipient. Set a date and exact time. If the person picks up the phone or you have to leave a voice-mail, be ready to explain why you’d like to meet with her. You would like some information on a position you’re pursuing. You’d also like to share some knowledge of competitors or the industry.

What follows could be a networking meeting or maybe good timing on your part—there may actually be a job the company’s trying to fill, unbeknownst to other jobseekers searching the Internet for advertised positions. This is precisely why you don’t want to simply send an e-mail without laying out your skills that make you ideal for a possible job in the company.

The only thing left to do is picking up the phone and asking the recipient if she received your letter. Following up is the last component of sending an approach letter. Even if talking on the phone terrifies the heck out of you, at least you have gotten in your message without having to deliver it cold. You’re compelling writing has wooed the recipient into wanting to know more about you.

In the next article, we’ll look at using LinkedIn to network on line.

Job search tip #8: Make your company list

Last week we looked at creating a contact list and starting to network. Now we’ll look at making a list of companies for which you’d like to work.

When you buy a pair of athletic shoes, do you research the brands, consider where you’ll buy them, and decide on an acceptable price? Or do you go into any store and buy the first pair of shoes you see at any price? If you’re a smart shopper, you’ll plan before you act.

The same attitude of a smart shopper applies to a smart jobseeker. One important step you must take is to research companies for which you’d like to work. I often ask my jobseekers if they have a list of companies they’re researching and if they’re taking action.

Let’s examine the steps you need to take and why it’s important to make your company list.

Google it. As a jobseeker, you understand the necessity of a search engine. First decide what market/s you’d like to pursue. I googled Data Storage in the Boston, Massachusetts, area and came up with 22 companies within a 25 mile radius. EMC, Dell, HP, Genzyme, Iron Mountain, TJX, and other big boys were some of the companies that popped up.

Check your local business journal. The Boston Business Journal is a wealth of information on up-and-coming companies. Large corporations, as well as start-ups, are mentioned in this publication. You’ll read good news along with not so good news. Pay attention to the companies that are showing growth and add them to your list. Your local journal will also have a People Section that will give you insight as to promotions, departures, and, of course, possible hiring opportunities.

Use your network. One of your best resources may be the Mavens who attend networking events and sit in the corner, where they shout out leads to companies that are hiring. From those contacts you’ll learn of other companies that are hiring or in the process of hiring. Your list of bona fide companies will grow longer and longer as time goes on.

Expand your list. Start small and grow your list. Five is a good number to begin with, and continue to grow your list by five every week. While you’re growing your list you’ll spend more time at your computer researching your companies. Of course you’ll check out the career section of each company, but some of your most valuable information will come from press releases, annual reports, stock news, etc.

Why is creating your list and researching companies important?

You’re being proactive and penetrating the hidden job market. Instead of spending countless hours on the Internet searching for advertised positions, you’re taking steps to penetrate the hidden job market. Experts assert that 80% of all jobs are hidden, so identifying companies that are showing growth will confirm that they’ll be hiring in the near future. And who will they want to hire? That’s right, the people who work there or referrals from the people who work there. Trust is a powerful thing.

You’re on your way to being known by your targeted companies. At this point you’re an unknown, a stranger coming off the street. Making connections at your companies won’t be easy (certainly not as easy as blasting off hundreds of cookie-cutter résumés) but the rewards will be great and you’ll benefit from the connections you’ve made for the rest of your career. You’ll become a known commodity.

You’ll be seen as someone who takes initiative. Does a smile spread across your face when the neighborhood kid comes to your door asking if he can shovel your driveway? He’s showing initiative. Your initiative will come in the form of knocking on companies’ doors, just like the neighborhood kid. You may be the extraverted type who will call companies and ask for an informational meeting, or you may be more introverted and prefer writing approach letters, professional profile sheets, and sending them to hiring authorities.

Next Friday we’ll look at knocking at companies’ doors using an approach letter.

 

Job Search Tip #7: Creating your contact list and start networking

The last tip looked at writing your accomplishment list. Today we’ll address creating your networking list of people who may help you find your next job.

By now you know that the best way to find work is by networking. Statistics from the Department of Labor show that networking accounts for at least 60% of your success, if used alone. Throw in online networking and you increase your chances of success.

The question is not if networking will help you in your job search; it’s with whom do you network? A simple answer is, everyone.

Here are the steps to take in developing your contact list and, just as importantly, following up with your contacts.

Make a list of the people with whom you worked or attended school. Don’t limit yourself to your most recent position; go back as far as 10 to 15 years. Also consider vendors and partners you may have done business with, or professors and teaching assistants you studied under.

Don’t forget the little guy. You may think that your managers, VPs, or directors are your best bet, but often times they are too busy to help. It’s usually your colleagues and people a level or two below you who have the time to spare and, quite honestly, care the most.

Consider everyone. Do you remember the mother of your daughter’s soccer teammate? The one who works at Raytheon? She might know of an accountant position in the works or that someone in marketing is on the outs. How about your convenience store owner who listens to his customers complain about not being able to fine good managers with business acumen? These people, along with family members, relatives, your plumber, and others can be a great source of networking.

These people are called superficial connections and often provide the leads necessary to get an interview. Too many people tell me they are only networking with past colleagues and supervisors, but it’s natural networking that may grant you success.

Develop new contacts by attending local networking events. This will take getting outside your comfort zone, but to bring new people into your fold; you’ll need to expand your reach. The best people to be around are people who are currently employed and own their own business. Local business networking events and chamber of commerce meet-ups are ideal for networking with people who are aware of the goings-on in the labor market.

Once you’ve made contact it’s important to follow-up with your new connections. A timely phone call placed to inquire about your contact’s daughter’s soccer game is a nice touch and will keep your name fresh in her mind. There is no harm in mentioning your employment status, but don’t inquire about any job openings at her company. “Do you know of anyone I should contact?” is a fair question, but don’t put on the pressure—it’s a sure way to lose a contact.

The secret behind online networking is to reach out to people who can be mutually helpful and then make personal contact with them. Many people feel that virtual communications will suffice in the networking arena. This is a mistake. People don’t get to know you unless they hear your voice or meet you in person. Agreeing to meet for coffee or at a contact’s office shows commitment on your part. Get outside your comfort zone.

Next Friday we’ll look at making your company list.

 

10 ways to communicate with your LinkedIn connections

business_communicationHaving a strong LinkedIn profile is essential to being found by other LinkedIn members and employers, but you’re job isn’t complete unless you’re communicating with your connections and the LinkedIn community as a whole.

I tell my LinkedIn workshop attendees that I spend approximately an hour a day (it’s probably more) on LinkedIn. Their faces register surprise; and I’m sure some of them are thinking, “Does this person have a life.”

Part of the workshop is about explaining the need to communicate with their connections, because networking is about communicating. Other than sending direct messages to your connections, here are 10 ways to connect with your LinkedIn connections.

1. The number one way to communicate is posting Updates. How many you post is up to you, but I suggest at least one a day. This is when I get remarks from my attendees about not having time to make an update a week.

To illustrate how easy it is, I post two Updates within five minutes as I’m talking to them. The first Update tells my connections what I’m doing at the moment, which of course is leading the workshop. The next one is usually sharing an article from my first degree connections or Pulse.

2. Another way to communicate with your connections is to “Like” their updates. Liking their updates is great, but it takes very little effort to simply click the link. Like, Like, Like. Be more creative and add a comment which can generate discussion, or reply to your connections privately.

Communicate-with-your3. I’ll visit my connection’s profiles–with full disclosure–many times a day. My connections will visit my profile many times, as well. When they “drop in” and have disclosed themselves (not Anonymous LinkedIn User or Someone from the Entertainment Industry), I’ll show my appreciation by writing, “Thanks for visiting my profile.” This will also lead to a discussion.

4. You’ve probably read many opinions from people on the topic of Endorsements–here we go again. Add me to the list of people who prefer thoughtful recommendations, both receiving and writing them, as opposed to simply clicking a button.

But, in fairness, Endorsements have a purpose greater than showing appreciation for someone’s Skills and Expertise; they act as a way to touch base. In other words, they’re another way to communicate with your connections.

5. Let us not forget our groups which give us another, significant way to communicate with our connections. Participating in discussions regularly is a great way to share ideas with established and potential connections. Yes, I’ve gained connections because of the values we shared as revealed by discussions. Just today I connected with a great resume writer who impressed me with comments she made regarding a question I asked.

6. If your connections blog, take the effort to read their posts and comment on their writing. This is an effective way of creating synergy in the blogging community, but blog posts have made their way into the Updating scene, as well. The majority of my Updates are posts that I’ve read and commented on.

7. I turned 50 yesterday. Not surprisingly I received happy wishes from some of my connections. When your connections have an anniversary (work, that is) or have accepted a new job, you’ll be alerted and be given the opportunity to communicate with them. A small gesture but nice to recognize your connections and generate some discussion.

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Take it a step further. So far I’ve written about how you can communicate with your online connections. You can’t lose sight of the fact that an online relationship will not come to fruition until you’ve reached out and communicated with your connections in a more personal way.

8. A very simple way to extend your communications is by e-mailing them. I know, it doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it’s another step toward developing a more personal relationship. Because you are connected by first degree, you have access to their e-mail address, access which can come in handy at times.

9. Naturally the second act toward strengthening your relationships is to make that daunting call (for some it is a big step), Let your connections know, through e-mail, that you’ll be calling them. Write the reason for the call, such as explaining who you are and what goals you have in your professional life. Nothing is as awkward as dead air and running out of things to say, because the recipient of the call is caught off guard.

10. Finally comes the face-to-face meeting at a place that is convenient for both of you. If your connection lives in a distant location, you may suggest getting together when you’ll be in their city or town. Plan to meet at a coffee shop or a personal networking event if your connection lives close by.

When you meet in person with a connection, he/she becomes a bona fide connection. This is the ultimate way to communicate with a LinkedIn connection. It may not happen often, particularly if he/she lives a great distance from you, but when it does possibilities may present themselves.

Having a great profile is not enough. It’s a start but only the beginning to communicating with your connections. I’ll write LinkedIn profiles for people, and they might have questions about what to do next. Sometimes it’s your activity on LinkedIn that really makes the difference between standing still and realizing success.

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Job search tip #6: Create your accomplishment list

The previous tip looked at writing a powerful cover letter. Now we’ll address creating your accomplishment list.

For those who are unfamiliar with an accomplishment list, it’s a number of outstanding achievements you’ve accumulated over the course of your career—but not to exceed 10 to 15 years of work history.

Your list should be broken down into positions/titles, or you may compile a list of accomplishments that reflect one occupation, providing you’ve been in the same line of work and industry.

If you’re wondering why an accomplishment list will help you with your job search, here are five reasons.

Build your self-esteem. Writing your accomplishment list is an excellent exercise that will help you remember the positives in your life. You’ll get a sense of pride from doing it, and your list will come in handy. Many of your accomplishment statements will come from your résumé, but try to think of other outstanding accomplishments you’ve had, including those you’ve achieved through volunteerism.

Networking meetings. Most believe they should bring a résumé to a networking meeting, but an accomplishment list could be more useful, given that a generic résumé will not impress the interviewer. Let’s say the person with whom you’re speaking mentions that the many of the company employees expressed dissatisfaction in their responsibilities.

On your accomplishment list is: “Reduced turnover by 50% and increased employee satisfaction by implementing a program that facilitated cross-training in various departments.”

Networking. Bringing your accomplishment list to networking events for jobseekers will serve you well. You won’t cite all your accomplishments when you’re standing at the front of the room during a “needs and leads” session but telling the group about your best accomplishment will leave a lasting impression in their minds.

“At Acme Company I volunteered to lead computer training for people who were struggling with SAP. My patient, yet thorough, style of training enabled all the trainees to understand the program in a week’s time, thus increasing their production.”

Interviews. Why not make your accomplishment list part of your portfolio? Chances are you’ve included the necessary job-related accomplishments on your résumé—and you’ve explained them during the meeting—but there may be other accomplishments that could contribute to your candidacy. Your list might be the tie-breaker.

Telephone interviews are also a great time to share your accomplishments. Because the interviewer can’t see you, your list will be by your side where you can see it. The interviewer asks if there’s anything you’d like to add.

You say, “I would be remiss in not mentioning that I excel in writing. In fact, when technical document was needed, sales would often come to me for easy-to-understand documentation on our products.”

When you’re employed. Often we overlook accomplishments we’ve had at work. The best time to compile your accomplishment list is when you’re working and the accomplishments are fresh in your mind. Every time you do something outstanding, write it down. Better yet, add it to your résumé.

Next Friday we’ll look at creating your contact list.

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8 ways to make a better impression while networking

I was invited by one of my customers to attend a networking event in the local area. Intrigued by what this networking group was all about, I agreed to take some time from the office and visit the group.

They say timing is everything. Nothing illustrated this more than when I entered a hall-full room of networkers, and a man met me at the door and pounced on me before I was able to take off my coat.

“You’re Bob, right?” he said. I nodded, wondering how he knew who I was. I guess my customer told people I’d be going to the event.

“I’m Jim. I heard you’re pretty good at LinkedIn. I was wondering if you could help me with my profile. I’m not getting many hits. I’ve been on LinkedIn for more than a year. Do you think you could help me write it?”

“I lead LinkedIn workshops at the Career Center of Lowell,” I told him. “You should come to the Center and attend my workshops. Then I can critique your profile.” I hoped this was the end of our conversation, as I hadn’t even grabbed a coffee, but no the man continued.

“Well, I don’t really have time to go to the career center (probably because it would disrupt his online job search). And I’m not sure it will serve my needs, being an urban career center.”

I felt like telling him that people exactly like him come to our career center. Instead I told him I’d forgotten my business cards (lie) but he could call our local number if he wanted to come in for my workshops. I knew he wouldn’t make the call.

This, folks, is what gives organized networking a bad name. Going to a networking event should not start on an unpleasant note from point of contact.To make a better impression while networking, practice the following:

  1. Approach potential connections slowly, yet confidently. Don’t spring upon a person like the fellow I mentioned above. I didn’t appreciate being bombarded before I was able to get settled. Instead casually approach the person with whom you’d like to meet and give a nod of recognition.
  2. Make eye-contact and smile before approaching. People can tell a lot about you from your causal eye-contact. Your eye contact says you’re approachable. And smiling shows warmth and acceptance. Those who don’t smile seem indifferent, which doesn’t encourage conversation.
  3. Extend your hand in a non-aggressive manner. This is a sign of welcome, and to me says you have solid character. That said, shake a person’s hand gracefully and don’t squeeze so hard that it hurts. No limp or wet-palm handshakes either–as my daughter would say, “Ewww.”
  4. Think small talk first. There’s no reason to immediately launch into your elevator speech. Ease into the conversation by using the methods listed above and wait for the right moment to explain what you do and talk about the value you bring to employers.
  5. Give the person your undivided attention. Later in the morning I was talking with someone who kept looking past me like she was expecting Prince Charming to come through the door. I realize I’m not Brad Pitt, but come on. If it ain’t happening, make an exit gracefully.
  6. Don’t offer your personal business card if you don’t mean business. It’s disingenuous and a waste of paper when you give your card to someone with whom you have nothing in common or feel no connection. I distrust people who give me their card as soon as we start talking. Don’t you want to know my name first?
  7. Catch the person on your way out. Do you ever leave a party without saying goodbye to the host? Of course not; that’s just plain rude. Make sure you afford your potential contacts the courtesy of letting them know you’re leaving. Otherwise, they’ll get that feeling of being blown off or continue to look for you during the rest of the event.
  8. Follow up. This goes without saying. Tell those with whom you have something in common that you’ll follow up your conversation the next day…and do it. When you follow up with your new connections, you show responsibility and respect. Further, you solidify the relationships.

On my way back to the office I stopped by the neighborhood Panera Bread, where I ran into one of my customer who’s trying to find a job. The meeting was easy and refreshing and reminded me of what networking is all about—great conversation with the subtlety of networking in the background, yet ever-present. The timing was just right.

 

4 ways for introverts to engage in small talk at a networking event

Networking EventI’m not  fond of forced small talk. There, I said it. I particularly don’t look forward to entering a room full of strangers and talking about myself.

Like at a networking event, where everyone is delivering their commercial like automatons.

But I do small talk at networking events, and I’m pretty good at it most of the time.

Small talk is important in professional pursuits; it leads to deeper conversation. An excellent article, Hate Small Talk? One Approach Anyone Can Use, talks about how to approach people and help them engage; thus, helping them conduct small talk and, as a consequence, help you with your small talk.

Jeff Hadden is the author of this article. In it, he writes: “I dread the thought of walking up to people I don’t know and making small talk. Not because I don’t like people, but because in that situation I really don’t like me. I’m not outgoing, I’m not gregarious, not extroverted. I’m the ultimate wallflower.”

I love honest writing, especially when it illustrates how I feel. But here’s the rub: introverts have to improve their small talk abilities, regardless of their comfort level or desire. Small talk generates business and the job-search leads.

If, like me, small talk doesn’t come easy, this is what can you do about it.

1) As the author of the aforementioned suggests, approach someone who is struggling to engage. Here’s how it might go: “Hi. I’m Bob. What do you think of the event?”….”Yeah, it is crowded in here.” Where’re you from?”….”No kiddin’? I’m from Lowell, a small city north of Boston…” This can lead to your elevator pitch…or not.

2) I’m fond of asking questions. My kids think I’m weird, like I’m interrogating them; but it gives me some fodder to respond to. I tell my workshop attendees I’m the King of Asking Questions. “So, what brings you here?” “What do you think of the guest speaker?” “You’re from Tampa (noticing name tag). What’s the weather like down there at this time?” Just remember not to sound like you are interrogating your fellow networkers; allow them to ask you questions, as well.

3) Go prepared to an event by arranging a date or two. I’m going to an event on Tuesday, so I invited a guy I know to attend with me. I’ve got someone with whom to talk if nothing is happening, as well as someone to introduce. “You need help with your website? I’d like to introduce you to John. He’s a wiz at fixing websites.”  If the conversation takes off, great for John. But now I’m alone, unless my second date is there.

4) Don’t bother working the room. There’s no law that says you have to collect 10 business cards, most of which will go into the circular file cabinet when you get home. You might meet someone with whom you have a great deal in common, perhaps there are business or job-search benefits to explore. Great. I’m not trying to give you an out here, just a semblance of success.

If you were to ask me where small talk rates as one of my activities, I’d place it below watching golf. I much prefer, as do most introverts, having a few lengthy conversations with people–most likely somewhere quiet. I know it’s important, but I find it extremely unnatural.

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Dear College Students, here are 3 steps to take when connecting with your alumni on LinkedIn

college student2Dear College Students,

Now that your profile is in tip top shape, it’s time to think about how, as a new college student, to connect with other LinkedIn members. It’s time to develop your online network.

To help you do this, LinkedIn has a neat feature called Find Alumni, which is located in the Network drop-down menu

Why is it important that you’ve created a profile and must now develop your network? Because the sooner you start your network, the more useful it will be when you graduate and have to look for a job. An old adage is: in the working world, the best time to network is when you’re working. So it stands to reason the best time to network is while you’re in school.

Finding alumni with whom to connect

Assuming you haven’t made any connections with your alumni, which also include those who attended your alma mater before you arrived, you’ll want to connect with them because they’re probably currently working and may know of opportunities or, at least, people with whom you can connect.

First go to How You’re Connected to the far right of the second screen. Most likely you have very few, if any, 1st degree connections. That’s alright. Focus on your second degrees. Select your 2nd degrees by clicking on that bar. You’ll see the other categories shift, the numbers decrease. This narrows your search for potential alumni contacts.

If you’re a communications major, you’ll focus on people who are connected with you under What They Do, e.g., Media and Communication. Look at where they work, what they studied, what they’re skilled at. This will give you a sense of your commonalities, as well as some talking points when you connect with them.

Connecting with your alumni

The largest advantage you have is your common bond with people who are going to school with you or who have attended years before. When you attempt to connect with them through their profile, the option Classmate has already been chosen for you.

This is where, as an aspiring LinkedIn professional, you need to carefully craft your invite messages. Under no circumstances will you send the default LinkedIn invite; that’s plain laziness. Instead, you’ll write a personalized note, which will show the professionalism LinkedIn members expect from each other.

Note: Even though you can hit Connect under the person’s photo, it’s still best to open their profile and choose to connect after reading it thoroughly.

Here’s what you might write after reading your potential connection’s profile:

Dear Mr. Schmidt,

As you’re an alumnus at the University of Virginia and are in the field of Marketing Communications, I’d like to take this time to reach out and invite you to my network. I will contact you to see if we can be of assistance to each other.

Completing the process

Your new invite accepts your personalized invitation because both of you share an interest in Communications and, most importantly are alumni. In your invitation you mentioned being of assistance to Mr. Schmidt. Where many people fall down in the process is not following through.

Be true to your word by contacting him via e-mail when he accepts your invite. Also write down some questions you’d like to ask Mr. Schmidt regarding the line of work he does. Make them intelligent questions; don’t waste his time. Ask him if he might know of anyone who you could also speak with. Finally, tell him you’re at his disposal should he need assistance.

The process of building relationships can be  a long one, but because you’ve just begun your education, you have plenty of time developing long-lasting relationships. These are connections that can be of great help to you once you’ve graduated college.

11 ways to connect in your community for your job search

To some jobseekers, attending organized networking events is akin to meeting their future in-laws for the first time. One jobseeker told me she hyperventilates before she goes to an event. Wow.

Perhaps you feel similar symptoms, dreading the times you have to attend organized networking events.

At networking events you’re expected to engage in conversation about you and the strangers you meet, deliver your elevator pitch, maintain proper posture, always exchange business cards, refrain from eating messy food, etc.

Take away the expectations that come with attending a networking event, you’re simply connecting with people in your community, which seems more palatable. There’s no pressure to perform like you would at a networking event.

Community includes the people with whom you interact: former colleagues, Chamber of Commerce members, friends, family, neighbors, soccer parents, PTA members, your hair stylist, the folks with whom you volunteer, your career center staff–essentially everyone in your life.

Am I suggesting that you avoid networking events? Certainly not. There are opportunities these events provide, but by connecting with people in your community valuable opportunities exist. Some important points to consider when connecting in the community include:

  1. Get the word out. As simple as this sounds, I know people who don’t tell family or friends they’re out of work because of shame and embarrassment. Regardless of how you departed your company/organization, your community has to know you’re no longer employed.
  2. Don’t come across as desperate. One thing employers look for in a candidate is confidence. The same applies to your community. Someone who appears confident and not phased by their situation is someone your community members will be willing to back.
  3. Resist the urge to bash. Regardless of how your employment ended, don’t rant about how unfairly you were treated and the circumstances of why you were let go or laid off. If asked about your departure, explain how it happened, but don’t come across as angry. If you’re not past the anger stage, avoid talking about the situation.
  4. Know what you want to do. Your community can only help you if you are able to explain very clearly what occupation you’re pursuing, the industry in which you’d like to work, even the location you prefer. To say, “I’ll do anything; I just need a job” is not helpful to people in your community, and will make you appear desperate.
  5. Clearly explain what you do. To say, “I’m in customer service” is not enough.Tell your community that you “answer customers’ questions regarding their cable, telephone, and Internet issues” paints a better picture and provokes follow-up questions.
  6. Do your researchWhat type of companies do you want to work for? What are the names of those companies? This is all important information, especially if you know of someone in your community who has a contact or two at those companies. Casually connecting with these people by making a phone call or meeting them for coffee can lead to results.
  7. No events are off limits. Bar-b-ques, holiday parties, baby showers, your nephew’s birthday party, are appropriate places to connect to explain your status. Just be tactful and don’t dominate conversations with your job search woes. Instead briefly explain what you do and ask people to keep their ears to the pavement.
  8. Carry personal business cards with you. That’s right; even when you connect with your community in a casual way you’ll want to show how serious you are about finding a job. It shows professionalism and helps people to remember what you do and the type of job you’re seeking (related to numbers 4 and 5).
  9. Never outright ask if they know of a job. If you want your community to help you, don’t ask if they know of any jobs that would suit you. This only puts pressure on them.
  10. Follow up. Ping the people in your community with updates on your job search or just to keep in touch by sending them e-mails or cards on special occasions. Doing this will keep you fresh on their minds.
  11. Reciprocate. When you finally get your job, be sure to show your gratitude by offering to help those who assisted you with your job search. This means everyone. You may not be able to provide the same kind of help, but maybe you could help someone with her small business, for instance. Keep the good will in your community going.

Connecting with people in your community should feel natural and relaxed, not stiff and laborious. Connecting at networking events can have great benefits, and over time you’ll learn to network better; but begin by establishing relationships with the people in your community and build your way up to attending the events.

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