10 reasons why your informational meetings aren’t working in your job search

meetingLet’s set one thing straight: it’s not an informational interview—although that’s how most people refer to it. It’s an informational or networking meeting. But regardless of its name, there are 10 reasons why your informational meeting will fail, if you approach it the ways listed below.

I’ve granted informational meetings, and in many cases they were uneventful. Uneventful because they were more like a question and answer session than a conversation. Dull. Furthermore, the questions were not well thought out.

I’ve asked for informational meetings and in most cases I was prepared for them. Often they went to the point where we could have talked longer. I gathered great information, whether it was encouraging or set my expectations straight.

The purpose of an informational meeting

Let’s be clear, no job has been advertised, so they’re not actual interviews. That’s why the terms “informational meetings” or “networking meetings” are more fitting.

You’re requesting an informational meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the questions, intelligent questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice; and no pressure on you.

Your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

Some reason why your informational meetings aren’t working in your job search

1. The questions you ask are weak. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because is lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I  have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem.

2. Your enthusiasm level is low. Chances are the person granting you the informational meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met, or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about. Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone–it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. You arrive or call late. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting. Set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. You’ll impress the person by being early.

4. You don’t have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda doesn’t provide direction. You come across as wimpy and disorganized. Your adviser is unsure of how this meeting will go.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition–if the person can speak to that point. While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. You don’t have data to back you up. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interest are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $30,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $15,000.

6 You don’t make the person feel like he’s doing you a favor. You make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the informational meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions,” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation. If you don’t do this, you’ll come across as a taker.

7. You ask for a job. Hold on. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. There’s no call for action. You don’t ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often jobseekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. You don’t reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website–this will fit nicely on your resume.

10. You don’t send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or thank you card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A network shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the informational meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation–perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company–going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.


 

Informational meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant informational meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

 

An introvert’s idea of a great vacation

beach

This summer I was fortunate to vacation with my family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In my mind, this was a great vacation because it afforded me the time to reflect, draw my energy inward, and not concern myself with too much external stimuli. In three words: an introvert’s paradise.

Obviously my family and I spent most of the time at the beaches. The Cape Cod Bay was within walking distance to our north and the slamming waves of the Atlantic Ocean were to our south.

One day we would walk less than a quarter of a mile to the Bay, another we would drive to the Atlantic Ocean. In both cases, there was nothing more to do than sit in a beach chair, bake in the sun, and take a dip in the icy water.

Foolishly I tried my hand at body surfing. I caught a great wave and was carried ten or so feet until I hit the sand and tumbled end over end. My kids and wife laughed at me as I was pulling sand out of my hair and swim trunks and spitting more of it from my mouth. A week later my shoulders and stomach are still red from the sandpaper I slid across.

The best part of the vacation was the time I spent reading alongside my daughter, who was engaged in Gone Girl.The rest of the family was down by the ocean body surfing or floating on the surface. Occasionally they’d beckon us to join them, but we’d wave our hands at them indicating we were happy where we were. 

My daughter and I nary spoke a word to each other, save for asking the other to hand over a water and PB&J. We didn’t speak often because we didn’t have to. Delving into our books was our way of relaxing and reflecting. Our energy was directed inward and we were unaware of our surrounding. Total bliss.

TurtleOther moments I enjoyed were my 45-minute, morning walks. Our rental house was at the end of a dirt road on which our van would bottom out no matter how slow we drove. I saw small animals, like rabbits, turtles, and even one snake on this road.

I also collected branches and twigs for our nighttime fire. More than anything, these walks gave me time to think and enjoy the lack of “noise” I hear on a daily basis at home and work. 

On Friday we went into Provincetown to buy Tee-shirts, sweat shirts, and eat Portuguese fried dough. It was Carnival week, so the people were free of inhibitions and walking around in interesting outfits. This was truly a great time to people watch; direct my energy inward.

I couldn’t help but notice that many people were acting in an extraverted way; I was content simply walking with my family. I answered innocent questions from my son like, “Why is that man dressed like a woman?” with the only answer I could muster, “Because he can.”

Every night we built a fire in a small, rusted fire bowl. We talked about the day, laughing at silly moments like my daughter locking the keys in our van–the second time it’s happened to us during out two vacations on the Cape. We enjoyed reflecting on the week and making plans for the remaining days of the vacation. At a determined time I would leave the group and settle down to read in the comfort of the bed, with the fan blowing cool August air on me.

At one point of this glorious vacation my wife told me she received a text from one of our friends who was wondering if we wanted to join them for a get-together with other friends the day we returned from our vacation. The prospect of attending a party that would last long through the night was far from appealing. Maybe and extravert would jump at this opportunity, but the idea alone exhausted me. 

Some might consider my family’s vacation boring. That’s fine. I think it was the greatest vacation ever because it gave me time to relax and prepare for the day I would return to work and engage with people in my workshops.  

2 differences between the Résumé and LinkedIn Profile–Part 1

resume linkedinI tell attendees of my Advanced LinkedIn workshop, “Your LinkedIn profile is not your résumé.” It’s important for me to say this, as some of their LinkedIn profiles resemble their résumé. I can spot a copy-and-paste a mile away.

A LinkedIn “résumé” gives off a generic look rather than a unique document that makes LinkedIn a powerful tool for the job search. Potential employers are not looking for a rehash of your résumé; they’re looking for more, another look.

Let’s examine two differences between the résumé and profile.

The most obvious difference between the résumé and LinkedIn profile is the Photo. Because LinkedIn is a networking application and the résumé is a job search document, here is one major difference. A photo on your LinkedIn profile is necessary, as it enhances your brand. It may tell visitor you’re creative, sincere and compassionate, a leader, ambitious, serious, etc.

As well, a profile with a photo is more trustworthy and memorable. A recent statistic states that a profile with a photo is seven times more likely to be opened.  I for one will not open a profile if it lacks a photo, unless it’s someone I know.

I tell my attendees that despite their fear of age discrimination, a photo is necessary to network. Imagine attending a networking event where people walk around with a paper bag on their head. Not very personal.

The headline is second on the list of differences between the résumé and LinkedIn profile. An Advanced résumé must have a branding headline that immediately tells potential employers that you are the right person for the job. The headline is a simple line or two of what you do and some of your areas of strength. Here’s an example of a position-specific branding title:

Marketing Specialist 

Public Relations ~ Vendor Relations ~ Staff Supervision ~ Web Design ~ Event Coordination

Look at another branding headline that is written for a similar job:

Marketing Coordinator

Social Media | Trade Shows | International Travel | Increased Production | Graphic Design

Your LinkedIn profile has a branding headline that is similar to your résumé’s headline, save for the fact the profile isn’t written for a specific job. It needs to include more general skills/keywords. You may choose to use a branding statement instead. The same position may resemble this:

Marketing Specialist with expertise in Public Relations, Trade Shows, Vendor Relations, Web Content,
Event Coordination;
leading to increased visibility and profitability for your company.

Furthermore, the branding headline adds to the keyword count for those whose résumé will be sent through an applicant tracking system (ATS). As well it makes being found on LinkedIn more possible with key skills of your occupation and industry/ies.

In the next post, we’ll look at the differences between the résumé’s Core Competencies and the LinkedIn Skills and Expertise sections.

 

9 features of a professional résumé…and thoughts on Italian food


My wife and I recently ate at an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston, where I had Linguine Alla Pescatore and Caprese Salad (with fried tomato). To say the food was out of this world would be an understatement. The atmosphere was authentic and boisterous, the waiter attentive.

What does fine Italian food have to do with a professional résumé? It’s akin to a WOW moment you want the employer to experience when she reads your professional résumé. So what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary? There are nine distinct features of a professional résumé. Read more of this post

4 lessons extraverts could learn from introverts

loud colleague

A colleague recently said to me that she’s tired of reading “self-help” articles for introverts and wonders why none are written for extraverts. After all, she said, extraverts aren’t perfect. Good point I told her. But I also added there’s no market for articles or books on extraverts.

In fact, when you search for books on Amazon about extraverts or look on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, you’ll find nada. They’re just not worth writing about, it seems.

Society has been writing and talking about the shortcomings of introverts for so long that it’s as though, for lack of better words, “Introverts need help.” Some books even talk about how introverts can be more like their counterpart, how you can program your brain to be more extraverted. Read more of this post

Knowing your work values is important

I recall when Wes Welker, then a wide-receiver for the New England Patriots, declared that the 2011 walkout of NFL players “is pretty sad.” He further told reporters that he was happy to be playing and never imagined he’d be making the money he is. It was obvious he loved football.

This made me think of two things: one, there are professional players who want to play the season and two, money isn’t everything to some of them. Surely pro athletes make more money than most of us could imagine, but for a pro athlete to imply that he makes more money than he should is remarkable and refreshing.

Perhaps the lesson we can take away from Wes Welker’s statement is that money doesn’t define the success of one’s career. What defines the success of one’s career is how rewarding it is. Yes, some would say that money is their most desired value; but it’s a known fact that the majority of employees hold other values closer to their heart.

In a workshop I deliver at our career center, I conduct an exercise on work values, asserting that like life values, we have values that make work rewarding. Many of the workshop attendees list values such as:

  • Achievement: being able to meet your goals.
  • Balance: having time for family, work and play.
  • Independence/Autonomy: control of your own destiny.
  • Influence: able to have an impact on others.
  • Integrity: stand up for your beliefs.
  • Honesty: telling the truth and knowing that others are telling the truth.
  • Power: control over others.
  • Respect: care and trust of self and others.
  • Spirituality: believing in your core beliefs.
  • Status: having influence.
  • Creativity: able to express your personality in your work.

Over the years our values may change. Some of our jobseekers now see health as their number one value, and this comes as no surprise as they are mature workers and their bodies are changing. Personally, I value balance, creativity, and autonomy.

My workshop attendees agree that unless their values are met, they’re unhappy and hope for a job the fulfills their values. Some openly admit that they were unhappy at their last job for various reasons. The goal, then, is to find a job which meets at least three of their values.

I’m curious to know what your three most important values are. Especially if they’re not on the list.

7 reasons why recruiters and employers dread reading a résumé

Here’s a fact: Very few people like reading résumés, especially those who read hundreds of them a week. Ask any recruiter or employer. I critique and write résumés as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them and have conducted numerous critique sessions, but I’ve got nothing over recruiters and employers.

The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a résumé that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A résumé that is outstanding–now, that’s a WOW moment.

Once you understand that recruiters and employers are not dying to read your résumé, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview. To entice them into inviting you in for an interview, you must avoid making the following mistakes:

1, An apathetic approach to writing your résumé. Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product, which shouts, “I’m not into writing a résumé. It means I have to think about what I did.” This sentiment comes across loud and clear from people who feel this way. They resent having to write a résumé and would like others to do it for them. Do not rely on others to write your résumé; it’s your responsibility.

2. Your résumé is a tome. It’s a five-page document consisting of every duty you performed within the past 25-years; and it’s so dense that the person reading it puts it in the “don’t read” pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read. I recently glanced at a résumé that resembled what I’ve just described. I made no false pretense and simply put it down after two seconds saying, “I can’t read this.”

3. It lacks accomplishments. I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s worth repeating because you want to stand out from the rest. Recruiters and employers relate to quantified results with dollars, numbers, and percentages. Many people think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the Work History section or under Career Highlights.

One or two of your accomplishments should be stated in the Performance Profile. “Develop processes that improve operations and result in double-digit revenue growth. ” A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up in the Employment History with explicit examples and dollar amounts.

4. Failing to show recruiters and employers what you’ll do for them. Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do. You’re probably thinking, “If my work history is in the past. That’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?” It’s what we in the field call prioritizing your statements, or targeting your résumé to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance.

5. You don’t know what recruiters and employers want. Many people don’t take the time to dissect the job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on your résumé. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s career section on its website.

Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call him/her and ask more about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted résumé if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.

6. You lack keywords and phrases. As CareerBuilder.com points out, keywords are the skills applicant tracking systems (ATS) search for to determine if your résumé will be the first of many to be read by recruiters and employers. Your branding headline, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your résumé where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your résumé.

7. You apply for a job for which you’re not. I know the urge to find a job, any job, is great; but don’t waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and you by applying for a job for which you’re not qualified. You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview. But if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope. And this can be determined within the first 10 seconds of reading the résumé.

A woman in HR recently related this story to me, “I received a résumé in a USPS photo envelope (heavy duty mailer) certified mail.  The résumé is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, she is applying for the Assistant Town Accountant position and for the last 10 years she has been a dog groomer.”

These are but seven faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful résumé that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’re at the interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.

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