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.

 

14 traits of a winning LinkedIn group

LinkedIN groups2I’ve talked to my workshop attendees about the importance of participating in groups until my advice sounds like a mantra. “You’ll only benefit from a group if you participate,” I tell them. “Start discussions, contribute to discussions, network within those groups…blah, blah, blah.

But here’s the thing: why should we participate in our groups if they don’t add value? If we’re the Top Contributor for weeks running, doesn’t it mean no one else is pulling their weight? Further, does this say no one cares enough to be part of the community?

As the owner of the group, you are responsible for its growth and productivity. And if it gets to the point where you run short of time and can’t monitor or contribute to every discussion, assign people who are dedicated and will keep your group vibrant.

Recently I inherited a group, and I reflect on the responsibilities that go with owning a group (I already own a group). Can I handle taking on another group? Will I make the members happy to be part of the group? Can I find people who will manage it when I run out of time? To do it correctly means:

Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. I’m talking about the number of members, of course. Many people think joining a group with hundreds of thousands of members is the way to go. It’s quality of members that matters, not quantity. A winning group has the best minds in the industry.

  1. Great discussions. This is a mark of a winning group. Discussion should be relevant but it doesn’t mean members can’t go off track and raise new issues. Thirty-nine comments are always a good thing; it indicates involvement.
  2. Conducive to networking. Winning groups promote virtual networking among its members, as well as direct communication. Groups are where members can communicate, even if they’re not first degree connections.
  3. Appropriate shared information. The group’s mission should be upheld, and group members should post discussions that are relevant. I left a group because even its members wondered if the information was appropriate.
  4. Attracting thought leaders and keeping them in your group. They’re the ones who keep it going with interesting discussions. Thought leaders add value to the group when they contribute to discussions–everyone listens.
  5. Members feel welcome. A winning group makes its members feel welcome. The owner or managers should welcome new members by introducing them and encouraging introductions from them. It’s about creating a community.
  6. Hold members accountable for contribution. I write this with a huge grin on my face. Years ago I was removed from a group because I wasn’t participating at the rate at which I was expected. I had great respect for the owner for doing this and removed myself from eight groups.
  7. No SPAM. Spam is considered anything hinting of sales or self-promotion. This may be the breaking point where members start dropping like flies. The owner or managers can delete or move content to Promotions if the entry is spam.
  8. Group rules, but not stifling. Every winning group should have rules, but not rules that make members walk on eggshells. Rules, for example, on how to pose questions or start discussions are a bit Machiavellian.
  9. No pending submissions. I’m sorry, but if I submit a question, contribute to a conversation, mention a job, or post an article; I don’t want my submission to be reviewed. Trust those who contribute to the group…unless they break rule #1. In addition, some owners aren’t diligent about checking submissions, leaving people waiting for their discussion to show.
  10. Act quickly on people who want to join groups. Some owners and managers don’t clean house as quickly as possible. (Guilty as charged.) Winning groups act quickly on people who want to join the groups, not making them wait in limbo.
  11. Variety of contributors. In my group I love to see other contributors. I don’t want to be the only person whose face is covering the page–the top contributor. Winning groups have many people participating, contributing to its community.
  12. Jobs feature. Not common to all groups, but having a jobs section is nice for those who are looking for employment. It’s great when members contribute jobs that aren’t advertised, so group members are the first to hear about them.
  13. The articles shared must add value. Whether an article is one you read and enjoyed or one of your own, it must be well written and provide information of value. Include a question or statement with the article you’re sharing with a group.

Groups is perhaps the best feature LinkedIn offers. Some members encourage you to join the maximum number of groups allowed, 50, while others suggest joining only groups in which you can participate on a regular basis–I’m in this camp. Regardless of the number of groups you join, make sure the winning characteristics outweigh the losing traits.

If you think of any other attributes that make a winning group, let us know.

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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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2 important hints about LinkedIn endorsements

endorsemments2When you endorse your connections’ skills and expertise, do you simply click Endorse next to the skills with the highest number of endorsements? You may not be doing your connections a favor by doing this; but it’s not entirely your fault.

Your valued connections should be guiding you through the process, and you should follow their wishes.

Hint 1: guide your connections

Endorsees, you may be unaware that you can move specific skills and expertise toward the top of your list as a way to highlight their importance. Without doing this, your skills will be listed in highest to lowest number of endorsements. Which works out fine if your highest number of endorsements properly brand you.

But in some cases your skills are not being endorsed in a manner that tells others how you want to build your brand. One of my connections aptly illustrates which skills he wants endorsed to better brand him. He lists Social Selling ( a mere 13 endorsements) listed above LinkedIn (98), LinkedIn Training (74), and so forth. He’s obviously sending a message to his connections.

How do you rearrange your skills in the order you desire? In Edit Profile select Edit Skills and Endorsements. You’ll see a field like this:

skills

Now simply move the skills in the order you’d like them to appear. I’ve moved LinkedIn (33 endorsements) ahead of Workshop Facilitation (98+) and Blogging (41) ahead of Interviews (82), as I want these two skills highlighted.

Hint 2: those of you endorsing your connections, take the hint

So if you’re endorsing your connections, take the hint. The skills your savvy connections want endorsed first are the top five to 10, not the bottom 10. Endorse them for those skills first and then endorse them for the others.

People often ask me if I see value in endorsements. I tell them only if the endorsers are aware or have witnessed the endorsees perform the skills for which they’re being endorsed. However, if LinkedIn wants us to endorse our connections–even those we haven’t seen perform–we can only trust their word on their proficient skills.

That said, I feel it’s perfectly fine to ask a connection which skills she wants endorsed–in other words, respect your connections’ order of skills. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think eliciting endorsements from others is ethical.)

I asked one of my connections which of his skills he wanted endorsed. His simple response was the top five because those are the skills he is strongest at. I wouldn’t know without asking him because he lives in California, and I’ve never seen him in action. Nonetheless, like Lin Sanity, I was caught up in endorsing people.

Take the hint if you’d like to endorse me by clicking Endorse next to my top five skills, because I’ve arranged them in order of preference. I’m pretty sure I perform those skills very well. I’d do the same for you.

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12 P’s for productive networking

P Words

The reason why 12 laminated,  8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper–all with one word beginning with the letter P–are hanging on a wall in a room in our career center is because I am a Procrastinator.

These 12 words are related to productive networking. Procrastinate isn’t one of them, by the way.

Had I been more diligent, I would have had a big ass poster with all these 12 P words designed and produced by a print shop. The poster I envision will hang where our networking group meets.

Tasked with the job of writing a code of conduct, I decided that simply listing words would be more effective than handing the participants a document that describes how one should act while attending the group.

A colleague and I decided that words beginning with the letter P cover a great deal of behaviors and attitudes expected from networkers. Here are the P words networkers should use while they’re networking at any networking event.

  1. Positive: How could this word not be included? Networkers, despite their feelings, should act positive, not negative. People would rather surround themselves with positive-acting folks. If you’re one who believes in self-fulfilling prophesies, this is one.
  2. Persevere: When you feel like it’s not working and are wavering between going or not going to a networking event, perseverance will urge you on. Keep attending the group until you’ve exhausted all opportunities, or landed a job!
  3. Professional: This one encompasses many other traits, but overall marks you as positive and respected by others, and speaks to how you dress and conduct yourself at an event. Great practice for the entire job search.
  4. Participate: What’s the sense of attending a networking event if you’re going to sit in a corner or leave as soon as the Leads and Needs session is over? Approach people who may be sitting by themselves, and make them feel welcome.
  5. Polite: Being polite means not interrupting others or dominating the conversations. Listen to others as good networkers would. Saying, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” can go along well.
  6. Prepare: This word also applies to the entire job search. You must be prepared for the interview, and you must be prepared to contribute to the networking event. This means bringing your target company list and leads for others.
  7. Personal: Show your personality at a networking event but make sure it’s appropriate for the event. Be yourself, relaxed, easy to speak with, friendly. A smile goes a long way, so show your pearly whites–this shows your welcome to be approached.
  8. Present: This can include the way you dress and how you come across while delivering your elevator pitch, or simply talking to others. There are those who dress like they mean business, and others who might be in their household attire. Who’ll be taken more seriously?
  9. Punctual: Being late is rude and shows a lack of time management. Would you be late to a job interview? Then don’t show up late for the networking event.
  10. Promote: Not only should networkers promote themselves in a tactful manner; they should promote each other. When introducing a fellow networker to a member of the group, speak highly of that person.
  11. Progress: Strive for progress. This can mean setting goals to meet three new people at an event every time you go, or if you like to mingle, come away with 10 business cards.
  12. Productive: The result of all these P words. You must be productive in your networking, or, for lack of better words, it ain’t worth it.

The words that hang on the wall in our room are a great reminder of how one should conduct their organized networking. Eventually–nay, soon–I’ll get around to having them made into a stunning poster or two. I don’t want to wear the letter P on my chest for eternity; it standing for Procrastination.

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Prepare for behavioral interviews

One workshop I designed almost four years ago was on behavioral interviewing. At that time most of my customers told me they’d never heard of behavioral-based interviews. Even now many are in the dark about these interviews.

Those who have experienced behavioral interviews admit they’ve had difficulty answering questions that begin with, “Tell me about a time when….” Which is not hard for me to believe given the fact that this type of interview is new to many of them (many haven’t interviewed in 10 or more years).

On the other side of the desk, many interviewers are not trained to ask behavioral questions. Instead they fall back on traditional questions that lack creativity and can be answered with rehearsed replies. “Tell me about yourself?” or “What are your two greatest weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” are all predictable questions. Traditional interviews are easy for applicant to prepare for.

In addition, traditional questions are theoretical—in other words, the interviewee might not have performed, or failed to perform, the desired competencies. The candidate can essentially tell the interviewer whatever he/she wants to hear. This is not to say all traditional  questions don’t have value. They are necessary in determining the applicant’s technical abilities, and some questions, such as, “Why did you leave your last company?” are necessary to ask. But to get to the heart of the candidate, behavioral questions are the best way to accomplish this.

How do you prepare for behavioral interviews? Is it possible?

Preparing for a behavioral interview is possible, albeit more difficult than preparing for a traditional interview.  In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, it requires acute knowledge of the position’s requirements.

If you are able to identify eight or more competencies required for the position, you can predict, within reason, the types of questions that will be asked. For example, if the job ad calls for someone who is organized, demonstrates excellent verbal and written communications, is dead-line driven, is a leader, etc., you can expect questions such as:

“Tell us about a time when your organization skills resulted in a smooth delivery of services.”

“Give me an example of when your verbal communications skills made it possible for you to solve a conflict between colleagues.”

“Tell me about a time when your leadership faltered and resulted in a conflict between a subordinate and you. What did you learn from your error?”

Questions like these will require you to tell a compelling story for each of these skills. How you tell your stories is important. They will consist of a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the situation and task, the middle is the action taken to meet the situation, and the end is the positive, or negative, result. STAR is the acronym you’ll want to keep in mind.

What I tell my customers to keep in mind is that not all questions will call for a positive result; some will ask about a time when you failed to deliver a product or perform a task successfully, for example. Obviously you don’t want to elaborate on these situations. Can you prepare for behavioral questions? Sure.

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