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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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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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.

7 tips for introverts on going to networking events

I was once given a ticket to a guest-speaker event put on for a group of young professionals in my community. I was excited and grateful for the opportunity because I’d be seeing Erik Qualman speak about social media–Erik wrote Socialnomics and is a great speaker. I would be able to sit comfortably and listen to an expert on social networking entertain me. So I thought.

When I arrived at the event I discovered there would be a networking hour preceding it, and that I was woefully under dressed. My vision of kicking back and listening to a great speaker was dashed when I entered a hallway full of people dressed to the nines engaged in conversation. I promptly went to the men’s room, looked at my sad self in the mirror, and exited the building.

I needed air. It took me a few minutes to collect myself and prepare for an unfamiliar group of well-dressed people I’d be meeting (or hiding from). I was starting to feel like I was in a dream where I was in one of my workshops dressed in my underwear only. But I promptly re-entered the building and (luckily) spotted someone I knew.

An article titled Networking for Introverts brings to mind some great points, namely: 1) network on your own terms, 2) create a comfortable environment for yourself, 3) leverage your skills as an introvert. All of these suggestions were negated the moment I entered the large hall.

I have seven tips to add to Karl Stark’s and Bill Stewart’s article, all of which advise that introverts prepare for a networking event, not simply go with eyes closed–I’m proof of this. Here are my six tips.

  1. Know what’s on the agenda. In retrospect the first thing I should have asked when accepting the ticket to this event was what kind of event it was going to be. Instead I gratefully accepted the ticket  from a benefactor failing to ask a very important question, “What is the agenda  for the night?”
  2. Ask if there’s a dress code. Had I known there was going to be a networking session before the speaker went on, I would have dressed better. There’s nothing more distracting than knowing you’re under dressed for a networking event.
  3. Go with business cards. I have business cards for work as well as personal business cards, none of which were on my person. Had I known what was going to precede the speaking event, I would have brought a set of business cards. There is nothing worse than someone handing you his/her business card and having to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t bring my cards with me.”
  4. Bring a buddy. Go to the event with someone or arrange to meet a person or two there. Perhaps there’s a person or two you’re interested in meeting for the first time. Reach out to see if they’er going. It’s assuring to know there will be someone you can speak with after you’ve made an initial connection.
  5. Make a soft introduction to the speaker. For introverts the soft introduction, via e-mail or LinkedIn, is a great way to introduce themselves to someone at an event. If possible, contact the person who’ll be speaking at the event. This takes some of the pressure off of approaching the person for the first time.
  6. You don’t have to stay until the end. It’s not like when you closed the bar during your college days. Oh, you didn’t do that? In any case, don’t feel like you have to stay to the end. There have been many times when I had such a great time at a networking event that I ended up staying the whole time. “Is it really time to go?”
  7. Mentally prepare for the event. Related to number 1, introverts have to develop a “Just do it” attitude. We need to prep ourselves to get outside our comfort zone, which includes preparing for small talk, not relying on seeing a room full of familiar faces. Preparing for a networking event might begin hours before the event, or, for some, days beforehand.

The evening turned out to be great fun for me. I spoke to people who were no more prepared than me and others who were there to work the room. When I re-entered at the beginning of the event, I knew there was no turning back; and I’m glad I didn’t. One thing I wish I had done that evening was stay for the food, which looked awesome.

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7 reasons why you need personal business cards, and 7 facts to include on them

businesscard

A funny story I tell my workshop attendees is about how I ordered 250 personal business cards on www.vistaprint.com, only to find when I opened them that I’d spelled my occupation wrong: “worksop facilitator.”

There went 250 personal business cards into the trash.

I’m ashamed to put this in print, but I’m making a point; make sure you spell-check your order before submitting it. This is hardly the point of this blog post, though.

The overlying message is that, as a jobseeker, there are seven reasons why you need  personal business cards and seven facts you must include on them.

Why you need personal business cards.

  1. Networking events. Perhaps the most obvious reason why you need personal business cards is at events where everyone will have them. Not having personal business cards will separated you from the other attendees…in a bad way.
  2. Job fairs. A great way to introduce yourself to companies for which you’d like to work is by going to job fairs. Impress company reps with your personal business cards attached to your résumés.
  3. Social gatherings. Even at family gatherings you’ll want to carry business cards. Help your family and friends remember you’re in the job search, but don’t go from person to person shoving your cards in their hands.
  4. You come across as professional. Remember when you were employed and had company business cards? The company required you to have them to represent it. Now you’re representing a company called Me. Inc. (This is a phrase that one of my valued connections and famed author, Martin Yate, uses to explain taking control of your own business.)
  5. They’re a calling card and smaller than your résumé. You don’t want to carry around your résumés because they’re bulky and hard to keep flat. Think about other networkers and how they’d feel carrying your document around.
  6. They may create opportunities. Related to #’s 1 and 2, people may not recall someone with whom you can speak or of an opening at a company; but when they get home or are at their office, one of your personal business cards may cause light bulbs to go off, leading to phone calls.
  7. They’re a call to action. When someone has one of your personal business cards, they’re more likely to call you back than if they have a piece of paper with your name and number on it. Similarly, when you have someone’s personal business card, you’re more likely to follow-up on your encounter.

What to include on your personal business cards.

  1. Contact information. This is the most obvious information: your home address (optional), e-mail address (make it professional), and telephone number (home or cell). No surprises here.
  2. Include your social media accounts. Along with your public LinkedIn profile URL, you can also list your Twitter handle, Facebook account, and website or blog. This will lead people to more information about you and your social media savviness.
  3. Major areas of strength. This is one of  the most important bits of information. I’ve seen personal business cards with only contact information on them. As a potential networker, I’d need more information. Let’s say you’re in Marketing. Four areas of strength might include, Social Media, Public Relations, Web Content, Trade Shows. Keep it short and sweet.
  4. A logo. I’m not a big fan, but if you have a professionally designed logo that truly represents what you do, brands you; go for it. No cheap logos from Google Images or ones from templates from personal business card providers.
  5. A photo. Again, not a big fan unless you’re in the proper occupation, like real estate, modeling, acting, and others where your appearance is your calling card. IT or finance or medical tech? I think not.
  6. A branding statementThis may work well if it is short and descriptive enough to show value. Something like, “I fix things that break” is not descriptive because many jobseekers do this. However, “Creating marketing literature that generate sales and increases visibility,” is clearer in terms of what the person does.
  7. Extra hint: leave the back bare. That’s right. You might be tempted to provide more information on the back, but this is valuable real estate for networkers who’d like to take notes about what you discussed. Make sure to carry a pen with you so your new-found networker can write on your card.

My faux pas with my order of business cards is only superseded by a dear networker I know who misspelled his name on this business card. It goes without saying that you must carefully edit your business card template before having it produced by a brick and mortar company or online. Most importantly, don’t be caught without a business card.

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Checklist for 26 job-search topics for the New Year

For Christmas my wife sent me to the grocery store for various ingredients for our holiday dinner. I knew trying to remember all the ingredients was going to challenge my waning memory, so I asked her to write a list of said ingredients.

She rolled her eyes but understood how important it was for me to return with the proper ingredients–so important that her list numbered in the area of 25.

The lesson I learned from my shopping spree–by the way, I got all ingredients–was that it was akin to the list of must do’s in the job search.

In reading the list of must do’s below, ask yourself if you’re doing each one in your job search. For example, do you have an elevator speech? Have you attended informational meetings? Consider this the checklist below a partial list of your “ingredients” for the job search.

  1. Understand your workplace values.
  2. Determine what you want to do…what you really want to do. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a great tool.
  3. Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa, suggests, “a personal marketing plan. It ensures better information gathering during networking meetings and more proactive rather than reactive job search actions.”
  4. Ask for an informational meeting to talk to someone to make sure you’re on the right track, or to introduce yourself to a company.
  5. Assess your skills and accomplishments. Make a list for both.
  6. Learn how to write your résumé. Attend workshops offered by your college or local career center.
  7. Write a targeted résumé with highlighted experience and accomplishments.
  8. Write a cover letter template, which will later be targeted for particular positions.
  9. Create a personal commercial or elevator speech which explains your value to the employer.
  10. Determine how you’ll approach the job search, making networking your primary method.
  11. Join LinkedIn with full intention of engaging, not using it as a place mat on the Internet.
  12. Copy and paste the contents of your new résumé to your LinkedIn profile, which you’ll modify to be a better networking tool.
  13. Develop a networking list that includes past colleagues and managers, as well as others who we’ll call your superficial connections.
  14. Formally let people know you’re out of work. How can they help you if they don’t know you’re looking?
  15. Develop business cards for your business—the product you’re selling is you.
  16. Attend networking events. Make sure you bring your business cards.
  17. Follow up with everyone with whom you’ve conversed and exchanged business cards.
  18. Send approach letters/e-mails to companies for which you’d like to work.
  19. Organize your job search by keeping track of your inquiries, contacts, résumés sent out, etc.
  20. Prepare for telephone interviews. Make sure all of the above written communications are in place.
  21. Ask for mock interviews which should be recorded and critiqued by a professional career consultant.
  22. Do your research on the jobs and the companies to which you apply.
  23. Double check your first impression, including attire, body language, small talk, and portfolio.
  24. Be prepared to answer the difficult questions concerning job-related, transferable, and personality skills.
  25. Have your stories ready using the STAR formula.
  26. Write thank you notes via e-mail or hard copy.

Have you been doing everything on this list, or the majority of them? If you are missing any of the above, make sure to nail them this year. Let me know of others I’m missing. Perhaps we can double this list. And yes, the meal was excellent.

12 ways to get outside our comfort zone when attending a networking event

networking aloneMost of us have a comfort zone. Mine’s walking into a workshop and talking about various job search topics. I guess I’ve been leading workshops on the job search for so long–thousands over the course of six years–that engaging with people (the more the better) is second nature to me. I’m comfortable and in my zone.

There are times when I’m not comfortable, like when I have to order a meal—I’m indecisive and usually defer to Kung Pao Chicken—or talking to complete strangers at a networking event. While I attend networking events on occasion, I still experience a bit of discomfort.

If you’re like me, and feel uncomfortable entering a large room full of strangers, you’re experiencing what it’s like to leave your comfort zone. You shouldn’t feel that it’s unusual to feel this way, but you must continue attending networking events. They are necessary in your job search.

This means you must get outside your comfort zone. So how do you get outside your comfort zone? Follow these steps:

  1. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” That’s right, tell yourself that meeting new contacts is necessary in order to shorten your job search.
  2. Think of what it really is, connecting with people who are at a networking event to help each other in the hopes of developing relationships. The emphasis is on getting to know each other and not entirely on creating business or gathering leads. You’ll meet again.
  3. Set a goal of how many people you’ll talk with. If you’re an extravert, you may prefer to work the room—the more the better. Introverts prefer fewer but deeper conversations, so set a goal of meeting two or three quality contacts.
  4. Get emotionally prepared by choosing a nice outfit to wear, but nothing too fancy. The ones who have been attending for a while are usually nicely dressed. Don’t wear a suit to an event if it’s not called for. On the other hand don’t go under dressed.
  5. Have your personal business cards ready. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being asked for your card and not having one. I personally leave a stack of business cards in the glove compartment of my car just in case.
  6. Bring a friend along or plan to meet someone at the event. I tell my workshop attendees there’s no reason why they need to do it alone. Driving together will give them time to strategize as to when it will be best to separate at the event.
  7. Approach people who are standing alone. They’re waiting for someone like you to start the conversation. They’re out of their comfort zone, too, so you can feel good about helping someone get acclimated.
  8. Speaking of conversation, you should have your talking points ready. Current events are fine as long as you stay away from religion and politics. No sense in starting an argument. If conversation isn’t going well, break away very politely. No hard feelings.
  9. Don’t come on too strong. I still remember a public relations coordinator who approached me at a trade show, hand outstretched, and launched into his memorized 30-second commercial. He sounded stiff an unnatural.
  10. Speaking to #8, you’ll need an elevator speech, but ease into it with a little small talk, or wait until you’re asked about yourself.
  11. Listen to others. This will help you get outside your comfort zone because it will allow you time to think about what you want to say–especially helpful for those who dislike making small talk.
  12. Take a breather if you need to. Walk outside and take in some fresh air. Just remember to return.

Once you’ve accomplished getting outside your comfort zone and feel great about “Just doing it,” you will need to followup with the people you met. Take the attitude that if you don’t initiate the follow-up it won’t happen, even if this means getting outside your comfort zone.

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