Are you really listening? 3 ways to improve your listening skills

listening to tree

Do you ever get the sense that you’re talking with someone and that person isn’t really listening? You’re probably correct about that.

According to Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, most people aren’t really listening to you completely; they’re waiting for their turn to talk. He writes:

“Little wonder, then, that so few of us, in fact, do listen well. For many of us, the opposite of talking isn’t listening. It’s waiting. When others speak, we typically divide our attention between what they’re saying now and what we’re going to say next—and end up doing a mediocre job at both.”

Doesn’t that make you feel loved?

What Pink describes is your average listener. Even good listeners will momentarily lose their focus and have to regain it to follow the conversation.

This comes down, in part, to how interested and/or focused you are in what your fellow converser is saying.

You could be extremely interested, as when your boss is giving you a performance review; or slightly focused, as when someone is telling you how her toddler is assimilating to his daycare.

Regardless, everyone deserves to be listened to.

People who are poor listeners generally don’t care what people have to say, and this can have a negative effect on those who are talking.

These are people who are hopeless. We know people like this who’d rather hear themselves talk than perhaps learn something new from others.

An article that appeared on Business Insider, 3 Ways Being A Bad Listener Hurts Your Career, says that bad listening can be bad for business, giving three reasons:

  1. Bad listening is dismissive and ultimately disengaging
  2. Bad listening leads to inferior information and decisions
  3. Bad listening is a waste of time

I’ll be the first to admit that I zone out on occasion, and people in my family will attest to my inability to maintain 100% listening capability.

In fact, I am not the great listener people, with whom I interact, believe I am. At times, my listening span is about that of a fruit fly’s life expectancy.

Growing concerned about my inability to listen well prompted me to Google “Average Attention Span.”

I was relieved to read that, according to www.StatisticBrain.com, the average human attention span in 2013 is eight (8) seconds—four (4) seconds less than in 2000, and four (4) seconds less than that of a goldfish.

I think this duration is more like a burp that erupts from nowhere and then it’s back to normal.

A more accurate estimate of one’s ability to concentrate and maintain the proper duration of listening is enforced by the length of TED lectures which last no more than 18 minutes.

That’s because people’s sustained attention span is approximately that long. After that, heads begin to nod and bodies begin to shift; maybe they become claustrophobic.

Even when I listened to Susan Cain talk about her stay at summer camp, where she looked forward to reading books, I felt myself drifting from the computer screen to tidy up my desk. This was Susan Cain! my introverted hero. Even she couldn’t hold my attention for 100% of her seminar.

My workshops are scheduled to last two hours. So now I’m thinking if I can’t listen with total concentration, those poor people must be itching to leave the room.

I typically ask a lot of questions or suddenly raise my voice (shout) to keep their attention, which seems to do the trick. But now I’m thinking I need to ask even more questions and shout.

To become a better listener, I’ll now quote the methods suggested by the article and ways I’ll work on listening:

  1. Admit that you can be a better listener. I think I’ve fully admitted that, though I’m probably taking this listening thing too literally.
  2. Practice focusing on what others say. When colleagues come to my cubical I will now turn my chair and face them directly, rather than continue working on a project. I will even offer them a seat after I’ve cleared the paper from said chair.
  3. Acknowledge and respect what others have to say, rather than dismiss them with a short answer or a command. Yes, my daughter, I will listen attentively to your story about prom preparations.

When you come to terms about how poorly you’re listening to others, communication will be enriched.

Pink has a point there; often times we impede progress by not hearing what others say.

I want to be a better listener and give those their due respect, and I’d like others to hear what I have to say, as well.

Photo: Flickr, Jos van Wunnik

Posted in Career Management | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

One of the most important people in the interview process

Receptionist

Who is one of the most important people in the interview process? The recruiter? Sure they’re important; you go through them to get to the interview.

Human Resources? They’re important, as well. Like the recruiter, you may have an initial phone interview with them.

The hiring manager? Definitely important. They make the final decision. You don’t have the goods, you don’t get the job.

There’s one other person you may not be considering. That person would be the office guardian.*

Why the office guardian is so important in the interview process

Read the following brief story which illustrates why the office guardian is important in the interview process.

A job candidate was applying for a position at the organization for which I currently work. He called for directions to the career center, which is common practice; however, he was so belligerent that he reduced our office guardian to tears.

Apparently this man thought he was all that and could treat our office guardian like a third-class citizen. This was a huge mistake on the candidate’s part.

This interaction was relayed to the director of the career center. He took it upon himself to promptly call the applicant to tell him not to bother coming in for the interview, and lectured the candidate on how NOT to treat one of an organization’s most important assets.

If you’ve never considered the importance of the office guardian, than you should change your thinking. Whether you’re applying for a CEO, vice president, middle management, or individual contributor position, you damn well better treat this person with respect.

How to interact with the office guardian

Getting the call for an interview. In some cases—especially at a small company—the call for an interview may come from the office guardian. Answer the phone professionally, e.g., “Hello, this is Bob McIntosh. How may I help you?”

Then thank the office guardian for calling and that you look forward to the interview and hopefully meeting as many people at the company as possible.

For good measure, ask the office guardian to restate their name. And repeat their name to show you’re paying attention.

Calling for directions or the agenda. As depicted in the story above, calling for directions is appropriate, and most likely the office guardian can provide the best possible directions, including when rush hour occurs, or if there’s road construction along the way.

You were astute enough to ask the office guardian for the interview agenda, including who will be present in the interview. The office guardian gladly disclosed the information, giving you an advantage for the interview.

Make the office guardian feel special for the help they’ve given you.

Meeting the office guardian. This is it. The time you’ve been waiting for, the interview. So the question is when the interview actually begins. You guessed it: meeting the office guardian. They are your first point of contact. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Smile, but don’t overdue it. You don’t want to come across as insincere.
  2. Extend your hand, especially if the office guardian is a female, and initiate eye contact.
  3. Say, “I’m Bob McIntosh. I’m here for the interview for the marketing specialist position. Please don’t announce me until they’re ready to interview me. By the way, Steve, I appreciate the directions you gave me. I made it here without any trouble. Thanks!” Saying their name shows you payed attention during the phone call.
  4. If the office guardian asks if you’d like water or coffee, say that you would if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. (Some suggest against accepting a drink, but I feel if you’re thirsty, accept it.)
  5. You may want to ask for the interviewer/s business cards before the interview begins. If the office guardian doesn’t have them, thank them anyways, always being polite and grateful for their help.

Go into the interview and kick ass!

Dropping by unannounced. This rarely succeeds. However, one of my customers stopped by the HR department of a bank to deliver a pain letter. She was greeted with warmth, asked if she’d like to meet the HM, and promptly left.

Her introductory letter was well received. She was offered an interview and landed the job. This is one of a few instances I’ve heard that yielded a positive result. I don’t discourage it, but be ready for rejection.

Saying good bye. Make sure you say good bye to the office guardian, even if it means waiting for them to return from a task. Say, “I just wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to thank you for all your help. I hope we have the opportunity to work together in the future.”

You may have forgotten to ask the office guardian for the interviewer/s’ business cards. This is your opportunity to get them if the office guardian has them. If they don’t have the business cards, simply ask if they can clarify how to spell the interviewer/s’ names.

The thank you note. You may not have considered sending the office guardian a thank you note. This would be a mistake. Because the office guardian is an important part of the interview process, they deserve to be thanked as well.

Whereas you might send a unique email to the interviewer/s, I suggest you consider sending a thoughtfully written thank you card. The reason for a thank you card, as opposed to an email, is that cards can be hanged on cubicle walls for everyone to see. They’re a reminder of the good work you’ve done.


I hope after reading this, you realize how important the office guardian’s role is in the interview process. No, they don’t conduct telephone interviews. No, they don’t ask difficult questions in the face-to-face interview.

But they do observe your first impressions and if asked what they think, they will give an honest account of your first impressions, over the phone and in person. Do the right thing; treat the office guardian with respect.


*Instead of calling this individual the receptionist, I’m referring to them as the office guardian. I could be snarky and call them the “gatekeeper,” but this would be derogatory.

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8 LinkedIn types that are hurting their brand

Some people just don’t get how to use LinkedIn. As a result, they’re hurting their brand and it comes back to bite them in the ass in their community and their job search.

Your behavior is being observed by potentional hiring managers, recruiters, HR, and other people who can help you with your job search, namely network partners.  

Therefore, it’s vital that you don’t come across as a certain LinkedIn type. Here are eight LinkedIn types you don’t want to become.

1. The Party Crashers. These LinkedIn members are everywhere and, in some cases, showing up 10 times in a row on your home page. They’re like people who are at every party. They’re also out to grab the glory, which is evident in their obnoxious activity.

Their goal is to appear as much as possible on their connections’ homepage, which annoys their connections to no end. They break the general rule of not sharing more than four updates a day.

2. The Hiders. I’m referring to people who don’t want to reveal their identity, so they post an image in place of their photo. These members do this for two reasons. First, it allows them to reach All Star status and increases their chances of being found.

Second, they don’t want their identity known, perhaps because of age, or they’re paranoid. This last reason only serves to make them appear untrustworthy. 

It also defies the purpose of networking, which is to be recognizable and memorable. One’s brand is about them, not their company or hobby.

Read: 10 reasons why your LinkedIn photo is important to me.

3. The Ambiguous. Their comments or status updates don’t make sense. They think they write like Shakespeare or Ice Tea, but really what they write makes me wonder if they are on hallucinogens.

I have a connection like this, and so many times have I been tempted to ask him what the hell he’s talking about. I know he’s smart; that’s not the question. The question is if he is from our planet.

4. The Fly On the Wall. This LinkedIn member is one I wrote about in The importance of contributing to LinkedIn, which talks about how some people join LinkedIn and then disappears. In this post I talk about how a neighborhood friend started on LinkedIn with a great profile, and suddenly disappeared.

When I asked him where he’s been, he said he’s still on LinkedIn everyday but doesn’t care to contribute his thoughts or ideas. He reads a lot of articles and updates. That’s about it. To build a powerful brand, one has to be heard.

5. The Aloof. They don’t connect with anyone. They may have the best LinkedIn profile on earth, yet they only have 80 connections. They feel they must personally know every person with whom they’re connected.

Meeting unknown, yet valuable, connections is beyond their comprehension. When visitors, such as recruiters, see their dismal number of connections; they see these LinkedIn members as untrusting—a definitely blow to one’s brand.

6. The Negative Nelly. Little do these people know their words, which come across as angry and insulting, hurt their brand. Visitors’ antennae are alerted when they see the Negative Nellies complain about how unfair employers or disinterested potential business partners are.

Their words harm their image, but they don’t care. LinkedIn is their sounding board. They believe, based on their status, they have the right to offend other LinkedIn members. Of all the offenders, they fail n the emotional intelligence department.

7. The LinkedIn Hater. Look, I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve complained about certain inane changes LinkedIn has made—like take away our unlimited searches. I wonder if this hurts my brand. But these people bash LinkedIn like no one’s business.

They threaten to leave LinkedIn, stay away for awhile, only to return to continue to bash LinkedIn. I am far from a champion of LinkedIn, but I realize it for its remarkable power to provide job seekers the ability to network their way to a job.

8. The Bait and Switch. Perhaps the worst of them all is the LinkedIn member who connects with you and immediately hits you up for a sale. No foreplay, small talk, niceties, no nothing.

I recall a woman who set up a Skype session with the pretense of collaborating on career coaching, only to try to have me join her Tupperware business. To me her brand took a huge hit, as she appeared to me a liar. As well, she wasted my valuable time.


If you are guilty of some of the above behaviors, it’s time to stop. We are a community, and as such we need to be cognizant of those in our network. To violate any of these faux pas will certainly hurt your online brand.

Do you want to come across as a Party Crasher, or maybe worse  yet a Hider. To Bait and Switch can drive someone away for good, maybe make them disconnect from you. The Negative Nelly can ruin the mood. The Onlooker is insecure in their ability to contribute to discussions.

Posted in Career Search, LinkedIn | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Are you wasting your summer? 5 steps to landing your next job.

woman summer

Job seekers often ask me if employers are hiring during the summer. My answer to them is, “Sure.” In fact, a career center near me is in the process of filling three positions. But on a whole, employers are not hiring as much as in late fall.

A recent article in Monster.com supports this claim:

“Major hiring initiatives may follow close on the heels of the holidays and summer. ‘The big months for hiring are January and February, and late September and October,’ says [Scott] Testa. ‘Job seekers who make contact right at the start of these cycles have the best chance of being hired.'”

Consider this: while some job seekers are taking the summer off for vacation, you’ll have a head start on your job search. There will be less competition. 

So, is summer the time to take vacation? Heck no. Summer is perhaps the best time to find the job you really want. No, you won’t find it on Monster.com or any other job board. You’ll find it by setting the foundation for the fall.

This will entail conducting your labor market research, and then networking, networking, and networking. Follow these five steps for success.

1. Coming up with a target company list is the first step toward landing your ideal job. These are the companies you’re dying to work for. This is where your research begins.

I tell job seekers that they should have a list of 10-15 companies for which they’d like to work. Many don’t; they have a hard time naming five. Yet if some of them were asked to name their top five restaurants, they could.

2. Once you’ve identified the companies you’d like to research, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites…and less time applying online.

Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read website pages on their products or services, their press releases (if they’re a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies.

Summer vacation

Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you approach them. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.

3. If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature.

Most likely you’ll have outside first degree connections who know the people you’d like to contact—connections who could send an introduction to someone in the company. My advice is to start with someone at your level and work your way up to decision makers.

Let us not forget the power of personal, or face-to-face, networking. Reaching out to job seekers or people currently working can yield great advice and leads to contacts. Your superficial connections (neighbors, friends, etc.) may know people you’d like to contact.

4. Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known by your desired companies.

Will you be as well known as internal candidates? Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20%-30% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for.

Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.

So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?

  • Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
  • Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets networking email. This approach is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read a networking email than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
  • A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.

5. Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contacted at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted.

Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended books on networking in history and for good reason.

Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.


So, you can take the summer off and go on vacation, or you can get the leg up on other job seekers and be proactive in your job search. Look at it this way: although employers may not be hiring as rapidly as they will in the fall, you’re investing in a job of your choice.

Photo, Flickr, Andrea Cisneros

Photo: Flickr, Adam Smok

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3 major Skype interview tips you must know

for skype

As my second daughter prepares to go to college in Maine, my wife and I are figuring out how we can see her frequently. The solution that comes to mind is Skype. How does our concern about communicating with my daughter have anything to do with the job search?

The future of job interviewing may very well be Skype or some other video interviewing software. If you’re a job seeker and haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you’ll have one soon.

Following are important facts and tips concerning this form of interviewing.

Why do companies conduct Skype interviews?

One reason companies use Skype is because it saves time and money. Instead of having job candidates come in for in-person interviews, companies can put the candidates through the drill over computers, tablets, and even smart phones.

An interviewer can see the candidate’s nonverbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions. Does the person come across as relaxed or nervous? Are they maintaining eye contact? Do they look and sound enthusiastic? More so than a telephone interview, Skype is more personal.

One of my close connections, Angela Roberge, recruiter and owner of Accurate Staffing, says this about Skype interviews: “We are in the people ‘business,’ so face-to-face interviews (including Skype) can help you assess the candidate on their ability to present themselves.”

A negative aspect of Skype interviews is their use for discriminating against candidates based on their appearance, including age, race, nationality, etc. Unfortunately the isms exists. On the other hand, interviewers are naturally curious and simply want to see a person before inviting them in for an in-person interview.

A nasty trick an interviewer played on one of my career center customers was turning his camera off, while my customer had to keep hers on. He could see her, but she couldn’t see him. My response to this was to end the interview immediately.

How seriously should you take them?

Do you take pneumonia seriously? This answers the question. In some cases you could be hired after only being interviewed via phone and Skype, particularly if this precludes the need to fly you to meet with someone at the company.

In essence, treat your Skype interview as you would an in-person interview. This means conducting rigorous research on the position, company, and industry/competition. Make sure you’ve memorized your research, as you don’t want to be caught looking to the side at your notes.

Make sure you’re prepared for the difficult questions. A a telephone interview, when the salary question and a rundown of your qualifications to do the job will take place, will most likely precede a Skype interview.

So during the Skype interview you’ll receive behavioral-based and situation questions that will be more challenging. Your response to the answers will have to be delivered as well as if you were in an in-person interview.

As well, your physical reactions will be gauged by the interviewer in terms of your facial expressions and body language. Will you squirm when answering the weakness questions? Or will you answer it with little emotion? Remember, interviewers are watching you.

Logistics of a Skype Interview?

Along with treating the Skype interview seriously, you must make sure your setting and camera are set up for the best possible conversation. As simple as this may sound, improper lighting, sound, and other logistics could blow the interview.

  • Make sure you’re on time for the interview. Discuss with the interviewer who’ll be calling, them or you, and make sure you’re at your computer.
  • Be certain that you’re dressed as if you are attending an in-person interview. Some say you can dress well from your belt up only, but what if you have to get something during the discussion? The fact that you’re wearing pajama bottoms will not bode well.
  • Make sure the connections is strong. I Skyped with a client in St. Lucia and we had to reconnect a number of times. If you have a weak Internet connection, this could cause problems.
  • Your computer’s camera or webcam needs to be eye level; that’s what you’ll be looking at, not the interviewer’s face. Place your laptop on a platform that makes the camera eye-level.
  • Your background should be clear or have very little on the wall. Make sure it’s not cluttered, which can say something about your personality or that you were too “busy” to tidy up.
  • Sound quality is also important. If you’re in an open room, there may be an echo that is quite noticeable. The more objects in the room the better, as long as they’re not visible to the interviewer.
  • Background noise is a no no, just as it is with the telephone interview. Be free of any distractions to you and the interviewer. Your children fighting in the other room can be heard, as well as a loud telephone.
  • Lighting is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of a Skype interview. Here are some pointers: Have your laptop facing a window, not behind it. Lamps placed below you will cause an eerie appearance.

What this outstanding video of the logistics of a Skype interview. http://tinyurl.com/zby4u6n


As said earlier, Skype interviews are becoming more common; so you need to be prepared. I suggest you take some time two nights before the interview to set up an account and practice Skyping with a close friend or relative to make sure things go smoothly.

When my daughter goes off to school, my wife and I will Skype her. We’ll be able to hear how things are going in Maine, as well as read her facial expressions; much like interviewers do with candidates.

Photo: Flickr, Aleta Pardalis

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30,000 LinkedIn connections. Really?!

30,000

I’ve read a number of posts from people who are complaining that some of their 30,000 connections are being reduced to followers. They apologize to their “valued” connections for the injustice LinkedIn has committed.

(LinkedIn has made some bonehead moves in the past, such as stripping us of unlimited searches, but this is not one of them.)

I know I’m going to anger a lot of my connections, but the way I see it, people with 30,000 connections are collectors who don’t understand the purpose of networking. They’re collecting connections like Imelda Marco collected shoes, but by tenfold.

But these connections represent opportunity, you argue. Bullsh#t, I say. Besides the thousands of fake profiles you have accumulated, 90% of your connections will never follow up in a meaningful way.

Some of you say you communicate with them on a daily basis. This is true but only because you share updates, which potentially all 30,000 connections can see. Not likely.

Be honest with yourself, how many of the 30,000 connections have you even communicated with after receiving their default invites? Eight percent if you’re lucky. Or 2,400 if you’re counting. You L.I.O.N.S out there, I’m speaking to you.

Lion

My number of connections is more than 2,500, and I have to honestly say I don’t recognize many of them. Which makes me wonder if I have done the right thing by connecting with them. Probably not.

According to Robin Dunbar, a anthropologist and physiologist, we can truly know know 150 people; I’m a living testament of this assertion. (Read The New Yorker article, The Limit of Friendship.)

So when people tell me they know all of their first degree connections, even if it’s 2,400, again I say bullsh#t. This is not to say you need to confine your network to people you can name; at least they should be meaningful.

Collecting LinkedIn connections is like going to a networking event and collecting 100 personal business cards; just grabbing them out of people’s hands. Will you follow up with 100 people? You might as well find the nearest waste basket immediately after the event and dump those cards into it.

If you are saying, “LinkedIn’s purge is arbitrary. Like, they’re taking away valuable connections and turning them into followers instead.” My response to that is if you miss them (as in you know them) then simply reconnect…after you’ve eliminated some of the chaff among your 30,000 connections.

Throw out your connection trash. None of my connections are trash, you argue. Have you, as a true networker, hand-selected these connections? I didn’t think so.

That teenager from Huston, TX, who you blindly accepted, won’t be of any assistance. But all’s good, right.? She got you closer to 30,000 connections.

Once, my son told me he had 500 Facebook friends. I asked him if he knew them. Sure, he told me. Bullsh#t, I told him.

It is time that you open networkers focus on the purpose of networking (this is actually what we’re supposed to be doing) which is to connect with people of like interests who can be of mutual assistance.

Photo: Flickr, d00133519x

 

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5 reasons job seekers dread networking events

 

Scared Networker

And ways to make events easier.

It never fails: When I mention that networking is the most effective way to look for work, my workshop attendees’ faces go blank. Their eyes are suddenly glued to the tables. Their bodies slump back in their chairs.

In other words: They don’t like hearing what I have to say. But the fact remains that networking is the most effective way to find a job, and it’s how you get referred for a job that isn’t advertised.

So why do my workshop attendees see networking as a painful act? What’s with the resistance?

Here are five common reasons why networking can be difficult, and what you can do about it:

1. You Don’t Have a Network Yet

Most job seekers have one thing – and one thing only – on their minds: landing a job. Their finances are suffering and their state of mind is in shambles. There’s no time to waste. They need to find a job now.

This sense of urgency is only heightened when you need to develop an effective network immediately – a network you should have developed while you were working.

Unfortunately, many people don’t think about networking when they’re gainfully employed. They feel secure in their positions, or they consider it to be in bad taste; both conclusions are faulty.

What you should do: Tell yourself that it isn’t too late. As we’ve heard many times, networking is all about building and maintaining relationships. To build relationships requires some give and take. You need to be patient, despite the urgency that is consuming you.

I tell my workshop attendees, “The next job you land, make sure you keep up with your networking – which means also letting people know about jobs that exist (unadvertised) at your company.” Think not only of yourself, but also of others who are looking for work.

2. You’re Outside Your Comfort Zone

Introverts are particularly prone to feeling uncomfortable during networking events. Many of these events consist of hoards of people huddled together in a library, church, or other free space.

These environments can be hard on an introvert – but it also makes effective networking hard for everyone. To be effective when networking, you need relaxed conversations before you can deliver your elevator pitch.

What you should do: Develop a game plan. If you’re introverted, don’t expect to “work the room.” Rather, plan to speak with a few people. Be sure to arrive with some questions for particular people, as well as a few talking points.

Put the people with whom you speak at ease. Don’t jump into your elevator speech immediately. You’ll probably flub it. Instead, talk about current events, the weather, what brought the person there, etc.

3. You Have to Talk about Yourself

Simply networkingI hear it all the time. “I can talk about other people, but when it comes to me, I can’t do it.” Or, “It feels like bragging.” Look at it this way: you’re not bragging; you’re promoting yourself when the time is right.

For example, you wouldn’t declare during dinner that your gift to employers is that you increase productivity. However, when you’re asked during a networking event or connecting in the community, these are ideal places to let people know what you do and how well you do it.

What you should do: Talking about what you do and the value you deliver to employers should come across as normal conversation. Use your own voice and style to do this. Don’t rely on some formula you learned from career pundits. It may not work for you.

If talking about yourself or making small talk is not your thing, go to events with the purpose of listening to others. Ask questions and add you input on occasion. My warning here is that you don’t allow people to take advantage of your willingness to listen.

4. You Feel Like You Have to Attend Organized Events

I’ve always insisted that there is no single environment that’s best for networking. Networking can happen everywhere, whether you’re at a family gathering, a sporting event, a summer BBQ, a religious meeting place, or pretty much anywhere else.

Networking is about building relationships, and many an opportunity to do so has arisen when least expected. Say you’re watching your kid’s soccer game and you overhear a woman talking about how she can’t get good help in her Q.A. department.

You’re in Q.A. You politely introduce yourself and mention this bit of information. Before you know it, the woman is asking for your personal business card.

What you should do: See everywhere you go as an opportunity to network. Let me illustrate. Many years ago, my cousin Johnny attended a family gathering, at which he explained his situation and the type of work he was looking for. I considered this incredibly tacky.

But five years later there was an IT opening at the software company for which I worked. I remembered what Johnny said the day of the party and recommended him to our CFO. He was hired for the position.

5. You Expect Instant Gratification

I’ll admit that going to networking events can be disheartening at times, especially if I don’t leave with at least two or three quality contacts. But after feeling sorry for myself, I reason that next time will be better.

I remember running into a job seeker who attended a networking event we sponsored. I asked him if he found the event useful. His response was that he didn’t get anything out of it. No one from his industry was there.

What you should do: Do not expect great things the first or second time you attend an event. Be patient. Also, learn how to tell people in an understandable way what you do and how you can help employers. This will help you find leads or obtain great advice sooner rather than later.

The job seeker I mentioned wasn’t keeping an open mind. He should have been thinking of the bigger picture. For example, did anyone know someone at his target companies? Or better yet, how could he have helped someone? At the very least, he should have given it a couple more tries.


Networking can be uncomfortable and almost painful for some people, but it’s something we must all do. The fact remains that networking accounts for roughly 70 percent of jobs landed by job seekers. It is the most successful way of gaining employment – even if it also feels like the most difficult one.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com. 

Photo: Flickr, KELLY L

 

 

 

 

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