Category Archives: Career Networking

6 reasons keeping you from asking for help during your job search

And what to do about it.

You know the “Golden Rule” of networking: offer help before asking for help. This is good in theory. When you give first, others will return the favor. It may not be the person to whom you gave a slam-dunk lead, but the favor will eventually be returned.

Professional man

Many take this golden rule to heart, almost to the point where they don’t ask for help. It’s as if they don’t believe they deserve being helped with their job search, which to me is a huge shame. Here are some reasons why you might not ask for help and what to do about it.

1. You feel shame

I understand the feeling of the shame and embarrassment of being unemployed, because I’ve been there. Even though I was laid off when the company for which I worked was acquired, I felt like I had let myself and my family down. I know now that the shame I felt was irrational.

What do. What’s rational is realizing that your friends, relatives, neighbors, former colleagues understand that people lose their jobs. It’s part of human nature to, at one point or another, be unemployed. In fact, some of these people were probably unemployed. So, put your shame aside and ask them for help.

2. You don’t think you need help

Many people who haven’t had to look for work for  many years don’t anticipate how difficult the job search can be. Take an executive who’s risen to the top of her career. She’s was in the position of hiring candidates. Now the roles are reversed, and the way employers are hiring have changed.

What to do: Like the executive, you need to understand the job search has changed and be willing to accept help from those who are trained to help you, as well as from other job seekers who have been in the job search more recently. Even executive-level job seekers struggle in the job search.

3. You’re too proud

Some people who are unemployed are too proud to ask for help, because to ask for help is a sign of weakness. From an early age we grew up believing independence is admired and a sign of strength. Helping others is what we should do.

What to do: Now is the time to swallow your pride. If you’ve been helping others throughout your life, or even more recently, accept help from others. Believe it or not, people are willing to help. Social psychologist point out that helping others gives us a sense of pride and happiness, so make other people happy by asking for help.

Being Polite

4. You don’t know who to ask

Knowing who to ask is difficult for some job seekers. They ask me who to approach. My answer to them is “everyone.” As absurd as it may seem, anyone can be of assistance. These are what we call the superficial connections.

What to do: Certainly you will ask your former colleagues and supervisors, as they are you top tier. Beyond that look to your community, including friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Organized networking groups, buddy groups, and professional associations are also a great source of help.

5. You don’t know how to ask

“Excuse me, do you know of any jobs available?” This is what you wonder, and this is what you want to ask someone who might know this answer. But it is wrong, because it puts people on the spot and makes you appear desperate.

What to do: Simply by letting people know that you’re out of work will put them on notice. They’ll keep you in mind when they hear of openings. Ping people occasionally is what I tell job seekers. Send an email to them to let them know about your search, but don’t always make your pings about your job search.

6. You don’t know when to ask

There are the premature askers–such as a person who asks for help immediately upon sending a LinkedIn invite—and the Johnny come lately askers—the person who summons up the courage after a positions been filled.

What to do: You’re at a professional association event speaking to an insider at a company for which you want to work? Now is  the time to ask for help. Remember reason number 5; don’t ask for a job. Rather, ask if you could connect on LinkedIn or if the person would have time to give you advice on your job search.


Asking for help can be difficult at times; it can even take courage. However, during the job search it’s a necessity. As I tell job seekers, “Going it alone will make your job search longer…much longer.”

Photo: Flickr, Дŋøŋ ДђḾęĐ

Job-seeker buddy groups: 6 pros, 2 cons

How do you react when you hear the word networkingDo you feel uncomfortable, roll your eyes, or even break out in a sweat? You’re not alone if the prospect of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Truth be known, most people don’t relish the idea of networking.

small-group-1024x576

Truth also be known, networking remains the most effective way to get referred for jobs that aren’t advertised. According to Jobvite.com, 40% of hires come from referrals, twice the number than the next option, the company’s website. So networking seems like a no-brainer.

I’m not here to say you shouldn’t network. I’m here to say try networking in a different way. Join a buddy group.

Pros of Buddy Groups

Smaller and more intimate

Buddy groups generally number six—some smaller, others larger. In a smaller group, members keep track of each other, making it easier for the members to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities that fit each other. This is not always possible with large networking groups, which consist of 20 to 80 people.

Large groups can also be intimidating, which leads me to my next benefit of buddy groups.

Ideal for introverts

Speaking as an introvert, I’m more comfortable in smaller group settings than large groups. The size of buddy groups makes it easier to know each member and develop deeper relationships, which is ideal for introverts.

This is not to say introverts will back away from large networking groups. If they attend larger groups, their goal is to talk to fewer people to have deeper conversations. Extraverts, on the other hand, enjoy “working the room.”

Members are held accountable

Buddy groups that gather on a regular basis  are more likely to hold their members accountable for their job-search actions. If, for example, a member says during a meeting, that he will schedule four coffee meetings the following week, he will be questioned about scheduling those meetings the next time the group meets.

Keeping track of job seekers at large networking groups is extremely difficult. Often job seekers will come an go to large networking groups. You might see some members sporadically.

Meetings can be mobile

cafe

Unlike large networking groups which are held at the same place, at the same time;  buddy groups can be held at different locations. Because buddy groups are usually held where its members prefer, there are more options. Perhaps the location is decided  based on each members’ hometown, or the members’ choice of cafe, as examples.

On the other hand, buddy group member might prefer holding their meetings at the same location for consistency.  I know of one buddy group that meets at the same restaurant before their large networking event.

Joining one requires an invitation

Buddy groups can be formed to include members who share similar interests and occupations. Software engineers, project managers, hardware engineers might create a skills share group, consisting of six to 10 people, who gather to work on a project.

Or the members of a buddy group might prefer a variety of occupations. As one job seeker said, “We would all be applying to the same jobs, and I think that would make it more competitive, when it should be supportive.”

Gets you out of the house

As inconsequential this may sound, getting out your house where you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for six hours a day, until it starts humming at you; it’s important for your state of mind.

This will be part of your routine. You’ll look forward to meeting with your buddies at a specific time, maybe a particular place–although as stated earlier, the location might change.

Read 6 tips for getting out of your house during your job search.

Some Cons of Buddy Groups

Although great in concept, buddy groups can have their drawbacks. After all, they are intimate groups that meet on a consistent basis. With consistency comes conflict.

Might become stagnant

One of buddy groups’ strengths, their consistent meetings, can be a weakness. Undoubtedly there will be times when the meeting is not as productive as the members would like.

I run a “job club” at an urban career center, and I will be the first to say that sometimes the meetings fall flat. Structure is important. But for structure to be successful, the activities must be of interest to the members of the group.

Members might not be the right fit

Like working in a team, some members don’t fit. This can happen with buddy groups, as well. A member or two might not pull their weight, dominate the conversations, be too negative.

I asked a member of a buddy group what the group would do in a case where a member is hurting the group. She said deadpan, “Ask them to leave.” It’s easier said than done, but it might come to this.


There are far more benefits than disadvantages of a buddy group. One I haven’t mentioned is the moral support job seekers gain from their buddy groups. I don’t encourage buddy groups be a platform for people to bemoan their situation, but there must be times when they can let out their frustrations.

4 steps to take—at minimum—to ask for a favor on LinkedIn

Very recently I received an invitation from someone to be in their network. At first I was pleased to see “See more” below the person’s Headline. This was promising, as it means the person had taken the time to personalize the invite.

Being Polite

In some cases the personalized invites are flattering, telling me how much they enjoyed reading a post I had written. In other cases the requester tells me how we know each other; maybe he attended one of my workshops. In a few cases the person might elaborate on how we met, using all the 300 characters allotted for an invite.

At the end of the invite, the good ones write, “Please let me know if I can be of assistance.”

Almost never do I get a request in the first invite to have me review her LinkedIn profile, which begins with, “Can you review my profile?” That’s it. No flattery, no explaining how we know each other. But this one said exactly that.

What I did

The first thing I did was to click ignore without a second thought. No regret or guilt. After all, I do the same when there is no personalized invite, indicating no effort and plain laziness.

Then I shared on LinkedIn my experience with some of my valued connections. The post was not meant to be a complaint as much to as to be a learning moment. However, the conversation took off and and is still brewing.

The comments mostly support my thoughts on the rude way the individual asked me to review his profile. Some write I was being a bit harsh and should have understood some people don’t understand LinkedIn etiquette.

None say I was completely out of line with my action. As I said, the conversation is still brewing, so I’m bound to get “You’re being the LinkedIn police, Bob.” I hope it doesn’t come to this, but I firmly believe that one shouldn’t ask for a favor in their first invitation.

When should one ask for a favor, deliver the ask?

At minimum there are four steps you should take before delivering the “ask.” Whether you’re asking for services or trying to sell a product, you need to develop a relationship with the person from whom you need a favor.

1. The initial introduction: Most of us are on LinkedIn to help each other; this is our community. However, there is etiquette one must follow. First, a proper invite is required.

“Bob, I’ve followed your posts on LinkedIn and many of them resonate with me. I’d like to connect with you so I can have direct access to your articles. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.”

Your invitation is accepted and you are now first degree connections, so your next step is to thank your new connection for accepting you to their network. This is still not the time to make the “ask.”

2. Get noticed by your new connection. There should be at least one more correspondence or interaction, perhaps a comment on a shared idea or post. Even a like would count as an interaction; although not as significant as a comment. You are on your new connection’s radar.

3. You should comment on one or more shares from your new connection. It’s not hard to discover what your connection shares; simply go to their profile and click “See all activity” under the person’s Activities and Articles section.

4. You’re established. After the second or third interaction is your chance to make the “ask.” You still want to be diplomatic, not blunt, in your request. Send a direct message from your connection’s profile. Go ahead; don’t be afraid to hit the message button (seen below).
message button

“Hi Bob. I’ve enjoyed being in your network. I’ve learned more about what you do, and I’ve read your profile. On your profile you say you will briefly review your connections’ profile. Would you kindly review mine at your convenience. I appreciate your expertise. Again, let me know if I can help you.”

At this time your connection should be willing to do a favor for you. I know I would. The most important thing is feeling out your new connection to see if they’re open to doing a favor for you. These are the four minimum steps you should take before asking for a favor from a new connection.


Now go to the comment I shared with my connections. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP FIRST. Leave your comment there, good, bad, or ugly.

Photo: Flickr, Jon Fravel

 

5 reasons job seekers dread networking events, and what to do about it

How do you react when you hear the word “networking?” Do you feel uncomfortable, roll your eyes, or even break out in a sweat? You’re not alone if the prospect of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Truth be known, most people don’t relish the idea of networking.

Scared Networker

Truth also be known, networking remains the most effective way to get referred for jobs that aren’t advertised. According to Jobvite.com, 40% of hires come from referrals, twice the number than the next option, the company’s website.

So why do job candidates react negatively when they hear the word “networking?”

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

1. You think it’s too late

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 false.

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. Often this is not the case.

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

I 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.

Simply networking

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 your input on occasion. My warning here is that you don’t allow people to take advantage of your willingness to listen.

4. You believe 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. True. But many an opportunity 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.

Jump to five years later when 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 the 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.

Photo: Flickr, KELLY L

 

 

 

 

3 things to keep in mind when answering, “Tell me about yourself”

The directive from the interviewer, “Tell me about yourself,” strikes fear in the hearts of even the most confident job candidates. That’s because they haven’t given serious consideration to how they’ll answer this directive.

elevatorpitch

It’s also because they haven’t taken time to construct a persuasive elevator pitch, which is one of the most important tools in your job search toolbox. There are three components necessary to answer, “Tell me about yourself.”

1. Keep it relevant. You must be aware of what the employer wants from their employees, which requires from you not only researching the job but also the company.

Let’s say, as a trainer, you’re aware of the employer’s need for satisfying people of cultural differences. You’ll begin your elevator speech by addressing this need.

You’ll begin your elevator pitch with something on the lines of:

Along with my highly rated presentation skills, I’ve had particular success with designing presentations that meet the needs of diverse populations.

Then you’ll follow it with an accomplishment, as accomplishments are memorable.

For example, the company for which I last worked employed Khmer and Spanish-speaking people. I translated our presentations into both languages so that my colleagues could deliver their presentations with ease and effectiveness. This was work I did on my own time, but I realized how important it was to the company. I received accolades from the CEO of the company; and I enjoyed the process very much.

Finally, you’ll close your elevator pitch with some of the strong personality skills for which you’ve been acknowledge. In this case, your innovation, assertiveness, and commitment to the company would be appropriate to mention. But don’t simply list your personality skills. Show them.

My managers have often told me that I’m innovative, which I understand you’re looking or in your next trainer. If I’m hired for this position, I’ll be committed to helping you meet your goals, whatever they may be.

2. Be on your toes. Being prepared is essential to job seekers who need to say the right thing at the right time to a prospective employer. This is where your research on the company comes into play—the more you know about said company, the better you can recite your elevator pitch.

One way to answer, “Why should we hire you?” is by using your elevator pitch. Throughout the interview, you’ve paid careful attention to what the employer has been saying regarding the challenges the company is facing.

They need a manager who can develop excellent rapport with a younger staff, while also enforcing rules that have been broken. Based on your new-found knowledge, you realize you’ll have to answer this question with a variation on your rehearsed pitch. You’ll open instead with:

I am a manager who understands the need to maintain an easy-going, professional approach as well as to discipline my employees when necessary. As this is one of your concerns, I can assure you that I will deliver on my promise, as well as exceed other expectations you have for this position.

Then you’ll follow with an example of what you asserted.

If I may give you a specific example of my claim, on many occasions I had to apply the right amount of discipline in various ways. There was one employee who was always late for work and would often return from break or lunch late, as well.

I realized that she required a gentler touch than the others, so I called her to my office and explained the effect she had on the rest of the team when she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. I then explained to her the consequences her tardiness would have on her. (Slight smile.) I don’t think she had been spoken to in such a straightforward manner by her other managers. I treated her with respect.

From that day forward, she was never late. In fact, she earned a dependability award. There are other examples. Would you like to hear them?

3. The purpose of your elevator speech. When employers listen to your elevator pitch, they should recognize skills and accomplishments that set you apart from the rest of the candidates.

Tell your elevator pitch in a concise manner that illustrates these skills; don’t simply provide a list of skills you think are required for the position. Remember that accomplishments are memorable and show your value added, especially if they’re relevant to your audience, e.g., an employer.

Above All Else, Your Elevator Pitch Must Show Value! The value you bring to the employer. As in the example above in which the candidate understands the needs of the employer to be building rapport with young workers, while also enforcing rules; you must know the employers pain points.

Once you’ve got a full grasp on the employer’s pain points, you’ll know which content to include in your elevator pitch and how to deliver. it.

Whether you use your elevator pitch to answer the directive, “Tell me about yourself,” or the question, “Why should I hire you?” there are enough reasons to develop one that is relevant and shows you can think on your feet.


Now read how to answer other tough questions:

“Why should we hire you?”
“What is your greatest weakness?”

5 ways to give when you’re networking for a job

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift (four delicious pumpkin cupcakes) from a member of a networking group I facilitate. Prior to bestowing upon me such a kind gift, Marie had asked me to critique “only her LinkedIn profile Summary.”

give-help

This gift was hardly necessary; although, I have to admit I had forgotten to look at her profile. So I sat with her that day for a brief time and offered some suggestions like, “This paragraph is a bit dense….

“I like the content a lot but perhaps you’d want to reorganize it to match your headline….

“I like your tag line a lot….

“The rest of your profile is great, but you might want to copy and paste some symbols for bullets to spiff it up.”

This interaction is an example of how to give to people when you’re in the job search. Do you have to give baked goods like Marie did? No. You have to reciprocate, however. Here are some ways to give back.

1. Share information

Had Marie sent me a link to an article that could provide fodder for a workshop I lead or a blog post idea, it would be a great way to give back. I’m one who is constantly trolling LinkedIn for information to learn more.

Very little effort required here. For a job seeker it could mean a great post on how to write a resume or some great interview tips. I think sharing information is particularly important for after an informational meeting. You receive information from the person granting you the meeting; now it’s time to return the favor.

2. Make an introduction to someone who could possibly help

You know the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime?” When you make an introduction, this is what you’re doing. You’re telling your networking partner to take the ball and run.

Note: providing an introduction in person or on LinkedIn is the same concept. LinkedIn may be the way to go for the busy people you know, but an in-person introduction is more expedient and, perhaps, more efficient.

3. Tell networking groups about your happy landing

Don’t think your networking partners won’t be pleased to learn about your Happy Landing. They will be pleased. However, don’t return to the group to gloat. Tell them how you landed your job.

Many times people have returned the group I facilitate to tell us about the journey they traveled. Have they always landed due to networking? Not always. But networking has played at least a small part in their success. Tell people what worked…and what didn’t.

4. Provide leads after you land a job

Some people who’ve landed a job have contacted me about advertised or, better yet, unadvertised positions at their new company. They get the point of networking. This is one of the best ways to give back after your job search.

Do you know someone who’s still looking? Keep that person in mind when positions open in your company. Be smart about it, though. Your new company might offer an employee referral bonus; this doesn’t give you full range to tell everyone you know about the opening, particularly if they’re not qualified.

5. If you don’t get the job, recommend someone else

Sometimes you curse a recruiter for not helping you land a job. You’re so upset because the recruiter delivers the bad news that the company felt you weren’t qualified. There was empathy in their voice as they told you.

Instead of holding it against the recruiter, think about how you can possibly help a networking connection. It may hurt but think about the main tenet of networking; provide help before expecting it. And if it works out for your networking partner, you gain the satisfaction of helping that person.

As well, you help the recruiter who can possibly help you in the future. Remember that recruiters have a network of employers who need to fill jobs. Don’t discount them.



These are but five ways you can help your networking partners. As I said, it’s not necessary to bring delicious baked goods to show your appreciation, but it does help. Thank you, Marie!

Photo: Flickr, the man at the front desk said i’d find you here

14 tips to connect in your community for your job search

Some job seekers see attending organized networking events as akin to meeting their future in-laws for the first time. For some it’s downright frightening; one job seeker told me she hyperventilates before she goes to an event. Wow.

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

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

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

Community includes the people with whom you interact: former colleagues, small meet-ups, friends, family, neighbors, soccer parents, PTA members, your hair stylist, the folks with whom you volunteer, your career center staff—essentially everyone in your life.

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

  1. Get the word out. As simple as this sounds, I know people who don’t tell family or friends they’re out of work because of shame and embarrassment. Regardless of how you departed your company/organization, your community has to know you’re no longer employed. There is no shame in being unemployed, as thousands of others like you are in the same situation.
  2. Don’t come across as desperate. One thing employers look for in a candidate is confidence. The same applies to your community. Someone who appears confident and not phased by their situation is someone your community members will be willing to back.
  3. Make a good first impression. Along with projecting a positive attitude, dressing well at all times, being considerate of people’s time, going out of your way to help others, and of course smiling all count. The saying that your first impression is your last impression holds true.
  4. Resist the urge to bash. Regardless of how your employment ended, don’t rant about how unfairly you were treated and the circumstances of why you were let go or laid off. If asked about your departure, explain how it happened, but don’t come across as angry. If you’re not past the anger stage, avoid talking about the situation.
  5. Know what you want to do. Your community can only help you if you are able to explain very clearly what occupation you’re pursuing, the industry in which you’d like to work, even the location you prefer. To say, “I’ll do anything; I just need a job” is not helpful to people in your community, and will make you appear desperate.
  6. Clearly explain what you do. To say, “I’m in customer service” is not enough.Telling your community that you “answer customers’ questions regarding their cable, telephone, and Internet issues” paints a better picture and provokes follow-up questions.
  7. Do your researchWhat type of companies do you want to work for? What are the names of those companies? This is all important information, especially if you know of someone in your community who has a contact or two at those companies. Casually connecting with these people by making a phone call or meeting them for coffee can lead to results.
  8. No events are off limits. Bar-b-ques, holiday parties, baby showers, your nephew’s birthday party, are appropriate places to connect to explain your status. Just be tactful and don’t dominate conversations with your job search woes. Instead briefly explain what you do and ask people to keep their ears to the pavement.
  9. Start small. An alternative to an organized networking event is a meet-up. This is a small group consisting of 4 or 5  people who get together to discuss their job-search situation, hold each other accountable, offer job-search advice, and provide moral support.
  10. Carry personal business cards with you. That’s right; even when you connect with your community in a casual way you’ll want to show how serious you are about finding a job. It shows professionalism and helps people to remember what you do and the type of job you’re seeking (related to numbers 4 and 5). Unlike your resume, they are easy to carry.
  11. Never outright ask if they know of a job. If you want your community to help you, don’t ask if they know of any jobs that would suit you. This only puts pressure on them. One phrase I used when I was out of work was, “If you come across anything, please let me know.”
  12. Stay top of mind. Ping the people in your community with updates on your job search or just to keep in touch by sending them e-mails or cards on special occasions. It doesn’t always have to be about your job search; asking a contact how their child’s play went is a good break from business. Doing this will keep you top of mind.
  13. Follow up. Perhaps the most important part of you job search is following up on the people with whom you’ve spoken. Chances are they for got your conversation a couple of days ago. Kindly tell them, “I’m following up on our conversation. When you get the chance to send me Bob McIntosh’s contact information, I would appreciate it very much.” Always follow with asking them how you can be of assistance.
  14. Reciprocate. When you finally get your job, be sure to show your gratitude by offering to help those who assisted you with your job search. This means everyone. You may not be able to provide the same kind of help, but maybe you could help someone with her small business, for instance. Keep the good will in your community going.

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

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Photo: Flickr, Ormiston Sudbury Academy

5 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

baseball

When I made our town’s Little League All-Star team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping him fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. Instead of sharing my excitement, he told me not to brag and turned to finish working on our neighbor’s lawnmower.

I’ve thought for a long time that that day my father taught me an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was such an important lesson. Some believe that our inability to promote ourselves is due to being told as children not to brag. To brag is inappropriate; to be humble is honorable.

This inability to self-promote often rears its ugly head in my workshops when my customers declare they cannot “brag.” I assume, like me, they were told not to brag as children.

I also understand that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, yet objective way—which is to say, not brag. Here are five tips on how to promote yourself during the job search.

  • Understand your audience. Know what interests potential networkers and employers. If you have the “stage,” this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job search and eventually the position for which you’re applying. If, however, you’re in the company of people who have no interest in what you’ve achieved, save touting your accomplishments for the proper audience.
  • Back up your accomplishments. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. As well, if you can quantify your accomplishments with percentages and dollars, they will carry more weight. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  • Be relevant. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  • Don’t overdo it. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.
  • Give credit where credit is due. I often tell my customers that they should talk about their accomplishments, because that’s what employers want to know; what they’ve accomplished. But when they’ve worked with a team that achieved a common goal, this needs to be expressed. No one likes a smoking gun who takes all the credit.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. We’ve been taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League All-Star team, but we have to realize that promoting ourselves at the right moment isn’t bragging.

Photo, Flickr, Roiz, Roiz, Play Baseball

10 ways to make a better impression while networking

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

Networking_Group2They say timing is everything. Nothing illustrated this more than when I entered a hall-full room of networkers, and a man met me at the door and pounced on me before I was able to take off my coat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

10 first impressions for job-search success

 

When I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was not impressed. I’d heard it was a great show, but the gratuitous violence did more to turn me off than draw me into the most important episode of the series. I haven’t returned to the show since.

First Impressions

I know you’re thinking this is a post about first impressions job seekers make at interviews, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to make great first impressions in every aspect of your job search, not just how you shake the interviewer/s hands, maintain eye contact, etc.

Making a positive first impression can come into play before the interview phase, perhaps when you least expect it. I’m imaging a scenario where you’re at your local Starbucks, scoping out a comfortable chair to sit in for a couple of hours, and see the only one available among eight.

As you approach coveted chair, a woman dressed in a tee-shirt, yoga pants, and Asics also has her eyes on the prize. You have two choices; you can beat her to it, or you can offer her the chair, knowing there are plenty of stools at the table along the window, albeit uncomfortable ones. You take the high road and offer her the chair and retreat to one of the stools.

A week later you’re at an interview for a job that’s perfect for you. As you’re making the rounds shaking hands with the interviewers, you notice the woman to whom you offered the chair when you were at Starbucks; and she notices you as the kind woman who gave up that chair.

She’s the VP of marketing and a key decision maker in the hiring process. A couple of traits she desires in the next hire is integrity and selflessness. The interview is off to a great start because you made a great first impression by relinquishing that chair. Little did you know that that act of kindness would pay off in a big way, an act of kindness that had nothing to do with the interview process.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But that’s my nature.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t let my job search dictate how I act every minute of the day.” The point is when you’re in the job search, you’re constantly on. Let’s look at other ways you make a first impression before the interview begins.

  1. The way you dress. When you leave the house during the warm seasons, are you wearing your Red Sox Tee-shirt, baggie shorts, and sneakers without socks? You might want to ditch the Tee-shirt…and everything else. Work casual dress shows you’re serious about your job search. Trust me on this: I know which one of my customers’ job-search stint will be short based on how they dress.
  2. Body language. I tell jobseekers that people–not just employers–can read your body language like a neon sign and will make judgments. People can tell if you’re tense and therefore unapproachable. Alternatively, people sense you’re open  if you have an open stance and pleasant smile.
  3. Possitive attitude. I see plenty of people who are understandably angry, and they’re not afraid to show it. There are other people who are angry because of their unemployment but don’t display their attitude. Think whether you’re more likely to help others who show a negative attitude or those who come across as friendly. I would never insist that you must feel positive; I’m just saying fake it till you make it.
  4. Effective communications. At a networking event or during a phone conversation, are you demonstrating proper communication skills? Are you listening or just doing all the talking? If you’re doing the latter, it could be a turnoff for those with whom you’re speaking…a possible employer or valuable networking contact. I’m highly sensitive to people who do most of the talking.
  5. Activity. One of the best ways to present a great first impression is by being active in your job search. I’m not talking about being overbearing or obnoxious–I’m talking about due diligence, including sending appropriate e-mails, making telephone calls, attending networking events, calling on recruiters, engaging in daily networking, and whatever you’re capable of doing in a professional manner.
  6. Personal business cards. Nothing says professional and serious about the job search than personal business cards. They’re perfect to bring to networking events, job fairs, informational meetings, or just when you’re out and about. My close LinkedIn connection and branding master explains how business cards brand you.
  7. Your online presence. While it’s a well-known fact that employers are using social media to hire talent–approximately 96% use LinkedIn–it’s also known that they are using social media to “dig up dirt.” So make sure your online presence is clean, that there are no photos of you sloppy drunk in Cancun, that you haven’t used Twitter to blast your previous boss. (If you type “Bob McIntosh” on Twitter, you’ll find my tweets, and I guarantee they are professional in nature.)
  8. Chillax. In the job search you’re so focused on getting your next job that you may come across as too focused and determined. Give yourself a break every once in a while. People can sense those who are desperate. Read my post on displaying emotional intelligence in the job search.
  9. Follow up. This can’t be stressed enough. When you say you’ll call or email someone or meet that person for coffee, make sure you follow through with your commitment. And be sure you’re on time by the minute. Being late leaves a negative first impression.
  10. Pay it forward. In the above scenario you demonstrate selflessness by offering the other person the chair. It so happened the recipient of the chair was someone on the interview team. Your act of paying it forward worked out nicely, as she appreciated your act of kindness.

The story of you meeting the VP of marketing at Starbucks and offering her the coveted seat ends well; she casts a heavy vote to hire you for the job of your dreams. You still don’t know what you did to earn her vote, but does it really matter as long as you consider being the say you are. The power of first impressions.

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