Category Archives: Career Networking

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.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with others.

 

8 networking tips for introverts

Eric Qualman

And how not to arrive to an event unprepared.

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 reentered the building and (luckily) spotted someone I knew.

From this incident, I have eight tips to help introverts prepare for a networking event, not simply go with eyes closed—I’m proof of this.

  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 the nature of the event.
  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. (Again, I think of that horrible dream of walking into one of my workshops dressed only in my underwear.
  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. Warning: don’t stick together like groupies. Spread out.
  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. 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.
  8. Prepare an exit strategy. Related to number six, when you find yourself cornered by a selfish (did I say that) attendee who thinks he’s the center of the Universe and will not stop talking, you need a phrase to separate yourself from him. “It was great talking with you. I was planning to meet someone and I’d like to speak with her. (This is where your buddy can come in handy.)

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.

A major victory: I connected with a man who needed some work to be done on his LinkedIn profile. Had I not been there, I never would have run into him and earned his business.

Photo: Flickr, Girişimo

Don’t be an ungrateful networker

cheesecake

And I’ll take a slice of cheesecake.

Marble or Godiva Chocolate, please. This is what I usually tell jobseekers when they tell me a job is on the horizon and that I’ve been a great help to them.

Maybe they learned some tips in one of my workshops. I might have offered them encouragement and listen to them when others wouldn’t. Or I critiqued their résumé or LinkedIn profile and told them how to revise them for total impact. For some I made a telephone call to one of my contacts and landed them an interview.

Jobseekers who are in the midst of finding work tend to be very gracious and, perhaps, give me more credit than I deserve. But if they want to show their gratitude, I jokingly tell them I’ll take a slice of cheesecake if they get a job. So far a handful of people owe me that slice, but I’m not going to hound them for it. I’m not even writing  to give them a subtle reminder.

Years ago I read a great article from a guy named John Touey of the Salva Stetson Group, which is still relevant. Don’t Be “That Guy.” is a wonderful reminder that a good networker is someone who stays in contact with you after you’ve helped them in their job search.

John talks about a certain fella who benefited from his assistance three times in his job search. After every job he got this guy didn’t send so much as a thank you card, or simply call to say, “Thanks.” Personally, I would be pissed if someone were that insensitive after all the help I’d given him. John, you’re too kind.

I’m not serious about getting my cheesecake. This article just got me thinking that it is true; as a networker you have to express your appreciation for the help you’ve received. People don’t like to be called only when you need their help. It ain’t good networking etiquette.

John writes, “That guy only reaches out when he’s lost his job. He’s eager to meet; he’s looking for referrals; he wants your knowledge of the market. He also seems to forget you exist the moment he finds his next job.”

I’ve known a select few who harbor the selfishness of which John speaks. They’re the guys, or gals, who are quick to criticize when I’m doing my best to lead a stimulation workshop, give them tips on their job search, or do a thorough résumé critique. You just can’t please them.

I hear you, John. You and I are alike in that all we want is a sign of appreciation. I only joke when I tell my jobseekers I can’t accept money but will take a slice of cheesecake.

Who the hell am I kidding? I want my cheesecake. Preferably from the Cheesecake Factory and definitely Marble or Godiva Chocolate.

If you’ve received help from someone during your job search, at least send them a thank you card. I’ve received them and felt a warmth that makes all my efforts, large or small, all worth it. The message John is sending should be heeded by all jobseekers. Thanks all around.

4 components of job-search networking emails

And why they are a secret to your success.

The other day during a résumé critique, one of my clients 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.

Email sending

Not literally knocking on the company’s door; although, that’s a viable option. He had sent a networking email to one of the directors at the company asking for an networking meeting, which then lead to further discussions.

Hint: don’t refer to is as an informational interview. The word “interview” turns potential contacts off. Indicate you want to meet a potential contact to get some advice on the position you’re seeking, whether a new career or similar work.

Of course a cold call might have been quicker for my customer than sending a networking email, but he felt sending it was right for him. (By the way, using LinkedIn’s Search Companies feature is a great way to find people at companies.)

For you job seekers who lean more toward introversion, a networking email may also feel more comfortable than calling a director, VP, or a hiring manager. There’s more to a networking email, though, than simply telling the person that you’d like to meet with them.

1. Research the Company

With the networking email, first you’ll research the company so you can write intelligently about why you’d like to meet your potential connection. You’ll write highly of the company, selling the company to the recipient of your email. This will show your enthusiasm. This is called boosting the company’s ego.

It will also show you took the time to visit the company’s website; read articles online, including business journals; and used other methods to research the company. This is the first step you’ll take to impress the recipient of your networking email.

Hint: you will only send approach emails to companies for which you’d like to work, not companies you’re not to sure of. You are taking your job search into your own hands, and a key to your success will be being proactive.

2. Share Your Accomplishments

Next you’ll  throw in some kudos of yourself. What makes it worthwhile for the marketing manager to meet with you? This part of your email will be briefer than your paragraph in which you write of the company’s successes.

As a marketing specialist, you authored press releases that drew the attention of many of the media, spearheaded a social media campaign, and organized numerous trade-shows; all of which garnered new business beyond what the company had previously achieved. You contributed to your past company’s past success and will do the same for future employers.

3. Have a Call to Action

Don’t forget to indicate in your networking email that you’ll call the recipient. Set a date and exact time. Maybe it’s not your style to indicate exactly when you’ll follow up, but consider that when you put something in writing, you’re more likely to follow through. If, however, you have willpower, you don’t have to indicate a time.

Hint: Also, don’t send networking emails to HR; rather send it to the hiring manager or above. HR’s purpose is to screen candidates applying for an advertised position. Because no position has been advertised, your approach email will most likely be deleted.

4. Follow Up

The only thing left to do is picking up the phone and asking the recipient if they received your email. 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 them.

Following up is the last component of sending a marketing email. I tell job seekers that two or three follow-up calls or emails is all they need to send. They shouldn’t stalk their potential contacts.

Hint: tell your potential contact that you can meet at her convenience. Your discussion doesn’t need to happen over coffee or dinner; you could meet in her office, or merely talk over the phone.

Your reward

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 job seekers searching the Internet for advertised positions.

The networking email is a great networking tool which worked like magic for my job seeker. Be sure to follow these four steps when sending your networking email to the companies for which you want to work. You will probably experience the same success my client did.

Photo: Flickr, Miguel Garces

 

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

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.”

businesscardThere 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.

Read about electronic business cards.

The overlying message is that, as a job seeker, 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.
  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 accountsAlong 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 job seekers 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 last 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.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

5 steps to networking with important people

Getting Help

I recently read a post Please Don’t Send Me Your Résumé, written by Lida Citroen, which resonated with me. It’s general message was, “Don’t rely on others to do everything for you. Take responsibility for your job search.” I agree completely with her message.

Far be it for me to tell job seekers to never ask for help, because asking for help is necessary in the job search. But it’s how you ask for help that makes the difference between getting it or not.

This post is not about sending your résumé to someone for perusal it’s about five steps to take when requesting contact information for the contacts on your company target list.

First step: making first contact

Making initial contact can happen at a job seekers’ networking group or anywhere you meet people—social and family gatherings, sporting events, in the grocery store, etc. Some of your best opportunities can happen out of the blue.

For argument’s sake, let’s say your first contact is at a networking event. Congratulations, you gathered your energy to attend the event, despite engaging in a heavy day of job hunting.

Your goal at networking events is to gather valuable information and advice, especially who and how you can contact people at the companies for which you’d like to work. You should have a healthy list of 15 or 20 companies on your target company list.

During the needs and leads sessions, don’t be shy about asking for leads at your target companies. You won’t get leads at all 20 companies on your list, but you should get two or three good ones.

If someone shouts out that they know influential people at some of your companies, be sure to catch that person before you leave. Ask for her business card and ask if you can follow up with them in a day or two. Always add that you are willing to be of assistance to that person.

Now that you’ve tastefully asked your new networking connection for assistance, your work has just begun.

Second step: follow up with email

When you took your new networking connections’s personal business card, you were sure to jot down professional, as well as personal, information on the back of the card. This is information you’ll include in your email the very next day (providing it’s a business day).

(Read why introverts prefer to write)

“How did Emily do in her soccer game over the weekend. Did she score another hat trick?” would be a great way to start your email. It’s always nice to be remembered for something other than your previous employment.

But you want to make your intentions clear. Remind your new contact that she said she knew people at your target companies, and you are writing for that information. Be concise and direct. No lengthy email is necessary.

“Susan, I enjoyed speaking with you at the networking event in Acton. I’m following up to obtain the contact information for people at companies, X, Y, and Z. Any help you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.”

At the end of your email, inform your contact that you’ll call her at a specific time within the next few days. Because you sent her a noncommittal email, the phone call will be easier to make. Your networking connection may get back to you before you make the call.

Third step: pick up the phone 

Your new contact will be expecting your call and hopefully be available to speak with you. (She may not be available, so make sure you have a well scripted message to leave her.) At the beginning of the call, ask her if this is a good time to speak. Don’t assume she will be available to talk, as she might have a legitimate commitment.

Assuming she has time to speak, start with some small talk. Tell her enjoyed that you sincerely enjoyed talking with her at the networking event, how you felt about the guest speaker, and ask her again about her daughter’s soccer game. Make the conversation light and personal at first.

When the time is right (there’s a lull in the conversation), tell her the reason for your call. At the networking event she said she knew a few contacts at your target companies. You’re wondering if she has had a chance to dig up the information you’re looking for.

Good luck, she is glad to help you, as she said she would at the networking event. Unfortunately she only could find the contact information for two out of the three people she said she would. That’s great, you tell her.

Don’t ask her to make a warm call for you; that would be asking for a lot, but do ask her if you can mention her name, with the full understanding that she can’t speak to your past performance. You and she simply met at a networking event. “Oh,” she says, “Bruce’s daughter plays soccer on Emily’s team. A decent player.”

Fourth step: contact the people at your target company

Now it’s time to request assistance from your target company contacts. You may feel more comfortable sending an e-approach note; although, jumping right in with a phone call is quicker. This is where introverts need to exercise their extraverted traits.

In the e-approach note, make sure to mention your connection. People are more accepting of a referral than receiving the email cold. Explain how you met your networking connection, who’s making the referral.

But the content of your email should be more about your interest in the contact’s company. You’ve researched the company before sending the email, so you know about the company’s products or services. You are boosting the contact’s ego.

Part of your email should be about your value to employers. How you’ve increased revenue, decreased cost and time, solved problems, etc. Don’t overdue it though; you’re not applying for a job.

And then ask if you can have 15-20 minutes of the contact’s time. Make it convenient for the recipient of your approach email. At the end of your e-approach letter, indicate when you will call for a very brief chat.

(Read 10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings go smoothly.)

Fifth step: call the company contact

Don’t put off making the call to your company contact. You may lose your nerve. Wait no longer than two days. Mondays and Tuesdays are not great days, as they’re generally the busiest ones. Fridays are a crap shoot, as your company contact may be out that day. Wednesdays and Thursdays are generally better.

Note: Many people think that taking someone out for coffee is a nice gesture, but that might not be convenient for your company’s contact. It may be more convenient to talk on the phone. Give this person options. Tell him/her that you’ll be calling in a few days.

What are you asking for? You can say, based on your research, there may be positions available at the company, or you’d like to meet to gather information and get some advice. You’re hoping that either of these are true and would like to know what the appropriate action to take is.

Not all your company contacts will be amenable to speaking with you, so don’t be discouraged. People are busy or simply don’t care to help people who are out of work. You will receive rejection, but like sales people you must think that every rejection gets you closer to a yes.

Be prepared for your informational meeting with your company contact. Prepare a list of 10 questions—five about the position, five about the company—which are intelligent ones. Don’t ask insulting questions about dress code or lunch breaks. Remember, your goals is also to impress your company contact.

Circle back

Follow up with your networking connection by letting her know how your meeting/s went with your company contact. Call her. You are now familiar with other. Most likely you will see her at the next networking event. Be sure to thank her regardless of how you communicate.

Ping her as your search progresses, and encourage her to do the same. It’s important to stay on top of mind. Make every opportunity to help your networking connection. Help others in you networking group, as well. It’s not only about reciprocation; it’s also about paying it forward.

Photo: Flickr, GotCredit

 

 

 

 

6 steps to penetrate the Hidden Job Market

snow bank

When I think about the time my wife and I were shoveling our walkway last winter, I see that time as analogous to the Hidden Job Market (HJM).

The problem I had that day was trying to locate another shovel whose location was only known by my wife. It’s under the snow pile, she told me.

Where exactly? I replied.

Under that huge pile, she pointed to a mountainous heap.

Similar to a jobseeker who needs to know where the jobs are, I needed to know where the shovel was. My wife represented a knowledgeable contact who knew generally where the shovel was.

Fortunately I knew there was a shovel and simply had to ask where it was. In many cases the hunt for a job is not that easy for the typical jobseeker. They’re competing in a stiff job market which favors the employer (a buyer’s market), who prefers to hire people they know and trust.

HJMIt’s estimated that 75%-80% of the good jobs are hidden. This means that 25%-20% are advertised. Unfortunately an estimated 85% of job seekers concentrate on the advertised jobs, creating intense competition and very little chance for success.

What is the solution to getting known and trusted by the employer? Take the following steps:

1. Develop a list of companies for which you’d like to work. This can be done by Googling your occupation, industry, and desired location. On LinkedIn, go to the Companies page, select a company, and scroll down to the right side of the page where similar companies are listed.

Instead of spending a great deal of time applying for jobs through the job boards, use more time researching your target companies. This is part of your labor market research. You can also talk to people who work at these companies, people who would know more about them.

2. Make contact with the appropriate people at these companies and send them an approach letter or put in a call, asking for an informational meeting. The result of this meeting should impress your new contact so much that he/she is willing to recommend you to a hiring manager.

Another result from informational meetings is developing your network with quality connections. Ask for contact information for other quality connections before leaving your informational meeting.

3. Attend networking events, where people who are currently working can provide valuable information as to where jobs may exist, maybe at their own company. Google for business networking events in your area, as well as industry specific affiliations.

Also attend job seeker networking events, where you’ll give and receive information and advice from people who are also looking for work. Don’t expect immediate gratification; rather go with the intention of building relationships.

4. Schedule appointments with selected connections. For example, get together for coffee with former colleagues who have been keeping their ear to the pavement for you. Some believe this approach is most effective. In other words, less is better.

It’s important to keep these valuable connections in the loop by sending emails letting them know your progress in the job search. Don’t make it all about the job search, though. Send an occasional email inquiring about your connections’ personal life.

5. Connect with people in the community. Sometimes this can be the most effective way to locate opportunities. Ask your neighbor who works at one of your desired companies if he/she would be willing to deliver your résumé to a hiring manager.

One of my customers approached me about how he landed a job, bragging that he didn’t have to network. He told me he handed his résumé to his neighbor who then delivered it to the hiring manager in the department. My customer got an interview and landed his job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble, but he networked to get the job.

6. A more passive way to penetrate the HJM is to let recruiters do the seeking. Make your LinkedIn campaign as fruitful as possible by developing a kick-ass profile, connecting with people in your industry, and engaging with your connections. The idea here is to prompt employers to contact you after they’ve read your profile.

There are two major benefits derived by the smart employer who is looking for awesome talent via LinkedIn.

  • They save the cost of a traditional hiring process which can run into the thousands, including advertising on the job boards, potentially hiring a search agency to locate and filter candidates, the people power it takes to review résumés and then interviewing candidates.
  • The second benefit is precluding the need to interview complete strangers. Instead an employer can initiate contact via phone or e-mail and engage a discussion with job seekers. Job seekers essentially become a known commodity before the employer decides to invite them in for an interview.

My wife, mostly, and  I finished shoveling the walkway because she knew where the second shovel was. Had she not known, I would have had to shovel the walkway on my own. I suppose I could have found the shovel if I dug through a ton of snow, but I probably would have given up the search.

Flickr: Grant McDonald

Introvert or extravert? Maybe you’re an ambivert

And how being an ambivert can help in your job search.

I conduct a poll at the beginning of my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshop. I ask my attendees to write on the back of a piece of paper if they had the choice to be an introvert or extravert, what they would choose. What do you think they choose? Easily nine out of 10 would prefer to be an extravert.

ambiverts

Their reasons for preferring to be an extravert (remember, we don’t have the option) vary from: extraverts are well liked; they make better small talk; they’re not shy; they get ahead at work; and, by large consensus, their lives are easier.

There’s good news for my attendees if they’re labeled as a slight introvert, they are an ambivert. Susan Cain’s newsletter explains it this way:

Based on your responses, you’re an ambivert. That means you fall smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed. See below for information on introverts and extroverts; you’ll likely see part of yourself in both.

Although the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator doesn’t recognize it as a dichotomy, author Daniel Pink writes about the ambivert in To Sell is Human.

In his book Pink claims it’s not very clear extraverts, nor very clear introverts, who make better salespeople. It’s ambiverts who are better at selling (moving). Ambiverts are more balanced and therefore make better salespeople. (Take the assessment here to see if you’re an ambivert.)

Pink writes:

“Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little, [and] overwhelm others with the force of their personalities.” On the other hand, “Introverts can be shy to initiate, too skittish to deliver unpleasant news and too timid to close the deal,” but ambiverts “know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.”

According to Pink, one out of nine people are proclaimed salespeople, but in actuality nine of nine people are salespeople because they are moving others. This is especially important to job seekers who have to move others while exercising their marketing plan, e.g., their written and verbal communication skills.

When we talk about introversion and extraversion, it generally comes down to energy level or re-charging one’s battery. Extraverts are said to have abundant energy, especially around crowds. Their batteries are re-charged by being with many people.

Introverts are more reserved and prefer smaller groups, which don’t drain their batteries. They need their alone time and, because of this may be seen as reclusive. Stealing away at times recharges the introvert’s battery.

Ambiverts adopt the traits of each side of the continuum; their batteries are charged by being with many people or being alone.

How this helps in the job search

As a general rule, extraverts prefer to communicate orally with others and tend to be more comfortable with small talk. They enjoy the back-and-forth banter. Introverts would rather communicate through writing and that’s how they learn best. Small talk can be more of a challenge for them.

Ambiverts are comfortable with both

Ambiverts have the energy extraverts have to attend networking events. They don’t give into the temptation to blow off an event after a hard day of looking for work. Ambiverts are also more open to meeting with someone for an informational meeting, whereas introverts may be a bit reluctant.

Written communications is generally considered a strength of introverts. They love the time to collect their thoughts and then write them down. Generally extraverts are impatient with written words; they prefer speaking to learn. Ambiverts also excel at writing their resumes, LinkedIn profile, and other written communications.

Do ambiverts exist?

Ambiversion is widely considered to be a farce by many members of the LinkedIn group I’m a member of, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, who claim you prefer one or the other. Yes, we have the ability to utilize all traits on the spectrum, but the consensus among the group is an ambivert doesn’t exist.

One member writes: “…I’m not offended by the word ‘ambivert’ but I do think it dismisses the idea embedded into the MBTI that we all have innate preferences and can learn to utilize skills from other parts of what are truly the spectrum, not dichotomies.”

Another member of the group explains we have a preference for introversion OR extraversion, while some are more comfortable adapting the traits of the other type. Ambiversion is merely a term to explain this: “We all have an innate preference for extraversion OR introversion. Someone with a level of type development that allows them to comfortably and adeptly execute behaviors associated with BOTH preferences is an ambivert.”


My take on all of this is that an introvert can utilize the traits of an extravert and vise versa, and should feel secure with this knowledge. However, if he/she doesn’t like to be labeled an introvert, there’s always the ambivert title to fall back on. Now, a true student of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would tell Mr. Pink he’s practicing poetic license.