Most of us have a comfort zone. Mine’s walking into a workshop and talking about various job search topics. I guess I’ve been leading workshops on the job search for so long–thousands over the course of eight years–that engaging with people (the more the better) is second nature to me. I’m comfortable and in my zone.
There are times when I’m not comfortable, like when I have to order a meal—I’m indecisive and usually defer to Kung Pao Chicken—or talking to complete strangers at a networking event. While I attend networking events on occasion, I still experience a bit of discomfort.
If you’re like me, and feel uncomfortable entering a large room full of strangers, you’re experiencing what it’s like to leave your comfort zone. You shouldn’t feel that it’s unusual to feel this way, but you must continue attending networking events. They are necessary in your job search.
This means you must get outside your comfort zone. So how do you get outside your comfort zone? Follow these steps:
Like Nike says, “Just do it.” That’s right, tell yourself that meeting new contacts is necessary in order to shorten your job search.
Think of what it really is, connecting with people who are at a networking event to help each other in the hopes of developing relationships. The emphasis is on getting to know each other and not entirely on creating business or gathering leads. You’ll meet again.
Set a goal of how many people you’ll talk with. If you’re an extravert, you may prefer to work the room—the more the better. Introverts prefer fewer but deeper conversations, so set a goal of meeting two or three quality contacts.
Get emotionally prepared. One way to get prepared is by choosing a nice outfit to wear, but nothing too fancy. The ones who have been attending for a while are usually nicely dressed, although not necessarily wearing a three-piece suit. Ask about the dress code if you’re not sure.
Have your personal business cards ready. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being asked for your card and not having one. I personally leave a stack of business cards in the glove compartment of my car just in case.
Bring a friend along or plan to meet someone at the event. I tell my workshop attendees there’s no reason why they need to do it alone. Driving together will give them time to strategize as to when it will be best to separate at the event.
Approach people who are standing alone. They’re waiting for someone like you to start the conversation. They’re out of their comfort zone, too, so be humane and help someone get acclimated. It will make you feel good.
Speaking of conversation, you should have your talking points ready. Current events are fine as long as you stay away from religion and politics. No sense in starting an argument. If conversation isn’t going well, break away very politely. No hard feelings.
Don’t come on too strong. I still remember a public relations coordinator who approached me at a trade show; hand outstretched, he launched into his memorized 30-second commercial. Although his commercial was excellent, he sounded stiff an unnatural.
Speaking to #9, you’ll need an elevator speech, but ease into it with a little small talk, or wait until you’re asked about yourself.
Listen to others. This will help you get outside your comfort zone because it will allow you time to think about what you want to say–especially helpful for those who dislike making small talk.
Take a breather if you need to. Walk outside and take in some fresh air. Just remember to return.
Bonus. Once you’ve accomplished getting outside your comfort zone and feel great about “Just doing it,” you will need to followup with the people you’ve met. Take the attitude that if you don’t initiate the follow-up it won’t happen, even if this means getting outside your comfort zone.
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For Christmas my wife sent me to the grocery store for various ingredients for our holiday dinner. I knew trying to remember all the ingredients was going to challenge my waning memory, so I asked her to write a list of said ingredients.
She rolled her eyes but understood how important it was for me to return with the proper ingredients–so important that her list numbered in the area of 25.
The lesson I learned from my shopping spree–by the way, I got all ingredients–was that it was akin to the list of must do’s in the job search.
In reading the list of must do’s below, ask yourself if you’re doing each one in your job search. For example, do you have an elevator speech? Have you attended informational meetings? Consider this the checklist below a partial list of your “ingredients” for the job search.
Understand your workplace values.
Determine what you want to do…what you really want to do. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a great tool.
Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa, suggests, “a personal marketing plan. It ensures better information gathering during networking meetings and more proactive rather than reactive job search actions.”
Ask for an informational meeting to talk to someone to make sure you’re on the right track, or to introduce yourself to a company.
Assess your skills and accomplishments. Make a list for both.
Learn how to write your résumé. Attend workshops offered by your college or local career center.
Write a targeted résumé with highlighted experience and accomplishments.
Write a cover letter template, which will later be targeted for particular positions.
Create a personal commercial or elevator speech which explains your value to the employer.
Determine how you’ll approach the job search, making networking your primary method.
Join LinkedIn with full intention of engaging, not using it as a place mat on the Internet.
Copy and paste the contents of your new résumé to your LinkedIn profile, which you’ll modify to be a better networking tool.
Develop a networking list that includes past colleagues and managers, as well as others who we’ll call your superficial connections.
Formally let people know you’re out of work. How can they help you if they don’t know you’re looking?
Develop business cards for your business—the product you’re selling is you.
Attend networking events. Make sure you bring your business cards.
Follow up with everyone with whom you’ve conversed and exchanged business cards.
Send approach letters/e-mails to companies for which you’d like to work.
Organize your job search by keeping track of your inquiries, contacts, résumés sent out, etc.
Prepare for telephone interviews. Make sure all of the above written communications are in place.
Ask for mock interviews which should be recorded and critiqued by a professional career consultant.
Do your research on the jobs and the companies to which you apply.
Double check your first impression, including attire, body language, small talk, and portfolio.
Be prepared to answer the difficult questions concerning job-related, transferable, and personality skills.
Have your stories ready using the STAR formula.
Write thank you notes via e-mail or hard copy.
Have you been doing everything on this list, or the majority of them? If you are missing any of the above, make sure to nail them this year. Let me know of others I’m missing. Perhaps we can double this list. And yes, the meal was excellent.
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