Tag Archives: networking events

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

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5 ways to avoid a bad experience at networking events

two people talkingRecently I attended a networking event which left me with the feeling that I must have had the words, “Talk at me” written on my forehead. Not, “Listen to what I have to say. You may actually be interested.”

In other words, I didn’t get a word in edgewise. It got to the point where the words spewing out of peoples’ mouths were simply noise that I had to block out, lest I ran from the room screaming.

It’s not like wanted to be the one who did all the talking–I didn’t–or that I expected people to abide by Robert’s Rules of Order–that’s a bit extreme. I just didn’t want to feel like I was a sounding board.

I’m being a bit dramatic. I had great conversations with a photographer who explained how he programs meta tags into people’s LinkedIn photos to optimize their profile—I still don’t understand that.

Another person I spoke to talked about the  networking groups she started, demonstrating her concern for job seekers.

A third person I spoke with is someone for whom I wrote a LinkedIn profile, someone I met at this group years ago.

No, it was just one person who chewed my ear off and made the whole night a lousy experience. Complaining about people who talk too much is becoming a common theme with me.

As I think about the night and how I could have participated more and not simply been a sounding board, I’ve come to realize five things I need to do better to prepare for networking events.

1. Have exit phrases. I don’t have any “exit” phrases to use when people want to hear themselves talk and could care less about what I have to contribute. This doesn’t only apply to people who attend networking events; I run across this in my daily life.

I realize I need phrases that will release me from their grip of constant verbiage that makes my eyes turn to stone. I know I can’t say, “Please, for the love of God, stop talking.” No, that wouldn’t work. The following would be better:

“Please forgive me, I was heading for the bar to get a drink for myself and a friend of mine.” 

“A person I’ve been meaning to speak to has arrived. Would you excuse me?”

“It just occurred to me that I have to remind the host of an idea I have for her.”

“I’d like to hear more about your product/situation. Let me take your business card and I’ll follow up.”

Of course, none of these came to mind.

2. Get the message across. I have to get my messages across. I have to remember that feeling of anger I had and, in the future, be bent on doing most of the talking, almost to the point where I’m the one dominating the conversation….

Naw, that’s not good networking, and that’s not me. I believe in equal time. I believe in courteousness, where everyone gets heard. But some people could care less about others’ right to talk, which seems disrespectful to me. I’ve noticed that some people converse as if its a dueling match, but that’s not me. “As I was saying,” often works for me when I want the floor.

3. Ask questions. If I don’t understand what the person is talking about, instead of nodding as though I understand what she’s saying. This slows the gushing of words pouring from her mouth and helps me contribute to the discussion.

“So are you saying you’re looking for a job in marketing, more specifically social media? That’s interesting. I teach courses on LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging. Social media is dominating the landscape in some marketing departments. Would you like to take my business card and follow up with me?”

4. Be mentally prepared. I have to prepare myself. Some pundits believe that introverts may be slower on the uptake when it comes to small talk or self-promotion.

Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extroverted World, claims that introverts are physiologically slower than extraverts when expressing themselves. They need to formulate their thoughts before speaking, lest they say something unintelligible.

I notice that I’m at my best against loquacious types when my adrenaline is higher than usual. I’m more animated and expressive. This can take some preparation before going to a networking event by getting in the mood to attend, somewhat difficult for introverts.

5. Leave. That’s right. If the event isn’t meeting your expectations, or you’re being talked at with no ability to retreat; simply say adieu to the host and anyone with whom you made a connection.

There’s no sense in drawing out a bad experience. Call it a loss, but by no means consider all networking events are the same. At this particular event I had the misfortune to be assaulted by the wrong person. Many other events have turned out very well for me.


I enjoy attending networking events but what I experienced that night is what gives networking a bad name. Connecting at these events should be a natural process, one of give and take; not one where you leave with your head spinning.

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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.

 

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.

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4 ways for introverts to engage in small talk at a networking event

Networking EventI’m not  fond of forced small talk. There, I said it. I particularly don’t look forward to entering a room full of strangers and talking about myself.

Like at a networking event, where everyone is delivering their commercial like automatons.

But I do small talk at networking events, and I’m pretty good at it most of the time.

Small talk is important in professional pursuits; it leads to deeper conversation. An excellent article, Hate Small Talk? One Approach Anyone Can Use, talks about how to approach people and help them engage; thus, helping them conduct small talk and, as a consequence, help you with your small talk.

Jeff Hadden is the author of this article. In it, he writes: “I dread the thought of walking up to people I don’t know and making small talk. Not because I don’t like people, but because in that situation I really don’t like me. I’m not outgoing, I’m not gregarious, not extroverted. I’m the ultimate wallflower.”

I love honest writing, especially when it illustrates how I feel. But here’s the rub: introverts have to improve their small talk abilities, regardless of their comfort level or desire. Small talk generates business and the job-search leads.

If, like me, small talk doesn’t come easy, this is what can you do about it.

1) As the author of the aforementioned suggests, approach someone who is struggling to engage. Here’s how it might go: “Hi. I’m Bob. What do you think of the event?”….”Yeah, it is crowded in here.” Where’re you from?”….”No kiddin’? I’m from Lowell, a small city north of Boston…” This can lead to your elevator pitch…or not.

2) I’m fond of asking questions. My kids think I’m weird, like I’m interrogating them; but it gives me some fodder to respond to. I tell my workshop attendees I’m the King of Asking Questions. “So, what brings you here?” “What do you think of the guest speaker?” “You’re from Tampa (noticing name tag). What’s the weather like down there at this time?” Just remember not to sound like you are interrogating your fellow networkers; allow them to ask you questions, as well.

3) Go prepared to an event by arranging a date or two. I’m going to an event on Tuesday, so I invited a guy I know to attend with me. I’ve got someone with whom to talk if nothing is happening, as well as someone to introduce. “You need help with your website? I’d like to introduce you to John. He’s a wiz at fixing websites.”  If the conversation takes off, great for John. But now I’m alone, unless my second date is there.

4) Don’t bother working the room. There’s no law that says you have to collect 10 business cards, most of which will go into the circular file cabinet when you get home. You might meet someone with whom you have a great deal in common, perhaps there are business or job-search benefits to explore. Great. I’m not trying to give you an out here, just a semblance of success.

If you were to ask me where small talk rates as one of my activities, I’d place it below watching golf. I much prefer, as do most introverts, having a few lengthy conversations with people–most likely somewhere quiet. I know it’s important, but I find it extremely unnatural.

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Heed your inner voice in the job search

inner voiceIf you’re like me, there have been times when you spoke without thinking and said some incredibly stupid things. Worse yet, you might have blurted words that had negative consequences. At times like this, your outer voice took over like a hurricane leaving devastation in its wake.

If only you had heeded your inner voice, the voice that tells you to stop and think before you talk or write something you’ll regret. The voice that is rational and will usually save you from embarrassment and, ergo, negative consequences.

A customer of mine recent told me during a Salary Negotiation workshop that he was offered a job during the last of four interviews. But when he was told the salary for the job would be $12.00 an hour, half of what he made at his last job, he screamed, “Are you (expletive) kidding me?” Needless to say the interview and all possibility of getting the job went up in smoke.

He asked me if he had said the right thing? The rest of the group shook their heads; I simply said, “no.”

Jobseekers need to be cognizant of their inner voice and not let their outer voice speak for them. Another of my customers was asked an illegal question during a phone interview. “How old are you?” she was asked.

She promptly swore obscenities and hung up on the recruiter who was probably screening her and was in no way indicative of the people for whom she might work. She was clearly listening to her outer voice which told her, “Illegal question, illegal question,” and she acted impulsively.

Instead she might have said:

“I’m 49; however, I’ve been consistently acknowledged for my productivity. In fact, I’ve out worked my younger colleagues and covered other shifts when they needed weekends off. Because my kids are self-sufficient, I require no time off. You should also consider my job experience, as well as life experience, which younger workers don’t have.”

The outer voice is apt to reveal its ugly head when jobseekers are frustrated and despondent over the job search, such as when they’re networking and asked about their current situation. A listener understands her partner’s anger, but hearing him speak negatively is off-putting. The networker has most likely lost his contact because his outer voice defied him, truly revealing his feelings.

What would you like to do in the job search? You’d like to listen to your outer voice, which encourages you to express your negative thoughts.

There will always be those who are prisoners to their outer voice. They will talk without consulting their inner voice and will pay the price. These are folks who are often trying to dig themselves out of a whole that is insurmountable. Although they proudly spoke their “mind,” it’s not usually worth the trouble they land in.

Professional networking: The one that got away

Guest Contributor Beth Cohen Moore.

When it comes to networking for my career, I guess you could say I’m a lot like most people. The thought of entering a room full of a whole bunch of people I don’t know and trying to sell myself appeals to me just about as much as throwing myself out of an airplane. Yet, I know that as a jobseeker, sitting behind a computer and pitching my resume into the black hole isn’t going to get me the job I want.

So recently, on the advice of my incredibly patient career coach, I recently found an appropriate group in my job search geography and attended a lunch and learn networking event with other professionals in my field. This was scary stuff, people!
In preparation for this event, I printed up my business cards, (thank you Tim’s Strategy and Tiny Prints), committed my elevator speech to memory, put on my best business suit and headed off to my first foray into face-to-face professional networking.

Do you know what? I had fun! I met a lot of really amazing, talented people. They welcomed me into their group and I found myself talking very easily about who I am and what I do. Most of the people I met were employed, but we had common ground – years of experience in our field – and this made connecting surprisingly easy.

As I chatted with those around me and exchanged business cards (believe it or not, this came very naturally), I noticed a young woman sitting nearby who was not engaging with anyone. She had that look on her face – you know the one. It’s that “Oh my God, what the hell am I doing here?” look. Mustering up all my courage I approached her and introduced myself.

Turns out she was newly unemployed and looking. And as it so happens, though we work in a different category of consumer products, our areas of expertise were quite similar. She had solid online marketing experience in the fashion industry with some very large brands. I instantly knew that I could be of some help to her in her job search through my connections to several recruiters who work in fashion and apparel.

Our afternoon speaker was about to start his presentation, so I handed her my business card (which of course has my LinkedIn address on it) and told her to contact me. I waited momentarily for her card and then realized she has come to this event without one. No way to contact her! I felt truly disappointed. However, as I found a seat I took comfort in the fact that this young woman said that she would make contact with me … and I believed her.

Weeks have now gone by since my inaugural networking event and I haven’t heard a word from my new job seeker friend. During this time, through my own job search, I have engaged with numerous recruiters who are looking for online marketing expertise in her field. I feel so frustrated. I have no way to find this young woman. I have no way to help her!

I think one of the reasons so many of us job seekers hesitate to attend face to face networking events is that we find it hard to ask for something – especially from strangers. We inherently believe that to be in need is seen as weakness in our (business) culture. But in feeling this way, we are making some huge assumptions about the people around us that aren’t necessarily true.

And something important has finally dawned on me.

As a talented candidate looking for work in this economy, when we show up unprepared, when we are afraid to ask, we are not only depriving ourselves of an opportunity, but we are actually depriving other people of the ability to help us! And we do this unintentionally!

I feel frustrated about being unable to fulfill my purpose as a professional networker to help this woman – the one who “got away.”

But I’ve learned a tremendous lesson in the nature of reciprocity. Give and get. It’s part of life – and it’s an important part of career networking.

What about you? Have you done everything you can to make it easy for people to help you in your search? Is it hard for you to ask for help from others as you look for a job? Why?


Guest Expert:

Beth Cohen Moore is a cross channel marketer who currently serves as Marketing Communications and Community Manager for CPGjobs. She is the Co-founder of Traxee.com, an online community for women runners and regularly blogs about technology, social media, career, job search and women’s health and physical fitness. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @bethcohenmoore.