Tag Archives: 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


6 interesting ways you can find your alumni using LinkedIn’s “See Alumni”

I’ve been working with a gentleman who is interested in enhancing his LinkedIn strategy. One questions he had for me was with whom should he connect.  I suggested that he connect with those in his occupation and industry, as well as people in companies for which he’d like to work, and then I pointed him to See Alumni.



Alumni? you may wonder. Yes, alumni. It makes perfect sense. Think about the bond you have with the people you went to school with, even if you never met them. There are things you probably experienced during the four years of your education, such as frequenting the same sports bar, getting chased by the white swans from the campus pond, cheering for your school’s basketball team, surviving the blizzard of ’87.

If you haven’t taken a look at See Alumni, which you accesse by typing your school’s name in the Search field, you should see what kind of information you can gather and the potential of connecting with your alumni. I’ve gathered some telling information about my alumni. I’m focusing on my 2nd degree connections.

LinkedIn allows me to filter my alumni by six categories. Below is the first of two pages of See Alumni:

See Alumni 1

1. Where they live

In the United States the majority of my alumni live in the Greater Boston area (4,821), which makes sense. I also live in the Greater Boston area and choose to connect with people who are local. Only 671 of my alumni live in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. This also tells me there’s more industry in eastern Massachusetts.

2. Where they work

If I’m wondering where my alumni work, I see that 201 of them haven’t strayed far from home. Most of them work at my alma mater, while the 46 work at Fidelity. I pointed out to my client that if he clicks “See More,” he’ll see many more companies, along with other filters.

I also tell him that this filter is a great source of information, especially if he has some companies in mind. His alumni can be allies in his job search.   

3. What they do

Of my alumni connections 1,649 are in business development. And at the bottom of the truncated view are 886 people in Entrepreneurship. I recall looking through my See Alumni feature and noticing that I’m connected to many engineers, even if they’re 2nd degrees. This filter can be a good indication of the relevance of your network.

The second page of See Alumni provides the following information.

See Alumni 2

4. What they studied

Economics, Psychology, and Business Administration seem to be the choices of majors of my 2nd degree connections at my alma mater. My discipline, English Languages, is seventh on the list. Mechanical Engineering is seventh. Dad always told me not to be an engineer. Not because it’s a lousy occupation; but because I’d make a lousy engineer.

5. What they’re skilled at

My alumni are more skilled at leadership (2,831) than business development, which is hidden, (1,342). If I fashion myself skilled at public speaking, I’m in the company of 2,194 others who share this skill.  Social Media stands at 1,902. Four years ago it was at the bottom at the list at 556. This is an indicator that social media is exploding.

6. How you’re connected

Four years ago my 1st degree connections stood at a mere 32. Now I have 159. My second degrees have grown from 4,521 to 7,311 in that time frame.

What does this all mean?

This has been a fun exercise for me in terms of discovering where my alma mater live and work, what they do, etc; but the power of this feature lies in identifying specific people with whom you’d like to connect. No matter what your age is, this is a feature you should be using.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

Photo: UMass.edu Almuni

10 ways to improve your job search in 2018

The mantra I deliver to my workshop attendees at the beginning of January is, “This is the year you’ll land your job!” And I believe this. That’s if they don’t lose sight of the prize and stay on course. But even as I’m saying it, I know it won’t be an easy journey.

Young job seekers

On the bright side, employers are opening their purses in January and beyond. While December is typically slow, it is a month when your networking will pay off now, because you’re a known commodity.

If you didn’t reach out to employers in December, all is not lost. Let’s look at ways to improve your job search in 2018.

1Know thyself. It’s important to possess self-awareness if you want to conduct your job search effectively in 2018. This means thinking about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What does this spell? SWOT. That’s right, do a SWOT analysis on yourself.

I have my attendees do a partial SWOT analysis in some of my workshops. I tell them to do a complete one on their own. You should write down 10 or more strengths, five weaknesses, three opportunities, and three threats. This will give you a better sense of what you can capitalize on and areas you need to overcome.

2. Take time to think about what you really want to do. All too often job seekers will settle for the next job that comes along. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. This stage in your life is a great time to reflect on what will make you happy.

If it’s a career change, think about how your transferable skills can make a transition easier, despite not having all the job-related skills. One woman I worked with had previously worked for Hewlett Packard in marketing. She joined our career center as a grant writer. Eventually she became the director of our Workforce Investment Board.

3. Conduct some labor market research (LMR). Whether you know it or not, you’ve been researching the labor market. For example, you were gathering labor market information (LMI) while working and considering a move to a different company or occupation.

Now, you need to gather LMI on job availability, determining which skills are in high demand, and what salaries employers are offering.  One site that gives you a broad sense of your value in the labor market is Salary.com.

But the best way to gather LMI is by speaking with people in the know, who might include other job seekers or people who will grant you networking meetings, better known as informational interviews.

4. Create a list of companies for which you’d like to work. This is difficult for many people. The sharp job seekers understand the value of keeping a going list of 10 to 15 companies they research. This is also part of your LMR. Your research can tell you which companies are in growth or decline.

You also should identify important players in the companies, hiring managers, directors, VP, CEOs, etc. LinkedIn is ideal for identifying key players in your target companies. Networking is even better, providing you have the right connections.

5. Write your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Now it’s time to write your résumé. When others jump immediately to their résumé and LinkedIn profile, they’re flying blindly. They haven’t self-reflected, thought about what they want to do, and conducted their LMR.

Now you’re ready to address the needs of employers for whom you want to work. You know which accomplishments to highlight. You realize that a one-fits-all résumé won’t do it; it certainly won’t pass the applicant tracking system (ATS).

Your LinkedIn profile will be constructed to cover as many of the skills and experiences employers require. It’s generic, unlike your tailored resumes. However, it must show your value, just as your résumé does. Your LinkedIn profile is more of a online networking document that also shows your personality.

6. Networking is still your best method of looking for work. For those of you who have made connections in the fall at your desired companies, your networking efforts will pay dividends when employers ask for referrals to fill their positions.

Approach connections who work for your target companies or people who know people who work for your target companies. Many job seekers have great success using LinkedIn to make connections at desired companies.

I strongly encourage my clients to attend professional association events, where they can network with people who are currently working. Those who are working might know of opportunities for you, or at the very least provide you with some sage advice. To find an association, Google your industry/occupation and your location. Here’s one I found for marketing.

7. Get used to using LinkedIn’s mobile app. More than 50% of LinkedIn members are using the mobile app. This provides you with the convenience of using LinkedIn for research, communicating with recruiters, or searching for jobs.

The app is limited, but there’s still enough functionality to make it worth investing time into it. I believe the LinkedIn mobile app is where the company is dedicating its resources. Read this post on using LinkedIn’s mobile app.

8. It’s never too late to volunteer. Look, I’m not trying to sell you out. It’s a proven fact that volunteering is an effective way to land a job. Consider these four reasons:

  1. You improve your skills or gain new ones. For example, you’re a webmaster and volunteer to revamp an organization’s website to learn ColdFusion.
  2. It is a great way to network. If you volunteer in the proper organization, you can make connections with vendors, partners, customers, and others in your industry.
  3. You’ll feel more productive. It’s far better than sitting at your computer for six hours a day applying online. As I tell my clients, get out of your house!
  4. It’s a great way to pad your resume. Volunteerism is work, so why not include it in your Experience section.

9. Don’t take an interview lightly. This means any interview. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they weren’t prepared for the telephone interview. They assumed it would be just a a screening. Guess what, the telephone interview is such an important part of the hiring process–saves time and money–that they be the deciding factor. The face-to-face might be a formality.

There are seven phases of the interview you need to consider. Nailing everyone of these phases is important. Begin reading part one of this series to help you get mentally prepared for the process.

10. Be good to yourself. You’ve heard of work/life balance. I believe there’s also job-search/life balance. In other words, don’t burn out during your job search. In a recent job club meeting, I asked the members what they did during the Christmas holiday. Many of them talked about making connections with valuable recruiters.

But the ones who also impressed me were the ones who said they took some time off to decompress, sprinkled in with some job seeking activities. You must remember that your unemployment is temporary, and during this time there are other important aspects of your life.

Photo: Flickr, Ken Shoufer


There is no excuse for not selling yourself. 2 areas in which you must succeed

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from my clients, “I can’t sell myself. I just can’t brag.” I understand their consternation, yet I can’t feign sympathy. This would be a disservice to them. What they need is positive reinforcement.

Job Interview

There are two undeniable truths. First, if you don’t sell yourself, no one will. It’s like waiting for Prince Charming to arrive or waiting for a job to jump in your lap, both of which aren’t going to happen.

Second, no one is asking you to brag, not even the employer. He’s asking you to promote your accomplishments and relate your skills to the job at hand. No one likes a braggart.

So how do you sell yourself? Selling yourself is going to involve developing a campaign that requires you to use your verbal and written communication skills.

Written skills

Your résumé. Most believe, understandingly so, that your résumé will be the first contact you’ll have with an employer. Let’s assume this is true, at least 85% of the time (some job seekers network their way to a job with applying for it using the traditional method).

A compelling résumé must include, among other components a branding headline; non-fluff, professional profile; and a robust employment history consisting mostly of accomplishment statements and duties of interest to the employer.

LinkedIn and cover letter. So far you’re not bragging, are you? Also included in your written campaign are your cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Like your résumé, they must promote (not brag about) your accomplishments.

The cover letter is tailored to each specific job (as should your résumé) and entices the employer to read your résumé. It points out your experience, skills and accomplishments pertinent to the position at hand. No bragging yet.

Increasingly more employers are enabling the Hidden Job Market by cruising the Internet searching for kick-ass LinkedIn profiles that meet their lofty expectations, so don’t disappoint. In my opinion; If you’re not going to put the required effort into you LinkedIn profile, don’t bother having one.

Verbal communications

Your elevator pitch. This is an area where job seekers have the most difficulty promoting themselves. For example, as they recite their written elevator pitches in my workshops, I don’t hear the enthusiasm in their delivery. Unbeknownst to them, when they talk about their accomplishments with pride, other attendees admire their confidence. This is not bragging.

Networking. Confidence carries over to you networking efforts. Delivering your pitch in a natural way is how people want to know about your accomplishments and outstanding skills. Remember, at a networking event or even when you’re out and about, people who ask about your job transition want to hear about what you do, have accomplished, and want to do in the future.

Also remember that listening to fellow networkers is just as important as talking about yourself. Too many people talk at networkers at an event. Or they feign listening, all the while waiting for their opportunity to talk.

Telephone interviews. On the telephone during an interview or leaving a message, promote yourself by explaining why you are the right person for the job. Again, demonstrating confidence, not arrogance, is essential. Confidence is one important skills employers look for in a candidate.

The interview. Finally there’s the interview. I can’t tell you how many people fall back into “we” statements when describing successful projects or programs. Interviewers want to hear about your role in the process, not your teammates. You’re the one they’re considering hiring.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments with pride. This shows confidence. Without saying you’re the best project manager to assume that position, talk about the time when you assessed a major problem one of your clients had, then how you orchestrated a team of 12 consultants to resolve the problem two weeks before the deadline.

Read the series on Nailing the interview process.

while not coming across as bragging. No one likes a braggart. People appreciate others who are proud of their accomplishments.


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.


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


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.


10 ways that test your courage in the job search

Although I understand my workshop attendees’ reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get in an interview.


They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.

“Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it.

You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other job seekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees.

I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most. But networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other job seekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.”

I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in mock interviews. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service.

But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. I remember being asked to participate in a mock interview years ago. I flatly refused. I lacked courage then.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your LinkedIn connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee.

Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.”

This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market.

Contact those companies with a networking email  to ask for networking meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of networking meetings. Otherwise known as informational interviews, networking meetings have been the reason for many of my job seekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them.

Once you’ve secured a networking meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional- and behavioral-based. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect.

How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.

Readers, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews.

To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.


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