December 19, 2013
During the past five years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of job seekers and others interested in networking. I value these interactions, and will almost always accept a networking request.
As I think back on those interactions, though, some individuals I met with were more memorable. I best remember those who did the following things:
- They had a purpose for meeting. Knowing why provided purpose and focus for our conversations. Of course, I never expected anyone to develop a detailed, comprehensive agenda before they requested an appointment. Just hearing them say, “I’m in a job search and want to brainstorm ideas” was a great starting point.
- They did not do all the talking. Occasionally, I’ve done all the listening, never having the opportunity to add any value to the conversation. In those rare cases, I just assumed the other person needed moral support as they unloaded their burdens in a stream of consciousness.
- They did not expect me to do all the talking. I never do well when the onus is left entirely upon me to do all the talking. I’ll do what I can to make a conversation lively, but let’s not forget that one hand clapping makes no sound. Read the rest of this entry »
April 14, 2013
Do you cringe at the concept of networking?
Many hate the idea because they are afraid of what others will think about them. They lack confidence in their ability to say the right things or make the right impression.
A well-networked woman once shared with me the key to her networking success: Be interested, not interesting.
That’s pretty simple! We can succeed by being genuinely interested in others and what they have to say. Our self-imposed angst of networking evaporates when the focus shifts from ourselves to the person on the other side of the table.
My greatest networking success has come as I’ve relinquished the idea that I’m trying to impress someone. I’ve learned to approach networking with a blend of humility and curiosity. First, I acknowledge that every person has something unique to say. I also understand that I can learn and grown from what that person has to share.
I’ve grown to love networking because I can have substantive conversations with some truly inspiring, intriguing and innovative people. I’m not trying to impress upon them that I’m an interesting person. Rather, I’m genuinely interested in them, their knowledge and their ideas.
To anyone trying to network more effectively, to anyone hoping to become a better conversationalist or to anyone preparing for an upcoming job interview, here’s the best advice I can give you:
Be interested, not interesting.
July 7, 2011
Three months ago I learned that my job at the American Red Cross would likely be eliminated.
Nationally, the Red Cross has been undergoing a massive, top-to-bottom reorganization that will affect every person affiliated with the organization. The restructuring will reduce expenses and increase revenues, all with a focus on keeping the mission relevant in a rapidly-changing environment. To their credit, our national leaders have openly shared the unfolding changes via e-mails, online videos and frequent conference calls.
Anticipating that my position would be among those eliminated by the end of the summer, I shared the discomforting news with my wife and family. Then, with the clock ticking towards the start of a new fiscal year, I launched an under-the-radar job search. I first revised my resume and LinkedIn profile. With the full understanding and support of my boss, I shifted my networking into a higher gear and sent e-mails to a couple dozen strategically-placed contacts. I was encouraged by their immediate offers to help.
Prior to launching the public phase of my job search, I developed personal business cards, a career-highlights brochure and an assortment of collateral materials to use when the appropriate time came. Read the rest of this entry »
December 10, 2009
It’s tough looking for a job in December. I’ve been there, and I know it’s not fun being in a job search during the holidays.
Right now, I personally know at least three dozen people who are between jobs. Though they’ve remained positive during these stressful times, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with fear and negativity. Few employers are hiring in December. The economy is still bad and who knows what the future holds. On top of that, personal finances are likely strained during this season of materialism and consumerism.
On the other side of the coin, though, the holiday season can actually be a deeply meaningful time for job hunting. Done rightly, December can be a time of renewal and rejuvenation as you anticipate all the good things awaiting you in the coming new year.
Here’s my advice to anyone feeling trapped in a holiday job search:
- Spend quality time with family and friends. A stressful career transition can refocus you on life’s true priorities—family and friends. Surround yourself with people who truly care about you and your well-being. Let them know how important they are to you.
- Reconnect with your existing network. Update your professional contacts on the progress (or lack of) you are making. Remind them what you’re looking for. Suggest simple ways they can help. Look for ways to express gratitude for things they have already done.
- Make new friends. The holidays are a good time to network and meet new people at parties, religious services or other social events.
- Rethink your strategy. From time to time, we all need to think about what we’re doing and why. For me, nothing works quite like sitting alone in a coffee shop. I can clear the clutter in my mind, filter out distractions and experience a surge of creativity. The change of venue gives me a fresh perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
November 23, 2009
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I am reminded of the words of Melody Beattie who said, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” With a profoundly grateful heart, I share the following 10 things for which I am thankful.
- A job. I know far too many good and talented people who are unemployed. In graditude for my job, I look for ways to network with job seekers. I hope to encourage them and also to share what I’ve learned from my own career transitions.
- Holidays. Though I’m thankful for my job, I’m also grateful for time away from the office. Everyone needs a little downtime. I create pauses in my daily schedule to ground myself. I look forward to a weekly sabbatical away from work. And I enjoy the change of pace that a holiday like Thanksgiving can bring.
- My Family. Next month Carol and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage. This year we’ve welcomed two new members into our family—our son-in-law Nathan (Jennifer’s husband) and our daughter-in-law Annette (Bryan’s wife). We’re also thankful for our son Greg and his daughter Kayla, and for his new job as an elementary school teacher.
- My Friends. Friends are special, and thankful for each and every person in my life. I value the diversity of age, race, politics, religion, socioeconomic status, education and even personality. Together we share the adventure of life’s great journey, though we may be at different places along the path.
- Health. Good health is often unappreciated until it’s gone, but as a cancer survivor I want to live each day with an awareness of my health and well-being. (Living more healthfully will also be one of my upcoming New Year’s resolutions.) Read the rest of this entry »
October 29, 2009
When you’re looking for a job, everyone tells you to network.
Network! Network! Network!
That’s great advice, but it can be quite overwhelming and even intimidating.
A while back I was meeting with a young woman looking for her first job out of college. When I emphasized the importance of networking she said, “Everyone tells me to do that, but when I’m meeting with someone I don’t know what to say.”
I appreciated her candor, so I spent extra time helping her develop a networking agenda. After filtering out the noise and distractions, we realized there were only three things she needed to say in a face-to-face networking meeting. Likewise, your networking agenda can be as simple as these three items:
- Here’s who I am. Briefly describe yourself professionally.
- Here’s where I’m going. Describe your ideal job so the other person can visualize you being successful in the next phase of your career.
- Here’s how you can help. People want to help but usually they don’t know how. Give them a few simple things to do.
Organizing a networking meeting around these three points will give you the confidence you need to succeed.
As you move forward in your job search , you’ll also be making new friends and expanding your network of professional contacts.
October 27, 2009
When looking for a job, you’ll find most people want to help you. They just don’t know how. It’s your job to tell them what you need.
In planning for an upcoming networking meeting, here’s an idea: Have objectives! In other words, go into the meeting knowing what you want to get out of it. It’s not very difficult if you hang your requests on these three pegs:
- Feedback. Get the other person’s input on your resume, cover letter and job search strategies. Seek feedback on market conditions and other areas where the person has expertise or knowledge.
- Names. Ask for names of other individuals who might be helpful in your job search. Perhaps the other person will offer to introduce you to the new contact. Such introductions are especially beneficial. If you are going to contact the person directly, make sure you have permission prior to using someone’s names as a door-opener when introducing yourself.
- Follow-up. Ask the person if you can stay in touch. Who could deny such a request? Then, by all means, find ways to follow up. I’m dumbfounded by the number of people who look at a networking meeting as a one-time interaction rather than the beginning of professional relationship. You can stay connected via LinkedIn, e-mail, a handwritten thank you note, an in-person follow-up meeting or some other method of keeping the person updated on your status.
Look for ways to give something back. Any good relationship is always interactive and ongoing. Those who only take and never give back will never be successful networkers.
Those who view networking as a short-term means for getting a job will find the experience shallow and burdensome. However, those who see networking as a way of life—a way of staying connected with the world—will be rewarded in unexpected and inmeasurable ways.
September 1, 2009
In these tough economic times, I know too many good people who are between jobs. It’s a noisy, competitive job market and as I observe the chaos, two things become apparent:
- Too many people are clamoring for the same few jobs.
- Only a small minority of those people are doing a good job of marketing themselves.
Having been in a job search myself, I feel great empathy for job seekers. From my personal experience, I’ve learned more about career transitions than I ever cared to know. Therefore, I’m often asked to network with job seekers to help them brainstorm strategies for a job search.
I’m always willing to share what I’ve learned if it can help someone else along the path. Most of my advice, though, can be summarized in the following 10 items:
- Think of yourself as a “product” to be marketed in a noisy, competitive marketplace.
- Have a personal marketing plan.
- Differentiate yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Be memorable. Be unique.
- Be findable. Create a large digital footprint by using sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Profiles.
- Know who you are. Develop an effective “elevator speech” or “30-second commercial.”
- Know where you are you going. Describe your destination so others can visualize you once you’ve reached your destination.
- Let people know how they can help. Be specific. Generalities usually do not generate the desired results.
- Use stories to describe your achievements.
- Talk about the benefits you offer, not the features described in your resume.
- Believe in yourself (or no one else will).
Okay, I’ve shared lessons I learned along the pathway, and I’d like to hear from someone who has navigated a career transition. If you’ve successfully emerged from a job search, what did you learn? What worked for you? What advice would you share?
On the other hand, if you have recently hired someone, what additional wisdom would you share with a job seeker?