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You Are the CEO of Your Career: Take Charge!

CEO or chief executive officer text on black block

As the New Year looms, some people are rethinking their career strategy. Competition, layoffs and uncertainty are forcing them to assess themselves to see how they can take charge of their careers.

A chief operating officer of a financial company and a director at one of the Big Four consulting firms contacted me recently. They were looking for guidance as they plan for the year ahead. The director has already started to lay out her 3 to 5-year plan. She is planning to pursue an EMBA, and has her eyes on a very senior position. Although she has a mentor whom she meets with once per month, she is also looking for a sponsor to help her advance. At the time, I thought to myself: how many people really map out a 3 to 5-year plan in such an unpredictable job market?

The initiative taken by these two individuals is not new. Some people do this, particularly at the start of a new year. But, there are others who invest more time and money on vacation plans than they do on their careers. If your goal in 2016 is to take charge and become the CEO of your career, consider the following:

#1 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CAREER

“There is one person that has responsibility for your career, and that is YOU.” ~ Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley (@CarlaannHarris)

There are many people who believe that their HR departments or their bosses are the ones responsible for their career progression. Not anymore. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. That’s the reason you must begin to see yourself as a take-charge CEO, and map out a career strategy.

#2 TREAT YOUR CAREER AS A BUSINESS

“Manage your career as if it were a start-up business because traditional job security is a thing of the past.” ~Reid Hoffman, Cofounder of LinkedIn and coauthor of the book, The Start-Up of You. (@ReidHoffman)

Even though you may be an employee, in order for you to compete in the freelance economy, you need to think and act like an entrepreneur. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Invest your time (and money if necessary), to get your ‘business’ off the ground. Think in terms of the value you could create for your employer. What new skills could you learn that would make you more marketable? Start thinking that you are in the business of marketing and selling product YOU!

#3 BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

More and more HR professionals are turning to the internet to seek out information about candidates, including social media profiles, personal websites and blogs. ~ The Undercover Recruiter (@Undercoverrec)

Social media is an equal opportunity platform, and does not require a PhD to participate. This means anyone can use it to engage in conversations, demonstrate expertise, build credibility and gain visibility. Don’t be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters frequently peruse LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, to find candidates. It makes sense for you to develop and maintain a robust online presence to make sure you are discovered during these searches.

#4 PREPARE TO ADVANCE ON THE JOB

“Early in my career, I believed that career advancement was based solely on having a strong work ethic and solid performance results. While I still believe that there is no substitute for hard work and strong performance, what I learned over time is that being successful is also highly influenced through the learning that takes place and the exposure to new perspectives gained through mentoring relationships and building your networks.” Arie Ball, Vice President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, USA, and contributor to my book Tell Stories, Get Hired. (@Arie_Ball)

Years ago, it was assumed that longevity and hard work meant one would automatically climb the corporate ladder. The world has changed, and the career ladder is no longer a straight line. Sometimes a lateral move, or a step or two down could be steps in the right direction. It could also mean a chance to learn new skills, gain new perspectives change career focus, and become the CEO of your career.

#5 FIND A MENTOR AND A SPONSOR

“Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth…Not only will sponsors and mentors believe in your potential when you are doubting yourself, but they will champion your successes, to open doors for your next big career move.” ~ Louise Pentland, Senior Executive & General Council at PayPal (@PayPal)

Why do you need both a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor gives advice, and can be someone inside or outside your company. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization who puts his or her career on the line for you. He or she can vouch for your work, and more importantly, has a seat at the decision-making table, so they can speak up passionately on your behalf. They can put a word in on why you should get the promotion or that next plum assignment.

“Sponsors are well-connected to the organization, and the industry, and have insider knowledge about opportunities (and threats). They are very much out in the open. They are visible supporters and champions of your career”, said Christine Brown-Quinn, author of Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired. (@FemaleCapital). Therefore, if you are interested in career progression, especially to the more senior levels, it’s career sponsorship that’s going to make that defining difference.

#6 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“The key to all successful networking for job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second and offer to be of assistance always.” ~Unknown

You cannot avoid networking, no matter how distasteful the word sounds, so reject all its negative labeling. Networking is a series of connected relationships built up over time. It’s making personal connections, not bombarding people with your business card or elevator pitch. It’s getting to know people well enough before you begin asking for favours. Networking is about sharing: sharing of ideas and resources without expecting reciprocity. To become a better networker, get into the habit of scheduling specific time on your calendar to connect with people in your network.

#7 ENGAGE AND NURTURE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” Harvey MacKay, Author & Leadership Guru. (@HarveyMacKay)

Since it is human nature to gravitate towards people we know, like and trust, you should regularly engage and nurture the professional relationships you have developed. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them. In fact, it’s not beneficial to contact your network only when you are in need of help. Keep in touch with them frequently, and always ask questions such as, “How can I help you? Who can I introduce to you?” When you nurture your network, you will be on top of their minds for opportunities.

#8 INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

“Consider volunteering one hour each week to a cause that pulls at your heart strings. Make a habit of volunteering and you will make a world of difference.” Christopher Kai, author of Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. (@UnleashtheKai)

Many people frown when they hear about volunteering. They believe that because they are not being paid, it is useless work. But, volunteering is one way to take charge of your career. It strengthens your leadership and interpersonal skills. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people, take on high profile assignments, and in general, do excellent work. These days, many corporations encourage volunteerism among their employees. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, the employee is participating in a worthy cause, and second, the company is demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

The above points will help you on your journey of becoming the CEO of your career. Are you ready?

Related posts:

Reflections, Resolutions, Goal-Setting & Action

Ditch Your Resolutions, Set Smart Goals

On The Job Hunt? Never Be Afraid to Tell Your Story

Tell Stories_Get Hired_DaisyWright

Today’s career musings is not only based on a quote by actress Angie Dickinson, but also contains elements from the Foreword of my new book, Tell Stories Get Hired. Credit for the Foreword goes to Sharon Graham, one of Canada’s foremost Career Strategists.

While Dickinson’s quote may relate to life in general, this post is written from a job search context and targets mid-career professionals, managers and executives. It is also relevant to job seekers, people in career transition, and even those who are happy at work!

When it comes to job search, we cannot underestimate the importance of storytelling. Your job search story literally starts with “Once upon a time…”. If you can articulate your value effectively, you can succeed in your job search. Career storytelling can help you build credibility, but its benefits don’t end there. It can also help you to identify your dreams, strengthen your values, find your true assets, and build your self-confidence.

Never be afraid to tell your story. Storytelling is an integral part of your job search. It’s a technique you must use to communicate why you are the best person for the job. It’s a strategy you should employ when networking to demonstrate your industry expertise. You cannot afford to be seen as ‘a shrinking violet’, “someone who is shy or modest and does not like to attract attention.”  Don’t be afraid!

Your story should be interesting. When writing your resume, when networking, or during an interview, create a vivid and interesting picture of what role you played in the story. Were you the lead actor, or did you play a supporting role? In fact, take them on a ride in your CAR, and explain the Challenges you encountered, the Actions you took, and the Results.

Your story is unique. Even if your story is similar to someone else’s, it’s not the same. Find ways to showcase your uniqueness. Brand your story in a package that stands out. According to Sharon, “Our current job search environment is very competitive and the only way to differentiate yourself is to tell “unique signature stories.”

Your story is worth sharing. If you don’t toot your horn, no one will know you are coming. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your mind to determine how great you are. One of my clients lost out on a promotion to project manager because he assumed his boss knew what he had done. He failed to share his success stories.

It’s your story. If you accomplished it, it’s yours, so claim it. If you don’t, others will autograph your work with their name on it. Too many people complain that their bosses or coworkers have taken credit for their work. Don’t let that be you…tell your story!

Every career has many interesting twists and turns, but few people are naturally confident storytellers. Most people find the thought of having to “sell” themselves to recruiters, hiring managers, and other potential company representatives daunting. You may know what you want to share, but are not certain of how best to do that. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Want to learn more about storytelling for the job search? Listen to this podcast, or visit Tell Stories Get Hired to grab your copy of the book.

Networking Tools to Manage Your Job Search

How would you like to easily manage your job search, especially after you lazed through the summer months, and suspended your job search activities?

It’s about time! The kids are heading back to school in a few days, and the lazy, and somewhat hazy days of summer have come and gone. Now you won’t have any excuses for not ramping up your job search. It’s time to get back to job search school, and the first subject I recommend you enroll in is, How to Network Effectively. To assist you, I am introducing two networking tools to manage your job search. They are Twoople and JibberJobber.

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Twoople was developed in my backyard – in my own City of Brampton – so I am pleased to be highlighting it here. I first heard about the tool in an article on TechCrunch and Fast Company. When you are mentioned in these two media, you know you ‘have arrived’!

A few months later I met the co-founders, Pat Arlia, Rino Spano & Cristina Arlia, at a networking event hosted by The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Toronto. A few weeks ago I reached out to Pat to find out how job seekers could use Twoople to network and engage with recruiters, and potential employers. Here are some of the main points from our discussion:

  • Twoople is an engagement messenger for people who don’t know each other. It is, therefore, a great networking tool for job seekers and recruiters.
  • A Twoople address is an alternative to a phone number or email address. My Twoople address, for example, is http://www.twoople.me/daisywright.
  • Unlike Skype and BBM that require registration, Twoople users don’t have to wait for someone to add them or accept an invitation. Registration is one click and you’re ready to chat.
  • Email addresses are never shared. That ensures a certain degree of privacy, especially if someone does not want people to know his or her email address.
  • The tool is universal, meaning it can be used from anywhere in the world, and since it’s a URL, no apps are required.

To begin networking on Twoople, a job seeker could offer their Twoople address as a way for a recruiter to quickly chat with them, should they prefer a chat instead of an email or phone. Increasingly, people prefer to chat but it’s not always possible between two people who aren’t yet acquainted. Twoople opens the door to potential connections.

Experiment with this free, easy-to-use tool and see how many network connections you can make. And by the way, businesses are using it to connect with other businesses, as well as with consumers.

JibberJobber_Logo

JibberJobber was developed by one of my colleagues, Jason Alba. It is a powerful tool that lets you manage your career, from job search to relationship management to target company management (and much more). According to Jason, it “allows you to do everything you need to do to manage a job search and optimize your network relationships – for the duration of your career!”

To organize your job search, and manage all of the information you are going to have to manage, sign up for a free account on JibberJobber.com. This is where you can put contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, list your target companies and what jobs you have applied for. You can enter information such as which version of your resume you used to apply to what job; who it was sent to, and when do you need to follow-up. That is a lot of information to keep track of, especially as you network more and more, and apply to more job openings.

JibberJobber’s strength is helping you follow-up and not miss opportunities. This is done with the log entries and action items. For a nominal upgrade (as low as $5 a month), you can have additional features, including the ability to send emails to JibberJobber to create new contacts, log entries and action items.

Jason does weekly webinars to help users get started, and I highly recommend that you sign up at JibberJobber Webinars.

As you head back to Job Search School, take these tools with you and use them if you want to stay ahead of your competitors. Please use the Comment space below to share any other job search tool that you are aware of that could help another job seeker. Will you?

 

Did They Really Call You That?

 

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Did they really call you that? Pardon the term, but have you ever been called a networking ‘ask-hole’? Someone who is always asking for a job; asking for an introduction to someone’s network, asking for favours…sometimes from complete strangers they just connected with on LinkedIn?

The term ‘ask-hole’ is certainly unflattering, (and I am cringing at its use), but if you were really described as such, you may have fallen into the misconception trap that networking (or merely connecting with people) is all about asking for favours.

Every job seeker has heard, at some point, how important it is to network to find hidden job opportunities, but only a few have been told how. Most have been told to ask, not give, and anyone who is constantly asking, runs the risk of being called an ‘ask-hole’.

Networking is not about ask-ask-give. It’s about give-give-ask! You need to develop a Give-Give-Get mentality, according to Porter Gale, author of Your Network is Your Net Worth. Seek opportunities to give, before you begin to ask.

Below are five simple things you could do today to become a better networker. Each tip is backed up by a supporting quote:

  1. Build the relationship first; favours will come later. Before you start asking for favours, start building relationships first, then ask for favours later. Asking for favours too early in the relationship is like going on a first date and asking your date to marry you. In networking terms, it’s a huge turn-off. Brian Tracy said, “The value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time that you invest in the relationship.”
  2. Don’t ask for a job; ask about them. When you first connect with someone, don’t ask them for a job. Ask about their career trajectory and success stories. (Psst…People enjoy talking about themselves.) Carlos Ghosn said: “Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration.” Show them that you are inspired by their stories.
  3. Be respectful of their time. When you ask for a few minutes of their time, stick to the schedule. Do not prolong the meeting beyond the time you had requested. “Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule.” Unknown. Give them the option of extending the time.
  4. Give of your time, talent and/or your resources. There is always something you can do for someone, whether he or she is on the lowest rung of the organization, or is the CEO. Share your industry expertise; offer to help out on a project; send a congratulatory message on a recent promotion. All these giving efforts will showcase your brand and make you more attractive to decision makers. In Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
  5. Be fully engaged in the conversation. When speaking to someone, show them that you are fully engaged. Do not let your eyes wander around the room for your next catch. Do not take a quick peak at your mobile devices. Do not interrupt the conversation to finish the person’s sentence. Remember Jimi Hendrix’s wise words that “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. Listen attentively.

Networking is a proven pathway to the elusive hidden job market, and ultimately to job search success. But, it is not an easy process. It requires strategy and patience, and more giving than receiving. If networking doesn’t work the first time around, keep on trying, but always start from a position of giving before asking.

What’s the one step you can take NOW that will help you become a better giver? After all, you don’t ever want to be called an ‘ask-hole’.

Go ahead and take that one step now! Your job search depends on it.

The ABCs of Networking: 26 Simple Tips to Get You Started

ABCs_Daisy_WrightMost job seekers wince at the thought of networking. After all, it’s quite awkward. Facing a group of strangers in a large room is like a deer caught in the headlights – stunned and unable to move.

If you are a seeker who is feeling like this deer, then help is on the way. This infographic takes you back to alphabet basics with 26 simple networking tips. They will help you prepare in advance of a networking event, help you deal with the awkward moments, and relearn your ABCs. (Click twice on the image.)

 

It is Time for Reflection, Resolutions, Goal Setting AND Action

Time For Reflection Message Means Ponder Or ReflectThe New Year is usually a time for reflection. We reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and then we begin, with all good intentions to make resolutions or set goals. But, before the end of January, goals will be forfeited, resolutions will be broken, old habits will seep in, and we are back to where we started. We default to complacency and inertia and never take the action necessary to accomplish our goals.

Resolutions never spur me to action because I perceive them as fleeting clouds ambling along without a clear sense of direction. On the other hand, goals appear more tangible, as if they can be touched, so I am a bit more motivated when I think in terms of goals.

Whether you subscribe to resolutions or goal setting, following through with action is a must. Write down your goals, review them regularly, then act. Begin by using the ACTION plan laid out below:

A – Abandon the old ways of thinking and doing things. If resolutions didn’t work, get smart, and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

C – Commit to your goals. Commitment is necessary for success.  Set aside at least one hour each day, no matter what, to work on the goal – whether it is to research your target employers, arrange informational interviews, or network with people who will keep you on their radar for opportunities that may be of interest to you.

T – Tackle your goal one piece at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Break the major goal into manageable mini goals. Keep yourself motivated by reward yourself when each mini goal is achieved.

I – Invest the time and resources necessary to achieve the goal. Too many people wait until the last minute to start working on their resumes, for example. A hastily put-together resume and cover letter won’t reach your intended audience. It takes a carefully orchestrated plan and that takes time.

O – Open yourself to new opportunities. The promotion you were expecting may have gone to someone else, or your recent interview did not end with a job offer. Instead of staring at those closed doors, look for other windows of opportunity to showcase your brand accomplish your goal.

N – Network. As a job seeker, or someone in career transition, you need to invest time in your networking efforts. It is said that sixty percent of a job seeker’s time should be spent on networking. Many people have negative connotations about networking. They view it as a dirty word instead of relationship-building, and that takes a lot of time and effort.

If you are ready for a new job or a new career, set SMART goals, review them regularly then take action. You might surprise yourself.  Share your experience or thoughts here and let’s discuss.

 

And the Most Overused Resume Buzzword for 2013 Is…

 

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Over the past several years, LinkedIn has been coming out with its top ten list of buzzwords found in members’ profiles and resumes. This year, ‘responsible’ heads the list, but it won’t be considered ‘news’ to some recruiters.  In a 2010 survey of Canadian HR professionals and recruiters, they unanimously agreed that employers hire based on results, not on what job candidates were “responsible for…”.

To arrive at the top ten buzzwords, LinkedIn analyzes the English-language profiles of millions of its worldwide members. Since 2010, some words have been eliminated or moved further down the list but ‘innovative’ has been a constant. It is interesting that creative, organizational and effective occupy the top three positions in 2011 and 2012.

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What tends to get lost in these analyses is the fact that job descriptions and job postings are full of these buzzwords. The dichotomy then is, how original can a job seeker get? To ensure their resumes are selected by the applicant tracking system programmed with these same buzzwords, job seekers have little choice but to stack their resumes or profiles with them.

All is not lost. There is a way to circumvent this overuse of buzzwords. It is called networking, an activity that many job seekers detest. Networking does not rely on buzzwords. It is a planned approach to building professional relationships through social media and in-person contacts, and a chance to be seen by recruiters and decision makers. Job seekers have an opportunity to add value to conversations, showcase their expertise and gain visibility from the people who really matter.

So while you might be a responsible and strategic thinker, who is creative, effective and patient; an expert in organizational development, driven to deliver innovative ideas and be extremely analytical, you still have a long way to go to create a resume and LinkedIn profile that will totally be devoid of these buzzwords.

Are you ready to shun those buzzwords? You can start by sharing concrete examples of your accomplishments and how you have added value to your employer.

 

Related links:

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2013 [Infographic]

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2012

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2011

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2010

 

 

 

Why You Should Network to Get Work

People networkingNetworking guru, Donna Messer, is known for saying that one has to ‘network to get work’. It doesn’t matter how often you hear this; it doesn’t matter how often you discount it, networking to get work is a fact.

Too often people say “Networking doesn’t work for me…I am too shy to network…people might think I am forcing myself on them.”  Some of these comments may be true, but let’s GOI – Get Over It. Don’t allow such crippling thoughts to prevent you from getting the job or promotion you really want, or deserve.

You may be telling yourself that you have a great resume and cover letter, but not much is happening. Well, by themselves, they won’t get you the opportunity you are looking for. You need to find creative ways to use these documents to reach your target company. It takes hard work, and lots of it! Thomas Edison once said, Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” Do not miss your opportunity because you are thinking networking is hard work. I can guarantee you, if done properly, your networking efforts will pay off. Just don’t expect overnight success!

Some years ago, I was listening to a group of recruiters on a teleseminar. One was a senior executive recruiter from Microsoft. He told the story of a young man who had been trying to get a job with the company for two years. His resume was just not getting to the right people. You bet it was probably drowning in the sea of thousands of other resumes.

This young man discovered that the company had several blogs, and began to offer comments and contribute his opinions on topics that fell within his area of expertise. One of the company’s recruiters began paying attention to his comments and posts, and realized he knew his stuff. Not very long after he was contacted, and within 10 days of that contact he was offered his dream job with Microsoft. This may have been several years ago, but the process still works. You have to ditch the idea that networking doesn’t work, and devise strategies on how you are going to make it work for you.

Two weeks ago, one of my clients saw a position with one of his target companies and remembered I knew one of the senior HR executives, so he sent me an email to ask if I was still in touch with her. I hadn’t been for a long time, so I googled her name and realized she had moved out of that role. However, while doing the search, I found an article with the name of another recruiter in the company. I passed it to the client and suggested that he do a little bit of footwork and find out how email addresses at the company are structured. Soon after, he responded:

“Thanks for the article. I had a friend who previously worked at [Company] so I was able to copy that format (firstname.lastname@company.ca) and send a message through to the lady from the article. She said she had switched positions but would forward my message to a finance recruiter. Hopefully that will help speed things along.”

That’s networking and research all wrapped in one. Somewhere out there, there is an employer who needs what  you have to offer. But you need to know how to get on their radar. You can do this by tapping into your network or the network of others. Networking is Not a Dirty Word. It’s called Relationship Building.

Does the thought of networking send shivers down your spine? Don’t try doing it alone. Ask for help.

How a Newly-Arrived Immigrant Landed a Six-Figure Job

http://www.daisywright.com/2013/07/23/how-a-newly-arrived-immigrant-landed-a-six-figure-job/Matthew had started his job search a few months before he arrived in Canada, but realized he needed coaching and a resume targeted to the Canadian market. He was referred to me by someone with whom we are both connected through LinkedIn.

After our initial discussion we agreed on a resume package that included a rewrite of his LinkedIn Profile. In his resume, we positioned him as a Global Business Development Executive. He was pleased with the resume, but wondered if it could intimidate some people. To calm his fears, I asked him the following questions:

  • Is the resume an accurate reflection of your achievements?
  • Did you oversee million dollar budgets?
  • Were you involved in some key contract negotiations?
  • Did you grow revenue by 65% for 3 consecutive years?
  • Did you reduce staff turnover by 50%?

He answered “Yes” to each question. I told him he had nothing to worry about but should focus his energies on how he could duplicate his successes with a new employer.

One of the first things he did after receiving his documents was to contact the CEO of one of his target companies through LinkedIn. He did this using a networking email I developed for him. Soon after, he was asked to send his resume. While waiting for a response, he began responding to postings on job boards. After he had uploaded 10 resumes over seven days, he contacted me to say he was not receiving any responses. I brought him back to reality by telling him that job boards, while important, were not the most effective tools for an effective job search.

He also had a couple of concerns. As successful as he was, he felt he was at a disadvantage without an MBA. He had also heard a lot about internationally educated professionals who were languishing in survival jobs because they lacked ‘Canadian experience’. I confirmed the truth, but suggested that he not allow such thoughts to take root in his head. He should focus, instead on his value proposition – what he had to offer employers.

Not too long into his search he was contacted by a VP to whom the CEO had forwarded his resume. In less than three weeks after that, he had had two interviews and a job offer. Before signing on the dotted line, he called me to ask questions about the offer. I gave him my non-legal opinion, and soon after he started his new six figure job as a Senior Director, Product Development with the company.

I imagine that several thoughts are going through your mind right now. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? What industry is he in? What did he do that I didn’t or couldn’t do?

Here are some things that contributed to Matthew’s success:

  1. He exuded confidence. Even though he may have been quaking in his boots, he displayed confidence in himself and his abilities – online and in person. During our strategy sessions, he mentioned that he was not averse to taking a survival job if he had to, but felt his resume would help him reach key decision makers. I also encouraged him to aim for his ideal position.
  2. He tapped into his network. Building and nurturing a network is crucial to job search success. Over time he had built a strong online network that included the CEO mentioned above. They were not buddies but he had the courage to send his resume that grabbed his attention. That is what set the process in motion.
  3. He invested in himself. He spent the time, money and effort needed to begin a serious job search and the results speak for themselves. So many people hesitate to invest in themselves and their careers yet worry when they don’t get the job or promotion they had hoped for.

The questions rolling around in your mind are legitimate ones that matter, but sometimes it just takes courage, perseverance and a don’t-ever-give-up-no-matter-what mentality! Begin by valuing your worth and believing that you have something to offer an employer. Determine how you are going to package that value, then find ways to go above, under or through the barriers. Do so as if your life depended on it, because it does! I’ll leave it at that for now and ask that you send me your comments.

Networking Is Not a Dirty Word…It’s Relationship Building

networking2_imagesRecently, someone in my network sent an email asking if I could meet him for coffee. Prior to this email, the last time we communicated was about seven years ago when he was laid off and looking for work. Now he is in the same spot. This behaviour is not unusual. Many people do not feel the urge to touch base with their network until they are in need of help. They do not treat their network as a top priority, but leadership expert Harvey McKay advises that we should dig our well before we are thirsty. His book is aptly titled “Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty.”

One reason it is important to periodically touch base with your network is that you never know when and from where an opportunity may come. Second, employers are increasingly relying on their own employees to find new hires, so if you are in job search mode and is an active networker you will most likely be on someone’s radar for new opportunities.

As much as networking is an important task, it sometimes has a negative connotation. The term sometimes conjures up images of back-slapping, forced smiles, awkward conversations or brown-nosing, and because of these negative undertones, many people shy away from becoming actively engaged in the process. Scott Ginsberg, author of Hello, My Name is Scott describes networking as “…the development and maintenance of mutually valuable relationships. It’s not schmoozing; it’s not just handing out business cards, selling, marketing or small talk. Those activities are part of networking, but unfortunately, many people’s misunderstanding of the term causes them to network ineffectively.”

Networking is a long term strategy that involves work and takes time. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International said that there’s a reason “networking is not called ‘net-sit’ or ‘net-eat’ but ‘net-work’.” Whether you are a job seeker or an entrepeneur, you need to create a networking plan and be prepared to invest a lot of time in building and nurturing your network. Business consultant, Nikolai Tillisch, who has used LinkedIn to build his business, says, “To conduct business successfully, I had to invest time on the ground to understand and build relationships.”

Networking can lead to job opportunities. It is well known that more than 80% of job opportunities are found through networking. Why? It’s easier and cheaper, and relies on trust. Imagine someone in your network trusting you enough to recommend you for a job opportunity! Having said that, I am noticing a trend these days that some people are twinning their LinkedIn invitations with a request for help in finding a job. That’s not a good strategy if you would like to build mutually beneficial relationships. Get to know your contact and give them enough time to get to know you before asking for favours.

Networking is a two-way street. One of my LinkedIn contacts sent me a magazine article in which I was quoted. Soon after, he mailed me several copies of the magazine which was published in his city. Feeling honoured by this gesture, and without giving him advanced notice, I mailed him a copy of my book, No Canadian Experience, Eh? I told him that if he hadn’t sent the information to me I wouldn’t have remembered I was interviewed for the article. We began discussing the value of networking, and he said, “I had to be forced into this idea of networking. I had a stint as a trade diplomat and was exposed to some training, but I did not get the point, mainly because I used to be one of those stiff solicitor types, but I learned quickly. Now, I consider myself a connector (or people collector) – deciding that I like somebody, building a relationship based on mutual regard for work, and holding on to that relationship forever.”

Networking is still going to be awkward for many of us, but if viewed through the lens of relationship building, it’s easier to embrace and the rewards can be long lasting. So, in the spirit of networking, “How can I help you today?”