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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?”

 

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

One way of meeting new people and finding ‘hidden opportunities’ is to conduct informational interviews.  An informational interview is a good way to start building your network. It builds your self-confidence and also helps to prepare your for job interviews. You can use an informational interview to expand your networking contacts, find out about possible career paths, learn if and where opportunities might exist for your skills, and gain an understanding of workplace culture.

An informational interview also gives you a look at the inside operations of a company and helps you to decide if the company would be a good place to work.

Most people will be pleased to spend a few minutes (in person or over the telephone), to conduct an informational interview with you. After all, most people like talking about themselves, their jobs and their successes. Others might  not have the time or inclination, and if that’s the case, don’t take it personal; just move on.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

Before you contact anyone, you should develop a script that explains the reason for your request. The script below is an example, but it should be customized to fit your situation and needs:

“I was speaking with ____________, and s/he suggested that I give you a call. I am currently _________________. I am curious about the roles of people currently working in __________, and I was wondering if you would be able to meet with me for 15-20 minutes to talk about your role and the organization you work for.”

If you feel uncomfortable using the telephone, send a letter or an email as your first contact. At the end of your message state that you will contact the person by a certain date and make a note to follow up on that date.

Once you have your script ready, you should:

  • Find at least 3-4 people in the field. The more people you interview, the more information you will get.
  • Ask to meet at the workplace so that you can see the work environment.
  • Be authentic in your approach. Make it clear that you are asking for information only and not inquiring about a job possibility.
  • Practice with a friend or family member to build your confidence before you participate in an informational interview.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.

Questions to Ask at the Informational Interview

Before starting the interview, introduce yourself and thank the person for taking the time to talk or meet with you. Tell them enough about yourself (interests and skills) so that he or she can offer you relevant information. Once all of that is out of the way, start by asking:

  1. What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  2. How did you get into this line of work?
  3. How long have you worked for this organization?
  4. What are your major responsibilities?
  5. What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  6. What are the major frustrations in this job?
  7. What do you like most about this job?
  8. What advice would you give to a person coming into a company like this?
  9. My strongest skills are____________. Do you know of any other company that could use someone with my skills?
  10. Would you have the name of one or two other individuals to whom you could refer me who could give me additional information about this occupation?

The above tips, while not all-inclusive, will help you in preparing and conducting an effective informational interview. Add your comments below.

 

3 B.A.D. Tips to Bolster Your Career Brand

 

Yes, this might sound like an oxymoron, but read on…

Earlier in the year, I had the privilege of speaking to members of CAMP, a networking group for internationally trained communication, advertising and marketing professionals (hence the name CAMP), in Toronto.

The title of the presentation was “You’re BAD!” Of course, it was not an attempt to characterize these individuals as BAD in the literal sense, but to remind them that they were (and are) Bold, Audicious and Dynamic, and that by virtue of the fields within which they work, they are uniquely positioned to be B.A.D. I encouraged them to forget the labels people place on them as ‘lacking Canadian work experience’, and continue believing in themselves, their successes and their dreams.

That message is also relevant to job seekers or anyone going through a career transition. If you are working on your career marketing documents (resume, cover letter, bio, online profile, and portfolio), your brand statement, elevator pitch, or whatever other job search collateral you are creating), you can adopt a B.A.D attitude. If not, you won’t be able to effectively tell your story and get hired. Reinvent yourself, have courage, and dare to do things differently! The job environment is such a competitive one that now is a good time to be BAD!

Below are several variations of the B.A.D. acronym. Choose the one that you think will bolster your career brand and adopt it as your own mantra:

  1. Be Big, Bold & Brilliant: Take that big, bold, brilliant step to get the job or promotion you have always wanted. Don’t let fear or negative comments from others prevent you from going after what you want. Claim your brilliance and allow it to shine through every area of your life.
  2. Be Ambitious, Authentic & Astute: Be ambitious. Don’t settle for anything small. Ambition drives determination, and determination or perseverance allows you to move forward and claim your place at the table. Now it’s time to take a gut check on your Authenticity: Who are you? Are you genuine, or are you wearing a mask? Are you satisfied with ‘Brand You’, and if you are, are you consistently living that brand? Your authentic answers to these questions will help you become the person you were destined to be. Be Astute. Do you have all the smarts required to succeed? If not, are you engaging in developmental activities that will help you acquire these skills?
  3. Be Dynamic, Decisive & Distinct: A Dynamic individual demonstrates confidence. Whether you are networking, interviewing or having a casual conversation, you need to exhibit an aura of confidence. Stop acting like a wimp!  Be Decisive: When you have a serious decision to make, tell yourself firmly that you are going to make it. The famous author, Napoleon Hill, said “Indecision is the seedling of fear.” In all your interactions, you need to position yourself as Decisive; someone who is willing to make a decision even at the risk of being unpopular. Any hesitancy on your part could indicate that you are unsure about yourself. You are Distinct. There is no other person like you. You have been individually picked and handcrafted for a purpose. This mindset allows you to accept the unique person you are and differentiate yourself from everyone else.

After reading all these BAD tips, images of conceit, self-centredness and egotism might be entering your mind, but reject those thoughts. This is not about bragging. It’s about standing up for yourself. Don’t downplay your accomplishments, and pass them off as being “Just a part of the job”, or “It’s no big deal”. This is the time for you to adopt a B.A.D. attitude and learn to market your distinct brand so you won’t miss out on another opportunity. Go ahead and be B.A.D.!

You can click on the photograph above to watch a 5-minute video with snippets from my presentation to CAMP. It’s from Rogers TV, so expect to see a 30-second commercial before the real piece. Watch it and let me know your thoughts!

 

Modern Ways to Job Search

 

Social media is enabling job seekers to market themselves creatively to employers, and the image above highlights some of the tools they are using. Of course, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook take centre stage. With so many tools, one is left to wonder if the days of the paper resume are really numbered, or as it’s often touted, if “the resume is dead!”  As seen on the image, one-third of human resources managers predict that traditional resumes will be replaced with social/business networking sites.

With respect to networking, although the term generally conjures up images of forced smiles and awkward conversations, it is well-known that more than 80% of job opportunities are found in this manner. Therefore, the onus is on job seekers to learn effective networking skills to improve their chances of job search success.

A blog is a non-intrusive way to get employers interested in your brand without even applying for a job”, says one statement in the image.  This is a message I constantly sell to job seekers, including a group of communications, advertising and marketing professionals I spoke with recently. Use a bit of creativity, start your own blog or contribute to other blogs to stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of potential employers.

While job seekers should embrace these modern job search tools, they also need to be cautious. Using these tools to bash one’s boss or to post inappropriate comments or images online is a breach of social media etiquette.

 

Happy New Year…What Are Your Plans for the Next 364 Days?

 

Did I catch you off guard with this cartoon? Well, it’s adding some humor to the first day of a brand new year!

Anyway, I want you to make the most of the remaining 364 days, so I have gathered some links, quotes and some of my own musings that I hope you will find helpful.

  • After setting your goals, plan to evaluate your progress each day. “If you believe that you need to improve your self-discipline – hire a coach”, says Glenn Llopis of Forbes Blog. Related article here: Top 5 Career Investments for 2012.
  • Start the New Year on the “Wright” foot. Reserve your spot today to join me on a FREE teleconference on January 3, @ 8 pm Eastern.  Register here.
  • Networking is still one of the most successful job search techniques, so nurture your network. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them.
  • Understand how to use the ‘Vacuum Theory’  to advance your career: do the jobs others won’t do, make a visible difference with your presence, and become known as the ‘go to’ expert.
  • Find a job you like and you add five days to every week. ~H. Jackson Brown
  • Don’t allow anyone to discourage you from dreaming lofty dreams. “People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours.” @WomenofHistory.

Hope you find them helpful. Happy New Year to you and much success in 2012.

Google+…What is This?

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with 30+ Internationally Trained Engineers at Humber College about marketing themselves to employers. After I had touched briefly on the Big 3 social networking platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – I introduced Google+. “Google what?” they asked. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Google+ is the new kid on the social networking block that arrived on the scene in June. Think of it as a blend of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Now, you may already be suffering from social media fatigue and do not want to hear about another one. However, Google+ is worth exploring. Why? Recruiters and hiring managers are there. Some are already using the Hangout feature to conduct interviews and meetings. Career coaches, resume writers, HR and public relations professionals, and marketing and communication experts are using this same feature to network with each other.

If you are an early adopter, you have a chance to follow these professionals and get to know who the other players in their circles are, who they are connected to and who are connected to them. You will have an opportunity to network with other users who, as they get to know you, may be able to help you in your job search or career transition. Remember, networking is key!

Speaking of early adopters, blogger/author/speaker, Chris Brogan is writing a book on Google+. Imagine that, and the platform is not yet 3 months old. As a job seeker or career changer, you need to be acquainted with all these social networking tools, and they are basically free. Explore and see which one aligns best with your interest and goals, then dive in. As the saying goes, “The early bird catches the worm.” You need to be leading the pack ahead of your competitors.

Years ago when blogs weren’t that fashionable, I suggested to a colleague that she creates a blog to showcase her expertise and distinguish herself as a communications specialist. Of course, it was the intent that someone would notice her extraordinary writing capabilities and contact her. She told me that blogging was a fad that would soon wane! Well, the would-be fad is now main stream.

Don’t get left behind. You already know how difficult it is to find job opportunities through traditional means. The use of social media in your job search is critical. Whether or not you jump on the Google+ bandwagon, you owe it to yourself to find out what it’s all about. Here  is a link that explains the basics of Google+:  Introduction to Google+. Once you have reviewed it, post a comment to tell me your thoughts.

At the moment, you can only join Google+ by invitation, and I have been allotted 150 invitations.  If you would like to test-drive it, send me an email with ‘Google+’ in the subject line and I will send you an invitation. View my profile-in-the-making at http://gplus.to/careertips2go. Remember, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Google+ is F.R.E.E.

Monday Morning Rx: Who Can You Network With Today?

Are you someone who believes that networking doesn’t work for you? If you do, then you may have the wrong concept about the process. It is not schmoozing or ‘brown-nosing’, it’s not about handing out business cards, and it’s not about asking for a job. Networking is about building relationships. Getting to know people who can offer you assistance and who you can also help, and…there are many people out there just waiting to be asked for help.

It is said that between 65-80% of opportunities – job or business – are found through networking. Networking opens the doors to the hidden job market, but most job seekers use it the wrong way. They believe networking is all about asking for a job, and so they irritate people by telling them, on first meeting, how long they have been unemployed and can they help them find a job. They miss out on the relationship-building piece.

Author Job & Success Expert Harvey McKay said, “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met in my lifetime, I’d have to say it’s the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.” 

What are your networking plans today? Make an effort to contact someone you have always wanted to meet and start the relationship-building process.  Nurture that relationship and see what happens!

If you are stuck in a career or networking rut, pop into our CareerTips2Go Cafe, and let’s talk!

Can My Dad Come to the Interview With Me?

 

When my son was in high school I often told him that if he went away to college, I would be moving next door. He hasn’t moved away, so I have no need to do that. That said, most of us as parents are very protective of our children and sometimes we go way overboard and become known as ‘helicopter parents’ – always hovering around! Of course, this can sometimes have a negative impact on the children, especially when they are in their early adult years.

 

In a recent survey of Executives by Officeteam, they witnessed some unusual parental behaviours:

  • “One parent wanted to sit in during the interview.”
  • “A parent called a politician to push me to hire his son.”
  • “A mother submitted her daughter’s resume on her behalf.”
  • “Someone stopped an employer at a grocery store to ask that person to hire her child.”
  • “A parent called to ask about a job applicant’s work schedule and salary.”
  • “A parent called during the interview to try to push me to hire her daughter.”
  • “I received a call from a father asking about the status of his son’s application.”
  • “A parent came by my desk and told me that he expected his daughter to get preference for a position since he was a manager at the company.”
  • “A mother called to ask how her child did in the job interview.”
  • “A parent called to find out why we did not hire her son and why we felt he was not qualified.”

Whether you are a helicopter parent or not, these five tips from Officeteam will equip you to help your son or daughter navigate the job search maze:

 

1. Branch out. Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job. Your friends and colleagues can help set up introductory meetings with employers and alert your job-seeking child to opportunities.

2. Give it another look. Review their resume and cover letter. Most times you can spot typos and other errors and make sure the most valuable information is included.

3. Do a test run. Offer to conduct mock interviews with them to practice responses to common questions. Give them constructive feedback on their answers and delivery.

4. Weigh the options. Offer to be their sounding board about potential opportunities. You can provide a different perspective and bring up points they could consider in their decision.

5. Offer encouragement. Looking for a job can be difficult, and it’s important to remain positive. Offer your parental advice and support throughout the process to keep them on track.

 

Read the full Officeteam article here

Tips for Moms Returning to Work – Part IV

When you are taking time away from work for motherhood, keep networking. The single most important thing you can do is keep in touch with former co-workers and other contacts.

Stephanie AuWerter, Senior Editor SmartMoney.com

Are you a mom returning to work?  Follow our series:

Tip # 4: Connect with professional associations. You may have heard of  the ‘six degrees of separation’ adage – that everyone is only separated from everyone else by six degrees. Research professional and business associations in which you have an interest, sign up for their ezines, visit their websites and read their blogs to get current information on what’s happening in the industry. Contribute to discussion forums and attend monthly meetings where you can meet and network with individuals who could provide you with the key to your next job. Put yourself in a position to meet new people – those who can get you closer to your next employer.

Tip # 5: Arrange practice interview sessions. Think of the interview questions that would present a challenge for you and practice answering them with someone who will give you some candid feedback.  Become familiar with behavioural interview techniques, and practice to frame your answers in terms of stories. Be prepared to answer questions that begin with “Tell me a time when… or Give me an example of…” Make sure to project confidence while referring to the time you were away from the workforce. Never apologize for your absence.

Tips for Moms Returning to Work – Part 1

When you are taking time away from work for motherhood, keep networking. The single most important thing you can do is keep in touch with former co-workers and other contacts.

Stephanie AuWerter, Senior Editor SmartMoney.com

Are you a mom preparing to return to the workforce in the New Year? Are you worried about filling the gaps on your resume? Assuming that while fulfilling your parental role, you were volunteering your expertise, and engaging in activities related to your profession, there’s no reason to worry…you’ve got skills!  This article offers tips to help with your transition back to the world of work. Come back over the next several days for additional tips:

Tip #1: Dust off your résumé. Once you have made the decision to return to work, begin working on résumé immediately.  Never leave this important task for the last minute, as so many people do.  Creating a professional résumé takes time as you will need to assess all of your skills, attributes and achievements, and determine how to showcase them in a way that differentiates you from the crowd. If you don’t feel you are capable of creating your own résumé, seek help from someone with good writing skills or utilize the services of a professional résumé writer.

The next tip in the series will be:

Tip #2: Fill in the gaps.