Category: Networking


How to Build a Better Network for Your Job Search

Guest post by Michelle Noel. Michelle is a native Nashvillian whose work supports leaders across all industries. She can be reached at michellenoel@outlook.com or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kmichellenoel/

Whether your goal is to grow your business or land a new job, networking is a valuable tool many people neglect. Let’s look at some reasons it’s effective and how you can use it to build a better network for your job search.

Letting others speak for you

Your resume is a valuable tool, but letting other people talk about your skills and experience is even more so (this is where personal branding comes in!).

People trust the opinion of those they know and are more likely to take action on their words than they are after reading the credentials of a stranger.

If you have ever asked for the name of a good handyman or plumber from a friend, you are already practicing networking!

It’s not always who you know

It’s great to have friends and contacts you can rely on, but you can go a step further by letting them know you are actively networking and asking them to keep an ear to the ground for opportunities that may help you.

So often, it’s not who you know, but who they know that can help boost your career.

Where to build a better network

First, think of the places you go on a regular basis. Church? The gym? Your dentist? Let those people know what your goals are and ask them for referrals to people they may know.

When I lived in New Orleans, a librarian friend told me the community college was hiring. She called a friend there and I was invited to interview. Two weeks later I was offered the job.

Take advantage of social networks

Meetup.com is a website for people to meet others near them with similar interests. You’ll likely find groups there whose sole purpose is networking. It’s free and gets you connected with new people in your community.

Are you on Facebook, Instagram, or other social platforms? Let your followers know you are looking for work or trying to grow your business. They may know someone who knows someone.

Some final tips to build a better network

  • Keep your personal business cards handy. You never know who you will meet while you are going about your day.
  • Attending a networking event? Arrive dressed as if you are going to an interview. First impressions are crucial.
  • If the meeting is at a venue with alcohol, consider having a sparkling water with lime or some other non-alcoholic drink. It’s important to be at your best when meeting new people.
  • Running errands? While you don’t always need to dress as if you’re going to work, be sure you’re neat and tidy with your business cards on hand. You may stumble across an opportunity while you are out. I have given out quite a few personal cards to people I have met while out during the day. Two of them resulted in my making connections and one of those resulted in an interview.

Networking is as easy as having a conversation with a friend. Don’t forget to keep it in your collection of career-building tools!

For more networking tips, get my latest e-book Secrets to Networking With Ease and Confidence for free when you purchase my on-demand program The Secret to Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively.

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How to Stop Networking for Good Contacts and How to Be One!

I’ve written many times about networking and the importance of making sure your efforts are a balance of give and take instead of just take. But today I want to dive deeper into this subject and focus on the “give” by teaching you how to be a good contact for someone else.

In doing so, you’ll not only grow your own network naturally and organically, but you’ll also increase the quality of your contacts and professional relationships.

5 Ways to Stop Networking and Become a Good Networking Contact

1. Be the one making the introductions

Instead of wondering who your contact can introduce you to, try and think of someone you can introduce him or her to that would benefit both parties. Who in your current network would be a good resource for someone you’re trying to connect and build a rapport with?

Make sure whoever you introduce your new contact to is someone who will never make you look bad with their own behavior. This means you should think of someone who not only will be a great resource but also someone you’ve known long enough you can trust them to represent you well. Because after all, who you refer reflects back on you.

This is why networking takes time. You may have to first prove yourself as a trusted contact before someone will introduce you to their contacts. Be just as discerning in your own introductions to maintain your reputation.

2. Share something of interest

Share something you read you know would be of interest to people in your network. This could include simply tagging them in an article you saw on LinkedIn or sending them the link in an email with a personalized note.

When you take an interest in someone else’s interests, you endear yourself to him or her. It also shows you’re willing to contribute to the relationship.

3. Be a resource and give your own advice

A lot of my clients feel like they don’t have anything to offer in return to someone who seems to be further along in their career or seems to have more knowledge or expertise than them.

This is not true!

The people you want to connect with don’t know everything about everything. Surely there’s something you know how to do or knowledge you have which could be helpful to them.

For instance, I have a mentor who’s also a career coach with more years of experience than me. I learn a lot from her. But every time we meet, she always says to me, “You’re such a wealth of information!”

This is because I share with her some of the technologies I use to help me run my coaching business more efficiently or ideas I use to get more views of my blog. Most of them are ones she hadn’t heard of before. Therefore, I’m providing valuable information for her instead of just taking her advice without offering anything in return.

So think about things you have knowledge of that have been helpful for you. Then, when you see someone with a need for those things, tell them about it!

4. Be a good listener

Sometimes, others just need someone to listen. Especially if they’re usually the one doing all the listening. Giving them a break from listening and letting them talk can be a great relief for them. It’s probably the simplest and easiest way to serve as a good contact for someone else.

5. Show interest

Show genuine interest in others by following their social media updates and commenting on them. You don’t have to “like” or comment on every one of their posts. But do so for the ones you find most meaningful.

This shows you’re staying connected to them, paying attention to what they’re doing, and supporting them, even when you can’t do so more directly.

Conclusion

When you follow the above tips, you’ll start to build a strong network that’s not just based on quantity of contacts but also quality of contacts. And you’ll also be viewed as the type of quality contact people are excited to introduce to their contacts!

Want to learn more networking tips? Get my latest e-book Secrets to Networking With Ease and Confidence for free when you purchase my on-demand program The Secret to Successful Networking: How to Do It Naturally and Effectively.

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How to Write Networking Emails That Will Get Responses

I recently had a client who said she wasn’t getting the response to her networking emails she’d hoped for.

She asked me if there was anything she could do to increase her response rate.

I went back and looked at some of the previous emails she’d sent me to see if I noticed any patterns possibly interfering with her networking efforts. In doing so, it was immediately clear how she could improve her response rate.

If you’re also not having as much success in getting responses to your own networking emails as you’d like, check out these tips I shared with her, plus some bonus tips!

Tips to Increase Responses to Your Networking Emails

Always include an appropriate subject line.

Emails without an appropriate subject line are often viewed as suspicious.

But sometimes it’s hard to know what the subject line should say to get the recipient to open the message.

One subject line that tends to work well is one including a mutual contact’s name. If someone referred you to the person you’re emailing, include a subject line like, “Referral from [mutual contact’s name].” The reader will immediately know the message isn’t spam or junk mail.

Avoid any spelling errors in the subject line. Misspellings often send the signal the message could be spam or phishing.

Copy your mutual contact.

If you’re emailing someone you’ve been referred to by another contact, copy your mutual contact on your initial message. This adds validity to the relationship and your claim of the referral.

Better yet, ask the person referring you to do an introduction email with all of you copied on it. Or ask them to send their friend an email giving them a heads-up that you’ll soon be reaching out.

Your potential contact is more likely to open an email from their friend they already know than from someone they’ve never heard of.

Keep it cheerful, yet professional.

Avoid writing networking emails when you’re in a bad mood. Sometimes it can come across in your wording, and the tone may be easily misconstrued. It could also make you sound or seem entitled. You definitely won’t get a response then.

And while you always want to be concise, you can also come across as abrupt if you don’t include a friendly greeting or any context as to why you’re emailing the contact.

Frame your message with a friendly opening and closing, but be professional! This means not using any emoticons or exclamation points. In fact, an email with too many exclamation points will usually end up in the recipient’s spam folder.

Be clear but concise.

Make your reason for emailing clear from the start.

If you need to give an explanation for your request, do so as concisely as possible. Avoid anything too lengthy, including background info the reader doesn’t need to know just yet. Save this for when you set up a meeting to connect in person.

People are busy, so make your message easy for them to read quickly. They’ll appreciate you being mindful of their time.

Do NOT use the phrase, “Can I Pick Your Brain?”

Don’t. Ever. Say. This.

Just don’t!

Not ever.

I previously wrote an entire blog post explaining why you should never use the phrase “Can I pick your brain?” If you’re wondering why, stop reading this post right now and go read “Why ‘Can I Pick Your Brain?’ Is the Wrong Approach“!

If it is information you’re wanting from your networking contact, find a better way to phrase your request than, “Can I pick your brain?”

Say thanks, but don’t be too presumptuous.

In your closing, thank the recipient in advance for their time and consideration.

I’ve read studies that claim email response rates increase if you include the simple phrase, “Thanks in advance.” I’ve personally found this to be true on most occasions.

However, you don’t want to sound presumptuous. So to counter-balance this phrase, indicate you’re willingness to follow the recipient’s lead on the next steps.

For instance, you might say, “I’m happy to meet at a mutually convenient time,” or “I can meet you at a location that works best for you.”

You must be flexible since you’re asking for someone’s time.

Give your recipient an out.

I once had someone I’d never met email me wanting to get together for lunch so he could ask me some questions. He said, “Let me know what time next week works best for you.” (He also asked, “Can I pick your brain?”)

I wanted to respond with, “Well, if next week is my only option, the answer is ‘no’.”

Why did he assume I was even able to meet the following week? I immediately felt like he was trying to control the situation for his preference and convenience. Had he just left out the words “next week” (and “Can I pick your brain?”), he would have left a better impression on me.

If you’re asking someone for their time to help you out, don’t be picky with time or location. And don’t try to put constraints on them or try to force them into a “yes” they may not be able to give. Craft your message so it gives the recipient some options, including the option to say “no” if they need to.

Follow up.

It’s okay to follow up with someone if you don’t get a response the first time. Sometimes your message gets lost in their inbox or they forget to respond.

I’ve had situations where I followed up with someone after a few weeks and they actually thanked me for doing so! They simply forgot and were glad I spared them from the embarrassment of never having responded.

The appropriate amount of time to wait before you follow up is one to two weeks. If it happens to be more urgent (which it most likely isn’t), at least give people 24-48 hours to respond.

And when they do, make sure you show the same courtesy by responding within 24 hours to all networking emails.

If after following up you still don’t get a response, move on.

Should You Skip Networking Emails and Just Call?

You always have the option to call instead of sending an email. Keep in mind, however email is less intrusive on people’s workday. It allows people to respond at a time most convenient for them.

If your mutual contact tells you the new contact prefers phone calls, by all means call instead of emailing.

I don’t recommend texting since that’s more personal than professional.

When receiving a response, always return messages with the same method they used in reaching out to you.

Remember to always be courteous and professional in all your networking efforts. Using career etiquette will go a long way!

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Are Career Fairs Worth Your Time and Energy?

I’m not sure why career fairs still exist. Many are so ineffective for both candidates and recruiters. Yet companies continue to pour more money into them and candidates continue to pour more time into them.

Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on registration fees, travel, fancy displays, swag, and more to participate in career fairs. Often recruiters end up disappointed in the talent pool. Especially if they don’t stick around for the duration of the fair. (And from my past experience in hosting career fairs at the colleges I used to work at, many recruiters either showed up late or left early – or both!)

Job seekers spend hours putting together a resume that doesn’t allow them to target one specific job or company. They also spend their energy trying to perfect an elevator pitch that doesn’t really work. They typically walk away with a bag full of chintzy promo items and no real opportunities of interest.

Time Better Spent

The type of career fairs worth your time

Since career fairs do still exist, there are some it makes sense for job seekers to attend. This is only true however when you choose to attend those as specific in nature as possible.

This can include a career fair hosted just for a certain industry or just for certain job functions. Like a fair just for coding jobs or companies seeking coders.

It can also include fairs hosted just by one particular company for all their open positions. If there’s a specific company you’re interested in working for or getting your foot in the door with, it makes sense for you to spend your time attending their own career fair.

If you’re interested in a particular role, then it makes sense to attend fairs focused on recruiting for this role.

It’s not worth your energy to attend large, massive, “open-call” fairs which are general in nature. You know these type of fairs. They’re usually announced on the 6:00 news and held at your local NFL stadium or other large venue. They’re like cattle calls for any and all recruiters and candidates. It’s very hard to stand out from a crowd so large.

Also, if you’re an experienced candidate looking for mid-level professional positions, you’re likely to only find entry-level or non-professional positions available at these larger fairs.

How to make career fairs worth your time

If you do hear about a career fair that sounds like it could be worth your time, there are some things you need to do on your part to get the most out of it.

First, you want to find out exactly what companies will be in attendance or what specific roles recruiters are looking to fill. This is usually easy to find. The event’s web site typically lists who’s attending and what they’re hiring for.

You then want to use this information to be strategic in your attendance. Rank which booths are most important to you to visit and determine what order you should visit those booths. If you know you become less nervous and communicate better after taking some time to talk to others, save your preferred booths until later so you’ve had a chance to loosen up.

When you discover on the event’s site a specific job you really want, create a resume tailored to the job using some of the same language and keywords found in the job description. If you’re interested in multiple positions with a particular company, tailor your resume to the company using some of the same keywords found in their mission statement and core values. This will require you to do a deep-dive of the company’s web site and job listings.

Make sure you keep your targeted resumes separated from any general resumes you bring with you. You want to ensure you’re handing out the right one to the right people.

It’s always a good idea to have some general resumes on hand even if you plan to only visit the booths you’re interested in. You never know when a recruiter from a company you hadn’t previously considered wants to talk to you. And you might become interested in their opportunities. How bad would it look if they asked for your resume and you didn’t have one to hand them?

Finally, you want to stand out from your competition. You do this by talking less about yourself, and listening more to the company and their needs. One of the best questions you can ask a recruiter at a career fair is,

“What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had in finding the talent you’re seeking?”

This question makes you stand out because it speaks to a recruiter’s pain point and shows you’re empathetic to their side of the issue.

It also helps you gather the information you need to know how you might be able to help solve their problem. Use their answer to determine which of your skills you should emphasize in future interviews. Use it also to determine what areas you need to improve upon between now and your future interviews.

Replace the lame, over-done elevator pitch with this question and you’ll be a breath of fresh air to tired and frustrated recruiters.

Better alternatives to career fairs

If you still find career fairs to be a waste of your time, there are other (and usually better) alternatives.

Many companies host or sponsor local events like panels or talks on industry-related topics. These events are typically open to anyone with an interest in those topics. When you attend such events you not only increase your knowledge of the industry, you also get to be in the same room with company representatives.

These are the people you should make a point to introduce yourself to. Let them know how valuable the event was for you and thank them for making it happen. Then from this introduction, nurture and foster the relationship like you would any other networking relationship.

I remember attending a panel on a topic I was interested in learning more about. I had no idea who was sponsoring it until I got there. After the panel was over, I found myself in a conversation with the VP of the company sponsoring the event. A month later, he hired me to do some contract work for his company.

You never know what can happen at these events! Even if you don’t make a connection, you at least learn something while there instead of walking away with nothing to show for your time.

And if you do make a connection that leads to a job interview, you’ll stand out by being able to say you were at the event. This will show your genuine interest in the industry and in growing your knowledge.

Other alternatives to career fairs can include company open-houses, job shadowing opportunities, informational interviews, and more. To find such opportunities, sometimes you have to dig through Eventbrite’s calendar or a company’s press releases or Twitter announcements. Sometimes all you have to do is simply ask.

Companies would fare better in finding great talent by hosting more events like these. They will attract the kind of talent that’s serious about their company and their company’s core values. And it will be a better return on their investment of time and money.

Maybe by you simply asking a company if they have any such events will give them the idea to do more of them!

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How to Avoid Stereotypes That Hurt Your Child’s Career

Millennials and Gen Z’ers sometimes get a bad rap for not having the ability to appropriately handle unpleasant obstacles.

But there’s one millennial who is defying all the stereotypes. Her name is Kristen Hadeed. She’s the owner of a successful business she started while in college which now employees over 600 people. She’s also the author of the book Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong.

Failing Successfully

I recently got to hear Kristen speak about how her business’s success was built on failure. In her talk, she credits her parents for her ability to fail successfully.

What she means by this is she was raised in a home where her parents believed tough love is sometimes necessary for success.

One particular example she shared is when in high school she went to her father for help with her calculus homework. He said,

“I can’t help you. Do you know why? I can’t be there when you’re taking your test. If you can’t answer the question now, how are you going to be able to answer it during the test? You need to figure out where you’re stuck and go ask your teacher about it.”

She said she hated him for it, but still felt loved by him. She followed his advice and ended up with the highest grade in her calculus class.

It was this tough love lesson that taught Kristen how to solve her own problems and grow as a person and businesswoman.

As a result, she uses this same tough love approach to successfully lead her employees who 90% are college students. This approach instills confidence in her employees even when they screw up royally, and give them ownership over their successes.

Do you fit the “lawnmower parent” stereotypes?

Not only does Kristen defy the stereotypes of millennials. Her parents defy the stereotypes of parents of millennials.

Instead of being “lawnmower parents” who mow down every obstacle their child might face, they allowed her opportunities to learn how to deal with obstacles and failure.

They didn’t “over-help” her, as she says.

But she sees the negative effects of over-helpful parenting in many of the college students who work for her.

She sees their lack of confidence and lack of belief in their own skills.

My colleagues and I see it too in the younger generations we work with. And this is often the cause of their bad rap.

My colleagues and I see firsthand how so many “lawnmower parents” are plowing their way through their child’s career.

Specifically, I experience parents of people as old as 30 calling me wanting to sign their son or daughter up for my career coaching services because their “child” isn’t happy in their current job. (Sometimes they call me without their son or daughter knowing it!)

A colleague of mine who’s on the other side of the table in HR and recruiting experiences it too. She witnesses parents who try to involve themselves in their “child’s” interview process or negotiate salary for their “children.”

(I use quotes around “child” and “children” because these are actually adults I’m referring to.)

My tough love for you

I’m all for helping people who aren’t happy in their current job find something better. That’s what I do!

BUT, I won’t take on a client who cannot take the initiative to contact me directly.

And my colleague says she will never hire a candidate whose parents get involved in the interview process.

So if this is something you as a parent are doing, stop it now before you further hurt your adult child’s chances of landing a job.

If you’re the “child” whose parents are doing this, don’t allow it! Your career is at stake!

This is my tough love to those who are or have lawnmower parents!

It’s not my business who’s paying for it

Now some parents will say to me, “Well I’m calling for my son because I’m the one who’ll be paying for your services!”

It’s not my business who’s paying for it. But it is my business who I’ll be working with. And I need to talk to them. Not their parents.

I have a client who’s still a college student. I can’t say for sure if she got the money for the career coaching services from her parents or not because her parents stayed out of the situation. She took the initiative to reach out to me on her own. She knew her goals and knew what she wanted to accomplish with the coaching.

This is why she’s now my client. These are the type of clients I want to work with. It has nothing to do with their age and everything to do with their initiative.

If a client can’t take the initiative to contact me directly and complete my simple intake form on their own, they’ll never be able to do the homework required in my coaching program.

There have been a couple of cases where I have taken a client whose parents called me, only because I knew the parents personally. And even then I regretted it.

Their children were the clients who either had a bad attitude throughout the coaching process, or they didn’t use all the sessions their parents had paid for. To me this is a waste of their parents’ money, and I never want anyone to feel like they’ve wasted their money with me.

Another way “lawnmower parenting” can hurt your child’s career

I have a millennial client right now who’s great! Her father has stayed out of her career coaching process.

However, she tells me he occasionally involves himself in her networking efforts without her permission.

And he does so in the wrong ways. He does all the things I teach her NOT to do, therefore undoing much of what she and I have already worked on.

How to help your son or daughter the right way

I understand parents want to help their children make connections that can lead to good jobs. And job seekers should begin their networking efforts with who they know, including their parents.

But, if you’re a parent wanting to help in this way, I suggest first brushing up on your own networking skills with my on-demand networking course and reading my free blog posts on networking etiquette.

Don’t assume you already know everything about networking. Especially if it’s been a while since the last time you’ve had to look for a job. Even my adult clients who happen to have millennial children first come to me not knowing how to network in today’s job market.

Next, I suggest not to put pressure on your contacts when making introductions. Never make them feel obligated to talk to your son or daughter. No one likes to be on the receiving end of being put on the spot.

Instead, ask if they’re willing and if their schedule allows to talk with your son or daughter.

If they say no, thank them and maybe ask if they know of anyone else they feel comfortable recommending to talk to your son or daughter.

If they say yes, give your son or daughter their contact info and leave it up to your child to reach out to your contact.

Then, you can help your child from behind the scenes. Like helping him or her think of appropriate questions to ask your contact. And how to respect your contact’s time. Teach them this type of etiquette they can apply throughout their careers.

But do not make the arrangements for your son or daughter. Do not speak for them. By all means never attend the meeting with them. And do not nag them about whether or not they made the call. Give them ownership over their choices by letting it be their choice to call your contact or not.

Instead of being known as a “lawnmower parent” who mows down your child’s obstacles, defy the stereotypes and be the parent who builds up opportunities for your son and daughter to learn how to take initiative and ownership over their career.

I guarantee this will make them more successful than you can imagine!

“Take the bubble wrap off and let them walk into their mistakes.” Kristen Hadeed

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