Category: Networking


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!

Related Posts:

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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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Why You Need to Stop Overthinking Networking

Networking is necessary not just for a successful job search, but also for a successful career as a whole.

In fact it’s so important you should spend 80% of your job search networking and only 20% applying to online job postings.

This is because 80% of the working population found their current job through networking. Therefore it makes sense to spend the same amount of time on the most effective job search method there is.

But unfortunately, most people have it backwards and only spend 20% (if that) of their job search networking.

Based on the suggestion above, you may need to re-adjust how you currently invest your time in your job search.

But, this doesn’t mean you should overthink your networking efforts.

Stop Overthinking Networking

When I’m coaching my clients on various aspects of the job search, I’ll often get questions about how to write something on a resume or how to respond to a specific job interview question. When I answer those questions, the client usually doesn’t have to ask the same question again.

But when it comes to the topic of networking, I’ll get a question from a client on how to find contacts or how to reach out to them. When I answer those questions, the same client will often ask the same question again, sometimes in a different way.

When this happens, I can tell they’re way overthinking things. They’re doing so either because they think it should be more complicated than it actually is, or they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. Sometimes it’s both. Usually it’s the latter.

One of the most common examples of “overthinking it” is the question, “What if I reach out to that person and I don’t hear back from them?”

You know what? You may not hear back from them. Is this a reflection on you as a person? NO! It’s more of a reflection on the contact. That is assuming nothing simple happened like your voicemail getting accidentally deleted or your email ending up in their spam folder.

And you may not hear back from them now, but perhaps later.

I remember emailing someone and not hearing back from him until THREE YEARS LATER! When he finally did reply, my original message was included in his reply. I looked back at my first message and saw a few things things I would’ve done differently in my approach.

But he was kind and said he always held on to emails like mine in case he was ever looking to hire someone with my skills. And so he did hire me to work with one of his clients. It turned out his timing was better than my timing.

So you may not hear back when you’d like, or you may not hear back at all.

But there’s one thing I can guarantee. You’ll never hear back from the person you don’t reach out to.

Are you really okay with wondering “What if?” the rest of your career?

Are you okay with missing out on a potentially great contact just because of fear of no response?

Because remember, no response doesn’t always equal rejection. It could just mean bad timing. Which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up one or two times again. (Follow-up is another area I see clients overthinking.)

Instead Be Strategic (and Reasonable)!

When I say “Stop overthinking networking,” understand I’m not giving you license to not be strategic in your networking.

It’s important to know your reason for networking, who it makes the most sense to reach out to, how to explain to them why you’re reaching out to them, and how you can be an asset to them as well.

Therefore, you must also be reasonable.

Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t expect someone to offer you a job right off the bat. You need to take the time to build and nurture the relationship first before you can expect any immediate tangible results.

Occasionally you might see some immediate results, but usually it takes persistence and consistency. This is why you need to spend 80% of your job search networking. It takes time!

Also, be reasonable in your requests. Don’t expect someone to drop everything to connect with you or to spend all their time talking with you. Don’t expect them to cater to your needs when you’re the one asking for their help or expertise.

Instead, do everything you can to make networking and connecting with you as easy and pleasurable as possible. This may mean driving out of your way to their offices for an informational interview instead of meeting at a location more convenient to you. It may mean getting up extra early to meet with them at 6:30 in the morning before their busy schedule begins.

Networking Resources

I could write a book about networking and the ins and outs of networking etiquette (and someday soon I might!). I’ve already written several other posts about networking, including the best way to write an elevator pitch (yet another thing people overthink!).

But what I want to emphasize in this post is to stop overthinking networking by not letting fear take over. Don’t let fear, whether it’s fear of rejection or fear of failure, get in the way of making a meaningful connection that can have a long-term positive impact on your career.

Always be fearless, reasonable, and respectful.

For more posts and resources on the topic of networking, check out the following:

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How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out

A couple of weeks ago I did a group coaching call with my clients on the topic of LinkedIn. It was a Q&A call and one of the many questions I covered was, “How should my LinkedIn profile differ from my resume?”

How Your LinkedIn Profile Should Differ From Your Resume

The beauty of a LinkedIn profile is it can do things your resume cannot. Trust me, you want to take advantage of these features so your profile will stand out from your resume. And so it will stand out from other LinkedIn profiles.

The first difference is, a resume limits you to your employment history and professional items from the past. On your LinkedIn profile, you can share both your professional past AND your future professional goals.

You can incorporate your future professional goals in your headline and summary section. Feel free to share in these fields what it is you’re working toward using relevant keywords that will show up when recruiters’ search results when they search those same keywords. You can also incorporate your goals in the interests section. Do this by following companies and joining groups related to your career goals.

The headline and summary are also good places to show some of your personality and work philosophy. You can’t always do this on a resume.

Another great feature of LinkedIn is you can include a digital portfolio within your profile. You can add media, files, and links of samples of your work in both the summary section and in each job entry. This keeps your profile from looking “flat” and gives viewers an idea of the type of work you’re capable of.

In addition, you can showcase your writing ability by posting articles on LinkedIn on a regular basis. This is great if you like to write or are looking for a role that requires a lot of writing. These articles show up on your profile and you can share them via the newsfeed and within your groups.

While you can’t target your LinkedIn profile like you can a resume, you do have the option to add a personalized note to potential recruiters. You’ll find this feature under the “Career Interests” section when in the profile edit mode.

What You Need to Know About Your Profile Photo

The most obvious way your LinkedIn profile should differ from your resume is you should include a photo of yourself.

While there are several new resume templates in platforms like Canva that have a place for you to insert your photo, it’s still frowned upon in some industries to include your photo on your resume. But you are expected to have one on your LinkedIn profile. (In fact, it appears kind of “sketchy” if you don’t!)

You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional photographer for your picture. But it should be a photo of you looking professional. It should be one of you wearing the type of clothing typical of your chosen industry. And the background should be one of a work environment.

It amazes me how many people still will use a wedding photo of them and their spouse for their LinkedIn profile picture. Or a photo with their bestie. If you and your bestie are of the same gender, how am I supposed to know which one of you in the picture is the one I’m reading about??? Don’t ever do this!

How Your LinkedIn Profile Should NOT Differ From Your Resume

What should NOT differ from your resume is your descriptions of your past jobs. Just like on your resume, you want to include the things you accomplished in your job and the results of your work (with numbers to quantify it!).

If you choose to only list your job title, company name and dates of employment, you’re leaving a huge, gaping hole in your LinkedIn profile. Especially if a recruiter decides to save your profile to a PDF, which is an option available to them directly from your profile (see screenshot below).

 

Most job seekers aren’t aware of this option, but recruiters know about it! When anyone saves your profile as a PDF and downloads it, it pops up in a resume format. Not having all of your profile filled out, especially all your job descriptions/duties/accomplishments, will make the PDF look like a very sparse resume.

Don’t believe me? Go to your profile and click the “More” button under your headline. When you “save to PDF” and the downloaded PDF pops up, are you happy with how it looks? If not, you need to go back and fill out your profile more thoroughly.

Disclaimer:

Keep in mind the above suggestions are based on the features and functionality of the LinkedIn platform available at the date of this post. LinkedIn is notorious for changing its functionality and removing features on an extremely frequent basis (one of my biggest pet peeves). What may be accurate at the date of this post may not be accurate even a week from now.

Help With Your LinkedIn Profile:

If you’d like a critique of your own LinkedIn profile or would like to learn more about how to better use LinkedIn to your advantage, please click here to fill out the paNASH intake form.

If you become a paNASH client, you’ll also receive access to the recording from the LinkedIn group coaching call where I answered several other questions about LinkedIn including:

  • Should I purchase the Premium membership?
  • Do recruiters really use LinkedIn?
  • Do people really get jobs through LinkedIn?
  • and more!

In addition, you’ll receive access to other past group coaching recordings and invitations to future group coaching sessions.

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How to Improve Your Career With Physical Fitness

We’re well into 2019 with the beginning of February on our heels. If you made any new year’s resolutions, it’s likely you’ve already slacked off on them. Good for you if you haven’t!

If you have, it’s not too late to use February 1st as your fresh start.

For some this may mean getting back into a workout or exercise routine. Even if your new years resolutions didn’t include anything fitness-related, they should. Not only because it’s important to your health, but also because it’s just as important to your career!

Why Physical Fitness is Important for Your Career

The BBC recently published a story on the importance of exercising during the work day and how to fit it into your work schedule. Studies have also shown how important it is to continue a regular workout routine when you’re out of work and conducting a job search. Including exercise as part of your job search or work day helps you:

  • perform better and with more energy in job interviews or on work projects.
  • stay positive when job opportunities or projects don’t work out as you’d hoped.
  • increase your confidence in your skills and abilities.
  • sharpen your mind.
  • grow your network.
  • relieve stress.

I’ve found this to be true in my own career. If I don’t stay active on a regular basis, it’s not just my body that suffers. My work also suffers. But when I carve out the time for fitness, I see amazing results.

The Career Benefits of Physical Fitness

For example, when I go stand up paddle boarding, all my stress melts away. I come back to work with a clear mind resulting in clarity on how to approach a difficult situation or my next project.

The jiu-jitsu classes I’m currently taking not only are making me physically stronger but they’re improving my mind’s reaction time and ability to problem solve.

Spending a day in the trees doing various ropes courses builds my confidence and improves my focus.

And my workouts designed by my personal trainer help me sleep better at night so I’m refreshed for the day’s work ahead of me.

In almost every one of these activities I’ve also grown my network. I’ve met potential clients, some of whom have turned into regular clients. I’ve met others who’ve referred their friends to me. And I’ve also made strategic alliances and business partnerships through the various activities I’m involved in.

An Invitation to Improve Your Career With Exercise

I believe so much in using the benefits of fitness to better coach my clients on their careers and to help them make more connections. I do this by often including my clients in some fun activities.

In the summer I frequently take clients paddle boarding to help them gain clarity over their current career situation. I’ve taken clients to do ropes courses. I’ve invited clients to be my guest in my jiu-jitsu class. And a few weeks ago I even had a client mixer that included a self-defense class and time to network with each other.

All activities are conducted with the client’s ability and fitness level in mind. They’re designed to get clients far enough out of their comfort zone that they don’t end up too far out of it. The goal is for it to be fun, healthy, and helpful. When the weather gets warm again (which I hope is very soon!), I plan to have another client mixer at the Adventure Park Nashville ropes course.

If you have a passion for fitness, want to step outside your comfort zone, and need help getting unstuck in your career, click here to complete the paNASH intake form.

And if fitness isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Clients are never required to participate in any physical activities. Maybe your resolution for 2019 is to simply focus on finding your own passion or making a career change. If so, let’s talk!

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