Tag: 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 Be Patient When You’re In Between Jobs

Patience. They say it’s a virtue. Probably because it’s something rare. In today’s world, we don’t have to be as patient because we’ve grown accustomed to technology that provides instant results.

But patience is something I’ve been trying to learn for a very long time. I’m definitely seeing improvement, but I still have a long, long way to go.

Others have noticed and often commented on how patient I am in certain situations. What they don’t know is sometimes I’m just good at hiding my impatience (except when I’m on hold with the cable company). While my demeanor is calm, I’m still thinking in my head, “Hurry up! Hurry up! Hurry up!”

In other situations, I’ve just learned over time (often times the hard way) to exhibit true patience. This means staying peaceful when things don’t happen in my own time or I start to feel restless or worried.

5 ways to learn how to be patient during the job search

My clients often experience worry and restlessness when they’re between jobs and they’re not getting the results they’d like from their job search as soon as they’d like.

It’s easy to panic during this time when there’s no money coming in and the savings account is dwindling. Perhaps you’re currently in a similar situation.

So how do you be patient in the midst of such career and financial stress?

#1. Practice patience.

We all have an unlimited amount of opportunities to practice patience, whether it’s something small like sitting in traffic or waiting in the only open checkout line at the store. Or, whether it’s something big like trying to figure out your purpose in life or looking for a new job.

You can begin with the small things to start to practice patience. When you find yourself in those small annoying scenarios where you can choose to be patient or not, always choose patience. If you decide ahead of time you’re going to choose to be patient in these scenarios before they pop up, it will be easier to react patiently. If you mess up and become impatient, it’s okay. Trust me. You’ll soon find another opportunity to try again.

Once you start to become intentional in your patience, you’ll find it becomes easier, even for the big stuff like waiting to hear back from your last job interview.

#2 Be realistic in your expectations.

If something isn’t happening the way you wanted or in the time frame you hoped for, ask yourself if you have realistic or unrealistic expectations of the situation or the other party involved. And be honest with yourself.

The part of the job search where I see most of my clients having unrealistic expectations is in networking. They think they can just tell everyone they know they’re looking for a job and that should be it. This is not how networking works. So if this is your expectation, you’ll want to read my blog post “How to Be Realistic About Networking” and then readjust your expectations.

And when it comes to interviews, keep in mind companies are starting to take more time in making hiring decisions.

In addition, most companies tend to underestimate how long the hiring process will take. They may say they hope to have a decision by the week after your interview, but stuff happens and their work still has to get done during the hiring process. This sometimes pushes the process back a bit.

Just last week I had a client ask me how long she should wait to follow up with a company after her interview. She thought two to three days was reasonable. I told her it’s more like two to three weeks! Two to three days isn’t nearly enough time for a company to complete the other interviews, discuss among all the decision makers and check references, all while having to do their other work.

Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to help you maintain realistic expectations.

And be open-minded enough to accept how things might happen in a different way or different time frame than you think they should.

#3. Do what’s in your control.

When I was coming out of grad school, I wasn’t too picky about geographic location for my first job. So, I applied all over the country to about 75 jobs. And I only got about a 10% positive response rate which is the norm. Therefore, there were a lot of negative responses.

How did I deal with those negative responses?

I told myself every rejection just meant I was one step closer to the right job for me.

This mantra helped me to be patient, stay focused on the things within my control and let go of the things not in my control.

The only thing I could control were my networking efforts, sending out resumes by the closing dates, and my emotions. I couldn’t control anyone else’s timeline and I couldn’t make them like me over a more qualified candidate. Trying to would’ve been a waste of my time.

#4 Don’t make important decisions when you’re emotional.

Speaking of emotions, it’s never good to make important decisions, especially career decisions, when you’re experiencing extreme emotion.

I once heard of something called the “SHALT” decision-making method. The premise of this method is to never make decisions when you’re sad, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I would also add to this list scared or afraid.

Fear is one of the biggest causes of bad career decisions. But taking a job out of fear of not making ends meet or because it seems to be the only offer available can often lead to going through the job search process all over again the following year (or sooner).

There are other ways to make ends meet and buy some time to avoid making a rash decision that could negatively affect the rest of your career. This can include cutting unnecessary expenses, selling or renting things you don’t use anymore, renting out your spare room, and working a side job or as a freelancer.

#5 Relish the time you have between jobs.

While you may be anxious to find your next opportunity, don’t forget to relish this extra time you have by spending it with your family, working out more and improving your health, and exploring your passions.

It’s also a great time to learn some new skills through online courses that will build your resume and make you more marketable.

Consider this time a gift to take advantage of while you can.

Be patient with yourself!

By following the above tips, you’ll find you have more patience than you thought you had. And, you’ll learn to replace the worry and frustration of impatience with the hope and peace of anticipation.

But it’s important to not beat yourself up if you fail at patience every once in a while. It will happen because you’re human. So remember to also be patient with yourself!

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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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