Friday, September 28, 2012

Networking: What is it and . . . .Do I have to?

"I’m looking for a job.”
    “Good luck with that!  It’s tough out there.”
“Well, you found a job.”
    “Yeah, but it took a while.”
“Well, I’m just beginning to look.   I’m sending out my resume and answering a lot of ads.”
    “Well, you’ll have to do more than that.  You’ll have to do some networking.”
Networking? ? ! !  What’s that?

Yes, indeed, that is the question: “What is networking?”
Networking is like one of those terms that everyone uses and sort-of knows what it is but yet can be hard to define and even harder to do!
Here are a couple dictionary definitions:
Oxford University Press Dictionary
    network >noun - an arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines;
               - a group of people who interact together.
            >verb - connect as or operate with a network;
               -  interact with others to exchange information and develop contacts.

I like the visual image of the “intersecting horizontal and vertical lines” because it presents a pretty good visual image of what happens when people network.  Networking occurs as an individual crosses paths with another individual, and then another, and then another . . .well, you get the idea.  They meet and talk with one another.  These planned, as well as random, meetings allow people to exchange information, identify commonalities, and expand their network of contacts.  They have, in fact, a short conversation where both exchange information they want the other to know, and ask questions to learn more. 

Networking can happen at meetings large and small –  as small as 1-to-1 sit-down meetings.  Let’s take a look at both types of networking meetings.

Type 1:  Large networking meetings
Large networking meetings, or events, occur for any number of reasons, and bring together a lot of people
Meetings offer opportunities!
who meet and greet.  These meetings can be professional associations that offer attendees a chance to meet their colleagues in a monthly or quarterly format.  The format is often a networking hour, followed by a presenter and dinner.  Or, the venues could be conferences, training workshops, courses, trainings, presentation, product demonstrations, etc.. . .In other words, events at which a group of professionals find themselves gathered together.

Although an astute job seeker tends to seek out professional settings for networking, keep in mind non-professional gatherings offer just as much opportunity to network - to share your message with attendees and learn about them as well.  Parties, community celebrations, spouses' company events, summer picnics, holiday events, family reunions, homeowner association meetings, civic clubs, political events, charity events, . . . all offer networking opportunities. 

The message is clear:  Show up, and network, at meetings and events.  They offer you, the job seeker, the prospect of meeting your next employer, or someone who can put you in touch with one. 

Type 2: Small 1-to-1 networking meetings
Small, or 1-to-1, networking meetings are really a conversation.  They are generally between two people, but could be between you and a couple or 3 people; the person you’ve invited may want to bring along a colleague or contact who is knowledgeable.  These small networking meetings are generally previously arranged, but can sometimes occur on-the-spot: two people’s paths intersect and a conversation ensues.  Either way, planned or random, it is important to plan ahead – preparing what you want to say about you, and questions you want to ask of them.

A 1-to-1, or 1-to-2 or so, networking meeting is generally a sit-down meeting in a coffee shop, a library, over dinner, in an office or meeting room.   You have requested the meeting to discuss your job search, or if you are already employed but seeking greener pastures, to expand your career.  Your plan is two-fold:
(1) To share information about your professional capabilities, and
(2) To ask questions to learn about the other person’s knowledge of the industry/profession, and who they know that could also be helpful to you. 

The message is clear:  Seek out individuals who you can invite to sit-down meetings. Such meetings offer you, the job seeker, the opportunity to expand your knowledge and circle of contacts, in order to find your next employer faster!

Networking:  Do I have to? 
If you dread the idea of going up to strangers whoss paths you cross and striking up a conversation, you are far from alone.  Many, if not most folks - if the truth were told - deplore the idea.  They’d prefer a root canal.

However, the truth also to be told is that many, if not most, job opportunities are found through networking.  These wonderful positions never see the light of an advertisement.  They are found through folks who work for a firm and know of needs or open jobs, or by talking to other folks who may know some folks who know of opportunities  . . .  You get the idea!

So, the choice is yours.  You can elect to find a position through sending out resumes and answering ads.  This choice can have you sitting at a computer, hours on end, applying for 100's if not 1000's of jobs that you find advertised on the open market.  It is an avenue to a new job, but it is a choice that generally results in a long search. 

Or you can choose to network.  Networking speeds things up.  It’s just another avenue to facilitate your search.  While still looking for positions to apply for on-line and in the paper, adding networking can uncover positions that are either never openly advertised or before they are advertised. 

So . . . Do you have to?  Well, while the choice is yours, the only obvious answer is. . .  Yes,  you really have to.  It just makes good sense: $$ and cents.
  ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
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Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking for a Job – Don’t start in the Middle

Begin at the Beginning
Starting a job search with ONLY a resume in hand is like starting a road trip in the middle.  You haven’t prepared a route, you haven’t planned what to take, and you’re not sure where you’ll end up!  This unplanned and un-strategized approach will have you wandering aimlessly down the highway on a road trip, and doing the same thing on your route to a new job.  You’ll find yourself searching longer, and less productively, for a destination of which you’re unsure.

Too often, I hear candidates try to short-cut the process: 
I just need a resume and then I can get going!” 
“I just need some help in answering these interview questions.”

“I have this old resume I used to get my last job.  I just need to update it with my last job .”

This is common thinking among many job seekers . . .
  • Some, who didn’t see the layoff or company closure coming, are panicked and looking for the shortest route to their next job  –  ANY JOB.
  • Others are not panicked, just in a hurry.
  • And still others don’t understand that the shortest distance between where they are now and their next position is not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!
However, this attempt to start their search in the middle doesn’t shortcut anything, and, in fact, has the opposite effect.  Finding a job requires following a multi-step process, beginning with planning and strategy.  It may not seem like it, but it truly is the quickest route to the next job or role.

Begin at the beginning
Beginning a job search is a lot like taking an interesting trip or journey.  If the traveler is located in Maine and their destination is the mid-west, they don’t start mid-way between the two locations.  They start in Maine.  They begin at the beginning!

They begin by preparing for the trip.  They plan their strategy for traveling to the mid-west; as they do their research, they key in on more specific destinations such as Kansas or Missouri based on their needs and desires.  They plan their route.  They learn what things they will need for the trip and go about preparing and acquiring them.  They practice using these materials, such as GPSs, phones, camping equipment, in a safe environment before they venture out on the road.  They anticipate obstacles along the way and strategize ways they’ll overcome them.  When they finally set out on the road, they are well-prepared and practiced travelers and are almost assuredly going to arrive successfully at their destination.

Prepare for your job search
Preparing yourself for your job search is not really any different!  As with preparing for a trip, preparing for and conducting a job search requires the same attention to strategy, planning, preparation, practice, and delivery.  Figuring out what your destination likely looks like, what capabilities you bring as well as need to develop or acquire, what supportive materials  –  in addition to a strategic resume  –  you will need, and how you will deliver them are all part of adequately preparing for your journey to your next position.

So, begin at the beginning.  Prepare for the trip.
  • Plan your strategy, 
  • Figure out what job you want to do and are prepared to do, 
  • Prepare you marketing tools (which extend far beyond the resume), 
  • Practice your "L"vator pitch, and 
  • Determine your network of available and helpful contacts.
Don’t start in the middle.  
Begin at the beginning. You’ll arrive faster at the destination of your choosing.  It’s your choice! 
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Looking for a Job – You're in Sales!

I often ask groups, or clients, I'm speaking to: “Have you ever been in sales?”  
     In a group, a few hands generally go up.   
I then ask the group:  How many of you ARE in sales?  Again, a few hands go up.
I then ask:   How many of you are looking for a job?  

     As the light bulb goes on, all hands go up.
And I say, “Well, if you are looking for a job, you are in sales!”  And that’s the truth!

Looking for a job is all about sales
Looking for a job is all about sales  –  selling yourself.  If you are looking for a new job, new role, expansion of your current role, or venturing off into a new independent contracting, consulting, or business role, you are in sales!  And you are selling the most important product/service you will ever sell  –  YOU!

How do you sell yourself?
That’s the $64,000 or $45,000 or $150,000 . . . . .question  –  literally and figuratively.  How do you go about selling yourself in the employment marketplace?  What do you need to know and do?

One thing you need to know is that effective and successful sales people don’t sell themselves "helter-skelter;" they don't just start talking to people.  That approach would be akin to “shotgunning” in job search lingo – just phoning anyone or firing off resumes to anyone and everyone without a strategy or a plan.  Instead, good salespeople prepare thoroughly before they approach their customer in the marketplace.  Here is what they do.

Effective sales people sell themselves and their product or services by preparing themselves to approach their customers / their marketplace.  They:
    - Learn about and understand their product / service they are selling
    - Research and learn about their marketplace
    - Identify target customers / avenues into the marketplace
    - Develop their marketing tools to market and sell their product / service
    - Market their product /service
    - Negotiate the sale
    - Make the sale!

Selling your skills and competencies to a prospective employer is no different from the process I just outlined.  Effective job seekers today learn to strategically devise a plan to approach their target market, thoroughly prepare themselves and their materials, and only then venture out into their targeted portion of the employment marketplace. 

While “shotgunning” might SEEM to be the quickest route to finding a job, in fact, recent client experience over the last few years has shown it to yield the opposite result.  Employers today want to know, in short order, what you bring to the table in terms of experience, capabilities, and talent and how it can benefit them.  To do this requires thorough preparation and the ability to make a convincing argument as to why you are the best candidate for the job!  That takes time.

Take the time to prepare 
So, in the tough, tight employment market of today, and I would predict for the foreseeable future, don’t just fire off resumes to this one and that, hoping someone will read it and hire you.  Take the time to prepare yourself and your job search marketing approach to make the best impression of you as you enter and sell yourself in the employment market.  It is truly the shortest distance between looking for a job and finding it!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

6 Traits of Successful Job Seekers

One of my clients walked into our job search team meeting one day and declared:  “Persistence.  I think it just really takes being persistent to get a job today.” 

The comment started a discussion among the members of the job search team!   And, it started me thinking.  What had I noticed about the traits of successful job seekers?  What did they seem to have in common? 

I responded to the job search team member that he was right.  Those that landed new positions in recent years persisted in their searches when others had given up.  But what else?  I realized that they also shared another trait:  Consistency.  Successful job seekers were consistent in performing the activities of job search.  For instance, they established a work schedule for their job search and worked consistently, on a daily basis, as in a “real job.”  During their “work days,” they consistently networked, wrote letters, made calls, sent lots of e-mails, set up meetings, went to meetings, and targeted many organizations that might be good employers of their talents.  In other words they persisted consistently.

What other traits did successful job seekers share?  Here is what I’ve observed about job seekers who landed a job or got a new role in these recent tough, tough years.  Here are the 6 traits of successful job seekers.

1.  Successful job seekers really, really, really, really want a job  – 
First and foremost, to get a job today you’ve got to really, really, really, really want a job!  Otherwise, you won’t do what it takes  –  putting in the hours, exerting the energy, putting yourself in less than comfortable “networking” positions, and doing the activities of what a job search requires today.

I noticed that those who got a job were single-minded in their purpose of wanting a job.  They didn't dilute their resolve by wanting a job but maybe opening a business or maybe do some consulting or maybe going back to school.  They were single-minded in pursuit of one goal - a job..

I also noticed that for those who landed finding a job was their top priority.  They put job search activities first!  They chose to attend networking events, go to meetings, contact people they didn’t know, develop and then re-develop or refine their marketing materials, apply for positions, and send yet one more resume to a targeted and desirable company, . . .over getting together with friends, seeing a movie, watching TV, taking vacations, etc.  Other things were delayed or put on hold.  They worked at finding a job like it was their “real job”  –  which of course it is!

2.  Successful job seekers want THAT JOB  –
When interviewing for a position, successful job seekers demonstrate in thought, word, and deed that they want THAT JOB!  They focus only on getting that job  –  not why they don’t think they want it.  Why?  Employers seem to pick up on the vibes that you may not really want that job. 

Successful job seekers reserved any judgement and focused their full attention and energy on selling themselves as the solution for the prospective employer’s needs for each position they pursued!  They showed intense interest in the position, and a passion for the role, company, and industry.  They appeared knowledgeable about the role and company, having done their homework in researching the company.  They posed a good argument as to why they were the best candidate for the job.  And, their obvious thorough preparation displayed a willingness to go the extra mile  –  gladly.

Of course, when they went onto their next interview, they displayed the same interest in THAT JOB for which they were interviewing. 

3.  Successful job seekers are persistent  – 
They persist when others have given up, and they do it with high energy and a good attitude.  Easier said than done I know.  Especially when you’ve been working at it for a month, or two, or three and nothing seems to be happening.  But as one old adage says:  “He  –  or she  –  who stops punching first loses the fight!”  In the fight for finding a new position, if you stop searching for a new position, you don’t find one!

4.  Successful job seekers are consistent  – 
Successful job seekers work at their job search consistently.  They treated their searches as their day job  –  and night job too if they had evening meetings, classes, or events to attend.  They worked weekends as well as holidays.  They personified the old adage: “Finding a job is a full-time job”  and then some!

I recalled others who worked sporadically -- even in spurts of brilliance --  at finding a job.  While intermittent efforts might have led to success in previous employment markets, I observed this method to be far less successful than simply working consistently, day by day, at their searches. 

5.  Successful job seekers stay visible  – 
Successful job seekers found ways to get their names known and their resumes on the top of the stack!  Through diligence and perseverance, successful job seekers found ways to gain visibility inside their targeted firms, and then maintained their visibility through following up. 

How?  By various means of introducing and then re-introducing themselves into the company or organization.  They used multiple media to get their names and qualifications known.
●  Job seekers managed to stay visible by finding a contact inside the firm who sent or carried their resume into the office of a hiring manager, or Human Resources employee.
●  Or they learned the name of a hiring manager and wrote directly to that manager.
●  They attended a job fair, got names and contact information, and followed up with a note and copy of their resume.
●  They attended conferences and association meetings to learn about and meet people from potential employing companies.
●  They used social media, such as Linked In, to learn about a firm or whom to contact within the organization.
In other words, their goal was for “everyone to know their name!”

6.  Successful job seekers follow-up  – 
So many opportunities are lost through lack of follow-up.  Successful job seekers made it easy for prospective employers to not only know their name but see them as a quality candidate by following up in meaningful ways.

Successful job seekers did not consider their job done when they sent off a resume, attended a networking event, had an interview, or met with a colleague.  They followed up each activity with appropriate actions that moved their candidacy forward.  They followed up with a note, additional information, a helpful idea, . . .  and if need be, followed up yet again, displaying their genuine interest, obvious competence, and helpful disposition.  They displayed their willingness to go the extra mile! 

So there you have it  – the 6 traits of successful job seekers in today’s tough employment market! 
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website. ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub