Realistic #Networking Advice

By Erica Tew, CPRW

What is networking?

It is introducing yourself to people, forming relationships, and maintaining these relationships through effective communication.

Communication is about making decisions. You decide who you want to approach and how you want to do so.  Factors that can influence these decisions depend on what you know about the other party, their preferred method of communication, and the level of your relationship with that person.

When job seekers ignore these factors and abruptly ask strangers for jobs, or to find jobs for them, they are usually frustrated with the lack of success. This is because the strategy is only focused for the benefit of one person, the job seeker.

Why is networking so difficult?

I think it is because we place extra pressure on ourselves when job seeking. Networking becomes another burdensome task, like writing your resume or blocking away three hours of your day to fill out an online job application. Yet we all know networking does not have to be one of those things. If the terminology is causing you stress, drop it and focus on meeting other real people.

To put networking in perspective, think of your circle: your friends, family, and colleagues. Who, within these circles, actively networks? Your 8 year old niece who leverages social prowess and gets invited to Susan’s sleepover party. Your grandmother who raises funds for her church by hosting events and bake sales, managing to get donations from even the tightest of purses. Fred, the guy you hike with on Saturdays, who just landed a new client to get promoted. Your friend from high school who dropped out of college and now runs a successful online business. Networking is actively done by many parties who may never directly label their actions as “networking.”

How do you network?

Reach out to people you already know- family, friends, colleagues, etc. Provide some basics. When people say, “I need a job, any job,” the sentiment is understandable, but it makes the search so broad and open ended it feels insurmountable. Focusing on a specific job will not only help your own search, but it will help narrow down the focus for your friends who may scout around for you.

Explain what types of skills you have and try not to overuse the word “job.” Although you are looking for work, be open to advice and introductions. This is the development of your career for the long term, not only as a means for your next position. Effective networking continues as you regain employment.

Typically, people are more receptive when you ask for their opinion (as long as you ask politely and make sure they have the time to do so). To illustrate this, compare the two statements below:

  1. “Hi, I’m looking for a job. Can you alert me when there are openings at your company?”
  2. “Hi Mark, Hope you are doing well. I was wondering if I could get a few minutes of your time. I’m currently looking for a position in customer service, and was wondering if you had any advice about starting in the field. …”

Which message would you prefer? Although the first would be easy for a friend, it may be a lot of extra work for a stranger. The second is much more personalized and starts with a conversation, making this option more inviting. When you reach out to contacts, especially those you may not know very well yet, try to personalize the message and not ask too much too soon.

Long-Term Success

As you network, focus on creating lasting relationships. Make your contact attempts without holding high expectations. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond. Be open to any advice or feedback from your network. Learning one new thing can have the potential to dramatically improve your job search.

Additionally, actively listening is key to a successful relationship and develops more personalized bonds between people. When meeting new people, listen more than you share. This information will gauge your perceptions about how the contact prefers to communicate and if there is a possibility of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

The strategies in networking assist in a job search because the more people that know you well and trust you, the faster you will get responses back regarding feedback, advice, referrals, or job openings. Networking is not about what others can do for you, but about the quality of the relationships you develop.

Advertisements

Turn Cold Contacting into Lukewarm Contacting

Aside from an interview, cold contacting for job opportunities is one of the most nerve racking experiences a job seeker can go through. Without the right preparation, phone calls can be awkward, visiting the local coffee shop to meet the manager can turn into a lifetime ban and your cold contact letters might end up back in your mailbox with RTS written all over them. Nevertheless, getting to know people is networking and networking is the best way to get reemployed. Here are some ways to make cold contacting less terrible.

 

First, don’t take it personal. Dealing with the stress of a job search is tough and your emotions can be running high. This is time to put on your “I can do it” hat and get down to business. Would a successful sales person lose their cool after a customer hung up on them? No, they dust off the phone and move onto the next opportunity because persistence becomes success.

 

Develop a strategy. Some ways to cold contact are; phone call, in person, mail (postal and email) and through social media. Begin by determining which is the most effective and appropriate method for your target industry. For example, visiting a restaurant between meal times can be perfectly acceptable whereas swinging into the local hospital HR is not. In either case, is always best to establish a contact through your network before you reach out to a company. This turns the cold contact into a lukewarm contact. If you can’t get an internal contact, don’t get discouraged; your professionalism and courtesy will win out.

 

Research to get prepared. To get ideas for dialogue, review the company’s website, LinkedIn and Facebook page(s) and search for job postings. Focus on industry trends, skills related to the position, their products and other details that interest you. Consider this, you can call a company and say, “I offer an extensive background selling xyz, a product that is similar to yours and I am interested in learning of any openings you may have.” Or, “I am unemployed and I am interested in job opportunities with your company.” The former states what you can do for the company, whereas, the latter asks what can they do for you.

 

Use foresight. An estimated 70% of the time, the HR representative will tell you to apply online. Avoid this hurdle by searching for job openings prior to contacting a company. If you see an opening, apply then make your contact. When you contact the company, explain you have applied to the job, however, you are so interested in the position you did not want to leave your résumé to fate of cyberspace. As a Job Developer, I had many of these conversations for my clients, one of which was with a nationally known home improvement store. During a phone call, I was ensured HR would review all online applications and schedule interviews based on qualifications. After politely requesting alternative methods for increasing my chances, I was invited into the store to speak with a department manager.

 

Practice, practice, practice. I know, “it’s only practice.” But in reality, practicing with someone will break the rust off. Friends and family are always good to embarrass yourself in front of or you can check out a reemployment service provider.

 

Take chances and be assertive. If you want something, use your wit and guts and go get it. Attitude is everything in the job searching world, expect challenges but also expect SUCCESS.

5 Tips: What to Do at the #Interview

When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:

1. Silence your cell phone

giphy2

Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.

2. Smile

giphy5

Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?

3. Don’t talk money or benefits

giphy3

Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.

4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”

giphy4

If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.

5. Dress Appropriately

giphy

You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.

If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!

[All gifs thanks to giphy!]

The Gatekeeper: First person you must impress on an #interview

By George Bernocco, CPRW

Interview day has finally arrived and you’re excited. The interview outfit is on and looking good. You have your commute mapped out and even left early in case there was traffic. Depending on the job you’re applying for, you will most likely arrive at the site and have to ask for the interviewer. There are many names for this person whom you meet first at the job site: front desk, administrative assistant, security, or even secretary. For the sake of this blog post, we will call them:

Security-Guard

The Gatekeeper

Secretary I have been on the side of interviewing candidates before and producing my results to my direct supervisor. The process was that my supervisor would have interviewed candidates for the first interview, schedule them for a second interview with coworkers and then make a hiring decision. I was involved in the second interview stage, but I will say I was only slightly involved (as well as my coworkers). My supervisor did value our opinions, but she valued someone else’s opinion above ours: The secretary. The secretary told our supervisor who was polite, who seemed prepared and who was on time.

When you have your interview suit on, you should be prepared to treat everyone you meet that day with an extra smile and an extra “have a good day”. That includes anyone you happen to see in the parking lot, when you are walking into the interview building or office, anyone you see inside, anyone who makes eye contact with you, you should at least smile to them. The gatekeeper is who you want to show them that you are ready for the interview. I am not saying go out and buy candy to try and “buy” the gatekeeper, which would probably hurt you. I am saying greet them, introduce yourself professionally, and state that you are here for an interview at the scheduled time. Be sure to thank them for anything they do for you like call the interviewer on your behalf to let them know you are here.

If you can make yourself memorable in a good way, do it. I was once waiting for my interview and I heard the two gatekeepers discussing a movie. They were discussing Cliffhanger, which I’ve seen and I am a movie fan. One person asked the other if knew the name of the actor who was the villain. The other person did not know, and I chimed in that the actor’s name was John Lithgow. They were pleased and I smiled telling them I love movies.

Believe it or not, there are people who look down upon the “gatekeepers”. I assure you that if you don’t treat this person with respect, the interviewer will find out. Just be aware that I have heard of companies which the supervisor sits at the front desk area just to see how a prospective employee acts. Even if the gatekeeper happens to have made a minor mistake, you should make them feel comfortable. Keep in mind they could be testing you, giving you certain instructions to see how well you follow them.

Fresh Dressed Like A Million Bucks

Mastering the art of dressing for the job you want

By Uri Allen, CPRW

 dress

Have you ever heard the saying “You should dress for the job you want, not the job you have”?

I want to first start off by saying, this blog post does not advocate wearing a cape to your next interview but there is evidence that shows a direct correlation between what we wear and how these choices impact how people perceive us. And this perception is more than clothing-deep. What we choose to wear  is a big part of how people size us up. Depending on what someone chooses to wear, people can make all sorts of first impression assumptions about things from their socio-economic status to their cultural roots to their level of business professionalism. So while you may have that winning hand-shake and perfectly polished résumé, if you come to a job interview at an accounting firm dressing more like you are going to a nightclub in Miami during spring break, you’re going to have a bad time. I’m surprised at how many people just don’t get the concept of looking the part. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you have to look the part. Here are a few tips to keep you looking sharp and avoid any potential outfit blunders during the job search and interview process.

When clients ask me what they should be wearing to an interview, I often ask them, “Well, what is the culture like? What is a normal day to day look for the company?” If they are unsure, I direct them back to doing some research on the company. Figure out what the cooperate culture is, stop by for a visit, ask people who you may know that already work for the company and use that information as your guideline. Once you figure out the baseline for appropriate dress for the company, a good rule of thumb is to always dress one step above the baseline during an interview. So for instance, a construction worker may, on the job, wear tee-shirt and jeans. So an appropriate one-level up for an interview would be jeans and a nice collared shirt with a tie or a sweater or blouse for the ladies. If the baseline is business casual ala polo shirts and khakis, nice pants and a button down and tie for guys and nice pants and a dressy shirt for a woman. The only exception would be if the dress is business and in that case you would dress business. So in a nutshell:

If Casual, Business Casual

If Business Casual, Business

If Business, Business

Don’t wear clothes that are too tight, too small, too sloppy, too big, too revealing or otherwise. You don’t want to be referred to as “the guy in the really tight sweater” or “the girl in the REALLY SHORT miniskirt” after your interview. You want the interviewer to notice your skills, not your cleavage and beer belly. When was the last time you saw someone with their muffin top hanging out of their too-tight clothing and thought to yourself, “well, there goes a professional”.  Yea, I’m going to guess…never. On the other end of the spectrum, clothes that are ill-fitting or too big most of the time look sloppy so if your interviewing outfit is now too big, it might be time to get a new one. Try your outfit on before the interview and make sure it fits. Think of Goldilocks…just right!

Another thing to remember is you are going to an interview, not Ibiza. What you might wear to the club probably isn’t appropriate to wear to an interview no matter how fancy it is. Leave the flashy nail polish colors and snake-skin shoes at home. Those sparkly pumps might look boss in backlight but in the office of your potential boss, they are probably more distracting than anything else. Also, leave any noisy accessories at home…the watch that beeps every hour on the hour or the chunky bracelet that jingles can all be incredibly distracting during an interview. Remember, you want the employer focused on you, not your accessories. Cover up any tattoos the best you can if they aren’t a widely accepted part of the corporate culture. Some places are totally cool with your ink but if you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and cover-up that tattoo. Try to avoid any super-bright colors or loud patterns as those can also be distracting. Muted hues, pastels, neutral colors are always a safe bet.

Interviewers are like cats…easily distracted by things like shiny objects and noises. If you even think that it can be distracting, save it for something other than your interview. Use common sense and if you really can’t figure out what to wear, websites like Pinterest and their professional dress boards can keep you in the loop of what to wear in an interview. If you need access to clothing for an interview, organizations like Dress for Success can help (and organizations like these are not just for the ladies anymore!). Remember, non-verbal communication is a huge part of making a great first impression. Don’t let poor clothing choices say anything bad about you.