Archives for May 2015

Unemployment Bias: Create Your Own Opportunities

"College of DuPage Hosts Career Fair 2015 23" by COD Newsroom from Flickr

“College of DuPage Hosts Career Fair 2015 23” by COD Newsroom from Flickr

 

Finding employment can be more difficult if you’re unemployed. It can be a frustrating period in your life, but it can also be a great opportunity to transition faster into a new position. You can spend a 40-hour week networking, researching employers and creating opportunities that will help you land sooner.

 

Jay had been working as a User Interface (UI) Programmer in a large marketing firm for nearly five years. He was suddenly laid off from his job and at a loss as to what to do next. It was the first time he found himself unemployed. For a while, he lived off of unemployment benefits and applied for jobs using various job boards. Before he knew it, more than six months had passed. During the worst of times, it seemed as if Jay’s résumés went into black holes, or what we refer to as “e-pits”. Other times, he landed interviews only to have the gap in his employment looked at with suspicion by employers.

Finally, Jay had enough of his confidence being undermined by his unemployment situation and fear of never finding work again. He began to explore his network, volunteered, attended industry group meetings, and wrote often about his skills and knowledge as a UI Programmer. He made sure his work was posted to his social media accounts. He presented himself as “between jobs” and “open for new opportunities”. Eventually, he was hired by a new marketing firm. The information about the job opening had come from his network, but it was Jay’s self-confidence and ability to sell his own worth (as opposed to coming off desperate) that helped land the job.

This example encompasses two scenarios. In the first, a person finds him or herself without employment and they reactively search for a job. They visit online job boards or send hundreds of résumés out in the hope of getting called for an interview. They don’t find a job immediately, months pass and they become caught in a vicious downward cycle. Employers question the long gap in their employment, they lose confidence, become desperate and apply for any open position at a company and they continue to languish as the interviews (and their finances) dwindle away. There are millions of these types of heart-breaking stories.

While some people eventually get a break, there is a difference between getting lucky and creating your own luck. Getting lucky means you’re at the mercy of your circumstances. Maybe someone will see your résumé and give you a chance. When creating your own luck, you’re actually creating your own job opportunities. Your ambition, passion and drive, combined with your skills and qualifications make you too tempting of a candidate to pass up. Which brings us to the second scenario.

A person is unemployed, but instead of reactively looking for work, he or she takes a proactive job search approach.  They go to their network and ask about open positions. They volunteer when they can, and they make sure to attend networking events, industry meet-ups, and do whatever they can to meet people in person. They present themselves as “between jobs”, but they keep abreast of industry news and maintain a competitive advantage. They even take some time to hire someone to polish their résumé or do it themselves. Their personal brand demonstrates their skill, value and passion. They know people in their network will eventually produce leads, and they will be ready to capitalize upon those leads.

Let’s get the obvious bad news out of the way: It can be harder to land a job if you’re unemployed. Employers have a variety of biases toward the unemployed. These biases can create a challenge for job seekers, which may require applying a different strategy to a job search. Employers may assume a worker’s skills may have become rusty if he or she has been out of work for more than six months. They may feel if a person can’t immediately land a job, he or she must be lazy and can’t keep a work schedule. Or it may be more tempting to poach an employee from a competitor than hire someone unemployed, even if the unemployed person has stronger qualifications. Some employers may go as far as to tell the unemployed they should not apply for an open position at their company.

Quite frankly, excluding the unemployed is extremely short-sighted. Abby Kohut argues in her article, “Why ‘The Unemployed Need Not Apply’ Need Not Apply to You” that it is absurd to eliminate out-of-work job-seekers without understanding why they’re unemployed. The reasons can range from stay-at-home parents returning to work, workers who were laid off, or workers who were fired (it’s not always the worker’s fault). That last reason is quite chilling. Your job could vanish in an instant due to no fault of your own. Don’t let employer bias deter you from your job search. At the end of the day, networking is still the best way to land a new job. Also, the employer practice of poaching talent doesn’t always work. There will be positions that need to be filled immediately and a highly qualified unemployed person could be the perfect match.

Employer bias is such an issue that legislation has been passed banning this practice. I wrote about it in my article, “Unemployment Discrimination: Does it need a solution?”, New York City passed a jobless discrimination bill in March 2014, while 11 states and multiple cities have their own versions of these laws. The legislation seeks to prohibit unemployment discrimination and allows aggrieved applicants to sue employers (in certain cities, like NYC). Unfortunately, as I wrote in my article, these laws are more of a hindrance than a help as the economy improves.

Technology is rapidly changing business and the long and short-term unemployed need to have the latest skills to compete. If these laws aren’t accompanied by training programs to help the unemployed compete in the workplace, they can be harmful. In some states the unemployed have to surrender their benefits to receive state-compensated training. While such a move could be beneficial in the long run, a reasonable person would have a difficult time forfeiting guaranteed income in order to participate in such a program. It’s hard to focus on learning when you’re unable to put food on the table. Furthermore, creating legislation to ban unemployment discrimination won’t prevent employers from covertly excluding the unemployed if they’re really determined.

So, should you present yourself as unemployed?

My opinion is… Be You! Lying on your résumé or your LinkedIn profile about your employment status won’t gain you any favors. In fact, it may become clear that you’re lying. I had a prospective client who was told by peers not to change her status on LinkedIn. This could be perceived as a lie, or an oversight. Either way, it doesn’t present you as forthright, accurate or prompt. Be yourself and believe in your professional value. You may be out of a job, but you still have a lot to offer an employer. Your skills and knowledge didn’t vanish along with your job.  (There are some careers that will become obsolete in the future, and it may become necessary for those professionals to reinvent themselves.) Know your target market, your skill set and your qualifications.  It is the passion for an industry that shines brilliantly. Your passion is your brilliance, and that brilliance will attract others to you.

Your personal brand should reflect your brilliance. You’re unemployed, but if you constantly blame others, and your former employer, it reflects badly on you. Think about it. If you’re constantly on your social networks, or attending events decrying your unfortunate situation, others will take notice. Instead of noticing your passion for your industry, others will only see your bitterness and will make it a point to give you a wide berth. On the flipside, if you’re constantly presenting yourself as passionate and engaged in your industry, someone will take notice and it could lead to job opportunities. In short, you may never know who’s watching, and you want to attract people, not repel them.

There are employers who will always have a bias against the unemployed, but ultimately it is their loss. Being passionate and unemployed can have its own advantages. Here’s a scenario to consider. Some employers are targeting those currently working for their competition as their priority effort, or expecting the third party recruiters they work with to do so. However, this requires a lot of selling and wooing, and there’s also a LOT of negotiating to make this successful. When this gets tiring, they look for the people immediately available. And if a need is urgent, they are not going to look for people who need to give two week’s notice. Suddenly, that highly-qualified, zealous and extremely available job-seeker is too tempting to pass up. Or maybe that job-seeker has been targeting employers of choice and now a position is finally open. Again, why bother looking elsewhere and negotiating with someone who’s already employed, when you can hire a passionate job-seeker who has been making connections within the company?

 

Let’s return to a favorite adage of mine that you can apply to employers and their attitudes about hiring you– “Some will, some won’t. So what? Next!”.

 

That’s much easier to say when you have momentum on your side. Don’t fall into a fear trap, thinking that you have to play political or tactical games to make it through the process. The difference in how it feels to generate interest by just being your best self versus pretending to be something that you’re not is the difference between freedom and being trapped. This is what we mean by “Unveil Your Brilliance”. We mean, be you, because you are brilliant, and people just need to see that. We don’t mean try to be something or someone else. That’s not the path to empowerment or authentic happiness.

 

 

10 Surprising Websites and 2 Secret Places Where You Can Research Employers

"Websites You May Like" by Enokson from Flickr

“Websites You May Like” by Enokson from Flickr

 

If you want to take your job search beyond LinkedIn and Google, there are ten websites and two secret places can that help you up your game and stand out among the competition. These sites are some of the best ways to learn about a person or business. You can use these websites in tandem to verify a person’s identity and discover their industry interests. In turn, these interests could help you establish a connection with someone in your industry or they could help you further evaluate an employer. Imagine going into an interview or a meeting and being able to talk about industry-related topics. Or, using the information to bring up a problem that an employer or person may commonly face and how you resolved a similar problem in the past. Showing up to a meeting, crafting a cover letter, or just making a connection while armed with extra research can demonstrate your commitment, diligence and value to others.

In short, you’re taking a proactive approach to your job search versus a reactive approach. In a proactive job search you pick the companies that interest you, research them and reach out to decision makers to establish a relationship. In a reactive job search you look for job openings, send your cover letter and résumé to hiring managers and hope it stands out enough to elicit a response. Instead of spending your time validating what’s on your résumé, what if you could acquire enough research to get an inside look at a company’s 2015 goals?

I’m talking going beyond press releases to take a deeper look inside of a company. Imagine if you were in a meeting with a company’s CEO and he or she were outlining goals for the year, the challenges the company faces, and the steps that need to be taken to solve those problems. If a company is losing customers, you would know and could create a plan to attract new customers. You would know more about a company’s customers, products and their systems. You could contribute ideas, help develop special products, and land new clients. You could move right into talking about a 90-day plan, and suddenly you’re being sold on the opportunity to work for a company. Can you feel your future paycheck rising? You should! These incredible meetings aren’t limited to interviews. You could take a deeper level of preparation to any meeting. Both parties will get more out of the meeting as you know their needs thanks to your research, and they have a better understanding of the value you can bring them.

You can use these ten websites to dig deeper and learn more about a person or a company. In addition to the websites, there are a few secret areas you can visit to find elusive information. I’m not including LinkedIn on the list. LinkedIn is a powerful resource and a great way to search for and connect with professionals in your industry. If you need help with searching for contacts using the network, JibberJobber has excellent instructional videos.  You can use the information from the websites I’m going to outline BEFORE you search for contacts and extend invitations to connect with others on LinkedIn. (I assure you the connections you make will be more meaningful as a result.)

 

1. Google:

Google isn’t a surprising choice on this list, but it is important. There are surprising ways in which you can use Google when it comes to advanced searches and more. I’ll discuss those search methods in a moment. Google is the first place you’ll start when researching someone or a potential employer. There is a wealth of publicly available information to be found at your fingertips. Search by entering the person’s name and a few keywords related to their job or location, for example “Karen Huller Career Coach”. You may run into the problem of searching for a person with an incredibly common name. If you’re researching a company, it may also be difficult to find thanks to a common name. In this case, Google’s advanced search can help. It allows you to define searches with exact words or phrases, exclude words and narrow your results by language, country, website domain, and more. This is useful if you have a professional’s name and the name of their company. You can also further narrow down results by including geography, such as a town or a state. To keep current tabs on a person, set up Google Alerts to notify you when new search results for a person are added.  You can customize Alerts by update frequency and sources (blogs, news, discussion, and books) and have the results delivered to your email address.

You can take your search a step further by accessing a secret location on Google. Do an image search, if you find a matching image of a person, follow the source page. It can reveal such things as what a person does with their friends, awards they have received, events they have attended, activities they engage in, and much more!

2. Google+:

Once you have found a person or business on Google, you can use Google+ to further confirm their identity. Use the service to search for people, companies, their profiles, and any posts they have created. The About section allows you to glean information such as a person’s occupation, their place of employment, the places they have previously lived, Google+ communities they are a part of, and links to any other social networks or services. If the Posts section is active on their account, it can be a great insight into what a person may be writing about or sharing. If your subject is an industry leader, he or she will definitely talk about their industry and even how they make contributions to it. An active business will have their latest posts, contact information and links to other social media accounts.


3. YouTube:

A person’s YouTube profile can be accessed directly through Google+ or on YouTube. If they are an active professional in their industry they might have uploaded a few videos with useful content for their followers. These videos can explain who they are, how their followers can better themselves within their industry, or a video may advertise a service. If a person doesn’t have any content uploaded on YouTube, you may find videos from other people in their playlist section. These videos can allow you learn more about the interests of the person you’re researching. Businesses are a bit trickier. If they haven’t linked their YouTube accounts to Google+, their latest videos (if they have any) won’t appear. You’ll have to search separately for them on YouTube.


4. Data.com:

Data.com is an online directory of business professionals and their companies fed by data from Salesforce.com. It is mainly used for b2b (business-to-business) transactions, and is maintained by a large subscriber community. It allows you to look up and exchange business information with millions of professionals. It is the same information you would find on their business card. You can search for and verify their newest information such as job titles, current employer and an email address. You can also search for businesses and gather a list of their current employees. Because this is user-updated information, you will want to verify the information by calling a company switchboard and trying to reach someone who can verify it, or even just to try to see if you can reach that person. Also, everyone has a concern about privacy. It is better to address privacy concerns before adding someone’s contact information. We recommend that you DO NOT add anyone’s contact information without their consent. It’s best to make the nominal investment or only add people for whom you can consent to get credits you can use in exchange for others’ information.
5. Zoominfo.com:

Like Data.com, Zoominfo.com is a directory containing millions of professionals. Zoominfo is different from Data.com because it uses publicly available information aggregated from web articles mentioning the person or business and other sources. It is easy to verify a person based on their work history. The database also allows you to search and discover profiles for businesses. These profiles include contact information, a company overview, number of employees, their competitors and revenue. Unlike searching on Google, this information is updated once every 90 days or sooner. You also don’t have to wade through pages to identify your contact or a business. It is all readily available in one easy-to-navigate spot.

 

6. Slideshare:

Slideshare is a service that allows users to read and share professional presentations online. It boasts over 60 million global users and is the largest community for sharing professional content. Slideshare allows you to search for and follow individuals, regardless of if they’ve uploaded content. Their profiles can include their current location, employer, education, a professional description, their social media accounts, their websites, and other people they follow. Slideshare is a good resource for verifying a person’s identity, but it only works if he or she has taken the time to fill out a profile. Even if a person’s profile doesn’t include a detailed profile, there is another potential way to gather this information. The presentations they share might contain information missing from their profile.  You can also find businesses and the slides they’ve shared. These slides can contain high-ranking members of a company, such as the vice president of a division. Furthermore, these slides contain presentations that cover industry trends and their approaches to solving problems.


7. The Business Journals:

When it comes to researching people and employers online, The Business Journals are a veritable gold mine. I sang the praises of the Philadelphia Business Journal in my article “There’s GOLD in These Pages”, and for good reason. It is a fantastic source for leads that correlate to your income potential, it allows you to target organizations through the Book of Lists, read about the growth of local companies and even find people on the move. The local business directory is great for obtaining quick information on local employers. The search feature even allows users to find people and business throughout the journal. Some of The Business Journals’ best features are behind a pay wall, but if you’re serious about locating research and information, a subscription provides access to valuable tools.


8. Vimeo:

Vimeo is a video-sharing service that predates YouTube. The platform has over 14 million members and the bulk of users are creative professionals. In other words, Vimeo is a great way to find career coaches, mentors and subject matter experts in addition to music, animation and film artists. The community is small compared to YouTube, but it is passionate. Vimeo can be used to find a professional and discover their creative works, in order to learn more about them. You can also search for businesses on Vimeo. The results aren’t as comprehensive as YouTube, but some businesses provide fascinating glimpses into their operations. For instance, Amazon Recruiting has a video highlighting their relocation packages for new employees. A similar search of Amazon’s brand on YouTube yields mostly uploads of commercials and ads for consumer products. If you can find a business on Vimeo, the uploaded videos could provide a new perspective on the company.


9. Pinterest:

Pinterest is a media-sharing website with a heavy focus on sharing pictures. But, many users also use it to share content from websites. Like other social outlets, it allows users to follow one another. You can search for a person on the service and view what they have been sharing. This provides a glimpse at the industries they follow and their hobbies. More importantly, Pinterest allows you to get a glimpse of what information is relevant to a person and the subjects they like to see and share. If a person has fully customized their account, check out their boards. Depending how they use their pins and boards, you may learn what their wildest dreams and deepest desires are. A person’s dreams and desires can help you engage a person and gain some insight into their thought processes. You can also search Pinterest to find news and facts about a business, but not very many of them have actual Pinterest accounts. However, if a business does have an account, they are surely using it to promote their employment brand.

 

10. Facebook:

I can’t talk about searching for people on social media without mentioning Facebook. It is the largest social media platform in the world and has more than one billion active users each month. It is mainly thought of as a personal social media network, but it also functions as a directory. You can search for people or businesses by name, but like Google, if a person has a common name a search can yield dozens of results. To find the person you’re looking for you’ll generally need to know what city they live in, and/or their place of employment. Try searching for a name on Google. Sometimes their Facebook page will appear in the results. This can greatly aide your search if you’re having a difficult time finding someone. Facebook is a great way to get a general feel for a person and their interests, depending on what they share publicly. You’ll find some accounts are heavily restricted to friends and family, while other accounts are public. Lots of businesses big and small have Facebook pages that provide general information about a company or brand. The information you find on Facebook is fairly generic, but it can be used to be more engaging when you do approach someone.

 

I’ve gone into depth about the ten websites and a few secret websites you can use to take your job search further. However, you can be proactive about your job search instead of reactive. Our Webinar, Insider Edge to Social Media: 3 Success Secrets to Getting Hired, demonstrates NOT just how you can be found by employers of choice, but HOW you can use social media in many of the same ways to be PROACTIVE about your job search. A proactive job search allows you to land at a company you already know will be a great employer and can offer you the environment and culture you need to thrive, and the opportunity to expand your professional horizons. The searching methods contained in Insider Edge are integral to executing a proactive job search.

That said, even if you are being reactive, because your networking and social media activities have generated great leads, you can use the sites I mentioned to optimize every meeting and interview.

 

The Correct Response to a Job Lead

 

"Using Three Laptops at the Same Time" by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Using Three Laptops at the Same Time” by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Your network is your net worth.” This succinct phrase is the title of Porter Gale’s book. Gale, a marketing expert and public speaker, argues in her book that a network of personal and professional relationships is the most important asset in a portfolio. Think about it. Over 80% of jobs are unadvertised and obtained through networking. Your network connections can help you obtain job leads and even land a job. When someone in your network produces a job lead for you, your response matters. How you respond to a job lead can mean the difference between discouraging your lead sources, and successfully capitalizing on a lead. In order to capitalize on a lead, it is important to make a smart inquiry about the quality of the lead. Not every lead is a good match for your qualifications, so it is critical to learn more about the source of the lead and the potential job.

There is an important distinction between a job lead and an introduction offer. If someone in your network offers to introduce you to someone, do not decline the opportunity. There could be synergy between you and the other party, and a conversation might lead to a job opportunity. People are the ultimate connectors. You won’t know if there’s an opportunity until you have a meeting. Graciously accept the introduction offer, attend the meeting and follow up with your source. Feel free to ask your source questions about the party you’re meeting with to attend the meeting fully prepared. An introduction is a direct invitation to establishing a relationship with someone at a potential employer. A job lead is the knowledge of an open position, and when you can establish a relationship with hiring managers you increase your odds of being chosen as the candidate who gets the offer.

Gauge how much the person knows about the source and quality of the information they’ve given you. If it is a job lead, and not an introduction, you’ll have to dig deep and research the lead. Not every job lead is created equally. Your source may or may not be intimately familiar with the lead or the position. He or she may have been approached by a recruiter, declined the offer and decided to forward the position information to you. This doesn’t mean the employer is incompatible with your personal criteria. Your lead source may not have been not been actively looking for a job, or the position may not have fit their personal criteria. Knowing that you’re looking to make a transition, your source decided to be helpful and pass the information on to you.

If your source forwarded a lead and doesn’t know much about the company, avoid bombarding them with questions about the position. In other words, don’t make them answer the same questions you would ask of someone more familiar with the position. Go directly to the source. If the source leads you to a company website or job board, go to LinkedIn to learn more about the company and to discover if you have any possible inside connections. Next week I will go further into depth about the top ten websites you can use to research your employer.

Before you consider making a connection with someone at the company, thoroughly research the organization. Your research will help you get further in your ability to market yourself and demonstrate your value. The job position could be a perfect match for your qualifications and skills, but the company culture or its location may be a poor fit. Here are few questions to consider:

 

  • Where is the company located? You may or may not be open to the idea of relocating to another town or city.

 

  • What is the size of the company? If you’ve previously worked at a small employer, switching to a large employer could be a major culture shock, and vice versa.
  • What do employees think of their employer? If a good number of employees are miserable at the job, it may be a place you want to stay far away from.
  • Why do think you’ll be a good fit for the position? This question can also generate great content for a cover letter. Take notes as you discover your answers.

 

Look up a company’s profile on LinkedIn to discover answers to your questions.  Job review sites such as Vault and Glassdoor are more ways to obtain insight about a potential employer. Visit Salary.com and PayScale to learn more about an average salary for the open position at your employer. These are good resources for gathering salary range information based on your job title, skills and education level. Once you’ve researched a potential employer it’s time make a decision.

If you find that the company meets about 80% of your criteria, create a connection within the company. Go to LinkedIn to see who you may know. If possible, try to identify the most logical hiring managers. Once you find the hiring managers, send out customized invitations. Avoid sending out boilerplate invitations, and use the information you gathered about the hiring managers to introduce yourself. Before you send out those invitations, make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible. I’ve written extensively on the subject.  Avoid using default headlines and make sure your profile is more than just an online résumé. When you send an invitation to hiring managers, the point is not to directly ask for a job, but to be the answer to the open position. Think of it like this, the company needs to fill an open position to solve a problem within the company. You want to be the first solution that comes to mind.

If the position does not meet 80% of your criteria and you were referred, follow through with the interview and be upfront with a hiring manager. Let him or her know that the job opportunity presented after an introduction isn’t a fit for you. This honesty can lead to better opportunities down the road. When that potential employer has an open position that matches your qualifications and needs to be filled, either internally or referred, your name may be on the top of the candidate list. Focus on your preferred contribution and the types of positions that are in alignment with your skills and qualifications.  If the real issue with a job is a lifestyle conflict, let the hiring manager know. Express to them how you appreciate the time and effort they took to consider you for a position, but it isn’t a good fit with your lifestyle. For example, longer hours at a potential job may leave you unable to pick up your children from school or daycare in a timely manner. Or, the commute may be too long.

 

Always follow through with your source. They took the time to send information for a possible lead, thank them, and update them on what happened. They have a vested interest in the outcome and will want to know if it worked out. This is the best way to reinforce with your network that the efforts that they make on your behalf are not in vain. If, however, too many job leads they send seem to be wrong, they will get discouraged. Give them a little guidance, if necessary, but always with sincere gratitude.

Making a smart inquiry about the lead, and being responsive to your source can be the difference between discouraging them from ever sending you a lead again and receiving more job leads. Again, thank them for their time and research the lead. Your research will enable you to decide if pursuing an open position is worth your time. You can also use your research to put yourself ahead of the competition by crafting a customized cover letter. Learn how to use your research to get immediate responses from employers with our cover letter secret sauce. Above all, gratitude and research is the best response to a job lead.

 

7 Steps to Powerful Introductions

"One-to-one meetings" by Richard Hadley from Flickr

“One-to-one meetings” by Richard Hadley from Flickr

 

In the late 2000’s Jack found himself out of work. He had been at his dream job for years and expected to stay with the company for many more years. Instead, his company was bought by a competitor and his job was cut. Jack hadn’t needed to look for a job since the 1990’s, and discovered the job market had changed drastically. He now had to compete with hundreds, if not thousands of other applicants for one position and he felt lost during the entire job search process. His career suddenly had no direction. It took Jack almost two years to land another job.

After two years of unemployment, Jack had enough of the constant job rejections and knew it was time for a change. He enlisted my help and together we rebranded his résumé to stand out and highlight his unique qualifications. He also used the 7 steps that I outline in this article (see below), in order to set an agenda for the conversations he would have, to garner powerful introductions within his industry, and to get his job search back on track. It wasn’t long before Jack was given one job offer, and then by sustaining the agenda and the momentum, was offered additional jobs. You can listen to Jack’s entire story and his happy ending on episode 3 of our Tales from the Flipside Podcast.

You may be like Jack and discover your long-time career is coming to an end. Or, perhaps you’re ready to change employers. Instead of fretting over your next job, you can set the stage for a bidding war between employers. Imagine being scouted for your talent by multiple companies, and having the confidence to command the salary you want. By setting the agenda for conversations with others in your industry, you inspire powerful introductions, and give momentum to your job search. Whatever your employment situation is, you want to ensure any conversation could potentially become a job lead. Your next job lead could come from an unexpected place. It could come from a networking event, an old colleague you ran into at the grocery store or a follow-up phone call from a new LinkedIn connection. Use these 7 steps to set an agenda for your conversations and forge meaningful connections that turn into job leads.

1. Do Your Research Beforehand:

Before you start a conversation you’ll first have to do your research. What does a company need, and how can you contribute to them with your skill set?

As you prepare for your conversation learn more about the person. Where does he or she work? Is their company your next ideal employer? Can they help introduce you to other influential people within your industry? When you have the chance to introduce yourself, demonstrate you’ve done the research by already knowing who they are and what they do. However, there is one caveat. If you claim to know too much about someone, it can come off a little creepy and make people run. Stick to what they publicly share. Mention the common connections you may have and direct the conversation toward mutual interests, hobbies and/or your industry. For instance, “Did you happen to read the latest blog by Google’s CTO? It raised some very interesting points about virtualization and security”. A compliment is always a fall-back approach, as long as it’s genuine.

The point is not to start a conversation off by broadcasting the fact that you’re looking for a job, or to only talk about yourself. Focus on sharing your industry-related opinions, insights and advice, while asking for theirs in return. You may have done your research before a conversation, but you can use the opportunity to learn more about them.

 

2. Hone Your Networking Pitch:

Your networking pitch can be thought of as a commercial about your professional brand. Create various pitches that are molded to the needs of various audiences. If you’re meeting an industry contact for coffee, have a specific pitch ready. If you’re meeting with recruiters and hiring managers at a networking event, use a completely different pitch. The length of your networking pitch can vary, depending on the situation or audience. If your time is limited, it might be 30 seconds. If you have a lot conversation time, it may be 90 seconds or longer. The “commercial” communicates who you are, what you’re looking for, and more importantly, how you can be beneficial to a person or their company. It should entice a person to learn more about you, and how you can help them. In other words, having a deep understanding of your skills, qualifications and other strengths, and knowing how you will be an asset to someone can help sell your brand.

Your networking pitch consists of two major parts:

1) A very short way to tell people about what you do by talking FIRST about the impact that you make. E.g., “I optimize career and income trajectories for corporate professionals and independent contractors by teaching them how to harness the power of personal branding and social media.”

2) Anecdotes that support four to six primary pillars of your brand. Look for cues in the conversation to recall these anecdotes.

These anecdotes sell your networking pitch and are a great opportunity to illustrate how your skills could help a person and/or their employer. Recall past achievements and bad situations you helped rectify. It could be the time company e-mails stopped working and you diligently stayed on top of the problem until it was solved. Or, you could mention the time you helped your employer save time and money by completing your last project early and on budget. When someone knows their employer has a problem that needs to be solved, you want to be the solution they think of first.

This is also a good time to illustrate your passion for the job. If you love waking up every morning to crunch numbers, and type out lines of code, convey this during your discussion. Show your passion for the industry by keeping abreast of news, and by mentioning some of the industry groups you’ve joined. If you have projects of passion you do outside of work, mention them. I have a friend who loves coding. During the day he works as a software engineer at a large cable company. In his free time, he loves to create apps that are useful to others. His latest app is a secure password generator that anyone can use for free. His love of software development is apparent to everyone who knows him. Likewise, your passion and excitement can be positively inspiring and contagious to others.

 

3. Ask Questions:

Learn even more about someone by asking them questions during your conversation. Job-related questions can consist of what they love about their job, or some of their favorite moments at work. You can even steer the conversation away from work-related questions. Ask them about the city they’re currently living in, a favorite sports team, or even a favorite musician. Those common connections will help break the ice and build a rapport. A good rule-of-thumb to remember is people love to talk about themselves.

 

4. Listen:

When you have a conversation it is important to not only ask questions, but to listen to what a person has to say. That person should have your undivided attention for the duration of a conversation. If you’re meeting in person, and your phone is buzzing, ignore it—except for an emergency. By listening, you may find out more about a person’s employer, their own employment situation and you can think of ways to be of assistance. You never know who has the power to give your career transition the extra push it may need.

In addition to listening, you can offer to help. They may need a referral from you, or another important favor. By helping others you can establish yourself as someone dependable and trustworthy. But people don’t always ask for help when they need it. It takes a little more work to find out how you can be of service, which brings us to our next step.

 

 5. Identify Needs:

Every person with whom you are in contact is working on SOMETHING, be it personal or professional, for which they could use some assistance. Use the conversation as a way to identify what this is, even if you are not sure yet how you can help. If a person doesn’t ask, you need to be an investigator and coach your contact to tell you where they need assistance. Think of it as giving people a way to help YOU help THEM. Your contact could need a referral, an introduction to someone in your network, or advice to help finish a project. Again, you may never know what they need unless you take the time to ask. Examples of what you can ask include, “What are you working on lately?” What are your company’s goals for 2015?” What do you think you’ll do after this position?” and even “Is there something you wish would be done already?”

 

6. Express Needs:

Identifying a person’s needs can evolve into expressing your own needs. Just as YOU need to know about someone’s needs before they can help you, THEY have to be encouraged to know your needs before they can help YOU. Make it a point to ASK the other person:

  1. A) If they know anyone in X company, especially (but not exclusively) in X department, and/or:
  2. B) If they have ever heard anyone complain about [insert problem you have resolved for your previous company or companies].

This is technically TRAINING your contacts to produce leads for you. This works much better than asking people if they know anyone hiring an [insert title]. People need guidance on how to coach people on what they need to succeed.  This step is one of the most valuable actions on this list. If you can only try ONE thing from this list, it is this. (Though, we expect that you are fully capable of doing all the suggestions at some point).

 

7. Follow-Up:

Shaking hands, listening, and telling people all about yourself won’t matter if you don’t follow up with them after a conversation. A follow-up is the perfect way to cement your name in the minds of the people with whom you connected. Keep track of who you talked to and e-mail them directly after your conversation with a “Thank you” note. A simple and quick e-mail that recaps the conversation and reminds them of the next meeting will suffice. If you want to leave a lasting impression, send them a handwritten “Thank you” note. A handwritten note can be strategic because it can sit on a person’s desk and is a visible reminder of a conversation. After that, give each of the attendees a call and invite them out for coffee. If you haven’t already connected with them on LinkedIn, do so. Do something proactively within a week to try to be of service or meet their needs. If there wasn’t a specific action item, follow up within two weeks. Schedule another follow up every month if you are in active job search mode, or every 3-6 months when you are not.

 

Here’s my challenge to you: Use this guide for three conversations next week and share with us in the comments section, on Twitter or Facebook what is generated as a result.

 

A focused agenda for any conversation with a contact in your industry, and a powerful introduction can take your job search to new heights. An inspiring introduction can lead to further conversations, friendships, referrals and job offers. You will have the opportunity to help others, forge strong connections, and unveil your brilliance. Recall my anecdote with Jack earlier. One conversation lead to multiple job offers. Imagine how one conversation can have a huge impact on your job search, confidence and momentum. One conversation can lead to a meeting, then two meetings, and then lead to five more meetings.  Suddenly, you’re in a bidding war and you’re eliciting job offers from multiple employers. Some of these offers, if not most, are unexpected. This confidence enables you to pick the opportunity that is best for you and ask for a salary more in alignment with your desired lifestyle.