Archives for introductions

Networking 401 for the Network-Disabled: Following Up 

If you have experienced moments as I described in posts from previous weeks (Networking 101, Networking 201, Networking 301), such as fears of being imposing, too aggressive, not interesting enough, etc., then following up will potentially, if not certainly, trigger more thoughts of the same.

Even if you felt as though there was a strong rapport and that the person seemed genuinely interested in connecting again, analysis paralysis can strike and cause procrastination, which may present in full-blown failure to follow up. This stage is where you determine the return on your investment of time, energy, and occasionally money, in your networking endeavors.

I’ve been prone to overthinking when needing to follow up, even though I’m consciously aware that the best practice is to follow up the next day while people’s memories are still fresh. If someone you met was wildly popular, I’d wait a couple of days for the eager beavers to filter through.

If you find yourself unable to follow up promptly, don’t abandon hope that you’ll be able to generate opportunity because you are late. Like being serendipitously late to an event, sometimes delays can benefit you. 

Firstly, if when you first met you mentioned a resource, introduction, or information that you thought would be immediately helpful, deliver it. Then ask the person to schedule a follow-up call or meeting. If you’re not able to deliver, then at least update them. Perhaps a follow-up conversation would help you deliver better.

The objective, once you have met someone digitally or in real life, is to allocate more time to get better acquainted. This can look like a lot of things, some of which you may even enjoy!  We are all time-starved. Rather than resorting to an email, where most people I know are over-flooded with incoming communications, see if there is a medium that is already a part of the person’s daily, weekly, or monthly flow – someplace they’ll already be, but where their attention isn’t diverted to too many other demands. 

WHERE TO FOLLOW UP:

In real life

If you both mentioned a love of hiking or some other activity, tie that into your next plans. Perhaps there is a group hike you can both attend where you can not only get to know each other better, but can also help each other meet other people.  

When one person I was introduced to told me that she couldn’t talk on a Tuesday because she was attending a flower show that I also had considered attending, I suggested we meet there. And we did. And we wound up spending a whole day together appreciating flowers and flower artisans. We were also able to write that flower show off as work expenses, along with the expenses of getting there. 

If this person works or lives somewhere near you or somewhere you want to go, you can double leverage your time and schedule other activities or errands, let them know and offer to go when they have time to meet. 

On social media

Perhaps personal interests didn’t come up. Do a bit of personal research. See what you can discern from social media. If you met someone and only talked business, invite them to connect on LinkedIn, but not Facebook or Instagram (unless their business is on Instagram.) You may not be on Twitter, but I have found that people who tweet regularly tend to divulge personal opinions you may not see them sharing on other social media.  If you think your audience isn’t using Twitter – think again. It takes but a minute to check. If they are on Twitter and tweet daily, this is the best way to catch them in the flow of their day.  

If you send a LinkedIn invitation to someone, you only have 300 characters. Not everyone is active on LinkedIn. If you see that your contact has only a few connections, little content in their profile, and no recent activity, they may not see your invitation for a while, if at all.  If this is the case, use a backup method. 

Phone/Texting

How many times do you answer your phone when you don’t know the number calling? Rarely, I’d bet, unless you are a busy salesperson. The art of calling people has really become the art of leaving a message. The rules are simple: don’t be a telemarketer. 

Often when I leave a message, I let the other person know that they can respond via text to let me know their availability to speak. I may also let them know that I will follow up with an email or LinkedIn message (if I know they use it daily). This gives them options to respond in a way that is most convenient for them. 

Video Conference

Though I don’t prefer it because when I don’t have meetings scheduled I like to save time by staying in leisure clothes (okay, pajamas), I accommodate requests to video chat because there is something deeper about looking at someone when you talk. It can be a bit awkward, however, with delays, cameras that don’t line up with your eyesight (so you look like you’re looking elsewhere), and technical difficulties.  It’s still the next best thing to meeting in person, and you don’t have to take time to travel anywhere (just to get camera-ready.)

All of the above

Ideally, somehow you are tracking all of your networking outreach efforts. (We have a toolkit for that). I suggest trying a variety of social media outlets. You may find success with one method where others have failed.  

HOW TO FOLLOW UP:

KISS

Write or say a sentence that reminds the person how and where you met, and why you decided to follow up, specifically how you think you can help each other. 

The logistics of making time to network are challenging for most people. You can make this easy and minimize the time needed to exchange communications just to schedule by sharing a scheduling link. Calend.ly offers free accounts where you can sync with your other calendars and provide people with a link that lets them book right on your schedule. Networking meetings by phone require 20 minutes. You may upgrade your account to also offer happy hour or coffee/lunch meetings that would be longer. You may also give them a choice between the two, but that’s not quite as simple. 

Yes, everyone has to eat. You can make that point. We all know, however, that eating takes much longer when you combine it with talking, so you turn a 30-minute lunch easily into a 90-minute lunch.

Add value

Send an article, information, event registration link, RFP link, LinkedIn profile link, or something else you suspect will be of value based on your brief meeting. 

HOW OFTEN/LONG TO FOLLOW UP:

12-call rule

I have had sales training that taught me that, statistically, it can take a salesperson 12 calls before securing a sale. Thinking about it, I believe I have worked with vendors who were patiently persistent, special emphasis on the “patiently.” If you have someone who has explicitly expressed an interest in what you offer, give them every chance you can to follow through. 

5-touch rule

Even for general networking, I would say that five attempts to contact someone are sufficient and that often four falls short. As explained by all of the above methods, don’t make touch-base using the same media every time. Maximize your chances of interrupting someone’s attention by using first what you think they use most often, but where you aren’t competing with many others for their attention. At least one of these methods should be a call. 

On the last attempt, just as a courtesy to them and out of consideration of their time, let them know it’s the last attempt. You probably wouldn’t believe how often I have seen this work. In fact, to quote contacts that I have reached out to on the 5th contact, as well as many other clients who I recommended follow through with one last (5th) attempt, the contacts said that they “appreciated the persistence.” Truly – people want to help. Everyone’s time and energy is being pulled by different priorities. Making that 5th attempt is a way to acknowledge that someone genuinely wants to connect/help/be helped, but has other priorities which you can empathize with. 

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS:

Target Company Sponsors and Informants

When one of your contacts has inside knowledge or influence to increase your chances of getting an interview (based on need, not necessarily a formal job posting,) do your homework before you take their time. Come up with five to seven questions, each of which your contact can answer in a minute or less. I suggest comparing what you learn about a company, opportunity, and boss with a set list of 25-50 criterions, including some must-haves and some ideal (jackpot) criteria.  Whatever you can’t determine through online research is potentially something you can learn from your contact. 

Someone willing to help you by giving you insight may or may not be willing to help you by getting your résumé to the hiring manager. Be direct in your request – “Would you be willing to make an introduction to the Director of Technology?” OR “I’ve tried applying already. Would you be willing to send my résumé directly to the hiring manager?” OR “Do you know who the hiring manager is on this?” I recommend you also ask if their company has a referral bonus program and if you can use their name as the person who referred you. 

Some may say “no” based their perceived influence, or lack thereof, their lack of relationship, or lack of access to the hiring manager. Some companies have policies that prevent this. It’s not always about their willingness to help. Again, be empathetic here. If they can’t help you by sponsoring you (being the source of your referral into the company or introducing you to the hiring manager), ask them how most of the people who are hired make their way in, NOT the best way to apply. Applying always implies a website these days; that’s the answer you’ll get. 

Respect people’s time/schedule

If you say you are only asking for XX minutes, make sure that you only take XX minutes. Keep your eye on the time and let them know when you only have a couple of minutes left. If by the end of that time you feel that you have only scratched the surface, suggest that you pick a new time right then and there to continue the conversation, and suggest that you allocate more time next time, and perhaps combine it with a meal or activity. 

Tickler

The same way I hope you are tracking your outreach activities and contacts, I hope that you have a way to remind yourself to follow up with people every so often. Within the month of your follow up meeting, then every three months is a good best practice, but not always possible. Some people you may not follow up with for another 6 months. Make a note of when their busy season is and try to avoid following up then.  

This is the last article in the Networking for the Networking-Disabled series. If you have not read those, click on the following links: Networking 101, Networking 201, Networking 301.

I hope that you are inspired and feel better prepared to start expanding your sphere of influence and fulfillment.  It does get more comfortable the more you do it, and you’ll definitely feel more motivated once you have some great outcomes resulting from your efforts. Imagine those outcomes now. What kind of magic do you want networking to make possible in your life?

Blondie – Call Me (Official Video)

Official video of Blondie performing Call Me from the soundtrack of the movie American Gigolo. #Blondie #CallMe #Vevo

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

Step 6 to Career Happiness: Refine! It is and it isn’t a Numbers Game

Numbers by MorebyLess of Flickr

 

A lot of people do not follow step five to happiness, asking for help, because they assume that the reasons they are not able to land the job that they want after making a concerted effort are beyond their control, or worse, that the problem is them. In other words, they feel beyond help. This is a dangerous and wildly inaccurate perspective, because it can lead to hopelessness and depression.

There has been a trend in the past year on LinkedIn I have been watching with concern. Against personal branding best practices, people are pouring their heart out about their despair in their status updates, as comments on other viral status updates, or even calling out people that they blame for their situation.

Even though most get what they seek with these actions, sympathy, encouragement, sometimes even advice or offers to help, there is a detriment to doing this, which I cover in my vlog, Get Interviews Through Your Network – The #1 Key Ingredient Most People Are Missing. However, some advice people give is good, and some of it, unfortunately, can actually make people feel worse in the end.

The advice that can be most damaging is that it is a numbers game. By the time someone has gone seeking advice online, they have usually already exhausted themselves replying to anything and everything for which they could possibly be a fit.

To hear that they just have to sustain that somehow can be very daunting. And, I do not think I need to repeat the definition of insanity.

What they really need to hear is that some of their activities are going to produce really great results, and when they discover what that is they do not have to spend nearly as much time and effort getting those results.

To be clear, the results you want to see in your job transition of course are interviews, but not just any interviews. Interviews are a big expenditure of our effort and energy. To do them right you have to do a lot of research, practicing and mentally practicing, making yourself look and feel professional, and then there is the adrenaline needed to just travel there and get through the interview. Then, of course, there is the energy that you spend after the interview wondering how you did, when you will hear something, when the appropriate time to follow up is, do you even want this opportunity, did they like you… On and on.

While momentum in your job transition does look like multiple viable opportunities in play at the same time, the key is “viable.” Judiciously give time and energy for opportunities that are a good fit for you and you for them.

Backing up a few steps, other results that indicate that you are doing the right activities, are introductions to other people relevant to your goals, whether they be in a target company or not. Even one introduction to someone who is well-connected can lead to multiple high-quality leads, if you can teach them how to develop those leads for you.

That is the other key – not only do you have to do the right activities, but you have to do them in the right way.

Though many people do not know what the right activities are and what the right way to engage and execute is, anyone can learn them. It is also true that this can differ from person-to-person based on individual goals, challenges, and strengths.

You can discover these on your own, which means instituting a good activity tracking system that also tracks your results, evaluating that on a regular basis, and experimenting with and tweaking your activities.

I estimate that if you were disciplined with inputting your activities, strong with data analysis, and bold enough to try various activities, that with some trial and error, you could be much more productive and efficient by week five or six.

If you do not have five or six weeks for trial and error, you do not consider yourself disciplined, strong in analysis, or bold by nature, but you are coachable, you can be more productive and efficient in half the time by engaging a career coach like me who has the systems, tools, expertise, and a strong track record of results.

Besides the pragmatics of your activities and what you do, there is also another how that must be addressed, because some people are doing the right activities, but who they are does not inspire the action of others. I’m not trying to say that people are being wrong, but what I am saying is that some people are not being their full, complete selves. Before you invest in a coach, you have to find one with whom you can be completely open and vulnerable, otherwise your investment could be in vain. A coach worthy of your investment will be able to identify and promptly, compassionately share with you when you are not thinking or acting in your highest good. Furthermore, besides tools and systems to help you and your activities, they will also offer tools and systems to help you heal and restore so you show up as a person that you would hire.

So, while you know you are doing the right things in the right ways from the right frame of mind when you have multiple viable opportunities in play, the key is to getting there is not to continue activities at a high volume for the sake of activity.

If you have come to an unfortunate and inaccurate conclusion based on lack of results that you are the problem, please have a free consultation with me. You are actually whole, complete, and perfect by nature, though you may have been taught and believe otherwise. You do enough, you have enough, and you are enough. You may need some help accepting that, or you may not have answered the call to adventure that is true to you.

 

Success and happiness is yours for the taking.

This is the final part of my six-part series. If you have missed previous entries please see steps one, two, three, four, and five.

 

2 Common Networking Mistakes and a Formula to Train Your Network to Be a Job Lead Generation Army

Networking by Greentech Media of Flickr

Networking by Greentech Media of Flickr

I seem to repeat this almost every day – you cannot be everything to everyone.

You can try, but you will eventually fall short in something. It becomes very difficult to maintain the persona of someone who is equally strong in a diverse range of competencies. Even if you land the job (and it may be appealing to smaller companies and start-ups, if that is your TRUE brand), it may not keep you employed when a company feels that your competencies have been misrepresented. It also may hurt future transitions if you have to explain why your former employer may not be a positive reference for you.

Branding is the opposite of being everything to everybody. An effective brand distinguishes an individual or a company as having unique qualities that appeal to a particular cross-section of the population or demographic based on their needs or wants, also known as a niche.  Companies can execute different branding strategies for different demographics. You might notice that a phone company will air a much different ad on Lifetime than it will on Spike. However, LinkedIn has been very strict about their users only having one profile. As a job seeker, you will actually prolong your job search if you diversify your brand to reach several different employer audiences.

For employers, there is greater risk in hiring people who present themselves as the perfect fit for all their needs. In this market, the candidate whose qualifications and motivations can be trusted will be able to compete more effectively for an open position, and their future performance can be more accurately assessed. In order to instill trust, be honest about what your strengths are and what skills you want to develop further. Prominently identify the qualities or skill sets that distinguish you as a top candidate without making assumptions about the caliber of talent the company already represents.

Many people recognize that networking is the number one transition activity that helps people get hired. However, even people that network fanatically may not be developing the volume of job leads that they would like. There are two major mistakes I see most people making in networking that prevent them from being able to leverage this activity to generate momentum.

 

Networking mistake #1

It may sound counterintuitive, but not being specific and concise enough for network contacts will actually narrow the number of leads that your network produces for you. Your contacts need to walk away from the conversation understanding how to recognize a good job lead.  The chances of your contacts coming across an open position for your job title is so much slimmer than them conversing with someone who has a problem you can solve.

 

Networking mistake #2

Asking for favors is not the way to inspire people to make powerful introductions for you. A call to action is much more likely to have a positive response when the individual being called upon to act has a clear understanding of the mutual benefits of an introduction. People want to connect you so that they can help both you and their network contacts.

 

Flip your networking script

Think of network branding as training your contacts to be lead developers for you. Do not use industry lingo if they are not savvy. Do not run down your whole employment history. Tell them what they will remember, such as why companies have hired you in the past and what problems you can solve for a company. Demonstrate the mutual benefit of connecting you to your network’s contacts.

I have seen many formulas for 30-second commercials, but Margaret Lynch’s “Captivate From The Start” formula is the most impactful, by far. Though it was designed for coaches, and was a product of training that SHE received as an EFT practitioner, she decided to pass it on to coaches in her tribe, and I must share the concept with you.

It starts with understanding the pain of your audience. People are motivated to take action primarily by two things: avoiding future pain and ending current pain, with the more dominant driving force being the latter. As a job seeker, you’ll want to think about why the position you want exists, or why it should (because it might not). What business needs does the position fulfill? When it is not filled, or when it is not filled by the right person, what pain results, and for whom? What are the costs of this job not being done well?

Let your network contacts know who would be impacted, and that is a sign to them as to whom an introduction would be beneficial. Tell them two or three things that your target would experience that would be a sign that they have needs you can fulfill, and then give them an idea of the results you can bring about for them.

For example:

I help business leaders and engineering teams who have difficulties launching on time because they are not agreeing on product specifications that understand each other and the customer needs, so that products are launched with minimal bugs, with as little time and budget as possible, and with the highest satisfaction ratings possible.

It seems like a mouthful, but would you be able to find a lead for this professional?

To turn this 30-second commercial into a 60-second commercial, think about why you are the right person to fill this position. What evidence do you have to present that proves that, among people with similar qualifications, you add something uniquely valuable that will make the resolution of the pain faster, greater, or more pleasant? What was one major problem you resolved for one major initiative that you were pivotal in making successful?

Once you get the lead and someone encourages you to contact a VIP in his or her network, follow up, even if the opportunity does not seem like it is a fit. Be forthcoming if that is the case, and always offer to be a resource to your network and the network they make available to you.

 

Train for long-term retention with something tactile

Of course, not everyone learns audibly, so it is wise to have something you can leave behind, whether it is a business card that has comparable information on it, or, even better, a one page networking profile. These are becoming more standard for executive networking groups, and yet I find them to be not much more interesting than a résumé for the average reader.

People crave speedy, visual information. Not only do infographics make information easier to understand, and more fun to read and share, but they make it more memorable. If you really want to wow your contacts, give them something they will be excited to show their contacts and engage us to create your one page networking infographic.

 

Words are the most powerful force we have as a species. By changing what you say in your networking conversations, you will multiply the number of opportunities that people send your way. Furthermore, these opportunities may not look exactly like job openings that thousands of other people are vying to fill. They will most likely more often look like people who need you and are eager to find out how you can ease their pain. In turn, your pain will be relieved. Interviewing will be more productive and more fun, and will more likely result in a job offer.  The job offers you receive are more likely to be for positions that fully utilize your talents and experience. Because you will have the leverage of having a solution to an immediate need, negotiating will be that much easier and more successful. Use this formula to lubricate the tracks to success and accelerate toward a successful job landing.

 

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.

Will a LinkedIn upgrade help you drive more business?

Linkedin pen by Sheila Scarborough of Flickr

Linkedin pen by Sheila Scarborough of Flickr

Jamie asks:

I need to find a way to drive more business. Is a LinkedIn subscription worth it? It seems like a lot of money. If they charged half the regular rate, I might pull the trigger.

Suggestions?

 

Our response:

Jamie,

If you use LinkedIn based its purpose and best practices, you don’t need a subscription. It is a networking tool, and enables you to expand your network while offering you expanded visibility of your network’s network. The term “network” implies that you have some kind of relationship your connections. The best way to get to know someone new is to have someone you already know well make a warm introduction. LinkedIn is the best tool available to facilitate this.

It is a slow and steady process intended to produce quality leads as opposed to a high quantity of leads, though momentum can take as little as two weeks to increase from below a 5 (on a 10-scale from low to high) to above a 5.

If you want to use LinkedIn as a lead generation tool, you want to make sure that you can be found and that your content is rich in keywords used IN CONTEXT, in addition to a completed skills list. Increase your visibility by engaging with the community and using features, such as status updates and group discussions, to give assistance and valuable information to your network. Once visitors find your profile, you then have to ensure that your LinkedIn profile gives them insight into what it is like to work with you, what contribution your are driven to make, and what kind of impact that has on a companies and individuals. Tell people what you can do to help them and make sure they know how to help you.

Since your LinkedIn profile shows up very high in google results when someone searches for your name, even if someone finds your information on other sites or is referred to you by a friend or colleague, you can be certain most will check out your LinkedIn profile to qualify you and look for clues as to what kind of common ground you might have with them or values you share.

Our free webinar, Learning LinkedIn in 7 Days, breaks out in more detail how to develop your LinkedIn profile to present your brand powerfully to your target audience and how to use the features for lead generation and network nurturing. Also, an added value of investing in our webinar, Insider Edge to Social Media – 3 Success Secrets to Getting Hired, is a comprehensive review of the Business and Job Seeker upgrade packages.

Thank you for your question, Jamie. I hope this information helps you unveil your brilliance!