Archives for “professional network”

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.

 

Networking for the Introvert

Dell Women's-Entrepreneur Network 2014 Austin by Dell Inc. on Flickr

Dell Women’s-Entrepreneur Network 2014 Austin by Dell Inc. on Flickr

 

Do you enjoy solitude? Do you keep a small group of close friends? Does being around large groups of people become exhausting? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be an introvert. According to Psychology Expert Kendra Cherry, introversion is a personality trait characterized by a focus on internal feelings, rather than relying on external sources of stimulation.

If you’re an introvert, you may prefer to keep to yourself or spend time with small crowds of people. The idea of meeting strangers at a networking event may strike you as an incredibly dreadful task. It’s a departure from your comfort zone as you set out into the unknown. On top of being nervous, the pressure to make meaningful connections can cause knots to form in your stomach. There are times when it’s easy to make friends, and other times when it’s a monumental task. I just sent my daughter to kindergarten on Monday. The first day of school is like the first time my clients go to a networking event after I have coached and prepped them. Ultimately, I know they’re brilliant, have a lot to offer, and they will eventually meet the right people. I’ve given them the tools they need to convert these connections into job momentum. However, I still fear someone will break their heart or spirit. It’s hard enough putting yourself out there, and I want their networking experience to be validating and uplifting.

Recognizing your own strengths as an introvert can make networking enjoyable. There are a variety of tactics you can use to make connections and gain momentum in your job search.

 

Preparation makes perfect

Do your homework before attending any networking event. Plan out an agenda for the day and focus on who you want to talk to, how many people you’re comfortable meeting, and what outcomes you want from each conversation. Take a moment to mentally rehearse your conversations. To make starting conversations easier, write out your thoughts and questions ahead of time. Also, consider a few ice breakers, such as asking about current events that are relevant to event attendees. Asking about current events is a great way to learn, in addition to establishing yourself as an industry leader with whom people will want to keep in touch. (Keep the topics neutral and steer clear of political or religious events.) Prepare a list of questions on professional topics and trends for industry events. If you’re nervous, it may be difficult to remember what you want to say, you can maintain focus by putting your thoughts on paper, or in your phone’s notes app.

If possible, obtain a list of attendees and research them prior to the event. You may find some people to be more interesting than others. Make a note of the people who interest you and spend time with them during the event.

You can make approaching people easier by:

  • Hanging out by the refreshment area and meeting people there. It is an area where most people will naturally gravitate to and it takes less effort to approach them.
  • Meeting people while in the bathroom allows you to escape from the crowds and have a (mostly) private conversation. One caveat: You don’t want to get stuck having an entire conversation in the bathroom or make the other person feel cornered. If a conversation starts in the bathroom, keep it brief, or move it elsewhere.
  • Look for lone attendees and strike up a conversation with them. Without having to complete with attention from other attendees it may be easier to connect. Break the ice by opening with how difficult it can be to start a conversation. Then steer the conversation toward industry-related events.
  • It may even be possible to connect online with a person of interest you researched before the event to let them know ahead of time that you would like to meet.

 

Get to know others

Ask people about themselves, as this can open multiple conversational doors. Try talking about any mutual interests. If you’ve researched a person ahead of time and are now seeking them out, you can learn about their interests through their social media profiles. Let them know you’ve read about them online and how your interests align. For example, you both may be avid fans of a particular sport, a music group, a book series, or you both may feel exceptionally passionate about your work. If you’re just meeting a person for the first time, ask about their interests and share whatever you have in common. As you start conversations, don’t forget to be a good listener. Also, ask others for their advice and opinions.

 

Don’t go alone

Consider bringing a friend along to a networking event. Attending events in pairs enables both parties to promote each other rather than having to promote yourself. If your friend is more extroverted, he or she may be able to take the lead and aid you in making introductions. This feels more comfortable to a lot of people, and by enabling other people to build excitement about your value, you’ll be able to prepare for the meat of the conversation. That is, how you can demonstrate your value to others, discover any problems a person may have by asking questions and offering a solution. Your friend also can discuss how you have helped them and vice versa.

 

Asking about employment is expected

If you’re actively looking for a job, ask others what you can do for them. Find out what projects they’re working on and if you’re able to assist them. The point is to learn about others and to demonstrate your value, which is a key part of building your network and obtaining interviews. It’s okay to mention that you’re looking for a job and asking for support, resources, and introductions. These types of requests are what people expect from networking events. Pinpoint exactly what you need so others can help you, and make requests as a standard part of your agenda for all networking conversations after you’ve offered to help someone.

 

Keep it brief

Hans Eysenck, a German psychologist theorized that the brains of introverts process more information per second than extroverts and high simulation environments can overwhelm and exhaust an introvert. Arrive early, so you can stay ahead of the crowd and leave early or take a break before feeling exhausted. Introverts can feel like they’re expending a lot of energy at networking situations or even at parties. In contrast, extroverts often feel their energy rising in large crowds. Introverts need to recharge once they feel a drop in energy, or they risk not putting their best self forward.

Lingering too long with one person can bring on boredom and a sense of discomfort, but you also want to create a worthwhile connection. Only you can determine the length of time that feels appropriate. Focus on having meaningful conversations with people you feel synergy with and stay with them until you feel comfortable moving on to the next person. After you make your connection, schedule a follow-up. Try to commit to a date on the calendar. If this isn’t possible, then give a commitment about when the follow-up will occur. This may be as simple as e-mailing a few dates on good times to connect during the week. If you’re responsible for initiating the follow-up, make note of the commitment before moving to the next person. Also, take notes to keep track of each new person you meet and jot down a few points from your discussion. This will make the process of following up easier.

 

Think outside the usual networking box

Try networking at smaller venues if large crowds make you extremely uncomfortable. I often gradually introduce networking to my introverted clients. Their comfort zones are continually expanded until they feel more comfortable in a large group setting. Some clients have so much success with small groups that they never have to subject themselves to larger groups. (There are benefits to networking with larger groups that I’ll get to in a moment.) Networking doesn’t always look like a lot of people gathering for professional reasons. Gatherings to engage in hobbies can enable faster rapport and deeper relationships. The difference between networking and hanging out is that these relationships are leveraged for professional gains. That is, nourishing and nurturing your network in order to reap the by-product of a bountiful harvest that comes in the form of leads for new opportunities. There’s is nothing wrong with this type of networking, as many people love to help, especially people they like.

In order to help your network grow, you can create a powerfully branded value statement.  A value statement informs others about your priorities, professional beliefs, and goals. This statement helps people quickly understand what you do, for whom you do it, and how they can present a great opportunity for you.

Small crowds and one-on-one meet-ups still count as networking. You can network without ever having to be in a large group of strangers, but by avoiding large crowds, you risk limiting your expansion and exposure to opportunities. I encourage you to try meeting with a large group of people twice, then practice twice more and by the fifth time you’ll feel a lot more confident, as long as you are approaching it from the perspective of meeting and making new friends. I have some clients start small and work their way up to larger events.

 

By playing to your strengths, networking can become manageable and even enjoyable for introverts. Can you imagine the joy of connecting with new people who share similar interests to you and are a part of your industry? Can you imagine mastering networking in your own way? New doors can open and those open doors can bring job momentum and the ability to land faster. When people become skilled, avid networkers, they achieve what we call “Career Autopilot,” or the ability to be sought out by employers and quickly land the job of their choice.

Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think – LinkedIn’s group policy

I created a group on LinkedIn called “Give Us More Groups.” What’s ironic? Well, I had to leave a group to create the group. Also, so have all or most of the members.

What else? LinkedIn sent me group alert.

LI group alert

Really? There are a TON of groups I would LOVE to join.

Why? Am I a spammer?

Apparently, as long as I blog there are certain people who think so. (Or rather there is one individual who is speaking for some unidentified population of people he assumes shares his opinion.) Apparently there are some (or at least one) who feels that blogging and “serial” sharing has “absolutely zero engagement,” and, therefore, is as good as spam. I wonder, though how they (he) keep up with emerging trends in their (his) industry? I wonder how they (he) decide which services and products to trust.

A different individual had shared concerns about using LinkedIn groups for spamming – a legitimate concern. He felt that anything you would want to do professionally with in the acceptable terms of LinkedIn could be done with 50 groups, to which I replied:

I think you’ll agree that our professions require us to be very dynamic in order to be effective. We should be immersed in marketing groups, business development groups, social media groups, various industry groups, unemployment groups, recruiting groups, human resources groups, and on and on. You must be aware of just how many job groups there are alone! (35,638) I don’t think we should join all of them. Actually, I share your point-of-view about having quality interactions versus harvesting contact information. I even have a vlog about it: http://bit.ly/chavlog2 – Why not to accept LinkedIn invitations from people you don’t know.

I cannot speak for the people who have spoken to you about their intent to “harvest” more connections, but doing so seems to be explicitly written into the purposes of LinkedIn: to “meet, exchange ideas, learn, make deals, find opportunities or employees, work, and make decisions in a network of trusted relationships and groups.” A lot of people misunderstand my intent with my vlog; they think I only want to connect with people I already know. That is NOT the intention of LinkedIn. I want to know my connections AND invest time in getting to know new people BEFORE they join my network. I think what you are concerned about is that people will skip the critical step of building relationships with people they add to their network or that they will simply add these contacts to some large SPAM database, which would go against social networking, networking, and business development best practices.

Furthermore, if part of the mission of LinkedIn is to learn, it can also be understood that part of the mission is to teach. Rarely do I promote a product or service on LinkedIn, and when I do I use the appropriate channels. I very often, however, use it to disseminate news, advice and FREE resources to my target audience. Even this is not welcome in some groups, and I respect that.

The whole reason LinkedIn has an interest section is so that people can find common ground, an impetus for building rapport. That is why there are groups related to personal interests and professional interests alike. Once you have something personal to share, creating professional synergy is that much easier.

My life is as diverse as my profession. I want to engage with professionals who are also musicians, like me. I want to share my passion for my sports teams with other people on LinkedIn. I want to learn tips from other work-at-home parents. I need to connect with other real estate stakeholders to get deals done. I want to know what mistakes people are making in their investments that can save me from losing my shirt. I want to be able to be a part of local political issues. I’d like to know what other people who are trying gluten-free diets are craving, and how they overcome it.

There was more, about how LinkedIn groups could really help me facilitate enrichment exchanges with diverse groups. This is something I see Google+ doing better than LinkedIn, and could be a reason people turn to it rather than LinkedIn. For us as users, there is no problem in using various social media for different purposes, as long as our desired communities adopt the same social media. However, for any social media platform, you have to know your audience and capture as much of their time as possible for growth stability. This is where I think LinkedIn is failing. In many ways, they have hit a peak and are leaving plenty of room for a new, better, more powerful platform to emerge and take over as the professional social media of choice.

What do you think? Do you think that my intended purpose oversteps LinkedIn’s stated mission? “To connect the world’s professionals to enable them to be more productive and successful….we make services available…to help you, your connections, and millions of other professionals meet, exchange ideas, learn, make deals, find opportunities or employees, work, and make decisions in a network of trusted relationships and groups.”