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Networking 101 for the Network-Disabled: 9 Places to Find Networking Events for Beginners

Last week I shared that I was painfully friend-disabled in grade school and explained how I expanded my horizons and developed greater self-awareness and self-confidence.  These were lessons I carried with me to college, where I continued to be involved in various kinds of on and off-campus communities.

However, upon graduating I moved to the Jersey shore for a guy and my social circle was essentially his social circle.  I was working as a temp full-time, which created challenges in deepening my relationships with co-workers, and then also worked part-time several nights a week and weekends at a radio station. Time to expand my horizons into new communities was limited and I fell out of the habit. When the relationship started to deteriorate I tried living more independently. I moved into an apartment with a few strangers who were in very different stages of life than me when I was 21 years old. The woman who sublet to me, Denise, was 35-years old, one of my roommates, Frank, was 38-years old, and another, Jimmy, was 47 years old.  I imagine most readers would relate more to my roommates than me. Imagine living with the millennial at work. Now imagine that millennial was in an high-drama relationship.  The more my roommates tried to impart wisdom, the more I resisted. In the end, making new friends like the ones I had, failed. After a year in New Jersey, I made zero long-term friends. When the 6-month temp assignment ended I decided it was time to move back home, change careers, and end the relationship.

When I got back home I landed a job where they provided excellent sales and management training, but required you to work long days and cut people out of your life who were “neggin you out,” or being negative about the prospects of success in that job, which was commission-only. It was cultish. I reconnected with my old friend groups and fell out of the habit, and even awareness, of expanding my horizons and integrating with new groups…until years later when I was a junior IT recruiter and was advised to start networking.

It was like I forgot how to do this. I started by asking my co-workers where to network. They pointed me to some professional tech groups. One focused on individuals in tech and the other was a corporate membership base.   At the first meeting, I was asked to stand and give a 30-second commercial.  I spent the first half-hour terrified, trying to think of the perfect thing to say only to stumble and shake through it. People were friendly and forgiving though. I realized after a few events that people who go to these events WANT to meet other people, for the most part, and will either approach you or be approachable.

It’s okay to not jump in headfirst, instead dip your toes in the water and gradually expand your comfort zone. You’ll be less likely to procrastinate or put off networking if you do this.

There are several different events that you can participate in, including industry events, role-based events, geographically-based events, mission-oriented events, special interest events, culture-specific events, gender-specific events, and general events.

Source 1: Brainstorm

Have you ever used a brainstorming map? There are multiple tools available that will help you do this (we included one used to identify networking communities with our Dream Job Breakthrough System.)

Remember the song: Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day? With a piece of paper or the computer in front of you (using one of the many brainstorming tools available as an option) record the various communities of which you are a member.

Some of these people could include, your family, a group of friends, people you know through school, jobs, activities/hobbies, friends of other friends, your neighborhood, your town, civic groups, your kids’ or parents’ connections, etc. Highlight groups that have their own events, then highlight in a different color communities that don’t have organized gatherings, but that you would attend events if there were events.

Then make another list of interests, hobbies, causes, and topics close to your heart, whether you actively engage in them currently or not. Highlight the items in this list as you did before. You may need to do some research to determine if they do, indeed, have events. Future steps will help you with that.

Level-up tip:

Keep networking options open to include activities and topics that you enjoy. Statistics show most leads come from networking with contacts who are not necessarily in the same industry or profession, but rather who are people you connect with on a personal level. The key is knowing how to leverage the opportunity to share your professional goals and values. This is a naturally evolving subject once rapport is established. Future blogs will go into more detail.

 Source 2: Ask your co-workers, former co-workers, and friends in your industry/profession where they network

If you attend an event with someone, don’t stay attached to them, instead, work in partnership. Tell each other who you are there to meet and work as a partnership to find each other referrals. In fact, asking questions is not just easier than talking about yourself when you’re new to networking, but it’s a superior way to add value to your network.

Level-up tip:

Ask everyone you meet who they are there to meet, and proactively try to make connections for those you meet as well. After you spend a short amount of time learning from each other what you’re up to professionally, telling them you will send people their way if you find someone is a great, polite way to punctuate a networking conversation – I have found that to be the most awkward networking moment.

Source 3: Google it

This seems so obvious, but clients and students have been unclear with what keywords to use to find events. There are different types of events you can choose to attend, but it’s good to start with the one that feels less intimidating.

This is where the brainstorming map and the lists of events can be of assistance. The first criteria is location, meaning where you want to generate opportunities. If you plan on relocating, you’ll want to compile a list of events and discover when the best ones overlap in a time span so that you can plan your travel.  Traveling close to home is preferred for most people, but if your mission is to expand your horizons and you live in a small town, you may need to expand your geographic search to your county or several surrounding counties. Then add keywords related to your current or desired industry, profession/role, hobbies, causes, interests, topics, etc.

Level-up tip:

Boolean searches can help you search by multiple zip codes, but you may just find it easier to look for sites that aggregate events. EventUpon is such a site. EventUpon aggregates from other event posting sites, such as MeetUp and EventBrite, and from organizations, which I’ll talk about next.

 Source 4: EventUpon

If you have a free day and are looking to fill up your calendar space with an event, EventUpon is a great tool. You can also integrate with various calendar and scheduling apps you may already use.  If you have a favorite event venue, you may also be able to set up an alert for their events. I have found a few bugs with the geographic filters on Safari, which don’t appear right now to let you set a certain mile radius around a zip code, though it looks as though this feature was intended.

Level-up tip:

Like a job board, you can set up agents that will alert you to ongoing networking opportunities fitting your criteria.

Source 5: MeetUp

MeetUp has become a very popular site for many professional organizations with various chapters and subgroups that meet in-person, though it does support virtual events, such as webinars, as well. It’s also great for people with eclectic interests and hobbies. You might think you have alternative tastes until you search for groups related to them and find other people are organizing around the same topic.

Again, this is not just for professional interests. I am in groups related to mindset, books, animals, adventure, sports, side hustles, health, etc.  You usually have to join a group to see their event calendar, and many groups ask you to fill out some bio information, however, this is based on group admin preferences. Joining a group doesn’t necessarily obligate you to attend a meeting, but I have found some group admins are strict about their members attending or engaging and they may drop you if you fail to attend an event or if you RSVP to events with attendee limits and do not show up, for obvious reasons.

Some events are free, but the groups are not free to run and neither are events, so some will have paid events or promote donating to subsidize costs.

Level-up tip:

If you search for something and find that there is no actively running group right now, but it may tell you how many other people in your area have searched for the same thing. If you feel strongly about the subject, you might decide to set up a group yourself. LinkedIn’s group feature is a good option for this, however, there is a fee to running a LinkedIn group, which is currently $15/month. If you can afford this, try organizing your own group. You would have to think about where to meet, what kind of people you want to attract and the content that would attract those people, and the format of your meetings. You’ll also have to think about how to manage and maintain quality engagement in your community and how to deal with people who violate the safety and respect of your community.

Source 6: LinkedIn

Unlike Facebook, which has an event feature (and is another way to look for events), finding events on LinkedIn is trickier. You have to first search for organizations and event organizers, follow them, and stay on top of your home feed and notifications. You can crowdsource information there by using your status update to ask your network for advice on worthwhile events to attend.

Groups are one of the most powerful LinkedIn features, but not all groups enjoy high engagement and value. Look at profiles of people who have achieved what you aspire to achieve and see what groups they are in. Do this by scrolling all the way to the bottom where it shows interests and click “See All.” Links to groups will be found in a tab at the top of the window.

Level-up tip:

Help them help you by letting them know what you hope to get out of these events – the kinds of opportunities you want to generate, the kinds of people you want to meet, and the kinds of things you want to learn. It’s more haphazard, but doing this will also help you stay top of your connections and may generate additional engagement, leading to greater rapport and synergy.

Source 7: FaceBook Groups and Events

If you are on Facebook, you may only think about personal connections. You may even want to keep your personal and professional circles separate. That’s a personal choice you are free to make, however, it does limit your potential to generate opportunities. Assuming you want to cross-pollenate your spheres of influence, maximize opportunities, and find events that will be more comfortable, maybe even fun, you will search three places: Groups, Pages, and Events.

Groups may be closed, private, or open. Closed means an admin has to approve you. Private means it won’t show up in a search – you have to be invited. Open means anyone can join by clicking a button. Due to the nature of social media exchanges these days, most groups I engage in are closed or private. Here you can also look for professional, geographic, or special interest topics.

You can search for events, which I recommend if you happen to have a particular open spot on your calendar and you want to see what is happening at that particular time.

It’s difficult to hear people at certain kinds of events, particularly listening-room type music or movies. Go, but don’t expect to get much networking done. Find events where there are more interactive activities, such as art shows and community fairs.

Level-up tip:

See which of your friend have either said they were going to an event or are interested in going. Touch base and let them know that you’re hoping to meet new people and generate opportunities, but would like a buddy to network with.

Source 8: EventBrite

Many organizations use EventBrite for the ease of ticketing, payment integration, and social media sharing.  It automates confirmations and has other features, but it also has good searching capabilities, as it has a full list of events by categories which you can search through. Try searching through all categories that align with your interests, not just the professional ones.

You can also search for events that are free versus paid, in case you have a low budget for networking.

Level-up tip:

Still search for paid events, even if you have a low or no budget. You can contact the organizer and offer to volunteer in lieu of the attendance fee. You may not be able to get all the content of that event as a volunteer, but you have an elevated position of visibility to the attendees and the organizers. It gives you the chance to demonstrate how you add value, rather than just telling people how you add value, which can generate better opportunity

Source 9: Business Journals

Business Journals have directories and lists of companies, organizations, etc that hold and promote events. There are a lot of great ways to get value from a subscription to your closest city’s business journal.  However, you don’t have to have a paid subscription, you can just sign up for a daily or weekly digest and get notifications about events.  Some of these events can be pricey, so you may want to find out who in your network works for a company that is investing in a table, and then see if the company has an open seat, or tell them that you’d like to go in case someone can’t go at the last minute. These events will put you right in the middle of people who are game-changers or movers and shakers in business. Unless you go and talk to no one, it would be hard to not gain value from attending.

 Level-up tip:

When Business Journals announce award winners, grants, or fundraiser winners, use LinkedIn to send the person a congratulatory message and invitation to connect. Let them know that you’d like to learn how you can help them get the most traction from the publicity and invite them to a brief call or coffee. If someone is being honored at an event, contact them ahead of time and ask them if they’d like to meet before or after. You may also check out the corporate sponsors and speakers to do the same.

Once you get the hang of navigating networking events, you may also want to look into industry conferences at your local Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, Toastmasters International chapters, or Business Networking International chapters (for business owners or sales representatives), and more.

Next week we’ll talk about how to best prepare for a networking event so that you can show up as your best self and leverage it optimally.

The Chi-lites “Have you seen her”

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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.

What to Say When You Follow Up

Research by teresaphillips1965 on Flickr

Analysis paralysis is a phenomenon that happens when you hesitate taking action until you have enough data, which is an enigma.

It’s valuable to do research before reaching out to an employer. There are some things you should know: the leaders, the customers, the products and services, the current and short-term future initiatives, and the culture, etc.

Once you reach out, however, many job seekers fail to follow up, and miss the opportunity to get the application and/or résumé read.

Analysis paralysis is sometimes at fault. It can also be fear or not wanting to be perceived as too aggressive or annoying, which is also fear. Often I hear it’s not knowing what to say, and how to come off as enthusiastic versus desperate.

This post assumes you have sent your individual (versus group copied) thank you notes to all who were involved in getting you to that stage AND that you asked before the conclusion of your interview what the next steps and timeline is.

I don’t assume that you invited everyone to connect with you on LinkedIn with a customized message because very few people do this. That is because most people think of an interview as transactional instead of potentially transformational.

That is true of job search networking in general. Many people have a “What can you do for me now” perspective, which limits success in the short term, but more importantly in the long term. If you invest more time diversifying and deepening your network, making anything happen becomes a matter of making some calls and scheduling some meetings.

So, within 48 hours of your interview, you have sent individual thank yous and customized LinkedIn invitations. Then let’s say you were told that there would be some news about next steps sometime next week. Schedule your follow up for the following Wednesday (generally 2-3 days after you expect to hear, or 7-10 days after the interview.)

During these days, set google alerts for each person, and the company if you hadn’t done that during your target company research prior to the interview.

Look for signs of what they tend to like, share or engage on their LinkedIn profile. Start taking note of what is engaging each person, and watch the company pages and profiles. Compile a mini-library of articles that may be of interest to each person and the company. If you can find things that directly correlate to things you discussed in the interview, that’s even better.

When it comes time to follow up, unless you hear from them sooner, forward or send an article you suspect is of interest either by e-mail or social media. Determine which is most appropriate by what appears to be more heavily utilized throughout the day.

This does not have to be a lengthy communication.

It can be formal or informal. Take your cue from what you perceived the recipient to be. Of course, be professional.

It can be as simple as:

Dear Jill,

This article may be of interest to you, based on our conversation. I truly enjoyed meeting you and look forward to hearing about next steps.

I know this process can take some time. I continue to consider other opportunities, but I have been thinking a lot about all of the great things I know I would be able to do as your Vice President of Client Services and would love to know how the process is coming along. Please update me at your earliest convenience.

Best wishes in finding your ideal candidate.

Sincerely,

Karen Huller

If you legitimately have another opportunity progressing toward an offer, do take the opportunity to be forthright and let them know. You may even want to call and let them know. However, be prepared to field questions about where you are interviewing. You don’t have to answer them, and don’t if an opening is confidential. However, only give an update if it’s legitimate.

That’s it. It’s not more complicated than that.

 

Any chance you can take to add value, take it.

Steve Winwood – While You See A Chance

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5 Must Do’s for a Successful Job Search Week

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

 

I have received a lot of feedback and many of you found the sample schedule to be very helpful. As a result, I decided to outline five major components of a successful job search activity that you can integrate into your schedule every day or, at least, every week. This will help build competencies toward your expertise in job searching.

Why would you want to be an expert in job searching? I know most people find it rather dreadful. However, when job searching is done right you can feel as much like a rock star in the flow, or in a groove, as you did when you were on top of your game in your job. The major benefit of gaining this critical life skill is reclaiming power over your destiny.

 

1. Research

The research you will be conducting every day or every week will be to identify new target companies, find out what major initiatives, challenges, and potential setbacks your target companies are experiencing. Discover how you can add direct value, and identify people who can either be internal sponsors for you or be your next potential boss. If you are really adept at research, you can even find out some personal things about these people that will enable you to build rapport and hit their hot buttons.

The resources that you will use to conduct this research include the obvious search engines like Google or Bing, as well as local business journals and newspapers, niche authority sites, business directories and databases such as leadferret.com and zoominfo.com, and your network.

If you are really bold and adventurous, you will try feet-on-the-street research. This means that you attend events or “stake out” the location of various popular breakfast, lunch or dinner spots in the vicinity with the intention of procuring intelligence from strangers.

2. Bold Action/Experimentation

The above can be considered bold action. I encourage you to experiment with this approach, if not for the adrenaline rush, for the fact that it can get you further faster than waiting for friends and acquaintances to take action on your behalf.

The activities that fall in this category very well might be outside your comfort zone, and thinking about them as experiments may help you detach from an investment in the outcome. I encourage you to celebrate everything that you try, whether it turns into an opportunity or not. Do keep track of your results so that you can repeat the experiments that produce great results such as pivotal introductions and interviews.

Everyone has a different comfort zone threshold. You know yourself best. If incremental progress works best for you, then take baby steps. A good example is trying out a new social media platform that you recognize some of your potential bosses are using and sending them a direct message. Some of you may thrive on taking a big leap and testing your limits. This could look like a creative gesture such as sending an unusual gift with a hidden meaning.

An example of a successful gift attempt that led to an interview and a job offer was a candidate who was demonstrating his attention to detail by creating and sending intricate origami eagles. I heard a story once about a candidate who sent a shoe with a note that he was hoping to get a “foot in the door.” I’m not sure how that went over, but the results of any of these attempts are going to vary from person to person. This is where it is critical to know your audience.

Being bold can also look like attending a keynote where an executive leader is speaking and asking the best question. The key, really, is to garner POSITIVE attention that you can use as an opening to create intrigue, build rapport, discover needs, and promote yourself as a solution.

3. Network Nurturing

I saw Ellen Weber of Robin Hood Ventures speak at a TedX event in Philadelphia and she forever changed the way I advise my clients to offer help to their networks. The eye-opening insight she shared was that when we ask someone generally, “How can I help you?” we put a burden on them to figure out how we can help them. She talked about a very personally challenging time in her life, and how her closest friends made that time easier simply by taking the initiative to find ways to help, as opposed to waiting for her to direct them, which felt uncomfortable. One friend would drop off meals, the other would help fold and put away laundry, and another even cleaned her bathroom while some friends whisked her away to get a pedicure.

Think of consultative sales, where you are not pushing a product, but asking really great questions and listening earnestly to what the client’s actual needs are so that the solution that you propose sells itself. In a podcast interview between Larry Benet, CEO of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group (SANG), and Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley, I learned some really great questions that are simple to ask and easily uncover some of these needs, such as, “What is the project you are working on right now that excites you the most?” followed up by “What would help you complete it sooner or better?” Another question, which can be quite personal, is “What keeps you up at night?” or “What wakes you up in the morning?” Vishen actually starts all of his interviews with this question, and, of course, he already has a good rapport with guests and relates to them on a personal level prior to the interview.

Once you know what you can do to help, the next thing to do is to follow through. If you cannot identify a need, the next best thing you can do is to share some relevant news, resources, or tools that you think may be of assistance. If you have ever wondered when and how to follow up, now you know.

 

4. Self Nurturing/Wellness

I considered putting this before network nurturing, as we have all heard the analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist others. What good are we unconscious? Well, similarly, as we have written before, science has proven that you are at your best when you are taking care of yourself. Do not skip the workout, but get at least a couple minutes in to increase your oxygen levels. You will actually work faster and more productively. What you produce will be better with fewer errors, meaning you won’t have to re-do that work. Have a cover letter to write? Go for a brisk 10-minute walk or do some jumping jacks. Eat a diet rich in the healthy fats your brain needs to be at its best. Cut out the carbs that cause brain fog and sluggishness. Once you start to treat yourself better, you will perceive yourself as more valuable and be better able to promote yourself as such.

 

5. FUN!

There is a lot more to these start-ups with their ping pong tables and video games than just hoping to attract elusive millennials. Fun is known for increasing creativity, building more cohesive teams, making employees more receptive to bad news or constructive criticism, and, if you believe in the law of attraction, it is apparently responsible for bringing good things into our lives.

You can leverage fun activities for your job search such as organizing a happy hour or bowling night with your friends so that you can catch them up on how they can help you. Moreover, you can also just have a good old-fashioned good time and still reap the benefits in your job search. As we wrote last week, happy people tend to achieve higher levels of success than people who simply work hard. Really! Harvard says so.

 

If you are in a full-time job search mode, I recommend doing each of these daily. If you are working full-time while searching, I recommend that you designate a day of the week for each of these activities.

As an experiment, try these activities for four weeks. Then share with us how intentionally integrating these critical components into your transition helps you build momentum and opens new doors of opportunity.