Networking in surprising places!

It is amazing how many opportunities we have to meet new people easily (read “potential job lead connections”) and in the most surprising places. A client of mine, Jennifer, had jury duty this week and was excited to tell me about some networking that fell in her lap that day!  We all know how much time you sit around in a crowded room with others serving their civic duty, and most people bring books, laptops, tablets, and more to stay occupied during the wait.

Jennifer is a senior in college and currently searching for an Engineering position. She brought some trade journals to read during her wait with other jurors. This prompted an inquiry from the man next to her, Brad, and it turned out he was an Engineering student as well. Another woman overhearing their discussion, piped in that her son, Rick – an Engineering major, recently got a job with Company XYZ. Later in the day as she was reading one of her Engineering journals, a 50-something woman, Sharon, noticed the journal cover on robotics and introduced herself as an engineer working for a small company specializing in defense robotics. Jennifer left that day with phone numbers and email addresses for Brad, Rick, and info that Company XYZ is hiring. She obtained Sharon’s business card to connect on linkedin and had received an offer from Sharon’s to reach out to her in the Spring. Jennifer can now keep in touch with Brad and they can help each other with job leads. She can contact Rick and establish a connection with him as well as garner info on hiring needs at the company. She can research the company on her own, and see if they have positions posted on their website.

 So, carry trade journals or books related to your field when you are going to be waiting (doctors” offices, car tune ups, your kids’ soccer games, and of course, jury duty!) and you will increase the odds of connecting with others in unexpected places!

Polish Up That Elevator Speech

Most of you have heard of an “Elevator Speech,” right? The story goes something like this – let’s say you have an interview for a job you really want. You get into the elevator on the first floor of the building and find out the other person in the elevator is the head honcho who is going to have the final say in whether you get hired.  You now have about 60 seconds to ride in the elevator with her to the top floor.  When she finds out that you are the candidate under consideration, she seems curious about you. What “speech” can you give her in that elevator ride to peak her interest and ensure that you get the offer? Ahhhhh! If you don’t know, then you need to figure this out – and fast!

You meet people all the time, especially if you are networking, attending professional organization meetings, and actively pursuing job leads. Sometimes, you really only have about an “elevator ride” worth of time to impress someone or not. So what can you do? Try to identify what you really want to market about yourself and what sets you apart out there.  What value do you add? What do you want other networking professionals to remember about you? Practice your “elevator speech” out loud. Listen to other people’s answers when you ask them what they do – what impresses you? Who do you remember and why? These are not easy questions to answer – but investing some time and careful thought into your “elevator speech” can create a lot of opportunities for you.

If you are at a networking event, be sure that your interaction is not “just about you.”  It’s important  to focus on building relationships, too.  So show interest in the other person and ask how you might be able to help them. You will certainly be remembered for that!

 

Get Your Head Back in the Game!

Sometimes, you need to give yourself a little space to “Get your head back in the game.” Did you take some time off during the holidays – and now you are trying to get up and running again but it’s not working so well? It’s okay to take that step back sometimes to make a plan, so you can gain your foothold and move forward.

 

It’s kind of like that overwhelming feeling that you have when you return to work or a project after taking some time off.  Especially when it’s Monday morning. You are swamped with email, voicemail, social media messages to go through and you do not even know where to start.  How do you begin so you feel you are making progress and addressing priorities?

 

My favorite way to tackle this is with good, old-fashioned lists.  I actually start before I take time off….really. I create a “to do list” of the most important things I should check for upon my return. I also try to avoid any appointments on the morning of day 1 to get organized and allow time for any crisis that may have arisen. Next, I create a 3-column list as I do an initial scan of messages: top priorities go in the “A” column, medium priorities in the “B” column, and not urgent in the “C” of course. Then, I go back to column A and start addressing those high priority items.

 

Do it one step at a time and try not to skip around so that you can complete tasks.  Schedule break time to take a deep breath. Now – slowly go grab some coffee (or your favorite drink!) and you will be back in the game in no time!

Job Hunting during the Holidays?! You bet!

Do you tend to stop all job search activity from Thanksgiving to the New Year? If so, you may be missing out on job opportunities. Many people think that hiring stops during the holiday season, so they halt all searching. While recruiting does tend to slow down during this time, open jobs are out there and there is less competition since so many people believe this myth! So your odds of being noticed actually increase! Even more importantly, there are extensive opportunities to network with the right people and to do so while they are in a holiday mood of helping others.

 

Holiday parties abound and while you may not feel in the party mood, the inside scoop is that this is an opportunity to develop relationships that can foster job leads.  Here are some ideas of things you can do:

 

  • HOLIDAY PARTIES: Be a “detective” learning about what others are doing and what is going on at their company. Maintain your professional demeanor in your attire and be careful to lay off drinks so that your behavior is appropriate. Use the opportunity to introduce your expertise, but do so in a nonaggressive way. Find out what you can do to help others, as you will be remembered for this. 
  • PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: Are you a member of these live / face-to-face groups? If not, find out about them. You should be attending their holiday meetings (and regular programs!) as well as using the opportunity to grow and deepen your network. Get involved on committees and projects – demonstrate your value to other professionals in your field.
  • FAMILY EVENTS: Do family members really know what you do and that you are exploring your options? Be sure key people are aware, though again, be appropriate and non-pushy at holiday time.
  • CONSIDER SEASONAL OPPORTUNITIES: These temporary positions bring in extra income when finances are tight and provide opportunity to show recent employment experience if you have not worked in a while. Sometimes, such opportunities can lead to additional work or leads.  
  • SEND HOLIDAY CARDS: Remember to keep in touch with your existing network and send out cards that help them keep you in mind.

 

 What else should you do? Try to relax and do things that you enjoy. This will rejuvenate the way you feel and will help you to exude positive vibes and self-assurance when you meet others. Employers love candidates who seem high energy and confident about their abilities. Happy Holidays!

 

 

Do Recruiters discriminate against the unemployed?

Scary…but true. Job seekers tell me they have been told that being unemployed was a reason for being eliminated from the process. And within the last year, a job ad got a lot of press for specifying that “…the unemployed need not apply.” Ahhh!! In a good economy, there is an assumption that those who are out of work were not good performers. However, it is hard to understand why this bias remains true in a tough economy when so many top performers are out on the street as well. So, I recently chatted with several local recruiters to ask about this bias and what can job seekers do about it.

 

Recruiters responded employers have a preference for the employed. Some companies feel that those who are employed “made the cut,” so they must be more valuable than those who were downsized. According to Rachel Evans, Managing Partner, AgentHR Recruiting Group, employers are also legitimately concerned that someone who is unemployed is a “flight risk.”  They worry that a desperate job seeker may accept a position if they have been unemployed for quite some time, and accept a job since it is a “paycheck” to them. That is, the job will help with their current financial difficulties, but the job or company are not really a good fit, and the job seeker will flee when a better position comes along.

 

So, if you are not employed, how can you overcome such biases out there? One thing you can do is to demonstrate that you are not just sitting around unemployed by getting involved in some type of work or professional activity. See if you can obtain temporary work – especially if it is related to your field. You can also try to get involved in various professional activities – this can be taking courses, earning a relevant certification, or becoming involved in a professional association and contributing to their committees and needs. These efforts should be noted on the résumé and in your cover letter to demonstrate that you are currently involved.

 

In submitting your résumé, the most important thing you can do is to be sure your resume stands out and matches job-specific keywords, according to Lynn Parker, CPC and Director of Talent/CEO of Guy-Parker and Associates. Lynn says that most employers are relying on applicant tracking systems (ATS) that search for keywords most closely matching their job description. She recommends that candidates (1) select positions that are relevant and match your skills (2) ensure your résumé includes keywords that reflect your skills (3) tailor your résumé and cover letter to the keywords of the job ad or position description.  Lynn also cautions that you check to be sure that your cover letter is addressing the position you are applying for and that all names are correctly addressed to the right person or company.

 

Another thing Rachel recommends for most unemployed candidates is not to go the route of 3rd party recruiters, except for contract assignments. They are better off targeting the in-house recruiters. If companies are to take the chance on someone unemployed, they certainly would be reluctant to pay an agency fee. In addition, sometimes accepting contract work, even with a lower salary and no benefits, could be a ticket into a permanent position within a company. If you are somewhat venturesome, you might want to consider some form of entrepreneurship–just be careful of scams out there (you can check via the BBB and sites like “ripoffreport.com.”)

In terms of your job search plan, Lynn advises that you avoid getting overwhelmed by setting priorities. Take some time to rethink your goals, identify companies that you want to work for, and do your networking to get to the right people. All agree that social media, like LinkedIn, provide excellent tools to support a job search with effective networking capabilities. Participating in discussions on LinkedIn groups, can give you exposure and demonstrate your knowledge…..so that eventually, employers and recruiters may start coming after you!