Category Archives: How to_______

How to Network

I was astonished to learn recently that several of my friends have closed their Facebook accounts because they didn’t like the trivial nature of the information supplied by their Facebook friends.  Of course, this is what I love—I’m the one who would rather hear what you are having for lunch than what you think of the health care bill, only because the second thing is such a minefield.  If Facebook is like the route you travel to work or school every day, then “what’s for dinner” is the small talk that makes each day a little more pleasant.  Just FYI, I like the photos of your pets and kids as well.

Networking takes many more forms than ever before.  But at the core of all networking is the act of connecting with another human on the basis of a shared moment.  Whether it’s online or on line in the local bakery, there are some basic networking skills and tools that will help you develop acquaintanceships that have friendship and networking potential.

  1. Show interest wherever you go, whoever you meet.  Curiosity is crucial to networking; if you aren’t interested in someone you can’t really hide that fact.  Be interested and you won’t even have to be interesting.
  2. Don’t assume anything.  We all think we want to look like we are insiders who have special insight, info, or connections.  Looking or acting like you have all that will help you?  Exactly how?  People use their influence for folks they want to help. . . and they decide who qualifies, not you.
  3. Write or speak with eye contact and a smile.  You don’t have to have a conversation with everyone, but think of yourself as one who promotes good will.  How to make figurative eye contact online?  Speak directly to the point and acknowledge the other(s).  And be nice.
  4. Before you friend someone online, or hand over your business card if you are in person, write a note (on it, if it is a real card), or somehow personalize the offering.
  5. When asked about your self, be modest, be moderate, be brief, and return the conversation to the other person or turn it to a third or fourth person who is present.  Don’t worry, you’ll be noticed and you’ll be remembered.
  6. Choose subjects that are easy, fun, neutral, interesting.  Of course, if your hobby or motives are political, you may want to educate.  And if that is the case, what you really want is the opportunity to change someone’s mind—so you’ll want to ask for permission to try to do so, and respect a firm no.  Wanting to be known as mean, stupid, pushy, arrogant, strident, closed-minded, or incredibly naïve would be an unusual networking goal.
  7. Practice, practice, practice.  Networking is another word for making new acquaintanceships (or renewing old connections) that may turn into friendships.  You cannot do it without taking risks.  You will make mistakes and from time to time you will look clumsy or awkward.  But you’ll get better at it, if you practice.
  8. Do not take things too personally.  Not everyone wants to friend you; not everyone shares your interests and some folks are more awkward and less skilled at this than you are.  The immediacy of a moment in time makes it all look more dramatic than it really is.
  9. Organize and record your contacts and your network connections.  Online, social networking sites do this for you—sort of.  Organize your information according to what you want and need, not what Facebook or LinkedIn thinks is best.
  10. Spend time and effort getting better at making friends.  Remember your mistakes and don’t make them again; seek opportunities to improve.

But don’t be so quick to close those accounts.  Experiment with what you have; try out a newer version of you, ask others how they solve what you think is the problem of excessive information that isn’t crucial to your day.  We’re all so different; that’s what makes a network strong.  Time management does figure into effective networking, and you do have to sort and pick, and choose, and sometimes even ignore.

Cover Letters and Resumes: Send Your Message

You should think of your cover letters and resumes as companion marketing documents:  they travel together hand in hand, delivering your clear and focused messages.  What one is good at, the other really can’t do very well, and vice versa.  The cover letter introduces you and opens your storyline or narrative, and the resume states the relevant facts of your past and present.  So you need them both, and as the planner and boss of them, you’ll get the best results when you calibrate the way they’ll work together.

One of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make is to overburden their documents with too much information.  If you have ever been in a conversation with someone who drones on and on to the point where you lose the point, you know what I mean.  Whether it’s in the cover letter or the resume, TMI can be fatal: it reveals that you don’t understand what’s important to your target employer.

The droner and the unfocused job seeker have one thing in common—they are paying more attention to their own needs than to the needs of the person to whom the information is offered.  Most people who write resumes and cover letters begin to feel pretty insecure as soon as they begin to write; starting the writing process is a need (theirs) to change jobs, a need (theirs) to impress a prospective employer, a need (theirs) to appear more worthy than the competition.  That neediness emerges in the documents as TMI.

The solution to this problem not better editing, as in “help me get this down to two pages.”  The solution is to think about the prospective employer, not about you.  If you are the hiring manager (see earlier post on who’s who), what do you want to know?  Here are some examples.

  1. I want to know that you’ve done some homework.  You read about my company, and you read for understanding, putting yourself in the job you want, and thinking about how you can help me.  Your cover letter can speak to what you understand about my needs, while your resume will highlight your understanding of how your backgrounds fits.
  2. I want to know that you understand collaboration, that you are supervisable, that you do not sacrifice people and process for results, and that you understand my world as a boss.  Will you make me look good or are you a high maintenance attention seeker?  Your cover letter will identify who valued your accomplishments and your resume will not claim credit for group results.
  3. I want to know that you love work and working, and that your energy is available for my benefit.  Your cover letter will discuss how you see yourself relative to work, the industry, and the community of interest.  Your resume will show that you have one or two fairly focused—and current—volunteer roles and hobbies.  Both will be energetic and active.
  4. I want to see words I understand, that reflect the language of the profession and industry we are in.  Your cover letter will use those, and your resume will echo them.  You will use the terms correctly in both documents.

The job of your document team is real simple—to get you an interview with someone who can get you into the running for an opportunity that you want.  To do that, they have to be focused on the company and the hiring manager, and in so doing, they illustrate that you are worth a further look.

Summer Jobs: How to Help Your Son or Daughter Get One

It’s February, but it’s not too early to be thinking about the summer break.  Whether your kids are in high school or college, you can (and maybe you should) begin the summer planning process now.

While you might think a plan begins with a to-do list, I believe a plan begins with a what-do-you-want-to-do list.  Yes, the economy sucks and jobs are few, but you still have to decide where you are headed with this job thing.  If you don’t,  your 15 year old is likely to commit to about five minimum wage hours a week on a parks crew to which you will have to ferry her, while three blocks away is a twenty hour a week babysitting gig that suits her love of children much better.

Here are the questions for discussion.

  1. What are your goals for the summer job? (Not just your child’s goals, but yours.)

If this is the very first job ever ever, the most important thing is that your child have a good experience, learn some lessons about work in general, and build some lasting relationships for the future.  But, if money is tight in your house and this job has to be about earning and saving as much as he or she can, that may mean that everything (except his or her safety) is sacrificed for earnings.  If your son or daughter has a lifelong career dream, exposure to that career path may be paramount.  The specific need sets the stage for setting goals.  All jobs and all goals are not alike; to get the right job, you must have the right goal.

  1. How will the job fit into your family’s summer plan?

This simple question rarely gets a simple answer.  Unless the child’s job is a priority for you, things will go badly when a.) there is no transportation to the child’s job, b.) your vacation plans interfere with work, c.) you try to become the boss of the job and set the schedule, d.) you want an emergency babysitter who is scheduled to be an usher at the local Muvico in ten minutes, and e.) you decide to teach a lesson by not waking someone up for an early shift.

Believe me when I tell you that many employers these days rank young people the absolute least desirable among job candidates, even for jobs that are traditional starter roles in the world of work.  Why?   Because they don’t come to work and often they don’t come to work because a parent doesn’t get them there.  Or worse, a parent chooses to divert them from working.  Reliability has to be the brand stamped on your child’s forehead; it is the number one desirable competency from the employer’s point of view.

  1. Why should someone hire your son or daughter?

Your son or daughter will tell the prospective employer whatever they hear you say.  Is your son the strongest kid on the wrestling team?  The best leader?  The one who does his homework before dinner and before hanging out?  Is your daughter the fastest blader on wheels?  A fashion superstar?  The nicest girl you know?  An expert painter?  Brilliant on the computer? What you say about them to your friends and what they hear you say is their core strength is what they believe and what they repeat.  Whether they or whether you take primary responsibility for finding the summer job, discuss the answers to the question before it is asked.

Most intelligence about available summer jobs comes through connections, yours or your child’s, but the actual hiring is a function of good eye contact, a confident story told by the child that reflects what the community already knows about him or her, and the hiring manager’s belief that this particular child will show up and get the job done.

Therefore, the discussion you have in the course of planning should focus on goals, on how you will support the relationship between your child and the employer, and how your son or daughter will fit into the workplace, given his or her particular strengths and skills.  Jobs may be scarce, but armed with a plan and your leadership your son or daughter can be among the lucky kids to land a gig for the summer.