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Networking: 5 Ways To Work It Into Your Life

Written by Lynn Dixon, co-founder & COO, Hourly

Networking. Some people consider it a guaranteed way to connect with industry luminaries. Others believe it’s the ideal way market your professional capabilities and build brand awareness. Still, others dread the concept, and try to avoid it at all costs.

Truth is, networking remains one of the most effective techniques for selling yourself, as well as uncovering new business opportunities, projects and jobs.

But there’s a key to networking success that isn’t often discussed — knowing how to conduct yourself in various social situations is essential.

While handing out business cards may work wonders for you at a designated networking event, the same strategy might not work in a different atmosphere. Is there a way to predict what techniques will be effective in a specific setting?

Let’s look at several common social scenarios, and consider an appropriate networking plan of action for each:

1) Work Events

Work events come in all shapes and sizes, from professional development courses to off-site meetings with colleagues. These events tend to be more formal and task-oriented. Typically these settings are not ideal for aggressive networking, primarily because your participation is tied to other business goals.

How to play it: Although you may know most people at a work event, you can subtly network by introducing yourself to other attendees. When it fits into the flow of conversation, you might also mention recent accomplishments or challenges you’ve overcome. This helps people in your internal network see where you shine, and helps them envision how you could contribute to future projects with them or others they know.

2) Office Parties

Events like the annual holiday party or your boss’s birthday don’t usually scream “networking.” Conversations are often focused on personal life, and you may not want to think about business. Although no one wants to “talk shop” throughout an entire office party, it can be an awesome opportunity diplomatically reinforce your strengths.

How to play it: Put the alcohol down and get to know colleagues you don’t know well, especially those in other departments. You don’t have to brag about your accomplishments, but you can weave in your expertise. Chances are, one day they may need your skills on a project. Be memorable and focus on how you add value.

3) Family Events

You probably believe family events are the last place to whip out your resume and market yourself, but these events can be a networking goldmine. Think about it. Your family wants you to do well in your career. It’s like preaching to the choir. You just have to know what songs to sing.

How to play it: Although members of your family probably don’t work in your industry, they’re likely to know someone who does. That’s why it’s advisable to touch base about business with as many people as possible while you “work the aisles” at reunions, weddings and other family gatherings. Bring a stash of business cards, in case someone expresses interest. In the future, if someone they know needs someone with your skills, you’ll be the first person on their radar.

4) Industry Conferences

Conferences are a great way to establish excellent connections who can help you expand your network. Sometimes the premise of a conference centers on networking. Other conferences are developed for you to learn more about your industry by listening to speakers, attending workshops and sharing ideas with professional colleagues.

How to play it: This is one of those obvious networking situations where you’ll need lots of business cards, a stack of resumes, and a variety of portfolio samples. Since conferences attract a plethora of industry colleagues, you never know who you’ll run into — so you need to be prepared. It’s also smart to refresh your LinkedIn profile before the event, so anyone who checks your profile afterward will see your most current information.

5) Running Errands

Picture this: You’re at the grocery store when you see an influential member of your industry. You don’t want to throw business cards at this important person, but you do want to make a connection. How do you approach a power player in public without appearing to be desperate?

How to play it: Look for an appropriate opening. Briefly introduce yourself and explain why you admire this person. Try to mention a recent article they wrote or compliment them on a recent accomplishment. Then, close quickly by asking if you could connect via email or on a social network. This opens the door to future conversations while downplaying what could otherwise be an awkward situation.

The ability to market yourself in any situation is a skill that should be practiced and polished. You never know who you’ll bump into and how they could help you out in the future. Look at every situation as a chance to boost your network and provide a possible stepping stone for your career.

What do you think about the power of networking in social settings? How have you marketed yourself at various events? What has been effective for you?

Lynn-Dixon(About the Author: Lynn Dixon is the co-founder and COO of Hourly.com, an employment network that quickly matches people who are interested in flexible positions with the right opportunities. Connect with Lynn and Hourly on Twitter and LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is republished from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or to join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Got those Blogging Blues? #TChat Preview

If so, you’re probably not alone.  According to reports, there are some 25 billion registered blogs out there on the world-wide web. However, only 450 million are considered “active.”  While that’s less than 1% of what’s registered actually putting out content, it’s still enough to create a lot of “noise” in the blogsphere.   And whether you’re a new blogger or the medium is ‘old-hat’ to you, trying to distinguish yourself can still be overwhelming.

It leaves many asking the question, “Why bother blogging to begin with?”

Despite the old saying that there are only 12 original themes, there’s still room on the net for your ideas, too.  The difference for many is found in the spin rather than the subject.  The subject matter may not be new, but the way that you present the idea can be.  You can maintain creativity by mixing things up: use photos, collaborate efforts with other writers or professional colleagues, try a vlog (video blog), etc…

To build sustainability, you need more than regular, fresh and compelling content around a centralized theme – you need patience as well.  Your readership won’t likely show up in droves when you put up your “I’m Here!” inaugural post.   To gain a respectable following, you’ll have to consistently market your content on other platforms to those that are interested in the subjects on which you have something to say.

You definitely want an idea of what you’re trying to get out of it going in – and the answer ought not be money!  At least not directly, anyway. Despite the enticing banners and messages many blogging platforms put out to doe-eyed bloggers; seducing them with the promise and potential of converting their hobby into a money maker, the reality is that there’s very little money to be made directly from a blog (none for most).

That being said, just because you want to have a blog doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  There’s a lot that goes into putting together a successful blog that stands the test of time. And many (most, if you look at the massive gap between registered and active blogs) aren’t up to the challenge.  Blogging is best suited for “long-form” content sharing. It’s the most effective medium if the message you want to share can’t be adequately expressed in a 5 minute ‘vlog,’ the meaning derived from pictures, or requires more than 140-characters to get across.

Speaking of 140-characters,  join us tonight as we explore content, best practices, and the writing equivalents of “What not to Wear” in tonight’s #TChat discussion topic:  “Blogging & Beyond.”   Here’s a look at tonight’s questions, along with recommended reading:

1)      What makes content effective and compelling?  Are there universal benchmarks or is it subjective?

Recommended Reading:  “Principles of Effective Blog Design”  by Peep Laja

2)      What are some blogging best practices?  How does blogging fit in with a larger social media strategy?

Recommended Reading:  “The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers” by Annabel Candy

3)      What advice do you have for individuals or brands looking to blog?  Any lessons learned?

Recommended Reading:  “Blogging, Copyright, and Blog Plagiarism”  & “When Your Blog is My Content” by Jessica Miller-Merrell

4)      In 140 characters or less: what are some of your favorite work-related blogs and why?

Recommended Reading:  Some of mine are TalentCulture, MonsterThinking, Fistful of Talent, Blogging4Jobs, and TheOneCrystal (mine, of course!)

5)      Does someone have to be a good writer to be a good blogger?  Why or why not?

Recommended Reading:  “Must you be a Good Writer to be a Successful Blogger?” by Bailey Digger

6)      What are some of the biggest mistakes or misconceptions around blogging and online content creation?

Recommended Reading:  “18 Stupid Mistakes Bloggers Make in their First Year” by Christine Kane  & “8 Mistakes Too Many Bloggers Make” by David Risley

 

I’ll be joining the conversation at our new time this Wednesday night along with co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman from 7-8 p.m. (Eastern) via @TheOneCrystal and our community handle @TalentCulture

Leveraging Your Career Culture

Developing Good Career Habits Early on Will Serve the Rest of Your Career.

Even the most mundane, front-line roles – whether doling out room keys as a front-desk motel clerk or dishing up burritos and serving beer at your local Mexican restaurant – are of value, not just to the customer, but to you, in developing your career reputation.

You may perceive your early roles as mainly a means to an end; e.g., for college students, jobs often tie directly to paying for textbooks, entertainment and basic living expenses while you prepare for your ‘real’ job. Therefore, you miss prime opportunities to create shiny, bankable career coins. By making regular deposits, you can nurture a positive reputation and network of career advocates that will help shepherd you to more meaningful roles.

I encourage all early careerists to realize that, whether you are 18, 25 or 45, each job in your career arsenal is potentially bankable and, if you attend to it with enthusiasm and as a problem-solving, customer-focused contributor, you can build a career-propelling resume, and as a result, the career to which you aspire.

March Madness, a Motel and a Mexican Meal

In a recent trip to Lake Texoma (Texas), my husband, Rob, and I played the role of customer in a series of initiatives that reinforced for us the value and impact of early-career, front-line staff members.

In one example, 30 minutes outside of Durant, Oklahoma, we vetted pet-friendly motels and dialed the Comfort Inn.

“We have no rooms for the night, Mr. Poindexter,” explained the youthful motel clerk. “In fact,” she asserted excitedly, “It’s March Madness, so you won’t find a room from here to Atoka!”

Frustrated by her sweeping response, but undeterred, we called the Days Inn, which was just across the street, and were met with a prompt and amenable, “Yes, we have rooms available!”

We instantly booked an overnight for two adults and one pet.

Rob and I were curious that the first motel clerk snapped to a conclusion that, essentially, we were out of luck in finding a room for the night in her city, or the neighboring town. Rather than take a moment of her time and suggest a possible alternative solution (such as the name of another motel in the area), in effect, she waved us off.

Checked into the Days Inn, we ambled over to a Mexican restaurant. This was a clean, calm venue that was underwhelmed by customers and appeared to have more than a sufficient ratio of wait staff to diners. A friendly young server approached us, and, though sweet, she was a bit sluggish in tending to our needs. It was as if she was on ‘island time;’ yet, there was no island, no ocean, no pleasant sea breeze to distract while we awaited our orders.

The first issue occurred when my dinner order was misinterpreted. After we alerted the server, she swept away the dish, along with all silverware, and the new meal perfunctorily was placed before me. We scrambled to locate replacement utensils.

Next, we ordered a Corona Light, which they had run out of; rather than being proactive and presenting us an alternative option, the server reflexively returned to our table empty-handed.

Moreover, throughout the dining experience, we were met with casual regard, and whether seeking out a missing set of silverware, a replacement for a wrongly delivered dinner or a substitute beverage, the minutes ticked by, and the onus, therefore, was on us, to direct our server to fulfill our needs.

In both of these instances, these young ladies overlooked opportunities to build value with us, and possibly expand their career reputation that could benefit them down the road.

Leveraging Your Ordinary Job to Create Extraordinary Career Value

No matter how lowly or ordinary the job may seem, it’s important to create your career culture early. Even though Rob and I realized the people serving us were probably not earning a lot of money, we were still the customer and were expecting good service.

Rest assured, careerists, though your simple gestures of problem-solving and customer care may seem small, in and of themselves, cumulatively they will sell your future value, and you never know whom you may meet who not only cares about how much you care, but who will also care enough to extend your message beyond the four walls of your diner, motel or other service arena and help lift your career goals to a new level. The impact, therefore, of your simple gestures, can be exponentially valuable to your overall career goals, and help you to be the culture you desire to attract.

So, your reputation builds and customer advocates multiply while your strategic problem-solving, customer service, leadership skills and talents also become more honed. Ultimately, your resume story becomes robust and compelling, advancing your career satisfaction and culture!

IMAGE VIA Flickr

‘Polishing, Scrubbing and Tweaking’ your Resume (Oh My!)

After reading a recent US News article, 6 Steps to Polish Up Your Resume,” my vision of a staid, buzzword-rich resume with your top 10 accomplishments waxed.  Though the bones of the article were solid, and the emphasis on translating your work history into achievements respectable, I couldn’t help being consumed by a certain dull roar of the same-old, same-old resume advice.

Unfortunately, the focus on the tactical aspects of resume construction seem to command the most media air-time, undermining, it seems the depth and breadth of a meaningful, meaty and strategically written marketing message.

Having collaborated and consulted with, cajoled and coached 100s of career-transitioning and career-climbing clients over the past 13+ years, I can quickly glean the nuanced differences between a strategically written resume and one that meticulously (and sheepishly) follows the tactical rules of “keyword smattering and front-loading accomplishments.”

Keep in mind that a majority of companies (especially the mid-sized and smaller organizations) still do not use key-word-screening software to ferret resumes, and that your resume will ultimately be absorbed by a human being. In fact, ideal job search, research and relationship practices would have your resume being read by a real-live person from the outset. In other words, depending solely upon job-search boards and other online job-attracting initiatives will certainly limit your results.

Metrics and properly spelled words are essential, basic resume ingredients. Extending the message beyond the basics, however, whets hiring decision-makers’ appetites, spurs calls for interviews and encourages the conversations beyond the interviews. In this way, your resume stands apart from the pack. Here’s how:

  • BEFORE writing your resume, be introspective. Simply put, take the time to perform career brain dump through an exercise comprised of challenge/action/results (C-A-R) stories enhanced via problem-stomping, product building, idea-inducing initiatives you took to spur business improvement. Then, dive deeper (beyond the C-A-R) and weave in the leadership, team-building, relationship-leveraging talents you leveraged to battle through armies of naysayers or climb to the summit of mountainous challenges.
  • Did what you do help your department, division, region or overall company do something bigger and better — save money, reduce time to market, boost revenues, attract new customers, build a better reputation, expand the profit margin, etc.? Command attention for the little things you did and how they helped the organization do something larger. The bottom line is that you must bottom-line it!
  • Of course, command attention for the BIG things you personally achieved, as well. Taking credit for your individual role in business that has skyrocketed, sustained and survived (especially during these lean economic times) is crucial for marketing yourself. If you can take singular credit for a larger, business-transforming initiative, DO it!
  • While bottom-lining is essential resume nourishment, the story around the bottom-line should be equally rich.  Simmer your nuances with the finest of career messaging juices to establish you as a unique individual focused on target companies’ needs.

Rather than churning out a canned resume recipe with career vocabulary inserts across your Summary and Experience sections, blend together a custom recipe of your finest career enterprises that meld forethought, vision, creativity, bottom-line savvy and customer relationship management insights. Warm up the decision-making reader with words that wrap around their needs.

Position your career expertise by writing with passion, tempered with pragmatism. Show flair–be personable and enticing and assert your culture fit that will attract the culture you desire. People hire people who express ideas and show HOW their ideas and execution talent build corporate value. People hire people who are turned on and tuned into the company’s needs (the it’s-all-about-THEM-resume-concept). And people hire people who evoke emotion and show confidence in their contribution and culture-enhancing initiative.

Rather than scrubbing, polishing and tweaking your resume, consider how you can differentiate your candidacy in the interviewing process! Wile them with your words!