ed muses upon


Being Network-Worthy

Filed under: job search, networking — Tags: , , , , — edmusesupon @ 5:43 pm

If you have ever attended a networking event, you have almost certainly seen this situation: one attendee has cornered another and is shamelessly monopolizing his or her time without pausing to draw breath, never mind letting the other person get a word in edgewise. Or perhaps you’ve seen this: someone who is so paralyzed by anxiety that he or she may be literally standing in the corner of the room, looking like nothing so much as a deer caught in headlights. Perhaps you have even been guilty of doing this yourself.

Well, I’m here to help!

An expression I have been hearing for several months now, first from founder of Whine & Dine Keith Bogen but more recently from Adrienne Graham is the idea that when networking, one should strive to be networkworthy. When you are networkworthy, you are someone with whom it is advantageous for others to network: worthy of networking. So let’s examine the ABCs of being networkworthy at networking events.

Add Value

There are some people who are tremendously charismatic, capable of drawing attention just walking into a room. It’s a wonderful gift and I’m always impressed when I see people like that. Many people are anxious when attending networking events because they aren’t that person. That used to be me, too. But I realized that I had outgrown that discomfort, chose to step out of my chrysalis and emerged a new me.

I made that choice by realizing that I have something relevant and insightful or informative to share. When I realized that what I had to say was helpful—that I was adding value—the anxiety melted away. Maybe it was a speaker I saw who made a point relevant to a conversation, or perhaps a news article or blog entry. It might have been a story you read in the Sunday newspaper. But whatever it is, if it’s relevant and illuminates some part of the conversation, share it! I believe firmly that one should never open one’s mouth without adding value immediately afterwards. And that’s made a big difference. But to add value to a conversation, one really must…

Be Present

It is very hard to add value without a clear understanding what is being said and what is wanted. If you cannot gauge relevance, adding value is impossible. Therefore, it is critical to be present and engaged in the conversations you have with the people you meet. Networking is about building a trusted relationship with someone who appreciates your professional value. To do this, you need to spend between 5-10 minutes having an honest-to-goodness conversation.

So take the time to appreciate that other person’s value. Or if the conversation doesn’t lend itself to that, perhaps asking about a key accomplishment might help. This is a question I use in job search groups, because job seekers on top of their game should be able to reel that off immediately. And if you see someone is in the corner and has that “deer in headlights” look, talk with him or her, draw that person out. Perhaps after learning his or her professional value, you can help him or her when you…

Connect Others

Having these conversations will help identify the needs some have: maybe one connection is uncertain about work-life balance versus pursuing a master’s degree, while another connection has just completed a second semester doing the same. The synergy is obvious: these two need to talk! Perhaps you see someone standing alone off to the side: walk over and introduce him to a more gregarious attendee. Maybe one attendee has been monopolizing the time of another attendee: you can offer a rescue, if it looks as though that would be welcome.

The next time you attend a networking event, remember: be networkworthy by remembering your ABCs!


Staying Focused: Stand Out with Social Media

I finished reading Erik Qualman’s excellent Socialnomics recently.  I want to share some of the book’s insights about the ramifications of social media’s omnipresence that have direct relevance to job search.

First, a caveat: I feel some social media enthusiasts contextualize everything in its terms, losing sight of the fact that social media, while omnipresent, is not omnipotent.  Conversely, it is clear some skeptics dismiss social media as not meaningful.  As with so many cases where a broad spectrum of views exists, I am convinced the truth lies in the middle.

Mr. Qualman provides plenty of examples illustrating the scope and power of social media.  There are several cases of organizations leveraging it successfully and less so, with clear bottom-line impact.  But it isn’t just large, established businesses that can achieve impressive results with social media: it can be used by small groups, too, and was used to great effect in the last presidential election.  The message is clear: social media is a powerful tool which can be transformative when engaged successfully.

So where is the return on investment (ROI) in social media for the job seeker?  Anne Pepper gave an informative presentation recently about job search correspondence.  During the presentation, she shared a surprising statistic: 5% of job seekers send a thank you letter after an interview.  This shocks me: when we do write a thank you letter, we are employing another weapon in our arsenal that the vast majority of competing candidates are not.  Similarly, I find that the majority of job seekers I meet at networking events are not leveraging social media.

At its heart, social media revolves around our personal networks.  They are the original World Wide Web, whose strands are the effective relationships we have forged.  Most of us already use LinkedIn as a tool to help track professional relationships, so in one small way, we are already using one form of social media.  But there are certainly other forms of social media, such as Twitter.  Since December, LinkedIn has practically eliminated the barrier for exploring Twitter via integration of status updates: now you can tweet without ever logging on to Twitter.

One of the points Mr. Qualman makes is that successfully engaging social media requires a distinct voice.  There is so much being communicated through social media, so you must stand out.  In marketing, the objective is to communicate the unique value and suitability of the product.  Well, in our job search, we are the product, and the same rule applies.  We constantly hear that as job seekers, our elevator speeches must distinguish us from others, unambiguously identifying our unique value, our brand.  In adapting our résumés to a job posting, we are creating marketing that highlights our brand.  In the LinkedIn Lab, a workshop I lead, the first thing discussed is the importance of establishing and controlling your professional brand.  In short: it’s about standing out.

Social media can be a powerful tool—it helped elect a president!—that not many are engaging fully for their job search.  At the end of the day, engaging social media by standing out helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing.


Is Your Online Branding Strategy Harming Your Job Search?

Filed under: branding, job search, networking, volunteering — Tags: , , , , — edmusesupon @ 9:54 am

I have led a workshop on how job seekers can get the most out of LinkedIn since February at the PSG of Mercer County, where I am a volunteer. Although the professional networking powerhouse has existed since 2003 and now boasts over 70 million users, a lot of job seekers in this economy know next to nothing about it. A very common concern that participants express in those workshops is about privacy.

I always respond in the same way: if you want hiring managers to discover how talented you are, you must be bold and stand out. Concealing your presence is the exact opposite: please don’t do that! It is vitally important to job seekers that they propagate their professional brand. And LinkedIn is one of the best ways for a job seeker to do just that.

But a less well-recognized issue facing job seekers is the fact that organizations are now vetting candidates by examining their social media footprint. Recently, my friend Jen Baty retweeted a post that sums up the issue:

I’m working w/some1 who does complete social media audit 4 top job candidates.”

Originally posted by Sarah Evans, this underscores something I have been saying in that workshop for months: if it’s online and associated with your name it’s part of your online branding strategy—for good or for ill.

Just as job seekers are being exhorted to leverage social media for job search purposes, organizations are doing the same to weed out candidates. This means that if you have said it and it can be traced back to you, it might be the difference between getting the call and not getting the call.

This awareness apparently still eludes some, as evidenced by this story of a woman fired for a Facebook post. I found the story with this query on Google, “employee fired for facebook comment”, which returned over 7 million results. I am fond of saying that the fate one most wants to avoid in the modern day is serving as someone else’s cautionary tale. The job market is bad enough. There’s no reason at all to make it even harder.

So before hitting the Send button, if you’re a job seeker ask yourself this question: will this post harm my job search?


Why Personal Branding Matters to Job Seekers

Filed under: branding, job search, networking — Tags: , , , , — edmusesupon @ 5:39 am

Like so many others, I was brought up not to toot my own horn. It was a lesson that I took to with a vengeance. But one thing a job search teaches you is relentlessly re-examine what you do and how you do it. It is crucial that my résumé stand out from the crowd for me to return to the working world—just as it is for every other job seeker. So timidity became something I was obliged to retire, like a bad vice: I just can’t afford it anymore.

You see, the current unemployment figures are grim: at the time of this writing, unemployment is at 9.5%. Nearly one in ten Americans are unable to find work. Consequently, the competition for open positions is fiercer now than it’s been for a very long time. Anecdotally, I keep hearing that for every open position literally hundreds of résumés are being submitted from the dozens of job seekers I see each week.

Those may be long odds but there’s hope. The 9.5% unemployment rate—which doesn’t include consultants, incidentally—means everyone knows someone in transition. Something else my own search process has reinforced time and again is that people want to help job seekers. I had the opportunity to reiterate this point yesterday on Margo Rose’s blog in my very first guest entry. There is tremendous goodwill out there that job seekers can tap.

But how?

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is frequently quoted as saying 70% of jobs are filled through networking, a statement recently researched by Kimberly Beatty on the JobFully blog. This means that 70% of jobs go to those candidates already known to the employer. As known candidates are known qualities to employers, it logically follows that candidates who are unknown to employers are unknown quantities. The implication is clear: the key is to become a known quantity.

And this leads me to personal branding. In the past several months I have ramped up my LinkedIn presence by answering questions, re-started this blog and established a Twitter presence where I re-tweet the great content I see there. In conjunction with a monthly column I write for the PSG of Mercer County called Staying Focused and the volunteer work I do for that, another group and a Twitter movement called #HireFriday, my personal branding campaign has officially been kicked into high gear. Each of these processes serves to increase my visibility.

But notice that the activity I describe isn’t about me broadcasting about myself: it’s about giving to others. This is the most pernicious misconception about personal branding: that it’s selfish. Yes, it certainly can be that but there is a better way. In two words: personal branding is about adding value. Each of those activities is aimed at adding value for someone else. And it accomplishes two things: personal branding, yes, but by giving to others, you re-energize yourself.

There are several parts of the job search process that rob candidates of influence, beginning with “the black hole” process itself—applying to a job through a Web site without ever getting a contact name—to the lack of an acknowledgement that a job seeker has applied for a position. There is of course more, such as the news certain organizations have made in recent weeks by declaring that they simply will not consider professionals in transition.

Giving to others by way of personal branding is the way to reclaim lost influence.

In closing: personal branding is important for job seekers. Not only is it how you can differentiate yourself from other candidates but it’s good for you. It’s win/win!

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