Networking

Why My Networking Approach Was All Wrong

When I first tried networking, it didn’t work.

Starting Career Story two years ago, I also started faithfully attending networking events. As I gravitate towards the introverted side of the personality spectrum, I’ll admit it was challenging to walk into a room full of new people, but I was determined to not let that stop me.

Like any good type A personality type would, I read up on how to effectively network. One of the recommendations was to craft a pitch, something punchy and engaging to get people excited about you and your business.

So, I put a pitch together. And let’s be honest – it wasn’t great. It felt contrived and just not authentic to me.

Plus, with meeting so many people, I was exhausted and frustrated with how superficial it felt. Just a mad frenzy of exchanging business cards with no lasting relationship.

At some point, I took a step back to ask what I valued. I wanted connection and relationship, not a transaction.

I also asked myself what strengths I could use in networking. Some of the traits that came to mind were sincerity, curiousity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

Going back into the networking scene, I started by ditching my pitch and made it about building relationships.

I also started to experiment with language that felt more genuine. When people asked me what I did, I’d started off with a simple introduction and  let the conversation naturally move forward from there.

I’d ask lots of questions of the other person (my natural curiousity coming through). And as the conversation evolved, I’d share more about what I loved about my work if asked. I found that speaking from my passion and my heart was a much better way to spark conversation than anything else.

I also started to think of the people I was meeting as potentially longer-term professional relationships. This took the pressure off the first interaction.  Even if the initial meeting was a wee bit awkward (which they often are), I’d think, “Well, this is just the start, hopefully, I get a second chance.”

From there, I’d stay in touch with people via LinkedIn. That’s where the thoughtfulness of my personality comes into play. I enjoy helping people so when I can, I forward along any relevant resources or try to introduce people within my network.  

And if I had a great conversation with someone at an event, I’d invite them for coffee or Skype meeting. I love a good one-to-one conversation and hearing about people’s passions and work. These networking meetings have become one of my favorite aspects of being self-employed.     

Recently, my friend, Rachael Maxcy, and I started running Career Hack workshops, a non-awkward networking event where women could a) form authentic relationships and b) get input on their careers or business through intentional conversation, basically like a personal Board of Directors. 

I love it – this is everything networking should be. We’re running our next Career Hack workshop on July 17 so we'd love for you to join us. Tickets here:  https://bit.ly/2JHrdGD

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

How to Find Your Dream Job in 2018

If you are at a point in your career where you feel stuck or stagnant, 2018 could be your year.

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The year when you take control of your career and make choices that bring you more career satisfaction and fulfillment. 

The year when you walk away from that toxic work environment and start taking better care of your own mental and emotional well-being. 

The year when you step out and start courageously pursuing your dreams. 

The year when you channel that ambition and get serious about moving along in your career. 

No matter where you are at, there's always a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start. And the opportunities are endless.

The time is now. Don’t wait until things aren’t working to improve your job search. By taking a proactive approach early on, you will save yourself time and headache in the long run.

18 Ways to Land Your New Job 

Ready to land a new job? 

Here are my top 18 suggestions for how to transition to a new job this year. 

First of all, make sure that you have a clear focus on the work you want or type of company that you want to be employed with. If identifying that is your struggle, consider investing in some career coaching to gain the clarity you need. 

Secondly, diversify how you look for work. Most job seekers spend their time applying to online job postings, but this method is only about 30% effective. 

In a survey I conducted of 60 hiring managers, I found that hiring managers sourced new candidates through multiple methods including their company website, job boards, LinkedIn, online resume banks, and networking. (Read the rest of the survey results here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Get Prepared

Preparation is key to making a good impression on a future employer. 

1. Get your marketing materials in order: Invest in developing a resume, cover letter, and possibly business cards that clearly outline the work that you can do.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the standard when it comes to a professional online presence. Make sure your profile speaks to the work you can do. Start connecting with people in your industry or at the companies you want to work for.

3. Evaluate and clean up your social media presence. In my survey, I found that 74% of hiring managers will always or often (over 50% of the time) check out a job seeker’s social media presence. Tighten up your privacy settings if you have content you don’t want employers to see.

4. Assess your skills. As you review job postings and talk to people, determine if your skills are still competitive. If you need more training or skill development, start working on closing the skills gap as soon as possible.

5. Browse job boards regularly to identify jobs you might want to apply to. Also use these boards to do market research on the types of positions, qualifications, and skills that employers are looking for.

6. Post your resume to job banks: You can post your resume online on sites like Indeed, Monster, or CareerBuilder. (Tip: Don’t include your entire address for privacy reasons – just the city and province is fine)

7. Start preparing for interviews: You never know when you might get a call for an interview. Begin reviewing common questions and thinking about your responses.

8. Practice talking about yourself: It’s not easy for most people to talk about themselves. Put together an introduction script that you can use in casual or networking situations.

Get Focused

Many people feel helpless in the process of finding work. They wait for an employer to post their perfect position. But the best way to go is to lay the groundwork BEFORE the position is posted. 

9. Decide what companies you want to work for: Don’t wait for a job posting to come up. Make a list of 40 companies that you are interested in working for.

10. Regularly check company websites for postings: Once you have your target companies, go directly to their websites on a weekly basis to keep tabs on any upcoming positions.

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11. Follow companies on social media: One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date on company news or new positions is to follow companies on social media. I personally use LinkedIn and Facebook for this. 

12. Send an introduction email: Many companies want people who want to work for them. If you are interested in a particular company, reach out to someone at the company and introduce yourself.  

13. Demonstrate your professional expertise. Build up evidence of your professional expertise.  You can blog, comment on online industry groups, or publish to LinkedIn, just as a few examples. 

Get Connected

People hire people. Though employers source candidates in a variety of ways, networking does still play an important part in the recruitment process. 

14. Tap into your network: Networking continues to be critical in landing work. Start talking to the people you know and tell them what you are looking for.

15. Talk to your references: Let your references know that you are looking for work and that they could expect a call. Don’t forget to ask them if they know of any opportunities, too.

16. Develop new relationships: Look for ways to meet new people through social media or face-to-face. Attend events such as workshops, parties, networking mixers, or community groups.

17. Get information: Conduct informational interviews with your network. But don’t stop there. Identify who else you want to talk to and reach out to start a conversation.    

18. Connect with your professional association, union, or sector council: Ask for advice on how to connect with employers and if there are any events or programs you should attend.  

Don't spend another year at work that is not right for you. Make 2018 the year that you step out and take control of your career direction. 

All my best, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

What You Need for an Exceptional LinkedIn Profile

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Your LinkedIn profile is your professional web presence. Though you may have a portfolio site, website, or virtual resume, your LinkedIn profile has the highest probability of being seen due to search engine optimization.

You need a LinkedIn profile that clearly communicates the work you can do.

What do you do best?  What do you want to be found for?

Think of yourself as a “business of one.” A good business is crystal clear on the services and products that it offers. You need that same clarity in your profile. (And stay away from those tempting, yet meaningless filler words.)

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Don’t start writing until you identify your primary and secondary audiences.

One of the challenges that you may run into is writing your profile in a way that speaks to ALL your audiences. This could be prospective employers, current or future clients, colleagues, or networking connections.

You need to decide what you want to use LinkedIn for. Are you looking for work? Are you building a business or prospecting for clients?

Once you know your purpose, the hard work begins.

Research keywords that you want to be found for.  Look at your Skills and Endorsements section – are the skills you have listed the ones that you want to be found for?

Look at LinkedIn profiles of people in similar roles. What do you like or not like about their profiles?  Review websites of companies who do similar work to what you do. What words or phrases grab you?

Write it all down.

Now, what’s your unique value proposition?

Chances are that other people can do what you do.

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What makes you different?  How are you better? How can you solve the problem that your potential employer or prospective client faces? 

Try to distill your value proposition into a simple phrase that you can use in your headline.

Struggling to figure out your value proposition?  At Career Story, we specialize in helping you uncover and communicate your value.

But be careful. Here’s what most people miss out on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is about relationships. A good networker connects with people in a meaningful, thoughtful, and friendly manner.

But most profiles on LinkedIn, a networking platform? Bland. Generic. Sterile.

Imagine going to a party where someone talks about themselves in formal language for the entire evening. No thanks!

All that to say that it’s important to build your LinkedIn profile in a friendly, professional way while still precisely capturing the depth of your skills, experience, and training.  

Integrate stories as evidence of competence.

The best LinkedIn profiles include micro stories that demonstrate personality, motivation, and skills. Let people get to know you.

In an increasingly competitive market, you will be up against others with similar skill sets. In the end, employers will choose the person who fits best within their company culture.

Again, it’s about building the relationship with your audience. Your content on LinkedIn is your ticket to fostering this relationship.

Want to be taken seriously? Take your appearance into consideration. 

You need a good profile picture. No ifs or buts.

It doesn’t need to be a professional picture, but it should be a head-and-shoulders shot with a non-distracting background.  No wedding photos, vacation shots, or poorly cropped pictures. 

Just a high-resolution picture of YOU looking happy. (Remember you want to make friends here.)

And add a background picture. Pixabay has a wide range of “no attribution necessary” pictures you could use.

Lastly, write your profile for readability.

One of my writing rules for LinkedIn is no paragraphs over three lines.  Make it easy for anyone scanning your profile. Use spacing and icons to organize information.

And remember, more is not better.  The goal is clear and concise communication, written in a friendly, professional way.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

8 Smart Strategies for Finding Working on LinkedIn

How are you looking for work? If you are like most people, you are cruising the online job boards, looking for the ideal opportunity.

But by the time you see an online posting, it might be too late. Even advertised jobs are often filled by a referral.

So, it’s critical to be proactive in building your network before you need it. And LinkedIn is an excellent platform to do that.

Your Ideal Network

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If you are serious about building up your career, start building up your LinkedIn network. Here are some easy steps you can take.

1. Identify companies that you want to work for. Go to the company page and follow each company. Log into LinkedIn daily to keep track of any company updates or job opportunities.

2. Look at the employees who are part of the company. Identify 3 – 5 people within each organization that you want to get to know. It can be someone at the same level who can give you insight into the company or job responsibilities. Or it can be a manager or HR professional.

3. Go to the individual profiles of each person. Click to “Follow” their activity. Make sure your privacy setting allows users to see that you have viewed their profiles.

4. Interact with the posts that they publish. Like posts and articles. Make intelligent comments or offer expert advice.

5. If they do not connect with you after several interactions, send a personalized connection request. In your connection request, be specific about why you want to connect. For example, you can ask for advice related to your next career step.

6. If you hear back, focus on building the relationship. The goal is to move your interactions off LinkedIn into a phone call or face-to-face meeting.

7. Research recruiters within your field and connect with them. Beyond having connections with employers, recruiters have an expert understanding of the labour market. They can provide information on skills, qualifications, and experience that employers are looking for.  

8. Follow your professional association and connect with individuals who work for the association.

Building Your Brand

In the meantime, make sure that you are doing what you can to build up your visibility as a professional in your own field.

  1. Start publishing your thoughts and ideas through LinkedIn Pulse.
  2. Update your LinkedIn status several times a week, but not more than once a day.
  3. Actively add new connections to your network. 
  4. Like or comment on updates or articles that your network publishes.

But, remember this is not a quick fix. This is a long-term strategy that works if you invest  time and energy. LinkedIn is about establishing trust and credibility. If you want help with your LinkedIn strategy, connect with us to find out more. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

5 Ways to Stand Out on LinkedIn (According to Recruiters)

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Did you know that 73% of employers will “Always” or “Often” check you out on social media after receiving your application? This is what I learned after conducting a survey of 60 hiring decision makers including recruiters, HR professionals, and business owners.

Having a solid, professional LinkedIn profile can make you stand out as a strong candidate.

But what makes a good LinkedIn profile? I recently talked to a few recruiters and HR professionals to get their tips and tricks for how you can maximize your LinkedIn presence.

Write in a Friendly, Professional Tone. LinkedIn is moving from being proper and serious (“all business”) to being more friendly and personable. After all, it is a networking platform and networking is all about relationships.

Maz from Aughdem Recruitment recommends that you write your profile and experience in the first-person. Share your motivations, story, and your why!  Let your personality come out. People want to hire people they like.

In interacting on LinkedIn, be approachable and helpful. Share information that will be useful to your network. You can share pictures or personal stories if they are relevant to your network. For me, the posts that have had the most engagement have been personal stories and pictures related to my career.

Look to build connection by being friendly. If someone asks you to connect, accept and then send them a welcome message and try to get to know them better. Also, if you are sending connection requests, always customize your request.

Make Your Profile Complete and Neat: There is a balance between too much and too little information on LinkedIn. You need to provide enough detail so that employers understand what you are capable of.  Do not leave any sections blank.

Less is more. Each section (Summary and Experience) on LinkedIn has a 2000-character limit. I advise my clients to aim for approximately 1000 characters per section.

Vanessa, Talent Acquisition Specialist for Hemmera, stated that she looks for candidates to have an organized and tidy profile. This can be easily done by using icons as bullets and space between paragraphs.  

Use Keywords: To be found on LinkedIn, you need to know what keywords to integrate into your profile. Recruiters or hiring managers use LinkedIn like a search engine, often using keywords like job titles, technology, and location to source candidates.

Look at job postings for your ideal position. Make a list of the keywords and then ensure they are sprinkled throughout your profile. It’s very important that you also have them in your headline.

Your Skills and Endorsements section should be a thorough representation of what you want to be found for. Be sure to review this section to make certain it showcases your best skills and knowledge.

Invest in a Good Profile Picture: The number one piece of advice that came from the recruiters and HR personnel I talked to? Have a good profile picture! LinkedIn is your professional web presence and a representation of your personal brand. You need to show up looking professional and friendly.

Be Mindful of Your Actions: Every time that you take an action on LinkedIn, it is publicly broadcast to your connections. Make sure that anything you publish, comment on or even like, is professional. You can easily damage your reputation and dilute your brand message if you are not careful.

And lastly, here’s a bonus tip from Lucas from TEKsystems. If a recruiter reaches out to you on LinkedIn, why not take a few minutes to chat with them, even if you aren’t looking for your next opportunity? Recruiters have a great sense of what is going on in the industry and if you can build up a relationship with them now, it could help you down the road when you are ready to make a career transition.

If you want to do a better job of getting noticed on LinkedIn, consider getting help to elevate your profile. We offer LinkedIn profile writing and coaching on how to better use the platform. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.