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.

10 Essential Steps to Maximize Your Informational Interviews

If you love learning and like meeting interesting people, informational interviews are the way to go about building your career.

An intentional career-focused conversation can expand your ideas, help you identify new career possibilities, and provide a way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your target industry.

Many people arrange informational interviews only when making a career transition, but honestly, they should be an integral part of your investment in your career.

Back in 2015, I completed a counselling certificate. It was a good program that taught me decent practical skills. But I sometimes wonder where my career and business would be if I had invested those 3 hours a week into networking and informational interviews instead.

I talk about what questions you can ask here. There are no perfect questions – instead, ask about the things that interest you. One of the most meaningful questions I ever asked in an informational interview 10 years ago was “How do you see your work making a difference in the world?”  

But the questions aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to when doing informational interviews.

Today I want to focus on the other essential elements that occur before, during, and after the meeting that can help you make a good impression and improve the process overall.

1. Make a Good Impression Before the Meeting: When you initiate an informational interview, be mindful of your communication through the process of arranging the meeting.

Be prompt, enthusiastic, and thankful in all your interactions. And always double-check your spelling and grammar in emails.

2. Send a Reminder: You can send a reminder email the day before your meeting to confirm the time and location. 

3. Attitude: Go in with curiousity and a willingness to listen. People will be more impressed with an openness to learning than your intelligence. And do not try to convert the informational interview into a pitch for a job – this will do more harm than good.

4. Research: Do some research on the person you are meeting and where they have worked in the past.

5. Dress: Dress professionally, even if it's a coffee meeting. 

6. Time: Be early, but not too early. Arrive 10 minutes before your suggested meeting time.

Coming early is especially important if you are meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant. Get a table before the other person arrives so you don't waste time searching for a place to sit. 

If you committed to keeping the informational interview within a certain timeframe, then be sure to wrap up by the appointed time.

7.  Offer to Pay: Offer to buy the person's coffee or lunch. They may decline, but it's a nice gesture and a great investment in your future.

8. Prepare, but be Flexible: Put together thoughtful questions, but don’t put too much focus on the questions at the expense of building the relationship.

People love giving advice and talking about their careers. Be sincerely interested in the person and their journey. This is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship, not just a one-time meeting.

9. Send a Thank You Note: After your meeting, send an email to the person, thanking them for their time and identifying any information that you found particularly useful. 

10.  Stay Connected: Connect with the person on LinkedIn. Look for ways to help them when you can.  And let them know where you ended up, even if it was a while ago since you met up.

For me, informational interviews and networking meetings have turned into jobs, contracts, and client referrals. And as much as that’s awesome, what I really love about the process is the chance to connect with interesting people and build genuine, long-term relationships that benefit us both.  

To your future career success, 

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.

 

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.

When a Career Coach Goes to an Interview

I advise clients on interview strategies, often with very positive outcomes. But talking about something and doing something yourself can be two very different things.

So, what happens when a career coach finds themselves on the other side of the table?

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This past summer, a professional acquaintance of mine posted a part-time, contract career advising position up at a local university. Having heard about the progressive work this careers centre was doing, I decided to apply.

As any good job seeker would do, I created a targeted resume and cover letter. I then messaged my contact on LinkedIn to let him know that I had applied.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Just at the point when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get a callback, I got one. Whoo hoo!

Interview Preparation

My next task was interview preparation. I know that stress can mess with my mind and reactions during interviews, thus making preparation critical for me.

1. Question Brainstorming:  I brainstormed as many interview questions as I could think of including this critical question. I knew this team valued theory and practice so I created some questions for that. I then wrote out responses for each answer.

2. Practice: I had to take my own advice – I advocate for clients to record themselves answering interview questions.  So as awkward as it was, I video-recorded my responses. I then listened to my answers to ensure they were complete while also catching any annoying verbal habits (Apparently, I often start my answers with "So" or make this weird clicking sound) or poor ways of explaining information. 

3. Research: I did as much research as I could about the department. I looked through the website and their blog. I reached out to current employees.

My Interview Day 

1. Logistics: I researched where to park ahead of time and I knew which building I had to go to. It took longer to get to the building than I expected so I was glad that I gave myself lots of extra time.

2. Timing: In the past, I have shown up ridiculously early to interviews. This time, I practiced restraint. I waited in another part of the university until closer to my interview time and arrived in the Career Centre only 10 minutes ahead of the interview time. (Tip: Employers don’t always know what to do with candidates who arrive extra early.)

My interviewers, Tony and Deanne, made me feel comfortable. They cracked a few jokes which broke the ice. As Tony and Deanne asked me the interview questions, I felt mostly prepared. But for two questions, I felt that I could have had stronger answers.

One of the questions was related to what career theories and student development theories I use in my work. Initially, I panicked as I didn’t know anything about student development theory. But I took a deep breath and realized that I could focus on what I did know instead.

I bit back my honest tendency to point out my deficiencies (can anyone else relate to that?) and instead spoke about all the career theory that I integrate into my work.

Secondly, I was asked to share about a time that I facilitated a workshop. Launching into my explanation, I forgot to clearly wrap up my story with what the outcome or result was. Thankfully, Deanne was gracious enough to prompt me by asking a clarifying question.

I prepared several of my own questions for the end of the interview, but only asked two. In previous interview settings, I had gone overboard with asking questions so I wanted to ensure that I got good information without over-burdening the interviewers.

After the Interview

My goal for the interview was to provide great responses but to show up as my authentic self. I wanted to ensure that if I was offered the job, I would be a fit within the team.

After the interview, I reflected on my responses, wishing that I had added this or not said that. But there was nothing so egregious that I felt that I needed to offer additional clarification.

Within 24-hours, I sent a thank you email, outlining my enthusiasm for the work along with my references.

Then I waited. Tony was great at keeping me in the loop regarding their progress. My references also kept me updated on when they received reference calls. (Tip: Ask your references to let you know when they get a call.)

Finally, I got the call, offering me the position! Working as a Career Educator for the past few months, I’m delighted with my decision to join this team.

Best of luck with your next interview. To find out about my interview preparation coaching, click here. 

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

Connect with her 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.

The Action-Oriented Job Search

By nature, I’m a cautious person with a tendency towards perfectionism, especially when it comes to my job search.  When I’m looking for work, my preferred approach is not to start reach out unless I am 100% clear on my career target, have the perfect resume, have updated my LinkedIn profile, joined Twitter and have practiced my introduction speech.  What can I say?  I like to be prepared for anything!

However, I am not convinced this is the best approach.  I know that in my quest for perfection, I often end up stalling out and procrastinating on the important parts like networking. I start to use my list of job search actions as road blocks as I tell myself that I can’t really start my active job search unless I have completed all the tasks that I have laid out for myself.  But this doesn’t often work out very well for me as I waste valuable time and might miss some opportunities.

I’m not alone in this approach. Many of job seekers often exercise a conservative approach as well.  But I believe that taking action is a key element in job search!  There is a time and place to be prepared. However, it is important not to let the preparation overshadow the important of moving forward and exploring options along the way!  Seizing the opportunity to connect with others in formal and informal settings, even in an activity that is not job search-related is actually one of the best ways to job search.

One of my favorite career development theories is called happenstance learning theory, put forth by John Krumboltz. In his career development theory, Mr Krumboltz talks the impact of factors over which you have no control and actions that you initiate.   He suggests that every situation has potential opportunities and encourages taking exploratory action to generate beneficial unplanned events or consequences.  As the saying goes, “You don’t know unless you try.”   When looking for work, I believe that you should be taking every opportunity to create your own luck. However, these events will not happen if you refuse to leave the house because your checklist isn’t complete!

There are so many ways to take action during your job search process including volunteering, shadowing someone at their job, conducting informational interviews, joining a club, attending networking events, getting involved in social justice, attending a fitness class, or even joining a political party. Besides these intentional actions, think about even your day-to-day activities where you are around people like in an elevator or on transit.  Don’t be scared to engage in events that seem unrelated to your job search as you never know who you might meet or what could happen. To get maximum benefit from the taking action, Mr Krumboltz suggests that you should do the following:

  1. Before the unplanned event, you take actions that position you to experience it. So even though you are open to unplanned opportunities, you still need to think about what you might need. Perhaps it’s business cards. Or maybe it’s having an updated LinkedIn profile. It could even be ensuring that you look your best when you leave the house (no sweats!)
  2. During the event, you remain alert and sensitive to recognize potential opportunities. One of my beliefs is that to be a good job seeker these days, you need to start thinking like an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is creative and is always looking for opportunity to maximize their product or service. To be really good at job search, start to work on developing this mindset!
  3. After the event, you initiate actions that enable you to benefit from it. It’s all fine and good to have a great interaction, but if you don’t follow-up, the connection is dead.  Make sure that you identify what the next step is and then implement!

So there you have it.  The job search paradox of action and preparation. When it’s all said and done, you need to trust yourself that you will be able to adapt to whatever unplanned situations that you find yourself up against.  You might not handle it perfectly, but that’s OK. What matters is that you are getting out and doing something. And as you start to take action, you will start to find your momentum, I promise!

Kristin Vandegriend is a Career Coach and Resume Writer at Career Story. With over 10+ years of experience in HR and career development, she has successfully worked with hundreds of clients to find meaningful and sustainable work. Her passion is helping clients identify career paths and creative job search strategies that leverage and market their personal strengths and resilience.  Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.