How to Network at Social Events When You Aren’t Social

networkingLike it or not, most professionals initially get their jobs by leveraging their network of contacts, and those contacts can be elusive if you never socialize. Just for the record, I’m not talking about landing your next gig through your brother or girlfriend. I’m talking about finding your next job through your brother’s friend’s neighbor’s boss’ wife’s childhood buddy who’s just been named vice president. Otherwise known as six-degrees-of-separation networking.

Having conversations with people and building relationships through in-person (and online) social gatherings is a critical part of any professional’s career strategy, but it’s also important to do it in a way that is manageable and comfortable for you (not to mention successful). Here are a few suggestions

Arrive Early

If you’re one of the first people to show up at an event, it is more likely to feel like an intimate dinner party than a huge “meet and greet market.” You can have a few memorable conversations before the event becomes crowded and walking up to strangers becomes a lot less challenging when there are only a few in your field of vision.

Also, if there is a speaker at the event, showing up early makes it easy to meet them personally and even ask a question or two. Ironically, the speaker may well be the most important person you meet at the event and by showing up early you can potentially have his or her undivided attention before the end of the event, when everyone else wants to chat with the speaker.

Just be sure you’re respectful of the speaker’s prep time when he or she is concentrating on the logistics of their presentation, such as setting up a PowerPoint or sound-testing the mike or video equipment.

Go With a Buddy

Another great solution is to bring along your wingman or wingwoman – a friend or colleague who would be willing to go to the event with you. If he or she is the social type, you can let them make the introductions, and then you quickly become part of conversations that you didn’t initiate yourself.

Or the two of you can develop a strategy where you each have conversations with a certain number of people independently and then regroup to share the knowledge and contacts you’ve acquired. This halves the requirement that you talk to people, while doubling your networking efforts.

Have a Drink – But Watch Your Alcohol Barometer

If it’s a social networking event, alcohol will probably be served. Having a drink may reduce your inhibitions and make you more comfortable with the overall process.

Obviously there’s a line between relaxed and approachable and lampshade on your head, so be sure not to cross it. Nurse a beer, order a wine spritzer, or switch to soda after one or two drinks. Just holding a drink in your hand automatically makes you social; you don’t need to be throwing them back. Stay conscious about your level of drinking, and don’t consume more than one alcoholic drink an hour.

 Work the Front Desk

 If you find making small talk difficult, consider volunteering to handle the on-site registration or check-in for the event. Every attendee will have to pass by before entering the event, and the conversations may flow more freely as a result, since attendees generally have to supply their names as part of the registration process.

Also, by working the front desk you will be privy to the list of attendees and probably even other valuable information such as their job title, the company they work for, and their email address, although this may be highly confidential data, so be very discreet in how you use it.

This starting point can provide great insights, however, because you can plot a few strategic conversations using this knowledge, or you can leverage the information to do some online sleuthing later or connect with specific attendees via LinkedIn. Be cautious though and let enough time elapse that it isn’t obvious where you got their information and don’t mention the check-in desk connection or your quarry  may put it together.

Become the Organizer

Being an event organizer often requires a great deal of behind-the-scenes work, but it puts your name out there front and center with attendees. If you’ve had phone conversations or email exchanges with these people prior to the event, they may already feel like they know you and may actively seek you out during the event to talk.

The same holds true for the presenter at the event, which could yield dividends down the road. As the point-person for the presenter, you will get to know him or her prior to the event and he/she will be relying on you for important information related to the venue, attendees, logistics, and equipment. You will become a valuable resource for the presenter and he/she will be grateful for the information you provide. Being helpful makes you memorable and it increases the likelihood that this person would reciprocate and help you, should you reach out with a question or request for advice or an introduction in the future.

 Create a Strong Online Presence

 If a list of attendees is published and circulated prior to the event, attendees might decide to research others beforehand. By having a strong online presence on LinkedIn and other online identity sites like Google+, ZoomInfo, and BrandYourself, you make it easy for people to find you and become familiar with your background. These profiles can include your phone number and email for quick access if you are comfortable sharing this information.

Building online profiles gives you the opportunity to take control of your online presence and create a searchable branded bio to position your experience in the most keyword-rich way. This is a much better strategy than having someone Google you only to find a random assortment of facts including where you work, your running time in a previous marathon, and a comment you made on a somewhat controversial blog back in the Jurassic era.

After an attendee reviews your online presence, they may want to get to know you better, and some might chose to connect with you and begin a dialogue prior to the event. This is a great way to break the ice, and then when you meet the person at the live event, you may already feel like you know them to some extent.

Focus on Listening Instead of Talking

Many people think you have to be “a big talker” or “smooth” or “funny” to be an effective networker. But the more important networking skill is being a good listener, and people who are somewhat introverted or believe they are less social often excel at listening. Remember to ask “curiosity-based questions” of the person you are talking to, rather than focusing the spotlight on yourself.

You can ask them about their job, how they broke into their field, or what they like about the company they work for. By doing this, you will be gaining valuable insights and information about this person and they will thoroughly enjoy the conversation because they are talking about themselves. Not-too-secret-secret: Most people think you are a great networker when you let them do most of the talking!

Have a Few Meaningful Conversations Rather Than Several Unmemorable Ones

Many people go to social events and try to talk to as many people as possible. They may return home with a stack of business cards, but have little memory of the people they met – or the most important conversations – because the conversations were not long enough or engaging enough to be memorable.

A better strategy is to have a few meaningful conversations with just a handful of people. Building a deeper, more authentic relationship from the get-go yields better results down the line. You might ask an attendee if they’ve participated in other events the organization has hosted and learn more about what the association has to offer and who the key members are.

Or you might ask someone how long they’ve been in the business – or how they started out – and be treated to a rich overview of their work history and contacts.

Be sure to exchange business cards and jot a few notes down about the person before leaving the event and then follow up with a LinkedIn invite to remain top of mind with your new contact and keep the momentum going.

Treat Others the Way You Would Like to Be Treated

 Many people don’t like networking because they have had experiences with others at social events that were at best uncomfortable, and at worst, creepy. There are certainly bad networkers and people who ask for too much too soon or bore you into stupefaction.

You can’t meet someone for the first time at 6 p.m. and ask to be introduced to a key contact at 6:15 p.m. You have to build the relationship over time and earn trust respectfully. Nonetheless, some people do this, turning others off, and networking gets a bad rap.

You definitely don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) that guy or gal. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and be 100% authentic and helpful. Think of ways you might be able to support or assist the other person, and the relationship will eventually blossom. People remember those that have assisted them over the course of a lifetime, and are more likely to reciprocate if they can possibly do so.

The next time you have the opportunity to go to a social event; whether it be a professional association meeting, a class reunion, a holiday party, a wedding, or a baseball game, try a few of these strategies and see what works well for you. You may end up making a new friend, meeting the person who will become your spouse, or starting a dialogue with someone who will be able to transform your career someday down the line.

Whatever the outcome, it’s worth the preparation to make the process a productive and successful one!

 

How Women Can Negotiate a Salary That Isn’t Half What Their Male Predecessor Earned

photo (12)Recent reports regarding GM CEO Mary Barra’s salary suggested she was earning half what her male predecessor, Dan Akerson earned. And while the latest reports note that GM has clarified that when Barra’s total compensation of base pay, short-term, and long-term compensation is disclosed later this year, the numbers will represent more equitable pay between the two, the incident has brought the issue of unequal pay for women to the forefront again.

There are several issues that can impact pay for women, including a higher percentage of females leaving the workforce temporarily to raise children or a larger number accepting part-time jobs, but there is also research to suggest that the way women approach the salary negotiation process may be at play as well.

The mechanics of the negotiation are the same for men and women, but the strategies often vary between the two sexes. Personality, style, and gender are all contributing factors that influence the outcome of the conversation. Here are four differences I have observed between male and female negotiation styles (and what you can do to level the playing field):

1.) Relationships vs. Outcomes
Women tend to value relationships over outcomes and are willing to compromise in an effort to keep the relationship intact. Some can be people pleasers who generally do not like conflict and confrontation, and many women associate salary negotiation with conflict. In a study by Babcock, Gelfund, Small, and Stayn, “Propensity to Initiate Negotiations,” men and women participated in an internet survey to identify if they believed it was appropriate to negotiate in various work-related fictitious situations. As a group, women were less likely than men to choose negotiation as an option, even though they recognized that negotiation was appropriate.

Men tend to leverage relationships to achieve their goals. They ask for a particular salary with less compromise and are concerned with outcomes. They worry less about how their negotiations affect the relationship. Their straight-forward approach can work well, especially for short-term financial gain.

Recommendation: Women can be successful negotiators by positioning their needs as part of a collaborative process. By listening to a potential employer’s needs and recommending outcomes that
benefit both parties, women and men can get what they want for themselves and preserve the relationship at the same time.

2.) Needs vs. Wants
Many women may make decisions about salary based on what they feel they need rather than what the market will bear. They use past salary as their benchmark and may rationalize that a similar or slightly higher salary is what they should ask for. Since employers tend to reward people no more than they require, women are at risk for receiving less competitive packages than their male counterparts.

Men are more likely to ask for what they want. Cultural norms may be at play here, since historically it has been acceptable for men to be assertive in the business world, while women who are tend to be viewed as aggressive or difficult to work with. In a study by Small, Babcock, and Gelfund, “Why Don’t Women Ask,” participants were asked to play a game and offered $3 as compensation. If participants asked for more, they would receive $10. Almost nine times as many males asked for more money, suggesting that men ask for what they want more frequently than women.

Recommendation: Women can improve their negotiation skills by knowing their market value. Sites such as Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor help job seekers define a potential range of salaries for a particular job. By doing your research and presenting the business case for your requested salary, you improve your bargaining power and diffuse potential cultural biases.

3.) External vs. Internal Centers of Influence
Women may be more likely to assume that hard work alone will be recognized and rewarded with a promotion and/or increased monetary compensation. They often wait for external factors and group consensus to determine their opportunities for advancement.

Men more frequently take matters into their own hands and believe they influence their opportunities and promotions. They are less inclined to stay in dead-end jobs and more likely to ask for a raise when they feel the situation warrants one. In the “Propensity to Initiate Negotiations” survey, researchers found that women were 45 percent less likely to see the importance of asking for what they want.

Recommendation: Women can increase their opportunities for promotion by taking a proactive approach to their career development that includes reporting accomplishments regularly, taking on high-profile assignments, and developing influential networking relationships within the organization.

4.) Low vs. High Goal Setting
Women may set more modest goals than men and they generally make concessions earlier in the negotiation process. As a result, women typically have lower salaries than men in similar positions.

A study by Riley, Babcock, and McGinn, “Gender as a Situational Phenomenon in Negotiation,” revealed that men typically set goals for negotiation conversations that are 15 percent higher than women. By going into the negotiation process with higher goals, men can often receive better initial offers and additional leverage in the negotiation process. In subsequent negotiations, employers often assume that applicants with better compensation records are more capable than those who have been paid less.

Recommendation: Women should adopt a negotiation style that meets their individual needs, but both should incorporate ambitious targets into their negotiation strategy. When you negotiate your compensation package you are not just negotiating your starting salary, but you are directly impacting every salary increase you receive from that point forward.

While most job-seekers are intensely interested in how to negotiate the best package, few realize the importance of creating their own style and developing a set of best practices for their negotiations. Whether you are a man or a woman, these strategies can help you achieve the optimal total compensation package when you land your next promotion or new job.

Facebook is Ten! Are You Using it to Manage Your Career Yet?

birthday

In celebration of their 10th birthday, I’m blogging about Facebook to show how much I appreciate its implications for career management and job search. Facebook often plays second fiddle to LinkedIn and many are unaware of its enormous potential for job search. Here are a few of the features I particularly like.

Graph Search

Graph Search allows you to search profiles based on information that may be important to your job search. Finding people with a particular job title, at a specific company, in a certain city can be done in a snap with graph search. Just click on the browse tab from your home page and key in the information you are looking for. From here, you can message the person or subscribe to their public feed if they have enabled that feature. Or your search may show that you have mutual friends and a friend request may be in order.

Graph Search

Glassdoor Inside Connections

Glassdoor Inside Connections is an application that runs on the Facebook platform and allows you to search for Facebook friends who are connected to people at your target companies. You may be friends with people on Facebook who are not your connections on LinkedIn. By knowing who your friends know at certain companies, you open the door for additional networking opportunities that may have been left unearthed via LinkedIn. Glassdoor is also a great repository of information on companies, jobs, salaries, interview questions, and more.

Citi

Company Pages

Company Pages on Facebook are a great way to learn about a company’s culture, interact with company decision makers, and find out about job opportunities in real time. Just key in the name of the company that interests you in the Facebook search box. In general, I see much greater engagement on Facebook company pages than I do on LinkedIn company pages, so this feature is definitely worth exploring and provides a great alternative to applying via the black hole of a job board or career page on that company’s official website.

Sodexo

 

Hashtags

Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in posts on timelines. This helps people find posts on topics they are interested in. Facebook recently began rolling out Trending, a feature that highlights the most popular topics and hashtags. Frequently these topics are related to something that may be relevant for your search and can fuel your ability to source decision makers. Check for it on your homepage.

Microsoft

How to Negotiate a $109M Severance Package

moneyThere’s been a lot of press about Yahoo COO Henrique de Castro getting fired by CEO Marissa Mayer after just one year in the job. Much of the press revolves around his $109M severance package because people are dumbfounded by how anyone could receive so much money for failing.

But let’s examine the circumstances under which de Castro accepted the position. Mayer snagged him from Google where he had a great gig working for the #1 company on the Fortune Best Companies to Work For list. He was given an opportunity to walk into Yahoo, a company whose revenues have been declining consistently for years, due to competition from Google and Facebook. His charge was to orchestrate a major turnaround for the company, no small feat.

No executive takes on such a role without meticulously negotiating a comprehensive severance package. His severance benefits, including equity awards, were laid out in his employment letter. I’m assuming de Castro knew he was taking an enormous risk teaming with Yahoo and the only way Mayer was going to be able to convince him to come on board was by offering him a huge “insurance policy.” 

So what does all this mean for you? If you are in the midst of a negotiation for a new job, it may be important to negotiate your severance package on the way in, because it can be difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate it on the way out. While it might seem awkward to negotiate your exit when you’ve just gotten your foot in the door, it’s a prudent and frequently expected point to negotiate, particularly if part of the new role requires a turnaround effort. As long as you can prove to the prospective employer that what you are negotiating for is fair and reasonable, you should be able to make some headway in the negotiation process.

Since negotiating severance may feel like a difficult conversation, here are a few tips.

  1. Begin the conversation by displaying your excitement about the offer and reiterate why you think you are a great fit and what value you can bring to the role.
  2. Explain that you expect to have a long and fruitful career with the company.
  3. Discuss the reality of the risks associated with the role if there are any in terms that are fair and reasonable. For example, you might say, “Given the fact that this is a volatile market, I think it would be prudent to discuss the severance package, should market conditions impact company performance.” If you are being brought in to manage a turnaround, you might say, “Given the fact that the firm is facing significant challenges, some that may be outside their control due to the economy, I believe it is reasonable to discuss what happens if the original goals are not met.” If you are negotiating with a start up, you might say, “Since I am leaving an established Fortune 1,000 company for this start-up, there is inherently more risk and I would like to discuss the opportunity for severance if the company does not take off.”

While I can’t guarantee you will leave the negotiation table with a package as lucrative as de Castro’s, you will certainly be taking better ownership of what happens to you financially if your new job doesn’t work out the way you had planned.

Top 4 Most In-Demand Skills in Finance, Healthcare, Legal Services & Human Resources

The Execu-Search Group, an executive search firm based in Manhattan, recently surveyed 195 of their clients to uncover their hiring plans for 2014 and the in-demand skills they believed would play a part in their decision. Below are the survey findings on their top four in-demand skills across 5 business areas.Hiring Outlook Cover_Download

Accounting & Finance 

  • Technical Accounting
  • Corporate Reporting
  • Financial Planning/Analysis
  • Hedge Fund Accounting

Financial Services

  • Operational Risk
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Advanced Excel
  • Modeling

Healthcare

  • Managed Care
  • Informatics/Health Information Management
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • Operations

Human Resources

  • Experience in Benefits, Compensation, and Immigration
  • Relevant Industry Background
  • Knowledge of ADP or similar HRIS Systems
  • Knowledge of Personnel Administration Systems

Legal Services

  • Contract Review/Negotiation
  • Drafting Corporate Documents/Corporate Governance
  • Document Review
  • Legal Research/Writing

The survey also revealed that significant hiring is expected across all of these sectors for both permanent and contract positions. Click on the link to learn more about 2014 hiring projections or download the full 2014 hiring outlook whitepaper here.

 

Career Solvers Resume Specialty Certifications

imageIf you are looking for a resume writer that specializes in your industry or job function, Career Solvers may be the perfect fit. In addition to four resume writing credentials, Career Solvers holds six specialty resume writing credentials in the following areas:

  1. Sales & Business Development
  2. Financial Service
  3. Information Technology
  4. Public Relations & Marketing
  5. Human Resources & Training
  6. Healthcare & Medical

These specialty credentials were awarded after preparing dozens of resumes in each of these fields and presenting an extensive portfolio to an international review committee.

Want to learn more? Check out our resume samples or contact us directly for a free, no obligation review of your resume.

Seeking Unqualified Lazy Slackers

word cloudOut of every 100 resumes I review, approximately 95 of them start off with a reference to the personal attributes that candidate believes they possess. The logic here is that these descriptive words will verify the person’s abilities and make them a more desirable candidate in the hiring manager’s eyes. I actually believe that using these words makes the candidate far less desirable. Below is a list of some of the most commonly used descriptive words on a resume.

  1. highly qualified
  2. hard worker
  3. team player
  4. problem solver
  5. flexible
  6. people person
  7. self-starter

Now let’s consider the opposite meanings of these words:

  1. unqualified
  2. lazy
  3. loner
  4. problem maker
  5. inflexible
  6. people hater
  7. slug

Before you include a descriptive word on your resume, consider its opposite. In practically every case, it will be a word you never want to use to describe yourself. What this means is that all the words expressing personal attributes that you are using on your resume are a given and to assume the opposite is somewhat comical. Hiring managers don’t need to hear that you are qualified or a team player. They need to see it.

Instead of claiming to be a hard worker, show an example of a situation where you did what needed to be done in order to get a project done on time. Rather than saying you are a problem solver, describe a time when you approached a problem in a different manner and achieved outstanding results. Instead of saying you are a people person, illustrate an example of how you built relationships with clients or mentored staff.

Carry this logic over to your LinkedIn profile and try to avoid these top 10 overused buzzwords on LinkedIn. As you will see, the opposites of these words are pretty silly as well.

Need more help writing your own resume? Review our resume samples or download our resume tips ebook.

 

New Year’s 7-Day Career Cleanse Program

cleanseSo the new year is here and everyone is trying to stick to their resolutions to eat better, exercise more, save money, etc. But what about your career? Have you given any thought to trimming your bloated, outdated resume or banking some of your new networking contacts to help advance your job prospects in 2014? Here are 7 easy steps you can take right now to get your career on course and ensure you are prepared for future opportunities.

  1. Ditch toxic people. You know the ones I’m talking about. They are the people who say no one is hiring, you’re too old to find a new job, you make too much money, you’d be crazy to change careers…the list goes on and on. These people rarely add any real value to your career goals. Find people who can support you or hire a professional to help you chart your career course.
  2. Put your resume on a diet. Has the waistline of your resume expanded to 3+ pages? Are you still dedicating a half page to detailing information about your client base in 1999? Is you resume packed with information about company courses you completed back in the eighties? Remove this unnecessary poundage from your resume and create a sleeker, more streamlined message of value. If you like to diet alone, here’s a resume guide to help you. And if you need someone to help you whittle your resume down to a respectable size, let me know.
  3. Give your LinkedIn profile a makeover. How old is the picture on your profile? Does it need to be updated? Is the information current? Does the headline show only your current job title or does it convey more about your message of value and expertise? Have you paid attention to the skills section and have you created a customized URL to improve your chances of being found? If you are totally baffled by LinkedIn and social media in general, we should talk. A resume is no longer enough and you will need a strong online identity to compete for the best opportunities in 2014.
  4. Make new friends. Has your network gone stale? Do people in your professional community know what you are up to and do you communicate with them regularly? Now might be a good time to catch up by phone, grab coffee, or exchange an email to touch base.
  5. Practice interviewing. If a great opportunity became available tomorrow, would you be ready to pitch yourself to a hiring manager? If not, here’s a free app for interview prep that can help.
  6. Benchmark your salary. Do you know what you are worth? Have you been in the same job or same company for a long time and has your salary become less competitive? Check out sites like Payscale and Glassdoor to do a quick audit.
  7. Do something for someone else. Help someone with a personal or professional project, volunteer in your community, recommend a colleague on LinkedIn, or make an important introduction for someone. The more you give, the more you get. Start giving now and you’ll be getting back by Spring or maybe even sooner.

How to Use Facebook Graph Search to Source Job Leads

Many people use Facebook to keep up with friends and family, but few realize Facebook’s potential as a networking and general job search tool.

With over one billion users, Facebook offers a repository of information on people that is much greater than LinkedIn’s 200 million user base. Users can use Graph Search to source potential contacts or decision makers and connect directly via Facebook without having an intermediary connection. To use graph search, navigate to your home page and select browse from the left side bar window.

Facebook Browse

Next, enter in the keywords that represent the parameters of your search. The information you see on each person will vary, depending on the amount of information they have agreed to share publicly via their privacy settings. From this page, you can send a message or a friend request.

Marketing Manager Google

You can also search to see which friends on Facebook worked for a target company or which friends of friends have a connection to a company. If you know someone who knows someone at your target company, you can potentially turn a cold call into a warm lead.

 

FB friends of friends

Facebook can be an excellent job search tool to complement your existing LinkedIn strategy. The people you friend on Facebook may represent a very different audience than the ones you connect with on LinkedIn, and this gives you additional opportunities to strengthen your network and open new doors in your job search.

 

12 Days of Christmas Networking

Despite popular belief, the holiday season is a great time to continue your job search efforts to accelerate potential activity in December and the New Year. Here are 12 networking tips for the holiday season.

  1. Attend holiday parties. Many professional associations host holiday parties. This is a great way to meet others in your field that may be able to make meaningful introductions for you.
  2. Throw your own party. Have an intimate dinner party or a bigger bash at your home or nearby restaurant. This is a great way to practice your pitch, and reconnect with people who may be able to assist you in your search.
  3. Ask for informational interviews. The last two weeks of December are traditionally slow for most businesses. You may find that some of the decision makers you need to get in front of  are in the office during those last two weeks and it may be a lot easier to get in front of them during this time of year.
  4. Keep looking. Many job seekers take a break during the holiday season, assuming no one is hiring. But many companies do hire in December to make good use of their current hiring budgets or shore up talent in the new year. When other job seekers lay low during December, you may have a better chance to be found.
  5. Volunteer. Tis the season…volunteer to do something meaningful in your personal or professional communities during December. Doing so can increase your visibility and jump start some conversations with people who may be able to help you in the New Year.
  6. Do a favor for someone. Maybe you can watch your friend’s children while she does her Christmas shopping, or assist a friend who needs help with a computer problem or home improvement project. Your goodwill will not be forgotten and is likely to be reciprocated with help for your in the future.
  7. Take a vacation. What better way to meet new decision makers? It doesn’t need to be extravagant…just find new people to have conversations with. Let them know what you do and ask for their suggestions for expanding your brand’s reach in a very informational, non-threatening way. You may just pick up a lead or two.
  8. Reconnect with friends of “Christmas Past”. Check out LinkedIn and Facebook and search for old friends. What better time to reconnect than the holiday season? Get over the fact that it’s been awhile since you last spoke and take the first step. You may be pleasantly surprised by the response you get.
  9. Endorse or recommend colleagues you respect who do good work. If you have just reconnected with someone, the next step might be to endorse or recommend them on LinkedIn, like their Facebook status, or +1 their Google posts. These simple displays of acknowledgement go a long way towards building solid relationships.
  10. Send holiday cards. Holiday cards provide a natural “touch point” or opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues. Reach out to your network now with some “best wishes” and holiday cheer and you will have a natural entrée into a job-related conversation in the New Year.
  11. Schedule a lunch or coffee with a colleague or friend. Your contacts may have more time to give during this season and schedules may be more flexible. Take advantage of the lull and get back in touch with people who can serve as advocates in the new year.
  12. Join a professional association. Professional associations offer excellent opportunities for beefing up your skills and building your network of contacts. Plus, many offer end-of-year membership discounts as an incentive for joining.