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Want a new job? Talk with people.

A friend (let’s call her Julie) asked me to help her put together a nice, simple stereo system for her living room. She knows I’m both a vintage audio enthusiast and a bargain hunter. I’ve been trolling Craigslist for deals on a receiver and speakers. I found her a great receiver, but the speakers have proven a bit more challenging; the right ones at the right price have yet to surface.

Yesterday, I was sitting at our local coffee shop having breakfast and talking with a few of the regulars. One of the guys (a mutual friend of Julie’s) mentioned he had a garage sale yesterday, and that he had a pair of speakers for sale. My ears perked up and I asked for more details. Turns out they were the brand I’d been searching for…and he sold them to the first person who showed up.

I winced, realizing I’d made a serious tactical error. I’d seen this person repeatedly since my search began a couple of weeks ago…but I’d never thought to mention it to him.

If I had? Our mutual friend would have a great pair of speakers in her living room right now for a very reasonable price. And that’s my mistake.

What does this have to do with job search, you ask? Well, apply the above scenario to your current or most recent job search. How many people did you think to talk with about what you are/were searching for?

All too often, people feel shamed that they are out of work.  Or they don’t want to burden others with horror stories of how badly their current job is going. So they don’t speak up in situations where they may not realize someone could have a connection that could prove extremely useful.

I’ll give you another example:

The reason I’m in my current role was because I mentioned to another member of a board on which I sit that I’d changed my email as I had left my previous employer. She immediately responded, asking if I’d be interested in having lunch with her and their VP. I realized that I hadn’t mentioned my search to her previously. Why? Too focused on making new network connections, other interviews, etc. But I’d missed communicating with a major strategic networking asset–that could have cost me a fantastic job.

So. Who haven’t you talked with that you should?

Networking is about people connecting.

Happy Monday.

I am switching things up a bit today due to something that happened last night.

As I mentioned, I am out of town for the weekend-in Palm Springs. Before dinner this evening we stopped in at the Ace Hotel for a cocktail on their patio.

We were there for awhile and had a bit of light conversation with our server. I happened to mention that we were from the home of the Ace Hotel chain (Seattle) and she replied that she once lived in Seattle. When she returned to the table, I asked how she ended up in Palm Springs. She said that she had moved from Bend, OR for better weather (both are deserts; Bend is much colder in winter).

I happened to mention that one of my oldest friends, Evan, lives in Bend. To which she exclaims, “you don’t mean-?” And says his last name.

Turns out she was involved in the theatre community in Bend-as are my friend and his other half-and they all know each other quite well.

Small world moment? Absolutely. But also a great reminder of how stepping outside your comfort zone and striking up a conversation with a stranger can merit an unexpected connection. In this case, it was between someone I had never met and one of my oldest friends found nearly 900 miles away. In other cases those conversations can merit a potential connection to a great new position.

What’s the takeaway? LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool-but it cannot and should not replace face to face connection. So make it a priority to step out from behind your LinkedIn account and meet new people.

Know someone looking for a job? Here’s how you can help this holiday season

We all know that holiday season can be stressful. Financial concerns over gift-giving, travel costs, or hosting events/parties are ever-present. Anyone that’s been in an airport during the week of Christmas is likely to suffer mild PTSD; even those of us trying to travel by car/bus/train can get caught out by traffic or unexpected Winter storms. And let’s not forget the family gatherings..

As tough as all of that can be, it’s much more difficult when you’ve lost your job.

the_right_candidate_unemployed_santa

How to tell your family that you can’t afford the plane ticket home? Or stressing out about buying gifts for family and friends when your unemployment just ran out? Declining yet another invitation to a holiday dinner out because you can’t afford it?

Making things worse is that available job opportunities often start drying up around December 10th and don’t return until early-mid January. Many companies go through fiscal year-end in December which often includes a freeze on hiring until the new fiscal year starts. A lot of hiring managers take the last two weeks of the year off, meaning interview loops don’t happen and hiring decisions aren’t made.

Know someone out of work this holiday season? Here are a few possible gifts to give them:

  • Read a book that really helped you in your career search? Buy them a copy.
  • Going to a holiday or NYE party? Invite them along. These events are great ways to meet people and network. I made two networking connections at a party I attended last night.
  • Give them a gift card to Starbucks… If they are managing their job search well, a job seeker will likely be spending a fair amount of each week meeting people for coffee. That cost can add up.
  • …or to a decent department store. Someone who is looking for a job may end up going to the same company multiple times for interviews, and hence need multiple outfits; but if they’ve been out of work for awhile they aren’t likely to spend money on new clothes. A new shirt, sweater, or blouse doesn’t have to be expensive–but it can be both a great addition to their professional wardrobe as well as a nice boost of confidence.
  • Take them to do something you know they enjoy but aren’t doing due to the cost. Go tour the new art museum exhibit and get lunch–your treat. Get a massage or mani/pedis; take them to see a football or soccer game. Go see a holiday concert or show together.
  • Get them out of the house. It’s easy to self-isolate this time of year when it seems like doing things with friends always = spending $ you don’t have. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, though. How much does it cost to walk through a neighborhood that has great holiday light displays? Or (in many communities) to watch the holiday ships parade past? To go to a church and listen to a holiday music program? Or even just invite them over to watch a classic holiday movie with a big bowl of popcorn and some ‘adult’ hot cocoa?

Tis the season for giving. A little bit of thought on your part will be viewed with immense gratitude and appreciation by your out of work friend. Even more when they get a great new job thanks to your help.

Who are your champions?

At a point in my recent past, I was talking with someone in my professional network. We had been introduced by a third party (a candidate we had both tried to recruit, actually) many years ago. We’ve stayed in touch, sharing information/resources/networking assistance. Over time, we’ve become friends.

I reached out to this person to let them know I was starting to look for a new opportunity and wanted to expand my network.

His reply: “Who can I connect you to? How else can I help?”

This isn’t someone who was looking for something in return. Taking time to help me didn’t offer an immediate, direct benefit to them. They had a deep network of key leaders–and were willing to make connections through that network on my behalf.

That’s someone I call a career search champion. And there are many people in your network who might be worthy of that title…if you’ve made the appropriate investment.

Think carefully about the people in your network. How do you know them? Did you work together? Is it someone for whom you consistently delivered excellent work? Did you make the time to invest in that relationship, getting to know them beyond the transactional nature of your work? If you no longer work together, what have you done to maintain that relationship?

If it’s someone like the professional colleague in the example above, what have you done to build and perpetuate that relationship? How have you offered to share your expertise with them? What about helping them out when they need a networking connection, a reference, or are trying to hire that key member of their team? What value do you offer to them?

Your professional relationships need to be valued, respected, and invested in. When you do this consistently, you might be lucky enough to call upon one of them and be humbled by their offer of assistance–to be your champion by representing you to people in their network who they know and respect.

How do you build and invest in your professional relationships? And how have they been champions for you?

Informational Interviews: The right way.

Yesterday, I received a LinkedIn connection request from someone outside of my network. Without an introduction, they stated that they found me in a LinkedIn group; that they are thinking of making a mid-career transition into recruiting. They want to talk with me about how I got into the industry & what my background is; what type of recruiting I do; what a typical day is like; what do I like about my job; and what suggestions I’d have for them in how to get into recruiting.

I’ll get back to what I thought of this request in a second. First, let’s talk about informational interviews.

Informational interviews can be very useful in gaining information when you are considering a career shift; you want to learn more about applying your current knowledge/skill in a different industry (recruiting in healthcare vs. tech, for instance); you want to broaden your professional network in a new city.

But informational interviews are a big ask. The person with whom you wish to meet is a successful, busy professional that likely has far too many demands on their time already. They have to carefully pick and choose what commitments they accept as the opportunity cost of time is quite high.

The example I shared above is exactly how you do NOT want to approach someone for an informational interview. This person has zero connection to me, asked questions to which they can easily find answers online, and didn’t offer anything beneficial to me in return. Here are some suggestions as to how to make the approach–and the informational interview–beneficial for both parties:

  1. Work your network. It’s FAR easier to get someone to say yes if you have a strong shared connection. When possible, I recommend you reach out to people who are no more than 2nd degree connections, and reference the person you both know in common. This makes what is otherwise a ‘cold call’ into more of a ‘warm call’.
  2. Do your homework. Research the intended target; learn their background. Reach out to people you know in common to see what they know of this person–would it be worth your time to ask them for information? Review their social media profiles. What are they talking about? What discussions/debates are they involved in? What problems are they posting about? (For instance, if they are a recruiter–what jobs are they sharing?)
  3. Find out how you can offer up front. Once you do your research, determine what you can offer to the conversation that would be of benefit to them. Find a related article to something they have been discussing in a LinkedIn group or posted to Twitter. In the recruiter scenario–who might you know in your network that could be a good fit for one of their open jobs?
  4. This is NOT a pitch for a job. Be very clear–you are seeking information. Your request to them needs to be very focused–you aren’t asking for a job; you’re not going to bring that into the discussion. You may, however, ask them about other resources (ex: whether a certain certification they have has proven worthwhile), with whom they might recommend you speak, etc.
  5. Ask, “How can I help you in return?” This almost never happens during informational interviews–and I think it’s one of the most important questions you can ask. It demonstrates not only that you want this to be reciprocally beneficial; but that you have value to offer them.
August 2017
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