The Power of Face-To-Face Networking

When I moved from the Chicago area to Worcester, Massachusetts in June 2007, I networked like crazy, to meet new people, which has been great for my business and social life. Some of my activities included joining Toastmasters, serving on the sisterhood board of my synagogue, and belonging to a bi-monthly business networking group.

Networking was challenging for me, being new in town, along with my introverted personality, which means that I need “downtime” after being with groups of people. Just to clarify: introverts get their energy from spending time alone; extroverts thrive from interactions with others…and introversion has nothing to do with the ability to socialize with people. So, you can say that I’m a well-socialized introvert who can bring out my “inner extrovert” at will. :)   

Over time, I began to burn-out from too many activities, besides dealing with personal and family issues which needed my attention. So, toward the end of 2010, I began to gradually excuse myself from networking obligations and limited my activities to an occasional event, as long as it fit my budget, interest and schedule.

Eventually, my networking activities dwindled down to nothing...and I became “lazily” comfortable, working at home behind my computer, with limited contact to the outside world, except for public speaking engagements, routine medical appointments, and traveling to visit family for holidays and special occasions.

Along with my slow-down in networking activities, I noticed an equally slow time in business and felt like I’d gotten myself into a rut. I also realized that I wasn’t practicing what I preach to my job-seeking clients: that most opportunities come from networking, which is also true for business owners and private practitioners like me.   

So, in August and September 2014, I decided to break out of my rut and get back out there! Even though I’m not a fan of after-hours mixers, I attended a Worcester Chamber of Commerce mixer at a local antique mall. I also participated in a public speaking seminar led by a PR expert and former Worcester TV news anchor, as well as an all-day women’s event (Respect Her Hustle EntreprenHER Summit) sponsored by a Boston-based film producer.

My goal for these events was just to get out, meet new people and have fun…and that’s exactly what happened! Besides this, I feel re-energized and out of my rut…PLUS, I’ve seen a noticeable up-tick in new business and inquiries about my service. 

Now, I can’t exactly say that the new business and inquiries are the direct result of my activities. However, what I HAVE noticed is that the more I’m “out there,” the more new opportunities come my way, whether from people I meet at events…or from somewhere or someone else, completely unrelated to these activities. 

I call this phenomenon: “Shaking the Trees of the Universe” - my own “spin” on Newtonian physics, about a body at rest and a body in motion: “Action Begets Action – Inertia Leads Nowhere.” In other words, the busier you are, the busier you’ll get! 

So, whether you’re a job-seeker or a business owner looking for new clients, I strongly encourage you to get out from behind your computer and attend live, local events where you’ll meet like-minded people. These can be seminars or summits like the ones I attended; or even educational programs sponsored by professional associations you may belong to.

You’ll learn about these local events through listings in the business calendar of your town’s newspaper, chamber of commerce newsletter, or regional business journal. Just go, have fun…and watch what happens. If you are lucky enough to meet someone who connects you with your next career opportunity or new client (whether directly or indirectly) this is icing on the cake!     

Well, that’s it for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed my insights about networking and that you can apply the lessons I’ve learned to your own work/life situation

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    Build Strong Relationships by Being a Good Facebook Friend

    Ever since Facebook was introduced to the public in February 2004, it’s become the most widely-used social networking sites in the world. After my initial skepticism about Facebook, I’ve found it to be a useful tool for keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues, and for reconnecting with people I haven’t seen for awhile. This has been especially handy since June 2007 when I moved to Central Massachusetts after living in the Chicago area most of my life.

    In this post, you won’t find advice about how to find a job using Facebook. However, a key component of good career management is nurturing your network and building healthy relationships with people you know. When you think of your Facebook presence as an extension of who you are offline, you’ll become more aware of how your online engagement, interaction, and posting style will be perceived by your Facebook friends.

    Here’s a short primer on how to be a good Facebook friend, so you’ll come across in a positive light, rather than angry, annoying, insensitive, oblivious or self-absorbed, i.e., writing “all about you” posts, and rarely interacting with your friends.

    • Post short status updates. Avoid long-winded, lengthy rants about “Life, the Universe, and Everything” (to quote author Doug Adams). Instead, write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, then choose one or two short sentences to post in Facebook.
    • Use a photo or infographic in your message, with a short caption above it. After all, a picture paints a thousand words!
    • Say “Happy Birthday” to your friends. It takes only two seconds and will mean so much to your friends. You can set Facebook up to send email reminders of which friends have birthdays each week. Plus, you’ll see notifications of your friends’ birthdays in the upper right-hand corner whenever you log into to your Facebook account.
    • Show interest in your friends’ posts by “liking” them or posting a comment. Be especially attuned to life events such as births and deaths. I was really touched by so many “likes” and caring comments I received when I posted that my beloved cat of 18 years had passed away.
    • Acknowledge nice comments from friends by “liking” them or sending back a private message. For example, I “liked” every birthday greeting I received, instead of posting a general “thank you” as a status update.
    • Notice who likes your posts and who posts comments. You can easily see this information in the upper right-hand corner in the circular “world” icon. Be sure to reciprocate accordingly!
    • Ask permission before sending game invites; many folks (like me) find games to be annoying, distracting and a waste of time, money and energy.
    • Keep your personal issues and drama offline. Deal privately with the people you’re having conflicts with, instead of having heated, public conversations on your Facebook page.
    • Avoid posting highly-controversial political or religious news articles and commentary. Have those discussions offline or in private chat groups.

    Want to engage with more Facebook friends?  Here’s a tip from Bob and Joy Schwabach’s most recent technology column: “On Computers.”  If you notice that the same Facebook friends are always at the top of your page, you can fix that. Bob and Joy say that “Facebook notices when you comment on someone’s post or click “like.” It puts those people on top. To change that, start liking or commenting on posts from people you rarely see. You can type a friend’s name in the search box and go right to their posts.” (Note: this tip appears at the very bottom of their column.)

    Some of this may seem to be a lot of work, especially if you have many friends who post on a regular basis. However, you only need to spend a few minutes once or twice a day on these activities and you don’t always have to engage with the same friends.

    Either way, you’ll find that it pays to cultivate strong Facebook relationships. You never know when one of your friends will provide you with job leads or connections with hiring managers, if you suddenly become jobless or in career transition.  People will usually make referrals to those they know, like and trust – so let that person be you!  

    © Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin 2014 /  www.career-success-coach.com

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      Seven Top Networking Questions…Answered!

      One of my favorite “go-to” professionals on networking is Thom Singer, author of Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business RelationshipsIn an interview with William Arruda, President of the Reach Branding Club, Thom answered some commonly-asked questions about networking. Here’s a summary of their conversation:

      • Q1: We’ve all heard that networking is important; does it really make a difference? /TS: Even though we live in a digital age, connecting through email, cell phones and social media, using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter isn’t a substitute for human interactions. All opportunities in your life come from people. It’s in your best interest to have a large network of people who will refer you business and career opportunities.  
      • Q2: Is attending networking events the only way to network? What about social media sites? / TS: Events and social media sites aren’t the only ways to network; they’re simply networking tools. Other tools include wearing a name tag at a networking event and having business card with you at all times. Networking can occur anywhere – even in airports! 
      • Q3: You talk about the importance of handwritten notes; isn’t email just as effective? /TS: We get so many emails and few handwritten notes. You’ll stand out by sending handwritten notes after you meet someone. Write them on good quality paper, in your own authentic voice, consistent with who you are. 
      • Q4: What about introverts who don’t like networking? Which techniques work best for them? /TS: If you’re an introvert, use your gift of listening by asking questions to learn about the people you meet. Make a mental list of 5-7 questions you can ask, depending on who you’re talking to. If you think you won’t know anyone at an event, find out who is going or invite someone to go with you as your networking buddy. Standing in line by the food area or the bar is also conducive to making small talk with others.  
      • Q5: How long does it take from meeting someone to really having a true friendship with them? /TS: You need to have 7-10 meaningful interactions before someone becomes a business friend. Aim to cultivate the relationship and stay top of mind, without being a stalker. Keep in touch with notes, helpful articles, resources, etc. Networking is not “give-take” – it’s “give-give-give.”  
      • Q6: How often should people be talking or connecting with people in their network? /TS: Whatever you feel is appropriate. Use some kind of CRM software to keep track of your networking contacts. Outlook or an Excel spreadsheet will work just fine, or keeping a business card file works well, too.   
      • Q7: You say that if you’re not personalizing your business relationships, you’re leaving money on the table. How do you monetize the relationship and turn it into mutual value? /TS: You won’t get business from everyone you meet, because they may not move in the right circles. Sometimes they’ll just become friends, but this doesn’t mean you should push them aside. You can’t keep score. Instead you need to say, “Let’s educate each other about the types of leads are best for each other.”
      How do your networking skills measure up?  Take Thom’s free online networking skills quiz to test your networking skills for business and how your skills compare with those of your peers in several demographics.
       
      © Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2013
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        How to Tap the Hidden Job Market Through Your Network

        The “hidden job market” comprises 75% of most jobs and perhaps 90% of the best jobs. These jobs materialize when executives talk about their companies’ problems, needs, changes or opportunities, but haven’t advertised them as “openings” to the general public.

        Jobs in the hidden market are not in newspapers or HR departments; they are not in employment agencies’ files, or anyone’s files for that matter. They exist only in the minds of hiring decision makers and are often created during an interview.

        You’re more likely to tap into these hidden opportunities if you have what I call “referral meetings” with people in your network. Here’s a four-step process to implement a referral meeting strategy into your job search campaign:

        Step 1: Create a primary contact list of 15-30 people you know well. They might be family and friends, or former employers and business associates. You might consider service providers like lawyers, doctors, dentists and accountants, or well-connected professionals such as insurance agents, realtors, stockbrokers or politicians. <Download this primary contract grid, to jog your memory>

        Your primary contacts can potentially lead you to the next level of contacts: 

        • Bridge contacts: People who can provide you with information on industries or companies you’re researching, or people connected to hiring managers.
        • Hiring contacts: People with authority to make a job offer, or those closest to them.

        Step 2: Decide who to contact for your first referral meeting. Preface your request with this disclaimer: “I’m in the process of taking the next step in my career. You might be able to answer some important ques­tions for me. I don’t expect you to have or know of a job opening.  Any information you can give me will be valuable and helpful in planning my next step.” Then describe your job/career objective and some steps you’ve taken in your campaign.

        Step 3: Arrange this meeting with your contact; in-person is best, though phone or Skype meetings can work, too. Prepare your questions in advance, depending on what you need. Be sure to cover these main objectives:  

        • Get feedback on how you present yourself and how well your résumé supports your career goals. 
        • Listen and learn about what’s new in your profession, and for clues about problems, needs, changes or opportunities inside your target company list. (Side note: you should have 50-100 companies on this list). If you’re the person who can solve these companies’ problems, you can use this information as leverage in future conversations with those companies’ hiring manager(s).
        • Request 1-2 referrals to bridge contacts or hiring contacts who can be of further assistance in your search.
        • Reciprocate your contact for their help. You can say, “I have a huge network of contacts and resources. I’ll be glad to pass along whatever will be most helpful.”
        • Send a thank-you note within 24 hours, via email or postal mail. 

        Step 4: Follow up with any bridge or hiring contacts, then schedule appointments with them. Use the “disclaimer” from Step 2 and explain who referred you and why. Adjust your approach for each contact, whether you’re gathering information or dealing with hiring managers, who will be interested in how you can fulfill their company’s needs.  

        Repeat the above four steps with other contacts from your primary list. The good news is that you may only need to meet with 3-4 of them to reach bridge or hiring contacts 

        The referral meeting strategy requires time, patience and persistence. If you stick to the process, you will find people who’ll lead you to hidden job market information and hiring decision makers who are looking for someone with your skills and talents.

        © Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, the Career Success Coach, 2013  All Rights reserved. www.career-success-coach.com

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          Three Simple Ways to Expand Your Professional Network

          Over the last 25 years, networking has emerged as a tangible tool for finding employment. This trend began in the US during the recession of the late 1980s, following the collapse of Corporate America. Rather than counting on job security, people had to learn to rely on their personal connections to help them find their next job.   

           Even before the ’80s, Dr. Mark Granovetter of Harvard University conducted a study, concluding that 63% of all jobs were found through networking. After the year 2000, numerous source-of-hire surveys, the US Department of Labor, and other agencies have come to similar conclusions.

           In February 2010 and in March 2011, CareerXroads (a staffing-strategy consulting firm in Kendall Park, NJ) revealed in their 9th and 10th Annual Sources of Hire Surveys ** that “Referrals are the #1 source of external hires.”  

           Their findings are backed by statistics from 30+ firms surveyed, reflecting that 76.7% of people who landed employment in 2009 and 77.8% who landed in 2010 knew someone who connected them with the hiring managers. In 2010, 50.3 % of these positions were filled through internal transfers; the remaining 27.5% were attributable via referrals; these percentages were similar in 2009. 

           So, whether you want to get hired from the outside or promote from within, it pays to expand your professional network. Why? Because when you are on the radar of hiring managers who are familiar with your skills and abilities, you will be top of mind for them for job openings, versus complete strangers who answer online ads.

           Of course, networking is not a quick fix. It does take time to make new connections and build relationships. Even so, you have to start somewhere. Here are three ways to expand your professional network and increase your chances of meeting people who can connect you with hiring managers:   

           1) Professional associations: This is one of the best channels for strategic networking inside your profession. You can meet and network with members through conferences, workshops, online e-list discussions, or taking on leadership roles. Look to these three resources to find an association which will fit your needs: 

           2) Job search support groups: These are structured, facilitator-led groups designed to help unemployed (or underemployed) people get back to work quickly. You can network with other members who may know key contact people in your target employers. To find a job search support group in your area, check out Job-hunt.org: http://www.job-hunt.org/job-search-networking/job-search-networking.shtml. Select your state from the list and see the groups listed for that state. When you find one that appeals to you, click on the group name to visit their website. 

           3) Volunteering: Many companies are involved in volunteering, and encourage employees to volunteer individually or on team projects. Through volunteering, you might meet hiring managers or board of director members from local companies who can see your skills in action. If they have positive experiences with you, your efforts might even lead to full-time employment, within that company or elsewhere. To search for volunteer causes which resonate for you, go to www.idealist.orgwww.volunteermatch.org or http://www.catchafire.org/ 

           With job security being more fleeting than ever, it really is about “who you know,” not “what you know.” Networking could be the key to your next dream job.

           © 2011 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved. www.career-success-coach.com

           * Download a copy of CareerXroads’ 10th Annual Sources of Hire Survey here: http://www.careerxroads.com/news/SourcesOfHire11.pdf

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            What’s Your Networking Style? Contact Collector or True Connector?

            When I started my business in 1991, I had never heard of  “networking” until a client invited me to a monthly dinner meeting of a business networking group, called “The National Network of Sales Professionals.” This group consisted of solo business professionals (like me) who shared best sales practices and leads.

            Shortly afterward, I joined this group and remained active until it folded in 1999. Besides giving and receiving referrals, I participated in fundraising projects, served as publicity chair for two years, and eventually became the group’s business manager. I am still happily connected to several people I met from this group who are clients, referral partners or friends.

            During my membership, I didn’t have high expectations that business would come my way, nor did I count the business cards I collected. I just showed up at meetings and took part in the activities. What I discovered was that referrals were byproducts of me simply being myself and having meaningful interactions with fellow members.

            My networking style has carried forward to how I conduct myself today, amidst the social media maze of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others. Both online and offline, I am mindful about the quality of my connections and the potential for relationship-building instead of treating networking like a “numbers game,” striving to amass a large number of friends, followers or fans.

            People who are only concerned with the numbers are who I call “contact collectors.” I watch them rapidly giving and collecting business cards at live events or racking up online contacts, without considering the nature of the relationships they are trying to establish. In contrast, I’m much more interested in making true connections.  

            Apparently, true connections also work for people in career transition. In February 2010 and in March 2011, CareerXroads (a staffing-strategy consulting firm in Kendall Park, NJ) revealed in their 9th and 10th Annual Sources of Hire Surveys that “Referrals are the #1 source of external hires.” What this means is that employers will hire people recommended by folks who they know, like and trust, over complete strangers.    

            If you want to build true connections, do two things: first, be selective about who is in your network; second, know the value that you can bring to each other. For example, when someone wants to connect on LinkedIn (or you’re the one making the request), ask yourself these questions:

            1. Do I know this person?

            2. Have my dealings/interactions with this person been positive?

            3. Would I be willing to write this person a recommendation?

            4. Can I comfortably ask this person for a recommendation?

            If you answered “yes” to questions 1 and 2, this person qualifies as a true connection. Questions 3 and 4 are more relevant for longer-term relationships. Either way, you can still apply this thoughtful approach to any setting where you’re meeting new people.

            Whatever your networking style might be, I can attest that being a true connector instead of a contact collector will help you build authentic, credible and solid relationships with people who will support your personal and professional goals — and vice versa.

            © 2011 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved

             

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