Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Job Seekers: Business cards are a must

In networking, you simply must have a way to leave behind key information about yourself when departing the conversation/event.  In job seeking, this becomes even more critical as more and more experienced professionals say that they learned about a job through networking. 

However, not every situation (in fact not many situations) will lend themselves to you carting around a box of resumes to hand out.  So, what's a savvy job seeker to do?  Business cards are a great way to bridge this gap.  The possibilities for ordering these fast, cheap or even better fast AND cheap abound.  Visit sites like www.vistaprint.com for incredibly inexpensive options.  However, if fast is what you need, think about ordering from your local print shop, Office Depot, Staples, etc.  Most have the option of getting cards done in about an hour for less than $20.

Not sure what to put on your card?  Think about keeping it fairly simple and include things like: Name, Email, Primary Phone, and LinkedIn URL.  However, you could also add a couple of lines about your primary skills, target title, etc. 

How does it look all pulled together?  While individual choices/tastes differ, I prefer a conservative look like this one that I made courtesy of Vistaprint:

And if you simply must have a splash of color, keep it minimal like this one:

But please, I beg of you...don't go all the way with color, design, pics, etc.  More is not more when it comes to conveying your brand:

Bottom line is this...regardless of whether your brand is as recognizable as Wile or not, you have to give networking contacts a way to remember you long after you have departed the scene.  Providing a well-written but tasteful business card is a great way of doing that.  And while the temptation might be there to get a little creative on the card, employ design elements in moderation please!  Good luck and happy hunting!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Networking rant: Don't cross the line

I received a call this morning from a very nice lady who I know vaguely from job search circles.  She knows that I make my living doing work in various areas of the placement industry including job search coaching, recruiting, and training.  Apparently she had just landed a new job in the recruiting industry and was quite excited about both the job and the fact that she was starting in a new industry.  However, it doesn't seem like much information was made available to her, so when I called her as requested, it turned out that she wanted me to train her on how to do her new sales job...for free. 

I gotta say that I was a bit shocked by her request and might not have responded as kindly as I should have.  But I was also honest in telling her that I couldn't distill 12 years of experience, training, and skill into a couple of sound bites that would explain to her how to be a selling recruiter.  I went on to explain to her that most companies invest a lot of time and money into training and I know for a fact that her current company (which I thankfully have not ever been affiliated with) has a robust training program.  I also shared with her that I had just finished proofing a 250 page, incredibly well-written training manual for an undisclosed staffing firm that only scratched the surface of everything that a successful recruiter should know, so I didn't really understand how to train her to do her job in a couple of sentences as she was requesting. 

Which brings me to the point of my rant.  Just because you have a network contact with skill in a particular area doesn't mean that it's ok to cross the line and ask someone to give their normally paid services to you for free.  To me, she crossed the line today by asking me to give her my time, efforts, and hello training manuals for FREE!  Now, let me be clear.  I love helping people who need jobs and I volunteer at my church to lead the job search group.  In addition, I regularly get contacted by people via LI, etc who are looking for advice and I don't mind answering a quick question here or there.  In addition, I have done numerous resumes for friends gratis, and not only am I willing to do it, but I'm happy to be of service to a friend.  It gives me the warm fuzzies.  However, I think this is an important point to make in job search...don't take your requests too far like this contact of mine who asked me to donate my work product or the work product of the companies I work with.  There are times where "nothing ventured, nothing gained" doesn't explain away the inappropriateness of your request.  And if your request is professional and appropriate, well, that's great...but I think you still need to be prepared to offer something of value in return whether it's payment, leads, work, etc.  I think having a model of "give, give, get" in networking is so much better than "get, get, get"...obviously! 

So, let me get off my high horse and bottom line it here.  If you typically network with the whole idea of getting without giving, really think about making a personal paradigm shift.  Go into a networking situation with a plan to add value to that other person's day/work, even if you aren't sure how to do it.  I promise you if you think about information/skill sharing this way, your efforts will bear so much more fruit...and you won't get crazy ladies blogging about you.  Good luck and happy hunting!

Job seekers: Is your ego costing you opportunities?

I recently received an email from a job seeker asking me if I placed people in her skill set.  I did not but offered to network a bit on her behalf to find her a good recruiter in her local market if she needed it.  Her response was that she needed a visionary well-connected recruiter because it would take someone like that to recognize her talents. 


Ok, so let's break this down a bit.  When I shared this with my husband and told him that I wasn't sure how to respond, his instant response was "sounds like someone blames the recruiters for not getting jobs."  Another friend shared the thought of "are her skill sets so poor that she thinks it will take a visionary recruiter to see her potential rather than her demonstrated actual?"  At any rate, I have to say that this little exchange became a connection that wasn't connecting for me.  I'm hard pressed to recommend someone to a recruiter pal if I fear that they might have an ego that is too challenging to work with which leads me to the point of today's blog...is your ego costing you more than it's worth?

How do you fix having a big ego then?  Well, I think it has to start with you.  Pretty proud of your skills?  Think that you add a lot of value to the companies you work for?  Know that you are pretty awesome at slinging code, slinging burgers, slinging mud, etc?  Great!  But get off your high horse honey-you are replaceable.  We all are!  

Now, this is not to say that I think you should avoid talking about your accomplishments and value.  I think in job search you absolutely must.  And believe me, your competition surely is.  But, I think there is a balance between being egomaniacal and being confident in the value that you bring. 

Bottom line, I think the trick is to maintain the balance between being open to coaching and being comfortable in your own skin...without putting it out there that a human must be visionary to see the value in you. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Social Media in job search: If you build it, will they come?

I read a simple Tweet this morning from @Iconic88 (via @Jason_Pollock) that inspired today's post "The power of social media is in your sharing, not your selling."  And this really is what I want job seekers to remember as you embark on including social media in your diversified job search.  Are you sharing your value or just trying to sell your skills?

What do I mean?  Well, I think for some people they believe that all they need to do in career search (or even career management) is have a profile on X, Y, and Z site and employers will fall all over them in an effort to hire them.  And frankly, I think some of the less savvy job search talking heads tell you that exact same thing-if you build it, they will come.  To which I say: bullpoopy.

The value of social media to me is the connections that I make.  Real human to human connections.  I don't go into a new social media platform thinking about how many new connections I am going to get by next Tuesday.  While that may be an acceptable practice for some, I think it can be a ridiculously unrealistic goal for job seekers.  Especially for those job seekers who still think that LinkedIn is scary.  You need to start with attainable goals, and focusing on the quality of the connections you make is a great one.  So, how to start?  Here are some simple tips for getting started:

1) Look for everyone you know on the sites where you have built profiles.  Then ask them to connect through a personalized message.

2) Look for thought leaders in your industry and connect with them.  What's a thought leader?  Well, it's simply that gal or guy that everyone says "oh, yeah...I know her.  She's awesome."  Many people refer to these individuals as super-connectors.  Inc Magazine wrote a short article on finding these folks a couple of years ago, and the advice still rings true.  If you feel really out of touch with your industry at large, start locally.  Look up the professional associations for your particular industry/function and see who the officers are.  Find online versions of industry publications and take a look at the most frequent bloggers/authors are.  You may have to do some digging, but these types of connections can prove to be pretty powerful.  However, just because these super connectors are typically more open to networking with strangers doesn't mean you don't have to make an effort.  Still personalize your outreach and offer something of value to them.  Which brings me to point 3...

3) Adopt a give, give, get model in your networking.  I think for many people, networking goes horribly wrong when their only method of outreach is to ask for a job.  While it may seem like the most direct, respectful approach, it really isn't.  Think about how you would feel if you were getting several calls/emails a week from people who wanted to know if you were hiring.  It might get a little old.  However, if you get an outreach from someone who says "I don't know you, but I know of you...I'd love to pick your brain about our industry"..well, that stands out.  And then if that person goes the extra mile and offers information and insight that can make your day better, well heck...you have just made a connection that connects.  Plus, if you are on your game offering value and that person has influence on an open job, they are going to help you whether you ask them directly or not.

4) Don't worry so much about the numbers.  While you have to be mindful of your number/level of connections on sites like LinkedIn, the reality is that once you start focusing on quantity alone, you are probably going to sacrifice quality.  Do what you can to consistently grow your connections, but don't lose sight of the fact that social networking cannot simply be a business card swap-it takes some time to build connections of value.  Getting engaged online, having conversations, responding to posts, and asking questions are all powerful tools for getting in the online conversation.  And as you do that, I believe that the quantity question will begin to resolve itself.

Bottom line-Whether you like it or not, social networking is here to stay.  The names of the websites may change with time, but the basic premise of online networking in an increasingly virtual world isn't going away.  As professionals that must adapt in order to stay viable, we need to find a way to embrace this way of networking and incorporate it into regular career management-not just in job search.  Get out there and try some new ways of connecting, and I promise you will not be sorry that you did!  Good luck and happy hunting!