Six Networking Coups to Win Jobs

Careers columnist and former HR executive Liz Ryan shares tales of clever job hunters who scored big-time by making networking mutually gratifying

Recently we wrote about cringe-inducing networking fiascoes. In each of those stories, someone made a mess of a networking opportunity by forgetting what networking is all about. Instead of going into the interaction with the attitude that “I want to find out more about you and share a bit of myself, too, so we can see where our mutual interests lie,” the individuals were searching haplessly for some business-type holy grail—a new client, an introduction, free advice—and damaged, if not destroyed, a new relationship in the process.

Luckily, for every networker who shoots himself in the foot, there’s one (or a dozen) more making great things happen for himself and other people in the networking arena. Here are six stories of networkers who used human connections to build their platforms, credibility, and knowledge base, establishing great relationships and never losing sight of the Golden Rule.

“How Can I Help You?” Networking Pays Off

Tammy was job-hunting. She’d read reams about networking but felt uncomfortable reaching out to strangers to ask for their help. She told me, “If I research these people and their organizations, I can reach out to them to offer help with something they’re working on, not to ask for their help.” One day, Tammy called a local not-for-profit agency’s executive director. “My sister volunteered with you until she moved out of town,” said Tammy, “and she said you’re always in need of volunteers. Would it be helpful if I put a volunteers-wanted notice on the neighborhood online discussion forum?” “That would be fantastic!” said the executive director. “You’re so kind to do that. What could I do for you?” “Well, I am job-hunting,” said Tammy, “and expert advice is always welcome. I don’t suppose you would have time to meet with me one day?” Of course, she did, and she was an enormous help and job-search booster to Tammy. The executive director gave Tammy three incredible introductions for her job search. Moral: Don’t lead with “Here’s what I need,” but rather “Perhaps I can help you with an item on your list.”

Networking for the Long Haul

I hosted a weekend conference and retreat for working women, and hired a dozen interns from local universities to help with the event. All 12 of them were spunky and proactive, but one of the undergrads stood out. Her name is Swati. At the end of the conference, Swati, just 19 years old at the time, told me, “I’ve talked with all or nearly all of the women in attendance this weekend, to understand their career paths and learn from them. I got so much great advice!” Swati stayed in touch with me after that weekend, via LinkedIn and e-mail. I was a reference-giver for her first job (merchandising for a major retailer) after college. She’s kept me abreast of her twists and turns and stays current on my shifts, as well. Eight years later she is an accomplished career woman, and who could be surprised? Not many teenagers would have managed that weekend-long networking opportunity so thoughtfully. Moral: Networkers who cultivate relationships over time have huge advantages over people who treat networking as a right-now, transactional affair.

Kids Understand This Stuff

A young woman came into one of my workshops and told this story. “I saw a billboard on the highway, advertising a local restaurant. It’s an old-school, red-velvet-curtain type of place, very expensive, more my parents’ or grandparents’ kind of place than mine. I thought ‘Geez, billboard advertising must cost a fortune!’ I do social media consulting, so I called the restaurant’s marketing director.

“I told him that I’d seen the billboard and I loved it, that I’d never been to the restaurant before and had never thought about going, but the billboard got me over that hump and I’d made reservations for myself, my boyfriend, and my parents. He was elated. I said, ‘Most people my age find out about restaurants through social media and deal sites, but I’m sure you’ve got a good reason not to use those channels.’ The guy just started gushing: ‘Yes, of course, I’d never tarnish my restaurant’s good name on those tawdry coupon sites, people call me every day wanting to do my social media marketing, it’s all wrong for us,’ etc. He wanted to have his point of view acknowledged, and who can blame him for that? I listened to him on that topic for 10 or 15 minutes. Then he said, ‘You’re the demographic we really want to reach. Would you consider having coffee with me?’

Stories 4 – 6 and More Advice

It’s OK to Brag! 4 Ways to Show Off Your Career Accomplishments

Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. You have limited resources, no time, and you need to hire the best possible candidate for the job. You got a ton of applications, but who is the best?
When you’re looking at a huge stack of applications listing goals, skills, and experience, all you want are results. Insert the career accomplishment story. Check out these four ways you can show off your career accomplishments:

In a cover letter
Your cover letter is the first thing that any employer is going to see, so you want to make it count. A great way to pull distracted eyes back to you is to open your letter with a succinct and profound career accomplishment story. Answer this: What is going to make an employer really consider you as a candidate?

On a LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a great place to bring up your career accomplishments, in depth. Using LinkedIn’s recommendations feature, try asking your colleagues and supervisors to recommend you using a specific example of an accomplishment.

Career Management Is Leadership Behavior

Director of Career and Professional Development, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

You must take responsibility for your own career future since it’s not your boss’s job to look out for you. Many people are blindsided by lay-offs and downsizings that are economy driven and don’t have anything to do with work performance. We are all expendable so it’s imperative to have a short-term and long-term plan and be in charge of your own career destiny so it never happens by default.
Here are some great tips to help you become more pro-active as you develop and implement your personal career action plan.

Network Before You Need It — you should always be growing your professional community even when you are not job searching. Think of it as building relationships, an opportunity to stay on top of current trends, and a chance to share your strengths story and abilities with others. The hidden job market is alive and well since approximately 80 percent of jobs are still never posted. People hire who they know and trust so you must not be a well-kept secret. Get out there and meet people face-to-face so you are ready when opportunity knocks, or when you need to rally your troops for advice and counsel. Remember to be a good networker and pay-it-forward to others in need.

Have an Exit Strategy — with mergers & acquisitions in the corporate and non-profit arena part of the new normal, you must be ready to leave on your own terms before the pink slips are distributed along with the new company letterhead. Consider where you want to go when things are going well on the job so you have the luxury of thinking clearly, without stress and can plan your next steps well in advance.

Always Tell Your Strengths Story — men have been talking about what they do well with confidence for decades and women lag far behind in promoting themselves. You must be your own best self advocate and learn to talk about what you do well so you can articulate your unique special sauce and professional worth. Consider the humble confidence mindset so you can brag comfortably in your own skin about the accolades you have earned. Remember nobody gave you these success stories — you worked your tail off to earn them.

Keep Your Resume/Portfolio Current — things change fast so you need to have your resume/CV or professional portfolio polished and ready when opportunity knocks or when you find yourself in job search mode. Share your documents with trusted advisors to get their feedback on what your professional persona is on paper and how effective your materials are at showcasing you at your best. Seek out the services of a professional resume writer if you need expert assistance.

Don’t Rely on Your Boss to Grow Your Career – More advice and complete article

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name (www.carolinedowdhiggins.com) She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development and an Adjunct Faculty member at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Job Searching with Social Media (for Dummies)

A few months back, I wrote an article titled Like It or Not, Social Media is a Business Imperative with tips from Joshua Waldman, an expert in social media and founder of Career Enlightenment.
When I interviewed him, he told me he was hard at work on a new book, and I knew it was going to be good. He asked his publisher to send me an advance copy, and I am remarkably impressed.

Job Searching with Social Media for Dummiesis the latest in the “For Dummies” series, and it’s chock-full of up-to-the-minute information that is valuable for any job seeker, and really for anyone who wants to make sure that their social media presence is helping them as they build their career.

There’s far too much information in the book for me to even make a dent at it, as it is packed with different explanations, how-to tips, tools, shortcuts and websites that help you leverage social media for your job search.

As a job search coach who needs to keep up on the latest job search techniques and methods, I love this book. I am definitely going to continue to study this in depth, and predict that my copy will soon be filled with highlighted sections, bookmarks and notes.

If you are a job seeker, or just someone trying to get up to speed on using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the plethora of new tools that consolidate, integrate and your online presence, this book is the place to look.
Here are the things Joshua Waldman covers in the book:

  • Why your online presence matters.
    Today, you can count on recruiters and hiring managers searching for you on Google and making a make-or-break decision on what they find. He says that 50% of hiring managers feel they can determine if a candidate is going to be a personality fit with their group based on their social profiles.
  • Pay attention to how you brand yourself.
    Your online presence needs to be consistent and accurate to support your brand, and it’s up to you to make sure that what comes up when someone puts your name into their Google search box makes you look good.
  • LinkedIn is the best tool for professional networkers today. Period.
    He goes into all of the details about how to make your LinkedIn profile complete, persuasive and enticing to employers, including how to expand your profile, get and give recommendations and use groups to your best advantage.
  • Expand your online presence to increase your chances of being found.

Best career tips gleaned from 15 years of experience

Marcia Heroux Pounds 
Sun Sentinel Columnist

Flexibility is critical to anyone’s career these days.

My career has evolved several times. This column, for example, began 15 years ago as “Business Strategies,” focusing on management. Later on, it became a career-advice column, and in recent years, the column has offered job-search advice.

This column ends today, and while I’ll miss doling out advice, I’m enthusiastic about my new focus: reporting job news, the employment picture and changes in South Florida’s workplaces. Readers will see that news online, through my blog, http://www.sunsentinel.com/AskMarcia, as well as in print. Email or call me about the job you have, the job you want or your thoughts about working in South Florida.

I’ve enjoyed writing this column because it was always a learning experience. I hope my readers know more about good management practices, their rights in the workplace, how to find a job and how to deal with sticky work situations.



In bringing this column to a close, I’ve selected some of the best career advice from my columns over the years. I’ve found this advice helpful in my own career, and I hope it serves you as well:

Embrace change. A mentor taught me that “change is good.” It may be uncomfortable, but in transitional times, we stretch and grow. In today’s workplace, change is ever-present. You never want to be seen as resisting it — that marks you as “old school.” Instead, embrace it and focus on the opportunity it presents.

Keep your skills up-to-date. In journalism, I’ve learned Web publishing software, social media and other new tools in recent years. No matter what your field, it’s important to stay attuned to industry changes, and to continually update your skills. If your employer is not providing the education you need, pursue it yourself — it is well worth the investment in your current and future employment.
If LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media are not part of your toolbox, you may be falling behind. Don’t let that happen; it’s not that hard, and you may find some valuable business contacts.

Be innovative. Gain a reputation as the employee who is always coming up with a new product or service idea.
During the recession, cost-cutting was a key initiative. Fort Lauderdale employees at CompHealth, for example, came up with ideas to cut costs that added up to about $1 million in savings in 2009. Today, companies are looking for ways to increase consumer demand for their products or services. Be a contributor to your employer’s growth.

Avoid meltdowns.  – More advice and complete article