How to Network into a Job during the Festive Season

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An MBA client told me this past week that she has sent out 200 resumes since August and received no callbacks for interviews. Believe it or not…this is a normal result in this kind of job market!

If she had done the same thing 20, or 15, or even 10 years ago, she would’ve received a good number of calls from internal and external recruiters because the economy was still hot and expanding, and there was strong demand from employers for skilled labor. Not anymore, not now, unless you’re in one of the few hot job categories.

Instead, this MBA client, as well as most other individuals, need to move from a passive job search to a pro-active job search. Some 80 percent of jobs are now found through networking. I explain this pro-active job search in detail in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

The principles outlined in my webinar are especially effective during the holiday season. Why? Because this is the time of year when goodwill towards all men and women is real, doors are open, and people want to chat. The timing for meaningful contacts related to job search and career advancement couldn’t be better.

Hiring managers and decision-makers attend office parties, social events and community celebrations. They take their hiring needs with them wherever they go. Problems, challenges, impact issues, pressure points continue to get in the way of managers leading their organizations to successful goals and objectives. They are always scouting for new talent, for people who can make their lives easier, and help them succeed.

Remember, this is the season for giving. So give people will give you time and attention. Listen to their stories. Politely ask questions that probe their concerns. Find out where you can help.

If you can, offer to help. People will appreciate and remember your generous offers to assist and support. This is how you build rapport, deepen relationships, foster trust—and generate job offers!

Productive networking is about building relationships not performing transactions. Leave a positive impression, strengthen ties, share ideas, give people a reason to remember you. Face time is quality time. Stay focused, be alert and don’t overindulge in food or beverages. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Dress conservatively (unless the job sector rewards non-conformity!).

The ROI is simple–just one meaningful dialogue can create measurable value from every networking event.

* Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.
* Seek out meaningful conversations that leave a strongly positive impression.
* Be ready to pick up insider-only knowledge.
* Try connecting those you know to each other.

I spoke recently with a client who received a generous job offer from a contact he had worked with on a committee related to a local branch of their professional association. He gave generously of his time and energy over the past two years, and his efforts did not escape notice by this hiring manager.

These holiday encounters could be your big break to chat with current or former employees at your target companies; exchange business cards with an industry leader; or, arrange a future meeting with someone difficult to reach. Brief interactions can be springboards to great relationships if you find ways to provide support and thereby sustain the connection.

If you want to optimize your networking efficiency, be prepared:

- Have specific job targets in mind
- Be ready to make clear, compelling points to attract attention.
- Have a set of probing questions that uncover job opportunities.
- Think about what you can give in terms of time and energy
- Listen actively so you are apt to pick up on a need you can address and keep up your end of the discussion.

In addition, have a ready supply of business cards that have your contact information as well as a few bullet points on the reverse depicting your interests, areas of expertise, or other memorable data. Make your card easy to read, and make sure your phone number is large. Ask others for their cards, and make a few notes on the back to remind you why the card may be important.

Remember, it’s the quality not the quantity of relationships developed, pursued or renewed. It’s not just what you know and who you know, but who knows what you know that produces new opportunities in today’s job market.

Happy holidays, happy giving and happy networking!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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I recently performed in a musical theatre production of ‘The Gifts of the Magi,’ a story about a young married couple—Jim & Della Dillingham—who are living in New York in 1905 when Christmas rolls around and they have no money to buy each other gifts to express their love.

They have hit hard times because Jim is unemployed and Della gets a little sewing work now and then. In the end, the buy each other gifts that are very meaningul but are made by a huge sacrifice: Della cuts and sells her beautiful long brown hair in order to buy a watch fob, for the very watch that Jim sells in order to buy Della pure tortoise shell combs for her beautiful long hair! The fact that each was willing to make such a personal sacrifice for the other demonstrates their deep and genuine love for each other. It makes no real sense, there is no good reason that explains what Jim and Della did out of love for each other. Hope and love cannot be reasoned with.

I think the same idea stands behind the notion of doing what you love for a living. It can’t really be reasoned with. In fact, there are many good reasons for not doing so, reasons that sound very…well…reasonable. It’s just too hard, too risky, to pursue what you really want; just accept the fact that you can’t have it and compromise. Choose a career that is safe and learn to live with it. [Or, do as I did as Soapy, the bum, in the musical, who does his best to get arrested in order to avoid work! He's the comic relief...]

But the heart wants what the heart wants; it cannot be reasoned with. Our life-spirit cries out for vitality, we want to feel engaged with life, living with purpose and meaning. Is it any wonder that a career compromise often leads to a mid-life crisis, or depression (which is now the number one workplace disability)? I am not denying the fact that for some people there are formidable and genuine obstacles to making a significant change in one’s life. But, in most cases, the obstacles to moving forward to a life of more vitality may be challenging but not impossible.

What is reasonable, I suggest, is to learn how to create what you truly want without compromise. What is not reasonable is to surrender to compromise, to give up on your natural talents and motivations, or the chance to explore the fullness of who and what you are in terms of your right work, or your highest aspirations and deepest values…it’s never too hard or too late.

The way I approach this issue with my clients is to separate what they enjoy doing both at work and outside of work from what they think is only possible. This is critical. Most people can only think of 30 jobs off the top of their heads, and if none of those jobs light a fire in them, then they use this as an excuse not to explore their options further. For example, there are over 60,000 jobs operating in our economy, with new ones being created every day because almost 50% of jobs are created for individuals who have a particular set of unique talents and skills. My job is to help identify and define those many opportunities, and develop a plan to move you into a better jobfit according to your time and priorities.

So here is a reasonable question: Is it reasonable to give up before you have had a chance to see what kinds of jobs you are truly suited for, and before any learning has taken place about how to move from where you are now into a better jobfit or career? I would say that is unreasonable and not terribly practical to squelch the self-honesty about what you might really want in terms of work. A compromise can close the doors on one of your most important human instincts, the desire to create a career or work that really matters to you.

Hope and love make so many things possible. That is a gift given to all of us. We don’t have to settle for a reasonable compromise. Incredible things occur every day, unlikely, unpredictable, unreasonable things that bring more vitality into the world. These things are available to you too. It starts with a commitment to explore your options. Don’t compromise on that creative urg to get an accurate and reliable picture of what you truly want.

Here at JobJoy, we are in the business of helping you get that picture and take effective actions to make it real. In 2012, you can be in a very different position than you are as 2011 ends. Our JobJoy Report lays the foundation in which you are more able to create what you want in terms of a better career or job. This webinar explains how it works as a gift that keeps on giving.