Managing Your Networking Contacts

post its

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

A system – a spread sheet, post it notes, note cards, a note book…systems only work if they appeal to you.  Some people are techie and like everything on the computer or smart phone. Others need visual appeal and like hand written lists in colored pens, or even post it notes. My favorite way of working is on my phone – I type letters, documents, emails, notes to myself using my phone. That said, spreadsheets end up so tiny that I find them hard to use on the phone screen. I prefer an agenda style calendar and note cards that I can take with me since I spend a big chunk of my day in the car. A bulky laptop doesn’t work well when I am pulled over on the side of the road.

Knowing yourself and your style is the first step–use what you really enjoy. Then, capturing data that will help with follow through is the next most important step. If you make a contact, call them or email them to follow up and say you are glad to have met -do this immediately.  Follow through by email, but commit to trying to connect by phone. If you reach voice mail, many sales systems recommend a weekly call thereafter for a few weeks, with the hope of reaching the person live.  If messages and calls yield nothing then go to once a month, finally warehousing the contact after 6 months and trying back again on the anniversary of meeting them.

Networking requires diligence and organization. Follow through is key. Noting these contacts in a calendar or on a daily list of to dos will mean you actually work your contact list effectively. The likelihood of having the contact yield a new introduction or best case a lead to an actual job will go up significantly.  Job networking is a numbers game. It’s worth it. Over 70% of jobs are the result of networking. Don’t stop applying online too – 30% of jobs come in that way. But, reach out to as many people as you can and have a system to touch base regularly. Many of us just do not or can not follow these systems and fall behind, leaving valuable contacts hanging.  Make good on your list. Organize actions and follow up and really do what you say you will do. The results will amaze you.

 

Will Online Courses Create Employer Support for a Certification Culture that Disintermediates Higher Ed?

Photo by Avi Richards
Photo by Avi Richards

Ryan Craig, education venture capitalist and author of the 2015 book, College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education, walks us through the Utopian scenario of a whole new class of teaching institutions that will unbundle education. These new organizations will provide another more cost effective option for a large number of students, sparing them from the expense of the classic ivy covered wall setting of the higher education. They may give up the typical bells and whistles of the undergraduate experience, but instead they will gain concrete measurable skills in demand from employers. THe learning opportunities will be delivered inexpensively online or to large groups and may happen in a more institutional setting like a classroom in an office park.

Sajith Pai, an employee of The Times of India (India’s largest media group) and well-known blogger who specializes in learning on his blog,  reviewed Craig’s main chapters and calls out three key developments that may prove a boon to future generations of learners (and may mean extraordinary success to the company that can also deliver these services to larger economies like China or India):

“Competency-based learning or education (CBE): This starts with capabilities required by employers and works backward to build assessments to judge / measure capabilities, and then determines the required curricula. Done well, CBE reduces the cost of delivery of online education by half. It is also higher on efficacy as it replaces the credit-hour model where you have to demonstrate mastery in an arbitrary period of time.”

Companies  like Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Kahn Academy and hundreds of other smaller players have already flooded YouTube, Facebook, and Google with their training modules. Married together with an assessment revolution among American employers, where they truly review candidates based on certified skills, these sites could be the key to a true upheaval in the intersection between higher education and employment, with significant consequences for old-line colleges. For now, these courses are wonderful add-ons to a job seeker’s resume, showing engagement and skills, but they are certainly not going to substitute for a degree program in bricks and mortar institutions…for now.

Add to this interactivity in the learning environment. Right now we already have algorithm-driven “smart” testing platforms such as Testive where questions grow ever harder as the learner becomes more competent in answering. Also called “Adaptive Learning,” Sajith Pai has this to say about a platform that sharpens the curve as the learner improves:

“Adaptive learning: Combining adaptive learning with CBE is the killer app of online education. While adaptive learning is distinct from CBE, it usually accompanies it. Adaptive learning allows students to learn at their own pace by varying each future lesson in accordance with their performance or progress thus far. Adaptive learning is seeing a surge thanks to the availability of telemetry data due to tablet / phone usage. Telemetry data includes stuff such as movement in tablet, is student switching in and out of the program, ambient noise etc. Factoring in this data enables better program and delivery design.”

We can imagine that if testing can be leveled, automatically, then human resources departments may begin to take these online certifications more seriously because the system can then deliver a consistent level of  significant rigor in the learning process.

Lastly,  Ryan taps into the preferred environment of his audience: gaming and media.  21st Century learners have grown up with attention spans that respond directly to how engaged they are with imagery and movement of text and pictures in any given app or site or program.  So, he feels that along with interactivity, “gamification” will also drive the future of learning online. As Sajith Pai summarizes:

“Gamification: In video games, players are able to focus energies due to interactivity and competition. Thus integrating rewards and recognition such as badges, leaderboards, challenges into curricula can help enhance student engagement and improve outcomes.”

Lastly, Craig insists that models that allow learning to happen in chunks of intense focus are more appealing than the typical short “credit-hour” model.  When a student is engaged, an arbitrary stopping point based on a bell ringing and class “letting out” can be replaced with an online system that can enable a learner to choose duration of study, by what Pai calls a state of, “flow, or a zone of intense focus on learning. This can be done by enabling an environment of challenging work that stretches the individual, with clear goals and consistent feedback.”

In upcoming blog posts, I will review online certification programs such as those that Microsoft and Google currently offer.  These are certainly worthwhile endeavors that while they do not currently substitute for a degree, certainly can support your candidacy in a number of entry and mid-level jobs.  Already, these certification programs are coming into their own.

To read Pai’s full summary, visit here: http://sajithpai.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/College-Disrupted-a-summary.pdf

 

How Hiring Managers Hire: The Insider’s Guide to Getting On A Company’s Radar

handshake by rawpixel
Photo by RawPixel

You all probably know this, but just in case you don’t, online resume submissions are one of the last places a good hiring manager will turn when first looking for a new hire.  It’s obvious when you think about it. Hiring managers want to have some assurance that the hire will be a good “fit” with them and their organization, and much like we turn to a neighbor to get their recommendation for a mechanic or electrician, so hiring managers turn to their network first to find prospects.  There is of course LinkedIn as a way to find talent, but since there really is not an employee “Yelp” site with useful comments and ratings, word of mouth is the next best thing.  Let’s think step-by-step how a hiring manager works when they have an opening.

First, most larger companies require every job to be posted internally.  This is a good thing.  You WANT to work somewhere that believes in retaining talent, encouraging lateral moves, and promoting from within.  This internal post usually goes up in the internal human resources site the minute an opening is coming up — or at least as soon as the manager and HR agree on a post-able job description.

Next, HR will post the opportunity on sites like GlassDoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, StartJobs.net, CareerBuilder and even CraigsList.  There are also any one of a dozen recruiting sites where young adults are searching for jobs (your on campus career center will have contracted with at least one of these services such as Handshake or Symplicity, and others focused on recent college grads such as WayUp and Talify).

BUT, and here is the thing – simultaneously the hiring manager is now going to work their own contacts, starting with current and former colleagues, friends at home, college buddies. And, as a former head hunter myself, I find that vendors in my specific industry are often one of the very best sources of leads.  The manager will be asking at conferences they attend and at non-profits where they volunteer.  Meanwhile, HR will be working their online platforms, screening resumes (often they receive hundreds, maybe even thousands, so there is a lot of sifting going on and a lot of room for errors and omissions).

In the end, current statistics show that 70% of candidates at all levels get their new job from networking, leaving just 30% of jobs to the more formal job application process.  At the entry level, companies are ever less likely to use a head hunter or employment agency, so unfortunately that pathway into a firm is less and less viable for young adults.  Periodically a company will hire a temp and then convert them to a permanent hire.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on temping.  But, as you can see, it is very important to be out networking in your industry.

Make sure that you stay in touch with former bosses and colleagues, even those from long ago internships and every one of your summer positions.  General communications that you share regularly and professionally  – such as a blog or an article in local or college media, even intelligent posts in Facebook or on LinkedIn,  show you are accomplished in your knowledge area. Let your circle of contacts know that while you are very happy in your current role that you will entertain inquiries from other companies.  Help others when they ask whom you might know – make referrals to other talented professionals, this will come around to help you later. These are all strategies that will help keep you visible and in demand when openings happen at other organizations.

Meeting Etiquette in the Online Era: A Program Manager’s Plea!

board room
Photo by Benjamin Child.

I caught up recently with a tech industry Program Manager, Jennifer Westberg, who spends an awful lot of her time setting up and facilitating meetings at her company in suburban Boston.  I was hoping to get a handle on meeting etiquette, particularly for people using Outlook or other online group calendaring solutions, and she walked me through the basics. So, listen up because as she said,

“Here are the basic rules of being a meeting invitee, people:
1. You have just a few options when a meeting request comes in electronically: accept, accept tentatively, or decline. Don’t have your calendar set up so that it just appears and you are not making a decision at all: it’s a) lazy and b) inconsiderate of the meeting organizer. I will add in the “why” behind this:  The organizer can’t set an agenda if they have no idea who’s attending. That means they also can’t get a room booked – they don’t know what size; they can’t order the right number of snacks, drinks or a meal – and we all love meetings with snacks/a meal; they can’t properly invite others-and when we say others, remember these others might be people who can fast-track your project or take work off your hands – the guest list can be very important to your success.  Help your meeting organizer maximize efficiency and effectiveness, it will help you in your job.

2. Send your acceptance / declination within a reasonable period of receiving the invitation (say, a day or so). Don’t wait until just before the meeting. If you do, the implication is that you’re waiting to see if something better comes along.  Or I as a head hunter will add that you just appear sloppy – and no one likes a sloppy co-worker. Trust me on this one.  “Sloppy” is never an adjective I wanted to hear in a reference check!

3. If you would like a meeting to be rescheduled – maybe because you’ll be busy for the next week or so – don’t wait until *the morning of* the meeting to request it. Request the change as soon as you know you’ll be busy. Your schedule is not the only one affected and it’s a major hassle for the organizer. Note:  also check your personal calendar.  I just did this very thing and missed a meeting because I forgot that it would be school vacation week when I booked the appointment:  My bad!  and many mea culpas and a hassle for my colleague.  So, we all do it, but try not to inconvenience others.

4. If you *do* request a change, don’t complain when the meeting is rescheduled to lunch (or early in the morning or late in the day); it’s often the only time left.

5. If you’re going out on vacation a) block off your calendar (if you don’t know how to do this, get someone to show you) and b) decline any meetings to which you’ve been invited. Again, it’s a courtesy. Jennifer says she can’t tell you how many meetings she has organized where a person key to the agenda didn’t decline the meeting but was out on vacation – Again, as a headhunter, I have been there and it is a waste…of…time… very frustrating for those in the room when the news comes in that the knowledge-holder won’t be in attendance.

6. Be on time. Being late sends the message that you think your time is more valuable than everyone else’s in the meeting. There are valid reasons to be late but ‘I’m just always late’ isn’t one of them. And, with 20-years as a consultant working regularly offsite in conference rooms and corporate lobbies, I’ll piggy back on this to say that with tablets, laptops, cell phones etc. getting to a meeting early isn’t a waste of your time anymore as you can be working up until the moment that meeting commences.  Or, even better you can be chatting with the other attendees and forming personal connections – something that is sorely lacking in many offices these days.

 

Thanks again to Jennifer for sharing her thoughts on Meeting Etiquette.

Breaking News: Humanities Majors Don’t Suffer Financially over The Long Haul

 

humanities
Picture credit: Maine Humanities Council

Here is the bottom line….about the bottom line…for humanities majors vs. STEM majors – first of all, a number of polls including those from Gallup and Forbes show that overall, humanities majors are just as happy in their jobs as STEM majors, and that any pay difference is not causing them upset. And, great news… then, as they grow in their careers, often they close the pay gap with their scientist and engineering peers. Chronicle on Higher Education goes on to state that, “The results are familiar, if you’ve read those past reports: Bachelor’s-degree graduates in engineering and the sciences earn roughly $10,000 to $30,000 more, but humanities majors catch up over time — and humanities majors more effectively close the pay gap between younger and older workers. What’s more, the college debt that humanities graduates carry is about the same compared to other majors.”

Add to this a recent blog post by the respected Michigan workforce group, MichiganFuture, about how Google totally revised its thinking about workforce hiring strategy and humanities majors, “Project Oxygen (Google’s enterprise wide workforce analysis project) shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

So, giving your student and young adult a chance to practice the many “softer” skills is certainly going to benefit them in the long run, regardless of their major or chosen career trajectory.

Source Article: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Over-Time-Humanities-Grads/242461?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=5f5179c39905491ebe32115dfef433bc&elq=58eda80a7953412885d478df1bdd5827&elqaid=17754&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=7832