Want to inspire a young adult in your life to get out there and try networking? Write a short note to them about a networking success you’ve had in your life, enclose a gift card from a major chain like Peet’s or Starbucks or Panera, and encourage them to take someone to coffee! Every time I have done this my students have been encouraged by the story I’ve shared. Not only have they followed through by having a networking session of their own, but they have kept in touch to thank me and tell me about their networking adventure. It’s a small gift that will inspire the next generation!
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” How many times do we say that maxim to ourselves and then blow off responding to an invitation or getting a confirmed appointment into our calendar? I’m guilty of it, and I am sure I am not the only person. The reason for blowing off this step is often benign. First, invites come in at random times. Often I am not at my calendar – worse, I keep 2-3 calendars: one for at home use by my whole family, second is my phone calendar which pings at me so often I am inured to reminders even if I did calendar them — and so I often ignore it. Lastly, I have a daily planner which I love because I can take all my notes in it, however I often don’t have it when I am running errands or joining a friend for dinner-key times when new appointments might come up. Sound familiar? Maybe you have a fantastic memory and don’t feel you need to write things down. Younger people are particularly guilty of this because they have fewer kids, pets, direct reports, etc. and they have not yet been smoked by enough missed appointments to be cured of this bad habit.
So, here is my simple recommendation – Get ONE calendar! There, I said it. ONE – and keep that updated meticulously (my phone calendar is that ONE calendar). You can have others, but just don’t rely on those. NEXT: make a time of day when you calendar all your appointments and when you check the next day’s commitments. You may THINK you aren’t capable of becoming a meticulous calendar checker, BUT: you probably brush teeth, eat meals and sleep at quite specific times of day most days of the year. So, yes you are capable of doing this. If you have an established habit – like making a coffee in the morning or teeth brushing – link calendar checking to the established habit. This “pairing” will fast forward you quickly to building the calendaring habit.
Lastly — this may sound like a grandmotherly etiquette lesson but you MUST practice confirming appointments and in the following specific format… and in a timely fashion. The best way to send a confirmation is to repeat back all details in your response, including how best to reach you if they have a problem. Example: “Looking forward to seeing you August 15, 2018 at 2 PM upstairs at the Starbucks in Copley Square, Boston. My cell is 617-905-8568 if you need to text or call me for any reason.” In this exact format, most email programs from Gmail to Yahoo will create a hyperlink of your data and you can automatically get this appointment into your online or phone calendar without any more typing. The person you are meeting can do the same, and if there were any confusion about date, time or place, you can avoid the problem NOW as they will likely i.d. the problem immediately. Again, it seems very “Emily Post” to do it this way – but etiquette is often designed to be very practical. That is why Emily lives on into the technological age even if embossed calling cards are a Dickensian frivolity of the past.
Calendars can seem tedious, time consuming, and something you do after you get your “real” work done. You may feel that really talented people memorize their calendar and don’t need to go to the trivial step of writing things down. This could not be further from the truth. Your calendar and how you maintain it is the front line showcase of your organizing ability and your integrity. It is one of the very MOST important tasks you will do every day. NEVER treat it as a secondary or tertiary item on your to-do list. How you fulfill your commitments is THE key statement of how reliable you are in the world. And…this should make you feel GREAT. You do NOT need to be the smartest student or worker. You do NOT need to be the coolest, the handsome-ist, the richest. You just have to treat others well and make time a few minutes every day to know where you need to be and when. A small hurdle that will vault you to being an outstanding employee, family member and friend.
Do you want to forge a new or improved path in life but feel you have the basic building blocks under control? Or, do you feel you have major life events that act as stumbling blocks and need resolution? While therapists are licensed and coach/mentors are not, they both provide valuable input when you are stuck or have self-limiting patterns. To make the determination of whether you need one or the other, you will want to figure out whether deeper unresolved issues are holding you back. Or, is your path forward cloudy because of either a sense of not knowing your options yet or not being motivated to stick to a plan. Coaching operates in a framework where the basic assuption is a client is healthy and whole, therapy involves the assumption that the client wants/needs healing of some sort.
If you want to think in terms of a sports analogy, therapists treat deeper issues much the way a physical therapist, orthopedist, chiropractor, or acupuncturist might treat an ongoing injury such as tennis elbow. A coach/mentor will act more like a workout or sport coach, giving you tasks and monitoring your progress while providing you feedback and motivating you as you improve. I have seen students who employ both therapy and coaching together. While this approach can be costly, it is quite effective. Likewise, I have seen folks who use these two modalities sequentially – some start with therapy, resolve issues, potentially are medicated for any mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and then move on to coaching. Others start with coaching and if they fail to meet their objectives, they move on to therapy as a way to uncover and resolve emotional issues that are blocking their progress. The key thing is that a reputable coach or mentor is just that, a coach/mentor, and does not handle psychological issues. Both approaches can bring life long value and are worth exploration.
To know yourself better, you can do a short exercise where you write down five goals you have for your future. Under each goal, write down what is holding you back. If the issues seem to be tactical in nature such as motivation, lack of contacts to help you, dissastistaction with concrete tasks and commitments you have in your life, a desire to move or to get a promotion but a fear of breaking down and executing on the detailed steps that will take, then a coach may be the best approach. If your mind focuses on deeper and more generalized fears – fear of failure, sadness around lack of love or happiness in your life, unresolved issues with family or friends, then therapy may be a great place to start.
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.
“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.” Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator
Think about this for a minute. Let it really sink in. If you start from the premise that your life’s work should be about doing jobs that please others? Where does that leave you? You will be crafting a whole life based on a false you, and that will create all kinds of problems in your life.
So, start early. Have conversations. Use the classic 5 Ws that are taught in basic journalism and investigation/research classes. I have adapted them here for the young job seeker.
Who? Do you want to work with (ok that should be Whom?!) (people your age? people smarter than you are? in a big group? by yourself?)
What? Do you want to be doing most of the day. (talk to people, manage others, sell, make spreadsheets, proofread, handle lots of details, work with money or animals or children or the elderly?)
Where? Do you want to be when you are doing this work (inside? outside? in a team? solitary? in a city? in the wilderness?)
When? Do you want a regular schedule, do you want to travel which might involve nights and weekends, do you prefer evenings or mornings? And then the big one…
Why? What makes you think these things are true about yourself (get really honest about this to yourself)? What are supporting data? Have you really looked at how you act now and how you think you will want to act in the future? Have you ever been able to change a behavior you don’t like? Or, are there things that are just part of what makes you “you,” and you will need to accommodate those traits in order to succeed in your career (NOTE: this is a key factor in being successful, workarounds are crucial as we cannot be good at everything)?
Going back to Paul Graham’s quote above, what is driving you to say all these things? Is it really your opinion, or are you trying to appease or please friends, family, professors, coaches, or society-at-large? And if you are, then please re-do your 5 Ws until they truly reflect you, without the influence of wanting to please others.
It is not to say that you can not make a lifetime of work into a success by massaging what is truly your preferred path so that your career pays well. Maybe you know you really want to live in an affluent community and will need a certain income. But, you would be surprised how finding satisfying work will often take you to communities where you are very happy — often you are then surrounded by like-minded people. You can then augment your desire for life’s nice things outside of your job, rather than design a whole career just to get those nice things. Most of us spend more time at work than doing any other activity. Remember that when you decide on a job solely to provide you with a certain upscale lifestyle. You may not have time to enjoy the lifestyle you can now afford.
Bottom-line, your career needs to contain kernels of the real you, based on your answers to the 5 Ws. Knowing this early will save you a great deal of frustration, altercations with peers and bosses, failure in the work place and in your life, and the heartache and huge waste of time that all these issues brings a person.
If you truly have no idea where to start, then talk with close adult family friends, teachers, and family. Ask them about your best traits. Then ask them what kind of careers would utilize those traits. This is the beginning of networking and an essential step as you hone your path and seek jobs that let you flourish. Certainly you could read any one of hundreds of career books like, What Color Is Your Parachute?, the classic by Richard Nelson Bolles.But you don’t have to. Merely working through the 5 Ws and separating out what is a good match for you vs. what you think will look prestigious will get you very far, in a much shorter time.
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.
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.