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8 Tips to Make the Most of a Networking Event

By this point you have probably heard (more times than you can count) that networking is a vital ingredient to job searching and advancing one’s career; it is consistently reported that 4 of 5 people land jobs through networking. Like fruit or vegetables, networking is one of those things that comes is different varieties, and people either like it or hate it. One of the more common varieties is to attend a networking event (or social gathering of professionals). Unless you’re an extrovert, this type of networking can provoke much anxiety. Here are a few tips I’ve put together to help you through this and help ensure you make the most of any networking event.

1.    Do your prep work and know what type of people will be in attendance. Make note of who the event organizers are so you can thank them at the event. (note: they are usually among the most connected people at the event). Before you leave the event, be sure to thank them and express how much you enjoyed the event.

2.    Dress the part! Make note of the venue and expected attire. If not noted, you should dress in business-casual attire (minimum) – preferably professional attire. First impressions are key…so it is up to you how you want to be perceived.

3.    Think of about five conversation starters or opening lines.  It doesn’t have to be deep – weather, sports, local news, reasons for being there, etc. Read the new so you can be up-to-speed on current events and potential conversation topics relevant to the event or who will be in attendance.

4.    Arrive on time.  You can meet the organizers and work a smaller crowd. Allow for people to arrive and get settled at the event before approaching them. Positioning yourself in high traffic areas can sometimes help initiate conversations. If you are not as comfortable approaching small groups of people, feel free to approach individuals directly. In addition, if you are feeling intimidated about the event, feel free to bring a wingman or wingwoman for support; just don’t spend the entire evening with them (remember this is a networking event!). Lastly, try to not talk to the same two people the whole night (even if it feels more comfortable). You can always follow-up after the event to engage more and possibly meet over coffee or for an informational interview.

5.    Focus on the people, not the food.  It’s difficult to shake hands and continue conversations when your hands and mouth are always full. Drink in moderation.  No one wants to hear you slur your story about your job search over your fifth glass of pinot.

6.    Be assertive.  “Hello, my name is…” Introduce yourself and start conversations.  Say something after your name to help lead the conversation.  “Hi, I’m Darren Kaltved, career counselor for the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and a new member of XYZ.  Are you a current XYZ member? If so, how long have  you been involved with the group?” To help keep the conversation going, try to focus on things you both have in common or know the same thing about.  Be sure to exhibit active listening skills and ask questions (be engaged in the conversation)…remember that it isn’t always about you!

7.    Hand out your business card to those you shared a conversation with, but don’t fling them out like flyers. Resumes are also good to have on-hand. One tidbit of advice is to include your LinkedIn Profile link on your business card. Also, don’t forget to request a business card from those you spoke with. After the conversation, you can make a few notes on the back of the card to help you remember personal insights they shared during the conversation.

8.    Following the event, provide yourself a 48-hour window to follow up with your “new” networking contacts.  Send a personal email (see notes on the back of the business card – try to personalize the message based on what you conversed about). Request a follow-up meeting (maybe over coffee or at their place of employment) and don’t forget to send a LinkedIn request. When sending the request, I recommend personalizing the message indicating when and where you met, and that you would like to add them to your professional network.

Remember, you simply are meeting people, making connections, and creating relationships….even if you are enjoying the food and drinks. A quality network is a crucial part of your career development and job search process.

Networking Tips from Expert Keith Ferrazzi

Keith Ferrazzi, professional relationship development expert, once said, “If you want to transform your life, you need the help of others – powerful relationships with people who give you support and access, and push you to exceed your potential.” Below are 4 key videos I highly recommend regarding the topic of “Networking.” These videos will walk you through the basics of establishing a strong professional network. Enjoy!

What is Networking?

How Do I Start Networking?

How Do I Turn a Contact into an Ally?

How to Avoid Becoming a Networking Jerk:

Metaphorical Thinking and Its Impact in Career Counseling

M. H. Abrams once said, “Key metaphors help determine what and how we perceive and how we think about our perceptions.”   Metaphorical Thinking is a commons thread of everyday life – yet most of the time we don’t realize its impact or that we are even using it. Whether you are a writer, poet, scientist or career counselor metaphorical thinking can be an effective tool/strategy to better communicate an idea to your audience or client. For instance, we have all heard the phrase “time is money,” but did we know that our minds are developed in a way that allows us to better understand the meaning and purpose of this phrase. Instead of someone (say a manager speaking to his or her staff) stating that we have a lot of work that needs to be done quickly, by using the metaphorical phrase “time is money” individuals will understand the value and importance of their work and the impact it can have on the task at hand.

So what is “Metaphorical Thinking?” Metaphorical Thinking is a direct comparison between two unrelated or indirectly linked things (i.e. a bridge between the new and the familiar). It can be used to improve communications by adding greater impact or can help you explain a difficult concept through association with a more familiar one. Moreover, it can be a good way to build connections because the human mind tends to look for similarities (Making Truth: Metaphor in Science, T.L. Brown, 2003).  For instance, scientists could describe the distribution of mass in the universe as foam-like or that the earth is like a living organism, or could describe their ideas of science by using people – The theory of relativity gave birth to a whole new field of physics.
As for career counselors, we also have the opportunity to describe career development concepts using metaphors – especially new concepts or ideas such as, the relationship between dating and interviewing, personal branding (branding ourselves as if we were a product or service), or goal orientation (the world is your canvas – what kind of picture will you paint). So how do you make this work? Here are a few tips:
  • They key to instituting this methodology is to get students or clients to awaken their image-thinking part of their brain. Ever wonder why the word “Image” is the root word for “Imagination?” Instead of thinking that a picture is worth a thousand words, reverse it – a word is worth a thousand pictures.
  • Create a whole new world of perception, understanding and experience – a clearer meaning in what you are trying to communicate. Einstein once said, “I rarely think in words at all.” For instance, work with your student or client to better understand that their career is more of a journey not a destination. And that along this journey there will be obstacles or bumps in the road and that the tools and resources you are providing will serve as the map to achieving success.
  • If necessary, use physical drawings or pictures to create visualization. For example, when I am working with a student who is looking to write a personal statement I will ask them to list their hobbies (other areas of passion). Once determined I will use one of these hobbies as a theme for their statement and explain how they can relate this hobby to their field of interest (i.e. medicine). One resource I find helpful is Wikipedia to create a clear understanding on how (say scrapbooking) relates to why they are pursuing medicine). Read more about this idea at: http://wp.me/p1CG2M-O.
  • Lastly, don’t just stick with one metaphor…have alternates ready. Some metaphorical concepts may not work or be understood (especially if cultural differences exist). For example, if I were trying to describe to a student or client on how to create an introduction when networking with professionals, I may decide to use multiple metaphors such as, “elevator pitch” or “30 second commercial.”

When asked to use a metaphor to describe their careers, over 50% used the word “Journey”. Whether you are using such words as Career Path, Career Exploration, Career Ladder, Career Plateau, Progress, Climb, Destination, Map, Track, Journey, Path, Fit, Match or phrases such as putting your career on the fast track, it is like fitting a square peg into a round hole, or your interview is like going on a first date metaphorical thinking can be a fun and effective way to communicate your ideas. Remember – your goal is to create understanding so like the latest fashion trend “go out in style!”

Additional Resources:

Nevo, O. (1996). Uses of humor in career counseling. Vocational Guidance Quarterly, March, 188-196.

Bordan, T. & Goldin, E. (1999). The use of humor in counseling: The laughing cure. Journal of Counseling and Development, Fall (77), 405-410.

Metaphorical Thinking: Using comparisons to express ideas and solve problems
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_93.htm

Unlock the Power of Metaphorical Thinking
http://www.innovationtools.com/Articles/ArticleDetails.asp?a=188

Promoting Metaphorical Thinking Through Synectics: Developing deep thinking utilizing abstractions
http://facstaff.bloomu.edu/dwalker/Conference%20Information/IUT/Synectics.pdf

Career Metaphors and Their Application to Theory and Counseling Practice
http://www.virtualhabitats.com/Students/CareerCounselorWebquest/Career%20Metaphors.pdf

Metaphor: A new way of thinking about careers (NCDA)
http://www.associationdatabase.com/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/5132/_PARENT/layout_details_cc/false

ThinkBlocks Tutorial: Metaphors and Similies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr0-kMlWJgw&feature=related

5 Cool Tricks to Get More Out of LinkedIn

Steven Strauss, a small business expert, recently posted an interesting article on his blog about how to more effectively use social media to enhance your business or career. Here then, are some little known ways to get a lot more out of LinkedIn:

1. Tap into the groups tool: I bet that you probably are a member of a few LinkedIn groups, and probably even get group update notices via email.

Big deal.

The groups function of LinkedIn is so much more powerful than that. How powerful, you ask? Not long ago I heard about a woman who started her first business. She decided to get involved with a LinkedIn entrepreneurs group, but unlike most of us, she jumped in — posting and sharing, meeting and greeting.

Six months later, when she decided that she needed a board of advisors, she turned to her LinkedIn group, asking for volunteers. More than 50 highly qualified, experienced entrepreneurs offered to sit on her advisory board — for free.

2. Use “advanced search” to really search: Of course you can use the search tool on LinkedIn and find someone you are looking for, but what if you don’t know who exactly you are looking for? That’s where “advanced search” comes in. Jackpot.

Using advanced search, you can really drill down and expand your network by searching key words, professions, industries, businesses, groups etc. If you are looking for people with a specific job title, use advanced search for that title, or a company name, school, zip code, etc.

Example: Say you want to find people who have done marketing for Dell, but you don’t know who exactly. By searching the terms “Dell” and “Marketing,” you will get a list of people both inside and outside your network. Then search your shared connections to those people, and off you go.

And here is another great advanced search trick: You can save the search results for later use. To the far right of your search result is a link that says “save this search.”

3. Get found: Why be on LinkedIn if not to expand your network, right? But that’s a two-way street. Yes, you want to be able to find new contacts, but equally, you want people to be able to find you.

Here’s how: Think of your LinkedIn profile as your website, meaning, fill it with key terms and key phrases – SEO-friendly phrases. That way, when someone does her own “advanced search” using key phrases, your profile will more likely populate her search results.

Our Dell marketing alum might also list — in addition to the words “marketing” and “public relations” — words like PR, media, media relations specialist, publicist, IT marketing, and advertising. As with a website, the more you sprinkle specific SEO phrases around, the higher the likelihood that you will end up in an appropriate search result.

If you are unsure what keywords to use, there is no need to guess. Check out the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It will tell you what terms people use to search.

4. Go big: If you install the apps linked in this sentence, anytime you tweet or update your Facebook status, your LinkedIn profile will automatically update with those posts. It looks to the world like you are very linked in that way.

5. Discover important events: LinkedIn has a great feature that allows you to easily discover important industry events.

So no, Twitter with its (to me) frustrating 140-character limit is far from the only social media game in town.

Social Media Etiquette 101

A great way for employers to learn about candidates is through online resources,  especially social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In fact, CareerBuilder.com reports that in order to make a good impression on your prospective employer, it is important to manage your online presence. Follow these guidelines to avoid a negative presence.

  • It may be a funny inside joke between you and your friends, but don’t post anything inappropriate on Facebook walls, tweets or on your status updates.  You never know who is reading them, including employers!
  • Posting photos of risky or illegal behavior can be very damaging to your professional presence.
  • Be careful who you tag.  Remember to be courteous and think of your friends’ images before posting inappropriate photos of them. Also, be careful who you ‘friend’, what you ‘like’, groups you join, comments or blogs you make, or those you add to your network.
  • Being on social media sites doesn’t give you a pass to use poor grammar.  Take a few seconds to edit all of your posts to make sure you don’t make simple mistakes.
  • If you are still employed or under contract at another job, be very private and careful if you use social media for job searching purposes.
  • Make sure you manage your privacy settings on all your online accounts.
  • Be careful of negative communication.  Complaining is not professional, especially when you announce your complaints online.
  • Remember that LinkedIn is a professional social media site!  It is not a place to talk about personal interests, your feelings, relationship status, etc.
  • If you include a profile photo on your social media account, make sure it is either a professional headshot (preferred) or another form of you dressed professionally.

Overall, everything you do online stays online. This online information also plays an important part in how others perceive you personally and professionally. By maintaining a consistent, positive and professional online presence, you will avoid burning bridges to your future.

5 Effective Ways to Passively Network

Do you ever find yourself wondering how or when to effectively network? Well, here are five ways you can approach networking on a regular basis without having to take too much time away from your busy schedule; and at the same time make it fun!

1. Attend a Yoga Class or Fitness Center

Whether you are looking to get a jump start on a New Year’s resolution or looking to strengthen your Warrior or Crescent Moon poses, exercising can help unite your spirit, mind and body, and create an atmosphere for great networking and conversation. These comforting and relaxing environments create happiness…and when people are happy, they want to share with everyone. So take the opportunity to share your story…and maybe, just maybe, one of your classmates might just know the right person or opportunity you’ve been looking for.

2. Ride the Bus

If you have ever taken a ride on the #16 Bus on-campus or any metro bus for that matter, you know how crowded it can sometimes be. We all know of folks who are avid bus-goers, but did you know that their bus-mates are in some ways considered acquaintances? It is true, the more you ride the bus the greater the likelihood that you will strike up a conversation with some random stranger who just might have insight to a potential career opportunity. So, instead of hoping your car will start or being able to afford gas this week, take the bus and an opportunity may be waiting onboard.

3. Dress up, grab your laptop and head to the nearest Starbucks

Okay…you may be asking yourself…why should I break out my professional attire and head to the nearest coffee shop? Well…believe it or not, looking the part of a business professional that is taking the time to enjoy a grande, non-fat, no-whip, white chocolate mocha while perusing the Internet for your next job may just blend itself into a random conversation with a Starbucks frequent-club member who would be willing to offer some direction regarding your next career move. Don’t be shy…strike up a conversation and you never know where it might lead.

4. Attend a Social Gathering (i.e. Holiday Party)

The holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family; a time that is filled with holiday cheer, good food, and an opportunity for you to spread the joy of your career wishes. When striking up a conversation with Uncle Fred or your friend Betsy, ask them who they know related to your area of interest. If they happen to not know anyone in that area, my guess is that they will send you Cousin “the one who knows everybody” Vinny. So put on your best holiday sweater, grab a glass of some potent eggnog and share your goals and aspirations with those close to you. Happy Holidays!

5. Call Mom and Grandma

What is the one thing that Mom and Grandma have in common (besides the obvious)? The answer is they thoroughly enjoy talking and telling stories about their kids and grandkids. So give your Mom and/or Grandma a call, maybe even pay them a visit and tell them your story. You will be amazed how far they would be willing to go in order to help out their precious son or daughter. Whether it is at the fore mentioned yoga class, grocery store, book club or at the shopping mall…they both have this innate ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone; and believe it or not…it works. Oh, and don’t forget to send them flowers after they help you land an interview…just make sure you go to the interview alone!