Getting Their Ear: Understanding Connectors’ Interests

Tad Info Interview picSo, you’ve decided to link up with a connector for an informational interview. Great, but do you feel you are asking for a favor—i.e. for advice and guidance—without offering anything in return? This misconception undermines informational interviews in a couple of serious ways. First, asking for a favor can be intimidating; and second, it will limit your notion of what the informational interview is.

Focus on interests – yours and theirs

View the informational interview as a negotiation. Ask: “How do I get what I need from this interview in a way that meets the connector’s interests as well?”

Certain interests are common to nearly all connectors. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what you’re in a position to offer them, such as:

  • Recognition: being valued for their expertise
  • Reputation: being viewed as a facilitator or mentor
  • Convenience: having their schedule accommodated (and therefore respected)
  • Insight: understanding you and your perspectives on the field; and how their advice helps to advance an up-and-comer
  • Utility: meeting a potential collaborator/employee who may fill their staffing needs in the future
  • Affiliation: enjoying the opportunity to have an engaging interaction with an interesting (and perhaps like-minded) individual
  • Status: distinguishing them as someone of prominence and importance in the field
  • Appreciation: acknowledging the sharing of their time, attention, and wisdom

Interests are specific to the person. What do you know about what these people are like or would like? For instance, some connectors don’t often interact with colleagues in their field, or adjacent fields, and they may genuinely welcome the opportunity to learn from you or to hear updates about other people in their field who you’ve already contacted. Take one of Carly’s experiences, for instance:

When I was working in the conflict resolution field and considering switching careers into mental health, a lot of the psychotherapists I met for informational interviews genuinely welcomed the chance to learn from me about dispute resolution and mediation. These topics pertain to psychotherapy, but the professional paths of mediators and therapists don’t often cross. I was really happy to find myself adding something of value to those conversations.

This is important sign

Guidelines for requesting an informational interview

Here are some useful guidelines for requesting an informational interview, followed by a sample email. We generally make these requests over email, so we’re focusing on written requests; however, most of these guidelines apply similarly to a phone or in-person request.

Tone and content 

  • Do not write in a way that assumes they will say yes. You’re asking, so your phrasing should make clear that the meeting is conditional on their response: “If yes, would you have any availability the week of the 8th?”
  • Your tone should demonstrate that you’re flexible and willing to make this as convenient as possible for them.
  • Show gratitude and let them know you’d value their input: “I’d value the chance to ask you a few questions about your professional background and the field.”
  • If they don’t know you, include a brief, engaging description of who you are and why you’re interested in meeting them. Don’t give your life story; give three or four sentences, max. In particular, mention topics or experiences that you value in common.
  • Use your knowledge of a given connector or your general understanding of the field or the industry landscape to speak to other interests. If you know that they’re concerned with leaving a positive legacy, let them know that their advice will help you positively influence the future of the field.

Logistics

  • Think about their schedule depending on their job, their field, family situation, etc. Be sensitive to when they’re likely to be free.
  • Make sure you nail down the specifics before the meeting: time (accounting for time-zone differences); location; whether or not meals are involved; phone vs. in-person; if by phone, who is initiating the call, and at what number.
  • Once you have a meeting scheduled, it’s good practice to send a confirmation email a day or two before the appointed date. This is a helpful reminder that busy connectors will appreciate. It shows them that you’re responsible and lowers the likelihood that you’ll be stood up without notice.

Sample email

Dear Debbie,

I hope that you’ve been enjoying a wonderful spring thus far.

I am recently out of college and trying to work my way into the negotiation and conflict resolution worlds. I have been meeting with as many interesting and accomplished people as I can to hear their stories and gain their counsel. Both John Doe and Jane Smith mentioned that you would be a great person to speak with. They both spoke of your ingenuity in entering this world and, more broadly, in navigating the challenges and stresses of career-building for someone in their mid-twenties.

I would be truly grateful if you had time in the coming week to meet me for a brief conversation. I can make time during any of the days except Thursday and will happily come to you.

Thank you for your time and best wishes,

Justin

Tad Mayer is an adjunct professor at D’Amore-McKim teaching Negotiating in Business. This blog article is an edited excerpt from End the Job Hunt, a book due out in 2015. Mr. Mayer is co-author with Justin Wright (who also teaches the class) and Carly Inkpen.

Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons, Coffee time

4 Things I Didn’t Learn in College (but wish I had)

ego-deflatedThis guest post was written by NU Alum Kelly (Sullivan) Good she currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. 

When I graduated from college, I was convinced I knew everything. I mean, it was right there on paper: good grades, multiple awards; let’s face it, I was a great student. And I was pretty sure I was going to ace the Real World too (cue the “wah wah” as we picture my metaphorical ego being deflated). It turns out, there were several ways in which I was very much under prepared.

Don’t get me wrong, Northeastern prepared me very well. I learned a ton about my chosen field thanks to fabulous professors, I learned time management, I learned how to craft a great resume and cover letter, I learned how to write about a variety of subjects, and most importantly I learned how to learn. I certainly would not be where I am today without a Northeastern degree under my belt.

Even so there were some subtle tips I just didn’t pick up in college. But never fear, it’s not too late to start integrating them into your life right now!

1. You can’t just look good on paper and expect others to notice you.

It took me a long time to find a job, despite having a solid resume.  Grades matter, yes, but so do a host of other factors and often it boils down to who you know. You hear it all the time: network. So start early, Huskies. Establish solid, lasting relationships with mentors at your co-op. Perfect and re-perfect your cover letter. You can never spend too much time job searching.

2. There are no grades at work

Well, duh. But this one took me by surprise. In college, there is a fairly standard metric to measure yourself on, at work there isn’t. It’s hard to know how you are well you are doing, unless of course you really mess up. At my job my supervisor gives me a task, I complete it and move to the next one. I spent the first three months convinced I was doing everything wrong because I wasn’t constantly being graded. It turns out, all I had to do was ask. This will likely vary by industry and by supervisor, but once I sought feedback from colleagues I became much more confident. Practice this at school by asking your professors and classmates to look over assignments before handing them in. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with your professor to talk about ways you can improve, this is totally normal in the Real World.

3. You’re no longer just working for yourself

At NEU, I would pick and choose assignments to devote a lot of time to depending on how they affected my grade. I also developed the poor habit of doing all of a group project because I couldn’t trust anyone else to do it right. I did everything for myself because my grades didn’t affect anyone else but me. Not so much in the Real World. Every task you’re given has a purpose. Your company is depending on you to complete it well. Additionally, most of what you do is part of a larger project. You must learn to be courteous of others’ time, and learn that you cannot possibly take care of everything. Begin now by completing all of your assignments to the best of your abilities and by taking advantage of the shared responsibility that comes with group projects.

4. You can’t always research your way to the right answer

This was the most difficult for me to get used to. Before starting my job, I spent three straight years as graduate student researching my thesis. I was very good at reading scientific articles and even spent whole days and weeks looking for small pieces of information that would push my research to the next level. Ain’t nobody got time for that in the Real World, my friends. If you don’t immediately know the answer to a problem, start asking around. You will save a ton of time using the combined knowledge of your colleagues instead of trying to Google something that’s super industry-specific. This one is a little harder to work on while in college. Obviously, you can’t just ask your professor for the answer, and too much collaboration with your classmates can be considered cheating. So I recommend you continue to research and study the way that works best for you, but try not to forget all that information you learned. It might come in handy some day, and you may be the one your colleagues come to for answers.

In all, it’s not too bad out here in the Real World, but I do know I would have been much better off had I known these things before graduating!

Kelly (Sullivan) Good graduated from Northeastern’s College of Arts and Sciences in May 2010 with a degree in Environmental Science. She received her Master’s in Geology from the University of Utah in 2013 and currently works as geologist at Environmental Resources Management in Chicago. She can be reached at kellygood88@gmail.com

Photo: sourced from EWW­Magazine

Living Proof…that finding a co-op is not impossible

frustrated student head down

This guest post was written by Samantha Palmer, a 3rd biology student who just completed her first co-op at the cosmetic company, Living Proof, Inc.

Finals were approaching and anxiety of acquiring my first co-op job was growing. It was mid-December, and I was distracted by the consuming thought of not receiving a co-op offer. Checking my emails became an obsession and every email I received unrelated to co-op was a bothersome. Even more upsetting was that no one had told me getting a co-op could be this difficult, it seemed as if they were just handed to you. Sure, I had a few interviews, all of which I thought went rather well. It’s just that I applied to SO many jobs that I thought at least one would work out. I had good grades, and I aced my co-op class…why on earth had I still not received an offer? While many students had already accepted jobs, I did have a few friends in the same position as me. We were all a bit confused and frustrated, forced to register for classes the following semester.

As a Biology major I applied to many positions, mostly in research labs. Clinical opportunities were usually limited to health science majors. I would have loved a clinical experience, something I should have pushed for earlier in the co-op process. However, I did come to terms with myself that a lab experience would be beneficial for my studies, that is if I could get one.

I kept my thoughts positive while also accepting the possibility of being in classes next semester. Then one evening, I was having dinner with a few friends, one of which mentioned she was finishing up her chemical engineering co-op at a cosmetic company. It sounded cool and aligned with my interests. The idea of working with a science that is relevant to my feminine life was intriguing. She continued to tell me that she had sought out the position herself, and that they would definitely need someone to takeover for her. I was a little nervous since I was not a chemical engineering major, but why not try something new?

I ended up going in for an interview, learning about the position, and meeting the four members of the product development team. By the time I finished my last final, I had accepted the job offer and would officially begin working at Living Proof, Inc. for my first co-op. Looking back, it was as if all those other jobs didn’t work out for this very purpose. My experience at Living Proof was everything I could have asked for and more. I consider myself lucky to have had such an amazing opportunity.

Although I am not studying to be a chemical engineer, I gained great laboratory insight. As a science based hair product company, my main task consisted of batching. I followed recipes to produce shampoos, conditioners, styling products, hairsprays, etc. Overtime I became familiar with raw materials and how they contributed to each product. Sometimes I even got to take home a small sample of whatever I made that day. Batching was always satisfying because after a long day of measuring, mixing, heating, and cooling, you were left with a beautiful end product. Another fun task was tress work. This consisted of testing our hair products on hair strands to see how they performed, especially in relation to competitor products. Of course I also had to perform more tedious work. The stability of new possible formulas needed to be checked constantly. The color, odor, and consistency were measured to see how stable the product is over time. Keeping the lab clean is also important and a lot of my time was spent sanitizing equipment and organizing. My favorite part of my lab experience was helping with the actual formula for a new product. I got to test different raw materials and see how each performed in the salon. This was definitely frustrating, but now I can look forward to seeing a product on store shelves that I had a part in.

In addition to the lab experience, Living Proof has an awesome office environment. Due to the small size of the company, I sat among colleagues from various departments. I made friends in finance, marketing, and HR. We had an office kitchen where people could gather, and on Fridays the entire company came together for a group lunch. I got to see how the company ran as a whole, and it allowed me to make lifelong connections. Living Proof proved to be a place that had some of the smartest scientists, an amazing culture, and an exceptional learning environment. I looked forward to co-op every morning; my next one has a lot to live up to. What was my favorite part? I could say it was preparing for Jennifer Aniston’s visit, or the frequent product launch parties, or even the quiet, relaxing, lab atmosphere. However, every part of Living Proof seemed to make my experience worthwhile.

Make the job you want quoteThrough my first co-op process, I learned that acquiring a job or an internship is not just handed to you. You have to work hard for it. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and use whatever connections you have. Once you get where you want to be, it’s important to continue to make connections, even if you’re not looking for your next co-op or internship for another year or so.

Samantha is a 3rd year student at Northeastern, originally from NY. She’s seeking a bachelors degree in biology, with minors in psychology and business and plans to pursue a career within the medical field. 

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: Let’s Go Steady

Image source: tower.com

Image source: tower.com

So many of my clients have heard that networking leads to a job, but still many of them don’t understand how. My last four posts got down to the nitty gritty of networking and how the etiquette is similar to dating somebody new or making a new friend. So what happens next? Sometimes something great and sometimes nothing comes from it. Similarly, you go on a couple dates, and initially it’s great and then it kind of fizzles over time. So why do all this work if there’s a possibility that nothing happens? Because, like dating, it’s a necessary evil to secure something long term.

So what happens when it does lead to a job, what does that look like? It can take many forms and you could be the initiator or you contact could, but it’s always beneficial to be proactive. After that initial conversation or two, keep checking the company website and reach out when you see something that you’re interested in. You can frame you language to sound something like:

“Hi Amelia, I hope all is well with you. You gave me some great advice and insight a few months back and as you instructed I’ve been checking the company website every few days looking for entry level positions that fit my experience.

Something just opened up in auditing and I was writing to see if you had any insight on the position or could connect me with somebody who did. I am eager to get my application in, but I want to make sure I’m an attractive candidate. Thank you for your help.”

Amelia will hopefully write back with some advice and say that she’ll “put in a good word for you”. This generally (not always) guarantees that the hiring manager will at least give your application a closer look. You’re one step closer to “going steady” with that company. It’s important to recognize that despite all your networking, the job may just not be a good fit for you, but at least you got a shot. In many cases however, it tips the scale greatly in your favor.

The best case scenario is that you’ve been keeping in touch with your network and a contact sees a position that, based on your conversations seems like a great fit, and reaches out encouraging you to apply. This will almost always get you an interview because it is safe to assume that you contact already sang you praises to the hiring manager.

Regardless of the scenario- the benefits to networking far outweigh the cons and the understandable “uncomfortable” feeling that comes with the process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dating connoisseur, I’m confident you can master the simple rules of networking etiquette.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The Courtship

image source: comefillyourcup.com

Old School Courtship image source: comefillyourcup.com

Courtship [kawrt-ship, kohrt-

noun

  1. the wooing of one person by another.
  2. the period during which such wooing takes place.

In other words: the period of a time you spend dating, trying to figure out whether or not you think that the relationship will go long term. The courtship is the most exhilarating and exciting part of the dating timeline, but it can also be filled with confusion and anxiety. Similarly, when trying to cultivate a networking relationship with a dream employer, it’s difficult to navigate the social niceties without shooting yourself in the foot.

Let’s go back to the dating example. It’s the day after a successful first date; there was great conversation, delicious food and most importantly, a connection. You sent a text that night saying that you had a great time. Now what? “Should I call him/her? Is it too soon? What if they think I’m annoying?” Not surprisingly, these are similar to the questions I get from clients after they have a successful informational interview. “When should I follow up? Will they think I’m annoying? I don’t want to come off too needy.”

Since my last post, we know that the first step to keeping the networking relationship alive is to send an email thanking the person (scroll to the bottom of the link) for their time and citing conversation bits you found especially helpful and/or interesting. I would also suggest including a closing sentence that says you’ll update them on your progress over the next few weeks/months. Like dating, it’s easier and feels less awkward to follow up with somebody when you have a reason to and it confirms that you were actively listening at the meeting.

Dating example: “Hey Kelly, Are you free Thursday night? You said you love 90’s movies when we met and they’re playing Terminator 2: Judgment Day at the Hatch Shell, want to go?” Why yes, mystery man, I would (but seriously, I would).

Networking example: “Dear Amelia, Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks back. I took your advice and followed up with Fred in accounting. He gave me some great insight on how to navigate the finance job market at some of the larger firms and much of what he said complimented the advice you gave me. I’ll be certain to keep in touch with you as I continue my job search and I appreciate all of your help thus far. If you have other suggestions for me or hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you kept me in mind. Thanks again!”

While the thank you email should be sent within 24 hours of your initial networking meeting, your follow up is dependent on you. If you met with Fred just a week after meeting with Amelia, it’s fine to follow up with Amelia after speaking to Fred, and in fact, I’d highly suggest that you do, even if it’s only been a week. Use your common sense and just don’t be a stalker. Follow up with Amelia in 4-6 weeks after your Fred email to update her on your progress from there. It doesn’t have to be a long email, just a short, check-in.

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Although it may seem slightly redundant and simple, following up is the most important part of the networking relationship for a few reasons. First, it keeps you fresh in their mind in case something opens up or if they hear of anything elsewhere that they think you’d be a good fit for. Second it demonstrates politeness and professionalism. Now that you’ve had a solid conversation and a of couple email exchanges, they’ll feel more comfortable vouching for you. Finally, it gets the person to care, even just a little bit more, about your career. People generally like the feeling of helping out somebody else- thanking them and following up confirms that they were helpful. The goal is to get them invested in your career so you have them as a lifelong contact. Amelia is probably feeling pretty good about herself at this point.

All in all, the key to the courtship phase of the networking/dating relationship is to follow up! Just use your common sense and don’t be rude about it. You wouldn’t ask somebody to be your boyfriend or girlfriend without going on multiple dates first, so don’t expect that your contact is going to go out on a limb for you and hand you a job right away. Like any relationship, it takes time to foster and grow. Your network should serve as an information resource and it’s important to be patient and know that not everything is in your (or their) control when it comes to the job market. Embrace Forrest Gump-esque serendipity and know that most people are willing to help, but you need to do the work.

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get married. Final post of the series next week: Let’s Go Steady.

How have you followed up with your networking contact? Has anyone ever connected you to somebody that’s helped land you a full-time position or internship?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The First Date

 

Girl: "I like you" Boy: (after pushing her) "You smell like dog poo."

Girl: “I like you”
Boy: (after pushing her) “You smell like dog poo.”

Your phone buzzes, and yes, you got a response from that online dating inquiry. “Sweet, now what do I do?  Do I text back right away?  Maybe I should wait a few so I don’t seem too eager, wait, or maybe he/she will think I’m ignoring him/her?”

We have come to the most exhilarating and frightening part of our journey down the dating/networking path: the first date.

The first date, full of mystery and anxiety… luckily in the networking world, it’s a little more straight forward. Unlike dating, if the person you requested to informational interview writes you back, you should respond promptly. Keep in mind, they’re doing you a favor, limit the back and forth scheduling emails. If they suggest a time/place, try to accommodate them, if that time/place doesn’t work, suggest a couple alternatives. Do the work. I can speak from experience, it’s annoying going back and forth five times trying to schedule a meeting with somebody with whom you’ve never met.

“So this weather we’re having…” Getting ready.

You’ve set the time and location, now it’s time to get ready. It’s going to be slightly awkward, just accept it – they’ve already agreed to meet you, so you’ve got that going for you (you go Glen Coco).

"Uhh..." image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

“Uhh…”
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

Let’s start with the conversation prep. It is essential that you prepare questions to ask. Again, they’re doing you a favor, so you need to go in there with multiple conversation starters. Similar to a date, we want to avoid as many awkward silences as possible. You always know that it was at least a decent date if you left having good conversation- the same goes for the initial informational interview. People, as a whole, love talking about themselves, so asking questions about their career path, their current position and what their success tips are is always a good way to start. It’s an easy way to break the ice and connect with them. Similar to a first date, you want them to like you and feel a connection (or dare I say, a spark), so that down the line they feel comfortable recommending you to their superiors and/or think of you when a job opens up. Feel free to answer their questions as well- this is a two way street, and you need not pretend you’re not looking for a position if asked, but NEVER ask them for a job- it’s rude and they may not be in a position to offer you one. Cue the super awkwardness.

Let’s talk about dress, baby.

First rule of thumb, whatever you do, don’t roll in to the meeting looking like a slob-ka-bob. First impressions matter. I once went on a date where the guy showed up in a baseball hat and gym shorts. Glad you cared enough to dress up.  Know your industry. If we go back to the Google example from last week, you probably don’t need to rock your designer suit, but looking like you care about the meeting and you put some effort into your appearance is important. If you’re info interviewing somebody that works in a profession where suits are commonplace- wear a suit.

Additional tid-bits.

These are the things you learn only through experience. One, don’t show up too early, but don’t show up late. If you are going to be late, send a quick email, just like you would send a text to your date.

Two, once you’ve hit the designated time marker, stop talking. If you asked for twenty minutes, but are having awesome conversation, stop at the twenty minute mark and say something along the lines of, “We’re just about at 20 minutes, I don’t want to take up much more of you’re time, I’m sure you’re really busy.” Let the employer determine if they can stay and chat longer.

Three, isn’t nice when get a lovely text message after your date that says something along the lines of, “hey, I had fun, let’s get together again soon”? Super sweet right? Same goes for after you have an informational interview- send a thank you email and let them know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. We have samples on our site.

image source: http://giphy.com/

image source: http://giphy.com/

Finally, keep the goodbye as normal as possible. The dating world makes goodbyes uncomfortable and weird and I honestly believe that it has scarred our interactions with others. Ask for a business card, say “thank you for your time”, and finish off with a firm handshake. That is all.

Just like dating, some interviews will be good, and some will be eh. Being prepared and making a good impression will set you up for future success.

Do you like mind games? Because next week we’ll be discussing the Courtship.

What advice do you have for those conducting informational interviews? Are there any other parallels you can pull from going on a first date?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part II

Last week we touched upon the social/in person approach to networking, or what I referred to as “happenstance”, where you meet somebody by chance or ideally, purposely put yourself in situations where you could potentially meet somebody that shares similar interests (networking event, student group, you get it).

Well, congratulations! You have now graduated to “the blind approach” and “online dating/networking,” so let’s get this party started.someecards-online-datingLet’s start with the networking equivalent to online dating: LinkedIn.  So you’re on OKCupid, or Match.com and you’re browsing profiles, looking for people with similar interests that catch your eye (Tinder is too shallow for this, sorry).  Let’s just point out the obvious: you’re not looking for your life partner. Yes, that person may very well be your soul mate, but for now you’re just looking for a nice date and some good food.  You find a suitable match; you send them a message and wait. LinkedIn acts very similarly, but instead of looking for potential future exes, you’re looking for people who either work in a place you’re interested in working, or in a position that you’re interested in learning more about.

Let me reiterate, you’re not looking for somebody to give you a job, but just trying to connect, learn about, and ask for advice from somebody in the industry.  Just like on the first date you wouldn’t ask somebody to be your bf/gf, you wouldn’t ask for a job during an informational interview– which is what these are called btw (if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you click the link above).  Networking– like dating– can be a slow process, you have to invest the time and energy to learn more about that person and company.  Then with luck and timing, it generally blossoms into something better.

Let’s say you are interested in working for Google.  Assuming your LI profile is sparkling the internship movie wilson vaughn and up-to-date, you decide to do an advanced people search and type “Northeastern” into the school and “Google” into the company section. Your search reveals that you actually have 3 first degree connections, and 15 second degree connections! (Who knew Aunt Sally had a friend that works at Google?) So you browse their profiles to determine which person’s profile appeals to you and who you think would be best to talk to in order to learn more about Google.  Pretty standard and the process is not too dissimilar from perusing OKCupid profiles.

The Career Development website actually has a guide and language you can use to help you draft a message to a person you may not know that well (or at all). Also, check the calendar for “LinkedIn 2: Advanced Networking” workshops, which run every other week to give you a more in depth look into how to navigate LinkedIn to connect with people.

So you send your message, and you wait.  Good for you!  You’ve “blindly approached” somebody online!  And similar to online dating, feel free to follow up after a couple weeks if somebody doesn’t respond. Maybe they didn’t get your message.  Just don’t be a stalker and follow up 3 hours later. Desperation is never attractive.

PS: if you are doing this at a networking event or family party, the same rules apply!  Don’t forget to ask for a business card and tell them you’ll follow up and keep them posted, that way they expect to hear from you.

Have you ever blindly approached somebody for an informational interview? If so, what advice do you have for others? If not, what are your reservations?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part I

So let’s start with the initial approach.  Realistically, there are three ways to meet potential dating victims.  Two of which are very targeted and deliberate. The other one is more luck and timing.

  1. The first way (and the bravest if you ask me) is blindly approaching the person.
    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    This tends to happen at more casual outings and events etc. (this is actually way less scary at a networking event).

  2. The second way is online dating, aka OK Cupid, Match or some other constituent (LinkedIn and in some cases Twitter, is the online equivalent in the professional realm.)
  3. The final way tends to be more happenstance.  You meet somebody through a student organization or through a class project and hit it off.  Worst case, you’re at the same event and you’re both waiting in line for the bathroom (an unfortunate place to be in).

We’re going to focus on happenstance today and touch upon the braver approaches later. Let’s ease into this networking thing.

The initial approach, regardless of the circumstance, is generally awkward, but often times we walk away thinking (I hope), “that wasn’t too bad” or at least, “it could have been worse.”  And the person you were talking to on most occasions is generally nice and receptive.  It’s easier to meet somebody when you share a common interest.  “I met someone I would later date because we were in a play together,” says Amy Henion, a recent Communications grad, “we both obviously were theater geeks, and hit it off right away.”  Networking generally works the same way.

"On Wednesdays we wear pink!" source: perezhilton.com

“On Wednesdays we wear pink!” Mean Girls
 source: perezhilton.com

The easiest way to meet somebody is to go to events and join professional and student organizations related to your major and interests, thus, deliberately putting yourself in situations where it’s natural to meet somebody who is doing something you’re interested in.  Plus, you have that common thread now, so there is something to talk about aside from the weather, the Sox’s latest loss, or one of the Kardashians.

Example: if you’re a Physical Therapist or in any healthcare field for that matter, consider volunteering at the Red Cross, or for a big event like the Boston Marathon.  You’ll meet people with some pull and it looks good on a resume (just saying).

You can also tap the network you already have.  Lots of people get together through friends and networking is similar.  Ask former co-op supervisors, faculty, friends and even family if they know anyone working at “X” company.  Those are easy matches and generally lead to solid conversations.  Just make sure you follow through so you don’t make your friend look like a fool, or ruin a potential match made in heaven.

Do you have a successful “happenstance” networking story?  What are tips you would give and questions you asked?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating

Generally, when I mention the word “networking” to students, a look of sheer panic fills their eyes.  It’s as if I asked them to recite the Declaration of Independence or some obscure Shakespeare passage.  As a Career Counselor, I am a huge advocate of networking, but as a Millennial myself, I understand the uncomfortable feeling of actually talking to a stranger in person, or even worse, over the phone (and I’m generally using a land line, yes, they still exist).

You don't have a target card?! source: reddit.com

You don’t have a target card?!
source: reddit.com

Over the course of my various career coaching/counseling appointments with students, I found myself trying to convince them that networking really wasn’t that bad and then, all of a sudden, it hit me (I knew that look of pure panic looked vaguely familiar). Networking was a lot like dating.  You know that moment when you think that guy or girl is kind of cute?  Maybe you’re in class or out with friends, and you’re just not sure exactly how to approach the situation.  “Should I say something, or no?  What would I even say?  Maybe they won’t like me.  Why did I wear this stupid shirt?”  I noticed a lot of my clients were having the same if not similar reactions/questions when I was encouraging them to network.  “What am I supposed to even say?  Why would they want to even talk to me?  I feel annoying.  Can I wear this shirt?”

My epiphany inspired me to write this series.  To give you a little preview, the next few posts are as follows and will appear weekly:

  1. The Initial Approach (parts I and II)
  2. The First Date
  3. The Courtship
  4. Let’s go steady

Stay tuned and hopefully I’ll hit two birds with one stone here.

What are some aspects about networking that freak you out?  What are some tips, for those of you who feel comfortable networking, you would give to green networkers?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Networking Never Stops. Ever.

source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com memegenerator.net

source: gregbekkers.wordpress.com
memegenerator.net

This guest post was written by Sheila Taylor, a Northeastern University Career Development intern.

net·work·ing noun

:  the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically :  the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Most of us associate networking with finding a job. While you’re actively seeking employment, you’re busy forging relationships with people who may help you land that dream job. Networking is about meeting and talking with people. By creating a relationship during the conversation, you will be able to ask, “Who do you think I should talk to next?”

What if I were to tell you that networking shouldn’t end when you find a job? Would you groan in dismay, or would you jump up and say, “Yeah!” to continue building relationships?

For many people, networking is work. It’s a fine art form that you develop over time. Everyone must refine their skills to reflect their style. For some people, they can walk into a crowded room and instantly connect with strangers. For others, it takes practice to find the right conversation starter and to have the confidence to introduce themselves to an industry leader.

After many years in the work force, three careers and an international move, I want to remind you not to abandon that network you diligently built while job hunting! Did you meet some fascinating, fun people along the way? Would you like to have a reason to stay connected? It’s important to continue to cultivate those relationships for business. You never know when you may need them!

Here are some strategies for continuing to network after you have found employment:

First of all, thank the people in your network that led you to where you are now, especially the people that helped you during your active job search. Then, let them know where you are working and how they can reach you. Send them your v-card. Update your LinkedIn profile. Who knows, maybe you can return the favor and give them some valuable information some day.

Are there some interesting people that you connected with? Were they easy to talk to? Did they seem open to answering your questions? Consider building a base of mentors. Some of the people you met through your information interviews or while attending professional association meetings may be willing to fill this role. Why seek out mentors? Early on in your career there may be projects that your supervisor assigns to you that could seem daunting but you don’t want to disappoint them or appear unfit to take on the challenge. Here is where a mentor comes in: they may give you some advice on where to start or how to face the challenge. They may be able to help you brainstorm or problem-solve to come up with a solution to a problem.

I sought out mentors when I landed my second job. Some elements of my job were very new to me – such as conducting interviews with national media outlets. I was alone. None of my work colleagues had experience in this role – they were all happy to push me in front of the microphone! I turned to a few people that I had met at a professional workshop. I called them and asked them for advice. They became my informal “committee of advisors” cheering me on from the sidelines and supporting me during a stressful time.

You may find mentors or advisors in the most unlikely places. I recall participating in a committee for a corporate-wide project. Whenever I presented material to the committee there was one colleague that always challenged my work. At first I was offended and then I realized they took interest in my work and they wanted me to succeed. After the project ended, I sought out this person from time-to-time because I knew they would give me a different perspective.  I have also met people through groups on LinkedIn. I have participated in group discussions and have found that a particular person provides good advice or resources. I will connect with that person and turn it into an opportunity to meet and strengthen the connection.

Networking can also help you grow as a person. Maybe you’ve been in your job for a couple of years and you want to expand your skills – use your network to research how to try out these skills in other ways: through volunteering or getting active in a professional association.

Finally, networking is a little bit like being a gardener. You have to continue to nourish and feed your contacts to keep your network alive. Share information with colleagues. Show interest in what your contacts are doing. Find out about industry trends. Grow your network. Who knows when it may be time for you to look for another job? If your network is active, you can hit the ground running and cut down on the time spent searching for your next opportunity. Better yet, your network may seek you out for a job that is never advertised.

Sheila Taylor worked in the Career Development office as an intern and recently left to move back to Canada. She has worked in both the United States and Canada in Public Relations before transitioning to become a Career Counselor.