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Are Networking Meetings Really Networking Anymore?

I have to admit that I’m very selective when it comes to attending networking meetings. It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting new people or reconnecting with people I already know; I do have to protect my time as I’m busy with seeing clients, teaching, and working on my business. But I’m finding it more and more that networking isn’t really geared to learning about each other, it’s become more about selling. Don’t get me wrong that we all aren’t out there to sell our services or products.

But when I attend a meeting where there are ‘regulars,’ is it really necessary to spend time on introductions and promoting what you do? Who are you actually selling or promoting to if I see you often? It’s preferable to let me know if you have a new product or service, or holding a workshops; I like it when you pass on resources that either I find valuable or will pass on to someone else. I’d like to get to know those attending on a deeper level – who they are, what they stand for, what are their interests, and the like. As we’ve heard, people will do business when they know, like, and trust you. If that ‘s the case, how I can I do that if all you’re doing is telling me about your product or service?

If you run a meeting, or plan to, here are some suggestions to help you have true networking meetings:

  1. I run a group meeting and like to open with an icebreaker, as this allows those attending to learn more about each other while breaking down walls or fears, especially for first time attendees. I find more bonding takes place, and more alignment, which then creates a fun and open environment where people want to learn more about each other outside of the meeting, which is where real conversations take place.
  2. It’s OK to place a time limit, but don’t make it the ‘elephant in the room’ and act like the time police. I know that there are people who have a lot to say about themselves, but make the topic more specific to keep in time, such as ‘Tell us one fact about your business,” then next week we’ll tell more. I find people tend to cram a lot of ‘stuff’ into a minute, so they talk fast which makes it difficult to focus on what they’re saying. Also, I find the focus is on what to say in a minute or two and not on the person speaking.
  3. Have someone in the group speak as this is the best way to show your expertise and help us to get to know you. Pick a topic from your specialty that would be compelling and educate us. Make it interactive by getting us working together, such as an activity, or asking us questions. This is more engaging and leaves attendees wanting to know more.
  4. Hold a mastermind, which is where the group works to share best business practices, offer resources, or help a group member to work through an idea or problem with their business. Masterminding can start out with either a topic that the group leader, or group member comes up with; another suggestion is to have a member be the focus, where they will discuss issues they are struggling with, or want help with, and allow members to help. It’s free coaching and is well-received.
  5. Let members network freely, meaning they can just start conversations, which isn’t that the point of a networking group?

Networking can be a great activity in one’s marketing basket but only if done right. Some people like the types of meetings that are structured, while other – like me – want a more open and fun-filled gathering. Maybe just adding one of these will make the meetings more compelling and gain more attendees who hear about them. Taking a survey of the group will help you to gauge how people are feeling as well as getting input from the group. It may take more than one or two meetings to truly get a feel but using one of these suggestions can make the most of a networking group.

 

Having Fun While Being Appropriate at the Office Christmas Party

As the holiday season is in full-swing, many companies are holding their annual holiday office party as a way to celebrate and bring workers together in song and cheer. However, there are some do’s and don’ts to be aware of so you can have fun, but be appropriate at the party so you aren’t the focus of staring eyes or ‘water-cooler’ talk.

Most office parties are held in the evening, with food, drink, and dancing while some are held in the day, say a luncheon or afternoon gathering. It can be challenging to know how to dress or to behave in front of your coworkers, and especially, the boss and the upper echelon. You want to have fun  – after all, it is a party – but being appropriate is a key factor to your career success.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind in your planning for the event:

  • Check out the dress code prior; some soirees may be formal while others are business casual, depending on the setting. You don’t want to come in jeans or a gown only to find out you are over/under dressed.  I think we all want to be recognized but being inappropriately dressed will get you recognized, but in a negative way.
  • On that note, be cognizant of how you are dressing. Ladies: watch on having a neckline that dips too low or a skirt that is too high. While it is fashionable and may make you feel good, I don’t think your office mates will look at you the same way once you’re back to work. This goes to shoes, which I love, but if you can’t walk properly in them, save them for another time. Now guys, you do have the advantage that you can wear pants and a shirt and look good, but you have some guidelines, too: make sure your pants are not too long or too short and that they are clean and pressed; if the dress code is business casual, a tie is not necessary but typically it is a shirt and tie, perhaps with a jacket for formal themes. I’m all about dressing on a budget so there are ways that you can look good without breaking the bank so you can look great without spending a lot of money.
  • Parties will usually have food and drink but I recommend moderating your consumption on both, especially the drink. A lot of parties have buffet-style set-ups so go through the line, taking a plateful of food, but not over-doing it as you can go back later. It is considerate to others not to overdo as some main dishes can be gone, leaving none of others. As for alcohol, which does tend to relax and loosen us up, you don’t want to spill workplace secrets or say/do something inappropriate that it could land you in trouble later (which does happen).
  • This is a great opportunity to network and get to know those you work with, as well as those you haven’t met or want to meet. In a more relaxed at atmosphere, people tend to relax and open up more which could create more bonding moments between teammates as well as connecting with others in the organization. Watch the office talk as most people come to leave that behind and don’t pitch for your next job. Introduce yourself to that hiring manager, who will usually start off with the question of ‘what do you do here’ which can lead into some talk and make you memorable but it does on their terms and not you pushing the agenda.

As you’re getting ready to attend your office party or get-together, keep in mind how you want to be perceived then and later, and dress/act appropriately (this means no twerking on the dance floor). Your reputation depends on it – let the partying begin!

If you’d like help to enhance your performance and make a career transition to your next position, contact us today for your Complementary Discovery Session to get started: http://www.cyscoaching.com

 

 

Spend Time with Those Who Are Where You Want to Be

If you want to stand out, get noticed and move up in your career, then start spending time, or be around, those who are where you want to be. It is said that we are defined by the company we keep, so it is important to be aware of exactly who that company is.

While we all want to have good working relationship and to fit in, it may mean distancing from those who exhibit adverse, or sometimes negative behaviors so as not to be aligned as ‘one of those.’ Now this does not mean that you can’t be continue to be friends with Sally or Joe, who may not have good work habits; these are relationships that you have outside of the workplace.

But being around the ‘rainmakers’ lifts you up to their level which increases your performance and your outlook. It deepens your level of involvement in your work so you want to do more and be better. When those above you begin to see your new attitude and outcomes from these new-found actions, it will lead to more opportunities in both challenging work and promotional opportunities.

Here are three action steps you can take to increase your leverage and reach:

  1. Assess your social circle at work: who is a high – good-low performer and what is your relationship with them; unfortunately, we are seen as being around the company we keep so if you align with Joe, who may be surfing the net, with Sally who tends to gossip, your chances of being seen as one-in-the same is high. Again, this does not mean that you can’t be friends with them but you will want to be aware of when and how you are seen.
  2. Make a list of your brand and how you want to be perceived, as this will lead you to seek out the people who have those traits and get connected. Look at other high performers or leaders – both within and outside your organization – and see who ‘speaks’ to you, in the sense that you silently say “I want to be just like them.” Look at how they plan their day, how do they present themselves and interact with others, how do they dress and conduct themselves. Doing this will make you stand out, which is when you will get more recognition.
  3. Go find them; how you align with those you’ve identified does not have to be complicated as it should come naturally (so you don’t come off as a brown-noser) so you are accepted easily. When you are in meetings, sit near that person, or persons, you want to be seen with which will put in you their circle; volunteer for projects or committees which will put you in direct contact with them; greet and acknowledge them – saying hello or good afternoon often leads to more conversation, which is your opportunity to get to know them better; use your networking skills to strike up conversations and begin to learn about others which will then lead to you answering the question of ‘what do you do?” One last suggestion would be to look for mentoring opportunities with them which can boost your profile and your career.

Being recognized on the job is desired by everyone; spending time with those who are will lend much to your credibility and profile. When opportunities arise, you can be on the top of the list if you follow these suggestions, act authentically, and perform at your best.

Ready to get recognized? Contact us today for your complementary Discovery Session to learn how we can help: http://www.cyscoaching.com. Take action and move your career forward!

The Art of Making Small Talk

In the world of business, it is imperative to network in order to promote your business as well as finding others you can joint venture with. The possibilities are endless in the amount of groups and associations you can find. However, not everyone is comfortable with making small talk which could prevent them from opportunities out there.

This is especially true for some personality types, such as introverts, who don’t like small talk or crowds. If one worries about how they will come across to others, this can be terror-filled: What if I don’t have anything to say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I get rejected?

Becoming a master of networking involves making small talk with others; this is what puts them at ease and helps to make connections that could lead to friendships or doing business together. As a high extrovert, I don’t have any problems in putting myself out there and connecting with others so it’s hard to understand how someone doesn’t want to learn more about others, as I’ve met some really interesting people along the way. It reminds me of an early job I had in a marketing role where I had to visit doctor’s office  and hospitals; I was terrified at that time of making ‘cold call’s but I learned from a seasoned marketer on how to get the in, mainly using small talk to find a commonality with the staff.

If you are wanting/needing to do more networking to promote your business, here are some tips to help you learn how to be more effective:

  • Before you attend the meeting, know your audience; often times the group will post the list of attendees so look at their profiles and see if you align with anyone. Also, come up with at least three topics or questions you could talk about, such as something they’re wearing like a tie or a piece of jewelry. Be observant to find commonalities to connect.
  • Be the first to say hello and introduce yourself; look for others who are on the outer edges of the room as they may prefer more intimate, 1:1 conversations. I met a great friend this way – she was standing alone and I approached her – it turned out we had so much in common in our backgrounds and education that led to our long-standing friendship even though she lives in another State.
  • Be prepared with your introduction, which would include your name and what you do. Having a compelling tag line or brand will help to get the conversation going. Focus on other person – make it about them, not you; be interested not interesting. Maintain good eye contact with them, not looking at others. Be a listener – nod and smile which lets the other party know you are engaged in the conversation.
  • Be goal-directed: come up with 3-5 goals you have for the meeting: the number of people you will connect with that are in alignment with your business or interests; meeting a particular person you know will be at the meeting; or meeting someone who is in your same line of work. Another goal may be to serve on a committee or to become a speaker for a future meeting.  Having a goal will keep you more engaged in the meeting.
  • Be relaxed and have fun; there are most likely a whole lot more attendees who feel the way you do. The more you do, the easier it becomes and that is where mastery comes in. Soon, you’ll lose the worries about how you appear and enjoy the new relationships (and business) you’ve acquired. You’ll have mastered the art of small talk.

If you’d like help on being a more effective networker and master the art of small talk, contact me at http://www.cyscoaching.com. Let’s talk!

Going After the Job You Want

Standing out in the job-search landscape is still challenging, even though job opening are making a return. Sometimes, you need to take control and do what it takes in order to get noticed – you must not take ‘no’ for an answer. In the news last week, there was a story of a young woman who wanted to work at Disney but never heard from them so she ‘snuck’ into the department she wanted to work at and made her case – so they hired her!

I spoke recently with a former client who moved to a different county to take a job but it was not a ‘good fit’ so she left the company; however, she decided to pursue an opportunity of her former occupation with a company in her town and went back consistently for three weeks to ask for the opportunity. She said that the first week they ‘blew her off’, the second they expressed some interest, and by the third week they recognized that she was persistent and wanted to hire her.

The lessons from these stories is that if you are not getting results in your job search, take action into your own hands and ‘show up!’ I’m not suggesting becoming a stalker but making and keeping contact with a potential employer will keep you in their mind and shows them that you are committed to them and that potential job, all qualities organizations want and need right now. Still with so many resumes and applications to go through, and being very selective, hiring departments continue to be overwhelmed which slows the onboarding process – frustrating for you, frustrating for them.

The more strategic you are, the more focused and persistent you become in taking your career into your own hands. So target a company, be confident in your skills and how you will benefit the company, and take a cue from the two ‘go-getters’ above in getting your next job.

If you’d like help with your career or in taking your performance to the next level, I’d love to help you succeed. Contact us today – http://www.cyscoaching.com.

Being Authentic When Relationship Building ( #215)

As we all know, relationships are the basis for having a good life; this includes our personal life, our work situations, and for building businesses.  We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘its not what you know but who you know” and, partly, no truer words have been spoken. People will refer those they know, like and trust to others which helps when advancing in one’s career or business. Building relationships, while being essential, does not always come easy for some people, while those that have no problem meeting people may not do so well.

When one is so eager to fulfill an emotional need, they will do anything to get that need met, either by forcing a situation that will meet that need or by doing nothing – of very little.  So if an individual, for instance, wants a promotion he or she might begin networking both internally and externally to get connected with the hiring manager; the tricky part becomes how they conduct their networking as it could backfire on them.  If they are authentic in their networking, they are coming from a place of learning more about the needs that the particular job fills and making the connection as to how their skills and experience will meet those needs; but – this is where it become ‘tricky’ – if they are being manipulative or coming on too strong (‘schmoozy’) then it could have dire consequences for them.  One of two things will happen: 1) they will get the job but get known as a schmoozer to get what they want, or 2) they blow their chances of even getting considered. Either way, it is a blown chance.

Relationship building is an art – just look at how many books and seminars are done on this topic. Not everyone comes out a pro and does it right. But that doesn’t mean one can’t learn how to easily build relationships that are mutually satisfying:

  • One must come from a place of being heartfelt and interested in not just having a relationship but in nurturing it; relationships are work, so to speak, so coming from a place of reciprocity and acceptance will foster them
  • One must be authentic in those relationships, meaning that you are being who you are and openly accepting the other person for who they are; you find the commonalities and then nurture them
  • One must come from a place of service, or helping the other in some way; that could be by offering your advice, resources, or a lifting them up through kind words and acts

So if you want to get ahead in your career and your life, work to establish and build relationships that have meaning and are mutually satisfying; it all starts with being authentic from the start.

 

How Holiday Parties Can Lead to Career Opportunities

Now that the Christmas season is in full-swing, it is a time for office parties.  Whether they occur in the department or at a venue, this can be an opportune time to pull out your networking gear and get to know people in the company.  This is providing that you don’t take too much of the eats and drinks!

Typically, holiday parties are a way for organizations to show their appreciation to their employees by hosting some type of party function; so it is an expectation that all levels of leaders show up to help with these celebrations.  What better way to have a captive audience and to get to know these leaders that you may never have the chance to get to know in such an intimate way.  By networking well, you could create more visibility for yourself that could help you in your career.  But there are some “rules” you must abide by if you want to create an advantage:

1.  Introduce yourself – if you don’t know some of the leaders at the party, this is the perfect time to get yourself known.  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and what department or job function you perform.  This will typically lead to learning more about you and your role within the company and provides an opportunity for you to ‘talk shop.” If you are feeling unsure, ask your supervisor, or someone you know, to make the introduction.

2.  Don’t talk to much about work – leaders come to relax and get to know employees so this is not the time to ask questions or make complaints/suggestions about work functions.  Take you lead from them if they do bring up any work-related issues but be brief in your answers, or suggest that you could set up a time to continue the discussion later.

3. Be brief- leaders need to “spread the wealth”, so to speak, meaning that they have a lot of employees they need to recognize and have short discussions with, while also trying to have a good time.  You don’t want to take too much – monopolize – their time.  Again, take your cue from them if they want to continue to engage in conversation.

4. Mind your behavior – this includes not drinking or eating too much, gossiping, ignoring your coworkers, or other bad behaviors that could get you noticed – but not in a flattering way.  Office parties are often a way for your peers to get to know your persona away from the office, which could lead to increased feelings of camaraderie and team building.

If you’ve been on the fence about going to your office party, focus on the positive benefits these festivities can add to your career opportunities if you follow the rules.  Just be sure to have fun in the process!

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