Wednesday, February 10, 2010

5 Ways to Avoid Freaking Out About Networking


Hear that? That growling noise? That's the sound of dozens of career experts venting their frustrations over how many job seekers still refuse to accept they must network if they want to find a job. Career bloggers are ranting about how the unemployed still spend most of their time looking at job boards instead of making contacts, and it's not getting any better. That's what prompted my interest in this story on networking -- the fact that so many job seekers seem to keep ignoring the advice. Here's the story I did for Gannett:


If you’re looking for work, it may be time to step away from the computer.

That’s because like many job seekers, you’re probably spending way too much time poring over job boards and sending resumes to cyber black holes that offer you little chance of finding a job.

Instead, it’s time to get on the phone or go out to lunch. In other words, it’s time to network, still the best way to land a job.

However, chances are good you’re going to balk at the suggestion. Networking for many people has the appeal of doing taxes or having an especially painful medical procedure.

“I think part of the problem is because people don’t feel at the top of their game when they’re looking for work. They’re afraid of looking needy and helpless to other people. And, they feel like it’s begging – especially if they haven’t been networking until now,” says
Liz Lynch, founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of “Smart Networking.”

According to research by
Upwardly Mobile Inc., an online career management service in Palo Alto, Calif., job seekers only talk, or e-mail, an average of eight people outside of their current organization on a monthly basis. Only 38 percent say they have asked for an introduction in the last month, and job seekers on average only have a network of 29 colleagues, which they define as peers they’ve interacted with in the last 18-24 months.

Such statistics, Lynch says, prove it’s time that those hunting for work must move past their doubts and inhibitions about networking if they want to find a job.

“I think the first thing these people need to realize is that others really do want to help them,” she says. “The second thing they need to realize is that they’ve got to be much more targeted and strategic about their networking.”

She suggests job seekers should:

• Attend events attended by others in your industry or field of interest. “If you attend a networking event with random people, it won’t help you. Then, you’ll just say that networking doesn’t work and you won’t do it again,” Lynch says.

• Be prepared. Always dress professionally when networking, refine your pitch on your capabilities and be ready to ask pertinent questions. “I think some people have this idea that they’re’ gong to network with someone and the person will say, ‘Oh, my gosh! I’ve been looking for you all my life!’ People don’t really have a job in their back pocket, but they can give you information that will help you in your search, such as what the hot-button issues are in the industry, or who might be hiring in the future.”

• Give back. It can be uncomfortable and awkward to just call and ask someone for a job lead, so instead ask a question like: “I’ve been thinking of going in this direction with my job search, and I’d like to get your thoughts.” Lynch says it also can help ease your discomfort by then offering something in return, such as saying, “Is there anything I can do for you?” To maintain the connection, send the person articles or information you think they might find of value.

• Avoid over-using social networking. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping tabs on your contacts, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation for making strong connections. “Use your social networks to do advance research when you’re going to meet someone, but remember you can make a much better impression in person,” she says.

• Keep the networking muscle in use. It’s estimated college graduates will change jobs nearly a dozen times in their careers, and networks will remain critical. “Often, your discomfort with networking goes away when you’ve got a job, so that’s a great time to work on your connections,” Lynch says. “Take the time once a week or even once a month to ask someone from your company or another connection to go to lunch. By the end of the year, you will really have expanded your network.”

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Will This Tough Job Market Change Generation Y?


When I graduated from college, my priorities were: getting a job doing something I loved, having opportunities for advancement and making enough money to pay the rent.

Not so different from what Generation Y wants now, is it? And, I have even more in common with them: I needed a job when the economy was basically in the toilet. I know what it feels like to look for work when employers are cutting back.

At the same time, I know those tough times taught be a lot of valuable lessons. I decided to look into what the impact -- if any -- this difficult job market will have on young workers. Here's the column I did for Gannett:

They have been called unflattering names such as the “Entitlement Generation” or “Generation Me,” but young people seeking jobs these days may have a new name: realistic.

Often known has Generation Y, these young people for years have turned companies and recruiters inside out as they demanded jobs for more pay and more opportunities. With their technology skills and great social networking abilities, GenY ( born roughly between 1980-2003) previously have found employers willing to meet their expectations.

But then the recession hit and unemployment soared to more than 10 percent. Like the rest of job hunters, Generation Y has found jobs can be tough to come by, even with their skills. That has caused what some might term an attitude adjustment.

“This is now a more grown up generation,” says Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.

Finnigan says recruiters, who often called young job seekers “challenging,” now report Generation Y job candidates are more willing to compromise on salaries or job duties.

In a recent survey, Jobvite found that before the recession, more than 60 percent of GenY candidates wanted a higher compensation than offered. Today, more than 50 percent of candidates say they will take the salary offered. Further, now almost one-third of applicants are trying to get jobs below their skills level, a jump of 25 percent from the pre-recession level.

“Employers just don’t have the time or patience for a generation that is so picky,” Finnigan says. “This generation is not pushing back as much as they did before.”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, an organization of career counselors, says that employers will hire 22 percent fewer college graduates than last year. The question is whether the tough times being experienced now by this younger generation will forever change their attitudes – or be just a momentary blip in their career plans.

“This generation of workers is still highly desirable because of their skills in technology and their (social media) connections,” Finnigan says. “Employers are always going to need new blood, and that’s not going to change. But do they (GenY) have less of an attitude? Yes. And that’s a good thing.”

That “attitude” is what often has driven a generational wedge between workers. Some older workers see the young employees as wanting advancement and opportunities too quickly without paying their dues. Some younger workers see practices in today’s workplace as outdated and ineffective.

Wayne Hochwarter, a Florida State University professor who studies the workplace, says that despite the bad economy and many college graduates unable to land their desired jobs, the changes within the generation may not be that profound in the short or long term.

“I don’t know that young people’s attitudes have changed a lot, but maybe they’re more prone to say, ‘Well, it isn’t utopia, but I can make it work for me,’” Hochwarter says. “They understand they’re not going to get exactly what they want right now.”

Hochwarter says that many college students on his campus seem unfazed by the bad job numbers and tough economic times. “Of course, you have the one group who is gung-ho, but realistic. They’re paying attention and taking all the opportunities they can to make contacts (for jobs). Then, you have the other group sitting on the sidelines, just out of it.”

He says the group that is “unwilling and unable” to do more to gain entry into the working world is often supported by parents who tell them to “just wait out the recession” by staying in school.

“I don’t think the recession is really going to affect this generation all that much. They’ve been ingrained all their lives with the attitudes they have, and employers are still going to want them because they’re cheaper to hire than older workers and they have in-demand skills.”

“But are they going to be different? I kind of doubt it. You take the skin off a cucumber and it’s still a cucumber,” Hochwarter says.

Do you think this job market will have any impact on Generation Y?




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Thursday, February 5, 2009

When "What Do You Do?" Makes You Want to Punch Something


"So, what do you do?"

While this seems like a fairly harmless question, if you're unemployed, it can have the impact of a freight train.

"Well, right now," you respond, "I'm laid off."

"Oh."

(Sound of crickets chirping.)

It's tough to lose a job. Your work has probably been a big part of who you are and may even color how you see the world. When you don't have that any more, you may begin to question where you fit in. You're confused, angry and depressed. You may begin to withdraw into yourself at the very time you need to be out there at every opportunity.

You don't want people giving you those pitying looks, those guilty glances that you're unemployed and they're not. You're sick to death of people asking you "what you do" and have begun to reply with some rather, er, forthright answers.

"Well, I sit home all day sending out resumes to evil trolls who won't even return a phone call, and then I watch Ellen and Oprah, to make sure I'm up on all the celebrity news before settling in to surf the Internet for endless hours while eating an entire bag of out-of-date Cheetos I bought at the dollar store. And you?"

OK. It's time to get a handle on how to interact with people now that your circumstances have changed. No one expects you to wear a big "J" (for jobless) on your forehead, so stop expecting it of yourself . Remember: Even without a job, you're still you. You're still valuable. You're still worth getting to know.

It's time to:

1. Gird your loins. People can't help but ask "What do you do?" when meeting for the first time. It's human nature, so get used to it. But you don't have to be snarky, or pitiful or embarrassed. They're also going to ask you how your job search is going once they know you're looking for work. Be honest, be positive and be confident. Remember: Most jobs are still achieved through personal contacts. The guy at the cocktail party or the woman you meet at your son's pre-school may be just the key person you need to know to get an interview or promising lead on a job.

2. Seize the day. When you tell someone you just got laid off, an awkward silence can follow. Once you make the statement, someone will feel compelled to say, "Oh, sorry," and then the pity party starts. Jump in before that happens and say something instead like: "I'm a financial adviser but unfortunately just got laid off because of deteriorating market conditions. I'm taking the time to think about what I want to do next. What is it you do?" The key here is that you show you've got talents and you're carefully deciding what to do with them -- and the person is immediately reassured you're not going to start bawling into your martini.

3. Keep your antenna up. When you're depressed and angry, you're not really thinking straight. You're more focused on your emotions rather than on information that might be helpful. So, once you've got your story down pat about your circumstances, then turn the focus back on the other person. Find out not only what they do, but how they do it. There might just be a nugget of information that you can use to help you find a job or land a useful contact. Being seen as professional and able to handle adversity with aplomb will make a lasting impression on those you meet -- and that can also be very helpful to your job search.

4. Get people talking. It's ridiculous in these tough times to try and hide the fact you're unemployed and looking for work. Tell everyone. Network like crazy: "I'm looking for work and I'd like to send you my resume and give you my contact information, and please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might be interested." Give a brief rundown of your top skills, some "highlights" they can use to promote you to others.

5. Send yourself to "me" school. Instead of visiting gossip sites and playing games online all day, figure out what skills you'd like to improve. Teach yourself more about building a website, or start a blog that shows off your skills. Volunteer at a charity that can teach you about community outreach and help you network with others. Check out books at the library that teach you how to be better organized, how to give a better presentation or how to improve your writing skills. These are all positive steps that will not only help you feel better about yourself, but help you when that job does come along.

What are some other coping strategies when you're unemployed?


Lijit Search

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