Thursday, November 7, 2013

5 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills

Illustration of man implementing networking skills.
Networking skills have become so important in today's careers, and it's not something you are likely to learn about in school. 

Instead of trial and error, try these networking skill tips from my NYC Business Coaching program, and improve your skill-set. An investment that can have a high return on investment in the future.

1) Be Specific Where You Choose to Spend Your Networking Time and Dollars

It's easy to take the "throw it against the wall and see what sticks approach" which leaves you with dirty walls and no money in your pocket. 

Where are your decision makers either hanging out, or people who know people who have access to their decision makers? Who is your demographics and where do they frequently go to create business connections? Do the research first, so you don't waste your time and money.

2) Follow Up is EVERYTHING

I was in an elevator with a woman who while lovely, charismatic and clearly energetic was all over the place. She was bragging about going to 4-6 networking events per week. She mused calling herself the "Networking Goddess." When I asked her what percentage of the people that she meets, does she follow-up with, she looked away and said, "That's my next step, following up." I looked her in the eye and said, "Do yourself a favor, take off the next two weeks from going places and take that time to dismantle that huge stack of cards and do something with them, or throw them all out, and start from scratch but with a clear intention."

Allocate a time every week, to comb through your new contacts, do some research, and get clear how and why you should get in touch with that person then create a plan. It may be sending them an article that is interesting to them, or may be. Or invite them into Linked In and look at their contacts, and once you feel a rapport with them, ask for an introduction, that's a far better use of your time.

3) Networking is About Building Meaningful and Strategic Relationships, Not Looking for a Handout

It seems so blatantly obvious but true that most networkers do the rolling resume syndrome where they go on and on about themselves and judge the success by how many cards they handed out and miss the point. The more strategic your network the bigger the pay off, financially and fulfillment wise. Go with a spirit of generosity of what you can provide and offer, but also, feel free to make requests for introductions and referrals when the time is right. If it comes out of nowhere, with no relationships, people often feel used and put upon.

4) Have Fun and Your Golden

I learned this first hand about a year ago. I was at this fabulous female professional networking breakfast, and we were all kidding around, and I just went with it, and broke into song and did a silly little dance. One of the women mused, "You need your own TV show?" to which I said, "You're psychic, because I've been wanting to do much more TV, most of my media is through magazines and on-line." The next day she gave me a solid introduction which has lead to a recurring TV Show expert spot.

Now granted, breaking into song and dance may not be your style and if the event didn't have a casual playful feel to it, I never would have done it, but I went with the moment and had fun. Being fun and upbeat when it's real, is very contagious, and people want to be around fun, engaging people, especially in a networking environment which can be fraught with shyness and vulnerability.

5) Less is More

It's better to come away from an event with two cards of people you really connected with, rather than 20 you'll never follow up. Again, be specific and strategic, but also have fun, and see it as an opportunity to make new connections and meet interesting people and you will find networking to be a very enlivening process. Honor your networking style if you're a social media maven, then that's your best outlet, or a more in-person or event-driven person, navigate your networking in that area.

About Me

Lois Barth is a human development expert with more than 20 years experience as a Motivational Speaker, Coach, Trainer and industry expert. She helps people close the gap between where they are and where they want to be, so they can thrive both personally and professionally. She is a regular source expert for the Wall Street Journal, and the "Stress Less...Thrive More" Lady for CT Style (ABC Affiliate).

5 Great Tips to Help You Get the Job

Prepared for an Interview with Tips to Get the Job
Finding and getting a job, especially in New York City, can be a stressful and anxious experience. Here are some tips you may find useful in helping you stand above the competition and get the job:

1) See the Job Search as an Adventure

Remember when you were a kid and seeing the snow for the first time was a magical experience? Well, while you may not bound out of bed everyday and say, "Woo-hoo, today I get to look for a job!" when you bring the spirit of curiosity and adventure to the job market, you will not only be more efficient, but you'll have more enthusiasm. Guess what, enthusiasm is contagious, and that's what the interviewer will experience when you walk through the door. 

You can face "not knowing what's next" with gloom or doom, or seeing it as an adventure. It takes practicing an "open and curious" mindset on a daily basis to do that. Keep going back to something that caught your wonder and applying that to the job search.

2) Commitment to Vision, Flexible with Form

One of my greatest mentors told me that early in my training and it was the best advice he gave. Focus on what your greatest strengths, skill sets and passions are, you may find out that it can look many different ways. For example, often many careers like sales, and business development, can be parlayed into a myriad of different industries and positions. Stay true to your gifts and passions, but flexible the different fields and industries that may find your background unique and refreshing.

3) One Inch Wide, and One Mile Deep

While it may sound contradictory, once you do find the area you want to focus on, allocate a certain amount of time, on doing the research, forging the relationships and networking to get seen in front of those decision makers. I suggest a minimum of 90 days to really focus on that one area. It's so easy to be scattered and overwhelmed and try the "throw it all against the wall and see what sticks," which usually lands you with dirty walls and no job prospects.

4) Guess what, the Interview is All About THEM

It's often called the WIITFT, "What's in it for them factor?," which means every question you answer in the interview has to have a pay off for them. Talk about yourself ONLY in the way it supports them understanding what you bring to the table.

When they say, "Mary, tell us about yourself," they are saying, "Mary, tell us how you'll be making a difference in our company, so we can monetize the salary we are paying you. So an answer like "I'm hard working, organized and blah blah blah," is absolutely white noise for them. Instead bring in the facts right away, but frame it with your pizzazz and personality. "Thanks for asking, actually, I have a passion to educate people on how they can free up their time from challenging yet important tasks, so that they have more time available to be with their loved ones, and other high priorities. 

That's why your position as a customer service supervisor really speaks to me. With 10 years of experience, I can take a very complex issue like having to navigate their new smart phone, and using it as a tool to have so many features available, that they get off the phone excited versus overwhelmed, in less than 10 minutes. Plus I love to teach other team members how to do the same. It's really exciting to me." That tells the interviewer so much more than a list of adjectives that are really meaningless to them.

5) Culture is Just as Important as Skill Set

Knowing the culture you're walking into is just as (and in some cases more) important than the skill sets you bring. People want to feel "at home" with the people they work with, and that they all fit in, while bringing their individual gifts and talents. Go on sites where they review different companies from an employee's perspective, read articles, look at their website. If everyone on the website is wearing a t-shirt, don't come in with a formal suit, but don't make assumptions either. 

Maybe a more casual pant and a nice shirt with a quirky tie that serves as a conversation piece to let them know you're creative and an outside the box thinker. Come early to the job interview by at least 15 minutes, and hang out by the reception desk and hear the ambient conversations and how they treat the front desk person. That tells you everything. Do your research, and gear everything you say to how it will benefit them.

About Me

Lois Barth is a human development expert with more than 20 years experience as a speaker, NYC Business Coach, trainer and industry expert. She helps people close the gap between where they are and where they want to be, so they can thrive both personally and professionally. She is a regular source expert for the Wall Street Journal, and the "Stress Less...Thrive More" Lady for CT Style (ABC Affiliate).