Networking Using LinkedIn: How Do I Make it Worth my While?

I know, I know. I’m hearing a lot of groans through my computer screen from you. I can sense them! LinkedIn is obviously a really helpful tool and platform for SO many reasons, but people often get stumped when trying to use it for actual networking with people they don’t know. In other words, you know it could be a good avenue for you and open up some previously unseen doors, but it feels weird to reach out to “randos” on LinkedIn and besides, you wouldn’t even know what to say. Does that about sum it up?

I totally get it. If not done properly in a non-thought out way, it can be a little useless and feel funky, so I’m here today to share some tips – in chronological order- to make it useful and productive- and maybe even a little natural. I’ve been working with a couple of clients on this, so it’s top of mind, so I want to share some of it with you here. Read on, dear friend!:

LinkedIn

Check Out LinkedIn Premium: They give you a free month, so for this LinkedIn plan of action we’re about to embark on, it’s worth it. Why? Because you can see people’s email addresses, which is MUCH more useful than LinkedIn’s InMail system. I can’t tell you how many messages I miss from there- mainly, it’s because most people do not have their LinkedIn open all day and if your primary email is gmail, for example, emails notifying you that you….have an email go to that blasted social tab. Anyway, they’re easy to miss so emailing your top potential people via their actual email is the way to go.

Start Finding Peeps: Groups! Once you have LinkedIn Premium, joining relevant groups is the next thing to do. Not all groups are created equal, as I say to my clients, so it might take some due diligence on your part (e.g. Are all the posts sales posts or not conducive to discussion? Do people post frequently?). And you can always un-join a group that isn’t useful to your career goals if you realize it’s not great. Do a search for your field (e.g. “project manager groups”) and check out size, activity, level of discussion and level of professional. Check out the most frequent contributors. There’s also an added bonus that anyone in a shared group can be InMailed directly without a Premium account, if you decide not to get a premium account for the free month.

**Note: Don’t reach out to people willy nilly and don’t email blast the same email to dozens of people. This is a curated approach and not a ‘numbers’ game.

Start Finding Peeps: Connections! You might also already be connected to some relevant people that you might not even remember! Check them out and make note of them. Also, do a search for your field in your area (e.g. “project managers NYC” either in the basic or advanced search- NOTE: LinkedIn Premium also has more robust search options) and see if you have any 2nd degree connections that friends/1st degree connections can introduce you to.

Keep Track: If you have a CRM system like Highrise or your Outlook calendar, use that, but good ol’ Excel will help too. You can really go into the rabbit hole with this, so when you see someone that might be a good networking fit, add them to the list. What we’re going for here before even sending one email, is a list of 20-30 people you can start with to get your feet wet (you can always add more!). Ensure that you’ve captured relevant info like their contact info, how you ‘know’ each other (ie is it a group or a shared connection?) and why their profile piqued your interest. This will be important for the actual outreach.

Prioritize: Of those 20-30 people, who is the most natural fit? In other words, who can you imagine getting your email and being excited about the possibility of connecting with you? Yes, this is a two way street and you have something to offer as well, especially to those top 5-7 individuals you find. Maybe they posted something recently that you can help with or have a resource to share. Maybe they work at a company aligned directly with your values. Maybe they do what you do and you can share best practices. (This is the ‘why their profile piqued your interest” note in the last section, but it’s important because your outreach has to be thoughtful and targeted so we’re reiterating it here!)

Follow Up: You will not hear from everyone the first go around, so it’s absolutely worth following up (yes, even if they don’t know you) to show them you’re serious about this and didn’t just blast 200 people with the same email. Maybe they missed it or maybe they meant to get back to you but forgot. Believe me, ONE email follow up to an already cold email is not going to anger anyone (and if it does, do you want to be connected to that person anyway?). So, make follow up part of this process.

Timing: Using LinkedIn for networking usually isn’t the quickest way of getting a job, so if you’re looking for it to replace your current network and job searching, don’t. You might get lucky and contact someone at the exact right time, but this isn’t a “blitz” of cold-emailing 200 people the same email and hoping something sticks. This is a more curated approach and takes time. So this is ONE of the pieces of the job search and career development puzzle and shouldn’t take the place of other important elements. If you’re not in active job search mode, I recommend making this part of your Career Upkeep monthly- maybe spending 2 hours a month on this process. If you’re job searching, I recommend making the above steps part of your weekly process. Maybe on Mondays you do some research, Tuesdays you email and the following Monday you do your one follow up email. You’ll see what works for you.

I’ll explain all you need to know about networking on in my course The Career Change Kitchen launching January 10th Check it out here!

Next week, I’m going to be sharing some actual outreach templates for these LinkedIn outreaches so stay tuned for that!

What have you done to reach out to people you don’t know on LinkedIN? Did it work? Not work? Share in the comments below!

3 Steps To Get Ready for Fall Hiring Season For Companies You Want to Work For

A bunch of my friends and colleagues (And clients, obviously!) are in Operation Job Search and I’ve noticed a bit of a theme emerging as I talk to them about it. I hear a lot of “spinning my wheels” comments or people telling me they “can’t get traction.” Other times, it’s not knowing where to put the effort. Or their brains are like mush and they can’t remember what they sent to whom and when and all that jazz. Hiring season sounds like dread to them.

Enter headaches, malaise and a (rightfully so) bad attitude on stage right. Amirite?

While there are no hard and fast rules on job searching (which is kinda what makes it the most annoying thing on the planet besides those desks made for right handed people and erasable ink), I am here today to share a 3 step plan and organization structure that, when followed, can help you maintain order, sanity and not feel like you’re sending things into the black hole.

First things first, though. While I do believe that every job search will entail you mailing in an application through an impersonal web portal, networking is the key name of the game here. 70-80% of jobs are gotten through a contact or an introduction (or an introduction YOU forge), so that’s where 70-80% of your energy should be for hiring season. Also, this article assumes you know the field and industry you’re applying to, so your job search is targeted. I do not recommend starting your job search when you’re applying to several different roles.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s dive into the 3 steps to dive into fall hiring season:

  1. Spend time listing out companies you’d like to work for. I recommend organizing it in Excel once you’ve determined they’re a contender for you to consider working for. You’ll want to get the info in one place such as website, contacts at the company, open positions (if any), next steps and status of your efforts. Really spend a couple of hours creating this master list. How many companies you have will depend on the size and maturity of the industry/field, so there are no hard and fast rules here. And of course you can always add to it! Just get a chunk of companies that you want to keep tabs on and build relationships with. You can use the simple Job Search Grid I’m providing here (and feel free to customize it!). This is Tab 1 of that workbook. hiring
    Apply for relevant open positions. 
    I like to batch this, so I’m not one-off applying to things and disrupting my flow with research and networking, but if a job has been posted for awhile (>3 weeks), then definitely prioritize it. The idea here is that as you’re researching companies in step 1, you’re also plopping open positions on tab 2- the job application tab. This is where you can keep track of open applications and your follow up. If you’re testing the efficacy of two different resumes, this is where you note which position got which resume. Make sure you’re updating this by taking closed applications off the list and adding to this list. I’d recommend if you’re in heavy job search mode to go into the tabs 2X per week and do a sweep so it doesn’t get out of hand and too daunting to update.
  2. Who Do Ya Know? The third tab on the grid is all about networking. You can absolutely add contacts you already have (and you should do this), but for purposes of this 1-2 punch blog post, we’re going to be talking about adding people at the companies you’ve identified in step 1. Check your LinkedIn for first and second degree connections first. Look at your alumni association and relevant industry groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. If it’s a second degree connection, tactfully ask for an introduction from your friend or colleague. Some contacts won’t actually be contacts yet and may entail reaching out cold. Make sure you’re keeping track of these conversations in your organization tool! 
    1. **Note: People ask me if the person has to be in the right dept or in HR. If it’s a cold email, yes, most likely. But if your 2nd degree connection is in IT and you’re in marketing, it’s still worth the convo to see if the company is a fit for your values and talents before pursuing it further. And who knows- if the convo goes well and you build up a rapport, perhaps your new friend will pass your resume along to the right people!

Remember, this approach to hiring season is relationship-heavy. This means it’s about building relationships, meeting people at those companies (through alumni associations, other groups, events they’re speaking at, etc). This is not an approach for someone who wants to blast 100 applications out in one fell swoop. The BENEFIT here, however, is that you are mindfully created the universe of companies you want to bring your talents to and you’re systematically and mindfully creating relationships with them.

Tough Career ? of the Week: How Can You Get Employers to Think About Your Skills Creatively?

This is a new series I’m starting to answer YOUR burning career needs to help you think creatively about your toughest career challenges. Comment below and I’ll write you a blog post (and let me know your email so I can let you know when your personal answer is up!)

This week’s Tough Career Question is from Emily in New York, NY. Emily writes:

How do you get potential employers to think about your skills creatively as it applies to their needs? I’m trying to potentially transition into a different career and I’ve tweaked my resume and written excellent cover letters (I think at least) to outline my skills and how specifically they would transfer well to the position at hand but it’s still very difficult to get any traction or even an interview. It seems like companies think very literally and uncreatively about a person’s experience. If you don’t have 5 years (or whatever the requirement might be) in a particular industry, they just dismiss you and move on. Is there anything else I can be doing to really drill home the fact that I am worth interviewing? Should I be really up front about my lack of experience in the industry but then drill into all the ways it doesn’t matter?

This is one of those things that really grinds my gears. It’s a common occurrence and happens for a variety of reasons. One reason could be that the more corporate you go, the more rules-based and rigid they become to satisfy various quotas, rules, etc. Or, as I’ve seen first-hand, the hiring team is overworked and understaffed, so weeding out resumes that aren’t an exact fit on paper is a quick time saver. Sad, but true. Lastly, maybe the hiring team isn’t thinking creatively about the role for whatever reason.

I tell you all of these potential reasons, Emily, because this is one of those times where it’s time to get off paper and get in front of them physically. I know that sounds crazy- and I don’t mean to show up at his or her offices demanding to speak to someone, so let me explain.

You’ve done a bang up job on your resume. You’ve tied your experience and skillet in your cover letter to exactly why you’re a fit for these jobs and you’re still getting radio silence and/or a “no”.   How about considering building your network up and networking your way into the company? Who of your first-degree connections on LinkedIn knows someone there? Can you ask for an introduction? Is a representative from the company speaking at an upcoming networking event? Sign up to attend and introduce yourself to the speaker while there and follow up via email. If this company is ‘the one’, talk about it with whomever you’re with- at a friend’s house for a dinner party, at events, at weddings- you name it. I truly believe this is not DOA until you’ve tried to network your way into the company.

CreativelyCase in point: A client of mine worked in marketing for treasury services for JP Morgan. Not exactly the sexiest work in the land. She wanted to work in marketing for a higher end fashion brand. She was told “no” tens of times and got radio silence to her application the other dozens of times. So we got thinking creatively and started her on the networking circuit- setting up coffee chats, asking friends for intros- she spent a lot of her post-work weeknights meeting up with people in fashion. And once she got in with one, she was introduced to others. She was able to tell them exactly what she had been trying to get across in her cover letters and sure enough, she got a job within a couple of months working in fashion!

This approach has another added benefit. Maybe you’re reaching for that one top company (my client’s was Burberry in fashion), but you end up at another equally great company in the same field. She may not be working at Burberry yet, but she’s in the field at another well respected company in fashion. So as you build up your network in your field, maybe you get your next position at a similar organization. Thinking creatively, strikes again!

Remember, there’s so much at play here besides someone reading your cover letter the way you want them to. There’s timing- Burberry didn’t have any openings for my client, for example. There’s the email black hole. There’s those damn keyword portals that suck up your application and run it through an algorithm for Pete’s sake! So why not take yourself offline and network your way into the field? It may not be the EXACT company you want that bites, but it can get you in the door of that new field. You’re doing a great job, Emily- please know this is one of those ‘it’s not you, it’s them’ issues, but there ARE things you can do to get around it!

MISC Tips to think Creatively about your skills:

  • The cover letter call out. I had a client call herself out in her cover letter to Anthropologie. She started the letter with something like, “I know it may seem strange to see a professional with 9 years of accounting experience applying for this merchandising position, so hear me out.” She was called back within minutes and got the position.
  • Drop off the application in person. I know, old school and semi-stalkery right?! Well, it has to be the right context, but if it at all makes sense to walk your application over to a prospective employer, you never know what might happen. Most people don’t do it, so why not do something that makes you stand out?
  • Multimedia: Why not put your cover letter together in a different way? The key here is to do it in a way that shows you CAN do the job. If you were going for a graphic design position, maybe the cover letter is done as some sort of graphic design project, for example.
  • Do part of the job for free. If appropriate, take the part of the job that you don’t technically ‘have’ and show them you can do it. This is related to the multimedia tip above but if you don’t have a creative multimedia way to do this, why not just go out there and ‘do’ that part of the job? Maybe you’re going for a fundraising position but don’t have the formal experience. Is there a place you can volunteer for where you learn the ropes for free and put it on your resume? How can you SHOW you can do it? Fundraise for a cause you believe in for free? Think creatively and see what happens!

4 Simple Steps to Determine Whether To Turn Down A Solid Job Offer

Yes, yes, you read that correctly. In this post, I’m going to show you how to turn down a job offer that you actually kinda like. (But first, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!)
Sound counterintuitive? “But I want to be employed YESTERDAY, JILL!”, you may be screaming at me through your computer screen or phone. I know- TOTALLY get that, but stay with me here.

A client who took my 30-Day Swift Kick in the Pants Career Change Challenge earlier this year inspired this post. She just told me she got a job offer and turned it down. It looked good on paper and ticked some of the typical boxes- decent pay, an opportunity to manage a team and the ability to do so at a growing company. But ultimately she couldn’t quite say ‘yes’ to it. I sat down with her over frozen yogurt earlier this week and got some insight into her process, part of which I’m sharing here. Make sure you download the worksheet that accompanies these steps so you can come to the best conclusion for yourself like she did.

So, how do you determine that a job offer like that –attractive in many ways—is ultimately something you should turn down?

If you want the worksheet that accompanies this post, click here or the giant image.

Job offer

  1. Check in with the gut. Sometimes there’s something non-verbal or intangible preventing you from being all BEES KNEES about the position. When you get the offer, make sure you thank them and of course, never accept it on the spot. Make sure you ask for a timeframe to respond (2-3 days is reasonable.) Once that’s all over with, think back to the moment they called with the offer. What was literally going on in your gut? Did you experience a tightening? Butterflies? A pit forming? This is what we’re talking about when we talk about the gut reaction – how it FELT. It might have been a fleeting feeling that your conscious mind immediately tried to suppress so it’s important to dig deep here as this is part of the key to figuring this ish out. Basically- and I’m no Brain-Sciency Lady (that’s an official term) so this is not backed by scientific experiments at WeWork or anything- our conscious mind can sometimes swoop in to rationalize the whole shebang and make it into something it’s not. For example, if you’ve been out of work for a couple of months, your thoughts swoop in to suppress your gut reaction and make you think this is JUST THE THING for you, when it might not be.
  2. Document your initial thought. NOW it’s time to bring in thought. This is slightly different than gut reaction- again, what was your initial thought? Was it “Oh shit, now I actually have to do that job?” Was it, “YAAAAAASSSSS! Can’t WAIT!” Was it somewhere in between?
  3. Check in with your long-term career goals. What are they? How does the position support those goals SPECIFICALLY? This is info you should have from the job interview process, and if you don’t have it, do not just say, “Oh well” and accept it! You can go back to the hiring manager before you said you’d get back to them with a final answer and ask some questions to help better illuminate this for you. It’s vitally important!
  4. Pay attention to other nuances. If it doesn’t tick the box in fitting your ULTIMATE career goals, does one aspect of the job offer set you up for a bigger move in 2-3 years? Does the increase in pay help you set aside capital to launch your business idea someday? There’s nothing wrong with leveraging a job opportunity with long term career progression- do not forget that! One of my clients who ultimately wants to go into urban design ultimately decided to take a job at a design firm doing photo editing work she’d done for a magazine. The people and network at the new firm is MUCH more in line with urban design and the photo work is much closer also. Lastly, the company is very much about the development of their employees, so when she expresses interest in learning another aspect of design to get closer to urban design, they’ll be open to it.

So, if you want to the worksheet to help you come to the right decision on your job offer for your career and your life, click here! And send me a little note when you’re done to let me know what you decided!

 

 

How to Navigate Your First Networking Event, Jill-Style

I know, heebie jeebies, right?! I’ve been going to these for a LONG time, and I still sometimes feel unsettled going to events with new groups of people! “What if no one talks to me?” “What if I try to say something and it sounds dumb and everyone slowly backs away in horror?” “What if my pants fall off mid-sentence?” (Ok that last one is a slight stretch.)

It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to the workforce or an industry veteran- if it’s something you aren’t used to doing, networking at events can certainly be nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing affairs that invoke sleepless nights and maybe one too many trips to the bar at the event. Amirite?

networking

BUT, it’s CRUCIAL to the development of your career. It’s crucial for obvious reasons should you want to change jobs or change your entire career track. AND it’s important even if you’re happy at work (YAY!). Why? Maybe you’ll meet just the person your company needs to hire for another role. Or maybe you’ll meet someone who can come in and help alleviate a problem your department has been having. (And then, brownie points for you!). On top of that, it’s ALWAYS prudent to see what else is out there for your own career development. Keeping tabs on opportunities can lead to better work-life balance, higher salary, a more challenging job or all of the above.

SO, now that I’ve pontificated on WHY networking is key, how the heck do you navigate your first few events? 

I’ll take you back to 2013 for a little ditty or two to show you how much I absolutely feel your pain when you think about going to an event.  When I got back from my time in Argentina, I started networking. I was TERRIFIED. Sometimes I would go all the way to the event (that I paid for) just to leave without going in. I don’t want to know how much money I wasted doing this.  Even as late as last year, I had signed up for my alumni association’s summer cruise on the Hudson River. I arrived to board, only to realize that everyone had come with friends or a partner. I was alone. And was gonna be on a boat for 3+ hours and knew of NO ONE going. I panicked. I boarded the boat, telling myself that if worse came to worse I could read my book about Abraham Lincoln that was on my iPad. Then, I made myself stand in line at the bar and get myself a drink. I turned around and….there was an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. “Jill, hi!,” he said. Phew. Exhale and release.

Ok, so how do we skip over the thudding heartbeat in the ears feeling? How do we make networking easy as pie?

  1. Get the book “Presence” by Amy Cuddy right.now. I just finished this for my own business and life, and it’s really helped me see how I’m “showing up” differently. From the Amazon description: “By accessing our personal power, we can achieve “presence,” the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves. As Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s revolutionary book reveals, we don’t need to embark on a grand spiritual quest or complete an inner transformation to harness the power of presence. Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.” How great would it be to go into a room of people we don’t know or barely know in a state where we’re not caught up on how we’re coming across to others? How would that totally change the game for us? Believe me, this one is a doozy.
  2. Lean on your friends and colleagues. This stuff takes work and even after reading Amy’s book, you might still be like, “Umm Jill, I’m still not going to any events.” That’s ok and that’s also why it’s ok to lean on friends and colleagues. Go with someone you know and promise to split up for 30 or 45 minutes and then reconvene. I did this in the early days and it made it so much more palatable! I’ve also called a sympathetic friend before heading into an event alone and she helped me come up with my goal for the night (e.g. “Stay for 45 minutes and talk to 2 people and THEN you can leave.”). This held me accountable to someone who was DEFINITELY going to ask me, and it gave me a clear goal. It also got me started. I only stayed for the bare minimum of my goal for those first few events, but after awhile, I was able to surpass my goal. You will too.
  3. Ask Questions, Be Curious. Here’s the thing, though. People love to talk. And they love to talk about themselves. So, for your first few events while you’re getting your feet wet, go to the event with a few questions to ask  people. “What interested you in this event?” “How did you get started in your field?” “What do you like about what you do?” are all great questions. I tend to avoid the “So what do you do?” question, because if they do something so far afield from you that you can’t relate the question is DOA, but it’s asked often.
  4. Remember, They Are People Too. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s true. These people are going home to be moms, dads, daughters, sons, girlfriends, boyfriends, pet owners, etc. They are also going home to do water color paintings on the weekends or play in a sports league. They’re people with insecurities and dreams and hopes too. If you can remember that in a particularly anxious moment at an event, I guarantee you that you’ll feel some relief.

What are some other tactics you’ve used to navigate your first few networking events? Share ’em below!