|Last week we talked about attending networking events. This week I’m answering a frequently asked question:
Q. “I’ve read about interviewing for information. But after working for many years, I don’t feel comfortable calling up strangers to ask for help.”
A. I would agree with you.
The first edition of What Color Is Your Parachute rolled out over 30 years ago. Millions of people discovered a revolutionary technique known as Interviewing for information.
Ever since, we’ve been getting guidance like, “People are bored in their jobs. They feel flattered when someone calls to ask for information. They’re happy to take fifteen minutes to help.”
Alas, these days people may be bored, but they’re also busy. More and more, you need a referral to get past the gatekeepers.
So I recommend starting with soft networking. Meet strangers in a friendly, low-key setting and you’ll benefit from the principle of Six Degrees of Separation.
(1) Alumni groups. If you attended college (even if you didn’t graduate), your alumni office most likely will share a directory. Even Scrooge-y types like me will return calls from fellow alums who ask about life in Seattle or New Mexico. Don’t forget high school, graduate school and professional groups.
It’s hard to predict where you’ll find success. I recently connected a job seeker with someone in a field where I have no experience, just based on a casual conversation with a neighbor who just found a great job in that field.
(3) Social groups and friends.
Connections get made at dog parks, parties, personal interest groups, cooking classes, and more.
As you use these sources:
When I first moved to Seattle, I was determined to get involved in networking. After four years in a small town in New Mexico, suddenly I had opportunities to meet prospects face to face.
I loved meeting new people. And connections began to happen. But at first I couldn’t help wondering, “Will all this activity be productive?”
Then last week I heard a talk by Zita Gustin. She gave us an exercise that you can try in your own group.
First we shared with a fellow participant the answers to four work related questions.
Then we answered a more fun set of questions. Where are you from? What television programs do you watch? What’s a good business book you’ve read lately?
As Zita pointed out, we were all far more animated in the second exercise. It was fun and we discovered points of connection we never anticipated. Okay, you might have suspected some of mine:
“I’m from Snohomish.”
”That’s where my dog is from! Her first owners found her in the SPCA up there.”
Networking is an investment of time (and of course money and energy). Most people attend a meeting or two and then give up, saying, “Nothing happened.”
But after weeks, months and years, and sometimes volunteering for committees, you begin to reap the real rewards. Over time, I’ve been greeted warmly in groups where I first felt unwelcome and out of place.
Psychologist Stanley Milgram (known for his infamous obedience experiments) studied the way familiarity leads to liking. When you see the same people over and over – even when you wait at the same bus stop — you develop positive feelings for them.
Of course, I believe some networking events and professional groups are more valuable than others.
Some groups have invisible barriers that keep new members at a distance.
In a few dog-eat-dog fields, networking won’t be productive. In some locations, you won’t have opportunities to network productively.
When I work with clients, we discuss targeted networking strategies that will most likely lead to success.
But generally, if you’re ready to make a change, go hang around with some people who are doing what you would like to do. Just have fun with them and stop if you don’t. And often the best connections get made in the most unlikely places…even just because, “We both have dogs.”
|Last night I met a young woman who needs a new job. On the surface, I seemed to have no experience or contacts.
But as it happens, my neighbor found a postition in her field, following an intensive job search. The next day I got permission to give my neighbor’s contact info to the young woman.
Who knows what will happen? The point is, connections wiill surprise you. Get the word out, everywhere!
Q. My job search has taken off!
I want to apply for an advertised job in the systems group of Mega-Corp. I know folks in other departments but not this one. Do you have tips to bypass HR and get a job interview from the hiring manager?
A. This question actually came from a client recently. I’ll share my thoughts and hope readers will email with more ideas, comments and controversy.First, success depends on how much nerve you have and how much risk you’d like to take. These strategies carry no guarantees and any job search strategy (including following the rules) can always backfire.
As far as I know, these strategies are completely legal and ethical.
(1) Call the department and ask for the department head’s name. Usually they’ll just give you the name readily. Some job hunters say, “I’m doing a mailing.” Well, I think you are doing a mailing but you get to sort out the ethics, practicality and reality.
Once you get a name, you can write directly to the department head.
(2) Call the department cold (with or without a name). Ask for info about the position in a calm, confident manner.
(3) Send a copy of your resume and cover letter to HR. But also send copies directly to the hiring manager. I’d say don’t bother to cc anybody: if they don’t like your back door strategy, it won’t matter anyway.
(4) Google the department and (if possible) the name of the hiring manager
to see if you can come up with a connection between you and him (or her). Ideally you will find a mutual acquaintance to perform the introductions.
Or who knows: you may discover a strong common bond based on education, fraternity, previous employment or sports.
(5) Phone, email or visit everyone you know at this company. Get a list of *all* the names for which they’d agree to be a referral source. For example, you call your trusted friend, Janie. She says, “You can call Frank, Hilda and Bob and say Janie sent me.”
Now you set up informational interviews with Frank, Hilda and
Bob, using Janie’s name. Casually ask if they know someone in the target
department or if they have general advice about hiring at Mega-Corp..
(6) You may find informal email lists too. For example, here in Seattle we have
an email list of women writers – and I see exchanges of info about UW positions.
(7) Attend a meeting of any industry group where the department head will be expected to show up. You may be able to scan a membership list (if you or someone you know is a member) to see if she’s involved. And if he’s a no-show, you’ll use the opportunity to get some deep background on the industry and maybe even MegaCorp’s reputation as an employer.
On the surface, last night’s Apprentice was all about leadership.
But I believe it was all about luck.Both teams hated their project leaders.
Team Kinetic recognized that Aime (pronounced “Amy”) wasn’t fully present. She seemed unaware of her environment (Spanish speaking culture — hello!) and she delegated to the max. Still, her team came up with a clever concept, dressing up in bright costumes to attract visitors to their booth.
And as her team realized they needed to communicate in Spanish, they should have fought for an interpreter. Instead, they said nothing. They walked the mall, trying to drum up business but didn’t bother to call Aime to clue her in.
I don’t blame Aime for being angry, as she stormed off to her waiting limo. Consciously or not, her team set her up. In the real world, employees are supposed to make their bosses look good and avoid dumb mistakes.
Suriya didn’t fare much better. He got emotional. He wandered up to strangers, one at a time – a very inefficient process. His team made fun of him.
Suriya does show some insight. As he pointed out, “We all have jobs to go back to.” He does have some marketing savvy. And for some reason, teams begin winning when he joins them.
Despite the differences, the teams were only about $40 apart. They were evenly matched as far as creating a team vs. leader conflict.
I think the real lesson is something I repeat to myself often, “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
Did you read the New York Times yesterday – Sunday, February 11, 2007? If so, you may have noticed a big article in the Education Section: Troubles Grow for a University Built on Profits, by Sam Dillon.
The troubled university was University of Phoenix.
The NYT keeps a list of “most emailed” articles. This morning, today’s Times reported this article achieved the Number One most-emailed status.
If you had been a reader of my ezine, you’d be ahead of the game. You would know I’ve written an ebook that would have warned you, “Enrolling in the wrong program can be dangerous to your career.” See
And — what a coincidence! — here’s a recent article from my ezine, published just a week before the Times article:
Along with a nasty editorial against the dogs-in-bars measure, our local paper directs readers to a website that lists “accredited” education options: oedb.org
That website should come with a warning.
Many career change clients consider returning to school for credentials, degrees and/or skill building. If you’re at a crossroads, I recommend considering this option, if only because you’ll get new ideas for your next career.
But I’ve been on both sides of the desk. I was just as irreverent as a professor and student as I am now. So I encourage everyone to read between the lines before signing up.
The old signals of reputability no longer apply. For example:
• Some universities are “accredited” but not “respected.” And unless you know how to dig deep, it’s hard to tell who accredited your university and what it means for you.
• Online and distance education have become mainstream, especially business, library science and IT.
• And I used to say, “Avoid a university that advertises on the side of a bus,” but some very well-regarded schools are now doing just that.
Here are five ways to avoid red flags so your time and money will pay off when you change careers.
(1) Can you talk to recent graduates of the program?
Any alumni office should be willing to share names of recent graduates. Some will insist on getting permission to share contact info. That’s okay.
But if they tell you all names are confidential, run away as fast as possible. Graduates should be proud of their training and their academic affiliations.
Training programs often promise career success, but the fine print says, “No guarantees.” I’d go with the fine print.
(2) Will this program really deliver the results you want?
“Tom” signed up for a regionally accredited university’s doctoral program. Thousands of dollars later, he discovered he could not get a teaching position in his local colleges.
I’ve heard many stories like Tom’s. Talk to hiring managers and university administrators before signing up.
(3) Are faculty listed by name and degree?
If more than a few professors graduated from the same program you want to enter, look elsewhere. Diversity means quality. No list of faculty? Forget it.
(4) Do you know your own learning style?
Are you an auditory, kinesthetic or visual learner? Auditory learners can face unique challenges in online programs. Kinesthetic learners like to develop skills on the job – they prefer action to classrooms.
If you face special challenges, such as attention deficits, stress, and/or dyslexia, talk to an independent licensed professional before embarking on your new venture.
(5) Can you afford the tuition easily?
I don’t recommend going into debt or taking big risks, except in very rare situations.
If your company pays the tuition, go for it – but be sure your program or degree will have value if you change jobs and/or careers. Some degree and professional programs will actually drag down your resume.
But don’t let me discourage you – really. Exploring programs and reading catalogs will stimulate your creative juices and help you identify what you really want, in or out of school.
Need more? Of course you can consult with me one-to-one. You can also read
Back to School for a Midlife Career Change