This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk. When you’re looking for a job, everybody tells you that you have to network. That’s true. The problem is that very few people have good advice on exactly how to network. Most of the career advice I see on networking is bad. It goes something like this: “Get in touch with everybody you know when you're beginning a job search. Let them know you are in the market for a new job. Ask if they know of any jobs for someone with your qualifications. See if they’ll introduce you or refer you.” The problem here is that it’s too late to start networking when you’re looking for a job. You need to have a strong network in place that you can call on at a moment’s notice. When I get a call or e-mail from someone with whom I haven’t been in contact for quite a while my first thought is, “I bet he or she is looking for a job.” I’m right 90% of the time. I don’t resent these calls because I am happy to help anybody in any way I can. On the other hand, there's that nagging little voice in my head that says something like, “This person hasn’t been in touch for a long time, and now he or she is calling because they need something from me.” Being human, I am more likely to go out of my way to help someone with whom I’ve been in regular contact. Here’s a true story. I have a friend who lost his job last December. I called him immediately, did my best to pump him up, and asked him to send me his resume. When I got it, I sent it to several people I know who might have been able to help him out in his job search. A couple of weeks into the new year, my friend called to tell me that he had landed a new job. He didn’t settle for just any job either. He landed an executive position with another company in his industry and is making more money than he did in his previous job. I knew he would land a job quickly, but I was surprised by just how quickly he did. As it turns out, he was referred to them by a friend he worked with about 20 years ago. She left that company, but they stayed in touch. Every couple of months they would chat on the phone or have dinner. Not knowing that he had lost his job, she called him to wish him happy holidays. She called him back on January 4 with a job lead. Long story short, she recommended him, he got the job, and all’s well. This story brings me to an important bit of life and career success advice: Build and nurture a strong personal network before you need it. If you wait until you need something from others to begin networking, you’re too late. My friend stayed in touch with his old colleague for many years. They spoke on the phone, had dinner, celebrated successes and promotions, and commiserated when things weren’t going great. In other words, they did what friends do. And when you come right down to it, that’s what networking is all about – building and maintaining friendships. My friend’s story is a great illustration of this type of networking. He has built genuine relationships that have grown strong over the years. To put it into Stephen Covey’s words, he has big balances in his emotional bank account with lots of people. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) When my friend needed some help, his friends were willing to do so because of the relationships he had built with them over the years. Let me repeat this simple piece common sense advice on networking. Build and nurture your network before you need it. Think of networking as building friendships. Friends help each other. If you have a large group of friends with whom you stay in contact regularly, you have a strong network – one on which you can rely when you need it. Tweet 129 in my book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less makes an important point about networking. “There is no quid pro quo in effective relationships.” You build strong relationships by being a friend: staying in touch and helping others when you can – not because they might be able to help you, but because you value them as human beings. Do this and you won’t have to network as you begin a job search, you’ll just be getting in touch with old friends on whom you know you can rely.
8 Ways You're Being SHUT OUT Of The Hiring Process
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PowerPoint – the “stirrups” of presentations
Some people say that stirrups took the skill out of horse riding. Stirrups made it too easy for riders to stay on their horses.
PowerPoint is thought to have done the same for presentations. By organizing your ideas, thoughts, and information in a series of slides, meetings start to look the same.
PowerPoint is so ubiquitous that a meeting is almost not a meeting without some slides. Is there another way to communicate, or are we all doomed to experience “death by PowerPoint”?
There Are Alternatives
PowerPoint was invented less than a hundred years ago. Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Martin Luther, and Einstein didn’t let their lack of PowerPoint stop them! Perhaps it’s worth looking at some alternatives.
“Live & unplugged”
If your message is straightforward and doesn’t involve too many facts and figures, why not just stand up and say it?
This was how Cicero, Demosthenes, and Churchill spoke most of the time.
To make it work, you will need to prepare your message carefully. It will force you to boil it down to the basics and concentrate on what really matters.
If you’re going to answer questions, you’ll need to know your subject well enough to be able to think on your feet. You may want to “red team” possible questions and prepare your answers to them. See “further reading” for more details!
If someone asks you to share your content electronically, you can either have a document ready with speaker’s notes or get someone to film your conversation and share the recording.
Flipcharts are an effective way to share “low-density” information visually.
They are also very useful for “co-creation,” where your presentation is more of a discussion and the output is something that you have created with your audience.
Paul Ardern, the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising legend, recommended making pitches for advertising campaign stories in this way. It allows customers to get involved in the creation process right from the start. It also demonstrates how willing you are to listen to your customers.
Sharing the results electronically is fairly easy. Simply take pictures of each completed page by phone and share them by email.
Many people present PowerPoint slides with densely written text and diagrams.
Data projectors display whatever is on the screen, so if you have already written a Word document and you know which pages you want to show, why duplicate effort by copying text onto a PowerPoint file?
If the document is a draft, it’s also possible to get peoples’ input and edit it on the fly.
It adds a touch of authenticity to the meeting. You are showing the actual document. It makes sharing the information easier and more credible since what your audience sees during the presentation is what they get.
If you’re presenting numbers, such as an ROI or a set of cost estimates or accounts, you could just show your audience the spreadsheet with the calculations on it.
The advantage of this is, once again, you can discuss with the customer how accurate your estimations are and then make adjustments on the fly. This involves the customer in the creative process which will build trust.
Some salespeople have been known to deliberately make estimated costs that might be saved, such as salaries, lower than they really are. They then let their customers correct their figures, and so the final ROI figure goes up, and it looks like the customer discovered this for themselves.
Make a video
You may expect your audience to passively consume your message, or to ask questions later.
Why not just make a video, share it electronically, and give your audience a deadline by which they must submit questions?
Video editing software is readily available and not too difficult to learn. You can use it to mix media of different formats including audio, written text, and moving images.
Once the video is complete, it’s not too difficult to share it electronically.
Do you need a presentation at all?
If you are planning to read what is on the PowerPoint to your audience and then follow up with a question-and-answer session, why not just send them the text to read before the meeting?
This will give your audience more time to “digest” the information and they can prepare questions independently without worrying about the social aspect of asking questions in front of the group.
Let’s get in touch!
Are you planning a presentation? Would you like to brainstorm alternative delivery methods? Let’s talk and see what we can put together!
Here are some more articles on the topic of presentations:
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