For shy networkers, building your network can be a challenge. A week ago, I attended a business mixer sponsored by the Portland Business Journal, and was immediately reminded about something. RELATED: 10 Tips For People Who Hate Networking As I walked into the crowded room of about 200 professionals, I remembered that keeping up the art of networking requires you to keep working at it. Like exercising a muscle, you need to keep flexing it in order to keep it in shape. Not that I have any excuse... I have been (ahem) a little negligent myself lately in getting out into true networking situations where I don’t know anyone. A heavy client load and multiple projects have kept my time constrained to running from appointment to appointment, with no time (or energy) to commit to going to any after-hours networking events. I’ve been too exhausted. But that is no excuse. I realized it had been awhile since the last networking event that I had attended, and silently resolved to get myself back out there. So, as I entered that room, I suddenly realized how flabby my networking muscle was. And I’ll admit it: I was scared since I knew a total of two people out of that crowd. Why was I scared? Because deep down, I am actually a horrifically shy person. And when anyone who is shy is thrust into a setting where it is densely packed and they don’t really know anyone, the natural instinct is to clam up and find a corner of the room for shelter. It was all I could do to force myself into the heaving crowd. But I did it. When people reveal to me that they are shy or have a hard time networking, I know that pain... personally. But you CAN get past it and it can open up new doors in ways you couldn’t have imagined. During the event, I pushed myself past the shyness envelope, made eye contact with strangers, and stuck out my hand to say hello. I met a lot of people that night through the power of networking. One gentleman I met was interested in resume writing services for himself (he contacted me later to follow up- a good sign); another was slipping past a door I was standing near and I jokingly said, “In order to pass, you need to introduce yourself.” Turns out he was an executive coach and after chatting, we set up a meeting the very next day to figure out how we could refer business to each other. And a client of mine (one of the two people I knew at the event) was chatting with another gentleman to whom she introduced me... turns out he was involved with a workforce board and we had a lot to discuss. Since then, we have met in person over coffee and shared ideas over e-mail. So, if you say you are shy and that is the reason why you aren’t good at networking, that is a self-imposed barrier you have put up in front of yourself. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. But here are a few quick tips for you to get through that initial awkward conversational stage and transform the people you meet at events into powerful contacts in your network:
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One portion of an employee’s personal development is work-related, but there is more. When you think of an employee’s personal development do you think of the skills for them to keep current, get a promotion, or transfer to another department? Improving core skills such as analytical abilities, critical thinking, and/or decision making? Skills to take on a leadership role and manage staff? Obtaining higher credentials?
Assuming so, organizational leaders should:
1. Make sure you understand what employees do and how it aligns with the company’s goals
2. Let employees do the job you hired them to do (leveraging their strengths and interests); nobody likes to be micromanaged
3. Challenge employees with stretch goals
4. Encourage employees to learn new things and give them the tools they need to learn:
- Read books, magazines, trade journals, newsletters, blogs
- Watch online videos, listen to podcasts
- Take courses (in-person, online) and attend webinars, workshops, conferences
- Company-provided training - Microsoft Office, application-specific courses
- Hard skills such as an SQL class, foreign language
- Effective communication skills - writing classes or speaking training (e.g., Toastmasters)
- Other soft skills - time management, problem solving
- Learning platforms - LinkedIn Learning, MasterClass
- Leadership-related training
- Supervisor skills, management trainee program
- Some will want to manage people, but others won’t and that’s ok
- Professional license, certification (e.g., PMP, CISSP), college degree
- Don’t forget to support CPE (continuing professional education) requirements
- Groups - professional associations, networking groups, etc.
- Other - internships, volunteer opportunities
These are great work-related considerations, but there is more. There is a saying by Confucius: “I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” Do you encourage employees’ personal development (and the key word is personal) to be the best version of themself? Have you asked them what is important to them? If it’s important to them, it should be important to you too.
Developing A Growth Mindset
Personal development is lifelong learning and it’s never too late to start. Encourage employees to develop a growth mindset and continue learning while working for the company. This includes opportunities to:
1. Enhance their quality of life such as health/fitness, self-care, self-confidence2. Self-improvement to fully develop their character, capabilities, and potential
- Develop a reading habit
- Personal finances, personal creativity, or other personal-related learnings
- “Work-related” skills listed above even if they aren’t relevant to their current role
- Some organizations (such as Amazon, Chipotle, and Starbucks) have free or practically free college programs for front-line employees, which removes financial barriers
3. Realize their dream - maybe to become an entrepreneur and start their own business
How To Create A Custom Personal Development Plan For Employees
Has your organization recognized that they need to think differently about developing employees? They should work together with the employee to create a custom personal development plan (PDP) based on what the employee is interested in (including both work and personal aspects). Four basic steps are:
1. Perform a self-assessment
2. Establish and prioritize goals (both short and long term) breaking up the goals into manageable tasks
3. Create a step-by-step plan identifying required resources, timelines, etc.
- Identify objectives to reach the goals as well as strategies to achieve the tasks
- Identify any weaknesses, development needs, barriers
4. Measure progress
- Reward and celebrate accomplishments
- Be prepared for setbacks - adjust and course correct
As a leader, be available when employees want to talk with you as well as periodically check in with them to ensure they have a good work-life balance. Both of these could be good coaching/mentoring opportunities.
When there is a comprehensive personal development plan, the employee is more likely to be and stay excited about what’s next (and stay with the organization longer). For more information about personal development, follow me on LinkedIn!
I got an email yesterday from a client wanting to know if I had any job search tips. Unfortunately, he had been recently laid off and found himself on the job market. Talking to him got me thinking...What really makes a job search successful?
The bad news is that there isn't a magic formula. The good news is that there are a number of very simple things you can do to improve your marketability.
Here are four easy steps to follow if you want to speed up your job search:
1. Update Your Resume As Soon As Possible
This might sound simple, but it is by far the most important (and first) step in a job search. You need to have your resume ready to roll at a moment's notice.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of job seekers. There is the job seeker that draws confidence from being prepared and then there is the kind of job seeker that gets blindsided by the unexpected. I know which kind I'd rather be.
The best time to focus on your resume is when you don't need it.
2. Figure Out Who Your Resume Is For
Is your resume for you or is it for prospective employers? The resume might have your info, experience, and accomplishments on it, but, ultimately, the documents that make it past the ATS not only have the right amount of keywords peppered throughout but also show, very clearly, what the applicant can do forthe potential employer.
When writing your resume, always keep potential employers at the forefront of your mind. Make sure you quantify your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Give them a preview of the kind of positive impact you could have on their organization if they were to hire you.
3. Realize It's Not About You
Really. It's not. The most successful job seekers understand that it's about what you do for others, not about what they can do for you.
This is a fundamental idea that for some I hope turns the act of "networking" completely upside down. In every interaction, the most important thing is to demonstrate, "How can I help YOU?" It's the folks who unselfishly look out for those around them who make opportunities happen. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
What connections can you help make? Ask open-ended questions. You may even choose to treat the conversation like an informational interview. What professional needs does the other party have and how can you fill them?
4. Determine Your Target
This is such a simple concept, but it's probably the biggest obstacle I see with many of my clients. You need to have a target. It is as easy as that. How can you expect to reach the goal of employment without aiming for a bullseye?
The first step is to clearly identify the job/profession/industry you are targeting. You may even have a company that you've always wanted to work at. (It's always a good idea to have an interview bucket list—a list of companies you're passionate about that you'd love to work for someday.)
Make sure that your goal aligns with your experience. Then (and only then) are you free to begin outlining a plan to achieve your goal.
Here's an example:
I have an open door policy with my resume clients and I keep tabs on them throughout their job searches. Out of all the resumes and resume clients I've ever had, only one resume didn't work. One. When I wrote the initial resume, my client was targeting retail sales positions. Then she called one day a couple of months into her job search wondering why she wasn't getting any responses. I asked her to send me an example of the jobs she was applying for and guess what? All the online job applications she had filled out were for human resources positions. No wonder her resume didn't work!
After rewriting her resume, she found work relatively quickly and it just goes to show how important it is to aim before you pull the trigger.
Know your audience, be proactive, and remember that it's not about you. If you apply these things to your job search, you'll be employed in no time!
Need more help with your job search?
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.