Keppie Careers http://www.keppiecareers.com Social media speaker, social media consultant, job search coach Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:32:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 How to be a cultural fit http://www.keppiecareers.com/cultural-fit/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/cultural-fit/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:30:21 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12319 You know looking for a job requires you to demonstrate your skills and accomplishments. You’ve put together your résumé and practiced answering questions about your five-year plan. You even have a great career story to tell, proving you’re prepared to help solve...

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fit 2You know looking for a job requires you to demonstrate your skills and accomplishments. You’ve put together your résumé and practiced answering questions about your five-year plan. You even have a great career story to tell, proving you’re prepared to help solve the organization’s biggest challenges.

However, you’re concerned that having the right skills isn’t enough. A buzzword keeps popping up when you look for advice online: cultural fit. It can mean a lot of different things depending on your industry, but there’s no denying the role of personality and culture in making a “right fit” hire for an employer and ultimately the long-term satisfaction for the employee.

In some ways, landing a job is really no different from finding a perfect mate: He or she may look great on paper, but if there’s no chemistry, the relationship falls flat.

What do you need to understand about cultural fit, and how can you use this information to land a best-fit career role? Tonya Lanthier is the founder and CEO of DentalPost.net, which provides dental-related career services. She suggests job seekers consider the following:

1. Skills can always be taught, but culture fit is an absolute must. Of course, your skills are crucial, but employers know they can always train someone to do a specific task. They cannot train a person to be a team player or to be willing to go the proverbial extra mile to get the job done. Lanthier notes: “The old adage ‘hire for skills, fire for culture’ is increasingly true.”

You don’t want to be caught with the short end of the stick. What are some of the intangibles that dictate culture? Lanthier suggests job seekers, “look for information about the pace of an office, use of technology, flexibility and work-life balance and the little things that ultimately make your work environment a place you want to be.”

2. Culture is generally dictated from the top down, so be sure to ask the hard questionsIn most cases, leadership members dictate culture issues for their organization. Of course, this trickles down to a very real culture for their employee that goes beyond the obvious perks.

“A strong culture fit ultimately means happier employees, increased retention and a healthier bottom line,” Lanthier says. “While companies size you up, don’t be afraid to ask your own questions and let the best part of your personality shine through. Ask direct questions such as, ‘Does your company have set corporate values?’ to identify if their values align with their self-reported culture.”

Show your interest in how the company treats its employees and how you could be a fit, and you could improve your status as a candidate. Keep in mind that it’s your job to determine if there’s a strong alignment between your needs and those of the hiring organization. Do your research, and be sure the organization is right for you.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of assessment tests and profiles. Hiring managers may turn to assessments and profile tools to determine whether or not to hire you. In fact, in a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly three quarters of HR managers indicated personality tests and assessments can be useful, and 20 percent are implementing these tools.

Lanthier explains: “These tests can’t ever say with certainty, ‘You’re a perfect fit,’ but they often provide the needed reinforcement to help align your skills and personality with the organization’s own culture.” Take the tests seriously, and understand the assessment’s role in making a match. Even if the questions seem silly or unrelated to the role, if you want the job, be sure to follow through with the assessment as you would with any job-related material.

Perhaps if the tool is predictive, it will save you a lot of heartache in the long run by preventing you from taking a job where you’d be miserable. Alternatively, if you’re a great fit, perhaps you’ll quickly move to the top of the candidate pool.

Originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.

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Resume checklist http://www.keppiecareers.com/resume-checklist/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/resume-checklist/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 11:30:27 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12342 Here’s another post celebrating this being my seventh year of blogging. (Happy Birthday to KeppieCareers.com/blog!) This was one of my very first blog posts, offering a resume checklist, but I think it still makes key points about how to create...

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new careerHere’s another post celebrating this being my seventh year of blogging. (Happy Birthday to KeppieCareers.com/blog!) This was one of my very first blog posts, offering a resume checklist, but I think it still makes key points about how to create an effective marketing document to help you land a new job for the new year.

Does your resume represent the best you have to offer?  When you read it, are you proud to say that it represents you? Does your resume need a make-over?  Review your resume with these tips in mind…

** Does your resume target your audience? **
Every job and each employer seeks a slightly different applicant.  Unless you are applying for the same exact job over and over again, you should not be sending the identical resume for every position.  Research your target organizations.  Use their buzzwords and lingo in your application materials.  (You can easily tweak a well written resume to appeal to different audiences, so don’t feel that you need to completely rewrite your resume for each new job.)

** Is your resume attractive, consistent, error-free and easy to read? **
Don’t underestimate how important it is to have a clear, error-free, visually impressive resume.  Does your resume look crowded with thick text blocks that may be difficult to scan?  Are you making strong use of bold to enhance your document, or are you overdoing it?  Did you use a resume template from your word processing software?  (Don’t!)  Since readers likely give your resume a 20-second glance, visual appeal is important.  If the reader notices careless spelling errors, it is not likely that you will land an interview.

** Do you DEMONSTRATE what you have to offer? **
Is your resume a laundry list of jobs you held, or does it engage the reader and demonstrate your skills and achievements?  You should quantify your value using percentages, numbers and specifics.  Your resume should highlight the positive impact that you had in previous jobs.  You want to convince the reader that you could do the same for them. If your resume is TARGETED, ATTRACTIVE and DEMONSTRATES what you have to offer, it will be more than a TAD above the rest!

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Looking for a new job in the new year? http://www.keppiecareers.com/new-job-new-year/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/new-job-new-year/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 11:30:18 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12338 Time flies when you are having fun. It’s true! I realized this week is the seven-year anniversary of my blog. In celebration of the blog-aversary, I thought it would be fun to revisit my very first posts from seven years...

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new career

Time flies when you are having fun. It’s true! I realized this week is the seven-year anniversary of my blog. In celebration of the blog-aversary, I thought it would be fun to revisit my very first posts from seven years ago. I was surprised to find out that, while I wasn’t talking so much about social media in that first week of blogging, the advice I provided seven years ago is still sound and valid today.

Below is the text of my very first blog post. Do any of these statements resonate with you? If so, it’s probably time to start thinking about how you are going to make a change in 2015!

A new year is a great opportunity to reevaluate your career goals and decide if 2008 (or 2015) is the year that you’ll (finally) focus on finding a new job or career.

Is this your year?  Do any of these bullet points sound familiar?

  • You dread going to work. Thinking about your job gives you a twitch, or that familiar stress feeling in your neck.
  • You aren’t being paid what you are worth.  You need to make more money to support your lifestyle or family.
  • You have always dreamed (or at least thought about) a career in a different industry or setting.
  • Your work consumes you.  You are working so many hours that you don’t have time for anything else in your life, and you want more.
  • Your job is  having a negative impact on your health.

If any of these describe your situation, now is the time to plan for a move.  Although a job hunt may sound like a lot of work, with the right tools and attitude, you can successfully transition to a new job or career.  Stay tuned for more about how to get started!

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Don’t make this major job search mistake http://www.keppiecareers.com/job-search-mistake/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/job-search-mistake/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 16:40:14 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12247 Have you ever made a big job search mistake and wish you could have a “do over?” Unfortunately, there are no do overs when it comes to job search, so avoid career-ending mistakes before they derail your search. Perhaps you...

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job search mistakeHave you ever made a big job search mistake and wish you could have a “do over?” Unfortunately, there are no do overs when it comes to job search, so avoid career-ending mistakes before they derail your search.

Perhaps you saw the story about a photographer and editor who accidentally included a section of her cover letter applying for a job with Buzzfeed as a caption sent to all of the AP’s newspaper clients. In one accidental click of the mouse, she made two major mistakes at work. She posted an inaccurate caption for a photo (a major gaffe for an editor, whose main job is to pay attention to details) and simultaneously alerted everyone that she was looking for a new job (not a great move for anyone hoping to keep their current job).

What does this widely publicized mistake teach employed job seekers? Do not conduct your job search while on the job; it could cost you your current position and put future opportunities in jeopardy, too. Avoid being marginalized at work because everyone knows you’re looking for another job.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re looking for a job to avoid getting trapped between a rock and a hard place at work:

Don’t conduct your search while in the office or using work equipment.

Did you know your boss is probably spying on you?

Yes, it’s perfectly legal for your employer to monitor what you’re doing while on the job or when using company equipment. The bigger your organization, the more likely it is that monitoring software is installed to track what you’re doing while at work.

That means if you’re spending time surfing job boards, reading job search advice while at work or using your work-issued computer or emailing cover letters to potential employers, your employer may know about it and could dismiss you as a result. (Check your company’s policies; it could be against the rules to use your computer for any personal business at all.) It’s inconvenient if you don’t have your own computer and use your work laptop for personal business, but be aware your work computer is fair game for your employer to track and avoid using it to conduct job search business.

Don’t leave a digital trail.

Using LinkedIn and other social media tools will help you land a job, but if it’s important to keep your search confidential, you’ll want to be careful not to leave a breadcrumb trail online leading your boss to uncover your job hunt. Some important steps to take to maintain privacy on LinkedIn:

Hide your activity updates in LinkedIn.

There’s no need for your current boss to receive an alert every time you update your status, is there? While making changes to your LinkedIn profile doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking for a job, frequent curation and consistent updates that may be necessary when you’re in an active search could land you in hot water. Visit your “Privacy and Settings” on LinkedIn and select “Turn On/Off Your Activity Broadcasts.” Make sure to uncheck the box that allows LinkedIn to let people know when you’ve made changes to your profile.

Be stealth when you research.

If you’re visiting a lot of profiles via LinkedIn, you may not want to let people know. While your in the midst of your research, change the setting in LinkedIn labeled “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” You may want to temporarily change it to “Anonymous” during your in-depth online investigations.

Join groups privately.

When you join groups on LinkedIn, you have the option to not advertise your membership on your profile. Just scroll down to “Groups” on the bottom of your profile and hide any group’s icon from your page. Be aware, public groups are not good places to post about your job search or to rant negatively about your current employer. Even if you hide your membership, someone could still see your updates in that group.

Don’t assume you are anonymous in any social network.

If you’re participating in Twitter chats, Google communities or hangouts or any online forum, assume your boss has access. Unless you are exceptionally good at maintaining your anonymity, you should assume everything you do or say online is public. That includes updates to your “friends” on Facebook.

It’s a challenge to maintain a confidential job search, but situations such as the one of the photo editor remind all of us how easy it is to make a mistake. Be careful and attentive when you’re on the prowl for a new job and you’ll be much more likely to be successful keeping your plans to yourself until you’re ready to make a big announcement.

Originally appeared on AOLjobs.com.

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Resolve to be grateful http://www.keppiecareers.com/resolve-to-be-grateful/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/resolve-to-be-grateful/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 14:03:24 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12306 At this time of year, it’s natural to be thinking of making changes and starting new habits. Have you considered incorporating gratitude into your new year’s resolutions? As an employee, whether or not your company incorporates being thankful into its...

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treesAt this time of year, it’s natural to be thinking of making changes and starting new habits. Have you considered incorporating gratitude into your new year’s resolutions?

As an employee, whether or not your company incorporates being thankful into its mission, do you feel appreciated? Do you believe you should expect more than a paycheck?

Bryan Miles, CEO and co-founder of eaHELP, a provider of virtual executive assistants, knew he wanted “gratitude” to be featured prominently in his company’s values. Here are his suggestions for all leaders and employees to consider this week and all year long:

1. Don’t wait to be grateful. Regardless of your position in an organization, cultivate gratitude as a core part of your work. “Don’t wait until you’re leading a team, a division or a company to become a grateful leader,” Miles says. ”If you do, when you start telling people you’re grateful for them once you’re in the position you want, people won’t buy it.” He suggests you make sure those around you right now understand that you’re grateful for the many ways they help you each and every day.

2. Be humble. Miles believes that if you’re a leader, you know down in your gut that what you’re leading doesn’t have much to do with you. He suggests you acknowledge that you’ve achieved your role, in part, because your team works hard and takes advantage of market opportunities. “Your team looks to you for leadership and for guidance, but when it comes down to the day-to-day wins and losses that actually make up your business, you need to know that those don’t have much to do with you,” Miles says. “You need to be grateful for the team that powers the engine of your business.” Similarly, as a team member, recognize your role in ensuring your team continues to move forward. Be grateful for everyone around you, and don’t be shy about expressing appreciation.

3. Acknowledge that your success depends on others. Being a grateful employee will make you a smarter employee. Admitting that you don’t know everything and that everything you’ve ever learned that’s made you successful has come from someone or something else helps improve your standing in a team. “Being grateful for those from whom you’ve learned is essential if you want to stay humble and teachable and will actually propel you forward in your career,” Miles says.

4. Be sincere. In many cases, being grateful can be disarming. As a leader or a team member, when you are thankful and express it – sincerely and frequently – it will often make people stop in their tracks. “Genuine gratitude is pretty rare in today’s society, which is a shame, but expressing real gratitude sets people apart,” Miles says. If you lead a team, your employees will know when your gratitude is genuine, and they are more likely to put in extra effort. “Grateful leaders have stronger, more effective, more loyal teams,” he says. As an employee, demonstrating gratitude can help set you apart from others in your organization.

Consider how being appreciative at work and expressing those feelings to all team members can help make your organization more successful. When you do, you give the people who work with you even more reasons to be thankful – at Thanksgiving and all year long.

Miles says this approach has helped contribute to the success of his organization. He believes his success could very well end, should he fail to incorporate gratitude for those around him. “Gratitude is the only lasting motivator of change,” he says. “It’s the only thing that will propel you to change in the future, if you’re grateful for what you have now.”

This post originally appeared in U.S. News & World Reports.

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Make the most of the cold weather to job hunt http://www.keppiecareers.com/make-the-most-of-the-cold-weather-to-job-hunt/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/make-the-most-of-the-cold-weather-to-job-hunt/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:30:00 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=11694 For those of you dealing with cold, or even arctic temperatures, the winter months can be particularly challenging for job search. Just as you winterize your car and experts advise packing an emergency winter weather kit when you travel, you...

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048For those of you dealing with cold, or even arctic temperatures, the winter months can be particularly challenging for job search. Just as you winterize your car and experts advise packing an emergency winter weather kit when you travel, you can also prepare your job search for the next several winter months.
Consider these tips to avoid stalling out on your job search plans.

Bring your networking inside.

Who wants to trek outside to networking events in the dead of winter, when it’s dark before dinner? It’s tough to get motivated to attend glad-handing events when you’re not sure the roads will be passable on your way home. Instead, use the cold winter months to ramp up your social networking, which you can comfortably do from your favorite, cushy chair at home.

Get my free white paper: 5 Mistakes Preventing You From Landing a Job This Week 

Don’t underestimate the value of contacts you make online. All you need to do is impress one person who is inspired to refer you for an opportunity, and you could land a job that was never advertised.

How can you get started using social media to job hunt? Begin by updating your LinkedIn profile. Avoid common LinkedIn mistakes and be sure to fill in everything on your profile. Once you perfect LinkedIn, branch out and create a Twitter profile. Twitter is useful for job seekers because it makes it easy to connect with anyone else who tweets. (Connect with me on Twitter right now!) 

You’ll find companies use Twitter to let people know what they are doing and CEOs often use Twitter to share their thoughts. More importantly, though, regular people just like you turn to Twitter to expand their networks and meet new people. Try it and you may be surprised by how easy it can be to connect with an influential contact.

Get out of the house. 

You need to go to the grocery store, anyway, so think about how you can make it a networking opportunity. Be friendly and talk to people in line, or even the manager of the store. Build relationships with people who recognize you and may be willing to help you with a contact in the future. However, don’t start off the conversation with “Hello, I’m looking for work.” Instead, just be amiable. Ask about the other person – learn something personal that you will remember to ask about later. You’d be surprised by how much more likely someone is to go out of his or her way for you when you are a good listener and follow up on casual conversations.

Consider everywhere you go and anyone to meet an opportunity to network. Especially in the dead of winter, you want to make the most of any time you don your woolly headgear and boots and dig yourself out of your driveway. Make it worth your while.

Set up shop somewhere new. 

A few times a week, take your computer to a coffee shop or the bookstore. Anywhere you can access wifi and have the chance to smile at people will be better than staying in your quiet house all week long. Try not to be the annoying, overly chatty person who talks to people when they are trying to get their work done, but if you do see the same people over and over again, it can’t hurt to strike up a short, informal conversation that could lead to talking about networking contacts in the future.

Work on cold calls.

Hopefully, your social networking has helped warm up some potential cold calls. The dead of winter is a great time to ramp up your cold calls, as people may be more likely to spend more time at their desks. Research and plan ahead so you’ll know what to say when you do get a response to your call.

Use all the resources at your disposal — and make the most of all of them, and winter could just be your lucky season for job search.

This post originally ran on AOLJobs.

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How to Create an Optimized LinkedIn Profile, part I http://www.keppiecareers.com/optimized-linkedin-profile/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/optimized-linkedin-profile/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:20:37 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12293 Can you believe 2014 is almost over? If you planned to land a new job or start a business this year and haven’t gotten around to it, 2015 is right around the corner. Are you waiting for your plans to...

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Knock KnockCan you believe 2014 is almost over? If you planned to land a new job or start a business this year and haven’t gotten around to it, 2015 is right around the corner. Are you waiting for your plans to come knocking on the door?

Something most people forget is that change doesn’t happen until you take the first step. If you want to find a new job, but have been procrastinating about optimizing your LinkedIn profile, updating your resume or looking for job descriptions that interest you, it’s unlikely a job is going to come knocking on the door.

On the other hand, if you HAVE created a keyword focused, optimized LinkedIn profile designed to attract the type of people you hope will hire you, it IS possible a job opportunity may come knocking on the door. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?

Get my free white paper: 5 Mistakes Preventing You From Landing a Job This Week 

Recently, I suggested a few tips to a friend who was between jobs. A few days later, he sent me an astonished message letting me know his profile had moved from page eight to page one for the keyword he was targeting, AND that he had already heard from several local recruiters! That is a win, and it can happen for you, too. Unlike Google search results, which may take a long time, a financial investment and a lot of effort to influence, you can relatively easily improve your LinkedIn search results if they aren’t already optimized.

I thought it would be helpful to create a series of posts with suggestions to improve your LinkedIn profile. If you want to magnetically attract opportunities, you need to build the magnet first!

Tip #1: Optimize Your Headline

The information that appears directly below your name is termed the “headline” for a reason. It’s one of the most important elements of your profile, because it’s what most people will see when your profile comes up in search. Are you listing your current title? That could be helpful if you are looking for a job doing exactly the same thing, but even then, a job title is not a strong headline.

Instead, include keywords — the words people will use to find someone like you — in your headline. And, offer a pitch. In other words, what is your value proposition? What do you offer an organization? What problem do you solve for them?

For example, instead of: “Business Analyst,” you may want to list: “Business Analyst: Develop and implement systems to bridge gaps between HR and IT organizations.” This updated headline includes keywords AND a pitch, which is exactly what can help inspire people to want to learn more about you if they see your profile in a search.

You have 120 characters to use for your headline; make the most of them.

Keep in mind: I am available to transform your LinkedIn profile. Contact me to learn how I can help you position yourself to land the opportunity of your dreams for 2015!

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You can land a job in December http://www.keppiecareers.com/land-a-job-in-december/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/land-a-job-in-december/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 11:30:51 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=11241 You think the holidays are a great time to kick back and take a break from your job search. “No one is hiring now, anyway.” Think again! Year after year, research shows December can be a great month for landing...

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file0001578728805You think the holidays are a great time to kick back and take a break from your job search. “No one is hiring now, anyway.” Think again! Year after year, research shows December can be a great month for landing opportunities, so it is a big mistake to take a break now. Here are six reasons to ramp up your job search at this time of year.
1. Companies sometimes “find” money they need to spend at this time of year.
Wouldn’t it be nice to suddenly discover money you didn’t know you had? That happens more often than you think at large companies. They realize at the 11th hour that they have enough in the budget to fill extra positions, but they need to get the people in seats before the end of the year, or the money will disappear. If you stop looking for a job or get lackadaisical about checking emails, you may lose an opportunity and never even know it.

2. A lot of people think December is a good month to stop searching for jobs.
Not everyone is keeping up with the latest and greatest when it comes to job search like you are! A lot of your peers are taking the easy road and sitting back this month. As a result, the competition is a little less fierce, and it could mean you have an opportunity to jump on a job before your otherwise more qualified colleague stops to check job listings.

Anyone in the careers industry, including resume writers and job search strategists, will tell you that January is typically a very busy time, because that’s when many people try to fulfill their new year’s resolutions that involve getting out of jobs they hate. Don’t sit back and wait to re-enter the pool with everyone else! Get ramped up now to take advantage of possible opportunities.

3. Unexpected openings.
Some companies give big bonuses at this time of year, and employees who were waiting for those big checks to clear before giving notice will begin to announce their intention to leave – or, in some cases, just walk out the door. When you make yourself available, you will give yourself potential opportunities that would otherwise pass you by.

4. Surprise projects during an otherwise slow time may yield temporary gigs.
We all know a lot of people take time off during the holidays. If the organization finds itself in need of extra, warm bodies to get the work done while their typical team is vacationing and decking the halls, it gives you an opportunity to step in as a contract or temporary worker. This gives you the chance to audition for a role in the company, even if you know the regular employee is coming back. If you are impressive enough, the organization may find a place for you.

5. Being available may get you half-way there.
When recruiters are in a hurry or hiring managers have an urgent need, the fact that you get right back to them during a holiday period will make you stand out and give a good impression. There aren’t a lot of other times during the year when just being prompt makes such a difference.

6. Networking opportunities increase.
Networking is the best way to find a job and the holidays are nothing if not a good opportunity to network. While it’s best to touch base with your network throughout the year, now is arguably the time when you can feel comfortable writing a note to someone who hasn’t heard one word from you all year long. Don’t turn all of your holiday notes into pleas for a job, but you can subtly incorporate your future plans into a note wishing your colleagues well. Many people do have a little less work to do at this time of year and may be willing to meet for coffee or lunch. If you can finesse a reason for one of your contacts to meet with you, when opportunities come up early in the year, you will be top-of-mind.

More from Miriam Salpeter
How to handle awkward situations at work with style
Places you never thought to network
How to make yourself essential at work

Originally appeared on AOLJobs.com.

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Thanksgiving Networking Tips http://www.keppiecareers.com/thanksgiving-networking-tips/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/thanksgiving-networking-tips/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:43:34 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=12285 Do holiday parties leave you hapless and hopeless? Maybe you’re between jobs and not really feeling the spirit? Don’t despair and let it ruin your Thanksgiving and holiday season. With a little preparation and the right attitude, you can turn...

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GobbleDo holiday parties leave you hapless and hopeless? Maybe you’re between jobs and not really feeling the spirit? Don’t despair and let it ruin your Thanksgiving and holiday season. With a little preparation and the right attitude, you can turn festive occasions into opportunities for you to meet new allies for your job search. Follow these tips to turn your not-working into effective networking at any event. 

You know you’re going to be seeing lots of new and old friends and family members this holiday season, so you may as well make the most of the season to improve your opportunities for jobs or gigs! Make this season your best ever; end this year with some strong holiday networking. Keep these Thanksgiving networking tips in mind.

Self-assess. Know what job you want; be specific and targeted. Identify companies where you’d like to work and be prepared to mention several organizations’ names. Do not plan to be the “I can do anything” job seeker. While you may think it’s a good idea to keep your options open, this approach usually backfires. No one wants to hire or refer someone who seems unfocused or confused about next steps.

Learn how to introduce yourself. We’ve all heard of the “two-minute elevator speech.” Forget everything you know about that and pare your talk down to 30 seconds or less. In less than 100 words (35-50 is better), practice saying what skills you have and mention a key accomplishment. While you won’t launch into this pitch the moment you meet someone, when you’re prepared to discuss your best professional qualities, you’ll be able to make the most of a good contact.

Research the guest list. It’s always best to be prepared, and when you do a little sleuthing, it’s not difficult to find out who plans to be at the event. Many invitations are electronic, and the social profiles of attendees may be prominently displayed on RSVPs. Look up the people who plan to attend. Find their LinkedIn profiles and read their Twitter streams. Identify several interesting contacts and make a point to speak to them.

Keep in mind: you want to identify people who could know someone working at your targeted list of companies. Be aware: these networking contacts may come in surprising packages. For example, the neighborhood busy-body probably has all kinds of great contacts. So does the bartender at your neighborhood pub—or the person tending bar at the party you’re attending. Don’t cross anyone off your list of good people to meet.

Create snazzy business cards. Even if you’re not currently working, you should have professional looking business cards that give the recipient easy access to your social media profiles (for example, your LinkedIn URL). Include your pitch on the card. For example, for an accountant: “Save clients an average of 20% off their tax bill using time tested, effective accounting strategies.”

Dress the part. Even if it’s a casual party, make sure to choose something to wear that looks sharp and in style. If you haven’t bought clothing in years, it’s a good idea to shop the sales and pick out one or two items that really flatter and make you feel confident. Consider wearing a conversational piece to help make yourself memorable. A colorful, in-style scarf or tie can do the trick.

Be a listener. Make sure people don’t sense that you have an agenda when you meet them. Ask questions so you can learn something about the person’s hobbies and interests. Use your research to help you ask quality questions and be a good listener. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so if you’re a good listener, people will remember you.

Ask for a follow-up meeting. Use your in-person networking time to request another meeting in a quieter location. For example, if you’ve had a great talk, and you think there is potential for you to be able to help each other, say, “I’d love to follow up with you and explore how we may be able to be good resources for each other. How about if I send an email tomorrow suggesting some dates to meet for coffee?” You may even want to ask the best way to get in touch—email or phone.

Say thank you—and good bye. Don’t forget your manners. Be sure to thank the party organizer, even if you have to stand around to have an audience. It’s extra nice to send a card or a note after the event. Remember, you want to make a positive impression. When you go the extra mile to say thank you, people will remember that.

Keep in touch. Depending on the nature of your interactions at the party, you have a lot of options for following up. For example, if you know a new contact’s daughter is moving to Chicago soon, you can send a nice note with an article about fun things for newcomers to do in the Chicago area. Always make a point to connect via social media channels—especially LinkedIn. Make sure you follow through with anything you said you’d do during your first conversation and don’t squander potential opportunities by failing to keep in touch. When you do, you’ll have a better chance of adding new allies to your job search efforts.

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How to work your office holiday party http://www.keppiecareers.com/office-holiday-party/ http://www.keppiecareers.com/office-holiday-party/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:30:54 +0000 http://www.keppiecareers.com/?p=11086 If you’re gainfully employed, this time of the year likely means you are obligated to attend at least one company holiday party. Now is the time to prepare. Why should you care? Jessica Hagy, author of How to Be Interesting...

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file000668442186If you’re gainfully employed, this time of the year likely means you are obligated to attend at least one company holiday party. Now is the time to prepare. Why should you care? Jessica Hagy, author of How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps), and the blog “Indexed,” notes, “Interesting people build social capital, which is another way of saying that they’re valued by others. Interesting people are befriended, hired and retained far more easily than their boring counterparts.” You don’t want to be considered boring, so prepare to conquer the holiday party.

How can you make the most of the office holiday party – an opportunity many would prefer to avoid – and be sure it helps, instead of hurts, your chances to move ahead with your career goals? Hagy provides these tips to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous holiday party landscape.

1. Be aware of gender bias. According to Hagy, “If you are female, nothing is more socially disastrous as being perceived as haughty and aloof. If you’re male, being thought of as an awkward loner is equally devastating.” Whether or not this is fair, perceptions often follow people and influence their opportunities. If you tend to be on the quiet side, you may want to make an extra effort to step out of your comfort zone and talk to people so you are not unfairly labeled as disinterested or rude.

2. Avoid awkward moments. You don’t need to chat up the CEO, although it can’t hurt to touch base with people in leadership roles if you have something interesting to say to them. Hagy suggests you “Avoid the weeping drunks in the bathroom (unless of course, you’re curious about the truly juicy corporate gossip) who will make you appear irresponsible by association.” Instead, seek out and say hello to people, even if it is a little awkward.

3. Plan conversation starters. Hagy suggests that it’s OK to compliment people on their attire – most people appreciate a kind word about what they’re wearing. However, she notes, it’s not OK to compliment someone on how attractive their spouse or date is. Avoid awkward moments by sticking to the basics. Open-ended questions are best, as you don’t want to get into an exchange of “yes” and “no” answers. For example, “Have you ever been to Maui?” would result in a yes or no, while, “Where’s your favorite place to vacation?” can engage someone in conversation.

4. Research some anecdotes. If you’re not plugged into what’s hot and what people are talking about, it’s time to do a little research. Troll trending topics on social media sites and online news pages. “Try to steer clear of mood-killing topics like the death penalty, cancer, the weather, obvious plastic surgery performed on the VP’s mistress and recent layoffs,” Hagy says.

5. Don’t eat as if you’ve never seen food. “Make a trip to the buffet, but don’t gorge on the bacon-wrapped dates or attempt to eat anything that’s drenched in sauce. Gluttony and messiness are best indulged in more casual settings with people you actually like,” Hagy notes.

6. Don’t overdo it at the open bar. “There’s a line between being relaxed and being a liability,” Hagy says. Make sure you stay on the right side of the line.

7. Don’t run off. Spend some time at the event. You never know – you may meet a great new contact at the holiday party. The difference between meeting a new contact and missing potential opportunities may be that extra 10 minutes you decided to stay. Give yourself and your colleagues a chance; everyone has the capacity to be interesting, given enough gentle prodding and attention. “Listen closely. You just might make a friend or win over a previously antagonistic colleague,” Hagy says.

This post originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.

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