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Top 5 networking (face to face) tips

If you’re here, you are probably somewhat comfortable navigating through “social networking” online.  But for many people, it is difficult to enter a room where you know nobody, in the hopes of networking to further your business/career/etc.

There are people who are experts at this, and I have watched and learned.  I also recently attended a workshop put on by the Junior League of Toronto, where Deb Lewis, CEO of CityEvents, talked about The ARt of Networking.

Here are my top 5 tips based on what I’ve seen and practiced myself.

  1. Set a goal.  Start small – “I will meet and exchange contact information with 2 people tonight.”  I might even suggest staying small – garnering 2 quality contacts, with whom you’ve connected, is often better than meeting and handing out your card to 15 people who won’t remember who you were.
  2. Prepare and practice your “elevator speech” – your 30 seconds to answer the dreaded question “What do you do?”.  Think about how you are different from others in your field, how you add value, and what your “Brand” is.
  3. Join odd groups.  I don’t mean strange, but uneven numbers.  I spent years of joining tables or groups of two, thinking it was less threatening.  To my chagrin, almost every time, those two people were in conversations which were difficult to break into, and I was left hoping a 4th would join us… Find groups of 1, 3, or 5 people.  Often, one of these people is less engaged, you can join in naturally during a break in conversation, and get to know that “odd” person.
  4. Talk less, listen more.  Ask the people you meet questions about themselves.  Find out what they do, what their challenges are, what their goals are, etc.  Not only will you be thought of as a great conversationalist, you’ll also gain valuable info that can help you show them how you can add value for them.
  5. Follow up.  This is key.  Within 48 hours of the networking event, follow up, by email, phone, or even a personal card.  (Of course, this tip assumes you’ve exchanged contact info – always bring your cards).  Mention something you discussed, and let them know that you’d like to stay in touch.  Depending on your conversations and your business, this may be an opportunity for a “sales” pitch – eg. “You mentioned your challenges with ____.  That’s what I specialize in.  I’d love to help you with that.”  Notice the sales pitch is about them, not you.

If you do all of these, you will quickly become more comfortable in that room where you know nobody.

This is not an exhaustive list, so please add your own tips and suggestions in the comments, or tweet them to me.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft.

 

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How to be a Superhero from TED Talks

I make a point of always smiling at people on the street, in the office, or wherever I may be.  I often have people commenting on this, and have actually wondered at times if it makes me come across as somewhat ‘simple’.

But then I saw this TED Talk by Ron Gutman, and realized it’s actually my superpower 🙂 Watch the talk and check out a few of my favourite points below.

Fav points:

A study of baseball cards found that the span of a player’s smile actually predicted longer life – if this is true, I’ll be living into my 100s, smiling away!

More than a third of us smile more than 20 times per day – I can easily say I do this, and actually think it’s quite low.

Children smile as many as 400 times per day – I think smiling makes me feel more youthful and brings fun into much of what I do!

Smiling helps reduce stress-inducing hormones and increase mood-enhancing hormones – it promotes health!  There have been many studies on this.

Smiling makes you appear more competent – True, and I mentioned this in my Jobseeker advice post.  Smile and people feel better around you and think you are confident and competent.

Darwin wrote: “Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.” – the act of smiling actually makes us feel better!  This one’s my favourite.  When I’m feeling down, I tend to spend some time with my dog or watch one of my go-to feel-good movies, and I find myself smiling and in a good mood very quickly.  I wonder if it’s actually just the act of smiling that’s doing it.  I will test this… now I need a bad mood to come along.  Perhaps if I frown?

What power have you found in a smile?  How often do you smile in a day?

 
 

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Get to know the people you don’t like

I ran across this quote from Abraham Lincoln, and it rang very true for me as a lesson I’ve learned over the years.

“I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.” 

For me, this speaks to the importance of understanding people with different perceptions and views from your own.  This leads to learning and outcomes that far surpass what you may have achieved on your own.

In my own career, I have found this to be very helpful.  One of my biggest advocates, and someone I support strongly, is a colleague whom I did not particularly like immediately.  My strategy?  I asked her to have coffee with me to chat about some of the projects we were each working on.  That first coffee was a challenge, but I did get a different perspective that helped with my work.  I continued this strategy and the outcome is that now, she and I are in an informal peer mentoring relationship, and we both support and advocate for each other every chance we get.

What have you learned from people you don’t like?

Pic from Flickr user George Eastman House

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2011 in Leadership, Personal, Reflection

 

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Job interview advice – especially for Gen Y

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of not judging job applicants, especially Gen Yers, by initial outward appearances or perceptions.  I still believe that is important.  However, that blog inspired some healthy discussion with colleagues and business leaders about how difficult it is to change perception, and inspired me to write about tips for job applicants as well.

Written and electronic contact tips

Make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors, and please don’t use text lingo like LOL or TIA (“thanks in advance” for Gen Xers like myself) on your cover letter or email.  Recruiters and Managers want to know that you can fit into the business world, and unless you’re applying for a role that communicates strictly through text, you’ll need to demonstrate proper use of the english language.

What’s your email address?  If it’s something like “hotbabe69@hotmail.com”, create a more professional email address for business use.

Customize your cover letter to the job.  A very common mistake that I’ve seen is applicants who send a cover letter or a cut-and-pasted email that makes reference to the wrong company.  Take the extra time to mention specific things about the company or job that you’re applying for and why you would be ideal.

What will a recruiter find if they google you, or look you up on Facebook or Twitter?  It may be too late to undo those drunken photos, but get busy un-tagging yourself, and remember that everything you post online will exist in cyber-space forever.  So
think twice before you tweet.

Prepping for the interview

Think about situations that you have handled in a positive way, that you would be proud to tell someone about.  You may not have had a ton of working experience, but there are likely conflicts you’ve been in, problems you’ve solved, and people you have helped, through school, sports, or other associations or experiences, that have given you the opportunity to practice skills that will be useful in the business world.  Log the situations and include details such as:

  • How the situation was caused or came about
  • What you did personally (vs your team or others)
  • What you were thinking and feeling at the time
  • What the outcome was
  • What you learned from it or would do differently next time

This type of log will help you to think of positive situations that you can use when asked behavioural interview questions.  

Research the company and think about what else you would want to know about the organization and the role itself.  Remember, the interview is your chance to evaluate the company just as much as it’s their chance to evaluate you.

The day of the interview – what to wear and bring

The general rule that I was always taught was to dress a step up from the job you want.  If the company you’re applying to dresses business casual, wear a suit.  If they wear jeans, wear dress pants or khakis.

Hair, makeup and jewelry.  Again, think of the company you’re applying to.  A retailer like skateboard shop West 49 will be much more accepting of piercings and funky hairstyles than most office jobs.  In any case, though, make sure that you’ve done your hair and make up that day, and you aren’t sporting the look from last night’s party (I don’t mean to be insulting – I’ve seen this).

Bring a pen and notebook, with the questions you would like to ask prepared already.

At the interview

Smile and be friendly.  Regardless of how nervous you are, this will help to portray confidence.  And remember to be friendly even to the receptionist or clerk who you speak to on your way in.  You never know what that person’s involvement might be in the hiring process or providing feedback to the recruiter.

Watch your language.  Never swear, even if the recruiter does.  Try not to speak negatively about past companies or bosses.

Answer the questions.  Seems to go without saying, doesn’t it?  But in truth, sometimes it’s more difficult that it seems.  Think about your answer before you start talking.  If you need to stall, repeat the question as you think.  Then answer, and watch out for babbling or getting off track.  Check that you’ve answered the questions adequately when you’re done.

Be yourself

If you feel like you have to be someone you’re not when you apply for a certain job, chances are it’s not right for you.  You don’t want to find a job where you will be uncomfortable or have to act in ways that are contrary to your own beliefs.  In the same breath, though, you will learn and grow the most when you are challenged to change.  It’s up to you what level of accommodation you can make – whether it’s removing a nose ring, covering a tattoo, or simply behaving in a professional way.

What other tips might you offer to job seekers, especially Gen Y?  Add your comments or tweet them to me!

Pic via freedigitalphotos user Dundee Photographic

 

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Fun gets results!

“The most wasted day is one in which we have not laughed”
– Anonymous

Some may scoff at this quote and insert “produces widgets/sales/results” instead of “laughed”, but fun can actually have a very positive impact on your business.   Take a look at successful organizations such as Zappos, SouthWest Airlines, Westjet, and of course, Pike Place Fish Market, where fun with customers and each other are part of what has made them successful.

There have been several studies on humour and fun in the workplace, and while I won’t quote them all here, a couple of points stuck with me:

A survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humor to those without.

Research by Still showed that a 13 percent increase in morale can lead to a 40 percent increase in productivity.

Check out this website dedicated to making the world a more fun place, created by Volkswagen: The Fun Theory.  Each example proves that fun can improve people’s lives.  I don’t know about you, but if I was CEO, I would be investigating options for integrating fun into my workplace. I can’t wait to visit Sweden and walk up the musical stairs.

I have seen fun in action and believe that not only can it improve morale, but it also improves productivity.  In my roles in human resources in a variety of companies each with unique cultures, I have worked with some great CEOs and we have found ways to integrate fun into the workplace.  Here are some examples of things we’ve done.

  • When communicating a change in policy or rollout of a new benefit, the CEO and HR Director would load up a cart with treats and the letters, and go around the office to mingle with everyone, giving them a brief heads up about what was being communicated
  • Many companies who allow people to go home early on Fridays before long weekends.  Often times, a Leader sends out an email telling everyone to enjoy the day.  One in particular would use fun in her emails, for example, telling everyone that “Spring Fever has arrived, and telling employees that if they were experiencing certain symptoms (like a desire to run in the field beside the office, putting on sunscreen for no reason, etc), then they must leave work at 2 pm.  The teams working for her were certainly more excited about getting a slightly longer weekend.
  •  At meetings or conferences, kicking off after breaks with a “Minute to Win It” game – it only takes a minute, breaks the ice and improves mood.
  • Holding a mini putt tournament in the office – Employees were to work in their departments to create their own mini putt hole, linking it to their function.  We gave them an hour of work time to create it.  Most teams stayed late and came in early to plan and build their holes.  When it came time to play, we extended the lunch hour by one hour, and everyone went around the office, playing all 9 holes, and interacting and asking questions of people they normally wouldn’t speak with.  The morale was visibly higher, and no productivity was lost.
  • Showing a video like “Fish” (I still enjoy it, even after seeing it more than 100 times) to all teams, and having them come up with ways they can have fun at work.  This is where the real magic comes, as employees are involved in creating the culture of the workplace.

The ways in which you have fun in your organization will depend on your culture, but I think that whether you work for a bank, a restaurant, or a manufacturing company, there are ways to add fun and see improved morale and productivity. 

What do you do to have fun at work?

A few links related to fun at work:
http://www.playfair.com/index.htm
http://www.workplaceissues.com/arhumor.htm
http://www.projectmagazine.com/leadership-skills/271-how-to-make-work-fun
 
Pic from Ookaboo user en:Coasterman1234 from English Wikipedia
 

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HR is essential for business success

As I was reviewing recent “Answers” on Linked In, I came across one that inspired this post.  An HR pro had posted a question asking what others would recommend as focus areas when starting or reviving HR in an organization.  An Operations Manager had answered the question by saying “None”, and going on to clarify that it sounded like the organization was smaller and therefore wouldn’t actually need a Full Time HR person, so they should probably simply contract out for services. 

Now first, let me say, there are a lot of services that I think it makes sense to contract out at times.  However, I also think that even in a smaller organization, having a dedicated HR professional helping to develop strategy and people practices is essential to success.  The unfortunate thing is that many managers don’t understand the full value of HR and what a true HR leader can bring to the organization.  There could be many reasons for this, including perhaps only having experience with non-strategic HR administrators.  In a world where change is the only constant, and companies are emerging from recession, the old days of HR as a service or administrative function are in the past.  Having a strong strategic HR partner dedicated to your business is critical.

Some examples of the value a true strategic HR professional can bring to an organization:

  • In changing times, HR pros become change agents – they work with leaders to develop the strategy for the change, how to accomplish the change, how to engage employees in the change to ensure it is sustainable
  • HR works with C-suite leaders to determine the capabilities needed to drive the organization’s strategy.  They are the experts in evaluating and developing talent, and can help leaders make decisions to ensure the right talent is getting the right develoment in order to reach the organization’s goals.
  • HR will lead the sustainability and/or change of the organization’s culture.  They will examine all areas of people processes and practices that help to communicate culture, and work with leaders to ensure all are aligned and delivering the right messages.
  • For companies looking to expand into new or emerging markets, HR will help you determine how to source and develop talent in these new markets, and how to ensure the best parts of your culture are maintained.
  • On a more basic level, HR will help to ensure your people practices are legislatively compliant, reducing risk to the organization.

I could go on (and on), but I would love to hear from others – what other value do you think strategic HR professionals add to an organization, or do you disagree?  Comment here or tweet to me at http://twitter.com/pamelamaeross.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Human Resources

 

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Recruiting? Watch your red flags, especially with Gen Y

This morning I was facilitating an introduction to recruitment and selection for restaurant managers, and there was one particular “a-ha” moment for the group that I thought I’d share.

It was about the “red flags” or preconceived notions that managers traditionally based hiring decisions on during the selection process.  Here are some of the things that these managers had been screening out when candidates applied for jobs, and the challenges I posed to them.

No Pen.  Why would an applicant come to apply for a job and not bring a pen with them?  Many managers thought that if they need to hire someone who is organized and prepared, this is a big red flag, and that they would automatically take these candidates out of the running for the job.  My challenge: In an age of blackberries and iPhones, what Gen Yer is carrying a pen with them?  They use computers at school and text to communicate across distance.  They likely aren’t thinking about our antiquated process of having someone fill out an application.

Sneakers and other dress code no-no’s.  This one is a tough one to get past for many.  For those of us in Gen X or the Boomer generation, it seems like simple common sense for people to dress up when they are applying for jobs.  Why would I give someone a second glance who walked in to hand in a resume in sneakers or jeans?  A few things to consider:  First of all, especially in an industry like the restaurant industry, people are often applying for their first job, and nobody has taught them how to dress.  One manager said to me “My mother wouldn’t have let me out of the house to apply for a job in running shoes”.  My response: If you judge them on their clothing, you may be finding more out about the applicant’s parent than about how they themselves will actually fit into your culture or serve your customers.  Some other things to consider before you cross these sneaker-clad folks off your list: Perhaps they thought they were only going to drop off a resume and didn’t expect to see a manager.  Perhaps they have been watching leading companies like Google and Zappos and have seen the dress code there (not business casual), so thought jeans were the norm.  At the end of the day, it’s likely you have a uniform or a dress code in your business, so you can easily set the expectation for dress code with the right person.

Applying for a job during a peak revenue period.  Talk about a no-no!  Granted, if you’re managing a restaurant, you are likely busy during the lunch and dinner periods.  My watch out here, though, is twofold.  First, in my mind, it is most important to find someone with the personaliy that fits your culture and values, who will genuinely care about serving your customers, rather than someone who has a wealth of experience in your industry.  So this may be a candidate who doesn’t know that Friday night between 5-8 is a bad time to apply.  In fact, on the contrary, they may think that this is the best time to apply, since it’s likely a manager will be in the restaurant.

At the end of the day, my advice to these managers was to focus on the personality traits of the person and whether they are a fit with what you’re looking for.  You can train them on your expectations and the job responsibilities.  Always remember that a job applicatn is also a potential customer, and that the way you treat them is what their impression of your business will be.  Whenever possible (always) take 2 minutes to at least meet them, introduce yourself, and ask a few general screening questions to see whether you should take further time later to interview them.  Be careful how you judge some of the traditional red flags.  You never know when your next superstar is going to walk into your restaurant, and the worst thing you can do is turn them away because of a missing pen, poor clothing choice, or bad timing.  Your competitor may be the winner in this situation, as the superstar walks across the street and gets hired.

What do you think?  What “red flags” do you screen candidates out of the running for? 

Pic from Flicr user rvw

 

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