job search

Social Networking (Yes, it's ok to talk about your job search at parties)

What is Social Networking?

You don’t need to attend a networking event to be able to network effectively.   Networking is effective whether you are meeting with a career professional at a conference or over the Thanksgiving dinner table.  This is because networking is about connecting with other people and building relationships for mutual benefit.  A good way to approach networking is to be willing to ask questions and to share information with others. 


There are roughly two different types of networking:

·      Planned

·      Organic


Planned Networking

Planned networking is attending an event or doing an activity for the purpose of making connections, learning information, or otherwise advancing your career.  Examples:

·      Attending a professional conference

·      Scheduling and conducting an informational interview


Organic Networking

Organic networking opportunities grow from social and random encounters we have with other people.  Organic networking often happens when you’re least expecting it.  Examples:

·      Sitting next to someone on a plane and striking up a conversation with someone who turns out to work in an industry you’re interested in

·      Talking with another parent at your child’s school and discovering you’re both interested in the same career

I’ve heard of people developing professional relationships that led to internship and job opportunities through conversations they started with others at a baseball game, in the grocery store, or the airport. Organic networking happens most frequently outside of business or professional settings but it can be very powerful.


Creating a Networking Mindset for Social Settings

Networking in social settings isn’t the same as going to a work conference and attending a conference mixer.  In that situation, everyone assumes you’re there for professional development, and it’s easy to talk about your career and job search. 


At your friend’s housewarming party, people are more likely to be talking about the cost of real estate or other topics of interest to your friend.  Talking about your career or job search might feel more awkward or difficult to bring up.


But unless it’s a small social gathering, you’re likely to meet at least one person you don’t know.  And the first way people go about getting to know people they don’t know is to ask questions.   

Remember the purpose of networking:  connecting with other people and building relationships for mutual benefit.  And successfully connecting with other people means listening to them and asking them questions to learn more. 


Here’s a Script

If you’re at a social gathering and someone asks you, “So, what do you do?”  here’s your chance!


You can respond: 

“I currently work in higher ed as a professor, but I’m exploring other careers right now.”


The person you’re talking with is likely going to have a question or two about that.  They might ask why: 

“Interesting.  Why do you want to stop being a professor?”


Here’s your chance to talk about what you don’t like and what else you think you might be interested in:

“I’ve really enjoyed the research I’ve done, but I’m frustrated with bureaucracy in my current role and ready to try something else.  I’m interested in careers in UX design or that overlap market research and UX.  Tell me more about your work.”


Notice that I ended with a question for the other person.  Remember, you’re building rapport so don’t forget to ask questions about the other person, too!  This is a chance to find out more about them and what they do.


Also:  note this is a conversation not an elevator pitch.  Save your elevator pitch for career fairs or job interviews when you’re in front of recruiters or hiring managers who might be interested in assessing your qualifications and interests for how well you fit a job.  When you’re networking in social settings, it’s best to keep your answers short—around 20-30 seconds.  Just like when you’re having a conversation about anything else at a party.


So What Happens Next?

Lots of things could happen.  The person could be very interested in your work and career exploration and ask more questions.  They could offer to connect you with someone in their network.


Or, they could say “That’s cool.  Good luck with that” and change the subject.  You won’t know until you have a conversation and start asking and answering questions.  And if someone doesn’t respond with a lead or an offer to talk further about your job search, you still practiced talking about your job search.


Why Should I Talk With Strangers?

Shouldn’t I start with the people I know first, you ask? 


Yes, you should let people in your network know that you’re exploring other careers and/or looking for a new job.  But, it’s not just the people in your own personal networks you need to reach; you need to tap into their personal networks.  Research shows that it’s the weak ties (those friends of friends) that are likely to help us land our next opportunity.  That’s why you can’t overlook the power of social networking and the opportunities to connect with people beyond your immediate social circle.

Want More Help?

I can help you create answers to questions like “what do you do” that spark further conversation and help you get leads and connections. Check out my individual coaching page to set up an appointment to get started.


How to Job Search in 2018 not 1996

Recently, I did 5 Days of Job Search Tips on my Facebook page. Every day, I shared a different tip, but the theme running through all of my tips was the point that people need to shift their perspective about how to do a job search successfully.

We’re still going out and searching, many of us, like it’s 1996. We identify jobs we’d like to do or we think we can do, we go to Indeed or some other job board, and we start hitting the “Apply” button. The we wait for someone to respond. And repeat. Sometimes the wait seems endless.  No wonder we get so anxious and agonize over whether or not to follow up and to whom and when.   

The problem with this method is that it’s ineffective. Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to organize and manage their applications. With an ATS, it’s easy to post a job posting to dozens of job boards with just a few clicks. I’ve done this as a recruiter, and I can tell you that it’s very easy to get a job posting in front of thousands of eyes within a few minutes.

And just like it’s easy to post a job to job boards, it’s also comparatively easy to apply to a job. Click on a posting link on a job board, create an account, answer some questions, upload your resume and hit Apply. You can make this even faster by applying through external sites like Indeed or LinkedIn and importing information from your LinkedIn profile.

All of this means a higher volume of applications for recruiters and hiring managers to evaluate. When I worked in recruiting, I regularly received applications from people who were wildly unqualified for the role, weren’t even sure what job they had applied for, or had applied for an entry-level role on the west coast when they lived on the east coast and had no plan to relocate. Wading through lots of unqualified or uninterested candidates means that many employers use their ATS to screen out unqualified candidates up front by using “knock out” questions or searching resumes for job-specific keywords. Not all employers use their ATS this way, however; recruiters are skilled at looking at resumes quickly to see who has the skills and experience to match their positions.

So what does this mean for you, the job seeker, in 2018?

It means that finding jobs online, applying, waiting and hoping for a call should not be your first or only method. Your job search needs to be proactive not reactive. Do you know where you’d like to work? If not, make a list of ten companies where you’d like to work (it doesn’t matter if they have jobs you’re interested in posted). Next start identifying companies on the list where you have contacts. If you don’t have contacts at those organizations, do you have them at other, similar organizations or do you know someone who knows people who work at the companies on your list? Chances are, you do.

Once you have a list of organizations where you’d like to work and have identified contacts, start reaching out. Ask for 20-30 minutes of people’s time to talk about their careers, their jobs, the organization. As you put yourself out there, your target list of companies will evolve and you’ll start developing contacts and leads. Remember, this method isn’t overtly about getting a job; it’s about getting the information you need to find jobs.

Using this method, you’’ll be able to write targeted resumes for positions and not be just another application sitting in the ATS. If someone refers you to a hiring manager and you do an informational interview with that person, applying for the job may be the second or third step for you in the hiring process not the first.

Running a proactive job search is harder than a reactive one. It means asking for help, putting yourself out there, and taking the time to make genuine connections with people. But this method is far more effective than a reactive job search where you apply, wait, and hope someone will call you. The jobs I’ve found via informational interviews and referrals have been far more aligned with my interests and values than the ones I’ve landed via the traditional methods of finding a job online and applying.

It’s time for you to start job searching in 2018 not 1996. If you’d like help, I offer a variety of services to assist you with your job search.

Why Investing in Yourself Matters

Why can it be so hard to invest in ourselves?  I have writing I want to do, work on IncipitCareer that I want to get out in front of clients and potential clients; I have content that I want to develop, things I want to bake, hikes to do.  Yet it just seems so hard to stop and carve out time to write, think, bake, go out for a quick walk or hike.   I've been musing on this all week because of a toilet.  

Recently, my girlfriend and I bought a house.  It's an exciting but scary journey because the house needs quite a bit of work.  We're committed to replacing big, expensive parts:  the roof and the gutters as well as doing work on a bathroom.  Despite our estimates and budget, there've already been a few unexpected expenses that have us nervously waiting for the final bill and watching our bank account.

So I wasn't thrilled when the contractor called on Monday (of all days!) last week.  He reported that the elderly toilet in the bathroom had developed a large crack in the tank and was leaking.  There was nothing to do but sigh, okay his request to replace the toilet, and add a little more to the bill.  When the toilet breaks, what are you going to do?  

We're coping with the fallout of delayed maintenance.  Little things have built up over time until bigger, and more expensive damage has been done. I thought about this in terms of my own work.  How easy it is to let things slide for another day.   It's easy to think: "I can write a new blog post tomorrow."  "Today's busy; I'll get around to that market research tomorrow night."  And then suddenly two months have gone by without me writing a new post or working on new content.

How many times have you done this?   Delayed self-care, eating well, working on that side project that energizes you, taking that risk?  How can we give to ourselves when we already feel so maxed out giving to and helping others? Doubt, fear, and the fact that self-investment takes time and commitment holds us back.  

But I've found that when I make time for myself--to write, to move, to create--I'm a happier, healthier, more joyful human being.  And yet, many days this seems less achievable than going to the moon.  And so I wait until the metaphorical broken toilet to act.

But today I took twenty extra minutes this morning to finish this blog post.  One small step in avoiding delayed maintenance.

Where are the broken toilets in your life?  What small step can you take to invest in yourself and reinvest tomorrow?


The Escalator Myth

 Photo Courtesy of Adam Snood via Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Adam Snood via Flickr


If you’re going on the market this year, you’re facing some tough news.  The humanities numbers are dismal.  The number of jobs available in STEM fields aren’t much better.  As they do, every year, people ask why PhDs continue to apply to academic jobs when they face such long odds.  There are many answers to this question, but an issue that I see over and over again as a career counselor and coach is what I call the Escalator Myth.  The Escalator Myth keeps people in place, pursuing careers and jobs that might not be the best fit or lack significant opportunities.

The Escalator Myth is the belief that once we pick a career, it will, or should, move forward and upward in a consistent and predictable way. Much like stepping on an escalator, we "step into" a certain career.  And the escalator has only direction:  up or down.  Since we equate "down" with failure or lack of success, we try to move upward, taking promotions as they're offered to us.  If we make changes, which might mean a step sideways or even downward for a time, it's seen as proof of our failure.  In real life, we don't step off moving escalators until we get to the top or bottom; jumping from one moving escalator to the next is scary and dangerous.  The Escalator Myth encourages us to see our careers as a process of finding the one "right" career, and then, once we're on that escalator, doing our best to ride it to the top.

I have a friend who works in IT.  He's very good at what he does:  leading small teams of programmers on the ground, making sure projects get done.   Because he's good at what he does, he was offered a larger management role in one of the organizations where he worked.  But this job turned out to be much more administrative and strategic, taking him away from the work he actually enjoys doing and is good at.  His days were spent in meetings not writing code.  His confidence shrank and his performance suffered while his motivation dropped.  But the Escalator Myth kept him in place:  after all, wasn't management the next step up for his career to grow? He'd be stupid to go back being a programmer, right?  Fortunately, my friend recognized that success isn't just about taking a promotion, and he found the courage to ask his manager to return to his previous role.  He's been happy and successful in the programming roles he's had ever since.

PhDs are vulnerable to the Escalator Myth: we spend years training to become scholars and then, if we’re lucky enough to earn a tenure-track position, we’ll spend another 4-6 years earning tenure.  The investment of time and economic resources are huge, and we expect to spend a long time on that escalator. Plus, our career role models and mentors are not likely to have made many career changes because of the process of earning tenure.  When I took my first non-academic job, I got pushback from well-meaning friends and family.  They wondered why I would “give up” if I had already invested so much time in this career.  Combine this outlook with the sunk-cost fallacy, and it’s no wonder so many PhDs spend time on the market even if the odds are against landing a tenure-track job.

Change over the course of a career lifetime is actually pretty common.  This longitudinal study, which followed young baby boomers for thirty-five years, found that the participants held an average of 11.9 jobs over the study’s lifetime.   So we should expect that we’ll change jobs and, even careers, over the course of our working lives multiple times.  But job change is hard.  It forces us to reexamine our priorities and goals, to confront scary questions.  We wonder if we’ll be able to find #altac work that’s fulfilling or even be able to find work at all. Starting over in a new field can feel frustrating and humiliating.  But we shouldn’t let fear keep us from trying something new if the old thing isn’t working anymore.

Before I became a recruiter for a non-profit, I spent a month there working as an HR Assistant. As an HR Assistant, I was paid less and had fewer responsibilities than my previous role. It was a tough transition. But being the HR Assistant allowed me to learn a lot about the field quickly.  And I was a much more competitive candidate for the recruiter role than I would have been without that experience.

In that transition, I struggled with the Escalator Myth.  I was supposed to move up in my career not down.  And up should have meant a job title with more money and more responsibility.  But the reality is that change both closes doors and opens up new opportunities. Transitioning into HR and recruiting gave me a new skillset and probably opened new doors for me.  Time will tell.

Our jobs and careers will not always unfold in predictable ways.  Over the course of a lifetime, our careers may look more like rivers, wandering though wetlands, than an escalator.  Our interests, values, and skills evolve and change over the course of our lives, why shouldn't we expect our careers to evolve too?