8 Steps for Successful Networking for Shy People

No news here:  You cannot find a new job without networking.  You have no choice in the matter.  Yet many job seekers are so shy that the very idea of going to a networking event where they will have to introduce themselves to strangers results in a panic attack.  Sorry, but you have to get over it!

I have eight simple steps for successfully networking for those people who would rather have root canal without anesthesia:

Step One:  Know who you are:

You have to be able to introduce yourself to someone in less than 10 seconds. It’s the classic elevator pitch.  The shy have an advantage in that they are so scared that they don’t want to talk a lot, unlike those who are not the least bit intimidated introducing themselves to strangers.  They often come across as obnoxious and self-centered because all they want to do is talk about themselves.

Keep it really short.  Simply state your profession.  Don’t say that you are unemployed.  Don’t praise yourself.   None of this, “I’m an award winning…” nonsense.  No one cares!  But add something unique.  For example, “Hi.  I’m Bruce.  I’m an executive recruiter and career counselor.  I work with everyone but the mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans.”  The idea is for you to provide information for the start of a real conversation.

Now comes the important part: Listening.

Step Two:  Know your audience:

You keep your introduction short because you do not know what to say.  How can you?  You don’t know anything about the person to whom you are talking.  Therefore, your next step is to ask, “What do you do?”  Based on the answer, you will know how to continue introducing yourself.

Step Three:  Know what you want:

Just as a business owner networks to get new business, a job seeker networks to find their next job.  But networking is not about exchanging business cards.  That is not networking.  Networking is building relationships and that takes time.  So your aim in networking is to find people who may be able to assist you.

No one is going to stick their neck out for a stranger.  No one is going to go to their boss and say, “I met a guy last night.  He’s looking for work.  Do we have anything?  He seems nice.”  It’s not going to happen.  What may happen is that once a person trusts that you will not embarrass them, then they will make introductions.  It’s a process.  It takes time.

So when meeting someone for the first time, all you want is to see if there is a reason to start building a relationship.  Simply put, is it worth inviting them out for a cup of coffee?  If it is, do it.  And remember, most people fail in their networking activities because they do not follow-up.  If you ask someone for help or advice, and they provide it, do what they say otherwise they will not help you in the future.  And then keep in touch so they know the results.  Never be afraid to ask someone for advice.  It’s a compliment.

For example, Jane tells you to contact Joe.  Send the e-mail.  Tell Jane you sent it.  If you hear back from Joe, let her know about it and what has happened.  If you don’t hear from him, contact Jane and ask for advice on how to proceed.  She can’t help you if she does not know what is happening.

Of course, you can’t build a relationship if you are silenced by shyness.  So here are five simple steps to overcoming your shyness at events.

Step One:  Arrive early. If you are the first to arrive, two things will happen.  First, the host (see Step Two) will have to speak with you and will have to introduce you to the second person to arrive.  Second, the next person to arrive will have no choice but to talk to you because you are the only one there!  That will make it easier for you to talk to the next person to arrive.

Step Two:  Find the organizer/host and introduce yourself.  Thank them for the invitation.  They will be busy and will have no choice but to introduce you to one or more attendees.

Step Three:  Find your own kind.  Shy people can always recognize other shy people. They are the ones staring out the window pretending to be interested in the view.  Go over and introduce yourself.  They will appreciate it.

Step Four:  Set a goal.  When you arrive promise yourself that you will not leave until you have collected a certain number of business cards.  At the first networking event that I attended after I started my business I set a goal for myself of collecting five business cards.  Yes, I was very shy.  That’s why I know this process that I am presenting works.  It worked for me.   In any case, it took me three hours to get those five cards.  Next event the goal was 10 cards and it only took me about an hour.  Now I can leave an event with as many cards as I want.  Practice makes perfect.  And nothing succeeds like success.  Which brings me to…

Step Five:  Follow-up.  As already noted, networking is building relationships.  That is why follow-up is so critical.  You have to do something with all of those business cards you are collecting.  If you really like someone and think they can help you, call them the next day and invite them for a cup of coffee.  If you kind of like them, send them an e-mail asking when you can get together.  If they don’t respond, then you know that it would be a waste of your time meeting them.  You want to focus on those people who can help you.  Rude people can’t help you!

One last note:  When you meet someone, always end the conversation by asking how you can be of assistance to them.  Thank them and wait.  If they do not reciprocate, if they don’t ask how they can help you, you know you don’t have to bother calling or e-mailing them.  They are only interested in themselves and clearly do not know what they are doing.

Advising Job Seekers with Mental Health Issues

First, a clarification.  I am neither a psychologist nor an attorney.  If any of these composite characters resonate seek the assistance of a qualified health care professional or attorney.  Second, you will find no political correctness here.  It’s not my role as a career counselor to make someone feel comfortable unless, as in the case of interviewing skills, that will help them get a job.  It’s my role to help them find employment.  If that means forcing them to face a reality they do not like, so be it.

During my career I have helped people with five different mental health issues.  For me, a mental health issue is when a person’s cognitive and/or behavioral abilities are not the norm.  This can manifest itself in their decision making process and/or their body language.   Let’s look at each in alphabetical order.

Autism

It is not difficult to sense when someone whom I am interviewing is hiding something.  What they are hiding is a different matter.  It is easy to tell when someone does not want to admit that they have been fired.  And, sadly, I have gotten pretty good at spotting people who claim to be veterans but are not.  (The mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans.  I do that by lowering my executive recruiting fee by a third when the client/employer hires a candidate who is a veteran, and by one half when a career counseling client is a veteran.)  But one day a woman came to me and, even though I knew she was hiding something, I did not have a clue what it was.

In cases like this I have a very simple method to discover what the issue is.  I use the word “issue” intentionally because while the individual may think they have a “problem,” the majority of time they do not.  It’s just an issue which can usually be dealt with quite easily.  So what is this “simple method?”  I ask them!

This woman had a good resume/career.  She was not a “jumper;” she kept her jobs for a reasonable period of time.  She had a Master’s degree from a respected university.  She was professional and articulate.  And she was hiding something.  When I asked her to confide in me she said, “I’m autistic but highly functional.”   I then asked, “So what’s the problem?  What can’t you do?”

She was amazed to discover that there was not a single thing she could not do, at least as related to the jobs for which she applied.  In fact, there were many things she could do better than most normal or regular people.

My guess was that she was obsessing over her autism and that made for uncomfortable interviews.  She was sending the wrong non-verbal cues.  My advice was to turn her autism into a positive.   When given the opportunity to tell interviewers about herself or how she overcomes difficulties, I told her to say, “I have had to do that all my life.  As a highly functional person with autism I have had to find ways to achieve goals. Here are some examples…”

All of the examples were work related and relevant.  With that change in her interviewing tactics, she found employment.

Dyslexia

I was working on finding a fundraiser for a school for special needs children.  I found a very good candidate who became the perfect candidate once he answered the question, “Do you have any experience with persons, especially children, with mental health issues?”

Other candidates had told me about their friends.  This gentleman told me about himself.  He said, “I’m dyslexic.”  He immediately went from being a strong candidate to a perfect candidate because he knew “special needs” first hand.

What was amazing was that in the past he never mentioned his disability.  He was afraid it would cost him a job.  He was wrong.

Dyslexic people, especially older ones who had to hide their disability in school because of the ignorance of society, have learned how to do, what I call, “workarounds,” meaning they have had to find innovative ways to do things.  What boss does not want to have on his team someone who is good at innovative thinking?  So I told him to talk about his dyslexia.  He did and he got the job.

Genius

Geniuses are a funny sort. They are highly intelligent but not necessarily when it comes to social skills.  It’s the famous “IQ vs EQ” debate.  Some have a need for everyone to know that they are the smartest person in the room.  That can turn people off very quickly.  Since employers only hire people they like, it is hard for some geniuses to find employment because they talk too much and come across as know-it-alls.  Appearing to be obnoxious is never a good idea in an interview!

One woman came to me who was, to say the least, brilliant.  The first thing I told her to do was to remove MENSA from her resume.  It took a while but I finally convinced her that a MENSA membership can be intimidating and it would be irrelevant for any job to which she was applying.

Then we worked on her interviewing skills.  She was a lecturer.  I don’t mean professionally, she was not a teacher, but every answer to every question I asked began with a lecture on the subject.  No one wants to be lectured to.  Simple answers to simple questions.  If you talk too much, you can talk yourself out of a job offer.

It comes down to prioritizing information distribution.  You don’t have to impart all of your knowledge on a subject.  You certainly don’t have to back up everything you say by citing countless books and articles.  What is required is to focus on what the interviewer wants to hear.  That’s easy to know if, and many geniuses have a problem with this (and some non-geniuses as well!), you listen.  You can’t listen if you are talking or thinking about talking.

In the case of one genius client, I worked with him on his listening skills.  The minute I would say something that I knew intrigued him, I could see the wheels start to turn, so to speak.  He was already thinking about his answer to what he presumed would be my question.  It never was.  For example, I started my question by talking about car manufacturing during World War II but I actually asked him about aircraft production.  He missed the actual question because he was excited to tell me about the contribution of the Jeep during the War, but when I stopped him in midsentence to point out that I had asked about aircraft production, he was shocked.  He never heard the question.  Once he learned to listen, he got a job.

Homosexuality

Homosexuals have a lot in common with geniuses.  Many talk too much as a defense mechanism.  They think they are at a disadvantage so they overcompensate.  It is an all too familiar nervous reaction to which most people fall victim.  Additionally, some place the same emphasis on the minor as they do on the major.  Allow me to explain:

A gentleman came to me who had some of the physical manifestations of homosexuality: a slight lisp, feminine mannerism including a tell-tale gait.  He was highly professional, very intelligent, and had had a great career.  Problem was, he lost his job when the organization he worked for went out of business.  He had not interviewed for a very long time and, like many other people in that situation, needed help.

He was a fundraiser.  I asked him to tell me about his fundraising successes.  He began by telling me about a parlor meeting he had organized that was attended by a dozen people and raised a few thousand dollars.  He then told me about a gala he had organized which was attended by 500 people and had brought in half a million dollars for the non-profit.  He told me that that was the answer he would give when asked in an interview about his successes.  And he never got a job offer.  Why?  Because he spoke the same amount of time about each success and, more importantly, with equal passion.  He gave them equal value even though they clearly were not of equal importance.

At one point in the interview he asked me if he should tell interviewers that he was homosexual.  (By the way, I don’t use the term “gay” because I think it is disrespectful.  Watch old movies.  Characters say “gay” all the time.  It means “happy” or “carefree.”  Describing a human being in that way is demeaning and disrespectful and I don’t do it.)  I asked him if he felt that homosexuality was a condition for which he required “reasonable accommodation” from an employer.  (When someone has a health or religious issue that is relevant for the job, employers are required by law to make “reasonable accommodation” for them.  For example, in the case of someone with a mental health issue it would be reasonable to allow the person an extra half hour once a week for lunch so that he could go to a therapy session.)  He said no.  Then I asked if his homosexuality was in any way related to the job for which he was applying.  Again, he said no.  So I told him not to bring it up.

He then admitted that he had in past interviews.  I told him that that was probably a mistake.  Interviewers would not know his motivation.  Was he telling them about his homosexuality because he was an honest person and wanted them to know something that he considered to be important about himself, or was he telling them as a non-articulated threat that, “If you don’t hire me I’m going to sue for discrimination!”  They would have no way of knowing so, to be safe, they would not hire him because he may be a law suit waiting to happen.

One client asked a very interesting question.  He said that he was well connected in the homosexual community and thought that would be important for an employer to know as he could expand the employer’s customer base.  On the face of it, that’s relevant and a positive.  The problem is, some employers do not want to expand their business.  They are happy the way things are.  So suggesting expansion, regardless of the “what” and the “who,” may be counterproductive.  I told him that once he had the job for which he was applying to wait until he had gained the respect of his boss and colleagues, and then ask about expansion.

A few months after he got the job he called to tell me that he gone to his direct supervisor to offer to introduce some sales people to potential customers in the homosexual community.  He told me that his supervisor immediately got up, they were in his office, closed the door and warned him never to talk about expansion or growth around the owner.  Apparently, the owner had had a partner who wanted to expand the business.  The result was an end to the partnership and near bankruptcy.  He then told him which sales person to approach and how to do it.

Post Traumatic Stress (Disorder)

First, an explanation.  “Disorder” is in parentheses because I have heard a number of veterans speak who have said that they find the term “disorder” to be disrespectful.  Thus my use of PTS instead of PTSD.

When a veteran interviews for a job, the 600 pound guerilla in the room is the question of their health.  Employers like people who are honest and who know the concern of the people with whom they are meeting.  My advice is always to be upfront.  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, it has always been appreciated by interviewers.

There are two possibilities.  In the first case the veteran can say, “I know you are concerned about health issues and I also know you can’t ask me anything more than whether or not there is any reason why I cannot fulfill the requirements of the job.  So let me answer the question.  I have no health issues.”  End of discussion.

In the second case the veteran says, “I know you can’t ask me so I am going to tell you because eventually it will come out.  I have…” (not “suffer from” just “have”) “PTSD.”   (I include the “D” because most people innocently don’t understand the “D” issue and know it at PTSD.)  “What this means is…  The reasonable accommodation I require is…”  And that’s all there is to it.

What usually happens is that there is a discussion about what PTS really is and how it manifests itself.  The veteran shows herself to be intelligent, articulate, caring and thoughtful, answering all questions.  At the beginning of the conversation she goes from being candidate to teacher.  I have never had a veteran denied a job offer because of a medical condition.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.

Candice Galek of Bikini Luxe to be Interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents

This coming Thursday, ACandice Galekpril 14, at 11:30 PM (EDST), Candice Galek will be interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents! about her LinkedIn marketing campaign.

Ms. Galek is the founder and CEO of Bikini Luxe, a Florida-based retailer specializing in fashion clothing, swimwear and accessories for young women.  Founded in December 2013 as a one-person operation, with Ms. Galek working alone in her dining room hand writing and packing every order that came in, Biki Luxe has grown into a business with more than 10 employees in its Miami office and an international team of 40.

Although a relatively young company, Bikini Luxe has risen quickly in the ranks of online fashion, stocking well over 2,500 different bikinis and one-piece swimsuits.  While primarily focused on luxury swimwear, the company also sells other designer clothing items and accessories, such as designer active wear, luxury resort wear, jewelry and dresses.  It has grown to the third largest online swimwear retailer, now carrying such well-known brands as Frankie’s Bikinis, Agua Bendita, Beach Bunny Swimwear, Michi NYC, and Shahida Parides.

Ms. Galek has taken Bikini Luxe from humble beginnings to a world renowned swimwear and resort wear hot spot that’s been featured in publications such as Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Inc., and on Fox Business Channel.

Want to ask Ms. Galek as question about her marketing campaign and using LinkedIn to grow a business.  Call in at 11:30 PM (EDST) to 516-387-1690.

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Have an interesting story to tell?  Interested in being a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents?  E-mail your proposal to Bruce at bh@hsstaffing.com.

 

Why You Should Not Hire a “Professional Resume Writer”

A week or so ago I received a message from a first-degree connection on LinkedIn.  She was absolutely giddy with anticipation.  She informed me that the following day she would send me her new resume which was prepared by a “professional resume writer.”  I laughed.   I also told her that she should e-mail it to me (for some reason I cannot always open attachments to LinkedIn messages) and that I hoped she had not wasted her money.  She had…

I can’t say that it is the worst “professionally” written resume I have received, but if not, it’s pretty high on the list.  Here’s the problem:

“Professional resume writers” probably have never hired anyone in their lives.  Accordingly, as they have never been employers they can’t think like employers.  So for them a resume is a marketing tool akin to any marketing collateral for any commodity purchased at the supermarket.  So their resumes are all hype focused on attributes and benefits, the old-school way to market breakfast cereal or anything else people are looking to buy.  Problem is, employers don’t care about attributes and benefits, they care about solving their immediate problem.  Moreover, today marketing is all about storytelling, not preaching (attributes and benefits).

So what did, let’s call her “Mary,” send me?

Her resume begins with her name, place of residence, contact info and LinkedIn profile URL.  Then things go south.  The resume begins with the following professional summary for a “Director of Operations/Production:”

Consummate leader with entrepreneurial spirit and 25+ years of progressive corporate strategy, operations, logistics, and business development experience in competitive manufacturing environments; record of exceptional performance in transforming unprofitable corporations, assembling top-performing teams, and influencing positive, growth-oriented outcomes. Persuasive communicator, analytical thinker, and innovative problem-solver with established ability to align individual departments with business goals, streamline processes, and deliver results.   

I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates.  When I ask them to tell me about themselves no one has ever begun, “I’m a consummate…” anything.  Why?  Because it sounds obnoxious.  That’s not how you introduce yourself in person or on paper.

So what do I know about Mary from her professional summary?  She thinks very highly of herself, is old, and can’t site a single justification for her self-praise.  I don’t have a clue what she has actually done!  Moreover, this summary could have been written about anyone who started their career over a quarter century ago.  Do you know what industry she is in?  I don’t either.  Shouldn’t we?

The next section is titled, “Signature Strengths.”  What are they?

  • Driving bottom-line gains by analyzing existing operations, identifying areas of weakness, and implementing transformative solutions that enhance profit margins, cash flow, and efficient application of resources.
  • Strengthening corporate management with exceptional timeline development and organizational capabilities; manage concurrent large-scale initiatives with competing priorities on time and within budget.
  • Key thought leader and big-picture strategist; thrives in challenging and constantly evolving markets with comfort communicating, advising, and influencing at all levels of an organization.
  • Energizing cross-functional teams with leadership experience across all aspects of manufacturing operations, from production and logistics to market expansion and business development.
  • Turnaround expert with deep experience in inventory management, turnover optimization, process streamlining, quality control, documentation and reporting, cost reduction, and employee engagement.

Same problems: This could pertain to just about anyone in her profession and in any industry.  And not a single actual accomplishment is listed.

Then things get interesting.  Even though she has been working for more than 25 years, the resume only goes back to 2002.  Only four employers are listed (she had two jobs with one employer) and only in the last two are accomplishments listed (one for each).  So for the first two employers she has listed on her resume there is not a single accomplishment worthy of being highlighted (literally)!  (To be fair, three other employers are listed under “Early Career,” but with no details, including dates of employment, are given.  Apparently she had no accomplishment in her “Early Career” either!)

Here’s the problem:  The “professional resume writer” was giving her client what she wanted, something that makes her appear to be really good at what she does.  The thing is, resume recipients are only interested in one thing:  What can you do for me?  Ok, two things:  And prove it!

So how do you do that?  Simple.  Just begin with a section titled, “Selected Accomplishments.”  Half a dozen bullet points highlighting what you have done for past employers.  That will give an employer confidence that you are at least worthy of an initial phone interview.  No employer cares what you think about yourself.  Employers only care about solving their own problems.  You can’t prove to an employer that you are the solution they need if you are focused on what you want to say and not on what they want to hear.

And just to finish off the resume, the next and final section is “Education.”  One would think that such a “consummate” professional would have at least one speaking engagement, media citation, award or honor to list, and would have volunteered somewhere.  Alas, not Mary…

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.

 

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