Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Inspiring the next generation

Friday, June 8th, 2007

I spent a good portion of today at a career day event for rising seniors and recent graduates, as a guest speaker (in conjunction with my father, an HR guy) and as a panelist, and I shocked myself with the realization that I was already comfortable giving concrete advice about careers, interviews, networking and more to a group of recent grads. I’ve come a long way in the several years since my graduation, and I’ve learned quite a bit in that time, but sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you look back at it, reflect upon it and pass on what you’ve learned.

I really enjoyed speaking about my experiences dealing with my decisions after college, my career choice, and even how I dealt with a set of parents that, at times, could be a little overbearing.

In the first session my father prevented his “do’s and don’ts” of interviewing. The main takeaway was that you should be looking to show what you can do for the company, and not what the company can do for you.The do’s focused on demonstrating how you can improve client service, increase productivity without stifling innovation and increase revenues or find other ways to improve the bottom line.

The don’ts examined several topics to avoid, especially during preliminary interviews. Compensation, whether it is salary, benefits, or a tuition reimbursement program, are generally things that shouldn’t be covered in a first round interview because it often demonstrates that you are more focused on getting something from the company than giving something valuable to them. Another area to avoid was talking about how much you will learn from the company.

One other tip covered was “do your homework” – It is important to know as much as possible about the company you are interviewing with, and possibly the person that is interviewing you. This knowledge lets you speak confidently about how you will fit into the company and what you can bring to the company. Plus, if you can throw in a sly reference to something that you know about your interviewer thinks is important it never hurts.

I joined my father for the tail end of his talk, when he got to the “How to deal with your parents section.” Like lots of grads, I moved back home for a while, but it isn’t easy and several of the recent grads made similar comments. The main takeaway from this section was that parents sometimes need to step away from their roles as parents in this time, and look at their children as if they were an employee that just got laid off. While many pages could be written on this topic, it is important for parents to realize that many of their kids have never had to deal with this type of situation, and that it’s not the right time to nag the child into a job. Instead, parents should help them come up with a reasonable plan of action, and help them execute this plan over time.

After this session there was a quick break for lunch, and then I joined a panel of three other people in their mid 20′s, each of whom had dealt with the uncertainty that unemployment post-graduation can bring. We fielded questions ranging from how to manage the transition between college life and a career, how to know whether a job was right for you, how to go through the interview process, and a bunch of networking tips, just to name a few. (For some other networking tips, see lifeoptimizer’s list here.

Overall I think that most of the recent grads got a lot out of these talks, and although I didn’t stay around till the end of the day (several more talks followed in the afternoon) I’m sure they will walk away from this experience better equipped to handle life ahead of them.

It was a great experience for me as well, as it is the first time in quite a while that I have gotten to mentor others going through the same trial and tribulations that I faced just a few short years ago. Hopefully I’ll continue to get a chance to do a little more of this as time goes on, and I certainly believe that my writing here can contribute a little too.

How an introvert learns to network

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

I’ve learned over the past several years how to work a room, but it can still be daunting to walk into a room full of unknown people and try to learn a little bit about them while sharing some of your own stories as well. There have definitely been times when I was unsure whether I should even be there, and even times when I considered just leaving rather than face a mass of people.

However, over time I have learned that many people face exactly the same predicament in any given situation – they didn’t know anyone when they walked in the door and were nervous about meeting new and interesting people. And yet, these same people often came away from these events with a number of new contacts, and sometimes good friends.

I resolved to overcome my fears of unknown people, challenged myself to determine what was causing my hesitation and to get past whatever it was.

To start the process, I immersed myself in networking type events. Whether they were alumni events, work related functions, or random groups of people from the hidden corners of the interwebs, I was there. At first, I found myself hugging the corners, not knowing how to break the awkward introduction barrier. Once that initial tension was broken I was usually ok, but I just wasn’t ready to go up to these people and say hello. Occasionally someone would start a conversation with me and it would progress from there, and often this led to introductions to other people, but I still wasn’t making the first contact. These were people who came up to me, just as I wanted to be able to do to others.

I expressed my reservations about going up to strangers to a friend, who gave me, in retrospect, a wonderful piece of advice, “Don’t network as if you live in New York.” I laughed at the time, but have realized that there are so many opportunities throughout every day to speak with people, but through the New York code of silence, none of us speak to each other. I decided I would see if I could start conversations with total strangers, and if I could do it with the people that I would likely never see again I could probably do it at a networking event.

Fortunately, New York has an abundant number of people perfectly willing to talk. They’re called tourists.

Through this Lose Weight Exercise I learned a lot about people’s families and vacations, but more importantly I showed myself that it could be easy to talk to someone and find something in common. Armed with this new knowledge, I went back to the events I had so much difficulty with previously. This time I had a new goal – to talk to a minimum number of people each evening.

While I didn’t always meet my goal, it was often because I found someone so interesting that I didn’t want to stop talking to them. Overall though, I did get to know many new people, made a number of new contacts, and eventually helped to connect several people that might otherwise not have found each other.

By pushing myself to achieve I became a better networker, but also learned a great deal about networking itself. That however, is a story for another time.