If you came to my first Discover Your Career Weekly Q&A session then you’ll have heard about my first informational interview.
It was soon after university, after I got back from backpacking around the world. I was looking for a job and doing the typical hours and hours on the popular job boards at the time but I wasn’t having any luck.
So my dad set up an informational interview with one of his friends who happened to be a CEO at a local not-for-profit. I had the interview and 3 weeks later a contract came up. It was then that I realized that all that networking “malarkey” I had learned about through my co-op program really was actually quite powerful.
So I’ve been a champion of networking since the beginning days of my career. But I know not everyone feels the same way.
I think most people know that networking is the best way to find a new job. I also think that most people don’t do a lot of networking.
Why is that? Well there are a lot of reasons but I think they don’t know where to start, feel a little bit scared or have fallen for one of these networking myths. And since networking already has a sort of stigma around it, I wanted to demystify the whole process by debunking the most common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Networking is for sales people or people who want to schmooze their way to the top.
Sales people and people anxious to get ahead seem like they are “natural networkers” but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t for everyone.
In fact, schmoozers and sales individuals are only good at networking with a very specific type of person (usually other sales or schmoozers!) because networking is about starting a new relationship and open, honest communication and trust are key components to any new relationship. So sometimes those schmoozers don’t get anywhere because honestly, who wants to hire a used car salesman (unless of course you are hiring a used car salesman!).
If you are authentic and genuine in how you create relationships, then guess what you are a networker!
Myth 2: Networking is all about getting you what you want, a job.
I’m not going to lie and say that wanting a job and using your networking to help is not okay because honestly that is why most people network. But, that shouldn’t be your only goal. To me the main goal of networking is to build your network with like-minded professionals, to create a relationship that provides value to both parties involved and to offer opportunities that may not otherwise exist.
When you enter into a networking conversation, start by asking questions about the other person – about their role, their career, the company, etc. Offer solutions to any problems or issues that they are dealing with, if you have them. NEVER ask for a job.
If you get them invested in your career, they will want to hire you or see you succeed.
Myth 3: They must know everything about you and your career
You are not hosting an infomercial about you. I have had those meetings where the person goes on and on (somehow barely even taking a breath!) to talk about their experience, background and what they want and their goals. And I’m talking detail here, not an elevator pitch!
The individual does not need to know about every project you have every worked on. They also don’t need you to go through your resume with them. This isn’t about you.
Remind yourself the purpose of the meeting, it isn’t to sell yourself. It is to start a relationship.
Myth 4: You don’t really need to prepare for networking meetings
Honestly this is even worse than not preparing for an interview. Because at least for the interview, I asked you to come in. For a networking meeting, I’m taking the time out of my schedule to meet with you because you asked for help. So please have the courtesy to prepare. Don’t just wing it!
Go in with your questions that you want to ask, practice your elevator pitch and have a goal in mind of how you want the meeting to go.
As the person who asked for the meeting you set the agenda and facilitate the meeting, not the other way around!
Myth 5: You are just being a pest by asking for networking meetings.
This is one I hear all the time. Honestly, there are some people out there who may view you as a pest. But for the majority of people they will be happy to help.
Think about the last time someone asked you for advice or help? How did you feel? Probably felt pretty good about yourself. Because it is a compliment!
And as long as your priorities are right, that this is to build a networking relationship, one that is two sided where you offer help and where you gain advice and information, then anyone would be happy to meet with you.
Myth 6: Your contacts will find you a job.
Your contacts should be your top priority in a networking strategy, and a lot of the time they are really helpful in finding you new roles. But, they shouldn’t be it. Your contacts are great advocates for you, but depending on the size of your network, the number of opportunities could be fairly narrow.
Besides, why should it be their job to find YOU a job? Sure you want them to be invested in your success and therefor advocating for you when the moment is right. But you can’t expect them to go asking around for a job for you!
So take the time to build your network with individuals you haven’t spoken to before, get them invested in your success and you’ll have more advocates out there!
Myth 7: Your job is done once you get the LinkedIn Connection or Business Card.
This is another common one! That once someone accepts a LinkedIn request or hands over their business card that your work is now done. That those people are now out there, with you top of mind, trying to figure out how to hire you or to have someone else hire you.
I hate to break it to you, but that is just not the case! You need to get them invested in your career and the only way to do that is to engage them in a meaningful conversation, offer your own help and insight when relevant and to ask for advice and information. And then to keep that conversation going by following up with them over email to thank them and update them!
I know I sounded like a broken record! But networking really does boil down to building relationships.
I think that networking is probably one of the hardest things about careers and job searches. But when done right and effectively, there is no other tool that will lead you to success more than it.
If this is something you really struggle with, maybe I can help with that. I do networking specific training that focuses on building a networking strategy that will work for YOU.
Did you know that this month I’m celebrating the first birthday of my career coaching business? And to celebrate, I’m offering 10% of all my Find Your Way packages. Set up a FREE Discover Your Career Strategy call and let’s see how I can help you get unstuck and find your way to your dream career.
We all want to be successful. Whether it is having an impact within your company or industry, getting that promotion or landing your dream job, it is part of human nature to strive for success.
But it isn’t all about schmoozing with the right people, or working hours upon hours each week.
A well written resume, having a vast network or being amazing at selling yourself can only help you so much.
We have to look deeper. In fact, we have to look at ourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself then it is impossible to find success.
Let me back up here and tell this story from the beginning. This summer I listened to a Dan Harris podcast with the ultra runner Rich Roll on how mindfulness and a plant based lifestyle saved him from himself. It was amazing and I love hearing about people’s journeys to finding their way to their own success story.
Intrigued and wanting to hear more, I listened to Rich Roll’s podcast, one with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee from the UK on his Four Pillar Plan (he wrote a book about it, called The Four Pillar Plan in the UK and How to Make Disease Disappear in North America).
The whole time I listened to it, I couldn’t stop thinking about how his plan and the information supporting could be used as an effective tool in my own career, and in others.
That is why I wanted to write this series of articles. Each article will cover off one of his pillars (Relax, Move, Eat and Sleep) – why they are important, how they can help us realize our dreams, achieve our goals and reach success and simple tips and tricks on how to implement them into our everyday lives.
Dr. Chatterjee’s first pillar is Relax. Which I think is quite fitting for the first article in this series.
15 years ago when I began my career a 10 hour work day was considered long. About 10 years ago, a 12 hour work day was long. And now, a 15 hour work day is long. A 10 hour work day has become the norm, not the outlier. Now that is just anecdoctal evidence really, just gathered from working with individuals and companies.
The actual data though isn’t too promising, this Gallup poll from 2014 shows that the average salaried worker, works 49 hours/week. The scary thing though is the fact that more than half the population work more than 50 hours a week! And this is only accounting for official work. It doesn’t take into account the constantly checking your work emails which never really allows your brain to rest and recharge. In 2002 only 10% of workers checked their work emails outside of office hours. Now that stat is more that 50%. The saddest thing? Work email is usually the last thing checked before going to bed and then the first thing checked upon waking (I am so guilty of this!).
This also doesn’t take into account commuting time. Anyone who lives in the Greater Toronto Area gets this, we have the 2nd worst commute in the world and the worst in North America. People commute on average 96 minutes to their jobs! When you are working those long hours, travelling those long hours and then coming home only to continue to work and stay tuned in when do you have time relax and recharge?
And vacation time? More than 50% of employees don’t use up all their vacation! You may be saying, that doesn’t apply to me, I use all of my vacation days. But do you really? Are you completely unplugging during vacation? Or are you checking your emails or even taking phone calls? And I am guilty of this myself, especially running my own business!
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that relaxation is important for your health. But I may need to convince you (and myself) that relaxation is important for your career.
Relaxing = More Productive
I knew that during my research I would discover a lot of things that I knew or that made sense. I was surprised though to learn that relaxation actually makes you more productive!
That seems counter-intuitive right? But there are many different studies that show the correlation.
First of all, let’s talk about Scandinavia and Europe. They have the shortest work weeks – Holland just over 30 hours/week, Denmark, about 32 hours/week and Norway at 33 hours/week. Yet they, and other counties likes them, are some of the most productive.
In fact, a large city in Sweden recently did an experiment testing 6 hours work days over 23 months with no impact on their pay. The results were astounding – not only did their happiness increase, but their productivity increased as well. Even better was the fact that the number of sick days decreased!
There has also been a lot of work done on blocking work and taking mini breaks throughout the day. A lot of organizations are starting to put these in place, like yoga or nap pods, but not all. And even if a company has it, doesn’t mean you are using it. Including these mini breaks – like actually taking your lunch (gasp!), having a power nap or getting out for a walk has shown to increase performance, better memory and better problem solving skills.
On vacation, Ernst and Young did a study and found that the more vacation an employee took the better their performance reviews were, each 10 hours of additional vacation resulted in an 8% increase in their performance rating.
I think you probably already know what productivity can do for your future and your career, so finding ways to work smarter not harder should be one of your top priorities.
Relaxation = Creativity
Creativity is key to getting ahead in this new age of the work world we live in today. With more and more work environments turning away from traditional, black and white thinking comes the need for people who can come at problems, issues, and processes differently.
The problem is when you are always plugged in, your ability to think outside of the box is diminished, and this is based on research and findings in the field of neuroscience, so there is something to this.
Think about the last time you were trying to come up with something great – a great idea, a great story, a great solution. Our inclination is to sit at a desk and work our way through the process assuming that the work will lead to greatness. But did it? Or did you find it came to you during or just after a period of rest and relaxation? Maybe while you were walking your dog? Or cooking dinner? What about during your morning shower after a good night sleep? That’s because our brain likes to solve problems when we aren’t interfering with it, at an unconscious level.
When we are in a state of relaxation our brain activity increases, our main transportation hub of ideas (our Default Mode Network) goes into overdrive and all these roads to obscure memories and random thoughts that you may have long forgotten are suddenly available to you. Giving you that unique approach that a workaholic can never come across.
That unique approach – that could be your ticket, your ticket to a great bonus, an amazing project or that coveted promotion.
Everyday Tips for Everyday Relaxation
It is so easy to know something. But it is so much harder to know it in a sense where you actually make changes.
So how can you incorporate relaxation to your everyday life in way that sticks? Well here are 5 surefire ways to make just that easier.
I’ll talk more about sleep during the sleep part of this series, but sleep is so important that I don’t want to wait. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is the number one thing you can do – and it is free and easy!
2.Put that phone down!
This is something I need to focus on myself. The phone is the last thing I check. I generally don’t reply to emails at night, I bookmark it for the next morning but what that means is those unreplied emails are on my mind! This disrupts my ability to relax at night and also my sleep.
I don’t want to get on a soapbox (especially since I have no right to be) but we all know the effects of blue light on sleep, the mindlessness of scrolling social media, the stress of checking work emails and on and on the list can go.
Dr Chatterjee recommends a Phone Sabbath, meaning you turn off your phone for 1 day a week. And while this isn’t realistic for everyone. I think it is reasonable to pick a time at night where the phone is put away. Another trick can be to keep the phone out of the bedroom. Buy a cheap alarm clock to wake you up.
For me? I think it is reasonable for me to put my phone down every night at 8pm and to leave it downstairs.
I’m not going to say too much more on the subject, I think this article covers my thoughts and offers tips!
4.Relax at Work
One of the best ways to increase our time relaxing, is to take breaks throughout the day while at work. Do you eat lunch at your desk, taking bites while you work? Find a place to eat – with colleagues, with a book, enjoying your own company. Do something that makes you happy – maybe go for a walk, call a friend, do a yoga class.
Speaking of walking, try to add more walk breaks into your day. This is another area where I need to improve! My husband and I were just talking the other night about different ways I can increase my walking. Such as walking around the house for 5 minutes every hour (in an office that could be walking for water or coffee, do a walk around the office), walking while I’m on the phone instead of sitting.
For you, are there any meetings that you need to attend? Can they be walking meetings? Or if you can attend them virtually, can you walk while you attend them? Another idea, find a walking buddy – it will help keep you accountable!
Breathe. Honestly, taking 3 deep breaths has been shown to reduce stress. So if you find yourself with a minute (or set a reminder) and take 3 deep breaths a few times a day.
5.Incorporate Joy Daily
What can you do each day to bring some more joy into your life. For everyone it is different, and honestly for every day it is different.
It could be little things, like finding a Netflix show to lose yourself to. It could be finding a new hobby like knitting or rediscovering a hobby long forgotten like baking. It could be moving your body by taking up running or cross fit, maybe it is joining a dodgeball team or basketball team. How about reconnecting with friends by talking to them on the phone, going out for dinner or a movie?
The list is truly endless. One thing. Every day. That’s it!
For me, I’m great at some areas of relaxation. I really focus on trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night, I meditate, and I incorporate joy.
What I’m not good at is relaxing at work (there are days where I pretty much don’t move from my desk) and putting my phone down. So I’m setting some goals for myself:
1.Put my phone away at 8pm every night
2.Move. Take 3 5 minute walk breaks during the work day.
And I’ll update you next week and on social media as to how I’m doing. Let me know, what are some of your goals to including more relaxation into your work life?
Today was the 2nd week of my weekly Q&A and honestly I really wasn't that nervous! You can get used to things so quickly.
I opened with an overview of how my workshop at the Library went, and how amazing it was to go over the Roadmap with an incredible group who were engaged and interested. What I loved best though was how supportive everyone was of each other, they created connections, networked and dare I say it, I left the room feeling like I had made a group of new friends. I have two more session in the Job Search Series, if you are in the area register and come out!
Below are the questions I covered in today's session. You can watch here if you missed it!
1. How many pages should my resume be?
4. There is a promotion coming up at work, my boss told me that I may be up for the running but that they may also post externally. What can I do to show my boss and upper management that I’m the right person for the job.
5. Should I do an unpaid internship as a way to get experience in my field?
6. I really want to work from home – how can I find remote opportunities?
7. What are the best job boards that I should use?
8. Should I upload my resume onto job boards?
9. Can education help with a career shift?
10. What are the most common interview questions?
11. I think my job is holding me back, do you think I should quit it?
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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