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.
Today was my very first Facebook Live weekly Q&A session! I was nervous all morning approaching it but I think it went well. Or at least I'm happy with how it went. You guys sent in some great questions before and during the event that helped it go smoothly! I really need to work hard on looking in the camera though! You can see the live Q&A session here.
I've outlined the questions that I answered and some details.
Question 1: How do you follow up after an interview and with whom?
Question 2: Can you send a follow up after you haven’t heard.
Question 3: how to stay inspired and find a job during a lengthy and demoralizing job search
Question 4: On Pinterest I see all these amazing resume formats and templates, where can I make one and do they work?
Question 5: Is it best to send a resume in PDF or Word format.
Question 6: What was your experience that made you such a strong proponent of the informational interviews.
Question 7: What is the worst thing to do in an interview.
Questions 8: Can you tell me more about your Career Coaching Packages
Thanks to everyone who joined and to those who watched later! I'll see you next week, same time and same place!
There was this one interview I had that I remember so clearly. Not because I aced it but because I was an anxious wreck! It was for a role within my field at the time, a one-on-one counselor with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. I wanted the job so much as I would be working within a camp that focused on creating a safe and fun space for children to enjoy their summer.
The funny thing was, I knew I was qualified – I had worked in camps before and I had worked with individuals needing mental health and life skills support. But that didn’t matter, I was straight up nervous.
I got into the interview and while I was able to answer the questions, I just could not calm my nerves down. In fact, my hands were shaking so badly that one of the interviewers even paused the interview to say I was doing great and that the role was pretty much mine and that I didn’t need to be so nervous. Talk about embarrassing!
I was lucky that they saw past my nerves and gave me the job but I know many Hiring Managers who wouldn’t be so kind. They would be concerned that you wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job, that they would need to hold your hand anytime something challenging came up or that they could never depend on you to be the face of a role (with internal or external clients, management/senior leadership, etc).
So while nerves are a completely normal part of the interview process, it is vital that you are able to calm or redirect those interview jitters! Here are 9 tips to do just that.
1. Practice makes Perfect
I am a big believer of foundational preparation for interviews. Before you begin your job search you probably have a sense of the types of roles you will be interviewing for. So at that point think of all of your stories, such as your Tell Me About Yourself answer.
If most of the work is done before an interview request comes in then that initial flood of panic and anxiety won’t happen (or be as strong at least) and you can just do a quick review and tweak of your stories and spend some time preparing for why you want to work there.
2. Prepare for the Worst
I constantly prepare myself, my clients, even my loved ones for the roller coaster of life. That includes the interview. No interview is ever perfect and that is OKAY.
Spend some time reflecting on what normally happens during an interview when your nerves get the better of you.
Do you go on a rambling spree? If yes, prepare for how you will handle it (apologize for going off topic, blame your excitement or passion and then come back to answering the question and please don’t forget to state the result!).
Do you clam up and freeze? If yes, how will you handle that? (take a sip of water, ask them to repeat the question, say you need a few seconds to think it through, even ask to come back to the question).
Now think about the interviewers’ behaviours – what if they seem distracted? Or displaying negative body language, or asking very direct and unnerving questions? How will you handle that without it impacting your performance? You don’t know what is happening in their life – maybe they can’t stand interviewing, or got some bad news right before, aren’t feeling good or simply just having a bad day. Their behavior could have NOTHING to do with you! So if you prepare for how you will handle it, then you are more likely to still shine in the interview.
3. Get your ZZZ’s
Sleep is so incredibly underrated, and I can go on and on about it but I’ll save that for another day! All I’ll say is to have a good night of sleep the night before – go to bed at a reasonable hour, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep (which means go to bed 7.5-9.5 hours before you want to get up). This will ensure you are feeling your best which means you are less likely to feel nervous.
4. Move Your Body
Plan to get to the interview with some time to spare and then go for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement are proven to help you calm down as it releases those wonderful endorphins!
The morning of or evening before do some exercise that will bring you value – run, strength workout, yoga. Do the one that you know will leave you feeling strong, confident and ready to take on the world!
I think I’ve already talked about how meditation can help you get ahead in your career. It will help you slow down the nervous mind, recognize the spiral of thoughts that accompany it and help you notice when you are slipping into bad, nervous habits during the interview faster allowing you to self-correct.
6. Put on your cape
A few years ago a TED talk by Amy Cuddy introduced the world to the concept of the power pose before important meetings. Amy has since backed up her original findings with a new study that continues to show that effecting a power pose can impact brain chemistry which is amazing!
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed (bathroom stall?!), put your hands on your hips and stand there like Wonder Woman or Superman for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Imagine yourself, no one can stop you, you got this. Take a deep breath and go show those interviewers what you can do!
7. Power Up with Power Songs
Do you have power songs? You know those songs that pump you up and lift you up? I have tons, in fact I have a whole playlist of them that I play whenever I feel like a need a boost. Like Sia and David Guetta’s Titanium or Forever by Drake, Eminem – which are two of my go tos.
On your way to the interview, play a couple of them and let them excite you and fill you with power and confidence.
8. Food for Thought
I remember in first year Biology, our professor telling us to eat a mini chocolate bar right before all exams. She said the combination of caffeine and sugar was a sure way to activate our brain allowing our sense of recall to be quicker. I’m not sure about the science behind it but who is going to say no to that!
For the longest time I did that, but in the last few years I’ve begun having bananas before important meetings or presentations. It started because that was what I would take before a race (running, triathlon, obstacle course) and I really felt a positive impact. For me, it provides me the energy needed and it also calms me down.
So while you are on your quick walk or on the way to the interview grab a mini chocolate bar, banana or other small snack.
9. Fake it til you Make it
After that disastrous interview I decided to really focus on channeling those nerves into excitement. I re-framed those feelings. You know what I’m talking about: your hands are slightly shaking, your heart is racing, you are sweating. The same feelings happen when you are amped up and excited to go, so I tell myself I’m just super excited instead of super nervous.
Before going in, I would do is bounce on my toes a bit, give myself a pep talk and use that adrenaline in a positive way. I know others who make funny faces in the mirror, who do a full body shake or just repeat “yes, yes, yes” in their heads.
There is something to this idea, as one thing I’ve learned over my 15 years is that Hiring Managers love to hire people who are excited and enthusiastic to work for them.
At the end of all my preps, I always say “Good Luck. Have Fun. Be Yourself.” After all, I want the interview to be an enjoyable experience!
I do understand that nerves can be debilitating, and if none of these tips help then maybe customized interview training and prep will – reach out to me and we can work on this together.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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