image credit: bloodyblue.deviantart.com
I’m an extrovert. If bonus points were awarded on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I’d test higher than “7” for extroversion. That means I get energy from being around people. I’m able to keep up a demanding schedule (while caring for an infant) that would exhaust introverts if they just heard about it. I don’t work hard for this advantage, therefore, I call it a privilege.
I’m also very outgoing. I’m a social butterfly in most social situations and have no problem talking to strangers. For many years I was unaware of the advantages I received for being an outgoing extrovert. I moved through the world obtuse to the struggles of shy and/or introverted people who felt uncomfortable and/or exhausted in social settings.
Thankfully, I’m now much more self-aware and put energy into making it easier for people who aren’t outgoing extroverts to be part of the conversation. For instance, I could take over any small group conversation by telling a funny story. But, just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
image credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery
Anyone who has ever had the responsibility of hiring will tell you that it’s a lot of work, takes a ton of hours, and is a major distraction from their day-to-day to do list. Charged with hiring the very best person from a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates can be quite the challenge for even the best hiring managers.
Job searching isn’t a picnic either. Submitting what seems like endless resumes can really wear you down and make even the most optimistic person feel like they are begging for work.
Here’s the thing. You can’t bring a negative “begging” attitude to a conversation about prospective employment. It won’t make a good impression or lead to introductions.
Hiring managers would absolutely love to happen to meet a highly qualified candidate while they were out at a networking event. It would give them confidence that there are great candidates out there for their position. They’d also have a moment interacting with you socially to see whether you’d be a good fit with their team.
Instead of saying you are “looking for a job” be specific about where you want to work and what you bring to the table.
What can you, as the job seeker, offer? What skills and passions do you have? What are you hoping to learn at your next job? What connections within your industry do you bring?
If you are looking for work it is always best to be specific when networking. [click to tweet]
image credit: Jess Samuels
I’m a dad. Wow. I need to repeat that. I’m a dad.
This is all still so new for me. My son, Grant Graeson Samuels, was born on Tuesday, December 15 at 9:11pm and instantly I became a member of a special club. I’m a parent now.
I started to become aware of this extensive and abundant community when my wife and I began to share the great news that she was pregnant. Instantly there was rapport between me and anyone else who has children.
image credit: adwriter via flickr
With all the holiday parties coming up you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to practice schmoozing. Maybe small talk isn’t your thing so you are dreading the idea and wondering how you’ll ever survive mundane topics like the weather and traffic.
Start the conversation off on the right foot:
1) Greet people by saying your name. Don’t assume they remember.
2) Ask an open-ended question that gets them talking about themselves.
Ideas for this time of year:
- What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
- What are your favorite holiday memories from childhood?
Any time of year you could ask:
- Have you traveled anywhere recently?
- If you had free time, how would you fill it?
My standard opening question is, “How did you hear about this event?”
3) Listen intently and ask thoughtful follow-up questions to engage them further. Don’t have any knowledge about the topic they brought up? Not sure how to respond?
I’ve lived in Boston for just over 13 years, which is long enough to know I’m a newcomer. [click to tweet] When I arrived in 2002, I didn’t have secure housing or a job, much less a professional network.
Soon after moving to Boston I received two full-time career-track job offers on the same day. What made that possible? Strategic volunteering.
For over a year prior to moving to Boston, I visited regularly to build relationships with new friends, learn my way around the city, and get to know the organizations I hoped to work for.
At least once a month I volunteered for Fenway Health’s outreach program. After a few months I was offered the opportunity to be a lead volunteer, in charge of setting up the outreach table and training new volunteers. I accepted and was then in regular contact with staff at Fenway Health.
I also signed up to volunteer at AIDS Action Committee’s AIDS Walk a few months before moving to Boston. I knew I needed to stand out in a crowd of volunteers, so I offered to help out the day prior as well as the day of the event. The morning of the event I was asked to take a leadership volunteer role. AIDS Action staff now knew me and that I could be counted on.
At the end of 2014, I left my career to go “out on my own” as a professional speaker, expanding a side business that began in 2009. I was passionate about teaching people how to build great professional networks and strong, welcoming communities.
It wasn’t out of nowhere. My signature session, Art of the Schmooze, had been getting rave reviews and I knew there was more I could offer if I wasn’t balancing a full-time job and an increasing number of speaking engagements.
This meant that after 15 years, I was no longer going to be working in an office surrounded by colleagues.
But was I “out on my own”?
As I’m nearing the end of my first year as a solopreneur, I’m reflecting on my journey and can’t help but notice all the ways I was not “out on my own” this year.
From beta readers willing to provide feedback when I was first starting to write a blog, to technical support as I upgraded my website, to word of mouth promotion of my trainings, to being willing to be interviewed for On the Schmooze my soon-to-be launched podcast, to general encouragement and unending belief that I can and should be building this business – I have felt tremendous support from my network.
You’ve gotten dressed up and ventured out to a networking event. With some advance research you are pretty confident that you’ll be able to make good connections at this event. You walk in and… now what? How do you jump in?
The first question to ask yourself is, “Am I a guest or a host?” If you’re a regular and know many people at the event, then consider yourself a host. This is true more times than you might have realized. Being a host means you go out of your way to welcome others and make introductions. You look for outliers and help them feel connected. You’ll find there are many benefits to being a regular and being known by others in the room.
Instead of scattershot attendance, focus your energy on just a few organizations’ events to quickly become a regular.
[click to tweet]
Of course, there’s always a first time, when you’re a newcomer. What do you do if you are a guest? If you are an introvert and/or shy and you find networking very stressful, you may naturally gravitate to the edges of the room. However, this can be counterproductive to making connections.
Meeting strangers can be scary. Going into a room filled with people you don’t know with the expectation that you’ll chat with a few of them – not easy. It’s human nature to want to stick with what is familiar to us and stay within our comfort zones. The downside to this instinct?
You’ll only know the people you already know and if they can’t help you find a job or identify new clients then you’re at a dead end. If you’re serious about achieving your professional goals you’ll need to get past your fear of meeting strangers.
To help make networking less scary, I’ve created a simple tool to help you focus your time and get results.
[click to tweet]
It’s only three steps, but when you follow them you’ll find you will be much more clear about why you are networking, what your goals are, and how to achieve them.
Brainstorm + Objective + Organize = BOO!
Events. Every organization hosts events, but are they effective? It’s important to be very clear about what the goals are for any event you host and have strategies in place to meet those goals. Fundraising events in particular require a lot of staff time and expenses can greatly reduce the amount of revenue received by the organization.
Before committing to hosting a fundraiser carefully consider the benefits and costs. (click to tweet)
While raising money is the main reason the event is being hosted it would be a missed opportunity to only focus on revenue and ignore other ways the event can support your mission.
For 10 event seasons, from 2005-2014, I managed 25 events a year that raised approximately $1,000,000 for a Boston-based nonprofit. To improve communication with my team I designed an event strategy form. These are the questions I considered before planning any fundraiser or donor cultivation event.
An event strategy form clearly outlines all the goals of the event and the strategies to achieve them. I recommend that the first draft of this form be filled in by the event manager and then discussed with key members of the development team. Once a plan has been created, document any significant changes on this form. Reference this document after the event to measure how well you succeeded at your goals and include your findings in a separate event debrief document.