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Ten Tips to Off-line Networking for Career Success and Personal Branding

June 26th, 2011

Hi All!

Nowadays, most people seem to be solely focused on social networking online. And, yes, while I am a firm believer that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are AMAZING tools for making professional connections, I find that many Millennials (aka: Gen Y), and even members of older generations at work, such as Gen X, Generation Jones and Boomers, forget about “the other” type of networking…attending industry mixers and professional association gatherings!

Quite honestly, I find that attending in-person networking events can typically yield me positive business results faster than relying on social media networking. Therefore, I make an effort to include in-person networking to my personal brand-building mix.

But, I also find that many people are not that great at using their valuable networking time wisely. As a result, I make sure to include tips on “effective networking at events” in the Personal Leadership Branding seminars and Millennial Business Boot Camp workshops that I conduct for corporations and college students. It is key to your career success!

So whether you’re a job-seeker or simply wanting to expand your professional network outside of your office to “increase awareness for your personal brand”, keep reading!

Here are Ten Tips I suggest to make your off-line networking efforts successful:

  1. Show-up with your business cards! People often forget their cards, or only bring a few, and that’s embarrassing. Bring a substantial stack so you don’t run out. And, if you’re a job-seeker who is unemployed, make your own cards and consider making them 2-sided so that you can list your qualifications on the back. Plus, bring copies of your resume “just in-case”!
  2. Don’t be shy. Remember, everyone is there to meet new people, so you are all in the same boat. Find someone standing alone or a small group of people, walk up, extend your hand (for a FIRM shake), smile and introduce yourself. It may feel odd at first but people who network a lot are used to strangers approaching them. And if you say it’s your first time attending the mixer, they’ll normally want to help you meet other people.
  3. Practice your 15-second “personal infomercial” (aka: elevator pitch) before you arrive. When someone asks what you do or why you are there, be able to explain yourself in 15-seconds or less. DO NOT bore people with a long personal pitch or a bumbling explanation about who you are and/or what you’re seeking.
  4. You should take an interest in the people you meet first. It’s common to ramble on about yourself when you’re nervous, so make a serious effort to ask people questions and LISTEN to what they share closely.
  5. Depending on the length of the mixer, try not to spend more than 5-10 minutes with each person. You’re there to meet a lot of people! Now if you’re really enjoying yourself with someone, maybe spend a bit more time. BUT, KEEP IN MIND, they may want to be moving on to meet more people, too, so don’t monopolize their time. They might be too shy to excuse themselves, so be mindful of time, and watch their eyes and body language!
  6. If alcohol is being served, don’t overdo it. I’ve seen quite a few people early-on at an event making a great impression and then, after a few drinks, it goes downhill. Remember: If you’re an employee, everything you say and do at the event will not only impact your personal brand but will also reflect on your employer’s brand!
  7. Make a lot of eye contact with people and smile! It’s all about human contact, and smiling will draw people to you. However when most people get nervous they tend to stand on the sidelines and hope people will come to them. A genuine, sincere smile will relax people and will make connecting with you more inviting…exuding confidence it key!
  8. Practice being a good conversationalist. Rather than JUST talk about you, your job and your purpose for being there (or theirs), have a few interesting questions memorized, and ask about kids, travel, previous jobs, pets, sports, current events, etc. This can help you quickly bond with people beyond “business”. Also, by really listening to people (which many people are NOT great at!) questions will come up naturally that you can ask to keep the conversation going. And, personally, I avoid topics around religion and politics…there’s no need to get yourself into a potentially controversial conversation!
  9. If someone approaches a group you’re talking to, immediately extend your hand, smile, and make them feel welcome. Remember, they are probably nervous, too!
  10. Send a hand written follow-up note to all the people you meet (mail them within 1-2 days). The immediate thought, especially by Gen Y, is to send an e-mail or text message, but a good ‘ol fashioned “Nice meeting you” greeting card, sent via snail mail, makes a BIG impression on people, from ANY generation…because people rarely send them nowadays!

Okay, now find some good association mixers and industry events in your area, and try to attend at least 1-2 per month, consistently. There is a very good chance you’ll reap the benefits of your off-line networking efforts fast, such as: See your professional contacts database grow quickly; find career-building opportunities otherwise missed; and, for those of you job searching, potentially get leads on good job opportunities!

Here’s a great quote I read a while ago (but I can remember who said it): “Take your online connections off-line, and take your off-line connections online”. Great advice!

 Bye for now!

Lisa

Seven Tips for Gen Y Job Seekers in This Tough Economy

April 23rd, 2011

Hi All!

We all know the current job market is tough, regardless of what generation you’re from. But for many Millennials (aka: Gen Y), who are inexperienced when it comes to searching for a job, it can be an even tougher time. So this article provides all you newbie job seekers, and recent college grads, with (7) tips that will give you an edge over your job-seeker competition.

  1. Start a Blog: Not “just” a blog – a blog that covers the news and information about specific companies, or industries, where you’d like to work. You can then contact the company(s) and let them know you have a blog that is “about them and their industry”. This can attract their attention and give you an edge over just submitting a resume. Even micro-blogging on Twitter using this strategy is smart. It helps you promote your Personal Brand!
  2. Make Yourself Known: Many newbie job seekers send their resume and then do nothing. Making 1-2 follow-up calls is not enough. Until someone tells you “the position is filled”, keep calling, emailing, and inquiring. Sure, it may seem like you’re annoying, but you are making yourself memorable, and that’s key.
  3. Know Your Target: Make sure you include the terminology used within that industry, and/or by that company, when submitting your info to them. This can range from the job titles they use to the industry/company jargon they use. The point here is to make your resume and cover letter “customized” to them, not generic to ANY industry and/or company.
  4. Don’t Rely on Your Computer: Yes, the Internet is a powerful networking tool. And, of course, network on social networks like FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But face-to-face contact can be more powerful. Attend local professional networking events in industries you’re interested in. Interested in a Marketing career? Attend your local AMA chapter mixer. Each month, attend as many “live” networking events as possible. Not only will you make a lot of contacts but you’ll become better at “selling yourself” which can help when you interview.
  5. Make Business Cards: Don’t arrive to networking events or job interviews without business cards. You can even make your title “Job Seeker in Finance” (or whatever you’re looking for). And on the back print a few bullets about you: Education, Degree, strengths, etc. These can be like mini-resumes and they give you something interesting to hand to people (versus writing your contact info on a napkin at an event). Make your own cards and get them printed inexpensively through online services like LogoMaker.com.
  6. Thank You Cards: Whenever your return home from an interview or networking event, or even from a casual encounter with someone you met at a party where you discussed your employment, send a hand written thank you note to everyone you met. People tend to send thank yous via email, but a hand written note makes a big impression nowadays because very few people send them!
  7. Be “Employed” Through Volunteering: If you’re unemployed, use some of your free time to volunteer at a local non-profit. That reflects well on you when interviewing. You can say that you volunteer 15-20 hours per week for XYZ organization and your tasks include…employers want to know you’re “doing something” other than looking for a job full time. It also shows them you’re hard working and not just sitting around your home waiting for a job.

And, don’t be afraid to get creative! There was a great story last year about an unemployed father of 3 from the financial industry who wore a nice suit and a sandwich board on the streets of New York, advertising he was looking for a job. And you know what? Within a short time he landed a job with a top company in his industry! Why? Because people from that company saw him daily and started to talk to him…may sound a bit nuts, but this economy is a bit nuts, so think outside the box in your job seeking efforts!

Bye for now,

Lisa

The Top 10 Leadership Books All Gen Y Employees Should Read

January 31st, 2011

Hi All!

I conduct various seminars and workshops on Leadership and Personal Leadership Branding for Millennials (Gen Y) employees and college students, and one of the things I tell them is to “feed your brain”. That is a key trait of effective leaders regardless of how high up the ladder they are in their careers…they never stop learning to be better.

Along with that advice, I’m also asked,”What books on leadership should I read?” Obviously, I can’t resist recommending mine, “Millennials into Leadership”. I would be crazy not to!!

But here are some of the other (wink) top books on leadership that I think Millennials, and all other generations at work, should read to learn and nurture their leadership and management skills. Quick side note: Just because you’ve been given a leadership role, doesn’t mean you’re good at it! Some people are born leaders, but MOST everyone else needs training. That’s why organizations hire me to conduct leadership seminars for their Millennial employees!

Okay, back to the list…this article was in WashingtonPost.com and written by Andrea Useem, and the list was created by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, who run the business book publisher and website 800 CEO Read. And based on their research, this is what they chose as the 10 best leadership books.

Excerpt:

…and how did they choose them? “We had three litmus tests,” Sattersten told me in a phone interview. “Was the book accessible and well written? Are its lessons applicable today? And, third, would we apply the insights in our own business?”

1. On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis

2. The Leadership Moment, by Michael Useem

3. The Leadership Challenge, by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (NOTE: Recommended by one panelist as the FIRST book on leadership you should read)

4. Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will, by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman

The other books on their list are:
Leadership is an Art, by Max De Pree
The Radical Leap, by Steve Farber
Leading Change, by John Kotter
Questions of Character, by Joe Badaracco
The Story Factor, by Annette Simmons, and
Never Give In! Speeches by Winston Churchill

So there you have it! Choose a few, or all, and get reading! Your employees and employers will thank you!

Bye for now,

Lisa

Tips for Managing Your Personal Brand Online

January 12th, 2011

Hi All!

As I’ve mentioned before, Personal Branding has certainly become a hot topic for employees from any generation who are seeking successful career growth. “Branding” is not just for businesses, products and self-employed people anymore!

I conduct a popular workshop, “Your Personal Leadership Brand is in Your Hands“, for corporate audiences, and the demand for this presentation is growing. Initially I launched it for Gen Y and Gen X employees, but quickly realized that even Generation Jones and Boomers wanted to know more about building their personal brands, too. So, now a majority of my audiences for this topic range from employees 21-60+ years old.

Obviously, an important aspect of managing and building your personal brand is how it’s reflected in the world of social media. Based on that, I came across this article written by Raquel Gonzalez, a blogger for ComeRecommended.com. It’s entitled, “How to Manage Your Brand Online“, and it’s filled with great info…whether you’re a job seeker or already employed.

Here’s an excerpt:

How often do you ‘Google’ yourself? According to CAREEREALISM.com, 88% of employers will Google your name to see more about you. And with over 230 million Internet users in the United States, it’s easy to be mistaken for another professional who is building their own online brand.

However, there are ways to manage those inaccurate results and increase your brand’s reputation:

Your Social Media is Showing!

First and foremost, make sure that you look good on all of your social media accounts. Review your activity, privacy settings and photos — you don’t want a tagged photo or friend’s wall comment to cost you the ideal internship.

CAREERALISM.com suggests you should have your LinkedIn profile 100% complete and take down or change any comments that reflect poorly upon you in Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and any other online account – reputation management is an important aspect of any student, professional, or company’s online brand. Instead of all-fun-all-the-time, use your own blog, online exchanges, and testimonials to showcase your professional knowledge.

To read the entire article, and get solid tips and resources on how to Score, Grade and Measure your personal brand online, CLICK HERE!

Bye for now!

Lisa

P.S. Come Recommended, LLC, is a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. Its main product, ComeRecommended.com, is a social networking site for internship and entry-level job candidates and employers to connect and learn about the best practices for today’s job search.

Gen Y: How Are Your Presentation Skills at Work?

November 06th, 2010

Hi All!

As a professional speaker, I do a lot of in-person presentations with audience sizes ranging from 25 to 500+. And they range from workshops, seminars to keynotes. Also, because I owned my ad agency for 20 years, I’ve done hundreds of sales presentations pitching propects.

And here’s the bottom line: Regardless of whether you do presentations as a “speaker” (like me), or for business (presenting to clients, prospects or colleagues), MANY people are terrible at it!!! Seriously…how many boring seminars or business presentations have YOU had to sit through…where the content was good but the person talking wasn’t? Unfortunately, in the work world, just because someone may be brilliant at their actual job, does NOT mean they are a great presenter.

And, even worse, there are people who KNOW they are not good at presenting, but at certain points in their careers they are required to do it. That’s a double whammy!

So here are 8 of my personal presentation tips, with a couple of lifesavers, I strongly recommend following as you proceed down your professional career path:

1.    Prepare…a lot! This may sound like common sense, but unfortunately it’s not common practice. I’m typically booked anywhere from 1-3 months in advance (sometimes more) for the speaking engagements I do. And I use that lead-time wisely! The more prepared I am, the more confident I am, and the more confident I am the better I “perform”. Lack-of-preparation is the kiss of death for being able to deliver a killer presentation. I have some consulting clients who prepare the night before and then wonder why their presentation was a flop. Just because you know your info/topic, doesn’t mean you can just wing it (successfully). Map out your entire presentation and take time to add in interesting things into the PowerPoint (video clips, cartoons, pics, etc.). And know your flow and timing!

2.    Don’t Read. I always present with a notes outline, but I don’t “read” it. I use it to refer to and I have my main “content” in my head. I had a client who actually put a majority of her content on her slides and then proceeded to pretty much read them for a one-hour seminar. Problems: Her back was to the audience a lot as she looked at the screen; the font size on her slides was TINY; and it was boring and distracting for the audience. I had asked her to send me her slide deck BEFORE the presentation and she didn’t. BIG mistake. Needless to say I helped her re-do the whole thing for her next seminar gig, and that one went MUCH better!

3. Smile. It makes people immediately feel at ease. NOT some toothy, fake smile­; a nice, honest, pleasant smile. And smile a lot during your presentation. People will react warmly (most people) and you will build a nice rapport quickly.

4. If you get “I’m bored” signals from your audience, DO SOMETHING! Don’t just break a nervous sweat and continue babbling on. Ask a question! Take a break! Get more animated! Increase your energy level! Speak a little more loudly! Ask a trivia question and give a prize! This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to be “dialed-in” to your audience (even if it’s one person) instead of being “all about you” and your presentation. Every presentation you do is about THEM, not you.

5.    Use humor. In Ed McMahon’s book, Superselling, he states (3) facts when it comes to selling (whether you’re selling your idea or product or service):

  • We tend to buy from someone we trust.
  • We tend to trust someone we like.
  • We tend to trust someone who makes us laugh.

His overall conclusion? You can be a more effective and successful presenter by using humor in your presentations. Do I mean become a stand-up comic? No. Do what is comfortable for you. But have some funny short stories or one-liners that pertain to the presentation…something!

If you are not a naturally “witty, funny” person, this will take some work, but don’t panic! Simply consider hiring someone for a few hours to help you improve your presentation with some “fun” visuals (cartoons or video clips) or verbal communication. This person doesn’t have to be a comedy writer, but perhaps employees, friends, family, etc. A few simple, funny elements or comments can go a long way! The top sales trainers and presentation pros recommend it, so consider it!

6.    Always let people know at the beginning of the presentations the steps you’ll be taking them through. Example: “Today we’re going to discuss 3 steps to help you build your brand. Each step will have an exercise that you’ll do as a group, and after each one we’ll have a discussion, followed by a 5-minute break. Then the last 30-minutes of the workshop will be for Q & A.” This is a good tactic to immediately establish “control” of the presentation (which you want) and to set audience expectations.

7.    Studies done by major University’s have proven that people that use colorful, impressive visuals (don’t overdue it!) in their presentations are more likely to get favorable results. Don’t know how or don’t have the talent? Hire a graphic designer for a few hours to help you. For a minimal amount, you can have a great looking PPT presentation…that you can keep using!

8.     Have all your electronic accessories prepared and tested. That may sound obvious but many people really blow it here. If you present using PowerPoint and will use your own laptop (and projector) make sure your computer is charged and that you have several extension cords of different lengths (for the computer AND projector).

There have been many people who couldn’t do their presentations (effectively) because their computer wasn’t charged, or their laptop power cord(s) was too short to reach the outlets, or the cord was too short to run the projector.

5 BASIC Lifesavers:

  • Buy a 3-prong outlet converter that can change a 2-prong outlet into a 3-prong. Many people (yours truly) have arrived to presentations only to realize the conference room outlets can’t handle a 3-prong cord!
  • Carry a spare bulb for your projector. I’ve seen them burn-out in the middle of presentations and you WILL look like a total pro if you have a spare!
  • Carry 2-3 extension cords in your computer bag.
  • Bring your presentation on a flash drive in case you end-up having to load it onto a different laptop.
  • I ALSO email it to myself so that I can download it from anywhere should my computer bag get lost or stolen.
  • Bring your own “clicker”. I’ve gone to big events where they handled all the A/V but didn’t have a clicker for me to progress my slides. I never travel to a speaking engagement without my own laptop, clicker, and a back-up of my presentation on a flash drive. And if I need to use my projector (this is rare), I also bring the projector back-up supplies listed above.

Sound like a lot of stuff to carry? Well I’d rather show-up with a larger computer case on rollers (like a small travel bag) than a smaller briefcase without emergency resources. If you run into any of the issues mentioned above, your audience will be VERY impressed by your preparedness…versus annoyed by your lack thereof.

Okay! I hope you found those tips helpful…they have served me well throughout my career! And, if you know your presentations are NOT great, get speaker training and content consultation! Becoming a good “presenter” can make a BIG difference in your career success.

Many business professionals (young and older) hire me to help them with their presentation skills, topics, and content. So there’s nothing wrong with getting some help!

Cheers!

Lisa

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