Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tips for Networking as an Introvert

Being an introvert does NOT mean you don't have social skills. However, it does mean that being around lots of people at one time can be draining. In general, introverts actually have many advantages when it comes to networking. They enjoy real conversations (read: no small talk)—and can still make connections in a myriad of contexts. If you consider yourself an introvert who has resisted networking, try these top 10 networking tips:

Join the crowd. If people seem to be congregating in one area, join them and strike up a conversation.

Set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, prep yourself mentally for what you are there to do. Is your goal to meet more people? Is it to learn more about the organization's culture? Is it to meet one or two specific people? Make sure you set reasonable expectations beforehand, so that you have a goal in mind. It is a great way to keep you from getting overwhelmed, too.

Start a conversation with a loner. It's usually easier to start a conversation with someone who is standing alone, because they will most likely be happy to have someone to talk to—and as a result, are often more personable and easier to connect with.

Avoid barging into groups. A cluster of more than four people can be awkward—and tough to enter. Join the group on one side, but don't try to enter the conversation until you've made eye contact with each person at least one time. Usually, people will make room to add you to the "circle" of conversation, and you can introduce yourself then!

"Look mom, no hands!" Keep at least one hand free at all times! This means no eating and drinking at the same time if you are at a networking mixer or conference reception. This way, you can still shake hands with people without being awkward and fumbling around.

Be yourself. Networking events are meant as starting points for professional relationships. If you can't be yourself—and you aren't comfortable in your own skin, then the people you meet will be connecting with someone you're impersonating, and not the real you. Be genuine. Authenticity tends to attract much of the same.

Be present and engaged. Ever talked to someone that acts like you're the only person in the room? Someone who listens, and makes you feel like everything you are saying is important? I love those people! They really make you feel heard. Keep eye contact, and lean in or tilt your body towards people when you talk to them. Not in a creepy way, but in a, "I'm listening to you, and I'm fully present" kind of way.

Treat people like friends. Unless, of course, you are a terrible friend. Would you go to a friend and interrupt their conversation, hand over a business card, and walk away? No. Networking events are not transactions. Treat new people as you'd treat your friends—built rapport, be trustworthy, and then talk shop.

Follow the 72 hour rule. After a conference or networking event, you have about 72 hours to follow up with a person on LinkedIn or via e-mail. Reference something that you talked about and ask what the best way to stay connected might be. After 72 hours, they just might have forgotten you.

Practice makes perfect. Well, not really perfect. Progress is always better than perfection! The point here is that networking is a skill, like any other professional skill. It is a muscle that you have to develop and grow. While others may look like born networkers, they are more than likely just more experienced with it. Mistakes may happen, but the only way to learn is to get out there and do it!

For more helpful tips on networking check out WGU’s Career & Professional Development Center.

Adapted from The National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Target Employer List

Ready to engage in an active job search? One of the first places to start is to create a Target Employer List. Your Target Employer List has two functions:
  • Provides a path to follow as you begin your job search. You can continue adding new employers to your Target Employer List as your job search progresses, and you can also remove employers from the list as you learn more about each organization and about what you want and need in your next job. 
  • Allows you to track your job search progress. You can update your Target Employer List each time you send anything to an employer on your list.
To get started answer each of the questions below based on your current thinking.
  • What kind of work environment do you want?
  • What do you want to spend your time doing at work?
  • What kind of company culture do you prefer?
  • What kind of organization do you want to work for?
Once you have answered these questions consider the following activities to help create your Target Employer List.
  • Dream big – What comes to mind when you think of your dream companies? After you have come up with dream organizations, research related firms and add them to your list. 
  • Browse LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for job seekers. To build your Target Employer List, on your LinkedIn homepage find the Search bar at the top. Click on the word Advanced next to the search bar. On the Advanced Search page, type in your zip code (at the bottom of the list of search options) and type in some keywords that appeal to you at the top of the search options. After you hit search, you will see LinkedIn profiles of people who are within your commuting range and who work at employers you may not have known about until now. 
  • Explore Alumni – Leverage the Find Alumni tool on LinkedIn to filter through more than 66,000 WGU students and alumni by Where they live, Where they work and What they do.  Find a title you want? What companies do they work for? Write them down on your list.  
  • Browse Job Postings – Search postings in your area to see who’s hiring. Write down companies with postings that are appealing to you. Read the employers’ own websites to decide whether they would make good additions to your Target Employer List. 
  • Ask Friends – Your friends know you and they may know of employers to consider. Ask your friends which employers to add to your list and where their other friends work. Use your informal network to gather information!
  • Read – Read the business section of your local newspaper to learn about new and up-and-coming organizations in addition to expansions or growth of established local businesses. In addition, read about topics related to your career field. Gather articles on topics you are interested in and add companies that are mentioned in the articles to your list.
  • Research – Conduct additional research on the employers on your list to confirm that the company may be a good fit for you. A company’s website is a great place to start your research – but don’t stop there. Leverage the Employer Research resources of the WGU Career & Professional Development website to gain additional insights into the organization. 
Organize the list by employer name, address, a short phrase to remind you of what the employer does, and URL for the employer’s website. Gather a list of 30 - 40 companies so you will have a large amount of people to target.  Once you have completed your list, conduct research to find out more about the companies listed and their culture. After research is conducted you can rank the companies in order of interest. Use a spread sheet to track changes.

For individual assistance in creating a Target Employer List or answers to additional career questions, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Interviewing: Tell Me About Yourself

Most interviewers will start with a request to “Tell me about yourself.” Even though it is an easy request to anticipate, it often causes undue stress and anxiety, resulting in rambling responses that include complete life stories. With a little preparation, you can use this question to clearly articulate your strengths and accomplishments, setting a confident, positive tone for the rest of the interview.

To craft a strong response, start by carefully reviewing the job requisition, researching the employer, and asking these questions:
  1. What strengths do you have that are pertinent to the position? (3-5)
  2. What are key accomplishments that have benefited past employers and are relevant to this position? (1-2)
  3. What personal traits (or soft skills) do you have that complement your other skills?
  4. What educational credentials enhance your employment background? (diplomas, degrees, and professional certifications)
Create a script including information from your answers.  Keep your response relatively succinct. It is surprising what can be said in just 30 to 45 seconds.  For example:

My passion is numbers. With more than five years experience in accounting, I have been recognized for completing complex accounting projects under stringent time restraints. In my current role as a fund accountant, I generated over $230,000.00 in cost savings by identifying expense reduction opportunities. I enjoy collaborating with others to understand my employer’s pain points and addressing problems head-on.  My bachelor’s degree in accounting is a strong foundation for my accounting career and I am currently on track to obtain my CPA License by this October. 

In most instances, avoid sharing personal matters or ancient work history. Instead, focus on highlighting:
  • how you can do the job
  • what you have previously accomplished 
  • how you can help the organization
Practice with your script until you feel confident, but avoid memorization. Your response should sound natural and conversational. With a thoughtful, prepared response, you are bound to make a memorable and positive impression.

For additional interview preparation resources or to schedule a mock interview, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We are here to help.