Friday, September 13, 2013

Networking Techniques - Connecting with Others

Networking is essential if you are employed, seeking new career opportunities, or unemployed. Through networking, you are able to meet colleagues and leaders within your industry. Networking allows you to learn about new practices, tools, and resources from those who are using them first hand.
  • For those who are employed, networking offers you opportunities to learn and connect from industry leaders to gain insights into best practices.
  • If you are seeking a new career, you are able to connect with team members from various companies to gage what new skills you need to gain and what possibilities exist in the industry.
  • If unemployed, networking allows you to get noticed by potential employers. Even if the person conversing with you doesn’t have an available job now, you have the opportunity to make an impression on them for when they do have a job opening. 
People attending networking events are there to share their story and to hear yours. The goal of attending a networking event is not to get a job; that is a potential end result but not the goal. The best way to approach networking is to go in with the goal of connecting with others.
Before You Network
Preparation is key. Ensure your business cards are up to date. Ensure you have a professional look that is clean and polished and ready to go (ie: not at the dry cleaners). Write an elevator speech. An elevator speech is 30 seconds to 2 minutes in length. It signifies the amount of time you would have to impress a person when riding in an elevator.

Your elevator speech should be clear and focused. You must know your speech inside and out, backwards and forwards. The ability to swap out certain parts or change the order of the information based on the audience or the time allotted will result in a more effective interaction. The following questions will help you prepare your elevator speech (in no particular order).

Write your speech. Practice in front of a mirror or a friend. Try saying your speech with a pencil in your mouth to improve pronunciation.
  • State your full name.
  • What is your most recent job title (and company name, if currently employed)?
  • What are you most proud of in your career or what do you enjoy the most about your current position (should be connected to what you want to do next)?
  • What are you passionate about or what are you looking to do next?
  • What do you value in an organization?
  • What companies or leaders do you admire? Especially if unemployed, what companies have you applied to that interest you the most?

Sample:  Hello my name is ... My most recent position was ... In that position, I was responsible for ... (limit to 3 things). I am looking to continue that work as well as ... (limit to 3 things). I believe in/ I am passionate about ... (try to say just one statement, but have a few on the ready that you can rotate based on audience). I am looking for an organization that values .... I am currently targeting the following companies ....
Do you have any contacts or recommendations for me in my search?
(see below for how to set up an informational interview)

The last question is about making connections. You are not asking for a job. You are asking for connections - the goal of a networking event. People do not attend networking events to sit in the corner and not connect with anyone. People attend networking events because they WANT to connect with you and connect you to others. This is your goal.

Giving your elevator speech clearly and confidently is an effective networking tool. Active listening is also essential when networking. Having the opportunity to connect a person to another you've previously met leaves a lasting, positive impression on both of those people. Now, how do you find an event?

Find An Event
There are several events in your area that provide opportunities for networking.  Happy hours, MeetUps, speaker series, trainings, coffee clubs, or events identified as networking. Most events cost a registration fee. You need to determine your budget for these events. Identify the events that will have the leaders or companies that interest you in attendance by checking sponsor lists, speaker lists, or if possible, the current participant list.

Events are hosted by
  • local chapters of professional organizations (ie: SHRM, ASAE, HIMSS, search "national professional organization" followed by your industry)
  • career coaches, transition consulting groups, or temporary employment agencies
  • leadership nonprofits (search the term in your city)
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • MeetUp Groups (professional and social)
When showing up to an event, dress as if you were showing up to an actual job. You don't necessarily have to show up as you would to an interview. You do need to show up professionally. Take a few deep breathes in your car, run through your elevator speech one more time, and smile. Remember your goal, to make connections.
Make Connections
Be brave. It can be scary to walk into a room of people having conversations. It can be tough to break-in mid conversation. It can feel like entering into the dating scene. 
A sincere, simple smile and "hello, my name is ..." is the best way to start. Be prepared to give your elevator speech right away or to listen to others as they do the round robin of introductions. Listen carefully to know with whom you may want to connect further.  Be sure to ask for business cards and for permission to connect on LinkedIn. It is a good way to grow your personal network for future use and to keep that connection going.  
If you connect with someone that is in your industry that seems knowledgeable or experienced, ask them for an informational interview or meeting. Offer to buy that person coffee or lunch to learn more about their career. People like to feel useful and that their experience is valued.

I've never had anyone turn down a free cup of coffee.

Here is a sample how that conversation can go: 
I am impressed with (I admire) your career path. (or .. You have a lot of experience in the field of ....) Would you be willing to let me buy you coffee to hear more about your career, your education, and the path you've taken to get to where you are today?
Side Note: I will post a blog by the end of September about what to do at the informational interview.

Post Event - Follow Up
The day after an event reach out to connect to people through LinkedIn. Remind the person where you met, what you discussed, and if applicable, thank them for any advice or information provided. An option is to end the message with a question to continue the conversation. The key is to keep the message brief.

If you attended an event via a LinkedIn group, stay active on the group homepage, bi-weekly (job seeker) or monthly (currently employed). Post an article relevant to the group's purpose. Engage with others who post articles through comments. 

Final Thought
If you are a job seeker, give every person you encounter your elevator speech. It provides you with practice to become comfortable with the speech. And you have no idea who that person knows as a friend or a relative at your ideal company. Stay open to the possibilities and say "yes, thank you" to any suggestions.

Good Luck!
Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
I'm an extrovert to the extreme. I love connecting with people. So, what are your hesitations about networking?
What have been your success stories or horror stories?


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finding Your Passion

"Traveler, there is no path.  That path must be forged as you walk."
 - Antonio Machado

I worked in an inspirational place where amazing community work was done on a daily basis. I did not see this work first hand but rather through the metrics and measurements of the great work; I was in operations at a desk staring at Excel spreadsheets all day. People talked about their passion, well, quite passionately. They loved sharing their passion and hearing about other people’s passion. I avoided these conversations as much as possible. I didn’t know what my passion was and I didn’t want them probing around in my head to find it. I was almost afraid that I didn’t have a passion. I was too tired, overwhelmed, and defeated to look for one. Until I decided, I deserved to be passionate about something too.

Finding the head space (mentally, emotionally) and the time to seek out your passion can be mind boggling in itself. Our lives are busy, loud, and already packed in tightly. I was able to make a decision to demand the space I needed (I promise to write about how I quit in a later blog). I took an entire month to focus on me – reading, writing, even putting flip chart paper on the wall with post it notes of inspiration or reminders. I shared my story of embarking on my journey to find my passion with friends through emails and conversations over tea.

I’ve simplified my process a bit for this blog. I am more than willing to share the full extent (send me a message). But this seems like a good place to start. There are several books, speakers, and coaches dedicated to helping you identify your passion. All have a slightly different variation or method to get you to identify what it is you really want to do. It is more than putting together a vision board and looking at it hoping that something will happen.

Embarking on the journey (or path) of finding your passion is exciting, can be overwhelming, even scary, and can be transformational. You have to assess your own readiness for the pursuit. It takes real work, the ability to take action, self-awareness, honesty, and the willingness to share your story with others.

How to Start
There are several ways to begin your path towards seeking your passion. The following is in no particular order and are recommendations, not requirements. When starting this work, tell people. You will be surprised at how many have already done this work or who are in mid-journey. Listen to their ideas and recommendations too. You have to decide for yourself what will work the best. You have to start where you are comfortable because it will get uncomfortable real soon.

There are several great books out there about people fulfilling their life's passion. These are the books I read that I found helpful. You will have to get over the fact that many are in the self help section of the library or bookstore. Be proud that you are embarking on this journey. Be humble that you know you need some guidance.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – several a-ha moments that were tough to read, including a few "d'ohs!". You can find her on Ted Talks and on Oprah’sSuper Soul Sunday if you prefer video versions of the information in the book.

The Passion Test by Janet Attwood and Chris Attwood – full of a-ha moments, requires completion of in-depth exercises, takes a bit of time to complete (be patient with this work) and is recommended to be repeated 6 months or a year later

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer – quick powerful read about his own experience in finding his vocation, slightly religious but don't let that deter you from the message

Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly – now this is the job I want, working to make peoples’ dreams a reality. Requires some reflection and work but nothing too difficult.

Mastering Life’s Energies by Maria Nemeth – practical exercises that I will probably use for the rest of my life (overcoming monkey mind!!). Requires reflection and completion of exercises. I read this with a coach as my guide through it over several months. I think it can be read on its own but there are coaches certified in this work.

Buy a nice journal, one that you can be proud of, and a nice pen. It made a difference for me to have more than just a college rule notebook and ball point pen. My journal was a gift from a mentor. The quality of the journal and pen gave my work a sense of worth and high value.

Here are some questions to start asking yourself. Take some time to reflect on each one and to free flow write, don’t edit yourself. After reading one of the books, revisit the question, not looking at the previous answer, but writing a new answer. Your passion will soon become clear to you. Then, it will be up to you to identify how to take action. 
  • What would you attempt to do, if you knew you could not fail?
  • What is worth doing, even if you do fail?
  • What sparks your curiosity, makes you wonder, or sends you off into a day dream?
  • The only things in life you regret are the things you didn't do - what would you regret if you didn't do it?
  • What brings you joy, gives you pride, and makes you lose time when you talk about it?
  • Start a gratitude journal: each night, identify three things you are grateful for that occurred that day.
Cheryl Craigie from Write to Done has 5 tips for Capturing your ideas through journaling.

I spent a few months on my own, reading, journaling, and talking with friends. Eventually I realized that I needed another person, an objective person to help me sort through it all. A coach is a great way to have a guide through this journey but is not necessarily required. A coach provides you with tools and resources to put into practice. A coach can help you set goals and figure out how to achieve them. A coach can provide guidance and re-energize you on your journey.

A coach can be expensive; it is an investment in you. Identify all of the other things or activities in your life that require an investment and why you have identified them as valuable. You have to decide if investing in your own self is just as valuable.

Trust Your Gut
When you are taking on this kind of journey, you will encounter many obstacles, challengers, or hurdles. You will have to identify with whom you can share your story; who supports and encourages you. You will also figure out quickly who is not supportive. You don’t have to avoid the non-supportive people; you just don’t share your story with them.

It is intimidating to sit in front of a blank page that is full of possibility, knowing you get to create your own reality. If you listen to your heart, your gut, you will find your way. It is important to stay true to yourself, even if you are not exactly sure in your head what that is, your heart knows. Trust it.

Taking Action
What is the one thing you can do today that brings you joy or gets you closer to living your passion? It doesn’t have to be fancy; it doesn’t have to make the world go “ooohh.” Just one small, action step that gets you moving a little bit further along the path that you have created for yourself.

"Traveler, there is no path.  That path must be forged as you walk."
 - Antonio Machado

If you choose to accept this mission: Good Luck!!

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
If you are already on your journey or have already discovered your passion, what resources, books, and tools did you find helpful?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mondays are rough - Take a Break

It is rough coming back to the world after a weekend that never seems long enough. Even as an unemployed person, keeping the “normal” work week schedule is important. Mondays are filled with planning for the week and putting out fires. Today, I remind you, as I stated in my blog about stress: Take a break.

I am providing you with a few little things to do on your morning, lunch, and afternoon break. Or find your own way to take a moment to breath, to smile, or to laugh. Or are you laughing at me right now, at my thinking that you can take three breaks on a Monday? Yes, you can!

Benefits of taking a break
You will be more productive.
You will become more focused.
It can improve your mood.

Break Time!
Most research says to walk away from your computer for a break to give your eyes a rest and to mentally disengage for a moment. I agree with that. But before you take a walk, take a minute or two to watch these videos and reflect on them while you stroll.
Print the article and take it with you when you have your lunch ... outside. The fresh air and sun does a body good.

Morning BreakVideo of the Google Doodle celebrating Claude Debussy (sound is needed). Just sit back, relax for two minutes, and enjoy
Lunch BreakWhat happened to downtime?
Article excerpt "...when you allow yourself to just look out the window for 10 minutes – and ponder – your brain will start working in a more creative way. It will grasp ideas from unexpected places. It’s this very sort of unconscious creativity that leads to great thinking."

Afternoon BreakThe In-Between by Jeff Goins (sound is needed)
You know that time, when maybe you don’t want to start a new project or answer that phone call because you know it will result in you staying late. Or the moment you are dreading the traffic that is waiting for you when you leave work. Well instead, take a moment, and watch this. (FYI - I haven’t read the book, I just like the promo video for it)

If you already watched this video via another blog, then check this next one out for an afternoon giggle. There is something to be said for following your passion (which I will talk about in my next blog) but there is also something said for knowing what should be a hobby (golf) and what you are really good at (Teemu decides to return to hockey).

Yoga in the Office  
And if you are really bold (or have an office with a door), try these yoga poses at your desk.

Car Yoga – but I think you can do it anywhere that you are seated for a long period or if you are the passenger in the car on the way home
12 Yoga Poses for your Workday
Art of Living Yoga

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people's experiences
How do you take a break?
How do you think taking a break benefits you?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How to Handle Stress

We all have it. It affects each of us differently. We all want to reduce it. Stress is … well, is stressful in itself. Stress always surprises me; it sneaks up on me. I am better at detecting when I am not stressed than knowing when I am. I had reached a time in my life when stress was more prevalent than feeling relaxed or at ease or even just normal. I got used to being stressed. What a horrible place to be. I had to make a tough decision to quit that way of living (more on how I quit will come in a later blog). Since I quit, stress has been somewhat minimal. Until this week! Ack, I got sick for the first time in months. I was confused and then I realized that school started. I was overwhelmed with week one’s assignments. I was stressed.

Learning your stress trigger points, responses, and how to overcome stress are important to your own health and well-being.

Identifying your responses

How do you feel when you are stressed? How do you react to other people? Stress causes emotional and physical reactions. I react to stress by getting sick. It bothers my mother that I get sick every time I see her, but she causes me stress (Good thing she lives far away). Other symptoms: my hair falls out; I eat crappy food; I’m tired, no wait, exhausted!; and I am quick to snap at other people.

Identifying your response to stress can help you know when you are in it. But your response can also help you establish counter balance habits. A phrase I just made up, meaning positive responses to balance yourself through the stress responses. For example, when stressed, I eat crappy food. Once I can identify that I am stressed, I can embark on a habit of eating salads. I’ve been told that a crunchy salad can help work through stress. I’m exhausted when stressed; I can ensure I am getting enough rest at night.

Identifying your trigger points

Once you know your response to stress, you can identify trigger points. Sometimes you are able to foresee these trigger points coming from a mile away, sometimes they may jump out at you. Sometimes the trigger points are external to you; sometimes you cause them yourself through procrastination or lack of preparation. But understanding what they are and how you are going to respond, can minimize the impact. I’m not saying that stress will go away. I’m saying that you can manage it when you know it is coming and you know what to expect of yourself.

Knowing my mother is a trigger point allows me to plan for the stress. In a sense, prepare myself for it with extra vitamins, healthy eating, and even discussing boundaries or expectations with her before she arrives.

For others, waiting is a stress trigger point. I knew that registering my car and getting a license in a new state was going to require a lot of waiting. Once I did the research (planning), I discovered I had to visit three different offices to complete it. Whoa, stress inducing! That is nuts. But I take a deep breath and know that I have nothing but time to give (I’m unemployed). I am grateful for the time I have to complete this task. I set out for the day with a book, a journal, and games loaded on my IPod. It was a long, exhausting day but with no stress because I was prepared.


How to overcome stress

There are many resources, websites, blogs, trainings, etc on how to overcome stress. You can Google it and find plenty of options (Belle Beth includes some in the article above). I think overcoming stress is very personal. You have to do what works for you. Having others tell you what to do can often induce more stress. So I am going to give recommendations on how to plan for your personal stress recovery.

Preparation, research, and planning. We’ve already discussed knowing when it comes and how it arrives; now how do you want to respond. Practice your reactions. Outline a preferred response plan. My plan is to ensure I’m exercising (boxing is great!), eating healthy (the crunchier the salad, the better), laughing out loud (feels so good), and practicing gratitude (it can be tough, but it helps). Stress may surprise you with no warning, but if you are equipped with a plan to overcome the challenge of stress, you will have less of a panic when it appears.
My house rules (see previous blog). You can establish your own house rules or use mine. Be kind to yourself. We all stress out, it is ok. Be grateful for the opportunity or challenge to learn something new (about yourself, about the company, about other people). Be honest with yourself, what are you really feeling, how are you reacting to it. Be open to the possibility that you might have to change or take action. Be present, don’t go off into never, never stresslandia fretting about the stress. It can be very easy to spiral off into the stress deep end. Pull yourself back from the ledge and be present.
Take a break. Sometimes you just need space. It might be a walk around the block, you might meditate, it could be taking the rest of the day off, it could be a cat video on YouTube, or it could be a vacation. It could even be a Kit Kat bar. Whatever “take a break” means to you, that little bit of breathing room (or screaming room) can help ease the stress. Just be sure to come back from your break.

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
How do you react to stress?
What stress reducing techniques do you use?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Confession: I Am a Slow Eater

Confession:  I am a slow eater. I’ve noticed this when going out to eat with others. Sometimes I think it is because I talk too much. I do love to tell stories and share my experiences. Other times, I think it is because I am so curious and engaged in someone’s story that my attention is all on them, and not on the food (or beer). And then I get distracted: people watching, exploring the restaurants d├ęcor, watching how the staff interacts with each other and customers, it is a lot to take in when you spend most of your days on the couch job hunting.

But the major reason is … I’m a terrible cook, so when I am out to eat, I enjoy food. When I'm not talking or listening, I want to savor each bite because it is far better than anything that I could make myself. I can easily have two hour lunches and three hour dinners, not even noticing what time it is because I am so focused on the experience I am having.

Being a slow eater reminds me to slow down in other parts of my life too. I’m currently unemployed, so, seriously, what’s my rush to get to anywhere? The best slow experience is as a customer. Engaging with the staff, joking around with them, and actually looking them in the eye (shocker!), all makes shopping a whole new experience. It even got me an additional $40 off my purchase today.
If you are planning a meal out with me, be sure to clear your calendar, because I have nowhere else to be. :-) 

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
How can you slow-down in your life?

What do you notice when you walk into a restaurant? (or are you too engrossed in your smart phone, put that thing down!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My To Do List

Well now that I have my house rules. What else can I do to get back to “me”?

I was inspired by a friend to make a list of 33 (for my age) things to do in 2013. Here is my list and my progress.

Over half way through the year and I have got some catching up to do. Being that many of these have a financial component and that I am unemployed, I may have to submit a request for an extension but not quite yet giving up on the hope that I can get it all done.

1.    Ski at least 3 times
2.    Go on a girls-only vacation
3.    Watch the sunset somewhere beautiful
4.    Hike 3 new trails
5.    Rock climb 13 times, indoor or outdoor
6.    Try something new and completely different (Bellyak! It was totally cool)
7.    Visit 3 museums
8.    Volunteer every month (recurring monthly volunteer assignment finally found!)
9.    Take 3 college courses

In progress
10.  Lose 13 pounds (10 down!)
11.  Read 13 books (5 more to go, school may limit my ability to do this, but hope is not lost)
12.  Exercise 3 times per week (some weeks are good, some weeks not so much)
13.  Identify 3 joys/wins per day (gratitude journal, off and on, but doing well)
14.  Get 13 massages (3 down - gotta find more Living Social coupons)
15.  Be creative 13 times (6 for 13)
16. Run 3 - 5k races (yikes, first one planned for October, looks like I'll be running the snow)
17. Write once per week for 13 minutes (through journaling with my coach and this blog)
18.  Find a job where I am fulfilled and happy (I can feel it. It is close.)

May need an extension
19.  Try 13 new foods (I feel like I’ve done a few of these, but just haven’t kept track of it)
20.  Travel to 3 new states
21.  Stay up all night to watch a sunrise
22.  Meditate once per week (no need to strain myself on this one, especially since it hasn’t happened even once yet)
23.  Then lose another 13 pounds and keep it all off (refer to #10)
24.  Learn 13 new words
25. Sky dive
26.  Kayak 3 times (well I’ve gone SUP boarding 3 times, but not kayaking yet)
27.  Play tennis 13 times (I've watched a lot of tennis on TV.)
28.  Talk to my brother once per month via phone/skype (sad that I am not succeeding at this one)
29.  Learn to dance
30.  Rent a convertible and drive a fun road
31.  Take more photos – go on 13 photo excursions
32.  Go on a spiritual journey/ retreat
33.  Celebrate the joy of life with family and friends

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
What would be on your to do list?

It’s not too late to make one – my list started in February; it doesn’t have to be a calendar year, just 12 months of mini-goals.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My House Rules

It was important for me to establish some house rules. My life as I knew it had gotten away from me.  I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. I had allowed several external factors (people, experiences, daily tasks, my job, etc) change me, without really realizing it. I had to put a stop to it. I had to re-discover what made me the “me” that I liked so much – because I was not liking the “me” I had become.

I started by calling these “my house rules” but rules are often made to be broken when you are naturally a bit of a rebel. Then I named them my “to do list” but then it feels like the pesky thing I HAVE to do, ugh. I decided that these need to be something I do with ease and grace. They are reminders of how to stay focused on being the best me I can be.  They are spiritual principles –not meant to be bent, not meant to be re-interpreted. They are meant to be just as they are, with no exceptions. They are meant to be accepted with grace, don't beat myself up if I falter, just pick myself up and try again.
House rules come in handy even when not at home,
especially when sharing such spacious accommodations with 4 other people.
Learn to look for the blessings in your life. What brings you joy, what makes you smile or quietly chuckle to yourself?  Start a nightly gratitude journal, writing 3 things that you are thankful for… and you gotta find a place where you are going to actually do this. And yes, the bathroom is most likely the best option, no shame in that. Don’t be ashamed of where you are being grateful or for what you are being grateful . I was thankful I found a way to watch the last season of Game of Thrones. I’ve even been thankful for my A/C.
Be kind to others and be kind to myself. With each step, each day, put my attention on what I’ve already accomplished. Know that others are trying to give their best effort too. Let others know what great work they are doing. Stop striving for perfection, just try to do your best.
Be honest with yourself in your commitments. When you make a commitment, you build hope. When you keep that commitment, you build trust (Covey).  This counts for when you make a commitment to yourself too.  Treat the commitments to yourself in the same way you would treat your commitments to another.
Stay focused on what is happening in front of you, remove distractions. (ie: your phone). Be present in the moments of your life instead of trying to "capture" the moment on film to enjoy later, just enjoy it now. (Besides, I am sure someone else will post it to YouTube before you even get home). Stop thinking of the next clever thing to say in a conversation. Be engaged, truly listen to the person sharing their story, give them the stage.
Say yes, maybe not to every happy hour invite, but to every suggestion or recommendation, you never know where your journey will take you or who you will meet who can help you along the way. I used to say, no thanks, not right for me. Now, I say, thanks, I will check it out and give it a try.

Be Creative (updated 09/09/2013)
I took my house rules as a creative assignment. Being creative helps me shut down all the thoughts running through my head. It allows me to focus on one task. I am never concerned with being perfect. I don't worry about mistakes. I just enjoy the process of creating. And now I have a visual reminder of my house rules.

Tell Me About You - I love hearing about other people’s experiences
What reminders (rules or practices) do you need to keep you being the best “you”?