How to Network Like a Pro

The most common advice you will hear when it comes to finding a job is to network, then network some more. Attending networking events expands your circle of contacts and helps keep you on the forefront of people’s minds. Connecting with another professional for even just a few minutes at an event could lead to future referrals, partnerships or even job offers. But have you ever wondered exactly how it is done?

Before the Event - Get Your Game Plan Straight
Set some realistic goals for yourself beforehand. Are you attending the event to meet new people in your industry? Perhaps you’re there to reconnect with friends and bolster preexisting connections. People attend networking events for different reasons, and once you establish a game plan, keeping these targets in mind will help you stay focused.

Get Rid of the Jitters
Networking newbies may worry about questions like “What if I’m overdressed?” If you are feeling uneasy, contact the event coordinator and find out details like dress code and how large of a crowd to expect. Eliminating unknown factors will help minimize your pre-event jitters.

During the Event - Arrive Early
Make every effort to arrive to the event early. Arriving before the crowd will allow you to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, secure a prime viewing location and establish early rapport with attendees.

Start a Conversation
If there is a key person you’d like to meet before the end of the night, one strategy for a smooth introduction is to ask your host to introduce the two of you. If you don't see many familiar faces in the crowd, start with striking up a conversation with people standing alone, then work your way up to larger groups as your comfort level rises. If you came with colleagues, fight the urge to stay with them the entire event. Move around and speak with new people – it’s what you’re there for!

Plan Ahead of Time
There are certain questions that are bound to come up when you are first introduced to a person. Make sure you have a succinct and interesting description of yourself and occupation ready beforehand to ensure a steady flow of conversation.

Be a Good Listener
It’s a good idea to pay close attention to the conversations you have with people. Ask questions to get a better idea about the person. Even if you don’t get much time to discuss what you do, commit the basics of your conversation to memory so that you can follow up with the person at a later time.

After the Event - Handling Business Cards
It can be hard to place a face with the stack of business cards that you bring home from a successful event, so only ask for business cards if you are genuinely interested in cultivating a relationship with the person. When you get home, take a few moments to jot down a couple of notes about each person on the back of their card. Do they have kids? Are they in the process of remodeling their home? If its been a while since you've last spoken to them, use these notes to jog your memory next time you get in touch.

Strike While The Iron's Hot
If you’ve had a great conversation with someone and exchanged contact information, make sure to initiate contact with them within 72 hours. Invite them to lunch and take your connection to the next level.

Cultivating Relationships
The ideal business relationship is beneficial to all parties involved, but that does not mean you will reap the benefits of your relationship within the first days of meeting. Start slowly and focus on cultivating a relationship rather than pressing the person for what it is you’re after. If you’re hoping for a job referral or a new customer, be patient and demonstrate how your friendship can benefit them.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try and close deals. Grab a drink, meet some new faces and try to have a good time!

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Succeed at Your Online Job Search

With the US unemployment rate at 10.80 percent, competition continues to be fierce in the job market. New positions are being posted daily, but it can be frustrating when your resume fails generate as much response as you would like. If you’re having trouble with your online job search, here are several tips that will make your efforts more effective and increase your chances of getting hired.

Visit Specialized Job Boards
Many companies post their open positions on job boards to capitalize on their high visibility rates. Rather than casting a wide net and spreading yourself thinly between too many job sites, focus on job boards that specialize in your field. This method will present relevant positions that are more likely to be a match. For example, If you’re in the tech industry, check out Dice.com. Creative professionals might want to visit Krop.com.

Act Quickly
RSS Feeds can be used on job boards to alert you of open positions as soon as they are posted. Employers are often flooded with qualified resumes, so applying as quickly as possible will always be to your advantage.

Customize Each Resume for the Job Description
Take the time to tweak each resume to better fit the job description. Even though you may be applying to similar positions, each job description will have key phrases you will want to pay close attention to. Due to the increasing volume of applicants, many companies use filtering software to sift through the most relevant resumes. Don’t get lost in the shuffle – try to avoid using industry slang and abbreviations on your resume and focus on repeating key phrases and certifications throughout.

Let Work Find You!
Recruiters for the biggest companies regularly scout job boards for talent, so take a few moments to upload your resume to a few of the most relevant job boards. Be sure to include your contact information in your profile.

Enlist Help From the Professionals
An often underutilized resource for job searchers is the job listings on staffing firms’ career portals. Working with a staffing firm who specializes in your industry to land a contract or full time role is a smart way to go. Quality staffing firms have established relationships with companies in your area, and often have the inside scoop on open positions long before the general public becomes aware of them. Plus, the recruiter who helps you land a job can continue to be a great resource for you in the future.

When searching online isn't yielding the results you're after, remember that in person networking can also provide that extra connection needed to get the role you're looking for!

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Go From Temp to Full Time

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, companies are relying on contract or temporary workers to help meet the demands of business. This means that you may have an easier time finding work as a contractor than searching as a regular employee. There may be a definite end date in sight, but contract workers often receive full benefits, greater pay than their full time counterparts and a more flexible schedule.

Once you begin at a company as a contract worker, it does not mean you cannot be hired in a more permanent role. If full time work is your end goal, here are some tips that can help you convert that contract position to a full time roll.

Be an Important Asset
Getting hired in a contract position is a great way to get your foot in the door of the hottest companies in the area. Contract roles are often quite specialized, so once you’ve gotten in, show your employer that you have more skills than the standard job description. Don’t neglect the basics – be proactive, positive, and show dedication. When a permanent role opens up within the company, you’ll be a logical choice to consider.

Integrate into Company Culture
An important step in being taken on as a full time employee is to be seen a part of the team, especially if you wish to stay within the same group. Don’t think of yourself as “only a contractor” – attend company functions and fully integrate into company culture. Try to meet individuals within the company that may be in a position to help you in the future. Nice gestures, like bringing in a sweet snack into the break room for others to enjoy, will also help you to be thought of as a committed member of the team.

Be Selective About Who Places You
Does your staffing company have a good relationship with your potential employer? Make sure the staffing firm helping you land a role regularly places candidates with your skill set in the company you’re hoping to receive a full time offer from.

Express an Interest
While your project is in process, focus your efforts on performing well and showing your commitment to your team. However, as your contract role nears it’s completion, it is a good idea to express your interest in a full time position to your manager or company recruiters. You’ll want to use caution when vocalizing your interest – you do not want to be a bother or appear as though you took the contract role solely for the hope of being hired permanently.

Remember, be realistic with your expectations. Keep in mind that some contract roles were created with little flexibility on the end date, so it may not be wise to push for a full time conversion when the circumstances do not allow for such.

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Phone Interview? No Problem!

The first step to landing a job is doing well in the phone interview. Hiring managers use phone interviews as a screening method, and to make it past this first round you need to assure the hiring manger that you have the necessary communications skills and experience needed for the position.

Since there can be no face to face communication, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Keep these tips in mind to ensure you portray yourself over the phone just as well as you would in person.

Take advantage of the Phone
Since you have the freedom to choose your own location to take the call, why not keep a few notes out that you might normally have to leave behind? Take this opportunity to keep your resume and the job description out for reference. This would be especially handy if you have applied to multiple positions in a short time frame. You can also jot down any questions you have to ask at the end of your interview, which will show you were taking an active interest in the conversation.

Etiquette Rules Still Apply
The hiring manager has to form his first impression of you on much less data than if it you were speaking in person. With this in mind, you’ll want to be polite and covey your listening and comprehension skills. Apply standard etiquette rules to your phone conversation. Do not interrupt, and you may want to speak a bit slower than usual.

Location Matters
Even though you may not have to leave the comfort of your own living room, it would be to your advantage to simulate an interview environment. This means you’ll want to have a quiet, calm area to take the call in. Devote at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the call to separate yourself from your previous activities and get into the proper interview mindset. Review the job position, jot down a few notes and be confident in your abilities.

Prepare Well
Remember, the interviewer cannot see you, so use this to your advantage. It also could help to have some talking points written down about topics the hiring manger is likely to ask. You’ll also want to have a list of accomplishments as they relate to the current position.

And lastly, smile! Your positivity is one thing that is always conveyed through the phone.

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Searching for a Job From a Distance

Locating a job can be difficult in even the most prosperous of times, and when you are a non-local candidate, being selected for an interview can be even harder. The relocation programs that companies used to attract candidates were often the first benefit to be slashed when cost cutting measures were implemented.

Junior candidates have the most difficult time when applying for a job out of state. Why would a company take a risk in hiring a candidate from out of the area when there are plenty of local candidates to choose from? Even more senior candidates will have the odds stacked against them. A hiring manager will tend to select someone local over another who is equally qualified but located elsewhere. Why? When hiring an out-of-area candidate there are more variables to consider. For example, local candidates can usually start sooner, and since they didn’t move a great distance for the position, managers usually feel less conflicted if they are forced to let them go.

Here are some tips that will help maximize your chances as an "out-of-towner":

Be Open with Your New Employer
Your address will easily reveal you as an out-of-area candidate, so if you’re using a cover letter it is a good idea to address this. Some managers see relocation as obstacle, so be sure to state the fact that you will not need relocating assistance and that you will cover all travel costs.

Bring in the Professionals
If you’re resume simply isn’t getting the reception you would like, it may be best to enlist professional help and consider working with a staffing agency. Staffing firms already know the local job market and have established relationships with many hiring mangers in the top companies. You will be much more likely to land a contract or full time position in your industry within a timely manner and will save yourself the seemingly futile effort of sending out resume after resume.

Ask a Friend to Help
This is a somewhat controversial method, but if you have a friend in the area, you can use their address on your resumes and correspondences. However, since you are portraying yourself as a local resident, this method should only be used if you are truly able behave as a local candidate would. This means all mail must forwarded to you on a timely basis, flying out on short notice for interviews, and giving only the standard two weeks notice. Keep in mind that you never want to mislead your hiring manager, so this method might be most effective if the city you are relocating to is not too far from home.

As Always, Network, Network, Network!
Attending networking opportunities is best done in person, but if that is not possible, use every online resource available. This may mean digging into companies’ social networks. Check their Facebook career pages for inside information and updates, and make sure to join any online industry organizations in that area. Start some conversations – you never know who you may connect with.

Remember, finding a position out of state will take longer than a local position. The odds are stacked against you, so be patient, be persistent, and stay positive!

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Staffing Firm Myths – True or False?

Let’s say one day a recruiter calls and asks if you are interested in a position with one of the top industry giants in the area. After speaking with you for a bit about your experience, she fills you in on the position's details, and with your approval, lets you know she will submit you as a candidate. Sounds too good to be true, right? Not so! Many people incorrectly believe there is a “catch” to landing a job through a staffing agency. It’s time to debunk those staffing agency myths!

Do staffing firms only offer short term, temporary jobs?
Some companies do look to staffing firms to fill short term roles if the regular employee takes a sudden leave of absence, but the majority of positions a staffing firm fills for clients are longer term contract to hire roles (averaging six months to a year in duration) or even regular full time employment. Benefits are included, as well.

I’ve heard I’ll get paid less if I work through a staffing agency.
This is not so. Staffing firms offer competitive rates that are on par with industry standards. Those with in demand or difficult to locate skills command top dollar, just as they would in a regular full-time role.

Staffing firms are only for entry level jobs, not for more senior employees like myself.
There are of course some staffing agencies that work to hire entry level personnel, but most staffing agencies work with companies who need help locating elusive candidates with highly specialized or in demand skills. Often times, these skill sets can only be developed after many years of experience.

If I work in a contract role, I might miss out on getting hired full time.
On the contrary, working at company in a contract capacity  often opens doors that you otherwise would not have had access to. Once you establish a proven track record within a company, it makes your shot at a full time role with them even stronger. Also, a working contract position means once the assignment is over, you can choose to pursue full time employment else where.

Have you heard of any other staffing firm misconceptions? Leave a comment below and we’ll try to clear them up!

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Keeping the Balance: Social Networking vs. Professionalism

Like it or not, social media has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. Nearly every website you visit will ask if you want to “share on Facebook” or “tweet this article” – it’s everywhere and does not seem to be letting up anytime soon. If you are connected with both coworkers and friends in these networks, it can be difficult to keep the line between personal and professional clear. A CareerBuilder.com survey states that 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to research candidates. The last thing you want to do is post content that’s professionally inappropriate and have it fall into the wrong hands!

We All Share the Space
Even though you can select who you officially let into your network, in many cases, your content may still be viewable to people outside your network who are internet savvy enough to access it. This is especially true when you are on the job search, when every possible professional edge you can give yourself counts. That inflammatory comment you left on the article you disagreed with? We can see it! So, think twice about choosing that fun photo of you with the beer in your hand as your default photo.

Learn Your Way Around
If you are new to social networking and want to get involved, it’s wise to learn the ins and outs of each network. Twitter has a more laid back, casual vibe, so this platform may be best for sharing thoughts with friends and family. On the other hand, we all know LinkedIn is the perfect platform for growing your professional network.

Facebook is the most widely used social networking site, so we tend to go there to post photos, speak what’s on our mind and share interesting articles. It can be tricky to walk the line between casual and professional, since it shares some of Twitter’s fun atmosphere and LinkedIn’s career enhancing capabilities. If you have both friends and professional acquaintances in your network, we recommend making heavy use of Facebook’s privacy settings that give users lots of control over who gets to view what content.

Surprising Results
According to the survey, here are the top reasons hiring managers decline a candidate after researching their social media activity:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information - 53 percent
  • Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs - 44 percent
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients - 35 percent
  • Candidate showed poor communication skills - 29 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments - 26 percent
  • Candidate lied about qualifications - 24 percent
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer - 20 percent

Interact wisely on these spaces. Staying positive and posting useful information is a plus. When employers do a public Google or social media search on your name, we want them to be reassured with what they find!

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Make the Most of Gaps in Employment

If you’ve been out of work for any significant amount of time, it’s a good idea to start engaging in activities to make that employment gap in your resume seem more like a positive than a negative. If during an interview you're asked to explain a long gap in your employment history, you definitely want to avoid looking unproductive. It’s wise to keep the task of looking for a job first on your priority list, but we recommend looking into some of the below activities, as well.

Further Your Knowledge
Nothing looks better to an employer than taking the initiative to further refine your skills. Signing up for seminars and classes will keep you up to date with the hottest trends in your career field, even while not actively working in the industry. You’ll likely add new people to your professional network, so be sure to keep your resume updated as you master any new skills.

Start an Industry Blog
Being unemployed is not synonymous to being uninterested. If you’ve got a bit of free time in your hands, why not start an industry blog where you share your thoughts on industry-related news? Keep it strictly professional, of course. This will give you an informal platform to showcase your knowledge on the subject and will enhance your professional online presence. These days, I’m sure most hiring managers perform at least a simple Google search, and a successful industry blog appearing along side your Facebook and LinkedIn pages could be quite impressive.

Try Freelance or Contract Work
Both of these methods can be good ways to add to your portfolio, as well as act as a source of income. Being a temporary or contract employer can be a nice change of pace. You get the flexibility of short or long term projects, competitive pay rates and can range in duration.

Volunteer and Be Acitve!
This one almost goes without saying. It’s always great to volunteer to help out a good cause, however strategically speaking, it may be best to support organizations that are more relevant to your career field. They’ll have a greater impact on your resume, and you’ll get yet another opportunity to grow your ever-important professional network.

By becoming more involved with professional associations, you may have the opportunity to do some impressive things, including writing for their newsletter or acting as a representative at trade events. When you’re unemployed, it’s often not what you know, but who you know. This is why the importance of networking cannot be stressed enough.

Even if you implement just one of these tips, no one will ever be able to call you unproductive during you unemployment!

For more opportunities please visit our Career Portal.

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Perfectly Qualified? Make Your Resume Stand Out!

It can be tough to get an interview in a job market where multitudes of equally-qualified people are fighting for the very same position. So, it’s your job to make your resume stand out from all of the others. We aren’t suggesting that you resort to using brightly colored paper or unusual fonts. Instead, you should try to highlight certain things in your resume that will work in your favor. Here are several tips will point you in the right direction.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Having one resume that you repeatedly send out is certainly the most time-efficient way to apply for a job, but it may not be the most effective method of securing an interview. You may be applying to several similar jobs within your skill set, but there are always subtle differences in job descriptions that your generic resume could fail to address. Take a close look at the job description’s specific key words and use them in your resume as applicable. Not only will your resume appear more targeted, but because larger employers often rely on keyword searches to weed out under-qualified resumes, this method can increase your chances of making it through their preliminary filter.

Education is Important
Some senior applicants may find that it has been many years since they completed their last level of education. That degree you earned from that top tier school may have helped you nab your very first job, and it may very well come in handy again! Even if it has been years since you graduated, if you believe the school you attended is a selling point, make sure to place it in a visible position. Don’t let it get buried at the bottom of your resume – you never know if you and the hiring manager are alumni of the same university.

Get Involved
Mangers know that people who are genuinely interested in their work tend to perform better. We know you are interested in your work – that’s why you chose that career field! If you want to further authenticate your interest in the eyes of your hiring manger, we suggest highlighting your participation in any industry organizations. In addition to expanding your professional network, it will show that you have more than just an idle interest in your career. The same goes for noting any industry publications that you may have written - this will position you as an industry expert, and who wouldn't want one of those on their team?

Do you have more methods to distinguish your resume from the rest of the bunch? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

For more opportunities please visit our Career Portal.

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Nail Your Interview – How to Make A Great First Impression

So you’ve landed an interview – great news! You know that this job is made for you, but how do you convince the hiring manager that you are a better fit than the other candidates? If it’s an in person interview, you will likely have a short amount of time to convince the team to hire you, so here are a few tips to make a great first impression and get a leg up on the rest of the competition.

Know What They’re Looking For
Every interviewee has at least a general idea of what the position they’re interviewing for will entail, but you’ll have a distinct advantage if you take the time to study the job description thoroughly. We aren’t quite suggesting that you memorize the job description word for word, but you do want to try and remember the phrases used to describe the job’s duties. Try to work these same phrases in to your answers when discussing how past projects relate to the current position’s responsibilities.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Job descriptions don’t always provide as many details about the open position as we would like. Instead of fumbling through the interview as the hiring manager slowly reveals more about the position, it’s certainly okay to politely ask the interviewer for further clarification. If you are a fuzzy on the specifics, you can simply say something like, “I noticed that the job description seemed to mostly focus the skills needed for this position. Could you please tell me a bit more about the specific job duties the successful candidate will be performing?” The more information you know about the position, the more targeted your answers can be.

Time May be of the Essence
Pay close attention to your interviewer’s demeanor. Do they seem rushed or more leisurely? The higher up the person interviewing you is within in company, the less time they’ll have to speak with you in detail. Have a shorter, more succinct version of your accomplishments ready in case you only have a few moments to show them why you’re the person for the job.

Look for Common Ground
Running a simple Google or LinkedIn search on the hiring manager can reveal a good amount of public details. Do you share common ground with the interviewer, like having the same alma mater or a similar interest in community volunteering? If the interview has a more casual atmosphere, it will be in your favor to try and work any common ground into the conversation in a polite, non-forced manner. Most people like to surround themselves with individuals they share similarities with, and if your skills are excellent, this could be all you need to beat the competition.

Do you have more ways to stand out in an interview? Leave us a comment and share your tips!

For more opportunities please visit our Career Portal.

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