As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was active in a networking group called, I Know Somebody Houston (IKSH). Now that I’ve relocated to Nashville, I’ve been looking for a new group to start rebuilding my professional network. My standards are pretty high because of how effective IKSH is at helping new members share their story to the group and find a like-minded connection.

This week I attended a meeting for the Levo League Nashville Chapter. This is a group of young women that make networking fun because it’s socially driven. For people that are intimidated by the concept of networking, this laid back, fun approach is for you.

It was a Happy Hour event that was very casual and geared towards getting to know each other. As you build on the connection, then you can see what areas you’re able to help each other. What I liked is that this event made everyone feel relaxed, they weren’t focused on trying to pitch themselves but on building genuine relationships.

I had a really interesting conversation with one of the leaders of the group Amanda Mishelle, a wardrobe stylist. She was sharing with me how she’s very excited about her new assessory line she just launched called NASHchic. During our conversation, I mentioned to her that I was very passionate about working on the new phase of a product launch event. She was so supportive that she has already offered to give me connections with industry professionals to test the product. I wasn’t expecting everyone to be so generous since I had just joined the group.

The Levo League has chapters in various cities around the U.S. If you’re a young woman that likes a laid back approach to build your professional network, I would highly recommend you check them out.

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When I ask people how they feel about networking, typically they have a negative response. The majority of people say it makes them feel uncomfortable and awkward. Another problem is that they leave a networking event with 15 business cards and don’t know what to do with them. Here’s some advice to ease the anxiety about networking. I usually ask questions that center around these categorizes: interests, desires/goals, and needs. This makes it easier to break the ice because people enjoy talking about topics they’re interested in discussing.

Interests: In the last post, I discussed asking people about something they’re currently working on that they’re passionate about instead of asking what they do. Some other questions you could ask are, what causes/charities are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Desires/Goals: What are some career goals you would like to accomplish? If you’re attending a conference, what are you hoping to gain from attending this conference?

Needs: What challenge is your top priority to get resolved in your business/career? What brought you to this event?

When you exchange business cards, if there isn’t a picture of the person on the card, on the back write down a brief description of their appearance. Also, write down one interesting they said during the conversation and a possible common interest. This will help you to determine which people that it could be beneficial to follow up with after the event and remember what was said during the conversation. Before you call them, make sure to look them up on Linkedin to discern if there are some other ways you can bring value to each others careers.

One of the first questions we ask a person after meeting them is, “What do you do?” The reason this question is so important is because our culture places value on people based on their profession. People put so much emphasis on their career, that if they become unemployed, they feel as though they lack an identity.

Here’s the problem with making judgements about a person’s status or value based on their profession. We can miss out on where that person is headed or the potential they have. A janitor could aspire to start their own janitorial business or be a talented artist that’s working a job until their art is able to bring in a consistent income. We could miss out on a diamond in the rough.

Instead, a better question is what’s something you’re working on that you’re passionate about? By asking this question, you can learn more interesting parts of a person’s story and what they’re really about. I have a friend that does billing for healthcare companies but on the side she’s an entrepreneur that aspires to get a product sold in stores. When I met her, I asked her this question and she told me about her product. I loved the idea so much that I offered to help her figure out how to launch her product.

If I had asked her what’s your profession, she probably would have told me that she works in medical billing and most likely that would have been the end of the conversation. Both of us would have missed out on what we have in common and how we could help each other.

I challenge you the next time you’re networking or meeting someone new, ask them what’s something you’re working on that you’re passionate about? It will probably be a more interesting conversation and you never know, a connection could come out of it.

So what happens when you gave your goals your best shot but nothing much has changed? I personally have been going through a period of stagnation and have learned how to deal with it from a healthy perspective.

Last year I did everything possible to advance The Connect with Your Calling Project. I was able to help a few people get connections to advance their careers and I’m grateful that some are making progress. With one client in particular we went through the casting process for 2 national TV shows and almost got selected both times but then towards the end we were cut. Needless to say this was an emotionally draining process and very disappointing.

We haven’t given up and decided to keep moving forward but we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. I’ve made a conscious decision that I’m not going to let my happiness be dependent on whether or not we achieve our goal. I’ll be thrilled to help my client get her product on national TV but the outcome is not under my control. I’ve decided to be content regardless of the outcome to maintain my peace and happiness.

Going after your dreams is a bruising process so here are a few suggestions that came from an article written by Bishop Joseph W. Walker III.

  1. Find contentment. When you know you’ve done your best and given your all, you can live with no regrets.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Visualize where you want to be this time next year and come up with a strategy with small measurable steps.
  3. Set realistic goals. Don’t overdo it. Recognize that you are only one person and it’s better to do a few things well than do many things horribly.
  4. Be intentional about prioritizing. Failure to do so may lead to unnecessary compromises that may set you back.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

I’ve decided to address a situation that I’m currently helping a client deal with that happens to everyone at some point during their professional career. What do you do when you make a mistake or drop the ball at work? It’s unreasonable to have the expectation that you’re on your A game 100% of the time, so when these things happen, you need to already know how to handle it in a way that it doesn’t permanently damage your career.

I’m going to use the recent mistake that Steve Harvey made announcing the winner of Miss Universe 2015 as an example.

  1. Take complete responsibility for the mistake. (Don’t come up with excuses) Acknowledge what went wrong and explain why it won’t happen again.
  2. Apologize. Let the person know that you understand how your actions affected them and have a genuine remorse about the situation.
  3. If possible try to rectify the situation. If there’s some action you can take to make the situation better, than you should do your best to fix it. The offended party is more likely to forgive if they see actions over just hearing the words I’m sorry.

If Steve wants to rectify the situation publicly, he could have her come on his talk show, apologize to her and find a way to assist her in accomplishing some of the things she would have done as Miss Universe. There are usually some creative ways to fix the problem that may turn out to be a blessing for them and you.

I don’t know how to play poker but from the people that I’ve watched that are good at playing poker, I’ve observed that they know how to turn a bad or mediocre hand of cards into a winning hand. The same applies to all of us. When we’re born, we’re dealt a hand of cards.

(This information came from Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of the Purpose Driven Life.)

5 CARDS

  1. Chemistry (DNA) – Chemistry is our DNA, hair type, eye color, ethnicity, intellect, athletic build, etc.
  2. Circumstances- Where we’re born, financial status, educational opportunities, health conditions, etc.
  3. Connections- family, friends, co-workers, spouse, etc.
  4. Consciousness (What we believe about ourselves) – self-esteem, worldview, etc.
  5. Choice (Wild Card)

So how do you change your life to go in a positive direction if you’ve been dealt a bad hand? In life, we have the wild card called CHOICE. We can’t change our DNA, the circumstances and the family we were born into but with the choices we make every day we can change the hand we were dealt. Here’s how you can take the cards you were dealt and start to turn them into a winning hand.

Generally speaking, make better choices:

  1. Seek to improve yourself by making intentional choices daily.
  2. Search for opportunities to change your location to a better environment that offers better educational and career prospects.
  3. Use service towards others as a way to connect yourself to productive people that are making a difference in the community and remove yourself from the people that are bad influences.
  4. Challenge incorrect thoughts and expose yourself to elevated ways of thinking.

In recent conversations, I’ve discovered that the “Hidden Job Market” is truly hidden because a lot of people have never heard of it. That’s why I want to give this information to as many people as I can. Recent stats show that up to 80% of jobs are not advertised. Employers would rather save time and money by hiring suitable candidates within the company or getting referrals from current employees.

So how do you find out about these job openings? I read a Forbes article that recommends a few key tips.

  1. Make networking a practice, not just something you do when you need a job. Make a point to regularly contact former colleagues and make new LinkedIn connections so you can stay in the loop about new job openings in your network. Also, you have to be willing to give in order to get, so share information with others so they will in turn want to give information to you.
  2. Tell people the specific jobs you’re looking for, follow up the conversation with an email and find out if they can introduce you to any hiring managers or other decision makers.
  3. Build your network by joining professional networking groups and going to conferences. I’ve gone into specific detail in previous posts about how to be effective at networking events for those that cringe at the idea of networking at big events.
  4. If you have a specific company in mind, see if any of your LinkedIn connections have contacts at that company first to set up an introduction. If all else fails, be bold and contact the hiring manager at the company you want to work for directly. Email or call to introduce yourself and explain how your background and experience would be useful there. This way, even if the place currently has a hiring freeze, you’ll be top of mind when positions do open up.

There are millions of jobs in the Hidden Job Market that are just waiting for you. I hope these tips help you to be proactive in leveraging your connections to tap into these career opportunities.