A very interesting and short article on The Executive Biography from BlueSteps. They have a fresh idea: use your bio when networking. I like that idea a lot!
A couple additional tips:
Who else expects to see your biography? Boards and Senior Groups in PE/VC Firms.
Please never, ever, ever use an amateur photo in your bio or LI profile. A professional photo with good lighting is the quality level you must stick to. Please, trust me on this one. You deserve to look fantastic and your attention to professional polish will keep your confidence intact!
According to the latest report from The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC), growing industries in 2016 include Technology, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Industrial, and Professional Services.
Here is a snapshot of the anticipated growth in chart form:
In Part 1 of this article (which I strongly recommend you read if you haven’t already) I shared that your primary objective for utilizing LinkedIn is threefold:
Connect with key players.
Keyword optimize your profile so that when people find you and want to pitch job opportunities your way, you will have already aligned your profile with the opportunities that are most relevant to your talents, skills, and preferences—and crucial to your happiness and job satisfaction.
Use LinkedIn to develop thought leadership.
Let’s break down how these top three steps can be achieved:
Join Groups in Order to Connect with Key Players
There are tens of thousands of groups and group forums on LinkedIn. Forums give you an instant audience in a particular industry, networking group, alumni group, recruiter group, company, or geographic area! Currently, you can join up to 50 groups.
Search for groups on LinkedIn using the search bar at the top of your profile, and pick those groups that are most relevant to you. If you are a CFO in the airline industry, you might use keywords including CFO, Airline Executives, Financial+Aviation, etc…
Once you are accepted into a group, you can pose a question, post a news or blog article, or check out new career opportunities in the jobs section of the group.
But your most important priority, once you have joined LI groups, is to scroll through the member listing and invite key players and recruiters to join your network! Your reason for doing so? Because you are both members of the same group!
Why do this? Because you need to be in someone’s first-, second-, or third-degree network if you’re going to show up in their search results when they are looking for someone like you! In just minutes a week, you can check out the member listings for your groups and email select members to quickly and strategically grow your network.
To do so, check their profile for an email, then click the connect button and choose the “Other” option. Your message to whomever you wish to invite is simple: We’re in XYZ group together and I want to invite you to join my network! No need to include a greeting, since LinkedIn does that for you.
In the event that you can’t find an email, you can also directly message that person and ask them to connect with you or ask a fellow group member to introduce you. A third way (and the way I do it) is to check off the “Colleague” button so you can send them an invite directly.
Some will say you must know the person to use the “Colleague” option (including LinkedIn); however, I am of the school of thought that if you and I share a group together and I want to invite you to join my network, the fact that LinkedIn forces me to say you are a colleague in order for me to send you an invite is more of an “oh well, okay” situation. But that is me and just my personal opinion. What you decide to do is up to you and what you feel most comfortable with.
If the group you join is job search-related—or you are joining groups outside of your industry and you are concerned that you might inadvertently reveal the identification of your current company—you will want to hide the group icon so that it does not show up on your profile. You can easily do this in the group preferences settings once you are accepted into the group.
Become a Thought Leader Using LinkedIn
Wondering how to use the LinkedIn Activity Feed at the top of your home page? Articles you can post regarding those things that are relative to thought leadership include:
Info on a great career/leadership book you just read.
A picture of you with the keynote speaker at a conference or seminar you recently attended.
Links to one of your blog posts or an interesting career-related article you just read or were quoted in.
A photo of your volunteer service—running a 5K for a cause, for example -or promotion of any other cause about which you are passionate.
Once or twice a month is all you need to keep you top of mind with your network and solidify your branding and professional perception.
Bonus Tip On Privacy
We all assume some risk when we put our information online. You can adjust who sees your network and activity feeds in the LinkedIn settings section of your profile. For example, if you are concerned about your employer being able to see what you are doing on LinkedIn or knowing about your connections, simply set these to private.
Each week I talk with senior-level executives about their career needs and invariably the subject of LinkedIn always comes up. The conversation usually goes like this:
Me: So, how is your LI profile? Do you get many job opportunities coming to you through LI?
Them: Honestly, my profile is just sitting there. I have a fairly good network, but I don’t really see much action from it, and don’t really know how to change that.
Them: As COO of a billion-dollar company, I often wonder what I should be doing on LinkedIn—if anything—being so highly visible.
To begin making decisions about LinkedIn you must first have a clear vision of your audience. Who is your audience? Let’s look at it this way: If there were no obstacles to your next ideal career position, and that position was located in a pond, what kind of fish would be in that pond? Those fish are your audience.
Are your fish private equity firms? Top retained executive search firms? Fortune 500 technology companies? Fast-growth, mid-market companies in the (fill in your blank) industry? Presidents of security technology firms? Maybe a combination of the above?
Do you want or need to stay in your geographical location? Then limit this list to your geographical preference (minus the recruiters and PE firms – they have holdings/clients all over and are not geographically tied to their own physical location).
You need to fish where the fish are, so get your driving motivators down—including your industries of choice—and make sure those industries are growing, stable, or at least not in decline!
Social networking (for business) is a very effective advertising medium that makes it easy for you to reverse engineer your job search by connecting to your audience. Initially your only interest should be in connecting with them. Nothing else. This is the first and most important step!
Why reverse engineer your search? Because if you make $250k and up per year, only 10% of open jobs at your level are posted on the Internet.* Most executives think, “Well, that is why I depend on recruiters.” But the other 90% of jobs at your level are not held by recruiters. MOST are filled BEFORE a company has to hire a recruiter to find you. Let’s let that sink in for a moment…
LinkedIn is a platform that helps you cut the middleman out in many cases and can put you in direct contact with a key decision maker. In other words, you can be the leader you ARE—even in your job search! And I know that is where you are most comfortable. LinkedIn allows you to retain your leadership role, and control your own personal job transition, many times without having to be at the mercy of a chain of predetermined screening events with built-in competition.
The Bottom Line
If you are a top executive, the name of the game is threefold:
Connect with key players.
Keyword optimize your profile so that when people find you and want to pitch job opportunities your way, your profile is already aligned with your greatest preferences.
Even the most savvy sales and marketing people can get cold feet when faced with cold calling. After all, no one wants to be rejected, avoided, hung up on, bullied by gatekeepers, or faced with that uncomfortable moment when they realize they just backed someone into a corner by asking them if they are hiring or know of someone who is.
Before my resume writing and coaching business, I ran an executive recruiting firm. This is where I learned all of my best phone networking and cold call follow up secrets. I had to make hundreds of phone calls, year after year. I learned what worked and what didn’t when “phone networking.” And now I can share what I learned with job seekers to help them approach networking opportunities and cold or warm calling with ease, professionalism and excitement. There is a trick to it, but it’s not hard to learn – even for shy and introverted types (like myself).
Here are 8 tips that can help you get more interviews and offers:
Speak in terms of results. If you are approaching a key decision maker in a company “cold,” you must learn to speak their language and understand that the only reason they are going to want to talk with you is because you can make or save them money. Thus, you have to first understand how to translate your skills to %% and $$. Human Resources does not speak this language; they are oriented to matching skills and tasks.
Think what you do can never be quantified. Think again. For most positions, no one would have hired you if you hadn’t ended up making or saving them money.
Front load your introduction. When trying to get past the gatekeeper, state the facts immediately so the usual back-and-forth cadence of “may I say who is calling please” etc., is broken. Say: “Hi, this is Mary Elizabeth Bradford, President of Career Artisan, calling for John Smith in regards to our correspondence please.” You will get through more often if you stay in control.
Overcome objections. If your key contact says you need to talk to HR, say: “I respect what you are saying, but HR is usually not interested in talking about how I might save or make you money; rather, they are focused on how my hard and soft qualifications match your open positions. I would like to focus on how I might actually affect your bottom line. Would you be open to taking a meeting with me to explore that?”
Express your esteem. When calling someone for the first time, the single best thing you can do to ensure a good outcome is begin with a genuine compliment about them or their company. It shows you are focused and purposeful. You are putting the focus on THEM, not YOU (always a smart move), setting a positive tone, and acknowledging them as a guide/mentor/expert. Flattering.
Aim high. When calling a key contact, be brave and aim high. It is easier to go down the chain of command than to start low and go up without permission. You are in a stronger position when your information comes from the president to a subordinate. Finally, key executives are visionaries in companies and understand value propositions, so they are best suited to take those calls versus busy mid-managers focused on tasks. Of course, you see I am emphasizing that you have to know how to translate your value – and I write extensively about how to do this on my website.
Keep it simple. When you are networking you are networking – not job searching. These are two different activities! You must embrace and accept that. You are networking for information, for mentoring, and to ask for additional networking contacts. If you do it right, not only will you get all these things (which can and will help you tremendously in your career search), but you will probably get “solicited” by potential employers who are interested in you and asked for your resume. It is always the stronger position to be pursued.
Leave your resume at home. When you are networking never, ever, ever bring your resume with you. If they ask for your resume and you have one during your networking meeting, you will look as disingenuous as you will feel. Tell them you would be happy to send it to them by hard mail or email.
BONUS TIP: Stand up and smile. When you are talking on the phone, people can hear it, and your energy level will naturally rise.
It’s my personal opinion that the best way to approach anyone when networking during your executive job search – no matter what your relationship with them – is to ask them for their opinion or expertise. This is because most of us find it enjoyable to be asked what our opinion is and most of us enjoy helping people. It’s these two things you must focus on when leveraging your network during your job search.
It’s not very effective to ask people for a job, if their company is hiring, or if they know of any other companies who are hiring. First, not many people are aware of various companies that are hiring and most people will find this kind of question loaded with “pressure,” which causes them to back off rather than open up the conversation to brainstorming ways they might help you. Second, it places them as the leader in the conversation and you as the passive receiver, which also creates pressure. There are other reasons that asking for a job does not work, but these are two of the main factors.
Mentally, you need to approach networking in the following ways:
You must accept and understand how asking for information is going to benefit you. Have a basic understanding of networking and how it can work to propel your conversations. Give those you are speaking to a gracious opening to share confidential information with you about company growth or available jobs, without having to point blank ask them for it. Understand how you can easily ask your network to introduce you to others who might help you.
You must accept and understand that you are NOT being sneaky and really just asking for a job under the guise of “networking.” If you don’t come to grips with this, you will find yourself saying and doing things that put this seed in the other person’s mind. You ARE networking, NOT job searching, and you must separate the two. You can then approach your networking contact with a lot of authentic positive enthusiasm in the true spirit of asking for their expertise. Most always they will respond by giving you more than what you asked for in help and support.
I should point out that the one area you want to avoid asking for help and advice about is your resume. The various answers you will elicit based on the vantage point of each person is going to be so varied that it will confuse you and shake your confidence. If you want feedback on your resume, please ask a qualified, certified resume writer for an objective, professional review.
The following is a great script for networking with friends and associates. Note how the approach supports your position as leader and as someone who is both confident and knows how to take initiative. This particular script is ideal if you are exploring alternative industries, but it can be easily modified to work as well when staying within your industry – simply say you are conducting a little due diligence on market and economic indicators of the ____ industry in preparation for an upcoming job search.
I have stepped back and looked at my career for the past 6 months and have determined there are a few industries that would be a good fit for me. They are ______ and ______. Model organizations that probably fit are ______, ______ and ______. Do you know anyone I could talk with for a few minutes to get some mentoring as I continue to gather info on these industries?
Here are a few additional tips to help you network successfully:
Keywords and Phrases that Make a BIG Impact
I would be very grateful for any mentoring you may be open to giving me.
Is there any way I can return the favor of your time and expertise?
I would love to garner your expertise on …
Keywords and Phrases to Avoid
I am looking for a job.
Do you know anyone who may be looking to hire?
I am looking at hiring trends and want to talk to you about …
The Wrong Approach
Abrasive, possibly frustrated.
Not networking, feeling entitled, or feeling like you are asking too much of or inconveniencing the person you are talking to.
Venting on the person you are speaking with because you have not been eliciting the attention you believe you should have.
Tips for networking and informational interview calls:
The Right Approach
Friendly, informal, don’t talk too much.
Peer-to-peer or executive-to-executive networking.
Can you help me? Could I “interview you” as the expert in your industry?
As you network, you will at some point inevitably be faced with a “gatekeeper” – an administrative assistant whose job is to screen people that call their boss. Some of these secretaries and administrators are REALLY good at what they do! Here are some tried and true tactics for getting PAST them FAST.
Front-Load Your Introduction
Gatekeepers are used to a certain pace in their phone conversations. It creates what I call an “autopilot” response. However, if that script is changed, they have to go off autopilot and many times it takes them off guard for a second. If you are confident, you can use this to get by them.
Front-loading your introduction to break the autopilot response:
The Gatekeeper: Hello, Mr. Smith’s office.
You: Hello, this is Mark Jackson from Ciley Corporation calling for Mr. Smith please.
The Gatekeeper: Um, who may I say is calling again, sorry?
You: Again, this is Mark Jackson from Ciley Corporation calling for Mr. Smith, please.
I truly understand that in today’s world of instant information it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and maybe a little callous. Kind of like giving a hard time to telemarketers that call our homes around dinner time. It is easy to forget it is a human being just trying to make a living on the other end of the line. Perhaps someone’s son or daughter trying to pay their way through college.
A long time ago I decided I was going to do everything I could to be NICE—REALLY nice, to everyone I spoke with—no matter what the circumstances and whether I knew them or not.
Because in my career, I have been on the other end of the stick many times.
And something that just happened to me this morning REMINDED me of my commitment and how important it is for us all to be gracious when we network.
But first let’s go waaayyy back to my days as an executive recruiter. As a job seeker, you will bend over backward to have a good conversation with a recruiter right? Well as a recruiter who continuously had to cold call and have conversations with employed executives—sometimes my call would elicit hostility. Executives would tell me “DON’T CALL ME AGAIN!” or would grill me “HOW DID YOU GET MY NUMBER?!” or, “I AM NOT INTERESTED IN ANY OF YOUR JOBS!!”
It always amazed me. And often a year or two later many of those executives would call me for help because they found themselves in a job search. You can imagine how “eager” I was to help place them with one of my beloved client companies.
Which leads me to this morning’s incident. Interestingly, a recruiter had requested to connect with me on LinkedIn—which I accepted. I always send follow up email to my new connections to thank them for reaching out to connect and I invite them to sign up for my free newsletter. This particular recruiter emailed me back and said “TAKE ME OFF YOUR LIST IMMEDIATELY!” I decided to personally email her back and explain she was a connection, and I had simply invited her to sign up for my e-zine with a link.
Here is what my new LinkedIn connection wrote back: “LET ME REPHRASE: DON’T SEND ME ANY MORE EMAILS!!”
I promptly removed this recruiter from my LinkedIn connections.
This is a PERFECT example of what we should never, ever do. As we network, we simply can’t afford to be rude or mean. So . . . here are some networking tips I have found very useful that I would like to share with you:
In your career, strive to be nice to EVERYBODY no matter their station or basis of relationship. You just never know when the tables may turn and who wants to spread bad energy around?
If you must say NO to somebody, do so as graciously and professionally as possible.
If someone or something around you is negative, cut off communication, if possible. Leaders and professionals who are serious about their careers protect their inner circle and filter the information they “let in.”
When networking, think: “How can I help?” If you will always lead with thinking about the other person, you will be showing them honor and respect and they will repay you naturally in kind. Long term, this is the true core of networking. It doesn’t matter if your connection is in person, on LinkedIn, Facebook, or phone . . . strive for consistency in all you do.
If someone you are talking to is rude or negative—do not get defensive. This includes all the things that can potentially happen to you in a job search such as someone promising they will call you, or invite you back for an interview, but never do.
Find a mentor who holds a high visibility position—one whose personality you admire—and then emulate them. If you are lucky enough to know several executive mentors, you will start to see a pattern. Leaders/Mentors generally have a certain likeability . . . a charisma, if you will, for various reasons—some are attractive because they are fair and do the right thing, others because they want to foster the potential in you, and still others because they are warm and kind.
Whomever you are speaking to, try to find a positive thing about that person that you can complement him or her on. Whenever I have the opportunity to speak to someone new, I LOVE figuring out what that one thing is that I can compliment them on. Sometimes it is their photo, other times it is something about their voice, their personality, or their career. This becomes a good habit and you will find yourself focusing on the positive more versus the negative in your daily dealings with others.
If you make a practice of focusing on and helping others, at some point you may feel used or that you have not gotten back what you have put in. This goes with the territory. Don’t let it deter you from your course to develop a good reputation, overall virtue, and will ultimately make you a better person.
I feel fortunate that I have been humbled by the above types of experiences over the years because it gives me an excuse to take a bad thing and turn it around to reflect something positive. I hope you can take one thing from the list above and share the love.
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