May 18 2012

Networking Your Way to a Better Job


Carlos Portocarrero

This is Day 3 of the 39 Days to a Better Job series, where we review actionable tips to make you better at your job.

Neuron pattern

Networking: when you hear the word you immediately picture some lame event in a high-school gym with nervous people in suits pressing other annoyed people for a job.

With all the social-networking tools out there, you can do all this from home!

Seriously, your network is one of your most important parts of your career. Consider that:

  • You take it to every job you go.
  • It can get you a new job even if you’re not 100% qualified.
  • It can bring in new business.
  • You can meet some interesting people.
  • It’s fun to see how high you can go.

Networking events are one thing, but networking in general is pretty easy these days as long as you follow some general guidelines.

Add Everyone

You can sift through them later (if you really feel you need to), but for now just sit down and add every single person you can possible think of. Coworkers, former coworkers, friends, people you were introduced to that one time at the bar, etc.

If you remember a name, add that person. Don’t be shy. Don’t wonder if it’s “weird” that you’re adding them to your network.

Just do it.

It’s not just about having this person in your network, it’s about getting access to all the people in that person’s network.

For example, thanks to @chrisguillebeau, I’m connected to the most powerful man on the planet via LinkedIn:

barack and I linkedin

So if I ever get in trouble I know he’s got my back.

You should do the same: once you have a healthy amount of people added you can start poking around to see who is a few degrees away from you—you’ll be surprised at who you find.

The Sites

Use them all: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you work in a field where images and design are a key component, then you might consider using Pinterest.

But for now you should be safe with the big three: most people are on at least one of those three networks.

Facebook is good if you’re trying to get to know someone better on a personal basis (which can help), but you might have to actually know them so it’s not as awkward.

Twitter is great if you want to “listen in” on the things a person is interested in or thinking about at any given time. And the fact that they don’t have to accept your request is a big part of it.

LinkedIn is where you should focus your efforts: it’s focused on work so if someone you just met at a client meeting adds you, it’s not weird at all because it’s business.

Use Them

Don’t just add people to Twitter and never go on there: use it. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. You don’t have to tweet or retweet or any of that stuff, but at least listen to what the people you’re following are saying, the issues they’re discussing, etc.

LinkedIn is my favorite one of these tools: you can search for just about anything on the site. So if you’re looking for a job in publishing but are eager to move to Arizona, you can run a search and see who pops up.

I just made that filter up and guess what? I have three people in my secondary network that are in publishing in the Tucson are.

That was easy.

Always Find an Insider

If you’re searching for a new job, you need to use any and all of these sites to get as much background as possible before you land an interview. When I was looking for a new job I managed to get invited to interview with a company I had never heard of.

But searching through LinkedIn I found that a girl I had gone to grad school with years ago knew someone there. And she actually worked in the department I was interested in. So I sent her a note and she reached out, introduced us, and got me an “in.”

If you can talk to someone on the inside before an interview you can find out more about the company, their problems, what they’re like, etc. And when the time comes to hire, the boss on that side will ask “How did we hear about this person?”

Regardless of how it’s explained, the fact that you came in via a semi-referral bodes well.

Network Away

My advice to you? Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job. Don’t wait until you need something. Start adding everyone you know right now.

And if you find yourself on the other end (someone asking you for help), do as much as you can for them. Karma is a beautiful thing.

Image by Patrick Hoesly


Aug 19 2009

You Say Networking, I Say Socializing


Carlos Portocarrero

party

By the end of this post, you’ll not only understand what “good networking” actually is, but you’ll be able to network more effectively in your own life. Why is it important? Well, because that’s how people get jobs, promotions, and friends.

Welcome to Networking, Writer’s Coin style.

Earlier this week, I spent some time discussing what networking is not. But what qualifies as good networking then?

Networking Has Nothing to do with Work

That’s right, I said it. While networking can help you get a new/better job, it isn’t something you do for work. Every time I meet someone that’s obviously just trying to “stay in touch” with me or “get to know me” strictly for their own benefit, I immediately discard them.

These are not connections I’m interested in fostering.

How I Network

I like to pretend I’m at a party. Do I want to stand around with the group of people talking about how much money they make and the fancy boats they all own?

No.

Do I want to go outside and hang out with the smokers and complain about how they’re treated like second-class citizens?

Nope.

What I want to do is find people that are interesting, that I can have a laugh with, and that are going to being me some level of enjoyment throughout the night.

I’m not in it to find people that might know someone who knows someone, I’m in it to find interesting people to spend my night with.

What You Can Do

  • Stop thinking of networking as something you do to get ahead, that’s not how it works
  • Develop social skills if you’re shy or awkward. Trent keeps recommending Toastmasters
  • Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not

Networking is very simple: it’s about meeting people you click with. Sometimes you’ll meet someone that’s the Chief Creative Officer for an awesome ad agency, which is your dream job.

But if he/she’s a jerk, the last thing you want to do is suck up and pretend to be their friend just to get ahead. Would you want to go hang out with this person and have a beer?

If not, you have your answer.

Image by takomabibelot


Aug 17 2009

Networking for Dummies


Carlos Portocarrero

How did you get your current job? Odds are you knew someone that knew someone that knew someone. That person threw your name in the hat and it led to an interview. And the rest is history.

I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately from people getting new jobs. Some of them weren’t even looking to change jobs, they were just nominated by someone they knew or used to work with.

None of this happens without a little magic we call networking.

What is networking? Most people look at networking as another tool to use in their job search.

This is all wrong.

Networking is NOT:

  • Sucking up to your boss to get ahead
  • Keeping in touch with former co-workers in case you need their recommendation later on
  • Sending out a mass email to everyone you know the day you lose your job asking for “a little help”

Every time I hear someone talking about networking this way, it makes me think of a sleazy salesman pitching me something I don’t need.

What Networking is Really About

Networking doesn’t begin when you want to get a new job, it’s always happening. And I don’t like the term “networking,” either. It sounds too Tony Robbins for me.

Networking is simper than that: it’s socializing. Being yourself. Getting to know people and having them know you.

You aren’t trying to sell people on the idea of how great you are, you just want them to see for themselves how great you actually are. Think of it as finding a new friend: you aren’t trying to convince a person to be your friend, you’re just trying to find out if the two of you are a good fit to be friends.

Same goes with socializing.

What is Socializing?

Socializing is getting to know other people and getting them to know you. Doesn’t matter what kind of person you are or what you do, the goal is for them to “get” you.

If this person gets to know you pretty well, and they like what they see, then odds are you’ll become friends (or friendly, at least). And friends know each other pretty well. Which means, when a job opening comes across your desk, you’ll know whether or not your friend is a good fit for it.

If he/she is a good fit, you’re more apt to call up your boss and say, “You know what, I know someone that’s perfect for this job.”

I have lots more to say about this, so I’ll post a part two tomorrow. But if you disagree with me, please post it in the comments and we can all get to the bottom of this.

Check out part II: You Say Networking, I Say Socializing


Jul 13 2009

Not Enough Experience? Get Some.


Carlos Portocarrero

experience

Regardless of the type of career you’re in or would like to be in, one of the biggest obstacles standing between you and “the next level” is a lack of experience. How many times have we all heard that after a job interview we thought went really well?

Employers won’t give you a shot unless you have experience and you can’t get any experience unless someone gives you a shot.

Which makes it pretty clear what you have to do: get some.

Sound hard/impossible? Here are some things that anyone can do to get that coveted “experience” regardless of the field you’re in:

  • Start a blog: This is one of my personal favorites. I was having a conversation with some of Ramit’s people about changing careers without quitting your job and I wound up pounding this point home. Blogging about anything will automatically give you experience and something to show potential employers. Think your career doesn’t lend itself to blogging? Email me and I’ll prove you wrong. Blogging will not just give you the experience you can then show a potential employer, but it’ll also help you grow and learn more about yourself and your profession. Which, ultimately, isn’t that the whole point of experience?
  • Freelance: I don’t care what you do, there is someone on Craigslist that could use your help. Maybe they don’t want to pay for it, but they need help. I remember doing this when I was putting together my advertising portfolio—I created ads that I commissioned myself to create. No one made me do it and I certainly didn’t get paid to do it. But at the end of it, I had some experience and some ads to show. The more you do it, the sooner you can graduate to paying gigs. Trust me, they’re out there.
  • Events: Whether you’re a copywriter, an interior designer, or a lawyer, there are always events to attend to. They may be boring and you may hate them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Especially if you aren’t “in the biz” yet. Go to all the events a person that has the job/position you’re after would go to. The trick is to basically live how they live and do what they do—even if you’re only simulating it. That also counts for experience. Oh and don’t just stand there with a drink in your hand—talk to people.

If you want to gain valuable experience, it’s all about practice. Blogging, freelancing, and going to events all comes down to practicing—you have to pretend to be the person with the position or job you want. Why? Because if you do all the things that they would do, you’re getting that experience that you’re missing.

Why do you think I started this blog? I know it works—I got my current job thanks to the writing I’d done on The Writer’s Coin.

Now you go out there and do the same and stop complaining that your boss never “gives you a shot.” Make your own shots as you go.

Image by jasontheaker

This post has been included in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights over on Wisebread. Make sure to check it out!