How to Network at an Event

There’s an art to good networking, especially in a social setting. Some of us have a natural curiosity and enjoy the opportunity to meet new people, while others view it with a sense of dread, a necessary but tedious chore. However you look at it, there are good ways to network and not-so-good ways.

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Networking is about meeting people, but with a purpose. You are seeking something from the other person, but it is important to remember that networking is about giving as well as getting. The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial if it is to work.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

  1. Have a plan

You have to take some care in choosing the events you want to attend. Consider which types of events you feel most comfortable at, how they are organized, the time of day they are held, and the location. You need to also consider who it is you want to meet and what events they are likely to attend.

Decide what you want to accomplish at the event. For example, you decide to talk at least four people and follow up with one or two of them.

If you receive a list before the event of the people who will be attending, you can determine who you would like to meet and do a little background research on them.

  1. Greetings

You also need to plan what you’ll say when you approach someone, to try and make it as engaging as possible. Opening with your name and job title is not the best kind of greeting. To make it more interesting, say your name, but make sure you ask questions about your new acquaintance rather than about yourself.

It may help to arrive at the event a little early because there will likely be fewer people at that point, making it easier to join a group or make an introduction. But it is important to remember that you shouldn’t immediately jump into work related topics, but make an effort to establish a rapport first, making small talk and discussing topics of interest to the other person.

Even if you have had a bad day, put it behind you and be sure you take a positive, upbeat attitude into the event. No one wants to hear about your troubles. Smile.

What Not to Do

  • Pile food on a plate.

Avoid immediately making a beeline for the appetizers and stocking up. Grab a drink and circulate first. It is very awkward trying to schmooze while holding a plate of food and trying to eat. Also, if you wait for food, going to get it will give you an excuse to end a conversation.

  • Push into a group.

Don’t try to force your way into a conversation. Look at the signals. If you see a group that is engaged in earnest conversation, it is not likely they will be pleased if you insert yourself and ask what they are talking about. If, on the other hand, you see a smaller group talking casually, this may be a better opportunity to approach and introduce yourself.

  • Looking impatient.

Even if you think the person talking to you is a crashing bore, you need to look interested. Even if the person talking to you doesn’t notice your boredom or impatience, others may, and that will not make a good impression.

  • Forget business cards.

There really is no excuse for this. You are there to make connections, and not having business cards won’t help.

  • Talking too much.

Again, you are there to make connections and establish a rapport with others. You cannot do this if you are dominating the conversation. Do more listening than talking, showing an interest in what the other person has to say.

If you’re looking for new job opportunities, contact Helpmates. Take a look at our latest job openings and either apply for those that interest you or contact the branch nearest you for an interview.

Making Career Resolutions that Actually Stick

Merry Christmas!

While chances are that you’re reading this on some day other than December 25 (the day this went live) and you’re no doubt now thinking of which gifts to return, why not also take some time in preparation for the New Year to think about what career resolutions you plan to make… and how you plan to keep them in 2019.

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Take a look below for some tips on how to keep your career resolutions this year.

  • If you’re looking for a new position, 2019 is probably one of the best times to do so. Yes, even better than it has been this year.

This resolution should be easy to keep: the economy next year is expected to continue to grow and the fantastic candidate market (if you’re a job candidate) or war for talent (if you need to hire someone) is projected to continue.

In fact, the unemployment rate nationwide is expected to fall in 2019 from 3.7 percent (2018’s rate) to 3.5 percent. (One caveat, however: the economy may slow a bit in the second half 2019 as a result of the current trade war and other factors.)

Still, if you’re unhappy at work, now is the time to put your toe in the job-hunt water: recruiters are eager (some might say, desperate) to help you.

  • Explore careers that might interest you. As in REALLY explore.

It’s one thing to say you want to change careers. It’s another to actually start researching different possibilities because doing so probably will take you out of your comfort zone.

You don’t want to move to a different career just because you “think” you’ll like it. Instead, you need to “try it out” as much as possible before making any change.

How can you do so? At minimum you should read as much about it as you can. Your second (easy-ish) step is to find people who work in the field now and talk to them. Talk to at least three and ask them what they love/hate about it, how they got the work they do in the career and ask what you should do to learn more about it.

If at all possible, try to work in the career yourself. See if you can get a part-time job within the field. Or freelance. Do this for at least three months so that you can be sure you actually like the profession/work.

  • Get those skills you’ve been promising yourself you’ll get.

Hard skills are in great demand today, especially in technology and healthcare. So desperate are Southern California employers for people with these skills that the state’s community colleges offer dozens of two-year (or shorter) degree and/or certificate programs that will help residents learn new job skills. Getting trained in some in-demand-positions (such as “middle skill” healthcare positions) may not take nearly as long as you think and could raise your salary, possibly considerably.

If you’re not up to two years or several months of education, consider taking short certificate programs, either online or off. Don’t forget to ask your supervisor about being reimbursed for short training programs you find online (although many online professional development courses are free).

If you’re thinking of finding a new job (or a new career), consider registering with Helpmates. We have many part-time and even direct-hire and temp-to-hire opportunities waiting for you; one of them could well have your name written upon it. If you see one that interests you, follow the posting’s instructions or contact us.

Happy New Year! And here’s to a wonderful 2019 for you and your loved ones!

Embracing the Up, Backwards and Sideways Career

Content

No one’s career moves straight up. Most successful people see their share of failure and even simple treading water (no movement up or down). Just a few examples of people who failed on their way up:

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  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts rejected Steven Spielberg several times.
  • The first book Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote was rejected by 27 publishers.

Yet putting aside these famous folks’ failures, all of us should know: especially today, careers almost never move ever upward and/or always in a straight line. There will be detours, failures, false starts and mistakes.

And understanding this is a very good thing. After all, think about the possibilities:

  • Embracing the fact that a non-linear career path means you won’t be blinded – and trapped by – the idea that you must always move up. This hyper focus on an ever-upward trajectory can blind you to the many other opportunities for growth that taking a different path can give you.
  • Failing at something means you get to build your resilience muscles: dusting yourself off and standing back up proves to yourself that a) you can stand back up, b) that it gets easier each time and c) you’ve undoubtedly learned a ton because of the failure. In other words, you’ll know at a deep personal level that the old saying is true: those who experience and then overcome difficulty are stronger and better for it!
  • If you you’re willing to take risks, knowing that failure often is the absolute best teacher available when it comes to life and careers can transform the risky move easier to make.
  • You may find that you actually enjoy a different industry more than the one on which you had your sights set.
  • Embracing a squiggly career trajectory (up, down and sideways) means you’ll let yourself do the things that interest you, thus helping you learn what you don’t want to do. This can be as important as learning what you do want to do.
  • What’s more, you’ll understand that you don’t always need to continue doing something when it’s not working. For example, if you find that the career you just knew would make you happy doesn’t actually do so, you can unashamedly look into a new path.
  • You may actually find that promotions, higher pay and more responsibility aren’t the be-all and end-all for you. You may find that your definition of success instead entails spending more time with family and friends rather and/or creating art and/or volunteering for a cause in which you believe than working 60+ hours a week for the glamour (and almost certain stress) of being a person of importance in your field of work. (Or you may find the opposite: you discover that you want to be the boss!)

Just remember, careers today rarely move up and up and up. Embrace the failures. Look for opportunities to move sideways. Consider jobs you never have before.

And think about registering with a staffing agency such as Helpmates. Why? Because if you’re at all interested in exploring different career paths or industries, working for a firm such as ours allows you to “try on” different industries and positions without committing to any. Then, if you do find a position or industry you enjoy, there’s a good chance it can become permanent: more than one-third of people working on assignment received an offer of regular employment with the staffing company’s client.

To learn more about the many career-exploring opportunities we offer, contact the Helpmates branch office nearest you.

Dealing with “The Gap”

While most of us will work until about our mid-60s, not all of us will work all the time until then: most of us probably will have a gap in our work history either due to illness (ours or a family member’s), raising children, being laid off/quitting outright, or even taking a sabbatical.

Known as “The Gap,” this “hole” in your work history often isn’t looked at kindly by employers. And you can’t just cross your fingers and toes and hope a hiring manager won’t notice it. Instead, you absolutely must have a good reason for it and, most importantly, be able to explain it in a professional manner. Even better: if you can couch the gap in way that is beneficial to an employer, all the better.

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Here’s how to deal with “The Gap.”

  • Above all, tell the truth.

You may think saying you decided to take time away from working so that you could take care of your ill mother (which really is what you ended up doing) is far better than saying you were laid off, but it’s not: a hiring manager can simply contact your last employer to verify dates and it’s easy for her to find you were part of a reduction-in-force or even were fired.

Instead, tell the truth; you were laid off (and then decided to help your sick mother). Or you were fired for cause (and make sure you own up to your mistake). You took time off to raise children. You were ill. You decided to take a year off to travel the world. (Lucky duck!)

  • Talk about the skills you learned while gone/how you kept your skills up.

Many employers are nervous about work history gaps because they think you’ve gone stale or that you’re not up on the “latest and greatest.” So aim while you are not working to take a class or two (online works), work as a freelancer or take on some part-time work or temporary assignments and make sure your skills are current.

  • Explanations for different scenarios.

If you were fired, talk about your responsibility in your firing (it’s never all the unreasonable boss’s fault: we all have some culpability when fired). Reiterate how you’re a changed person and actually better for the lessons learned.

If you took that year-long trip around the world, discuss how it helped you be more compassionate to people different from you, you learned a new language, you started a part-time business online, etc. In other words, show how your travels provided you with new insights, lessons learned and even skills.

  • Repeating because it’s important: keep your skills up-to-date.

We understand how difficult this could be if your time away from work is because you or a family member is ill. But if you’re staying home to raise children for a few years, if you take some time off to try something new and/or travel, keeping those skills/knowledge base up to snuff shouldn’t be that difficult: classes abound online and off and temporary staffing services such as Helpmates can help you find part-time/temporary work while allowing you to keep your skills sharp (and even learn new ones).

Take a look at our current temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire opportunities and follow instructions on the job listing if one or more appeal to you.

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