Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: networking

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to networking.

Contractor Quick Poll: Local Networking Events

Last month we asked our audience how many networking events you attend each year and over 40% of you said you only go to an average of 1 or 2, or rarely any at all. This month, we’d like to know if there are enough networking events in your region.  Do you think last month’s results may have been higher if there were more networking opportunities?  Let us know!

6 Networking Tips

Have you ever got back from a conference, or any event, and had such a positive experience that you wanted to share your thoughts with the world?  That’s exactly what happened to Jodi Goldman after getting back from a networking event, and the result was this great video packed with great tips.  We’ll be shocked if you don’t feel energized after watching it.

How to Manage the Tricky World of References

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

It’s funny how things that are so integral to your job search are often times the most neglected areas of the average candidate’s repertoire.  We all know how important networking is yet we are often too busy to attend events that could directly lead to our next position.   And if you don’t have a well written resume that highlights your accomplishments as well as your job titles, you may well be selling yourself short.  So, what about references?  How important are they in the scheme of things.  Well I would argue that they are integral to the process, not just for the hiring party, but most importantly for you.   Potential employers are most interested in what you were able to achieve in your most relevant, previous experience.  You should go through the trouble of listing them in your resume but the absolute best way to affirm that those accomplishments are real is for the potential client to hear it in the words of your previous client.  So how do you make sure you “manage” the process?  After all, once you hand over their coordinates, how do know what is going to come out of their mouths when they are contacted.  A single lukewarm reference can destroy your candidacy and negate all the hard work you put in just to get to the offer stage.   The following tips are a bit of work, but the confidence it will inspire and the results it will have, are well worth the effort.

  1. Shaking hands with a referenceBe strategic in choosing a potential reference:  Make sure the reference can speak coherently to the abilities that matter to the company or individual doing the reference.  If you are applying for specific roles in IT, for example, the reference better be able to comment on your strengths in that area.  And not just your strengths but your accomplishments.    Any vagueness in their answers because they really weren’t directly connected to your work plants more questions in the minds of those conducting the reference, than answers.
  2. Ask their permission (of course):  But asking their permission is just the beginning.  Let them know what kinds of roles you are applying for and most importantly, let them know what accomplishments you are highlighting.  Think of how strong the message is if your reference speaks to an exceptional performance that you yourself highlighted during the interview.  And as a courtesy, let them know when you’ve accepted a job so they know not to expect any more calls.
  3. If you are unsure what a reference might say, ask them:  Don’t be one of those candidates who gets torpedoed by a poisoned reference.  Ask them directly if they would support you in your description of an accomplishment.  If they hesitate, or don’t seem onboard, ask them why.  It’s amazing how many times a conversation after the fact uncovers a misunderstanding on a previous project and just maybe hashing it out turns a negative into a positive.  At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of who is really in your corner.
  4. Finally, offer to assist your reference in filling in some possible gaps:  You might actually need to coach them in some circumstances.  This could be because of a misunderstanding, as mentioned in the previous point, or maybe a lot has happened since you last worked with them and they need a refresher about your project’s successes. A question that often causes trouble for a reference is “Why did the candidate leave their last position”.    The project came to an end or he/she left to pursue a different opportunity with greater responsibility sounds a lot better than, he/she left for more money!

References are critical and spending time thinking through the process of lining up references, rather than treating it as an afterthought, can be an important element in your job search. How much time do you put into preparing your references?  Could you improve?  Share your thoughts below.

The Worst Face-to-Face Networking Mistake

Networking is a tough skill to master and can be dreadful for anybody who isn’t well practiced in it.  There are many articles out there with great tips on how to improve (including these recent Talent Development Centre posts), but is it possible to follow advice too closely? In this video, J.T. O’Donnell of Careerealism TV recounts one of her most dreadful experiences at a networking event. Take a look, feel the awkwardness, and make sure you never make the same mistake.

Networking Advice from Managers

Networking can be an uncomfortable, daunting task for many people, but it’s also a massive boost to your career.  By maintaining good relationships with a large network with people in your industry, you significantly increase your chances of finding new contracts. This video from CareerBuilder interviews managers in various hiring positions to get their tips on networking that make you successful.

5 Ways to Find a Contract While on Holidays

Last week we discussed 6 reasons it’s a good idea to keep searching for opportunities over the holidays.  Let’s dive deeper into some simple strategies you can use or activities you can do right now that will give you an advantage in the New Year and throughout 2015.

  1. Holiday Events
    How many parties and dinners have you been to so far and how many more will you attend?  How many do you actually want to attend?  All of these are networking events, so take advantage by meeting new people and re-connecting with old friends.  You don’t need to sell yourself or hand out copies of your resume, but it’s amazing where a simple discussion can lead.
  2. Send thank you notes/holiday cards
    Speaking of building relationships, have you sent your holiday cards yet?  If you Person Writing Cardsthink it’s too late, how about thank you notes to people you worked with this year?  This is a simple task you can do while watching TV or traveling and can have great rewards.
  3. Take the time away to do research
    You don’t need to be applying to jobs to get ahead, instead simply focus on planning.  Research your industry, potential clients, and potential agencies.  Find out where the opportunities will be and where you want to be.  Then develop your plan.  Will you work on some relationships? Register for some events? Set-up email notifications on Google and job boards?
  4. Take the time away to inventory your skills and re-work your resume
    The previous point focuses on your external analysis, but don’t forget about the internal one. Take a step back to review your skills.  Should you do any extra training this year?  Then, re-work your resume.  Maybe even create multiple resumes that focus on different roles.
  5. Be flexible when scheduling meetings
    If you manage to get an interview or meeting with a potential client, be able to work around their schedule.  Everybody is a busy right now and will be playing “catch-up” for a couple weeks after the holidays.  The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll be able to get a meeting, and clients will appreciate you accommodating to their schedule.

If you set a goal to find new contracts during your break but haven’t started yet, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time.  The tips above are simple and shouldn’t take too much time away from your vacation.  Do you have any other quick tips to find new contracts over the holidays? Share your ideas below!

7 Steps to Selfless Networking

How much time do you spend meeting people? How much time do you spend building on relationships that you have established? What do you expect from those relationships? Will they help you? Do you only build relationships with people you think will help you?Businesspeople eating.

Networking is often viewed as a great way to build a professional reputation, to add to your client base or to open doors to meet new recruiters.  It is really hard to draw a straight line correlation between networking efforts and return on those efforts, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because if you are “networking” purely for your own gain, then likely you will fail.

Here is a selfless approach to networking:

  1. Go to events where you will meet new people, otherwise you’re just hanging out with old friends and nobody’s benefiting. This doesn’t mean ditching your friends completely, but make sure it’s not only your friends.
  2. Depending on your trade, networking opportunities can be hard to find, so take some initiative and find new events, rather than waiting for somebody send you an invitation.  If you want to build a niche network, you may even need to start your own networking group.
  3. Networking with the intent of “taking” is very transparent. Most people won’t retain “takers” in their network (as a side note, you should also avoid these folks).
  4. Help others because it will ultimately come back, but do it because want to, not because you want to get something back.
  5. Avoid abusing your network.  Refrain from giving names out to people you don’t know, and genuinely get to know someone before asking for names of their contacts.
  6. If you believe that an introduction will benefit someone you know then make that introduction.
  7. Network with people who you think are interesting, otherwise it’s just boring for everybody.

There are many rewards to networking but if you don’t treat your network properly, you’ll never get to reap those rewards. Do you have any other tips for selfless networking? Have you ever encountered a selfish networker?  Tell us your stories in the comments below.

3 Decisions You Should Make When Personal Branding

Your personal brand defines who you are and will have a strong impact on your success as a contractor.  Have you thought much into what your personal brand represents?  It’s never too late to get started, but while you plan it out, here are 3 important things you should decide:

  1. Decide what your personal brand looks like. Perhaps you want to be seen as a professional, accomplished, ambitious contractor. “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear” Socrates.  (Clearly this is not a new concept!)
  2. Decide what actions will always support that brand.  Others will associate your decision-about-personal-brandactions to the type of person you want to be.  The following might be examples that support the “professional, accomplished, ambitious” brand.
    1. Dress professionally;
    2. Invest in training – continue to learn;
    3. Take on more responsibility;
    4. Always take accountability and do not look for excuses;
    5. Be a cheerleader. Take on the glass half full attitude;
    6. Look after your health. Stay relatively fit (you don’t need to be an elite athlete) and eat relatively healthy (you don’t need to be a model);
    7. Look for ways to give back to charities, to the industry, to colleagues;
    8. Be a team player.
  3. Decide how you will protect your brand.  You’d hate to go through all of the steps of creating your personal brand, only to jeopardize it with inconsistent actions. Following the same concept, that you want to cultivate, for example the “professional, accomplished, ambitious” brand, here are some don’ts!
    1. Don’t use abusive language in any circumstance when dealing with your clients, especially never in writing.
    2. Don’t let your communication style be “un-business like”. You may use text messaging or IM shorthand with your friends, but business communication should be understandable to everyone;
    3. Casual work days should not mean ratty jeans and well worn sweat shirts. Adopt a smart casual approach (always dress just a little better than you need to);
    4. If you write “stuff” outside of work (blogs, facebook posts, articles etc) you might want to be sure that if your clients read them they would not raise their eyebrows;
    5. Don’t compromise your own principles. Work with clients that have your kind of principles;
    6. Don’t let your personal life encroach unduly into your work life. It’s OK to be proud of your kids, but most clients don’t need a blow by blow of their lives and they certainly don’t want to be dragged into your personal “dramas”.

What are your top branding tips?  Leave us your thoughts below!