So you say you’d rather have a root canal than engage in job search networking? Then you’re probably looking at networking from the wrong angle!
As I said a couple of posts ago, networking represents a key element of successful job searching and career management. Also, of course, it’s not just a “when I’m in job-search mode” activity, but rather, something you need to do more consistently than that. The question then becomes, “What’s holding you back? What’s really behind your foot-dragging reluctance to network?”
Job Search Networking is NOT Rocket Science
Folks, if you’re thinking of networking as something that only an expert can do effectively, think again. You don’t need a PhD in Networking to do it and do it well. What you do need is the willingness to try and to keep refining how you do it so that it works best for you. By “works best,” I mean that you will actually DO it consistently and that it’s as productive as you can make it for your purposes.
I should note that there are a gazillion books and articles on networking–how to do or not do it, and more. You might get confused if you read too many of them, since in all probability they’ll eventually contradict each other! Try to keep your approach simple.
Networking Doesn’t Have to be a Drudgery
You might agree that a PhD in Networking isn’t necessary, but maybe you still feel that networking is just too hard to get a handle on, too much work, etc., for you to make it a part of your job search action plan. Wrong!
Like anything else worth doing, job search networking does take at least some effort if you’re going to see the results you want. That doesn’t mean it’s drudgery, to be avoided at all costs. Here’s what Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos had to say about it in a recent blog post: “Go where professionals gather. Ask them about their work. Make friends. Anybody can do this.”
The blog post this quote was excerpted from makes for some great reading. I highly recommend that you check out “How to Engineer Your Network.” The engineer whose remarks are shared in the blog post makes some very pointed comments about companies that totally fail to acknowledge job seekers after one or more interviews. As you might expect if you’re familiar with Nick’s work, his comments on the situation take no prisoners!
Networking or Watching the Ball Game (or Ballet)
Sometimes you have to make hard choices in deciding how you spend your time. If you’re in the middle of a job search, you might actually need to cut back on a few other activities you would normally engage in. That’s not to say that you can’t maintain some variety in your activities; in fact, doing so is a good idea, because it helps you maintain a sense of balance and allows you to anticipate rewards for “good behavior.”
At the same time, you need to stay focused on the desired end-result; that is, finding and landing your next great job. Give your job search networking the attention and respect it deserves. You’ll be glad you did–I firmly believe that. It will help you achieve the interviews that lead to offers more quickly and less painfully than if you hold back.
Probably most of you could agree on some of the characteristics of a good boss or a bad boss, but other elements might well differ depending on your particular perspective. The main thing is that you need to determine what makes a good or a bad boss for you, in order to have a reasonably satisfying and productive experience in your job–now and in the future.
What Makes a Good Boss?
In my opinion, a good boss needs to fit at least the following specifications:
- Builds, leads and motivates teams to tackle challenges with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.
- Provides support that enables you to grow and to respond effectively in difficult situations.
- Backs you up when you are being unfairly challenged, hassled, etc., even if it means going toe-to-toe with senior managers.
- Delivers constructive performance feedback in a timely manner but not in the presence of an audience.
- Gives credit publicly for your contributions so others know the value you have delivered.
What Makes a Bad Boss?
Although a lot of factors could come into play here, these are a few of my least-favorites:
- Gives lip-service, at best, to the concept of teamwork and fails to create an atmosphere that supports it.
- Considers your possible professional growth not part of his/her responsibility and potentially a threat to his/her own success.
- Refuses to support you when you’re stuck in a disagreeable situation through no fault of your own.
- Harangues and bad-mouths you not only to your face and in public but at other times as well.
- Expects you to work yourself half to death but gives no public recognition of your efforts.
How Can You Tell a Boss Will be Good or Bad?
There might not be any surefire way to tell 100% of the time, but you can take a few steps to minimize the risk of landing up with a bad boss:
- Do your homework before you interview at a company. Research not only the company but its management. Go beyond the company’s own website to find background on the person you would be reporting to…AND his/her boss.
- Watch and listen carefully when you go for a job interview–not just when you get into the interview room but before that. Sometimes you can pick up subtle–or not so subtle–cues that will give you useful clues.
- Tap into your network to double-check with them about any possibly useful information they might have on the person who would be your boss in the new job, before you decide to accept an offer.
- Think with your head but also consult your heart and instincts. If they seem to be sending contradictory messages, consider carefully before you commit to joining the company.
Lastly, remember that the boss-employee relationship has two components, not just one. Sometimes a not-so-great boss can be transformed into at least a good one if you bring the right qualities and outlook to the relationship. If you’ve slipped up somehow and ended up with a bad boss, accept the fact of the misstep and begin thinking what you can do to improve your situation one way or another. On the other hand, if you’ve ended up with a good-to-great boss–celebrate!
How do you react when someone tells you that you need to be networking to have a productive job search? Do you say, “Network? Oh, no, I can’t do that!” or just throw up your hands in horror? With all the technology-fueled job search trends around these days, you might think, “Hey, I don’t need to network. I can just put my resume online and email it to people.”
Sorry, but you can’t get out of it that easily. Technology can serve as a tool for networking, but it’s not a substitute.
How Technology Can Help You Network
In the “old days” (really old!), job seekers used to call contacts or employers and not even get a chance to leave a voice-mail message. Email as a tool basically didn’t exist (see, I told you this was the really old days). Faxing, if you had access, was one way to communicate but not exactly interactive and not very personal.
Then along came technology advances that changed the job search rules permanently. Now, if you ignore the potential uses of technology, you’re likely to find yourself outpaced by your competition. As I’ve said before, ignorance is NOT bliss.
If you need a good way to organize your existing network and maintain contact with key members (those you’re actually building relationships with), technology can certainly offer assistance. It can also make your task easier with regard to keeping track of actions you’ve taken or plan to take, the timing for those, and so on. Depending on how computer-savvy you are and what your needs are, a simple Excel spreadsheet might suffice. To get more advanced support, you could try a program like Jibber Jobber to manage multiple aspects of your job search.
The point is: You need to consider how technology can help you network…and how it can’t.
Networking Without Technology’s Help
The core of successful networking focuses on the relationship-building mentioned above. You can wiggle around that requirement all you want, but it won’t go away. You still need to form and build strong relationships if you hope to have a fully functional network. Of course, if you don’t care about that, you could skip the relationship building, but then, what’s the point of trying to have a network at all?
Networking without technology’s help doesn’t mean you never use technology. It does mean that you evaluate what you need and want to achieve with your network and identify actions that don’t rely on technology. This might include arranging in-person face time with key connections or communicating with them by phone (oh, wait, that’s using technology!)–or even employing what some people these days consider antiquated methods, such as mailing a handwritten note to a connection to express appreciation for something he/she has shared with you or done to help you.
It could also mean doing something that I just did last week: attending a professional conference in your field to connect or reconnect in person with people you know but don’t see often, as well as people you haven’t met yet. A well-planned conference should give you ample opportunity for networking in friendly circumstances–not only in conference sessions but in the hallways between sessions (in fact, some of the most effective networking happens then).
Whatever you do about networking, please don’t close the door on it before you’ve even stepped inside. If you do, you’ll lose out on possibly irreplaceable value to strengthen your job search.
Age discrimination in the workplace has long been a big concern–especially if you’re not getting any younger as time goes on, and obviously none of us is! Now, however, there seems to be a growing trend of people working longer and at least some companies being glad it’s happening. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s worth delving into.
Older Worker Discrimination Balanced by Need?
It’s possible that even companies that have been cavalier in the past about getting rid of older employees for a variety of reasons will now have to re-think their approach. I read an article in the Sept. 2015 AARP.org Bulletin, by T.R. Reid, titled “The Value of Older Workers.” Reid makes several points about the value of such workers, including a stronger work ethic and a resulting increase in productivity and economic output. However, he also says, “As the post-recession economy moves back toward full employment, many industries are finding it harder to fill jobs, particularly in skilled trades.”
And it isn’t only the skilled trades where older workers are needed or are already making a strong contribution. Professions such as nursing have been experiencing a “pinch” as trained and skilled healthcare professionals retire. Will this trend continue–possibly even increase–over the next several years? I certainly wouldn’t want to bet against it, and for many of my clients who are currently mid-to-late career, it could be just around the corner. If you’re in that situation, the trick might be to figure out just where your niche is in this new situation.
Resources for Older Workers…Or Those Who Want to Get Ahead of the Curve
Aside from commonly known resources online and offline, the AARP issue I mentioned above has a couple of online resources you might want to check out (for yourself or someone you know):
- Website to help 50+ workers stay competitive and current: aarp.org/work.
- On Sept. 22–Free virtual career fair talking about the latest job search trends: aarp.org/virtualcareerfair.
In addition, AARP has a new book coming out in November 2015 that might give you some ideas to think about. It’s definitely going on my “must have” list to buy, and I encourage you to look for Work Reimagined to see if it can help with your situation.
In the same AARP Bulletin issue, I read an article by Jo Ann Jenkins titled “Disrupting Work,” that talks about the changing face of the workplace today. Jenkins says, for example, “We’re beginning to see businesses and organizations with four generations working side by side….This requires young and old to develop a culture of learning and respect for what each brings to the work experience.”
What some people (individuals and companies) might see as a problem, Jenkins considers an opportunity to pull together the best from both older and younger workers. How you–and perhaps your company–view it is something to think about. You might not have the ability to influence your company’s actions, but you ought to be able to weigh your own and decide what actions are appropriate for you to take.
If this blog’s headline strikes a chord with you, you’re probably not alone. What helps make a new job unsettling at best and highly stressful at worst is the disconnect that too often seems to occur between what you expected the situation to be and what it actually is. The root cause isn’t always obvious, and what you should do about it might not be obvious either. It merits some careful thought.
Voluntary Job Change–Why Stressful?
Assuming you’ve pursued and landed the new job because you wanted to make a change and felt this was the right choice, why are you finding it stressful? Of course, there could be a number of reasons, but here are a few:
- You didn’t prepare as well as you thought or as well as you should have, so you have encountered more surprises than you were ready for.
- You forgot just how much adjustment is involved when taking on a new role in a new company, and you’re not cutting yourself enough slack during that period of adjustment.
- Events occurred that you couldn’t have anticipated, and they’re complicating the already-complex settling-in process. That could include management changes, restructuring that affects your job or group, or many other situations that force you to adapt and re-adapt frequently.
New Job Desperation
At least with a voluntary job change, you know you had choices. That said, you can hope to navigate through the stress of those first few months at least partly by assuring yourself that–in all probability–things will get better as you continue to work out the “bugs.” On the other hand, if you made an involuntary job change–whether because of a layoff or a termination or some other factor–you might have the added stress of feeling a sense of desperation, a burning need to make a success of the new job “or else.”
I doubt whether anyone can really wipe out that added stress for you, but I’ve seen personally and with clients throughout my adult life that it is possible to mitigate the stress. The list of potential approaches for doing this is probably a very long one, but these are some that I’ve seen work effectively:
- Beg, borrow or steal at least a few minutes each day (more than a few if you can manage it) to decompress periodically, much as a deep-sea diver has to do during an ascent. You might not get the bends if you don’t do this, but other health repercussions certainly could occur.
- Establish a flexible method of prioritizing and re-prioritizing your “to do” items to help you stay organized when chaos threatens to overwhelm you. It doesn’t matter whether you go high-tech or low-tech for your method; what matters is that it’s something you can and will use consistently.
- Document instructions received as to what you need to be doing–including the source of those instructions. Generally, your immediate boss’ instructions would be considered the most important, but what happens if his/her boss comes straight to you with a directive or if someone who works for an executive in another department than yours gives you an “urgent” task to tackle? Obviously, you’d want to get clearance from your boss for departures from the expected process, but in any case, document key points–for your own protection if nothing else.
When all else fails, remember the old adage, “This, too, shall pass,” which indicates that all material conditions are temporary. You might not be able to control all aspects of a situation, but you can often influence their direction and duration.