When interviewing, don’t forget the lobby resources!

OK, so you got the interview for your target company.  Congratulations!  You show up on interview day confident because you planned for this day well in advance.  You’re ready for whatever they can throw at you.  What else can you do to gain an edge in the interviewing process?  Be a lobby scanner!

When you arrive, you are often greeted by a lobby employee (a receptionist or security guard).  Don’t underestimate the importance of this critical customer service function within the company.   Greet this person with a big warm smile to show your enthusiasm and excitement as you only have a few moments to make a big impression. After you are seated, take a deep breath and try to relax as you have a few minutes before you meet the first person on the interview team.  What could you possibly do to enhance you candidacy as you wait patiently?

Take a few minutes and scan the lobby room and see all the free resources around you; there may be many.  Often there is an LCD monitor with a video playing or wall displays that detail information about the company including their safety and quality programs, customer awards, employee recognition, new products plus the vision/mission and values statement.  Stacked neatly on the lobby table may be the latest company newsletter, the annual report or company brochures alongside a display of the latest companies products.  At this point, the receptionist will probably be checking you out as you wander in the lobby but that’s OK because through your natural curiosity, you are planting a positive impression of your interest in their company.  You are surrounded by a plethora of key resources including a glimpse into the culture of the company, critical information you did not have access to before.  What they are most proud of is right in front of your eyes!  Take all of this “insider information” in and process it.  

Strike up a conversation with the lobby person with lead-in questions like “how is your day going”, “how long have you worked here”, “how do you like working here” or “what is the best thing about working here”.   Really listen to how open and honest they are.  You may be surprised.  You appear to be an interesting person because of your questioning.  Often, company employees come to the reception station to chat with the receptionist.  Listen to what they are saying and how they are responding to each other.  Are they responding favorably? How happy are they?   Remember, an interview is a two-way street and both sides should be interviewing each other to determine fit.  If what you see in the lobby is outdated and not appealing and if the receptionist is not giving off positive energy about their company, the lobby could very well match the demeanor of what is going on inside.  Listen to your inner voice, are you connecting with this information in a good way or getting mixed signals?

During the course of your interview, phrase questions and discussions around what you saw in the lobby.  You will impress your interview team with this knowledge.  You don’t even have to tell them the source.  Upon exiting your interview, thank the front lobby employee, again with a big smile.

In the job search process, take advantage of all the resources available to you.  You never know who may have input into the final decision of your candidacy.  The lobby is filled with a significant amount of tidbits about the company and this “low hanging fruit” can provide a distinct advantage for you.  If an offer is forthcoming, factor this information in as you will be able to make an informed decision based on your keen observations.

 

Bob Weingartner is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and the owner of WEINFIVE Career Coaching, a niche business focused on assisting career and job seekers in attaining their career goals.  You can reach Bob at bob@weinfivecoaching.com or www.weinfivecoaching.com/

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Listen to the Calling

calling-image-3In my last article titled “Networking With a Purpose“, we spoke about being selective in your choice of networking activities during job search.  We also discussed the consideration of going to a place that may take you out of your comfort zone to find new networking opportunities and provide comfort during job search.  Here’s an example I wanted to share. 

In 2010, I was in job transition and balancing my time between job search and active networking.   I joined up with a local job search work team (JSWT) and learned  very quickly the importance of growing a healthy network and the power of giving back.  I began to understand the value of quality time spent during transition and knew I would be challenged during an interview to speak to how I filled in the gap between jobs.  I had no idea that one particular volunteering  event during that long summer would have a profound impact on my life.

I was part of a local HR transition networking group and was made aware of an upcoming career conference event called “Life After Spinal Cord Injury: How to Compete in Today’s Workforce” sponsored by the Kessler Institute.  They were searching for HR professionals to give of their time and expertise and I signed-up as a volunteer career coach to assist with resume review, employment search, and workforce readiness.  I was a little unsure not knowing what to expect but I agreed to go.

When I arrived at the conference, I was one of only a handful of volunteers that didn’t arrive in a wheelchair.  Not surprised, I understood what I signed-up for but it had a much different impact when I arrived.  I sat and listened to several panel discussions which included personal stories from working people with spinal cord injuries and how entering the workforce with their disability can be daunting and overwhelming.  They offered encouragement and discussed how it’s all about their ability not their disability and how to deal with common misconceptions on the obstacles they face and the fear they felt as they seek employment.  They continued to focus on the methods to overcome their disability in job search.  As I listened, I began to collect my thoughts and think about how fortunate I am.  Here I am as a mature worker struggling with the competition to find a job.  How could I possibly feel at a disadvantage when Americans with disabilities are experiencing a jobless rate more than 80 percent higher than the rest of Americans?  That was pretty riveting for me.  I spent the rest of the day listening to the attendees personal stories, answering questions about job search and offering assistance to help them move forward in their career. 

I often think back on that volunteer event and reflect on its meaning.  Networking in an unfamiliar place brought me to a new way of thinking.  I expanded my network of new contacts and the experience provided a huge mental boost to my confidence and a new perspective, especially towards people in tough situations.  That confidence became a great consequence of volunteering  as it reminded me of my ability to do constructive things. 

There are many organizations that could use your help.  We all have God-given talents for which others could benefit.   All you need to do is ask and be prepared to step in and do what needs to be done.  The radio silence in job search can be very frustrating.  When you offer yourself in service to others, a response will follow.  You will not be disappointed as you respond to the calling.

Bob Weingartner is a Career Coach and the owner of WEINFIVE Career Coaching, a niche business focused on assisting career and job seekers in attaining their career goals.  You can reach Bob at weinfive@aol.com or www.weinfivecoaching.com/

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Networking With A Purpose

people-networking2Job search statistics tell us that that the most effective way to find a job is through networking which accounts for 80% of all jobs found.  That’s a given.  Therefore, it makes sense that we should be spending the larger part (upwards of 40%) of our job search time networking. It is said that networking will get you out of the house and from behind your computer; plus the change of pace feels great.  Getting out of our comfort zone can be a very rewarding experience. It certainly feels good to relieve the frustration and emotion of being in transition and surrounding yourself with those that will reinforce your efforts and provide encouragement.  It is reasonable to conclude that in job search, networking, networking and more networking is the answer, right?  We’re doing exactly as we’re supposed to do, that is network, right?  Well, maybe.

Networking is the art of exchanging information continuously and graciously with members of your professional and social communities.  The word “networking” in job search has been over-used somewhat to the point of giving off mixed messages.  Aren’t you a little tired of how often networking is touted as the cure for all our job search ills?  It appears that job search has invented the art of networking.  When has active networking not been important in your life and your career?  Shouldn’t we be building a strong network our entire life?

A good test of the strength of your network occurs shortly after job loss.  If you’ve been diligent and kept up with your network right along, reconnecting with this group should help significantly in your job search.  Unfortunately, quite often we let our network go and forget about the long list of people that have contributed to our successes in life and reconnecting can be a little uncomfortable.  When we only reach out to our network when we need something, you may not get an immediate response.  It’s critical that we keep in touch on occasion with our network, even if it’s providing updates on our career progress or just acknowledging the recent updates to our LinkedIn connections.  It will help keep your network alive and supports the “Never Stop Networking” rule of thumb.

When engaged in full job search mode, you find out very quickly that networking for the sake of networking can be a huge drain on your job search productivity.  Populating every square inch of your weekly calendar with local networking events can be very exhausting.  You think you are doing the right thing, but are you?  It’s equivalent to spending a whole day searching online and then patting yourself on the back at the end of the day and feel a strong sense of accomplishment for working so hard. You may be working hard, but you certainly aren’t working efficiently.  Even experienced networkers can easily get caught up in the cycle of going to new places, meeting new people, shaking hands with total strangers, elevator pitching, sharing intimate details about yourself and following up.

Arriving home with a new handful of business cards and the thoughts of adding more LinkedIn connections can be very misleading and self-defeating in job search.   The art of networking is not about quantity, it’s about the quality of your network meetings and connections.  What do we do with all the business cards we collect?   I attended a network meeting once and the facilitator announced that he had amassed in excess of 10,000 business cards over many years of attending network meetings.  Is there a race to see whomever has accumulated the most business cards upon death wins?  Is that networking?  I hope not.   Using a smart phone app which scans a quick request (QR) code available on most business cards, exchanging physical cards may be a thing of the past.  That’s promising.

As you expand your network and join additional networking groups, you are invited to more networking meetings.  It’s so enticing to try to get to them all and fall into that trap.  You will find that your time spent in networking is out of kilter.  Often we repeat this pattern to the point that it can fulfill Einstein’s definition of insanity (you know, doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results).  You look forward to seeing your new group of friends at each event where you share laughter and job search stories.  If the meetings don’t advance your job search in some way, they become just social in nature, a “happy hour” so to speak.  Since it takes a full time job to land a full time job, your job search efforts could be better served elsewhere in the process.

So, before you head off to your next network meeting, consider the potential return on investment (ROI) in job search with the following:

  • Will you receive some new learning from the topic presented that can help advance your job search?
  • Is it a new meeting that may get you out of your comfort zone and meet new contacts to leverage?
  • Do you have a common interest with the group and want to keep up with the knowledgebase?
  • Do you want to meet the speaker who may be beneficial in your job search?
  • Are there recruiters, hiring managers, and other key influencers attending with whom you would want to reconnect?
  • Try to set a reasonable networking goal before you head out.  “I’m going to meet/converse with 4 new people and learn 2 new things.  After the meeting, I will follow-up and meet with 3 people over coffee to build the relationship”.

After the meeting, think about what you accomplished.  If you found a key contact in a target company, helped others get key leads, secured an informational interview, got your resume into the hand of a recruiter or connected with a career expert, then you can claim the time was well worth the effort and reward yourself with a pat on the back.

Networking is certainly not new but it can be a very powerful job search tool.  Learn to be a savvy networker and be selective in where you focus your networking time. If you make the meeting about helping others without keep tabs on your goodwill efforts, you will find value in the golden rule “what you give, you certainly get.”  Vow to only choose quality networking activities that help advance your job search efforts.  If you “network with a purpose” you’ll be more productive, you will find the experience more rewarding and increase your opportunities to find just the right connections you need to help advance your job search and land that next dream job.

Bob Weingartner is a Career Coach and the owner of WEINFIVE Career Coaching, a niche business focused on assisting career and job seekers in attaining their career goals.  You can reach Bob at weinfive@aol.com or www.weinfivecoaching.com/

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Welcome to the Weinfive Blog!

Welcome to the Weinfive Coaching Blog, the voice of Career Coach, Bob Weingartner . Come join me in conversation about what’s happening in the job search and career planning arenas.

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