If You Don’t Schmooze, You Lose: Networking This Holiday Season

Holiday Career NetworkingJob searchers frequently make a major mistake during the holiday season, they stop looking for their next position. That’s a big blunder for two reason: first, companies DO continue to hire this time of year and second, it’s a great time to be networking and building relationships.

Networking is one of the most important tools in your job search. As is often said, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. To expand on that proverb, it’s who you know that gets you in the door and what you know that keeps you there.

‘Tis the season for holiday parties. What a great opportunity to reconnect with people, to find out how they’re doing and let them know what you’ve been up to. Reconnecting with colleagues, old friends and acquaintances is one of the best things you can do to land that plum position you’ve been pursuing or to uncover new and interesting opportunities.

Schmoozing at holiday parties is just one way of taking advantage of the holiday season, another is setting up coffee or lunch dates with people. As things slow down and shopping picks up, people are out and about and more accessible. Taking a breather from the holiday rush to sit down over a cup of coffee with an old friend can be a welcome break.

The thing to remember about networking is it’s about building relationships, having meaningful interactions and not just asking your contacts if they know of any job openings. You want to have a two-way discussion, engaging them on topics that are meaningful to them as well as to you. You want to think to yourself, “what’s in it for them . . .  how can I assist them” while at the same time giving them information on ways they can be helpful to you.

People do like to help others and sometimes it’s just a matter of helping them help you. Having some targeted companies you’d like to approach or people you’d like to meet and asking your contact for the introduction can be the first step on the road to your successful career transition.

So remember, if you don’t schmooze, you lose. By enjoying the holidays and the people in your life, you can make this holiday season a happy and productive one. So get out there with bells on and jingle while you mingle.


LinkedIn: Updating When You’re Unemployed

I’m frequently asked by my clients how soon to update their LinkedIn profiles when they are no longer employed. That’s why I read with interest a post from the Wall Street Journal’s “Ask At Work” blog. The question involved how soon after leaving a company should one update their LinkedIn profile, especially in light of a bias by recruiters for people who are currently employed.

The answer to me is, it depends. I do believe that honesty is the best policy, but I also believe the world is not black and white and there are extenuating circumstances. For instance, some executives are retained by companies as consultants to ensure a smooth transition, while others are still on the payroll due to their severance packages. In each of those instances you might want to keep the box checked that you’re still with the company. Why, because there is still a bias against people who are unemployed.

This is in opposition to the post.  The author refers to Nona K. Footz, managing director of executive recruiting firm RSR Partners. According to Footz, in the past recruiters often passed on candidates who were “on the beach” (A.K.A. out of work). “But the market has changed, and as long as there is a positive story as to why you were let go, you should not be afraid to be transparent with your situation.”

I commend Ms. Footz for being open minded with her recruiting candidates, but have spoken with several recruiters who’ve confided in me that they prefer candidates who are currently employed. While there are some exceptions among recruiters, like Ms. Footz, who understand that the current economic conditions have left some very talented people on the market, for the most part, the bias still exists.

Ms. Footz also says, “it looks worse if a recruiter calls you thinking you’re still at Company X and you have to break the news that you’ve left.” I disagree. The goal is to get the call and once you have the recruiter on the line, you have control over telling your transparent story while building rapport with the recruiter.

The post also suggests that you should update your profile immediately with the information that you are no longer employed so your network can be your eyes and ears and refer jobs to you. However, if you’re actively using LinkedIn (actively being the operative word here), you can still reach out to your network and achieve excellent results.

Finally, should you use the months and years indicating the time you worked or just the years. Again, it depends. Which makes you look more appealing? LinkedIn is your marketing brochure, using either months and years or just the years are both being truthful, but you need to go with whichever tells the better story about you. Remember, its about being honest but also about being smart with the goal of getting the phone to ring.


LinkedIn: New One-Click Skills Endorsements

LinkedIn recently introduced a new feature on its site, one-click skills and expertise endorsements. Now you can go to a friend or colleague’s profile find the skills and expertise area and click on a listed skill (or even add some skills or other areas of expertise that aren’t yet listed). This new feature makes it very easy to endorse your connection on LinkedIn. Think of it as LinkedIn’s version of a Facebook “Like”.

This is very different from a recommendation on LinkedIn. A recommendation requires that your connection actually sit down and take the time and energy to write a thoughtful and articulate testimonial regarding your work and performance. For a recruiter or decision-maker reviewing a job candidate’s profile, the recommendations can give additional insight into a prospective candidate’s background.

The ease of the one-click skills endorsement begs the question of how much weight someone reading the profile will give to these “likes” on LinkedIn. To me, gathering these endorsements is reminiscent of Valentine’s Day back in elementary school. Do you remember (I know, for some of us this goes back a little ways) running home with your little cardboard box filled with Valentine’s and counting and comparing with your friends how many Valentine’s you’d received. Most with “Roses are red, violets are blue . . .” not exactly the quality love notes we come to expect as adults from a single special admirer.

Which brings me to my point, quantity versus quality. Are we just becoming a one-click “Like” world and moving away from quality assessments that actually add value and insight into a person’s background and capabilities. I’d love to hear from recruiters and HR professionals on their feelings regarding the new one-click endorsements and how much they will impact their decisions in contacting potential candidates.