Archive for May, 2012

Hi everyone:

It’s late May here in downtown Hamilton and it’s another scorcher outside. When I woke up this morning and my local radio station told me that the forecast for today was sunny and featuring the 3 H’s (hot, hazy and humid), I knew that I had to find somewhere cool to pass at least some of the day. So once again, I find myself back here at the Hamilton Public Library, along with my trusty friend, the laptop computer. Very much like my previous entry when I told you all about the Burlington Coffee Group. I`m not at the same desk as I was back then – but in another part of the building. But working here today does have the desired impact and helps me beat the heat. And that is what really counts.

Today’s blog entry finds its origins in what I wrote recently about the “30 second infomercial”. Seems a few of you really liked it, to the point of contacting me and suggesting that I keep writing articles like that, based on things I have learned over the years through my involvement at HAPPEN. Not a bad idea, and I just might do that from time to time in future as I feel led. So in that spirit, may I present for all of you some thoughts about what you should not say or do at a job interview. It’s based on many sources, such as an article in the April 30 edition of The Toronto Star entitled “How to Ace That Job Interview” that was recently brought to my attention. I also did some research online, and another source is some of my recruiter friends that I have worked with on behalf of our HAPPEN members. Also, a late 2011 survey on the subject from Career Builder that was mentioned in that Toronto Star article. So without further delay, let’s get started!

Dressed for the interview in clothing that doesn’t fit in the workplace (such as tank-tops sweatpants shorts and flip-flops). Some people take this “business casual” thing a bit too far.

Answering your cellphone, constantly sending text messages during the interview or other actions which tell the interviewer that he or she doesn’t have your total attention and that you’re not taking this seriously.

Chewing gum, eating potato chips and other foods while talking to the interviewer. Didn’t have time for breakfast or lunch before the meeting?

Yawned and started to nod-off. Hey buddy, up a bit late last night?

Admitted that they can be very difficult to work with and doesn’t take instruction well.

Arrived late, and looked as if they had come straight from the local nightclub, pub or similar place.

Provided references, but asked you not to contact at least one of them because he or she would not say good things about their work.

Talked about his outstanding arrest warrants and other legal troubles.

He only applied for this job because his parents made him do it.

Brought his mother to the interview – and she did more talking than the candidate did!

Discussed not wanting to work very hard or didn’t want to give his best commitment every day.

Got up and left during the interview with no explanation.

When asked why she wanted this job, a young woman answered “because it’s great money!”

Here’s some other tips that might help your next interview go much better:

Don’t bring your family and friends to the interview and have them wait in the lobby/outer office because you have plans and “Dad won’t let me drive downtown yet”

Don’t tell the interviewer that you just loved your last job because you never had to work very hard.

Tell the truth not only on your resume, but in every part of your credentials. Sorry pal, but cutting the neighbours grass every Saturday morning last summer doesn’t mean that you were the sole proprietor of a landscaping company or that you can list “Director of Lawn and Grounds Management” as a past job title.

Don’t hand in samples of your past work or documents relating to this job search that show a lack of judgement on your part (such as putting down your Facebook page instead of an e-mail address on your resume)

Finally, if you really want your interview to go really well, here’s some ideas that you really should do:

Do some research on the company before the interview. There’s lots of resources out there that can help you prepare, both online and in print. Use your LinkedIn network to learn as much as you can about the company. Read things like their annual report or other company documents. If you know people who currently work there or did in the past year or so, ask them about the company. Learn about their company culture, the products and services they offer and other relevant things. Become an expert on the company and use that knowledge to your advantage during the interview. The interviewer will be impressed!

Be cheerful and present a positive and upbeat attitude. We all know that job hunting has its frustrations. Especially if you have been out of work for a few months and you feel depressed or discouraged. But you can`t let the interviewer see that. Smile, project a positive attitude, and if it means putting on a brave face and really working hard to present a positive and happy impression, do it!

Don`t trash your previous employers. Although there are always two sides to every story, it`s possible that you really were poorly treated at your last job. Or other factors contributed so that you really don`t like the company you used to work for. But it`s not good form to say bad things about them during an interview. If asked about an issue that might relate to that company (such as why you left…), put a positive spin on the situation. Be a professional and handle the issue with tact and class. They`ll respect and appreciate you more if you do.

Bring your resume to life by talking about specific achievements and accomplishments at a past employer. Tell the interviewer how you dealt with the challenges of your past jobs. If you increased sales by a million dollars over the past five years, that`s something you can take pride in. Tell them about how you did it and why it made a difference to your company`s bottom line.

Talk about the position you are now applying for. Think outside the box and tell the interviewer what innovative and exciting ideas you have for this job. What would you bring to the position that is different from anyone else. Show the interviewer that you are thinking strategically and that you can bring passion, enthusiasm and the highest commitment level. And that they may as well send the other candidates home because you`re easily the best candidate for the job.

That`s it for now. As always, thank you so much for reading my blog entries. With so much content out there online, I really appreciate when you spend a few moments of your time with my blog. I hope you enjoy what I write and I wish all my readers the very best of everything that life has to offer.

Until next time!!

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Hi everyone:

A warm late May morning here in Hamilton. Feels more like July out there – hot, sticky and very humid. And it’s not even 12 noon yet! If you read my blog entries on a regular basis, then you know that I am not a great fan of hot weather. Winter is definitely more to my liking! On days like this I prefer not to work at home, but find some cooler surroundings. So this morning, I am sitting in the Hamilton Public Library’s central branch at a desk overlooking York Boulevard, one of the major streets of downtown Hamilton. Not a bad place to work. I can watch the world go by out on the street, access the Net via HPL’s wireless connection, and get things done in a quiet and air conditioned setting. Not bad, if you ask me. I love this laptop computer and the mobility it gives me!

I’m a passionate networker and have been for many years. Some of that comes from my involvement with HAPPEN, Canada’s largest executive network. We’ve been helping thousands of executives, senior managers and others at similar employment levels find new jobs for over 20 years. It’s primarily done by networking. People helping each other and working together in such a way that we all win. Another reason why I love networking is what many people call the “pay it forward” concept Although the concept has been around in some form for hundreds, if not thousands of years, it’s only recently come to prominence. It’s really very simple. The idea is that if someone does a good deed for you (such as buying you a coffee, letting you go ahead of them in a line-up, giving you a ride somewhere, tipping you off to a great vacation spot…), instead of returning the favour to that person, do something nice for another person. It doesn’t have to be someone you know – I think that “pay it forward” actually works best when you help out a total stranger. Especially someone that you will probably never meet again. Great concept, isn’t it? Imagine if we all practiced “pay it forward”? The world would be a much kinder, gentler and happier place.

HAPPEN isn’t the only place where I practice networking on a regular basis, and this leads me to the subject of this entry. I am also an active member of an informal organzation called the The Burlington Coffee Group. We meet on the 4th Saturday morning of every month, except for December (since the 4th Saturday tends to conflict with the Christmas/Holiday season, we replace it with a seasonally appropriate party on a weeknight in Burlington earlier in the month). Our meeting location is the Williams Fresh Cafe – 1250 Brant Street, Burlington and anyone with an interest in networking is welcome to join us. You can learn more the Group by visiting the BCG Web site link just up the page, or located at a few other places in this entry. The site offers a wealth of interesting information about our group, and you can even download a copy of our 2012 meeting schedule.

Sometimes people ask me what goes on at a BCG meeting. Good question, especially because that’s not talked about on our Web page. Let’s take a moment now to address that. Our meetings are led either by our Convenor or another member of our leadership team in case she is not able to join us. Although we usually aim for 8:30 a.m. to get underway, it is quite common for some attendees to arrive at Williams earlier than that. Once we have sufficient numbers as determined by that morning’s leader to get underway, we will get everyone together in a small section of the Cafe (our usual area is to the left of the entrance as you walk in) and get the meeting started.

Our format is very simple to follow. The person leading the meeting usually offers some opening remarks, welcoming everyone to today’s meeting, then continuing with an overview of the format. He or she then invites each person around the table in turn to present a variant of what we call at HAPPEN, the “30 second infomercial”. Although in a group setting such as the BCG , it tends to be more like the “5 minute infomercial”, the concept is the same as what we do at HAPPEN. Each person starts by introducing themselves, followed by a brief overview of their professional background (academic background, field of expertise…). Next, if that person is currently unemployed, we encourage them to tell us what kind of work they are looking for. Do they want to stay in the same profession? Perhaps find their old job but with a different company? Or do they want to try something different? To put this another way, we ask them to share this information with us so that they can tell us how we can help them. We also encourage them to tell us what things they have tried so far in their job search. This could be any number of things such as what positions they have applied for. Are they active on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites? Do they go to other networking meetings, especially those relating to their own areas of expertise/interest?

Once that person has finished their presentation/infomercial, we then throw it wide open and encourage the others in attendance to respond. And that’s where the real benefit of a group like the BCG comes from. In almost every case, people will have suggestions that the person can try. One person might have a good networking contact (perhaps at a company that the person wants to work for). Someone else may alert them to an upcoming event (e.g. an IT group is meeting in Guelph on Tuesday night). A third person might suggest that he or she connect with them on LinkedIn or similar network. And on it goes. While I’ve listed three examples of possible reactions, there are endless possibilities. The important thing to note here is that it’s networking time. We’re using our contacts to help and encourage each other. Speaking of contacts, we also encourage everyone who attends one of our meetings to bring their business cards, and to make sure they are distributed to their fellow attendees. A business card is one of the best pieces of contact information, and if nothing else it allows you to connect with others after the meeting. Especially if you met someone there for the first time and wanted to make sure you keep in touch with each other.

After the first person has done their presentation and we all feel that the rest of the gang has offered their feedback, the meeting leader will move on to the next person (usually whoever is sitting beside that first one). They do the same thing, offering their own variant on the infomercial and asking for feedback. We keep doing this again and again until each person at the meeting has had a chance to present themselves. At the end the meeting leader might also present their own infomercial, or at their discretion they may decide not to and simply offer some final remarks to wrap things up. Thanks for coming and we hope to see you next month.

Do you have to be looking for work to attend a BCG meeting? No. Although many of our members are in fact unemployed and use the BCG as an ideal forum to connect with others, anyone with an interest in networking and a genuine desire to help others is most welcome. In fact, one of our strongest “demographics” consists of people who once attended the HAPPEN networking meetings either on Tuesdays in Mississauga or Wednesdays in Burlington. Now that they are working, they can’t attend a weekday meeting but since they believe in networking and helping others, they show up at our Saturday session. It also allows them to keep in touch with friends they made when they attended HAPPEN. They are also encouraged to introduce themselves to the rest of us, but instead of telling us what kind of work they are looking for, these folks may be more likely to talk about how they can help those who are looking, and share useful contacts. It’s always good to see our “alumni” turn up on a Saturday morning and their presence can be very valuable to those who are looking for work.

Sometimes we hear from people who own home-based businesses (such as multi-level marketing operations) or others who wish to do presentations on behalf of organizations that want to recruit people to join their team. While this is understandable (especially when you consider that many folks who come to the BCG meetings are unemployed), our meetings are not the place for this type of presentation. Two main reasons for this policy. First, because the BCG is set up to be a networking forum. We want to ensure ample time for everyone to do a short presentation as outlined earlier in this blog entry. In order to keep focused and to make the best use of our time together, a presentation from a home-based business or similar operation doesn’t really work. The second reason is that just like HAPPEN or similar networking meetings, our goal at the BCG is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable, relaxed and genuinely want to network and share their contacts with each other. Many people feel rather uncomfortable attending business presentations, especially if within that presentation they hear a sales pitch encouraging them to join (more than often perceived to be accompanied by a high pressured atmosphere). So if you are reading this and you represent companies such as Amway, Shaklee, Avon, Melaleuca or similar operations that like to recruit people to sell their products from home, we would prefer that you not do presentations at our BCG meetings. Feel free to join us, bring some business cards that you can share with the rest of us, and even take a moment to tell us about what you do and the organization you represent, but please don’t go further.

Time to wrap up this blog entry. I hope that I have offered an overview of what the Burlington Coffee Group is all about. And I hope that we will see you at one of our Saturday morning meetings. If you live in Burlington or a nearby community (such as Hamilton, Mississauga or Oakville), and have a passionate interest in networking and helping others, come and join us. And feel free to tell others about us.

Thanks for reading this blog entry – until next time!

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Hi everyone:

Those of you who know me are aware of my involvement with HAPPEN, the Toronto area networking organization that I have had a part-time business relationship since November 1996. And ever since I first started writing these blog entries a few years ago (2009), it has always been my intention to share some of the things I have learned from HAPPEN (and which we try to share with our members at every meeting) with all of you, my readers. So let’s spend some time today looking at what we call the “30 second infomercial”. In addressing this subject, I likely won’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said before. This concept is hardly revolutionary and chances are that many of will recognize this format from other places. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be 30 seconds. But in sharing this with all of you, I want to use what I might call “the HAPPEN method” because it is the one I know best, and it’s something I have taught to our membership countless times in the past. In order to make this easier, I will divide this into two entries. This one provides a “behind the scenes” look at how the infomercial works. The second will tackle the informercial itself. Let’s get started!

As part of every HAPPEN meeting, we encourage anyone who is attending one of our meetings for the first time, whether they have taken out a membership with us or are here as visitors, to introduce themselves to the rest of us. Now we also realize that for some folks this could be a fairly daunting task. Especially if you’re not comfortable talking about yourself in front of a group of total strangers. But we also hope you realize that a HAPPEN meeting is not meant to be a “judgemental” environment. And because all of us have been where you are in the past, we understand completely what you might be thinking and feeling. Which is another reason why we hope this is a friendly and healthy environment for you. We also like to take a few minutes to ease everyone into this by providing some background information. That’s what this blog entry is all about. So let’s set the stage for the infomercial.

In a group setting such as HAPPEN or another networking meeting, you have 30 seconds or less to make a good first impression.

Group settings can take place just about anywhere and/or at any time. Could be at HAPPEN or similar networking meeting. Or a similar business environment where you are meeting other people (such as your local Chamber of Commerce). It could even be as simple as the check-out line at your local supermarket or on the subway platform or bus stop waiting for the next commuter train or bus. How about joining the other parents at your child’s sports event? There are countless other examples of a group setting, but what they all have in common is the potential to meet just one person who can help you land that next great job.

Another thing they have in common is the innate ability of everyone present to form first impressions of each other. When we explore this at HAPPEN, we talk about 30 seconds. But many studies out there show that in fact first impressions are formed much sooner than that. Remember that well-worn phrase “How you present yourself says a lot about you?” It sure applies to first impressions, and often sooner than you might think. As an example, I remember hearing about one such study which indicated that if you walk into a room and say nothing at all, the others in the room who noticed your arrival will likely have a first impression within 5 to 7 seconds. And you haven’t even said anything! But they saw things like your clothing, hair style, posture… and the other “silent” elements that might speak louder than words. There are, of course, many other things that contribute to creating first impressions. Your tone of voice when you do talk with others, your attitude, the “vibes” you send out to everyone else… you get the idea.

Ah, but there’s more. Didn’t you notice that I actually mentioned a “good” first impression? That’s a key element to remember here. We all make first impressions whenever we meet someone for the first time. There’s no escaping it because it’s all just part of being human. But I mentioned a “good” first impression because in any sort of networking environment (such as a HAPPEN meeting), the organizers want to create a synergy of “people helping people”. After all, isn’t that really what networking is all about? People helping people? And if you create that good first impression, if someone hears an infomercial and really likes you, it’s more likely that we have created that synergy and all the people who just heard you will be more likely to help you and you them.

You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

That’s why creating a good first impression with your infomercial is so important. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. So at the risk of making this a pressure filled situation, make sure you get it right the first time.

Use the “CCM” model for your infomercial.

Huh? Give me that again. What is the “CCM” model? Well, I’m glad you asked. It stands for Clear, Concise, and Memorable. Let’s break this down a bit further in the next three paragraphs:

Clear – an infomercial is a great example of needs assesment. You go to HAPPEN or similar networking meeting with a need. The need to get that next great job. But the rest of us can’t help you unless we know what that need is. Tell us as clearly as you can what you are looking for. Which for the rest of us means “how can we help you?” Do you want to stay in your chosen profesion or try something new? Any geographical stuff we need to know? Do you mind a one hour drive across town, or would you rather work close to home? But no matter what you are looking for, be sure to clearly tell the rest of us just what you are looking for. While you are explaining that to us, chances are we will be thinking about potential contacts we can give you that match our understanding of what you are telling us.

Concise – OK, those of you who know me fully realize that being concise and to the point isn’t one of my strong suits. And it isn’t in this blog entry because I want to explain how an infomercial works. But we all know that out there in the real world, people have very short attention spans. Society moves at ever increasing speeds. So forget about getting it done yesterday – 21st century society wanted it done last week or before. What I am trying to say here is that when you do an infomercial, get to the point fast. Don’t ramble on and on and on and on and on…. If you go much longer than 30 seconds, you will bore your audience to tears and you will be tuned out so fast it will make your head spin. So whether it’s at HAPPEN or any other environment, make sure you offer a concise, to-the-point presentation.

Memorable – This one might be the last of the 3 elements of “CCM”, but it also might be the most important. We spend a lot of time talking about at HAPPEN, not just during the infomercial part of a meeting. It’s important to make yourself “memorable” for all the right reasons. We all know that in today’s job market, hiring managers get hundreds of resumes for every one job opening. Why should they hire you and not one of your competitors? That’s where making yourself memorable comes into play. You might think of yourself as a finance person, an engineer, an IT specialist, or a human resources professional (just to name some examples). But when you are looking for your next job, you are now in sales and marketing. You must think of yourself as a personal brand that you want to sell to a prospective employer. So to answer my question about why should they hire you, the answer is really quite simple. They hire you because you “sold” yourself better than all the rest. You presented yourself so convincingly and made such a strong case that they decided to buy the product. And you, my friend, are the product!

We have now reached the end of part one. At this point in a HAPPEN meeting we have taken a few minutes to set the stage and prepared those people attending for the first time for their infomercial. So let’s now move on to part two, where we will look at the infomercial itself. If you’re ready, I invite you to scroll down the page and let’s dive in. Or if you’re leaving us at this stage, thanks for reading and I hope to see you back for part two at another time.

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Hi everyone:

Welcome back! I trust that you have read part one of this series about how an infomercial works, located just above this text. That entry was designed to provide a prologue of sorts and to set up what we call at HAPPEN the “30 second infomercial”. Now let’s break down the infomercial itself, and by the time we finish, you just might want to try this yourself!

Start the infomercial by telling us who you are (introduce yourself), and continue with a sentence or two about your professional background

Duh – do I really have to tell you my name? Do I really have to answer your question? But in all seriousness, if we have never met you before and you also don’t know the rest of us then it’s pretty obvious that you need to introduce yourself. Next, tell us something about your background. What field do you work in? Academic credentials (university degrees…)? Anything else that helps us learn more about you? One of the other things we suggest at HAPPEN is that if you have worked for a well known company or other organization, a household name that we’re all familiar with (some examples could include a bank or other financial institution like Bank of Montreal (BMO), TD Canada Trust or Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), an IT company such as IBM Canada, Research in Motion or Microsoft, or one of North America’s leading auto companies like GM , Ford or Toyota) tell us that too. Back in part one, I mentioned that you need to think of yourself as a personal brand that you are selling yourself to a potential employer. So if as part of your employment history, you have worked for one or more of the big time companies out there that everyone is familiar with, use that to your advantage as part of your personal marketing strategy. Especially if you left that company on good terms and/or still keep in touch with many of your former colleagues. Not only can that help your own job hunt, but also because you can use those contact to help the rest of us. More about that in a moment!

Next, tell us what you are looking for. How can all of us help you?

Now we come to the heart of it all. I’m not much for gambling, but if I was I would wager any amount of money you want that this is why you came to HAPPEN, other networking meeting or a similar event that this infomercial thing applies to. Chances are you heard about this event and thought to yourself “I’ll bet these folks can help me get my next job”. And you would be right. But as I mentioned back in part one of this series, an infomercial is the classic case of needs assessment. In order for us to help you, we need to know what you are looking for. If you want the same job you had before, but with one of your former company’s competitors, tell us that. Or if you want to try something new, share that with us. Whatever you want to do to take the next step in your career, we all want to help you, but can’t unless you share that information with us.

Tell us what you can give back in return. What sort of contacts do you have that you can use to help us?

This is the one part of the infomercial that isn’t always apparent to people when they do them. At least in my experience of having listened to thousands of these things over the years at HAPPEN and in similar environments. But this is understandable. After all, there is a tendency when job hunting to get so wrapped up in our own job search, wondering where our next paycheque will come from and related matters that we forget that networking is really supposed to be a two way street. It’s not only about what all of us listening to you can do for you. The opposite is also true. All of us have contacts that we can use to help each other. Think of that next time you hear someone else do their infomercial. You just did one hoping that the others in the room can help you. It’s only logical that when you finish your infomercial and then hear the next person do it, they have the same expectation you do.

In fact, that’s a common element to every infomercial – regardless of the time and place it’s presented. Every single person who does an infomercial offers it in the hope that the other people can help them. So now that you’re listening to an infomercial instead of giving one, isn’t it only right that you offer the same help you are hoping to receive yourself? The Golden Rule says “Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.” Or similar words. If you have a caring spirit, the desire to help others, and share your contacts with the rest of us, we will all create that syenergy that I mentioned back in part 1. That’s right. People helping people. That’s what networking is all about.

Finish the infomercial by repeating your name and a reminder of your background

At HAPPEN, we suggest that you finish by introducing yourself once again. We may not have heard your name at the beginning, or perhaps we were all so dazzled by the presentation that we forgot who you are. And as an option, remind us again of what your background is.

So there it is folks! That’s the basic essence of the 30 second infomrcial. It can be a powerful weapon in your own personal marketing campaign. Before we go, let me offer a print edition of the infomercial and hope this helps you understand the principle a bit further:

Hello everyone. My name is Greg Brown. I have a Master of Library Science from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. I work part-time as the Opportunities Administrator for HAPPEN, and am also a freelance consultant. I can offer a wide variety of skills to interested parties, such as a librarian, Web site designer, information manager, public speaker and technical writer. I am currently looking for oppportunities to use these and other skills in service to prospective employers in the Greater Toronto Area, as a supplement to what I do with HAPPEN.

Thanks to my longtime association with HAPPEN, I have many contacts that I can use to help you land your next job, especially with recruiters, human resources personnel and others in hiring positions. I also have an extensive LinkedIn network that I would be delighted to share with any of you.

Once again, my name is Greg Brown and I am a freelance consultant. Thanks for reading this infomercial and have a great day!

Perfection? No. The ideal way to do an informercial? No. Times out at 30 seconds or less if I read this to an audience? Probably not? Something that I wanted to finish off this blog entry in the hopes that it can help my readers get the concept? Definitely yes.

I wish all of you reading this the very best of luck in your own job search campaigns. And if you think that all of us at HAPPEN can help you and you live in the Toronto (or Vancouver!) area, come and join us at one of our weekly meetings. Details of our meetings including locations, times, our fee structure and other great info is available from our Web site. We’ll save a spot for you, and we all look forward to hearing your infomercial!

Until next time!

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