How to get your next job through your network!


Knowing what kind of opportunity you would like to pursue next, you can wait for the perfect role to show up online or… you could actively work through your network to get further!

Think about this:

  • The high level of competition for the role if you apply for a role online! Your experience and education and the design of your CV/Resume would have to be better than all other applicants to get through to the end of the recruitment process!
  • They estimate that 70% of roles are not advertised, but instead are sourced through networks! This means you could be invited for a discussion or interview just based on the fact that someone recommended you or introduced you to a decision-maker!
  • Every person you know from past roles, from school or college days, people you met and talked to at conferences, family, friends – could possibly know someone who is connected to a role that would be great for you!

Getting more contacts and making a positive impression on those you meet is important. It is not about pretending or lying, it is more about showing respect and genuine interest in those you meet. When people like the encounters they have with you, they want good things to happen for you and they might be keen to ask people they know to meet you or have a discussion with you. And this is all you need in many cases to get to the next step – a consulting project or a new job!

What does your network look like?

If you take a blank sheet of paper and you try to draw out this graphic below, perhaps you will be able to jot down people’s names for each of the circles and be able to create your starter list. This means the list of people whom you will start with – making contact with them.

The groups of people you know the best are most likely:

Friends, Family members, Classmates (now or from years before), ex-colleagues or trusted current colleagues, neighbors (now or from an earlier address where you lived at one point).

The next level of people you may want to contact include:

People you have met or interacted with on a sports team, or a social organization you joined, or a hobby class you took at some point, people you met and spoke to at a conference.

Priorities:

Looking through the names of people you listed in the worksheet (download available below), who might know people at the companies you are hoping to work for? Who knows about the kind of work you are good at and want to do? Who has the knowledge or experience to help you in your search? Who am I most comfortable talking to? (start there!)

How can your network help you?

What do you tell them ?

  1. When you talk to someone who already knows you, you do not need to introduce yourself. When talking to a contact of someone you know, introduce yourself.
  2. Make sure your message is complete: why are you talking to him/her? What exactly do you hope to get out of the conversation?
  3. Be specific about what you are looking for – i.e. role in sales, working on electric installation projects, etc.
  4. What are your training, certifications, experience, and skills to explain how you plan to successfully deliver in the role mentioned above? (the short version – only mention the most important ones!)
  5. Have your questions ready and be ready to rephrase any questions that are not easily understood by the person you are talking to.
  6. Give the other person time to think about their answers by being quiet after you asked.
  7. Show genuine interest in their advice or suggestions.

Questions to ask

The questions below can be used as a guide as you create your own list of questions to ask your contacts. Do consider how strong your history and relationship is with each person you talk to before you ask any of the questions. Rephrase any questions to allow for cultural differences and preferences and also to match the formality required for your conversation.

Depending on the role of the person or his or her expertise/experience, you may choose different questions for each conversation. Note the specific questions you want to ask each person before you contact him/her. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of questions – something you can fit into a 30-minute call would be best when you talk to someone whom you have not met yet and who is giving you some of his/her precious time for this conversation.

  • Are you aware of any job vacancies which would fit my skills/experience?
  • Would you help me by looking out for opportunities you might become aware of and which might be useful to me?
  • Do you know anyone who might be planning to change jobs where I might be a possible role replacement candidate?
  • Do you know any companies where my skills and experience may be sought-after?
  • Are you aware of any new companies moving into the area and/or whom I might be able to contact about a role there?
  • Would you be willing to help me get an appointment for a discussion with a recruiter at your company?
  • May I ask for your help in preparing for an interview (given your contacts/knowledge etc)?
  • Would you be able to help me with more information about a company I would like to target for an unsolicited application?
  • How would you advise me to proceed with my interest in THIS role or getting a role at Company X?
  • Would you be willing to be a reference for me?
  • Would you be willing to review my resume/CV and give me any tips or improvement suggestions?

How do you plan your approach?

Using the attached workbook below, start filling in the names on a sheet

Note contact details you might have or if you are connected with any of them through social media

Start with the people you know the best and explain what kind of opportunity you are looking for and listen to their advice or ideas of who they might know and would connect you with.

After the discussion, capture their suggestions in the worksheet in the “Advice/Next step?” column.

Follow-up on these, contact the person they suggested or introduced you to and ask for a meeting to discuss your interest in the company, work they do, etc.

DOWNLOAD file for this exercise:

Each of the tabs in this worksheet (see file above) contains a table for you to capture the names of people you thought of while looking at the groups of people you are connected to. Complete the table for each of the groups you have considered as far as you can. (see example below for someone who identified 3 friends, but has not yet contacted them).

Follow-up

To keep your momentum, monitor your follow-up actions which could range from contacting a suggested person or calling someone another time as agreed during the previous conversation you had with him or her. Set targets for yourself per day and per week to avoid procrastination or letting a contact “go cold”. This could happen if you call too long after the initial call and the person you are contacting may have forgotten that your mutual contact had introduced you to each other.!

Tips:

Networks of contacts and human connections can be a fragile environment and it is important that though your need for them to act on your behalf is high, you need to also maintain a good relationship throughout and continue to be someone whom they would like to help. Very few people HAVE to help you, they will because they want to. Your attitude and way of talking to them will determine how much they will be willing to help you.

  • Be firm and confident, but not pushy. Sometimes there is a very thin line between those two. And the difference is often the strength of the history of your relationship with that person. If you know him or her for a long time and you have spent a lot of time together, you may be able to be a little pushier to get him or her to introduce you to someone else. When you have had only one or two conversations with someone at a conference, you would not likely have a strong enough relationship to be overly familiar or strong in your approach.
  • Always be thankful. Even if you have known someone for a long time, if they introduce you to someone or give you a handy tip that leads to a conversation, do let them know how thankful you are for their help.. Also thank people for taking the time to talk to you regardless of the outcome.
  • Only contact people from a conference or a class you took in the past if you actually spoke to them. It would be quite unusual to simply use a conference or class attendance list and email or contact each person on it regardless of whether you actually spoke to them at the time. Most people might disregard requests for calls or discussions in such cases.
  • Do not expect your contacts to call you back when they have more information for you. Ask if it would be alright for you to call back within a week or two.
  • When you had a great conversation with someone, why not add him or her to your list of future contacts? You never know when you may be able to introduce them to a new client or opportunity that fits into their business model!

Top 10 Reasons Why Communication Fails


We all had times when we were misunderstood or simply did not feel we truly understood what someone else was trying to say. When you have communicators from different national backgrounds, the chances of misunderstandings increase. If you also throw in the fact that only a handful of people in the room have English as a first language, the chances of misunderstandings are magnified even further.

Here are the top 10 reasons why messages may be understood by your intended audience:

What can you do about it?

Wisdom is realizing there is only so much you can impact or control, other factors you may be able to influence, but not change or control. Focus on what you are able to do.

Cultural impact: Whereas you may not be able to impact where someone grew up, you can learn more about the cultures of others on your team to correctly anticipate any possible impediments to your messages being understood or interpreted correctly.

Not my Language: Knowing how many of your team members do not have English as a first language can help you prepare your messages using simple sentence structures and more common words to avoid confusion.

Distractions (obvious): Ensure that there are no distractions to people being able to pay attention to and maximize their ability to understand you correctly during meetings. In remote settings, having participants on mute where ambient noise causes a distraction on the video call. You can also ask everyone to turn on their cameras to improve engagement during a remote call.

Fake news – Source reliability: Ensure that any data you plan to use is sourced from reliable sources – reputable research companies or institutions. Making the resource material or reports available to team members may further positively impact your ability to avoid your message not being accepted due to doubts about the source of key facts presented during your meeting.

What they know: Ensuring that intended meeting participants have enough pre-reading to help them fully engage with the topics you wish to discuss may avoid spending time filling in knowledge gaps that some may have on the topic. Where your topic may be controversial, do not shy away from mentioning opposing views and why you do not support those perspectives.

What they prefer: If you have a high number of team members who prefer to have material available earlier to study it and form their opinions, consider sending key reports out before the meeting. This will improve chances of having an engaging discussion about the topics you plan to cover in your meeting.  Some intended meeting participants may focus more on the financial data, or operational data etc. Be sure to have relevant information available to address predictable questions in these areas.

Judgement before you said a word: If there is something unusual about your appearance of name, consider mentioning it up front or tell a story about it to neutralize the observation and get their attention. Make sure you dress for the occasion to avoid interfering with your own messages.

The last four categories are not easy to impact since they are closely linked to everyone’s psychological make-up or habits. Based on past experiences, personal beliefs and values, people will naturally be drawn towards or away from agreeing with your perspective on a range of topics. Knowing your team or those who would attend your presentations, might help you avoid the pitfalls. Other than that, you may need to use pre-engagement and post-engagement activities to give your messages a higher chance of being correctly interpreted and understood.

The Checklist

Click below to download an excel checklist to help you do a quick check – where can you be more effective when you communicate? Perhaps the checklist shows areas impacting your communication with a key team member. Talking about specific areas impacting your communication success, you may be able to improve your ability to correctly interpret and understand each other’s messages.

Researching New Office Locations – checklist


What if a valued customer wants you to do a project or support them from a new location where you do not currently have an office? Yes, research will be needed! But there are so many things that may be important, where would you start? This resource I am sharing is a handy starter-list for the research that HR is often expected to do.

The topics covered in the attached checklist include the following areas:

And in each case, the checklist contains the aspect to the left and leaves you some space to jot down notes pertaining to your company and your plans. (See example below) That way you can quickly create your next-step plans following your research.

Some points to ponder:

  • Trying to answer the question about how much to pay employees you plan to relocate to the new office – calculate their entire package before you start. Add in all benefits they are getting which may not be cash in their hands i.e. health insurance, pension contributions by the company etc. Considering the full package is the starting point, not the annual salary only.
  • Look for local tax breaks that may be available to those you plan to relocate. In some countries they may be able to pay lower personal taxes.
  • If the local language is neither English nor the language spoken at the office your planned expats work now – how can you help them learn the new language? Even if all business is conducted in one language, the planned expats would need to set up their lives locally including trips to the supermarket, making local friends, and finding local information online. Being able to understand some basic words or say some basic phrases in the local language could be very valuable as they get settled there.
  • How can you minimize the carbon footprint of that new location? Limiting flights in and out of that new office and only placing expats there when the work cannot be done remotely or using modern tools and platforms to accomplish business objectives and outcomes.

The shared resource above is a starter-list and may not include all the aspects you need to look at before mobilizing. It is a great tool for doing a high-level review of a location under consideration for a new office or site.

While you can find a lot of the information you need online, I strongly recommend engaging with recognized experts in establishing operations abroad. Laws change, new trends emerge which have not yet made it into laws and websites are not always updated in a timeous fashion. So do your own research (using the checklist above) to understand the “lay of the land”. If you want to go further, engage with experts who may be able to advise on additional aspects and possible solutions which you may have missed in your own first-pass research efforts.

Don’t hit send (yet)


Maybe the truth is that nobody is helping new employees focus their efforts in order to produce better reports or emails. And by better, I mean some of the items that are in this checklist (below). Perhaps, instead, it is the excitement and eagerness to hit the send button too soon.

Let’s walk through 5 things you can do to ensure that your email or your report or slide deck does not suffer from a few preventable ailments and risk being deemed as “not ready yet” for further distribution. Delivering work that is incomplete or incorrect will not lead to being considered for more responsibilities any time soon. Want to move up? Focus on the quality of your work first.

All names spelled correctly

Most people find it annoying to read minutes of meetings or a report which names them but misspells their first or last names. This is completely avoidable these days. With the internet and most people having Linkedin accounts, or in the same company you can look people up on the email system. There is no reason why we should be misspelling people’s names these days. When you do not take the time to double-check, it comes across as callous, lazy, or just not committed to producing quality work.

All dates are correct

Not all countries use the same format for dates. This would be the first point to consider – who will read your email/report? Check (online if needed): how do they write dates in that country? If you have a distribution list including people from multiple countries, consider writing the date out more: 3 Mar 2019 (for example)

The second point is more often a bugbear of mine – dates in the same document contradicting one another. For example: on page 2 of the slide deck it states that the project is completed on 2 Dec of that year, on page 5 it states that the project will run well into the new year and completion is projected to be the end of March of the next year. Which one is correct? If they are both correct – explain the term completion used on slides 2 and 5. Always check the latest version of your reference material or project schedule before you finalize your section on dates. It reflects badly on the creator of a document or slide deck where dates are misaligned and confusing. Check first!

Spelling or grammar errors

It is very avoidable these days to produce and send documents or slides to others without spelling errors. Use the built-in spell-check in Microsoft suite or a similar feature in other packages used. Some packages will also pick up grammar errors and flag it for you – if you have that feature turned on! Sometimes a missing word is not picked up by built-in checks. Read your own text back to yourself – aloud. Say each word. And make sure the words are not correctly spelled but actually the wrong word for the context. Examples would include: they’re/their/there or hear/here/hair

Use sane fonts

Some companies have branded templates to use for creating reports or slides. If your company does not have rules around branding which include the font colors, types, and sizes to use in company documents and slides, I would go with common sense. This would include – not using all the colors of the rainbow and multiple types of font in a project progress report and not varying the size of the font in every bullet-point you use. [Of course, if you are in the creative world and these variations are a design part of your project (as would be normal in advertising or other creative endeavors) this message is not for you].

Make it easier

Is there a clear structure to your work? Think about the message you want to communicate. What are the main points, what are the next level of detailed points to support each of the main points? Structuring your reports or emails greatly enhances the readers’ abilities to quickly understand what it is about, what the options are, and what you are proposing.

Use headings for distinct paragraphs and consider a bulleted list to align points that are grouped together under a heading. If the sequence or number of points are relevant, why not use a numbered list instead?

Speed in sending out reports is often not the biggest priority. Sending out something fast while the items listed above are incorrect or incoherent can truly harm your reputation. You would not come across as someone who has self-discipline, pride in the quality of your work, or who is seen as thorough – someone your boss can trust to give more responsibilities to! Pause, check, then hit send!

3 Templates to start your employee development program


Upgrading skills in specific employee groups could be achieved by introducing a new development program. Goals for the program could range from cross-training in key functional knowledge areas to accelerating development of specific groups. Development programs often run over several weeks or months and are attached to pre-defined outcomes to address specific identified learning needs.

Structuring your employee development plan, you will need to pay attention to at least 3 important aspects:

  1. Setting up the curriculum
  2. Preparing managers to be supportive
  3. Preparing attendees to succeed

The overall program

Setting up the curriculum over the development period means you decide how the various learning solutions are scheduled and planned to strengthen and support key messages throughout the time period that your program runs. Each aspect strengthens what had already been covered while adding additional knowledge. Including various learning methodologies (blended learning) enhances the learning experience and keeps it interesting.

Snapshot of a learning program for graduates

Note:

  1. Always start by understanding what you are trying to address before you start designing your development program. What is the learning need? What is the business value of employees having this knowledge and experience?
  2. When does the business need employees with these new skills, understanding and experiences? Is it short-term (within the next year), medium-term (between 1 and 2 years) or is it longer term (more than 2 years)? Knowing the timeframe also helps you decide what to develop internally vs outsourcing the entire program or parts of it.
  3. Who needs to learn these new skills/behaviors? Be very clear who is your target population for this development program (How many years of experience do they have right now? What kind of experience do they already have – functional, geographic etc.).

Preparing managers to support learners

Employees are more motivated and do better when their managers are onboard with their participation in the development program. Be sure to engage with managers before participants are told about the program. Managers need to understand the business context of the development program, why someone on his/her team is included in the program (if they were not nominated by the manager) and how to support the employee throughout the program. Some manages may need training or coaching in this regard.

Snapshot of a manager checklist

Employees participating in these kinds of development programs are often still working in their current roles. Supportive managers not only expect good results in their departments or projects, but also hold employees accountable for completing program assignments. This gives employees the best chance of completing the program successfully.

Preparing attendees to succeed

Development program attendees need to understand more than just the program contents and overview of dates. An orientation session for intended program attendees could help with that. The session gives them an opportunity to understand the business context and benefits to their own careers plus they can ask clarifying questions before committing to invest the time and effort needed to successfully complete the program.

Snapshot of Program Attendee checklist

And orientation session with development program attendees should include at least these topics:

  • A welcome message from an executive, usually the sponsoring executive, explaining the business value of the development program and also career benefits for attendees.
  • A message from Talent Development explaining program expectations, the blended learning approach, deadlines, the team assignment and any other relevant details of the program that attendees should know about at the start.
  • If the program existed before and there was a redesign or some changes were applied, explain how the current programs differs from previous versions some attendees may have heard about in the past.
  • Provide the opportunity for some Q&A

Keeping learners motivated when a development program runs over many months can be a challenge. Helping to keep attendees focused on assignments and deadlines can be easier when you build in challenges which generate leader boards (friendly competition) or where individuals can earn points or badges by completing specific tasks. Adding recognition by the manager/group/department can also be helpful. Recognition can include anything from a small token offered to attendees after completing a specific portion of the program to being mentioned in the company newsletter.

Hopefully these three templates (see download links above) are useful as you review your own planned development program. Do download the 3 files above if you need to see the templates in detail.

Safety Inspections for offices – a checklist template


Some of us may still be working from home, while others are back at the office for some of the time. Regardless of how much time we will spend at the office in future, it will always be important to make sure employees have a safe working environment.

Most office safety programs require an inspection to be carried out either quarterly or annually, depending on local requirements. If you are just starting out with the implementation of an office safety program, it can be hard to figure out what the checklist should include and what to look for. This template below will help get you started.

Aspects covered include:

  • Safety around electrical appliances in the office
  • Avoiding tripping hazards
  • Avoiding obstructions in walkways which could be an issue especially if there should ever be a fire and someone needs to leave fast!
  • Floors being free from loose tiles

Make this checklist part of a process, if you want to make sure the outcomes are taken seriously and really do lead to having a a safer working environment in the office.

Make it work for you

  1. Train a few people on how to use this list for inspections and what to look for. Assign different people to perform the checks – a fresh pair of eyes may just notice something which you have missed for some time.
  2. Transfer all aspects that require improvement actions after the inspection onto an action list. Monitor closure and completion of each action item until they are all done.
  3. Keep copies of your completed inspection checklist and your completed action lists. You never know when having this documentation may be useful to show your due diligence in keeping your workplace safe for employees.
  4. Look for aspects that are often noted during inspections and create an awareness program to make sure everyone in your office knows how to avoid a situation which could lead to an injury in the office.
  5. You can also think of making it fun – should the person with the best workspace get a special gift to encourage others to pay more attention to keeping their workspace safe?

The starter list file is below if you want do have your own copy to modify.

It may be a while before you are back at the office and this may be the best time to plan your Office Safety Program. This can help you to be ready for when you are scheduled to return to the office. You may want to add some more specific items related to covid19 too. Why not use this time to review the checklist template above and start drafting one that is right for you?

Checklist for Team Leader with a remote team


table final

Leading and managing a group of people at a single location is not an easy task and managers often tell me it is the people-side that wears them down. When your team is very diverse and located at different remote locations instead of at one location, the challenges and risks of the team not reaching goals multiply. The resource I am sharing today is a checklist for team leaders or managers/supervisors of remote teams and it focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the the people-side.

The downloadable checklist above lists a number of items to consider when you are leading a dispersed or remote team. This may be a useful check for team leads or project managers to ensure they are taking into account the additional challenges that remote teams bring and are taking the appropriate actions and precautions to manage the interpersonal and communications aspects on such a project.

The checklist items are grouped by the following main topics:

  1. Critical Skills for Supervising International Project teams
  2. Setting Goals and Expectations
  3. Giving Feedback and Coaching
  4. The team
  5. Communication
  6. Establishing a Good Start

Working with dispersed team members can be very interesting and it can be fun to learn about other cultures and other perspectives. However, those same interesting differences can make remote teamwork frustrating and difficult. The checklist shared here can go a long way towards helping you, as the team leader, take advantage of leading a diverse team while successfully managing the harder part of leading teams.