7 tips for making networking easier

The cocktail reception at a conference. The Facebook group meetup. The after-work social. The period before a lunch or panel discussion starts.

All of these events are great opportunities for networking. But, some people cringe when faced with a similar scenario.

If that’s you, remember that networking is worth the work. Your network is important no matter where you are in life. It’s helpful for seeking a job, advancing in your career, learning from peers or a mentor, or even expanding your social circle. Taking the time to make connections and build your network now is therefore a life-long investment.

People networking at an office event.

Need a hand making networking easier?Put these seven tips into practice and make the most of your next networking event.

  • Tip 1: Dress to impress – Plan to wear something that you feel great in. Business casual is a good rule of thumb even if the event is casual in nature, unless the event details list more formal wear. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
  • Tip 2: Ready, set, research – Research attendees and come prepared with questions in case you have the opportunity to speak with them, just as you would for a job interview or informational interview. For example, if it’s a conference, learn who’s speaking or presenting a poster. If it’s a Facebook group meetup, check out the profiles of others in the group. Look into their current jobs, published papers, or businesses, and jot down things that you’re curious about. Also, find people’s photos so that you know who’s who when you’re there. But, there’s one trick to this tip – you can’t be creepy when you mention what you learned in your research! Use your newly-found knowledge as a quick springboard into a conversation. Try starting with “Tell me a bit about the project your company worked on…” or, “Tell me about your most-recent published paper, which I thought was fascinating because…”
  • Tip 3: Quality over quantity – Don’t overestimate how many people you’ll chat with at an event. Opportunities for quality conversations are valuable. If there are a few people who you’d love to meet based on your research, focus your efforts on trying to connect with them. But, if you spark a conversation with someone new and it flows well, keep it going.
  • Tip 4: Put pen to paper – Bring a pen and notebook (for example, a small Moleskine). You’ll be prepared to make a note in case someone you’re speaking with gives you a helpful tip or a resource to check out later. This way, you can avoid having to type a note in your phone, which the other person might interpret as you being distracted by a text or email. Taking the time to write down notes will also demonstrate that you value and respect what they’re saying.
  • A purse containing a smartphone, notebook and pen.

  • Tip 5: Counting (business) cards – Double check that you have extra business cards to hand out if you have them. When receiving a business card, take it gracefully and let the person see you put it in a safe place, like your wallet or purse, to show that their contact information is important to you.
  • Tip 6: Follow up promptly – If you’d like to establish a relationship with someone you met, follow up with them later in the same day or the next day. The timing is very important! As time passes, you’re more likely to forget what you talked about, or they may even forget that they met you. Send an email or direct message and thank the person for telling you something new, or for the time they took to speak with you. Invite them to stay in touch with you however you think is most appropriate, such as via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Tip 7: Lastly, confidence is key – Be yourself and stay relaxed. If that means having a drink (at a licensed event) then go ahead, just don’t go overboard!
  • Do you have other tips for making networking easier? Share in the comments.

    Image credits: Pixabay.com.

    Gender balance makes dollars and sense

    Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. IWD marks a call-to-action for accelerating gender balance.

    This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter because:

    “Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”

    – internationalwomensday.com

    By striking the #BalanceforBetter pose, just like the photos in this post, you can help to raise awareness of this important cause.

    Striking a pose for the #BalanceforBetter campaign.

    Why bother? Gender balance would make a big impact on the world’s economy. A 2019 McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. The report stressed that public, private and social sectors will need to act to close gender gaps in both work and society.

    But just getting a foot in the door can be a challenge. The results of a study of women in the UK revealed that 17 per cent of women believe they had a job application denied solely just because of being female. A further 18 per cent felt their applications were denied because of personal opinion.

    That said, progressive companies are already taking the steps towards recognizing the contributions of women in the workplace. For example, last year, I reported on how Salesforce’s CEO assessed the salaries of the company’s female and male employees to determine if gender-based pay inequality existed, and then corrected the inequalities as required.

    And there’s still more work to do to unleash the potential of gender balance.

    How can you help?

    Raise awareness of the need for gender balance by posting a photo of yourself striking the #BalanceforBetter pose on social media, using the #IWD2019 hashtag. Visit internationalwomensday.com or follow IWD on Twitter and Instagram to learn more about building a gender-balanced world.

    Another #BalanceforBetter pose.

    Image credits: Laine Bodnar.

    Eat your way to a successful career

    March is Nutrition Month. It’s the perfect time to think about improving what we eat.

    We know that eating a healthy, balanced diet has myriad benefits for our health. But did you know that eating better can also help fuel a successful career? Find out how your diet impacts your production and performance below.

    Plate of cookies next to laptop

    • What we eat impacts our cognitive ability. Harvard Business Review reports on how foods are processed by the body at different rates, having various impacts on the supply of glucose that the body requires to fuel the brain. Foods that are high in sugar cause a spike in energy followed by a mental slump, while high-fat foods take more energy to digest, which causes grogginess. Also, an empty stomach can make it hard to focus.
    • Food choices can impact mood, happiness and creativity. A study found that eating more fruits and vegetables has a positive impact on these aspects of our lives.
    • Feeling thirsty? Water is the best choice to quench your thirst during the work day. Dehydration can impair clear thinking and decision-making abilities.

    Want to learn more about eating well? Good places to start are the Dietitians of Canada’s new Unlock Food website, as well as Canada’s Food Guide.

    Do you try to eat well during the work day? Share in the comments.

    Image credits: Pixabay.com.

    The service robots are coming

    Robot servants are no longer science fiction. Robots, along with automation and artificial intelligence (AI), are now making an impact on jobs. How much of an impact? A 2018 study by RBC revealed that 50 per cent of Canadian jobs will be affected by automation in the next decade.

    A recent segment on CBC’s The National painted a picture of what robots are capable of today, and how rapid advances in technology could have profound implications for the future of the labour force. It reports that robots have already gained a foothold in service-oriented industries, including food and drink service, food preparation, and receptionists in offices. Learn more in the clip below, then continue reading below the video.

    If you’re like me, part of you probably felt a bit of doom and gloom after watching the segment. But that’s not really necessary. As more industries become automated, it’s anticipated that people will adapt their education, training and career path planning to accommodate the new reality. This could involve working in roles that create or support robots, or in roles that require human-to-human interaction that can’t be replicated by AI.

    But, what if you think your job is at risk of being taken of by a robot? Make a list of your distinctly human transferable skills and other abilities. Research the other industries or jobs that would be a good fit for you based on this list.

    Then, create a functional resume. This style of resume highlights your transferable skills and abilities, taking the focus away from your specific past jobs. It’s particularly helpful if you don’t have direct related experience to a job posting in a new industry, as it showcases the skills gained in previous industries that will help you succeed in the new one.

    How do you feel about the service robot revolution? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Image credit: Pixabay.com.

    Does your resume need an upgrade?

    Gone are the days of using a simple Microsoft Word document template for your resume. New modern resume templates look great and can give job searchers a competitive edge.

    If you’ve never seen one, they are generally aesthetically pleasing and unique, and use colour, icons, images and creative ways of laying out text. Pre-designed templates that you can purchase, download and customize yourself can be found on Canva or Etsy.

    There are few reasons to upgrade your resume to a modern template, including:

    • They can visually communicate your professional personality and make you stand out from a herd of basic black-and-white resumes.
    • According to careerlove.ca, around 30 per cent of the resumes that land on a hiring manager’s desk now have modern templates, and these tend to float to the top of the consideration pile.
    • Plus, grabbing the resume reviewer’s attention might encourage them to spend more than the average of six seconds reviewing it. (Find more tips for getting resume screeners to take a longer look at your resume here.)

    Interested in using a modern resume template? The first step is to determine the style that’s best for you. This depends on your personal brand, your industry and how big of a splash you want to make. For example, vibrant colours and images might be welcome in a creative industry, but a clean and simple style might be most appropriate in a traditional field.

    Need to see examples to whet your appetite? Some creative and traditional styles that caught my eye are below.

    Creative resume templates
    These memorable resume templates use exciting colours and distinctive designs. These could be a good fit for someone working in a creative field such as photography, design, communications or advertising.

    Traditional resume templates
    These templates are a twist on the classic black-and-white resume, but still remaining reserved in nature. They would be a good fit for someone working in a more traditional field like law, accounting, engineering or finance.

    Before purchasing a template:

    • Find out which types of documents are included in the template package. Look for a first and second page for a resume, as well as a cover letter and reference page.
    • Consider if you’d like to use icons in your resume, and if so, see if they’re also available to match the style of the template.
    • Make sure that you have the software and font(s) that are required to populate the template with your information.
    • Be mindful of how the colours in the design will appear when your resume is printed. A less colourful template might be appropriate if you’re planning to print your resumes at home and you don’t have a high-quality printer. Imperfect or streaky colours can ruin a positive first impression.
    • See if contact information for the designer is available in case you need to ask a question once you get started.

    Finally, if you’re a graphic designer, consider designing your own modern resume to showcase your design skills to an employer right off the bat.

    Is your resume in a modern format? Have you found that employers have been more engaged since you’ve started using it? Share in the comments.

    Image credits: Canva.com; Etsy.com; Pixabay.com.

    Go Google yourself

    It’s Valentine’s Day, so many of us will spend time thinking of our loved ones today. But don’t forget to consider the person that each of us truly loves most – ourselves. When you’re not spending time picking up flowers for a partner or meeting a friend for a late Galentine’s Day drink, show yourself a little attention by typing your name into Google or another search engine.

    Why Google yourself?

    We might think we’re aware of the information about ourselves that appears on our social media profiles and the websites that we’re mentioned on, but over time, not-so-flattering things can slip through the cracks.

    Googling yourself is the best way to know how you come across to people that want to learn more about you. In professional settings, these folks include hiring managers, recruiters, colleagues and clients.

    Frighteningly, nearly half of American adults report that their Google results aren’t positive. Don’t be part of this statistic! It’s imperative that you know about anything that could tarnish your reputation so that you can be proactive about removing these digital “blemishes.”

    When reviewing your search results, keep the following points in mind:

    • Public vs. private social media profiles: If your profiles on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are public, ask yourself if the content that you post and share is appropriate in a professional setting. If you use social media heavily for both business and pleasure, you may want to consider creating two profiles. Make the personal profile private, then share baby pictures and rant to your heart’s content without worrying what a potential employer or client might think.
    • Media contact on news releases: If you’ve ever worked in communications or public relations (like me!), your name may appear on press releases as a media contact. Know the details of the campaigns that list you as the media contact in case you’re asked about them in a job interview or a manager.
    • Negative information about yourself: If you find negative or embarrassing public information about you online, such as in news stories, videos or other third-party content, you can consider creating new, highly-optimized positive content about yourself that will appear higher in Google search results. The idea is that the new, positive content will bump the old, negative content to the second or third pages of the search results. Who looks at the second or third pages anyway? Learn more about this approach here.

    While you’re thinking about number one today, take the time to set up a Google Alert for your name. You’ll then receive an email whenever there’s a new mention of your name online, so it will be easier to keep tabs on yourself.

    Image credits: Pixabay.com.

    resume, cover letter, screening, job, career, Laine Bodnar, Laine Jaremey, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

    The secret things resume screeners look for

    Searching for a job is a job in itself! We put hours into our resumes. We often think that this effort won’t go to waste, as many of us assume that the person who reviews our resume will spend lots of time doing so. However, a study of the people who screen resumes revealed that they do so for only six seconds on average.

    Yes, I said six seconds. To put that in perspective, it probably took you nearly 25 seconds to read the first paragraph of this blog post.

    So, how do you get a person who reviews resumes, also called a resume screener, to take a longer look and consider you for the job?

    Understanding the information that a resume screener is looking for, and providing them with it in an efficient manner, is critical.

    Person typing on keyboard next to yellow watch

    Focus on key areas of your resume

    There are four key parts of your resume that resume screeners hone-in on to check if you’re a good fit for the job. These sections, and things to think about as you prepare them, are below:

    1. Work objective or career summary – In the interest of space, you may only include one of these sections at the top of your resume. Here you can highlight the value that you can bring to the organization right off the bat. Review the job description to understand key words and make sure they’re present here too.
    2. Relevant skills and qualifications – Are your skills and qualifications tailored to the job you’re applying for?
    3. Employment history – Have you demonstrated an upward trajectory in past roles with promotions at the same company, or when moving from one company to another? Are the jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for? Are there gaps in your employment history that you should proactively explain?
    4. Industry experience – Are your previous jobs in the same industry as the company that you’re applying to work at? If not, demonstrate how you’ve gained knowledge of the industry, and showcase transferable skills. 

    Attention to detail matters too

    If the role you’re applying for requires attention to detail and accuracy – and let’s face it, most jobs do! – you must review your resume with a fine-tooth comb. Common red flags for resume screeners include:

    • Incorrect company name or job title – Yes, this sounds obvious. But if you’re applying for more than one job, or if you’ve older versions of your resume, it can be easy to accidentally submit a document with incorrect information in these fields.
    • Errors – Typos and grammatical errors are prime examples. Factual errors, like discrepancies in past job titles between your resume and cover letter, or incorrect dates of previous employment, should also be avoided. Consider asking a trusted friend or family member, or a third-party resume/career services consultant, to proofread your documents to reduce errors.
    • Skimping on your accomplishments – Connect the dots for the screener by clearly stating your achievements in previous roles and make a positive impression early in the hiring process. This can be done in both your cover letter and resume, but don’t be too repetitive between the two.

    Job candidates should also know that some companies use software, not people, to vet resumes as they are received. Learn more about how this software examines resumes here.

    What other tips do you have for catching the attention of resume screeners? Share in the comments.

    Image credits: Pixabay.com.