Back when I started my freelance writing business I knew clients weren’t going to show up unless I put myself out there. I had to start networking right away. The problem was I had no idea what I was doing. Much as I like people, I’m an introvert so I was never going to be good at throwing myself into the middle of conversations. Cue lots of standing around awkwardly holding a wine glass.
I have to hand it to myself. I tried it all. Local networking. BNI. Speed networking. Meetup. I went to all of them. I didn’t always get clients but I learned a lot about what to do (and not do) in networking situations.
When I first started out I thought networking was going to as many events as possible, giving people my elevator spiel, handing out lots of business cards and voila… people would call and hire me.
But that’s not how to network and it never felt right to me. Networking isn’t about selling yourself, it’s about building relationships.
It’s about being genuine in your interactions and asking people questions about what they do and what kind of challenges they’re facing. That’s how you find out useful information that will help your job (or client) search. Don’t forget, networking isn’t just something you do to find a job, it’s also hugely valuable when you’re making a career shift or making a decision on which career path is right for you.
Here are a couple of power tips to help you start networking even if you break out in hives just thinking about it.
1) Network in the groups you’re already in
I’m a great believer in pursuing the path of least resistance. Why make things hard on yourself? Start networking in the groups you’re already in, whether it’s your kids’ sports events, social outings or a hobby like a running group meet-up. Ask people about what they do, what they enjoy about their work and how they got their jobs.
2) Bring a wingman or woman
If you want to attend a networking event, bring along a wingman or woman. This is a particularly effective tactic if you’re an introvert because hopefully your more extroverted friend can introduce you to people and help you out if the conversation stalls. Your comfort levels will go up automatically when you know you’re not going to be left hanging in the corner like a wallflower.
3) Create small challenges
If you’re nervous about attending events like I used to be, give yourself small challenges and then reward yourself for a job well done. For example, stand up and ask the speaker a question if you’re attending a conference, or give yourself permission to go home after you’ve met and talked to two new people. Remember networking is more about sustained effort than pushing yourself to the max at one event.
4) Practice having conversations with strangers
Another issue I used to have with networking was making small talk. It only occurred to me later why this was. I hate small talk. I’ve never been good at it. But if you want to broaden your network you’re going to have to learn to get good at it. You can do this by practicing talking to strangers or people you interact with on a regular basis, like checkout people at the supermarket or the woman who works at the post office. Strike up conversations with people you don’t know. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you will be a power networker in no time.
Keen to learn more about networking?
I’ll be running a Networking for Introverts workshop in Melbourne in April where I’ll be teaching powerful strategies for building your network, and I’d love to have you there. You will learn how to create a network even if you’re starting from scratch, how to approach people you want to meet both online and in person, how to network your way into a new job and how to build your confidence so that you can network with ease.
Years ago as I made my way through a rapid succession of jobs I didn’t enjoy, it never occurred to me that working on my confidence could help my situation.
Back then I thought you were either a confident person or you weren’t, and I assumed I fell into the latter category.
I had no idea I could do something to change that.
Research has shown that while many people think of confidence as a trait like I once did, it’s actually more like a muscle that you can develop and strengthen over time.
That’s all very well but how do you actually do that?
I’ve worked on building my confidence for years and like anything, it’s a process, but I did discover some strategies that made a really big difference. Not surprisingly this has had a knock-on effect on my career and business, bringing many more opportunities my way.
1) Be willing to take imperfect action
Perfectionism will kill your confidence and I should know. There was a time when my perfectionist behaviour was so bad it could take me an hour to write an email let alone an article. I wish that my anxious procrastinating had at least created better results, but the opposite was usually true.
When I made a decision to start a new career, I realised I’d have to get over it or I would stay stuck in a holding pattern. So I started following through on my goals even if the end result was not perfect. I practiced acting quickly instead of taking forever to think things through. I figured that even if it wasn’t perfect, I would learn from the experience. Now if I get an idea that I want to run with, I don’t wait until it’s perfect, I just do it. I’m not pretending it’s easy to let go of old habits, but the more you do this, the more your confidence will grow. Taking action is empowering in itself, shifting you out of the procrastinating behaviour that keeps you stuck.
If you struggle with this make it into a challenge. Give yourself two minutes to write an email instead of fussing over it for 10, or make a commitment to start and finish a project within the next one to two weeks. It will feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll soon get into the swing of it.
2) Keep your promises
We all have stories playing on a loop in our heads about who we are and what we are capable of. Your inner mean girl can be one tough mother. A really effective way to silence that critic is to keep the commitments you make to yourself. Whether you want to make a change with your career or your health, you need to follow through on those promises. I know that when I don’t show up for myself it makes me feel pretty crappy. What can you do (and do quickly) to make sure you follow through on your promises? And remember a big part of goal-setting is being realistic and honest with yourself about what you can achieve.
3) Get happy
I used to think I would be happy when I finally had the career, the family, the house and the money that I wanted. Little did I know that it actually works the other way around! I wish I had understood this at a soul level years ago, but it’s true that you need to find a way to be happy now, even if you’re not exactly living the dream yet. When you feel happy with who you are and what you do, your confidence levels rise.
The things that make us happy are not always what we think (more money? not so much according to the research). Thanks to all the positive psychology research in recent years, we know that using your skills and knowledge to make a contribution to society has a big impact on your happiness levels not to mention your job satisfaction. So ask yourself: How can you best serve? What contribution do you want to make?
And in the short-term ask: What makes you happy now?
Do more of that.
4) Face your fears
I used to be terrified of public speaking. I still get nervous but at one point it was so bad I would struggle to introduce myself even to a small group. My heart would literally pound in my chest and I would rush through my speech or introduction as quickly as possible.
I knew I had to tackle this old fear head-on if I was going to start a business. When I made the decision to face my fear something shifted. Shortly afterwards I was offered an opportunity to present workshops. It was scary at the start but the more I did it, the more opportunities to present came my way. I don’t think this was a coincidence!
Again, I had to let go of the need to do this ‘perfectly’ because the only way to improve my skills was to actually do it. Make a commitment to face your fears and watch out for the opportunities that come your way.
You don’t have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ as the advice goes, that can actually be counterproductive. I recommend taking baby steps. If you have a fear of public speaking like me, start with small events and work your way up.
5) Remember it’s all just feedback
I really care what people think. It used to stop me in my tracks, because I worried that people would judge me if I took certain actions in my life or business. But of course worrying about what people think is paralysing and definitely not good for your confidence.
The answer I found is to unhook from both praise and criticism as much as you can (an idea Tara Mohr talks about in Playing Big). Remember that it’s all just feedback. You can choose to give it weight or disregard it. The trouble with relying on praise to feel good about your work is that it’s not always forthcoming, and you can’t let your work be guided by the whims of others. So train yourself to be selective about the feedback you take on board. When you learn to trust your own guidance regardless of what others say or think, your confidence will soar.
What do you do to build your confidence? Please share in the comments.
Changing careers can be fun or a huge pain depending on your situation and your attitude. With more than one career change under my belt I’ve learned a few things about how to make the process a little less daunting. Here are five of my best tips for making a successful career transition.
1) Be patient, change takes time
I know that sounds like a no-brainer but I also know you are probably impatient to get your new career up and running. That drive will serve you well. But sometimes change happens more slowly than you would like and getting frustrated about it won’t help. You might feel stuck at times. Things may get a little messy. Just remember that it’s all part of the process. If you can be patient with yourself you will feel less stressed and be able to think more clearly. Pay attention to the narrative inside your head and clear any beliefs or stories that aren’t serving you. Keep taking action that moves you forwards. When you look back in 12 months you will honestly be amazed at what you have achieved.
2) Consider having a portfolio career
Are you a web designer who wants to become a marketing consultant? A writer who wants to teach? An accountant who aspires to be an online entrepreneur? There is nothing wrong with having a portfolio career while you transition (in fact you will be part of a growing trend if you do this). When you have a portfolio career you make income from multiple sources including part-time work, freelance assignments or a business. I’ve had a portfolio career throughout my transition from writer to coach and I can highly recommend it if you’re concerned with maintaining an income while you establish yourself in a new industry. This approach is especially suited to those who like variety or who identify as ‘multipotentialites’, aka people with many different interests who thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills.
3) Stay open to opportunities
In my experience job opportunities don’t always show up in the way you might expect, so it pays to keep an open mind. I know how easy it is to get fixated on a particular job opportunity or revenue stream and then get all down on yourself if it doesn’t work out. The trouble is when you focus on one option exclusively you close down all the other paths to getting what you want. It’s like having blinkers on. You just can’t get a 360 on the situation. Go after what you want but pay attention to what shows up in your world of its own accord. The universe works in mysterious ways.
4) Build your support network & get a mentor
This was one of the mistakes I made when I first set up my freelance writing business many years ago. I had no network built up and no mentor to guide me. This time around I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing and very generous people in the industry. Signing up for mentoring was hands down the best thing I’ve ever done. Friends and family can be a great support but you can’t put a price on having the advice of someone who already has the job you want. There are plenty of professional and industry associations that run mentoring programs. You could also try universities or contact someone within your network to see if they would be willing to mentor you.
5) Networking is the key to success
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘your network equals your net worth’, and this is even truer when you are changing careers. It’s never too early to start networking. This might mean meeting classmates you went to uni with, volunteering for a charity or joining an industry association. You could also head along to networking events or workshops (check out Meetup or Eventbrite). Or if you want to find contacts at specific companies and connect with recruiters, consider upgrading to a LinkedIn premium account (you get 30 days free before the charges kick in).
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Good luck and hang in there!
Have you changed careers? What did you learn from the experience?
Looking for a new job can be a daunting process. You send in applications. You get rejected. You wonder if you’re too old, too young, not experienced enough, overqualified. The truth is if you’re doing all the right things it’s just a matter of time until you find the right job. Which is all very well but what can you do to make the process faster, easier and less painful in the meantime?
Here are my tips for staying motivated (and sane) while you’re job hunting:
1) Treat your job search like a full-time job
If you have nowhere to be it’s tempting to lounge around in your PJs for half the morning. But you will actually do yourself a huge favour if you treat your job search like a regular 9 to 5. That means paying attention to how you structure your day. Your routine is even more important now that you have none imposed on you. I recommend starting the day with some form of exercise, getting dressed (properly) and being at your computer by 9am. When you approach your job hunt with this attitude you will be way more productive and those inevitable knock backs are less likely to get you down. You’ll be too busy working your other leads.
2) Know what you want
This is a great opportunity to think through what you want from your next role especially if you have time on your hands. Which industries could benefit from your skills? What would make you happy? Treat this time as a gift, a chance to re-evaluate, recalibrate and make a new plan for your future. Take the opportunity to reflect, see a coach, take a class or get a mentor. Whatever you need to do, do it now. The more specific you can be about what you want the easier it will be for people to help you.
3) Get your documents in order
Your resume and cover letter should be tailored to each role you apply for, so give yourself plenty of time to rewrite your resume, create responses to selection criteria or perfect your cover letter. It’s the only thing hiring managers will have to go on when they make their shortlist. So do your research, use a professional looking template and if you’re still not sure you’ve nailed it, seek advice.
4) Ask for leads
Don’t be embarrassed about telling family and friends what’s going on for you. You don’t have to go into detail. Just be honest about your situation and let them know what kind of role you’re looking for. They might be able to help or introduce you to someone who can. When you get in touch with professional contacts give them an outline of your recent work history and ask if you can call them or meet for a coffee. Remember that people are busy so make it as easy as possible for them to say yes to your request.
5) Always follow up. But don’t take rejection personally
Most people will be happy to help out but remember that even with the best will in the world emails still fall through the cracks. You might need to follow up a couple of times before you get a response. And if people say no or never get back to you don’t take it personally. It’s unlikely to be about you.
6) Pay it forward
I know it’s hard to think about others when you have so much on your plate already. But helping people out can be a great tonic when you’re feeling down or under pressure. You will be reconnecting with your network in any event so if you can recommend someone on LinkedIn, volunteer or make a beneficial introduction, do it. Don’t be strategic with this. Your interactions should always be genuine. There’s a lot to be said for paying it forward.
Those are my tips for happy and successful job hunting.
What do you do to stay motivated during tough times?
If you need more support with finding the right role you can book a free discovery call with me to discuss your options. Go here to fill out an application.
And yet the real success goes to those who obsess. A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner ~ Seth Godin
I read a recent interview with Ruby Rose where she said that every overnight success takes around 15 years and hers was 15 years to the day.
It’s funny because even though I know intellectually that success takes sustained effort, I have fallen into the trap of thinking overnight results were possible more than once.
Just one glance at my Facebook feed tells me I’m not the only one. Whether you want to manifest a lottery win or conjure up a million dollar business within months, you will find someone willing to sell you the secret.
Our culture fuels the expectation that if you can just find the magic formula you too can be an overnight sensation making megabucks every year.
The problem with this mindset is that it can lead to a loss of hope when you find out you were sold a bunch of horse shit even when deep down, you suspected the truth all along.
There have been times when I’ve despaired over my failure to achieve certain goals because my expectations were not even close to reality. Like the time I went freelancing as a magazine writer and thought Vogue might come calling before I had a single credit to my name.
Since then I’ve learned to look out for small miracles instead of big wins. The tiniest indication that energy is starting to expand, shift and flow in the right direction.
Like a note from a client thanking me for our work
A call from a contact asking if I would like to collaborate
The email thanking me for a blog post I’d written
None of these things add up to major big-time success but they remind me of the reality.
That success is not about one amazing marketing strategy but a series of consistent actions.
Success is sticking with the game plan even when the results aren’t in yet.
Or having the courage to try new things if the old ones aren’t working.
Above all, success should feel good before it arrives even when that pot at the end of the rainbow is still a way off.
If you’re doing work you love and taking actions that feel right for you, then you should know that one day you can and will get to the end of the rainbow.