I’ve had friends ask me why I continue to grow my network and try to meet new people. It’s simple, if you want to find out about job opportunities, you need to be “in the know.” I know people that are hiring people and I know people that are seeking job/internship opportunities. Sometimes, I don’t know if somebody actually needs a person within their organization, so I ask.
This past Wednesday, the Lansing Breakfast Club met up at State Side Deli in Okemos. The waitress stated that the technology was a tad outdated and was difficult to separate our bill. There is an opportunity! I asked her if she thought an intern would be beneficial. She referred me to the owner, Spencer Soka. We chit chatted and I referred a marketing intern, Chelsea Sleeman, to him.
If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting me, you know I’m not shy. So, you might wonder how to approach people if you don’t know them or really have in mind an ice breaker. Some people have social anxiety and aren’t really confident when it comes to introducing themselves to complete strangers. Here’s some tips, ice breakers and suggestions to help you with networking.
Use social media
Linked In is a great way to start researching companies and also networking with employees. You can send them messages and ask what the company’s cultural environment is like from an insider’s perspective. You may start growing your network like crazy just by asking.
Facebook pages typically have become a part of doing business. You can find out about companies you are interested in, what type of community events they are involved with and sometimes even job postings.
Twitter has spread like wildfire among several businesses. Here in the Lansing area, search for the hashtags #Lansingbiz #LoveLansing. Several local businesses will tweet about events, jobs, specials and community events. It’s a great way of discovering what the company values and supports.
Look for networking opportunities
Job fairs are a great place to strike up conversations. Typically, job seekers have in mind the exact companies they want to apply for and overlook smaller companies they have never heard of. If you see a recruiter who is not busy and their company is one you haven’t heard of, ask them about their company. Unfortunately, many job seekers want to only give the larger corporations or the Fortune 500 companies. Rather than passing over the smaller businesses, think about the fact that the majority of business opportunities here in Lansing are within the small businesses.
Get out in the community. You’d be surprised at who you might meet by attending community events like Lansing First Fridays or Be a Tourist In Your Own Town. Local businesses are open longer and typically some of the higher ups will be on hand to welcome and greet the public. What better way to meet these professionals on their own turf when they are welcoming the public?
Join networking groups like the Lansing Breakfast Club (Wednesday mornings at 7:00AM at various locations), Lunch with a Punch (first Wednesday of every month from 12-1:00PM at Northwood University) or the Capital Area Michigan Works networking group (9:00AM Thursday mornings) with Lisa Wiley Parker.
Take some to volunteer, especially if you are unemployed. With all of the negative publicity shone on the unemployed and how their skills “suffer” by being out of work, why not find a local non-profit to help out? If you have excellent writing skills, offer to be a grant writer for a charity you want to help out. You can also have a chance to really explore what you would like to do. Have a passion for helping children? Why not get involved in your children’s school – with all of the cutbacks, teachers are always seeking volunteers. Do you love animals? Check out the local Humane Society for volunteer opportunities. Not only do you get a chance to help others and your community, but you are building your resume and possibly working your way into a company that would value your work ethics and skills.
Make small talk
Like a lady’s handbag? Ask her where she got it. Does a man have an interesting tie? Tell him. Now, don’t find 15 things to compliment, but one little thing is good at striking up a conversation. You don’t want to come across as being super fake, but you have the most interesting conversations with people about something as simple as a haircut.
We live in Michigan, you can always ask somebody where he or she’s from and they can show you on their hand. How cool is that?
I recently visited the Volunteers of America Thrift Store on Waverly Road/Saginaw Highway in Lansing. I wanted to look at a very flashy Baby Phat purse and the cashier that helped me was extremely helpful in showing me other purses when I discovered that the purse I had been eyeing was too small for me. As we got to chit chatting, we struck up a conversation and landed on the topic of me going to school for Human Resources Management. Much to my surprise, she had 17 years of HR experience. In all honesty, I would never had known or suspected to find a previous HR person working at Volunteers of America. The point I’m trying to make is this; just because somebody is a barista at your favorite cafe, a sales associate at a thrift store or a secretary for an insurance company, don’t assume that due to their title, they don’t have other skill sets, knowledge or experience in other fields.
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