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  1. Six tips that will help you grow a strong professional network

    May 24, 2016 by Alison Hill

    There’s more to networking than a free glass of wine while you meet some new people. Effective networking – getting together with others with the aim of building a strong set of connections – is an art that can be learned.

    A strong professional network can lead to new clients, business deals, connections with great people, finding the perfect employee or getting a great job offer. But first, you have to build your network. As marketing strategist and author Dorie Clark writes, those are side-effects of relationship building.
    1. Attend the right events
    There’s certainly a place for social media networking, but we have all probably relied on it to the detriment of networking in person. Get back into attending organised networking events through professional associations, business chambers, conferences, alumni associations and through Meetup groups. Then connect with the people you meet through LinkedIn or other networks. Using in-person networking to enhance networking on social media, not the other way around, leads to more powerful and authentic connections. The exception is where the events have a social media channel set up for attendees to connect beforehand. If that’s the case, use it to research people with whom you have something in common and those who you would like to meet before the event.
    2. Build common ground and a personal connection
    Be prepared. Read the news, think about what you might say about a book you have been reading or somewhere you have visited recently – a trip, a cafe, a gallery, a sports match all make good and genuine conversation starters.
    I read a ‘tip’ that said one should ‘network for net worth’. And yes, they meant financial worth. My first thought was that I wouldn’t want a person who thinks that way in my network. Everybody is worth more than their bank balance. Making a genuine connection with people you meet will lead you to the kind of people you want to interact with in future. And remember too that not everybody will like you – and that’s okay.
    3. Ask questions and listen to the answers
    Starting off with your ‘elevator pitch’ or a marketing statement for your brand can be off-putting. A better approach is to ask genuine questions that you are interested in hearing the answers to, and to listen – really listen – to the replies. Don’t be looking over the person’s shoulder in case somebody more important turns up. Give them your full attention, and be aware of what you can add to a discussion. When it’s time to end a conversation, do so gracefully, making eye contact and telling the person it’s been nice to meet them.
    4. Give more than you ask for
    You’ve no doubt heard it said that you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals in your professional life. We can’t say it enough: building relationships takes time. Go into the session with the mindset that you are there to help others, not to find ways to promote yourself. Think you have nothing to offer? How about introductions to others in your network, publicity for a person’s new venture, an offer to share their blog posts with your network or to promote their product on your pages?
    5. Get out of your comfort zone
    It’s a networking event, so don’t spend all your time talking to the three people you already know. Get out and work the room, meeting and talking to as many people as you can. Everybody is attending with the same purpose, so there’s no need to feel awkward about approaching a total stranger.
    Your body language says heaps about you before you say a word. To look approachable, your stance should be open, your hands at your side, and your body turned towards people who are moving towards you.
    6. Don’t forget to network within your own organisation
    Making new connections in your own organisation can help you to get things done innovatively in your present role through understanding what others do, and ultimately can help you to progress within the organisation. Don’t confine it to drinks and seminars; getting out and getting fit is also a great way to network with your colleagues. It’s also a good, non-threatening environment in which to practice your networking skills, making you more confident, improving your listening and questioning skills and revealing new insights from the people you meet.


  2. Keeping an eye on your online presence – What do your networks and Google say about you?

    February 24, 2015 by Jenna

    As we become familiar with different forms of online networks and methods of communication, our personal brand begins to spread across the World Wide Web. Our data and details are collected in many ways – when we apply for jobs, create social media pages, sign up for competitions or events, etc.

    Most of the information we share we tend to know about as we tailor this information and share it through social networks. However, while we have a certain element of control over what information we share and with whom, if you were to look up your name on Google, what would you find?

    I can’t say that I am too surprised with what I personally find when I look up my name through Google these days. The three main categories I seem to find my name under are:

    • Instagram Image Sharing – As this is more open to the public, the images I share with quotes and hashtags are available to view by the world
    • Event Registrations – Whether they are charity events or races, if I have placed a registration, my name and results are there (to an extent).
    • Corporate Profile/Networks – My company profile is there, blogs I have posted, my LinkedIn profile and other business networks that I am a member of.

    Other information that I wasn’t as aware of included event photos from when I used to work in the events industry and comments that I have made on articles that I follow online. While nothing negative or appalling was revealed, it did make me want to mention the importance of being careful with what you post online.

    This includes reflecting on your emotions during a difficult time and avoiding the use of the internet to vent your frustrations to the world. For example, if you are complaining about your boss and you forget that you have other connections in your network who are also linked to your boss. You could ultimately ruin your dignity and you may also lose your job.

    Keeping a professional image is important for many online avenues. If you attend a networking function with an event photographer present, chances are images will be shared across corporate networks. It is important to keep in mind the behaviour and message you want to portray, especially when trying to establish new connections and relationships.

    It can also be important to have a look online just to see if there are any details that need to be ‘cleaned up’ or updated as well. Sometimes we spend more time on one social network compared to another and therefore we forget to update information that may be relevant. This could include current employment, skill sets, interests/hobbies or courses that you may be attending.

    Have you updated your social media presence? Have you looked up your name on Google lately?


  3. Your Online Profile – Make the best part of you shine

    November 12, 2013 by Jenna

    Being in a digital era more often than not potential employers will browse your  online footprint before they lock you in for the first interview. Information is easily and instantly accessible, and the more information you update about yourself, the more easily it can be discovered.

    So what does your online profile currently say about you?

    • Have you looked up your name on Google lately?

    • Is your LinkedIn profile updated?

    • Are your online images showing you to be someone who is suited to the job and reliable?

    • Are your Facebook posts and Tweets going to haunt you at a later stage?

    I can honestly say at this point in my life I am happy with the way that I am presented through Social Media. For example:

    LinkedIn – I have a professional photograph, a corporate summary and up-to date information on my past to current experience. I also have updated skills and recommendations, links and relevant information pertaining to what I do.

    Facebook – On both a personal and professional basis I like to share articles, videos, images and inspirational quotes to both friends and clients/candidates that I feel are valuable.

    Blogs – Challenge Consulting has also allowed me to provide topics on their company blog page where I feel like I can reach out and connect with individuals that may have experienced similar situations and learning curves. I get to represent a business brand that I know and trust so when I am updating news articles and sending out the company ENews I am happy to link my personal brand to my organisation and their values/structure.

    Online Networking – By joining other corporate networking groups I have also expanded my online presence and this has also connected me to other like-minded individuals in my industry and the corporate industry. Depending on field you are in, you can do a Google Search for similar industry networking groups, follow influencing individuals that write articles and share blogs or interest groups in LinkedIn. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or start conversations once you have joined these networks as it is the whole reason behind networking groups, to engage.

    Hobbies/Personal Interests – I also enjoy sporting and charity events in my personal time which can often include an online profile or blog site. This shows others what I am passionate about and what I enjoy doing in my spare time.

    While there are many things you can do to boost your profile, I also want to make sure that you are aware of certain social media mistakes that could be doing more harm than good when it comes to your job search success. Careerealism.com has provided the following examples:

    LinkedIn

    • Appearing Desperate – when making connections on LinkedIn when you are a job seeker, try to avoid group emails and spamming other contacts when it comes to looking for work. It is important to work on building those relationships first before asking them for something.

    • Having an incomplete profile – incomplete information will just make your profile difficult to understand and even worse, the employer or individual viewing your profile may think that you are disorganised or lazy when it comes to keeping your information up to date and well-presented.

    • Having a split focus – When it comes to applying for roles, make sure your profile and summary are targeting the right areas of employment that you are wishing to seek otherwise the employer may question your interest or longevity in applying for a particular role.

    Twitter

    • Not contributing meaningful tweets – You can have many individuals that you follow but you will not engage responses if you are not sharing information of interest. Find articles to share or open up questions to engage responses.

    • Not Retweeting – Job hunters should not merely tweet about what is of interest to them, but they should also help other Twitter users by retweeting information that would be useful to the rest of the Twitter community.

    Facebook

    • Posting Inappropriate Information – This tends to be the number one problem that people have when using this site. This could include photos, negative comments about people and/or companies, and inappropriate jokes. Many people still do not realise that the information that they post can be seen by potential employers. You should use the appropriate settings to ensure that employers can only view information about you that is appropriate for a professional setting.

    What have you used that has boosted your online presence? Did you find it was effective? What have you learned through this experience?


  4. How to Network for Success – Ways to effectively promote your personal brand – By Lauren Eardley

    September 3, 2013 by Jenna

    In this day and age it is important to set yourself apart from the competition whether you are a jobseeker or a business. Establishing your brand and how you would like to market your brand is a great way to do that.

    I recently attended a FINSIA networking event: ‘How to Network for Career Success’. The aim of the evening was to give young finance professionals the tools to deliver their personal brand articulately and learn the etiquette of networking. Tim Rossi, one of the founding members of Macquarie, facilitated the evening and shared his knowledge earned from years of success within the industry.

    By attending networking events myself I can relate to approaching another person or group and it can often be the most difficult or nerve-wracking part of networking. So how can we gain this confidence and experience to deliver our brand in a positive way?

    One of the great things I have found about dedicated networking events is that they usually make you go and talk to other people one way or another. Tim at FINSIA allowed us to introduce ourselves to another individual, discuss who we are, where we work and what our specialty is.

    I also learned that it is key to focus on your expertise and future rather than your past when talking about yourself and your brand. We were encouraged to discuss the challenges we face in our current role and how we aim to overcome them. This certainly made an interesting conversation and made me realise that you never know how someone might be able to help you or even provide a different perspective!

    After we had our one-on-one conversations we were advised to join another couple and introduce the colleague that you just met. This interesting activity really tested your ability to engage through listening to your partner when they told you about themselves and how much information you absorbed from that conversation.

    I know the first time I had to make the introduction I couldn’t even recall my partner’s job title! It is important to remember that networking is not all about you, it is about relationships and connecting for mutual benefit. While trying to memorise and rehearse your elevator pitch is important, listening is also vital to establish not only more about the person but also their needs, especially if you can provide a service to meet their needs! Luckily I had another chance to practice my introductions.  One of the most important mediums of getting your name and contact details out there (and remembered) is with a business card. Rossi stressed the importance of using business cards (even if it is just a personal card for jobseekers) and how to give and receive them. When somebody gives you their business card it is important you give them respect and actually look at it; take in all the information. Then follow it up with a LinkedIn connection, thank you email or follow up coffee. It’s respectful and courteous and you would like to hope that they do the same when you hand out your business card in future.

    Another pivotal part of the follow up is to make sure that your social media profiles sell your business brand. Make sure your Facebook and / or Twitter account privacy settings are up-to-date. Remember that first appearances are important so also ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and matches how you describe yourself at networking events.

    The evening wrapped up by turning to the person on your right and discussing what you learned from the event. The key lessons I learned was the importance of practicing my elevator pitch; to make it consistent, know my specialty (skills, attributes etc.) and allowing time to listen to others rather than focusing on ‘you’. By practicing these skills at networking events you too can make the connections you need to take your career to the next step.

    Have you been to a networking event recently? If so, what did you learn from the experience? Did you find there were areas that you needed to improve on?


  5. Three lessons I learnt from my mentor

    June 25, 2013 by Jenna

    You will find that even the most successful people in the world have someone that they look up to for inspiration and guidance.

    ‘Mentoring is always one step removed and is concerned with the longer-term acquisition of skills in a developing career by a form of advising and counselling’ – Eric Parsloe, J “Coaching for Performance” Nicholas Brealey, Publishing London 2002.

    For many having a mentor can be extremely valuable. Whether that mentor is your current manager, or someone in your family, or someone who trained you at work, we are always more compelled to achieve more when we have someone encouraging us to take the next step in our career.

    When I was just beginning my career in the events industry I took advantage of a mentoring program organised by Meeting and Events Australia (MEA) professional association.  As the mentee I was responsible for:

    • Attending the briefing workshop with fellow Mentees (a networking opportunity with other young professionals)

    • Attending the program launch to meet my Mentor

    • Coordinating meetings with my allocated Mentor a minimum of 4 times at a mutually agreed venue and time.

    • Communicating with the designated MEA personnel twice a month throughout the program

    • Attend a debrief workshop at the completion of the program to provide feedback for the development of future programs

    From the moment I met my mentor I was at complete ease and was able to openly communicate with him. I understand that this does not happen as easily for everyone. However, I would recommend if you have not found the right fit with your mentor, do not give up but rather continue to search for the right mentor partnership that can help you develop your own career.

    For mentoring to be successful the most important aspect is to show commitment to the mentoring program. The hardest part of the program for me was to arrange and commit to face-to-face meetings with both my and my mentor’s busy work schedule. Email would often be an easy fall-back position, however, I needed to show a level of discipline in setting meeting times and committing to deadlines so that I could gain the most value out of this program and time with my mentor.

    Each mentoring meeting I allocated an hour, whether that was at my office or a local coffee shop, I always ensured I took a notepad and made notes during the discussion and confirmed specific action plan items. I learnt that if I postponed meetings, the more the connection separates and the important information shared can be put aside instead of being utilised for career development. For mentoring to be successful the other key skills I had to develop were:

    1. Active listening – for many listening is a skill that we think comes naturally, but when we are being provided feedback on ourselves, we usually immediately go to a defensive frame of mind. I had to be open to the information that my mentor was sharing and asking open questions to elicit more information and increase my understanding of the feedback.

    2. Goal setting ¬ the mentoring program was a specific period of time, so as to get the most out of the six months, I had to set clear goals and commit to achieving the action plan that I developed with my mentor. I also had to personally take responsibility for my own professional development.

    3. Personal reflection – I had to reflect on my experiences and learn from the challenges I faced.

    4. Delivering results – understanding that while my Mentor would provide feedback on how to deal with issues it is still my responsibility to take action and make the decisions.

    5. Curiosity and enthusiasm – showing that I was interested in the program by turning up on time for meetings, responding with positive body language, building trust and rapport with my mentor.

    So what did I gain from my mentoring experience?

    As a young professional in the industry I was afraid of having a voice. I was afraid to speak up because I knew my expertise in the events field was limited compared to most and I was the youngest professional working in my department. My mentor helped me gain the confidence be able to express myself within my working environment not only to share ideas but to speak-up to address any issues within the workplace. By giving myself a ‘voice’ I was able to achieve results and progress in my career a lot faster than sitting on the sidelines and waiting for others to make decisions.

    I also had the opportunity to complete the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which looked at my personality preferences. By understanding my personality type I was able to better understand how and why I manage my work and communicate the way I do. I also learnt more about the opposite personality preferences and developed strategies on how I could most effectively work with other personality types. I shared this information with my manager at the time and it helped both of us to better understand how to work most effectively together. If you haven’t had the chance to complete the MBTI, I would recommend it as a great way to find out more about yourself and your key strengths and blind spots.

    Most importantly I developed a strong connection with a valued and trusted advisor. Through this partnership I confirmed how important achieving a work-life balance was to me. My mentor was living, breathing proof that you could have a successful career, have a loving family and enjoy your personal interests and have them all co-exist to create a well-balanced life. I found it quite inspiring.

    If you maintain a good relationship with your mentor, you can keep in touch with them for years, and as we are always changing and developing in our roles, the pursuit of knowledge and guidance is ongoing and essential.

    Is there anyone in your life that you consider to be a mentor? If not, is there anyone that you look up to that you would like to connect to as a mentee? There is no time like the present to start making those connections, just remember it takes time and commitment to make it work.


  6. What to do when your job search isn’t working

    May 6, 2013 by Jenna

    Job searching is hard. We have all been in that situation where there is seemingly nothing to apply for. And when you do find a job to apply for, you are often competing with many other people with only one job to fill.

    It can be an isolating and discouraging experience. Especially when you are told “you were not successful to the next round” or you don’t hear from the recruiter at all. Sometimes you can get so frustrated and tired of rejection that you just want to give up. Or worse – with your motivation waning you start chucking resumes or put less effort into the application process – often hurting your chances for landing that job even more.

    Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

    – Joshua J Marine

    At a breakfast event I attended last week Michelle Bridges, best known as a Personal Trainer on The Biggest Loser, shared the story of how she found her inner brand.  She was talking about starting her own business, but I think the same lessons apply to job searching. She posed these questions to the audience:

    • What do I stand for?

    • How do I want to be known?

    • What is my unique message?

    • Who am I trying to talk to?

    Her last point was headlined ‘A Voice’, knowing that you have one and making yourself heard. This can often be easier said than done but it does take persistence. When we look at celebrities like Michelle Bridges we often think, ‘easy for you to say’ or we can often assume that they have the perfect life. But do you think she didn’t get to where she was today without being pushed back or rejected?

    Michelle grew up with the mentality that she could be anything that she wanted to be, and she didn’t walk away the moment she was rejected, especially when it came to something she was passionate about. She would go back again and again if necessary. And when it came to set-backs, she posed the following questions:

    • What part of me am I not backing?

    • Who can I call, email today? Further to that, are you following up after the initial point of contact has been made?

    • Who is holding you back?

    • Cut the saboteurs – Eliminate those factors that put you down or that aren’t helping you go forward. This can also include people in your life that are putting you down more than encouraging you.

    • New medium, different approach, fresh – Are you finding that your current job search  work isn’t working? Have you tried a new approach, asked for advice or tried to look at your approach through a fresh set of eyes?

    Once you have reflected on what is most important to you and looked at what is holding you back, now is the time to just do it. Action breeds more action, and helps you to keep motivated. Here are some ways you can start making things happen in your job search:

    • List your positives. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself, including skills, personality traits, accomplishments, and successes. Write down projects you’re proud of, situations where you excelled, and things you’re good at. Revisit this list often to remind yourself of your strengths. This will also be very helpful for when you are in that job interview and they ask what your strengths are?

    • Keep a regular daily routine. When you no longer have a job you can easily lose motivation. Treat your job search like a job, with a daily “start” and “end” time. Following a set schedule will help you be more efficient and productive. And even more importantly, just like at work, give yourself break times. Schedule coffee catch-ups with friends, go for walks, or schedule time to do things that you really enjoy. You will be much more productive in your job search when you schedule breaks and give yourself a daily routine.

    • Create a job search plan. Instead of trying to do everything at once, set priorities or specific actions for your day. If you’re not having luck in your job search, take some time to rethink your actions. Does your resume need to be re-developed? Who in your network knows people that could help you? How many job applications have you followed up?

    • Volunteer. Unemployment can wear on your self-esteem and make you feel useless. Volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose. And helping others is an instantaneous mood booster. Volunteering can also provide career experience, social support, and networking opportunities. Could you help at your local school, not-for-profit or church?

    • Focus on the things you can control. You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or whether or not they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy on things that are out of your hands, turn your attention to things you can control, such as writing a great cover letter and resume tailored to the company you want to work for and setting up meetings with your networking contacts or calling to follow up a job application.

    So take action and start making changes if you are not seeing results, you will end up thanking yourself for it. And as Michelle Bridges finished off, ‘Be brave, be courageous, be inspired – today!’

    Any advice that you have for jobseekers out there? Or if you are one, have you been to our Job Search page of our website?


  7. Now you have changed careers, what now?

    March 26, 2013 by Jenna

    Earlier this year I covered an article on Getting Outside Of Your Comfort Zone Is Often How We Grow which I think applies to the theme for this month on change. I also covered an article last year on What are your transferable skills and how can you sell them? Which I think is important especially if you are thinking of changing careers. But what happens after the change takes place? What are the next steps once you have made that career change?

    Sometimes we get caught in the trap of believing once we have changed jobs, taken a promotion, or been given greater responsibility or a pay rise that suddenly it will all be “happily ever after”. Fortunately, or unfortunately, life does indeed go on.

    I made the decision to change careers, which was definitely the right choice for me. But what do I miss?

    • Being a very fast-paced industry I always enjoyed knowing what was going on and the multiple social and networking events that resulted from that.
    • Checking out the latest and greatest of great venues for food, wine and events.
    • That feeling of knowing that you helped an individual or organisation bring their event into fruition and the guests have had a memorable experience.

    Often after a career or job change we start to look at the “old” job through rose-coloured glasses. Especially if it is taking longer to achieve the success that you ached for and imagined you would achieve in this new job. However, those glasses are not so rose-coloured yet, that I don’t forget the cons:

    • The events industry was something that I lived and breathed, and I still struggle with adapting to having ‘down time’ as I am always keeping in a busy state of project and activity.
    • I also struggled with balancing a personal life and relationships which I am now thankful to have.
    • Hours were often long and demanding, and you did need to make yourself available on weekends if need be.

    I can now say that I have more balance in my life to be able to do more of what I want to do. I will always enjoy planning but I have utilised my past experience on events for friends and on travel/adventure opportunities instead. I am also very privileged to have a manager and organisation that support my external goals and interests and openly allow me the flexibility to balance both.

    Even a year into the new role I am learning new things. I am still developing my blogging skills, researching new ideas in the social media world in terms of branding and networking with clients and candidates. I still have a lot to learn about recruitment and what trends are important to our industry. But I didn’t apply for this role because I knew it all.

    Isn’t it that sense of mystery and unpredictability that often drives us to want to pursue something?

    I think we go through periods of wanting something so badly that we often get ahead of ourselves and try to predict the outcome (whether it’s good or bad) of where we will end up without letting the process happen naturally. We tend to want everything to be perfect immediately. However, life is unpredictable and doesn’t always go according to plan.

    So how far are you prepared to go to make the change?

    Do keep in mind that with success sometimes comes failure as well. We will make mistakes and we will stumble. But this does not mean that we ultimately fail at life. Even the greatest of inventors and theorists and scientists all had to fail and take a step back before achieving greatness. It is all the process of learning to grow, and we NEVER stop learning.

    For example you may have started a new role or new career and it feels like you have to start from the bottom again and work your way up. You may be unfamiliar with new tasks and may have to keep asking your manager or trainer the same questions again and again to get it right. Your manager may even throw you in the deep end to test you on what skills you have learned and you may not achieve the outcome in your first attempt.

    So what do you do? You get up and try again. Maybe not the same way you have tried before, and you may need help along the way but you will get there. Sometimes it can feel like a stretch for your patience and willpower, but persistence is the key. Wouldn’t it be boring if everything in life didn’t involve us doing anything at all?

    What is your story about change? How did you achieve your success story?




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