Networking made easy by Scott Woodard – March 23, 2015

NetworkingWhen people are asked about the hardest part of the job search process, most say, without hesitation, “networking.”

We know that we need to connect with others in the job search. We’ve heard that “people hire people they know, or people they know know — referrals.” Yet we break out in a sweat when we think of reaching out to people we don’t know and ask them for help.

Networking just seems such a huge barrier to success. We can’t imagine going to networking events, meeting strangers and asking them for help in our search. We’d rather stick pins in our eyes.

That’s why Heart At Work Associates created Networking Made Easy for our clients and their guests. Each month, we host an invitation only event in our office and facilitate connections among the participants. At our last event, the 10 participants shared over 50 connections and offers for introductions. The energy in the room was electric, and it wasn’t fueled by the homemade chocolate chip cookies we provided.

My colleagues — Barbara Babkirk and Amy Jaffe — and I facilitated the event. We talked briefly about the importance of a statement of professional value that you can articulate verbally, virtually and in writing. We gave everyone time to draft their initial statement, focusing on their current situation, what they brought in terms of skills and value, and what they were looking for. We worked with participants to help them craft their statements; and we had everyone write their name and contact information on six index cards.

Amy then led the group in an exercise where each participant introduced themselves and presented their statement. Some of us asked a few clarifying questions, then if we had a lead, we wrote it on one of the index cards and gave it to the presenter. After everyone had presented their statement and collected their cards, they had the opportunity to talk with the participants who had provided the information. A number of folks collected several cards with several names as potential leads. And often, they had the commitment of an introduction from the source of the lead.

The final part of the evening stressed follow through and accountability. Once again, we went around the room and each participant stated specific actions they would take in the next week with the information they received that evening.

At the end of the evening, people were excited to get started. In a supported, dynamic, two hour session they met people just like them; they were able to provide leads for their new contacts; receive leads themselves; and have an action plan to take advantage of those leads.

Networking doesn’t get much easier. And there were cookies.



The right way to network by Barbara Babkirk & Scott Woodard – March 21, 2015

bigstock-Social-Collaboration-73758367“Networking”—it’s an overused and widely misunderstood “must do” job search strategy these days.

Anyone who is looking for a job has probably heard that most open positions are not advertised in traditional ways and the key to any successful job search is “networking”. After all, we’re told, “people hire people they know, or people who are referred to them by people they know.” So networking carries a lot of weight in today’s job search strategies.

But, what does that really mean? I’ll bet that everyone has their own assumptions about it, but I’m also sure that most versions come up short in their ultimate impact and effectiveness. At Heart At Work Associates, we encourage our clients to “network” in the best way that suits their personalities. We do stress that networking is a process, not an event; and that there are some critical factors you must follow however you decide to network.

First you must build relationships. Relationships need to be reciprocal. That is, you need to be prepared to give as well as take. In fact, giving assistance is more important than receiving it. Be prepared to help new people you meet in your networking, rather than ask for help from the start.

Second, relationships need to be nurtured. That means that you don’t just connect with someone new, obtain their business card, and move on. You need to engage them and follow up. Check in with your new contact on a regular basis. Send out an personal email once a quarter or so, checking in on their progress and offer any help you can provide.

Third, don’t just “network” when you need a job or when you need help from your contacts. If you do, your effort will be viewed as entirely one-sided.

In the “what not to do when you’re networking” category, I’ll recount a recent experience at a professional gathering.

The first person I met was a young woman who introduced herself as a life coach (but it could have been any occupation). When I asked her to explain (hoping for a description of her target client or how she approached her work), her response was a rote sounding “elevator speech”. Her lack of strategy was evident when she didn’t even ask about my work!

I came away from the one-way interaction unclear about what she actually offered and was turned off by her lack of spontaneity and interest in me.

Whether the person across from you is a stranger or a longtime colleague, effective networking involves a two-way conversation. When done well, networking blends attentive listening with appropriate questions.

When you make the conversation more about the other person than about you, you’re more apt to engage the person you’ve just met.

We’ve all been “taken hostage” by someone who drones on about himself or laments about the difficult time they’re having finding a job. Don’t follow their example.

Be aware of what you’re doing and saying and notice the body language of the person with whom you’re speaking. You’ll see if you are boring them and if so, move on or shift the topic back to them.

Be strategic when you network! Think about the particular networking opportunity beforehand—imagine why others are attending and create relevant questions that will engage people in a conversation.

Meaningful connections are memorable in a positive way—just the impression you want to cultivate in your job search.

Do you think it’s too late to…? by Barbara Babkirk – March 17, 2015

Open Your Mind Torn PaperHave you imagined things you would like to do in your life and then talk yourself out of them because you think it’s too late or you’re too old? Perhaps you might want to reconsider.

It’s common for people to dismiss satisfying ideas and interesting options because of inaccurate or unfounded assumptions.

When my clients express resignation or regret about something they think they cannot do because of their age, I often challenge them by asking: What if your age was not a factor? How would you feel about the idea then? Would you be motivated to take a step closer to it?

Eliminating what appears to be a hurdle can allow you to zero in on the real issue, which might be fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or even fear of success!

Whether you are a 30 year old contemplating graduate school, or a 58 year old fantasizing a totally new career, it is important to get close enough to the idea to figure out whether or not it reflects what you truly desire as well as what is truly necessary to make it a reality. In other words, initially focus on the “what” of it, not the “how”.

Perceived hurdles often occur when a person is not clear about what they want.

For example, age is often a handy excuse not to take the risk. But, the “safe” path can come with a sense of regret.

Review your dreams and reconsider your assumptions. Perhaps a new path might emerge that you thought impossible.

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov

Are you remarkable? by Scott Woodard – March 12, 2015

be_remarkable-300x109Are you a fan of TED Talks, the videos that showcase “Ideas Worth Spreading”? I love them. In under 20 minutes you can watch some really smart people talk about key ideas.

One of my favorite TED Talks is by marketing guru, Seth Godin speaking about “Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights.” In this video, Godin notes how marketing has changed: Interrupting people to get their attention doesn’t work any longer, because we just don’t care. We have too many choices, too little time. What worked for the “TV Industrial Complex” — mass marketing that brought average products to average people — is no longer viable. The key is to reach people who care with things that are remarkable.

This concept applies to one’s job search as well. Broadcasting (mass mailing) our resumes to potential employers is ineffective. Employers don’t care. They have too many choices, not enough time.

We need to be remarkable to those that care.

We need to figure out what people (employers) want and give it to them. And we need to be remarkable, because being very good is just average.

Are you remarkable? Can you identify your professional value and articulate it in such a way as to be remarkable for an employer who cares?

Often, when our clients get frustrated with their job search, one of the first things they want to do is develop a resume like the one they had before. One that looks like everyone else’s. One that is average. The second thing they do is to quit networking — quit looking for people who care. Instead, they only apply to posted positions on job boards or company websites. This is not being remarkable. It’s being average. Employers don’t care about average; they don’t have time for average.

Remarkable is getting in front of the people who make decisions in the companies you’re interested in working for. Remarkable is listening to what their problems are and developing solutions for them. Remarkable is that you are the solution.

Is being remarkable easy? Of course not. If it was is wouldn’t be remarkable, it would be average. So this is hard work. It requires clarity and focus: How am I remarkable? Why am I remarkable? It requires diligence and strategy: Who cares that I’m remarkable? How do I reach them?

So be remarkable. Find out who cares. Figure out what they want and give it to them.

Over to you: How are you remarkable? Can you tell how to those people who care?


Are you prepared to promote yourself? by Barbara Babkirk – February 16, 2015

At some point in your career you’ll need to promote yourself—be ready.


When you’re looking for a job, contemplating a career change, or vying for a promotion, you need to articulate the skills, talents and personality traits that make you stand out. While this is key to moving to the next level in your career, it’s difficult for most people.

One of the reasons is rooted in our cultural conditioning that has us downplay what we do well, ostensibly to keep us from appearing arrogant or self-centered.

I’m not sure how many people are saved from inflated egos as a result of damping down how they view themselves, but I do know that the idea of keeping a lid on our best traits can backfire when it comes to the job search, a career transition, or a raise.

Each of these goals requires you to put your best foot forward in a confident and believable way—verbally, virtually and in writing. An inability to communicate your value is likely to cost you what you want.

I’ve met with many capable and experienced clients who are unable to articulate their marketable skills. While they can detail the job responsibilities they’ve assumed over the years, they fall short of translating them into skills and a professional statement of value.

In these cases, I suggest the following exercise as a way to increase awareness:

–       Select three of four individuals who know you well in any of a variety of contexts (volunteer, work, personal) and ask them for a favor.

–       Tell them you are assessing your marketable skills and need their objective opinion and feedback.

–       Ask them to email you three to five skills that they have clearly seen you demonstrate and describe the context(s) in which they have seen you

use each one.

–       Then review the feedback and note any themes or patterns in the responses.

–       Evaluate your career and work history and determine where and when you used any or all of the skills identified in the feedback.

Another tool to help you assess your skills is the book Strengths Finder 2.0. After completing an online assessment provided by the book, you’ll be given a list of your top five strengths and descriptions of each.

These two exercises should help you find the words to articulate your value through your experience and associated skills.

Know that there are times when it is appropriate and important to speak confidently about yourself. Shift the notion that this is bragging and replace it with the idea that you’re telling the truth and helping someone select the best person for the job—you!

Stay engaged in your job search after an interview by Barbara Babkirk – February 2, 2015

I know it’s tempting…you’ve had a great interview and so you decide to wait on pursuing other job prospects until you receive word (of an expected job offer).

Even though that may seem to be a reasonable thing to do, it’s a bad idea and here are three reasons why:

  1. Waiting is deflating. If you put your search on hold, you’re likely to lose positive momentum, which is key to a successful outcome.
  2. You could lose a sense of control over your process if you count on someone else’s response to trigger next steps in your job search strategy.
  3. You may not be the top candidate. Even with an outstanding interview, you may lose out to another applicant and then you’ll feel like you’re back at square one.

So, move ahead with your job search strategy, in spite of great feedback and what seemed like a winning interview.

If you don’t hear back from your interviewer in the timeframe that was mentioned, check back in ten days or so.

Any hiring process can be delayed for dozens of reasons you can’t even imagine. So, don’t jump to conclusions about what’s actually going on as to why the search is delayed. It’s common to make up stories, but they are often negative ones and not in your best interest. Stick with the facts and keep your fears at bay.

Return to your contact list and make a few phone calls to arrange “strategic conversations” to stay in job search mode.

There’s a reason why the adage “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” has withstood the test of time. It particularly holds true when you’re in the job market.

Begin with the end in mind by Scott Woodard – January 27, 2015

The beginning of the year is a great time for self assessment and the setting of new goals. Often these goals center around improving current jobs and careers or obtaining new jobs and new careers.

Clients come to me at this time of year struggling with these challenges. They’ve taken stock of where they are and have decided they want something different…a promotion within their current employer, a new job with a new employer, a new career altogether.

In our initial discussions, I spend a brief amount of time with their current situation: What do they enjoy most about their current work? What is least appealing? We quickly move on, though, to their aspirations: What would they like to do next? This is where most struggle. They’re just not sure.

So I get them to talk about How they see themselves in their next role. Are they part of a team? Are they leading the team? Are they leading the organization? What type of organization are they working in? Large, small, somewhere in between? What markets or industries are they interested in pursuing?

All these questions are intended to get them thinking ahead. Where do they see themselves next? What do they see themselves doing? Can they develop a mental model of where they would like to be? The idea is that if they can develop that mental model, then their reality will follow.

The late Stephen Covey outlined this concept in his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Begin with the end in mind” was so important that he listed it as the second habit. “If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.”

By looking ahead at what you would like to accomplish; how you would like be seen; you get to set the direction to a better job and career.

So, over to you. Can you visualize where you would like to be in your career? Does that vision set a course for you to follow? Can you begin with the end in mind?

Dare to dream about your life by Barbara Babkirk – January 22, 2015

Do you dream about what you want in your life—new job, different career direction, supportive friends?

If you’ve had dreams that did not materialize, did your disappointment or loss prevent you from daring to imagine other possibilities?

Dreams are part of a complex mix of desires, feelings, beliefs and actions that can eventually result in a physical form.

If you seldom experience dreams becoming real in your life, it might be because you are not consistent or motivated enough to follow through on your ideas. To realize a dream, you need to take action.

German poet Goethe speaks to the active partnership that is essential to making dreams reality:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

You can increase the chances of your dream becoming real by:

  • Putting your attention on your dreams (writing down specific details can be useful and help you to get clear about it)
  • Making a sincere commitment to them
  • Taking consistent action in support of the dream
  • Letting go of how and when your dreams will come true

It’s good to reevaluate your dreams from time to time to see if they fit with your current circumstances. Sometimes you outgrow your dreams or change your mind about them, so tweaking your dreams or shifting to another one altogether keeps your dreaming current and in sync with your life.

Having a vision of what you desire can keep your spirits up and give you hope for the future.

What are your three words for 2015? by Scott Woodard – January 13, 2015

I love this time of year…January is full of possibilities. We make New Year’s resolutions, set goals, make big plans. For many of us, it’s a time to take stock of our careers and think of what we’d like to accomplish in 2015…A new job, more responsibility, more pay, a promotion, or all of the above.

A few years ago, I came across Chris Brogan’s 3 Words for the Year. Since 2006, Brogan has encouraged people to choose three words that will frame their goals and intentions for the year. I’ve done this for the past few years. Last year my three words were client, collaborator, and content.

Client referred to providing superior services to clients…to strengthening my coaching skills to better serve them, and being more responsive to their needs. Collaborator referred to collaborating with both colleagues and clients. I love the idea of collaboration; of Doing It Together (DIT). Content meant identifying differentiating issues that enabled my clients to be better prepared with leading edge tools to meet their goals.

These three words helped me focus my efforts for last year. Did it work? Pretty much. The feedback from clients suggests that I was helpful and attentive to their needs and their goals. They were pleased at my accessibility…that they could reach out to me for advice between appointments and even after our formal coaching time had ended. I would hear that they enjoyed and learned from the blog posts here at the Press Herald and links to articles posted on LinkedIn and the Heart At Work website.

So what are my 3 words for 2015? This year I want to make things happen, to develop new projects that serve our clients. I want to bring people together, both clients and colleagues, to make things happen. And, I want to help both clients and colleagues identify small actions that lead to big changes. My three words, then, are:

●      Launch

●      Convene

●      Trimtab

These words will frame the major activities that I engage in for the year as we develop new services for clients, bring people together to act on key issues and work with them to identify incremental actions that lead to major changes. Stay tuned.

Back to you. What 3 words can you come up with to frame your goals for the year?

What meaning does winter hold for you this year? by Barbara Babkirk – December 30, 2014

It is here again: winter in Maine. The season actually changed on December 21, the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, even though our lack of snow yet this year belies the season.

Whether you enjoy winter or merely put up with it, this season remains a predictable aspect of life in Maine. Understanding the significance of the season that holds both the demise of the old year and the emergence of the new as daylight increases, might give new meaning to your experience of freezing temperatures, snow covered terrain and icy footpaths.

At this time of year when we tend to remain inside much more than during other seasons, we can become closed off to the outside world. During this insular time, we are all invited into the paradox of experiencing the darkness around us in order to find our inner light.

With the backdrop of the winter solstice, consider your life and work at this time of passage from darkness to light. Here are some questions upon which you might reflect to tap your inner knowing and align with the season’s energy:

  • What does the darkness of winter evoke in you?
  • Is there an internal conversation that awaits you in this period of darkness and quiet?
  • Is there a belief or attitude that you might release, strengthen or alter in order to find this time purposeful?
  • Like the seeds deep within the winter ground, what lies dormant within you?
  • As you begin to prepare for increasing daylight, what are you hopeful about in your work and life?
  • What activities, experiences or people keep your hopes for these things alive?

“Without darkness nothing comes to birth,without light nothing flowers.” – May Sarton

Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

career counseling • outplacement & career transition services • relocation services • retention programs