Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Posts tagged ‘blog’

Networking Is Your Status Update Still ‘Looking for Work?’

Networking

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of status updates on business and social networking sites that say things like, “Project Manager professional looking for work” or “Looking for work in a tough economy” or “Just received my degree in accounting — looking for work.” While I understand that these job seekers are trying to advertise their candidacy online, I don’t recommend broadcasting this specific message in your status updates. Here’s why:

  1. Blasting this message to your entire network makes you look desperate. You might as well rent a billboard to promote your job search … Yes, I know there are stories about people landing a job this way, but these tactics get old fast. (And by the way, the guy who landed a job by wearing a sandwich board saying he was looking for work is “so 2008.”)
  2. Posting this message makes people in your network uncomfortable. Imagine agreeing to meet someone for coffee and before the coffee is even cool enough to drink you say, “I’m looking for work.” It’s awkward. It places an unrealistic expectation on your contacts to come up with a solution for you. The same thing happens online when you announce that you are looking for work.
  3. Sending this message leaves you little wiggle room for a follow-up message. Think about it. If you are still in a job search next week, what will your status update be? “Still looking for work” isn’t going to cut it.

Status updates on business and social-networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are a way for you to build rapport with a community and deepen the relationship with your contacts. Choose messages that showcase your expertise, share valuable information, give kudos to others or broadcast an exciting endeavor you are working on (even if it is volunteer work). Here are some examples of alternative status updates you might want to adapt for your situation:

For a fundraising executive:

  • “Volunteering at the American Cancer Society walkathon on Sunday; hope to raise more than $2M.”

 

For an HR professional: 

  • “Attending a seminar on compensation plans for 2009 and beyond at (share the link)”

For an advertising professional: 

  • “My colleague, John Smith, just landed a major account with a leading luxury goods company. Way to go, John!”

For a CIO: 

  • ”Reading an interesting article on new technologies in health care at (share the link)”

For a financial analyst: 

  • “Boning up on study materials for the CFA Level II exam … looks like it’s going to be a long night!” 

Create status updates that invite questions and further conversation, not ones that make your network run for cover. Remember, online networking, like face-to-face networking, is a process. Whenever possible, give before you get and you will be surprised how quickly you get something back in return.

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Interviewing

How to Ensure Your References Are Gender-Neutral

 

Studies indicate the language often used to describe female professionals weakens their appeal to hiring managers. What can you do to level the playing field?

InterviewingDo job references describe men and women in different terms?

In subtle ways executives routinely use different terms to refer to men and women in recommendations, negatively affecting job candidates they are effectively trying to praise, according to a new study. Executives, men and women alike, routinely praise women using terms “helpful,” “kind,” “sympathetic,” “nurturing” and “tactful,” all of which are less valued by recruiters and hiring managers.

Even recruiting professionals don’t always realize the gap between the ways professionals are described by their peers.

A case in point is Jill Knittel, vice president at ER Associated, an executive recruiting firm in Rochester, N.Y. When asked to comment on how a reference might use different words to describe male and female candidates’ qualifications for the same position, she said, “I don’t run into that issue. As you become a C-level professional, it’s not an issue.”

Then, to prove her point, she searched her files for recommendations she has received for male and female candidates being considered for a midlevel finance position in a public accounting firm. What she found challenged her assumption.

First, she retrieved this recommendation for a female candidate: “She cared for her clients and took very good care of their needs.”

Then, this one for a male: “He had strong relationships with his clients and was very reliable.”

“Holy cow!” said Knittel, realizing her experiment contradicted her theory. “It’s really subtle, but it happens.”

Yes, it does, and even the best-intentioned people making those recommendations may not even realize what they are doing. A recent study by researchers at Rice University concluded that the words used to describe the qualities of men and women job candidates differ. While subtle, those differences can make or break a woman’s chances of being hired or promoted.

The study focused on jobs in academia but offered lessons that can be taken to the executive level.

The researchers, Michelle Hebl and Randi Martin, along with graduate student Juan Madera, reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for academic positions at colleges and universities nationwide, and found that the letters praised women by using adjectives such as “helpful,” “kind,” “sympathetic,” “nurturing” and “tactful,” along with behaviors such as helping others, taking direction well and maintaining relationships. When those recommendations were reviewed by volunteers who were unaware of the gender of the candidate, said Martin, “the more communal the characteristics mentioned, the lower the evaluation of the candidate.”

Lisa Torres, a former professor of sociology at George Washington University and now a social science analyst at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in San Francisco, notes, “We expect women to have certain skills, such as communication skills, empathy and communal traits. Yet these skills are not always valued. In some cases they are penalized. But, if women are described as assertive, self-confident and accomplished, people will question, ‘Where is the team building?’ It’s sort of a Catch-22.”

Changing Perceptions, Changing Language

The way for women to deal with this issue, says Torres, is to understand why people choose the words they do, and be proactive about changing the way they think. “When you ask someone to be a reference, whether he writes a letter or speaks to someone on the phone, there’s nothing wrong with giving that person some idea of what you’d like him to say about you. You need to take some control over that message.”

Knittel agrees, saying it is imperative that job candidates — men and women — take control of the reference process.

“The first thing you should say to a prospective employer after giving her the names of your references is, ‘Give me 24 hours to get in touch with these people to let them know you are going to call.’ ”

This, Knittel said, gives you time to do two things:

  1. You ensure they are available to speak to the recruiter or prospective employer.
  2. It gives you time to brief them on the job, and explain to them why you are a good fit. “Tell them what skill set you would bring to the company. Remind them of that acquisition you worked together on, or the client you brought in. Use the language you would like them to use to characterize your skills.”

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career coaching firm in New York, instructs her clients to prepare their references as part of the job-seeking process. “Educate them on what qualities and skills you want them to highlight, and give them specific examples of your work that speak to these skills. It can help avoid a well-meaning reference from giving a lukewarm recommendation.”

Educating your references, as well as the people who are reading them, will ultimately make a difference for women seeking to move up the ladder. “Subtle gender discrimination continues to be rampant,” said Hebl, one of the study’s authors. “It’s important to acknowledge that because you cannot remediate discrimination until you are aware of it.” It will take a great amount of education, among both employers and employees, before people will stop making gender-specific characterizations, said Torres.

“I can’t legislate these changes,” she said. “But I can start from the bottom up. When I write a recommendation for a female graduate student, I’m watching the words I use. I instinctively want to say what a nice person she is. Instead, I should be saying she’s brilliant.”

Blogging

Do you blog?  If so what about?  How often do you blog?  Do you have a blog page for every particular industry/topic that you blog about? 

These are questions that are asked by people that are thinking/interested in blogging.  Different people will tell you different answers to these questions as well.  However I will tell you based on my experience and research it is very important that once you begin to blog that you keep it up.  It’s vital that once you put your blog out there and get attention that you keep it updated and free from grammar errors. 

I don’t think that in order to have a successful blog that you have to ONLY blog about one particular topic.  However if you have a professional blog that is directly pertaining to your professional business then it is in your best interest to blog only about your professional business.

Blogging is very theraputic.  However it can be very educational, inspirational, and you can tell about your own professional interest as well.  The main thing about blogging is simply start!  Waiting for this or that is simply not wise.  So begin to blog.   Start blogging and adjust accordingly.  Your blog site should give you some stats as to how many people are coming by regardless to if they are leaving comments.  So for example if after a week or two you are not getting any activity it may be wise or in your best interest to try something else unless you are blogging on your professional topic.  Surely you would want to give it more then a 2 week minimum.  

So the key is to begin some where.  So go ahead start blogging, why not!!

Sandra Parks

Networking

Networking is a powerful tool.  You’d be amazed at your contact inventory if you use it properly!  Did you realize that often times its not what you know but who you know?  I know that you have heard that saying before but do you honestly realize the power within that one little statement?

I had a conversation with my Sister this morning, Soror Jahari Soward.  The chick is sharp as heck.  You can learn more about what it is that she does at http://www.npursuit.net.  But at any rate I wanted to stress the importance of real networking.  It’s not JUST about what you get from the people that you network with but its about the even exchange of good communication and resources that you give each other.

Your network can be worth value if you use and treat it properly.  It can take you to places that you NEVER thought that you could go.  It could put you in contact with people that you would have under normal circumstances not even thought about reaching out to.  If you are business minded it is very vital that you learn how to network.  Its imperative that you build your network on a firm and solid foundation.  Have some direction.  Know what it is that you want to do and go from there.  Of course you will make adjustments along the way but you have to first start.

I appreciate my conversation this morning with my sister.  It’s amazing how powerful knowledge truely is.  Not only have I began building a powerful network I’ve also become just that much more motivated to go after my dreams.

So if you want to learn more about blogging and/or building your network please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I can easily be reached by leaving a contact here on my blog and I promise you that I will get back with you. 

Your future relies on your ability to network, I promise!!!

Until next time make it a GRAND day!!!

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