Wednesday, 31 August 2016

👋 15 Good Conversation Starters Guaranteed to Make Networking Events Easy

Beat the biggest problem people have with networking events.


Honest networking

Some ideas on how to break the ice at your next networking event or just on the street.

After a recent all-day conference, I was about to head home when a friend there, Natasha Shine of Rounds, said she was on her way down the street for the evening networking event at another all-day conference.

“Well… I’m pretty tired,” I told her.

“Come on, you’ll meet a lot of entrepreneurs,” she pushed back, and that was all it took.

Good thing I went.

I did meet a lot of entrepreneurs, including some in the job search and recruiting industries, plus others who were able to give me business feedback or even contact information for other people or companies that might be useful for me.

How did I do it?

  1. Look for people who were standing alone so I wouldn’t need to interrupt any conversations
  2. Start the conversation by asking how the conference had been, since I had been up the street at the first all-day conference

That’s it. It was an easy question to answer, and for the few people who had also missed the first part of the day like myself, they would just reply by asking how my own conference had been.

How to start a conversation at networking events

For some people, reaching out to strangers comes naturally. For others like myself, it took practice and time to build up confidence to the point where I now enjoy it instead of getting anxious about it.

Things get a lot easier when you have an opening question that works, and once you realize that often the stranger in front of you is also looking for a way to reach out to you too, and is hesitating for the same reasons you are.

That alone is an interesting conversation starter: “Isn’t it funny how we’re both trying to think of something to say first?”

Here are 14 other good conversation starters to use when the time is right:

1) Keep it simple, introduce yourself and offer a handshake. “Hi. My name is … . What’s yours?”

2) If they’re wearing a nametag, ask them about their name.

3) If they’re wearing a nametag, say “Hi … . What do you do?” This isn’t my favorite opening line, but you’ll always get an answer.

4) Look for something you have in common with the person, and ask a related question. At the very least, ask what they think of the event you’re both attending, whether you’re referring to the speakers, the topics, or even just the room you’re in.

5) If the person has something very different about them, such as being a member of the opposite sex, much older/younger, etc., ask them for their specific point of view on an issue at the event i.e. “as a woman, how do you feel about the …?”

6) Ask what inspired them to come to the event.

7) If you recognize the person from the brochure for the current event, say so and ask them about their role in the event.

8) If you recognize the person from somewhere else such as a previous seminar, tell them so, and ask them if they liked that other event.

9) If you’re at an event with many foreigners, ask where they’re from.

10) If you’re at an event with many foreigners, ask what they think of the location.

11) If you’re at an event for a professional association, ask what made them become a member when they did.

12) Compliment them, but only if you really mean it. Women love this, and love doing it e.g. “I love your hair/watch/purse/etc.”

13) If they have a personal brand accessory, ask the first question that pops into your mind when you see it.

14) If you have a personal brand accessory, ask them what they think about it.

Bonus suggestions

15) If there’s food or refreshments, offer to get them something.

From another friend of mine, career strategist Tim Tyrell-Smith:

“You find and connect with people when your eyes meet theirs.  You make a connection with your eyes, smile and approach with confidence.  And then you kick things off with a question.  A starter or introductory question needs to be open ended so that the other person is given a wide berth in which to answer.  To put their own spin on things.  Everyone likes to give their ideas and opinions.  The question also needs to be genuine.”

Try these ideas as soon as you can, and you’ll start to get comfortable with which ones work best for you.

You’ll know things have changed when other people start asking how it’s so easy for you to start a conversation.

5 Conversation Starters for Introverts: Networking and Meeting New People

Question of the article

Which conversation starter has worked well for you? Tell us in the comments.

Get more networking tips with 7 Quick Rules for Networking To Your Next Job.

I originally published a version of this article on the terrific Personal Branding Blog.

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Thursday, 25 August 2016

😕 Depressed On Your Job Search? Take This Quick Test

Use this simple self-test to find out if your job search is keeping you down more than it should.

Are You Depressed On Your Job Search Take The Test

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9 for short) was developed by Pfizer and “is used as a screening and diagnostic tool for mental health disorders of depression, anxiety, alcohol, eating, and somatoform,” according to Wikipedia.

While some self-tests are just gimmicks, a 2006 study to “assess the validity of the Patient Health Questionnaire depression module” had results that “support the construct validity of the PHQ depression scale, which seems to be a useful tool to recognize not only major depression but also sub-threshold depressive disorder in the general population.”

In other words, the PHQ-9 is useful enough that doctors will administer it to potential patients, yet simple enough that you can test yourself.

While I’m not a doctor and this test shouldn’t be considered as medical advice, take it here below to judge whether you should talk to a doctor or otherwise get help for a state of mind that’s making your job search harder than it needs to be.

But before you take it-

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Free bonus: Download The Job Search Depression Report which contains this test and insights on how to manage if you're too depressed to look for work.

The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)

As you do the test, choose the best answer to each question and note the corresponding number of points, which you can add up as you go or at the end.

Over the past 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?

1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

2. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

3. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

4. Feeling tired or having little energy

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

5. Poor appetite or overeating

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

6. Feeling bad about yourself – or that you’re a failure or have let yourself or your family down

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or, the opposite – being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

Not at all: 0 points

Several days: 1 point

More than half the days: 2 points

Nearly every day: 3 points

Calculating your score

Once you complete the test, now add up all the points from your answers to calculate a final score. If you tally more than 27 points, you’ve either miscalculated or you recorded multiple answers for at least one question.

Before checking your results, please keep in mind again that I’m not a doctor, and that the following conclusions aren’t medical advice, they’re simplifications of what I’ve seen from scientific sources.

0-4 points total

Minimal depression, if any. Nothing to worry about.

5-9 points

Mild depression. Re-test yourself in another two weeks. If the situation hasn’t improved, talk to a doctor or therapist.

10-14 points

You might be moderately depressed. Talk to a doctor.

15 points or more

Please see a doctor as soon as possible, you need help and I want you to get it. While you might think to ask your general practitioner or family doctor first, a psychiatrist is best equipped to diagnose people who might be depressed and decide on the correct treatment for what is actually a fairly complex health issue.

Job search is hard enough without the burden of depression, and the accompanying lack of self-confidence is hampering you more than you realize. Employers rarely make pity hires, and you don’t need to be one.

Question of the article

What do you find is most depressing about your current job search? Tell us in the comments. Use a fake name, if you feel the need to go anonymous.

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  • 13 Signs of Job Search Depression
  • Unsure About The Signs? Take The Test
  • 9 Ways To Deal With Job Search Depression

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

🔨 How Older Job Seekers Beat These Common Stereotypes

While almost every stereotype out there is true for some people, that person doesn’t have to be you.

How Older Job Seekers Beat These Common Stereotypes

Photo credit: Pascal

It’s widely believed that older people have a tougher time competing in the job market, in part due to the many negative stereotypes such as “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

The key to overcoming stereotypes is demonstrating that they don’t apply. With that in mind, here are 15 of the most common assumptions about older job seekers, and how to overcome them.

Free bonus: The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled for older job seekers. Download it now.

15 negative stereotypes about older job seekers

1) Stuck in their ways

It’s often thought that older people are stubborn and stuck in their ways of doing things.

You can easily disprove this:

Show in your resume and work portfolio that you have the relevant training and skills to do the desired job according to the latest methodologies, emphasizing how you’ve evolved and improved throughout your career.

2) Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Similar to the above, the emphasis here is on the belief that age somehow prevents people from learning.

People who use this expression believe that nature has given an early expiration date to our brainpower and creativity. While it’s true that certain cognitive capabilities deteriorate with age, research in neuroplasticity has also shown that our brains can reorganize themselves and even generate new brain cells if we stay mentally active. Therefore, inability to learn new skills is usually caused by a bad attitude rather than bad “hardware.”

With the right mindset, you can add new skills to your repertoire at any age, show them off online, and your can-do attitude will surely impress employers as well.

3) Inflexible

It’s often thought that older people don’t possess the necessary mental fluidity to find flexible solutions to novel problems that show up in their daily work.

What a crock!

This stereotype has more to do with simple closed-mindedness than chronological age. Today’s culture is obsessed with novelty and innovation but in reality, the problems that most often occur in our day-to-day work tend to be quite standard and fairly predictable. Your years of experience can give you a perspective that younger, less-experienced minds simply don’t have yet. The older you get, the more you have seen and the more easily you’ll see connections between seemingly disparate things.

Debunk the inflexibility myth by telling relevant success stories in your job interviews.

4) Lack of adaptability

It is true that older people are more likely to question the necessity for change, as more experience will include more examples of changes gone wrong. But this doesn’t mean that they’re unable to go along with changes. Anyone can adapt once they understand the reasons for it.

Be open about the fact that you don’t fear change and that you see it as a natural part of work life. A resume with many previous roles demonstrates this, but even if you’ve only had 1-2 long-tenured career jobs so far, prepare job interview stories about dealing well with big changes on the job.

5) Lack of technological competence, computer literacy or ability to learn new technology

New technologies have drastically changed skill requirements in the job market, and older people are often thought of not being very tech-savvy.

While it may have been true in the early days of the Internet, this idea is definitely outdated now. Older people can handle the latest technology very well. In fact, maybe even better than younger people, since they tend to be much less distracted by social media than people who grew up with it.

Unlike soft skills, tech competence is very straightforward and easy to demonstrate: simply mention all your relevant skills in your resume, and showcase completed projects in your work portfolio.

6) Slow learners

Learning effectively has more to do with the methods used and the skills of the teacher, as opposed to student age.

While it’s often thought that younger people have an advantage when it comes to learning, studies have shown that it isn’t always so. For example, adults learn languages more easily than children because learning is a skillset on its own. Older adults can learn even at a faster rate because experience often gives them the intuition to focus on the 80/20 rule: the 20% of input that gives them 80% of the outcomes.

Set yourself apart from the competition by explaining to employers how you value learning and don’t fear having to upgrade your skills from time to time. Throwing in the fact that you have a track record of doing so (if it’s true) will also help.

7) Less productive

This stereotype stems in part from the belief that between themselves and their family, older people have more health problems to manage, which makes them take more sick days. Barring requiring you (and your family) to go for doctor checkups, there’s no reason for a recruiter to believe this should automatically apply to you. While productivity can be taught, a good, hard-working attitude is mostly a character trait that’s not determined by age.

If you’re a productive person, specify in your resume how your efforts have directly benefited your previous employer(s).

8) Less able to multi-task

Are you terrible at multi-tasking?

If so, then this is good news. According to a study conducted in Stanford University, workers who considered themselves successful multi-taskers actually perform worse than people who do one thing at a time, because frequent task switching disrupts your work flow, and makes it harder to organize your thoughts while filtering out noise.

But it gets even worse-

Researchers also found that multi-tasking can temporarily lower your IQ similar to smoking marijuana and possibly even damage your brain. Yikes.

Your best work is always achieved in a state of focus and doing one thing to completion, and you should explain that for your interviewers.

9) Past their prime

If this were true, then it wouldn’t make sense that older workers tend to perform better than their younger peers in positions that require problem solving, organizational skills, attention to detail, listening and writing. So it can’t be true, even though it’s a myth that’s easy to accept in a culture that tends to celebrate youth everywhere we look.

As an older job seeker, keep in mind that you’re bringing experience and years’ worth of accumulated wisdom to the workplace that others simply don’t have yet. If you can outperform other (younger?) colleagues, but most importantly, have recent achievements to show on your resume and discuss with recruiters, you’re very much still in your prime.

10) Can’t keep up in a dynamic, fast-paced workplace

A hyper-connected workplace dictates a faster pace and puts pressure on us to get more done with less time. There’s not much evidence, however, that older employees tend to be less organized or more prone to getting distracted or overwhelmed.

Again, job interview stories let you demonstrate that this isn’t one of your weaknesses and might even be a strength.

11) Just don’t perform as well as younger employees

Some people think that older people have more of a sense of pride in a job well done than younger employees, but that’s garbage. Age has nothing to do with it, and there are both young and old employees who do their job well and those who don’t.

This is such a vague stereotype that the only way someone could be convinced otherwise is with hard evidence, and even then, it might not be enough to influence a hiring decision if a mind has been made up in advance.

While job interview stories of you working as well as, and well with, younger colleagues can help your case, you need to dig deeper. If you can find out in advance who your interviewer(s) will be, research their background for roles where they dealt with older colleagues successfully and use that to prove your point.

12) Unwilling to share knowledge, blocking younger colleagues’ success

As workers grow older, their increased experience gives them a capacity for better judgment. With better judgment they are often able to avoid costly mistakes that save the company a great deal of money, which adds to their value as a team member.

Most people are happy to share their wisdom with others because the mentor-mentee and master-apprentice relationships have existed for thousands of years and these teacher-student dynamics are deeply ingrained in our psychology. What most employers are looking for, is someone who can harmoniously fit into their team.

Some basic people skills will do the trick here, and this is something you can convey during your email/phone/etc. conversations with a potential employer. Specific examples are always best.

13) Difficult with younger bosses

It’s often thought that older workers have a hard time respecting bosses that are younger than them. You might find it tough to take orders from a person who has less industry experience than you, or is in the same age group as your child. This is very common.

To avoid a conflict-ridden relationship with a younger boss, keep in mind that age is just a number, and it applies to both of you. Respect that someone saw that this person had value to offer to the company or she wouldn’t be in the leadership role.

If you can demonstrate during the interview process that you are easy to get along with, have been in the past, and that you don’t buy into stereotypes, generational differences shouldn’t be an obstacle.

14) Older workers cost more to employ than younger workers

According to this myth, older workers cost more because they have higher salaries and retraining them (when needs change) isn’t money well-spent because they won’t stay as long, limiting potential return on company investment.

While older workers generally do earn more, that has less to do with their age and more to do with their work responsibilities, so giving someone younger the same responsibilities should require they be paid similarly. In other words, salary costs are roughly the same.

As for retraining older workers compared to hiring younger workers with the required skills, it really depends on how much of a career pivot is needed for the older workers and how much past experience is valued. Recruiting is expensive and prone to error, while retraining an existing employee is usually less risky if done right.

While everyone wants the most bang for their buck, the best you can do is target companies so well that your hiring will seem like a no-brainer for them because you have the skills they need including the ones they’ve begun retraining employees on, showing you’re clearly worth the budgeted salary for the position. Plus, being such a clearly good match will shorten their recruitment process, saving them even more money.

15) Hankering for retirement

If you’re 50+, does that mean you’re merely looking to kill time until the desired retirement finally arrives? Or maybe it’s time to retire the idea of traditional retirement instead?

People are living longer and healthier lives. Many have already chosen to work well beyond 60, 65 and even 70, whether for financial reasons or just to have something to do. Companies also lose out if too many talented and experienced employees must automatically leave the workforce at 65 or whatever the retirement age is where you live.

To diffuse any reservations they might have about you as an older job seeker, talk openly about your long term plans, and how “where will you be in 5 years?” is right there, succeeding at the company.

Question of the article

What kinds of stereotypes have you had to deal with on your current job search? Tell us in the comments.

READ NEXT: 9 Real Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected

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This free download contains:
  • 5 Common Mistakes Older Job Seekers Make
  • How To Defeat Any Form of Job Search Discrimination
  • 9 Real Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected
  • 40 Tips for Older Job Seekers That Actually Get Results
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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

🏃 Would You Believe Real People Are Actually Finding Jobs Playing Pokémon Go?

How the world’s hottest mobile game is inspiring people to mix business with pleasure.

Would You Believe Real People Are Actually Finding Jobs Playing Pokémon Go

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm since it was released in July 2016. In only a few weeks, it was installed on more devices than LinkedIn, and was being played more often than people use Facebook or Twitter.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Anything so popular is going to have an impact on people’s lives, and even their careers. Employees have already been fired for playing while working, including dangerously while driving a public bus.

Yeah, don’t do that.

On the flip side, here are some of the creative ways Pokémon Go players and fans have begun making a living from their favorite game, doing jobs that can be done remotely from anywhere in the world, even in countries where the game hasn’t officially been released yet.

Be in the game, not of the game

1) Account sellers

British Law graduate Sophia Pedraza quit her job as a private tutor making US$2,600 monthly to play the game full-time.

Her plan?

“To accumulate multiple phones so she can level up a bunch of accounts and sell them on eBay for more than $1,300.”

2) Account builders

Similarly, there are companies and regular people looking to hire freelancers to grow Pokémon accounts for them. They will literally pay you to play!

In the UK, you can earn £40 (about US$53) per hour to catch monsters for your clients, or you can set up shop on freelance marketplaces by offering to catch Pokémon for an hourly or fixed fee, such as on PeoplePerHour.

In India, a company is looking to hire a full-time ‘official Pokémon catcher’ with a monthly starting salary of ₹25,000 (about US$373).

3) Coaches

New Zealand barista and bartender Dave Currie quit his job to take a Pokémon Go vacation, touring his country while hunting for monsters to catch. He’s not the only one either.

He did so well that a few days after the above YouTube clip was posted, he received a job offer: “a gaming company in the US has offered me a job to be a professional Pokémon Go coach, which would entail me doing Skype calls with players from all over the world who wish to get tips from me and get ahead.

Okay, be of the game too

What if you love the game but don’t want to make a career out of it?

While you can network with other trainers at PokéStops and Gyms, the chances of that leading to a job aren’t very high.

However, many people are using their non-gaming skills for jobs that are related to the game, its players and culture.

For example, drivers, joggers and anyone always on the move are offering egg-hatching services.

On Fiverr, sellers are offering to photoshop or draw you as a Pokémon trainer and sell you Pokémon Go tip guides.

On Craigslist, people are offering to drive or SAIL you around while you play, take you to places where specific monsters tend to be found, or run a Pokémon Go-themed party for you.

On Upwork, freelancers will do Pokémon Go-related designs, write related articles, even create related mobile apps.

Then there’s this:

How Pokémon Go is impacting recruiting and job search in other ways

The game’s creator Niantic is also looking to hire thanks to the game’s popularity:

In India, Microsoft is using the game to recruit developers:

The US Navy is getting in on the act:

Job seekers are mentioning the game in interviews:

Around the world, there’s even a growing stereotype that Pokémon Go players are all unemployed slackers:

But I completely agree with this:

Question of the article

Have you ever been tempted to quit your job to play a game, travel or follow some other passion? Tell us in the comments.

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