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How to Win Over a Client in the First Meeting

Concept shot of exchange business card between man and womanThe initial consultation with a client can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you feel like the two of you aren’t quite clicking. It’s essentially an interview – for both of you. Each person needs to decide whether they want to work with the other. And much like a first date, it can be hard to read the cues to know if the other person is “into you.”

There is no surefire way to make a client want to hire you, but there are a few best practices that can greatly increase your chances. This first meeting is the time to present yourself as professional and likeable. Here are some tips for making a good first impression at your initial client consultation.

Make them feel comfortable

First, establish your expectations for the meeting. I like to begin my first client meetings by letting them know this is a casual conversation simply for us to each learn about each other. I purposely don’t take out a pen and paper, until the conversation has reached that point. Rather, I’ve found it puts the other person at ease to feel like they’re talking to a friend and not being interviewed. This is an important step toward developing a meaningful relationship with a client.

Prove you’ve done your research

I know I said you should set the expectation of the first meeting to be a casual conversation, but that’s not a free pass to come completely unprepared. Make sure you do your research ahead of time so that you can ask targeted questions that will help you get to the point of the matter. If you leave a meeting with more questions than when you arrived, you didn’t do enough research to ask the right questions – and you’ve just made more work for yourself!

Share relevant experiences

If the opportunity naturally arises, you should reference other clients you’ve worked with that had similar challenges, and how you successfully overcame them. Clients like to know that you have experience related to their industry. You don’t need to be an expert, but having a few case studies to share can really earn you some bonus points.

Be humble

Coming in with too much confidence can push you over the edge – and not in a good way. Clients want to feel like they are in capable hands, but too much confidence can make it seem like you’re downplaying their challenges. It can even make them feel self-conscious that they aren’t able to solve the same problems you’re claiming to be “common” or “easy.” Be humble, genuinely listen to what they have to say, and throw in a little humor at your own expense!

Give them something of value…at no cost

I get it. You don’t think you can afford to offer free advice to a potential client for fear they could walk off with it and never call you again. And that may very well happen. However, in my experience, offering some minimal free advice almost always returns more business than what I would have gained by trying to charge for it in the beginning. Free advice earns you trust, wins you respect and shows the client you aren’t out to try and nickel and dime them. When they see that you really know what you’re talking about, they’re likely to carve out a budget and come back to you for more work.

Leave with a game plan

Finally and most importantly, leave the initial meeting with a game plan. This next move may be on you – to create a proposal or follow-up in some other way. Or it may be on the client to determine their budget or talk with their business partner. Either way, be sure to leave the meeting knowing who is expected to do what and by when. This allows you to follow-up should that deadline pass and it also prevents things from going stale after the progress you made in the meeting.

Do you have another valuable tip to share for how to win over a new client? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event (Guest Blog by Samantha Thayer)

The following post comes to us from guest blogger, Samantha Thayer. Samantha is an Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. You can find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!


5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

Chances are, at one point in your life, you’ve attended an event that you viewed as an opportunity to network. This could be a work-related event, charity event, community event, or an event catering to a niche that simply interests you.

If you’re new to attending such events, it may be a little overwhelming or hard to know where to begin and what’s acceptable. And even if you’re used to attending business events, these tips are a great reminder to take advantage of everything the event has to offer.

We’ve created an infographic that discusses five ways to get the most out of events and some basic etiquette to keep in mind.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

  1. Connect with People

If you’re trying to build your network, it’s important to remember to connect with people and exchange information so you can easily follow-up after the event. Something I have found useful is to bring business cards with you to any and all events. Make sure they include your name, e-mail, company and a social platform available for people to find you after the event. If you don’t have a business card, make sure to ask someone else for theirs! Then, be sure and connect with people through social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn soon afterwards.

  1. Act on What You’ve Learned

Presenters at events typically will have actionable information for attendees. Pay close attention to the value those may add to your life and business. Find ways to personalize that information and how to best apply it, in order to improve your business or day to day life. Most importantly, apply it right now. Do it while the information (and inspiration) is fresh in your mind.

  1. Research the Event Beforehand

Research the event you’re planning on attending before you go. Some valuable information you’ll want to note is the keynote speakers, breakout session topics (and which ones you want to go to), available workshops and any additional fees there might be (food, parking, etc).  Find out the size of the event as well so you know how many business cards to bring!

  1. Set Achievable Goals

After listening to speakers at your event, it’s important to apply what you’ve learned to your life. A great way to do this is to set new goals for yourself or your business. Setting realistic, “SMART” goals is a great way to ensure you act on them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Figure out who is going to do what, where, and by when while setting your goals, and it will be easier to achieve them as well as see what was effective and what wasn’t when looking back at results.

  1. Take Notes and Ask Questions

Finally, take notes on anything that is relevant or inspires you while listening to speakers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be an active participant in discussions. It’s a great way to connect with other audience members as well as the speakers.

For more helpful networking advice, be sure to check out the infographic below!

Infographic courtesy of What’s Up, USANA?

Succeed At Your Next Business Event

13568838_10210251683992010_2184923627438616281_oThis article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. For more information, find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!

 

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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Business & Success, Time Management

 

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How to Gear Up for Your Busy Season

How to Gear Up for Your Busy SeasonIt pains me to admit that my favorite season, summer, is coming to a close. As we look toward September and beyond, this can often appear to be a black hole of project deadlines, obligations and even more juggling of family activities. Somehow we need all of these things to fit into the same 24 hours in a day we expected so much less out of throughout the summer. It’s a recipe for stress, overwhelm and depression if we are not careful.

The good news is there are a ton of good things that come from your busy season – greater productivity, achievement and organization just to name a few. It’s a great opportunity to wake up and show what we’re truly capable of, but we must be careful to also be realistic with the expectations we have for our schedules and to strategically plan out moments of happiness and relaxation as well.

Take a look at these top tips I highly recommend taking to heart if you hope to make this your most successful – and most manageable – busy season yet!

Start with the big things

Looking at a laundry list of to-items that have to all make it to your calendar can be overwhelming to say the least. But remember that not all of these tasks share the same urgency and importance as one another. Some may simply not even need to be addressed during your busy season at all. Others can be delegated to another staff member or outsourced.

Start by populating your calendar with the “big” events or deadlines that are firmly set. Once you are able to see how these shake out, you can fill in your next level of important items, strategically scheduling them on days and weeks that another big event does not land. If you take care of the big things first, the little things will more easily fall into place.

Map it out long-term

Next, look at the big picture. If you know your busy season runs approximately three months, look at these three months side by side. Based upon your list of priority to-do’s, looking at just one month at a time may tempt you to overload that first month with as many tasks as possible, when that simply isn’t necessary. If a meeting or event can be pushed a month or two down the road with no major repercussions – push it! Just because you can get something done this week or this month, doesn’t mean it has to get done this week or this month. Stretch out your busy season…and maximize your sanity.

Gear up slowly

“Diving in head first” is a phrase we commonly hear in business. Sure, there are some occasions that call for you to jump right in without hesitation or second guessing. But for your busy season, which you can reasonably see boiling to a peak on your calendar, ease into your new schedule gradually.

If you know you will need to get up (a lot) earlier in the mornings to fit in some extra work time, transition your body by getting up just 15 minutes or a half hour early a few days at a time. If you can remember the agony of the sound of your alarm on the first day of school, avoid this by conditioning your body slowly to the “joy” of functioning early in the morning. Apply this theory to working through your lunch hour or getting in a few extra hours before bed. See what works best for you and stick to it!

Say “No”

The activities you enjoyed during your “slower” months, like social coffee meetings or writing daily posts on your personal blog, may need to be moved to your back burner as you gear up for your busy season. These are worthy time commitments when you aren’t overloaded with other client work, but when you hit that crazy time of the year, pull back on these items and focus foremost on the things that are directly making you money. Learning to say “no” now will save you stress and overwhelm in the coming weeks.

Avoid busyness

There is a big difference between being productive and being busy. The first means you’re tackling priorities, making money and delivering results to clients. Busyness means you’re filling your schedule with tasks that simply aren’t priority or don’t need you immediate attention. This relates back to the advice of “just say no.” Be ruthless with your schedule and only take on tasks that are a productive use of your time.

Schedule time for relaxation, personal development and social activities

Having just mentioned everything I did about prioritizing your time with big, important, money-making tasks, I’m also going to stress the importance of strategically scheduling downtime. How is both possible, you say? Put it on your calendar like any other appointment that’s filling your time that week. Make planned relaxation, personal development and social activities part of your busy season, too. Yes, you may need to scale back from what you would normally get to do during your slower months, but personal time is so important for keeping your sanity and preserving your happiness.

Give yourself “carrots” along the way

Speaking of happiness, I strongly suggest dangling some “carrots” in front of yourself to keep you motivated and engaged in your work. Busy seasons are a welcome change because they often result in greater cash flow, but no amount of increased income is worth burning yourself out for months on end. Once you achieve a certain deadline, celebrate with a dedicated afternoon off. Or reward yourself with a rerun of your favorite TV show if you work hard to knock off your biggest task before noon. Too many rewards will undermine your hard work and self-control, but the right balance will keep you refreshed and focused.

Be realistic with your expectations!

Finally, get real with what you’re expecting of yourself over the coming months. The most spectacularly color-coded calendar, planned out by the hour means nothing if it’s completely unreasonable for a human to achieve. We are not robots and even when we need to be functioning on all cylinders, we still need to ease up on ourselves when the mood calls for it. Get honest with your personality type, work style and capabilities – remember to also extend the same consideration to those helping you through your busy season.

Are you preparing to enter a busy season this fall? Share how you plan to prepare yourself to successfully manage this new schedule by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Get Comfortable with Getting Personal on Social Media

personal genuine real quote

If you’ve taken notice of how your personal social media accounts engage far more interactions than your business accounts – you’re not the only one. In particular, Facebook continues to make major changes to their algorithms that determine whether or not your content appears in people’s newsfeeds. The bottom line is that business pages are getting hit the hardest with the negative impact of these changes and personal accounts are becoming more and more valuable for reaching a broader audience.

Yes, social media is a vast unknown and a very public forum. It can be intimidating to think about how the content you put out on your social profile will live on for eternity. So while it’s more important than ever to be smart about what you post, it’s becoming equally important to be personal and genuine. This type of content is rewarded with far more views. Additionally, people feel more compelled to comment, like and share content that feels “human” – and not like a sales pitch.

If we want to better promote our personal brand, engage our core audience and grow our business, we need to shift our focus away from trying to “outsmart the system” with shady SEO tactics and tricky automated posting and toward quality, genuine content posted by us – a human. Moreover, we need to open up, get more personal and allow our fans and followers to connect with the person behind the business.

Let’s take a look at 9 ways to get comfortable with getting more personal on social media – in a safe and professional manner.

Speak to your core audience.

For the vast majority of us, we have far more connections on our social media profiles than we will ever have friends in real life. This is part of the beauty of social media, but also part of the downfall. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of your content reaching thousands upon thousands of people.

Who are these people, really? What do they think about me? Why do they even want to hear what I have to say? These doubt-filled questions can really do a number on your self-confidence and your willingness to share personal and genuine information about your life. Forget about these “unknown” followers and rather focus on your core audience – the people you know in real life or with whom you have built a meaningful relationship online. Talk to your supporters, your cheerleaders and ignore the opinions of all the rest. If they don’t like your content, they’ll weed themselves out.

Showcase more than just your “brag reel.”

Social media is fun because we can carefully frame all of our life events so that they appear far more fabulous and perfect than they really are. Not to mention how we are able to completely crop out the mistakes, bad days and blunders we don’t want people to know about.

But in order for people to get to know the real you, you have to share the good with the bad. This means letting people know when you’ve made a silly mistake, have a “case of the Monday’s” or are just in a bad mood. Not only does this make you more genuine, it helps people connect with you on a deeper level because, guess what, they’ve been there too! Best of all, you will find that your core audience will rally around you in support and help move you on to a more positive moment.

Be positive.

In sharing both the highs and the lows on your newsfeed, be sure to stay positive. Don’t rant or throw someone/some business under the bus. I have yet to see a scenario where this is ever justified – maybe between you and a close friend in a private conversation, but never on social media. Stay classy and stay positive. This will draw in other positive people and create a welcoming and uplifting environment in which you feel comfortable getting personal.

Mix in quotes with photos.

There are only so many selfies or photos of your food, pets and kids that you can share in a day without overdoing it. Mix up your social stream by sharing images that capture people’s attention and inspire them. Use quotes! Pinterest is a great source of quotes for any topic you can imagine that are already formatted into images. Build a small library as you have time so that the quotes are ready to go whenever you want to share them. Inspiring people is a powerful way to connect with them on a deeper level and build a loyal following.

Interact with your audience.

This one is so important! If you want to engage people on social media, you must give to receive. This means setting aside a finite period of time each day (and don’t go over!) when you browse your newsfeed and like, comment, share and follow content that interests you. Leave meaningful comments or ask questions. I can’t say enough about how important it is to be “social” on social media.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

No matter how you slice it, selfies are always going to feel a little awkward, cheesy and narcissistic. Just have fun with your social media content! Make a funny face, crack jokes, be sarcastic and make fun of yourself from time to time. All of these things will help to make you real and relatable to your audience.

Not everyone has to be shared in real time.

Some days lend themselves to countless opportunities to share updates on social media. Vacations, holidays, weekends, birthday parties and other celebrations provide far more content than what our audience likely wants to see in a day (or an hour). Enjoy the moment, take those snap shots, but save some for later. Thanks to #ThrowBackThursday and #FlashBackFriday (or any day of the week, if you’re feeling bold), you can use these photos as content for another day. Whether or not your audience connects with your content really comes down to the caption, so make it clever and relevant!

Don’t tolerate trolls.

Even if you post genuine, uplifting content that shows your personal side, you will inevitably run into social media “trolls” who have no problem leaving biting comments while hiding behind their social media mask. This is my advice on how to handle such situations. If a comment contains a personal attack, profanity or untruthful information, you have every right to delete it and black the user. Just as you wouldn’t put up with being bullied in real life, don’t tolerate hateful and hurtful comments that are unsolicited.

Be personal while still being appropriate.

Finally, and most importantly, carefully walk the fine line of being personal while still being appropriate. It’s possible (and we’ve likely all seen it) to get too comfortable with sharing personal updates on social media. I’ve had everything from family feuds to detailed medical information voluntarily shared by members of my network. The best rule of thumb is to assume your grandma can and is reading everything you post. Make her proud by building a strong personal brand that is engaging and professional!

Do you choose to share personal photos and updates on social media? What are some of the reasons behind your decision? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Social Media, Technology

 

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9 Warning Signs That Networking Is Wasting Your Time

bored businessman

Anyone that has gone to enough networking meeting, mixers, socials or luncheons can relate to this topic. There are simply times when you know you are talking to someone who will never be qualified to refer business to you or who won’t even remember your name and what you do more than 5 minutes after you part ways.

But in these same instances, there will be business contacts that will forever change your outlook (and income) with a few simple introductions. So how do you distinguish between the two? Here are 9 warning signs that networking with these particular contacts is simply a waste of time.

  1. They give you their business card before you give them your name

I appreciate people who cut straight to the chase, but being greeted with someone’s business card before I’ve even had a chance to tell them my name is just plain annoying. Before you get to know me or I get to know you, there is no way I trust you and like you enough to buy whatever it is your selling. In fact, I’m quite certain I’ll grab that business card as a ticket out of that conversation and drop it in the trash on the way out. Be wary of these type of networkers as they clearly only have their own interests in mind.

  1. You describe your job and their only response is “Oh.”

Once you tell someone what it is you do for a living, it’s a bad sign if they have absolutely no further response than “Oh.” They don’t have any questions, comments or stories related to this topic? This is a sure indicator that these people are either not into you at all (and unlikely to keep you in mind for future business) or they are terrible conversationalists – neither of which you want to spend any more time around than you absolutely have to. Get out now!

  1. You describe your job and they reference a negative industry stereotype

If someone does give you more of a response to your job description than “Oh,” you still don’t want it to be a negative connotation they have about the work you do (I heard you guys are sleazier than a used car salesmen. Or I bet you’re charging me for this conversation right now, huh?) It’s a hard enough battle to make someone like you from a blank slate, combating a pre-existing stereotype is a whole other war – and one that you are not likely to win in the short amount of time that networking mixers afford.

  1. You describe your job and they totally don’t understand what you do

Another big, red flag is if you’ve given an adequate and elementary description of your job and they still can’t grasp what it is you do for a living. A blank stare, confused face or redundant questions are a sure sign they have no clue as to the value you provide. If you’re struggling to convey this concept to them, you can be certain they won’t be able to accurately tell anyone else what it is you do and hot leads are never going to happen. Cut your losses, fake an important phone call and walk away.

  1. They never even ask you what you do

The last several warning signs were nice enough to assume your networking contact will even bother to ask you what it is you do. Sometimes you don’t get this common courtesy! If they’re rambling on, basking in the attention of explaining their “fulfilling” career of selling erasers, don’t waste any more time waiting around for the obligatory question of, “So what do you do for a living?” It’s likely not coming, nor would they pay attention long enough to understand.

  1. They have a hard time describing what it is they do

If you do end up listening to the ramblings of what they do for a living and realize that you could do a better job explaining to them what their core responsibilities should be, this is a warning sign that they likely won’t be in their position for too much longer. Don’t waste your time…or a business card. Politely scoot away for a drink of water and some better conversation.

  1. They quote you for their services within the first 10 minutes

Whether it’s a networking mixer or a one-on-one meeting, unless you directly ask someone for a proposal for their services, you’re completely correct in feeling shocked when they openly give you a quote for something they deem you “must have done now.” People like to buy, they don’t like to be sold. If this person hasn’t yet grasped this concept – or social awareness – they are not likely to be making too many other quality contacts that could benefit you either.

  1. They are constantly looking around for other people to talk to

Have you ever been talking to someone that you feel is always looking over their shoulder at the people passing by or checking their watch? Yeah, they’re not fully engaged in your conversation. Don’t take it personally; these people may truly think they are being discrete. But do take note and mark their business card diligently with a “never talk to again” or NTA label. Only invest your time in people who are willing to invest some of theirs in you.

  1. They forget or mispronounce your name before the conversation ends

And finally, if by the end of your 1 minute and 30 second conversation they have already forgotten your name, it’s not looking hopeful that they’ll remember to contact you or pass along your information to anyone else who could use your services. I would give an “A” for effort, but even being called “Susan” instead of “Stephanie” is something I simply cannot reward. Come on people! You have a business card in your hands and I’m likely wearing a huge “Hello My Name is…” name tag – double check your resources and call me by the right name!

What are some of the worst experiences you’ve had in networking meetings? Share your stories by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Life Lesson: 5 Ways to be Your Own Advocate

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Throughout my life, I’ve learned a time or two – the hard way – that no one else is going to seize opportunities for you or voice your opinion. You must be your own advocate.

My most vivid memory of this life lesson was on the campaign trail in my former career. Our candidate was elected and the celebrations were coming to a close. Yet, one big question remained. What do I do next? Do I have a job? We were promised that, yes, we would all be placed somewhere within the new administration; however, days then weeks passed without any senior staff members sitting down with me to discuss my future.

It wasn’t until I started asking some of my peers that I found out that job conversations WERE taking place – for those who were bold enough to wait outside the office door and track down senior staff to MAKE them have this conversation. The people that controlled my fate were beyond busy and weren’t going to make time for me unless I demanded it. I had to become my own advocate if I wanted that job I was promised.

Things worked out. I was finally given the attention I demanded and got the job (I thought) I wanted. While I didn’t stay in this role long, it was a necessary turning point in my career and in my life. I was slapped in the face with the reality that if I didn’t muster up the courage to seize my own opportunities, they were surely going to pass me by.

I want to now share with you some of my hard-learned lessons on ways you can become your own advocate and seize life’s many opportunities – before someone else does.

  1. Build your personal brand

If you’re committed to becoming your own advocate, you must work to build your personal brand just as a publicist does for celebrities. This doesn’t mean securing guest appearances on the Today Show, but it does mean creating a valuable set of skills and qualities that can be marketed to potential clients or employers. Here is a great starter guide to help point you in the right direction. A strong personal brand is a valuable asset and wise investment of your time because it follows you wherever life may lead.

  1. Network internally and externally

For some reason we think of networking as only taking place at socials and mixers where everyone is wearing a stick-on name tag and shoving business cards down each other’s throats. This isn’t reality – and hardly even “networking” in its truest sense. Be aware of opportunities to network internally as well as externally.

No matter your current job, there is a valuable opportunity to build relationships with (and impress) your peers and higher-ups. This is an obvious opportunity if you want to move up within your own company, but it’s also valuable if you want to move on. You never know who other people know and the more people that can recommend your work, the more opportunities you will have at your finger tips.

  1. Actively seek opportunities

Life will rarely ever spoon feed you your next big break. You need to be out in the field – everyday – hunting down opportunities. The people I know who are their own best advocates are the people who get aggressive about knowing all the opportunities that are available to them at any time. They may not be in search of a new job, but they still keep their ear to the ground for anything interesting going on. By the time you realize you’re ready for a career change, you’re already behind the curve. Stay connected on social media, inquire within companies that interest you and keep an open conversation with your peers – who should also be on the hunt!

  1. Stay educated

I can’t stress enough the importance of becoming a lifelong learner. This makes you well-rounded, knowledgeable and interesting. It also keeps your eyes and ears wide open to an array of opportunities that people who are less informed would overlook. Staying well educated is like staying in shape. If you should be presented with the opportunity to run a 5k – or interview for a job – you are fit to jump right in with far less preparation and training than those who do not “stay in shape.”

  1. The right time is always now

Finally, develop a sense of urgency in your life. As your own advocate you cannot become complacent. This is one instance in life where patience will not serve you well. You cannot afford to wait around for the next opportunity to present itself; otherwise you will risk falling into the trap of waiting around forever. Opportunities are always around us. While not every opportunity is a large stepping stone to our dream career, those tiny pebbles do stack up. Get excited, get motivated and become urgent about your need to advocate for your best interests.

What are some ways in which you could benefit from being your own advocate? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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