washingtonpost.com
Life at Work Live

Amy Joyce and Diane Darling
Washington Post columnist and guest
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 11:00 AM

Avoid: sweaty palms, white socks, long-winded answers and little white lies to clinch a new and better job. You can learn more about every stage of the job hunt, from recruiting to networking to transitioning to a new career, by checking in with our Hiring Squad this week for articles, tools, live discussions and more.

Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce writes Life at Work on Sundays in the Business section and appears online every Tuesday to offer advice about managing interpersonal issues on the job.

She was joined by Diane Darling , founder and CEO of Effective Networking, Inc . Together, they discussed how networking can help land you a new gig . Missed Amy's recent Life at Work columns, which focused on the do's and don'ts of networking?

An archive of Amy's Life at Work columns is available online.

Find more career-related news and advice in our Jobs section.

The transcript follows below.

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Amy Joyce: Good morning, folks. We have a special edition this week with networking guru, Diane Darling. Meanwhile, a bit off topic, please e-mail me at lifeatwork@washpost.com with your advice for new workers for the upcoming Sunday Life at Work column. What is one thing that stands out to you that you learned about the workplace and would like to pass on? No flip flops? Make sure to network? (ahem). Let me know at lifeatwork@washpost.com. Okay, let's get started with these networking questions for Diane.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi, Amy. I was going to ask this anyway and it fits right in with this week's topic!

I am wondering if you and other chatters could weigh in on how sorority connections can help you in later life. My stepsister is heading off to college in the fall, and my stepmother is already pressuring her hard to pledge a sorority, and she is fighting back equally hard. Stepmom says it will draw her out of her shell and help her throughout her life. Stepsis is a quiet, bookish type who loves kids and wants to be an elementary school teacher, where networking may not be that much of an issue. I have to say I'm with my sis on this one, but stepmom and I admittedly don't have the greatest relationship and I don't want to turn into an evil stepsister unless it might actually do some good. Thanks for your help!

Diane Darling: The sorority system is certainly a strong network. Is there one where the members are more like your step-sister. It's important she feels like she belongs and that's different for everyone.

Amy Joyce: There are lots of good ways to connect once you've pledged a sorority. But your stepmom shouldn't push it (sounds like maybe she's having sorority envy?)... Your sister needs to find her own way. She's heard stepmom about the positives of pledging. Now stepmom needs to let her find her way.

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Rockville, Md.: Diane, I'll be attending a HUGE industry convention this summer for the first time. How do I avoid being just a face in the crowd and make some actual career connections? I already plan to bring an updated resume and business cards, just in case. My problem is the actual conversing part. I get excessively nervous when meeting new people. Thanks.

Diane Darling: Here are a few ways to stand out ... 1.) Ask good questions of the speaker. Especially ask the first one. It's torture to be a speaker, the forum opens up for questions, and it's silent. 2.) Wear some color. If you're male, a nice tie .... if you're female, wear a colorful jacket. 3.) Don't hand out your resume -- this isn't professional and it rarely works. Instead have a good business card with a few lines on the back. One of my favorite ones was ... I'm looking to join a company so I can contribute my sales and marketing skills and catapult their profits." 4.) Follow up with hand written thank you notes. Bring cards and stamps with you to the conference. Sit in the lobby and write notes immediately. It's a 39 cent silver bullet.

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Virginia: I recently got into a debate with a colleague of mine regarding befriending clients. At what point is your client not your friend? I have become friends with one of my clients because we share common interests. It does not affect our work so I don't understand how it's a problem. Do you see this as a problem?

Diane Darling: Being friends with clients is fine -- as long as it doesn't complicate the work relationship. Not as a stereotype, but more as a pattern, I find this can be difficult for women than with men. Men seem to have a natural firewall. (Not always, but often.) If things get too personal, be a bit cautious. You don't want to become their therapist or vice versa! :-)

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Washington, D.C.: I have the names of several recruiters in my industry and would like to reach out to them. I am not aware of specific positions they are working on but know they often fill position of interest to me. What is the best way to reach out to these recruiters to let them know I'm looking? Cold calls? E-mails? I'd appreciate any advice on the best way to approach them for potential positions.

Diane Darling: Recruiters are paid to find companies the right employee. A good way to start is send an email and preferably a follow letter. State what you do and how you can help a company succeed. Close by saying ... "If I can be a resource for any of your clients, I would be happy to be of service." Make yourself the solution not a person chasing the job/recruiter.

Amy Joyce: Yes, and don't forget recruiters will be pleased to hear from you. You're making their life a bit easier since they usually have to go out themselves to find good job candidates.

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Lorton, Va.: I have been out of the job market for two and a half years to raise my sons and am now craving some adult conversation and funds for their colleges. I am beginning to contact old bosses, colleagues, etc. but my biggest concern is that I am looking for a flexible work environment and not sure if I should bring it up with my network or wait until I'm interfacing with potential employers? Don't want to waste anyone's time if a job isn't the right fit.

Diane Darling: When you are talking with people, simply let them know that you are back on the market looking for work. Emphasize that you are flexible, hard working, cost-effective, etc. DON'T say, this is good for you because of your kids. People know that. Many companies like people who can do part-time. They may not need a full time person and they would be keen to know you!

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Chantilly, Va.: How do you go about helping a shy person to network?

Diane Darling: Chantilly - this is one of my favorites!! Shy people can be EXCELLENT networkers! Remember the first time you drove a stick shift ... AH! Networking takes practice and it's best not to try doing in on a Porsche. This may sound nuts, but talk to strangers in safe places --- airports (I've been asking people about their roller bags), grocery stores (have you tried that brand before and liked it), even talk to the wait staff. Then build up to others

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Washington, D.C.: The question: Is there any kind of "establishment threshold" when it comes to networking or connecting with others before you inquire about job possibilities with them.

The situation: In the course of my work, I've gotten to meet a lot of people in a wide variety of fields. Some of these folks that I've met and worked with are very well-positioned in areas that I would like to move in to. However, the contact is sporadic and establishing a social relationship is pretty unlikely for a variety of reasons. I'd like to be able to use them as a resource, but I'm not sure I've established enough of a relationship to broach the topic.

Diane Darling: Research shows that it's often broader social connections that help people get jobs vs. our closest friends. Simply say ... "if you hear of someone needing an (fill in the blank), I'd be happy to help."

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Amy Joyce: Diane, I'm often asked this question from readers, and figure you'll be able to help us out: How does one network when they are actually shy by nature? Didn't you tell me in a previous conversation that you are shy? How did you overcome that to end up where you are now? What advice can you give to people who would rather be home watching a movie or having a quiet conversation with a friend, than out chatting with strangers?

Diane Darling: Hi Amy -- Great to join you today. I appear to others as an extrovert when really I'm friendly by nature but yes shy too. I don't like rejection or anything uncertain. (Suspense movies are just torture. But I'm happy when it's all done and I know the end.) So for me I have some systems. At events, I'm one of the first to arrive. You come into MY space ... I don't have to go into yours. I do as much one-on-one networking as possible so the situation is less intimidating. I ask others to make introductions for me at events or to others so I'm a part of the discussion not someone trying to create it. Strangers -- these people can be GREAT practice. At airports, grocery stores, post office .... as long as you're in a safe place. Airports are one of my favorites since there is so much security ... if anything goes amiss, there are people to help ASAP.

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Washington, D.C.: How may I locate previous articles (within the last three weeks) of Life at Work? They are great! Many thanks!

washingtonpost.com: You can find archives of past Life at Work columns here .

Amy Joyce: Thanks for reading, D.C. Don't forget, too, to check out the Sunday Business section of the actual paper. I'm in there every week!

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RE: Sororities: A woman needs to be comfortable with all aspects of a sorority before joining. I was tempted as an undergrad (graduated in '05) to join, to just have an instant group of woman of potential friends. But I decided, and it was validated for me, that I couldn't deal with the forced attending of social events/living in a house, the privilege (a sorority is expensive, and financial aid is available but is kept secret, something telling to the culture of this all) and the conformity. There are plenty of other places on campus to find network opportunities, both at the peer level (I was a peer counselor and met people from all majors and backgrounds) and those above me (I worked in my schools office of govt. affairs, so my first reference was my school's main lobbyist). There is more to college than the Greek system.

Amy Joyce: Right. College jobs, volunteering and working on committees or events are all great networking tools in college. The Greek system isn't all there is.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: I just moved here 8 months ago and am having a lot of trouble finding a permanent job. I have very few friends yet, no work colleagues as I work weird hours as a temp in a non-stop call center. I don't go to church, or have any group hobbies or any usual ways to network. Any ideas for anti-social little me? I used to work in TV, but have pretty much given up -- my experience is not taken seriously (I think) as I came from a smaller market, and don't seem to be considered for entry-level jobs.

Diane Darling: Dear Indy -- I spent time growing up down the road in Greencastle and I've moved 16+ times. I know how you feel. Send an e-mail to everyone you know and say you are now living in DC. Ask them to make introductions for you. Even consider drafting a quick e-mail they can forward on your behalf. Find a fun restaurant/bar and invite people to join you on a Monday night after work (restaurants love this since it's typically a quiet night - until football season anyway). If you're brave, have people write up a name badge ... I know Sally from San Francisco who knows Diane from Boston. You don't need to buy drinks or food. The restaurant might even provide some munchies for your group. If you want to get a little more organized, great an Evite and let people forward it around. Good luck -- the friendliness of Indy is hard to beat!

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Silver Spring, Md.: I am never sure how to "break the ice" when first meeting people during networking events, especially if everyone already seems to be engaged in conversation. Tips?

Diane Darling: I don't try and break in ... it's too hard. Go to http://xplane.com/explains/effectivenetworking/loader.html, if you want a step-by-step on how to survive an event. Walk up to someone by themselves (they are often fascinating and more shy than you). Ask a few questions about them. Use your eye contact to welcome others. If I'm "caught" in a conversation, I'll smile at someone and say ... do you two know each other? Often I'm a bore to the other person and they are relieved to be rid of me ...

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Which is a better place to network... a cocktail hour or career fair? What is the best type of setting for networking? Does the environment even matter? Is it all up to our own initiative and "pizzazzy" personality?

Diane Darling: What's most important is your mind set. Do you feel good about yourself? Are you prepared to ask good questions and be interested in others? I've met great people at great places, stupid people at great places, and all of it combined.

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Washington, D.C.: About a month ago I met a possible business contact at a wedding reception and she gave me her business card. I was, and still am looking for a new job. For one reason or another I forgot to e-mail her. Is it too late to e-mail her after its been this long? Thanks.

Amy Joyce: I think it's never too late. She gave you her biz card, which means she expects to hear from you at some point. Just be clear where you met (she might need a reminder) and thank her for the opportunity to chat. A month isn't a long time at all. But this is a good reminder to everyone to keep up with their network. I've heard from SO many people that they wish they had kept up with contacts. Once they found themselves out of a job, it was almost too late to get back in touch with these people. You should check in with them even when you're happy with your job. You never know when a better opportunity might arise, or when your job might disappear and you need your network quickly! Diane, do you have anything to add?

Diane Darling: This is very true -- just send a note ... acknowledge the time passed and reconnect. If you drop the ball too many times, you'll lose credibility, but you're okay for now.

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Bethesda, Md.: Lets face facts not everyone is connected and have a "network" especially if you have no connections in a new town that you moved to! Another thing I have noticed ... AGE has a lot to do with getting hired! If you are over the age of 55 you have no chance in hell in landing a job. I have been on four interviews and know the reason why I did not get the position! AGE ... they don't want to hire an experience person because (1) they don't want to pay you the high salary (2) they don't want to hire an older person! Discrimination is out there for the baby boomers who right now NEED JOBS!!! So what do you suggest we do?

Diane Darling: This is a really tough one ... age definitely is a factor. It doesn't have to be. It may sound shallow, but hire an image consultant to give you the right look. One person I know finally broke down and colored her hair. It took her awhile to make the decision and what helped was her husband saying he didn't love her because she had or didn't have gray hair! Get some good feedback. Some of it may be tough to take. A few years back I was coaching someone who was looking for a six figure job and felt age was the issue. When we met she had a limp handshake, bland suit, and pale complexion. We worked on the handshake and once I won her confidence, she went to an image consultant. Her attitude was so different. I not sure of your situation but if you can take it, ask for feedback. I did an anonymous survey a year ago and found out people thought my dress was too "arty and casual" for New England. I felt blessed to have people who cared and they appreciated that I provided a forum for feedback.

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Anonymous: How do you stay in touch with a contact when you have no new news to report and just want to remind the person that you exist? An annual Christmas card?

Diane Darling: Find articles on a topic that is of interests to them. When Mark Felt said he was Deep Throat, the Washington Post (I think) had an article called ... If they gave out Nobels for networking, Woodward would win. Several people emailed it to me since they know I like to see what's in the press about networking. I'm also a knitter so I'm on a listserv called Stitch and (well rhymes with stitch). So people send me knitting stuff. Same with travel since I've been to a number of countries.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Submitting early, thanks for taking my question! I have a question about a situation that recently came up at work that bothered me. I wanted to gather your opinion, and those of your readers, to see if I even have a place to be irritated about it.

I work in a small company, the responsibilities and departments are segregated (not intentionally) by gender (female in administrative, male in sales, etc.) Recently one of the suppliers our company uses offered to take the company on a fishing trip. Everyone was formally invited except for the Administrative Department, which consists of two employees, myself and the Receptionist. Normally I would consider this to be a "sales outing," but the other departments were invited as well. It seemed to be a distinctly "male outing" on company time. While they were fishing, we were in the office working (it was a Monday, a normal operation day).

I have heard stories before of companies where sales departments that consist of primarily male employees will do "networking" events, but those seem to be outside of work (after hours or on weekends). I didn't want to attend the fishing trip, but I felt that it was unfair that we were expected to work in the office while they were on this outing, and yet we were not offered (1) the opportunity to attend with them (2) an opportunity to have time outside of the office as they did. This time did not count against anyone's vacation time either.

Please let me know what your opinion is. My husband seems to think that I would have a case if I wanted to pursue this legally. I have no interest in that, but would like to perhaps advise my managers of how the event could have legal ramifications in the future, if they aren't more careful with their actions, and perhaps to see if our receptionist and myself could earn a day out of the office!

Diane Darling: This is a tough one ... the legal route is one option. Probably not a good one for anyone. Depending on your rapport with management, the next time this comes up simply say ... wow, that's great. For those of us not fishing, how about we do a spa day. Read Gail Evans, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman. Great info.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm only a year out of college and while I know I've networked before, maybe if I put a little more strategy behind it I would be better at it. Basically, I want to know: what is the process of networking? Should I be looking at every social setting as an opportunity to gain contacts? How do I reach out for contact information once I'm talking? Should you always talk about professional topics throughout the conversation?

Diane Darling: Personally I don't look at every situation as a way to gain contacts. It's too exhausting. I do look for ways to connect with people I like and with whom I have something in common. Otherwise, it's just too tedious and too much work! Not to mention others pick up on this and feel it's a game and you're not sincere. Try and owe people something - an article, name of a restaurant, electrician/plummer/something else household related, tell them about a good book, I have two ... :-) Stay in touch that way and you'll do great in life! Good luck!!

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Networking at happy hours: Hi! I hope you can help me. I recently joined my alumni group in an effort to network more. The problem is I feel that a lot of networking is done at happy hours in this area (D.C.). I don't drink for religious reasons, and while I don't mind being at events and functions that serve alcohol (I'm thinking receptions, even the wine and cheese party), I find it awkward to attend happy hours. Any advice for me? And can you advise anyone planning a networking event to be a little diverse, not always plan happy hour get togethers! Thanks!

Diane Darling: I completely understand. Fortunately it is more socially acceptable to not drink these days so you don't have to feel awkward. It's tough but it's probably more in your head than others. Focus on the conversation, not what's in the glass. Practice several conversation starters so you have them down ... "tell me how you know about XYZ group." "What are some other forums you've enjoyed." I do a fair amount of breakfasts --- where alcohol isn't a part of the situation.

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Falls Church, Va.: There are many other groups to join in college other than a sorority. How about a professional fraternity (coed) or a service sorority (co-ed). She doesn't have to only look at the social sorors.

Amy Joyce: More good suggestions.... There are a lot of alternatives. And a new student doesn't have to make a decision right away. That's what college is about: self-discovery.

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D.C.: Is it okay to contact a former boss and ask him to review my resume before I start sending it out? He knows a lot of people in my field and I'm hoping to also pick his brain on ideas of who's looking to hire and where are the best places to work. I don't want him to think I'm hinting around about a job with him again -- which I actually do not want. We're on good terms and still in touch, but only a few times a year.

Diane Darling: Sure it's a great way to connect with him. Ask before you send it over.

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Petworth, D.C.: Just an observation. I currently work retail but am taking courses to become an MCSE (Microsoft Systems Engineer.) I have found that once you develop a rapport with a customer, it's easy to mention your future plans. So far I've received three job offers once I become certified. So I guess what I am saying is that once you've developed the relationship, it's easy to let these "contacts" (clients/customers) know about your future plans and they are more than happy to help you out.

Amy Joyce: Yet another easy/smart way to network. Just be careful (and it sounds like this doesn't apply in your case) you don't have some sort of non-compete in your contract that bans you from doing something like this.

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Ashburn, Va.: I recently received an alumni directory from the university where I received my doctorate. It has alphabetical and geographical indices --there are about 60 people in Ashburn alone! Is there a way to use such a directory for networking? Or would contacting folks in such a directory be too much of a "cold call?"

Diane Darling: I'd encourage you to put together a networking get-together for alums in your area. Make it simple! See my other answer to the person who moved to D.C. from Indy. Create a listserv on Yahoo groups and enjoy. Now if you try to sell Tupperware at the event, it's a different story! :-)

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Lorton, Va.: I am quite introverted but can socialize and network as long as everyone else is not even more introverted than me. Do you have any suggestions for networking in a group of people (like engineers) who are naturally shy and a bit awkward?

Diane Darling: Hi -- I posted some other comments for shy folks. Take a look.

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Sterling, Va.: I have a question from the other side of networking. Recently, I was promoted to a different position within my company. When this opportunity was initially presented, I rather excitedly brought up the name of a friend of similar background to myself who happened to be in a job search at the time as a replacement. I was advised to submit her resume to the HR department and if they decided to hire her, there was an opportunity for a monetary bonus. I told my friend and she emailed me her resume the next day stating that if I had any suggestions to let her know so her resume would look good. Well, to be frank, her resume and cover letter were pretty bad. There were some minor grammatical errors and I also advised her to cull down on some of the multiple jobs she'd held and highlight those with skills applicable to my old job. After we sent her resume back and forth, she made some changes but it was still not up to par. I decided that since I was not her personal resume writing fairy, I would submit her resume as is to HR and let what she provided speak for itself. She was not called in for an interview and the company hired someone else. My question is: do you think that since I recommended her and sent her CV to HR myself that it reflects badly on me? I feel that I have flourished in my new position but wonder if it will affect my chances at future promotions.

Diane Darling: As long as you continue to do a good job, you'll be fine. You've probably learned a good lesson but an awkward one. In the future, tell your friend that she needs to go to a resume/career coach. If people ask me for help (aka unpaid consulting -- I say, "it's not my expertise." In the future, you might ask for someone's resume before you tell the company then you're not in the hot seat.

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Arlington, Va.: Image consultant? Where might one find one of those?

Diane Darling: Network!! :-) Ask friends, colleagues, many department stores have a personal shopper that can help.

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Sororities for teachers: I've known of cases where sorority sisters help each other even as teachers -- alerting sisters to plum openings early, helping them as they struggle with the first year of teaching, etc.

Just pick a service-oriented sorority. Good luck, and hold your nose about the icky parts of sorority life.

Amy Joyce: More advice for Kappa Kappa...

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Amy,

I am relocating from D.C. to Chicago the end of September. Currently, I am searching for employment, but realize I may need to move without a job. What is the best way to network long distance? Is it even possible?

Thanks!

Amy Joyce: It's absolutely possible. Use your contacts you have here. Let those who you can tell know what your plan is. Ask if they have any contacts in Chicago you might be able to get in touch with. Also check with your alumni center from college (no matter how many years out you are). They should have a list of alums in the area you're heading. Even if they aren't in your direct line of work, they may be able to help you simply based on that one thing you have in common (college). Diane?

Diane Darling: I agree with Amy -- see the post for Indy and I suggest you do the same.

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Baltimore, Md.: Thought the advice to Indianapolis was great. E-mail everyone asking for referrals to their locals. True story. I transferred every two years for a while in the '80s and '90s. Became ill after a few weeks in one location. Only knew a few "work" acquaintances and didn't really want to take them into my confidence. Friends from past locations hooked me into a network of people before I knew it and they became so helpful in a really bad time for me. Some are friends today, even though I've moved again (and some of them have moved as well).

Amy Joyce: A perfect example of how to do it. Thanks, Baltimore.

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Networking practice idea: I've found one good way to begin networking is to take some classes or workshops to hone work-related skills. Try to find a class that requires participation in small groups. You'll meet others in your industry, and you will have an opportunity to converse with them. During one small class I took recently we all talked about what we did for a living, how we liked where we were, etc. It gave me some great insight into how other companies are running departments like mine, and some potential contacts down the road. Good conversation practice for the shy.

Amy Joyce: That's a great idea. And fun and educational in the meantime. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I know how important networking is, yet I'm a bit of an introvert so it's hard for me to take those principles and apply to real-life. Have any suggestions how someone like me can get out of their shell at an event and start networking with people? Thanks in advance.

Diane Darling: Introverts can be EXCELLENT networkers. It's more important for them to think of how they solve someone else's problem than to think ... yeah, a room full of strangers. I often volunteer at events. Then I have a "job" -- it means I can approach people to say hello. (It also gives me an excuse to duck out!) I'm doing this tonight at a fundraiser! Being an unemployed networker is awful. Check out the step-by-step instructions at the bottom of www.effectivenetworking.com. You can also get my newsletters by signing up. Start with strangers - there's less risk and you'll gain confidence.

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Washington, D.C.: I am looking to jumpstart a career in event planning and am looking for advice on joining a professional organization. I have organized small scale events in my current job and jobs in college, but I am not a professional event planner by any means.

Can I even join some of these professional orgs without having tons of experience? I would love to network with folks in this industry, but feel silly saying I am in a job that has nothing to do with event planning really. Thanks!

Diane Darling: Volunteer! there are lots of groups that would love your help!

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Washington, D.C.: Any suggestion for how one finds their way into a network of folks that can help facilitate a career change? In my current field (government) I've built up a pretty good network of friends and associates, but I'm really looking to get out of that and into a different one (finance). To my knowledge, no one I know now has any "ins" with folks in this area. Am I left to my own devices here? Thanks!

Diane Darling: Let others know about your career switch and that you are open to help. People can't read your mind and don't know what would be useful.

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Amy Joyce: Thanks so much for joining us, Diane. (Applause from the audience ...). I hope you all enjoyed today's chat. Don't forget, folks, to e-mail me at lifeatwork@washpost.com if you have sage advice to share with new workers. I'll be back again next Tuesday to discuss all of your life at work issues, same time, same place. Have a great week everyone. Stay dry!

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