How do I Network When I Don’t Know Anyone? A Guide to Working the Room

How to Network Alone When You Don't Know AnyoneEverybody has been there before. You walk into a networking event, industry professionals meeting, or social hour and don’t know anybody there. For some, it wouldn’t be much of a problem because it’s an adventure to meet new people and make connections, but that’s not the case for most. Networking can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright intimidating. What’s a person to do?

Whether you’re looking for a job or advancing your career, networking is an important tool. Building strong working relationships can help open doors to landing a job with a desired company or improve your trade by seeking advice from others for guidance and support. But, building a network from scratch can seem like an impossibility.

You don’t have to be well connected to make connections. Everybody starts somewhere and you can have fun, meet people, and grow your network without knowing anyone in the room with these easy tips.

Have a Plan
With just about everything in life, it’s best to have a little strategy before going blindly into a strange place. You’re not strategizing military formations in a war, but you should be prepared if knowingly going somewhere unfamiliar. Before going, catch up on the latest industry, community, and national news. Being caught up on the latest headlines and having an opinion on it can help you start conversations with others and demonstrates your passion and expertise in your field. If you’re attending an event, find out who is going to be there, learn about them, and think of a question or two to ask them. When in doubt, people love talking about themselves, so try to have a few open-ended questions just in case.

Pick Your Targets
Depending on your personality, you should find people you think you would fit in with. A more open, outgoing person might target those who are getting the most attention or the biggest crowd. That’s probably where the most interesting conversation is and your chance to shine. For the more introverted person, look for people who are by themselves or in smaller groups. They may not be very outgoing and are likely feeling the same pressure you are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential resource of information and leads.

Break the Huddle
Many people feel like walking into a circle of people at a social outing is unwelcome. They feel like they are intruding on a conversation that they weren’t invited to. It’s generally acceptable to walk into a conversation at a social event. The more outgoing people don’t see it as an intrusion, but an inclusion into the conversation. If you’re unsure about joining a group of people, walk closely to the group. Casually observe the conversation and get the attention of someone in the group. Once you make eye contact, send a nonverbal greeting their way and wait for a response. If you get one back, introduce yourself and join the conversation.

Talk Genuinely
You may feel out of your element when talking to a group of strangers, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being yourself. Don’t worry about acting the way others expect you to – be yourself. Always be courteous, respectful, and mindful of etiquette, but don’t accept invitations or participate in anything that feels out of character. Many can see through it and  it can hurt your relations in the long run.

Being genuine means being honest with others. Actively enjoy and convey interest in conversations that are actually of interest to you. If you aren’t interested in the conversation, you don’t have to continue being a part of the discussion. You’re missing out on opportunities to make stronger connections with other people. If you need to leave a conversation, exit gracefully by saying something like, “I need to refill my drink. It was a pleasure to meet you,” “I need to step out. It was great talking to you,” or “It was wonderful getting to know you. I hope you have fun tonight.”

Follow Up

Meeting people and building relationships at an event will be much more effective if you keep up with them after your first meeting. Following up with those you meet demonstrates your reliability and interest in your new contact. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth or boring. It could be something as simple as sending a funny or interesting link related to your conversation, asking how things went after a particular event they were preparing for, or scheduling time to meet for lunch to discuss something if your contact offered to help you with a job search or career development.

Everyone is a stranger until you meet them. Once you get past the fears and be yourself, you’d be surprised how many wonderful people you can meet and relationships you can build when stepping a bit out of your comfort zone and enjoying yourself. Let us know some of your best networking stories in the comments below.

Is Your Boss a Creativity Killer? Take Our Poll

Job Seeking and Career Advice PollA recent CareerBuilder study found that only 41% of employees believe their managers inspire creativity at the workplace while 64% of leaders believed they do.

Engaging with company leaders is important to your professional development. It provides an environment that allows you to express your creativity, giving you the ability to handle bigger and better projects. We want to know if your creativity is encouraged or stifled at work. Let us know in the survey, and share any stories about workplace creativity in the comments section below.

Take Back Your Job Search by Being Proactive

There are 24 million people in the U.S. looking for work. The job market is tight, and the job seekers who find the jobs are the ones who hustle. If you want to make it to the head of the pack, you can’t sit around and wait for opportunity to come to you.

The job will go to those hitting the pavement running. It’s a matter of being proactive and taking the initiative. Here are some tips on how to get in the driver’s seat when you’re looking for a job.

Apply for Unlisted Jobs
Believe it or not, many of the really good jobs aren’t posted in classified ads or job boards and company websites. Employers don’t advertise these positions, but offer positions to connections and contacts who have had experience working with decision makers in that company. You’ll never find these jobs if you don’t take initiative by asking for them. Do your research to find a hiring manager or decision maker, then express your interest in working for them.

Apply in Person
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and social media it’s incredibly easy to fill out an online application, attach a resume, and wait around until you get an email. Unfortunately, with the increasing number of automated resume readers, your application can get placed in a void never to be seen again. Even if your resume is seen by a hiring manager, it’s extremely difficult for one resume to differentiate itself from the hundreds of others being reviewed. Your chances greatly increase if you print your resume and cover letter, or application, and physically hand it to a hiring manager, potential supervisor, or department head.

Apply the Follow-Up
Whether you apply online or hand in a resume in person, you shouldn’t stop there. Those hiring have a busy schedule and sometimes filling a job isn’t the only thing on a department head or HR manager’s agenda. That’s why you should follow-up after applying to demonstrate your interest in the job.

If the job opening had an application deadline, wait a few days after, then confirm that the potential employer received your resume. Use this as another opportunity to remind them of your interest in the position. If no deadline was given, wait a week to 12 days after submitting your application to follow-up. Remember not to pester or annoy the company when following up. Keep it to two attempts. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, send an email a week later. If you don’t hear anything after that, move on.

Being proactive in your job search isn’t a guarantee for instantly landing the perfect job, but you will get hired faster when you take initiative instead of passively waiting for an offer. What are some ways you’ve taken the bull by the horns during your job search?

Express Employment Professionals Featured on Fox News

Express was featured on Fox and Friends early Tuesday morning on Aug. 21 and then on Thursday morning, Aug. 23, for the program’s “Companies Hiring Now” segment. This is an exciting time for any job seeker who is looking for employers who need them.

If you’re searching for a job, consider working with a staffing agency like Express. More and more employers are relying heavily on staffing companies to fill open positions before hiring them on as full-time employees. You can check out the video below:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means at Work

Earning Respect at WorkEarning respect at work is a lofty goal when starting a new job. We know we should all strive to earn it, but what does it mean in the context of the workplace? Earning respect shouldn’t focus solely on your clients, co-workers, and management.

In order to earn respect, you have to give it. Here are three aspects of your career that you should strive to not only gain respect, but also advance your career.

Respect Yourself
Many of us seek respect from others, yet we don’t even respect ourselves. Have you ever beaten yourself up over a mistake? Many times when we make big enough mistakes, we treat ourselves poorly by not getting enough sleep, proper diet, or exercise. When we don’t take care of ourselves, it certainly affects the quality of our work. No one can hope to gain respect from others if they don’t respect themselves. Start by loving who we are, and the admiration from others will come subsequently.

Respect Criticism
Despite what you may think, being respected doesn’t mean you won’t receive criticism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The more well-known you are in your work, the more censure you’ll receive.

During my first job at a grocery store, my boss became increasingly critical of my work. I was the only one he would personally follow behind to review the tables I rotated and filled. It got to the point that I felt like he was nit-picking me for no reason. Instead of getting angry, I asked him about it and learned that he was holding me to a higher standard than the others. I had potential and he wanted me to be ready for management.

It’s not about rejecting criticism, but rather, being able to handle it gracefully. People respect those who are able to handle constructive feedback and turn it into something positive.

Respect Your Work
No matter what line of work, the most highly regarded people are those who are the best at what they do. Everyone loves competent people, especially those who present their best work all the time. If you’re new to the job market, learning your role and excelling put you on the fast track for respect. It’s about starting small and building from there.

By gaining experience and improving your skills you’ll establish yourself as the best and earn the admiration from others. It’s not instantaneous, but the respect people have of you will grow over time.

Being respectful isn’t just about other people. It starts within and works its way out to other people. When you respect yourself and what you do, it’s contagious and others will give that respect back to you. How about you? What are some ways you’ve earned respect in the workplace?

Hey! Stop Complaining About Former Employees!

complaining about ex employeeStarting a new job may take some time to get accustomed to. A common concern new employees can face is being compared to a previous hot-shot employee, but sometimes you can be compared to the opposite. You could find that you have trouble shaking others’ frustrations of a former employee who wasn’t favored or left on bad terms.

If you have siblings, you probably know all too well what it’s like to be compared to somebody else. The feeling can be even worse when it happens in the workplace. Here are some ways to handle a boss or co-worker complaining about the former, less than desired employee.

Let it Roll
If you’ve just started, let some of the comments roll off your back. You may have only had a few days to a few months to work at your company and you haven’t had much of a chance to make the job your own. It’s important to be patient and let your work do the talking before you make a big deal out of it.

You are trying to figure out your work environment as much as your work environment is trying to figure you out. Your new co-workers don’t have much to base a working relationship off of yet, so it’s easy for them to fall back on the familiar. Give it some time and strive to build strong working relationships with those around you.

Share Concerns Respectfully
If the months go by and you still hear constant complaints and stories about the former employee, it’s apparent that there could be a problem. Maybe it’s a signal that your manager has some significant holes in his or her interpersonal skills, or maybe it’s a clue that your co-workers are projecting burnout of their job onto the former employee. Either way, it might be the time to have a conversation with your manager.

Schedule some time with your leader or co-worker and address the issue, share how the comments make you feel like the ex-employee is still in the room. Stay calm and avoid getting emotional. Use specific quotes others have said and refrain from using inflammatory phrases like “You always…” or “You’re not being fair…”

Ask for Feedback
One of the best ways to separate yourself from the previous employee and add positive conversation among your peers is to ask for some direct feedback. Regularly asking for feedback takes the focus off the annoying ex-employee and puts a positive light onto you. Not only will it keep things positive toward you, but it will also make you become a better employee by getting feedback on what you’re doing right and what you need to do to improve. If you keep improving, it won’t be long before you make the job your own.

It’s easy to complain, especially when a former employee is gone. You may find yourself in that trap of everyone talking about the person you replaced and not on what you can contribute to the organization. That’s why you need to make a name for yourself by doing a good job first, then address the issue if it persists. What have you done to keep others from talking about former bad employees?

2 Time Management Tricks to Master and 2 to Lose

Do you think there will ever be a moment when you have enough time? With workweeks getting longer and schedules getting more full every day, learning to manage your time is an envied art form.

Two to Master

  1. Your schedule.
    If you’re managing your time, you’re managing your schedule. And if you don’t manage your schedule, someone will come in and manage it for you. Whether you use a printed calendar, a project list, an Outlook Calendar, an iCal, or a calendar app, you’ve got to have a schedule to reference. The phrase “Let me check my calendar” is an attempt at trying to control your time, however if your “calendar” doesn’t have what you’ve got going on in your life, it can’t work as a filter for your schedule. A good calendar, in whatever form you choose, allows you to see when you have time for extra work, provides others with updates on when they can expect things from you, and creates freedom in your schedule.
  2. Your email.
    Finding a way to organize and respond to your email will empower you to save time and help manage your schedule. A recent study found that employees spend about 2.6 hours a day sending, receiving, or sorting email. Microsoft offers the four D’s in handling email:
    a. Delete It – Get rid of junk mail.
    b. Do It – Tasks that can be completed in less than two minutes.
    c. Delegate – If it takes longer than two minutes and it’s appropriate for you to delegate it, then do that.
    d. Defer It – This is something you need to handle but it will take longer than two minutes.

Two to Lose

  1. Trying to get it all done.
    If you’re going to master your time, you’re going to have to learn the appropriate way to say no at work. If you have a comprehensive calendar or project list, you are able to say no, and also say when you will have the time to take care of a request. If you can’t clearly show why you have to defer a task, it can create confusion and frustration by your co-workers and managers. We’re all given the same amount of time in a day, and if you’re using that time wisely and efficiently, you’ll earn the respect that allows you to be able to say no.
  2. Touching paper once.
    You may think it’s crazy to go against the common advice to only “touch paper once,” but sometimes you need to defer things until later to keep moving forward with your goals and schedule. There is a good time to clean your workspace, but sometimes in the effort of productivity it may get a little messy. You want to make sure your workspace is safe, sometimes a mess can create a hazard, but if creating a stack of papers to file later or notes to respond to later works for you – then go with it.

What time management rules do you live by, and which ones do you break?