Networking as a job search is a lot like dating, for good and bad reasons. You need to make sure you’re putting your best self out there so that you’ll be memorable for something positive, and you want to avoid coming off as desperate and needy.
And, like dating, this is a metric ton easier to say than to do. It’s easy to misplay your hand and get a reputation as a networking circuit’s version of the bar floozy (see Interchange, page 5, for some rules of etiquette that apply). But, says consultant and job coach Amy Raditz, the core solution is simple: know thyself.
Raditz will present “Remember Me — How to Make an Introduction That’s Favorable and Lasting” at the Professional Service Group of Mercer County (PSG) on Friday, April 1, from 9:45 a.m. until noon at the Princeton Public Library. The event is free. Visit www.psgofmercercounty.org.
Raditz is a senior consultant at Lee Hecht Harrison who specializes in helping executives in transition. The daughter of a Korean War veteran who worked mainly in retail store management and a homemaker mother who also sold real estate, Raditz was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Massachusetts. With dreams of being an actress, she went to New York City in the mid-1970s and studied theater and languages at Brandeis. She earned her bachelor’s there in 1979 and paid her bills by working at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Raditz found the money in hospitality easier to come by than trying to crack New York’s theater world, and she built her early career in hotels, eventually finding her way to Princeton to work at Scanticon (now the Marriott) in the 1980s. Things were fine until the early ’90s, when the hospitality business decided to be less hospitable to Raditz and she got laid off. She saw the layoff as a chance to do something new with her life and became involved with the PSG when it was part of the state (it’s now an independent organization).
In 1993 Raditz started working as an independent marketing and training consultant and went back to school, eventually earning a master’s in counseling from Rider in 1997. In 1995 she joined DBM (formerly Drake Beam Morin) as a consultant and eventually became a district general manager. She’s been with Lee Hecht Harrison since 2011.
Raditz still sings and performs in small theater groups when she can and volunteers with a lot of arts, culture, and social services groups. This is important to know because it’s the kind of thing she tells people (and wants to hear from them in return) at networking and professional events. “There’s so much more to people than just their jobs,” she says. “Who are you outside of work? People want to know that.”
Chaos. Adults tend to define themselves by what they do for a living. And as long as they’re doing it, there’s not much of an issue. But then there’s a layoff, and suddenly people go from being comfortable and settled, from knowing what every day will bring, to the chaos of a life with no real certainty.
When professionals find themselves in the job search pool without the assuredness they used to have in their lives, Raditz says, it’s easy to get lost and start flailing. For years these people didn’t have to worry about selling themselves as professionals. They didn’t have to convince anyone they were right for any job because they already had one. And they often don’t know what to do now that they have to tell people about themselves.
“The first thing is you need to be clear about yourself,” Raditz says. Know who you are and what you can offer other people. Networking is about giving and being valuable, not taking and using up. “Networking is not asking for a job,” she says. “You’re exchanging information.”
Next, you need to build your story, because ultimately, that’s what you’ll be telling — your story, not your resume. That’s what LinkedIn is for — you can put your whole professional history up there for people to read. People, Raditz says, want to know you as a person, not a list.
And be honest, she says. People are more intuitive than other people think. And most people can spot a phony.
Body language. It may sound simplistic, but the most effective way to make a good impression when talking with someone is to look the person in the eye, Raditz says. Yes, networking can be intimidating and weird to someone who is not used to the scene. But confidence counts for an awful lot.
Stand up straight and open. Make sure you have others’ attention, and that they have yours. “It’s about being present in the moment,” she says. “Learn to ask questions. Learn to listen.”
Raditz also recommends compassion among more seasoned networkers. Newcomers are often shy, entering a room full of strangers who might or might not have an opportunity for them. Talk to these newbies, she says. Help them get past the jitters, because you never know who they might be and perhaps great things for both of you can come from some kindness.
Don’t get too comfortable. On the other side of all this is the very real danger of becoming too comfortable in the networking scene. After a while, Raditz says, people tend to get used to each other at certain functions or groups — which is good, she says. You want that, but to a point.
Remember, if you’re networking for a job, you don’t want the whole event to be a social club. You want to keep focused and remind yourself what you’re ultimately looking for.
“People start getting careless,” Raditz says. When everyone is too familiar, professionalism breaks down. That’s all right if you’re not worried about professional goals, she says, but don’t let your comfort change how people see you. You don’t want to go from a serious professional in someone’s eyes to just the guy telling jokes.
Bad impressions don’t have to be final. We all screw up. We all make a bad first impression some time in our lives. We come on too strong, seem a little desperate, don’t follow up the way we say we will.
Fortunately, Raditz says, people are usually willing to give someone a second chance. The secret sauce to getting that second chance is honesty and transparency. “Say ‘I was wrong and I’d really like to start over,’” she says. “And ask ‘How can I help you?’ Make sure you always ask that question.”
Under it all, if you want to make the right impression on people, you need to be authentic and caring. “Come at this from a place of wanting to help,” Raditz says. “Come at it from a place where you’re giving as well as getting.”