Always Be Networking: Advice from Passport2Success

Another run of the speed consulting program for job seekers was sponsored and coordinated by WFMY-TV on May 5, 2010.  Many career coaches in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina volunteered their time.  Here’s a little snippet of video that I contributed between one on one sessions with people looking for advice on their career transitions.

Are You Using Your Assets to Get Americans Back to Work?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s contributions to the business of work discourse are usually very good, but the March 1, 2010 post on the Harvard Business Review site ( was exceptionally relevant and inspiring.  Her title was “Getting Americans Back to Work.”

Small and Do-able Ideas

Great, you’re thinking, lots of people are writing about that topic with big ideas and plenty of criticism to go around.  Not Professor Kanter, her ideas are small and do-able, and instead of criticism, helpful observation and positive, applicable ideas.  Granted, she still doesn’t share how someone without an income can make it while they work to find work, but I at least appreciate the attitude!

Advice for the Jobless Middle Manager

Here’s Kanter’s advice for the well-educated manager whose job has disappeared and is no longer even counted in the unemployment statistics because they’ve given up.

“What do I tell these jobless professionals who are holding their lives together with duct tape? I can say: Hang in there. Don’t give up hope. Develop a big idea to use later. Start your venture. Volunteer at a community organization. Find partners. Think internationally. Befriend immigrants with ties to an emerging market. Restore your sense of purpose. Remember what truly matters”

In the meantime, I think that there is other good advice out there for those in the well-educated middle:

  • Now is a time to try that thing you never thought you would try.  What do you have to lose?
  • Focus on some other aspects of your life.  Are you using this down time to exercise, eat right, learn a new skill, language, or perspective?
  • Remember when you dreamed of working a shorter week or part-time?  What were you going to do with those hours?  Can you do that now while you keep working your “job” of finding a job?
  • Take advantage of what your community has to offer – use the library, visit local sites, go to a park, find a new local diner, get to know the world that is right around you that you’ve never had time to experience before.
  • Meet people – reach outside your first circle to your second or third.  Have a cup of coffee and broaden that network.  It may be more and more tangential to your job search, but sometimes the innovative idea is on the periphery, not in the core.

Asset Maps for Middlers

And another idea for “middlers” — I don’t mean those related to Bette, but those in the middle of their job transition and maybe even tired enough to be approaching things now in a bit of a middling way — draw your “asset map.”  You’ve probably already thought about the assets you are bringing to your job search, but what about the assets you have to offer to others?

Kanter mentions small ideas that collectively could build jobs.  She’s calling for a movement of small ideas based on all our assets – what do you have that you can offer to the solution of job growth in America?  “Imaginative small actions could aggregate to bigger impact. Underutilized office space can become an incubator for others starting a business. Shared work and living spaces are becoming more common for recent graduates working on new ventures; communities should encourage and facilitate this. Those with international business ties can encourage business partners to invest in the U.S.; good people and cost-reducing incentives are available now.”

I like Kanter’s small ideas and I hope more individuals and organizations will embrace them.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could see a movement across the United States, a movement of both workers and the organizations who hire them?  I am hoping that organizations — companies, foundations, associations, universities, government, nonprofits — will get creative and think about different ways to do things.  It would be a wonderful thing to see a boom of creativity and diversity in how we do things – our work, our products, our services, our decision-making, our politics, our day-to-day lives and our perspectives.  Thanks Professor Kanter.

Yes! You may use this article by Barbara Demarest in your company newsletter, blog or website as long as you add the following bio box:

Barbara Demarest ( received her MBA from the Babcock School of Management at Wake Forest University and her BA from Duke University. After 20 years at the Center for Creative Leadership, Barbara launched a strategy consulting practice focusing on people leading change in associations, foundations, universities, nonprofits and knowledge businesses.  You can find Barbara’s executive coaching profile on

Overcoming Job Search Obstacles in Today’s Economy

Joyce Richman, my co-author for the ebook, Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job, and I were talking the other day.  We both had been hearing a lot from clients and colleagues about how the economy was affecting them.  We ended up talking quite a bit about those who are currently engaged in a career transition.  I find these conversations with Joyce helpful and insightful and thought I would pass along some of her comments which we organized into “obstacles” and “response.”

Obstacle: How can high school grads compete effectively when compared to college graduates?

Response: Self-confidence. In this market, most companies are under the gun to keep expenses down and production up. They want to hire employees who can hit the ground running, who are as efficient as they are effective. They look for people who can combine strong work ethic with high- octane performance.  In other words, if you can sell yourself as energetic, focused, and flexible, with a track record to match, you are competitive.

Obstacle: How can you overcome a bad case of interview-jitters, particularly when you’ve always been scared of authority figures?

Response: Focus.  Authority figures scare most of us. The trick is to remember that you’re a responsible adult, not a dependent child. The person sitting across the desk or standing across the room hasn’t the moral or legal authority to judge your beliefs or your behaviors unless you give them that right. They may approve or disapprove of your actions, but you get to choose what to do about it.

Focus on what you’re there to accomplish. Tell your story and don’t get hijacked by your emotions. Ask good questions. The best questions enable the interviewer to describe the challenges the company and department must confront and what they need and expect from their best employees. Then, respond according to your strengths and abilities.

Obstacle: When responding to ads, whether in print or the internet, I know I’m going up against hundreds of people who are as anxious for that job as am I. How can I move to the head of the line?

Response: Network. People who position themselves ahead of the crowd rely on and dedicate at least 80% of their search time to networking. Networking contacts can introduce you to decision makers who get you in the side door without your having to wait in line.

Here are three examples of how it works:

1. Talk to people who work where you would like to work or know people who work there. If you don’t know who they are, (I realize they don’t walk around advertising the fact) ask people you know to help you find them. Next: tell the person why you’re interested in that particular company (have a few good reasons) and ask who you might speak to, to learn more about opportunities there. Note: you didn’t ask for an interview. You want a “conversation” to determine that there’s a match between what they need and what you do.

2. Talk to people who are supervisors or managers in their respective places of business. Describe what you do best and ask them for recommendations as to where you might look and with whom you might speak.

3. Talk to people you know personally and with whom you have a great deal in common. Describe what you do best, which, to no great surprise, is what they do best. Ask them to brainstorm with you regarding job possibilities and, hint, hint, who would be good personal leads for you to contact.

Obstacle: What can you do when you’re your own worst enemy?

Response: Affirmations. Negative self- talk does you more damage than what anyone possibly could think or say about you. Believe in yourself, and say so. Believe that each encounter you have, each meeting, each interview, is a positive opportunity for something good to follow, and tell yourself so.

If you found Joyce’s comments helpful (I always do), you may want to sign up for her blog at  You can also link to her WFMY appearances and to her articles for the Greensboro News & Record from that site.

Job Search Websites

Because I was doing some “curbside consulting” for some people who are in the middle of a job search or career transition, I compiled a list of job search websites as a resource.

I still contend that 85% of jobs are filled by using networking — connecting with people you know who know people with opportunities — jobs sites can be helpful for research purposes and that other 15%.

You can download my Word document here:

Job Websites Jun2009