Winning Networking Strategies What to say, to whom and how to say it

November 9th, 2015 : Bonnie Staring

We’ve all heard that great networking can lead to great strides for you and your business, but how do you know if you’re networking is effective?


“Think about how much time you start at ground zero,” suggests Lynne O’Connor, career coach and founder of Advanced Career Coaching Inc. “Well-networked entrepreneurs can check in with like-minded individuals to share ideas, gain advice and benefit from each other.”
To help you make the most out of your networking opportunities, O’Connor suggests using these strategies:


  1. Treat networking as an investment

Develop a networking plan along with your business plan, and use it to monitor and evaluate your progress. “Networking shouldn’t be another job you have; it should fit in with what you’re already doing,” explains O’Connor.

Not sure what to include in your plan? Think about who you’d like to meet, who you’d like to do business with, what you’d like to learn more about and how you can help other business owners. Your answers will help you determine where to focus your networking efforts and create measurable goals you can assess throughout the year.


  1. Know what to say

Effective networkers focus on making great connections instead of trying to shake every person’s hand, but even extroverts can find themselves tongue-tied at times. Preparing what to say ahead of time will help you appear polished and professional.

Have a short elevator pitch at the ready, so you can explain who you are and what you do in a relaxed manner,” says O’Connor. Have a list of open-ended questions to ask – such as “What did you think about the speaker?” or “How did you learn about this event?” – to keep the conversation going.


  1. Plan ahead

There’s more to networking than showing up for an event. Before the occasion, check online for a guest list or to see if other people have indicated that they’re attending on social media. Also, let others know you’ll be attending with a post or a tweet.

“If you see that someone you want to meet is attending, do some research online to learn more about them ahead of time,” suggests O’Connor. “It’s one of the main rules of networking: know something about the person you’re talking to. It’ll also make it easier for you to find common ground.”


  1. Think outside your industry

As tempting as it is to stay within your comfort zone, explore connecting with others outside of your type of business. “There’s a natural network that forms around your company with untapped entry points that are easy to leverage,” says O’Connor. “Think beyond your suppliers, vendors and customers to other industries and services and providers.” Although these people may deal in a completely different business sector, they’re still business owners who have to manage operations, customers, HR, a website and other areas, just like you.

“Accessing people outside your industry can be reviving and revitalizing. It gives you completely different parameters and frames of reference to look at problems and solutions in a new way,” explains O’Connor.


  1. It’s about giving, not getting

Approaching networking with a “What can I do for you?” attitude can make all the difference. “People want to benefit from the research you’ve done and the expertise you have,” says O’Connor. “If the person you’re speaking with mentions that he or she is thinking about revamping the company website and you’ve recently done that, share what you learned and offer advice based on your experience.” Actively listen – there are always opportunities to help another entrepreneur learn from your mistakes and successes.

No matter where your networking takes you, remember to focus on the quality of your connections, not the quantity. “Networking should be personal, not transactional,” says O’Connor.



Be Your Own Coaching Advisor

first-impressionsAre you one to give yourself credit or do you second guess yourself at every step? Learning to be generous with yourself – as well as realistic – is where self-coaching begins. Being specific about your behaviours and habits of mind can also narrow down your focus and give you some meaningful information to assess. It’s a two-part process.

Of course, as a career coach, my natural inclination is to ask questions about the workplace, but you can expand these into many areas of your life – health, fitness, personal development, work/life balance, relationships, long-term goals.

The key question for truly recognizing your value is – What am I doing well?
• What professional skills have I improved over the last 6 to 12 months?
• How have my workplace relationships become more productive?
• How else has my contribution at work increased recently?
• How have I improved my response to change?
• What promises have I kept to myself and the people important to me?
• How have I demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity?
• What behaviours or activities are making a positive difference in my outlook?

Followed this with goal-focused questions centered on – What might I do better?
• What incremental changes could I make to increase my job satisfaction?
• If I could focus on just one core skill to expand at work, what would that be?
• How could I adapt my style of conversation to create more open communication?
• What shift in my everyday routine could help me build in more success?
• How can I begin to create more of what I do want and less of what I don’t?
• What beliefs do I need re-examine in order to increase my sense of well-being?
• How am I willing to reconfigure my schedule to have more time for the things that matter?

Do you see a pattern emerging from the questions? It starts with recognizing where you are, where you would like to go and how to begin to move in that direction. That’s all it takes – a beginning – for you to feel that progress is possible. When you pay attention to what you are doing well and how you can add to the abilities and strengths that are already working for you, growth and change become real possibilities.

Start with the two-step coaching approach and you can discover more of what’s possible for you.

Career Growth Ahead

Dream big – the year has just begun and the possibilities are wide open!

lynne-imageBefore the urgencies of the New Year close in take a well-earned time out to think about what you want from your career over the next twelve months. Pausing to reconsider your direction can prevent the same old routines from claiming your priorities. You know the ones – “no time”, “too stressed”, and “don’t know where to start”. Intervene now before a default setting creeps in to claim your intentions and rule your actions.

So what would you like to change in your career before January 2015 stealthily makes its way across the calendar?
Here are seven suggestions that can revitalize your work year…. starting now –

1. Change the way you are perceived at work. Rebuild your reputation by strengthening what you are best at, and improve on lesser areas. For example, really amp up your proven ability to get things done on time, or even ahead of time, and eliminate the slippage in attention to detail that sometimes results.

2. Develop more leadership strengths. Be alert to opportunities to take charge or co-charge of a small project or initiative where you are involved in planning, resourcing and delegating. Work closely with a team either directly or cross-functionally to improve your management and communication style.

3. Become a trusted right hand to your boss. Assess where you could save them time by offering to take on pre-work or extra tasks that will lighten their workload. Offer to assist with a new hire or in times of departmental shortages. Create a report or meeting summary that will improve efficiencies.

4. Act as a key member of the team. Provide support to others and conduct yourself at the highest levels of integrity. Become a ‘go to’ person and a stable, positive influence on the team – consistently, day in and day out.

5. Get closer to the business. Be knowledgeable about how your company works and insightful about your customers and their buying patterns. Stay up to date on your industry, your competitors and global influences.

6. Upgrade your skills & credentials. Make this the year you take a clear step toward increasing your value. Find a course, attend a conference, or attach a new set of credentials after your name. If you do enter the marketplace for a new job, or come up for promotion, this alone could be a deciding factor.

7. Pay attention to what you need from your career. If you are not happy where you are, gather the courage to start looking elsewhere. Spending more time doing more of what you don’t enjoy will not bring you fulfillment – even if your salary increased. Focus on career and personal satisfaction first and the money, as they say, will follow. By building in priorities like these you can get more from the job you have and even begin to look ahead to the work you really want. Together these seven steps can build the accomplishment base of your resume and expand your references. Choose to focus on even a few and you will boost your confidence and energize your thinking around your career actions this year.

Much success in 2014, Lynne

Your Second Act

red-imagesAfter you’ve done what you should do in your career, have you considered what you might like to do?  For some it’s a question that becomes more relevant the closer they get to retirement, for others it’s part of a wake-up call that comes at mid-career.  Either way it’s a chance to kick start your default setting and redefine who you are and what you do.

Interesting how following the tried and true path can free you up to do what you might not have previously dared to dream.  Once you’ve paid your dues it can be time to relaunch toward greater fulfillment and purpose in your work.

While the idea of 3 to 5 career shifts over a lifetime may seem daunting, it can be the logical confluence of marketplace dynamics and lifestyle needs – a kind of organic career evolution.  Ideally each new role brings a mix of challenges to reignite your energy.  Adding skills and increasing your confidence supports career flexibility and also encourages you to reach out for the next stretch goal.

At the same time, Nancy Collamer, M.S., Second-Act Careers, 50 Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi- Retirement, says for many people approaching retirement earning a living may now be a secondary goal compared to the desire to make a difference in the world.  “They don’t want to just leave legacy, they want to live one.”

According to a 2011 study by Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose, “as many as nine million people aged 44 to 70 are already working in ‘encore careers; that combine personal meaning, social impact, and continued income, and an additional 31 million people in the same age group say they are interested in finding encore career-related work.  That means roughly 40 % of all boomers hope to be able to find a way to give back through their second act careers.”

If you are among those who want to do leverage your career into doing something more consider jobs where you can mentor or train youth, encourage start-up businesses, work with disadvantaged groups, expand your influence at a national or global level through associations or non-profit organizations, consider becoming a Board member for a foundation or working in the arts, culture and education sectors.

Areas where your contributions, either paid or volunteer, could also support change would include underserved environmental sectors, wellness & nutrition advocacy, healthcare for seniors, joining a local organization you feel does valuable work, fundraising for a cause you believe in, working at a grassroots level on community programs, or becoming part of a public awareness campaign.

Second act career planning takes innovative thinking, but it’s creative time well spent.

“By the Way, Great Work!”

indexWe naturally tune in to compliments, especially when they are sincere and well deserved.  Professionally, we’ll tend to look for those compliments in workplace feedback – informally from peers and formally through performance reviews from bosses.  It’s often a missed opportunity, if not a mistake.

When feedback is positive we happily take it in, relieved to hear good news and carry on secure in the knowledge that we’ve done good work and it’s been appreciated.  And we miss the chance to find out more about our potential.

It’s precisely when we are hearing good things that the timing is right to seek out information on where your room for improvement may be – and to learn what your counterpart is really thinking.

Advice from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg zeros in on this. She is the current COO of Facebook and former VP of Global Online Sales & Ops at Google.  In 2012 she was named to the Time 100, an annual list of the most influential people in the world according to Time magazine. She’s just earned 24 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers List with her first book.

Here’s what she says about getting the most from feedback –

“What more could I have done?” “How can I do better?” “What am I doing that I don’t know?” “What am I not doing that I don’t see?” These questions can lead to many benefits. And believe me, the truth hurts. Even when I have solicited feedback, any judgment can feel harsh. But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance. Requesting advice can also help build relationships.”

By opening the door to a dialogue when the conversation is positive, you can tap into a broader exchange and open up ideas on areas for professional development.  You can develop mentors and build trust with senior people.  It’s how you can create advisors and learn from the experience and perspective of others. It’s a career development technique worth trying.

You can check out part of Sheryl’s message at the Ted Talks link below

On the Rebound

If you were to ask me what the sets the successful job seeker apart, I would have to say the magic comes down to a single word – resilience. It’s the one outstanding quality that I’ve seen that seems to make the most consistent difference in building positive outcomes.  While we will all encounter obstacles over the course of our careers, it’s resilience that enables us to spring back into action and make more informed choices.

Here’s a fascinating new read that delivers some solid information on what’s at the heart of resilience, and one of the best books I’ve read in a while:  Rebounders – How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success, by Rick Newman.

reboundersIf you’re inspired by true stories you’ll encounter many – Thomas Edison (the quintessential “fail faster to succeed sooner” inventor), Steve Jobs (‘nuff said), J.K. Rowling (from writing in coffee shops to writing for a global audience), Thomas Keller (Michelin 3-star chef, The French Laundry),and John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers), among many.

It’s not how wildly they succeeded that surprises, it’s how consistently each one wrestled with what wasn’t working until by increments they got it right.  More than the story, it’s the thoughts and deliberations each went through in order to find a way to continue the search for what mattered, that are profound.  Magnificent reading for career changers and job seekers.

    Some key points from the book:

    Setbacks can be a secret weapon: they often teach vital things you’ll never learn in school, on the job, or from others.

     There are smart ways to fail:  Once familiar with them, you’ll be more comfortable taking risks and less discouraged if they don’t pan out.

    “Defensive pessimism” trumps optimism:  Planning for what could go wrong it often the best way to ensure that it doesn’t.

     Know when to quit:  Walking away at the right time can free the resources you need to exploit better opportunities.

    “Own the suck”:  When faced with true hardship, taking command of the pain and sorrow – rather than letting it command you –lays the groundwork for ultimately rising above it.”

To read an excerpt or follow the Twitter feed go to –

P.S.  – While I read this as an e-book, I liked it so much I’m actually thinking of owning the hard copy – just to be inspired by real-life resilience in action again!

Enjoy your summer, Lynne

Self-Coaching 101

Change one habit. Surprise yourself. Think like a winner. Sound familiar? Quick hit advice seldom leads to lasting change (for that matter we might as well throw in the old standby ‘Lose ten pounds and don’t forget to exercise!’) Lasting change begins by first changing your state of mind so you can express new thoughts in new behaviours.


Here are three key ‘coaching-lite’ questions you can use to chip away at calcified thought patterns and open up a new mindset for taking positive action. It’s best to run your concerns through these diagnostic questions when you are emotionally level. Avoid diving in when emotionally overwhelmed or caught up in the drama of the moment.

3 Questions You’ll Be Glad You Asked

1. What else could it be?
When you’ve figured out the situation to the best of your ability take one step back (yes back, not forward). Return to the drawing board and ask yourself for one more idea about what might be going on.
Benefit to you – Deeper thinking can lead to insights you may not have considered before.

2. Where’s the challenge in this?
Look beyond the initial knee-jerk ‘no’ response. No – I can’t do that. No – that’s asking too much. Ask a positive question instead – ‘How could I stretch myself to achieve what looks initially implausible? What could I do differently to achieve a new result?’
Benefit to you – Proof that your abilities are solid and you have a reservoir of untapped strengths. (If the result is work-related you’ll also have a new achievement for your resume!)

3. Where’s the opportunity in this?
Looking beyond the immediate situation – either good or bad – and ask yourself ‘What else might it hold? (A chance to build your reputation or develop a key relationship?) There may be several ways you could play out an impending scenario that could lead to something bigger and better than you originally imagined.
Benefit to you – More motivation to think and act strategically by taking a closer look at the big picture before taking action.

Once you’ve experienced how quickly these three questions can rewire your thinking and open doorways to affirmative action, you’ll want to expand how you use them. Try them out with your kids when they are working through a first time problem and walk them through their thoughts on a solution. Select a single one when working with a peer or direct report and see how it changes the tone of your conversation. And of course, use them regularly in coaching yourself to great success and satisfaction in your personal and professional life.

Asking coaching questions – it’s a habit worth building.

Find Your SmartPoint

Some days you like your job and some days it’s the last place you want to be. The pros and cons vary from boss to boss, project to project even day -to-day. The complexities of the status quo can motivate you to stay in jobs, or leave companies – even change careers entirely.


The challenge is – how to you weight the factors in a rational way to give yourself a sustainable degree of overall fulfillment? As an example, are you over emphasizing the drain of a long commute and minimizing the charge the client-facing work generates for you? For some the daily commute is a prime factor. For others it’s a much needed time to transition from work to home reinforced by using an alternative route that may take longer but offers more breathing space.

As your career matures – and you do as well –you may no longer be willing to make the kind of tradeoffs you once did. It may be time to set new boundaries and priorities.

Finding your Career SmartPoint can be a fragile process. You want to preserve what’s working, but still make some fundamental changes. This can include reducing your work week, working from home, rededicating yourself to a second career certification, degree or small business endeavor. It can mean stepping off the management ladder and reporting to a new (and younger boss) as a front-line specialist and leaving the senior-level cares behind. Try negotiating with your management team to recraft your current job over time in order to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t want. Or would a smaller firm where you can be more versatile put the challenge back into your day? A start-up? A not-for-profit?

It’s perfectly valid to consider non-work priorities too. Imagine taking your foot off the gas pedal by working 4 days a week. Think about freeing up time for children and parents, volunteer work, self-development, overlooked interests and pursuits. Time for yourself!

These kinds of decisions come through careful planning taking into account finances, family needs and long term goals, but they can be done. Self-assessment, psychometric testing, strategic planning, professional advice and in-depth conversations with peers and mentors can all be helpful in putting the puzzle together.

Finding tradeoffs in your workstyle means creating a Career SmartPoint that reflects who you are now and who you plan to become.

Stay or Go? Yes or No? The Sequel

So where are you on the scale of ‘should I stay or should I go in your current job?’  It’s good to check in periodically to measure the health of your career.  Your level of satisfaction and fulfillment in the work you do are also key indicators in your quality of life.  While short term compromise is possible and even preferable for the right reasons, long term delays in finding the right fit can do you and your talent a disservice.

yes no maybe. jpgWhy It Might Be Time to For You to Move On

  • You’ve had a ‘critical incident’ at work.  Perhaps you got passed over for promotion again.  You are not on that key account.  The work you’ve always done is getting passed over to the new hire.  You’re not in the loop on the big project.  There’s a growing sense that enough is enough. It’s time to go.
  • You finally realize that your company is not a top compensator and your salary is stuck where it is as long as you stay.  You might have a sense that performance reviews are kept low as a salary cap measure.  Perhaps your bonus was disappointing again.  If there is no salary acknowledgment of advanced skills and or a new designation you might move ahead somewhere else.
  • You’ve been offered the option of a severance package with a stay or go scenario.  If so, check out your options carefully, they vary from company to company.  You could looking at anything from an extended working notice period, a lateral or lesser position, a salary continuance or lump sum payment.
  • You’ve been ‘dehired’.  The severance package arrives in a meeting with HR and your boss.  Sometimes it’s a complete surprise or perhaps you had a hunch, either way you are in job search mode now.
  • You’ve received a call from a recruiter asking if you know of anyone interested in a job posting they’ve sent you.  You realize that it’s a great opportunity, so you start interviewing to see if there’s a fit.  It’s not so much that you initiate a search, but that a search is initiated for you.
  • You surf Linked In, keep an eye on and one week, there are a few job postings that combine to say “the time is right” – let’s get started and get serious about this.  Works even better if you hear from an old colleague there’s a great job open at their firm.
  • Your spouse or partner, your friends or family – their careers are moving on, there’s some subtle peer pressure to keep up and lots of ready advice on how to work the job search.  Best if combined you’re your own motivation.

If you come to the ultimate realization that no matter how much you’d like things to be different at work, it’s likely to be more of the same it may be time to face reality.  Then, If you do want to make change happen in your career, it’s up to you to take control of your future.

What would it take to increase your career health in 2013?

Stay or Go? Yes or No?

There are lots of reasons people stay in the jobs they have – even if the work is more mundane than they might like.  At times these career sticking points can be a good thing.  They promote stability, prevent job-hopping and directionless resumes.  On the other hand, a heads-down approach in the workplace can prevent you from seeing things as they really are or considering the kind of bold moves that can add depth and flexibility to your career path.

yes no maybe. jpgWhat People Say About Why They Stay

  • It’s my comfort zone!  I know the people, my routine, and what’s expected of me. I can walk through the day fairly certain I can handle what comes up. It’s easier to stay.
  • I’ve been here so long I don’t know what else I could possibly do. I’m such a specialist I’m not even sure how I’d fit in a new organization.
  • I have no idea how to look for a new job. Where would I start? I certainly can’t take a chance that my current employer would find out.  It could hurt my chances of staying here.
  • As much as I might want to go, I’m handling overtime, family, parents, outside commitments and when I do get home, I’m exhausted.  I have no energy to organize a search and getting off work for an interview, really!!
  • I’m not sure the grass is really is greener somewhere else. I’d need to make it worthwhile – a better commute, a salary increase, and a new title would be great. I’d like more customer contact and a new industry too would really be invigorating.  How would I find all that?

And the number one reason people stay in their current job is ….loyalty to the people they work with – that’s it – their sense of personal and professional connection to their co-workers, and even their boss.  If they feel they are an appreciated, valued and respected member of their ‘work family’ they will weather some storms to stay.

More on why people finally decide to move on….in the next blog posting!