4 Simple Steps to Explaining “Gaps” on your Résumé

Mind_the_Gap_TCF

There is no “right way” to explain a gap between positions on your résumé. It’s a roll-of-the-dice how an employer perceives that gap when they first see your résumé, and is as likely to be scrutinized and judged when they ask you about it in an interview. The key to surviving this “red flag” is keeping your answer honest, positive, and without reason for further discussion – which is ultimately more scrutiny.

1.  Start with a skills-based functional résumé!

These résumés can’t hide a gap, but they do lead with pertinent skills before revealing when and where you have worked.  The intent is to win the heart and mind of an employer by directly answering why the employer should hire you within the first half of the first page. With the emphasis on what you know and what you’ve done, the hope is that this is where your interview is focused. However, be prepared to deal with the gap in the interview.

2.  Positive and complementary activities between positions

Don’t pretend to be Superman undertaking Superman things unless you actually did save the world. Beware trying to over-compensate with larger-than-life illustrations as it may not convince the interviewer. Simple and real examples (if they are in fact real) are the easiest way to explain how you’ve been keeping busy while unemployed. Training and certifications are best. Volunteer initiatives or projects in the arts are great. Being a “Home Coordinator” is good. Travel is cool, too!

3.  If you’ve moved or recently immigrated, then welcome! (And use this to your advantage).

This is the best-case scenario. If you’ve relocated then use that. Complement it with positive experiences in your new location, the energy you’ve put into understanding and adapting to the local labour market, and your enthusiasm to be where you are now.

4.  Honesty with heroic doses of genuine sincerity

Some have used humour and some have simply said nothing, and the latter is as bad as chattering at great length on any topic not relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you must indicate the reason you were let go, then do so in the most positive way. This could entail referring to changes to the labour market and company restructuring; and while these aren’t necessarily positive, they can be communicated in a tone that demonstrates your genuine appreciation for your previous role and employer.

Keep your answer short and DO NOT provide any additional information that might raise suspicion from the employer. This leads to additional questions – none of which will be focused on what you could do for that company. Add a sincere “I’ve been actively job searching, and in a labour market as competitive as ours is, I trust you’ll understand why I’m so excited to be meeting with you today.”

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

The ‘Power Stance’ (And What to Wear in That Stance)

Some of The Career Foundation's very own staff show off their 'Power Stance'.
Some of The Career Foundation’s very own staff show off their ‘Power Stance’.

Outside of Martial Arts and the Sears Catalogue, a “Power Stance” can be a great tool for a job seeker. It is both a method of warming up before an interview by increasing your self-confidence and a way to express and maintain that confidence during an interview. It’s also great for sales people, public speakers, and superheroes.

While sitting, keep your back straight with arms either folded or with your arms at your sides with hands on hips. Legs can be angled in any direction so long and your head is aimed at the central audience. Add a bit of style if your whole body is aimed at the audience and cross a leg – but do so in a way that suggests you have the power. Project confidence with an open posture. To avoid projecting entitlement or arrogance, add a smile. Be serious if you must, but tilt your head ever so slightly so as to add a sense of fluid humanity – and always dress the right way!

What to Wear (For Men): 

Professional male holding out hand for a handshake

The golden rule is that dressing conservatively with formal attire is an approach that never loses. Always dress a little bit better than you might while working in the position you’re applying for. See the graphic below!

How to Dress for a Job Interview infographic

What to Wear (For Women): 

Women have a little bit more leeway when it comes to clothing and style options for interviews. Skirts, dresses, pant suits, blazers, heels, flats – there’s a plethora of choices to navigate, so as a woman dressing yourself for a job interview tends to be overwhelming. Here are some helpful hints to get you ready for the big interview.

Business casual attire versus professional attire for women

As with men, conservative and formal is usually the way to go. Wondering if something is appropriate to wear to an interview? Think “high school dress code” – no exposed shoulders, no short skirts, no midriff (please).

If you wear makeup or nail polish, ensure you go for a poised and natural look. Dress in a soft, neutral colour palette. You may want to add one coloured piece to your outfit, to make it pop and ensure the interviewer remembers you. Keep any accessories simple and understated.

Our Summery Summary:

As summer approaches and the hiring season ramps up, knowing what to wear to your interview is vital. Make sure you wear temperature-appropriate clothing (AKA, avoid wool suits in the summertime) and remember to keep it professional and conservative.

We know it’s 2017 and our society is a lot more tolerant and encouraging of individuality than it once was, but you may want to remove any facial piercings and other loud jewellery as well as cover any visible tattoos for your interview. You don’t want to draw focus away from your qualifications and experience, and interviewers can find such things distracting. It’s good to give off a neutral appearance until you can get a sense of the company’s corporate culture.

On top of developing a strong power stance, it may be wise to develop a power ensemble: your go-to outfit for a successful interview. Above all else, make sure you wear something you’re comfortable in. Comfort is the key to confidence and confidence is the key to nailing your interview!

Put your ‘Power Stance’ to the test by entering our #MyPotential2017 Instagram Contest! It’s super easy, and you could win a $100 Pre-paid Gift Card! Click here for full details.

This blog post was produced and contributed by Kaily Schell and Jason D. Smith of The Career Foundation. 


T.M. Lewin, based in the U.K., also shared with us an informative infographic to help you crack the office dress code. Check it out below!

What to Wear to Work infographic by T.M. Lewin

Don’t Leave Money on the Table: 7 Negotiation Tips to Help You Increase Your Salary

Pocket change scattered around a table

For most of us, salary negotiations are uncomfortable and intimidating. We fear losing an opportunity, appearing greedy, or over-assessing our professional value. Thankfully, negotiations don’t need to be so difficult. Integrate these seven simple tips during your next salary negotiation and reap the benefits!

Tip 1: Perfect Your Pitch

Don’t try to improvise your salary negotiation. Have a plan in place and practise it! Before you get to the interview, do your research, know your bottom line, and make a case for your request based on your strengths and achievements. Consider multiple negotiation scenarios and develop an action plan for each.

Tip 2: Determine Your Value

Research the average salary for professionals with similar skills and experience to yourself. If your salary expectation is too high (or too low) you may risk elimination. Use sites like Indeed, Payscale and Glassdoor to research industry salary standards and to pinpoint the target company’s (or its competitor’s) salary ranges. Also, be sure to consider your qualifications and employment history when evaluating your worth. When you reach the negotiation stage, you should have a clearly defined salary range and a bottom line in mind.

Tip 3: Focus on What You Can Offer, Not on What You Need

Potential employers don’t care about your mortgage payments or the costs associated with maintaining your current lifestyle – they care about how much value you can bring to the organization. Justify your salary request by providing evidence of your professional achievements and by emphasizing the specific benefits that you can offer to the employer. One of the greatest mistakes that people make while negotiating their salary is failing to support their request with evidence of their value. “Show them the money” and watch your bank balance blossom.

Tip 4: Ask for Extras

More money is great, but so is more free time or more education. If an employer is offering a salary that is workable, but not ideal (and won’t budge) consider asking for additional vacation days, flex-time, tuition reimbursement, or other benefits that may sweeten the deal.

Tip 5:  Avoid Discussing Money Too Early

If possible, leave compensation out of the conversation until you are the last candidate standing. Many employers will inquire about your salary expectations early in the hiring process. If your expectation falls outside of their target range, you may get screened out before having a real opportunity to wow them. Do your best to delay money discussions until the last phase of the interview. If asked about compensation early in the interview process, politely advise the employer that you prefer to have a solid understanding of exactly what the position entails before discussing compensation.

Tip 6: Allow the Employer to Present the First Offer

Allowing the interviewer to advance their offer first helps you to avoid presenting a high figure that may lose you the job or a low figure that could leave money on the table. Additionally, many employers do not lead with their best offer so the employer’s proposal can provide you with a starting point for negotiations. Just how much bargaining room you have is tough to say, so be sure to consider your estimated value and remember that the sky is not the limit – avoid countering with an unrealistic figure that can’t be backed by market research and your professional experience.

 Tip 7: Know When Not to Negotiate

If an employer delivers a generous offer right off the bat, consider accepting (with a smile). You don’t have to negotiate simply for the sake of negotiating. Alternatively, if a salary figure or range was defined in a job advertisement, or if the employer assures you that they are presenting their best offer, there really may not be any room for movement – if you do decide to attempt negotiation, proceed wisely.

The Bottom Line: While salary negotiations may push us outside of our comfort zone, research shows that salary negotiators tend to make significantly more money over the span of their careers and are also perceived as stronger candidates than those who do not negotiate. Perfect your pitch and give it a try!

The author, Terra Blunt, is an Employment Specialist with The Career Foundation.

4 Funny (But Actually Un-Funny) Ways You Are Self-Sabotaging Your Job Search

Going Nowhere Slowly
Be sure you’re not racing against your own good efforts in your job search… Or in life!

Face it: Everyone, including you, makes a few common blunders when first starting a job search. But when the hunt extends beyond the six-month mark and you haven’t gotten so much as a “Thank you for applying” e-mail, something must be awry – right? Let’s take a look at a few ways you could be unintentionally sabotaging your job search (at least, let’s hope it’s unintentional!)

1.) Using multiple names

  • You have a nickname that everyone else in your home uses, but sadly they never use or simply don’t remember your actual name. “Oh, are you looking for Sleazy Sue?” your brother asks a potential employer over the phone… “Phone’s for you, sis.”
  • Your resumé uses your middle name first, but your cover letter is signed with your legal first name. How do you spell “confusion?”
  • Your e-mail address contains no name whatsoever, and you have used two different spellings for your family name between your cover letter and resumé. This works against you because it makes you look disorganized. It can also make things complicated for employers who may not know whether to refer to a candidate as Eddie, Kurt or Chris, for example (I’m looking at you, Edward Christopher Kurtswood).
  • Advice: Use a first and last name only. Try to integrate them both into your e-mail address and be sure to always spell your full name the same way. (You’d be surprised the number of times I’ve seen this simple task go sour!) Use that name consistently on everything related to your job search.

2.) Your voicemail message is ……….. 

Answering machines really took flight in the late 1980s, and one would think they are fairly easy to use today given the technological advancements we’ve had since Back to the Future was released. However, voicemail messages can actually be the bane of your job search. For job search purposes you need a simple, short, clear and friendly voicemail message with your name in it. Many companies – banks in particular – have privacy policies that forbid them from leaving messages when the person’s name is not indicated in the voicemail greeting.

Also, be sure your message isn’t the dreaded “dead air” … No one likes an awkward silence. Finally, remove any music, movie references, puns/idioms and strange sounds. The employer will question what the heck is going on if they hear mysterious ruffling noises or the echoes of clanging pots and pans.

  • Advice 1: Keep it simple. “Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail of Fred Hale! Please leave a message and I will return your call shortly. Thank you, and have a great day!” Seriously – how hard was that?
  • Advice 2: When calling an employer or business, prepare a message in advance should you be re-directed to an employer’s voicemail. Employers absolutely detest (as most people do) watching the same number call repeatedly while not leaving a message. Either the employer is unable or unwilling to answer at the time. In either case, you present yourself as annoying and unprofessional. This hurts your chances of success.
  • Advice 3: Listen to your messages as soon as possible and ensure your voicemail is not full; otherwise employers cannot leave a message and may be too busy to call back. Listen to the message in full before you call that number back. You’ll look silly if you call a company with 200+ employees and simply say, “Someone from there called me.”

3.) Mislabeled file names / attached documents

When attaching your resumé and cover letter to an e-mail, follow the directions as specified in the posting. Be sure to include a short, professional introduction with the attachments. Use reference numbers and codes in the subject heading if asked. If the company wants your cover letter and resumé as a single attachment, combine them. If they do not ask for that, do not combine them.

In most cases, it’s best to save the file(s) as a pdf, unless otherwise indicated. Be aware that when a position is posted, employers can potentially receive hundreds of applications. You need to make their hiring process easier by following specific instructions.

  • Advice: Give each attachment (file) a clear name and do not send your resumé as “resume” or “my resume” or “new resume (2).” They should look like this: Fred Hale – Resume – Ikea or Fred Hale – Resume – Floor Associate. The same applies to cover letters, reference lists, and anything else that an employer is asking you to send: Fred Hale – Cover Letter – Ikea, et cetera.

4.) Incorrect contact information

A true story of a failed job search: A client, whose voicemail was full, (as in never emptied or deleted over a period of three months), also had a completely wrong e-mail address on her resumé. I would have liked to inform her of this, but I had no way of reaching her and my current position does not warrant my knocking on doors or using passenger pigeons. I’ll say it again: You need to make the hiring process easy for an employer. They will NOT knock on your door; nor will they spend three months trying to contact you.

  • Advice: Listen, reply, and then delete your voicemail messages. Check your e-mail address. Does it end in .org, .com, or .ca? Is your e-mail active? Is it professional and easy to read? Once you know all of these answers, you should be ready to proceed. Just be sure to check your e-mail account (including your Spam folder) a few times each day as some employers measure the time it takes for you to reply.

 

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for retraining for those in need of skills enhancement. When not doing this, he can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

 

7 Ways Employers Can Be Spoken of Warmly When Their Employees Go Home for Dinner

hamilton-1903
Before owning a printing business (which reportedly had exceptional employee morale), my great grandfather assisted his father with his store in Hamilton, Ontario. That was when he wasn’t roll’n through ‘The Hammer’ in his buggy. In case you’re curious, this image dates all the way back to 1903 — and yes, it does relate to this article!

Employer and employee relationships are obviously reciprocal. There simply needs to be an equal back and forth of direction, respect and the modest understanding that you’re all “there to work.” While unlimited holidays, unlimited sick days, and giant bags of cash (ala Scrooge McDuck) would seem the obvious way to keep your employees happy, this is rarely a realistic option. But there are some insightful strategies to help employees feel happier and more productive in the workplace. Here are my top seven tips:

1. Promote a positive work place

Promote inclusiveness, smiles and compliments when possible. Grab some Sharpies and leave little notes for your team with simple messages like, “I thought how you handled that was great!” or “You rock! Thanks for giving it your all!” For every mistake or warranted criticism, try adding a positive comment as well. A number of small gestures will add up over time and that’s the point: demonstrating to your team that you believe each individual is an important asset to the entire organization.

2. See things from the employee’s point of view

This is easier said than done since you’ve got your work to do, too, and each person within an organization plays different roles. However, empathy is a widely accepted gesture, so you might as well try. Remember that your team or organization is only as strong as its weakest link, so there’s an incredible benefit to knowing what your team members require to fulfil their duties more effectively.

3. Listen and care

Active listening requires the listener (in this case the manger or owner) to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and finally remember what is being said. Engage, ask, remember and repeat. If you don’t fully understand, you’re not listening. It’s OK to not immediately understand what’s on the table, but it’s critical to ask the right questions for clarification. After all, employees are the front line between you and your profit so it makes sense that their ideas and concerns should be of paramount importance.

4. Add perks when possible

Yes, this is a cost. Gym memberships, employee lunches, gift certificates and unlimited onion rings would be an amazing start, but this isn’t always something that an employer can afford or an employee actually wants. However, a little extra now and again can go a long way. Coffee, donuts, or an extra lieu day are easy enough.

The managers at one business in Toronto routinely walk office-to-office during peak season to hand out $10 gift cards and thank their employees for their hard work and dedication. Want to flip a frown to a smile at light speed? Small, simple – and inexpensive – tokens of appreciation will help brighten anyone’s day.

5. End the micro-management ASAP

There’s a reason this is constantly voted as the most aggravating part of someone’s work life. It puts your team on the defensive and it’s an incredible misuse of time. Not sure if you agree? Check this out.

6. Always say “thank you

Your grandmother* was right when she reminded you to be courteous. Yes, you train and pay your employees and in theory this should be enough. However, a simple thank you is the most direct, personal way to build your employee’s self-esteem. Not only is the face-to-face interaction genuine, it’s also rewarding for employees who perceive their boss as a “power figure” – especially since this power figure (who can seemingly do whatever he or she wants) is choosing to be grateful and courteous.

*(I’ve never met your grandmother and there’s a possibility that you haven’t either. However, all grandmothers I’ve ever met have been absolutely lovely).

7. Paint the “big picture” with your workers in it

My great grandfather established and ran The Moore Printery in Hamilton, Ontario, at the start of the 20th century. It was a different era, when employees could often start and stay with an employer for their entire professional work life. When he passed, employees young and old came to his funeral. I was told there was a strong sense of internal community within that business, meaning the employees felt a sense of belonging.

With workers – let alone employers – currently changing career paths multiple times throughout their lives, “painting the big picture” may seem like a hard task to accomplish but perhaps makes this sentiment more important than ever. Think about it: If you choose to include your employees in the discussion of your organization, and choose language that involves their unique skills and characteristics combined with opportunities for professional development and the chance to creatively contribute to future plans, you’re establishing not only a direct future business plan for your organization, but an inclusive team that acts as a constant resource for your growth.

All human beings seem to crave a sense of belonging. We spend good portions of our lives away from home, so it makes perfect sense that employees who feel valued and part of a bigger picture would be more productive as a result.

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for retraining for those in need of skills enhancement. When not doing this, he can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

Churn! Churn! Churn! (To Everything There Is a Season): Navigating Today’s “Job Churn” Pandemic

the-byrds

Maybe it’s just me, but nostalgia’s only great for Comic Books, Baseball Gloves, Shortbread Cookie Recipes, and Toronto Maple Leaf fans! … Not Labour Market Expectations!

According to a Toronto Star report from Saturday, October 22, “Canadians should get used to so-called ‘job churn’ — short-term employment and a number of career changes in a person’s life.” And this isn’t just an editorial trying to be sensational; it’s come directly from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

I find it fascinating that people seem so perplexed by this. If Canadians aren’t used to it, it’s because Canada is a young country with an extraordinarily contemporary history, holding on to a collective expectation that is far too nostalgic for the economic highlights of the past 70 years. The good news is, if history teaches us anything, we can handle this change and we already have, many times.

If we used historical events as a pop culture narrative to economic change, every 10 years it would seem, a new economic reality has been set. The 1920s were a huge boom of financial extravagance for the western hemisphere, though wealth was not as proportionately spread as it could have been had there been the same social consciousness that came upon society in the 1960s. The 1930s saw the economic collapse of the Great Depression, and that was only partly stopped when the 1940s brought WWII, the most destructive conflict in history that conveniently propped up and propelled the economies of Canada and the USA. True economic prosperity bloomed in the post-war 1950s and in the socially conscious movements of the 1960s with wealth greater and more evenly spread than it had ever been.

The ‘50s and ‘60s era is perhaps the economic dreamscape most longed for as growth was massive and jobs were plentiful – at least in Canada and the USA. By some estimates going as far back as the Roman Empire, baby boomers were the wealthiest demographic in the history of this planet. Oil and infrastructure woes slowed the 1970s, before Michael J. Fox and Ronald Regan slapped a number of silly movies and economic Band-Aid solutions down. This led to the hairspray-teased optimism of the 1980s, which crash-landed into the plaid mosh pit cynicism of the 1990s. This era was one of less boom and more ‘balance;’ some growth, some slowdown. From this point onward, little has changed, with economic growth in the western hemisphere and other G20 countries moving between some growth to some slowdown and back again.

However, if popular opinion is any gauge, the 40-year period inclusive of the 1950s and 1990s is the time most job seekers want to return to the most; and for good reason. However, as a society we may be conveniently forgetting that all of these times required adaptation from those in the labour markets of those differing periods. The changes in the labour market equate in 3 ways:

  • How we adapt to the professions that are disappearing and the professions that are emerging
  • How we balance our standard of living in times that are neither boom nor bust
  • How contemporary society deals with change in the first place

On that last point regarding change: The labour market (as a vein to history as the main artery) has proven itself (as history has) to be all about change.

As a collective group of individuals in today’s workforce, we present as being more than ‘reserved’ when it comes to change. In fact, I believe we are downright scared. This is perhaps why Finance Minister Bill Morneau feels the need to ‘warn’ us of “job churn” – though he shouldn’t really need to; we just don’t read enough history anymore.

Of the past 70 years, only 20 of them were boom years, and before that it never really existed. Sure, it would be great to have those years back, but is that realistic? Perhaps the eternal optimist could spend more time being clever than nostalgic. The current “job churn” is easy to deal with when you know what decade you’re living in.

Here’s a few tips to bear in mind as you navigate the current labour market:

  • Understand that if you refuse to be flexible with both your job search and the positions you wish to attain, you will flounder. Gone are the days (for the time being, and perhaps for a long time coming) when you can be what you want to be unless you make that happen for yourself. Finance Minister Bill Morneau is playing this right. He knows that politicians on all sides of the house will not succeed in returning us to the boom and ease of the 1960s. They will need us to be less dependent on politicians to save the day, and more dependent on ourselves. We will need to reinvent ourselves at every step. And if you want to make it big, you’ll need to be ahead of this curve by light years.
  • Job churn will affect our standard of living and how we spend. There will be as much opportunity to make money if you look for it, but there won’t be as much economic surplus and stability. Simple changes like having one TV instead of three are where the successful, stable workers will make the right moves. Start simply – dinner out twice a month instead of five. We can no longer expect to own and spend as the baby boomers did. We will live well, but more likely as frugal as the war generation did, assuming you want savings for your retirement.
  • Populist leaders the world over are already tapping into fear to buy votes as all of their promises seem to harken back to past eras. From Europe to the USA, the key word is halcyon, an adjective denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. Unfortunately, few people seem to want to question this. I would argue that how we deal with change in the first place is at least as important as how we deal with what exactly those changes are.
  • And the best advice: DON’T PANIC!

What seems to be missing is an understanding that the changes occurring in the Boom Times did scare people in those times as well. If you look to your career with the expectation that change is inevitable and replete with “short-term employment and a number of career changes, then you’ve already won the battle against this fear. Ask yourself this question: How can I be more adaptable? In this you may be able to find the solution you need to survive contemporary history and this little trend called “job churn.”

To quote the late American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Well said.

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for retraining for those in need of skills enhancement. When not doing this, he can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

Navigating a Networking Event: 8 Tips That Will Make Even a Shy Person Comfortable

nervous-woman-at-networking-event

For some of us, walking into a room full of strangers can be intimidating, especially if you’re one of the quiet types. With every step, the lump in your throat gets more constricting and your stomach feels like it could bottom out at any moment – much like climbing Mount Everest, I assume. While you can live happily-ever-after never having climbed Everest, networking is something you can’t really avoid if you want to make connections with the “Who’s Who” of the business world. Being able to network effectively is a great tool to have in your arsenal for career success.

Here are eight tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and network like a boss:

Research

If you’re attending a networking event, do a little investigating beforehand. Find out who the host is and search their name on Google or LinkedIn. They could be an old schoolmate or maybe they recently achieved a milestone. A quick search can help you find a way to break the ice with the host of the event.

Dress like a boss

Ensure you are dressed professionally. Iron everything!

Just do it

Take a deep breath before walking into the room. Keep your head up, shoulders back and stand up straight. Stepping into a room full of strangers gets easier each time.

Perfect you elevator pitch

No matter what you do or the purpose of the event, always come prepared with strong talking points. If you’re a job seeker networking with potential employers, ensure you’re able to convey how you would be an asset to the company. If you’re a business owner, who knows your business better than you?

Be prepared to talk about yourself or your business if the occasion calls for it. Keep your pitch short and to the point – no more than 30 seconds.

If you’re simply trying to make connections, go with casual talking points; something current or newsworthy like a new book or movie release will do. Try to steer clear from politics and religion.

And don’t forget to bring your business card if you have one!

Don’t go alone

Go with a colleague or friend. Having someone you know in the room can help calm your nerves.  However, don’t treat your buddy like a crutch – be sure to mingle on your own as well.

Ask for an introduction

If you know the host of the event, ask them to introduce you to some of their guests. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you know to introduce you around.

Focus on the person standing alone

You might be a nervous wreck, but you’re not the only one. There’s usually someone standing in the room by themselves, likely just as nervous about networking. Make eye contact with him or her. Smile and introduce yourself. Find something to compliment, such as their shoes, briefcase, watch, and so on (but keep it professional, of course!)

Practice

Use your colleagues as guinea pigs! Don’t shy away from work events and staff meetings. Practice your networking skills by talking to people from different departments. This will help you get comfortable speaking with people and will also help improve your conversation skills.

Practice makes perfect, so implement some of the tips above to help you navigate any networking event.

PS – Keep in mind that a lot of people like to talk in general, so you’ll often find that sometimes all it takes is a smile, friendly introduction, and quick icebreaker to steal someone’s attention – and ideally lead to the next stage in your career!

Jodi Darby is a Business Developer with The Career Foundation’s Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) Program, and has successfully navigated her way through dozens of nerve-racking networking events over the past few years. Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn