Tips to schmooze your way to the top

They’ve been there, done that. And you can learn from them. The Weal talks to three professionals about how to network your way into a killer career.

Your reputation matters
“Everything counts towards your reputation and it sticks,” says Jeff Skipper, director of Peacebridge Performance Inc, who has established himself in the management and consulting industry. “You’re always, to some extent, being evaluated.  That’s why you never ever burn a bridge.”
Skipper offers these suggestions:
• It’s important to get your name and face out there. You might not have a resumé with you, but every time you talk to someone, you are presenting.
• If you intend to build your professional network at a function or event, make sure to research the different associations and groups that meet in that domain.
• If you see someone you know conversing with someone you don’t know, ask him or her to introduce you.
• If you are looking for work and an individual asks what you are currently doing, say you’re doing “market research” in the industry in which you’re interested in securing work. For example: “I’m doing market research in petroleum engineering – trying to understand what’s going on in the market place, where the opportunities are these days.”
• It’s easier to engage someone with broader-type questions, rather than saying “I’m looking for work.” If you engage someone and demonstrate your ability to carry a conversation they’re more likely to connect you to an opportunity.

Make it personal
Throughout his 30-year broadcast career, Gord Gillies, news anchor for Global TV Calgary, has made dozens of contacts along the way, many of which have helped him to get to where he is now.
“Little things can turn into big things,” says Gord. By putting in the effort by sending cards, a simple e-mail and even grabbing coffee establishes a level of comfort and builds trust. “Acknowledge people, make it personal, build relationships and be interactive.”
Gillies has these words of wisdom for young professionals:
• Don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised at how many opportunities come up from simply inquiring.
• Attend events – it’s a good way to meet people.
• Bring your cards and ask for other people’s cards.
• Nurture your contact list by building relationships with people not just using them when you need something.

Follow the golden rule
“It can be easy for some people to rise to the top and think they’re in the upper echelon, but really they’re not,” says Linda Olsen, anchor for Global TV Calgary.
Olsen says there are dynamic people and aggressive people, but being fair and working well with others will get you further than either.
“You want to build a comfortable relationship with them, where they’re eager to bring you back.”
Olsen’s advice is to:
• Treat everyone in the workplace equally and with respect
• Internships are a good way to set up opportunities. Demonstrate your integrity and work ethic everywhere you invest your time.
• If there’s an opening, people will remember you for it and are more likely to contact you for the position.
• Being considerate will take you far.

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