Monthly Archives: May 2011

6 Musts When Attending Professional Conferences

My favorite time of the year of professional development is upon me.  I am getting ready to attend the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) National Conference in Dallas next week.  What a great time to connect with current friends and colleagues and meet new ones in both the career services and college recruiting family.  I return home from this conference every year with great new contacts, pages of notes, tons of energy and somehow a great sense of relaxation as well.   As you prepare for any professional development conferences this year, please follow these 6 musts:

1.  Join pre-conference conversations through the organization website or Twitter.  Start connecting with those who are attending the conference which builds energy for the event and offers opportunities to schedule side-meetings as well.  I also love that Twitter allows non-attendees a way to stay connected to the event.  In today’s economy, many organizations are tightening financial belts and Twitter has helped keep those not attending as connected as possible. 

2.  Plan your schedule.  Research the keynote presenters and know which breakout sessions and receptions you will be attending.  By planning your schedule, you have an idea what your expected outcome will be for the event.  You have heard the saying “plan your work and work your plan” so make sure you know what you are doing to do during the conference and then go do it.   

3. Never Eat Alone:  Not to steal the title of Keith Ferrazzi’s best-selling book, but this concept should be the first commandment of attending conferences.  Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone else attending the conference.  I even suggest you split your dining time between current and new colleagues. 

4. Followup with people after the conference:  Warren Barhorst, author of Game Plan, talks about acting within 72 hours of learning something new.  Either send emails or handwritten notes within 72 hours of returning home from a conference.  Collecting business cards does not do a bit of good if you are only going to take them back your office and stuff them into a drawer. Take the time to connect with the person you met or a colleague you hadn’t seen in a long time.  

5.  Send thank you notes to the organizers and speakers.  If you have ever planned an event or spoken at a conference, you know the amount of time put into producing the product.  Send notes to those who invested so much in making sure your experience was fulfilling. 

6.  Share what you learned with your co-workers and fellow members who could not attend.  Chances are, you gather some amazing nuggets of information and innovative ideas at your conference.  Bring it home and share.  Ask you coworkers to have lunch with you on your first day back to the office when your energy is high so you can share what you learned.  Tweet or blog about what you learned so that those who couldn’t attend or potential new members to the organization can grasp a piece of the experience.     

The purpose of professional conferences is to share information.  Make the most of your experience and do the same.

3 Steps to Successful Internships

 So much to do; so little time.  For better or worse, the definition of internships have changed overtime.  The number of companies that hire fulltime candidates from the intern pool has skyrocketed in the past few years.  The stakes are much higher for internship candidates to obtain an offer from an employer of choice. Internships have long been considered the 10 – 12 week interview; however, students are feeling the pressure to out shine their co-interns even more than before.     

Here are three things to do during your internship that are sure to make a lasting impression and set you on a positive course towards success. 

  1. Find a mentor:  Build a working relationship with someone within the organization who can offer candid and sage advice throughout your internship.  This person should not be your boss or a fellow intern. Find someone in the company who is well respected and connected.  Be interested in learning ways to be more effective. 
  2. Connect with your supervisor:  Your supervisor can be your best of champions or your worst of enemies when it comes to securing fulltime employment from an internship.  You want your supervisor to find you invaluable.  Be a great communicator, always have a positive attitude, and far exceed the department’s expectations if you want to increase your chances of receiving a fulltime offer.
  3. Welcome and seek feedback:  One major difference between school and work is the timing and delivery of feedback.  As students, you are used to getting feedback after every homework assignment, every quiz and every exam. Some organizations only offer formal feedback during annual reviews or internship exit interviews.  Try to briefly meet with your supervisor every week or so to discuss your performance, and make a concerted effort to correct or polish the areas where improvement is recommended.

Be an asset to the team, and make the employer grow to say, “We cannot afford to not hire this excellent candidate.”  Go beyond your job description.   Always seek ways to deliver quality results and build lasting professional relationships along the way.

Listening Skills in Networking

I often hear introverts say that they are poor networkers.  I completely disagree.  Introverts are some of the best networkers because they usually spend more time listening to what is being said in a conversation rather than waiting to interject his or her thoughts. 

Great relationships whether they are personal or professional stem from getting to know one another and building rapport. We, as people, want to be heard.  We trust people who hear us. I wrote a blog last year titled “Be Interested, Not Interesting” which proves my point in this blog.  If I’m intent on being interesting, I am concentrating on the wrong person in the conversation.  If I’m interested, then I’m focused on the right person because I’m listening. 

The reason introverts are so good at listening is that they are typically not the type of people to wait for the person talking to take a breath to interject with a story of their own.  Great listeners focus on the person talking and answer with questions about the story at hand rather than trying to trump that story with one of their own. 

How often have you talked with someone who focused on you and your story then walk away thinking you had a great conversation?  Of course you have.  On the flip side, have you ever talked with someone only to walk away thinking to yourself, “That person never shut up!”  Don’t be that person.  Use your listening skills to build your network in these three easy steps: 

  1. The next time you attend an event, focus your conversations on listening to what other people have to say and only respond with comments or questions directed to the person talking and not about yourself. 
  2. Send the person or people you met an email or hand written note the very next day and mention something discussed in your conversation as opposed to something about you. and….
  3. STAY IN TOUCH!  Don’t drop this potential contact.    

Be a great listener, and you will a trusted and respected colleague and friend.

5 Career Experts to Follow: Pay it Forward

My blog today is all about thanking five great career experts and bloggers I follow.  This is my #FollowSundaythroughSaturday list.   

1. Debra Wheatman @debrawheatman  The career coaching reputation Deb has created with http://careersDoneWrite.com is inspiring to say the very least.   Her blog is no nonsense, and her enthusiasm for coaching great people towards great careers is contagious.   

2. JT O’Donnell @jtodonnell and @careerealism  This career management guru’s energy amazes me.  She works with the very best in career experts, and if you can’t find the answers at www.careerealism.com, then I would bet you are asking the wrong question. This is simply the one-stop shop of career resources.  I read her daily updates every morning before I read the morning newspaper.  You must join her email newsletter list my friends.

3. Brent Peterson @interviewangel Look for Brent’s work at www.interviewangel.com.  I had the pleasure of hearing Brent speak at the National Association of Colleges and Employers National Conference last summer in Orlando, FL and am looking forward to meeting Brent again next month in Dallas.   I always look forward to Brent’s blog and Twitter updates. 

4. Kirk Baumann @kbaumann  Kirk and I have many common interests such as helping the next generation of college graduates find their career passion, Students in Free Enterprise and FOOTBALL!  Kirk is exactly what he notes on his Twitter bio:  a Social Media Enthusiast.  If Kirk doesn’t know someone, I would bet he knows someone who knows that person.  This guy is CONNECTED!  His blog at http://campus-to-career.com is a must add to your blogroll. 

5. Diane Gottsman @dianegottsman  Diane’s Protocol School of Texas http://protocolschooloftexas.com is sharing etiquette wisdom with every age group of life.  She receives rave reviews from her work with children to college students to business executives.  I was so honored to have Diane here at Texas A&M speaking to the Mays Business School Fulltime MBA Program last fall.  The company tag line says it best:  A Better Way to a Better You.

This might be a short list of must-follows, but it is a most powerful one.  Please follow these experts, and I promised you be inspired and find yourself looking to learn more.