Getting Comfortable With Small Talk

5 business people talking and looking uncomfortable

Getting Comfortable With Small Talk

March 14, 2022

5 business people talking and looking uncomfortableAre you comfortable with small talk? I’m not a fan of small talk, and I’ve noticed that many people struggle with it.

The thing is, we can’t avoid small talk. It’s an inherent part of how we communicate, even if we hate it.

The answer to our discomfort with small talk is to understand its purpose so that we can leverage it to have the deeper conversations that we seek, and to develop new relationships.

So, what is the purpose of small talk?

It leads to deeper conversation and opportunities that you might not have had prior to what feels like an unimportant conversation that’s going nowhere.

If small talk is so important, why do we struggle so much with it?

For one, I don’t think we realize what purpose small talk plays, so it’s easy to discount it.

That’s the big misconception: We tend to think that small talk is unimportant and something we just have to endure. But small talk IS important! It is leading us to a rich opportunity.

When we engage in small talk, we’re working with our conversational partners to create a connection and get on the same page. It may just feel like chatter, but it can lead us into deeper conversation and it can serve as the beginning of a relationship with the other person.

And for another…it just plain makes us uncomfortable! We spend a lot of our time during small talk thinking things like:

  • “What do I say?”
  • “What if I say something wrong?”
  • “Why is this matter? It doesn’t sound important.”
  • “What do they think of me?”
  • “Is this going anywhere?”
  • “Is this worth my time? Should I be someplace else…?”

These concerns are normal. The realm of small talk is a vague, uncertain space where we’re all just trying to find some solid ground.

To help you (and your conversational partner) have a better small talk experience, I’d like to offer three suggestions that can make it less uncomfortable and also get you into the deeper conversation faster:

  1. Say their name a few different times. The most powerful word for any of us is our own name. It gives them an amazingly positive feeling and it will help you leave a positive impression. It also helps you remember their name for your next conversation with them.
  2. Give them a compliment. Whether you say you like their name, the color of a piece of clothing they are wearing, or are impressed by something they’ve accomplished, a compliment is another way to leave a positive impression. On top of that is the fact that they have the same concerns that you do. They’re thinking, “What if I say something wrong?” and “What does this person think of me?” Giving them a compliment eases these concerns, enabling the conversation to move more smoothly into deeper territory.
  3. Think of small talk as less about talking and more about listening. This is your opportunity to get to know the other person better. Bonus: When you ask your conversational partner questions that invite them to talk longer, you start moving beyond small talk and into the rich, deeper stuff.

I think the most important thing about small talk that we need to remember is that we are not the only ones who are uncomfortable with it. Most people are! But if we can be strategic about how we engage with that initial part of a conversation, we can get a lot more out of where it’s leading… deeper conversation and building great relationships that serve us.

Are you ready to move beyond small talk into building a professional relationship?

Use this step-by-step guide to easily engage in smoother conversation and improve your confidence.

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Marking Time: Reflections on a Year

Jayne Mattson writing her annual letter

Marking Time: Reflections on a Year

January 3, 2022

Jayne Mattson writing her annual letterWhat do you do to mark the shift through the New Year?

Especially in times like these, with a multi-year pandemic and the difficulties of connecting safely with our loved ones, I believe that tuning in to the New Year can help us more consciously embrace what’s good in our lives.

At least… I hope so.

I began a new ritual last year: I wrote myself a letter that I would open one year later, and I invited my readers to do the same.

What I’d like to do now is ask: Was it useful? Was writing myself a personal letter at the turning of the year a useful endeavor?

Let’s find out…

As I opened my letter today, I was surprised to see that I wrote a four- pager. I don’t remember doing that and I don’t think of myself as a writer but apparently, I had a lot to say!

And as I read through my message, three themes rise up: Gratitude; Relationships; and Innovation. I can see how these themes made sense last year, and they make sense right now as well.

Gratitude:

My letter tells me that I woke up early January 2021 with a heart full of gratitude because the three top priorities in my life of faith, health, and connection with family & friends were strong.

I am an optimist by nature and tend to look at what is good to make it better. Even last year, mid-pandemic, I chose to focus on the positive things that happened in my life that got me through what are some of the most challenging of times for all of us.

Like many people, I had lost friends and family. Not being able to grieve fully in person made the losses even more painful. Despite that, I still felt gratitude for having them in my lives for so long and I cherished each memory we had together.

Relationships:

The physical was certainly difficult, but meeting people virtually seemed to alleviate it in many ways. (Good to note as we head into our 2nd pandemic winter.)

Since my relationships with family, friends and colleagues are extremely important, I found ways to stay connected. I am known as “the glue that keeps people together” and I embrace that as part of my identity – so much so that I wrote a book about building relationships just a few years ago. Bringing people together is second nature to me.

Innovation:

The last theme in my letter was about how over the previous year I had leaned heavily into innovating as I created new marketing channels for my business.

I hired a Marketing Consultant and a Web Designer who helped me rebrand my business and create an amazing new website that I still am so proud of!

It was challenging work because it made me get very clear on who I help, how I help them, and how I want to find and connect with the people I serve.

That work was hard, but it was so worth it! I’m still using that marketing strategy now and I’m looking forward to leveling up in the new year with Live video on LinkedIn!

As I look over last year’s letter, I have some very specific takeaways:

Writing that letter was helpful. I feel like it’s creating some powerful cohesion between where I was at this time last year and where I feel like I’m going now as we head into the new year. I can see the flow of the themes and it brings confidence and clarity that I would not have had if I hadn’t written myself that letter last year.

Noting the themes between then and now is powerful. I can see the flow of ideas and direction. As I look back, it gives me a sense of accomplishment; as I look forward, I feel conviction about where I’m headed.

The themes of Gratitude, Relationships, and Innovation feel to me like a balance of past, present, and future. I like how that feels – being grateful for where I’ve been, cherishing what I have, and being planful about where I’m going.

Will I be writing another letter this year? Yes. In fact, I’ve already started it.

And I invite you to write one to yourself as well. The flow of time can sweep us away if we let it. Marking time with letters to ourselves can help us be more intentional about where we’ve been, what we want, and where we’re going.

Will you be writing a letter to yourself? Let me know in the comments! Then next year when it’s time to open my next letter, I’ll tag you and we can both open our letters and share what we’ve learned!

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Speaking Up: How to Confidently Assert Your Boundaries at Work

Speaking Up: How to Confidently Assert Your Boundaries at Work

December 13, 2021

Early in my career, I had a manager who would berate his employees during our staff meetings.

Whenever I saw him do this to my colleagues, I would talk ask them after: “Why don’t you speak up?” The answer was usually just a shrug, or a question: “What would I say?”

Then one day, it happened to me. My manager scolded me right there in front of my colleagues. I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

As soon as the meeting was over, I went into my manager’s office and said, “I would like to talk to you about that you said to me in the meeting this morning. When you said _______, I felt disrespected, specifically because you said this in front of my colleagues. I welcome feedback, but can you please do it behind closed doors?”

He said: “I am sorry. You’re right. I won’t do it again.” I’m happy to say that he stopped speaking to me that way during meetings!

Sometimes people just don’t realize that how they’re doing something is having a negative impact, and they don’t see how else they might do it that could provide better results.

There are three elements at play here that I want to bring to your attention: boundaries, confidence, and assertiveness.

When my boss berated me in front of my colleagues, he crossed one of my boundaries: I will accept feedback, but only in private. As soon as he crossed this line, I knew I had to say something.

This is where confidence came in. Confidence is based in courage, and courage doesn’t exist without fear. Going in to talk to my boss wasn’t easy. I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it. But talking to him about it was essential. I had a boundary to defend!

And in fact, I demonstrated that boundary by talking to him in private. I like to think that me doing unto him the way I wanted him to do unto me is part of why it went well.

And lastly, we all need to be assertive. Assertiveness is about communicating in a clear and direct manner. It’s about using the right language so that we can get our message across with respect so that we are heard without hurting someone else’s feelings.

I think there’s a fine line between assertiveness and aggressiveness that we have to walk carefully, especially for women. If we push too much, they’ll be offended and put off; if we push too little, they won’t take us seriously. Walking this line takes practice.

I often help my clients work out how they want to respond to situations like this. Here are two things that I have them think about:

  1. What is the action or behavior that didn’t work for you?
    example: my boss berated me in front of my colleagues
  2. What is the action or behavior that needs to happen instead?
    example: I welcome feedback behind closed doors

Then use those two pieces of information to help you craft an assertive statement that clearly describes what you need.

Again, this takes practice. But if you work with these situations intentionally, you can help to promote an atmosphere at work that will enable you to thrive!

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Drawing Lines: How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries at Work

How to maintain healthy boundaries

Drawing Lines: How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries at Work

December 6, 2021

How to maintain healthy boundariesDuring a recent presentation, I asked my audience – a group of early-career professional women – this question:

“Which professional boundaries do you find difficult to maintain?”

Their answers showed that:

  • 66% struggled with committing to their personal time outside of work hours because they continue to check emails after the workday has ended
  • 22% had difficulty saying “no” to opportunities that did not align with their lifestyle needs and values

This same audience agreed that the challenge is further exacerbated when you have goals and desires around your work including:

  • Wanting to be recognized and valued for your work
  • Feeling respected by others
  • Getting feedback in private
  • Being valued for their willingness to express differing opinions

It’s easy to feel torn between reaching for our career goals and protecting our personal lives. It might be tempting, even, to forgo our boundaries and personal lives for the sake of our career goals.

I caution you against that mindset. Once a boundary is given up, it’s much harder to regain. Plus, that’s a short-term approach. I’ve thought it myself: “I can do this for a year…”. But one year turns into three, which turns into a lifetime of imbalance.

It’s not just that you’ve opened the door and now you can’t close it. It’s more that it’s a habit that you’ve created within yourself. You don’t even see it happening… but habits are pervasive and difficult to change.

We’re also talking about setting other people’s expectations. If you don’t maintain healthy boundaries in your current job, it can be difficult to reestablish the boundaries you want without changing jobs altogether. If your boundaries are so compromised that you’re miserable, that’s a viable option… but if you can stop it from happening in the first place, you’ll save yourself a lot of pain and frustration.

So, decide right now what you want your career to look like and how you want that to balance with your personal life. It’s better to create stricter boundaries now that you can loosen later than to create loose boundaries that are almost impossible to tighten.

This problem of maintaining healthy work/life boundaries is not new, but it has gotten worse with working from home. These lines get fuzzy when they exist within the same four walls.

I encouraged the women in my audience – and I encourage YOU - to clearly define what your boundaries are:

  • What boundaries do you want to create and maintain?
    Be specific! Examples: No checking email after 7pm, or only take on opportunities that are in line with where you want your career to go.
  • What does crossing the boundary look like?
    Again, be specific. Envision it so that you’re more likely to see it when it happens.

Once you have a clear definition and understanding of your boundary, your next step is to have a conversation with your manager. When you are both on the same page about what you each expect, your boundary will likely require less management and, should lines start to get crossed, it will be easier to get back in bounds.

Want a little bit of accountability? I’m here for that! Tell me in the comments below: What’s the boundary that you want to maintain?

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The Career-Growth Gender Gap: It’s still here but we’ve got plans

women can take action to change the career-growth gender gap

The Career-Growth Gender Gap: It’s still here but we’ve got plans

November 22, 2021

women can take action to change the career-growth gender gapIf you are a woman and early in your career path, there’s something you need to know:

Women face challenges in their career growth that men do not.

If you think that we’re beyond the gender problem, I invite you to think again… because we are not!

In fact, women face TWO specific challenges:

First - Women don’t move up to the next level within their first five years at the same pace as men

Second - Because they don’t get promoted, women do not develop the same leadership skills as men within this same time frame.

These two steps are essential for career growth!

Researchers call this the “broken rung.” According to a 2019 study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, these obstacles that prevent women from progressing in their careers.

Here’s the thing:

If you don’t get promoted, you don’t get into the pipeline for further promotions. Instead, you play a game of catch-up and it’s easy to continue to fall behind.

So… what can you do about this?

As an answer to that question, I’d like to tell you about a wonderful group of early-career professional women that I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with.

They were enrolled in a year-long program designed to address these common career-growth challenges that women face in the workplace. These women knew that they had to take control over what they needed and wanted in their careers. They were aware that if they were going to remove the obstacles they faced, they needed to understand the challenges that created them.

As part of their program, these women identified their values around what is important to them in the workplace. With that in mind, I spoke with them about three key areas that build upon what they value in the workplace.

  1. Work boundaries
  2. Confidence
  3. Assertiveness

These are foundational factors that support their values. (If you want to identify your own values with regards to the workplace, download the Corporate Culture worksheet.)

Here’s a quick summary of these key areas and how they support and align with your values:

Work Boundaries reflect how you want to be treated in the workplace. Keep in mind: You should treat others the same way you hope to be treated. Following the Golden Rule can serve a guiding light.

Confidence helps you define and establish your boundaries.

Assertiveness guides you towards using the right language to get your point across clearly and tactfully when your boundaries are threatened or compromised.

What I find most exciting about these key areas is that they are skills. That means you can learn them and practice them so that when you need them, you’ll be ready.

Here is what I’m hoping you’ll take away from this:

  • You have to choose to take control over what you want and need in your career
  • You can take action to combat the challenges you face
  • Finding support through communities and a career coach can help you make these things happen for yourself.

We are still facing gender challenges in the workplace, but we are not victims to them. You can take specific, focused action to support your own career growth. When you do the work, success will follow.

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Need a new job? Start here.

Sign: I quit

Need a new job? Start here.

November 1, 2021

Sign: I quit

You’ve likely heard of the “Great Resignation” a term recently coined by Anthony Klotz, a Management Professor from Texas A&M, who predicted a mass and voluntary exodus from the workforce

Well, it’s happening. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, four million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021, alone. The highest departures are among the 30-45 career professionals with the 20-25 being the second highest.

Employees are leaving for many different reasons.

They are leaving the company. They are disappointed with how the company has treated them during the pandemic. Many companies have focused more on profits than the people who help them make the profits, and now they are facing the consequences.

They are leaving their manager. Even if the company might be great, but their manager has not been supportive or concerned about the impact that COVID has on the mental and physical health of the people they manage.

They are leaving the job. The role they once loved has changed and, with going remote, the responsibilities may have grown while growth opportunities have diminished.

If you have left your job or if you are thinking about doing so, it is essential that you assess the factors that are driving you to leave. The pandemic may have been the catalyst to help you make your decision, but there’s always something deeper going on. Digging into your unique “something deeper” is essential for helping you move forward. If you don’t know the “why” of such a big decision, how will you know if the next job you find is the right one?

To begin understanding your “why,” answer the questions below:

About the company:

  1. What is it like to work there?
  2. What is the culture like?
  3. Looking at your answers to #1 and #2 above: What is a match for who you are and what is not?

About the manager:

  1. How is their management style congruent with how you like to be managed, and how is it not?
  2. In what ways do they support you in your professional development, and how do they not?
  3. How do they care about your overall well-being, and how do they not?

About the job:

  1. When you think back when you were first hired or promoted into the most recent role, why were you excited about it?
  2. What did you hope to learn, and did you learn it?
  3. In what ways do you find your role challenging, rewarding, or demanding… and in what ways do you not?

Your answers to these questions can help you define what you are looking for in your next role.

When we cut to the chase, every theme of the “Great Resignation” points to the fact that employees are leaving their jobs because they are not happy. They want something else that their existing company, job, and manager are not able to provide.

If you have left or are thinking of leaving, make sure you clearly understand your reasons why. Your answers to the questions above will help you create the path to a new position that will fulfill you in the ways that you need.

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Having trouble finding a job? This might be why.

How to find the right job for you

Having trouble finding a job? This might be why.

October 18, 2021

Are you struggling to find a job?

Not just any job… the right job. The job where you’ll be happy, with a company whose culture fits you well, and where you can see yourself staying for the long haul?

You, my friend, are not looking for a job; you’re looking for the next step in your career. And unfortunately, it’s no surprise that you’re struggling.

The process of looking for a job is convoluted and bottlenecked. Almost every job seeker goes to the same big places to post their resume and look for jobs, and almost every company goes to that same place to filter through the chaos in search of that one perfect person who checks all the boxes on their job listing.

Unfortunately, this will stay as it is so long as everyone keeps doing what they’re doing.

I think it’s interesting that both job seekers and companies with job openings all go through this same process over and over, even though it’s convoluted and difficult to work with. I recently wrote an article addressing how companies could do things differently.

I’m wondering… did you know that you have options?

Posting to LinkedIn and the common job boards is just one way to try and find a job. But since most other people use that same process, it’s going to be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to stand out.

So, what can you do instead? You can tap the hidden job market.

This means you’re going to have to do something active rather than passive.

When you distribute copies of your resume to LinkedIn, job boards, and directly to companies, you’re actually being very passive. It’s a lot like throwing your resume into a huge haystack of resumes and hoping the person reaching in just happens to grab yours.

If you really want the right job, you’re going to have to get active. When you actively job search, the people who have a job opening that fits you will already know about you. They won’t reach into the haystack; instead, they’ll download your resume from their email, or even just pick it up off their desk.

What is the “active” action that will make that happen? You’re going to have to talk to people.

Here’s the thing: The best jobs are found through your network.

It’s ok if you don’t have one yet, or you do but you’ve let it languish. We all need to build our networks, and then we need to maintain them.

If you’re looking for the right job right now, the best thing you can do is reach out to your network. Get connected and stay connected.

If your next question is, “But what do I say?” I’ve got you covered! Here are some of my recent articles that will help you be strategic in how you connect with your network:

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Solve the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

Solving the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

Solve the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New Approach

October 4, 2021

Solving the Hidden Talent Shortage with a New ApproachAccording to the Manpower Group, almost 70% of employers report that they cannot find the people with skills they need. (Manpower Group, 2020, The Talent Shortage.) In the U.S., employer intentions to bring on workers is at a ten-year high. (Manpower Group report, Q4 2021)

At the same time, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 5.2 in August 2021.(Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 3, 2021, The Employment Situation – August 2021)

In short: There are jobs available, and there are plenty of people looking for those jobs.

So, what’s the problem? The operative word is “talent.” There are plenty of people who are looking for jobs. But companies struggle to connect with the job seekers who have the right skills and experience to fill the open roles.

I believe this challenge exists because companies are using old ways to find new talent.

Thanks to improved technology and changes that we’ve need to make around the globe to adjust for a global pandemic, the use of video interviews and social media outlets to drive recruiting strategies has increased. But where companies find the talent to interview has not changed.

Until companies start approaching the talent pool from a different direction, finding the right talent to fill open roles will continue to be a challenge.

The strategies for finding talent that companies typically use are no longer working. To get ahead of the trend, companies need to become proactive not reactive in finding talent, and they need to bring in more of a human touch to the process.

There are some nuances to this problem that I want to address: It starts with where companies are looking for talent, but also includes what they are looking for from within the talent pool.

First, companies habitually look for talent when the position is ready to be filled. They open the position and only then do they hit up LinkedIn and other online platforms. They work their way through the pile of unknown talent via resumes from people they’ve not yet met. Bigger companies may even filter those resumes with technology using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which removes any sense of the human behind the words.

But what if companies reversed this process?

What if they started with the pool of talent and got to know the people interested in working with them… and at the same time, gave those people an opportunity to get to know the company and its culture better?

What I’m suggesting here is that companies could build their own Hidden Talent Network where they can gather the pool of interested job seekers before the job is open.

This would allow the companies to address the second nuance that I mentioned above: Changing what they are looking for from that talent.

Typically, companies look for ideal candidates who already have everything that is listed on the job description. That means they miss one key factor: the candidate’s potential.

Finding the right person for a job isn’t just about whether they’ve got all the boxes checked. It’s also about their potential to check more boxes as they grow with the company.

Why does this matter? Turnover is expensive!

It can cost a U.S. company $4000 or more to hire one employee, and it can take up to 52 days to fill a position. (Toggl.com) If you hire someone who doesn’t stay, the company starts the process again, losing more money and time in the process.

Therefore, the goal should not be to hire someone who checks all the boxes in the job description; rather, hire someone who has the potential to check those boxes and much more. Hire someone who envisions themselves staying with your company for the long term, and who you already know fits the culture.

Building your own Hidden Talent Network would help you do this. It provides you with a pool of people that you already know, and who have gotten to know your company as well. Before the job is even open, you can identify the people who tick most of the boxes and show potential to grow with your company. You’ll shorten the time to hire and potentially reduce how much money it costs to find them.

So how do you build a Hidden Talent Network? Slowly, over time, by scouting talent and giving the talent the opportunity to scout you.

For example, you could host talent events where you can speak to them in groups about where your company is going. In what ways is it growing and what types of talent do you hope to be looking for in the future? Talk about your organizational culture and what you value. This would also be a great time to set expectations: What can job seekers expect during your hiring process? Which skills and qualifications are mandatory? What can they do to be an even better fit as the anticipated jobs come open?

Transparency on your part will help you find the right people and get the conversations started early.

From all the years that I’ve spent working with job seekers to help them find the right positions that will help them build a career for themselves, the one thing that I’ve consistently seen is that the best jobs are found through the hidden job market.

That “hidden job market” is something that a job seeker builds for themselves by making connections with the companies that they are interested in working with.

Companies could do this as well by making it easier for individuals to connect with them and speeding up the whole job placement experience for everyone involved. It could also provide them with an untapped market of talent that they could onboard quickly.

The world has changed and continues to do so. If companies want to get the best talent, they’ll need to change with it. The global pandemic has made us all more human. Connection matters more to us. The companies that are embracing this humanness are the ones that will find the best people.

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3 Easy Tips to Leave a First and Lasting Impression

How to leave a great first impression

3 Easy Tips to Leave a First and Lasting Impression

September 20, 2021

How to leave a great first impression

I have been working in the career field for over 20 years helping early-, mid-, and late-career professionals in job transition. Networking is always a topic of discussion since it is a key success factor in finding the right job! My goal is to make sure my clients understand how to network effectively and see where they might need some guidance.

I start with my definition of networking, which is: building relationships with people who can provide you with information, advice, and contacts. You want to leave a favorable impression with those you meet so that if they hear about a position that is not published, they will let you know.

It’s important that my clients and I have a mutual understanding of the definition of networking. I’ve noticed that some job seekers think networking is all about them. They tell everyone they are looking for a job and ask everyone to let them know if they hear of any jobs that would be good fit.

That does not sound like building relationships. Rather, it’s a transactional relationship focused on one purpose: Finding a job!

That isn’t how networking operates. It leaves a negative impression because it’s one-sided… all take and no give.

If you want to leave a favorable impression with people you meet, you need to start by focusing on the other person first.

Here are three simple steps to get you started:

Tip #1: Use their name at least 3 times: At the beginning, middle and end of the conversation.

Start by using it as you are introduced: “Jayne, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to me.” If their name is difficult to pronounce, this is your opportunity to ask: “Can you please pronounce your name again. I want to make sure I am saying it correctly.” This is a very gracious way of respecting them and people always appreciate it.

Mention their name again during your conversation and most importantly, use it at the end: “Jayne, I appreciate your insights today and I intend to follow up with many of your suggestions. Thank you!”

In addition to helping you build a respectful connection with them, you’re almost guaranteed to remember their name in the future because you’ve done the repetitive work to get it into your memory.

Tip #2: Show interest in the other person by asking questions. You can ask them what they do for work and what they like about their job. You can take it even further and ask how and why they entered their field. Invite them to go into a little bit of detail by asking questions like, “Can you tell me a little more about that?” Resist the urge to chime in or comment right away. Use this as an opportunity to practice listening as you give them the space to tell their story before you bring the conversation around to you.

Tip #3:  Follow up twice! First, send them a note of appreciation either by email or with a handwritten note. Mention some of the highlights of the conversation, which will show that you were listening and also remind them of what you talked about.

Then follow up again a couple of weeks later. Perhaps you can send them an article related to something that they mentioned when you first met. You could also give them an update on your job search.

Wait – job search? YES! You do get to tell them about your job search. Just don’t start there, and don’t let that be the only thing you talk about.

When you make it about them, they’ll remember you and be more willing to help you.

Leaving a first and last impression with people you meet might take a bit of effort and awareness on your part. Trusts me… in the end, it is worth it!

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3 Things I Learned from the Students at the BU Questrom School of Business

College Students

3 Things I Learned from the Students at the BU Questrom School of Business

September 6, 2021

College StudentsOver the last six months I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work as a Career Coach with the undergraduate students at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University. During this time, I’ve helped them write resumes and cover letters, negotiate offers, and develop networking strategies.

When I think of what I’ve learned about them, three words come to mind:

💪 Resilience

🙏 Appreciation

🤨 Determination

Resilience is the ability to recover quicky from difficult situations.

These students entered college expecting it to be a fun and four years. They anticipated, meeting new friends, interacting with professors, and joining clubs to meet new people and develop leadership skills in preparation for their future. It is often some of the best time in a person’s life.

Then suddenly Covid hits.

Imagine being in your last year of college when you’re told that you have to take all your classes online. All of your college activities either goes virtual or gets cancelled.

As I worked with the students, I noticed that I didn’t sense any major disappointment or residual challenges. They had adapted to these unexpected changes with resilience!

Appreciation is feeling or showing gratitude.

The second thing I learned about the students (to be honest, I was surprised!) was how appreciative they were about my help. After our meetings, they all thanked me. I received many comments about how helpful it was to them. Many sent me follow-up emails thanking me again for my time and mentioned specifically how I helped them in our meeting.

Students continued to follow up with me to let me know how they did in the interview, and how they used my advice. I’m excited to see them fostering these important behaviors early in their careers!

Determination is processing or displaying resolve.

The last thing that I’ve learned from the students is they never give up. Questrom students are known to be smart, go-getters, competitive, and high achievers. They are expected to have high GPAs upon graduation.

But not all students entering their last year have that expected high GPA so they struggle to remain competitive, and they know it. Instead of accepting their situation, they met with me to talk over their plan to get it higher.

There are many reasons why their GPA might be low, yet I never heard any student use their specific situation as an excuse. Instead, they wanted to go over their plan and get feedback about what I thought. They were open to my additional suggestions that could help them remain competitive. Every single one of them was determined to graduate with a high GPA!

My experience over the last six months has been so rewarding. I feel honored to have been able to use my experience in career management to help the BU Questrom students at a pivotal time in their lives.

I’m looking forward getting to know the incoming seniors. I know that I will continue to learn about them, and I am looking forward to them continuing to surprise me!

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