Marilyn Feldstein, M.P.A., MBTI, PHR, is the owner of Career Choices Unlimited, a career coaching firm she established in 2000 after leaving a corporate career. Feldstein is a certified Job and Career Transition Coach who has helped hundreds of people find new jobs or advance their careers. She believes that networking is the most important career skill you’ll ever master. So much so that she delivers workshops on networking dozens of times a year. She was the speaker at the August 19 meeting of the CareerSource Northeast Florida Professional Network., where she helped attendees learn how to expand their network in 30 minutes or less.
Feldstein says most job seekers struggle with networking. “We all have a deep need to feel connected with other people,” Feldstein says. “But we also have a deep fear of rejection. That’s what keeps some of us – even those who are successful and confident – from making the effort to get out and meet new people.” Feldstein is a self-taught networker who built a system of meeting and connecting with people out of necessity. She’s an introvert (something you’d never know when you meet her at an event) and the idea of entering a room of strangers was terrifying to her at one time.
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“Everyone’s nervous about meeting new people,” she says. “We’re worried that we won’t know what to say; we’re worried about looking foolish.” Feldstein’s presentation will focus on two skills she uses to transform a career transition: meeting and connecting with new people and doing informational interviews. I’ve written about informational interviews before, and how a 20 or 30-minute, informal meeting can give you advice, information and valuable job leads. Feldstein coaches her clients on how to find contacts in any company and ask for a meeting. “Many times, my clients hear that they’re the only candidate who reaches out personally. They almost always get a meeting; people are intrigued by someone with the confidence to ask for a face-to-face conversation.”
Feldstein says that if someone can schedule six to twelve meetings, she guarantees transformational change. She cites the case of an introverted client who dreaded the process, but made a good faith effort to set six informational interviews. Although the intent of an informational interview is not the same as a job interview, her client received an offer in her third meeting. She didn’t accept it, but her confidence level soared, and she went on to find a great new position.
The key to networking is to take a few minutes to find what you have in common. It might be your industry connections, your hobbies, or where you went to school. Once you find that connection, you’re no longer strangers, and even that small commonality can make a big difference. In his book Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t, Jeffrey Pfeffer writes: “Participants in an experiment who believed that they shared a birthday with another person were almost twice as likely to read an eight-page English essay and provide a one-page critique the next day. In a second study, people who believed they shared the same first name as the requestor donated twice as money when asked to give to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.” Finding common ground with new people is a powerful way to increase your visibility and influence, and it only takes a few hours each week to build a strong network.
Marilyn Feldstein presents techniques that work and lets her audience practice them on one another. You can find out more about her workshops and coaching here.