Sunday, 12 March 2017

3 Simple Steps to a Stand-Out Cover Letter

I know I probably shouldn’t write another post extolling the virtues of Cover Letters but I can’t help myself.  I still see people fumbling this great opportunity to gain a job application advantage!

A Cover Letter – well-crafted and thoughtfully written with a little dash of pizzazz – can give you a huge jump on the competition. 

So long as you DON’T use it to merely rehash the resume!

And… DO use it as a means of jumping the queue of competitors by catapulting you into virtual interview mode … before you even GET the interview!

After spending 15 years defining and refining what works in Cover Letters for 1000’s of resume/career transition clients, here’s my secret sauce for catching – and holding – the employer’s eye!

1)      Make a “Pitch” for you in this job! 
o   List the 3-5 TOP benefits (and this is key: as they relate to the posting) of hiring you!  Answer the Why You for this Job question now, instead of waiting for the interview.  You know it’s always one of the main questions, so impress them NOW!

2)      Make it “Sing” to the posting!

o   The Posting IS your bible.  You must dissect it, analyze chapter and verse, then compare it back to your own experience, knowledge and talents! Find stuff that really jumps off the page and write it strong! Avoid “resume speak” … the blah blah blah, uninspired jargon most postings are made of. Figure out a compelling way to say something memorable (and job-relevant) about you so the reader can’t wait to meet you.

    3)   “Personalize” it!
o   Explain why you want the job.  Imbue a sense of your genuine friendliness and personality into your words so the reader feels they’re meeting you.  The resume is written in a different style and this is your chance to transmit a sense of you and what makes you tick before they meet you. So make it count!  

So those are the 3 main things to do when writing a stand-out cover letter. 

And here are a few more final touches to consider while polishing and fine-tuning your shiny new cover letter. 

Shift your Perspective!

  • When composing, put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes! Are you addressing the biggest “asks” of the job posting?  The better you can articulate the benefits of “buying” you, the more likely you’ll make it to the next stage.
  • Does what you’ve written make YOU want to pick up the phone and call you?   If not, you need to take another run at it. 
Presentation, presentation, presentation!

That extra sumthin sumthin that makes it easy on the eye.  White space, yes, but not too much.  Prose sections, yes, but not just prose. You can quickly lose a gem in an undifferentiated blanket of prose.  Bullets and italics are your friends.  So make it “stand out” in format, as well as in content.

  • Use bullets to make your “Pitch” pop!
  • Incorporate a few quotes from personnel evaluations or letters of recommendation.
  • Add a few pertinent accomplishment statements.
  • Categorize your skills – break ‘em down into components of the whole to prove you have equivalent experience, even if you don’t have a formal piece of paper!
  • Anticipate potential “bombs” that could lead to assumptions that, without an explanation, might be leapt to incorrectly! 
Size Matters

Despite what everyone (and I do mean everyone, because I hear this from clients every day), there is no absolute rule about cover letters being “no more than 1 page”.  When it comes to resumes, I often write 3-4 pages.  And Executive, C-Level and government resumes are often 3-4 pages!  

The same goes for cover letters – don’t feel confined to 1 page if you have more to say that can’t really fit properly in a resume.  Especially when you’re making a career change or adjustment. I’m convinced I’ve gotten certain interviews, myself, because the cover letter -- at 2 pages -- explained something about me that a resume simply couldn’t.

Looks Count, Too

So always, always, always: edit and proofread multiple times.  Read it out loud.  You’ll often hear an error before you see one, especially after you’ve been poring over the same document for days on end!

There, that’s it!  Not too difficult, huh?  So now … all you have to do is sit back and wait for the phone to ring!

If you’d like to see a couple of sample cover letters, please email me and I’ll send them along.


My talent lies in deconstructing your experience (from work and life) then reinventing the Lego pieces into a newer, more satisfying design, through the delivery of high quality, personalized service that consistently hits its mark. If you’d like to talk about your future career moves, call me for a FREE 30 minute consult!

Follow Me on TwitterLinkedIn and my Blog

COMING SOON! My new e-book: Putting Your Passions to Work - Using Self-Directed Internships and Strategic Volunteering to Design and Grow the Career of your Dreams!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Apoquel - Lifesaver or Life-TAKER?

Beware Apoquel: Touted Dog Itch Cure-All?

or ... Immune System Killer?

(I realize this is a complete departure from my typical subject matter, but I think it’s important information for all of us who love dogs.)

My Story:  Christmas 2016; got Apoquel from new vet on Dec. 23rd.  After two days, I was so disturbed by the changes in my dog (different personality, very “sad looking”, doing weird behaviors with other people – mopey, lethargic – and just not himself).  Very subjective, I know, but dog-owners who are plugged into their pets (which I am) will trust I wasn’t imagining things.

After one day of 2 pills as prescribed, I cut back down to 1 pill/day, then ½ of that pill, then waiting till the pill seemed to be stopping its effect – which it did… stop him scratching! I’ll give it that. But at far too great a price! Then I stopped entirely. 

Total number of pills given over 2.5 days:  3.5. 

And so I was shocked when, about 24 hrs after the last dose, Tango, my mini Aussie Shepherd X and beloved rescue dog, had a seizure.  A short (tonic, I now see it’s called or petit mal) seizure. He didn’t lose consciousness, he just kind of went stiff for about 10 seconds, bicycled his legs a bit, then looked really surprised as he got up, shakily, but shook it off almost right away.

However, an hour later, he had another one and, over the next 13 hours, he had 3 more. 

I watched him like a hawk for the next few days and, luckily, that was it and he hasn’t had any since.

Just to be clear, prior to this, he’d never had one in the 10 years I’ve had him.

So, I’m certain it was the Apoquel!

The vet had given me some antibiotics, as well, but I hadn’t given him any yet. And he’d tried to get me to take some flea meds, too, but I said “no”.  My dog is very sensitive to many meds, including flea meds and vaccines, which I told the vet. Though I could tell he wasn’t really taking it seriously, as I find so many mainstream vets don’t.  Which really ticks me off, as I’m the best expert on my pet and I think vets should be more open to listening!

So, here are a few resources I found during my exhaustive research-fest, conducted over the next 2 days (so much for my Christmas vacation – I literally read over 200 submissions).  All websites are actually either owned or contributed to by Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs or VMDs) and feature real life experiences – some presented in a forum-like format – from caring pet owners.

·   Extensive forum with a few good and many bad Apoquel reports.
·  From another vet where I reviewed a lot of dog-owner feedback posts.
·  Online magazine I won’t ever be without, now… fantastic advice and articles!

Possible (mostly) After-Effects of Apoquel

One of the things that showed up frequently in people’s submissions was strange, unexplained tumors -- both benign and cancerous -- that seemed to pop up suddenly in Apoquel-dosed dogs. 

Which makes sense, if you think logically about it, as the drug admittedly shuts down the dog’s immune system!

My own experience around this stems from a time, about a decade ago, when my brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was cresting into Stage 4 (the last stage).  To cure him, he was put into a totally germ-free environment – one which required all who entered it to do the radiation suit up thing because he was, for all intents and purposes, in quarantine – and he had to stay there for 6 weeks while they took his immune system down to nothing, then slowly built it back up again.   

But, sadly, our dogs have no such “isolation unit” to live in while they’re on Apoquel! No, they’re out and about putting their furry little noses into all the same things they did when they weren’t on Apoquel!  And I'm terribly afraid that it’s putting many of them in harm’s way!

Here’s an article from Dogs Naturally Magazine that explains it more completely:

Apoquel Stops Life-Sustaining JAKs

“Apoquel’s mechanism is to interrupt JAKs and prevent them from working.  Without JAKs your dog’s immune system, along with other systems, cannot function correctly.

·    JAK1 is vital for the constant surveillance within your dog’s body to find and destroy abnormal cells that have become cancerous before they form tumors.
·    JAK1 also is an imperative messenger necessary for destroying invading parasites, fungi, bacteria and viruses.
·    JAK2 is central to the production of bone marrow stem cells that then become red and white blood cells and platelets.

Your dog’s antibody system (B cells) and its killer-cell system (T cells) need JAK3 in order to work well. These JAKs all talk to each other and share information to keep your dog’s body healthy.  So you can see that by preventing JAKs from working, Apoquel seriously undermines your dog’s immune system.” 

This was an eye-opener for me!  And, bottomline, I really don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to get this:  If something wipes out your immune system, it’s not good for you.  And while it might stop the itching, the price on a body’s health (pet or human) is too high to warrant using it!

By the way, the majority of the folks in the Apoquel forums listed above found that their dog’s itchiness returned as soon as they took them off the drug.    

So if Apoquel is Out, What CAN I do to Help Combat my Dog’s Itch?

Most vets lean towards allergies, in one form or another, as to the source of your pooch’s itch!  But it can cost mega dollars and take multiple tests with pretty marginal results to even get any kind of useful result.  And even if you can find an allergy to pin it on, solving that itch doesn’t really get much easier.  Steroids is a popular vet remedy.  But, over time, they can compromise a number of vital organs and most vets agree they aren’t advisable long term. 

What it has boiled down to for me is that, ultimately, many itchy dogs have – or develop from antibiotics and other medications -- a yeast problem. 

An oldie but a goodie is simple Apple Cider Vinegar (though it has to be the kind with the “mother” – go look it up! Do I have to do all the work around here? JK ;)  Umpteen resources I’ve read, recommended it as a simple, easy and inexpensive solution for yeast and itchy issues.  You can dilute it and put it in a  spray bottle, pour in the bath and put it in the dog’s food or water bowl.  Supposed to work well for deterring fleas, as well, as it changes the skin’s pH, making it inhospitable to bugs.  

In the olden days, my little Scottish mother used to swear by vinegar for cleaning.  It’s a known bacteria, mold and germ killer and many more holistic folks use it for cleaning their homes, kitchen counters, windows and toilet bowls.  

Sometimes the old-fashioned remedies really do work!

And here’s a new take on an ancient product that seems to be – like yoga – growing in popularity! It has made a huge difference in my dog’s itchiness since my marathon research session over Christmas and, surprisingly -- like Mikey -- he actually likes it!

Excerpts from:  So Long Yeast, Hello Kefir! by VMD and author, Deva Khalsa

“…pet foods can contain up to 70% carbohydrates. These carbs are broken down to sugars, which then fuel the yeast in your pets’ bodies!”

“Meet kefir. These dairy or water-based grains have a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They provide a wide variety of probiotic organisms and have super awesome healing qualities.”

“Pronounced “kah-fear!” according to the folk of the Caucasian Mountains, this “grain of life” is similar in appearance to regular yogurt, however has a way bigger engine under its hood!"

“Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt such as Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body.”

Since reading this, my dog has been on a daily dose of Kefir and (most days also) yogurt, something we used to eat quite regularly but have dropped off on, for some reason, over the past few years.  So I’m eating it again more now, too.  And I really like the Kefir as I prefer the more tangy, old-fashioned yogurt flavor and that’s what Kefir tastes like!  So I mix them together for my dog if he’s not interested in the Kefir alone.  But quite often he’ll just lick it on down, all by itself! 

You know, I have to wonder sometimes… our kids are all suffering from allergies that my generation rarely experience. And complaints like leaky gut syndrome and realizing a need to fix your ‘gut biome’ are becoming more common place. 

And for us humans (because we aren’t so different from our pets, let’s face it!), I’d recommend checking out this CBC Nature of Things episode:  “It Takes Guts” which is studying the idea that obesity and many other modern day ailments may actually stem from a marked decrease over the past few decades in the multitude of natural flora found in our intestines.

"Microbes help us digest food, harvest calories, provide us with energy, produce crucial vitamins, regulate appetite, protect our immune system and fend off the bad guys.  But because of our modern lifestyles, including a highly processed Western diet and overuse of antibiotics, some of the species of bacteria that once lived in our gut are on the verge of extinction."

Could your Pet have Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Consider this (another article from the Dogs Naturally Magazine) as an option before putting your pet on this scary drug, on which way too little study has been done to determine its long term side effects.

If it were to be given to humans, I’m positive we would have banned it by now but because our poor pooches can’t complain verbally and 1 in 4 people come to vets due to itchiness, it’s just a gigantic cash cow for vet pharma.  And we all know how much big pharma likes cash!

They know we want to “heal” our pets and will spend almost anything to do it.  Oh, and the 1 month supply for my 22lb dog was $100.  The vet, himself, warned me it was (his words) very pricey.   search results for further articles on subject on same site


I am not a vet nor a doctor of any kind. 

I am merely a devoted pet and animal lover who researches everything pretty much in my life.  It’s a curse!  But I think it may have saved my dog from a future of possible cancers and certain seizures had I’d kept him on the drug for any length of time.

Yeast isn’t always the culprit!

And there are other reasons dogs get itchy; I’m well aware of that. And yeast isn’t always in evidence, though it often progresses to that stage, if the itchiness is long-standing.  I’m just trying to give you some “cheap” ideas (ie. Kefir and yogurt and apple cider vinegar) to try first.  And see if it helps, then work up to expensive, often

Pharmaceutical Companies will likely discredit me!

And I’m not doing this to incite any ire from big vet pharma but I feel we have to share our intel with each other which is why I’m breaking ranks here in LinkedIn to share something that may not have much to do with why people typically read LinkedIn Pulse.  But I bet a bunch of you have itchy dogs out there and I just wanted to give you the chance to research this product yourself before subjecting your pooch to this potentially life-threatening “itch cure-all”!

But this is what happens when you “think” you’re going to write another blog subject when, on the same morning, you hear a radio vet touting the “joys” of Apoquel!

Here’s a list of the favourite websites/resources I found during my Apoquel take-down research sessions, in case you want to bookmark any of them for future reference:   long forum with some good and many bad Apoquel reports.  online magazine I won’t ever be without now… fantastic advice and articles!   another great resource and the vet is in Ottawa, for my fellow Canadians.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share what you’ve done to help your pets with this pervasive and frustrating condition! 

And, if you’re looking for a Career Coach or Resume Writer (my usual subject matter), feel free to contact me.  Especially if you’re a devoted pet lover, like me!  I always get along great with Animal Lovers!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

5 Steps to Building a Kick-A** Mentorship Team

There’s a current trend for younger workers to wistfully yearn for mentorship from their employers and bosses.  And it’s a situation most employers, HR Managers and others in organizational power, may try their best to sidestep.  But, before you cast those folks in your withering glare for being mean or selfish, don’t be too quick to judge. 

Our world is rushing by at breakneck speed.  Workload overwhelm is reportedly affecting 85% of the workforce.  I hear stories about it every day in my Career Transition Coaching practice, as I assist people across Canada to find relief or affect change in their day-to-day work.  About 5 years ago, I identified this growing trend towards overwork and overwhelm in the Canadian workplace (and those of other G8 countries) and have now dubbed it “The Squeeze”, as it is sucking the life out of so many employees in our working population.

It’s all part of the doing more with less work environment spawned by rampant and (in most cases) ill-conceived “restructuring” activities our working public is struggling to survive! 

As a result, with so much competition for so few positions, many employees are not getting well-deserved promotions, or assistance to grow the essential skills/knowledge needed to make the leap.  Hence, the dearth of energetic mentors for not only our young and eager Millennials, but for employees of all ages and professions.

Part of the problem in delivering competent mentoring or “informal professional development” is that, in pre-Squeeze days, we used to have more time to develop and teach people at work. Things went through cycles, sometimes hectic and deadline-driven, but other times we’d often experience an in-between lull.  A time to catch our breaths and catch up on work that had been delayed or postponed during the busy time. 

These down-times were often when more of the internal skills and knowledge building took place.  I call it water-cooler time… and it’s something the Squeeze has zapped out of the average working day.  Now, so many of us are skipping lunches and breaks, working overtime or at home on weekends and evenings to catch up.  This proverbial hamster in the wheel syndrome has reached epidemic proportions.  Which leaves scant little time for any informal mentoring or training. 

And we mustn’t forget our ever-present technology.  More and more we hear how technology is distracting us, impacting our productivity and making it difficult for us to concentrate and focus.  This also adds a layer of influence at work that depletes our mind-space for sitting down with co-workers, colleagues and junior personnel to share and cross-train in a more relaxed manner.

With all this running around and trying to keep up, Managers and Supervisors are also under the gun.  And few have time to devote to mentoring or developing their teams.  Many employers would be happiest if their staff could just train themselves and get on with it.  But that’s a pretty unrealistic expectation.

… which brings me back to the discussion at hand:  MentorsAnd how to find them!

How the heck, in this time-strapped workplace, can you find someone willing to devote their precious time to help you navigate this confusing work terrain? 

Well, I always say if one is good, three or four would be better!  So why not apply that concept to Mentoring? 

Here’s my 5 step plan to start building a multi-member Mentorship Team that will propel you to greater career heights. 

Do your homework…

1)    CLEARLY DEFINE what it is you want to learn (and this can be the most difficult part so don’t give up if you struggle with it.  This is something you will be doing for the rest of your life, so you might as well get used to it.  It’s what builds strong decision-makers and employees who are in high demand!)
·      Make a Clear, Targeted and Specific List:  figure out various areas of expertise you need to develop and apply in real-life/work situations. 
o   You might check with your HR department or supervisors/bosses.  This may lead you to someone you might like to ask to be on your mentorship team but don’t assume just because you asked them for ideas, that they’re the right person to mentor you.
·      Use the internet to do research and, if you find some inexpensive or free learning you can access on your own, DO THAT!  Anyone you approach afterwards will be extra impressed that you put in the extra effort before taking up their time asking rudimentary questions.
·      Be on the lookout for co-workers, contacts and even LinkedIn connections that might fit the bill.  Pretend you’re filling a board of directors for your most important endeavour:  YOU!

Then leap into action…

2)      Spread the love around! 
·      Since one is not enough, gradually, after researching, approach a few potential mentor candidates. 
·      Request a brief meeting.  Be respectful and make it ultra-clear you only want 10-20 minutes of this very busy person’s time.
·      Invite them for coffee and insist on paying! 
·      Prepare an agenda and send them a point form email outlining what you’d like to discuss ahead of time (a day or two is good).
·      Don’t ask if they’ll be your mentor just yet.  Wait until you’ve had a couple of meetings.  Build the relationship. And try to make it valuable to them, as well.
·      Show them “why” they should want to be your mentor!
·      BONUS: once you’ve cemented a few excellent mentors to your team, and they’re impressed by your respectful approach, they’re likely to start suggesting people you should meet and talk to!  It’s like they hand great mentors to you on a silver platter.  And who wouldn’t love that?

It takes two to make a relationship work…

3)   Be Considerate and Generous (in other words, when you get a little, give a little back) – in business lingo that means polite and professional. And when you do get some help reciprocate in some way.  Most importantly, treat your mentor with the utmost respect, especially when it comes to their time.  Remember:  since everyone is so crazy busy these days, the kind of people you want to advise you are likely to be even more in demand than most.
·      If they give you homework, make sure you do it and then, ideally, tell them how you were able to apply it into your life or work at your next meeting, or in an email. And don’t forget to take this opportunity to thank them for their advice. (This will rack up Brownie points like you won’t believe!)

Keep the ball rolling…

4)    Be prepared!  Plan and prepare your agenda. Treat your mentorship sessions like a business consultant meeting.  And keep it direct, to the point and as brief as possible.
·      If you’re nervous--which can be a natural offshoot of sitting down with someone you may see as an authority figure or decision-maker in your organization—practice what you’re going to say. 
o   Stick to the agreed-upon timeframe, even if you have a few more questions to ask.  Your mentor-to-be will appreciate you sticking to your word! 

Maintain a professional demeanor…

5)   Keep it Strictly Business – While it’s okay to share a bit about your personal life, try not to stray too far into that territory.  A mentor doesn’t mean “friend.”  And, as harsh as that may sound – and friendship “could” develop over time (stranger things have happened) – for now, keep it strictly business. 

By approaching potential mentors this way you demonstrate 4 equally impressive work traits and qualities that employers, managers and influential people (if they’re smart) look for in highly desirable candidates.

1. Initiative-Taking
2. Personal Responsibility
3. Critical Thinking 
4. Business Communication Skills

This creates a win-win arrangement.  But, you’re not looking for that (explicitly) now.  It’s just a great bonus, once you commit to the process and spend a bit of time tuning in to what soft and hard skills you want to add to your work-life palette.

My talent lies in deconstructing your experience (from work and life) then reinventing the Lego pieces into a newer, more satisfying design, through the delivery of high quality, personalized service that consistently hits its mark.  If you’d like to talk about your future career moves, call me for a FREE 30 minute consult!

Thought for the Day:
"Information is powerful!  But it’s what you DO with it that’s key. For my career change clients getting in front of people who have information valuable to their goals is as essential to them being successful as having a “transition” resume!  It takes a while to learn how to ask the best questions, but the rewards will propel you forward while helping you create more satisfying work, as well as life!"


COMING SOON!  My new e-book:  Putting Your Passions to Work - Using Self-Directed Internships and Strategic Volunteering to Design and Grow the Career of your Dreams!

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Best Career-Building Skill Ever …. Asking the Right Questions!

Because getting the right INFORMATION is the key to making sound decisions, when it comes to deciding on or developing your career. 

Therefore, learning how to ask the right questions will assist you in all aspects of career design, development and execution!

In addition to the most obvious:  job searching activities … it’s equally as essential for effective:
  1. Networking
  2. Informational Interviewing
  3. Researching companies, schooling, career directions and professions etc.
  4. Finding out about jobs while you have a job, both Internally or externally
  5. Career change or adjustment (highly essential usually for this kind of move)
  6. Pre-Retirement – to discover then secure more flexible but still income-earning opportunities
  7. Full on retirement, as well
  8. Volunteering opportunities that will enhance your career and/or life, in general
I could go on and on…. and I usually do with my clients who could stand to do more of these activities when they’re making decisions around their career futures.

Career and life go hand in hand so everything you do in your life to gather information, then make decisions carries over seamlessly into career development activities.

And while it may sound easy, I know from the hundreds of clients I see every year, that it actually isn’t. 

It takes time and self-awareness to develop this high level skill.  And once you get the gist of it, it will help you cut to the chase quickly, but politely, with people/contacts and allow you to navigate a huge subject field which can so easily go off track if you’re not steering the conversation adroitly.

And, to steer that conversation, it’s equally essential to know beforehand where you want to go.  With some flexibility to take some side-roads, should something interesting pop up along the way.

So, imagine you’re going on a road trip.  You’ve decided to drive to Las Vegas but there are many different routes you could take.  You pull out the old map (so much more fun than Mapquest) and research the many roads and states you could drive through enroute.  Then you probably do a bit more research online to figure out what cities you’d like to visit, then make a plan and go.

This is exactly what you want to do when starting an information gathering conversation with anyone. 

In essence, start having different types of conversations.

I had a client recently who was about to start her MA in a specific counselling area and was also looking for a new job.  During her interview preparation, I’d suggested she use the forthcoming degree thesis as a potential carrot for employers.  Given that this might give her a possible opportunity to align her, as yet, undecided study subject to the needs of her potential new employer could prove to be a win-win-win opportunity for her, the organization and those people the organization served.  

As our session unfolded, it became clear that she already was pursuing a certificate in another counselling discipline, around which she was very passionate.  It also turned out that she had, just the previous weekend, spent innumerable hours in the company of a principal from that very organization, while they commuted to attend a weekend workshop.  And, in the longterm, she was very interested in becoming an employee or associate of this organization.   

I asked if she’d discussed this win-win-win idea with the person in question but, unfortunately, it hadn't occurred to her.    

Oh no -- a missed opportunity?  Yes, maybe.  But it is never too late to turn it around!

I gave her a gentle nudge to reach out and ask those questions now. 

And I can hear you saying:  But if I don’t think of asking how can I get the information?

That’s where planning ahead and preparation comes in.  Here are a few ways you can take instant action, even if you haven’t quite figured out yet what your connection points are with a potential questionee.

1)      Prepare a 60 Second Sell (or elevator speech) that encapsulates a few of your key areas of expertise, interest and/or enquiry.  Obviously, you want to change this up for different avenues of enquiry.

2)      Sit down and look at the list of attendees, or exhibitors prior to heading out to a tradeshow, conference, workshop or any other networking-likely event.  Most of these events publish a list on their websites well before the date of the event.

3)      Ask for business cards from anyone you meet and -- this is KEY -- Follow-Up with them!

4)      Prepare questions and research as much as you can on the behind the scenes info related to this person (check out their LinkedIn profile, research their company’s website and do your due diligence to find as many “connection points” to YOU, as possible.  Or areas you’re good at, interested in, or seeking to develop!)

a.       Even if you have a quick Informational Interview with someone, it’s okay to ask if you might reach out to them again at a later date, if you have any more questions.  (In fact, it’s a great way to do Step 5…)

b.      It can also be a good idea to ask that person for a referral to someone else who may have some deeper or more relevant information for you as you move through your decision-making process.

5)      Maintain communication with anyone that you deem as having the potential to be a good connection for you now, or in the future.

a.       Build the connection by keeping in touch, or sending updates when you complete something they advised you to do.  Send a quick thank you email when they’ve passed you along to another colleague.  Reciprocate whenever possible and -- always always always -- offer to pay when you end up going for coffee!

This kind of awareness raising endeavor merely requires that you sit down every once in a while and “plan” a bit as to what you might say to people you encounter in your travels.

A simple “So where do you work?” or “What kind of work do you do?” can open up lines of conversation you never would have imagined.  You’ll be amazed at how few people really ask this with any kind of real interest.  And people also love to give advice so, if you can find a way to ask something that will make someone else feel good about that conversation, you’re more than half way to building a memorable moment for someone else!

Even if you’re not great on the spot, if you have your 60 second sell ready to go, then ask for their contact info, you really don’t have to say too much until the follow-up conversation, when you’ll have already prepared your questions and have mapped out what you want to ask.

All in all, this is a skill you can develop, just like your career, through a little trial and error and by just working on it until you get some traction. 

But thinking ahead is always going to be the prerequisite to having more substantial conversations and to building that muscle so you just naturally flow into this type of information gathering exchange no matter where you are or who you’re with.

So go on out there and make an effort to have more relevant conversations.  You never know what cool new thing you might learn!