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9 Secrets to Building Relationships Outside of the Office

9 Secrets to Building Relationships Outside of the Office

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    Today, I’m an election judge for the Maryland primary. Sure, you can say that I’m doing it because of my personal politics, but there is an added payoff: I’m going to meet hundreds of people that I’ve never seen before.

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    I work from home, so it can be hard for me to find ways to interact with real, live people — but I’d argue that many those of you with a commute have the same issue: outside of those people that you see every day, how often do you connect with anyone new? Online buddies don’t count, either. As valuable as an online connection may be, face-to-face conversations can be the fastest way to build a real relationship, whether you’re trying to sell something or get a date.

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    We get out of the habit of talking to new people fairly quickly, but it’s an important skill. New people bring innovation and possibilities to your attention. Even beyond the necessity of networking in order to help your career, making new friends can help keep you from stagnating, from sinking into the same routine day in and day out. There are a few actions you can take to improve your relationship-building skills.

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    1. Go to where the people are! Volunteer for a big event, attend a conference or join a club. While it’s possible to meet people hanging around the local coffee shop, it can be harder — your prospective contact may not be interested in interacting with anyone except the barista. However, at events and club activities, people show up ready to talk.
    2. Make eye contact. I ‘borrowed’ this technique from one of the Comfort Challenges in Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek”: Ferriss suggests spending two days when you make eye contact with people you encounter, from those you already know to those you see on the street. Beyond becoming comfortable with new people, this activity gives you an opportunity to make conversation, even if it starts out on the “What are you looking at?” level.
    3. Prepare an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a 30 second pitch, a description of your project, which I know sounds like more of a marketing skill than a relationship-builder. But being able to boil down who you are and what you do can jumpstart a conversation — especially if your pitch piques interest. Some people rely on elevator speeches that showcase what they can do for their new contacts, while others rely on pitches that demonstrate what a contact can do for them. Either way, it’s worth thinking about why you want to make new contacts, and including that information in your elevator pitch.
    4. Don’t limit your options. I know most of my fellow election judges are much older than me (60 seems to be the average age, even with me bringing it down), which isn’t the age group I have the most in common with. Just because I don’t have much in common with them, however, doesn’t mean that I should ignore them. Personally, I think it means I should talk to them more — I can learn more from someone with very different experiences.
    5. Carry business cards, or some other method of providing your contact information. Business cards aren’t necessary, but they do make life easier, especially if you want to give other people an easy method of staying in touch. Even a simple card with just your name, phone number and email address is worthwhile — your goal may not be to make connections for your employer, so using their cards could be less than ideal.
    6. Avoid wasting time. I know that I hate people that drone on and on about something I have no interest in. I feel like they’re wasting my time. I try to avoid doing it to anyone else, either. Instead, I make a point of holding a conversation — you know, that thing where all parties get a chance to talk — with a topic that is (hopefully) interesting to everyone concerned. A further caveat: I also always try to be genuine. It isn’t too hard to tell if someone isn’t and that can feel like just as much of a waste of time as a droner.
    7. Write down details. I forget names, dates and details regularly, so I make an effort to write things down. I find business cards are great for this sort of thing: if I have a person’s business card, I write on the back when and where I met them and why, along with relevant details. I also add this sort of information to the ‘notes’ field that most electronic address books offer.
    8. Follow up on your new connections. If you get a business card, a phone number or even a website, make a point of following up. Without any sort of follow up, that great connection that you just made will never see you again, which doesn’t make for a very effective relationship. And, if you said you were going to do something (pass along a name to a friend, email a link, etc.), just do it!
    9. Don’t stress. It’s okay if a few fishies get away. You don’t absolutely have to make every contact possible, and you certainly don’t have to maintain ongoing relationships with every person you meet. It’s not worth worrying about. Instead, try to focus on making the most of a small number of contacts, Even one new connection can be worthwhile, if you’re willing to devote some time to furthering the relationship.

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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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