Topics & Tools - May, 2005

Topics&Tools - Dec, 2005

Topics & Tools - Aug 2006

Topics & Tools - Jan 2007

Topics&Tools - April 2007

Topics & Tools - Feb 2008


Alan's Topics and Tools
January 2007

Happy New Year!

I find it hard to believe that another year has dawned, but here we are in 2007. I spent New Year's Eve with friends who are originally from Colombia, South America. When I arrived at their house, I noticed several small plates on the kitchen counter. Several individual grapes were arranged on each plate. "How interesting" I thought. "I wonder what the grapes are for?"

A few minutes before midnight, the hosts came out of the kitchen and gave each of the guests one of the plates of grapes. "Each of these plates holds twelve grapes" we were told. "One grape is for each month of the new year. You should eat the grapes just before midnight, making a wish as you eat each grape for each month of the new year."

I loved this tradition, and intend to repeat it in the future. My wish for each of you is that every month of 2007 fill each of your wishes!

in this issue
  • Networking for Success
  • Did I Just Say That?
  • Quoted in The Washington Post
  • ASTD International Conference & Exposition - 2007

  • Networking for Success

    Anyone who knows me is aware of how strongly I feel about the value of networking. Many of the best things that have happened in my professional life have been a result of maintaining strong professional and personal networks. It's not about using people! It's about being interested in others, being there for them when they need you, and keeping relationships strong.

    For many people, networking is an experience they dread. They attend professional events reluctantly, feeling like the proverbial wall flower as they nurse their diet soda. Haven't you ever envied the person who effortlessly glides about the room? They seem to know everyone, and everyone seems to want to talk to them. Here are some tips that will help the next time you attend a professional event:

    Have a Conversation Starter

    Starting a conversation with a stranger can be the hardest part of a networking situation. Using questions to get the other person talking makes it easier for you, and having a few "conversation starter" questions is a great idea. Most people tend to like to talk about themselves, so almost any general question (e.g. What do you do?) can be a good conversation starter. For example, you might ask the person what brings him or her to the event. Once you've started the conversation, be sure to keep connected by maintaining eye contact and showing with your body language that you're sincerely interested.

    Don't Launch Right Into Business

    After a long day at the office, most people aren't interested in immediately launching into a long business discussion. See if you can find common ground with the other person by asking about hobbies, recent vacations, where they went to school, etc. You're much more likely to start a conversation that will result in some kind of ongoing relationship if you keep the initial conversation relaxed and upbeat.

    Have an Exit Strategy

    You don't want to spend your entire evening tied up in conversation with just one person. However, how do you gracefully end the conversation so that you can meet others? Just as you should have a couple of good conversation starters, you should also have a couple of conversation enders. For example, "I've really enjoyed talking with you, but I don't want to tie up your entire evening. I'd love to chat with you more some other time."

    A Resource for More Information

    Lynne Waymon, of Waymon & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a true "guru" when it comes to networking. With her colleague Anne Baber she is co- author of Make Your Contacts Count. By going to her "Contacts Count" website using the link below, you'll find a number of free resources to help you improve your networking skills.

    Did I Just Say That?

    OfficeTeam, a global staffing service, recently sponsored a survey of more than 500 individuals working in office environments about the biggest job search blunders they had heard of or witnessed. Specifically, they were asked "What is the biggest mistake you’ve heard of someone making during his or her job search?" Here are some of the responses:

    • Someone tried to bribe me during the interview. She really wanted the job and asked how much she could pay me for it.
    • An applicant came in with his recruiter, and the recruiter answered the questions.
    • A job seeker didn't hang up the phone after calling about a job. I overheard everything he said, and it wasn't good.
    • When asked what he had been doing while unemployed, the applicant said "staying home and watching TV."
    • One woman immediately described her faults to the interviewer and mentioned days she would need to take off.
    • During an interview, when asked what his greatest faults were, an applicant gave too many answers. He kept going and going and going.
    • A job seeker wrote on her application, "My boss was a jerk so I quit."

    Quoted in The Washington Post

    While we're still on the topic of mistakes that applicants make in the job search process, I was quoted in The Washington Post recently in an article about interviewing skills.

    Incidentally, although the article says that I operate a "search firm," the focus of my business hasn't changed from providing clients with learning solutions. Follow the link below to read the full article.

    ASTD International Conference & Exposition - 2007

    I look forward each year to the annual ASTD International Conference & Exposition (ICE). This year's ICE will be held in Atlanta, Georgia from June 3- 6, with preconference workshops on June 2. I'm particularly excited about this year's ICE for two reasons.

    First, I was asked to serve on the program committee for this year's conference. Back in August I spent a few days with several colleagues at ASTD's headquarters office, where in small groups we reviewed the literally hundreds of session proposals. I never knew how many proposals are submitted each year for conference sessions, and the task of reviewing and deciding on the proposals is huge! I think the program for this year looks very strong.

    Second, I will be working again this year in the on-site Career Center at ICE. The Career Center was revived last year and was very successful. Marshall Brown, of Marshall Brown and Associates, is spearheading efforts for the Center again this year. "Lessons learned" from last year will be used to make the Career Center even better in 2007. In addition to the resume review and individual coaching services available last year, a mock interview service is being added this year. All services are offered at a modest cost, and a roster of career related workshops will be offered free of charge.

    If you're interested in attending ICE this year, make your decision soon! Some of the conference hotels are already full. You can see full conference details by using the link below to the official conference website.

    Alan De Back

    Alan De Back, Learning & Communications

    • Career Development
    • Management & Leadership Development
    • Communication Skills
    • Customer Service

    Quick Links...

    Alan De Back Website

    IWCC Training in Communications Website

    Washington Post Article: It's at First that You Succeed

    ASTD International Conference & Exposition - 2007

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