Networking: The Conversation

This is the time of year when many colleges are hosting events that will provide an opportunity to network, including career fairs, panel discussions or actual networking events. For those who are not in school, many cities have network-after-work events, workshops or conferences you might attend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you make the most of these opportunities.

  1. Know your audience. You might ask an employer a different question than a fellow student.Photo by Ambro
  2. Be tactful and professional. Last year at a holiday event I was having a conversation with a couple of people when a business owner, bent on getting a client, interrupted us, ignored me (which is not easy when I’m nearly 6’ tall) and launched into her spiel. Several minutes later she finally looked at me and said something by way greeting. (Can’t remember what, I was making a mental note to mention her in this blog.)
  3. Listen more than you talk and ask follow up questions. When you do speak try to weave in some things that will make you memorable. Perhaps your sister attended the same college as the person you’re speaking with. Maybe he’s a Raven’s fan—tough to find in Bengals’ country—and so are you. You might realize someone’s last name sounds familiar and discover her dad was your softball coach in high school.
  4. Share a little bit about yourself. This is a good place to use some of the components of your elevator pitch (what is unique about you, what you can contribute to an organization, what you know about the company) or to answer some of the questions you’ve memorized (see below). You might also talk about hobbies and non-work-related interests. Think dinner party/get together, not just professional events. I received some great advice about being published from a friend of my sister’s at a get-together, and afterward added that person as a Linkedin connection.
  5. Start with small talk. This might include weather, information about speakers scheduled for that evening, the event itself, sports (unless you are or you encounter a fanatic), news items, latest movies. This will help break the ice before you ask more in-depth questions, but avoid controversial topics if possible.
  6. Move into open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. When you walk away you want to have useful information. If you’ll be seeking work soon, make sure you know if their organization is hiring. If you need clients you should know if they have need of your services.

QUESTIONS

When you approach someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye and introduce yourself. Below are some questions you might ask or might be asked of you at a college networking event such as a reception with potential employers. 

College Event

  • What made you choose _____ University? When will you graduate?
  • What’s your major? Why did you choose that?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about your major?
  • If someone were to describe your school in one sentence what would he say?
  • How did you end up in this area (city)?
  • What organizations are you involved with on campus?
  • What was the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your organization? (e.g. sorority, fraternity, sports team or club, etc.)
  • What were you involved in while in college?
  • Do you have any hobbies or involvement outside of work?
  • Is your organization open to partnering with student groups for service projects?

The conversation might be a little bit different at a professional networking event, but these questions can also be asked of potential employers who are visiting your university.

Image by AmbroProfessional/Work Event

  • Where did you go to college?
  • How long have you been with your organization?
  • What attracted you to your organization?
  • What advice would you give me if I want to be successful in your line of work?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
  • What separates your company from the competition?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • What do you see as the coming trends in your profession/area of expertise?
  • If someone were to describe your business/company in one sentence what would he say?
  • What would make someone the ideal employee for your company or organization?

Other Events

  • What do you do for a living?
  • How did you hear about this event?
  • Did you get a chance to go to (insert name of local event) this past weekend?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • Did you catch the game last week?

Here is an example of a conversation that might take place between a student and a potential employer after the initial greeting or introduction:

Student: Thanks for coming tonight. (Reads name tag. Sounding enthused because she did a little homework before the event.) Oh, you’re with the World Helpers Foundation. I just read an article about your record-breaking year.

Employer: Yes. We’re really excited about that, especially with the economic challenges.

Student: I’ve always enjoyed philanthropy and fund-raising. In fact, I’m the President of my sorority and we recently exceeded our goal for cancer awareness by 40%.

Employer: That’s wonderful. How did you do that?

Student: I felt like we’ve underutilized social media in the past. This year we made sure we put the word out about our event early through Facebook and Twitter, then on our webpage we highlighted cancer survivors that were close to our members.

Employer: What a great idea!

Student: Thank you. What’s your role at WHF?

Employer: I’m the Senior Director of Partner Relationships. In a nutshell, I’m responsible for relationships and recruitment.

Student: That sounds interesting. What do you like best about your career?

Employer: Working with people toward a worthy cause. It’s challenging but I get to be creative and I like seeing the results of all my hard work.

Student: I feel the same way when I’m planning events. What kind of advice would you give me that would help me to eventually get into a role like yours?

Employer: Well, you’ve already got a great start! You have to be comfortable talking to people and leading teams and it seems like you’ve done that fairly well with your fraternity.

Student: Thanks! Do you ever have any entry-level opportunities or might you be able to recommend some other organizations?

Employer: As a matter of fact, we usually have some opportunities at WHF.

Student: Well, I would definitely be interested. Would it be okay for me to keep in touch with you?

Employer: Absolutely. (Hands over business card)

Student: (Shakes hand and thanks the employer before moving on.)

Well done! After all your hard work, you don’t want to lose contact with the great people you’ve met so come back next time for tips on how to strengthen your new relationship.

See you next time!

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Networking: The Rules of Thumb

I hope by now you’re noticing and taking advantage of all your networking opportunities. How many new Image by photostockpeople did you meet in the past few weeks? If the answer is none, consider breaking your normal routine, or simply try a smile and eye contact. They can work wonders when it comes to breaking the ice. This is especially true of social events.

Not too long ago I attended an HR Roundtable where networking was the topic and we came up with a list of do’s and don’ts specifically for networking events. As I mentioned before, it’s not all about you. In fact, in some places I mentioned in my last post (the workshop, lunch) I wasn’t even thinking about networking, it just happened. And those encounters gave me a chance to help someone else, which is our first “Do”.

The Do’s

1) Seek to help others. What are your skills, talents and abilities you can lend to others? Who is in your network that might benefit that small business owner you just met?

2) Meet people you can learn from. It has been said, if you are the most intelligent person in your group, your group is too small. When faced with a dilemma or a challenge you might turn to some of your newfound connections for advice or even mentoring.

3) Have a game plan so you don’t spend the whole time talking to people you already know. A graceful way to bow out when someone is taking too much of your time is to place the blame on yourself. “I’d better let you go. I don’t want to take too much of your time.”

4) Ask questions to foster conversation. What you’ve heard is true. People really do enjoy talking about themselves. It’s familiar territory. Don’t think all of your questions have to pertain to business, however. Ask if they are from the area. How did they hear about the event? Bring up a topic that is popular in the city—how the Bengals are doing, are they planning to go to the Festival of Lights, are they staying in town for the holidays or will they be lucky enough to get away for a mini vacation. Be creative!

The Don’ts

1) Don’t just attend when unemployed. One professional at the roundtable noted, when you’re employed you’re merely between networking gigs.

2) Don’t pressure anyone for an introduction. That’s simply unprofessional (not to mention annoying) and the person will be reluctant to unleash you on an acquaintance for fear of how that will affect their own credibility.

3) Don’t monopolize the conversation. This recently happened at a writing conference. At lunch an author asked another attendee a question and the attendee spent the next ten minutes sharing her entire manuscript. Which would have been okay—if the author had asked about her story. Luckily, the author was gracious which kept the situation from feeling completely awkward.

4) Don’t discount anyone. It costs you absolutely nothing to shake a hand and have a conversation, and you could be pleasantly surprised. The unassuming guy in the jeans and polo could be the investor you need to back your start-up while the guy in the expensive suit and smooth talk could be running a Ponzi scheme.

5) When seeking to connect with someone via Linkedin, remind that person how you met. Since the whole point of Linkedin is to establish legitimate connections I only accept people I actually know, as a speaker from Linkedin advised at a conference I attended. Otherwise, I’m just collecting names.

Now that we’ve got an idea of the ‘etiquette’ we’ll consider the conversation. See you back here next time!

The Daily Business of Networking

In my last post I noted networking events can sometimes feel awkward. The good news is, they are not the only venue. In fact, they aren’t even where I do most of my networking.

Image by winnond

Image by winnond

Believe it or not, you have numerous chances to network—at the gym, work, school, happy hour, parties, baseball games, church, organizations, reunions. Are you getting the picture? It happens every day. Since that’s the case it’s in your best interest to learn to maximize every opportunity, but also to know when to relax. Think about the past week. Can you remember a few opportunities where you could have made a connection?

A couple of weeks ago, not only did I meet the recruiters I mentioned in the last post, I also attended a breakfast that Saturday and exchanged information with an attendee who is also interested in writing—so of course I invited her to our group.

Recently I had lunch with a friend I met while serving on an advisory board to do some fact-finding for a novel. She introduced me to a local sports agent she knew that we bumped into as we were leaving. We chatted for a few minutes about sports and his role as an agent—I even mentioned an applicant I’d spoken with who was seeking a professional basketball career. Because I come across several Sports Management majors, as well as athletes, we exchanged information and he told me they were seeking an intern. Should I come across anyone interested in that field I will definitely make the referral. Not to mention, if I ever add a sports agent to a manuscript he’d be a great resource. The friend, by the way, has invited me to sit on the board of her non-profit.

Two years ago at a United Way appreciation dinner I met a colleague’s wife who happens to be a trademark lawyer. At the time I was working to trademark a tag line for future publications. We struck up a conversation and she answered questions I didn’t even realize I had. Later, when a company informed me they wanted to publish my novel I was able to reach out to my new contact to get a recommendation for an entertainment lawyer.

That being said, remember to use some discernment. Be careful not to pry. Learn to “read” the person with whom you are speaking. If their eyes are glazing over, wrap it up! As I mentioned, I am one of those people who never met a stranger, but if the person you strike up a conversation with doesn’t contribute they are shouting (silently, of course), “I’d like to remain a stranger, please.”.

When should you network? When it’s appropriate. If you gain a friend but not a client you’ve still expanded your network. What you can get or gain shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind even at a formal networking event. Think, instead, about what you are bringing to the table.

Image courtesy of stockimages

Image courtesy of stockimages

For example, while I love being a recruiter, when I’m out with friends the last thing I want is for someone to ask me to review their resume. And we recruiters get that question a lot. Just as my husband, an IT professional, gets the, ‘My computer isn’t working, can you take a look at it?’ question far more often than he’d like. I’m sure I have been guilty of violating this advice. In the example above, however, the person offered information when I mentioned my tag line which, after some questions about her career, led me to believe she wouldn’t mind a question or two. The fact that she gave me her business card backed that up. Again, discernment is key. If the person who is a chef says, “Oh I just love to cook any chance I get,” it’s probably okay to talk recipes.

Think about your skills, talents and abilities. What have been some of your biggest and best accomplishments? What have you learned from your mistakes? Who is in your network that could use an assist? This is what you can share. The next time you find yourself speaking with someone new think about how you might pour into their life.

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat

Your roommate’s cousin is starting a business and you can build a website in your sleep. Offer to help or recommend a friend who can. You meet someone at a party who’s thinking about the study abroad program and you just got back from your study abroad trip to London. Tell her where she should visit and how to avoid some travel woes. While your pup, Champ, is racing around the dog park you meet someone new to the area who is in temporary housing. Your friend happens to be a realtor, so make the introduction.

Once you have the connection it opens the door for future opportunities that might not have even come to mind. The cousin could recommend you to others, the party acquaintance might think of you when she hears about a job opportunity during her internship abroad. When the guy from the dog park buys his house and invites you over for the housewarming you could meet your future business partner.

Don’t let another week pass without making a connection. Whether you find yourself at a ball game, your run club or grabbing a bite to eat, you never know who you might cross your path.

Come back next time for some Do’s and Don’ts for networking events.

The Necessity of Networking

LiImage by David Castillo Dominici,ke other recruiters, I am right in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year. I’ve just finished the two-week Career Fair Circuit with a couple more on the horizon in coming weeks. My schedule is chock full of classroom presentations and I am planning a Hiring Event to interview several people in a couple of days. In addition, last week consisted of a recruiting workshop with fellow recruiters. All of these events have something in common—they all provided (or will provide) great opportunities for networking.

So what’s the big deal with networking? Don’t think about status posts on Facebook. That kind of interaction might be part of the problem. We’ve gotten so comfortable talking to people in cyberspace that we’ve lost the ability to do so in person. On the other hand, some people have a limited view and think networking is only for those places labeled “networking event”.

I have no problem talking to people. In fact, nearly everyone in my family can strike up a conversation with perfect strangers (whether the strangers like it or not). But even for me there’s something…well, awkward about formal networking events. It feels like Skippy’s first day of school with his mom gently pushing on his back, saying, “Go on in and talk to the other kids.” It’s as if there is a drum roll and an announcement: “Let the networking begin!”. Often students gather with their peers, and employers, having been shut out of their cliques, wind up talking to…each other! So essentially all we’ve done is eat some great finger food (hopefully) and stay out later than we needed to on a school night.

I stumbled across this statement as I prepared to host such an event—(during our welcome we gave some tips to ensure success):

“Networking is less about meeting new people than having them remember you after the fact.”

Case in point. It was through networking that my local writing group was revived. A year and a half ago we were down to only two people due to some members relocating and others whose work schedules changed. While most people might have thrown in the towel, I knew if I did that the lack of accountability was sure to bring my writing to a screeching halt. I had to find some new members. Two of them came from a local writing conference where I chatted with fellow attendees. I sat next to another one when I visited another writing group. (I swear I didn’t go just to poach members.) And yet one more came when I purposely struck up a conversation with someone at our local Books By The Banks festival. I also invited a fellow university advisory board member and even a few people from work. Hey, I’m a recruiter by profession. Would you expect anything less? Now we have several regular attendees and the group lives on.

If I hadn’t been memorable in my conversation do you think anyone I invited would have actually shown up? Doubtful. How can you accomplish this? Think about the people you’ve met who you thought about long afterward. What stood out about them? For me, those people were personable, knowledgeable, accomplished, intelligent, humorous and yet, humble. Think about your most positive qualities and allow them to shine through to make a lasting impression.

Here are a few more benefits of networking:

  • Build confidence. Think of networking as practice. The more comfortable you become speaking with new people when youImage by cooldesign have nothing to lose, the easier it will be to talk to others in your network–approaching your manager with a new idea or a co-worker to resolve an issue. You could even find yourself speaking to groups in informal or formal settings.
  • New information. This is one way to learn what is going on in your industry. Who are the new competitors? What new products are out there? You could also gain knowledge that could help you on a personal basis. For instance, you could bump into a car enthusiast at a party right when you’re planning to buy a car.
  • Connect with experts to support your efforts. You can’t possibly know everything about your profession. You don’t know every customer. You don’t know every future investor, but connecting with others can help you reach new consumers and, perhaps land your own personal shark (for all you Shark Tank fans) for an entrepreneurial venture. But please don’t think networking is only about you, as we’ll find out later in this series. I exchanged information with the recruiters I met last week so I can potentially support them by sending candidates their way.
  • Teamwork is necessary for success–even if you work in a solitary role. The artist needs someone to sell his paintings, the musician needs someone to listen to his music. And we writers need people to read our books—and blogs. 🙂 Visibility and awareness are key to building your brand.
  • Opportunities to give back. You might find out about local philanthropic opportunities or a cause where you can lend your expertise.

Bottom line, people need each other and networking is not just about finding a job. Now that we all agree you should be participating, come back next time to discuss where.

10 Mistakes During The Interview That Can Cost You The Offer

Congratulations on your interview! Here’s your opportunity to show the company why you’d be the best person for the job, so take it seriously. Many of the mistakes from the phone interview still apply when interviewing in person, but here are a few more to keep in mind.

  1. Postponing The Interview—Of course things come up but I have found it’s very rare that someone Image by Stuart Milesgenuinely wants to reschedule after postponing. If you are interested, keep the appointment. If a true emergency arises state what it is. The term “family emergency”, while perhaps factual, sends the recruiter a red flag. People use this term when they leave messages on voice mails in the middle of the night because they don’t know how to admit they are no longer interested, something better came up or they never planned to come to the interview in the first place. Few emergencies are so private they can’t be mentioned, so be honest. Call during business hours, explain your situation and reschedule with the recruiter immediately.
  2. Three’s A Crowd—Or, in this case, two. There is no reason for anyone to attend your interview with you. If you have car trouble and need to be dropped off your ride should wait down the street, then give him a call after the interview for a pick up.
  3. Late Arrival—If possible do a practice run the day before the interview. It’s difficult to guess how long the drive might be in rush hour traffic if you’ve never timed the route. Who knows, you might have to park in the back of the lot, trek to the building or take an elevator to the 23rd floor, all of which add time to the total commute. If it is unavoidable call the recruiter to tell her you are on the way.
  4. Extremely Early Arrival— Many people live by the 15 minute rule–if you arrive 15 minutes early you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re already late. Great rule of thumb. On the flip side, there is such a thing as too early. The interviewer more than likely has his day mapped out and has other tasks planned right up until your scheduled time. If you arrive 30 or 45 minutes early you could be throwing a monkey wrench into his day. Instead of going inside, sit in your car and kill some time or go down the street to a coffee shop. Just don’t spill anything on your suit! Which brings me to my next point.
  5. Dress/Appearance — Of course most hiring managers will expect to see you in a suit unless you were told otherwise by the person who set up your appointment. Your shoes should be polished, your clothing should fit well – not too big or too small, too low-cut or too high—and you should select a color that is neutral. Think black or navy. Clothing is the first thing to come to mind, but this category includes cleanliness, hair, nails, piercings and visible tattoos as well. If you look as if you rolled out of bed and threw on the first thing your eyes landed on in your closet you are stating, ‘This is the best I am willing to do’. Definitely not a candidate recruiters want to vouch for. I’ve even had a few candidates refuse to take off their coat during the winter months. That is odd behavior that is sure to raise an eyebrow.
  6. Preparation – Come to the interview with a few copies of your resume in a portfolio in case you interview with a panel or team. Or if the company is having printer issues. This can go a long way when you’re up against candidates who arrive empty-handed.
  7. Condescending Attitude – Every company expects you to bring something to the table but you must also be a team player who is teachable. You might be chock full of information, but you don’t know everything, especially if you are entering a new industry. Be willing to add to your arsenal by listening to what others have to contribute. Also remember you should never discount anyone you meet. The receptionist could be the owner’s mother for all you know, or the owner herself. Respect everyone. No one is beneath you, and if you feel the job is, think twice before you apply.
  8. General Answers/Skipping A Question—Recruiters are seeking specific examples so we can determine how you actually handled a situation vs. how you would theoretically handle it. Anyone can claim the customer is always right, but back that claim up with an example. If you get stumped it is better to ask for a moment to think of an answer than to ask to come back to the question. Check out this post for some tips on how to prepare: No Job Offer-Part 2: http://wp.me/p2Yxve-q.
  9. Over The Top—There’s enthusiasm and then there’s inappropriate. Building rapport is a must, and I
    free clip art.net

    free clip art.net

    laugh frequently during interviews, but be careful not to come across as too familiar or unprofessional. Years ago a candidate made derogatory remarks about his ex-wife in a joking fashion and told an inappropriate story that he found funny. I doubted our customers would and had to move on to other applicants. You are not at the bar and you haven’t been hired as a comedian. Know how to read the interviewer. If they aren’t smiling or laughing with you you’re sinking fast.

  10. No Questions —No matter how much research you’ve done you don’t know everything about a company. Think about what is important to you: benefits, tuition reimbursement, advancement, relocation, responsibilities, etc. and ask. Even if you repeat yourself throughout the interview process, each person you encounter will answer you based on his experiences. Anticipate questions (see No Job Offer-Part 3: http://wp.me/p2Yxve-C) and write them down. If I had a dollar for every  interviewee who said, “I had a lot of questions at home. I just can’t remember them now,” I could take a pretty decent vacation.

There it is—mistakes to avoid at all levels of the application process. Hopefully these tips will help you sail through the interviews and land your dream job in no time.

Come back soon for more interviewing and job advice!

10 Things That Can Cost You the Job Before the Interview

With so many people searching for work it can be costly to make mistakes in the application process. Here is a short list of some of those mistakes you should avoid if you want to increase your chances of being contacted by the recruiter.

  1. Grammar and spelling. Why take the time to meticulously comb through your resume and cover letter for correct spelling and punctuation and then throw your information onto the application carelessly? Give your application and all

    freeclipart.net

    correspondence—i.e. emails and voice mail messages—proper attention so that you continue to make a good impression throughout the interview process.

  2. Appearance of resume.  If your resume lacks uniformity–such as various fonts for each job title, clarity or pertinent information–many recruiters will keep looking for other candidates. Perhaps you even chose a font you thought was appropriate but it really sends the wrong message (think Comic Sans). While it might be fun for a flyer, it’s definitely not the way to go to prove you’re ready to embark on a serious career.
  3. N/A – Answering ‘not applicable’ to the question: Why did you leave your last job? It IS definitely applicable.  Another answer that is equally poor is ‘found another job’. That is obvious. Otherwise you’d still be employed with the company in question. A recruiter wants to know if you were seeking more money, more responsibility, advancement opportunities or you just didn’t like your co-worker’s choice of ties.
  4. Job Gaps—Job gaps are not necessarily a bad thing. There are several reasons why candidates might not be currently employed: stay-at-home parent, lay-off, relocation or full-time student, for instance. If you quit a job and did not line another one up beforehand you should have a strong reason why. Recruiters might wonder if you really want to work or if you make good decisions.
  5. Job Hopping—In some industries this is acceptable due to the nature of the business, but in most companies jumping from job to job even on a year-to-year basis raises a red flag. You are obviously unsure about what you’d like to do for a living and companies will be reluctant to risk the expense of training someone who is, quite frankly, flighty. If you fall into this category it is a good idea to stay put for a while to prove you can commit to a company. If you move around too much you probably haven’t even seen all your current organization has to offer anyway. If you decide to move on, do some research and choose wisely so you can stick with the next job for a reasonable amount of time.  (Reasonable meaning years, plural).
  6. Incompatible Objective—Recruiters regularly come across objectives that don’t apply to the position we are seeking to fill.  Candidates who want to work in marketing research and apply for human resources for example. Equally troubling is the objective that names a specific company, yet it’s not the company for which you applied. Besides a lack of attention to detail, naming a specific company is not a good objective. You should give the employer an idea of what skills you bring to the table, what you are seeking in an organization and, perhaps, the industry in which you would like to utilize those skills.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Objective: To implement my customer service and sales experience in an organization where I can make a positive impact on the bottom line and have opportunities for advancement into management. 
  7. Incorrect Phone number – No need to go into detail, however, it is just as damaging to have a voice mail that is either full or not set up. If you only get one phone call you’ve just missed the boat. On another note, recruiters only want to hear an old-fashioned ring vs. a ring back tone when we call.
  8. Incorrect Email Address — Due to a high volume of applications some companies only make their initial contact via email, so double-check the information you provide on the application and only use an email account that you check regularly.   Your.name@hotmail.com
  9. Not meeting the job requirements.  Most recruiters have been in their role for a long time so they know when someone is  just throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks–that is, applying for everything under the sun and hoping for a bite. Don’t waste your time or the company’s by going for jobs in which you have zero interest.
  10. free-clipart.net

    free-clipart.net

    Burning a bridge. Far more often than you might imagine recruiters get applications from candidates who have applied in the past but were less than professional when they pulled out of the process. They canceled an interview the day of or, worse, didn’t show up at all. If you have made this mistake, yet you want to re-apply, and a significant amount of time has not passed (in some cases a couple of years), cross that opportunity off your list. Going forward, act in a more professional manner.

Check back next time for a list of things that can cost you a face-to-face interview during a phone screen or phone interview.

As always, good luck with your job search!

Repairing Your Professional Reputation

In the past couple of weeks alone we have seen many a reputation tarnished: Columbus Short for alleged Image by Stuart Milesdomestic abuse was ousted from the popular series Scandal, Donald Sterling, the owner of the Clippers has been banned from the NBA for life due to racist remarks and, in what some might consider a lesser offense, New York Yankee Pitcher was suspended for 10 games for using pine tar to aid his grip. (It’s also a safe bet that Bieber did something to raise an eyebrow or two.) Hopefully you care more about your reputation than he does.

But what if you have made some mistakes? Maybe a happy hour with co-workers led to some poor judgment on your part when you had one drink too many. You stole someone else’s idea at work…and got busted. You’ve been a notorious gossip. You’ve been pulling a Costanza (for you non-Seinfeld fans, that’s looking busy at work when you’re not actually doing a darn thing) and your co-workers are on to you and threatening exposure. Are you stuck with your bad rep in your company or is it possible to bounce back?

Perhaps.

While some people’s choices have ended careers, others have been through the wringer and come out on the other side of it worse for wear but determined to rebuild themselves. After his admitted infidelity, Tiger Woods held the traditional “apology press conference” then had to get help and lay low for over a year before he was once again accepted, some might even say embraced, in the public eye. In 2009 Michael Phelps lost Kellogg’s sponsorship and had a 3 month suspension from USA Swimming after a picture of him using a water pipe surfaced. Phelps immediately owned his mistake and publicly apologized, calling his behavior inappropriate. As a result the negativity died quickly. He was hailed as a champion at the 2012 Olympics and has maintained that status judging from the excitement surrounding his comeback meet with Ryan Lochte mentioned on GMA just last week.

Apparently time really does heal wounds, but while some might be forgiven there are always going to be those who will continue to scrutinize them closely. Who wants to live like that, constantly dealing with doubters and defending your reputation? If you’ve suffered the consequences of disciplinary action or termination or your personal brand has taken a hit it’s time to make a change. You can still be a person any corporation would be proud to have on their team. The challenge is, if all you’ve known is deception and cheating it can be very difficult to get back on track without a major wake up call.

Start out the right way and you can rest assured you won’t have to battle your past. But on the off-chance you’re looking in your rear view mirror at some serious infractions here are a some tips to help you make a fresh start.

Acknowledge and apologize. If you have offended someone you are not going to get very far in winning them over without wiping the slate clean—but you must be sincere. You can’t make progress if you avoid talking about whatever it was that caused the divide in the first place. Take this opportunity to also tell the person you are trying to change. Then prove it through your actions.

Be an open book. Don’t do anything that might tempt you to lie later on. If you can’t talk about it, don’t do it. If questions are asked of you, unless the information is confidential, tell the truth. If it is confidential explain that, unfortunately, you can’t share the information because: you would betray a confidence, you’d be violating a policy or whatever the case may be. If there are no secrets to discover, over time that bad rep will begin to fade and your integrity will shine through.

Find an accountability partner. Choose someone you can trust and confide in. Share what happened to hurt your reputation, ask for advice and allow them to ask you questions going forward to keep you from being a repeat offender. Ask that person to be bold enough to pull you back if you head down the wrong path. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be someone who works in the same company, but it will require honesty on your part.

Confess. If you’ve done something wrong it’s going to be discovered soon enough. I have much more empathy for candidates who own up to mistakes than those who try to explain them away, often blaming others. You must, however, be prepared for possible consequences.

Good deeds. Make good choices going forward and hopefully they will outshine the flubs you’ve made in the past.

Surround yourself with good people. Understand the people you’ve offended are not going to be eager to be in your presence initially because of the distance you’ve created or for the sake of their own reputation (you know the saying, birds of a feather flock together) so you might need to find people with integrity outside of your organization. Spend time with them, pick their brains and adopt their behavior and outlook. People will begin to take notice.

Make a fresh start. If you’ve tried to turn your reputation around for an extended period of time yet that deed keeps haunting you, it might be time for a new start. If you stick around too long you could stagnate your career. Yes, you were in the wrong, but if you’ve made a sincere attempt to get past it and it’s not working you need to be somewhere where the bad vibes no longer exist. This is not running away from the problem—unless you leave without ever taking ownership. Once you get that new opportunity make sure you embrace it and let the new you reign. Soon the old you will be a distant memory.

Take time to rebuild. If what you did resulted in a termination you might have to take a job below your skill set to prove yourself for a few years—yes years—depending on the severity of the matter. This will give future employers someone to reach out to ask about your work ethic, integrity and character.

When you implement these tips it will still take some time for others to believe you have really changed, so don’t give up too soon. Will NBA fans someday forgive Donald Sterling? Will Columbus Short recover quickly or fall off the radar for a few years like Isaiah Washington, also terminated from a Shonda Rhimes series years ago? (Last week’s cameo aside.) Only time will tell. Your future, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be a question mark. Start rebuilding your brand today.

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