Most of us think of a “job search” as a series of tasks – looking at job boards, polishing your resume, attending networking events – that are separate from the rest of our life. Walking the dog and raking leaves have nothing to do with finding a job, right? But this story about one of my neighbors shows that you never know when you’ll have a chance to impress someone who can have an impact on your career.
This friendly woman on my street enjoys talking with her neighbors. She’s on a first-name basis with most of the people on our block, usually talking about gardening or new local shops or just the weather. She didn’t tell anyone in the neighborhood that she was looking for work, or that she had an interview with a local non-profit. When she arrived to interview, she was surprised to see one of her neighbors, a hiring manager for the non-profit, sitting across from her at the table.
The neighbor provided a great character reference, but that scenario could have gone the other way if their occasional conversations in the front yard hadn’t been friendly and positive. She had no way of knowing that the time spent talking with neighbors would have an impact on her career.
Whether you’re actively looking for work or just keeping your options open, remember that your opportunities to impress aren’t limited to cover letters and interviews. Here are a few things you should always pay attention to:
Online and in person, make a good impression by giving thought to what you let people see. Social media posts have a long shelf-life, and every picture and status update is potentially visible to prospective employers. In person, your behavior and language can draw attention, both positive and negative. You never know who’s paying attention – so stay sharp.
Common courtesy isn’t that common anymore, so it’s a great secret weapon. This includes please-and-thank-yous as well as being respectful of other people’s opinions, their time, and the ways they are different from you. People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you said it.
When you have an opportunity to network or make an impression on strangers, think about how you will present yourself. It’s hard to be eloquent off-the-cuff, so plan ahead to make sure you put your best foot forward.
While it’s impossible to predict when you’ll have a chance to make a great impression on the right person, what is possible is being ready and able to capitalize on that moment when it comes.