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Managing Your Career

Steps to Successful Networking

Ever heard the phrase "It's not who you know – it's who knows you?" Networking is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the right people know you. However, many business professionals feel unprepared and unsure of how to begin the networking process. Below we have highlighted a portion of FGP HR Consulting's Outplacement program in which we actually teach displaced executives and managers a step-by-step process of how to become a successful networker. The process refers to using networking to find a job, but is applicable in all types marketing efforts, whether you are marketing yourself or your business. Expand & read more

  1. Start by building a network of key contacts. Begin by listing family members, friends, other people you know and their friends, associates, family members, spouses and significant others. These people are your key contacts and they are your primary means to developing new contacts. The new contacts are people you do not know at the present time but will eventually provide the bridge to the decision makers in your target companies. These contacts are the ones who know the staffing needs of the company before a job opening is made official and public.
  2. Preparation for your meeting is next. You must fully develop your purpose for the meeting, which is to seek information and provide a synopsis of the type of job for which are you qualified. Have a clear idea of what you are looking for regarding market segment, type of position, company, etc. You will not be asking these people for a job, but will be seeking their advice on who to contact that might lead you to your objective. You will also need to briefly summarize your background including your current situation, experience, education and career goals. Ask these people to provide the names and contact information for a few key people in their professional network for you to contact.
  3. Begin Networking. After your key contact list has been prepared and you have planned the conversation outline (Two Minute Introduction) with contacts, begin networking with people with whom you are most comfortable and work up to the more difficult ones.
    • In order to prepare: When you call your key contacts and other new contacts thereafter, you must move directly into the subject, make the appointment and terminate the phone conversation in a courteous but deliberate manner. You should plan to schedule your meetings for no longer than 15 minutes and try not to exceed your requested amount of time.
    • After your preparation is complete: Make your initial contacts by phone. Introduce yourself if it has been a while since you talked with them or if you were referred. Tell them that you are seeking advice about your job campaign and then ask for a brief meeting. Reassure them that you are not expecting them to know of a job for you, but that you believe their advice and guidance will be valuable.

    The first few phone calls may seem awkward or embarrassing for you. The best way to overcome this feeling is to get prepared and then plunge ahead. Use your notes to assist you with what you want to say. Get to your main points, your situation and your needs rather quickly and directly. In the networking meeting you should, of course, be on time and initially note the name of the person who referred you. Provide your brief introduction of no longer than two minutes to provide the individual with a summary of your background and why you are looking for a new career opportunity. Explain your job goal briefly and the specific target industries you have identified. Present your resume for reference, but do not go into detail about it. Then, ask for advice, feedback and leads plus seek names of key decision-makers. Remember that YOU control the networking meeting. If you do not ask for leads and/or the names of decision-makers, you will probably not get them. By the time you are ready to close the meeting, if not before, make sure that you ask the network contact for the names of key contacts and company names where executive positions could be available. In addition, you can ask the network contact person to clear the way for you by making phone calls or sending emails to key contacts, in advance of your phone calls. This approach is very effective with the key contact. To close the meeting, summarize any follow-up or action items necessary.

  4. Follow up with a thank you note. This should be sent within a week of your meeting with the contact. Phone the contact a few weeks later to report the actions you have taken based on the contact's suggestions. Another note sent several weeks after that, with a follow-up phone call, reporting your progress, will publicize your name to the contact one more time, without being obtrusive.

In summary, networking is the most effective way to market yourself toward the right career opportunity. In networking, you have taken control of your search and are making valuable contacts, which likely will lead you to your new job.

Setting Goals and Attaining Results

By: Susan Lill, SPHR Chief Alignment Officer, FGP HR Consulting

The other day, I overheard a gentleman in the airport talking to his co-worker. At one point he said "everyone's self-made, but only the successful admit it." His comment stayed with me throughout the day and continues to make periodic visits from my memory. There is some truth in that comment. Expand & read more

Working smart means delivering on our goals and objectives by focusing resources on the right things.

Most successful people have attained achievements by setting and achieving goals. Creating an ultimate vision or strategy for an organization helps an organization re-set and respond to changing external and internal conditions. Setting corporate objectives puts the wheels in motion for activating resources in pursuit of the strategy.

For example, each department VP sets and reports on quarterly objectives. These objectives are set with some input from department leaders and are measured and tracked. Goals mean different things to different people. The words "goals" and "objectives" are often used interchangeably. Generally they mean the same thing. An objective is perhaps a more common business term and at times, is stated broadly. Goals are action-oriented and more concrete; they can be considered as "steps to achieve" the stated objective. Either way, they are both a means to an end, which is "producing a result."

Effort does not always equal results. Have you heard the phrase "work smarter, not harder"? Working hard in these demanding and fast-paced times does not always create the type of value an organization desires. Working smart means delivering on our goals and objectives by focusing resources on the right things. Precision is important when speed is involved. In my opinion, these days it is better to be sharply pointed than well-rounded. Think about goal-setting as a process of deliberate actions taken in a planned direction towards a specific target. Some people prefer to focus goal-setting efforts on their personal life by creating New Year's resolutions or other targets to hit throughout the year. Examples of personal goals are "save $2,500 for airfare to India", "lose 10 pounds by July 4th" or "quit smoking". These goals have a good chance of being met simply because they are measurable. You can gauge where you are by tracking the amount of money saved, the amount of weight lost by a certain date or whether or not you've quit smoking. The same principle holds true in our professional lives. Goal-setting is an important part of a professional approach to career management. Professional goals can be directed inwards or outwards. Inward-directed goals may look like this: "complete my MBA", "get promoted to a management position" or "become a certified database administrator."Outward-directed goals may look more like this: "reduce product-development cycle time by 10%" , "increase number of hubs by 25%" or "design and implement a new training program."  Whether your goals are primarily personal or professional, the key to successfully setting goals is simple.

Effectively-set goals should be S.M.A.R.T.

  • S: Specific Goals need to be clearly and narrowly defined to create a focal point and target to hit. Ambiguous or fuzzy goals are hard to measure, hard to communicate and harder to understand.
  • M: Measurable What gets measured, gets done. Use graphs, white boards, bulletin boards, whatever. Update your metrics regularly and share them publicly. Celebrate milestone achievements with others on your team. Common metrics used to quantify goals are time, numbers, money, dates, %'s increased/decreased or simply whether or not the item was produced (e.g. new sales manual completed and approved). A well-defined goal can just about always be measured.
  • A: Attainable Be sure that goals are not so far reaching as to be impossible to hit. That can have a demoralizing effect on members of your team or group. Goals can and should stretch people to maximize efforts but need to be within the group's ability to reach or exceed them.
  • R: Realistic Is the goal you've set reasonable given the resources, budget and timeframe you have? Are you trying to boil the ocean when your focus should be on heating one pot at a time? It's better to do fewer things really well than over-promise and under-deliver.
  • T: Timely Consider the whole subject of time when setting goals. Some goals don't address current business issues or opportunities. We all have our pet projects or favorite things to do. Most of us have a lot of things we'd like to accomplish this year – more than we could possibly handle effectively. Again, select only the most relevant and "impactful" goals that best support our key business drivers for this year. Be sure that the goals you select will be able to be accomplished in quarterly time frames and will make timely and meaningful impacts.

There are many methods used for setting and achieving goals. Goals must always be written down. A goal-setting template is available upon request from FGP HR Consulting. It is easy to get off track or out of focus as attempts to derail our progress present themselves. It takes discipline and drive to stay on track. People who are "visual" may use visual reminders such as "post-it" notes or screen savers to subliminally remember their goals. Others may hold bi-weekly goal update meetings with their staff. Whatever your methods are, be sure to use goal-setting as a means of providing an ounce of focus and a pound of measure to our busy lives.

Employee Surveys: Putting Out Feelers and Fires

By: Susan Lill, SPHR Chief Alignment Officer, FGP HR Consulting

Employee opinion or satisfaction surveys are widely used to gather information from employees about shared areas of interest and concern about their workplace. In fact, employee surveys are often part of the requirement to maintain selected quality certifications, for example, TS certification in the automotive supplier industry. Expand & read more

Why they are used

Surveys are used to gather quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (words) about how people view various aspects of their employment "value proposition." Results can lead to reforms or be used to support Human Resources planning efforts. Not asking for employee input can lead to benefit plans, policies or programs being built upon assumptions by the HR or management team. With precious time and resources stretched thin, employers can ill afford to solve the wrong problem. Surveys are often seen as objective, and, especially if the response rate is high (e.g. 70% or higher), are valid instruments that attempt to measure levels of satisfaction, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and gather input about what is working well or not well.


Firstly, without question, responses should be treated as anonymous. Removing any real or perceived fears or restrictions will free employees up to provide candid feedback, and that's really what you want to have. Giving employees some notice about an upcoming survey using various methods over a 2 week period preceding the survey, helps to set their minds and avoid surprises. The notice should explain the reason for the survey, how responses will be used, that it is anonymous (and ideally administered by a neutral third party with extensive survey experience) and when and where the survey will take place. Supervisors should be briefed to ensure they allow full and unrestricted access for employees to take the survey and in fact, should encourage high levels of participation from their department. Thanks to technology there are multiple ways of collecting and assimilating data from employee surveys. The 3 primary methods used are:

  1. Paper-based surveys sent and received via mail.
  2. Paper-based surveys administered onsite.
  3. Electronic surveys administered via the Internet (or company Intranet).

Surveys sent by mail risk lower response rates and potential tampering with survey responses. Resources are often not available to answer questions or provide clarification about questions from respondents. The advantage, however, is that employees often complete these surveys at home at their own pace and interruptions in work schedules are minimized.

Surveys administered onsite are effective, in particular if administered by a neutral third party. The survey company can supervise and control the completion process and be available to respond to questions. This method does require a commitment on the part of the company to set aside a large room, provide employee rosters and permit employees to take 20-30 minutes away from their work stations.

Surveys administered electronically have the advantage of avoiding double data entry (e.g. for paper surveys, the employee responds on paper and then the data is entered into a database creating a potentially small margin of error). On the other hand, some employees may struggle with the use of computer equipment if not used as part of their usual job or home routine and this method still requires onsite supervision, especially if there are any connectivity or access issues that arise.

Serious consideration should be given to the design of the survey. If year-to-year comparisons might be likely, then that needs to be taken into account in how both the survey and the database are designed. Regardless of the method, the format of the survey can also vary. Some surveyors prefer a forced ranking or selection method (e.g. multiple choice answers), others prefer True/False statements and Open Comments section, while others again prefer to gauge the level of satisfaction on a scale under each comment or question. I'd strongly recommend employers consider collecting both a rating (level of agreement) and weighting (level of importance) under each question (or positive statement) to ensure prioritization can be given to the responses. For example, let's look at how this survey "question" is structured:

Sample Question

1. My supervisor is usually available and approachable when I have a concern.

  • Indicate Your Level of Agreement With The Above Statement.

      Strongly Agree   Agree   Neutral   Disagree   Strongly Disagree

  • How important is this to you?

      Very High Importance   High Importance   Average Importance   Low Importance   Not Important

By collecting two data points for each statement, survey administrators can sort the data beginning with those questions with the highest level of disagreement and the highest level of importance. This greatly helps employers prioritize what areas of concern they begin to address shortly after the survey is over.


Additional sorting of survey data can occur if information such as department, length of service or FLSA status is asked for. Patterns of concern may be able to be traced back to one area of the organization where the area scores more poorly versus the organization as a whole. Asking for race and gender is touchy, and you'd have to be able to clearly defend why you decided to ask for that information (e.g. part of a major diversity initiative). If there is an Open Comments section, responses or remarks that are potentially inflammatory or point to legal issues can potentially be flagged as originating in a particular area or with a certain group. Think ahead about how you plan to sort through pages and pages of comments.


Before finalizing the design of your survey form and process, start with the end in mind. What types of reports do you want from the survey database? Using a simple MS Access database can provide a robust platform for various machinations of data but must be designed knowing that up front. Building functionality back into a database after the fact can be difficult.

After the Survey

For employers, remember that the real heavy lifting of the survey process starts when the survey is over. Proper communication of results to the management team, then abbreviated results to the organizations' employees is critical for gaining any buy-in to subsequent action plans. The information should be shared as soon as possible after the survey and in-person, so questions can be asked and answered. At times, survey results may point to conflicting issues, comments may not be clearly explained, or more information is needed. That's a great time to conduct Focus Groups. Focus Groups are small working sessions, facilitated by a professional, designed to gather more specific examples from a cross-section of survey respondents.

Surveys require an investment of time, money, and resources, so every effort to optimize the process should be considered. By planning carefully, employers can set a clearer path forward after the survey and hopefully put out fires as well as feelers.

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