Blog

Military Army Veteran Networks Her Way to a Corporate Job Through Career Education and Building Relationships

Tell us about yourself and your career.

My name is Janel Kim Mariani, and I’m a West Point grad and Army veteran with experience across a wide variety of functions and industries. For most of my career in industry, I was with Fortune 100 companies.

Why were you looking for a job?

I was looking for a job because I had lost my last one and needed to pay some bills.

How did you discover PAGCG?

I discovered the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Great Group through another phenomenal organization, the Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network (GPVN). Alex Archawski of GPNV partnered with Lynne Williams of PAGCG for a 6-week Veterans Career Success Group program to help veterans in career transition with career education.

How did PAGCG help you in your job search?

Let me count the ways PAGCG provided an organizational and philosophical structure for how to manage the job search. It offered professional development, keynotes in the recruiting and career transition industry, career transition support, and experts in ATS, LinkedIn, and more.

How did you find your job? How long did it take?

I networked my way into my role. I spent several weeks speaking with people and following different leads into the final conversation. The journey took about seven months.

What kept you motivated during the job search, especially during the downtimes?

Since PAGCG had several virtual sessions a day, I found myself with a like-minded group of people who were interested in learning about the ins and outs of LinkedIn. As people landed, we celebrated their success together.

What were the lessons that you learned during your job search?

A great lesson I learned is to target the company first, and then network your way in.

Do you have any networking tips or tricks that you can share?

Continue to modify your objectives and your elevator pitches until they roll off your tongue naturally.

What will you do in your new role?

My role is to find companies that are interested in hiring high performing military veterans.

What is one takeaway or nugget of wisdom that you would like to share?

I enjoyed the project management approach to a targeted job search presented by Paul Cecala.

Trilingual Employee Benefits Professional Learns from Speakers, Job Seekers, and Career Success Group Leader

Tell us about yourself and your career.

My name is Daniel (Dan) Singer, and I am a trilingual employee benefits professional committed to providing outstanding client experiences. Although I am currently in the Insurance and Employee Benefits industry, I started in the federal government, followed by international client-facing roles in manufacturing and information services. The last downturn in 2009 made me switch to insurance and employee benefits, starting in sales, then I eventually entered into service roles in different areas of benefits. In 2014, I landed a Benefits Specialist role in managing benefits for 8,000+ employees. However, in late 2016, I found out that the position would be relocated to North Carolina. Fearing unemployment, I grabbed opportunities in the Benefits Compliance and Consulting areas of employee benefits. My most recent role was a new role, supporting two insurance areas within a major insurance brokerage and risk management firm.

Why were you looking for a job?

Despite the great culture and fantastic people at my last job, I realized the job itself wasn’t the best fit. It was a brand new position supporting two different areas of insurance. I accepted the job, assuming my language, problem-solving, and team-collaboration skills would all be used (all three of these skills were constants throughout my career). At specific points, I wondered, Was this why I got into employee benefits? Despite my efforts to make the job work, we mutually parted ways in February of 2020. I felt relief, as well as frustration. 

With the help of a friend who himself happened to have a fantastic professional career, I then determined what I did and did not want in my next job. This friend also helped me jump start my networking strategy (which I’ll describe below). I began to reach out to my LinkedIn contacts, some I hadn’t spoken to in over seven years!  

I set a schedule and kept a journal to keep me motivated and focused. I found an app to keep my language skills sharp (Duolingo). I exercised more, and I read the Old Testament. But I felt something was missing, and, at times, I wanted to separate myself from the process entirely because it was so frustrating. Nonetheless, I was grateful to be home with my family and be safe. 

How did you discover PAGCG?

An ex-colleague of mine from the Information Services’ industry suggested the group. And boy, I’m so glad she did. Not only did I find other individuals to network with, but it was also cathartic for myself and others who were in transition. We had slight differences on how we ended up being in career transition, but we had the chance to vent to each other and support one another. 

How did PAGCG help you in your job search?

While PAGCG didn’t give me my new job, it more than provided me with the tools, forum, and opportunities to improve my personal brand and fine-tune my search. For me, it was Paul Cecala’s presentation in July of 2020 on “Project Planning Your Job Search” hosted at the Tuesday Great Careers Meeting out of King of Prussia. Before the presentation, I had separate documents describing my ideal job, target companies, skills, and position (in addition to my resume). Paul’s presentation made me re-examine my job search efforts, and I set out to create my personal Marketing Plan, which genuinely became central to my job search efforts. The plan made me more strategic with whom I wanted to network, which companies to target for employment, and what unique skills I had that would allow me to contribute to a job effectively.

Next, I carefully chose the PAGCG sessions I thought would benefit me most, especially those focused on creating a professional brand. These sessions helped me take an in-depth look into my accomplishments and what differentiates me as a candidate. I immediately set out to refining my 30-second intro and enhanced my presence on LinkedIn, based on what I learned at the sessions. I will say I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2006, but this group taught me how to exploit this invaluable platform to my advantage best. Please note: if you’re attending the sessions and not applying what you learn, why do you attend? 

One of the more memorable sessions was with Jessica Koch (another speaker on personal branding). We ended up networking separately, and she re-introduced me to a free CRM program (zoho.com) I used years ago when I first entered the insurance and benefits field. Gone were my spreadsheets keeping track of networking discussions – it moved to the cloud.

The last and most important contribution was choosing a Career Success Group Meeting. For me, Deep Damle’s Career Success Group meetings, typically on most Thursdays, made me feel very much at home in the group, especially with Deep’s chill style and professionalism. His weekly feedback helped me to continually refine my brand and the delivery of my elevator pitch. In addition to networking, I met some fabulous people I could learn from, and we supported one another on days we questioned our worth. The group made us accountable each week for our actions and encouraged us to follow through on what we said we would do during the meetings. 

How did you find your job? How long did it take? 

Before joining the group, I already had a networking strategy in place. However, it was that strategy, together with the tools that PAGCG provided me, and with fellow PAGCG job-seeking member, Lauren Conley. Lauren, who has also landed a job, introduced me to a recruiter she knew and someone I wanted to network with mentioned by another contact. That recruiter would eventually lead me to my current job, so I credit Lauren in part for helping me land this job!

It took me a little over seven months to find a job. Armed with a personal marketing plan, a desire to network one on one via Zoom or phone, a highly structured schedule Monday through Friday (with the ability to switch/pivot), and the perseverance to keep going, I treated my job search like an actual job. Most importantly, I knew when I needed to back away and take a break. 

The job I have now was one of my target companies listed on my marketing plan. When I interviewed, I demonstrated to my interviewers:

1) I researched the company 

2) I showed my excitement for the company and the role I was interviewing for, and

3) I explained how I would add value if selected for the position

What kept you motivated during the job search, especially during the downtimes?

Many things kept me motivated during the job search, including:

1) Daily exercise (including running, walking, and yoga)

2) Highly structured schedule with blocks of time allotted to different activities (something I learned nearly ten years ago)

3) A spiral notebook to document my activities (so if I wouldn’t question myself as to what I accomplished)

4) Staying engaged through networking and friends, and 

5) Self-care (e.g., knowing when to put the job stuff away, reading religious scriptures, etc.) 

At my core, I have, and I think always will be a positive person. I’ve been through downturns before and knew the consequences of allowing negative thoughts and feelings to take one down. I knew that not every day would be rosy or as productive; however, I wanted to end each day, knowing I did everything I could to be productive and manage my time as wisely as possible.   

What were the lessons that you learned during your job search?

The biggest lessons I learned included: organization, vision, clarity, perseverance, and the power of your personal brand. 

Organizing my week kept me on track and ensured I didn’t spend too much time on one task. It also ensured I correctly followed up and managed my networking connections so that they wouldn’t be forgotten after the first meeting. 

Realizing I had gone through two jobs in nearly two years simply because I wanted to stay “employed” was a difficult pill to swallow, but it gave me the clarity to realize what I want and don’t want in my next job. As I assessed my skills and accomplishments and conducted searches, those activities drove me closer to the job I started on October 5th. 

With the pandemic, it is probably one of the worst times in US history, and world history for that matter, to be in career transition. A few people told me that “a job doesn’t define you,” and I still believe that. Having been in transition before made me aware of the consequences of overly negative thoughts. With my religion and self-care to lean on, this time in career transition, coupled with the vision I mentioned previously, I had the will to take each day as it came until I got the news of a job offer.

Finally, and most importantly, your personal brand. Thank you, Lynne Williams, for all that you do for this group and the sessions you run, and for making us feel our worth. Coming up with branding that has now carried over into LinkedIn and my 30-second commercial (aka elevator speech), I think I will always stay with me. Working on my personal brand, together with my marketing plan, networking activities, and clarifying what I wanted in my next job, really prepared me.

Do you have any networking tips or tricks that you can share?

As someone commented in a previous “landing” article, LinkedIn is crucial. But it’s nothing more than another platform to connect with contacts online, nothing more. My networking strategy involved connecting via LinkedIn and following up with those LinkedIn connections to schedule a half-hour phone or zoom call with each.  

With the help of a friend (the same one who asked me to write what I did and didn’t want in my next job), I created what I was going to say when looking for my next opportunity. I also wanted to hear about others’ experiences and, at the same time, expand my professional network. My meetings were always organized. One of the first things I did was be considerate of that contact’s time, to ensure I watched the time and our meeting didn’t spill over the allotted time. The hardest thing for me to do was reach out to contacts I hadn’t kept up within seven years. Fortunately, a few of them were kind enough to make time for me. I’m determined now not to let more time pass to keep those connections alive. 

My networking strategy was enhanced when I created my personal marketing plan and created my personal brand (which included my 30-second commercial and LinkedIn profile). As a result, my contacts knew what I wanted and where I wanted to land–potentially. Before being aware of my personal brand, it made some of these one-on-one meetings challenging. Having both my brand and personal marketing plan gave me the confidence to know exactly what I wanted. It allowed me to network with individuals who reached out to me on LinkedIn (including a brokerage I didn’t even know existed). 

After the one-on-one meeting, I’d ask my contact if he/she knew one anyone else I could talk to, based on what I’m trying to do and who would be a suitable introduction for them.  

Always, always ask for an introduction. And to quote Deep Damle, when you network, it’s not about you, but how you can help others.  

Try not to get discouraged if you reach out, and they don’t reply. I would follow up every couple of weeks or so if you’re requesting an introduction or meeting. At the same time, don’t waste your time if your follow-ups are not being reciprocated. You are worth more than that. 

Keep tabs on how many times you’ve reached out to a client and/or whom he/she had introduced you to. I started doing that on spreadsheets; however, I was reacquainted with the free CRM system Zoho to track and monitor my networking contacts and job opportunities.  

What will you do in your new role?

I will be a Benefits Administrator at an insurance brokerage dedicated to servicing non-profit and social service organizations’ employee benefits needs. At the core of my job, I’ll get to use the language, problem-solving, and collaboration skills that have marked my professional career, even before getting into employee benefits. 

What is one takeaway or nugget of wisdom that you would like to share?

I have two nuggets: Plan (the verb plan and the noun, an actual plan) and keep at it (i.e., treat the job search like a real job).  

Whether on a computer or a legal pad, plan what you want/don’t want in a job. Plan your week. Plan to attend only the webinars/meetings you think will best benefit you. Plan to follow up by phone or zoom when you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn. Plan to apply to only those jobs that are your target jobs (provided, of course, you have your marketing plan that will confirm what your target job[s] is[are]).

Keep at it. Unfortunately, unless you’re in an industrial union, federal government employee, or a tenured educator, being in career transition is a part of working in the private sector. Sometimes it’s made worse by our age or circumstances. We’re lucky that we have groups like the PAGCG to keep us moving. Accept the bad days and move forward with each day.  

Don't Risk Destroying Personal and Professional Relationships - Keep LinkedIn Politics-Free

DON'T RISK DESTROYING PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS - KEEP LINKEDIN POLITICS-FREE

DON'T RISK DESTROYING PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS - KEEP LINKEDIN POLITICS-FREE

I would recommend keeping LinkedIn Politics Free before and after election day. You could jeopardize relationships with your employer, clients, colleagues, etc.

If politics is your career, you will most likely be listing your position in the work experience section. However, be careful with your posts’ content, as you may reap what you sow – good, bad, and ugly. 

If you want to share your personal political opinions, LinkedIn is not the place for that. Read this Forbes article and Google to read more on this topic. There are many articles to read. 

LinkedIn’s Advertising Policies prohibit advertising many things, including political ads. Specifically, the policy states:

Political ads are prohibited, including ads advocating for or against a particular candidate, party, or ballot proposition or otherwise intended to influence an election outcome; ads fundraising for or by political candidates, parties, political action committees or similar organizations, or ballot propositions; and ads exploiting a sensitive political issue even if the advertiser has no explicit political agenda.”

If LinkedIn’s ad policy is so specific, I would think it would be wise to mirror that philosophy on your profile.

Note that LinkedIn also has Professional Community Policies as well as a User Agreement.  

Don’t create divisiveness. Don’t start what others have termed “LinkedIn suicide.” It’s not worth it. Your banter will probably not change anyone’s opinion anyway. 

Want to get involved in the polls? Temporary paid, and volunteer jobs are available in Chester County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, or learn more here

Just as a reminder:

Last chance to RSVP for a John Maxwell event live on Oct 9th, 9 am – 1 pm or on-demand for five days after. Join in on presentations from John Maxwell, Steve Harvey, Alan Mullaly, Kat Cole, and Craig Groeschel. To learn from these world-class leaders, register on this link for only $79. 

Missed last week’s article Leveraging LinkedIn for Business Building Opportunities? Click here!

Need to learn more about building your LinkedIn profile? Register with the Chester County Library for Saturday, October 17, 2020, for LinkedIn Part 2 of 3. In this workshop, you will learn how to make the visuals and how your efforts on LinkedIn can connect on other social media platforms. 

Prefer Tuesday evenings for LinkedIn learning, join me on Zoom for five sessions! 

AUTHOR BIO

Lynne Williams is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with over 6700 members and alumni providing career education and networking. Lynne also writes for vista.today, montco.today, and delco.today.

Digital Project Manager in Charge of Launching Websites Lands in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tell us about yourself and your career.

My name is Ron Vitale, and I am a digital project manager focused on launching websites with experience in agile and waterfall methodologies.

Why were you looking for a job?

After eight years at my former company, my position was eliminated in July 2020. With the pandemic still in full swing, this was the first time in my 25-year career that I was out of work. With companies hesitant to hire due to the pandemic, I needed to learn how to adapt quickly to a new job market.

How did you discover PAGCG?

A few years ago, my wife had mentioned the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group to me, and after I lost my job, I decided to go all-in and learn as much as I could from the group.

How did PAGCG help you in your job search?

I cannot stress enough how much value and help PAGCG offered to me. I signed up for the Bronze membership, and it was the best $35 I ever spent. I met dozens of people, attended online webinars that helped teach me the latest on resume writing and interviews, and aided me with my elevator pitch.

How did you find your job? How long did it take?

I found my job through an informational interview. After I was laid off, I reached out to my network and asked if anyone had contacts at one of my target companies. From there, I contacted people and asked if they would spend 15-minutes talking with me on the phone. I focused on learning and listening during those informational interviews. I made sure that I honored the 15-minute time commitment and then asked the person if they knew of anyone else within the company they thought I could speak with to learn more. 

During my job search, I had a multi-pronged approach: I worked with a recruiter, applied for positions that I found through my search queries, and I also applied for positions recommended by my network. However, the position that I landed came through one of my informational interview calls.

The whole process took ten weeks for me.

What kept you motivated during the job search, especially during the downtimes?

I signed up for a PAGCG weekly professional networking 2-hour meeting. The weekly meeting helped me be accountable for my job search goals as I shared those with the others on the call, and I also practiced my elevator pitch each week. When I struggled, I made sure that I focused on self-care activities or called up a PAGCG member to talk through how I felt. Hearing other people’s stories and having an outlet to talk through challenges really helped me get through the tough times.

What were the lessons that you learned during your job search?

Many people in our area are willing to help you. Since I was open to networking and taking part in PAGCG events, not only did I learn new skills for interviewing and resume writing, but I also met some great people. 

After I was laid off, I put together a daily schedule to know what job-searching tasks I wanted to complete each day, but I also built time into my day for self-care activities. I went into my job search knowing that it would take time due to the pandemic, but I didn’t let that get me down. I kept working each day to take small steps to reach out to others, apply for jobs, schedule informational calls, and talk to as many people as possible about my looking for a job.

I took a diversified approach by trying many different ways of finding a job. And when I hit a wall, I took a break, eased up a bit, but then got back to work.

Do you have any networking tips or tricks that you can share?

I recommend putting together your job search plan. Join a weekly professional network group through PAGCG, and you’ll learn what others are doing, what’s working for them, what isn’t, and then you can create a plan that works for you. I approached my job search like a job, and I went in knowing that the more people I talked with, the better my chances of landing a new position. 

As an introvert, I’m not shy, but reaching out to people through a Zoom or phone call does take energy and makes me tired at the end of the day. I planned my day to make sure that I didn’t overschedule myself and talked to as many people as possible.

What will you do in your new role?

I will be a Digital Business Lead to help oversee the launch of websites in the pharmaceutical industry.

What is one takeaway or nugget of wisdom that you would like to share?

Don’t give up. Take a risk, talk with people, listen to them. See what help you can provide them instead of going to them for a favor. You’ll be surprised by how many people will then help you in return.

LinkedIn Image Sizes and Character Limits

Below is an overview of many of the more frequently used current LinkedIn image sizes and character limits that will allow you to plan in advance. When typing content, it’s always best to type in Word or other word processing program so you can more clearly see the red underline if you have a typo. You can easily paste from Word into LinkedIn. 

IMAGES (in pixels):

Banner – 1584 x 396 (4:1 ratio)

Profile photograph – 400 x 400 to 7680 x 4320 

Group logo – 60 x 60 to 92 x 92 

Article cover image 698 x 400

Company page logo image – 300 x 300

Company page cover image – 1192 x 220

CHARACTER LIMITS (which include spaces, numbers, symbols, and emojis):

First Name – 20 

Last name – 40 

Headline – 220

Vanity (custom) URL – 5 to 30 after the www.linkedin.com/in/

Phone number – 25

Address – 1000

Website – 256

Website text – 30

IM section – 25

About – 2600 

Position title – 100 

Position description – 2000 

Recommendations – 3000

Posts – 1300 

Comments – 1250 

Article headline – 100

Articles – 125,000 

Article photo credit – 250

Company name – 100

Company page description – 200 to 1500

Company status update – 700

Personal message invitation – 300

Recorded message – 1 minute

and … you can have a maximum of 30,000 1st level connections

Although there are more  character limits, these are probably the most frequently used. Hope this helps to plan accordingly.

AUTHOR BIO

Lynne Williams is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with over 6300 members and alumni providing career education and networking. Lynne also writes for vista.today, montco.today, and delco.today.

Leverage LinkedIn to Build Your Business

Leverage your social proximity on LinkedIn to reach your targeted buyers. 

To get more details on leveraging social proximity, I interviewed Brynne Tillman, the CEO of Social Sales Link, an author,  a LinkedIn Sales Trainer, and a LinkedIn Sales Navigator Trainer. 

Question: How can you filter and search your connections’ connections to reach your target audience?

Answer: Typically, there are three ways to leverage your network – referrals, introductions, and name-drops.

  • Referrals – These come from your clients who know, like, and trust you.
  • Introductions – These come from a networking partner in your sphere of influence which has not been a client, but knows your reputation.
  • Name Drops – Make sure you have permission to name drop for this method of a warm introduction.

Question: How would you search on LinkedIn?

Answer: Here are the step-by-step instructions I use.

  • Pull up someone’s profile
  • Click on the search bar at the top left and choose people from the drop-down
  • Click on connections and choose 2nd
  • Click on locations and choose the location you want
  • Click on all filters
  • Type in your search string e.g., “sales manager” OR “sales director”
  • Click show results

Question: What’s the next step?

Answer: Start a conversation!

  • Set up a Zoom call by email or through a LinkedIn message to let them you you would like to have a quick call to run some names by them
  • When on the call, ask if they can provide insights on the list you generated from your search
  • Based on this conversation, you can ask for a referral, introduction, or permission to name drop

You should be able to fill your calendar with targeted buyers by following these steps to leverage your social proximity with warm introductions. Need some LinkedIn group coaching for prospecting and business development? Click here to read more.

Need to learn more about building your LinkedIn profile? Register with the Chester County Library for Saturday, October 17, 2020, for LinkedIn Part 2 of 3. In this workshop, you will learn how to make the visuals and how your efforts on LinkedIn can connect on other social media platforms. 

AUTHOR BIO

Lynne Williams is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with over 6700 members and alumni providing career education and networking. Lynne also writes for vista.today, montco.today, and delco.today.

John Maxwell Live2Lead Event for Leaders to Sharpen the Saw

Sharpen the saw and Educate Yourself!

As a business leader, you may have heard you need to sharpen the saw, including educating yourself. RSVP for a John Maxwell event on Oct 9th.

The Live2Lead half-day leadership development experience is live on Oct 9th 9 am – 2 pm or available virtually for 5 days after, when convenient for you. Join in on presentations from John Maxwell, Steve Harvey, Alan Mullaly, Kat Cole, and Craig Groeschel. 

To learn from these world-class leaders, register on this link for only $79. 

The event will be promoted on LinkedIn in a couple of different ways:

Don’t miss this opportunity!

AUTHOR BIO

Lynne Williams is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with over 6700 members and alumni providing career education and networking. Lynne also writes for vista.today, montco.today, and delco.today.