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Why You Need Allies, Sponsors and Mentors in Your Network

In 2014, I attended an interview at an internationally known marketing and advertising agency. I was still 2 months away from completing my full-time Public Relations post-graduate program but I had seen the job posting online and thought it would be perfect for me.

A few weeks later, I received an email to come in for an interview. I remember walking in and feeling nervous yet really confident. I knew my stuff, I had some great practical experience and I had my portfolio in hand to prove it.

The interview finished and then I was told something along the lines of…

“We’re really impressed by you and we’d love to offer you the job…but you’re still in school!”

I was crushed but yet I don’t really know what I was expecting as I still had 2 months left before I finished my program. I wasn’t about to “drop out” so close to the finish line either. So, they told me to keep in touch and email them when I finished school.

Click below to listen to an audio version of this blogpost!

Fast forward to being a few weeks away from finishing my program (thank goodness!) and I decided to follow up again to see if there were any open roles. I received a response shortly after from the hiring manager I had interviewed with and in a nutshell, she felt that I had so much potential and even though there weren’t any open positions, she wanted to share me with her network and if I’d be ok with that.

…Um, yes, of course!!

So, this woman who I had only met once (and talked to for no longer than an hour), sent out an email to her network saying how much potential I have and if they have any open roles, they need me on their team.

I didn’t know it then (I honestly just thought she was extremely nice!) but I know it now, this woman was a sponsor – a very important person that everyone needs in their network in order to truly succeed.

We often throw around the word “network” without much context or thought to the roles that the people in our network play yet there are 3 key ones that you absolutely need to get ahead – allies, mentors and of course, sponsors.

Here’s who they are and why you need all 3 for professional success:

Allies

According to this Zen Workplace article, an ally is someone who proactively offers help and support to help you achieve your goals.

An ally goes beyond just a friend you have at work. You’re able to have open and honest conversations about salaries and career advancement because they genuinely have your best interests at heart. They will also work to push forward your ideas and ensure your work is noticed. If you work in a male-dominated field, it’s also recommended that you also have a few male allies that you can trust to really boost the trajectory of your career. These male allies should recognize their privilege within your workplace and industry and genuinely be committed to helping you succeed as well.

Mentors

By definition, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. As described in this Levo League article, mentors set aside dedicated time in order to offer up career advice and share wisdom and experiences to their mentees.

I’ll be honest – I’ve never had a mentor. Sure, I’ve had people here and there that have set aside time to share their insight with me but never a formal mentor/mentee relationship. I know that a lot of importance is placed on mentorship and I’m sure there is lots of value in it but typically they can only take you so far. They succeed at boosting your knowledge and confidence by sharing their experience and insight but I’ve learned that sometimes there can be a gap between equipping you with this knowledge and actual opportunity.

Sponsors

A sponsor is someone that is willing to put their name and reputation on the line to vouch for you. They share you with their entire network to help you land opportunities.

According to Jo Miller, Founder of Be Leaderly, “A sponsor sees how your strengths could add value in areas of the business you’ve not yet had exposure to. Due to their influence, sponsors can open more career doors than you ever thought possible. And they can see a vision for your career that is bigger than you could ever imagine.”

The interesting thing about sponsors is that you don’t necessarily find them – they find you. After all, I definitely did not know that my interview would result in me having a sponsor!

As this article in Forbes says, “finding a sponsor is far more difficult than finding a mentor. Generally, young professionals choose their mentors, whereas sponsors choose young professionals to bet on.”

Author Bonnie Marcus talks about this idea of being “sponsor ready”.  Essentially, this means you have to consistently perform at a high level and always make a good impression so that you’re a person that a potential sponsor would have no worry about associating themselves with you. Think about this the next time you go for an interview. Even if you don’t get the job, if you make a positive enough impression, you could end up with a valuable career sponsor.

Now, you may be wondering – what value does a sponsor get? Well, it’s a 2-way street. You get access to a potentially hidden network and they become known as someone who has access to high-potential people. They become a valuable asset to the people in their network.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have people that fill multiple roles. In fact, that’s probably the best case scenario to have – someone that not only dedicated time to share their insight but believes in your potential so much that they vouch for you in front of their network.

But, remember – it’s important to pay it forward so just as you seek to fill the roles of allies, sponsors and mentors in your life, look for opportunities for you to play these roles as well so you can make a lasting impact on someone else’s career.

4 Ways to Continue Your Education as a Working Woman

When I was in university, I told myself that as soon as I graduate, I would never go back to school again.

No more essays. No more textbooks and definitely no more exams. Needless to say, I was eager to get out into the working world.

Until of course, I entered the working world and realized I had it pretty good as a student compared to navigating the working world. Because…the job market is tough.

There is extremely high competition for open jobs and it can take countless applications and interviews before you find something. This also means that once you get a job, your hard work isn’t over. In order to keep your job or move into a new role, you have to remain competitive and keep your skills up to date.

With job expectations changing all the time, it’s a good idea to regularly look at job descriptions that are similar to your current role (or even better – one that you are aspiring to!) to see what skills are expected.

But, how do you find the time and money to update your skills when you work full-time?

Here are 4 ways you can continue your education as a working woman:

Sign up for a Brainstation class

After doing my regular review of job descriptions in my field, I realized that it was time to brush up on my skills. With my background in digital marketing and communications, I wanted to know what the next big skill was and I noticed that “User Experience” was consistent among all of them. Fast forward about a week and I was officially enrolled in the 5-week part-time User Experience Design course at Brainstation located in downtown Toronto.

I’m sure many of you are probably wondering – what in the world is User Experience? Well, user experience is the quality of a person’s interaction with a product or system. The course focused on websites and apps and I found the content to be extremely relevant to anyone – whether you work in digital marketing or not!

I really love the culture at Brainstation and I found it to be a quick but valuable way to gain new skills in a short amount of time. A Brainstation course is so different from the traditional post-secondary institution as you’re taught by instructors that currently work in the field and everything you learn can immediately be applied to the real world. Another great thing about them? They offer scholarships to help make the course cost more affordable.

Thinking about signing up? Click here to get $40 in Brainstation credit that you can use towards courses, workshops and events! I’ll also get $40 in credit too, so I may just see you around sometime ;)*

Watch a TED Talk

Not only are TED Talks a great source of inspiration (watch one on a day you’re feeling uninspired and you’ll see what I mean) but they are full of educational content. What’s great about TED Talks is that a wide variety of subjects are covered which means you’re guaranteed to find one that piques your interest. You can search by subject via the TED website or a simple search on YouTube will do the trick too!

Watch a course on Lynda.com

Lynda is a video-based online learning platform that allows people to learn business, software and creative skills. They were acquired by LinkedIn in XXXX and since then they’ve seamlessly integrated the two platforms to help take your professional career to new heights. When looking at a job description, LinkedIn will recommend relevant courses that you should take on Lynda to help you increase your qualifications. Plus, you can literally take your courses anywhere as you can watch the video via the mobile site or their apps – perfect for when you’re on the go! Sign up for a free trial to see how you like it.

Take the CEO 60 Challenge

What do some of the world’s top CEO’s have in common? Aside from of course, having tons of money. They typically read 4-5 books per month to an average of 60 books a year! There is so much knowledge to be found within books and many CEO’s have said that their best ideas have come from being inspired by a recent read. Now, I’m not saying that you necessarily have to read 60 books as well but it’s a helpful reminder that education doesn’t always mean classes, textbooks and exams. There are so many options for consuming books from e-readers, audio books or good ol’ physical books if you’re old-fashioned like I am. Don’t forget – magazines are a great way to learn too. I religiously read the physical issues of Entrepreneur Magazine and Fast Company each month as each issue is packed with informative articles.

What’s your favourite way to gain new knowledge and skills?

Full disclosure: I was a Brainstation brand ambassador while enrolled in my course which allowed me to receive a discount on my course. Regardless, I still would have taken the course and I still would honestly recommend it as a viable option for continuing your education. Brainstation did not sponsor this post and the opinions I’ve shared are my open and honest beliefs! 

6 Ways to Give Your Personal Brand a Fall Refresh

The start of the fall season is always an exciting time. As the weather begins to cool, it’s like we all snap back into reality as we say goodbye to yet another summer and prepare to conquer the remaining months of the year. There’s no shortage of events and career opportunities in the fall with many of us finding our calendars quickly book up!

You’ll be meeting tons of people at said events (potentially attending interviews too!) which consequently leads to more people viewing your social profiles as well.

To ensure you’re fully prepared for these impending outings and opportunities, let me ask you this – when was the last time you updated your personal brand?

Here are 6 ways to give your personal brand a fall refresh:

Update your headshots

Your profile photo is the first thing that people look at on your social profile. If yours is a quick selfie you took on your own or just a completely outdated photo (perhaps your hair is drastically different?), it’s time to make a change. Hire a photographer or ask a friend who can take a decent photo to help you take new headshots. Not only will it immediately refresh your online profiles but it is always good to have a professional set of photos on hand for any speaking or promotional opportunity you may receive.

Before your shoot, be sure to check out my post on How to Prepare for a Personal Brand Photoshoot with tips from myself and photographer Laura Benn from Gooseberry Studios!

Update social profiles

Started a new job? Recently worked on a new project? Add and edit details on your social profiles, especially your bio! Make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects your current role and all section are complete. You can always read up on How to Get an All-Star Profile on LinkedIn for a full checklist.

Check your business card supply

With all the networking events you can attend this season, you should make sure you have an ample amount of business cards ready to go. Order more if required but before you do – ensure that your information is up-to-date so that people can easily get in contact with you!

Update your wardrobe

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and get a completely new wardrobe but it’s a great time to complete a strategic audit of your closet. Check for the wardrobe essentials and add any necessary pieces that will help you get through the fall season (and into the winter season!) in style. Don’t forget – a wardrobe change can boost your productivity!

Review your goals

Have you been achieving your goals? With only a few months left in the year, it’s a great time to sit and reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you still have left to work on. My goal-setting process typically involves setting both short-term and long-term goals but everyone’s process is different. However you choose to do it, be sure that your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) to increase the likelihood of actually achieving them!

Another way to ensure you’ll achieve your goals? Writing them somewhere that you’ll see them everyday! I’ve been loving the Better Life Planner from the Better Life Project, a success planner designed for life long learners! Now, this is not just your average planner – it has nice big pages to write ALL of your tasks plus you can track your goals each month and week! And did I mention you can also keep track of your reading lists and gifts you need to buy? Get your copy of the Better Life Planner to help you finish 2017 strong and start 2018 on the right foot! Use my code DWDW15 for an exclusive 15% discount!

Analyze your social media and content strategy

To consistently position yourself as an expert, you should be leveraging social media and content with a well-devised strategy. By far, building your personal brand using content is one of the most valuable things you can do to gain new opportunities.

How will you be giving your personal brand a fall refresh?

 

Note: The Better Life Planner discount is an affiliate link which means I may receive a small commission from your purchase. You should know that I very rarely share affiliate links and if I do, it means that it’s a product I truly do love and trust! 🙂 

5 Steps to Getting Event Sponsors

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to host 5 networking events and by the second one, I was able to secure support from various sponsors. Yes, the events were still relatively new but the numbers don’t matter as much as value. Without value, it doesn’t matter how many attendees or social media impressions you have. You may think that your event is “too small” but it may be exactly the type of event a company is looking to support.

But, let’s be honest – reaching out to sponsors is nerve-wracking! Between finding the right people to contact, drafting the emails, waiting patiently for responses (you’ll probably refresh your emails every few minutes) and dealing with rejection, landing sponsors is not easy. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned since organizing my own events – nothing worth having comes easy and you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to reach out to potential sponsors but if you successfully land sponsorship support, it can truly help to elevate your brand.

Here are 5 tips to help you get event sponsors:

Create a strong sponsorship package

It’s imperative that you have a short yet concise document that you can share with your sponsors that highlights exactly why they should get involved with your event. Here are the key things to include:

  • Who you are and your expertise (what’s your background, why are you passionate about this and what makes you qualified)
  • Details on past events (attendee numbers, photos, positive feedback – highlight your growth!)
  • Attendee demographics (describe your attendees by age, interests, location, professional background, etc.)
  • Benefits of sponsoring your event (a.k.a. What value can you provide them?)
  • Testimonials
  • Sponsorship options (will you provide pre-set packaged opportunities or customized options?)
  • Contact information

Research and create an outreach list

When it comes to sponsorship, don’t just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks – in other words, don’t reach out to anyone and everyone and take whoever responds. You need to be specific in terms of who your ideal sponsors would be so that it makes sense for your event. Take time to research and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What brands can best integrate into your event and provide value?
  • Who has sponsored events similar to yours?
  • What brands do our attendees like?

 

Create customized emails

Once you have a targeted list, it’s time for you to start your outreach. I highly recommend trying to find emails for a specific person – emails sent to a general mailbox rarely ever receive responses. If you can’t easily find the best contact from the company’s website – don’t get discouraged! Here’s what I do:

  • Look up the best contact on LinkedIn
  • Once I have the first and last name, I research to find out how the company structures their email addresses (for example – is it firstnamelastname@company, firstname.lastname@company, etc.)
  • The quickest way to find out how the company structures their emails? Search for a recent press release and check the contact details at the bottom!

Before you start reaching out, it’s important to know exactly what type of support you would like from them. Take some time to brainstorm some ideas so that if they ask you what you have in mind, you can respond right away. Be direct yet reasonable in your requests.

Your emails need to be short but valuable and from the first few sentences, you need to make clear what’s in it for them. Start by addressing them by name and then briefly introducing yourself, what you do and the value you provide. Let them know your package is attached for them to review and be sure to end the email with a call-to-action so that they’re more likely to respond – you could ask to set up a call or a meeting to provide them with more details.

I also suggest creating a tracker so that you can keep a record of all the emails you sent out, what date and the responses you receive. This way, you’ll be able to effectively follow up.

Keep the communication lines open

Once a sponsor has agreed to partner with you, it’s important to openly communicate with them both before and after the event. Provide them with all of the event details and update them on any changes that may occur. Also be sure to respond to all emails within 24 hours.

Follow-up

Your follow-up after the event is extremely important. If you’re able to maintain the relationship, you could potentially have a permanent sponsor! Within 48 hours, send each sponsor a thank you email with pictures and stats from the event. I also suggest sending a handwritten thank you card within 7 days to really show your appreciation for their support.

Now, let’s be honest – you could follow all of these steps and still receive a No. If you do (and it’s very likely that you will receive a few of them – that’s just life), do not let it discourage you. Move forward and continue reaching out because you’re sure to find the right company that completely believes in your vision and will help to take your event to the next level.

Would you be interested in an e-Book on all things event sponsorship, including more proposal tips, screenshots from successful sponsorship packages, email templates and more? Leave me a comment below! 

These New LinkedIn Updates Will Up Your Networking Game

LinkedIn has been an important networking platform for years but over the past few months, they’ve made some significant updates to their user experience to help us taking our networking to the next level!

Here are 3 important updates you should know about:

Easily meet up with other members

Have you ever been out of town for a conference or meeting and wish you had the opportunity to connect with people in your network? Well, now you can! You have to opt-in for this feature in order to make your current location public but I can definitely see it proving itself useful for those who “never eat alone”. P.S. If you’ve never read the book, Never Eat Alone, it’s a must-read that will completely change the way you view networking.

Photo Filters

Bring your Instagram skills over to LinkedIn because you now have much more options to to edit your photo from cropping to a wide array of filters. Don’t forget – your photo is the first thing people look at when they land on your profile so you should always ensure it’s high-quality and the best reflection of you!

Message connections from anywhere on LinkedIn

Connecting with someone on Linkedin is easier than ever as you can now access the messaging tool from wherever you are. Found someone interesting you want to learn more about? You don’t even have to leave their profile to send them a message! Plus, Linkedin now provides message prompts to help you construct the perfect message. We’ve all been there – we want to send a short but intelligent sounding message but we have no idea what to say. Looks like Linkedin understood our pain and has pre-written messages that you can either use word-for-word or simply just use them as inspiration for what you would like to say.

If you haven’t been spending much time on LinkedIn lately, head over and check these features out. Happy networking!

Why You Should Dress Up For A Phone Interview

When contacted by a company for a job opportunity, it’s likely that before you are invited for an in-person interview, you need to complete a phone interview.

Now this may seem pretty easy – you get to sit at home and simply talk on the phone without having to deal with the added stress surrounding an in-person meeting. You know what I mean – it seems much easier since you don’t have to worry about your body language and attire.

The thing is though – what you choose to wear can influence your performance during a phone interview.

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4 Ways to Gracefully Exit a Networking Conversation

When it comes to networking events, a common challenge for people is figuring out the right icebreakers. What exactly do you say to end that awkward silence and start a conversation?

I was recently quoted in a roundup article on Ladders HQ alongside six other professionals to share my favourite go-to icebreaker – statement jewelry. Trust me when I say it’s the networking tool you never knew you needed.

But icebreakers aside, it’s not just starting the conversation that’s a challenge – it’s gracefully exiting it. You know what I mean. You need to end the conversation because you see someone else you would like to chat with – or you simply want to go home and curl up with a blanket and Netflix. (By the way, that is totally understandable and I may or may not have left a networking event to do this.)

networking

Whatever the reason is, here are 4 scripts you can use to gracefully leave the conversation:

Be honest about work

“Sara, it was a pleasure meeting you but I do have to head out as I have a few other things on my to-do list tonight. Enjoy the rest of your evening!

Going to chat with someone else

“Pleasure chatting with you, Claire – I actually see an old colleague of mine that I’d like to say hi to before heading out. I’d love to get your card though and I’ll connect with you online.

When you want to plan a follow-up chat

Alicia – so glad we met tonight! I do have to head out but we should definitely set up a time to chat further about [insert topic you talked about here] – can I get your card and I’ll shoot you an email this week?

When you’re looking for a job and they seem like they could help

Grace – so nice chatting with you. Unfortunately, I do have to head out but do you mind if I get your card? I love the sound of the culture at [insert company name here] – by what you’ve said it seems like a great place to work! I’d love to connect and set up a time for us to grab a coffee – if you have some time in your schedule in the next few weeks?

What things have you said to exit a networking conversation?

Stylish and Successful: Louise Mangalino

I remember when I first stumbled on the @burgerpawty Instagram page. I was instantly drawn in by Louise’s perfectly curated photos and with pink being the predominant colour, you know that I immediately had to follow her. But Instagram aside, I absolutely love what Louise has created with Burger Pawty (she’s a total girlboss!) and after learning more about her through this interview, I’m dying to try out a burger!

Keep reading to learn more about Louise:

Let’s say we just met at a networking event. How do you introduce yourself and what you do?

Hi, I’m Louise Mangalino and I’m the HBIC (Head Barbie in Charge) of Burger Pawty: a collection of sliders and snacks for your inner sparkle, available for catering and special events.

What does your morning routine look like? Do you have any tools or apps that help keep you on track?

On weekdays, my morning routine consists of waking up at 5:30AM, getting ready ‘til about 7:00AM (includes showering, makeup, hair and deciding what to wear), and then off to work at my day job! I work as an administrative clerk in an office Monday to Friday.

On weekends, my morning routine really varies, depending on what’s on the schedule. Although I love sleeping in any chance I get, I love going on adventures even more! After my morning dose of Twitter and Instagram, I love exploring the city and checking out new corners I haven’t been to yet. If my boyfriend happens to have the day off, as well, we venture out together and usually grab brunch somewhere new.

Even in the times we live in, I can admit that I’m the last one to use the calendar app on my phone to keep track of things. I’m a pen-to-paper kind of girl and can often be found jotting down important notes or ideas in my planner or on random scraps of paper. Writing things down helps me remember.

For many of us, it’s very difficult to figure out what our passion is. We’re told to “find our passion” but yet it seems to be easier said than done. How were you able to find a career path that you’re so passionate about? What advice can you share?

I’ve always been a passionate person and often give 100% in everything I put my name on. Once I have the spark for something, it’s really hard for the wheels to stop turning. In terms of finding my passion for Burger Pawty, it was sort of a no brainer: I love food! I’ve always been surrounded by good food growing up: my parents are both naturals in the kitchen and my brother attended culinary school at George Brown. This meant good food, all the time! Burgers are my weakness and you can read all about it on my personal blog, BURGERS AND BARBIE$ (www.burgersandbarbies.com). I also do all the design, branding and marketing for Burger Pawty and that stems from my passion and love of the arts. I’m a creative person by nature and have always excelled in this field.

My best advice is to find something you love and run with it—no matter what that passion may be. If it’s important to you, hone it and make it your own. Be genuine in your craft and don’t look back.

My personal brand is the epitome of my professional success. I believe that your personal branding is the single most important tool for your business.

Looking back at your career thus far, what’s one thing you’ve learned that has made a significant impact on you?

One thing that I have learned that has made a significant impact on me is that your time is valuable. When I was starting out, I would say yes to everything because I sincerely didn’t want to upset anyone. I had invested a lot of my time, creativity and resources into certain projects and I often overworked myself. It’s easy to be taken advantage of in this type of industry. My boyfriend gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I carry to this day, and that is to “know your worth.” Your time, energy and talent should always be reflected in the end result. If your heart’s not in it, you don’t have to do it. It’s important to say no sometimes and to stand your ground.

How important is your personal brand to your professional success? Any tips for someone who is trying to discover what their unique brand is?

My personal brand is the epitome of my professional success. I believe that your personal branding is the single most important tool for your business. This is an important value I learned in Grade 10 Careers Class. My teacher at the time expressed how important your personal brand and presentation are to how others perceive you. You get back what you put out there. If you take yourself and your work seriously, others will see that and will treat you with the same respect. Most importantly, be yourself through and through.

For anyone trying to discover what their unique brand is, try and think about what makes you unique. What makes you stand out? What do you love the most? What can’t you live without? Try to narrow these ideas down and soon enough, the answer will be staring you in the face.

Do you think that your appearance has played a role in your professional success? If so, how?

I believe that, to an extent, my appearance has played a role in my professional success. As mentioned, I believe that your personal branding is the single most important tool for your business and this goes hand in hand with your appearance. If you present yourself professionally, then you will (or should) receive a professional response. Not only does this coincide with how you dress, but with your attitude, as well: it’s important to have a winning attitude. A great attitude trumps a professional outfit any day of the week!

What are 3-5 items that you suggest every young professional woman have in their closet?

A good pair of heels, a good jacket and business cards are a must!

What is your go-to outfit?

For my go-to outfit, I like to keep it casual: a dress or skirt-top combo, a flash of denim and white sneakers.

A great attitude trumps a professional outfit any day of the week!

What are your tips for looking stylish yet professional at work and/or client meetings?

My advice for looking stylish yet professional at meetings is to dress the part, while remaining true to your personal style. Think about something that is uniquely you and incorporate it into your “signature look”: a brand colour, a pin or even a specific shade of lipstick! All while keeping in mind who you are meeting with, what the objective is for this meeting and where you will be meeting to formulate your best outfit for the occasion.

What’s your shoe of choice – flats or heels?

I’ve always been a heels kind of girl, but I’ve been dressing it down a lot lately. I’ve never been into flats (ie. ballet flats, loafers, oxfords, etc.), so if I had a true choice I would say sneakers. They’re best for running around to and from meetings and for exploring the city! I’m fortunate that the industry I work in is pretty laid back and no frills.

Follow Burger Pawty on Twitter and Instagram as well as BURGERS AND BARBIE$ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Why You Should Move Away After College

Your post-undergrad years are the time of your life to be selfish. And if any part of you yearns to move away from everything you’ve ever known, do it.

Many college graduates are mired in some combination of debt, an identity crisis and their disdain for job searches. In my case, all three (to an extent) bogged me down after receiving my degree. I’m not saying moving is a magic bullet solution for postgraduate stress. However, it does give you a new journey to look forward to.  Set a worthy goal and deadlines, and you’ll be amazed what starts to happen.

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