Sometimes I see great ideas for career advice in unusual places. This unusual place was a signature block – one of the best I’ve ever seen.
I got an email last week from Mary McFarlin of LinkedNChicago that one of the best signature blocks I’ve ever seen. Mary has been a wonderful mentor to me in community building and I’ve been fortunate to have benefited from her trailblazing efforts as a group leader and networker extraordinaire.
Mary’s signature block was simple, but amazingly powerful. It said simply … “Mantra for 2011: Always bring a gift.”
This is a brilliant concept for job seekers as well as networkers. When we’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, we bring a gift – flowers, a bottle of wine, dessert. When we’re invited to be someone’s houseguest for the weekend, we bring a small gift of appreciation, or at least something tasty to share.
So my career advice today is … Why not extend this gift giving into our job search?
Of course you’re not going to bring a bottle of wine or flowers into an interview, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still bring a gift. You can bring a gift whenever someone talks to you on the phone, whenever someone takes the time to listen to your voice mail, or reads an email you sent.
Why give a gift to someone who reads your email?
Giving a gift makes you memorable. First, because almost no one other than you would think to give a gift, just for reading your email. Second, because it’s just so incredibly nice. Third (and most important) is because the gift is thoughtful, because it provides special value for the recipient.
What kind of gift could you give that does all this, yet isn’t a bribe?
This gift doesn’t have to cost anything more than effort. The less it costs, the more valuable it usually is (sounds strange, no?).
The gift is information. If you had to pay for it, then it’s probably public information, and isn’t very valuable. Private information, usually free, is the most valuable.
The gift I suggest can take many forms:
Information: In your emails and voice mails, give information that’s valuable to the recipient. Competitive information, leads, names of top recruiters or vendors, industry information
The hint of more information: Gives the recipient even more reason to call you back, other than to just say thanks
Value: Give information that the recipient can only get from you. Don’t bother with information that they’ll hear on the 10:00 news, it doesn’t carry much value.
Relevant: Make sure the information you give is relevant and interesting to the recipient – which means different information for different people
Customized: The more customized the information, the more appears that the information was given only to the recipient
Provide value: If your gift can’t provide value to the recipient, it isn’t worth giving and could appear shallow
WIFT: Make sure that you know what’s in it for them. If you do, your gift is much more likely to provide value.
Most importantly, when you bring a gift you pay it forward. Not just talk about paying it forward, not just giving it lip service … you’re actually delivering on the promise of paying it forward. Delivering on this promise brings dividends – to your job search, your networking efforts, your career and to your life.
Mary’s gift to me last week was her signature block that inspired this article. Hopefully my articles and webinars provide my gift to you for your readership.
Any of you readers out there in Chicago, I highly recommend linking to Mary, joining her group and attending her outstanding networking events in the Chicago area.
Always bring a gift in 2011 – What gift will you bring?