Movin’ On Up | Bagging a Mentor

We’ve all read about the importance of having a mentor in the workplace (especially for women). However, I didn’t understand the true value of a mentor until I actually had one myself. My parents and older sister always gave me great advice, so I never thought I was in desperate need of my own mentor. I’ll be the first to admit, I was very wrong. My family is great and they all give helpful advice- but having a non-family member guide me was the greatest thing that happened in my career.

I believe it’s important to have a mentor who is in your career field. They know more people than you. They’ve seen some stuff before you started hanging around. So, he/she will have more of expertise in the field and will therefore be able to provide useful insight and advise.

My mentor happened to be the head boss at my first internship, but I had little interaction with her. I was then hired and she became my direct boss. She has 19 years of government experience and knows everything about and everyone in LA politics.

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When can you start looking for a mentor?

There is no time like the present! Being a twenty-something navigating the career world can be tough. Having a trusted mentor makes it easier.

It was fortuitous that I found my mentor at my first job. I understand that this isn’t the case for everyone. A mentor can come in all shapes in sizes. You may find a mentor in a professor from college, a family friend, a coworker, or even a friend. My friend Caroline is only a few months older than me, but gives incredible career advice. While I don’t necessarily think of her as my mentor, she definitely acts like one when I need her to!

Being in a male dominated industry can be tough, but having a female mentor who has been where I have been makes it so much easier to manage. She helps me not make the mistakes she has seen others make. She uses her expertise of the industry and of the people we interact with to help me succeed. I owe all of my current and future success to her.

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But how do you get your mentor to be a mentor?

This is a tough one. I didn’t ask my mentor to be my mentor. I personally find that awkward and similar to asking someone to go steady. Working under her in a small office, we sort of evolved into a mentor/mentee relationship.

It’s okay to treat someone like a mentor, without ever having that explicit conversation. I will use my friend Caroline again as an example. I have never told her she is my mentor, but I do feel comfortable going to her for guidance and advise. So in a sense, she is my mentor 2.0. But we didn’t have a drawn out conversation about it, I just started asking her for help and she obliged.

If you start asking someone for some guidance and advise, and they are willing to help you, then you are on track to establishing a mentor/mentee relationship.

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Finding my mentor was the best thing that has happened in my young adult life. So start asking questions, because successful adults have a lot of wisdom to share with us!

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The Do’s and the Don’ts of Resume Writing from a Real Toby

This past year I was the intern coordinator for my office, which meant I was forced to look at countless college students’ resumes and cover letters. And let me tell you…yikes. These were smart kids, going to schools like USC and UCLA, and while the content on their resumes were impressive, the format was awful. I saw resumes that were 5 pages long and had grammatical and spelling errors. Seriously?

Here are my top 10 dos and don’ts of resume writing.

DO keep it to one page

Unless you are in your mid-career, your resume should not exceed one page. I promise you, you aren’t doing anything that is groundbreaking enough to add a second page.

DON’T add color

Unless you are Elle Woods, your resume should be printed on white paper or nice resume paper. The type should be black and in an easy to read font, size 12ish.

Mind you, I work for the government and am not in the design or fashion industry, so this may be different in those fields. But if you are in the government or business fields, I say to stick to the basics.

DO type your name in a larger size than the rest of your resume

When your resume is in a giant pile on someone’s desk, you want your name to jump out immediately when they look at your resume.

DON’T put your high school information on your resume once you graduated

I get that you were high school student body president but you’re in college now, please move on. If you think it’s super important to you, then bring it up in your interview.

DO play up your strengths

When I applied for my first internship in college, I had had zero work experience aside from babysitting. So instead of creating a boring and empty resume, I put my leadership experience from my sorority. Even though I had no official work experience, I played up my involvement in school and ultimately got the internship. This applies for volunteer work too.

DON’T forget to add location to your work experiences

I thought this would be a given, but I saw so many resumes that didn’t have the location of their school or of their previous internships. The city and state is all you need!

DO proofread

No explanation necessary

DON’T use the wrong tense

If you used to work somewhere, make all the bullet points past tense. If you still work there, make all the bullet points present tense. 

DO have a professional email address

While surfergirl310@gmail was fun once upon a time, it’s time to look a little more professional. Stick to your first and last name in some variation.

DO save and send your resume as a PDF

A lot of the times, an employer will open up your resume from their phone. If you send it as a document, the formatting can get messed up. Make sure you send it as a PDF, so no matter what, your formatting looks like how you intended it to.

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Good luck and happy resume writing!

Mastering the Informational Interview

If I’ve learned anything in my first year of full time employment, it’s relationships matter. Yes, the other stuff is important too (like actually being good at your job), but networking is the crème de la crème of a successful career. Don’t know how to start networking? Here’s a top 8 (anyone else automatically think of Myspace?) list of things to follow.

Brainstorm

Think of people you know in your career field (or the field you want to be in!) It could be a family member, a friend, a teacher, a friend’s friend, anyone you can think of. If you can make a list of 5-10 people to contact, that’s great. But really, you only need one person to start the process.

Reach Out

Contact the people on your list by calling or emailing them. Ask them if they would have time to meet you for an informational interview. Offer to go to their work or near their house. If they aren’t able to meet you personally, a phone conversation is always an option. You want to make sure you are making it as easy as possible on them.

Fair warning, people are usually quite busy working and you may have to email or call the person a few times before you lock something down. But beware; there is a fine line between being tenacious and being obnoxious, especially during an interview.

Prepare

Assume you will only have 15 minutes to talk. It’s possible you may luck out and have much longer, but you should go in thinking you only have time for specific questions. You should have some general questions (i.e. how did you break into the field, could you look at my resume and cover letter), and your specific “ask” too. Think about something they could potentially help you with. They may say no, but you’ll never know unless you ask!

The Interview

Show up early! Dress professionally. Bring a pen and notebook so you can take notes during the interview. 

Remember, the point of your meeting is to listen to the person and take in their knowledge. Don’t interject them or finish their sentence. Ask them your question, then sit back and take notes.

The Ask

Remember your prepared asks, but the most important ask is: Can you refer me to a few other people I could also speak with? This is the key to expanding your network. Every time you meet someone, you should always ask him or her to connect you to someone else.

Follow up

If possible, send a handwritten thank you note to the person. A toddler can write an email these days, but if you take time to handwrite a thank you note, you will impress someone. Our generation thinks of handwritten letters as archaic, but this can help you stand out from the crowd. If you think snail mail is too slow, send a thank you email. Thank them for their time and mention something specific you learned. If they haven’t already, remind them to connect you to one of their colleagues.

Spreadsheet

An old senior colleague of mine taught me this trick and it’s made a huge difference in my networking skills. Create a Google Doc where you can track all of your networking meetings you’ve had. Feel free to tailor the tabs to your liking, but mine are the following:

Name, Company, Email, Phone Number, Date of Meeting, Location of Meeting, Notes 

Repeat 

Continue interviewing like this even while you have a job! You never know who can help you later in life. Make sure to also keep in contact with your network. If you get a promotion or move jobs, let them know! You may feel like you’re bothering them, but it’s just one email, and if they think you are annoying- they will just junk you. No harm no foul.

Guide to Linkedin | Landing your First Job After College: Part 5 – Landing the Job

We just went over building your profile, tapping into your network, reaching out to your contacts, and preparing for the call. Now you have them on the phone, and it’s finally gametime.

Be attentive. Act intrigued. Wow, that’s incredible. Act like you’re taking notes. hmmms are winners.

The trick here is to ingratiate yourself a little. After they answer a question or two, follow up with an affirmation and then something about yourself that works to align their experience with yours.

Wow, it sounds like you really involved yourself in college while you were here. I have been really lucky to do the same. I am president of my sorority, on the university’s investment fund, plus I write for the school newspaper. It’s been a great experience and have definitely learned a lot.

This gets the dialogue going both ways and opens the conversation. You want them to know about you just as much as you want to know about them.

The red zone

For those of you who watch football, the red zone is when the team is within very close reach of scoring. At this point, you should be in the red zone.

Hopefully the conversation is going great, because you are engaged, attentive, coming off intelligent, witty and funny. You have been demonstrating through experience how your skills are extremely fitting for an entry level position at the company they work for. They definitely looked at your profile and seen your stuff.

Now it’s time to start asking questions that are going to end up with you asking them flat out what you are looking for.

Allow yourself at least 15 minutes for this process because this is where your negotiating comes in and you don’t want to rush this. It has to be perfect.

Start to transition to questions about the company and their role professionally.

  • What is your management style?
  • Where do you see the company in the next 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?
  • What are some skills that make a great employee under you?

And then finally, as you begin to feel it:

Well it really sounds like an incredible company and from the looks of it I would fit in great. I am wondering if there are any opportunities for me there?  Or if there is anybody I can talk to about that. I’d love to send you my resume and portfolio and maybe we can set something up.

Holy crap. That did just happen. You did it. The hard part is done. You have just worked your ass off and made enough of an impression that you feel comfortable enough to ask for an interview. Because that’s ultimately what you want, an interview. Another opportunity to show up, in person, and wow them, to put a face to the voice, and really convince them you’re the right person for the job.

If everything has gone to plan, the person on the other end of the line will mull over the past 2 weeks of your relationship and present some options for you to move forward.

Option 1: Yes. I’m sure we are looking for some people to hire in the next few months. Send over your resume and we will be in touch.

Option 2: I don’t know if we are at the moment, but let me put you in touch with a colleague of mine who is looking for some help.

Option 3: We are not at the moment, but I will definitely keep you on file in case something comes up and we need help. Send over your resume and we will be in touch.

Either option is awesome and you should be incredibly proud of yourself. What you’re ultimately doing is building your professional network and establishing a relationship that represents to that professional, “Hey, I exist, I can help you, we have something in common, I’m an option.” Even if that person does not directly hire you, they have a professional network that they might be able to tap into to help you. I say it might take another degree or two of networking that will do the trick. And as you know, recommendations are a very valuable thing to have. People like you more if they have their friend vouch for you. And also, if you receive option 3, don’t let that course run dry. If you don’t hear from them in a month or two. Reach out to them again and make them remember you. They might have an opening or a friend that has an opening to which you have just made yourself readily available and eager for that opportunity.

That was a long process, I know. But I wouldn’t be writing this if it didn’t work. You have to remember that life after college is a marathon, not a sprint. Nothing is going to get done overnight. If you learn to have patience, be persistent, and see things through, you are going to do great in any setting you land in.

And lastly, The harder you work, the luckier you get. Work fu*king hard.

Guide to Linkedin | Landing your First Job After College: Part 4 – Preparing for the Call

We just went over building your profile, tapping into your network, and reaching out. Now it’s time to prepare for the call.

Do your homework. Treat this call like you would an exam, but more important. By now you have worked for last 2-3 weeks planning, researching, sending emails, and following up. Do not let it all go to waste. You’ve made a great first impression. Just know other undergrads are not working this hard or this smart trying to get them on the phone. 

Three things need to be done before you take the call:

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Read their LinkedIn profile 40 times, research the companies they’ve worked for, read their Twitter feed, read articles they’ve written or even promoted.

2. Next, come up with a list of questions that will steer the conversation. They will do the majority of the talking, but it is you who is interested, so keep asking questions for as long you have them. Ask a variety of questions, make them think, make them laugh. Show them that you are curious and eager, but also have a sense of humor.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • So tell me, what did you end up doing after you graduated?
  • How did you get to where you are now?
  • What did you do in college that prepared you for where you are now?
  • what would you tell your college self?
  • What would you do differently?

3. Get centered. This is about you. Practice what you’re going to say. Go over your resume, experiences, activities, hobbies. Remember this is just a friendly phone call between two Tigers or Ducks, or whatever funny mascot represents your school, don’t be afraid to be human. Employers want to see character, not robots.

Right before the call, do this. Put on a shirt and tie. Yes, you read that correctly. Get dressed up like you would any other interview. The clothes offer another mindset for you to enter. Who doesn’t feel like a boss with a shirt and tie on? Wear it. It works. And if your roommates ask why you’re getting dressed up for a phone call, tell them, “because I’m a fu*king boss and I’m about to get this job.” Watch, next phone call they have, they’ll be wearing the same thing.

And finally. Take a deep breath before you answer the phone. You are going to nervous and probably want to talk fast and rush through it. No need to. Talk slow, be normal. Have confidence. You’re almost done, click here to learn how to get what you want and land that job. 

Guide to Linkedin | Landing your First Job After College: Part 3 – Reaching Out

We just went over how to build your profile, tapping into your network, now it’s time to reach out.

As an innocent undergraduate ready to take on the big world, you are encouraged to really play up the inexperienced card. No really, that’s what you lead with. People, especially the alumni you are reaching out to, have been in your same exact position: just graduating, nervous about the future, dealing with the confusion of life, needing advice; its the perfect story and everyone can relate.

Your initial email is going to communicate just this.

The initial email

You’re going to click Connect to those people on your list. It gives you a relationship option to choose. Choose Classmate, then your school. Absolutely do not forget to include a personal customized note. This is going to be the introduction to show them you are not just another shmuck, but an interested undergraduate seeking help.

You only get a certain character limit so make it concise. Here’s a great example of what works:

Dear [Name],

I hope this message finds you well. My name is [Ricky Bobby]. I am a senior at UCLA, your alma mater. I am reaching out because I am very interested in your work and career path.

I imagine you were in a similar position as I am now: about to graduate and looking for jobs. I am wondering if I could speak to you about your work, how you got where you are, etc.

I’d love to chat on the phone if that is at all possible. We can communicate over this [LinkedIn messenger] or through my email rickybobby@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Your note should be short, but to the point. Your goal with that email is to show them you need their help and to get them on the phone for a short informational interview. But why should they help you? You’re just a waste of time. No one ever helped them.

They will help you because people love to talk about themselves. I repeat, people love to talk about themselves. It’s something we can use to our advantage.

Here’s why: people love to share their stories, their experiences and their trials and tribulations. Everyone is their own story and they want to share it with the world at every moment.

People love to talk about themselves.

Don’t believe me? I bet 9/10 of the people you reach out to has a twitter. 

If you can get them on the phone for 30 minutes, ask questions, and be a good listener, well, you’ve already made an great impression on them.

Just in those steps you have polished your brand, researched a target market, planned a strategy to engage, followed up, acted interested, and scheduled a meeting. That’s an enormous amount of work just to get them on the phone, imagine what you can do in an office setting, working for them…

The response rates will vary depending on the person, status, industry and company. Some people don’t check LinkedIn very often but messages appear in their personal inboxes. If it’s somebody you really want to get in touch with and you don’t get a response within a week, follow up again.

Sidenote: Be persistent. Someone once told me, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Nobody is ever going to give you anything in life. This is the business world you’re entering. Time is money and people have better things to do. Speak up for yourself, no one else will. You must demand their time and attention.

That’s why I say make a list of 25-30 names. The higher the number, the higher the probability of getting phone calls.

Online communication

In their reply, they will welcome the opportunity for a short conversation…well they should, you’re a rockstar. This is great! Fantastic job. You casted your line and you got a bite!

Reply with enthusiasm and excitement. Pose some times to chat with them on the phone. Usually around noon on their lunch break or at the end of the day on their way home.

Remember, correspondence between you two will take time. Don’t expect a reply within the hour or even within the day. If they haven’t gotten back to you after 2 full days, send a follow up.

Here’s an example:

Hi Stephanie,

I’m really looking forward to chatting with you. I just want to follow up and figure out a time this week that works best. I am available Wednesday and Thursday anytime after 12. Let me know what works.

Talk soon,

Robert

Once you get a confirmed time and day, it’s time to really hunker down and prepare. It also doesn’t hurt to send a follow up email the day before, just to confirm. You mean business. Click here to learn how to prepare for the call. 

Guide to Linkedin | Landing your First Job After College: Part 2 – Tapping Into Your Network

We just went over how to build your profile, now your networking strategy, like any new venture, should begin with research. Never should you just jump into something without thinking it through and planning your next move. Abraham Lincoln once said,

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

I want you to spend a few hours getting familiar with LinkedIn and how it works. Click around on the dashboard and see where it takes you. Look at various company profiles to see how you fit. Just keep clicking, you never know what you might find.

Pro Tip: when you land on another person’s profile, they receive an alert. You have the ability to browse anonymously. Here’s how: hover over your profile picture in the top right of your toolbar. A menu will appear, click Privacy and Settings, click Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile. A box will appear. At the bottom, click You will be totally anonymous. Click Save Changes.

But you might want to browse with the alerts. It’s like passive flirting. You’re looking at them, they see you looking at them, they look back, they get a familiar face. So when you finally reach out to them, they know you’ve been interested…And maybe you’ll score.

The Alumni Strategy

How did you pick your best friends? Same dorm? Maybe. Greek life? Oh hell yea! Schoolyard shenanigans? You know it.

What you have in common is the shared experience you can connect over, talk about, shoot the sh*t about. The college experience is something special, an experience so unique and dear to our hearts, it becomes sacred. Now imagine you have that sacred bond with the CEO of NBC, or a real estate mogul in New York City, or an editor at the LA Times. You’d want to make that connection wouldn’t you? Well now you can.

Here’s how:

In your Connections tab click Find Alumni. A spreadsheet of your university’s alumni will appear before you. You have the ability to filter the list based on what they do (currently), what they studied (in school), what they’re skilled at, where they live and work, what their current position is at what company, and how you’re connected. In other words, a gold mine. A jackpot of professionals.

The work is already done for you. You now have the ability to target exactly what job you want, in what industry, with what skills, in what city, from a network of people that attended your university.

Now that you’ve located your wealth of potential new connections, I want you to open an Excel spreadsheet to stay organized. Instead of just saving tabs or bookmarks, do the adult thing and be efficient. Make columns for their name, industry, title, profile link, and correspondence.

Make a list of about 25 – 30 names. Those names should range in status as well as industry, because a lot of industries overlap. If you find C-level executives, don’t be afraid to put them down. New graduates who have been lucky to make it into a career are definitely people you should reach out to. The worst thing that could happen is that they could say no. But if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

Once you have your list, it’s now time to start formulating a strategy about how to reach out and connect with them. Part 3 will talk you through all of that.

Guide to LinkedIn | Landing your First Job After College: Part 1 – Building Your Profile

LinkedIn, I believe, is still an untapped resource for undergraduates looking for their first job. They bust their ass for four years, volunteering for non profits, pursuing dreams, learning a skill, but they don’t know how to use their university network as a stepping stone to success. You paid for it, use it.

This series is going to outline the process—and trust me its a process—of landing your first (or second or third) job using LinkedIn. Of course there are no guarantees that reading this will actually cause you to get employment, but it will get you pretty darn close. It will take time, energy and patience, but it’s going to expand your network, increase your people skills, and teach you something about yourself. Here’s a guide to landing your first job using LinkedIn.

Building your profile

Your profile is your first impression. It’s the handshake; it’s the “nice to meet you, I’m your next rockstar employee.” Make it count.

You know how teachers tell you to have a hook in your essay introductions? Your LinkedIn summary is your hook, your elevator pitch. It’s your moment to make yourself unique and define your business narrative. Spend time on creating something original that grabs the readers attention (in about 3-5 sentences).

Ask yourself some question before you start:

  • Who are you writing to?
  • What do you want them to learn about you?
  • Why are you special?
  • What are some qualities that make you someone great to work with? Let them shine through.

Outlining your work history

We’ve all been involved in clubs, teams and organizations in college. Make them translate; make sure you adjust your phrasing so your responsibilities read like they would at an established company in an established industry. It doesn’t matter how insignificant you think the organization or club is. Squeeze out what you can.

Just imagine you were looking to hire yourself. What would you like to see as an employer?

In work experience you have the ability to embellish a little, because, honestly, employers don’t know whether you booked a room to meet once a month or scheduled and organized weekly meetings aimed at promoting social inclusion to foster a better working environment. Okay, maybe don’t embellish that much, but you get the point. And always make sure you can back it up. If its on your resume, they can ask you about it, so know your sh*t.

If you have a hard time coming up with things to say or how to structure your sentences, do not be afraid to look at other profiles from professionals in your field. Snag a strong verb here or a cool title there. Sell yourself as best you can.

Adding media to your work history is also a great way to show, rather than tell, employers about your experience. Links to websites, blog articles you’ve written, photos of events are all great additions to your overall brand.

Also, make sure there is consistency across your profile. If you have bullet points for one job, your entire work experience should have bullet points. Every detail counts!

Connections and recommendations

LinkedIn is all about connections. Spend a day or so just adding as many people in your close network as possible; the more the better. If you connect with somebody you worked with or under, request a written recommendation. A positive recommendation will add a significant amount of credibility to your profile and work experience. It’s like a human yelp review, people tend trust those. In return, ask if you can write them a review.

The right picture

A nice, clear picture of you looking professional will do. No beards, no girlfriends or boyfriends in the picture, and no blurry photos that reflect the level of drunkenness. Don’t you love those?

By now, you should already have a focused target industry and job you might qualify for from your background in college. Your profile should be tailored to that industry, whether its marketing, event production, web design, financial advising, teaching etc. The profile you build is going to dictate the people you reach out to.

Click here to learn how to tap into your network.

Ways to the Top | Learning How to Take Criticism

Because we think we’re reinventing the wheel and need to be praised for our ideas every ten minutes, millennials tend to handle criticism rather poorly from our peers and colleagues. I understand, sometimes it’s a blow to our ego, but we need to rid ourselves of that mindset.

People don’t want to work with a little bi*ch that that takes things too seriously or personally. We need to learn how to take criticism because it’s the unsolicited help that’s necessary for our creative as well as personal growth.

Listen and learn:

First, evaluate if the person is important to you

If they’re not, have no record of success or nothing to support their claim, fu*k em.

If they are important to you, they’re not trying to sh*t on you, so don’t react like they are

Employers want to build and work with teams who are open to ideas and unafraid to make mistakes. It makes the brainstorm or work environment much more comfortable and provides a safe space to try things creatively and get a little vulnerable. If you flip out at the drop of a hat when someone edits your idea, well that’s going to end up shaping your work relationship.

They may have a point

Sometimes people see things you may not. Evaluate yourself and where you can change. Understand where they’re coming from and ask for clarification on what they are looking for.

Ask what you can do differently

At this age, everything should be a  learning experience, embrace the hell out of it. There is no such thing as a stupid question but don’t ask it twice. 

If it’s valuable, acknowledge it

I believe you’re a combination of all the social influences around you, the criticism might make you realize something about yourself to which you have the ability to change and be a better person.

 

You can and should always be learning. Now go get learned.

 

Ways to The Top | Schmoozing like a Boss

Schmooze

…to talk in a cozy or intimate manner to (someone), typically in order to manipulate, flatter, or impress them.

When you’re Jewish and the son of a salesman, it comes natural, the uncanny ability to casually insert yourself into conversations and dally around from one topic to the next. It’s a skill, and yes it can be learned.

Here’s a few tips to shmooze like a boss.

Engage by listening

Physically show them respect. Give a firm handshake to start out, nobody likes a limp dick wrist. Be distraction free; put your phone away, hold eye contact, nod throughout. People will spill their guts out to you if they know you’re actually paying attention to them. The less you say the better, because you might open your mouth and say something dumb or show your age.

Remember, it’s all about them

Your conversation shouldn’t be like ping pong, it should be like tee ball. Ask open ended questions. People love to talk about themselves. It’s their favorite thing to do other than talking about other people.

Be able to talk on a range of subjects

The name of the game is bullshit, but you knew that. Know a little bit about a lot. Keep up to date with major events in news, politics, sports, and entertainment. Hell even, Drake’s diss track is great conversation fodder…just kidding. If you can find a middle ground where you both admire something, explore it until it runs out.

Have the confidence to connect

Wedding Crashers might be the greatest movie about schmoozing. They’re not trying to rob or manipulate people, they just want to get into their pants using humor, charm, wit. They operate under a guise of confidence and poise knowing everybody else lacks that. Remember that most people are just as nervous and shy as you are. Joke around a bit, make them laugh, allow their guard to lower. Tell them a story, show that you’re a cool person.  Learn how to be the guy/girl that people want to work with and have a beer with. 

The exit

When the conversation has run its course, acknowledge it. But wow them by remembering their fu*kin name and continuing the relationship. “It was an absolute pleasure meeting you, Paul. I’d love to chat more. Do you have a business card I can have?” When you say their name back to them 20 minutes after you heard it for the first time, you will blow their mind. It’s an oddity if you can bring the conversation full circle and leave them remembering you.

Schmoozing is like flirting for business. Now go score, you motor-boatin’ son-of-a-bitch.