AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Networking

I’m Josh Joseph, senior officer in planning and evaluation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, here to talk about getting more from networking as AEA’s Annual Conference approaches.

I’m also introverted. Not shy, but not a natural mingler either.  Where some folks get energized by big gatherings, I still remember when meeting people at professional events felt more like an obstacle than an opportunity for career growth.

Much of the networking advice I’ve been given—like developing an elevator speech—hasn’t gone far enough. Below are a few lessons learned, followed by some tips for addressing common challenges that many people, including introverts, regularly face.

Lesson Learned: Content matters. Networking is about sharing and listening for information and ideas that you care about—not making small talk in crowded rooms. Your deeper interests can help anchor you in any conversation. Try not to let networking stereotypes and imagery distract you.

Lesson Learned: Look for common ground with others. Shared interests are like magnets for networking. They tend to make discussions more engaging and useful, and they increase the chances of following up.

These lessons, while important, are limited in helping to pin down your professional interests and increase your comfort.  Below are some tips to get at these frequent concerns.

Hot Tip: Look inside before reaching out.  You’re probably busy at work and may resist this, but trust me. At least a few days before heading to an event that includes networking, set aside time to reflect on two key questions and then jot down your thoughts:

  • What do I hope to learn? (e.g., are there work challenges on which you could use advice?)
  • What do I have to share? (e.g., how might others learn & benefit from your work?)

You’ll have a clearer sense of purpose and will be primed to talk about and learn things that are more relevant and engaging.

Hot Tip:  Focus on what you enjoy. We’re most comfortable and confident when talking about things that interest us and “light us up”.  We know what that feels like away from work, but it’s also true professionally. Interest shows on our faces and in body language and people absolutely respond to it.  Conversations can feel almost effortless. So find what sparks you professionally and tap into it.

Hot Tip: Be ready to listen. Networking isn’t a competitive sport—it’s about give and take.  Engaging topics often emerge by chance, so ask questions, keep an ear out for connections and, above all, strive to be a good listener.

Two final thoughts: not every conversation will be golden and there isn’t a right way to network. It’s worth trying different things. Instead of crowded rooms, you might prefer connecting over breakfast, a cup of coffee, or in quiet hallway. Find what works for you and go with it.

Rad Resource: While there are plenty of networking resources out there, this NYTimes blog—An Introvert’s Guide to Networkingis worth a look.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi! My name is Laura Keene, owner of Keene Insights in Los Angeles, CA. Not surprisingly, networking is an important part of my job, but the truth is: we all have to network. Even if you have a 9-to-5 job, you may be searching for new staff, collaborators, or other resources for your company, you may be looking for a new avenue of work within your organization, or you may be hunting for a dream job elsewhere.

Lesson Learned: Networking ain’t what it used to be.

When I first started my business, the idea of networking was daunting. Like many of you, I imagined that in order to sell my services I needed to mold myself into a 1950s used car salesman, i.e., be schmoozey and pushy. Turns out, a lot has changed since then.

In his book, To Sell is Human, Dan Pink writes: “Selling in all its dimensions – whether pushing Buicks on a car lot or pitching ideas in a meeting – has changed more in the last ten years than it did over the previous hundred.” He argues that because we live in a world where we have a mountain of information at our fingertips, sellers no longer have an advantage over buyers.

As a result, selling, and the use of networking as a sales strategy, has become more about connecting, sharing, and building strong relationships with people over time. When I learned that networking was less about closing deals and more about meeting new people, developing friendships, and sharing myself and my work with those friends (without worrying about when or if they’re going to hire me), it became a lot easier to do.

Hot Tip: Connect instead of network

Networking is still hard work, especially for us introverts, but the pressure is off. You don’t need to get the contract or land the new job.  You just need to meet and get to know some cool new people. Here are a few tips for doing so:

  • Relax and be yourself
  • Ask questions; find out about their work, their hobbies, their family
  • Share; let them learn about your work (and your passion for it), your hobbies, your family
  • Ask for a business card and jot notes about the person on the card…because the next step is to follow-up, share your connections and expertise, and build a relationship of trust.

Rad Resources

Check out Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human and, for those consultants out there who want a new angle on growing your business, pick up Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Independent Consulting TIG Week with our colleagues in the IC AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Evaluation 2016 officially starts tomorrow. Are you ready to learn and network with more than 3,000 evaluators? Here are some tips to help you be social at Evaluation 2016.

Hot Tip: Download the Mobile App

The new and improved Evaluation 2016 mobile app allows you to send messages and set up meeting with other attendees. To take advantage of this feature build you profile under “My Event”. The more information you add about yourself, the easier it makes it for people to find you while at the conference.  This is a great way to meet new people who are practicing evaluation and share your interests.

Hot Tip: Follow Evaluation 2016 on Twitter

We have already seen lots of chatter surrounding Evaluation 2016 on social media, particularly Twitter. Follow the hashtag #Eval16 to see conversation and posts specifically about the event. Share your conference photos and lessons learned on Twitter, so that others evaluators who were not able to attend can get a glimpse of Evaluation 2016!

Hot Tip: Attend the Social Events

Be an active participant in Evaluation 2016 events. Meet with poster presenters during the Poster Exhibit; see what literary works that are coming out this year at the Meet the Authors Reception; and learn more about the AEA TIGS during the TIG Business Meeting on Thursday night.

Hot Tip: Visit the Connection Center

Visit the Connection Center to meet with the AEA exhibitors, gain access to free Wi-Fi, and charge your electronic devices. While in the Connection Center meet with universities and learn more about technology solutions that are benefiting evaluation practices and programs.

I hope these tips have been helpful. See you in Atlanta!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Are you getting the most out of LinkedIn? A complete and active profile allows you to connect with more professionals and expand your network. Try these tips to increase your engagement on LinkedIn.

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Hot Tip: Always have a recent (and professional) photo

A profile picture is very important on LinkedIn because it is how you make your first impression. More people are willing to connect with you if you have a picture—a way to put a face with your name.  Use your updated headshot or take a professional photo on your own.

Remember your LinkedIn profile is very different than a Facebook profile. You should avoid using a photo with multiple people, late night photos, photos of your kids, or anything that shows you in a less than professional light.

Hot Tip: Fill out everything and add examples of your work

Make your profile as full as possible! Your resume is supposed to be a 1-2 page summary of your skills, often directly relating to your current position or the one you are applying for. On LinkedIn, you can expand. Add experience that might not fit on your resume.  Add your volunteer experience, your independent course work, or a position that you might not have room for on your resume.

You should also add examples of your work. Share reports, papers, or analysis that you have worked on. This is an excellent way to showcase your skills to your peers and possible employers.

Hot Tip: Make connections

Expand your LinkedIn network and make relevant connections. Search for people with similar interests. You can use keywords, company names, or titles to find people to connect with. You can also reach out to those who are connected with people in your network. LinkedIn will provide a list of recommended connections based on your previous work experience, relationships, and interests. It’s important to have a robust and relevant network, you never know when someone can help you with a project, find a job, or identify a unique opportunity.

Happy Networking!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Alice Walters, a member of AEA’s Graduate Student and New Evaluator TIG.  I am a doctoral student in human services and work as a non-profit consultant in fund development, marketing, and evaluation.  I share some networking tips, below.

Networking is needed at every career stage.  Review tips and resources to increase your effectiveness.  Enjoy using your networking skills as both art and science to see what serendipitous outcomes transpire!

Hot Tip 1:  Networking is developing informal connections with other professionals.

Building informal connections can occur any time you meet other professionals.  Don’t exclude those outside your usual networks who can be a source of unexpected developments.

Rad Resource: Developing a Strong Professional Network” by the Penn State Alumni Association 

Hot Tip 2:  Networking is more than just about a job hunt. Networking is often associated with job hunting success but it can be much more than that.  Networking can lead you to new avenues, develop new collaborations, and bring attention to your own work in new venues.

Rad Resource: Tips for Successful Business Networking10 Advantages of Business Networking” bySusan M. Heathfield

Hot Tip 3:  Networking is not really an “activity,” it is a lifestyle. Networking is not an isolated activity you add to your calendar.  Instead, it is really a process, approach, and outlook on professional relationships.

Rad Resource: Cheat Sheet: 9 Professional Networking Tips” by Jillian Kurvers

Hot Tip 4:  Networking for the shy – is easier when you don’t think of it as “networking.” Even the most outgoing people can struggle with pressure to force a connection professionally.  Instead, it is better to explore relationships by asking questions that occur naturally to you.

Rad Resource: How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People” by Meridith Levinson

Hot Tip 5:  Networking is an art.  It’s creative, flexible, and individualistic. Use your strengths to network.  Just as art appeals differently to individuals, networking can accommodate a variety of styles.

Hot Tip 6:  Networking is a science.  It deserves study and analysis. Science is study.  Networking is thoughtful.  It seeks to connect the random dots.  Networking requires analysis of input data.  It’s not an oxymoron to look for serendipity.  Serendipity is defined as finding something valuable but not sought for.  Still, if you are looking for connections and value, you will be more likely to find them.

Hot Tip 7:  AEA is a great resource for networking. AEA is the hub of evaluation professionals.  The AEA Topical Interest Groups, conferences, and local affiliates are a great place to start. On the AEA home page go to (third tab to the right):  Read>Links of Interest>Professional Groups   http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=69

AEA is celebrating GSNE Week with our colleagues in the Graduate Student and New Evaluators AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GSNE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hello, my name is Jayne Corso and I work with Dan McDonnell as a Community Manager for the American Evaluation Association (AEA).

As you probably know, LinkedIn is the social platform for professional development, career hunting and thought leadership. It is an excellent resource for presenting yourself as an experienced, savvy evaluation professional and enables you to find resources and networking opportunities that will benefit your practices and strategies.

One of the most powerful features of LinkedIn is its ability to search people by name, profession, keywords, or location. Results from these searches are dependent on the strength of personal profiles. I’d like to share a few tips that will help you create a stronger personal profile and become better connected with your professional peers in the evaluation community.

LinkedIn Search

LinkedIn Search

Hot Tip: Utilize all aspects of your profile.
Go beyond just including a photo, your work experience, and education. Add in your publications, skills, awards, independent course work, volunteer experience, and organizations you belong to. All of these features allow you to have a robust, well-rounded profile and will better highlight your expertise as an evaluation professional.

Hot Tip: Incorporate keywords.
Create a list of keywords that accurately communicate your expertise. Are data communications or data visualization or monitoring some of your greatest strengths? Improve your profile by incorporating these keywords repeatedly in your profile descriptions. This will allow your profile to be ranked high when the words are searched within LinkedIn (who you are connected to also influences these rankings). Placing keywords in your profile headline is also a great way to publicly show your expertise and helps other users make an informed decision about connecting with you.

Hot Tip: Customize your LinkedIn URL.
When you join LinkedIn, the site creates a generic URL for your profile that includes a series of numbers. Similar to a website URL, these numbers do not resonate high in a search. Placing your name or keywords into your URL will improve the visibility of your profile. Here are a few tips from LinkedIn on how to get started customizing your URL.

Rad Resource:
The search function of LinkedIn is also a great resource if you’re looking to expand your network and make connections. Searching industry keywords provides you with a full list of professionals and organizations dedicated to evaluation. You can also use advanced search to connect with colleagues, clients, and industry thought leaders. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can expand your evaluation network with just a few searches. Try it out!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello fellow evaluators!  My name is Leah Hakkola and I am pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership, policy and development at the University of Minnesota. After attending AEA for the first time last year, I have some tips I would like share with you to improve your experience in 2013.

Hot Tip 1: Go to sessions, but don’t forget to network too!

First off, I was very impressed with the high level of civility and expertise I experienced from conference presenters, organizers and attendees.  Being that this was my first time attending the conference, I wanted to dive right in and participate as much as possible.  I found after the first day that networking with evaluators was just as important as attending the organized sessions and workshops.  As exhausted as I felt on the first night, I was also exhilarated by all the new connections I had made and knowledge I had learned.  I would encourage everyone to take full advantage of the workshops, but to also leave time for networking too.  It is definitely worth the time and energy.

Hot Tip 2: Go to the TIG Events

One aspect of the conference that I particularly enjoyed was related to the topical interest group (TIG) events.  In particular, I enjoyed attending a TIG mentorship luncheon where I was able to meet with seasoned evaluators who knew the ropes and provided a broad range of experience, advice, and wisdom.  This activity was especially engaging for me as I embark on the beginning of a life-long career as an evaluator who is also interested in equity and diversity.  The graduate student TIG meeting was incredibly helpful as well, in that I was able to meet with students who were in school too.  The relationships I’ve built with fellow students has been great for collaboration, support and camaraderie.  Both TIG events were extremely useful and I would strongly recommend that everyone take full advantage of the TIG happenings!

Hot Tip 3: Collect Other People’s Business Cards (and write notes on them)

I wouldn’t be surprised if you have already been told to bring a wallet full of business cards to help connect with people.  My advice goes one step beyond that great suggestion; throughout AEA I met a handful of evaluators, new students, and professors that I wanted to connect with afterward.  Unfortunately, I had collected so many cards that I forgot who I met when, where and for what purpose.  Hence, my advice is to write on the back of cards you receive from new contacts.  It’s a great way to remember who they are, and when responding to them you have a good opening line to an email.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Greetings, I’m Ann Emery from Innovation Network in Washington, DC. I also tweet and blog about evaluation. I will be posting several monthly articles to assist you with employment in the evaluation field.

As a new-ish evaluator and part-time graduate student myself, I receive a lot of questions about networking. My advice is to take an evaluator to lunch every week. You’ll learn more about evaluation and career options from these casual conversations than from any textbook or journal article.

Cool Trick: What will you talk about? Avoid the boring “what do you do at your job?” questions. (Please leave your resume at home – asking a new friend to hire you will spoil lunch and send your resume to the bottom of their pile.) Instead, infuse a few of these discussion topics into your conversation:

  • First, learn the “Ann 101” of your lunch companion. What did they study in school, have they worked in other fields, and why did they choose evaluation in the first place? It’s reassuring to hear how often major career decisions “sort of fell into place” for successful evaluators.
  • What’s the purpose of evaluation? Your textbook only contains one or two viewpoints, but the field is filled with dozens of other ideas. Does evaluation exist to influence programmatic funding decisions? Show that something worked?
  • What’s the difference between research and evaluation? Everyone has a different viewpoint on this seemingly mundane issue.
  • Are evaluators responsible for ensuring that the evaluation process and results are useful and used? The wide range of responses to this question is fascinating.
  • What types of contextual factors influence their evaluations? Leadership changes, new policies, or a fluctuating political environment? How has the economy affected the programs and evaluation process? Every evaluator has a horror story about an unexpected event that nearly derailed the entire project.
  • What makes a good evaluation? Some people say mixed methods are a “must” for good evaluation; others swear by participatory methods. What do they use in their daily practice?
  • What’s next in their career path? I’m always relieved when experienced evaluators smile and tell me, “Oh geez, I have no idea! I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up!”
  • What are the current trends in evaluation – and what’s next? Where’s the field definitely going in the next 5, 10, or 20 years, and where do they hope it’s going?

Lesson Learned: Don’t feel pressured to develop clever responses. Your job is to listen.

Hot Tip: Who should you take to lunch? Invite everyone from your city – current and past coworkers, professors, classmates, and people you’ve met through LinkedInTwitter, or blogging. You never know where it might lead. Bon appétit!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings, I am Chelsea Heaven, a recently graduated master’s level biostatistics and public health student. As with many of my fellow recent graduates, I am always on the lookout for as many opportunities as possible to kick-start my young career in statistics and evaluation. A colleague of mine who I work with at my campus’ statistical consulting center recommended becoming involved with Statistics Without Borders (SWB), and I could not be more grateful to them.

My experience with SWB has been invaluable for my professional development. SWB is an all-volunteer organization run as part of the American Statistical Association. Involvement in SWB has exposed me to real data that is used in the daily operation of health care facilities in East Africa, and given me the opportunity to formulate recommendation reports to NGO’s who would use this data for health policy decisions.

The intention for me writing this blog post is reach out to other graduate students involved in evaluation and share how involvement with SWB could be beneficial for their evaluation portfolios, and prepare them for “the real world” of program evaluation.

Lessons Learned:

  • It’s important to gain experience with real-world data.Gain experience with the real-world, messy data that is all too often present in evaluation projects.
    • Real data (i.e. data that does not come from textbooks) is often messy, comes in many different formats, and requires substantial effort and teamwork before it can be interpreted. Working with SWB projects allows one to have direct experience with messy data in a team environment, which is invaluable preparation for evaluation projects that happen in “the real world”.
  • It’s important to network.  Network and collaborate with evaluation professionals from around the world.
    • Collaboration is the name of the game nowadays in research and evaluation projects, and oftentimes these collaborations happen over e-mail and conference calls. When you are placed in a project at SWB, you are put on a team with 4-5 diverse professionals who you must effectively coordinate with to produce high-quality work. Therefore, SWB gives students highly beneficial experience working in a long-distance collaborative team environment – which will prepare them for future collaborations in their professional careers.

Hot Tip:

Rad Resources:

  • Join Idealist. SWB is a member organization of Idealist. Consider joining Idealist, and then joining the SWB site.
  • Join SWB. Anybody interested applying statistical and evaluation knowledge to the international community is welcome to volunteer at SWB.
  • Volunteer as a web-based statistical mentor for students in a developing country.
  • Volunteer at Peoples-uni. Courses of particular interest would be Evaluation of Interventions, Biostatistics, Public Health Concepts for Policy Makers, and Health Economics all with evaluation and research components.

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My name is Stan Capela, and I am the VP for Quality Management and the Corporate Compliance Officer for HeartShare Human Services of New York. I have devoted my entire career to being an internal evaluator in the non-profit sector since 1978.

In graduate school, you develop a wide range of skills on how to conduct program evaluation. However, there is one skill that schools don’t focus on – how an internal evaluator develops a brand that clearly shows that s/he adds value to the organizational culture.

Developing a personal brand can be a challenge, given workplace perceptions, pressures, and stresses. For example, program staff may have varying perceptions of my dual roles as an internal evaluator, which involve supporting their efforts and pointing out deficiencies. In addition, I often conduct simultaneous projects that combine formative and summative evaluations and may involve quality and performance improvement. Finally, my attention often gets split between internal reports and external reviews.

Lesson Learned: Producing quality reports that clearly are utilization-focused is important. But I’ve found that the secret ingredient to making my work valued and developing a brand within the organization is simply the ability to help answer questions related to programmatic and organization problems.

Lesson Learned:  Get to know program staff and their work.  In my early years, I found it especially helpful to spend time talking to program staff. It provided an opportunity to understand their work and the various issues that can impact a program’s ability to meet the needs of the individuals and families served. Ultimately, this helped me to communicate more effectively with staff and about programs.

Lesson Learned:  Find additional outlets to build your networks. I have had an opportunity to be a Council on Accreditation (COA) Team Leader and Peer Reviewer and have developed contacts by participating in 70 site visits throughout the US, Canada, Germany, Guam and Japan. Over the span of 34 years, I have developed a network of contacts that  have helped me respond expeditiously – sometimes through one email – when a question arises from management. As a result, I became know as a person with ways to find answers to problems.

RAD Resources:   Many of my key resources are listservs.  These include Evaltalk – a listserv of worldwide program evaluators; the Appreciative Inquiry List Serve (AILIST); and the List of Catholic Charities Agencies (CCUSA).  Other helpful affiliations include the Council on Accreditation (COA), the Canadian Evaluation Society, and the American Society for Quality.

If you have any questions, let me know by emailing me or sharing them via the comments below.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Internal Evaluators TIG Week. The contributions all week come from IE members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

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