As a nonprofit fundraiser, you know that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year is one of the most important times to fundraise. After all, 30 percent of all donations are made in the month of December. And you’re likely feeling the pressure to meet your yearly fundraising goal… or raise a good chunk of your operating budget for the coming year.

That said there are two big challenges you likely face with your holiday fundraising:

Challenge #1: You and your fundraising team (whether they are staff or board) are worn out and/or focused on family holiday activities.

Challenge #2: Every nonprofit is asking for money this time of year. How do you cut through the fundraising noise?

A solution to both challenges is to deploy your volunteers to fundraise for you! Here’s why:

Reason #1: Even with their own holiday preparations, your volunteers are motivated, and their networks of friends and colleagues are primed to give. This is a time of year when people feel a sense of generosity and want to make a difference. Many also crave an opportunity to be connected to something positive—especially if holiday stress is intense.

To this point, charitable-minded people give an average of four nonprofits during the holiday season.

Reason #2: Social fundraising—meaning DIY, peer-to-peer online fundraising—is powerfully motivating. When your volunteers promote your nonprofit, they are transferring their trust of your social impact to their friends and colleagues.

This form of “social proof” is a psychological phenomenon. Your volunteers are tuning their friends and colleague’s brains into your cause. What a strategic way to cut through the fundraising noise.

Reason #3: For your volunteers moving up the career ladder, fundraising is an underutilized way to build a professional network. For professionals at any stage of their career, fundraising for a cause demonstrates passion, initiative, creativity, teamwork, and social responsibility, as well as skill in communication and project management. What’s more, fundraising provides a unique avenue to begin a relationship with a potential coach or mentor.

In other words, you can build a mutually beneficial partnership with your volunteers around fundraising.

Reason #4: With the advent of online fundraising platforms—like iConnectX—it’s easier than ever to empower your volunteers. They in turn help you connect into communities your nonprofit might not otherwise be able to access. iConnectX, for example, links you to a community of giving-minded professionals.

But who will be your best fundraising volunteers? Keep in mind the following kinds of people working for your cause:

  1. Entrepreneurs: They are likely proactive and have cultivated a broad professional network with the potential give generously. If they are starting a business, entrepreneurs are also motivated to expand their networks. And they tend to have more flexible schedules to coordinate with you around fundraising.
  2. Social Media Masters: This may seem a bit obvious, but there are people who use social media and then there are people who have built social media into their lives as primary source of connection and joy.
    These volunteers are likely to find an online fundraising a creative and fun challenge. They’re also likely to make time for fundraising, even with busy schedules.
  3. Artists (professional and hobbyists): Artists in your volunteer community are incredibly valuable advocates for your nonprofit. They can promote you through their work.They can create beautiful fundraising assets for you — videos, graphics, poems, stories. With a little guidance, your volunteer artists are likely to come up with idea that you just don’t have the time or energy to formulate.
  4. Generation Y professionals: Volunteers in their 20s and 30s are likely to be career minded, and you can show them how fundraising is a powerful way for them to build networks across different industries. Generation Y is also particularly savvy with social media.

Once you’ve identified your volunteer team of fundraisers, here are some ways to deploy them that don’t require a lot of lead time or a heavy lift from you.

Create a matching gift campaign. You may be cultivating a pool of major donors for a matching gift effort as part of your holiday fundraising. You know how effective matching gifts are. Individuals are highly motivated knowing that their gift is matched, and they are likely to give 22 percent more on average.

You can also ask your volunteers to organize mini matching gift campaigns. They can recruit their friends and colleagues to give to a matching gift pool. Or volunteers can use their own donation to your nonprofit to start a online matching fundraiser. They just need an email template, an online fundraising platform (like iConnectX) and a call script.

Take advantage of corporate philanthropy. As you know, social responsibility has emerged as a key component of corporate brand awareness, especially for Generation Y. So ask your professional volunteers to investigate their employer’s giving programs. Corporate giving initiatives come in many forms, including:

  • Employee matching gift programs, where an employee’s gift to a registered nonprofit is matched by the company.
  • Giving days, where corporations set up mini giving conventions that enable employees to solicit gifts for their favorite nonprofits.
  • Volunteer “vacations,” where employees are allowed a number of hours per year to work with a nonprofit.

Empower your professional volunteers to ask the right questions and provide you with information on their company’s giving, especially the timing for receiving a corporate matching gift. This information in of itself is priceless. There’s no better way to understand a corporation’s giving practices than from an “inside man.”

For your volunteers who work at companies with no formal giving program, ask them to set up a giving day.

It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Your volunteers can recruit a few work colleagues and set up a “booth” at an existing event, such as the company holiday party. They simply need a few talking points, a computer, and a donation page link. As colleagues meet and mingle, they can stop by the computer to donate.

Host a virtual event. There’s no need for you or your volunteers to rent out space, negotiate with a caterer to donate food, or find a date that doesn’t conflict with holiday parties. Your volunteers can host virtual events online.

For example, they can host virtual holiday feasts in honor of the people you serve. Through iConnectX, your volunteers can offer tickets for seats at a virtual dinner table.

Then encourage volunteers to be creative in sharing the details of the event. For example, your volunteers can send scripts of imaginary toasts or they can send pictures of people celebrating at the “event.”

Organize intimate events. Many nonprofits use the holidays to host a significant fundraising party or tour. Yet you know what a massive undertaking such events are.

What about asking ten volunteers to host ten small events? They can host dinner parties, pull together a bowling or indoor mini-golf group, or recruit a laser tag team. Then do the math: if ten volunteers bring together ten people each, that’s 100 donors supporting your cause!

Arrange for an online holiday auction. You often see silent auctions at in-person fundraisers. But you don’t need an event to run an auction. You can host one online. You and your volunteers can auction off all kinds of items that may not require a lot of time and energy to negotiate for or obtain. For example, your volunteers can auction off:

  • Time with a life skills coach
  • One-of-a-kind crafts made by themselves or your clients
  • A round of golf at a private or public course
  • Tennis lessons
  • Homemade baked goods
  • A few rounds of signature cocktails at a popular bar
  • A holiday gift wrapping service

Most local businesses and your volunteers are happy to donate something to a charity auction, especially during the holidays. What’s more, your volunteers can help connect you with local businesses for future fundraising efforts.

Promote a holiday dare. You’ve heard of the ice bucket challenge. Like the ALS Association, your volunteers can have a lot of fun thinking about holiday dares to complete when a fundraising goal is met.

Your adventurous volunteers could dare to:

  • Record themselves singing a song or reciting a silly poem and post it on your Facebook page.
  • Post a series of pictures of themselves dressed in the ugliest outfits they can find.
  • Video themselves wearing a sandwich board promoting your cause in front of their office.

Fundraising should be fun, especially during the holidays.

Know that you can use iConnectX to help deploy your volunteers. Our platform is set up for any kind of online ticketing, peer-to-peer fundraising, and online auctions. We also offer iBridge, a unique way to fundraise. Professionals can give or buy coaching time from one another—with funds going to chosen nonprofits.

This next stretch of weeks is so important to your nonprofit. Make the most of it with your volunteers and iConnectX.

It’s wonderful to be passionate about a cause. It’s good for you and for the world.

Since you are giving-minded, we at iConnectX want to plant a seed. There’s another level of commitment and awareness that’s good for you, for the world, and your career. It’s a commitment to immerse yourself in understanding your cause—the root challenges, overarching trends, and variety of approaches charities take to create social change.

The commitment is to become a Subject Matter Expert in your favorite cause.

What is a Subject Matter Expert?

The prevailing definition of a Subject Matter Expert is: “an individual with a deep understanding of a particular process, function, technology, machine, material or type of equipment.” This definition is widely used in the fields of technology and manufacturing.

In truth, every company or nonprofit in every department across every industry employs at least one Subject Matter Expert, or SME. These are people with deep knowledge in a particular topic. Using that knowledge, they advise teams on decisions and approaches to solving problems.

Why is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) so valuable?

The best Subject Matter Experts display a set of skills that make them invaluable to virtually any organization. The three core skill areas are: collaboration, communication, and the most important: critical thinking.

The above graphic outlines the key skills comprising critical thinking.

With proficiency in analysis, communication (both verbal and written), creativity, open-mindedness, and problem solving, you will be a top candidate for a wide range of jobs and for career advancement.

Keep in mind the need for critical thinkers is global. The World Economic Forum—one of the most recognized and prestigious conveners of leaders in business, government, and social impact—lists critical thinking as the second most important skill to have in the rapidly evolving workplace.

What does it mean to be an SME in a Cause?

If you think in terms of job duties, you showcase yourself as a Subject Matter Expert in a cause by:

  • Keeping up on trends and challenges around your cause—such as the root causes of poverty and homelessness in your city.
  • Recommending charities that make a significant impact in your community, nationally, and globally—and communicating why they are so effective in what they do.
  • Creating awareness among your friends and colleagues about your cause with key facts and insights—like the connection between drug abuse and homelessness.
  • Collaborating with your colleagues and as a volunteer to support the work of nonprofit charities focused on your cause.
  • Organizing your friends and colleagues to create awareness, take action, and support nonprofits working on your cause—motivating your new team of volunteers by communicating how their actions make an impact.

How do you become a Subject Matter Expert in your Cause?

Everyone’s time is precious, so we suggest setting aside an hour a week (10 to 20 minutes a day) to hone your skills as an SME in your cause. To start, your main activity is research, and you can do it at your desk. Here’s what you can do:

Identify nonprofits in your community and beyond that focus on your cause. You can start with a Google search and also check out the iConnectX Marketplace, where a growing number of nonprofits are showcasing themselves, their work, and their events. Log in and look around.

Gather information straight from nonprofits. Pick 2-4 nonprofits to study. Read the About Us pages on their websites. Sign up for their newsletters, and read at least one blog article per week posted by one or more nonprofits.

Set up Google News Alerts on your cause and the nonprofits you are studying. Each day, you’ll receive articles from nonprofits and news outlets based on the keywords you use. Skim the list of articles and pick at least one to read per week.

Compile and read reports and white papers from think tanks. For more in-depth statistics, analysis, and trends, think tank produce all kinds of resources (from reports to infographics) on every social issue. Many take a specific view, given their politics. The following are independent think tanks that are not affiliated with any particular political perspective.

  • Rand Corporation
  • Aspen Institute
  • Pew Research Center
  • McKinsey Global Institute

Read the executive summary of at least one report or white paper per month.

Start sharing information. You’ll find something that moves or motivates you. When that feeling comes on, share! Send out a post on all of your social media platforms—and on the iConnectX Feed.

Brand Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert in Your Cause

In a few months, you’ll be in a position to showcase your newfound knowledge in ways that support charities and advance your career. The following ideas will help you meet career goals by “branding” yourself as a Subject Matter Expert.

Networking: It’s not everyone’s favorite activity. In fact, a lot of us hate networking.

Sharing information and insights about a cause that you care about is an authentic and comfortable way to make connections, whether at a networking event, mingling with colleagues, or on social media.

First off, it’s a great conversation starter. When you meet someone, it’s easy to ask: “What are the causes you care about? I myself am passionate about…” You can go on from there by sharing tidbits of information in “Did you know…” statements or “I’m fascinated that…what do you think?”

On social media, a mutual cause can give you a natural way to connect with a potential coach, mentor, or career advocate across industries. It’s easy to find out if someone is on a board of a nonprofit that focuses on your cause. Most nonprofits post information about their boards in the About Us section of their websites. Don’t be afraid to write a quick message on LinkedIn requesting to add someone on a nonprofit board to your network, making note that you share a common cause.

Collaborating with your colleagues: If you’re interested in getting to know and/or work with colleagues across your company, ask if they would be interested in advocating or fundraising for your cause. Organize a team to host a fundraiser or an online auction (both of which you can do with iConnectX).

Making an impression on your boss and upper management: As a Subject Matter Expert in a cause, you demonstrate an additional set of attributes and career skills of keen interest to most employers:

  • Passion
  • Social Consciousness
  • Diversity of Interest
  • Eagerness and Capacity to Learn

We suggest the following ways to demonstrate these skills and attributes to your boss and upper management, keeping in mind that you know how to navigate the unique culture of your company.

Idea #1: Ask to host a brown bag lunch to discuss your cause. Explain that you will facilitate and invite your manager. Prepare for the lunch by sharing a fact sheet and throwing out three questions to spark discussion.

Idea #2: Ask to organize a giving day in your office for a nonprofit. Connect it with an already-scheduled event at your company, like a holiday party or birthday. All you need are some talking points, a computer, and a donation page link. During the event, ask your colleagues to give online. A volunteer coordinator or fundraiser at the nonprofit will be happy to help.

Idea #3: Ask to take a “volunteer” vacation. Request a few days off to undertake a project for a nonprofit, such as building a house, organizing a food drive, or training for a charity marathon. The nonprofits that you have researched will post a schedule of volunteer events, or they will employ a volunteer coordinator who can work with you to design a project.

Citing your cause-related expertise on your resume: Your volunteer work and your cause-related knowledge will help you stand out, if you are looking for a new job or asking for a promotion. Be clear that your activity is as a volunteer, but treat the work as work.

If you have a summary of experience at the top of your resume, include your emerging expertise in social change. Here’s an example of a bullet you can use:

  • Committed to addressing homelessness by creating awareness online and volunteering with a local homeless shelter.

As you build a proficiency in your cause, always keep in mind the following: one of the best ways to demonstrate you are a Subject Matter Expert in your cause is to fundraise!

Fundraising requires three key skills that fall under the umbrella of critical thinking:

Communication: Whether through video, photos, or stories, you demonstrate your ability to communicate when you can motivate others to give to an important cause.

Creativity: There are so many different ways to fundraise for a cause, especially with digital fundraising tools. From dares (like the ALS ice bucket challenge) to creating a virtual event, you can demonstrate your ability to catch people’s attention in ways that catch attention, motivate playfulness, and showcase the importance of your cause.

Project Management: Any fundraising effort—whether a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or an online auction–is a project that requires all the aspects of effective oversight—from setting goals, formulating time-lines, and monitoring results.

Fundraising is also an important activity for your career, because you can demonstrate success by many different indicators beyond the amount of money raised. Those additional indicators include the number of people you reach, the number of people who respond in some way, and the number of likes you get on a social post.

From following charities in the Marketplace to organizing an online auction to setting up a peer-to-peer fundraiser, iConnectX can help you become a Subject Matter Expert in your cause. Log in and explore iConnectX!

“A lot of people put pressure on themselves and think it will be way too hard for them to live out their dreams. Mentors are there to say, “Look it’s not that tough. It’s not as hard as you think. Here are some guidelines and things I have gone through to get to where I am in my career.”- Joe Jonas

Do you dream of a successful career? Are you haunted by a fear that you may not be able to accomplish it? Converting your dreams into reality lies totally in your hands! A carefully planned approach will help you achieve success. This is where a mentor has a role to play in your lives. A mentor guides you to recognize your potential and how to perform to your full potential.

Mentoring can be required at any stage of one’s life. It can be as a student, a professional, people even have mentors guiding them through their personal lives.

When we speak of a mentor, we imagine an old grey-haired man or woman advising us about our career/lives. But, contrary to this belief, mentors can be young professionals! Mentoring is not dependent on age, but it is dependent on what an individual has learned from life irrespective of their age.

Why is mentoring becoming popular?

Mentoring has become popular at all levels in an organization.

As per the Harvard Business Review , in CEO’s formal mentoring programs, 84% reported that they became more proficient in their roles with mentoring.

Retention rates were higher for mentees (22% higher) and mentors (20% higher) than for employees who did not participate in mentoring programs. (Source: Gartner, in a study of over 1,000 employees over a period of 5 years)

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that 71% of the Fortune 500 companies invest in mentoring programs. (Source: Centre for Workplace Leadership 2016)

There are specific mentoring programs catering to the unique needs of a mentee:

Youth Mentoring Program:

A youth mentoring program entails matching youth mentees with adult mentors who provide support, guidance, and opportunities to enable the mentee to succeed and accomplish their goals. Long-lasting relationships are established between the mentor and the mentee where the mentor serves as a role model, teacher, and advisor.

Peer Mentor:

The objective of peer mentoring is to establish supportive relationships between two people for the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience to enable them to learn from different perspectives. The mentor is more experienced than the mentee and may function as a role model for the mentee besides providing emotional and psychological support.

Business Mentor:

Business mentorship is when a business owner is guided by an experienced businessperson to take decisions to improve the business and motivate the businessperson to reach greater levels of performance. A business mentor helps a businessperson seek fresh insights into problems and decision-making through unbiased and objective discussions.

Mentoring definitely helps mentees. But before you decide on asking someone to mentor you there are certain factors that you need to discover:

Mentoring Factors That Needs to Discover

Your objective

You need to be clear about why you are looking for mentorship. What do you expect to achieve with mentoring? This will help you choose the right type of mentor. Actually, mentoring definitely helps the mentee but mentoring also improves the performance of mentor as an executive.

Type of mentorship

Once you have identified your need for mentoring, you will need to choose the type of mentorship you require. Whether you need a professional or personal mentor, peer mentor, business mentor, etc.

Find a mentor

You can look for mentors through social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, iConnectX, etc. You can also try to find mentors in your professional networks, etc. Most mentees prefer to look for mentors outside their social circle as mentoring by a known person may be a little awkward. But it is the choice of the individual.

Choosing a Mentor That Will Match Your Needs

There are certain qualities that you need to look for in a mentor:

  • Good communication skills
  • Honesty
  • You should feel comfortable with the mentor
  • He/she should have relevant experience in the field
  • He/she should be knowledgeable
  • Although you may admire a business executive who is holding a very high position, it may not be appropriate or your best choice to ask them to mentor you if you are at a very junior level. Choose a mentor who is next in line or a little senior to you. Such people are more likely to mentor you
  • It is recommended not to ask someone who you are directly reporting to in your workplace to become your mentor

Once you have identified the individual you would like as your mentor, next comes the toughest job, “How do you ask someone to be a mentor?”

When you plan to ask someone to become your mentor, ask them in person. Avoid requesting their mentorship through written communication such as an email or chat message. It is always better to ask the person in a personal meeting.

It is not advisable to approach someone and ask them to become your mentor in the first meeting. It is a good idea to request an informal meeting over a coffee just a quick discussion. A casual meeting will also help you assess your comfort level with the prospective mentor.

If you are comfortable and want the individual to mentor you, you can tell them that you admire their work and ask if they could advise you regarding your career.

If the person agrees, you could suggest regular meetings for mentorship. At this stage, it is important for you to clearly communicate with your mentor what type of guidance you seek. For instance, let your mentor know if you need guidance regarding your career, or a career change, or maybe to resolve some issues you might be facing at your workplace, etc. Alternatively, you could ask your mentor to train you in a specific area.

You need to be confident and definite of what you expect from your mentor, otherwise the mentoring will be directionless, and a lot of time will be wasted on both sides. Let your mentor know what you expect to achieve through the mentoring. This will also help the mentor plan a mentoring program that will benefit you.

Once the mentor has agreed for mentoring, you can mutually decide the frequency of meetings. It is also a good idea to decide the agenda for the meetings so that they are focused and have direction.

Although a mentor may not charge a fee for mentoring, you can offer something in return to your mentor. It could be a gift, service or anything that could benefit the mentor.

One of the best avenues to find a good mentor and benefit from mentoring is iConnectX! The only social platform that helps professionals connect and network with executives and industry experts. The platform includes many professionals from various industries, enabling them to donate, buy and share time for a donation. The donation is paid to a nonprofit of the mentor’s choice. Join today at www.iconnectx.com and find your mentor!

We all make mistakes – that’s undeniable. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s also what allows us to learn, grow and improve ourselves – both personally and professionally.

But what if you could get those same benefits, without suffering the consequences and frustrations those mistakes come with? What if you could learn from your mistakes…without actually making them in the first place?

That’s exactly what the right mentor stands to offer. In fact, when you choose a mentor who’s followed a similar pathway to what you hope to emulate, you get to:

Draw From Their Experience, Knowledge and Past Mistakes

Mentors can share their hard-won successes and failures, and they can break down what went wrong and what went right in their own careers. This gives you the benefit of those valuable lessons, without all the heartbreak and challenge that comes with them.

Who knows, your mentor may have even encountered similar challenges to what you’re facing now and have personal anecdotes that can guide you toward the proper solution – no mistakes necessary.

Enjoy Decision-making Support to Prevent Your Own Mistakes

Don’t know what’s right or wrong? Can’t decide which route to take or strategy to use? Your mentor can support you during the decision-making process and steer you in the correct direction.

Because they’re not emotionally invested – and they come with a wealth of knowledge in the exact challenges and problems you face – they’re able to offer you unbiased, honest and informed feedback. That can prevent many mistakes from ever occurring in the first place.

Bounce Back From Mistakes Faster

If your mentor isn’t able to help you prevent those mistakes from occurring, they will be able to help you bounce back from them – and likely faster and more successfully than you could on your own. Remember, mistakes can be costly – in time, money and effort – and a mentor can help you minimize these consequences and get back on your feet faster and with fewer losses.

Of course, these benefits are only possible if you choose the right mentor – one whose background, experience, skills and career pathway is similar to one you want to follow. Need help honing in on that perfect mentor whose mistakes you can learn and grow from? Sign up for iConnectX, and browse our directory of experienced and influential mentors.

Why Corporate Mentoring Programs are Not Enough

Lots of corporations have in-house mentoring programs, and while the idea behind them is honorable, in the long run, they’re more beneficial for the organization than the actual individuals being mentored.

The company gets free training for up-and-coming employees, and they don’t have to look outside their organization for new hires or promotions.

But the mentees? They get shortchanged. They’re fed the same internal information as the next participant, and it’s all designed to benefit the company at large – not the person’s unique, individual career path.

Corporate mentoring programs are also:

Limiting

In a corporate program, you only meet people in your company, only learn things approved by your company and can only go so far in the program. After all, they don’t want to give you all this knowledge and see you head off to a competitor.

They want to keep you around – whether it’s good for your career or not. Conflicts of interest, confidentiality issues and nepotism all come into play.

Forced and Inorganic

Most corporate programs auto-assign mentors with mentees. There’s very little personalization, and rarely are mentors the ideal fit for what a professional is actually looking for or in need of.

In the end, this results in a very uncomfortable and inefficient mentoring relationship. It takes more work, neither party gets what they need and it’s a waste of time for both participants.

Just not Enough

You’ve heard of that saying “it takes a village,” right? Well, the same is true in mentoring. One single mentor in one single department isn’t enough to get you where you need to go – especially if they’re already in the same organization as you.

In the long run, you’re best served by several mentors, spread across different companies, industries and positions. That will give you the most well-rounded training and education to further your career.

The iConnectX platform serves as an alternative to ineffective corporate mentoring programs, offering you more control, more choice and more power as a mentee. Sort through our directory of mentors to find the best fit for your needs and preferences, and then connect with a mentor through our digital bridge – no tedious appointments or lunch meetings, no dealing with HR to schedule your sessions. Just mentoring when and where you need it.

And the best part? Your mentoring fees go straight to the charity of your mentor’s choice. So not only are you helping your career by using iConnectX, you’re also helping the world at large. What corporate mentoring program can say that? Sign up and browse the platform today to see the charities we serve.

Don’t have a mentor? You need one.

And fast.

Mentors are invaluable. No matter your position, industry or career trajectory, they’re often the missing link between you and your goals. The last rung on the ladder to penultimate success.

Whether you’re tackling an on-the-job challenge, itching for that promotion or considering a move, they often have the perspective, skills, and experience to help you overcome and thrive.

Here are just some of the things a mentor can do for your career:

1. They help you learn the lessons without making the mistakes.

Mentors have been there, done that. They’ve lost their way and suffered the consequences of their actions. With their seasoned knowledge and guidance, you don’t have to do the same. Learn from their mistakes, take those lessons to heart and put them into action to achieve the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

2. They give you support, inspiration and encouragement.

Your mentor is there to help you succeed. Come rain or shine, they’re your cheerleader, lifting you up, giving you sage wisdom and pointing you in the right direction. In many cases, they may have experienced the exact same challenges and issues you’re facing – and that means they truly understand and empathize with what you’re going through. (This is just one of the many reasons why it’s important to find a mentor aligned with your goals and background.)

3. They hold you accountable.

Mentors are there to keep your eyes on the prize. They want regular check-ins, chats and updates, and if you’re not making progress on your goals, they’ll hold your feet to the fire and force you to plow ahead. It might be annoying when you just want to phone it in for a few weeks after the holidays, but their investment in you can remind you of your potential – motivating you, inspiring you and pushing you back in the game.

4. Give you invaluable connections.

You’ve heard that old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” right? Well, a mentor can help with that, too. Your mentor becomes a part of your network. And the more they get to know your skills and believe in you, the more of an advocate they become for your career. When they hear of a job opening you’d be a good fit for or they have a friend in need of a recommendation, you can bet your name will be top of mind.

Time to Make the Change

If you don’t have a mentor yet, it’s time to take action and find one who can support you, guide you and help you achieve your goals. Sign up for iConnectX today, and search through our directory of experienced executives and mentors. Find one who aligns with your exact goals and career aspirations, and use our digital bridge to connect with them easily, conveniently and from anywhere in the world.

Networking is vital to long-term career success. After all, how can you find bigger, better jobs, learn new skills or gain unique perspectives if you never venture outside that same, familiar bubble of colleagues and coworkers you’ve always had?

The answer is you can’t.

But as important as we all know networking is, it’s also hard – really, really hard.

How do you go about finding and connecting with the right people? What do you do once you’ve found them? How can you get the most out of your new connections and leverage them for success? Let’s look at some of the biggest challenges today’s professionals face when networking – and how to overcome them:

Finding the right opportunities

The first step is to identify the right opportunities – and to prepare the right approach. Are you looking for a more formal event where networking is the focus? Look to LinkedIn and EventBrite for potential opportunities, and come prepared with business cards. Try to get a feel for who will be there and identify anyone who might be a good match for your skills and expertise.

Would you prefer something more casual? A social situation that might allow you to meet others in your industry or field? Research local recreational sport leagues in your area, or head to mixer events for your college’s alumni chapter. These are both great ways to meet other pros in a low-pressure, fun way.

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

Let’s face it: networking can be awkward. You may have identified the right event or right person to talk to, but how do you break the ice and make that connection? How can you get out of your shell and show off your stuff? If you’re not the outgoing type, think ahead and try to develop your presentation and speaking skills. Consider joining a local Toastmasters club, or try speed networking instead. Much like speed dating, it puts you and another person right at the same table, with the same goals in mind. With both of you in the same situation – feeling awkward and new – it can take some of the pressure off.

The follow-up

Following up can also prove a challenge. What’s the next step after connecting with someone? Find them on LinkedIn? Text them? When you do connect, what do you say? Do you schedule a meeting or phone call? Consider your follow-up approach when you’re still with the person. Are they the go-get-em type that would want contact right away? If so, send them an email when you get home with your contact info. Are they a busy executive with a packed schedule? Wait a few days and invite them to the iConnectX platform (more on that below) to connect more formally.

iConnectX: The Better Way to Network

The iConnectX platform removes many of these challenges from the playing field. Simply pay a small fee, search through our roster of executives and mentors, and choose the one that’s the best fit for your skills, goals and style. Then, use our bridge to connect with them digitally – on the schedule that works for both you.

Best of all, your fee will go straight a charitable cause. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Learn more or sign up at iConnectX.com now.