Tag Archives: Networking

Cultivating Your Professional Garden

Periodically you have read reference here in this blog to sowing seeds, cultivating ideas, fallow and fertile ground for thought so how fitting that we talk about a full-fledged garden of your professional being.  (A nod to contact Bob Podgorski for this phrase.)

 

Gardens, vegetable or flower, must be tended regularly or their character will change entirely.  Some plants will run rampant and strangle out others, some are too delicate to survive in a wild environment and will die, weeds will take advantage and push out more valuable plants by depriving them of nutrients.  So to must you tend to your professional life in an intentional manner.

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I like to take walks around my neighborhood and check out how the plantings in various yards change with the seasons and the years.  There are so many different styles and predilections starting with absolutely no plant adornment, through no time to spend on the previous owner’s efforts, all the way to showy designer planned installations.   And of course in these days there are the houses that fell victim to the crash and are awaiting loving care.  Some of these had beautiful yards and I watch with interest to see if new owners will coax the garden back to glory or will rip it all out and start fresh.

 

My point is that it is easier to find a means to maintain than to bring something back or to give up on it and start fresh.  I know that you don’t have enough hours in a day for all your tasks – work, family, etc.  How could you possibly squeeze in a to-do or two to plot out the state of your professional garden?  You don’t know the first thing about what is growing there these days.  Well, finding yourself suddenly in job search is not the time to start taking inventory except that this seems to be the standard prompt.

 

What is in your professional garden?  First there is you – do your skills stack up against others in your position and industry?  How aware are you of the trends within your industry?  Then there are your contacts – who are they, where are they, and when was the last time that you were in touch?  It is a whole lot easier to get a recommendation from someone right after a successful mutual project than months or years later.  What have you done for them lately?

 

I know that it just sounds exhausting, and it is work to maintain any garden.  But judicious effort on a regular basis is warranted and prudent.  And a whole lot less work than bringing a tangle back to order or replanting an empty lot.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Some Random Thoughts on Networking… Please Add Yours

I went to a networking event recently, held quarterly by a LinkedIn contact.  It was my first time in attendance because I am putting pressure on myself to network more, and farther outside of my comfort zone.  I will benefit, but it does take energy.

understanding

My thoughts:

  • It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you don’t live in a box so you need to figure out how to keep your contacts fresh.
  • Most people have as many and possibly the same reservations that you have about going.
  • Follow up matters – but is also dependent upon your intent for starting the contact in the first place.
    • How many people do you know that just go through motions because they have been told that they must?
    • One person I know went to coffee with a new contact and was frustrated when the new contact didn’t seem to understand the point of the coffee meeting follow up.  (Hint: it isn’t a coffee klatch.)
  • You need to spend a couple of moments before the event getting your thoughts together about your own expectations for the event.
    • If it is your first event, your objective can be as simple as getting through the event.  Be yourself – your most vivacious self that you can muster.
  • Some people will be there just to collect cards – these are probably the folks who had the most yearbook signatures in high school and a lot of trophies.  Don’t spend too much time with them.
  • This is social, so have some fun.  But remember appropriate behavior for the occasion.

 

Ultimately, networking should help each of us to find people to expand our community.  What do you have to say?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Making a Personal Plea for LinkedIn Profile Pictures

I know, I know that you’ve heard all the reasons why you should have a profile picture – people don’t want to hire ghosts, blah-blah-blah.  Please keep reading, this isn’t about that at all, I promise.  And let me just add that while I am an avid recorder of life in pictures, you will infrequently find one of me in my own archives because I’m not fond of my own image.

 

profile pleaBut look me up, I have a profile picture.  It took a month of nearly daily photo sessions to get one that I liked (and that was on a haircut day, so I didn’t do my own hair), but there is an acceptable picture of me out there attached to my social media persona.  (By the way, I use the same picture for all social media – which helps me to show that if you find someone out there doing something untoward and that person has my name but not my image it is not me.)

 

I have been busy meeting many new and interesting people in the last few months and I have connected to quite a few of them on LinkedIn, even some that I have yet to meet in person.  I love expanding my circle and I’m pretty good at remembering faces.  I’m working on being better at associating the faces to the names.  (It’s a work in progress, we won’t count how long this has been an active project.)

 

About 2/3 of my current connections on LinkedIn have pictures and I thank you sincerely.  It helps me with my name to face association project.  If I know that I am going to see someone that I haven’t seen in a little while, I go to LinkedIn to refresh the association.  And I am occasionally disappointed when I get that ghost staring back at me.

 

Also, if I am to meet someone new, someone that I’ve only spoken to via email or phone, I do the same.  I was recently in a coffee shop waiting to meet a new contact in person and looking forlorn, I’m sure, because she was a ghost on LinkedIn.  Luckily it wasn’t a busy time of day or I would have had to approach every woman who walked in.

 

So for me, and all those potential new and useful contacts you might make out there, please add a clear picture of yourself to your profile.  My name to face association project thanks you.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Mental Radio Buttons Pigeonhole

HTML programming defines check box and radio button usage for standard answers on websites, we’ve all seen them.  Radio buttons only allow for the choice of a single response; checking different boxes changes your entire answer.  Where check boxes allow for multiple appropriate answers at the same time.

 

How many times do we make snap judgments of people based on very little information?  Maybe just appearance will click a certain mental radio button in our head about someone.  There is a graphic that is making the rounds on Facebook of a young man with a Mohawk doing something kind for a younger girl which shows the scene one way in shadow and another in actual; one seemingly menacing and one kind.

(photo credit Wikipedia)

(photo credit Wikipedia)

 

For a brief time, I had a boss who had spent years at the CIA prior to our shared work experience and I didn’t find out until her retirement party.  (No wonder she was so good at sneaking up on people.)  My mental radio button pegged her as a micromanager, narrowing my view of her and making me forget that she also gave me a chance and promoted me within 4 months.

 

Years ago my family was coming home from an extended family event where we had arrived in multiple cars.  I left first because my car was ancient, then my mom and sister, and finally my dad.  I arrived home without incident and a short while later, my dad arrived home.  Hmmm.  This was long before cell phones, so we waited.  And waited, pondering what we should do.

 

At last my mom and sister drove up, with a story to tell.  Mom’s fuel line broke on the way home, which meant that she was driving along the highway spraying gas.  A car-full of young Goth looking hooligans came alongside mom’s car and got their attention, trying to get mom to pull over.  Mom shouted back at them and tried to pull away.  Finally it became clear that they were pointing out this problem.  These kids stayed with mom and my sister and helped them to get the car repaired to a degree that would allow them to get home safely.

 

Maybe we should not be so quick to use mental radio buttons, for simplicity’s sake, to categorize people that we encounter.  Maybe we should switch to mental check boxes and one that we check should always default to ‘still taking in information’.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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The Data Paradox (Or Why Professionals Benefit from a Successful LinkedIn, While Using the Freemium Option)

Few of us are fond of being boiled down to just a set of statistics and yet our interest in something is often sparked by the statistics that are offered (read Charles Seife’s Proofiness) by a company, in an article, etc.  Business is driven by data – what data to collect, how to collect it, how to best utilize it and on and on.  We humans are fascinated by quantification, but skeptical of being lumped into the underlying statistics.

LinkedIn

Marketing companies that design successful rewards cards or programs have found a way into our data paradox sweet spot – offer something that we want or need, don’t sell the resulting data directly tied to our personal info and we will be more likely to sign up and give the company access to our volume of purchase data.  Don’t make our direct benefit clear, or make your data needs too obvious and death to your marketing effort.

 

Being someone who is fascinated by process, I often like to pull back the covers to see if I can figure out how something is a sustainable business – look at how Facebook is making various money grabs now that they have gone public.  (I used to wonder how they could afford all the employees and sweet digs…)  Unlike many, I don’t resent a company’s ability to make money from their interactions with me, as long as my benefit is equal or greater than the one I perceive they are receiving.  Someday I might be able to reverse that dynamic and gain some business advantage of my own from the relationship.

 

I think that it is this perceived benefit that is at the bottom of the social media opinion that many people hold.  It is their skepticism of the benefit they will receive versus their sketchy understanding of the value of their appearance on social media.  In my opinion, there is plenty of benefit to professionals to put moderate effort into creating and maintaining a profile on the LinkedIn site.  But the reactions of folks I talk to range from strong agreement to vitriolic dislike of the pull of social media in general and LinkedIn particularly.

 

These people in the strong dislike category usually object based on their skepticism of putting their personal information online.  When I have the opportunity to delve further with them I like to find out if they have other social media presence, if they hold a credit card or any participate in any rewards programs, do online banking.  More often than not they do many of these other things, but have not associated these activities with the data mining that occurs in these arenas as well.  Hmmm.

 

I was first introduced to LinkedIn in 2009 by a co-worker.  I wasn’t on any social media site at that point and I am not an early adopter of anything.  So I thought about it and she mentioned it a couple more times and then sent an invitation through LinkedIn to join.  A forum for professionals, interesting – so I created a basic profile and mostly left it to its own devises and accepted invitations to connect from folks.

 

It has only been in the last few months that I have become a proponent of the site and the benefits.  In my opinion, LinkedIn offers solid benefits in exchange for data mining my business information for their own purposes.  Where do you stand?

 

Related Data Filled Article:

LinkedIn Connection-Obsession on http://knogimmicks.com

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Are You a Joiner?

I know that it is a big buzz thing right now to be a collaborator, but I actually really like to collaborate with someone else or in a small group.  I like how the additional mind power can build a better and stronger framework for an idea.  I like how the varied experiences of the group participants can inform the method of implementing the idea and possibly staving off unintended consequences.

joiner

I’m not naturally a joiner though.  Put me in a group and I will become part of the group, ask me to find a group and join it and I will find something else to do.  Especially if I have time to think about it.  If I find out about a meeting for something that I can see benefit to and the meeting is that day or the next day, I am much more likely to actually do it.  Give me a longer time frame and I will potentially talk myself out of it.  (This is the introvert in me – I’ve missed out on some interesting experiences.)

 

Now I do get why more strongly introverted people that don’t see a benefit to collaboration would avoid joining groups unless pressed, but I don’t have a solid answer as to why I duck groups.  Particularly when I join a group and find great, energetic people.  The answer is just because and that isn’t a compelling argument – no matter how you look at it.

 

So I have to challenge myself to fight this avoidance.  I am in job search which means that in my work aspects I need a new pack to run with and so I have joined not just one (which I did immediately before I had time to object) but two job search groups.  I had to be pressed (gently but firmly) by a new friend into joining the second – why would I need two of the same thing?

 

And yet, and yet I am so very pleased with this nudge.  Each group has a very different tone and dynamic and I get very different things from each group.  I am not the only person that I know who participates in both groups, yet these groups still meet different needs and come at the same things from different angles.

 

So I have a challenge for my fellow non-joiners out there – working, job search, what have you – find a new group and join it.  See the world that you know from a different angle and find out what that does for you.  There are so many wonderful people to encounter.

 

Find a group, take a class – something related to an existing interest.  Sit in the back quietly at first if that make you feel better.  Get a sense of things, pick out one or two people that look approachable; smile at anyone who approaches you and say hi.  Ask them what got them to this group.  Just be open to possibilities.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Community & Interdependence

I have been pondering the idea of community and its importance to our success as a race for some years; it often feels as though I am the only one since the current altar that we are encouraged to worship at would be the Self.  The idea of Community has eroded in our capitalistic search for Self-improvement, Self-promotion, and success for Self.

I began formulating my idea of community as I became a part of the work community and found my family and neighborhood community dissolved by divorce.  Community is the larger group to which you belong, where you can derive your sense of belonging and purpose within the world.  It is, after your immediate family, the next level up from where you can perceive the world as a whole.  Most people, even strongly introverted ones belong to several communities no matter how tenuously.

Stephen Covey uses the importance in the maturity spectrum in his bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which has revived my own thoughts on community as I’ve read it recently.  Community is simply another way to define interdependence.  But I like the word community better because it is friendlier and less academic.

We humans are often a part of many intersecting communities, extended family, work mates, neighborhood/fellow parents, spiritual, school, and of course friends.  The intersections between these various communities can be deep, or can be based solely on our own self.

It is somewhat ironic for me that I have been made aware of the import of community as I have struggled to find myself a new place in a new community.  Slowly, I have been woven to the outskirts of many community options and must now find a means to rectify this situation.  Now that my boys are grown, I realized that I no longer have readily available volunteer opportunities.  I am also currently a free agent, selling my brand on the job market.

Community is often depicted in media with an intensity of a close knit group often not practical in this fast paced world, i.e. the old TV show Friends.  In the work environment the word Team is in vogue.  If the word Networking is substituted, it is discussed endlessly as good advice for job seekers.  If you are in crisis, it is the group of people who will hopefully come running in to provide assistance and comfort.

Thomas Merton said No Man is an Island, in my case woman.  Things in your life will shift, but it just gives you an opportunity to re-examine them.

© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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