Maintaining a network

Insurance of Your Pre-existing Network

I was talking to my relatives in Italy. We were comparing notes on the relative (no pun intended) virtues of our countries. Since they have lived in both countries, they had an advantage in evaluating both. My cousin's wife said, "you have the pursuit of happiness and we have the guarantee of health. She asked, How do you pursue happiness without your health? Here's what the Italian Constitution says:

The Republic safeguards health as a fundamental right of the individual and as a collective interest, and guarantees free medical care to the indigent.

Here was the interesting part for me. When you have a pre-existing condition in Italy you will get medical treatment/care for life! The exact reverse of what we think in the US. A pre-existing condition is a bad thing. It is to be avoided. It will trigger exclusions of your insurance, especially if you change jobs. In Italy, as it relates to insurance and medical treatment, a pre-existing condition is a good thing. It assures you and your family that you will have the medical care you need.

Not here to debate these systems, but perspective is a powerful tool.

Clearly when you have insurance, you have confidence. When you have confidence, you have courage. When you have courage you have the opportunity to become fulfilled and happy.

Each of us has pre-existing conditions of our lives. We have to accept the facts, idiosyncrasies, and attributes of our lives. Sometimes we think of these things as liabilities, as things we should hide or ignore. We know that every liability can also be an asset. One of the most overlooked assets is our pre-existing network of friends and family. It is an under-utilized resource. We seek the new over the tried and true. Why? As Seth Godin says, we tend to like the shiny over the known. Like the youthful and naive sales rep who thinks new customers are the only source of a strong business. We know that most business comes from our existing base of customers and connections. And you gain the new connections through the existing ones--we usually call this word-of-mouth. For some reason we ignore this logic when it comes to our careers.

Connecting with people we know is so much easier --People with whom we have a relationship. But human nature is to think we already know them, when it is virtually certain we do not--because we have not engaged them in the specifics of our quests. We are seeking connections to opportunities at companies, employers, people who are doing what we want to do etc. It is truly amazing who people know and how they know them. Tennis partners, church goers, school parents, college roommates, neighbors, colleagues......never underestimate the breadth of another's network and therefore your pre-existing one.

Your desire to redefine your life, get a new job, go back to school or start something should push you back into your existing contacts. Fewer excuses to talk to people you know. Almost everyone procrastinates meeting new people, because it takes effort and overcoming fear. But talking to people you know to be introduced to who they know is easy and even fun. Don't make this an All About Me mission. You catch up with people, you offer to help them and you engage them in your objectives. Plus your network wants to help you. And you want to help them.

The key is being introduced. Never just get a contact from someone. Always get your contact to introduce you through email or a phone call. Warm hand offs eliminate cold calling.

Your best and most effective insurance plan for the health of your future lies in your pre-existing network. It is a great source of confidence and courage. Mine it. Explore it. Strengthen it. It will help you advance your goals, expand your network, and reconnect you with people you care about.

Thanks for reading. John


Please Pass the Plate of Thank Yous and be Grateful for the Plateful

This week many of our families come together to celebrate family and to over-eat. :) We pause for a brief moment to be grateful for what is and what will be. Bowl_of_Gratitude  

Regardless of where you are in your life and what is happening to you, you have much for which to be grateful. I know some are going through pain and suffering and I never want to make light of these real tragedies and challenges. But if you are reading this, you have been given so many opportunities and chances to succeed. Not all of them have gone your way. But you are alive to fight another day. People have helped you, supported you, and loved you for all of your wonders and warts.

The research on gratitude and thankfulness is so intuitive and compelling. People who express their gratitude to themselves and others are so much better off.

One of the most powerful and gratifying networking processes is to reach out and thank people from your past and your present. Connect with people you see everyday and others you have lost touch with to express your gratitude for their assistance in shaping your life. The key to do this is not mixing a thank you message with any requests or personal needs. Never thank to get. Nothing more fulfilling and personally beneficial of imparting a pure and sincere expression of thanks.

Think about your blessings this year, even amongst your hardships. Things that you feel fortunate to have and to have experienced. Write down three of them.

Here's the advice I gave a couple of years ago that can drive your gratitude networking:

  1. Think of people who continue to be there for you and have provided you with support, moral and financial. People whose friendship, love and care make a difference in your life. Write down their names. Tell these people what they mean to you. 
  2. Think of people in your life whose lessons and teachings continue to make a difference in your life today. People who mentored you. These may be folks you have not contacted for years, but every so often you think about them . Write down three of their names.  Reach out to them, make a call, e-mail them and express your gratitude.
  3. Think about the things you have accomplished so far this year. Things you know made a difference in your life and in the life of others. Things that may not have been recognized or earned you distinction, but in your heart these things mattered. Write down three.  Remember what you do is important and valuable. Read them and appreciate your gifts. Gratitude for who you are and what you have done keeps you balanced with the other side of you ledger.

Connect and re-connect with people you care about and pass a plate of thank yous down the line. Gratitude is one of those gifts that nourishes us all. 

Regardless of your circumstances, you have much for which to be thankful. We take so much for granted and often we let our appetite for more numb our taste buds for the present.

So enjoy your time with family, indulge in the holidays, and strengthen your network past and present with a heaping serving of thank yous.

Thanks for reading. John


Network with your Boss: Manage, influence and challenge up!

There are so many misconceptions and myths about networking and mentoring. One of the most ignored and neglected networking opportunities is with your boss. Many people mistakenly think that relationship development is aimed at only new, external prospects, and higher ups outside of your work environment. Those of you who have followed my principles and posts know that the key to effective networking is to focus on your existing network. People that you know and are comfortable with are the keys to your success. And your boss is one of them. Bob Beaudine in his book The Power of Who calls this "The Who". The people in your inner circle. We tend to neglect people we know, or think we know. And one of the most neglected and overlooked targets of networking is your immediate supervisor. I can hear you loud and clear! "That relationship is not going to yield the sort of benefits I need!" "I need new inspiration and new ideas." Perhaps. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, your current boss can determine your fate, your greater influence as an employee and undoubtedly your future path. And if you have invested a great deal of time and energy in understanding your boss and his or her perspective, background and connections, then you are the exception. My experience tells me you just haven't. By the way, this applies double if you do NOT have a great relationship with your manager!  Managing up

Somehow you got this boss. You had something to do with it when you got hired or promoted or transferred. You picked this employer and supposedly evaluated the organization's capacity to nurture your special and unique gifts. You must have conducted some due diligence on your hiring manager, right? It is well understood that the professional development culture, your specific boss' desire and capacity to grow talent AND your chemistry with this person is worth 20%+ of your comp. But hopefully you already knew that. If not, make a pledge to do it in your next transition, especially if you are making a career shift. Really young green inexperienced people do not assess the quality of their supervisor and get distracted by the reputation of the employer (I want to work for Disney for example) or the initial salary and often a not so helpful boss. Your ticket to a sustainable and growth filled career trajectory are placed in the hands of your immediate supervisor and his/her boss.

Marshall Goldsmith in his book Mojo recounts many stories and case studies about these challenges. Here is an excerpt from the book where Goldsmith gives his advice:

Every decision in the world is made by the person who has the power to make that decision--not the "right" person, or the "smartest" person, or the "most qualified" person, and in most cases this is not you. If you influence this decision maker, you can make a positive difference. If you do not influence this person you will certainly not make a positive difference. Make peace with this. You will have a better life, help your organization in positive ways and be happier.

Goldsmith is referring to your supervisor! And the power and choice you have to influence your boss and manage up!

We have all  dealt with difficult and important "customers". Quirks, attitudes, and personalities that we had to endure to get the job done. Just holding our nose, doing the minimum, or avoiding contact would be career suicide. You had to use your full complement of powers and talents to make it work with grace and with professionalism. And many times you would actually enjoy it, the process of the relationship. Yes, there are the jerks that we have encountered. But most people, once you get to know them are decent well-intentioned, and often very interesting. Your boss is your most important "customer". He/she needs TLC but also expects great work and service.

Don't respond like a sitcom husband whose brow beaten wife wants his attention, "I am here everyday ain't I, I do what you ask---that's how I express my love."

The point here is turning your impressive research, charm, attention and relationship development skills on your boss. Not to suck up and kiss butt. But to manage up, influence up and challenge up. How do you develop a more trusting relationship with your boss? How do you generate a more conducive environment to have conversations about your future, the future of the department and of the entire organization? How can you help your boss succeed and add real value to the department and the organization's goals?

Some boss basics:

  1. Do some basic beyond the bio research on your boss? Do you know his/her interests, family, charities, and ambitions?
  2. 360 degree network with other colleagues---How are others relating? What works for them?
  3. Make additional to time to meet to share thoughts and compare notes outside of your regular meeting as often as you can.
  4. Get to know your boss' asst. How else will you know when he/she is in a good mood or how to get on the calendar?

Here are some tips on managing up:

First of all bosses need and want to be managed. It may come from on high, from their assistant and or from their subordinates (that's you!). They need help to do everything that's expected of them, which takes your insane job duties to another level of craziness. In this light here are a few recommendations that have worked on me:

  1. Meet and exceed your job duties: This gives you the opportunity to be influential. A slacker with great ideas is still a slacker.
  2. Prepare solutions to problems: Always have an way to solve a problem, otherwise you join the whiner's chorus line.
  3. Submit new ideas: New ideas are great, but writing them down shows you are serious and your written ideas will be treated as such.
  4. Give honest feedback: Be a source of accurate feedback on presentations, speeches, e-mail announcements from your boss. Few employees provide advice and counsel on how to improve these leadership initiatives and therefore things don't evolve.
  5. Don't gossip or feed the rumormill: Be smart about what you say about your boss, your employer, and your colleagues.
  6. Step up and jump in: Be among the first to volunteer for new opportunities.
  7. Make your boss' world simpler and easier: Advise on systems, processes, and methods to make his/her work life more efficient. Young tech savvy employees have an advantage here!

Do some or all of these things and your influence will rise and your ability to effect change in your workplace and in your career will also increase. Managing up gives you much more to say about your achievements in your job. Building more trust in your relationships, especially with your boss can be very rewarding.

Thanks for reading. John


Amazing who you know, but you don't know

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching that the primary step in networking is:

First strengthen existing relationships and then expand your circles of friends

Brushstroke circle There is an obsession with meeting new people. That new people will unlock our potential, teach us new things, and create new opportunities. And that the people we know, have met, are surrounded by, are inadequate. Even as I write this again, it sounds stupid, doesn't it?

What comes into focus is how poorly we know and explore what we have. There is an irresistible allure of the new. It's why products offer new versions. Why car makers roll out their new line-ups. It also causes many divorces. We like shiny things and our consumerism world reinforces it. But often the new is irrational and riskier. And often it is more expensive.

I am not telling you not to meet new people. You gotta get out of your comfort zones and diversify your human portfolios. You have to inject new into everything you do. But it is not your first step. It is not a step to overlook. Meeting the new, will always be more challenging, more time consuming, and less comfortable.

Why ignore the network you have and the people you know?

People I meet always underestimate their own networks. According to them, their "rolodex" is always weak and does not contain the expertise they need. After I ask a series of questions, they "discover" that someone they know well could be a great connection. It never fails. Had lunch will a former colleague this week, and he is exploring a career change. He wanted me to connect him with new people. During our meal, he admitted knowing a senior executive at a very attractive employer. I added real value to the session by saying, "Please contact him." :)Rolodex

You may be able to recall or remember things about people from your glorious present or past. And making an effort to make these recollections is a start. However, it is more likely you don't even know these people in your network. You don't know their resumes and their backgrounds. And therefore you have no idea what their networking potential is. But this is just the beginning of what you don't know about your network and how you undervalue it.

The big deal here is that your current network knows you and in most cases you have established a level of trust through common experiences. Your current network cares about you. And that creates opportunities to get authentic feedback and ideas beyond their contacts. People who know you can move quickly to the questions you want to discuss. Chemistry and comfort exist. It provides a warm platform to now get to know them better. I guarantee this process will reveal a new constellation of connections and contacts for you to explore. The other super added value here is your network can refer you to these connections, because they know you!

Now here is an ugly truth. If you have been negligent about maintaining your relationships. Reconnecting with "old friends" or former colleagues can be awkward. And the sirens of the new network beckon. But c'mon, most people want to connect and reconnect. I get asked this question all the time, "How do I reconnect with former colleagues and friends?" My answer is always the same, "Call them, e-mail them." Just make the connection and if necessary, apologize for being out of touch.They will understand. Plus you will enjoy it!

A new world of connections and opportunities awaits and many of them reside in the past. Don't leap over your exisiting network just to meet new people. It is amazing who you know but don't know. Reach out and connect!

Thanks for reading. John 


Alumni Networks----Familiar and Influential Resources

Part of my procrastination of life's goals was to go through a bunch of academic programs--4 universities, 3 degrees and a fellowship. One of the unintended consequences of my scholarly digressions was to get connected to different groups of former students called alumni. Btw, alumni, Latin for "pupils nourished" is a distinctly American concept. International universities rarely kept track of their former students and certainly did not solicit them for financial support until recently. For example, Oxford, founded in about 1200, formalized its alumni society in 2006. Harvard established its Alumn Club in 1840. The word alumni is plural. Singular is alumnus, (unisex or male) or alumna (female, the unpopular plural alumnae), we say slangishly alums, or some say grads. Just do not use alumni when referring to yourself--"I am an alumni of XXX college."--unless you are schizo. :)  In Texas, they are always different aren't they, they say "ex-students". The definition of an alum is wide and varied. Mere attendance gives the individual, certainly the alumni association and that institution the ability to take credit for their achievements. Like all great ideas have many parents, all famous, successful, and certainly wealthy former students are claimed as "alumni". Alumni

I have been blessed to have a number of alumni networks that engage and fulfill me. Without them, I am not sure I would be as successful today.

In one of my former careers, I ran the alumni association at UCLA and served on national and international alumni governing organizations. With more than 2500 colleges and universities in the US, there are a lot of alumni! But I am notrecommending you attend more uncomfortable reunions!

This concept of alumni is not just restricted to post-secondary education.  You have been recruited into and have shared life experiences with many groups. Nearly 300 larger corporations have formed alumni associations for their former employees to stay connected.   Search corporate alumni groups Deloitte has a particularly strong one for example. Why you ask? Branding, recruitment, business referral, all through a trusted network. Does your former employer have an alumni group? Does your future employer have one, and do you know people in it?

PastLives Most of us stay in touch with a select crew from a former world of work or other experiences. These are informal and very effective alumni networks. You belong but may not be connected to, many alumni groups. Again, because of my career changes, I have 7 former employee such groups. The advantage of career changes! Like always, the questions is: Why aren't you connected to them? I know you are busy, I know you have less time and more choices and obligations. But these are people you know and share a common experience. Be careful.Trying to reconnect with these alumni groups only when you are desperate is tantamount to reconnecting with former dates from a previous era when you are lonely. Bad form, always smells of self-serving motives, and in the end not a long term solution.

If you have been following along, the strongest network opportunities are always among people you know or knew. Common experiences are powerful platforms for connecting and sharing.

Make a list of your alumni groups:

  1. Colleges and universities
  2. Employers
  3. Fraternities, sororities, honor societies
  4. Kids' play groups, PTAs, club athletic teams
  5. Internships, fellowships
  6. Volunteer and community service groups
  7. Faith based affiliations

Join as a member or reach out and reconnect. Do these groups have Facebook pages, Linked-in groups? Who do you know or remember? E-mail them, call them and connect.

Try not to be so focused on your current need and let the serendipity of connecting with a trusted group take you new places and opportunities.

The great thing is you have a base from which you can start a conversation. You immediately have questions or experiences that you can share to drive the connection.

Alumni networks can be powerful and meaningful sources of identity and community. Yes, and also provide some new leads on jobs or sales prospects, but that is always secondary.

Want to broaden and deepen your network and your opportunities? Think alumni.

It is amazing who you know, who you have lost touch with.

Reconnect with your past and advance your future.

Thanks for reading. John


Friending and Linking with purpose

Aren't first impressions important anymore? How we introduce ourselves, what I call your BIT(brief introductory talk) can make a world of difference in how the conversation and the relationship get started. How we shake hands, hand out our business cards, and what we say, form these critical impressions. And whether people are added to our networks will be largely governed by these impressions. But for some reason, these common courtesies and protocols go out the window when we go online. We do things online we would never dream of doing face to face. Connecting through online social networks may seem less intrusive, so really smart and nice people abandon generally expected etiquette. I guess it is so easy to hit the send button and move on to the next transaction that they don't think about it. Fb

What am I talking about? Okay I get a FB or Linked-in request every day. You know, on FB, "so and so would like to be your friend. If you know so and so, click Confirm." or " I'd like to add you to my professional network on Linked-In." If I know the person and I see this connection as mutually beneficial, then I confirm or accept immediately. However, 90% of these requests are from people I do not know or once met years ago. But since their request does not give me a clue how I know them, acknowledge the time that has elapsed, or even a superficial and insincere request about my health and well-being, I hit delete. Even a note that says "I need to use you, would you mind?" would be refreshing! Logo_linkedin_88x22

Ignore or delete these requests:

  1. Crashers-It is very irritating to get a friend or a link request from someone you don't know AND they employ the generic pre-set message Not even a salutation, note or indication what they want. Don't have time to solve the riddle or read minds and I certainly do not want any strange interlopers in my network. Delete.
  2. Left Fielders--This person seems familiar or maybe knew them in a previous life. You have not heard from them in years and they again use the generic request. Ignore or delete.
  3. Posers--You know this person but they did not give you the time of day before. Now they are in desperation mode. Like a lonely heart looking up old flames, they are looking to reconnect and it will be a one-sided deal with you on the losing end. And again, there is no explanation. Delete.

The problem is people can appear to be in such a rush or sending such quantities that thoughtfulness and personalization are trampled in the name of speed. And speed kills. We have to avoid being hit and run networkers. Our brain has to be engaged before we floor the gas otherwise we get into accidents and hurt ourselves. 

Not unlike a resume that does not have a cover note. Or when presumptuous people  give my name as a referenceand don't give me a heads-up. I may have a very favorable impression of the person, but have lost touch. And the new position they are seeking surprises me and since I do not know what they have been doing in the interim I can not connect the dots. Elegant hand offs matter. Making the extra effort to manage the process and give it a personal touch is invaluable.

There is an art to reconnecting with "old" contacts. It takes thought and time.

What if you opened your snail mail box and found a bunch of business cards inside, would you call them? Absolutely not. The BIG difference in a social network is that by confirming or accepting I would also agree to give them access to MY network. That scares me. This could be borderline network theft. Crash the network and then let them take what they want. And who opened the door?

Networks of contacts, circles of friends, and/or your connections are a precious resource that is to be protected and nurtured. There is no prize for the most. This is one place where size does not matter. Yes, if you are selling stuff or services then making mega connections will be helpful. (if everyone knows that is what you are doing) Any attempt to mask sales with empty attempts to share or support is a violation of the network. But we do want to share our networks as well. How we share and who is in our networks is always your choice.

Like everything, and as Covey says, "Start with the end in mind". What is the goal of your network? As you know, there is a real and profound difference between your professional and personal networks. Especially on FB, you have to make choices. Do you care if you have casual acquaintances, friends of friends, mixed with your best buddies and family and work colleagues? People find you on FB, people you knew, people you liked and not, people you care about and people who are seriously irrelevant. How can you treat them all the same? It is a gut check. Do you care? Do you want to read about their current lives? Make the call. The quality of your network is based on your choices, it always has been. And in the end it reflects you.

Good networking requires effort and time. Reading people's walls or Linked-in updates can be fascinating, but I have never found them sufficient to strengthen the network. I have to supplement by going offline to private e-mail, phone calls, or even a human interaction to make the online transactions meaningful. Some will argue with me. I endorse whatever works for you, but the quality of your network starts with your confirming or accepting that initial request. And if that request is personal and thoughtful, then your network grows with purpose.

Thanks for reading. John


The networking gene and how I forgot to network

We all know that job networking--the personal process of finding opportunities and being referred and recommended for a job--is the most effective way to get hired. This is an undisputed fact that is supported by dozens of studies and surveys. To say today's job market is "competitive" is a felonious understatement! If you are qualified, then the most meaningful way to separate you from the pack or should I say the mountain of resumes is by networkingSo if your job search and/or career exploration does NOT include a robust networking component then you know you have seriously reduced your chances to succeed. It is the most fundamental premise of this blog and I usually assume that we all get it.

Dna So why aren't all smart people employing a networking strategy? The answer may be as complex and diverse as the population. However, I have observed three common behaviors that undermine people's networking capabilities:

  1. I do not have the networking gene. We tend to be so hard on ourselves. We believe that many talents are in our DNA or not. That we are born artistic or not. That we are good public speakers or not. That we have been dealt a stack of chromosomal cards and that hand can not be improved. We think about networking in the same way. But it isn't true. Yes we all have been born with many strengths and talents. Only a few of those talents will be developed during our lifetimes. Clearly some have been born with great gifts that they have discovered and others live in ignorance of them. Most of us mortals have to try and work with what we have, which is always more than you give yourself credit. Great evidence that people can develop any and all of their talents. Art, public speaking, and leadership can all be honed from novice to extraordinary levels with practice and persistence. Strengthening the networking muscles is even easier. There is no special networking gene. Everyone has the capacity to network well with very little effort.
  2. I just don't have the time. We tend to take the path of least resistance. Networking takes another step or two. And let's be honest, we are lazy. We know what we have to do and maybe we feel even confident about our networking ability, but it is easier and simpler to just send in the resume and cross our fingers. In doing this, we have inconveniently forgotten the value of the network. Investing a little time and effort in networking, especially in the job search, will yield far greater outcomes.
  3. I just need some help right now. We have not adopted the lifestyle, the lifestyle of networking (and mentoring) all of the time. We fall back into the old habits of only using networking when we have an urgent need. Adopting the lifestyle requires that you network continuously. Not just when you need a job or a favor. How do you feel when you are on the receiving end of such a request? We always have to avoid desperation networking. Networks are nurtured in good times and bad. They are a precious investment that need time and attention. Make a withdrawal from your network bank to address your current need, just remember to make regular deposits of goodwill to keep your account strong.

All of these behaviors are rational and defensible. Part truth, part fear, part procrastination, part time management, and part humility. Doesn't matter how much each part represents, it is a recipe for lost opportunities. Opportunities that are sitting right in front of all of us.

Some people are born great networkers, some achieve great networking, and some have great networking thrust upon them.--apologies to Shakespeare. Who will you be?

Like most things, we become better networkers by doing. Knowing and not doing is a masochistic sin.  

First of all anyone can do networking and do it well. Networking does not require:

  1. Any formal training or techniques.
  2. A personality makeover--to be more extroverted for example.
  3. Any cold calling. There is always a preference for warm calling.  

Here are some basic things that we all have to be reminded about:

  1. Networking focuses on your existing network. People you know well, people you trust and who trust you.
  2. Networking is ethical and uses your unique comfort to guide its limits. In other words, you are never going to do or say anything that feels wrong.
  3. Networking is mutually beneficial process that builds community. Helping each other is part of life and being human.

So if you have no existing network of associates, friends and family. You are not ethical. And you are not interested in helping one another. Then you are right, networking is an innate and esoteric skill that you will never master.

On the other hand.......

You must connect with people to get feedback on your resume, to get an insider perspective of the companies you are targeting, to get a direct referral at a senior management level to make sure your resume gets read. You do this by connecting with your network and by communicating your needs and interests. Connect with your network about your short term needs and adopt the lifestyle. Connect with your network to make it stronger. Just connect with your network.

I have tried to reduce the number of excuses that hinder your networking. You have the right DNA, you have many hidden talents, you have the potential to be a great networker, you have the time, and if you have the will, your horizon of opportunities will be far greater.

Thanks for reading. John

 

Holiday Presence

Going crazy yet? The combination of year-end business and the holidays is enough to make you bonkers. If you are are one of those highly prepared, got it under control, and cool under pressure kind of people. Can I tell you something? I hate you! :)

Stress has an awful way of creeping into impatience and making you into a major league Scrooge. You are familiar with the confusing greeting "Happy Holidays" with a frown. How can we make this whole process a bit more enjoyable and successful?!!

Like so many things we get caught up in the transaction over the opportunity. The task over the goal. We fret over the color of the ribbon over our box of gratitude or appreciation. J0440332

Yes, the holidays are an irritating combination of commercialization, irrational obligations, and an odd array of myths. But it is a time of giving, sharing, and family time. We can succumb to the rat race of the holidays--what did Lily Tomlin say?, "Even if you win the rat race you are still a rat!" Or we can take advantage of this time to connect and make the most of these annual exchanges. I know this is easier to say than do. But intention and awareness are 90% of the opportunity. Being in the moments and having the intention of not making it a robotic, auto-response connection makes a huge difference to you and everone else. 

But think about it, you see and hear from more people than any other time of the year. You have opportunities to thank and share time with friends and families. It is a potent time for networking.

Intentionally slow down when you are on your approach to the people. You can remain at hyper-space speed when you are doing your tasks, shopping, baking, and decorating. Shift into a lower gear and pay attention. Be present. J0442385 Focus in on the conversations, on the answers to your questions. On the body language and inflection of the voices of your friends. And listen! Listen for the nuances, the subtleties, the unspoken thoughts. If you want to be the generous person you are, then listen for ways you can help people in your network. After all, if you are exchanging gifts and attending their parties, I assume you care about these people. So listen for the telltale answers to the seemingly innocuous queries, "How 's it going?" or the worst question, "Everything good?" Answers like, "Been a tough year." "It's okay." "Trying to survive." And a million other variations. It is human nature to try and mask one's true feelings and not burden others. Sometimes it is a smokescreen, but often there is fire there, deserving a probe or follow-up.

Being a true networker is being a hub of help. Is proactively inquiring how you can assist? This is YOUR network! I am not suggesting helping any random stranger--at least in this posting. :)

And what about my needs? Be ready to articulate what you need and want. But leading with helping others. Leading with giving first, sounds vaguely familiar to some holiday value. When you give you will receive! It all starts with a focus, an intention, and an awareness of what your friends and family are really saying and needing.

Holiday presence may be the most generous gift of the season.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays. John


Holiday Cards or House of Cards

Tis the season when we get filled with both the joy and burdened with the habits of the holidays. You know what I mean. The fun and chore of giving and getting. One of the most interesting parts of the season, at least for me, is the exchange of holiday cards. And here we often go into pure robotic mode. J0401611

Some anal maniacs have been sending out cards already. I got one before Thanksgiving! The card was unsigned, no note. They planned early but did not have time to personalize it. Why send it? I guess to check it off the long list of holiday tasks.

Many people have heard of the BYU professor who sent randomly chosen people from the phone book holiday cards. The next year close to half sent him cards! Robert Cialdini, the former Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University used to tell this story. I followed up with him on several occasions and had the pleasure of hearing him speak many times. He later sent me a Xmas card! He taught me many things, but mostly the power and importance of reciprocity. That's what the BYU professor proved, that the trigger of mutual obligation can provoke a pavlovian response to a stranger who sends us a card! Yikes.

We decide to take on the hassle and expense of sending a card to friends and love ones. (that is if we really review the list to see if they are in fact still our friends) We may even use this opportunity to send a photo or two with a little newsletter on the happenings of the family unit because we have not had time to update them during our busy busy year.

Here are some basic principles and opportunities created by the holiday card exchange:

  1. If you are going to send a card, please sign it! If we are merely sending out an impersonal mass mailing, then why do it. Email it. It's not the thought that counts, it's being thoughtful.
  2. Make sure you update and cull your list. Only send to people that matter to you. Exchanging a piece of paper and a stamp with people you do not care about will never matter. If you do not remember the person on your list, you may be better off opening up your local telephone directory! :)
  3. If you send a newsletter, please make it readable and brief. For a long time I wrote the anti-holiday family newsletter in protest. Instead of the typical brag sheet of happy faces and perfect family stories, I revealed the truth accompanied by an embarrassing photo of the family--like this one. SunflowerSadly, to me, this newsletter and photos were banned by an angry mob with whom I co-habitate.
  4. Add card recipients on the fly to connect with new people you have met or reconnected with.
  5. Keep track of your list. As you add recipients, figure out a system that works for you. Fyi--no list, no network!

Thinking and acting green is also urged. But there is still something about a personal note, card, photo and maybe newsletter that is lost in the cyber-world we live in. Consider the pleasure you get when someone actually puts pen to paper and says something real! That's my point if you are not going to personalize it and put your John Hancock on it--walk away from the cards!

In any event, the holidays, despite the craziness are a wonderful time to reconnect with people. People you know well, people you just met. It is a time to express our appreciation for one another personally. Thankfully, everyone, well most everyone, understands that the gift giving thing is less this year. So your time, your personal effort to actually talk is valued and valuable.

Please do not say that you understand this, "but the holidays are too busy--I will make those connections next year." If so, keep that promise! Otherwise, it usually goes on the Himalayan size pile of intentions and to-dos that we tend to ignore.

Like passing out business cards you have to be thoughtful and intentional. Like all networking, how do we make the connection meaningful for me and thee? Otherwise we are building a cardboard network and a house of cards.

Cheers! Thanks for reading. John



 


Food Networking or Cuisine Convening

Our lives are dominated by so many myths. For example, the whole idea that the holidays are the worst time to network and look for a job. First of all, most people fall for this myth so the competition is seriously lessened. Secondly, employers continue to have needs that are not interrupted by the holidays. Lastly, often there is more time for interviews during the holidays so response times can pick up. The point is that it is utterly dumb to stop your search or your process to advance your career due to the holidays. It may be the most convenient excuse to procrastinate.

One great thing about the holidays is the food. There is the over-eating thing, but that's a different challenge! I am talking about the great magnetic pull of the holiday meals that bring families and friends together. The traditions of food are so important to us and they create so many ways to connect and reconnect. Not just the big meals like this Thursday, but throughout the year.J0422843  

Here is one of my greatest pet peeves. The non-sensical conversation that takes place when people are trying to decide where to eat. This is especially irksome when the point of the mealtime conversation is to network! What you eat impacts how you feel. How you feel determines how you come across. That all translates to the quality of that exchange and the impression you leave. So the responses, "I don't care or It doesn't matter" give away your power and your influence. 

You don't have to be a full on foodie or a gourmet. But you have preferences and interests that you can share and lead with. Why not pick a restaurant that no one has been to?Why not share a favorite place or dish you like?

Breaking bread with others is a powerful form of networking--There are many origins and meanings of this phrase. It is based on the idea that eating together is very valuable time. It also refers to the pulling apart of the bread to share it with others in need and with close friends and family. Breaking bread is a metaphor for living. C'mon how many of your greatest conversations have been with food and a great meal? Remember the award winning film, My Dinner with Andre?

So use these times together as opportunities to catch up and learn. Use these times to listen to the conversations around you and connect. Use these times to savor the flavors and nuances of the conversations and the food and drinks. You can nourish your hunger for a more fulfilling life if you do more than eat. Bon Appetite!

Thanks for reading and not over doing it. Cheers. John


Net Assets, Net Worth, Network!

This economy has brutalized many families and fortunes. The world has been changed and especially whatever plans we had for the future. People who were going to retire- can't. People who felt secure- aren't. And at the lower of end of the economic strata the chances and choices are far worse. I have discussed these issues on these pages many times. Okay, I know any of you paying attention already know this. There is no reset button. There is no return to the good ole days of 2007! J0442414

So why do I hear so many people still talking about their losses, the changes, the altered plans, the anxiety over what could have been? The whole dissection of the spilled milk through your rear view mirror is such a useless and tedious process. You lost money-- the whole world did-- and you probably will not get it back. That time has passed and "the future is not what it used to be" as that famous NY Yankee catcher said. 

People say to me, I am going to wait until my "net worth or my net assets" reach a certain level, then I will explore new things and work I care about. Only then will I get married or take a chance at that new business idea. Not until my little safety net is repaired will I venture out of my cocoon and try my wings. Requiring financial certainty and safety is a fool-proof way of procrastinating.

Look you should be fiscally conscious. Yes, money matters and getting your financial house in order and having  a plan is the prudent thing to do--blah blah blah. But to let that plan and a specific dollar number take precedence over your life's priorities is crazy. 

I admit I did not lose millions or even a fraction of that amount. I never had a plan, much to the chagrin of my children, of leaving a large inheritance. Somewhat by necessity I believe what Andrew Carnegie said, who formalized philanthropy in this country, "dying with money is a disgrace." 

Most of us will never have "enough" money. That amount of money that will make us worry free. But how much do we really need? Like smart businesses we need to downsize/rightsize our financial and material goals. Why don't we free ourselves from the tyranny of the money and focus on making ourselves and the people around us happy? Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn't it? 

If you have the need to calculate your current net worth or estimate your future net assets, be sure to assess the most important investments you have--your network. Your family, your friends, your community. How do you value the returns on those holdings? Much harder to bail you out of significant deficits in your network than any monetary debts. Do I need to regale you with anecdotes of wealthy, successful people who are lonely, lacking meaning, and living without purpose? That the one thing that undermines happiness is the regrets over our relationships. Total success has always incorporated strengthening and maintaining those relationships. 

So re-value your portfolios of personal relationships. Look at your 401K and see if your family is okay. Take stock of the market and your circle of friends. Develop a plan to lower your debts and increase your credit within your network. 

Don't make any relationship or opportunity conditioned on your financial net worth. You risk losing things that money can never buy. Your total net worth is composed of all the important things that you value and all of the things you care about. Stop talking about, thinking about, what was and could have been. Start focusing on the future and how you will invest in your network. Your returns will be more gratifying and enduring. 

Thanks for reading. John


How Do I Help Others Network? The Conveyor Belt of Life

In the final analysis, I think we all will be judged on how we help one another. Have we unconditionally and effectively assisted our friends, colleagues, and family members, especially in times like these? Everyday I receive a request of some sort--regarding a job, a reference, looking for a new career, trying to connect to a new network of opportunities, review a resume etc etc. I am sure you are getting your share too. Usually the person in need (PIN) connects to me through someone else. And that person knows me somehow. I make a quick determination whether I can help the person and take next steps in my process--more about that later. People are eager to hand off the PIN in a quick transactional way. Like a hot potato, the PIN is quickly tossed to someone in the network, sometimes with care and sometime recklessly. Hot potato Sometimes with a nice intro and warm request. Often with a pretty inelegant hand off, leaving the PIN to say, "So and so said I should contact you." Hopefully I know or like so and so.:)

In sports, life,  and work---the art of of the hand-off is a valuable and necessary skill. On a relay team, how well the baton is exchanged determines how well they do at the finish line. Passing baton When a huge corporate sale is made, how well it is turned over to operations will create results for the customer and generate great word-of-mouth and more sales. On the assemblyline of life we must depend on the work that precedes us and hand off to the "workers" after us a better product otherwise the end product suffers. What we do builds on what others do. Otherwise life is like a giant Lucy Ricardo conveyor belt of chaos and lost productivity. 

 

If there is an evil conveyor belt operator, all bets are off. :) Seriously the only way the system of life works is when we each do our part and do it well. The probability of the quality of the end product goes up with the diligence and competency of each step. This goes for parenting, the education system, or project management or architecture. But it definately applies to networking.

I am the victim of bad hand-offs at least once every week. They go something like this: 

  • The voicemail message squawks:"Hi John, so and so said I should talk to you about my career/job search/resume." I think to myself I wonder who so and so is.
  • A friend calls me and says, "My wife's sister was just laid off and is going to connect with you. Can you help her find something in LA?"  I think what a very unfocused request.

Bad, bad, bad, hand offs! A disservice to me and especially the PIN. Here's how to prevent bad hand-offs and actually help the PIN. 

  1. Prep the PIN--When we agree to help someone who is connected to someone we care about, we have to help them. Meaning--Help the PIN think about their strategy, their resume, their approach and goals. Hold up the mirror to them and tell them what you see. Do their goals match their experience and resume? If not tell them. Do you know how much time the PIN has to find a new job or career? Makes a huge difference in what kind of assistance they need. What are the requirements for the next gig? Salary? Location? Don't put them on the assemblyline without your honest advice and assessment.
  2. Give them my SWIVEL Download SWIVEL new 2009. I provide this to almost every PIN who is referred to me. It causes them to stop and slow down
  3. Prep the Network--At least make a call or send an e-mail alerting the network that this PIN is coming down the conveyor belt. A brief note on how you know them, their resume , and what you think they need (as opposed to what the PIN thinks)
  4. Follow-up with both--Touch base with both via e-mail. Did you connect? If so, how was it? Thank the network!
Yes, I know this takes more time, but we are dealing with human beings not widgets on this assemblyline! This is a full service networking site not the cheap imitations. :) Seriously, that's why it is a lifestyle and not a hobby. How we help PINs in all walks of life shape who we are and our sense of fulfillment. Nothing like an assemblyline that cares about the quality of its production.

Thanks for reading. John 
  

Reconnecting with your "old" network

"We strive, all of us for excellence. We want to be the very best we can be. It’s axiomatic— if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you most often get it. If you are willing to accept less than the best, you’ll get that too. And that’s the point. If you work to your highest potential, do all you are capable of doing, you will literally astound yourself.

General George Patton, no shrinking violet, said it well: “The most vital qualities a successful person can possess is self-confidence— utter and complete heart, spirit, and audacity. You can have doubts about your good looks, your intelligence, about your self-control— but to win, you must have no doubts about your abilities.”
Moby dick

You need to be the kind of person who would go after Moby Dick with a row boat, a harpoon, and a jar of tartar sauce."    Jerold Panas

Not sure why you would use tartar sauce, but love this quote.

There was a tie in the poll and therefore I choose. :) There are two reasons why this topic is relevant to you:
  1. You NEED to connect with old colleagues, bosses, acquaintances etc, because you are pounding the pavement or need a reference.     
  2. You were just reminiscing about an "old friend" but you have neglected keeping in touch (no holiday cards have been exchanged) and you wanted to catch up.  
In either case you feel a bit awkward and a tad guilty. 
This is why adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is so important. Staying connected is hard work but less uncomfortable later. No worries. There are a host of strategies to ease your pain.

Before you go off and reconnect with all previously known humans--get your act together, do a little homework. Be prepared to articulate what you are looking for and what help you can provide. Remind yourself that reconnecting with "old" friends will be fun--even if you have an agenda. It will fill a small whole you have in your heart and in you mind and that will fill good. The more this feels like a chore the more tedious and anxiety ridden the process will be. 

Once you are ready and you have a list of "old friends, take the following easy steps:
  1. Google them. Find out what you can through available resources. You may snag their contact info. It will also give you the background on them so you do not sound so out of touch when you connect. BTW, you should Google everyone you meet with!
  2. Talk to mutual friends. Do some investigation through mutual contacts to understand how your lost contact is doing. He/she may be worse off than you!  
  3. Contact them.  Pick up the phone, bang out an e-mail, just re-establish a connection as directly as you can. Meet face to face if possible. The closer you were to this person, the easier it will be to start over. 95% of the time the other person feels guilty too and they will be thrilled to hear from you. Just apologize for the time that has elapsed and reconnect. The point here is make the connection! 
WARNING: If you come off too desperate or too pushy then you poison the reconnect. On the other hand, take the time to get through the "catching up" phase before you blurt out your need. On the other hand, if this person is a senior exec, then come straight out with it. They expect your call and are ready to support you as a reference or possibly to refer you. 

The more specific you can be with your request the better. 
  • I am getting close to a couple of offers, will you be one of my references?
  • Just wanted to let you what I have been up to and to see if I can count on you as a reference.  
  • I am in the running for a few positions, I was wondering if you know anyone at ABC, XYZ or 123 companies?   
  • I am trying to make a career shift and I'd like to meet someone in the XXXXX field. Do you still know so and so or someone at XYZ company?  
Make sure you update them on your qualifications and your recent professional experience. Don't assume they still know you and know what to say. 250px-Social-network.svg
One easy strategy is to establish or invest time in the social networking sites. Facebook, Linkedin 
and many others are fantastic ways for you to reconnect effortlessly. Some of you think you are too old to have a facebook, think again. Linkedin is a bit more serious and less fluffy site. Nevertheless, sign-up, register and input some basic info and you are off to the races. Once you have a facebook and or Linkedin pages, you can connect to groups and look up people. Then you will have people trying to connect with you! You are always in control to confirm these requests. Investing time on these sites to nurture your network is time well spent. Once you find a few folks you can read their bios and what they are posting. And you can see the connections they have! This gives you a head start on the reconnecting process. 

The big question is : Why do we let some people slip into obscurity? I am not talking about people you had to work with or people you need for references. I am talking about those great friends and confidantes with whom you shared your personal stories and dreams. Make the time and effort to re-establish these relationships and I guarantee you they will bring you joy, new perspectives, and new opportunities. 

A key premise of mentoring and networking lifestyle is start with your EXISTING network! reconnecting is so much easier than establishing new relationships. 

The question is not how to reconnect as much as when. And the time is now! 

Thanks for reading. John

Maintaining my growing network

Vote on my next blog !     ------------------------------------------>

Before I start this edition, let's reflect on the current world and the importance of maintaining your perspective of what is occurring. If you feel hypnotized or numb from the changes that are bursting around us, then you are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. Make sure you are paying close attention. If your organization shrinks another 20%, would YOU be laid off? Who around you seems frozen by change, or uncertainty, obsessed with the rumor mill, or just going through the motions?These are the most vulnerable now. And where do you fit into this spectrum? Layoffs are not being based on seniority or classification. They are increasingly done to weed the staff that are not performing NOW, staff less committed, and of course on cost---meaning high salaries are more vulnerable. Smart orgs are "right sizing" to where they think the org is headed and not on where its been. 

Watch this video to put things back in perspective:

Maintaining my growing network

If you are growing your network in this environment, then you are to be congratulated. That means you are reaching out to new and existing contacts to nurture and engage in mutually beneficial relationships. The key here is EXISTING relationships. If you are trying to accumulate a multitude of brand new contacts, then maintenance is very challenging. However, maintaining  a network of people you know is simpler. There is a irrational impulse to meet as many new people as possible. This violates the spirit of networking as I define it. So, a focus on reconnecting with your network to discover the incredible array of information, knowledge, expertise, and yes, contacts they have, is vital. That being said a few pointers on keeping track and therefore keeping the network warm and vibrant.

  1. Schedule time with your key contacts: List the people that are crucial to your network without regard to your current relations with them. People you know who can and have been very important to you. Invariably, some of them you have lost touch with. How often I hear this disturbing phrase, "Been so busy I don't have time for my friends anymore." Pick the handful of people you have to connect with on a regular basis and schedule a regular meeting or phone call. You don't need a reason to connect, you connect because you need to and want to. It will always make you feel good and provide you with an insight or two. Since I started doing this it has given me great rewards and I stay connected. Hmmm just thought of more people I need to connect with.........
  2. Define and prioritize the rest: Keep a running list of people you need to reconnect with both old and new. People who's view of the world you value. People who you wish had more time to get to know better or whose company you enjoy. Make it a to-do list and make it part of your regular routine. 
  3. Beyond a rolodex or business card file---Take Notes!: Collecting cards and filing them in alpha order or inputting them into you contacts file is a start. But maintaining your contacts new and old requires updates. Adding notes about their family, their job, and their needs. Unless you have a photographic memory, you can not remember all of this. I have a photographic memory, just never any film. :) Seriously, put these updates and notes on the back of the card or input them into your contact database. I have been a cardscan user for many years because of the volume of cards I get.    
  4. Make the process of connecting urgent: If you follow the above, then these are folks you want to see and talk to. Therefore it is important--do not put it off. Avoid anything approaching desperation, except with your inner circle. I constantly test people trying to connect with me, people I have met but do not know me well. I ask them, "Is this important?" More often than not the say it is not and they will connect me later--they face off into the distance. They give up too easily. :) 

That's why I call it a lifestyle. Make your connections part of your habit. Maybe just as important as your exercise routine. Connecting can be very aerobic. It breathes life into you and gives you confidence. How is your network doing in this environment? What steps are they taking? How can you help others? Funny thing, the world does get smaller and a small world is much easier to manage. 

Thanks for reading. John 

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