social networks

The Strongest Weak Tie: Cousins

Just got back from a reunion of our extended family. I do mean extended! It was extraordinary to dive into the gene pool forawhile and explore my roots and my wings. Energized by my younger cousins who represent the Yonseis--4th generation Japanese-Americans a rainbow coalition of beautiful multi-racial and multi-ethnic backgrounds. This weekend I met a national surfing champion, a violinist who played at Carnegie Hall, an actress--and these were among my cousins under 19! Amazing who you are related to and don't know.

We all have cousins. From real cousins to people you are somehow related to (e.g. people married to your cousins, all the way to strangers you refer to as "cousins". In fact we are all cousins in one way or another. Read that Prince William and Kate are 12th cousins (once removed) and Brad Pitt and President Obama are 9th cousins. The further we go back our family lines converge and we are all related. But I digress. 

When we think of our networks, we usually think about the inner circle of our close friends, relatives and confidantes. Mark Granovetter referred to these as our  Strong Ties. In general, we take care of our strong ties. The challenge with strong ties is they usually are not that diverse. We tend to hang around and seek the time and attention of people like us, religiously, politically, and financially.  Therefore a network composed just of your strong ties is limiting. You need people in your network that will transport you out of the box of your limitations to introduce you to new networks. You need a diverse network of opinions, viewpoints and connections. Granvetter called these your Weak Ties

Weak ties multiple groups
Sample Network

Granovetter defined ties: a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.

He concluded that some of the the most important ties are the ones which "bridge" you to new connections, new networks, and new opportunities. His research showed that "no strong tie is a bridge." That weak ties are much better bridges.

One of my mantras is: It is amazing who you know who you don't know.

Great and beneficial networking focuses on your existing network before new connections. The key is reconnecting and deepening your relationship with people you know, especially weak ties--like your cousins--to expand your network.

You want your network to grow, but organically and warmly. Your existing network is a catalogue of warm calls, much different than the icy world of strangers that you don't know. 

Second mantra: Being introduced is the most powerful form of networking.

The most potent network development comes from your existing contact list. Meeting new people through others. 

Get over the "embarrassment" of the time lapse between contacts. Stop letting your benevolent disregard for them stop you from reaching out and re-kindling a good conversation. This is why some gravitate to the casino of meeting new people, rather than than apologizing to an old friend and starting anew. Can you hear the crazy that screams out of this convoluted logic?

Yeah, but we are all guilty of this. It took a reunion for me to reconnect with my cousins.

Focus on making your weak ties stronger and then seek the diversity of other people's networks. 

It is one thing to say you are open to new things and new opportunities. That you believe in serendipity. Everyone does. But it is a giant leap to actively cultivate weak ties, like your cousins, to truly encounter the serendipitous. 

Sometimes you meet  people that appear in your life. I know you are lucky but not that lucky---you are not the magnetic center of the universe. You must make your magnets, your luck, and the effort to make new connections.

Call or e-mail a cousin today. Listen to them. Tell your story. Help each other. The world will become smaller, warmer and bit more interesting. It has for me.

Thanks for reading.  Your cousin John  ;)

 


Is Your Virtual Fly Open?

I can remember like it was yesterday my most embarrassing moments. When I was a 6th grader I gave a class presentation on the attributes of Argentina. The first question I got from a girl in the front row, "Why is your fly open?" Suffice it to say that it slightly undermined my wonderful talk about llamas. :)
Yet as I meet people  or prepare to meet people, I Google them and see that their virtual fly is wide open.  UNC fly is open
One of the greatest trends in the world today is the ability to promote and present oneself to the world. Like all reputational and brand matters you take control of this process or it controls you. 
Whether you like it or not you have created and not necessarily curated an online presentation of yourself . What is your online presence right now? What is your online reputation? Your online brand?

When someone Googles you, they get search results and there you are. I know some stuff is out there that you can't control but there are also things you can. Like your photo.

So most of your networking is being done without you. This has always been the case. Your reputation precedes you. Your brand has attributes and travels around especially when you are not there. Social media and the world wide web just makes this process faster and further outside of your control. 
Each of you owns a social media company---YOU! 

Here's what guru Seth Godin says:

All of us own our own media companies now. We each have the ability to speak up, to tell our stories, and if we're good and if we're lucky, to be heard.

Too often, though, there's no signal. You may be pumping noise through your social media outlets, but noise isn't signal. It's merely a distraction. You're talking, but you're not saying anything, at least nothing that's being heard.

You get to choose your story. If the story you've chosen doesn't get through, it's up to you to fix that. Pick a story that reflects your work, sure, but also one that resonates with the receiver.

The point is you are the protagonist of your own reality show. Take control of the script. What is the story you are trying to tell? 

Consider these facts:
The company Adobe now sources more than half of its new hires via LinkedIn. Tech companies report that a full two-thirds of corporations use Facebook to bring on new talent, and 54 percent of organizations use Twitter to learn more about a candidate. Companies now are actively trawling the www waters for interesting fish. To recruit. To reference check and to network. 

So they checked out your Linked-in, Facebook or Twitter pages-- what do they see?  Your Fly is Open

Is your virtual fly open? Don't be embarrassed because you didn't check. :)

Here are a few examples of what I saw last week:
  • Linked-in page with a job title for someone who was fired a year ago!
  • Bad photos, Not just unattractive but weird and quasi inappropriate
  • I Googled a 39 year old professional and nothing came up! Nothing. No Linked-in.
  • Bad photos!
A few quick reminders and suggestions to polish up the olde online brand:
  1. Google thyself-- Just to check what others see. 
  2. Get a Linked-in account--If you are a serious job networker you must have one and use one. 
  3. Update your social media sites--Keep them up to date or take them down. Just lunacy to see Linked-in sites that look abandoned and neglected--there goes your brand.
  4. Consider starting a blog or a personal website to actively post relevant videos, papers, opinions, articles that you have created. 

Conduct a quick audit. Develop a strategy for your story. Take control of your brand management. 

Visibility is the key to success. It always has been. Can't see you, can't promote, or hire you.
I use to give career talks about speaking more or writing more to enhance your brand and your opportunities. Still good advice. But today you have to also actively manage your virtual media company. Your visibility has to differentiate you not disqualify you.
It use to be said that all publicity is good publicity. But that is no longer the case. The only good "publicity" is the publicity that is accurate and advances your story.

Or you can tell me how busy you are and hope nobody notices. 

Rest assured people and companies are networking with you, without YOU--right now. So, is your virtual fly open? 

If you need more proof of this, see the great infographic from mashable below.
Thanks for reading. John
E-rep-infographic


Curate Your Network

I like cooking. It is like therapy for me. It is a chance to be creative and then you get to literally enjoy your work! :) I follow two basic approaches. I either start with a recipe that I have cut out of a publication that intrigued me. Or I look in the frig and see what is there. The first method requires me to plan, buy stuff, and take time to read and learn. The second is a challenge but is the lazier alternative. I enjoy both forms of cooking.

Life is like my cooking analogy. (stay with me). You can always rely on what you have, what you know, and who you know. Or you can add new learnings, new connections, and new ideas to your process. I know this is not an either or proposition. We all have our tendencies, our habits, and our default modes of living and cooking. Frig

I have seen that people network this way too. They have a few people they rely on for their career nourishment, their advice, and their direction. Not talking about your mentors now. I am referring to your network that is beyond your friends and family. These are people that may occupy your extended reference list, including former bosses, colleagues--people who you from time to time rely upon for advice and connections. How fresh or stale is this network?

This is the network that is in your frig. 

Now think about where you are going with your life and career. Your ambitions, goals, and career aspirations--(your recipes, if I have not overstretched this analogy already). How does your network relate to these thoughts? In other words, does your current go-to network have the experiences, background, passion, connections to help you get to where you are going?

If you have read any of my posts you know that you can never under-estimate your existing relationships--that you often don't know who you know. 

But I also want you to take an inventory of your current network. To see whether you need to add to your network or uncover your needs in your existing network.

The point is to design your network. Curate a network that has the dimensions and facets that reflect your interests, career objectives, and passions. 

I meet so many people who want to work in a non-profit. That is what they say. "I want to work for a non-profit." They might as well have said they want to live in Asia. The lack of specificity will engage no one in your quest. After I pummel them with questions about the specifics, I always ask them, "Who do you know that works in a non-profit (especially one they want to work for)?" Most tell me they do but HAVE NOT HAD THE TIME TO CONNECT WITH THEM? Hmmmmmm. 

Our networks have to reflect where we are going and certainly match up with what we tell others are important to us. 

Look in your frig. See what you need to acquire, learn about, read about---specifically who you want to meet. Is everyone in your network more or less like you? Then you need to add some variety to your cooking! Talking to yourself will only get you so far! You need new ideas, inspirations, and energy. Once you have a good idea about your goals then seek people with names you want to meet. People with certain titles. People in specific orgs. Which orgs are the leaders in this field/industry? Who are the thought leaders?

Are you following the people, organizations and publications that reflect your goals? 

Curate your own network. Not just by adding friends on FB or linking on Linked-in. Do it with intention and purpose. Not just to get jobs, but to deepen your understanding and your commitment to your goals--the ones you say to yourself and to others. Once you connect with others those words and thoughts will change but your path will become more clear.

Thanks for reading. John 


Why I use the N word: NETWORKING

Well intentioned people approach me and tell me that "networking" is so passe. It is an old school technique and phrase that really has not role in today's modern society. That I should be really talking about "relationship development" or "connecting" or  using social media.  And this is exactly why I have continued to use the term networking. :) Networking is a well worn word but it also still conjures up resistance. My view is we have to confront our fears and shortcomings. We are inclined to euphemisms and political correctness. We prefer to change the word instead of our behavior. So let me set the record straight, "networking" is a word that has been around a long time. And yes, its description and definition were archaic but they have evolved as well. And today, I think it is perhaps more relevant than ever before.Networking

I believe that networking has been  poorly defined and even more poorly taught and learned. In the beginning it was perceived to be a tool you would employ for a job search and to meet new people, especially to get new sales leads. You would turn on or off your networking mode based on your needs and the situation. You were a selfish hit and run driver who met people and got what you needed and moved on. Networking got a bad rep over many years and that made people, even today, cringe when they'd hear it. Like public speaking, networking was an unnatural skill that people loved to hate. However, unlike public speaking, networking felt wrong, even unethical. The underlying premise that you were going to "use" other people. Networking was really for the extroverted. It felt forced and contrived. It seemed superficial and hollow. These ideas became the dominant and mostly offensive characteristics of networking that made it easier for most people to turn their backs on it. Yes, that me-oriented networking is anchronistic and actually toxic when it comes to your career and your life. 

Since 1991, despite people's objections I decided to use the N word and re-define it. Make it more accessible, usable and actionable. Like so many things, I have learned to embrace the fear versus trying to manipulate the words or my thinking. My goal has always been to help people conquer an old foe that they have shunned and procrastinated. I wanted to help people get back on the old networking horse and see it from a different perspective. That networking was not a selfish skill but a community building skill. That networking was not a technique but a lifestyle of engaging others and learning about oneself. I can not tell you how many thousand people have told me that adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking to help each other is not only more beneficial, but more important, it is more doable!

A brief survey of the last 75 years shows us how networking has evolved and is evolving.

Dale Carnegie in his legendary, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he espoused the basic  principles of how to connect back in 1936!

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Mark Granovetter's ground breaking research in the 70's showed conclusively that "weak social ties", people we know but not well, provide us with more opportunities and new perspectives than our strong and close ties. In other words, we have to break out of our enclaves of comfortable and familiar connections and make and strengthen new ties.

Fast forward to 2000 in The Tipping Point where Malcolm Gladwell introduces people who are Connectors. Connectors are people who know a lot of people ( we all do) and they connect others to one another. They are the hubs of the networks.

2003 and 2004, Linkedin and FB were respectively launched and changed the sheer quantity of people we are connected to---strong and weak ties. But they create more opportunities than networks.

Whatever you call it networking is an essential skill to engage people around you to strengthen a mutually beneficial community. Each of us has a network. And we network. Relationships from work, life and family. The question is, are you actively connecting to others and people in your network to one another? Do you do it without an expectation? Are you strengthening your weak ties? Are you a connector or aspire to be one? Is your networking skill evolving or is it stuck in the past? Call it what you like just don't let the word interfere with your inner desire to help others and yourself.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Networking at the Conference

No matter what industry or professional association I have been affiliated with, I have heard this refrain: "best thing about the conference was the networking". While we hope to be inspired and informed by the sages on the stages, by colleagues on panels and or by well known speakers--it rarely happens. Truth is our needs as a conferee are unique. We represent organizations that are different sizes and shapes and in different ages and stages of development. So it is no surprise that the "general sessions" of a conference never quite meet our needs.Conferences

It is It the hallway conversations and informal exchanges that often yield the most value. "Networking" becomes the best source to answer questions, get recommendations, learn new and different ways of doing business that APPLY to our circumstances. Meeting colleagues from across the state or country also gives you resources that you can tap into later. Most important, networking can be fun. Meeting different and new people who care about the same things with interesting perspectives strengthens your sense of belonging to your professional community of work.

So if you don't actively network at the conference, save some money, time and angst--stay home.

The best networking and the easiest networking is at conferences. Conferences bring us together so that we can literally get out of our boxes, reflect on our roles, challenges, and opportunities and ultimately get injected with a bit of new fuel to keep our motors running.

Funny thing, is while "networking" is the consensus greatest benefit from conferences, only a small subset of the attendees develop and execute a networking plan---except the vendors and exhibitors ;)

You have to remember to stick your hand out and introduce yourself. You are in warm and safe waters. Jump into the conference networking pool with both feet!

For non-profit industries and conferences there is a huge advantage and difference from the for-profit world. Many years ago I was on the national board of CASE, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. When I first learned about CASE, I asked a colleague what it stood for. He told me, "Copy And Steal Everything!" I laughed, but realized quickly that in non-profit land we really were not competitors that had secrets. In fact it was the exact opposite, if you asked people they would give you everything. I learned that if you reciprocated in sharing, people would open up their minds and their hard drives! One of many reasons I have returned to the non-profit world.

Let's assume you are reading the trade publications, you follow the industry trends, you know who the leaders are (both individual and organizational), and of course you know well what you and your organization needs. And you are not one of these conferees who just goes to "see what happens." As in everything, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as Coach Wooden would say.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize the networking benefit from your next conference:

  1. Shopping list: Write down a menu of items you are shopping for. Things you need to understand better. Trends you want to learn about. Solutions to challenges you face. Use this menu to evaluate your session attendance. Evaluate this list while at the conference and certainly when you return.
  2. Your BIT: Your brief introductory talk--your BIT--how you introduce yourself matters. Yes, name rank and serial number, but it could also include your needs and interests. For example, "Hi I am so and so from such and such." (firm shake hand and smile) "What were you hoping to get from this conference?"  "I am really trying to find out who could help me with (subject), do you have any suggestions?" At the very least it will start a conversation. Engaging people in your quest and listening to theirs is always beneficial.
  3. Help others: The copy and steal everything world for non-profits or the sharing of great insights in for-profit circles only works if you reciprocate. You share and others will. The marketplace of meaningful networking exchanges depends on your willingness to assist.
  4. Benevolent stalking: These are thought leaders, innovators, achievers, or just plain interesting people you want to meet and or pick their brains. First, are these folks speaking/presenting? Who do you know who knows them? Ideally you would introduce yourself BEFORE the conference through a colleague or even a cold e-mail, to say you want to connect at the conference. You will be surprised how few people do this kind of prep and how receptive people are even to coldish e-mail intros. So you might even attend a session where the topic is less interesting than the speakers to hear what they have to say and possibly connect before or after they speak.
  5. Out of your comfort zone: Don't just mingle with your colleagues from your shop or people you already know. While there will always be benefits from that type of easy socializing, you could do that at other times. Meet people at every session you attend. Meet people at every event. Don't get so caught up in your list and menu that you don't connect with the person next to you. Make it a point to meet new and different people along the way.
  6. Take notes:Write down the names of people you meet and what was discussed or promised. Use the business card as your notecard or your smartphone to record a few words to jog your memory. Nothing worse than a pocket full of cards you don't recall. I refer to this as the cardboard network!
  7. Three foot networking: Meet anyone within 3 feet of you! I have learned over and over and over again, that you don't know who you are standing or sitting next to. Greet people, say hello and introduce yourself. Serendipity is powerful. Remember the object is not quantity it is always quality. Take some time to listen and connect. And if you click or find some commonality, you can reconnect later.
  8. Follow-up: Don't just collect cards and file them. Inevitably you promise people you will send them things. Others made promises to you. You heard several great speakers that piqued your interest and you could contact them to chat or get more info. You met a few interesting and nice people with whom you hope to stay connected. Send them a quick e-mail note. Do all of this in the first day or so when you return, before the work world you left gets its revenge! 

So yes, conferences are great places to network, IF you network! If you do a little planning, focus on your needs, help others, and also push yourself to make connections, then the conference will deliver on its networking promise.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Know and Love Thy Neighbors

Neighbor -- literally translates to nearby dweller. Someone "situated" near us.

In all parts of your life you have neighbors. People who live, work, exist near you. You may share a common fence, a cubicle wall, a pew, adjacent parking spaces, offices or floors. You probably have many dozens if not hundreds of "neighbors". Neighbors you don't know and perhaps will never know. Some of us will search the Internet, trawl the club scene, attend mixers, travel great distances to meet people and yet,we won't meet the people who literally live next door! Go figure! I have learned the hard way that your neighbors have to be part of your due diligence when you buy or rent a house, condo or apartment. That neighbors, especially the ones you share property lines or walls/ceilings/floors with can increase or decrease your enjoyment and your property value. No one told me this. Maybe it sounds obvious, but I did not know I should meet all of my potential neighbors before buying/renting my home. I was young and naive when I rented and bought my first couple of houses. Focused on getting a good deal and THEN met the neighbors. Neighbors I would live next to and with for many years! Never fails that you have a few surprises and I have been pretty lucky. In buying property or renting an office I meet the neighbors FIRST! These are people that will watch your back. They are people who can be helpful and you can help. That's the definition of neighbors.Neighbors

While we can debate the state of community in increasingly technological world, we all know that all relationships can be enhanced with regular face to face interactions. So why is it we avoid our neighbors. A very recent study showed that only 25% of people know their neighbors names (meaning 75% don't) and one out of 12 have never met any of their neighbors! So if you are following along 3 out of 4 of us don't know our neighbors names and 11% of those people never met any of them. So we go through life acknowledging people in a friendly manner, my friend says "phony nice", but avoiding any substantive conversation (including sharing the very personal information such as our names!) Some of you are feeling quite smug because you are part of the top quartile of people who know your neighbors names. Congrats! But when is the last time you shared a meal or got to know them beyond the morning salutations? Knowing their names is so basic but while that is a fine start you have to get to know them and their families.

Every person you meet will open up a world of difference and commonality. Every connection you make help you become a better person. It never surprises me when I meet people and discover a shared life experience and the world shrinks, especially when they are next door.

A few quick neighbor stories:

1. Hey That's My Priest!--We invited our new next door neighbors over for a meal and to meet our good friend Father Jim. And our neighbor recognized Father Jim, because Jim assisted with their wedding in Hawaii 30 years ago. Long story short,Father Jim presided over OUR wedding a couple years later in northern California! Say it together, SMALL WORLD!

2. Keep your Enemies Close--My wife Sarah met a neighbor at our block party last year. Sarah asked what this elderly gentleman did and he said he used to operate the cable tv fanchise in town but his dreams to grow his business were squashed by a company called Falcon (my employer 30 years ago). He expressed his dislike for the CEO (my boss). And then he recalled, "...there was this "Asian kid" who was always with him too." Sarah quickly and astutely pointed at me at another table and said, "think that Asian kid is my husband John." the man's jaw drops open as Sarah summons me to reconnect with my long lost arch rival, who has lived down the street for 45 years! And we have reminisced a few times since.

3. An Office Transplant--Just moved into new offices this month. I got into the elevator and noticed the woman next to me pushed the same floor button as I did. I knew that there was only one other occupant on our floor (I had checked them out before we moved). So I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm John, I guess we are neighbors." She runs the training and research for the largest organ transplant operation in the US--One Legacy. This has led to multiple meetings, introductions and encounters in just 3 weeks. I know that she will become a friend as well as a neighbor!
 
There is no excuse for not knowing your neighbors and I mean more than their names! I won't detail all of the selfish reasons you should do this for safety and support. But who watches your place when you are not there? Having the people around you know who you are is crucial in times of crises and need.
 
A few tips on meeting neighbors:
1. If you have been living next door to people for a long and don't know them, find an excuse to bring over some food and introduce yourself. Invite them over for an impromptu bbq. Or if you are having a bigger event invite the neighbors. Food is the greatest connector!
2. Welcome any new neighbors with some cookies and introduce yourselves.
3. Get involved in the home owner association, the local book club, neighborhood watch--excellent way to engage and to meet people.
4. Get to know the people around you everyday at the office, in the elevators, where you park, and certainly at your kids' schools, at church, and where you play.
5. Stick out your hand, smile and introduce yourself! Don't settle for the impersonal robotic "hi, how are you?" unless you follow-up with an intro and a conversation.
Your network has to begin with proximity.
What puts the goodness into your hood----neighbors! Meet and get to know the people who "dwell" near you.
Thanks for reading and being more neighborly. John

The world shrinks if you don't

How many meetings do you attend and later think about the question you did not ask? Do you attend events or social outings where you avoided meeting people who you share a warm and common connection? When is the last time you reached out to "friends",  acquaintances, or your boss's boss without a request or an agenda?

We are all so busy. Sometimes inattentive to the people and opportunities around us. Each of us experiences these small world moments. Moments when we discover a connection between people we meet that surprises us. These moments arise when we pay attention, when we listen, and when we get to know each other beyond our superficial and often selfish interests.

 So are these moments luck or fate?Small world

Neither. We are connected to each other in ways that we will never know without making an effort to have a conversation that wanders, explores and learns about one another.

You probably have heard of Moore's Law--which essentially states that computing power/speed doubles every 2 years. This has been true for more than 46 years since Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, made this prediction in 1965.

I believe that our interconnectedness, our degrees of separation, or the smallness of the world, if you will, is also increasing at exponential rates. Much has been studied and written about our connections. In the late 60's Stanley Milgram conducted legendary experiments that remain the foundation of the theory of six degrees of separation--the idea that every person on the planet is no more than 6 people apart. Other research from the 70's, showed that Americans were 3 degrees apart. This was all before the internet, email, cell phones and of course social networks. We are so much more connected. I think in the last 5 years, we have doubled our interconnectedness. So what does that make people in the US--1.5 degrees of separation?!! So the world IS getting smaller.

One of the things I like about Linked-in is the way that you see how you are connected to people, the levels of the connections and the proximity of the relationship. It facilitates ways to check up on people and to request introductions. You can quickly see the people who are well connected and those who are not. Of course sheer numbers do not tell the complete story, as much as the quality of the people in it.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his seminal book, The Tipping Point about the Law of the Few. That a small group of people are better Connectors who have a much stronger ability to develop and maintain relationships. The Connectors are network hubs and can accelerate connections.

How many Connectors do you know?

Every time I make the extra effort, it always pays off. One of the most amusing moments happened a couple of weeks ago. I was at a large meeting of my national foundation colleagues and I took note of several I wanted to meet to compare notes. I saw an open seat next to one of them at dinner and introduced myself. His name was Sean from Chicago and about 25 years my junior. So there were no apparent connections. I resisted talking too much or grilling him like an aspiring 60 Minutes reporter. Instead I asked, "What are you working on now?" He launched into an energetic and engaging description of his work on a new strategic plan. That's when we had our "small world" moment. He mentioned one of my closest friends Nat Irvin, who lives in Louisville Kentucky, as a great source of "out-of-the box" ideas. My eyes opened up wide and I realized that Nat's assistant emailed the day before to introduce me to Sean. I agreed to be connected to Sean. Early this morning I received an e-mail from my dinner mate to schedule a long distant conference call. Clearly, he had not put 2 and 2 together either! I looked at him with a smile, "You e-mailed me this morning!" He looked at me with real surprise and he blurted out, "Who are you?!!" It was so funny. Nat referred him to me to also assist with his strategic planning. That morning we were planning an inconvenient telephone call, and now we were having a robust face to face meeting. Now thats a small world.

As I have said, you don't know who you are sitting next to.

We all have these stories. I am telling you they are not luck or coincidence. The world is small and shrinking. The world will remain a daunting, vast and mysterious place, unless we look for, listen for, and reveal the amazing connections we share.

Thanks for reading. John


The Art of the Intro---Do you have a Hype Man?

If you believe that your success is tied to others, then you have to connect. Connect with people that help advance your thoughts and ideas. Connect with people who show you the paths to greater fulfillment. Connect with people who give you validation and an important sense of community and belonging. You have to understand that doing it alone is impossible. That isolation and insulation are your enemies. Once you accept this, then you have to engage others in your quest to become the best you can be. The best way to meet people is to be introduced to them.  Properly-introduce-yourself-572x297

As I have said many times, networking is a contact sport but it is also a team sport. In that vein, working with a partner or a team makes it so much easier to meet people. Meeting people at a social gathering, corporate reception, or other general networking opportunity is so much more fun and productive, if you are being introduced to others. No one is truly comfortable with the solitary process of "cold calling" and walking up to people we do not know and introducing ourself. The process of having someone else pave the way by making the connection is always more elegant and effective. If you want to meet new people or a specific person, form a pact with a person or people you know going to the event, to introduce one another to people they meet/know to each other.  This can turn these often anxiety ridden moments into a pleasure.

After I gave a presentation on networking and the power of the introduction recently, a young, very hip African American man approached me. He thanked me for the idea of "being introduced" to others. He was very excited and animated and told me that it was like having a "hype man". "You know, a hype man, the guy who promotes the rapper", he said (he crouched down starts shaking his dreadlocked head and pointing at an imaginary rapper and rapping) "He's the greatest rapper!" Yes, we all need a team of hype men or women. Advocates to give us third party endorsements. Someone else to talk about us, instead of ourselves. My best friend Willie used to call me his "Press Asian" when we were students. :) I was trying to help him get more visibility on campus. I was unwittingly a very early version of a hype man! We need others to refer us, promotes us, and introduce us to "audiences" and opportunities.

The old maxim holds true, " Could not have said it better myself."

But the art of the introduction goes beyond the sometimes superficial event scene and can be more targeted than general hype and promotion of your brand. You also need people on your hype team who know you well to partake in a much more strategic form of introduction. An introduction to others who you don't know that the team thinks you should meet. Others you have identified and want to meet. In either case, a warm introduction that gives you more credibility and enhances your value can make all the difference. 

The answers to these questions will help determine your strategy to meet people through introduction to advance your network and your career. 

  1. What are your goals, your priorities, your needs? What are you looking for? In other words, you have some direction that guides your networking. Otherwise, you foolishly think opportunity will come up and throw you a surprise party. 
  2. Who do you want to meet? Who do you want to talk to? Have you identified specific individuals, experts, executives, potential mentors/sponsors that you want to meet? There should always be people that you have respect, have a valuable perspective, or could help you-- people you would like to talk to.
  3. Which organizations, companies, non-profits do you admire? At some point you want to know these entities better, understand them, and perhaps be affiliated with them? Like individuals, you should be tracking organizations that you think are leaders, innovative or just plain intriguing. 

With these goals and targets in mind, you need to unleash your hype team. Talk to your inner network and pick their brains on who knows the people and organizations on your list. Start recruiting your hype team members. Make sure they are up to date on your resume and your skills, knowledge, and abilities. And then push them to find connections and introduce you.

These referrals are not a list of names and contact info given to you---that is bad form. There must be a warm hand-off, which requires a personal and professional introduction. In some cases you may want to draft an intro, just as you would do for a letter of reference. What do you want the intro to say and sound like? Why leave it to chance?

Of course, this only works because you are the hype man for your network too. You have to be willing to refer and introduce your network to others. 

Lastly, if you are ever going to be introduced as a speaker, or recognized at an event, make sure you provide some guidance. Often, people will ask you to draft the public intro. Don't just give your resume and cross your fingers--provide the intro and shape your brand!

Use the team concept of networking to meet people and uncover opportunities through introductions. Get a hype team and join a hype team or three. Make every introduction count. You will see that networking can be more enjoyable and successful when you work together. 

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