Strong ties make strong networks

The March 28 tip on Mark Granovetter’s concept of “weak ties” got me thinking:  Who do I know? Who do I know well?  Attending professional association meetings and events is a great place to meet and start building those weak ties; those people Mark says we all need in our network to create bridges to other networks; but making contacts (my definition of a weak tie) is not making a connection

That requires:

  1. Getting to know and understand the person’s goals (work-life—short and long term, business, professional objectives, personal dreams and wants/needs),
  2. Getting to know and be interested in his/her personal (outside) interests—how they spend their time outside of work—what do they enjoy doing: collect stamps or fine art; where and how they vacation.
  3. Getting to know and sharing their values—how they go about living day to day and in the workplace; how they fulfill their obligations; how they take responsibility; take credit; give credit.
  4. Getting to know and appreciate what are they proud of—character, beliefs, intentions, and attitude towards the world,
  5. Getting to know their expertise; their ability to do the job and how they give their talents, time and treasure to others.
  6. Getting to know if they care about knowing the same things about you!

And that all takes time, energy, effort and a genuine interest in making a tie, a relationship!

“Don’t forget the LinkedIn Profile”

That was the lead sentence from a subscriber email regarding some of my daily tips on networking staples and I thank him for the reminder! Please keep your feedback, ideas, comments, and advice coming!

In today’s world of work, an accurate, up-to-date LinkedIn profile is one of your first points of introduction (maybe the first point of introduction), especially during a job search. 

  • Does your profile showcase a straightforward and brief accounting of your jobs, education, major skills and accomplishments?
  • Any references?  Any endorsements?
  • What groups have you listed?  

Is your contact listing open or is “who you know” private information? And what about a photo?   Elaine Varelas is a managing partner at Keystone Partners here in Boston (as well as serving on the board of Career Partners International) and she frequently writes for a career site called JobDoc.com. She recently wrote about the need for a photo on your LinkedIn profile and said:  “The right LinkedIn picture is a photo of the professional you. Most people should have a head shot on a day you look your very best (hair looks good; eye contact and a smile–for real). Your attire, makeup and jewelry should be professional and not so overwhelming that they draw attention.“ Good info!

She also mentions having a photo that reflects your work style (I am an executive coach and my photo—I hope–shows a person whose approach is open, positive, and direct). In other words she tells us to use a photo that reflects the “best of who you are.”  And thanks again to the reader who wrote: “Don’t forget the LinkedIn Profile!”

How to fail at networking, or, How a weak tie will never become a strong one!

This week’s blog is a story told me by a member of my network– it is a true story and I asked him to share it in his own words, as it probably will ring true to a lot of readers! It’s a great reminder to all of us to never forget that although taking someone’s advice is optional, good manners are mandatory.  

“A friend asked me to talk to Paul about opportunities in my field. Paul has an impressive resume  but he wants to move in a new direction. We met for lunch at a spot convenient to him. He told me what he has done, what he is up to,  and mentioned that he is enjoying a generous severance. I advised on firms that are hiring and shared information on several current and upcoming opportunities that might suit his qualifications and interests. 

“All in all, I gave him 2-1/2 hours including travel time, (lost income to me). Imagine my surprise when we split the check!! Were 2-1/2 hours not worth $25? We parted, without the words ‘thank you’ ever passing his lips. Later I followed up with info about another opportunity. He sent in his resume. Still didn’t hear those magic words. 

“Weeks pass. An email arrives: ‘Thanks for the intro. Can we talk NOW to prep me for an interview?’ Sorry, I was tied up all day. Really, I was tied up, but I wasn’t sorry.”

Patti here: Whenever someone gives you his time and expertise to help you, the small gesture of a verbal thank you is a networking (or as my mother would say, daily) minimum requirement. Picking up the tab falls into the same category! Failing to do so not only speaks volumes about the person, it also gives networking a “bad name.” He who invites, pays!

Sonia Sotomayer: My Beloved World

The book I’m recommending for you nightstand or iPad this month is: Sonia Sotomayer’s My Beloved World.  

Why?  Well, 

  1. Nonfiction written by people in leadership roles can always offer a few to do’s (or not-to-do’s) take-away lessons.
  2. The book is an honest and caring account of a woman  whose opinions and  decisions will impact generations to come  and
  3. She has a straightforward writing style that says in a few paragraphs what many people don’t manage to say in many pages.

Here is one takeaway I enjoyed from this book:  Sotomayor writes that in the fifth grade, she learned how to make something she wanted happen.  How? She approached someone she saw succeeding and just asked how they did it. On page 91 she writes:

“But the more critical lesson I learned that day is still one too many kids never figure out:  don’t be shy about making a teacher of any willing party who knows what he or she is doing. In retrospect I can see how important that pattern would become for me: how readily I’ve sought out mentors, asking guidance from professors or colleagues, and in every friendship soaking up eagerly whatever that friend could teach me.” 

We may not be fifth graders, but at any age we need to keep asking ourselves: Who can I teach? Who can I learn from?

Letting go of your networking fears and negative experiences

So as another year  “March-es” forward, it is time to let go of remembering the times when networking didn’t work,  (or the people who didn’t return your call, email, or request for help).  Time to let go of imagining the worst case networking scenario, the fear of being rejected, disappointed, taking a risk, making a mistake, (readers, feel free to add your own fears here…). And yes, you need to let go of fearing what will happen if you become a successful networker—(thinking: “Ugh, what will I do with all those new people in my work-life? What will they want of my time, my connections, of me!”).  

Thoughts are powerful. If you want to make networking easy, you need to take charge and look at those negative thoughts (fears and experiences) that are holding you back. Identify and get specific about one or two networking activities you know would help your career, but you are more comfortable not doing. Then imagine what it would be like to try one of those networking activities and have a positive experience.  What would have to happen to make that possible—such as attending an event with a few friends who promise to stay nearby and introduce you to 2 people? Is it writing a script and then rehearsing with a member of your network on how to make that call or write that email to a blog editor or a speaker’s bureau?

“This year I’m going to….”

That’s something many of us said to others (or to ourselves) at the beginning of 2014. But was it the same thing you also resolved to do in 2013, 2012, 2002? Was it something you were going to start doing (e.g., meeting 3 new people every week)? Stop doing (interrupting people in meetings)? Do more of (attending professional association meetings)? Do less of (connecting only by text or email)? 

It’s been only a few weeks since many of us have made the annual work, life, career, health, weight, family or even networking resolutions. How are you doing? Have they been a challenge? a chore? a success? Have you made progress? Do you still believe achieving them is possible? Do you even remember them? 

Before 2014 gets too far along, ask yourself: Was that resolution just a “to do” added to your already over-scheduled work and life? Or did you intend it to be a professional or personal goal that could move you towards the way your work-life could be?  When we see our resolutions as positive choices rather than necessary chores, we can begin to be open to finding the activities and people (in our network) that will support them and us. 

If you haven’t read last month’s blogs on careers, or the ones I mentioned in last week’s dailies, make it goal to do so this week– it might give you an idea or two on how to turn January’s New Years resolutions into 2014’s career opportunities.

Do you know what your network needs?

“How can I help?” This may be the most important–and least asked–question when it comes to strengthening your network and building a reputation as a future resource.  We tend to not ask because we don’t want to appear ”nosey” or “forward,” or we are not sure we have the knowledge or expertise to help.  What can you do to know how you can help?  Create a “networking IOU list.”

An IOU list is a way you can keep track of where people are in their career journeys, and identify the types of needs you can help with during a particular stage of someone’s work-life.  

 The IOU list helps you to know how you can best be a resource. The first step is collecting information—after all, the more you know about a person, the more helpful you can be. Some people consider the following information essential; jot it down about members of your network so it will be handy when you need it. Start with the current company name, job title, and contact info–include her preferred or nickname.  Additional professional information such as major responsibilities; background info including knowledge on his products or service, a major business issue facing the future of her industry or business and key past employment facts.  What brought him into the profession or industry? Future career dreams/goals.  Also note memberships in community groups, professional organizations, volunteer efforts–it will tell you a lot about a person’s interests and give-back activities. As appropriate, you can also note family info and specifics like favorite restaurants, reading, and movies.

Having this information handy will help you offer help that is appropriate to that person’s situation. 

Getting to know yourself leads to getting to know others

Spending time figuring out how you can network best can be hard to do (just like finding the time to actually go out and network). But when you make it a priority to spend some time getting to know yourself—you discover (or rediscover) your authentic self. (Read the chapter on Responsibility in The Power of Everyday Networking for some inspiration!)

 Getting to know yourself means you have a solid understanding of 

  1. The professional goals you want to pursue over the course of your career journey,
  2. The kinds of professional and outside interests you want to put your “extra” energy and efforts in, and
  3. The ways you like to spend your (limited) “free” personal time so you feel successful (and balanced) in work and life.  

Getting to know others means you have taken the time to gain a clear sense of:

  1. Who is trying to achieve the same professional goals as you,
  2. Who is in the same profession or field,
  3. Who attends or belongs to the same outside professional or volunteer associations? 

Taking responsibility for understanding the direction you want your career to move in and having a sense of who you might meet along the way is the first step to building long term, professional (and personal) relationships. 

Constructive feedback advances careers

Feedback is a real world, interpersonal, learning experience—we learn how to build or strengthen a relationship when we ask someone (or we are asked) to be frank and to challenge our current work or behavior.

Feedback asks both parties to learn how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable–dealing with feelings that naturally come up when someone has to “share” the “facts” he thinks we need to know.  It’s asking us to take responsibility for what we say, how we say it and why we say it. When done in the spirit of thoughtfulness, integrity, and encouragement, feedback can be one of the best constructive career advancement and relationship building tools available.

And as last week’s NK-H tips pointed out, feedback conversations are never easy and can be awkward, even when both parties are on board and positive. So if/when you ask someone for feedback, be sure to

  1. Focus your full attention on making comments that are about actions and behavior, not personality or personal.
  2. Put your energy into listening to what is said, not planning what you will say.

Before the feedback meeting ends, gain agreement on major points of discussion and changes identified.

Showing up at an event may be 80%, but the other 20% matters too!

Last week’s Networking Know-How blog talked about those mid winter blues that can stop us from getting out and about. If attending a meeting is on your upcoming schedule, here are the top ways to show up and circulate with confidence and ease.

  1.  Nametags belong on the right-hand side of your jacket or shirt.  This will help others see your name as you say it.  And, do bring your business cards and have them ready if you are asked.
  2. Start with people you know; just don’t stay with the people you know. You are all there to meet and mingle with others—invest the majority of your time in reaching out and getting to know new people in your field.
  3. Shut off your cell phone and leave it in your pocket/purse rather than in your hand or on the table; if you must check it, do so away from other attendees.
  4. Always introduce yourself with your first and last name.  Take time with the introductions. When you meet someone new, focus on the name, not the title. When you receive or exchange a card, look at it, repeat key information (pronouncing the name correctly!) and thank the person for it.
  5. Give the person you’re talking with your full attention. Don’t be guilty of the “Washington handshake”—scanning over their shoulder see who else is in the room.
  6. Stay standing—once people sit down at events they tend to never get up. When you stand you can circulate freely.
  7. Set yourself a networking goal: for example, to meet 3 new people and to introduce one of them to another attendee.
  8. Before the event ends, find a member of the program or executive committee and thank him or her for their efforts putting the event together.