What do groundhogs and reluctant networkers have in common? They are looking for a reason not to network (or come out of that hole so many of us burrow into during the winter)! Professional development is a critical component of career management and advancement and may have been one of your New Year resolutions. Events offer many ways to growand connect, whether by learning something new from subject experts, exchanging ideas with industry peers, or sharing real world experiences with like-minded colleagues from other organizations.
By now, the professional and business associations event season is already half over. How many professional meetings have you attended since September? If none, do you have plans on your calendar to attend an association meeting before June? Events (they take place early morning, at lunch, and evenings) help strengthen and expand your professional network. You meet new people and reconnect with the folks you only see a few times a year at these structured occasions. Google your favorite professional group; identify one or two events; register online, or better yet, pick up the phone and have a conversation with the association director or membership chair.
If one of your new year’s resolutions is getting out and about more, stay tuned for next week’s blog –it will suggest ways to be more comfortable and successful when attending events.
I first wrote about Career Success Boards last year. When you read that posting, did you think it was a good idea? More important, did you take action? I’m running it again because if not now, when?
Whether you are establishing, advancing, or rethinking your career direction and goals, you need a “Success Board.” Here’s how to start yours:
- Identify 2-3 friends (people with same professional and personal philosophy of life, who are energetic, positive, and fun to be around). Pick people from various industries who share the same long-term dreams and goals for work-life success.
- Make a commitment to meet every quarter (at least 2 to 3 times a year) in a formal setting for 2 hours; have an planned agenda with 1-2 action steps developed by end of meeting.. (For those of you who are thinking, “I don’t have time to do this,” look at it this way: It’s a time commitment of only 4-6 hours a year or 40-60 hours–one work week– over a decade!)
- Schedule (before quarterly meeting ends) an update call or coffee with each member of the group to “keep you honest” by reviewing your action steps.
The Board’s mandate is simple: to develop a long-term, mutually accountable, support network from whom to draw ideas, perspective, and advice; to encourage; to challenge and to keep each other on course when work and life calls for making tough decisions and acting on them.
Last week’s dailies on listening all relate to this blog reminder.
2014 has officially begun, (and winter is settling into this part of the world), and you may find yourself thinking or saying, “I like what I’m doing, but…..” “I’m ready for a change, but….” or “I’d do something else in a minute, but….” Tim Butler in his book Getting Unstuck calls this a “psychological impasse.” It is a time of uncertainty and feeling uncomfortable. Look at this blog as an opportunity to start thinking about what needs to change and what (if anything) you will do about it.
When clients and “friends-of-friends” talk to me as a coach about finding a new job, making a career change or just wondering how to identify their next professional adventure, I just listen, and the why, how and what about future work and life goals are naturally revealed. Themes, patterns, what they enjoy and what they want to let go of begin to emerge.
I’ve learned that when people begin to step away from the everyday activities of work and life and are given the space to talk, they may not find the answer, but they certainly find their voice. I have seen personas change as people speak about the possibilities and “if I could I would” professional wishes they have long held inside.
You may have attained the dream you wanted when you launched your journey, but it may not be the dream you want today. That’s OK. Just ask yourself: Is it time for a new career dream?
If your new year’s resolution is about a career dream or change, the blogs appearing the next three weeks in January will give you a template which can help you make your hopes come true.
How can you be ready at your next career crossroads?
Management guru Peter Drucker said successful careers develop when “people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values” (see the April 3, 2013, daily tip).
I would add that successful people have successful careers because they occasionally (e.g., in January) take time to look ahead and sketch out a map of future job and career possibilities. So start paying attention to your career by asking yourself these 5 questions.
- Which area of the business in your professional world would you like to be in or to run?
- What level and title of positions in those areas interest you most? Why?
- What new skills will you need to move into that role?
- What current responsibilities and tasks can another person in your company (or member of your team) take over, freeing you up to develop the new skills or gain new experiences?
- Where do you need to build and expand visibility and credibility within and outside your organization?
Looking ahead allows you to develop a vision of your future, gain clarity around the bigger goals needed to move you forward and define what you want success to be in your personal and professional life.
OK, the holidays are stressful, draining, and lots of work. And sometimes going out, sending messages of holiday cheer, or even calling a good friend just seems more than you can find the time to do or want to handle as 2013 comes to a close.
If you have any “free” time, you may want to be alone and catch up on all the things you have been meaning to do for yourself or your business. Well, you can do that and still network—here are a few ways:
- Update your email or other contact information. You may be surprised that many people you haven’t heard from in ages will respond with “hi, let’s get together; so glad you connected!”
- Update your LinkedIn profile, join some groups and/or add another social media site.
- Go online and find the best blogs for you to follow (so you can forward to members of your network) and/or contribute in 2014.
- Review your 2013 calendar and emails and rediscover how you spent your time and who reached out to you.
- Bake some brownies; read that book you bought months ago; take a walk; schedule those medical checkup appointments; listen to your favorite music. Remember, you need to take care of yourself as well as others!
I will be taking my own advice, taking the time over the next week or so to follow through myself on some of the networking ideas I’ve shared. My best holiday wishes and I look forward to reaching out to you in 2014.
We are almost at the midpoint of the holiday season–I can already hear the groans and sighs–and it is a good moment to stop and ask ourselves: “How am I using my time? Am I using it in a way that reflects what I want out of this season? Does my holiday to do list include time to find the joy as well as the toys this season offers each of us?”
A long-term and dear friend, Gail McMeekin is an author, blogger, and workshop leader on the power of creating abundance at work and in life. In one of her books, The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women, she shares tips that are timeless and “genderless” in discovering and integratinggratitude and fulfillment into our daily lives.
Gail writes that this season “is a time to note and acknowledge the harvests of the past year and to give thanks for our family and friends (both living and passed on, and for the richness of life.” She suggests that we write down a list of all the things we are grateful for and then to continue to write down three new things each day. Just imagine: if right now you go into Notes, or find a sheet of paper or package of sticky notes and start writing. It could be 3 things in your life that you take for granted; 3 colleagues who make you work life easier; a habit you have replaced, an unexpected phone call, card or email. The possibilities are endless and yours. And if you start today, on January 1 you/I/we will have given yourself 57 “positive ways” to start the new year.
The holidays are a great time to reconnect with personal and professional friends and acquaintances. You can attend all those parties and events without being overwhelmed by them if you approach the season strategically. It’s time to make your lists!
- Who are the people you want to be sure to see before January 10th? Maybe there are 5 people you want to make a special effort to see during the holiday season. Now is the time to think about who they are and how best you can make that happen.
- Who will you “run into” at an event? If you know that so-and-so always attends the neighborhood party, charity ball, or clients’ holiday party, take a moment now to “dust off your mental rolodex” and remember her daughter’s name and where her son is in school. You will both enjoy the encounter more and the conversation will be more natural.
- Who do you want to see during the first quarter of the new year? Sometimes you can find more time for an authentic interaction after the hubbub of the holidays is over. Pull out that new box of note cards you bought yourself (see N K-H 12/7/12) and drop them a line—wish them a happy holiday and add “I’ll give you a call by the end of January so we can get on each other’s calendars.”
A recent on-line New York Timesopinion piece sparked a lot of local talk radio conversation on the decline of the hand-written letter, card, and thank you note, pushed aside by the ease and speed of getting out immediate, quick emails and text messages. The consensus from callers and the hosts was that a handwritten letter or note is apt to be kept and remembered, and it leaves a more positive impression of the sender in ways a computer generated one– no matter how sincere the typed words may be– could ever achieve.
The holiday season officially begins in U.S. this Thursday with Thanksgiving (although the “marketing” of the season started weeks ago!). The season is short this year, so the idea of taking the time to shop and then personally write out “season’s greetings” cards to all (or a few) members of your network may be overwhelming. That’s up to you. But if you click here, you will find three ways to introduce and incorporate the “spirit” of a handwritten note throughout 2014. Give it a go; you may be lucky enough to get one back!
Here are five thoughts that connect my attitude and approach to building and maintaining your network:
1. Keep smiling–it makes you more interesting.
2. Life is a learning experience.
3. Be punctual—better yet, be early!
4. Let people know they are important to you.
5. Paying it forward is a way to pay it back.
Most of us read plenty of books and blogs on the subject of finding “just the right” networking technique. We clock endless hours Googling and clicking into social media sites trying to make a link or connection, and we spend much too much time worrying about whether we’ll “sound OK” when we approach someone we don’t know at an event we don’t want to attend. All in the name of building a network that you can “capitalize on” to career and client success.
But what about building your network in a place where every day you naturally come into contact and get together with others? Where you spend more time building relationships as well as making small talk and interacting with interesting individuals from across the room and across the globe? Where the people you naturally call are on a first name basis and (usually) have a similar professional mindset? Where is that place? Your Workplace!
Your workplace is an organizational structure made up of small and large, formal and informal groups of people within and across a company. It is where people find themselves in interacting, overlapping, and recurring relationships as peers, colleagues, teams, boss/subordinate, clients/customers, vendors and even social friends. It is a place where a large part of business success is built around with whom strategic alliances are formed, how power and influence are wielded, and how people can come together to learn from each other and to make “good-to-great” things happen—in other words how the organizational “network” works.