Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Linked In as a superb marketing tool

It would have been such a blessing during the pre-Internet days to have such an excellent tool for connecting to people. But just because it's good does not make it easy, nor does it protect us from being highly selective in making connections. 

Even behind the protective guise of the Internet, we still have to say "no" to people we don't know or wish we didn't, and we still have to keep it more professional than personal. What you can say on Facebook is not the the same. 

Linked In has a wide menu of options to get the word out that you know what you're talking about in your field and you're open to discussions with others of like mind. As a blog reader and writer, I like to read comments, mostly political, until they get mean or silly. But when you post a query or idea on LI, you'll usually  hear only from people who take you seriously and have an informed idea to pitch back to you. 

I'm no expert, but every day I learn more about Linked In and it keeps getting better.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hope and the 2009 job prospects

There is much fear, and justifiably so, of the coming wave of layoffs across America in the first and second quarters we are looking to now. I keep telling my candidates: stay open, be flexible, keep learning something new, something that stretches you, keep connecting to other people, even if you don't know why or how they might help you. See first how you might help them.

I was doing my Christmas reading today and came upon this quote form Henri J, M. Louwen's book: With Open Hands. It says what I want to say but way better:

I see hope as an attitude where everything stays open before me. Not that I don't think of my future in those moments, but I think of it in an entirely different way. Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now---that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they'll turn out, to keep on going, even when something doesn't work the first time, to have trust in whatever you're doing---that is living with hope.

I have been on the brink of failure so many times now, I can't count. Change itself is the death of the old and the birth of the new, but perhaps we wait too long on death and fail to see the birth. Or we fail to anticipate the coming birth. This anticipation is the cradle of hope, not the blind helpless state, but the energy that supplies the little individual to see opportunity and run with it, for the greater good.  That is living with hope.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Money and Ethics

I had a long and intimate discussion this morning with one of my career coaching clients. He had 27 years in the banking industry and moved up the line to middle management. His bank once had a culture that stuck close to the customer. But along came some kind of crunch and then a few years ago there was a merger, and the culture of the bigger fish financial business swallowed the bank's culture and everything changed (not overnight, but gradually, like the boiling frog).

Over a period of five to seven years the culture moved from customer-focused to bottom line focused, and guess what happened? The bank got into big trouble and is one of those involved in the current bailout. Heads are rolling and even the severance at this bank will disappear for everyone who leaves after December 31, 2008. Meanwhile the bonuses are still distributed. What's wrong with this picture? What's the ethical basis when good hard-working people with 20 plus years lose their six month severance, but other bottom line players get a 5MM bonus?

Until we as a nation get closer to the inherent value of work itself, until corporations follow those mission statements developed fifteen years ago and act like the words have meaning, until we wake up and look around to see how everything we do has repercussions, often in far off countries, we will continue to see the loss of our middle class and a rise in poverty, the likes of which most of us living have not seen. The inherent value of good work deserves to be rewarded. There are definitely jobs that have become obsolete, but there are also robbers (still) at the top who have mismanaged other people's money and swept away good middle income jobs in a game that fills the executive coffers and leaves many Americans struggling from paycheck to paycheck. The reckoning is coming and every one of us will feel the pain of this readjustment.  But it's less economic in its full picture and more about ethical, fair standards and the courage to reward work itself over leveraging paper to reflect money that was never there to begin with.


Since I last posted I went to a networking event on the phone and online. You can enroll yourself by going to www.blitztime.com, and it's free. You create a profile, much like you do in Linked In, but not that extensive (it's not necessary for this). You then go through the scheduled events list and sign up. There are at least thirty to fifty a month and they are geographically centered. This means you are networking with locals. My group was Boston Speed Networking. There were 39 people on the call and I spoke to 13.

This is how it works: there are ninety minutes scheduled. You dial in and bring up the website at the designated time. When the event begins, you are moved around randomly every five minutes. A clock ticks in the right corner of the screen allowing you to see how much you have to say (both of you). When the five minutes is up, you are automatically pulled away from that person and wait thirty seconds for the screen to change (you see that person's profile so you immediately get an idea who they are). You can exchange numbers or tips or ideas with anyone, even those with whom you have little in common. At the end of the ninety minutes, everyone's name you were matched against comes up and you can send an email. I sent seven and received close to the same amount, but not necessarily the same people. I have two follow-up appointments, one with a recruiter and the other with a writer.

Why is this good networking? You can do it from home. You are forced to connect to people. You cannot waste any time warming up: you are there for a purpose, and you quickly get to the point. You have an obligatory departure so you don't have to walk away and feel guilty. You can see the person if they posted a picture and you get all their information in front of you, not just a name tag with a company name. But the big prize is this: you have an immediate chance to follow up. You don't go home from the event and look at the business card and enter it into your address book and then wonder when you'll contact that person or why you wanted to in the first place.

This is  VERY GOOD business. Try it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Restructuring and the Little Individual

Senator Chris Dodd spoke Sunday about the need for strategic reorganization and restructuring, not only of the Big Three auto  behemoths in Detroit, but also for the ancillary organizations that supply and service the industry.

It got me thinking: that's what we need to do as individuals, especially those reinventing themselves for the job market when their current employment comes to a halt. Now more than ever we cannot be stuck with the old job titles and the business as usual set of skills. We need to upgrade our skills, get another set under our belts, learn the language of Web 2.0 and use the tools of better connecting to people and the opportunities they provide, if we only know how to ask.

One of my clients admitted today:" I thought I knew a lot about networking, but I'm finding out I didn't even know I already had a Linked In account. I just didn't know how to use it". I know people who swear by Linked In and get interviews with recruiters and hiring managers and I know others with 100 connections who let them sit there, without attention. 

Linked In is one avenue and there are others, but just staying with that one, there are books to read, blogs to follow, and chat rooms on how to make it work for you. Part of restructuring is rethinking how you connect to change and to opportunity. It all starts with people and with good advice. And it helps to think in new pradigms, including how to make new friends and keep the old.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Learn To Lead

Leadership is a skill many misunderstand. We come to think of it as something that people with outgoing, aggressive personalities do easily and well, and ultimately these blessed individuals will succeed as leaders throughout their lives. We believe that leaders are born, not made.

Not so. Leadership is available to anyone at any time. It can be developed and cultivated and leadership opportunities are all around us.

Leadership comes from patience, listening to others and using a dollop of courage when an action or the right word is clear to you. Leadership is innovative, collegial, cooperative, imaginative, trustworthy, inclusive, and raises the highest standards against itself. Leadership is humble but not fearful, confident but not arrogant, intelligent but not effete. 

Leadership is a quality to cultivate for the new economy, and on a daily basis. How? Every day do one thing that makes you uncomfortable (learn one more piece of Excel or change your gym routine and start lifting weights instead of zoning out on the treadmill). Pick up the phone and make that call you've been putting off. Leadership is courageous, lively action and it begets its own good energy. Others will follow because this energy is infectious.

And leadership is competitive in the job market. It has an aura, a certain attractive quality that complements your ordinary skill set. It's an intangible that might just make the critical difference in your next interview. And it will keep your good job around longer. When money is scarce and fear is in the air,  leadership is what pulls everyone through.