Connect With People I Don’t Know? Why?


Every time I speak about social media and LinkedIn in particular, the question of who to connect to comes up. There’s obvious benefit in connecting with those you already know, as they can testify to your good work attributes, support you with leads on job opportunities and they can introduce you to others. But connect with people you don’t know; why would you do that?

First of all, connecting with people you don’t know is the only way you’re going to expand your current network of contacts. It’s the only way humans have ever done so in the entire history of mankind. The difference here is we’re meeting digitally and electronically rather than in person… at least the first time. By expanding our network, we increase the possibilities that somewhere in those connections, there will arise opportunities. When those opportunities arise, some you know will say you’re lucky, but by connecting with people you don’t know, you increase the odds of being considered for these opportunities. You make your own luck.

One of those opportunities is networking itself. You might start with people who also work for the same organization as you do, but whom you’ve never met. They may work in different departments or different physical buildings. So for example, you might connect with someone who works in Digital Communications and later consult with them about what guidelines you’re supposed to follow when communicating outside the organization. Having a relationship with that person prior to needing them can accelerate your need for a quick response and their level of engagement in responding to your request.

You may also benefit from connecting with someone you don’t know who is in the same field, with the same job title as the one you hold, but who works elsewhere. When you do this, you have an instant commonality; you can openly discuss best practices, new innovations, problems that require solutions and of course, opportunities. Each time you reach out to comment or offer up an idea, your reputation improves and so does your value proposition.

What you definitely don’t do is connect at 10:00 a.m. one day and at 10:05 a.m. ask this new connection who was a stranger 5 minutes ago to give you a job. If you do, don’t be surprised to receive no reply at all, find yourself disconnected or be told in some way that your request is inappropriate. Why would they feel any compulsion to help you when they know nothing about you? They aren’t going to risk their own reputation within their organization endorsing the application of someone they don’t know.

Yes the best way to help yourself is to extend yourself to assisting others. You’ll feel good for starters and what you may or may not hope for is a future reciprocal act. But don’t fret and think connecting with others is going to mean you’ll just end up helping a lot of other people and taking up more of your precious time. You might read an article they’ve posted and like it or comment on it. You could ask a question of someone (other than, “will you hire me?”) that pertains more to what it’s like to work where they do, what challenges they are facing or even simply letting them know you’re open to helping them if they’d ever like a conversation with someone in the field who works outside of their organization. See where it goes.

Many of the connection requests you accept will be from people who understand connecting is a good idea, but they never do anything other than connect. No matter, don’t fret about it and use this as your reason for not connecting with folks you don’t know. Sometimes the people I accept a connection request from suddenly reach out after a year or more of having no dialogue. What I don’t know is they’ve been reading some of my posts, felt they’ve come to know me and then when they’ve felt comfortable, it’s then they reached out. I suppose you could say they were evaluating my trust and sincerity; which they derived from what I post and the consistency of my messaging.

Make a friend before you need a friend. Look, we all need people to help us along. The most helpful people are those who feel some true connection in the relationship that’s been established. I hold in high regard some people I’ve never met in person and whom I likely never will. They come and go in my digital life; some I’ve helped quite a bit as evidenced by their words of thanks. Others have helped me and some have helped people I know by way of referral.

You may not want to be on social media for privacy and safety reasons. Enough said. No need to convince me as you may not want to be found by people from your past.

If you count yourself among those I’m connected to yet never met in person, thank you. I appreciate my connections, even the ones with whom the conversations have yet to begin. But there are many with whom I have conversations with on a regular basis and to you I extend my biggest thanks. I hope you see our connection as worthwhile too. It’s cool to think how much we can say with just our 8 fingers and 2 thumbs!

 

Networking: The Payoff Of Persistence


Whether you’re looking for employment or successfully employed, you’ve undoubtedly heard and know the value of networking. That being said, it is surprising that many people don’t do it well themselves; often not truly networking with others until necessity demands it. Like many things, necessity might  at that point force you to do it, but without the practice, you’re unlikely to be at your best.

So what exactly is networking and how do you both get started and do it well? Networking is having conversations with people where information is exchanged and relationships established and nurtured. It is often associated with advancing one’s own career but this latter part need not be part of some formal definition. Many people network for the purpose of solely learning more about the best practices in their field, or mentoring others without thinking to spin these into self promotions and advancement.

Today I’ve got a meeting set up for noon with one of my LinkedIn connections. This is a face-to-face meeting which could be a one-time only event. It has come about because she initiated contact, indicated she was relatively new to the area and has not had the success she’d hoped for in finding employment so far. Her request for either a meeting or a suggestion of someone else to contact in her field that might assist her is how she started. She’s taken initiative, reached out, and only time will tell if she’s satisfied or not with the outcome. It is however how networking begins.

Networking however has its payoffs. It can be so much more than a conversation. Last night I met with another person who reached out also via LinkedIn initially. This was our second face-to-face meeting. This time we talked about progress she was making, where she was in terms of her career thought process, looked at ways to strengthen her resume when applying and she shared a little of what transpired with others she was meeting with. During this second conversation, I also got some valuable feedback on some ideas I’m considering for the future and she took a real interest in my journey too. It was the best of networking; each person getting and giving for the benefit of both of us.

What is transpiring in the meeting above is a mutual investment in this relationship, rather than a one-way, “it’s all about me because I’m the one without a job” mentality. When both people feel they are benefitting from a conversation, each is invested to a higher degree.

Now the payoff of networking. This time I share with you the success story of a woman with whom I had the distinct pleasure of assisting in her search for meaningful employment. She initiated a dialogue back in January of this year with a gentleman she’s known for almost 15 years, but this time she reached out specifically with employment in mind. That initial networking conversation led to multiple conversations, even an invitation to attend a networking event together as his guest. Just yesterday she got in contact with me to say he himself has hired her on to work with him in his own business.

The experiences of these three women all demonstrate the value of taking the initiative to reach out and network. While much has changed in how we go about finding employment over the years, who you know is still a major key factor in being successful. How do you get to know people if you fail to reach out to anyone you don’t currently know?

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are great for developing connections, but it still amazes me how many people decline invitations to connect with people they don’t know. Sure there are people who are just clicking away connecting with people for the sole purpose of increasing their numbers. That’s not networking however; that’s a popularity exercise. Connecting with famous people is also not truly networking. You’re unlikely to have an actual conversation with them, but you’ll get their thoughts in a one-way broadcast and you’ll get their name among your contacts if that holds meaning for you.

Here’s some ideas for you to consider acting upon; and let me make it clear that ‘acting upon’ should be your goal. For starters, initiate connection requests to the following people: those who work where you might like to also work or those who work in the same line of work you’re pursuing. You may come across people with profiles that peak your interest and spark some genuine curiosity or affinity with whom you’d like to know better. What might they share with you that would help you find passion yourself in what you do? What might they tell you that would help you get where they are or give you insights into the company or field you’re wanting to join?

Once connected with these people, do more than just count them as a connection. Reach out with an email or message and thank them for agreeing to be a connection. Tell them what attracted them to you and ask if there is the possibility of either meeting face-to-face, having a phone conversation or an online chat.

Be prepared for those that will say yes and those who will decline. Have some questions ready and be prepared to give as well as get. Make it worthwhile for both you and them.

Work your network.

Share A Resource With Me Please


Dale Briers gets it. Dale resides in Australia and among his other titles in life, he is the leader and founder of a group I belong to through LinkedIn called, Collaborative Career Conversations. In checking my email this morning, Dale has generously offered to share one of his resources with me he uses with his clients. So this got me wondering if my readers and other connections might be willing to send me an email with an attachment of one of their own client resources.

When I think about the wealth of information, skills and expertise largely untapped by me in this world, I quickly understand how much I have yet to know and how massive an index of ideas and job/career resource tools are already working world-wide. Oh and I’d be happy to reciprocate as well. Send me one and you’ll get a tool I find helpful in working with my clients.

So what would be best to share with me should you feel so inclined? Good question. As an Employment Counsellor, I help clients in a number of ways. I run workshops on career exploration, self-assessments (skills, strengths, likes, dislikes), resume writing, interview do’s and don’ts, job searching, self-esteem and of course dealing with employment barriers. If you have a favourite resource you’d be willing to send me that I might incorporate in some way into those broad topics, I’d love to look it over.

Maybe it’s a spreadsheet you find easy for your clients to use to organize their job search. Perhaps it’s a Word document that helps clients assess themselves in a certain area, or something on dealing with conflict. It would be entirely up to you but I’m getting excited just thinking about the wealth of information that could potentially come my way.

I think this is so appealing to me because I value my connections so much; largely because you are collectively such a diverse group of people literally from around the globe with amazing abilities and success stories of your own. Like me, I’m positive you have developed tools you created, or perhaps have come across which work in your own settings.

What is also exciting to me about this exercise is that if resources do come my way, my own learning curve rises. I’ve been doing employment counselling for years and certainly have my own tried and true resource tools. If I’ve learned anything however, (and surely I must have by now) it’s that there are so many more things I yet don’t know and will never know. Surely there are other exercises my online colleagues use that would equally or perhaps more effective than those I use now. Could be, and I’m open to that possibility.

Getting a hold of new resources, understanding them first and implementing them also keeps me growing and learning. We want our clients to be hungry to learning so why not ourselves? Educate me! Believe me when I say I’m grateful in advance for any resource you might care to send my way. And if in the sharing you want to give me a brief synopsis of how and when you implement it in the course of interacting with your clients all the better.

My personal email address is hobbitzaboo@hotmail.ca and my work address is kelly.mitchell@durham.ca Either one would work for me. If you indicate you’d like your gift of a resource credited to you, I would of course be sure to do so each and every time I use it. After all, this is a bit of an experiment in utilizing social media to acquire something concrete and meaningful, so I’d love to be able to share how I obtained the resource I’m about to use with a person or class.

Don’t think for a moment your resource has to be something out of this world and isn’t somehow worthy of sharing. If it works for you in the course of your work it might be something I find entirely useful too. Sometimes what appears obvious and boring to read actually has the most dramatic impact when actually used. So it could be a template, a quiz, a creativity exercise, an on-line assessment tool, a writing exercise, etc. Anything that comes to mind.

You could end up sharing something that adds to or replaces a tool that I currently use myself. Looking in my career exploration and job searching toolkit, I can see it still has a lot of room for additional tools. And don’t many of us like a new tool? You know I do now!

Please don’t think that the field you are in means you have nothing to share. You could be in the field of bereavement, human resources, finance, education, construction etc. and still have something valuable to share with me that could by sharing help those with whom I work. People I work with are unemployed or underemployed. Being people, they too deal with bereavement, need financial help etc.

I know it might take a couple of minutes to fire off an email with an attachment. Help me help others and in return I will send you back a resource of my own that I use which may in some way help you in the course of your work be it professionally or personally for that matter.

Thank you in advance. I’ve got wonderfully wise contacts and connections.

Repairing A Reputation


How important a factor do you think your reputation is when it comes to things like keeping your job, advancing in the company, being invited to exclusive get-togethers etc.? This article is about me and my reputation by way of example, as I’m starting now with this post to remedy damage done and restore my good name.

The odd thing is that in most cases, reputations are built or damaged, made or destroyed by intentional actions people take; where people gamble in total awareness that their actions may alienate some people or attract others. We are all so different and see things so differently as a consequence, that everything we do almost always creates a varied response. If you are trying to go for the positive, you generally take positions and actions which will be generally accepted and approved.

So let me first apologize sincerely to my LinkedIn connections; the people I value immensely from whom I learn and share with daily. The last thing I would want is to intentionally annoy you to the point where you would sever our connection, especially when my expressed goal is to broaden my intellect and understanding of issues through thoughtful dialogue.

How did I jeopardize my ongoing relationships with the on-line world? Even now I’m not sure of the technology involved. In short however, my posts which originate on a WordPress platform, were being received multiple times by my valued connections arriving in their inboxes in quantities of 35, 50, 150, 200 etc. I even blogged about that one day in a post entitled, “I’ve become the annoying guy.” And I had. Ironically, that post was a call for help, ideas, suggestions and aid and itself turned into a different call; a call from some to LinkedIn to do something. LinkedIn turned and restricted my account temporarily until I promised to adhere to their guidelines.

Can you see the problem I was facing? Adhere to the guidelines or get kicked out and banned for life. Oh oh. But the issue was simple for me – I hadn’t knowingly done anything out of the ordinary, so how could I fix it? With my LinkedIn community inaccessible, and my home anti-virus program saying there’s no internal issue at my end, what is the solution to a problem I didn’t intentionally create? Ah if only it had been a settings change I’d made then I could reverse it and all would be right with the universe again. No such joy.

Salvaging my reputation is important to me and yours should be equally important to you. After all, if you’re up for the big promotion and the HR department brings up the issue of your intoxication at the Christmas party where you propositioned the firms leading account, you might be dead in the water. How are you going to feel when the junior you trained by-passes you on the journey to the top and is now your Supervisor? Such behaviour might not only cost you the promotion, but you could be demoted, or ousted entirely as a condition of the account staying with the firm.

Well let me tell you in the interest of sharing what I’ve learned lest it happen to you how the guru’s at LinkedIn suggest I resolved my plight. Their answer is to move to my settings in LinkedIn and under the applications tab, locate the WordPress application and delete it. Apparently having it there can create multiple emails. Oddly, I’ve had this set up since February of 2012 when I started my daily blog. So it’s a head scratcher as to why in January of 2015 it acted up.

So now it will require a post on the blog itself and then a copy and paste into the various discussion groups I want to receive the post. So instead of one click to go to 12 groups, it’s 12 copy and pastes, and 12 clicks. Odd that in these days of technology and doing things faster and better that this option is more labour-intensive. I’m open by the way to hearing other people’s suggestions – oh and yours of course; yes you, the one reading this now.

Reputations take a long time to build and a very short time to ruin or damage. I feel somewhat like a guy whose wife or girlfriend is mad him for something and he’s genuinely oblivious to what he did to annoy her so. “What did I do? Just tell me and I’ll try to make it right.” Yeah I’ve been there too, but luckily not very often. Oh I make mistakes there too, I just usually know what I’ve done and how to resolve it.

So if I annoyed you personally, I regret that. I think my issue is resolved and I’ve got to say I’ll only feel better when I post this and no one screams at me with exclamation marks to fix my problem and stop sending emails in multiple forms.

Interesting to me was the great silence from the internet. How does one go about realizing just what an amazing group of people they’ve connected to via LinkedIn? Simple really, find yourself cut-off and all your communications shut down. Sometimes you just don’t realize how vital connections are until you find yourself at the party and only see the backs of all your fellow party-goers. You try to get their attention and find yourself in a sound proof box with one-way glass.

Sorry again folks.

10,000 Reasons To Chat With Eli


One of the Social Media groups I joined in 2012 was a group called 10,000 Coffees. The premise of this group is connecting young people just launching their careers who could benefit from guidance, mentoring and career counselling with experts across a wide field of careers. How is this done? Sitting down face-to-face or over a computerized networking platform.

Last week I was contacted by a young and enthusiastic man named Eli. Eli is motivated and in the future sees himself eventually running several large corporations. I’m going to skip over the actual dreams he has and speak more to the process and how beneficial this might be for you.

So like I said, Eli contacted me via the website which sent me an email advising that I had an invitation waiting. I was delighted when my suggestion of a face-to-face meeting at a local bistro was accepted, and it was just this last Friday that we arranged to meet for an hour chat. The first thing that impressed me was that he showed up on time. I am notorious for arriving early everywhere I have to be, leaving time for unforeseen problems and delays. I had enough time to grab us a table, order a tea and relax.

When my young colleague arrived, he had a bounce in his step, and broke into a wide grin with an extended hand once we confirmed our identities to each other. So far he was off to an excellent beginning making a positive first impression on me and the fact that he had a pen and notebook was a bonus too. It is absolutely true what they say about the first few critical moments when you meet someone.

Now such a meeting can go in any number of directions. I could either relinquish or seize control in the discussion, and being the ‘expert’ as one is referred to in this relationship by the 10,000 Coffee’s people, I opted to seize control and initiate the discussion. The first thing I thought appropriate was to ask him what he wanted to get out of the hour together; anything specific he wanted to know or help he was looking for. This strategy shows the other person that you are aware and conscious of the fact that they initiated the connection and are deferring to them wanting to help them best by giving them a chance to tell you exactly what it is they are hoping to get out the talk.

In Eli’s case, he mentioned that what he was doing was trying to meet with many different mentor’s and experts in an attempt to gather different views on his business idea which he is launching with two other people. He didn’t come with a business plan, but he did give a rough outline of a three-pronged approach the company would be using to improve the lives of youth in our geographic area.

One of the things I had personally done ahead of our meeting is to look up his LinkedIn profile. In a matter of 5 to 10 seconds, I quickly deduced there were at least 15 things I could do for him that would improve this self-branding. So what I put before him was his own printed profile with notes written on it, plus a printed profile of someone else I’ve never met but whose background is close to his own. The second profile had some fleshing-out on it that was near to what I was recommending he aspire to, and it seemed rather self-serving to point out my own profile. As it turns out, like so many young people, he had been told in school about the need to have a LinkedIn profile, but not how to use it or how to actually enrich it. Therefore, he had created one and had no idea what it could do for him or conversely how a poor one could inhibited others from dealing with him.

After our LinkedIn chat, we turned the conversation more to his ideas and I gave him feedback on those ideas from the perspective of someone who works in the Social Services sector, and who has a background in both being self-employed and has helped work with organizations that serve youth. The best thing I heard him say was that he was already connected to and working with a local organization that helps entrepreneurs get started. They would give him the hands-on help he’d need to develop the business plan, point out obvious pitfalls and discuss how existing competition would impact on his business.

When we departed, we each left with each other’s business cards. I say cards, because one of the things I shared with Eli is that I make it a point to give people not one but two business cards of my own whenever appropriate; one to keep and one to pass on. This simple act results in word of mouth referrals which are often the strongest.

Once back at the workplace, I fired off a quick email to Eli thanking him for the opportunity to meet with him and his kind invitation. I also requested that if he felt so compelled I would appreciate a brief recommendation via LinkedIn to add to my own profile thereby strengthening it. After all, while this isn’t my main concern, it does show him how you obtain recommendations and that could help him immensely as he currently has none of his own.

And that’s how you network effectively. Good for you Eli.