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According to Wikapedia, Business networking is defined as a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.

So why is it that when you go to a networking event everyone is trying to sell you something?  When did networking become a cold call?  Or for that matter an opportunity to ask, “so what is that you do,” when you know darn well no one is really interested in what you do.

Networking should be about making connections, learning about opportunities for collaboration and supporting each other’s ideas for mutually successful outcome.  Easier said than done; why-because it takes time, not only to gather information and act in good faith, but to build trust.

handshake dogs

Here are some ways you can build trust quickly.

  • Lead with what you can do for someone else first, as trust builds so does the networking and collaboration:
  • Get to know them-invite them to an event you are hosting and offer them a comp ticket.
  • Test their collaborative nature-introduce them to someone you know, whether it is a person who needs their product or service doesn’t matter it’s another connection for them.
  • Get to know who they know-send them a LinkedIn invite.
  • Wait to see if they reciprocate-what to they give in return to build a relationship with you.
  • If you have checked their references and you feel confident they are capable and reliable-make a direct referral.
  • Ask for help-once you have given, it’s ok to receive, ask for an introduction or referral.

Many years ago a woman, who was in her 90’s said, I don’t believe you can pay a person too many compliments.  If you think a person looks nice, tell them. If someone helps you, say thank you very much.  Use a person’s name to address them when they wait on you and if you like the food pay them a compliment and give them a good tip.

-These are words to live by.

In this fast paced world of email, texting and the other entire photo sharing apps; people rarely pick up pen and paper and say thank you.  A hand written note goes along way especially when well thought out, original and sincere.  When you say thank you-you need to mean it. Take the time to be original and if you can’t craft the words yourself, leave it to Hallmark.  Be sincere; don’t use words you don’t really feel expresses your appreciation.  People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice their kindness, they’re more likely to continue. A sincere thank you demonstrates that you have an interest in fostering an ongoing relationship and that you appreciate the time and consideration that you have been given.

Saying thank you in a written note allows you to extend the conversation beyond thanks. Share how their kindness has affected your life, tell them not only how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness, but also what it means to you or how it has benefited you.

There are many ways you can say thank you, far beyond thanks, much appreciated and any other 140 character sound bite you can cleverly craft like you rock and awesome.

thank you languages

Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to leave a comment.  I know how busy you are and how much email and how many Facebook messages you must get in a day.  The fact you took time to spend a few minutes reading my words, tells me that you are someone who believes in supporting those around you.  I am grateful to have you as a reader.

According to a recent article, (July 2012) in CNN Money by Anne Fisher:

When Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas set out to analyze government employment data by age group, going back to January 2010, researchers made an interesting discovery. Of the 4,319,000 jobs created in the U.S. over the past two-and-a-half years, about 70% (2,998,000 jobs) went to people aged 55 or older.

Overall unemployment for this group fell from 7.1% in May 2010 to a current level of 6.5% — well below the 8.2% rate for the workforce as a whole, and far lower than the 10.2% unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 20 and 34 in the same time period.

Have all the 50+ slots been taken by 55+ year olds?

There are a lot of people 50+ seeking employment, resumes flow in and out of email boxes every day with someone who is “looking.”   Linkedin contact groups are full of people who are “looking or consulting.”  Could it be that all the 50+ slots are now full and the rest of the job seekers will just have to wait in line for an opening?  Or, is it more likely that those who are in 55+ group just took a job in the last 2-3 years to have an income to support themselves and their families and not moving on in their career path?  Perhaps it’s the spouse who’s now gone back to work to make ends meet that bumped up the number of people 55+ who gainfully employed.

You used to read a lot about being fulfilled in your work, finding work that is meaningful, building your career and taking the next step…Now you hear people say at least I have a job with a decent income.  But, it’s not all doom and gloom out there.  People 50+ know how important a good reference is; now more than ever, you see people reaching out for a former colleague, sharing job postings, reviewing a résumé, forwarded information on a potential employer who may be looking for someone.  

job-reference-check

What Makes a Good Reference:

  • Vouching for someone’s character and work ethic-what are they really like to work with.
  • Validating their work history and accomplishments throughout their career, not just recently.
  • Attesting to their loyalty and trustworthiness-who are they as a person.
  • Describing your success, because of having them as a supportive co-worker.
  • Credibility, what skills or abilities do they have that may not be easily explained in a résumé.  

The best time to collect actual reference letters in before you need them!  Fill in your Linked in profile with endorsements for your expertise.  Get copies of certificates of completion, annual reviews and company newsletters that show case your achievements.

After all, aren’t we supposed to all be different given that no two people are alike?  The simple answer is-cultural bias is deeply rooted into the body and soul of a human being.    

So is it simply a formula of mind over matter that will solve the equation of diversity=differences? 

One solution is to utilize your business mind to obtain the competitive edge you need to succeed in business by going beyond the back and white of diversity to address the gray areas.  This requires an in-depth understanding and appreciation for the differences in people to extract their full potential as a contributing member of team or society.

For many years addressing diversity meant taking into account an individual’s race/ethnicity and religion/creed.  But, in recent years diversity sensitivity has also taken into consideration a person’s mental and physical abilities or disabilities as well as their gender and sexual orientation. 

Addressing the gray area of diversity is more than just recognizing the difference in individuals because of age, education and family status.  It also means delving deeper into their person al background to understand their diverse perspectives such as first language, country of origin and nationality which now, more than ever, are the real differences we find in today’s society.  Other more subtle differences include military experience, communication style and household income.

So what would it look like in an algebraic equation?

Mind/Matter x (understanding + appreciation 2 ) = diversity is to differences= (race + religion) x √first language + country of origin-nationality ÷ (military experience + house income) – communication style (x + y)

Solution Set:  If reciprocal of the golden mean, Φ that exists in all of nature could equal the golden rule then accepting differences would be as easy as pie.

Business Mind: Body & Soul

Finding the time to nurture your soul and create balance in your life as a successful business woman can be both challenging and rewarding.  Most accomplished women find great reward in the challenges of their work, yet, they strive to find balance in their lives.  The more time they spend on nurturing their career the less time they have to devote to their mind, body and soul. Finding balance as a busy professional is much like trying to hold a pendulum steady by trying to countermand the restoring force of gravity, the key element of nature that allows a pendulum to swing  perpetually.

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” Galileo Galilei

It is said that for positive change to really take place there must be passion behind it and in order to find your true passion in life you must first have inspiration-which can come to us in many different forms.   Nurturing one’s soul can come from simply taking the time to truly enjoy the surroundings of nature, being attentive to your body and feeding your mind’s positive, healing thoughts.

Taking a new direction in your personal life or career can not only be risky but also very stressful. Thinking through “a leap of faith” and evaluating the risks/downside versus the potential benefits/upside is how I have approached critical changes.

One Thing to consider is the financial ramifications including: added expenses, short-term cash flow constraints versus long-term gains. Planning ahead and saving up for a huge investment can help alleviate, what otherwise would be a burden. Looking at financing options for capital investments is another way to evaluate the best course of action.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who have left the corporate world to start a new business or consulting practice, without having planned for a temporary loss of income. Unless you have a signed contract or a ready-made clientele starting a new business takes both time and money. There are also those who have chosen to take money out of their 401K account “temporarily” thinking they will pay it back within a year; only to find out later when they couldn’t pay it all back, that it would have been much cheaper to have taken out a conventional business loan and writing off the interest expense. Creating a budget and cutting out all the extra’s may not be enough to off-set a temporary decrease in earnings either. I have found, looking at a comprehensive set of financial options is usually the best approach. I would also recommend taking a hard look at your potential financial future and decide if you are up for challenge.

The same can be said of taking a new job that requires relocating. Even with moving assistance and a cost of living adjustment it may not equal what you had. Finding new doctors, service providers and acclimating to a new community also have both real and opportunity costs associated with a change in location, that drive up the cost of living.

Another important factor is quality of life considerations including: doing what you love most as your life’s work versus making sacrifices in your life style-home, car, social life, free time, vacations. If doing what you love is more important than where or how you live and what you have to spend on vacations and socializing-then the change may be worth it. Some women I know have chosen to teach part-time at a university or work in a non-profit that offer more time off to spend with family and a less stressful work environment along with the added benefit of doing something that felt good. Having “meaning in life” may be more rewarding than having the means to do whatever you wish.

However, I’m not sure I completely agree with money doesn’t buy happiness-I can tell you there are a lot of people whom I have given money to and are quite happy because of it. For the most part I am generous yet frugal. I think you can apply that strategy to business and be successful as well. I know several people who have left the corporate world with a staff and a corner office to go into business for themselves only end up making their own copies and having to clean the office bathroom to keep within their budget and ensure their financial well-being.

In weighing the Pro-Cons how would you choose in these comparisons?

• No Frills versus Freedom

• Quality of Life verses Quantity of Cash

• Family versus Fame

• Happiness versus Having it All

• Peace of Mind versus Possessions

• Security versus Social Life

• Vacation versus Valuable Life Lessons

I couldn’t have said it better myself!   It’s very much in keeping with my personal favorite…“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.   

 A few years back, an individual I was working with needed a résumé for a job application.  She searched high and low for a good resume writer.  The résumé that came back from the “professional resume writer,” was clearly was just a chronological listing of past jobs of which there were many and varied positions.  It looked like a history of everything the person had done work wise, but did little to translate the skills and knowledge she possessed.  So-much to my surprise, I said down and wrote my first client resume.  I created what I call a “skills-based” resume rather than a historical listing of positions held.  We submitted it online for consideration and in less than half-hour, received a reply requesting a phone interview, which ultimately lead to an in-person interview and a new job for my client.  Little did I know that I would become a résumé writer.  Since then I have written and re-written dozens of resumes for all kinds of positions and promotions.  What amazes me most is that everyone has gotten that I have written a résumé for has gotten their new job. 

I have come to realize that writing a résumé is very similar to a 1-2 page product sale sheet.  And, most importantly it’s just as through you were telling a story about person seeking employment.  Where they went to school, what they have done and accomplished, what knowledge and expertise they have.  What the company can expect from them as an employee and what they would be like to work with. 

It wasn’t until I received an unsolicited comment about an awards application I had written, stating, “As I was reading the words on the page the person “came to life” and I felt as though I was sitting there talking to them rather than just reading about them.”     

Coming from a blogger, it seems a little less likely that I came off my track to write, but it also comes from someone with both the Webster’s and Oxford’s dictionary/thesaurus and both the 6th addition St. Martins Handbook as well as a copy of the 2001 APA updated version sitting on her desk.  Punctuation and grammar have never been my strong suit, so between reference books and Google searches I have managed to education myself on a few of the rules of writing.  I consider this my life-long work-in-progress self-improvement plan.  

For me writing has indeed taken me off my track and definitely put me on one that has opened up a whole new world for me. 

Taking an Alternative Track!

Taking a leap of faith requires not only the courage to try something new but the willingness to openly fail too.  Trying the unknown can also require  some research and added learning, which to say-the-least, can be a little overwhelming and time-consuming.  

Coming Up Next:  Evaluating opportunities and weighing the pro/cons that warrant “jumping-off-track” for an unplanned opportunity.

Leadership Across Cultures

Studies show that there are both similarities and differences in the versatility of leadership attributes across individual cultures.   Technology and the internet have created an international marketplace that challenges organizations to global leadership competence and the ability to effectively manage increasing diversity in the workforce.   Human Resource departments are finding it critical to not only select individuals with adept leadership skills but, to further develop managers into effective cross-cultural leaders. 

In addition to finding a person with both technical competence and corresponding organizational experience, employers are seeking individuals who have superior interpersonal communication and relationship development skills.   Being open to new perspectives and an open dialog process of decision-making is essential to successful cross-cultural leadership. 

Issues that Exist in a Global Workforce

Gender:  a strong bias of females in a leadership role or positions of authority still exists in some cultures.  Women face tougher challenges than stereotyping in some countries where a traditional, male-dominated culture is the accepted norm.   

Work-Life Balance:  due to emergence of technology and telecommunication systems facilitating international communication as a part of everyday work-life global participants have seen a shift in the scope of the work environment from local to international markets that require work commitments outside of the standard 9-5; M-F workday.     

Vacation Time:  with the variance of religious and national holidays ranging widely as well as the customary annual time-off in different countries how do you address managing time-off expectations for an increasingly diverse workforce?  Some companies have established a policy of national holidays per your country of residence and X number of personal/vacation days that allow workers to choose their time off based on personal preference.      

Cultural Etiquette:  Traditionally companies only provided “cultural sensitivity training” to those who worked aboard.   With global communication and travel becoming more prevalent in the workforce, making the simplest of customs confusing, companies are encouraging employees to study other customs and traditions as a part of their ongoing professional development. 

Greetings:  One example is the custom of shaking hands, while it is common place in American society, in many countries it is not the case.  For example in India the customary greeting is with ‘namaste’ (na-mas-TAY) placing both hands together with a slight bow; Vietnamese shake hands with both hands and bow their heads to show respect; the Japanese handshake is limp and with little or no eye contact while in Korea a bow is the customary greeting with only men shaking hands with each other supporting the right forearm with the left hand and in Germany shaking hands is the common greeting, however one must never shake hands with one hand in your pocket.

Over the years, I have learned that you have to be “selective” of those you want to be a part of your inter-circle.  While you may associate with many different types of people-those that you spend the most amount time with and those that you spend your valuable/limited personal time with need to be positive influences in your life.   I use the “water bucket” as a measuring stick for whether or not a relationship is mutually beneficial.

The Water Bucket

In a relationship each person has a bucket and ladle in which they can give or receive water.  If you find yourself constantly being the one who is giving all your water away without receiving any in return, you run the risk of not only being thirsty, but becoming dehydrated in your relationship.  If you continue to give-give-give and have no way of replenishing your own water stock you will eventually run out and not have enough for you to drink.   My rule of thumb is I am willing to empty my bucket ONLY half-way to support a friend or acquaintance.  When I start to go below the half-way mark I evaluate the relationship based on what I am getting versus what I am giving away.  I believe there is a big difference between giving, giving away and giving back.

Some relationships can be toxic if you let them; especially when it comes to family.   It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that the holidays aren’t about you when you invite family.  Rather, they become about mediating, supporting and tolerating the actions of others.  In a normal relationship you wouldn’t accept the same behavior from someone but, when it comes to family you often have to put up with them for the sake of others.  The same can be said about friends of friends.  When I think of who I call my friends I think of what they contribute to my life.  How do they add water to my bucket?

For me there are some people who just suck the air out of room, yet you are forced to spend time them because they are family/friends of friends.  I try to limit those to rare occasions such at weddings, funerals and kids birthdays.  Events where there are enough “other people” in the room that you can survive the occasional must-do event by surrounding yourself with the positive influences in the room-somewhere in close proximity to the punch bowl or bottle water.

One thing to keep in mind is those negative influence types are like divining rods, they can find water even underground.  So when you stop giving away water from your bucket they will simply move on to the next source.

Just recently “think positive” was the subject of a discussion regarding a situation with a manager who was not a positive influence in either the day-to-day work environment or as a mentor and how “work” had become unbearable.

The topic of “think positive” and what do you do when you have a manager who is making your life just miserable is becoming more prevalent.  Why?   Because more and more people are forced into saying in a negative work situation because they need a job and “good jobs” are hard to find. 

While we have all had our fair share of not-so-good work situations, I can say honestly say…that those that are truly unbearable not only make you miserable on a daily basis but are also detrimental to an individual’s well being.  I have unfortunately experienced it first-hand while working in the corporate world and I have also experienced it in a volunteer capacity.  Both have taught me a lot about my ability to endure hardship, which I can only thank my mother for.  She was someone who taught me that you can live through anything and everything, by simply believing in yourself.  For me, I have always felt that the key to success was in having a higher purpose in life.  I believe that being able to make a difference in someone’s life out weights the minutia you wade through to accomplish it. 

S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the Future

So how do you create a viable action plan that overcomes negative influences?  By writing out your SMART goals:

Specific

Measurable   

Attainable

Realistic
Timely

And most importantly, addressing the negative influences that could hinder your success under both Realistic and Attainable.  If your goal is to rise to a senior management position within a company and your current manager is preventing you from doing so or is making your life so miserable that you can’t focus on your work….Then it may not be attainable or realistic in your current company or in the timeframe you want.  Just because you are in a bad work situation now, doesn’t mean you always will be.  You can change that.  How?  One way is to move on.

  1. By making a plan to find a new job and carefully interviewing your next boss before taking the position.  Ask open-ended questions about work-life balance.  
  2. Find out what others have experienced working for him/her now and in the past.  Use LinkedIn, (or another source) to find co-workers and their recommendations or lack thereof.
  3. What’s their track record for developing staff?  Research who has worked for them, how long did they last, did they get promoted or move on to another company in a higher position.   

 Another is to address the situation at your current work.  That can be tricky and can seal-your-fate at that company and with your manager. Exercise extreme caution! 

  1. Utilize your annual review as a time to talk about your goals, in a positive way by addressing the support you are looking for and what you need to flourish as an employee. 
  2. Putting things in writing can serve as a record of your efforts to resolve the situation if you need to take the issue to a higher level. 
  3. One word of advice, is to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row.  What I mean by that, make sure you are doing everything you are supposed to.  Make sure you are “on-time,” each day for work and in meeting deadlines.  Check your attitude, is your negative relationship with your boss, reflecting how you interact with others at work?  Generally speaking are YOU doing a good job at work despite the situation?