Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well Connected

Given that most of us have gone through our business and personal lives either knowing intuitively or having learned through experience just how important networking is to both our personal and/or career success, it should come as no surprise that when I see a book that talks to that subject that immediately want to check it out.

That's what I did when Gordon Curtis sent me a copy of his new book titled Well Connected, An Unconventional Approach to Building Genuine, Effective Business Relationships, and I'm glad I did.

Over the years, as anyone who knows me or ExecuNet is well aware we have tried to figure out 1001 ways to help people understand that when it comes to either your professional life or your personal life, by far and away the most powerful tool you have is your ability to build a network that you can call upon for any number of reasons.

There are times when I think that people have heard us talk or write about this that they just roll their eyes in a way that clearly says "Dave, don't tell me again, I have heard this all before."  I don't blame them, when I hear the same thing from the same source a lot, I certainly can and do tune out.

On the other hand, when I hear (or in this case read) how a different person comes at the same topic it often will resonate in a different and stimulating way, and this was another reason why I wanted to see how Gordon approached a topic that a lot of folks think they understand but not too many really know how it should be applied, especially when it comes to managing a career change.

In a sense, I think Gordon really has captured the essence of all this by choosing a title like Well Connected, because most of us can readily relate to and understand that there is a world of difference between being "connected" and being "well connected."

Whether it's your business or your career, success comes from the "well."  Indeed, that becomes even more important if the career piece is about making a job change. 

Our members know well the phrase "to be remembered and be referred."  We use it all the time to underscore the fact that the biggest percentage of job changes happen as the result of networking, and the name of the game when it comes to your network is to be remembered and referred.  The same, of course, is true in business as well, especially if you are in a service business as millions of us are.

My point, however, is that I might "know you" and be happy to refer you to my dry cleaners, gas station, or plumber, but when it comes to things where I am really putting my reputation on the line, I need to "know you well."

Wether you are interested from a business perspective or a careers perspective, Gordon's book, I believe, will do a lot to help with the operative word in the title: Effective.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's About Giving, Not About Getting

Unless you have been in a time capsule, when it comes to managing a successful job search, everyone knows (or at least has heard - maybe more times than they wanted to) that the most effective strategy is networking.  That doesn't mean you don't do anything else, it just means where the biggest ROI is in terms of where you invest your time and energy.

Saying the word ‘networking’, reminds me of the conversations I used have in a former life around the subject of performance appraisals. We all agreed that it was needed, but nobody liked them. On the other hand, nobody has come up with something better either.

Those of you who follow this blog have seen this stat before but for those who haven't, I can tell you that over the years ExecuNet has been around (i.e. 23) of the members we have talked to who have made a change, 70% told us networking was the key for them.

But I also know people sometimes think that since we are always trying to drive home this message that somehow we have a plug and play answer on making it work for them, and preferably making it work like yesterday!

Would that we did and would that we could, but the truth is that when it comes to networking, it is a classic case of "leading the horse to water...."

What we do try to do, however, is not just talking about it, but putting all sorts of resources together to not only show people how, but also to provide them (both online and off) with the ways and means to implement their personal plan effectively. 

Said differently, what we try to do is not only tell people about the tool but give them the tools and show them how to use them.

One of the key components of the "how" is to try to get people to buy into the idea that if they really want networking to work for them that they need both a mindset and genuine belief that to be effective they need to be focused on giving, not getting. As Karen Armon who hosts our meetings in the Denver area likes to say: “Give first and results will follow.”

To that point, I came across a video the other day from a site called Simple Truths. It runs just over three and a half minutes. Title: The Power of Kindness.

Check it out. If you are in a job search, maybe the way this notion is expressed in the video will have a different impact than hearing it from me or others.  And, even if you are not in a job search, given some of the "noise" we are subjected to from inside and outside of Washington, it might be worth a look as well.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Macro to Micro

4,830,000 was the number of hits that came up when I put "job search strategies" into Google.  Pretty big number, and my guess is considerably understated.  Indeed, given what I see come across Twitter on an hourly basis, I am not sure how big the number could get, but I'm sure it is considerably larger than what came up on Google.

If you review the bidding, most experts agree that there are essentially four (4) ways that someone makes a job change:

1. Via answering ads.
2. Via being recruited by a search firm.
3. Via a mass mailing of some kind - broad-based or targeted, and
4. Via networking.

With that being the case and considering that job hunting is certainly nothing new, it sort of makes you wonder what exactly is the "strategy" that people are looking for.

Now for sure you can make the argument that given the tough job market that there are more people looking for answers, and  for sure that is part of it, but I also think that there is another factor at work: the two-edged sword called technology.

What I mean is this: With the advent of the web, everything on the above list can be and has been empowered by technology but each in its own way can and has been hindered by that same technology.

Rather than setting out the pros and cons here (which I suspect are pretty obvious to most readers anyway) let me just comment on at least one that I think that has a major biggest impact.

Ever since I've been involved in the career management world (40+ years) the default "strategy" for the job hunter has been to answer ads.  Very understandable.  They are easy to find and don't require a lot of effort to react to.  Add the web to that picture and we all know the result, sites that trumpet thousands of openings. 

All good news except that the more visible obviously the more people who become your competition.  Worse, because responding is so easy many job seekers just play the numbers game and keep clicking and praying.  The results are all too often rejection that keeps coming in the form of silence.

So, here's another stat that comes as no surprise ~ 60-80%* of us end up making a job change via item #4 on the list, not item #1, and that fact has been the subject of many other posts both here and elsewhere.  It is also why since the day ExecuNet opened its doors in 1988, we have been banging the networking drum. 

This isn't to say that we don't encourage our members who are job hunting to invest time and/or energy in any of the other channels, we certainly do, but at the same time, we try to make sure that they are balanced in their approach and we provide them with resources in all areas but for sure, our focus is on providing the ways, means and tools to help people to expand their personal and professional networks.

All that said, it remains human nature to follow the path of least resistance, not the one that is more productive and which requires lots more work.  It usually takes a while before people decide to really put some real energy into #4.

So it is with that in mind that at least for the time being we offer up an important "tip" for those who are checking out postings: Look at the macro as well as the micro.

Here's what we mean: Most people who are in a search have very specific objectives they would like to achieve, one of which is usually not to relocate if they don't have to.  As a result, when they are looking over postings, they are focused on those openings that appear to be in the geography they want.

Certainly nothing wrong with that, but what they often overlook are the openings that say they are located elsewhere.  I would suggest from a strategic perspective this is a mistake. 

No matter what your geographic goal, the over riding goal is to get someone to pick up the phone.  Said a bit differently, if and when you see a posting where you would be a super fit save for where they say the job is located, I would suggest you raise your hand.

It's a free country, no one has asked you to move anywhere, and you can always say no if they do!

The key thing to remember here from a strategic perspective is that once a conversation begins, any number of things a posting says are "specs" can and often do change especially once you start to put real people against a job description. 

And while indeed today's technology can both help or hurt, one of the upsides is that "locations" can be "virtual" as well as "real". 

Over the years, I have lost count of the number of our members who have ended up in great jobs because they responded to a posting that initially had the job located in a place that they had absolutely no interest in even seeing much less moving to.  They stayed right where they were.

* The stats on networking as the source for people making a change can range all over the lot, but the 60-80% range covers most of the surveys I have seen for as long as I can remember.  ExecuNet's experience is in the 70% area.