Category Archives: Networking

Think Your Job Is Secure? Think Again. PLEASE.

Recruitment or Employment Issues Chalk Drawing

Think They Can’t Do Without You?

There are lots of reasons that we think we are indispensable at work.  We know more than anyone else.  We’ve been there longer.  We have a close interdependent relationship with the boss.  We’re way better than others who have been there forever.  Whatever it is that you think about why you are indispensable, you are wrong.  NO ONE is indispensable, not even you.  Think about it:

  • The boss who thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread could be gone tomorrow.  It is unlikely that the new boss will instantly see your worth and if you were a favorite, it is likely that your peers aren’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about you.
  • You might have been the best of the best at one time, but does that still apply?
  • How expensive are you?  Are there new people (maybe straight out of school with more developed technical skills?) who are as good or almost as good?
  • Do your peers sing your praises?  Or do they try to scuttle your high horse?
  • Have you consistently over delivered incredible results . . . except for the last 6 months-or even worse-the last year?
  • Is the organization shifting its priorities away from your area of expertise?
  • Do you have a reputation of being negative? Or a diva? Or high maintenance?

They CAN Do Without You!

There are all kinds of reasons that organizations decide to part company with people.  SO MANY of those people are shocked because in their own eyes and mind they were indispensable.  The water closes over you head as you leave with barely a ripple.  People remember you and speak of you occasionally, BUT THEY GO ON WITH THEIR JOB.  They figure out workarounds to close the gap left in your absence.  And those gaps close pretty quickly.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

I’m telling you this so that you will come out of your delusion and will do what it takes to either prevent this situation or be able to deal with it if it happens.  I’m telling you this to get your attention before you find yourself on the outside looking in with total disbelief.

Do you remember what it was like when you started your first job, or your latest new job?  Do you remember how focused you were on understanding everything you needed to know.  Do you remember how careful you were in understanding what your boss wanted and in trying to deliver it?  Do you remember how much you tried to understand the unwritten rules of your organization? If you can re-achieve that heightened level of awareness and attentiveness, then you are much more likely not to take your situation for granted.  You are much more likely to escape being marginalized and finding yourself out the door.

What Should You Do?

Every week (yes, EVERY week):

  • Remind yourself to treat your boss the way you did in your first week in this job
  • Remind yourself that your peers can take you out faster than your boss. How are you helping them?  How do they perceive you?  What can you do to further their agendas?
  • Do something to build your network, both inside and outside the organization.  Who at the top of the organization outside your own management chain knows you?  Who do you know at other organizations that interest you?
  • Keep your skills current.  Get certificates.  Go to school.  Know the latest technology. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry/field.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve done to add value THIS week.

And maybe then you’ll be indispensable:-)

 

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Networking, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

Want To Have Some Fun?

Have some fun with your LinkedIn Network.  Go to http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com.  Log in with your email and LinkedIn password.  Once your network map has been created, roll your cursor over it.  It will call out a name in your network and show you who all within your network is connected to that contact.  Do it again.  It’s fun to see how all the contacts are connected to each other.

My Linkedin Network Map

My Linkedin Network Map

OneLinkedIn Contact

One LinkedIn Contact

Another Linkedin Contact

Another LinkedIn Contact

And Another LinkedIn Contact

And Another LinkedIn Contact

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Filed under Networking

Do You Really Need A Mentor?

Do You Need A Mentor?

It’s common to hear that you need a mentor for career success.  Is that still true?  Yes. You need a mentor.  You need several.  Over the course of your career you need people who help you along the way.

  • Mentors are experienced and trusted advisers.
  • Mentors can explain things in a short conversation that would take weeks, months, or even years for you to figure out on your own.
  • Mentors can tell you things about yourself in a way that you can actually hear it.
  • Mentors can easily open doors that you might otherwise stand on the outside looking in–forever.
  • Mentors can teach you skills that you never knew you could develop.
  • Mentors can help you see the world from another (or lots of other) perspective.
  • Mentors can help raise your performance bar.
  • Mentors can help you come up with new solutions to problems that have you stuck.
  • Mentors can speed up your progress and development by sharing their experience (and saving you from having to go through the same experiences–especially the bad ones).
  • Mentors can help build your network.
  • Mentors can help you understand the unwritten rules of an organization.

YES.  You Need a Mentor.

So, yes, you need a mentor.  You need different mentors for different times in your career. You need mentors to help you with different developmental issues.  For example, when you are graduating from college, you need someone to guide you from the college experience to the work experience.  What should you expect?  How should you act?  What is important?  Of course lots of people make this transition without a mentor (although parents frequently fill this role), but people who have mentors who specifically focus on this conversation avoid common pitfalls.

When you start to get serious about having a career instead of a job, a mentor can help you begin to navigate organizational politics and understand what organizations look for in “high potentials.”  Young people who are a part of Executive Leadership Programs get a lot of this kind of mentoring and it makes a difference!  Which job should you go after next?  What should you focus on in the interview?  What should you highlight in your performance assessment?  What should you add to your resume draft?

When you decide to change organizations, which ones should you target?  Who does your mentor know in the new organization?  Which organization is likely to be the best path to your career goal?

When you’re trying to solve a difficult organizational problem–supply chain streamlining, new branding, cost reductions, new market target–a mentor with specific knowledge of that problem is a short cut to understanding the boundaries of the problem and where to find the kind of expertise that you need.

Just Do It.  Ask.

Mentors can perform many roles in your career success.  The key is to step out there and get one (and then another and another).  Mentoring is about relationships.  Ask someone.  Who do you ask?  Ask someone who knows what you need to know.  Ask someone who can introduce you to people or experiences that take you to a new level.  Chances are that anyone you ask would be flattered to be asked to be a mentor.  S/he may or may not be able to say yes, but it is likely that they would enjoy being asked.  If they say yes, know what it is that you’d like to get from them.  Tell them.  It’s ok.  That is what mentoring is about.  Straight talk.  Being clear.

If s/he says s/he can’t do it, then tell them why you thought they would be a good mentor and ask if they can suggest someone else.  Ask if they will provide an introduction or if you can use their name to approach the other person.  You wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor who specializes in something you need.  Don’t think twice about seeking a mentor in the same way.

Remember, though, mentoring is about relationships.  What can you give back to your mentor?  Mentoring relationships are two-way relationships.  Mentors feel good when their mentees make progress.  They like it when they can introduce their mentee to a new experience, person or organization. There are lots of things that you can teach someone who might be your mentor.  Be sure to do it if it is appropriate.  Be open to the ways you can help/teach/entertain your mentor.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Hi Po, Mentor, Networking, Unwritten Rules

The Art of Networking

Network Now, Before You Need To

LinkedIn sent out a lot of emails this week, notifying people that they were in the top 10%, 5%, 1% most viewed profiles.  LinkedIn probably did that to pump up their own volume, but you should take it as an inspiration to pump up the volume of your networking.  Networking is a lot like weight loss (although not as hard).  It is best done slowly, over a long time, with an eye toward your career goal.  Networking doesn’t work well when you need to have a full-blown network in the next week (like getting into that dress your really want to wear to this weekend’s wedding–that is 2 sizes too small).  I work with people who find themselves out of a job, or reorganized to a boss they can’t stand and they suddenly realize that their network is old and cold.  Whereas people who find themselves in the same situation with a robust, active and varied network find jobs and opportunities MUCH faster.

Just for fun, look at your network on LinkedIn.  Go to http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/ and create a map of your network.  LinkedIn lets you label the parts of your network according to professional groups–former job #1, professional group #1, school, etc.   Look at your network map.  If you needed a new job in the next six months, do you have contacts in the kinds of areas that would help?  Here’s mine:

linkedin map 2.12.13

If you want to develop new skills or get a mentor–can you use your network to do it?  When was the last time that you talked to most of the people in your network?  This year?  In the last five years?  LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ provide you with easy and helpful tools to connect to people without much heavy lifting. 

In LinkedIn, comment on posts in your groups (and get some groups if you don’t have any).  Send a congratulatory message to people who get promotions.  Respond to people’s blogs.  Reach out with an offer to make connections for people when you notice that they start following a company where you know someone. Endorse people.  Recommend people.

In Facebook, keep up with birthdays and let people know when you enjoy their posts.  Like your friends’ business pages.

In Google+, comment on people’s posts, create circles, join, join, join.

Join Professional Groups.  Think about where the next career opportunities are for you.  Are you a project manager?  Who knows of the project management positions as they open up?  People who belong to PMI.  Join and participate. Do you want to start a business?  Where do the entrepreneurs go to get together?  Find the groups who can open doors for you.

Volunteer.  One of the best ways to get known and to get to know others is to volunteer.  Most nonprofits have significant players in your community on their boards.  Organizations who need your skills usually have people in them who can help you.

Be seen as an expert.  We are lucky to live in a time when we can be seen as an expert through participation in virtual activities.  You can write, join, comment, help and over time be seen as an expert.  When you think of who you admire and who you think of as an expert and thought leader in your field, chances are you don’t ‘know’ that person from an in-person relationship.  You know that person through his/her writing, speaking, participation in activities that you are also a participant.

Excuses.  Whatever excuse you’re giving me as you read this, it doesn’t stack up at all to not having a good network when you need one.  Do JUST ONE THING a week to improve your network.  At the end of a year you will have a network you can use to improve your career–without having to work very hard.  The last thing you want to do when you need your network is to start from (almost) scratch.

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Filed under Job Hunt, Networking, Uncategorized

Stand Out: Work On Projects

join a project team

Internal People on Projects

When I work as a consultant on big change projects in companies, there are always consultants (outsiders) and business representatives (insiders).  The insiders are usually identified as subject matter experts, business leads, and sponsors.  Despite what the consultants would like to think, they are pretty replaceable.  This is much less true of the business representatives.  Their knowledge of the internal workings of the existing processes and their understanding of how the change will significantly impact the future processes are essential to the success of these projects.  Their ability to navigate the inner workings of the organizational politics and to get answers and cooperation from key people make the difference between delivering as promised or not delivering at all.

When the opportunity to participate on one of these projects arises, most business people don’t jump at the chance to sign up.  They have ‘real’ jobs and not all companies lighten the responsibilities in day-to-day job for project participants.  Besides, the kind of people who are identified as potential business leads and subject matter experts are usually pretty happy in their current gig.  Why give up something they like for the wear and tear of project work?

What Project Participation Gets You

Project work teaches you more, faster, than practically anything else in an organization.  You get to see across the organization in a way that is hard to do below the Executive level.  You get to see how to organize and deliver significant change in an organization–again, excellent training for being an Executive.  You have a different kind of visibility in the organization, especially if you throw yourself into it and stand out as a cooperative expert. You get to work on a team that crosses the organization, growing your internal (and through the consultants–external) network.  You get to watch and learn and practice how to actually make a team work through all the stages of team development.  You get to learn a system (usually) or process up close and personal and become the company’s expert on how that system or process works in your part of the organization.  Other executives outside your organization get to know you and your work and that provides longer term career possibilities.

Over the course of hundreds of projects I’ve seen it happen over and over.  People get assigned to a project, they really take to it and do extremely good work in helping the project get off the ground and succeed.  Company Executives notice and start to seek the project participants out for their expertise. Opportunities open up and the stand out project participants are first in line.

Volunteer, Participate, Learn, Accelerate Your Career

So . . .  stand out by volunteering and participating and learning in projects in your company.  It’s worth the effort in the long term.

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Executive Development, Leadership, Networking, Teams

Your Company Doesn’t Care

Sorry.  Despite what the Supreme Court thinks, your company is not a person.  It doesn’t care.  It doesn’t think.  It doesn’t want.  You can’t impress it.  Your company is made up of people–lots of them.  All kinds of people.  They DO care.  They are complicated and hard to figure out and hard to work with.  People can be influenced and impressed.  Focus on the people.  Build relationships.  Build relationships with people who think and speak “for” the company.  Make sure they know who you are.  Make sure they know what you do.  Make sure they think you add value to the company.  Make sure they care about you

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Filed under Career Development, Networking

Getting Things Done Without The Title

How Do You Get Things Done When You’re Not the Boss?

I deal all the time with people in organizations who are trying to get things done without the direct authority to ‘order’ people to do it.  These are people who sit in one organization who need the cooperation of people in another organization.  These are Senior Executives who need their peers’ cooperation to accomplish their own division’s goals.  These are Project Managers who need business leaders or other project leaders to do things before they can deliver their own project goals.  These are entry level people who need the collaboration of more senior people.  Back in the day when we all worked in purely hierarchical organizations, this is the way it worked:

Getting Things Done Through the Hierarchy

The person who needs something from another person in an organization asks his boss, who asks her boss, to asks his peer, who tells her subordinate, who tells his subordinate and it gets done, unless there is a dispute.  If there is a dispute, it reverses and goes back up and back down, then back up and down.  Usually many days, or even weeks have transpired before the original need gets fulfilled.  This is a pretty inefficient way of getting things done, unless everyone is completely committed to moving things fast.

Organizations today are less hierarchical, flatter and more networked.  In an ideal world, this is the way things would work:

Being able to get things done this way depends on RELATIONSHIPS, trust, communication, urgency, political savvy, persuasiveness, and understanding organizational economics.  Being able to do this can make the difference between being stellar standout and being stuck in your position.

RELATIONSHIPS

It is who you know, who knows you and how much they care about you.  You need to have relationships–friendly, bi-directional relationships that are mutually win-win.  It is not about rank and power so much as about knowledge and cooperation.  If you look at the picture above, if the people at the bottom of the organization know how to help you AND ARE WILLING, then you get as much done as if you boss’ boss talks to their boss’ boss.  People will generally do something for you if there is no skin off their nose AND if they see it as beneficial. They generally see it as beneficial if you have at some time in the past done something for them, or if they think that that is likely to happen in the future.  Do things for people throughout the organization without requiring return,and eventually, you will get significant return from it.

Trust

If people trust you, then they are likely to help you whether or not you have the authority to “make” them do something.  People don’t have to trust you with their life, but they have to trust you not to sabotage them in some way, to stand up for them if necessary (after all they may be technically breaking a rule by doing something without appropriate hierarchical authority), and to reciprocate if they need something. For more on creating trust, read Trust Me, Damn It!  Ironically, sometimes asking for something helps improve a relationship and builds trust.  Ask for what you need–don’t be afraid.

Communication

The best way to get help from people who aren’t in your organization is to explain WHY you need what you need.  If they can understand the context of your request, if you can make it real for them, then they are much more likely to go along–especially if there is little to no risk to them.  If there is risk to them–to their own deliverables, to the schedule they’re supposed to hit, to their relationship with their peers or their boss–then your communication needs to be much more compelling.  You need to be clear about what is in it for them to help you that overcomes those risks? 

Unless you have a well established relationship–and even then, think twice–do not make these requests via email.  Email is too easy to ignore, to hard to be clear and too hard to be persuasive.  Talk in person (preferable) or by phone.  It is better to have worked on these relationships before you need them, but even so, be friendly and interested BEFORE you make your request.

Urgency

If people believe that what is needed is needed quickly or else important things will be slowed down or blocked, they are more likely to do it than if they feel no urgency.  Creating a sense of urgency must be done carefully, lest you get a reputation of “crying wolf,” and lose your credibility.  Why do you need what you need quickly?  Be honest, but also believe what you’re saying.  Speak with urgency and you’ll likely convey urgency.

Political savvy

In order to successfully get things done in your organization, you need to understand the politics in the organization.  Who has the power?  What relationships exist across your organization.  What are the rivalries?  Who is the ‘core’ group in each organization that you work in and around?  In other words, who are the three or four people who make the decisions?  Who do they listen to? Who can help you get the decision/resources/help you need go your way?  Are there hidden agendas?  What are they?  How does what you need to do fit into those agendas?  Whose agenda is supported by what you’re trying to do?  Whose agenda isn’t?  Trying to get things done in an organization without understanding these things is like driving on a road you know nothing about–where it goes, whether it dead ends, how fast you can go, whether there are any gas stations along the way.

Persuasiveness

Being persuasive is a critical skill for getting things done in organizations.  There is no tool that is more valuable.  Being persuasive begins with understanding the other person’s issues with regard to your argument, and then finding a way to reduce or overcome them by helping the person see very clearly WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) about what your trying to get done.  Provide a context that helps the person be persuaded.  A great book to help you learn to be more persuasive is Robert Cialdini’s, Influence. the Art of Persuasion.

Secrets

One of the biggest secrets in organizations is that people at all levels of the organization can get things done across the organization.  The most important step is to Do It. Figure out who can help you.  Figure out what is important to them.  Figure out how to approach and persuade them. Then ask.  Don’t give up.  If one way doesn’t work, try another.  Keep taking routes till you find one that works.  Make positive relationships along the way and PAY PEOPLE BACK.  Go for it!

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Networking, Success