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Networking Skills to Get Everything You Want

It never ceases to amaze me how few people there are that understand how to network effectively. Given how important it is to make a first impression, and how valuable our network of relationships are in our personal and professional lives, you’d think that more people would try harder to network effectively.

Well, no worries. Here are some strategies that you can employ in your 2011 networking activities, to win friends and influence people.

1) Develop a Strategic Networking Plan.

Whether your goal is to find new business opportunities or conduct an effective job search, you need to have a strategic networking plan. In the plan, your create a comprehensive profile of your target (whether its an employer, client, vendor, partner, supplier, etc.) Be as detailed as you can in your description. Include information about where they went to college (undergraduate and graduate programs), what industry associations do they belong to, what events do they attend, what conferences do they go to, what panel discussions are they going to participate in, where are they speaking/presenting at, what if any volunteer organizations do they support, what programs such as coaching/mentoring are they involved with.

You then want to create a plan on how you are going to get yourself “in front” of these people. You want to be at any and all events in your area that are attended by target clients/employers.

2) Meet People Through MeetUp.

Go to and search for groups of professionals in your city/home town that share your professional interests and background and send a request to that group’s organizer requesting to join these groups. Once you are accepted, you will receive emails alerting you to when the groups plan a networking event.

3) Research Event Attendees BEFORE You Go.

Once you accept an invitation to attend an event through MeetUp, go to LinkedIn and research the other registrants, to see if they are someone you want to target at the event. If these people fall under the profile of your ideal networking target on your strategic networking plan, memorize their face and one or two key things that you are going to make a point to bring up at the event.

4) People Like You MOST When They Talk About THEMSELVES.

Have you ever gone to an event and there is someone who trolls to crowd, stopping only for a second to hand everyone their business card? You know the type, the one who looks and acts like the used car salesperson. They don’t bother to find out anything about you. How does that make you feel?

Instead, try asking those people that you researched beforehand some great probing questions like: “So, what do you hope to get out of tonight’s event?” Another great question to ask your fellow networkers is: “Can you tell me what your ideal customer (or employer, if you are using the event for job seeking) profile is?” One thing my wife has taught me after 20 years of marriage…people LOVE to talk about themselves.

Don’t spend more than 10 minutes speaking with any one person. The goal at networking events is a simple one…you want to make a connection, and find out enough just to see if you can help them. If so, ask for their business card and agree on who will take ownership of following up next, to schedule a follow up meeting.

5) Employ the “5-2-1” Rule of Thumb.

In networking you have to make an immediate impact with the people you meet. In the first five seconds, you have to say something about yourself and your personal brand that resonates with your networking peers. For example: “Hi, I’m Ethan the compassionate career coach.” The goal is to say something that makes them say: “Wow, what does that mean.”

That’s the FIVE in 5-2-1.

Your answer to that should be no more than two minutes and make them so interested that you walk away from that encounter with them saying “I have to schedule an hour to meet with that person in the next week or two.

That’s the TWO in the 5-2-1.

Then you schedule a follow up meeting either right there on the spot or you take ownership of reaching out to them later to set up that next meeting.

That’s the ONE in the 5-2-1.

So the take away is, you want to approach networking strategically, be interested in learning about other people and taking every opportunity to get better at it.

How Poor Communication Leads to Lost Opportunities

As we shoot out of the starting gate into a (hopefully) strong rebound year in 2011, I can’t help but wonder if the collective poor judgments exhibited in the past by our not so stellar politicians, educators, and business leaders may doom us to greater failure at a critical crossroads in America’s 21st century future.

Let me share with you a story that might shed insights into how our own actions lead to often missed opportunities due to nothing more than plain old poor communication.

Late last year I met for lunch with a client that I had served for two years. He is the Executive Director of a major industrial development organization in the NY Metro area. He leads a team of nine people that deliver a wide range of employee placement and business services to 1,400 organizations throughout New York City.

During our two year relationship, I had delivered training and development programs for his staff and coached him in key areas of running his business.

He wanted to meet before the end of the year, because he was considering a career move and wanted to brainstorm ideas before January. We talked about our mutual challenges (him in leading his organization, me in continuing to grow my business consultancy.) I confided that over the past 2 years I occasionally thought about closing shop and going to work for an organization. We parted ways in agreement that I would provide him with career transition guidance and continue working with his staff to deliver coaching.

A week later, he emailed me the link to a job opportunity for a Director of Continuing and Professional Studies at a university in NY. His message read: “What do you think of this?” That was all.

Well, given that I have worked with over 30 colleges and universities and deliver many career coaching and business consulting services to academic institutions, I thought he was sharing a possible job lead. I applied for the opportunity and emailed him to thank him for thinking of me.

He replied immediately. He said that he was thinking of the position for himself, and wanted to know what I thought about it. He then demanded that I rescind my application as a requirement for us working together in the future.

I immediately attempted to do so. I informed him that I wasn’t able to withdraw my candidacy. I apologized profusely and attempted to explain the reason for the misunderstanding.

That was three months ago, and despite many attempts to contact him he has not replied.

So the lesson learned? Due to a simple misunderstanding, two people that had forged an excellent working relationship no longer do business together.

Many of the greatest challenges that we face in achieving success in the workplace, launching/growing a business, achieving effective partnerships, serving clients…all of these can be achieved by maintaining open, honest dialogs through effective communication.

How many opportunities have you lost out on, due to plain old poor communication?

Think about our dysfunctional 2 party political system, spending most of its time and effort fighting to thwart each others’ initiatives? How about our business leaders who react to every challenge by initiating massive employee layoffs. How about our education administrators who scramble to develop policies to deal with falling American student performance with such foolish programs as No Child Left Behind?

So many of our problems can be reconciled through the power of open, ongoing and honest communication. Sounds like a GREAT New Year’s resolution, huh?

Why 2011 Is Going To Be a GREAT Year

Given the past two years, it might seem ludicrous to claim on 1/1/11 that 2011 is going to be a great year. On the one hand, many industries have been struggling and the historical drivers of new job creation (small business owners) are not exactly in a hiring mood given their company’s future uncertainty.

So how can I claim that 2011 is going to be a GREAT year…? The sheer power of positive thinking will create our own opportunities. For starters, let’s agree to replace the phrases “I CAN’T”, “I’ll TRY”, “I MIGHT” and “I HOPE TO” with “I WILL.”

We each deal with a psychological term called “head trash” in which research shows more than 65% of all the things we say to and about ourselves is NEGATIVE.

In order to break out of this two year slump our nation has been in, we need to all make a concerted effort to keep reminding ourselves how special we are and how much we each have to offer. It also requires a bit of reinvention nd VERY proactive changes be made.

We all need to remove those people from our network that serve as negative influences in our lives. Anyone (whether they be family or friend) that is a negative stimulus in our lives needs to be removed. We have the right to protect ourselves from these people that are always seeing the negative side of things, and/or trying to tell us what we cannot accomplish and remind us of our personal challenges. They are a cancer that needs to be removed before we can be free to rise up o our full potential.

We need to all make 2011 the year of significant action. It’s about figuring out what has been happening to our country the past few years and taking proactive steps to get our proverbial “house in order.” It’s about improving our family finances, improving our physical condition, improving our career situation, and positively impacting the lives of those we value most.

We will do that by setting realistic, tangible goals for ourselves on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Forget those silly New Year’s resolutions.

Instead, we will each develop our own personal marketing plan, create a job search pipeline, develop a list of key contacts to conduct informational interviews with, set goals on networking events, build an online presence through Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp and Twitter. Join relevant professional associations for the 2-3 industries you are interested in breaking into.

It means we all need to take classes, seek additional certifications and accreditations, learn a foreign language, investigate the industries we’d like to break into, seek out internships, offer to do volunteer work in your community, make key contacts, travel, work/study/live abroad, etc. Get going! Any action towards progress is desirable. We should all avoid the status quo and way we did things in the past! The one sure constant is change in 2011. Embrace it.

Dare to make 2011 GREAT and ignore all those negative people that want to focus on how bad things have been in the past.

Develop an Organizational Talent Management Plan

World-class organizations understand that their people are their greatest asset, and therefore pursue aggressive strategies to constantly improve the overall talent level of their employees as a means of achieving lasting competitive advantage in the markets they compete in.

Following are some strategies that your organization can employ, as part of an integrated and effective talent management program that recruits, hires, trains, and retains top talent.

1. Always Be On the Lookout for Top Talent:

Your organization should constantly be on the lookout for potential new hires, even if they don’t meet an immediate, short-term staffing need. You always want to be on the look out for talented people to bring into your organization. The most successful companies all maintain a constant vigilance in their search for top talent regardless of their immediate needs. Their philosophy with respect to staffing is, they can ALWAYS find a place for these stars who have established a clear track record of success in generating revenues, reducing costs, and improving organizational efficiencies for other organization.

2. Conduct a Human Capital Audit:

To unleash the many untapped talents of the people working in your organization, match every employee’s core competencies to their job descriptions. Your management team and Human Resources should always be on the lookout for the talents that are NOT being used by all their employees, as well as key areas for each employee to receive additional training and development.

3. Develop a Reward & Recognition Plan:

Nothing builds up long-term employee morale and their loyalty to their organization more than rewarding and recognizing them for their work and contributions. Many short-sighted, poorly run organizations seem to think that recognizing an employee is giving them a paycheck. They fail to recognize their people’s contributions and commitment to their organization. When the economy turns, people that have been overworked and under-appreciated will leave your company. Do you know who they are? How many are your rising stars who hold a key to your company’s long term success?

4. Develop a Coaching/Mentoring Program:

The most effective way to leverage the talents of your more recent hires and longer term employees is to pair them up for formal coaching and mentoring. Your less tenured employees will have their ramp up time in learning the Ins & Outs greatly reduced, and will benefit greatly from the collective experience and insights that your more seasoned employees can share. Your more tenured workers will receive the benefits of feeling connected, contributing to your organization’s success, and feel respected that their past experiences and knowledge are appreciated and still relevant in terms of training your future leaders.

5. Create a Idea Generation Lab:

In order to ensure your organization’s long-term success, you should constantly solicit ideas from your staff, esp. those employees that are closest to the work processes, systems, clients, vendors, partners, and other stakeholders. Create a program to actively seek ideas from all of your employees. Reward employees or the ideas that have the greatest positive impact on your ability to serve clients, create/launch new products, come up with new service offerings,reduce costs, etc. This will improve morale and employee retention as positive side effects.

6. Employee New Venture “Intrapreneur” Program:

An excellent strategy that you can employ in order to prevent your best people from leaving to start their own entrepreneurial efforts is set aside funding to have them pursue new ventures while they (STILL) work for you. This is an exceptional way for your organization to retain your top talent, while building your company’s intellectual capital portfolio of patents, trademarks, copyrights while simultaneously benefiting from your people’s desire and knowledge to develop new product/service offerings.

7. Leadership/Management Development Program:

Create a formal program to develop your key people’s leadership skills, and provide them with the tools, resources, knowledge and skills they need to manage others for success. This may be the single greatest potential to positively impact your bottom line. Rather than having to recruit outside talent to fill key leadership roles or recruit for new managers, cultivate the talents of your existing workforce and provide them with lasting skills to position your organization for success.

8. Develop a Succession Plan:

Create a formal strategy to identify the top talent in your organization that should be groomed/prepared for future leadership and/or management roles. This is especially vital for family run businesses or organizations led by someone that possesses most of the intellectual capital needed to run your organization over the long haul. Think of Jack Welch at GE when he identified Jeffrey Immelt to take his place, Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, etc.

9. Training and Development Program:

Create a formal plan to identify areas for each employee to be trained and develop their skill sets and knowledge base. Employees should have the skills they need to exceed in their current role as well as have a clearly defined action plan for managing their long-term performance, and a clear future career track within the organization.

A final note to owners and managers…

If your people are important enough to hire, then they can and must be leveraged as your greatest asset to achieve long-term success in the markets you compete in. Far too many businesses take the approach of pursuing massive layoffs during trying economic times. This is a cop out and very myopic strategy that costs significantly more to the organization in the long run then taking care of your workforce.

Far too often organizations hire consultants to come up with strategic recommendations and one of their first strategies is to suggest layoffs. This is a surefire path towards self-inflected long-term damage. Rather, take ownership in determining how your people can be leveraged. Expand their skills, provide them with additional resources, give them a greater stake in your organization’s success, challenge them to come up with solutions or make changes.

How to Find a Job That DOESN'T Exist

In today’s job market with rampant unemployment, global competition, shrinking industries, and rapidly evolving technologies and business models, an entirely NEW approach to job searching is required.

This new job search strategy requires that you MUST focus on finding jobs that don’t even exist. How can you do that? It’s definitely NOT easy and requires an entirely new mind set as a job seeker, BUT…the results will prove much more rewarding than following the old traditional, conventional approaches that no longer work! Here’s how you do it…

First off, it’s critical that you match you background, values and belief system to the types of culture in organizations that would be attractive to you. It is important to note there are TWO types of culture in any organization. The first is called the FORMAL culture…consider it “aspirational.” It’s what they want to believe it is like to work in their company. That is what they say about themselves. It’s called “spin” or PR. Take it with a grain of salt. The much more useful and instructive information is in the INFORMAL culture. You find that out by speaking with employees, ex-employees, industry analysts. What is it like if you got to walk around their place of business and just watch how people interact with each other? What kind of volunteer work do their employees do, what causes do they support, which politicians do they contribute to? This type of information is INVALUABLE. You find this by conducting informational interviews.

After you have conducted this personal exploration, you are ready to create an action plan. Target 3-4 industries and 6-8 organizations, companies, not for profits, agencies in each. That gives you a manageable search for 18-32 organizations.

Next, research everything you can about those organizations. Their key challenges, latest successes and failures, top competitors, key trends and developments in the markets they compete in. Are they publicly traded? Get their quarterly and annual reports from the SEC EDGAR website. What are analysts writing about them. Have any lawsuits been filed against them. What does their intellectual property (Trademarks, patents and copyrights) look like. How promising?

Next up…identify the person that you would be reporting to in those 18-32 organizations based on your ideal job working in that organization. Research everything there is to find out about that person. Where they went to school, the professional associations/organizations they belong to, any volunteer work they do, articles they wrote, panels they served on…everything!

Once you know as much as you can about them and the challenges they face leading the team in the organization you’d love to work in, write a script of how you would explain to them just how well you can help them overcome the challenges they face in one or or of the following THREE critical areas: 1) make their organization MORE money; 2) save their organization money, and/or 3) improve their organization’s operational efficiencies, processes, systems, structure.

Now that you have a call script, pick up the phone and call them. Explain that you have done research and are in a unique position to help them overcome (list the top 1-2 challenges they face) and ask if they have 15 minutes to sit down with you to discuss that.

It won’t work all the time but it will be MUCH more successful then responding to those nonexistent job postings on Craig’s List, CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo! Hot Jobs.

The Worst and Best Reality TV Shows

I’ve been thinking a LOT lately about the horrible state of affairs in America and often complain how pervasive reality TV is. I consider it a mind-numbing toxin that is dimming the collective brain cells of our human intellect. But then again, some reality TV shows make for GREAT viewing, even the ones that are PURE garbage.

So to be fair I went back and thought about all the reality TV shows that I have witnessed over the past few decades. Here is my list of the BEST and WORST of “reality” TV land. As always, these are listed in no particular order, just pure stream of consciousness. Let us know what you think. Which ones did I miss on? Which do you agree with?

Let’s start with the “best.” By best, I mean the most entertaining. Just like when you slow down to look when you drive past a car wreck across the divider on the highway I give you the “BEST” of reality TV:

The “BEST”
* Last Comic Standing (nothing better than really good comedy for my money)
* Master Chef / Iron Chef / Top Chef (how can they make such great food in 30 minutes with a can of mayo, ginger snaps, ox tongue and cherries…a caloric McGyver!
* Project Runway – I love it when it gets “catty”
* Dallas Cowboys cheerleader tryouts (ONLY because I’m a Cowboys fan!!!)
* Next Food Network Star
* Extreme Makeover – I love when they change someone’s life in a positive way forever
* Dog The Bounty Hunter – he’s a GREAT man
* Beauty and the Geek (proves there’s hope for us all)
* America’s Best Dance Crew (just because I like to move it, move it)
* American Idol (I love when the really bad performers get skewered)
* Cake Boss (I live in Hoboken so that’s the only reason I need)
* The Apprentice (a nice case study on the most narcissistic, ego-maniacal freak in existence (yes, Donald I’m talking about YOU!)
* Celebrity Rehab – you shouldn’t NEED an explanation ‘cuz it’s pure THEATER
* Dancing With the Stars (Emmet Smith and Michael Irvin…I’m still waiting on Troy Aikman to make an appearance so we have The Triplets.)
* Breaking Bonaduce & The Hasselhoffs – I get nostalgic for the 1970s & 1980s sometimes.

The WORST – These can also be the “best” depending on how you define BEST. Some of these make for the best entertainment value of anything on TV that’s NOT created by Seth MacFarlane, South Park or the Jon Stewart show.

* The Real Housewives of ____ (does it matter which city they air this train wreck?)
* Keeping Up With the Kardashians (but ONLY because Kim broke up with Miles Austin.)
* 16 & Pregnant – This show is just plain wrong on SO many levels.
* A shot of love with tila tequila (1 & 2) – I’m all for personal branding when it comes to career and professional development. Just NOT HER!!!
* Kendra (because Hank Baskett was an Eagle.)
* Jersey Shore (can also be a “BEST.” I shake my head sadly when I think of Snooki and repeat to myself…”Only in America.”)
* Rock of Love (But I loved Brett in the Celebrity Apprentice.)
* Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – not all straight guys need 5 gay men to turn themselves into a catch.
* The real world – really…REALLY…it’s the “REAL” world???
* Steven Seagal Lawman – he is just disgusting.
* Toddlers and Tiaras – but hey, it’s real in Texas.
* Paris Hilton’s my New BFF – she may just be the anti-Christ in not so subtle disguise.
* Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica (but only because I wanted Jessica and Tony Romo to work out.)
* My big fat obnoxious boss (reality TV’s supposed to be an ESCAPE from reality, not a reminder that you left work and are sitting at home thinking about your…”Big fat obnoxious boss.”
* Gene Simmons family jewels – I’m still upset they issued Kiss Alive II.
* Flavor of Love (sorry, it’s self-explanatory)
* Bridezillas – and yet it can be instructive for any man getting ready to pop the BIG question.
* The Anna Nichol show (there should have been an intervention. In all seriousness…how sad her life was.)
* America’s next top model – I watch with my wife and daughter, and scream at the TV that I want to tie each of the contestants down and force feed them a Big Mac.
* The biggest loser (they should gain the weight back then join comedian Ralphy May on tour.
* The Bachelor and Bachelorette: Hearing all the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes made me question the truthfulness of ALL my beloved reality TV shows.
* Survivor: forget all those “exotic” far away places, they should have been dropped into the sets of Mad Max, Escape from New York, or downtown Detroit.

Well, what do you think?