Networking. The word alone strikes fear in the hearts of many. It’s so awkward and uncomfortable! It’s so inauthentic! It’s just so…so…exhausting.
That’s why many professionals put it off. If you’re happily employed and your career is chugging right along, networking often gets put on the backburner. I see a lot of people who only start thinking about networking when they “need” something—like a new job, for example. But in order for someone to help you, they must first know, like and trust you. And that takes time!!
To help inspire you to get started networking NOW, I wanted to highlight just a few of the reasons it’s essential for career success. After all, if you aren’t convinced that it matters, you’ll never do it.
But before I jump into that, let me be clear about one thing: Networking is all about building authentic relationships with real people. It’s not complicated. You’ve done it your whole life. Don’t turn this into something scary or awkward or uncomfortable. Networking can happen anytime, anywhere: In the grocery store, at a nightclub, online, at a volunteer event in your community, or at a local meeting of your professional association. It’s always about making a real human connection before anything else.
Okay…now on to the reasons!
The Hidden (Informal) Job Market
Networking gives you access to the hidden or informal job market, which is a helpful tool even if you aren’t actively job searching.
Allow me to explain this a little more. We’re all familiar with the formal job market: A company has an employment need so it creates a job description, posts an ad on the Internet, and receives a pile of resumes to fill the position.
The informal job market, however, always exists in a much more hidden fashion. Before a job is made public (and sometimes before it even exists) there are informal opportunities. Through networking, you have access to these positions that other people never even know about.
For example, a contact in your network knows a position is soon going to be available at her company because a colleague in her office is retiring. The HR department hasn’t even started recruiting for it, but your contact knows you would be a perfect match for the role. If your contact refers you for the job informally, you could end up at the front of the hiring line before there’s even an official position available.
You might not even been searching for a new gig, but let’s face it: It’s awfully nice when exciting new opportunities just fall in your lap. And if you’re a self-respecting, career-minded professional, you know that when a great career opportunity shows up, it’s worthwhile exploring—no matter how happy you are in your current role.
The 2013 Careerxroads Hiring Sources Survey shows that employee referrals are the number one way to get hired. Sure, it’s no guarantee (that same study shows that only about 1 in 10 people referred for a job were actually hired), but it still gives you a serious leg up on the competition. It’s up to you to close the deal though.
Networking also gives you access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. The people in your network will likely come from a wide variety of backgrounds, meaning they’ll offer a broad range of perspectives and possess a deep well of wisdom from which you can draw.
When you have a strong network, you have a support team—people you can turn to for guidance, advice or assistance. Together you can share best practices. You become as much a resource for them as they are for you.
In short, your network is a valuable professional asset—a resource that makes you smarter, more experienced, and more capable.
Connections = More Connections
Every person you meet has the ability to connect you to (potentially) hundreds more people. That means your professional network grows exponentially with each person you add.
A strong professional network can introduce you to potential future employers, potential clients, trusted service providers and more.
Need a new bookkeeper for your business? Turn to your network! (I just did this recently.)
Want to get a job at Google but don’t know where to start? Turn to your network! Who do you know at Google? Or who knows someone who knows someone at Google? Chances are pretty good that you’re no more than two or three degrees of separation from any company you want to be a part of.
The All-Important “Know, Like and Trust” Factor
Again, I want to stress the critically important role of the “know, like and trust” factor in all of this. The only way you’ll reap the rewards offered by your network is if the people in it truly know, like and trust you. Otherwise, it’s too risky. They won’t recommend you for a job because they don’t want to put their own reputation on the line for someone they aren’t absolutely certain about. They won’t connect you with their network because you could reflect poorly on them. And they won’t be willing to share their knowledge, offer advice or provide assistance if they don’t first like you as a person. We all already have too many demands competing for our attention—if it’s not at least minimally rewarding or enjoyable to help you, there’s no reason to bother.
So start the process of expanding your network NOW, when you don’t immediately “need” something. Deepen those relationships. Be generous and help others first. That way, if and when you need to leverage them, your professional allies will be eager to help.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, August 14th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
We’ve all had that co-worker who just shares too much information (the kids call it “TMI”).
You know what I’m talking about: That person who gives you the play-by-play of her divorce proceedings. The one who’s happy to share all the gory details of her recent bout with stomach flu. The one who wants everyone to know all the details of what she’s working on at any given moment of the day.
I’ve had several people ask questions during my free coaching call about how to handle this particular workplace nuisance. So today, I thought I’d share some tips for managing the TMI co-worker.
1. Stop encouraging the behavior.
Be careful that you’re not the one starting or perpetuating the conversation. Don’t ask questions; don’t check in to see how she’s doing after all that drama with her boyfriend; don’t lean forward and say, “Oh…how interesting…”
I know you want to be supportive, but the more you pretend to care, the more your co-worker will share.
When you find yourself in the middle of a TMI conversation, disengage. Don’t offer sympathy. Don’t show curiosity. Don’t even make eye contact if you can help it. Your job is to demonstrate total lack of interest. Watch both your body language and your words.
When this person isn’t getting anything out of you, it will become much less satisfying to talk your ear off.
If all else fails, offer some kind of generic excuse:
“I’m just really busy right now so I can’t talk.”
“I’m on a deadline and I really need to concentrate. Let’s talk later.”
“I really need to concentrate so can this wait?”
2. Define the consequences.
For some people, disengagement and polite excuses are enough. We’ve all known that person who is so self-absorbed she doesn’t even notice when no one is listening, and she merrily carries on even when you’ve asked for privacy. So there may come a time when you have to address the situation in no uncertain terms. Yes, that means you’ll have to USE YOUR WORDS.
Before you discuss the issue with your co-worker, however, start by defining why this is a problem. Get clear on how it’s impacting you, your work and your relationship with the person.
Do you feel the constant over-sharing of information is wasting your time and pulling your attention away from where it rightly belongs in the workplace? Or is the conversation actually making you uncomfortable? Are you hearing things that damage your ability to work productively with this person?
Don’t just focus on the fact that this behavior is annoying. Get to the meat of the issue and the real harm it’s causing.
3. Articulate the situation & the preferred behavior.
Once you’re clear on what’s happening for you, it’s time to articulate your feelings and ask for what you want. Remember: This is the workplace. You have a right to a comfortable environment. But setting appropriate limits for your interactions with others is your responsibility. If this person is creating problems, you need to request a change in behavior. The more specific you can be, the more likely the other person will hear you and respond appropriately.
Try following this structure in your request:
And the impact on my work is…
So in the future…
Here it is in action:
When you share all the details of your son’s drug problem, I can tell how much it upsets you and that upsets me. I feel really distracted… I want to be supportive but I’m not really equipped to guide you through this. And even if I was, this isn’t the place for talking about it. The impact on my work is that I can’t focus, and I don’t get as much done as I need to. I end up stressed and working late. So in the future, let’s keep our work conversations focused on work. If you’d like to talk about your personal life outside of work, maybe we can grab a drink sometime next week.
Here’s another, more generic, example:
When you share personal information with me, I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want it to impact our work or our relationship, so let’s keep the conversation professional while here in the office, okay?
In reality, you’re helping this person by setting some limits for them. You’re not a therapist. You’re not paid to be their personal sounding board. They might feel better by talking about whatever is going on, but they aren’t really accomplishing anything by doing so. In the workplace, their time, energy and attention (just like yours) belong on work.
Even if the over-sharing is work-related, setting limits is still essential. Let’s face it: You have limited resources (again—time, energy and attention), and if those things are being inappropriately absorbed by this person and the information he or she is sharing, your job could be on the line.
We’ve all worked with that person who’s never happy, right? It can be a challenge to deal with these people while keeping your own mindset positive. Chronic complainers in the workplace can drag everyone down, and if you’re not careful, they can cause serious problems for your career. In my recent interview on Fox 31 Denver’s Good Day Colorado, I address this topic and offer some helpful advice for keeping the complainers at bay.
(Check out that screenshot from YouTube! No, I’m not dancing. I’m not sure WHAT I’m doing though…)
The workplace, sadly, can feel a lot like high school at times. And if you think bullies only exist in the school yard, you’re sorely mistaken. The workplace bully has gotten a lot of press recently. In my most recent interview on Fox 31 Denver’s Good Day Colorado, I address this topic and provide a few strategies for handling it. Hopefully you never have to deal with a bully at work, but if you do, this advice could be invaluable.
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Written by Chrissy Scivicque, May 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
As many of you know, I talk a lot about professional passion. I believe it IS possible to love your job and really feel a fire in your belly when you think about the contribution you’re making at work everyday.
I’m always careful to note though that work passion is very different from passion passion…you know, the kind that gets you all hot and bothered…? Professional passion is NOT the same as romantic passion.
However, as odd as it sounds, the two actually do have a lot in common. Some things about passion are the same whether at the office or in the bedroom. Crazy? Nope.
To see what I mean, read on.
Work at It
Relationships are easy and fun in the beginning. The passion often comes quite naturally…for a while. But, as any of you who are married or in long-term relationships know, at some point, it becomes harder to keep that passion alive. You have to actually put some effort in. If you aren’t willing to exert some energy, the passion will eventually fizzle out.
The same is true for your relationship with work. At first, it’s exciting. The passion is there and you can’t imagine it ever going away. But then, the day-to-day routine sets in, and you slowly become complacent.
This kind of fizzle-out isn’t necessarily a given. It doesn’t have to happen. But passion doesn’t stick around on its own. You have to buy some sexy lingerie* every now and again. In work terms, you have to take some risks and try new things. Put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone and see what happens.
Don’t Rely on Your Partner to Make You Happy
Your romantic partner isn’t responsible for your happiness. YOU, and you alone, are the only one who controls how you feel about yourself and your life. Sure, it’s nice to hear that you’re pretty and loved, but your partner can’t give you confidence you don’t have. Others can influence you, but ultimately, your feelings are totally within your control.
The same is true about work. Having a great job that pays well and has endless opportunity is certainly helpful. But your employer doesn’t determine whether or not you’re happy doing what you do. You choose how you respond to the situations in your life. If you choose to stay at your job, choose to see the good in it and don’t dwell on the bad. If you choose to stay with your romantic partner, do the same.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to improve the things you don’t like (whether at home or in the office) and here’s what I mean by that…
Ask for What You Want
Your partner can’t read your mind and neither can your employer. If there’s something that isn’t working for you and it’s reasonable enough to change, ask for it. But be specific and 100% straightforward. If you try to be coy and beat around the bush, it’s easy for your signals to get crossed, and miscommunication is a sure-fire way to kill the passion.
If you want your partner to open the car door for you, tell him. If it really matters to you, I’m sure he’d rather know so he can do something about it. It’s easy enough! He might still forget to do it, of course, and at that point you can re-evaluate how much it really matters.
Likewise, if your employer can resolve some underlying irritation you have, in many cases (though admittedly not all), it’s worthwhile doing so. They’ve already invested in you so simple things—like a new office chair or a slight shift in schedule—might make sense if it keeps you happy and working hard. Again, it won’t always work, but at least you’ve made an honest effort. And, as I said before, you can re-evaluate at that point.
Stay Mentally Engaged
Presence isn’t just about physically being there—at work or at home. It’s about being truly mentally engaged. It’s about caring, inquiring, listening and connecting.
We’ve all seen those couples at restaurants who barely make eye contact and spend most of their time looking at their cell phones or gazing longingly at the couple on their first date next to them. They’re there, but not really. Part of them is somewhere else.
This same thing happens all the time in workplaces around the world. People are there, but not really.
When you’re at work, you have to be there 100%. Otherwise, it shows and you feel it. Time drags by. You leave the office wondering what the heck you just accomplished…if anything. You feel like a zombie walking through the week holding out hope that the weekend will bring some kind of excitement.
All you have to do is engage your brain and work will become exciting again. Believe me on this. Everyone enjoys feeling mentally stimulated, but again, you sometimes have to work at it. Find the challenge again. Seek out new information. Learn new skills.
Know When to Leave
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the passion just can’t be reignited. There’s no sense sticking around forever trying to fix something that’s irreparably broken. Get out while you can, but leave with dignity and grace. Remember that the time you shared together was, at least for a while, a good thing. It probably wasn’t perfect, but then, you probably weren’t either.
Bring Yourself to It
This last one might sound odd but here’s what I mean: YOU are in this relationship. Whether with work or with a romantic partner, YOU are half the equation. That means you have to share who you really are and what you’re really capable of. You can’t hide or pretend to be something you’re not. Authenticity is the most attractive quality in people, professionally and personally. Be real and you’ll have more to offer your employer and your partner.
That doesn’t mean you should toss all social decorum out the window though! If your “real” self wants to throw a temper tantrum, rein it in and consider whether that’s the right move for the relationship. Remember that it’s also about respect. Tact and diplomacy go a long way. Adapt to the needs of others from time to time and they’ll do the same for you.
I know you questioned my take on this topic when you first started reading this article…so what do you think? Do you see the correlation now between professional passion and personal passion? Or have I just been reading too many romance novels?
*Note: Sexy lingerie should not to be worn at work. Unless you have some kind of…”nontraditional”…workplace. In which case, good for you.