Business networking is all the rage and has been for quite some time. Various networking buzz words abound such as referral networking, social networking, professional networking and so on. Technically speaking, I’ve been in the “referral industry” since my elementary school days when I made my first connection to my schoolmate Ginger Lumpkin who had just discovered Barry Manilow. My mom had an album of all his greatest hits and I was able to “connect and refer.” As a result my mom gave Ginger that album (which sparked a lifelong musical love affair for her). Ginger caught up with me a few months ago while she was visiting Chattanooga and what old album was in the AirBnB? You guessed it.
Referrals: Challenging questions
But I digress. Professionally speaking, I’ve been in the referral industry for over 10 years. It’s in my blood. It’s the connection that excites me most – who do I know that can help you be more successful and move you towards your best future? However, this industry comes with its own challenges. Big questions exist like, “How well do I know the person I’m referring?” “What happens if my referral ends up being a disaster?” “What happens when I’m the one doing most of the referring to the detriment of my own financial well-being?” “How often do I need to network to keep my referral pipeline full?”
Networking: Which format is best?
And then there’s the actual task of networking to get those referrals. A Google search of the term “business networking” today produced 9.5 million results, while the term “referral networking” produced just over 414,000 results. “Referrals” produced a whopping 53.3 million results! One may ask why that’s relevant, and the answer is because there is an art to networking, and if we don’t understand how to network, we will forever be running from one networking event to the next with no hard data to show the success we’ve experienced in doing so. And may I be so bold to say that just because a well known face appears at every networking event over and over again, does not necessarily mean they are successfully living out a true referral networking model. A name is just that – the question is how is the name benefiting people in a positive manner? A person could probably spend all day every day at the number of networking events that exist, but without a clear vision and purpose, we might as well stay home.
Networking: I love you. I hate you.
Frankly, I have a love/hate relationship with networking because there are so many different belief systems as to how we should go about it. Some would say we should go to as many events and get as many connections as we can because it’s a numbers game. Others prefer to be members of exclusive referral groups where only one person from each professional category is granted membership. Still others prefer to do most of their networking online via LinkedIn or Alignable. My opinion? It’s not about the venue or the method – it’s about why and how. Once we discover and learn those two essential keys, the business of networking will transform you both professionally and personally.
As most reading this already know, I prefer the exclusive referral group method in conjunction with utilizing the online sites I mentioned above. I detest attending various “events” for the sake of “being seen.” If you see me at an event, there’s probably a really good reason for it, not because I’m “trolling.” Networking “trolls” are what give networking a bad rap. We’ve all likely experienced them. We see them at every event. They make it a point to get their business cards in everyone’s hand and may even go around the room placing their flyers and business cards at everyone’s seat. And my all time favorite – when we enter into conversation with them, they monopolize it by ensuring we know that they know all the “important” people and have an insane need to impress us. Can anyone relate? (And if you are one – stop it! Eat a slice of humble pie and drop the act and just be authentic and transparent!)
Networking: Why and How?
No matter which networking method we choose to embrace, we must know why we are networking. Obviously we all need to take care of our financial obligations, but if there’s not a bigger purpose behind our wallet, perhaps we need to take a good look in the mirror and consider there might be some spiritual and personal development we need to pursue.
We spend the majority of our lives working and we have an impact on the people we cross paths with even if we don’t realize it. The very first question I ask a business client or a student when I consult with them is “Why did you choose this line of work or field of study?” Most of the time I either receive an “I don’t know” answer or “Because I want to help people.” I continue asking why until we hit the heart of who that person is at the core. For example, I do what I do because I am all to familiar with personal tragedy and loss, and I know what it takes to rise up out of shattered dreams and innocence and get back in the game with confidence and new sense of purpose. There are many people I need to connect with to inspire them to keep moving forward. My personal why statement is, “I exist to elevate the lives of others through C.E.I.R.S. (Connect. Engage. Inspire. Refer. Succeed).” Every choice I make, every event I attend, every connection I make must align with my why statement, otherwise I’m doing myself and others a disservice.
The second key to successful networking is the how. There is no sugar coating this one – be a person of integrity and follow up. We need to say what we mean, do what we say, and follow up to ensure expectations were met, and if not fix it if it is within our control to do so. I have taught people over the years the how behind networking, and for me the best way to learn that is in an exclusive referral group format such as The Referrals Group. Being laser-focused on building our skills as master networkers is the secret to our own success, because Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “You will get all you want in life when you help others get all they want in life.” It’s the oxymoron of our lives – give to get.
In conclusion, as the title indicated, if we claim to be networking queens or kings, we must have “treasure” to show for it. How many lives are we positively impacting? How many clients wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have our expertise and help? How many people refer us to others? How many people are following our lead? How much of our true self do our family and friends get? How do we help the poor and the needy? How do we invest in the next generation? The answers to these questions and more will show us what state our treasure boxes are in. What are we filling them with?
“No” can often be the most foreign, “positive” word we ever learn to say. But in the “no” we discover that we exist; we discover that we matter; we discover that whatever or whoever we say that word to cannot truly meet our deepest needs and desires if we were to say “yes.” “No” can actually liberate the soul – liberate the heart – and allow us to soar high above the things that have kept us down for so long.
Oftentimes, it is love (or acceptance) that is being sought and we fear that if we say “no” we will somehow nullify those two things in our lives. But that is not true because as I told a friend one day, “love just is…it is not something deserved,” so basically, we can quit trying to earn it. Instead of working feverishly to prove we are worthy enough, start learning to recognize what love looks like (I choose to base my definition of love on the Biblical examples described in I Corinthians 13), and then begin to practice love in those ways and surround ourselves with people who reciprocate love in those ways.
When we begin loving people with the I Corinthians 13 model and start allowing (and expecting) to receive love in that way as well, we begin to realize that “no” is not a dirty, selfish word. In fact, it begins separating out and pushing away those things that drain us and keep us from feeling alive.
I used to be afraid to tell people “no.” I used to think they would be disappointed in me or judge me or feel as if I didn’t care about them. Today, I am probably a rip-roaring “no-addict” (ha) because I am fiercely protective of my time, my mind, and my heart. It is what keeps me sane and alive and in tune with the things I am supposed to be doing and the people I am supposed to be helping.
“No” is about setting proper boundaries. The word in not intended to be used to get out of our responsibilities of daily living or to wield power over another human being. Rather, if used in the proper context, it can help keep our children safe from harm, reduce the amount of unneeded stress in our lives, and keep us from doing a disservice to others, which always results when we say “yes” out of a need for confirmation of self-worth.
In addition, saying “no” in healthy ways, especially with our children, is essential. “No” can be a negative term if that is all they hear every time they do something that is a natural course of their developmental growth. When we begin to send only negative messages to our children regarding their behavior, it is human instinct to rebel and want to test the limits. If we could present the appropriate behavior as the standard of conduct, rather than shouting no’s and don’ts and stops and quits and cant’s, it will likely produce more right choices than wrong (see image below).
This can also translate into our personal, business, and religious lives. If we find ourselves hurried and rushed and stressed to the max, perhaps it’s time to take personal inventory. My rule for taking on additional tasks is to ask God if that is His will for me and to honestly assess whether it could propel me further into the calling on my life or if it could potentially take me in the opposite direction. I am learning that my identity is in Christ alone and I am free to stop doing activities I have clearly participated in to prove my self-worth to others. I don’t need to prove that.
Here’s a practice run for you:
“Hey, can you do __________________________________?”
Your response: “I appreciate you considering me, however, I have other obligations. I know you’ll find the right person!”
Well, my days of refusing to take on anything that does not directly and positively move me forward in the path I know I’m called to is about to pay off in ways I would have never expected. In fact, if I’m being really honest, it’s almost intimidating. We’ve all heard of “ground floor” opportunities, and we’ve all allowed many of them to pass us by only to look back with regret and say, “if only.” I know I have because of fear and not believing that I actually could do it. However, when I look back on the past decade, I realize that I have been preparing for this exact moment, and I am humbled and shaken and grateful.
Ten years ago I entered into the crazy, fantastical, volatile world of sales, marketing, and advertising. I went through sales jobs because frankly, I despise “sales.” I despise the pitch and the hype and the cliches, and all the trappings of the rat race of trying to keep your head above water in the world of commissions. It took me a long time to learn who I was and why I wasn’t successful. I was sought out for my “sales ability” only to let those people down when I didn’t “produce” to the levels they assumed I was capable of. Sadly, people often mistake “connectors” for “salespeople.” It has only been in the last few years I have come to realize that “sales” is much more than closing deals. In fact, I’m more interested in turning the whole sales model upside down and watching the entire industry explode with success for ALL involved, not just the “closers.” But I digress, that’s for another topic of discussion.
My calling is my mission – the reason I exist – which is “to elevate the lives of others through C.E.I.R.S. Connect. Engage. Inspire. Refer. Succeed.” I am a “master connector,” and this week, after visiting a childhood classmate for the Facebook #GreatSocialMediaSelfieProject, I realized that I have been connecting people with their wants since I was in elementary school. My first “connection” was when this classmate discovered Barry Manilow for the first time, and she became an instant fan. When she told me this, I knew my mom had a Barry Manilow record that she rarely listened to anymore, so I went home and asked my mom if I could give the record to my friend. Mom said yes, and I happily skipped outside and presented the album. Nearly three decades later, my friend has 14 Manilow albums and has seen him in concert more times than I would even consider. I know that may seem trivial to some, but for me, it just upped the ante for me to have even more faith that every connection we make has lasting impact in one way or another. I want to make mine count for the good.
So, what does all this have to do with not being afraid to be a “game changer.” I’m glad you asked. The last 10 years have been my training ground for what I am launching into as the next phase of my career. The two areas I’m launching into will forever positively impact people who are a) seeking to honestly embrace who they are and live and work in who they were designed to be, and b) busy, successful professionals who are seeking to replace unproductive busyness with meaningful, profitable connections.
What do these two things have to do with changing the game you ask? People have been doing this for years haven’t they? Yes. But not me. The game is changing for ME and the people I am intended to impact. The game changer for me starts with a list of “no longers.”
- I will no longer allow anyone to dictate what my worth is.
- I will no longer allow anyone to put me in their proverbial box of what my success should look like.
- I will no longer be enticed by motivational words and empty promises.
- I will no longer allow anyone to tell me my creativity is not wanted or needed.
- I will no longer spin my wheels trying to get anyone to understand how I operate.
- I will no longer take on responsibility that is clearly not mine.
- I will no longer be intimidated by anyone who thinks they have all the answers.
- I will no longer assume I know what others are thinking or doing.
- I will no longer want “something more” for anyone who refuses to want it for themselves.
What are your “no longers?” How will you change your game? Stay tuned…I’ll be revealing my next game changer endeavors soon.
I’ve been thinking about how my new venture will benefit busy professionals who are looking for measurable success with their networking efforts. It’s no secret that I’ve been a die hard BNI fan for 10 years. There’s a certain camaraderie with BNI folks. We’re like family. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve closed business, we’ve lost business, we’ve celebrated, we’ve mourned.
But it’s also no secret that I formally resigned from BNI in January. Why? Because I’m at a different stage in my career, and my new venture is a better fit for my goals and the goals of my clients. Will I continue to refer people to BNI? Absolutely. Why? Because I know the hearts of the majority of the members. I’m sure I will always be a BNI fan. After all, it is where I learned a lot of my skill set, built meaningful connections, and I will be forever grateful.
I must admit my resignation did not come easy. It was probably the hardest, most heart wrenching decision of my career thus far. Questions plagued me. Who am I without BNI? Will I be able to maintain my credibility without BNI? Will people still seek my advice and direction? And to my delight, the answers became clearer. Who am I? I am a creative, passionate force to be reckoned with. I am a credible business woman because I always have my clients’ best interest at heart, not my pocketbook. And yes, people still look to me for business advice and counsel. The only thing that’s changing is my business address and the name of the group I have chosen to have a vested interest in. However, I will still have my clients best interest at heart meaning if BNI is a better fit for them, I will refer them rather than trying to make money off them. To me, that is the essence of being “sensitive to the feelings and rights of others.”
The attached article (at the end of this post) is my heart when it comes to working with integrity and honor. I pledge to first honor my own MBA Oath, but I also pledge to:
– “Never trample on the rights, dignity and virtue of others.
– Play an honest game that is based on ethical behavior and personal accountability.
– Let my success be based on my own potential and authentic substance.
– Realize that the higher I climb, the more personal responsibility I must assume and the greater my willingness must be to remain open to people’s suggestions, to listen and incorporate others’ ideas and to be ready to take the blame for things that don’t work out rather than shifting it onto others.
– Strive to always be considerate of the people I live and work with, so that when I do make mistakes, they will be understanding.
– Strive to keep my good reputation and dignity intact.
– Be more cooperative than competitive.
– Suggest ways to [find common ground to] collaborate on projects, tasks, activities, chores, events, etc.
– Remember cooperative approaches allow for differences of opinion, changes of mind, compromises and a way to showcase every person’s best talents at the expense of none.”
The article is attached if you’re interested to read more…How to Be Competitive in a Non-Destructive Way.
No job postings. Talent community. Corporate insider. More human interaction. Google hangouts. Biweekly tweetchats. Relationship building. Interests and skills. Hire for attitude and personality. Matches. Connections. All these are buzz phrases you will likely hear more and more as the workforce landscape continues to morph and change in the 21st Century.
Information technology and recessions have allowed, encouraged, and in some cases, forced entrepreneurship, globalization, organizational restructuring, and a diversified workforce unlike anything we have ever seen in the past. More women are working, more dual-income families exist, and even post-retirement individuals are taking on jobs.
Enter Millennials. According to an article written by Joan Snyder Kuhl, this generation (aka generation Y) are 80 million strong in the U.S. alone. They are the most educated, the most diverse, and have different talents and needs than other generations. According to the Pew Research Center, “millennials will be roughly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020 and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2030.” What’s disturbing about these numbers is according to a 2011 Gallup survey the unemployment rate among this group remains at 30 percent.
With Baby boomers aggressively retiring, employers will experience huge gaps of expertise and talent if they don’t start engaging millennials now. There are no other options – millennials are the future – no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If companies want to continue to be innovative and attract and keep future talent, now is the time to include millennials in their future business strategy. Your company’s culture, management style, and onboarding practices must appeal to them. Google and Apple are prime examples of companies who are already excelling at this. Zappos is not far behind and has stepped out of the proverbial job board box with their “No Job Postings” recruiting approach.
In June 2014, Dr. John Sullivan examined Zappos’ approach with his “Innovation or Craziness” article. While the article is lengthy, it does provide Zappos (and any other company looking to introduce a new approach to recruiting) some food for thought. The “potential problems” he discusses somewhat outweigh the “advantages,” so the approach will likely continue to be tweaked as they seek to build relationships and make talent connections.
1stGig is a company which takes the “No Job Postings” approach a step further. The online recruitment solution is a career matchmaking system for employers and college students. Today’s future graduates care about a company’s vibe and values, and companies want candidates who fit their culture and requirements. 1stGig separates early career building from job hunting by allowing students to begin networking well before graduation based on shared interests instead of current job openings. The concept is to build a talent pool of like-minded individuals from which to begin crafting roles for the future. The proprietary algorithm works 24/7/365, delivering a constant stream of potential talent based on career profile matches which are 100% pre-qualified and pre-screened.
1stGig allows employers to build talent communities that they (like Zappos) can engage with before a career opportunity is even on the table. Employers simply identify specific areas within the company that would benefit from having a pool of talent to reach out to and then create profiles of what is required for those areas. Once matches are made, employers can invite them into conversations via social media, on-site career days, etc. Having people who are engaged in conversations and who are familiar with employer brands is a great way to extend a career opportunity when the time is right. As these communities share their ideas, concerns, and questions, confidence and synergy is created. When it’s time to hire and onboard, employers already know people within the talent communities thus enabling them to choose the people who best fit their criteria. People who are willing to fully engage with an employer without any promise of a job are the ones who will likely stay for the long haul and fully contribute to the bottom line once an offer is extended.
Congratulations to those companies who are embracing the interests and needs of our up and coming young professionals. As you begin to make connections and build relationships with this group, you will discover creative ideas, innovation, entrepreneurial spirits, and a work ethic that wishes to connect and learn and discover and be recognized for their individuality. Embrace the changes. Make the connections. Discover the possibility of the future.
Some may consider the writing and review of a resume to be compared to the pain and unfairness of life the prince bemoaned in his opening soliloquy of the Nunnery Scene in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. To the delight of these “Prince Hamlets,” some forward thinkers and futurists think that LinkedIn will eventually replace the resume. However, according to Glassdoor, you need both. They compare the resume and LinkedIn profile as a marriage of sorts, creating “a beautiful career communications union” while maintaining independence where values and personality are concerned.
Conversely, Workfolio claims their web application is the resume of the future. Bloomberg TV recently featured an interview with Workfolio founder and CEO Charles Pooley, who claims that 90% of first impressions are now made online and that “self promotion is the new self preservation.” To help the viewing audience understand why their application is effective and catching the attention of hiring managers, Pooley provides some pretty dismal statistics:
- 70% of job openings are never published
- On average, 150-300 resumes are submitted for each posted job position
- A typical job search takes 8 months
And as if that cloudy forecast isn’t enough, consider the recent survey results published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on how HR professionals view resumes. Work experience gaps on a resume often result in automatic disqualification, even when there may be valid rationale behind them, especially in the cases for individuals pursuing ventures not directly related to their career or military veterans transitioning back to civilian life. And while job-tailored, chronologically ordered resumes tend to get noticed first, your resume could likely get overlooked as 76% of recruiters spend less than 5 minutes reviewing a resume to determine if the candidate is qualified for a job opening.
So what can you do to make yourself visible to employers? Should you create resume or not? We live in a highly digital, global village now where lines are blurred and boundaries are open with limitless possibilities. Hedge your bets by taking advantage of the fact that both resumes and online presence are important, but prioritize your digital presence, as many experts predict this is the future of the career hunt. 1stGig is a forward-thinking company who encourages employers to embrace the digital world that college kids immerse their lives in. Likewise, VetsBridge alleviates the often grueling task of resume writing for veterans who have possibly been deployed for extended periods of time and are now looking for civilian work.
While 1stGig and VetsBridge will likely always appreciate the value of a resume of sorts (and encourages everyone to have one on hand for discussions that take place after the initial match), the proprietary recruiting model challenges employers to focus on “career opportunity profiles” which are then 100% matched with an individual’s interests and skills to encourage a conversation to meet some pretty awesome undiscovered talent.
What’s great about focusing on the career opportunity instead? This allows both employers and potentials for these careers to focus on a longer term picture when considering opportunities. Recruiters can start building a flow of candidates and have conversations about opportunities before a “role” even opens up at the company. Maybe this helps shape a role that’s not yet created, playing to the ideal candidate’s skills and experiences. And for potentials, this allows them to step back, get clear about who they are, what they’re seeking, and pursue matches that are more than just any last resort, entry-level role.
We like to call it #FireTheResume.
Often times, it is love (or acceptan…ce) that is being sought and we fear that if we say “no” we will somehow nullify those two things in our lives. But that is not true, because as I told a friend today, “love just is…it is not something deserved,” so basically we can quit trying to earn it. Instead of working feverishly to prove we are worthy enough, start learning to recognize what love looks like (I choose to base my definition of love on I Corinthians 13), and then begin to practice love in those ways and surround ourselves with people who reciprocate love in those ways.
When we begin loving people with the I Corinthians 13 model and actually start receiving love in that way as well, we begin to realize that “no” is not a bad word. In fact, it begins separating out and pushing away those things that drain us and keep us from feeling alive.
I used to be afraid to tell people “no.” I used to think they would be disappointed in me or judge me or feel as if I didn’t care about them. Today, I am probably a rip roaring “no-addict” (ha) because I am fiercely protective over my time, my mind, and my heart. It is what keeps me sane and alive and in tune with the things I am supposed to be doing and the people I am supposed to be helping.
Here’s a practice run for you: “Hey, can you do…….?”
Your response: “No, but thank you SO much for thinking about me. I know you’ll find the right person for that!”