Posts Tagged ‘networking’

First of all, WHAT is it?

Fuzzy Logic is an approach to computing based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false” (1 or 0, on or off) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. It was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s as he was working on the problem of computer’s understanding natural language. Generally speaking, most computers are literal – they always do what we ask, not what we mean – while human beings are a bit “Fuzzier” in our ways of communicating and interacting.

Fuzzy Job Hunting implies that there is No One Distinct, Guaranteed, Always Successful Method for achieving meaningful employment. Employment search and career development is a moving target, requiring continuous action, adjustment, revision, sometimes even radical change in what you do and how you do it! This “Fuzzy” approach may relate to your vocational targets, your actions, your thought processes – everything involved in the career development and job-search process.

Let’s take a look at WHY you should employ Fuzzy Job Hunting.

1.   It will increase activity.

That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is quite true. There is however, another phrase: “paralysis by analysis.” In a desire to have your act completely together, your resume absolutely perfect, your career target razor sharp, your employment search plan mapped out in 15-minute increments, you may never get started. Fuzzy Job Hunting encourages you to get an inkling of what and where and start moving. Laser-guided job search can create strategic and efficient action, if you ever come up with “The Target!” In the meantime, you are mired in the morass of planning the best course of action and end up going nowhere.

I like to think of this as selecting a basic direction for movement – Northerly, for example. As you move ahead, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll end up going Northeast or North / Northwest, but at least you’ll be moving in a direction that is generally correct! If you never strike out in a direction, you’ll never see any sights at all!

2.   It will create opportunities.

I once heard that “If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit the mark.” Well said! As noted above, pick a direction and start moving. Fuzzy Job Hunting creates the potential for Serendipity, “the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident” (The American Heritage Dictionary). Things happen when you are in action.

As Barbara Sher said in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” When your job hunt is “Fuzzy,” you tend to move more, get more visible, interact with more people, create more networking opportunities. Oh, sure, some of this may appear to be a waste of time, but how do you decide where the best contacts should be made? Many of my clients have found the most productive contacts they ever made came from the most unlikely of sources. Fuzzy Job Hunting gives you the chance to discover and be discovered.

3.   It will introduce new perspectives.

As open-minded as you are, there is no way to have much of a viewpoint on reality other than your own. As you employ your Fuzzy Tactics, you will get introduced to new ideas, new alternatives and other ways to look at things. Do you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant? They each approached the animal from a different vantage point. One touched the elephant’s side and declared, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second reached out to the animal’s leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” The third tugged on the elephant’s tail and stated, “You are both wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Finally, the forth reached out and touched the beast’s trunk, declaring, “None of you knows what you are talking about! An elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Who was right? They all were, each from their distinct perspective! The Fuzzy Job Hunt works much the same way by allowing you to benefit from the views of others. Each person you meet will have a slightly different slant, evaluating things from another side. Take advantage of their perspective.

4.   It will provide results.

Fuzzy Job Hunting increases activity, visibility and alternatives. I’ve said it before and will say it again: the traditional approach to the job market is chaotic and ineffective. It does not work particularly well, either for employers or for job seekers. The vast majority of job-search success (at least 85%) is through “nontraditional” methods, such as research, networking, social media, volunteering, etc. There is no better way to tap into the “hidden job market” than by thinking and acting “Fuzzily.”

So sharpen up your career development to be more “fuzzy!”

Sorry for YELLING in all caps, but I have heard this phrase too many times to ignore it. spider webHere are some corollaries:

“Do I HAVE to do it?”

“What if I don’t KNOW anyone!?”

“I HATE it! My experience should speak for itself!”

We constantly read about networking. It’s the secret to cracking into the “Hidden Job Market,” whatever that is. Yet most of us don’t have a clue how to do it. What’s more, the vast majority of us are likely to be either frightened or disgusted by the thought of “influence peddling” to get what we really want and deserve – an opportunity to do a good job, have a career for a fair wage.

Why do most of us find networking so awful? Is there a networking secret, a clandestine handshake that one can learn to open the door to Career Nirvana?

No, not really. There are, however, some significant misunderstandings and misapplications of this unfairly maligned process that need to be addressed before I move on to the how-to portion of our little discussion. I liket to call them Networking Myths.

Networking Myth #1

Networking is dead. People have been using it for so long that no one has time to talk to anyone anymore. They know you’re looking for a job or a killer lead and don’t have one for you. Go away!

Nope, networking isn’t dead. If it doesn’t work, it may be that you don’t understand the very nature of the networking process. To be sure, there are people out there who have abused the process, wasting others’ time and manipulating relationships to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t network both effectively and professionally.

Networking Myth #2

Networking is telling everyone, everywhere, all the time, that you need a job or a new career. Don’t stop until someone gives in and hires you. The more people that know you are out of work or dissatisfied with your career, the higher the likelihood that someone will help you.

Wrong again! Telling everyone you need a new job is a good way to start a career as a hermit. Most people will not be aware of opportunities right away and are likely to feel that they are “put upon” to help you. What is more, they may actually feel that they can “catch” your unhappy (un)employment status. It’s much more effective (and positive) to seek information and advice instead of job leads.

Networking Myth #3

Networking is pretending to be interested in people until they like you, then going for the vocational jugular. Ask them for a job while you have them warmed up.

Oh, please – people are smarter than that! Individuals who try to practice this mangled type of networking will soon be “blacklisted” by every potential networkee out there. A genuine desire to learn from others is the only way to make networking work for you.

Networking Myth #4

Networking is the ultimate answer. It’s not what you know, it’s WHOM you know.

Wrong again! Although extraordinarily effective, networking is only a part of the employment search process. It’s a very important part, to be sure, and something that should command a large percentage of your time. The what / who you know issue is an important one. If you have nothing to offer, and know everyone out there, you are likely to remain dead in the water. Conversely, if you are replete with knowledge and ability and are a complete unknown, you will also be vocationally adrift. Networking allows you to create the “positive visibility” you need to discover and identify opportunities.

Networking Myth #5

You need to have killer contacts, people in the corridors of power with whom you are on a first-name basis to be an effective networker.

Sorry, not true. My experience has shown that the most effective networking contacts are frequently NOT first generation contacts (the first person you talk to), but typically referrals from that contact or people that you you’ve not talked to in some time. My clients have also found that many of their best results come from people who would not appear to be at the top of the corporate ladder, people “in the trenches.” This is not to say that networking with movers and shakers is a waste of time, but that effective networking with all sizes and shapes of people from diverse walks of life has the potential to yield extraordinary results.

Networking Myth #6

Networking is a means to an end. Once you have a job, you can cut out all of this networking nonsense.

Try again! Networking, the exchange of ideas and opinions, the give and take of sharing perspectives, should be a lifelong endeavor. Developing and growing your network throughout your work and life (networking does not have to relate only to employment) will continue to enrich you personally and professionally, while providing opportunities for you to help others.

The Key to Effective Networking

Give and take. Listen and talk. Any networking session you leave without offering something in return is not a good one. Phone calls and e-mails also count, by the way. Building relationships through constantly cultivating and expanding your network not only allows you to stay plugged into the world of work and beyond, it provides opportunities for you to give back to your networkees (and others) in appreciation for all of the help that you’ve received.

So, GET NETWORKING! (Yes, I AM yelling again!)

A cartoon I have in my files shows two forlorn individuals dressed in tattered business suits walking down the street. One turns to the other and opines,Reverse shiftI think it IS who you know . . . and I know YOU!”

Although networking is always a key topic in job search and career development, precious few of us really enjoy the process very much. We do, however, grudgingly admit that it must be done if we want to get anywhere in our work and life.

I have discussed at some length WHY networking is important and even provided some guidance on WHAT to do with that precious contact when you land it. Seeking information, advice and referral is the key to developing longer-term, mutually productive relationships that create “win-win” relationships rather than bold-faced influence peddling.

Let’s discuss HOW to make this magic happen. And, at the same time, to suggest a counter-intuitive technique to increase your opportunities, something I like to call “Reverse Networking.” What is this, you may ask? Before I answer that question, let’s talk a bit more about the WHY behind such a back-to-front technique.

Some time ago I read an extraordinary book, Working Identity by Dr. Herminia Ibarra. She cited a somewhat obscure reference to a 1973 research project by a then sociology graduate student, Mark Granovetter, who discovered that most of the jobs discovered by networkers (people seeking contact), came from individuals with whom they had very infrequent contact. Granovetter called this “the strength of weak ties.” The numbers are staggering: of people finding work through personal contact, 17% found jobs through people they knew well (strong ties), 55% found their new positions through individuals they did not know as well (weak ties) and 28% were successful through contacts that they barely knew or had not had contact with in years (weakest ties). This means that over 8 of 10 opportunities came from people that they would not typically consider! Granovetter also found that these people often found better positions for more money. The application for career and personal development is obvious!

Ibarra’s chapter titled “Shifting Connections” talks about this phenomenon as being critical in career change, although I would argue that it is equally useful in employment search and career development. If we continue to connect only with people who know us well, we get caught up in what Ibarra termed as “blinds” and “binds,” keeping us away from new experiences and opportunities.  If you continually run in the same circles, you will keep running into the same folks, the same ideas, with little opportunity for Serendipity, the surprising and exciting opportunities that seem to come out of seemingly inconsequential events. This is what Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, talks about when he says that “lucky” people not only maximize chance opportunities, they create them!

How does this relate to networking in general, and “Reverse Networking” specifically? We typically think of networking from the center out, starting with people we know well, are comfortable with, know of us and about us and network out in concentric circles to the outer fringes. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, by the way. However, I suggest adding Reverse Networking to your repertoire as well. The “reverse” theme implies just what it says – let’s start from the outside and work our way in!

Sounds good, eh? There is a potential glitch in the plan, however: To quote one my clients when faced with this concept, “If all of the good leads are in these ‘weak ties,’ how do you find these people?”

A great question! Well, I think I may have found them for you! Who has not seen you in a long time? Or, with whom have you lost touch from your deep, dark past? Your list could include: old neighbors, former coworkers, high school and college teachers, college roommates, distant relatives, former bosses, acquaintances from service groups, associations, hobby organizations, places of worship, etc. If you have not spoken to someone in some time and that person is likely to remember who you are, that’s a good place to start. The use of social networking applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be particularly helpful in finding out “whatever happened to…?”.

One more word of warning, however. If you aren’t well versed in the science of networking (that is, seeking Information-Advice-Referral, not working them exclusively for your personal advantage), DON’T CALL ANYONE! Be sure you know how to connect with people positively and effectively, establishing solid, active contacts for collaboration and shared insights. Otherwise, you will soon find your email in spam, you will be “unfriended” and your calls blocked (and rightfully so!).

Please allow me to add one more insight:  Remember that your “weaker ties” have “weaker ties” of their own!

Dizzying, isn’t it?

Christmas ballsAs the holiday season bears down on us all, the pressing questions for the job hunter/careerist are: Should I take a break? Is anything really going to happen in the job market before the New Year? Don’t I deserve a respite from this brutal process and relax by the fire with eggnog?

Well, yes and no. To be sure, taking some time during the holidays to enjoy the delights of the season and appreciate those around you is an excellent idea. This is certainly NOT the time to pull out the plastic and run up a tab with the retail industry, but having a sensible, enjoyable holiday time with family and friends is something you DO deserve.

That being said, please allow me to make a case for maintaining a certain level of activity between now and the waning din of the noisemakers on the first day of the New Year.

  1. There is no better time to network.

The holidays represent an extraordinary number of opportunities to see and be seen by family, friends and folks from all over. It would be foolish to not consider all of this “face time” as a resource to increase your “Positive Visibility.” Please understand the importance of your attitude and approach, however. Nothing can put the damper on a festive gathering more quickly than someone who is pumping the crowd for job leads, or who has the “deer in the headlights” look of someone whose career is stalled! Be sure to focus your contact with others in a positive manner, seeking information, advice and referral to investigate and consider alternatives. Remember that most individuals truly would like to help, but are at a loss on how to be of assistance. Allow them the luxury of simply giving advice rather than 1) feeling pressed to deliver that killer contact for you or 2) staring through you to someone, anyone at the other side of the room. My experience has been that, in such cases, most people will choose Door Number 2!

An additional word of warning: be sure that your solicitation of “next step” options and advice is not the first question on your list, nor is it the only item of conversation. Ease into these topics. Ask how they are doing, what is new in their lives. Show honest, genuine interest and concern for them as people, not as networking contacts. Also, help them realize that you are in the investigation mode, not desperate for a pay stub or a lead to that next great promotion.

  1. Many decision makers are at home, not on the road.

One of the challenges of job search and networking is navigating through the maze of individuals who need to participate in any decisions being made. In mid-August, for example, it is often difficult to get the right people in the same room (or even in the same state) long enough to give their opinions, since Smitty is at Myrtle Beach and Ms. Jones just left for New England. This is not as true during the holidays!

Many people will be staying nearer to home, traveling less and becoming more accessible. Although staffing issues may not be at the top of the holiday list, there are still decisions being made, perhaps even more quickly due to the availability of decision-makers. In addition, the end of the year is often the time when budgets are being reviewed and finalized, and new business plans are starting to take shape. Remember: The best time to get connected is always the present!

  1. Your competition may be reduced.

This is one of my personal favorites! Many of your fellow careerists may decide that this is simply not the time to think career at all (for all of the reasons we recounted earlier) and mothball their power suits until the New Year. As a result, there is high potential that your competition will dwindle. Why not take advantage of this “thinning of the field” to forge ahead? As others decide not to take any action until early next year, your well-placed voicemail, LinkedIn update, tweet or short e-mail may improve your standing. After all, in the wild and woolly world of careers, you need to work every opportunity to your advantage!

  1. Most individuals are more open to being helpful at this time.

Admittedly, this will not always be the case. Certainly I would not recommend an intense networking contact at the checkout counter on Christmas Eve! It is true, however, that many are more full of the “milk of human kindness,” more willing to share and provide honest insights and assistance to a well-placed question or request.

  1. Pace yourself!

Now that I’ve made my unassailable arguments for burning up the snow-covered pavement with your career development, I want to introduce the other side of the issue – it IS the Holidays! Be sure to take time to care for you and yours, to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings. And perhaps, even sip a flagon of eggnog at least once in front of a crackling fire! Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and yours!

Social Media IconsThat IS the question for many of us — careerists, employers and employees. And the answer is not as simple as it may appear to be.

Can time be wasted, hours of unproductive time spent posting mundane (What are you doing right now?) notes on any of these online programs. That answer is easy – YES!

…not to mention the possibility of sharing confidential information, posting inappropriate content or leaving something out in cyberspace where you have limited control over who reads it. Oh, I know there are privacy settings and related controls to reduce this possibility, but my rule of thumb has always been to assume that anyone may bump into your digital musings (your mother, your boss, etc.) and I type (or text) accordingly!

Even with these caveats, many reputable organizations are creating Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) for social networking applications, fully aware that they are true opportunities for their appropriate and professional use. I have  had the opportunity to speak to universities, professional networking groups, Human Resource organizations, etc. on the potential use of applications the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as bona fide business tools.

Here are a few examples of how Social Networking could benefit:

  • Seeking real world, almost immediate feedback from peers, customers, contacts on “what’s happening,” their perspectives, insights and thoughts.
  • Providing collaborative opportunities with peers in virtually every extant industry or disciplines that’s in existence.
  • Opening up a communication channel to interact with others any where in the world.
  • Creating an on-line presence for you or your organization that enhances your “Brand” in the marketplace.

Do these potential benefits have their downside? Most certainly, but in this global, digital age, failure to consider the appropriate use of some of these potentially troublesome applications may leave you out in the cold!

First of all, WHAT is it?

Fuzzy Job Hunting (or Career Development) is a term I’ve coined, based upon the computer process known as Fuzzy Logic.Fuzzy Dice Fuzzy logic is an approach to computing based on “degrees of truth” rather than the usual “true or false” (1 or 0, on or off) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. It was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s as he was working on the problem of computer’s understanding natural language. Computers are literal – they always do what we ask, not what we mean – while human beings are a bit “Fuzzier” in our ways of communicating and interacting.

Fuzzy Job Hunting implies that there is No One Distinct, Guaranteed, Always Successful Method for achieving meaningful employment or career satisfaction. Career Development is a moving target, requiring continuous action, adjustment, revision, sometimes even radical change in what you do and how you do it! This “Fuzzy” approach may relate to your vocational targets, your actions, your thought processes – everything involved in the career development and job-search process.

Let’s take a look at WHY you should employ Fuzzy Job Hunting.

1.   It will increase activity.

That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is quite true. There is however, another phrase: “paralysis by analysis.” In a desire to have your act completely together, your resume absolutely perfect, your career path target razor sharp, your employment search plan mapped out in 15-minute increments, you may never get started. Fuzzy Job Hunting encourages you to get an inkling of what and where and start moving. Laser-guided job search can create strategic and efficient action, if you ever come up with The Target! In the meantime, you are mired in the morass of planning the best course of action and end up going nowhere.

I like to think of this as selecting a basic direction for movement – Northernly, for example. As you move ahead, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll end up going Northeast or North/Northwest (with apologies to Alfred Hitchcock!), but at least you’ll be moving in a direction that is generally correct! If you never strike out in a direction, you’ll never see any sights at all!

2.   It will create opportunities.

I once heard that “If you aim at nothing, you will surely hit the mark.” Well said! As noted above, pick a direction and start moving. Fuzzy Job Hunting creates the potential for Serendipity, “the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident” (The American Heritage Dictionary). Things happen when you are in action.

As Barbara Sher wrote in I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, “The amount of good luck that comes your way depends on your willingness to act.” When your job hunt is “Fuzzy,” you tend to move more, get more visible, interact with more people, create more networking opportunities. Oh, sure, some of this may appear to be a waste of time, but how do you decide where the best contacts should be made? Many of my clients have found the most productive contacts they ever made came from the most unlikely of sources. Fuzzy Job Hunting gives you the chance to discover and be discovered.

3.   It will introduce new perspectives.

As open-minded as you are, there is no way to have much of a viewpoint on reality other than your own. As you employ your Fuzzy Tactics, you will get introduced to new ideas, new alternatives and other ways to look at things. Do you remember the story of the four blind men and the elephant? They each approached the animal from a different vantage point. One touched the elephant’s side and declared, “An elephant is like a wall.” The second reached out to the animal’s leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” The third tugged on the elephant’s tail and stated, “You are both wrong. An elephant is like a rope.” Finally, the forth reached out and touched the beast’s trunk, declaring, “None of you knows what you are talking about! An elephant is exactly like a snake!”

Who was right? They all were, each from their distinct perspective. The Fuzzy Job Hunt works much the same way by allowing you to benefit from the views of others. Each person you meet will have a slightly different slant, evaluating things from another side. Take advantage of their perspective.

4.   It will provide results.

Fuzzy Job Hunting increases activity, visibility and alternatives. I’ve said it before and will say it again: the traditional approach to the job market is chaotic and ineffective. It does not work particularly well, either for employers or for job seekers. The vast majority of job-search success (at least 85%) is through “nontraditional” methods, such as research, networking, social media, volunteering, etc. There is no better way to tap into the “hidden job market” than by thinking and acting “Fuzzily.”

Yogi Berra“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

One of a panoply of “Yogi-isms,” this pithy comment has direct application to a successful job hunt. “How can this be?” you say?…. Consider some of these “antique” employment search techniques:

Phone Calls – With the invention of and annoyingly universal use of email, many of our contact requests are lost to inboxes, buried in the ever increasing piles of digital missives, a majority of which may exist only because the sender hit “Reply all.” Here’s a thought: Why not pick up the phone and CALL?!

Faxes – How many faxes do you receive in this day of email, IM, Skype requests, texts, etc.? Very few, I suspect. Individuals that are loathe to respond to these ever increasing list of messaging systems are likely to be intrigued by receiving a fax, something akin to a message delivered by the Pony Express!

Showing Up – Here’s a radical idea: put on your best job search outfit, pack your resume in a portfolio and walk in the front door to introduce yourself to a company of interest. You’ll stand out more that someone showing up in a jump suit juggling chain saws! To be sure, there’s no guarantee that anyone will have time to see you, but there is also the possibility that someone will! Also, remember to be polite and appreciative to those you meet as you enter the building – they are your first chance to make a positive impression (and they deserve your respect).

Drive By Job Hunting – This may be my favorite. When you are working, you typically see only two things: your parking spot in the company lot and your driveway when you mercifully arrive home. Between these two locales is what is called your “commute.” This commute likely passes other companies, organizations, industrial parks, etc. where opportunities could exist. Take the time to notice them and invest time in checking them out. By the way, this should be your practice whenever you are in travel mode (even by foot).

A CAVEAT – It is true that the vast majority of positions come through networking and you should invest the bulk of your time in this practice. However, to quote psychologist Abraham Maslow: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Consider adding some of these arcane techniques to your employment search toolbox. They just may yield results!