Top Notch Connections

May 31st, 2009

Whether in the process of advancing or transitioning, even the “old boy’s network” is networking challenged according to a recent Forbes on line post.  Check out stories and clips of several CEO’s techniques for keeping abreast and in touch through mutual interests, technology, and board and organizational memberships.

Those of you who are in transition and trying to break through to top level leaders are most likely finding that getting a meeting is no longer as simple as grabbing a meal or even a quick cup of coffee.  Time-challenges, information overload and leaders’ immediate demands require some brilliant and creative guerrilla tactics, as mentioned in the April 13th issue of Fortune Magazine,  “How to Find a Job”.

Is face to face networking still viable and necessary or even possible, you may ask.  It is clear that social networking and business on line listings and linking are part of most of our daily interaction.  And, we all know the importance of a strong support system and how critical it is to network before we “need” to.  Many of my clients have defaulted to email, instant messaging, and even twittering to inform or stay in touch.  But these modes do not create the dialogue, context and texture of voice and visual cues so critical for bonding and nuance. The trend toward job seekers’ participation in  self-help groups that replace job fairs or supplement outplacement programs supports the evidence that we all still seek physical contact and face-to-face conversing.
A recent story in the NY Times, “Where Gifts and Stories Are Crucial to Survival,”, truly depicts the magic of personal connections.  The !Kung people, a very primitive culture in Southern Africa, have survived hard times through a structured tradition of caring about each other.  Especially when they are separated for years and great distances, members of this culture demonstrate that they keep others in their hearts by constructing stories and giving gifts….and then personally visiting to make sure the other is aware of the care and concern.
Think about the healing effect of being held in such high esteem that someone else, living at the edge of survival, takes the time to  remember you, seeks you out and reminds you how important you are to them through a shared history or an artifact created in your honor. The gesture of reaching out,  offering something to sooth, inform or support is quite compelling; it can be life saving.

Sometimes, in our modern world we overlook ways that connections of history, community and caring also keep us alive.  We are often so focused on getting things done and what we need from others that we forget about the power of simply showing someone else true consideration. A  simple example  would be to focus on what mutually matters to you and your connections.  Or, think first about their problems, elicit their concerns and then respond with how you might offer to help. These are the elements that bond people together, creating lasting allies and friends.

Recently, I have had the honor of speaking with professional and industry groups about career advancement and transition techniques in this very much changed workplace. In the Q+A, invariably participants express concern about in person networking as an imposition or as appearing to be “begging” for favors.  In response to this reticence, I offer a shift in thinking.  Be like the !Kungs who stay connected through offering something to others in a way that honors them in meaningful and mutual ways with an abiding generosity.
For example, you can be:

Gracious: Always have a specific reason to reach out that will consider their needs  as well as yours.  Act as a thoughtful host, invite your contacts’ opinions, elicit their interests, engage them in interesting dialogue.

Grateful: Demonstrate your appreciation.  When people have taken time to speak with you, and particularly when they have met with you, go beyond the perfunctory thank you note to mention specifically what they did or said that will be helpful. Reminding others of how they helped, will create a desire in them to help you more.

Giving: Think of something that will be helpful to your contacts.  When reading an article, meeting someone, learning of a new tool or idea  that would help your contact personally or professionally, let them know.  Do this without an agenda. Do it just to be thoughtful. Provide value with every encounter.

Generative: Introduce your contacts to each other.  Tell them about other interesting people. Get people who have no time to initiate networking meetings together. Be a relationship magnet.  Have a party and invite people of like interests or industries to share with each other. Brainstorm about professional or industry challenges.  You might solve some…or you might think of a new career direction…or even start a business together!

You can read more about ways to transition, advance and stay effective in recently published Executive Career Guides at:   www.notime4theories.com

I look forward to your feedback on how this works for you.

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