Category Archives: Networking

Onboard Yourself

Onboarding

Onboarding is the process that organizations use to get their employees up to speed enough to do their jobs.  Another term for it is “organizational socialization.”  Organizations have informal and formal methods for the knowledge transfer or processes, tools, methods, culture and introductions that is sufficient for the employee to be effective in his/her new job.  I’ve seen really good onboarding and really horrible onboarding.

The best onboarding I ever experienced personally was as a consultant when I was going to work for a group of consultants.   The onboarding was a combination of providing me with detailed “playbooks” of how the organization did its work and of having me spend intense time with each team of consultants to see/understand how they put the playbook into action.  I traveled weekly for my onboarding and in three weeks’ time, I felt that I understood the whole and was fully able to go do it myself.  It was the combination of the intensity, the excellent documentation, and the seeing it all in action—including being given tasks I didn’t know how to do, but being surrounded by people who could/would help me.

I’ve had so many “worst” onboardings that it is hard to pick just one.  They range from putting me in a room with a year’s worth of reading and leaving me to read for two weeks to putting me at a desk and spending less than 10 minutes telling me what to do and walking away, never to return.  I think that I eventually did OK, even at the jobs with these onboardings, but the time it took to get me up to speed and to be productive was vastly different.

I finally decided that I needed to take responsibility for my own onboarding.  As a consultant, it is critical that I hit the ground running and know enough in a week to make a difference.  If I wait for people (who all have other jobs and many of whom are not sure they want me here, anyway) to tell me what/how/when/why in the organization, then I will fail.  These processes can apply for anyone, in any job, including people who have been in the job for a long time.

DIY Onboarding

Steps to Your Own Onboarding:

  • Make a Plan:  Identify what you want to accomplish and how fast.  You have a fairly short period of time before people get over you being new and expect you to “do” something.  They are very open to questions in the early days; they think you’re dumb if you’re still asking questions later (even then, you need to ask questions to learn—deal with what they think).  Who do you need to know?  What do you need to know?  What do you need to be able to do?  Ask people what they think you need to do to be successful.  Then put in place a plan that gets you there.  Fast.
  •  Meet People:  Meet people at every level.  Set up meetings.  Invite people to lunch or breakfast.  Accept all invitations.  Learn the power structures.  Learn the informal networks.  Learn the ‘go to’ people.  Learn the whiners.  Learn who to listen to and who to avoid.  The only way to do that is to throw yourself into meeting people.  (Even introverts need to do this)  Ask people to help you.  Ask people who you should meet.  Ask people who helped them when they started.  Target someone to be a mentor in this process and ask for his/her help.
  •  Figure Out the Tools:  Luckily, today most organizations use the same fundamental tools—the Microsoft Office suite plus SharePoint.  If the organization uses different/other tools, however, learn these as soon as possible.  Learn Oracle, Salesforce.com, EPDM, or whatever other tool your organization uses.  You need to understand it and be conversant in its strengths and weaknesses.  (Every tool you learn makes you more marketable—use the opportunity of being new to dive in and learn new tools).
  •  Understand the Culture:  Every organization has its own culture.  This is like the water the fish swim in—the people inside the organization are not very aware of it consciously, but it shapes all behavior unconsciously.  When you’re new is the only time you can actually “see” the culture.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming it is like the culture you just came from.  Just because engineers are the dominant players in the new culture as they were in the old, there will be huge differences.  Learn these differences with “new eyes.”  Learn what the organization thinks about what makes success, who are the people who seem to “get it.”  What are they like?  How much does the leader shape the organization?  Is the founder still there?  How long since the founder was there?  What are the left over influences from that?  (These are frequently the things that don’t seem to make sense because they started a long time ago but are still there).  Write down your observations of the culture.  Make a mind map.  How does the culture influence the way that you will get your work done?  How can you use the culture to be more effective?
  •  Learn the Product/Customers/Processes:  Become an expert.  Take all the classes you can.  (Organizations frequently have classes for new sales people that are available to others).  Ask people about the processes.  Become best friends with the Intranet.  What’s there and what can you learn from what’s there?  What do others outside the organization say?  What do people in the organization say in reaction?  Everyone in every part of the organization needs to thoroughly understand the Product and the Customers.  You need to at least understand the processes in your own organization and those that take product to market and get money to the bank.  Like I said, BECOME AN EXPERT.
  •  Take Actions:  You have a very short window before people start to see action.  Look for opportunities to take early action.  It is better to be right about these actions, so be careful—but not too careful.  Action is better than no action, even if you make mistakes.  Ask your boss and peers what kinds of actions they are expecting from you and deliver them as soon as possible.

 Good Books That Help With This:

The First 90 Days, Critical Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels  byMichael Watkins

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by George Bradt, Jamye Check, and Jorge Pedrassa

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Hi Po, Leadership, Networking, Recession Proof, Success, Time Management, Uncategorized

How to Increase Your Visibility in Your Organization

Who Knows Who You Are?

One of the most important things to realize as you work your way up the ladder at your organization is that other people are rarely as aware of you as you think.  You work hard.  You deliver great results.  You deliver more projects/faster/better than anyone else.  The Powers-That-Be rarely are aware of the nitty gritty detail of who does what to get the results.  Your manager may not even be as aware of what you’re doing/delivering as you think.  Your peers may think they had as much to do with what you delivered as you do.  This is not malicious–it’s human nature.  We live in our own little world and we filter out that which is not most important.  Other people’s accomplishments are rarely as important to us as our own.

Stand Out In Your Organization

How Do You Do It?

Tell people what you’ve done.  Find a way that is comfortable for you to tell what you’ve accomplished.  You know how to do this with friends and family.  Use the techniques you used when you were dating–figure out how to make it interesting and not narcissistic.  Leaders find out who is doing well through being told.  It has to start with you.

Seek out and volunteer for projects. Make sure your leadership knows you are willing and capable when the organization needs someone to step up and make things happen.

Figure out how to get your manager and your peers to be advocates for you.  The best way to do this is to be advocates for them. They will likely mirror your behavior.  Don’t be afraid to ask for support from your boss or peers to advocate for you being on a project or recommending you.

Make sure key executives (not just your own) know who you are.  Figure out a way for them to know your work.  One of the best ways to do this is to volunteer for projects in other executives’ areas of responsibility.  In other words, be your department’s representative on cross-departmental projects.

Be involved outside your job, especially in organizations where  senior leaders participate. Attend and volunteer in professional organizations.  Make sure your organizational leadership knows about your successes in these outside organizations.

Speak up.  If you don’t contribute to the conversation, people think you can’t/don’t know anything.  They don’t make any more thorough analysis than that. If you aren’t speaking up because you don’t think you have anything clever to contribute, the good news is that people don’t judge what you say too closely.  So, they do judge when you don’t talk, and they don’t judge the quality of what you say very harshly.  Go figure.  But speak up.

Become an expert.

Build your expertise.  Within your organization, become THE expert on something.  Be the ‘go-to’ person for that subject. Stay current in your expertise so people know you are the one who will know when something changes.

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Work As We Know It Is Changing–Get Ready!

That Was Then

My maternal grandmother went to work when she was thirteen years old at a china factory that made dishes for hotels and restaurants and, eventually, naval ships.  She stayed in a rental room with her two-year-older sister during the week and went home on the weekends.  She got married when she was seventeen and continued to work at the factory sporadically.  She was very good at what she did.  She was a Master Painter and she supported her family of eight during the Depression by painting.  It never occurred to her that that factory wouldn’t always be there, but when she was forty-seven the plant went out of business, taking hundreds of jobs with it.

Carr China Grafton WV

China from Carr China

My paternal grandfather spent his entire professional life at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, most of it as engineer driving passenger trains.  He told my father not to go to work for the railroad, because it wasn’t going to last.  The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad went out of business three years after my grandfather retired–taking hundreds of jobs with it.

Baltimore & Ohio Passenger Train

B&O Passenger Train

My mother’s cousin was forced to retire from the steel mill when he was fifty years old.  He wrote about it in an article published in the Beaver County (Pa) Times, “Now time has changed again, old friend [the steel mill] and now times are not certainly in your favor.  I am reasonably certain that my sons will never know you as I have but you can be sure I will tell them your story and how finally you were befallen by so many uncontrollable factors, and how you, who meant so much to so many, now sit mostly idle as wind whistles through your empty buildings; your coke batteries, your blast furnaces and continuous caster are now cold, dark, and silent.”  And hundreds of jobs gone.

Steel Mill in Pennsylvania

Steel Mill in Aliqiuppa, Pa

You may have similar stories from your grandparents, parents and even from your own experience.  This is happening to us.  Companies and work as we know it are changing irrevocably.  It’s sad.  There is a lot to grieve.  There are things you can do about it, though, so when YOUR company and YOUR job change, you land on your feet.

This Is Now

I read a couple of things over the weekend that discuss something that I’m seeing in the workforce among my coaching  and organizational clients. It is the next way that work will be.  The longer you don’t believe it, the louder you rail against it, the longer it will be before you are ready for the next “way we work.”  The first thing I read was  The Rise of the Supertemp by Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller in Harvard Business Review.  They describe a phenomenon that many of us have seen.  Companies are going to contract workers.  According to a McKinsey  2011 study cited in the article, 58%  of US companies surveyed are planning to increase use of temporary employees AT ALL LEVELS.   Not only are they using project, technical and finance contract workers, they are starting to hire contract Executive talent–business development, marketing, lawyers, CFOs, and even CEOs.  BOTH companies and Executives need to adjust to this new reality.

Companies need to learn how to organize work so that these Supertemps can come in and make a difference. Mostly this means that work needs to be organized into project-type work.   Executives need to package and sell themselves for this work.  The most telling thing in the Harvard article, however, is that those who have done this work DO NOT want to return to the ‘old way.’  This is true of the people I know who have done this kind of work as well.  They really like it.

Think about how you make yourself a well qualified candidate for these positions.  There are some ideas for that in the second thing I read this weekend–The Finch Effect by Nacie Carson.  Carson suggests that like Darwin’s finches, today’s workers need to evolve to adapt to the current work environment.   She points out that unlike the time it takes other species to evolve, humans can evolve their behaviors to adapt as they choose.  Her suggested strategies for adapting to the new work environment:

  • Adopt a ‘gig’ mindset: piece together a combination of contracting, consulting, and free lance work that gives you a income equal to or more than your ‘full time’ job
  • Identify your value:  this is your professional brand–it communicates intangibles like values, personality and mission
  • Cultivate your skills: you (not your company) take responsibility for growing your skills
  • Nurture your social network: use appropriate sites for appropriate messages, rebrand as necessary, communicate your brand
  • Harness your entrepreneurial energy: look at your job and skills from a position of personal responsibility, initiative and personal direction

AND you can apply all of these to you ‘real’ job.  They will help you stay in it and succeed.  And they will help you be ready for the next ‘way we work.’

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There’s Networking, and Then There’s NETWORKING

Do It Before You Need It

I started this blog out of frustration.  I had just talked to my umpteenth client/friend/student/colleague who found him/herself out of a job with a stone cold network and a total freak out about what to do.  (See my first blog post–Get Ready to Lose Your Job)  Networking definitely helps when you need to find a job.  In fact, it is probably the best tool to have in your arsenal for finding a job.  These days, a powerful network can make the difference between finding a job in weeks or months and it taking more than a year.

Networking also helps with just about everything else you might need–getting promoted, finding business opportunities, selling products, building your reputation/brand, getting answers to tough questions, staying in touch, and even finding someone to date (I’ll leave this last one to other blog writers).  You can build your network purposefully, or you can build it serendipitously, but be sure to keep building it. Remember, though, networks are about RELATIONSHIPS, not about numbers or names or tools or connections.

Serendipity

Let’s talk first about building it serendipitously.  There are marvelous tools available now that make it easy and fun.  Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ are the top tools right now, but there are many more–Plaxo, Twitter, MyLife, etc. Not being involved in a social network these days is like not having a resume or appropriate business attire.  To function in today’s business world–no matter your age or organizational position–you have to be saavy enough to be using social networks.  If you participate in these social networks–let’s say Facebook or Linkedin–and just reach out to people you know and accept invitations from people who reach out to you, you will build your network.  If you particpate in LinkedIn Groups discussions, answer questions and comment on people’s status, you will strengthen the connections/relationships.  If you share a little of who you are on Facebook and comment on friends’ posts, you will build the relationships.  It starts at one level and grows to other levels.  It has to be real.  Superficial interactions are obvious and quickly shunned.  If you do it gradually  over time, then it doesn’t take a lot of time and you have the beginnings of what you need when you need to look for a job or a promotion or business opportunities.

This serendipitous network building also has the benefit of creating a network of strong connections–you know all these people pretty well.  When you need something from these folks, you are more likely to be comfortable asking, and they are likely to respond.  Not much work/lots of potential benefit.  Why not?

Purposeful

The other way to build your network is purposefully.  This is what I recommend.  Take a look at your networks.

On Facebook using myfnetwork :

Visualize your facebook network using myfnetwork

On Linkedin using LinkedIn Maps

Visualize your network using LinkedIn Maps

What do you see?  If your networks are anything like mine (and they may not be–every network is unique), you will see people who are “hubs,” and you will see clusters.  For me, one of the interesting things about these two pictures is that some of the “hubs” of my Facebook network are on the edges of my “clusters” on LinkedIn.  This makes sense to me, because I see these as two different networks.  One is more friends and family and one is more professional.  There is strong overlap between the two, but there are lots of people on one and not the other.  The LinkedIn Maps feature allows you to label the colored clusters.  This provides you with the ability to see the relationships among the groups in your network.

Now, pull up.  Look again.  What do you see?  What is there?  What is missing?

What Do You Want From Your Network?

Do you want a job?  Do you want to make a career change?  Do you want a promotion?  Do you want to make sales?  Do you want business opportunities? Do you want venture capital money? Do you want to build your brand?

Now, based on what you want, look at your network again.  Can it get you what you want today?  What’s missing?  Professional connections in a particular field?  Venture capitalists? Senior executives at other companies?  Senior executives at your company? Are there people at all levels in organizations?  Are there people at all generations in companies?  What about geography?  Do you have a strong network in all the locations you need?

What Are You Going to Do About It?

First, let’s go old school.  On paper, or using mind mapping software, do a brain storm of who you know.  Start with the groups you belong to or are associated with.  Once you’ve listed the groups, start listing the people associated with the groups.  Who are the key players in those groups?  Who are the best connected?  Who have you talked to lately?  If you haven’t talked/connected with people, then reach out to them.  Do it via email, phone or one of the social networking sites.  Prioritize people according to the purpose of your network.

Map Your Network Worksheet

Address what is missing.  How can you reach out to people you need to be connected to in those areas that you need to grow?  Get introductions through your existing connections.  Use the helpful tools that LinkedIn provides.  Attend professional functions, follow thought leaders’ blogs and make comments.  Participate in Linkedin Groups discussions.

Create a plan on how you’re going to keep up with your network.  Do regular (but not obsessive) work to stay in touch with your existing network and to grow it.

Some Myths About Networking

  • It’s  about the numbers. IIt’s really about quality connections.
  • It’s about your connections’ job title.  Looking at the visualization of your network should show you that the ‘most’ connected people are not necessarily (and not even likely) the highest ranking.

Some Truths About Networking

  • It has to be real.
  • It takes time.
  • It’s about mutual win/win.
  • It works.

Some Books

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Selling Your Brand

Have You Thought About Your Brand?Sell Your Brand

Have you ever thought about how your boss thinks about you?  Not what he thinks, but how he thinks?  What about how the organization thinks about you? How about the top leadership in your organization? What about the folks in your professional organizations? Do you stand out in any way?  Do they think of a certain kind of expertise or talent?  Do they think of a certain kind of results?

When you think of McDonald’s you get a “picture” of what McDonald’s is.  Depending on your age and interests, that image might be different, but it pops into your mind.  The same is true of Coke, or Apple or Sears or Fanta.  You make decisions about those brands based on your values, interests, likes/dislikes, income and other demographics.  You want to be able to control (or at least strongly influence) how people think of you (your brand) when they think of you.  The more you influence your brand and the more aware you are of it, the more likely you are to be able to manage your career successfully.

How I Learned This Lesson–The Hard Way

I worked for many years in a large, rapidly growing organization.  There was a period of time when I was “stuck” in the same position for several years.  The men who had started in the organization with me were moving past me and I was standing still.  I was very confused by this. Rightly or wrongly, I rejected the idea that it was a gender thing.  I thought it was something about me.  I was VERY frustrated.  I was quite angry about it. (Although looking back on it, I’m not sure just how clear I was about what was causing my frustration.)

Our CEO had a leadership meeting and announced the formation of a trilogy of high performance projects.  He announced that the people selected to work on these projects would be those who were identified across the organization as the “best” in each of the areas.  I was thrilled.  I was the “best” at one of them.  (Ok, maybe I wasn’t really, but at the time, I was absolutely, completely, without a doubt sure of it.)  So . . . I waited for the invitation.  It didn’t come.  Someone else in my division got selected.  Someone who not only wasn’t as good at it as me, but who wasn’t even interested.  I went from being angry to being FURIOUS!  How could they announce that the ‘best’ would be selected and then not pick me!?!?!  I couldn’t let it go.  I asked my manager.  I asked the VP of HR.  They didn’t know.  I finally asked my VP.  His reaction was one of the best lessons I ever got–although not at all fun!

He was completely, genuinely surprised that I even thought I should have been selected.  It hadn’t occurred to him.  It was in this very painful way that I realized that he really didn’t know that I was the ‘best.’  The person he had selected was a charming, talented person who regularly delivered results.  He didn’t know anything about the subject matter at hand, but that didn’t really matter that much.  He was easy to get along with.  He was very competent (at other stuff).  He was charming.  He got results.  So he got picked.

I, on the other hand, was pretty much an unknown to the VP who had my career in his control.  He certainly didn’t think of me–at all.  This was completely eye opening.  And when I got over the shock of it, I got over being so mad, too.  I could see how and why he was oblivious to my strengths.  I was pretty much totally responsible for that.  I hadn’t made a point of selling my abilities to the ‘powers-that-be’ in the organization.  I hadn’t made sure that I was thought of as an expert in the organization.  Once I figured this out, I went about building my ‘brand’ in the organization.  And I got ‘unstuck’–promoted within less than a year.  And then I got promoted again.  And then again.

How do you build your brand?

  • Be an expert.  Build your expertise.  Within your organization, become THE expert on something.  Be the ‘go-to’ person for that subject.
  • Help other people.  Create mutually beneficial situations.  Create ‘organizational trade routes.’
  • Act like you’re dating. Remember back to the days when you were dating.  Somehow or other you always managed to be in the right place at the right time to ‘meet’ up with the person of interest.  You managed to ensure that s/he knew how great you were.  You managed to appear to be as smart as possible, as talented, as charming as possible.  Do that again–just in a different context–prove how ‘right’ you are for the organization.
  • Be brave.  Stand out.  Blending in will not do you any good long-term.  What’s different/better/a more perfect fit about you?  How can you get it communicated?
  • Make sure other people are ‘selling’ you.  The theory behind social media marketing is that buzz created among ‘friends’  is more credible than advertising by the company.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in meetings of managers who were deciding who got what job.  The candidates who were known of by more deciders were the ones who got the jobs.  EVEN IF THEY WEREN’T the most qualified on paper.  If you know of someone, you feel more comfortable choosing him than a total unknown.  Imagine how much better someone did who was known of (because they had effectively sold their brand) by all the deciders.
  • Get over any thoughts that ‘selling’ your brand is unseemly. This is your life, your livelihood, your career.  This is the way you do it.

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Looking for a job? Look in the HJM!

Looking for a job?

Soooooo many people are looking for jobs these days.  People who have been laid off are looking.  People who are dissatisfied are looking.  People who have been underemployed for a while are finally feeling like things are moving enough that they can look.  Maybe it’s just the people I know, but it seems like everyone is looking in the wrong places.

Seventy five to eighty percent of all jobs are NOT advertised.

And remember, this type of hiring (20-25%) includes  the McDonald’s and other entry-level jobs. This also includes all the internet job postings, newspaper job postings, and LinkedIn job postings.

Seventy five to eighty percent of the jobs are in the HIDDEN JOB MARKET.

 The other 5% of hiring happens when the candidate persuades the decider to create a specific job for him.  (Not common, but it happens).

Don Asher in his book Cracking the Hidden Job Market says that you get a job by talking to people.  He’s not talking about interviewing.  He means talking to pretty much everyone who will listen about your job search.  He recommends using every technique available:  face to face, email, phone, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even snail mail.  People are much more comfortable hiring you–or even considering you–when they know you, or when someone close to them knows you.  It’s a lot like dating.

You also need to know what kind of job you want–what industry, function, role, company type.  Then you need to TARGET those jobs.  It is like deciding you want to marry a millionaire.  That is more focused than if you want to marry someone or if you just want to date.  Where do you find millionaires?  How do you know which ones would fit with you?  How do you have to come across to marry a millionaire.  You get the point–it isn’t just throwing your resume at recruiters who have posted jobs.

There are a few  books that I recommend:

Now the Excuses

  • It’s way more work to do it this way.
  • I don’t want people to know I’m out of a job.
  • No one I know knows of any jobs–they would tell me if they did.
  • And on and on and on

Yeah, it is more work.  You want a job, you do the work.  People who know how to work these systems and find the hidden jobs control their careers.  The rest of us are flotsam floating on the river of chance.  EVERYONE knows about jobs or knows someone who does.  It isn’t top of mind.  By talking to people about your job search, you help them remember you when they hear about jobs.

Oh, and don’t wait till you need a job to do this.  Start building the network and targeting the organizations now so that you are ready.  Get ready to lose your job!

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Get Ready to Lose Your Job

I hope you never need this advice. Chances are good, though, that you will–even if you are a high potential, can’t-do-anything-wrong super dooper employee. Most of us end up out on the job hunt street in our career.

The number one thing that you can work on right now to prepare for that day is to build your network. When clients end up on my coaching doorstep after a recent job loss, their number one regret is that they didn’t keep their network current. Ask yourself: if you lost your job next Monday, how many people in your network are familiar enough with what you do to be able to start referring you for job leads immediately? How many of them would want to? How many of them have you had contact with in the last month? year? five years? How many of them do you have current contact info on? When someone starts a job search, it usually takes months to rebuild a network. Months! How can I get your attention about this?

Yeah, I know. You don’t have time. You have to do (keep) your current job, take the kids to soccer, re-do the house.
If you lost your job, you would find the time. And you would wish you had done it sooner.

So what do you do? Start with two things:

1) Join, attend and volunteer for the appropriate professional groups. The people who do jobs like yours belong to these groups. They are also the first to know of the job openings in their own companies. There is a reason that the leadership of these professional groups (PMI, SHRM, ASTD) move easily from company to company. They know people.

2) Join/update/participate in LinkedIn. LinkedIn is becoming the largest recruiting tool in many professions. Join groups that interest you. Post answers/questions when appropriate (but don’t spam people with it).  Set your LinkedIn account up so that you get an email update of changes in your network.  Reach out to those who have had a change.  It doesn’t take much time, but it keeps that contact warm.  Post things of interest periodically.

Approximately 75% of jobs are landed through knowing someone who has some connection to the job (in the same company, referral, etc). 75%!  Make sure you are ready if you ever need it.

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