Category Archives: Recession Proof

Just a Paycheck

Just a Paycheck

Just a Paycheck”

If the reason that you’re working at the job that you have is for “just a paycheck,” you’re wasting your time and maybe your life.  I’m not talking about people who are working at a job to fund the things that they like to do, or their family, or the things that are important to them.  I’m talking about the people who really see that they are just working for the money.  I’ve been told this by lots of people.  It’s all I can do not to  get on my high horse when someone says it to me.  If you’re only working ‘for the paycheck’ that radiates from you.  You have no energy.  You have no enthusiasm for the tasks of the job, or even for your co-workers. You aren’t looking for a better way to do things; you’re just doing the bare minimum of what it takes.  It is highly likely that you’ll be among the first to go in a layoff, just because it is easy to put someone on a list who clearly isn’t having fun and who isn’t doing anything extra.

NO, you say.  It doesn’t show.  You’re doing the job; you’re just not enjoying it.  Ask yourself if that is true.  Look around.  Are you seeking to do better?  Are you taking on more without it being foisted on you?  Probably not.  And you probably aren’t taking on more because you don’t have the energy for it.  When you frame your experience in such a negative way, you don’t have energy.  You resent being there.  It’s all you can do to get to the end of the day, and it’s really hard to get there in the morning. 

Reframe!

I’m not saying that your job is fun.  It probably isn’t.  Your boss may be terrible.  Your co-workers may not be worthy of your time.  So what?  Find something that is worth being there for.  It could be as simple as reframing your experience to being about what your paycheck lets you do outside of the job.  It could be what you’re learning from this experience.  Or how it fits into your career path goals.  Or that you are LUCKY to have a job in these tough times.  REFRAME the way you think about it.

If you are able to reframe, it is likely that you will suddenly find that you have more energy.  You may have enough energy to look around the organization for a better job, or a better boss.  You may have the energy to figure out what you really want to do long term.  You may have enough energy to figure out how to get another stream of revenue that will enable you to find another job/career/hobby that will make you happy(ier).

Get A New Job!

If you can’t reframe,  GO FIND ANOTHER JOB—before someone forces you to.  I work with so many people who would be glad to have their old job back—somehow they can see a lot of value/interest/fun in it now that someone has decided they are out.  Find a job that you can do for other reasons than a paycheck.  Find a job that you can/will be good at and that will help you feel better about yourself.

LIFE IS TOO SHORT to work for ‘just a paycheck!’

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Filed under Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Job Hunt, Recession Proof, Reframe

Fed Up With Looking For a Job?

Fed Up With Looking For A Job?

Have you been looking for a job for a while?  Have you sent out dozens of resumés and heard NOTHING back?  Have you talked to recruiters who told you that you weren’t qualified even though you had way more education, but you didn’t have an obscure certification that was listed in the job description?  Have you had one conversation with a recruiter or a company HR person who said they’d get right back to you and then NOTHING?  Are you getting mad about it?  Are you feeling discouraged?  Are you beginning to think that you’ll never find anything?

fed up with looking for a job?

All of the above?

The bad news —  you are not alone.  In fact, there are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of others.  The good news–there are ways to crack the code of this.  The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. The hardest thing, and most important,  is keeping up your energy, your determination and your commitment.  The hardest part is to ignore all the ‘NOTHING’s and treat each new attempt as if it is the first one.  It is hard, also, to keep learning from the negative experiences, while you keep approaching each application with as much optimism and energy as you did the first one.

The things that you tell yourself when you get discouraged–that YOU’LL never find something, that there is something wrong with YOU, that it’s hopeless–ARE NOT TRUE.

We have a very difficult confluence of a lot of things happening at once that are making this worse:

  • companies are not hiring
  • recruiters are able to find enough people without being mindful about how they treat people (and I’m really being diplomatic about that!)
  • companies use software to ‘weed’ out resumes that don’t have all the keywords–even when the keywords aren’t relevant
  • older people are not leaving the workforce because their retirement funds evaporated
  • so many jobs are moving around the globe
  • etc., etc., etc.

And so it’s easy not to be optimistic.  I get it.  It’s hard to keep trying.  It’s not fun.  It’s SO frustrating when you hear nothing back.  It’s SO frustrating when you find a job that is just right for you and you apply and NOTHING.  Even though there are people who find a job quickly, most don’t.  Almost everyone gets discouraged before they hit pay dirt.  The lucky ones, though, can get past being discouraged.

You have to figure out how to keep your energy, commitment, optimism, and determination up.  That is way more important than making sure your resumé is perfect.  Because if you have your optimism and your energy, then you can fix your resume over and over.  You can keep getting yourself out there to network. You can ignore how much you hate working with recruiters because of the stupid things they say and talk to THIS one as if she’ll be different.

How Do You Do That?

  • Find someone (or a few someones) to talk to.  You need someone who can pump you up on a regular basis.  When you talk to yourself in the vacuum of your own thoughts, you are not as objective as you need to be.  There are techniques that you need to use to find a job, and you need someone to remind you when you lose sight of them.  There are lessons, strategies and tactics to finding a job and you need to be reminded of them regularly.
  • Remember that the number of rejections that you get is irrelevant–the number of acceptances is what is important.  In order to get acceptances, you have to crack the code.  In order to crack the code, you have to keep learning and refining your tactics.  In order to do that, you have to keep applying.  In order to do that, you have to keep your energy and determination up.
  • Network.  Socializing (even for you introverts) helps you have a different perspective.  It gets you out of your head.  If you’re going to socialize, you might as well network.  I don’t mean going out to a networking event.  I mean going to a social event, or spending some time online on a social networking site, reconnecting/connecting and finding out what people are doing.  And telling people that you’re looking for a job.  And telling people what kind of a job you’re looking for.  And asking people if they know anyone they think would be good for you to approach for an informational interview.
  • Don’t take it personally.  Hard, I know.  It isn’t personal, though.  Chances are really good that your resumé never got in front of anyone who could make a decision about it.   Chances are that the selection software looking for keywords weeded you out, or the recruiter (who rarely understands the industry, company, job or requirements thoroughly) weeded you out, or your resume was #402 and they cut off at #400.  Any of those things are not about you.  You still have to surmount them, though.  You just shouldn’t take it personally, because it isn’t.
  • Think about it like a puzzle.  Is it the resumé?  Is it the cover letter?  Is it that you need to hit it as soon as the job is posted–yes, at 4:14 am?  Is it that you need to find someone in the company?  Is it that need to follow up better?  Keep trying things until you crack the code.

Some Good Books That Might Help:

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Job Hunt, Recession Proof

Keep Up Or Fall Behind

Keep Up or Fall Behind

If You Want To Stay Employed

To stay marketable in today’s workforce, and to be considered for continued promotions, you HAVE to keep up.  Maybe back in the day that wasn’t as necessary–maybe you got to be an expert within your specialty and that was good enough.  No more.  People who make decisions about whether to hire, promote, or fire people take into consideration the prospect’s current-ness, attitude toward change and learning, and awareness of things outside his specific job.  The only way to come out in good stead in this evaluation is to keep up.  You have to keep up with technology, your company’s market, your company’s industry, trends, and language.  I know, I know–how can you do more than you’re doing?  You’re keeping up as much as you need to.  That may be true.  Or you may need to do more.  Let’s explore this a little.

Technology

There are several kinds of technology that you need to keep current with–how current depends on what your job is, where you are in your career, what market you work in and what your goals are.  There is BIG technology–what are the global trends in technology associated with technology companies and services.  Unless you work in the technology industry, just being generally aware of these is enough. There is also what I call SMALL technology (others may call it something else).  This is the systems and tools that you use in your job and that others (competitors, especially) use to do similar jobs.  Things like Salesforce.com or Oracle or Access or Visio or Telepresence or GoToWebinar.  You should take the opportunity to learn to use absolutely every tool that you can.  If you are lucky enough to work in an organization that uses a lot of technical tools—software, systems or hardware–you should take advantage of all the opportunities to at least become familiar with them.  If you can, you should become proficient at all the tools that others use to do the job that you do.  If you find yourself bounced out of your job, you want to be able to put as many of these on your resume that you can.  Learn them while you can.  Then there is what I call PERSONAL technology.  These are all the technical tools and toys that can make your life more productive and fun.  You should also keep up with these, so that you can keep your mind growing and so that you can be relevant in conversations you have with other people.  Yes, I said relevant.

If you find yourself disagreeing with me, think about why that is.  Is it that you think the technology is irrelevant?  If you think it is irrelevant, I would challenge you to research or discuss this view with others.  If you find that you’re right after you do that, I’ll get off your back. Do you disagree because you don’t really like the discomfort of learning these new things?  If you plan to stay in the workforce more than five more years, you’re going to have to learn and keep learning new technology.  It is better for you to jump in and do it willingly—it makes it look like you’re a positive early adapter—and therefore much valued by organizations. 

Market

It is important that you understand the market you work in, no matter what your job.  If you don’t, it is like walking through a thick forest that borders a high cliff in the dark.  You need to know (or at least have opinions about) what is coming.  You want to know that you are working in a buggy whip factory sometime before the auto industry perfects the assembly line.  If you keep your head down and do your job in your company without checking out your market on a regular basis, you’re likely to get caught without a seat when the music stops. 

Set up Google alerts on key components of your market, your competitors and your company.  How does your company stand against the rest of the companies in the market?  How do their products compare?  Their revenue?  Are other companies breaking out of the market?  Why?  How?  Is the market growing?  Shrinking?  What cataclysmic events can you imagine that would affect the market negatively?  What events could cause it to take off?  Is your company doing anything to prevent/accelerate either of these?

Industry

What is happening with the industry?  Think of the extraordinary changes that have happened in the music or the publishing or the telecom industries in the last 10 years.  Who would have imagined the confluence of these three, the new products, and even the amount of money that could be made?  What is happening in your industry?  What extraordinary change might be on the horizon?  Good or bad?  Is there another industry that might be coming your way like an unexpected tsunami?  Does your company’s strategy foresee anything like this?  Should it?  Again, if you haven’t thought about it, you are not likely to be positioned to take advantage of it when it happens.

Trends

The trends you should pay attention to lie someplace between twitter trends and global shifts.  What is going on?  What does it matter to you (personally) or your company?  You should regularly read important blogs (again, which ones depends on your interests, job, company, industry, age, and goals), news (papers, online, whatever works for you), books (you can listen if you prefer).  You should know what is happening in the important aspects of your life.  You should be well read and know what the major new ideas are in the fields  of business, science, health, technology and anything else that is important to you.  How deeply you understand these ideas depends on why you need to understand them—to be well read is one level, to be a thought leader is another. 

Language

Ironically, to be well respected, you have to speak the current language of your audience.  That means that in most organizations you need to know and speak the acronyms of the organization.  To speak to young(er) or old(er) people, you need to use their phrases that convey the message you want to get across. You need to know the technical terms, the terms of art, the phrases.  You can be extremely well educated and speak the language of your specialty, but if you’re not using your audiences’ language, they usually don’t give you the credit you deserve.  Learn the acronyms.  Learn the current expressions.  Learn the cultural terms. 

Who Has The Time?!?

You do.  You have to.  This is the difference between what is important and what is urgent.  For your continued marketability, you have to put the time and effort into keeping up.  Learning how to use Access when you’re out of a job and the job descriptions all require it is much harder than if you’re sitting in an organization that will support your learning it by providing you the software AND the training.  Take advantage.  For you and your organization it is a win/win.  And maybe you’ll never have to learn it when you’re out of a job—because you’re never out of a job.

 

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Job Hunt, Recession Proof

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

Not Your Mad Men Career Ladder

Way back, before most of us were working, you got a job with a company and you stayed with that company–making steady progression–until you retired.  You were, of course, a man.  If you got fired, you had done something pretty bad.  Layoffs didn’t happen very often.  There were career ladders that you took all the way from your first position to your last position.

traditional career ladder is no more

This is so long ago that many people reading this don’t get it, don’t know why we still talk about it, and think this is a no-brainer.  We still talk about it because this model still shapes our expectations in many ways.  Our infrastructure is not set up to support the current reality–if so, we’d have portable health insurance and retirement plans.  We’d also be much more focused on taking care of ourselves in our careers rather than leaving it to companies.  It is time for our mental models to catch up with reality.

The current ‘career ladder’ looks a lot more like those cool folding ladders that can be shaped over obstructions and can bend in several directions as necessary to do the job.

todays career ladder

The current ‘career ladder’ takes you up when that is possible and helps you deal with the plateaus, job losses, industry and functional changes that are necessary to remain resilient and successful in today’s economy.  Today’s ‘career ladder’ needs to focus on skills and trends rather than specific roles in specific companies in specific industries.  Find ways to “Genericize Yourself,” that enable you to move across industries.  Find ways to specialize (I know, those sound like opposite pieces of advice, but they aren’t), so that your value (brand) is obvious.  Build your resilience for all kinds of shifts in the economy–think of the shifts that have happened in publishing, electronics, e-marketing, and are happening in health care and communications now.  You can’t know what is coming, but you can be ready.

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Create a Stakeholder Plan For Your Career

I’ve been working a lot with Stakeholder Plans for large organization change lately, and I was thinking that it would be a good idea to create one for a career plan.  For those who haven’t had the pleasure of creating a stakeholder plan yet, it is a way of identifying who has a vested interest (in this case, in your career success) and creating a plan to get their help in achieving your goals.

Who Are Your Stakeholders?

For example, identify who has any kind of an interest in your career success:  your boss, your peers, your mentor, your former bosses, your family, your future boss. Anyone, whether they are supportive, neutral or hostile to what you want to accomplish, should go on the list.

Stakeholder Assessment for your Career

Come Up With a Plan

Then identify which career goal each has an interest in and what that level of interest  is–your boss may have a high level of interest in your successful delivery of your current performance goals, but no interest at all in your promotion to a position outside his organization.  Understanding this, and creating a plan to mitigate your boss’ ambivalence may be essential to getting that promotion.  S/he may sabotage your promotion in order to keep you.  A stakeholder assessment–that requires you to think through all the players and come up with both an action plan and a communication plan for each, is likely to crystallize your thinking of next steps, and to speed your career on its way.

Categorize Them

Once you’ve created a grid similar to the one above, you can create a graphic that divides your stakeholders into categories:

  • High Power/High Interest:  Manage Closely (like current boss/potential new boss)
  • High Power/Low Interest:  Keep Satisfied (like peers/organizational customers)
  • Low Power /Low Interest:  Monitor (like former bosses/distant peers)
  • Low Power/High Interest: Keep Informed (like employees/recruiters

Career Stakeholder Grid

Manage Them

Depending on your goals, your organizational situation and your timing, these stakeholders and their position on the grid will be different.  The most important part of this is to think it out–where are your key stakeholders on the support continuum, what is in the way of their full support and what can you do about it?  People feel threatened by other people’s career success and the more you’re aware of what people are thinking, the better you will be able to manage it.  Stakeholders who could be powerful supporters for your career goals may not know what they are–this exercise can help you identify that issue and come up with a great plan to solve it.

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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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Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Networking, Recession Proof, Success