The mysteries of networking #6

Does networking really take place in a galaxy far, far away? I think that’s the way some of us approach it – a great excuse for not engaging in the process. And then, there’s the whole ‘mentoring thing’ – Do I need one? How do I find one? Then what do I do?

It’s pretty simple. It’s hard work. Actually, once you start the work doesn’t end. You just need to recalculate the equation. It’s not a chore, it’s an amazing, fun exploration. And you can start today, with the folks in a college classroom, colleagues at work, members of your book club or athletic training group.

“There’s a Chinese saying: “Explore what’s best in the others and follow.” Among my friends, I always learn the best from them.”  Lee Shau Kee

Think about that. “Explore the best in others and follow.” Who are the ‘best’ in your world or the one you want to join? What are the qualities/values that align to win your vote as best@what they do? If you could have a few minutes with them, what would you ask?

The ‘networking’ thing is the exploration. Think about how you might go about planning for a hike, or travel. Why are you going? What do you hope to find? What research have you conducted to prepare? And, you’re planning to have fun, right?

Apply the same process to networking. “Explore the best in others…”

“…and follow.” Once you have started a conversation, it’s time to examine the next layer of career success. What has been the path to success? What were the failures, trade-offs, and recovery? How many detours came along the way? What do they look for in folks they hire?

Ask questions unique to your career aspirations. Your goal is to spark a longer conversation, one that may lead to a continuing professional relationship – a mentor.

“Among my friends, I always learn the best from them.”

 

 

 

‘Mind the gap’ – the advantages of ‘full disclosure’ on your resume

The twenty-first century resume doesn’t follow the format suggested by experts in the past. The CV of the ‘gig economy worker’ offers a mosaic of diverse experiences, but it also includes gaps – periods of time not working. A recent study shows the competitive advantage goes to the candidate who ‘minds the gap’ and candidly discloses these career ‘sabbaticals’.

The golden rule of job search is to present yourself as who you are: not your social media presence, not through the biased lens of family and friends, and definitely not ‘shape shifted’ to match a particular job description.

Finding a job is about finding a ‘fit’, discovering a close match between your talent, values and aspirations. If an employer is dismissive of your qualifications because of breaks, you have met ‘the canary in the coal mine’, so take the hint and move on to a place where the value of those  gaps is understood.

Patricia Cohen examined the issue as it relates to family leave. Do you explain a child care gap in your resume?

“For women hoping to return to the workplace after caring for their children, the advice is often “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Many women who described themselves as stay-at-home mothers can attest to receiving denigrating nods and hasty rebuffs. Researchers have repeatedly found ample evidence of discrimination against mothers in the hiring process and the workplace.

But women may be better off explaining their decision to stay home to a potential employer upfront, said Joni Hersch, a professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt Law School, and co-author of a new study on the subject, “Something to Talk About: Information Exchange Under Employment Law.” Employers, afraid of running afoul of anti-discrimination laws, don’t bring up the subject, she said, and female applicants, picking up on those cues, often don’t offer information, leaving hirers to guess at the reasons behind a hiatus.

But, Professor Hersch said, “women who conceal personal information dramatically lower their hiring prospects.”

What’s the ‘take-away’ here?

Reliance on your resume as a single point of introduction to an employer is not your best job search strategy – it never has been.

The best job search strategy is a lifelong management of relationships. Maintaining professional connections, through career success and career breaks establishes your professional credibility. There is no substitute for a career advocate who ‘gets you’ and sees the complete picture of your career plan, warts and all. Someone who can advise you as you develop your script, tell your story and mind the gaps.

 

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘The Persistence of Song’ by Howard Moss

The Friday Poem this week is ‘The Persistence of Song’ by Howard Moss, the poetry editor of The New Yorker for almost forty years.

“In that influential capacity, this quiet, unassuming man was one of the key figures in American letters in the late twentieth century, boosting the careers of many young poets by publishing their work in one of the few mass circulation magazines which bought poetry and paid well for it.”

This one is for the mentors who open doors, make connections and by their presence create a model to be imitated.

The poem appeared in The New Yorker in the fall of 1966 and takes us to a time in the city, when life after work was anticipated ..” When the secretaries have changed their frocks, And though it is not yet evening, There is a persistence of song.”

The Persistence of Song

Although it is not yet evening,
The secretaries have changed their frocks
As if it were time for dancing,
And locked up in the scholars’ books
There is a kind of rejoicing,
There is a kind of singing
That even the dark stone canyon makes
As though all fountains were going
At once, and the color flowed from bricks
In one wild, lit upsurging.

What is the weather doing?
And who arrived on a scallop shell
With the smell of the sea this morning?
-Creating a small upheaval
High above the scaffolding
By saying, “All will be well.
There is a kind of rejoicing.”

Is there a kind of rejoicing
In saying, “All will be well?”
High above the scaffolding,
Creating a small upheaval,
The smell of the sea this morning
Arrived on a scallop shell.
What was the weather doing
In one wild, lit upsurging?
At once, the color flowed from bricks
As though all fountains were going,
And even the dark stone canyon makes
Here a kind of singing,
And there a kind of rejoicing,
And locked up in the scholars’ books
There is a time for dancing
When the secretaries have changed their frocks,
And though it is not yet evening,

There is the persistence of song.

Howard Moss  The New Yorker, November 19, 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can ‘YouTube’ be a mentor?

If YouTube videos can teach us how to wire a smoke detector, can they also teach us how to lead? That may seem like a ridiculous question, but in our evolving ‘conversation adverse’ culture, are we turning to videos to provide guidance in the workplace?

Think about your first job, your first day at work. Aside from the anticipation, you might as well have been visiting another planet. Perceptions collided with reality as you navigated your way through the first days; an amateur anthropologist alert to  any clue to success in this new society you had joined. Who could you trust to advise you on your journey?

That is the question we all ask at some point in our first weeks at work. All is new and colleagues seem equal. Then the sorting begins as you filter conversations and observe interactions among colleagues and the leadership team. A picture begins to emerge of the culture, the influencers and the business problems to be solved. For most of us, we wing it. We take our experience, as limited as it may be, and experiment. We offer solutions. Find they are not well constructed. Go back and revise and then venture back with the edited proposal. It’s a process of trial and error as we independently craft an answer.

We find ourselves at a turning point. We need help. Where do we go to find it?

There are thousands of articles that define the role of mentors, how to find one, how to manage the relationship, but it was the first paragraph of an article I read a few weeks ago that introduced a significant hybrid approach to how we learn to work.

In early August, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times on the topic of servant leadership, putting others first and leading from the heart.

“From the earliest days of Starbucks, I’ve been captivated by the art of leadership. I was mentored over three decades by Warren G. Bennis, the eminent professor and scholar on leadership. I’ve gathered insights from peers, and I’ve drawn inspiration from our 300,000 employees. But nothing I’ve read or heard in the past few years has rivaled the power of the image I viewed on my cellphone a few years ago: Pope Francis, shortly after his election, kneeling and washing the feet of a dozen prisoners in Rome, one of them a young Muslim woman, in a pre-Easter ritual.”

In one short paragraph, the CEO describes a combination of activities that build upon each other to form his leadership style. He relies on a mentor from outside his business, gathers insights from peers and employees and in the end it’s an image from the internet that provides the inspiration for his leadership view.

Can YouTube be a mentor? There is no substitute for human interaction and advice. Learning to work is a lifetime quest and hard work. But the ability to access online courses, TED Talks and podcasts provide an essential element in our professional development.