Archive | September, 2013

Networking Advice That Doesn’t Suck

23 Sep

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Today’s Guest Post was written by the fab, Hannah Beasley. Her and I have a lot in common, so I’m thrilled that she’s contributed to the site! Check out her awesome advice below, and then swing on over to Brazen Careerist, where I not too long ago shared 5 Essential Tips for Surviving Awkward Networking Events. Because yes, networking can suck, but it doesn’t have to.

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Seriously, if I read one more post spewing generic networking advice, I might punch a hole in my MacBook screen.  I completely understand if you don’t even want to read this post, but please – hear me out. I’m here to de-bunk the mysteries of networking for GenY-ers once and for all. Hopefully, this is the last post you ever have to read about networking.

I have become pretty convinced that we have been over-thinking and over-teaching the whole concept of networking. It’s really much simpler than you might think.

Yes, you MUST build your network. Yes, networking is CRITICAL to launching you into your next big thing and growing your career. But networking is NOT something you add to your “to do list” every day, and it is NOT a crazy, difficult, challenging thing.

Based on my experience, I have attempted to boil “networking” down into three simple rules/directives/whatever you want to call it. Prepare yourself for a paradigm shift, people.

1 – Your friends are your network. Make more friends.

As young professionals, we tend to think of our network as this super-special and super-separate entity. In our minds, we picture four independent clans: friends, family, co-workers, and network. Allow me to escort you to the 21st Century. These separate clans no longer exist as simple, exclusive, formalized groups. You are friends with your co-workers. You work with your family. And your clans look more like a giant wad of chewing gum than pristine Google Circles. This is real life.

How can you use this to your advantage? Let go of the mindset that your friends are just your friends. Your friends are your fans, your advocates, and your resources. If you’re reading this and thinking, “but you don’t know my friends….!” – you’re right. I don’t. But maybe its time to make more friends, or to be a better friend. Great friends care about you, respect you, and genuinely want to help you. Find those people. Stay in touch. Be a good friend to them.

2 – Don’t be a hermit. Talk to strangers.

What does your daily routine look like?

Drive to work. Eat lunch at your desk. Drive home. Make dinner. Watch 8 episodes of Orange is the New Black. Go to sleep. Repeat.

If this is your life during the week, WARNING: you might be rapidly transforming into a hermit. WAKE UP. This is your twenties! You’re way too young to be a hermit, and meeting new people is far too important to your future to put your social life on the back-burner.

What’s the antidote? Go bowling with your co-workers. Meet your friends for lunch. Have dinner with someone you barely know. Get involved in your local community of young professionals. Listen, I know that a date night with your couch and Hulu Plus is oh-so-enticing, but there is literally zero ROI on time spent on your couch. Being social is a critical part of your overall well-being, and it’s a fantastic way to trick yourself into building your network while having a whole lot of fun.

3 – Tell your story every chance you get.

If you’re doing items (1) & (2) on this list, you are probably meeting new people every week, and one of the first questions new people will always ask you is “what do you do?” If your go-to answer is “I’m an accountant” or “I’m in law school”, you’re missing a huge opportunity. When you respond to the “what do you do?” question with the title listed on your business card, you are providing a simple answer that nearly terminates the conversation.

How can you really stand out? Every time you get asked this question, use it as an opportunity to tell your story. Instead of “I’m an accountant,” try “I work as an accountant at Awesome Accounting Firm, one of the largest firms in town. Most of the work that I do now is personal accounting, but I am working on getting my CITP, which I really feel will help me specialize and differentiate myself as the need for information technology expertise is constantly growing.”

Let’s face it – that’s at least 10 times more interesting than saying that you’re an accountant. You just became incredibly memorable and interesting. By sharing your story, you are also cultivating the conversation, and the (now curious) person you have just met will probably ask additional questions to learn more about you.

So…

That’s it. Make friends. Don’t be a hermit. Tell your story. It sounds a lot like the advice your mom used to give you on your first day at a new school, doesn’t it?

Don’t over-think networking. Stop stressing about it.

And just get to know the awesome people in your life.

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Hannah Beasley is a 20-something marketing + sales professional in Louisville who loves meeting new people and growing her network. She is a huge advocate for Gen Y & is obsessed with seeing young people change the world. Find her on Twitter at @_hannahbeasley.

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How To Make Better Decisions

16 Sep

When I was younger, I almost killed my sister.

And that would have been a shame, because I really LIKE my sister.

Here’s how the story goes…

I was 7….she was 5… I was bored…and I had a GENIUS idea!

“Brittney!!! Come here!! I’m going to put you in the laundry basket and push you down the stairs! It’s going to be so much fun!”

At that time, she did whatever I told her to do, so she happily sat in the laundry basket and I then pushed her to her probable death.

About 2.3 seconds later, I had one of those “OH-CRAP” moments.

And as she nearly flipped upside down, she looked like this.

britt

(Yes, that’s my sister, and yes she’s going to kill me for posting that.)

Luckily, I was somehow able to stop her from flipping over.

Then I panicked and I did what kids do when they know they’ve done something awful…

I turned to my sister and pleaded, “DON’T TELL MOM.”

So in light of my failure to make a good decision that day, I’ve put together a few suggestions for making better decisions… and I hope they’ll be helpful.

1. Take Time to Think Things Through

Alright guys. Face it. A lot of us tend to make rash decisions. Not always, but sometimes. We have these lightbulb moments! and we think our ideas are fabulous! and we act, usually, without thinking too much about them.

Had I taken some time to think about pushing my sister down the stairs, I probably would have come to the conclusion that playing with our Barbies was a much better afternoon activity.

2. Seek Advice from People Who Matter

Now this is a big one. Had I gone and asked my mom what she thought about my wonderful idea, she would have ever-so-nicely told me that I was a crazy lunatic.

When we’re making decisions in life, no matter how old we are, it’s not a bad idea to seek advice from people who matter. From people with good opinions and insight. It’s a great way to get some additional perspective just to make sure we’re not missing anything.

3. Think About ALL Possible Consequences

Now I’m not completely positive, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t thinking about the consequences of my super-wonderful-great-fun idea.

The only thing on my mind was:

YAYY! This is going to be AWESOME.

So before we make decisions, it’s probably a good idea to consider ALL possible consequences.

What can possibly happen?

Who can this possibly affect?

What is this going to cost me?

Taking some time to answer these questions will make sure you clearly think about the possible negative consequences. Then, you’ll be in a better position to make a sane decision.

4. Ask Yourself WHY You Want to Do Something

Why you want to do something is a very important part of making a decision. So go ahead and ask yourself why you wanna do it.

If your answer is, “Oh, I don’t know. Because I’m bored.”

That’s a bad answer.

So don’t do whatever it was that you were thinking about doing.

You don’t make big decisions just because you’re bored.

Instead, go make yourself a sandwich or something.

5. Follow Some Kind of Basic Decision-Making Model

Although you might find it a bit dorky, it’s extremely helpful to follow a basic decision-making model.

Here’s one that I just learned in my leadership and decision-making class taught by the best professor I’ve ever had:

a. Define the problem.

b. Generate alternatives.

c. Decide.

d. Implement.

e. Evaluate.

Following some kind of logical reasoning when making decisions is a whole lot better than just doing things because you think they’ll be fun. Or because it’s the first thing you can think of. Or because you’re bored. Or just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

So from now on, whenever I have a big decision to make, I’ll think about the time I almost killed my sister and I’ll use some of these tools to make better decisions.

Because again, I do like my sister.

I’d be really bored without her.

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In A Super Negative World, Challenge Yourself to Stay Positive

10 Sep

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Today’s guest post was written by Colleen Garvin. She’s really quite wonderful and her message is a great one: all this negativity….it’s killing us. So let’s try to look on the bright side. Let’s try to be optimistic, and make a difference at work. Because doing anything other than that, is kind of terrible. Enjoy!

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“I’ve been here for a decade”

“We’ve tried that before”

 “Oh just wait, you’ll become jaded”

“That’s cute… how optimistic you are..”

“That’s what we did and it didn’t work so we can’t try that again”

 “That’s the future, that’s not now”

 “We don’t want to be overly ambitious”

OR

“Push through it!”

“Don’t give in to the drama”

“Work your ass off and you will see results”

“If you don’t like something, change it!”

“If it didn’t work before, learn from the mistake and take a new approach”

 “Everything can be improved, including yourself”

Welcome to the professional world of an individual born in the late 80’s!

1988 to be exact. I am one of those people who was definitely over extended in my collegiate career and wanted to make sure I was doing everything correctly. I graduated in 4 years exactly after being in charge of two major college groups and was immediately placed in a corporate position. I was given more projects than my pay grade simply because I wanted them; I asked for them. The worst thing you can do is bore me.

You know what I wasn’t expecting on those collegiate evenings? A slew of negativity that would come from “experienced” workers. The quotes provided are real, legitimate things coworkers have said to me in meetings, one-on-one meetings, via email and on the phone over the past 3 years. I think there needs to be the same button that you have in Taboo, when you say the “no-no” words on the topic card? Someone says something to the effect of “we tried that before” and they should get buzzed. Unless you are going to say “we tried that before, here were our barriers, here is my idea how to move past them and make this approach successful”… save it! You are not adding anything to the table except negativity. Take your negativity and get to walking.

Don’t you remember your very first day at your “grown up job”? You were excited and optimistic.

You didn’t know about the drama…you didn’t know that your coworkers would end up acting as mature as second graders.

It’s important.. correction… IMPERATIVE…to foster that newness… that bright-eyed-bushy-tailed feeling from the day you had your I.D. badge picture taken.

It’s easier said than done. The more you’re exposed to negativity, the more your optimism shield may start to disintegrate.

There’s one thing to really keep in mind: you’re allowed to have a bad day.  Unless you’re a super hero, you’re not going to save the world every single day. However, you’ll have moments of greatness that’ll get you through the other times where yes, you indeed need to spend 4 hours [insert mind numbing topic here].

Regardless of how terrible your situation, challenge yourself to stay positive.

When someone starts to complain about corporate life or about, in my world, doctors, listen… but don’t commiserate with them. Let them vent, some people (including you) need that occasionally. The tactic that works better than simply adding to the list of “things at work that piss me off,” is to listen, empathize and maybe offer some advice. That way your coworker is able to let out their frustrations as well as find some clarity.

Never let anyone tell you to not be ambitious, always be ambitious. If you fail, you learn. If you do fail, try to figure out why something failed and maybe come up with a few ideas to make it better the next time.

If not, 20 years from now you’ll be sitting in a board room and a 20 something with a fresh I.D. badge will start to say that they want to start a project and your response will be… “We tried that before.”

Then, your 20 something self will want to kick you in the ass.

So what’s the point here?

Foster the newness and continue on the road of optimism. Your optimistic, 40-something year old self will appreciate that you started practicing that a long time ago.

Colleen Garvin is a 25 year old manager, working at a Children’s Hospital in Quality Improvement. Her coworkers like to remind her that they have children her age and older! She’s learned that age discrimination is definitely something most recent-grads will face…but she’s certainly dealing with it well. Follow her on Twitter @ColGarv.

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