Link In To Move Up

People with strong networks get better jobs quicker, promoted faster and have more resources to draw upon throughout their career. The truth is – your success depends as much on WHO you know, as it does on WHAT you do. (That’s why politicians worry about their favorability ratings. Voters – like hiring managers – tend to choose people they know and like over people they don’t.)

Today we have an especially effective resource for networking – social media. Through it, you can expand your professional network far beyond your immediate geographic location. For example, one of my favorite people in my own professional network is Hank Blank. Hank is a consultant to ad agencies and marketing departments on how to function most effectively in the new normal.  He has a great blog and gives seminars all over the country on the topics of networking, job search and career development.

We linked in with each other about five years ago (I forget how) and have been commenting on each other’s blogs ever since. Although Hank lives in California and I’m in Chicago, we still manage to swap favors from time to time. (I helped his daughter find a new job in Chicago and Hank has advised me on new business presentations.) Like me, Hank knows that building a strong network is the best way to assure continual employment. Below is a brief review of some ideas I got from Hank on networking – online and off: 

Networking is the best way to build professional relationships.

Moreover, like almost everything else involving more than one person, networking is most effective when it serves the interests of both parties. So view networking as a way to:

  • Help others, as well as yourself, achieve professional goals
  • Meet people you’d like to know through people you already know
  • Connect people you know with people they want to know
  • Build long-term relationships that you can depend on throughout your lifetime

Practice networking constantly throughout your career.

Whatever your position, industry or job title, networking should be part of your own personal best professional practices.  Here are some guidelines to help you:

  • Be open to meeting new people – in social situations as well as at professional events
  • Keep in touch with the people you meet and get to know through email, phone calls, and informal meetings
  • Meet people one-on-one after connecting at an event, party, class or other group activity
  • Make an effort to proactively help your networking contacts in any way you can
  • Thank people when they help you through email, a phone call or a written note
  • Find ways to pay back favors as soon as you can

Social media is the perfect vehicle for networking in the digital age.

Ideally, as a member of the Chicago AMA you network at several different events every year. However, if you’re like most people you have a limited amount of time to devote to onsite meetings. Fortunately, social media allows you to interact with dozens of people with a relatively small investment of time and effort. Here are TEN TIPS on how to use LinkedIn and other social media sites to expand and deepen your network relationships.

1. Fill in your LinkedIn profile as completely as you can including a photo.

In today’s job market a LinkedIn profile is as important as a resume and much more useful. It’s not only an information source you can direct other people to (see tip #2), it will be viewed by employers and recruiters throughout the world without you doing anything at all. Make sure to include a recent photo that shows you as you want to appear during an interview. Well-groomed, smiling and well worth talking to. 

2. Put your LinkedIn link on your business cards along with your email and URL.

This allows people to learn more about you without passing our resumes or performing elevator speeches. And since your LinkedIn profile can include access to work samples and recommendations as well as details of your work history, it’s an incredibly efficient information source.

3. Link in with new contacts.

After a meeting or other event where you’ve met people you’d like to include in your network, send them an invitation to link in with you using the email address they have on their business card. Make sure you personalize the invitation to include a reference to how you met and what you do. You might also suggest meeting again face-to-face in to continue and deepen your connection.

4. Share an update on LinkedIn at least once a week.

It’s a great way to keep your LinkedIn network up on what you’re doing, learning, reading, etc. Remember, LinkedIn is NOT facebook! References to grandkids, dogs and vacations are not appropriate. But do mention your attendance at a seminar, job fair, receipt of an invitation to pitch a new piece of business and any awards you win. You can also include a link to your latest blog, YouTube production or online articles.

5. Do NOT use personal social media pages for your professional contacts.

Remember, whatever you put on line could be seen by EVERYONE including future employers. So keep your personal correspondence private. Facebook is wonderful for sharing family news, political views and favorite jokes. But none of these are appropriate to include in a professional presentation.

6. Use LinkedIn groups to extend your professional network.

These groups often have job boards that could lead to employment opportunities. Also commenting on other group member’s observations or answering questions they have, is a great way to enhance your professional reputation.

7. Don’t use your LinkedIn network as a cold call list of prospects.

Social media isn’t about increasing sales in the short term. The whole point of it is to develop strong, mutually beneficial long-term relationships with professional contacts. Trying to sell something to someone you just met does not engender trust. But as your LinkedIn contact, they’ll have a chance to get to know and like you better through your profile, updates and blogs – even if you rarely meet face to face. In the end, this interaction is the best way to build the kind of relationships you can depend on throughout your career.

8. Take advantage of the insights LinkedIn offers you on a profile or job description.

When you look up someone else’s profile, LinkedIn provides you with information about who you have in common, where they’ve worked, went to school and the organizations they belong to. You can also read what others think of them and see samples of their work. If you search for a job on LinkedIn, the system automatically lists any of your contacts who are working for that company now or did so in the past. All of this is terrific information to have before you even apply for the job, let alone have to prepare for an interview.

 9. Treat your networking contacts like the good friends you hope they’ll become.

Offline – don’t be late for a date. Thank them if they treat you to coffee or a meal and follow up with a written thank you by email or snail mail. Then treat them at the next meeting. Online – acknowledge their emails and messages within 24 hours. Congratulate them on promotions and new positions. Like and comment on their Pulse blogs. And always try to help them with their professional goals if you expect them to help you with yours.

10. Remember – one way or another you’ll always get back more than you give.

Networking works best when you genuinely try to help other people, not use them.

The payback may take a while, but eventually the people you help will help you. Furthermore, the surest way to empower yourself is to help others. So practice “Altruistic Self-interest: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – only do it FIRST!”

Happy Networking!

Wendy Lalli VP Creative, Crux Creative

Wendy Lalli
VP Creative, Crux Creative

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

Go to Lunch to Get Ahead

Written by Wendy Lalli

Something happens when you share a table and a breadbasket with a business contact that can never happen in an office with a desk or conference table between you. Eating together in a neutral restaurant encourages a feeling of equality impossible to achieve in the other person’s office. (In fact, the balance of power lies with you since you did the inviting and will be picking up the check!)

Although your luncheon companion may be in a position to hire you, the purpose of the meeting isn’t to interview between bites. It’s to build a personal rapport with someone who can connect you with opportunities within your industry. Your goal is to show your tablemate that you’re bright, fun to be with, and knowledgeable about things that interest him or her on the job – and off.

Start by making it a point to listen more than you talk. Remember, laughing at another person’s jokes is the quickest way to earn a reputation for being a witty raconteur. People will automatically assume that you’re funny because you “get” their sense of humor.

Channel Barbara Walters, and ask intelligent leading questions that prompt an exchange of ideas. Ask about special challenges your guest may be facing on their job. The idea is to spark a friendly conversation between two industry peers. Listen carefully to the needs and concerns of the person you’re lunching with. And, if you can, show that you not only understand the problems that he or she is facing, but have successfully dealt with them yourself.

If the person resists talking about business altogether, take it as an opportunity to connect with them on a personal level. Since people hire their friends (and they do!), consider this a unique chance to move a professional interaction to a personal level immediately. Ask about their family, their hobbies, their childhood, and their favorite forms of entertainment. If they love fly-fishing and you’ve never been, ask them to how they got into it, how often they go, what’s their most exciting fish story, and the details about the fish that got away. The worst that will happen is that you’ll learn something new. And I can guarantee you that your luncheon companion will be wowed by your interpersonal skills and appreciation for “intelligent conversation.”

At the end of the lunch, indicate to the waiter that you want the check and pay for both of you. If your guest objects, tell them that they can pay for you the next time you have lunch together. Should they absolutely insist on paying their own way, (perhaps due to company policy), figure out what you owe and hand over the bill along with your payment including your share of tip and tax.

As you leave, suggest meeting again in a couple of weeks to continue your conversation. Carry through on the assumption of equality established during lunch and frame the request as one peer connecting to another. If they “owe” you lunch, as in “You can get the next one” ploy referenced above, you’re already halfway home. You can also propose a follow-up meeting at their office. When you do, you’ll again be connecting as one peer to another and hopefully it will lead to introductions to other people in the company.

Remember, this isn’t just about one meeting. This is part of a long-term strategy to build a vibrant, successful career. In my own experience, such meetings have frequently led to assignments to do short-term projects, interview for full-time jobs, and meet others who were leaders in my field. Think of lunch as a quick and enjoyable way to jumpstart a long-term relationship with a business contact you can build on for years to come. Bon Appétit!

To help you get started on lunching your way to the top here are some fine points to keep in mind:

1. Plan to meet at 11:30 am or after 1:00 PM to avoid the worse of the lunch crowds.

2. Pick a place that is close to your guest’s office so it won’t take them long to get there. If you want to take them to a special place that isn’t within walking distance, offer to pick them up at their office and to bring them back after lunch.

3. Check out the noise level of the place you choose. You don’t want to have to shout to be heard.

4. Make sure the seats are comfortable and that the tables offer a certain degree of privacy

5. Check that the menu offers something for vegetarians and dieters as well as burger lovers.

6. If you can, eat there before you invite a guest to join you. See how fast you’re served, how long you had to wait for a table, if they take credit cards, and, of course, the quality of the food.

7. Confirm the time and date of your luncheon the day before by email. Give clear directions on how to get to the restaurant or offer to meet your guest at their office and escort them there.

8. If your guest has a last minute change of plans and can’t meet you at 11:30, reschedule for the same day after 1 PM or the same time, the next day. If worse comes to worse, you can agree to meet on the first available date after that.

9. If during the course of lunch you promised to send an article, email a link, forward on a contact’s name and number or whatever – make sure to do it as soon as you get home! It’s a great way to demonstrate that you’re reliable, responsible, and concerned about others.

10. Send a personal, light-hearted e-mail to thank your guest for joining you and that you’re looking
forward to lunching with them again soon.

11. You can do all of this at a breakfast meeting too – just earlier!

 

wlalliWendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin. She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

Expanding Your Network

Written by Philip Black

How to get out of your own sandbox to launch or accelerate your career

This fall, I gathered with 35 marketing professionals and students to participate in a panel discussion event alongside my peers Sarah Goebel and Paula Kapacinskas.

Titled “Expanding your network—How to get out of your own sandbox to launch or accelerate your career”, the discussion explored our personal networking experiences and perspectives. The Chicago AMA’s Michelle Batten and Pon Angara designed the panel to be the very first in a series of pop-up events that dig into specific areas of interest.

As we transitioned from a relaxed time of networking into our panel session, Pon opened up the floor, referring to our discussion as an exploration of “purposeful networking”. This struck a chord with me. I’ve found if you’re not purposeful with networking, it can easily become a drain on your time and energy instead of the valuable asset and practice it can be.

From the very onset we wanted this session to be an interactive experience. Michelle kicked off the discussion by having members of the audience introduce themselves, tell us their zodiac signs, and share their biggest phobia about networking. Let’s face it: if you’ve done any networking at all, you know it has its awkward moments. Why not get that out of the way up front?

As we went around the room, I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse the gathering was. There were students and seasoned professionals ranging in ages 25-65. There were also multiple ethnicities and recent transplants to Chicago, including a few internationals. The conversation was lively from the get-go, and the attendees were engaged, funny, and thoughtful.

Here are my top five take-aways from the evening:

  1. Narrow and deep

Many of us spoke of forming meaningful personal connections in contrast to focusing on a set number of contacts made. Panelist Paula sets a low bar numerically so she can set a high standard for quality interactions. My personal objective in networking situations is to make a genuine connection with each new person I meet, even if I only have time to meet one or two people.

For me, it’s important that each person I meet feels valued. If you’re easily distracted like I am, challenge yourself to maintain eye contact throughout a conversation. A good way to show someone you’re listening (and that you care about what they have to say) is to ask a few questions based on information they’ve already shared with you.

By the way, you can’t fake this stuff. People can tell when you’re going through the motions. And people help people they like. Think about it: is there someone in your life that has helped you advance more than anyone else? I’d bet that their willingness to assist you has come out of a place of cultivated trust and relationship.

Tips:

  • Try to make a meaningful connection with one or two people at your first event. Approach someone who is not with anyone, or look for a group with an odd number so you can engage easily
  • Start a conversation with open-ended questions (“What’s your story?” or “Where’s home for you?” or “What brings you here tonight?”) rather than jumping right to the rather obvious work question “What do you do?”
  • Comment on something that was said in a presentation, and ask the other person what they thought
  1. Something to give

You have a lot to offer. Regardless of whether you’re seeking employment or looking to help others advance, take stock of how you can be of assistance to those around you. Paula shared that while she is in-between jobs, volunteering has been a productive way for her to engage in the marketing community. Sarah, having recently moved to Chicago from Germany, was able to meet a mentor through some of her first AMA events.

Giving can be done effectively on a smaller scale. In his book “Give and Take”, author Adam Grant writes about the impact of doing ‘Five-minute favors’ for people. This applies well in a networking context. Once you’ve made a connection with someone, take a peek at his or her LinkedIn or Twitter profile. If they’re sharing content you find interesting, consider amplifying their efforts by re-sharing or commenting on social media. In doing so, you’re partnering with your connection in an activity they find valuable.

In my experience, this has helped me connect to important people and potential partners, including a well-known business author and TV personality. You just never know.

Tips:

  • Shared interests and affinity-based networking is very effective. Consider the groups and communities you’re a part of, and causes you care about
  • Volunteering is a great way to expand your network and make long-lasting connections
  • Remember that social media can be a great secondary touch point to foster new relationships—and network during a presentation
  1. Naked and brave

Transparency in networking is powerful. It opens you up to help others and be helped. Panelists Paula and Sarah both shared their journeys to their next opportunities, and what the “in between” place has been like for them. I believe this cleared the air, giving people permission to be more honest about their current situation and drop the desire to appear self-sufficient. I was struck by one young man’s admission that he wanted to grow by learning how to interact more naturally with people he didn’t know. This was brave.

A year and a half ago, a friend and business colleague called me to check in. At the time, I was considering a new season in my work life. I was looking to make the move from being business owner to being a part of a larger team, interacting with larger clients and new challenges. As a 12-year entrepreneur, it was hard for me to divorce my identity from my business—and I felt very vulnerable.

This friend asked what was new in my world. Would he judge me? Would there be an awkward silence and “Oh, ok… that’s nice.” I took a gulp, then told him.

In the next breath, my friend said he had someone he wanted me to meet. A few weeks later, I met with that CEO, and within a month, I rolled up my business into Avenue’s and joined their leadership team.

Who knows what would have happened if I’d played it cool, like I “had it all together”, as if I knew where my next few steps were headed.

Tips

  • Just as you will be asking questions, you want to be ready to answer others’ questions for you. Make a list of 5–8 questions that you think others could ask. Then take a few minutes to prepare how you will respond
  • Being transparent doesn’t mean you should feel the need spill all your issues. This isn’t a counseling session
  • Try to find more experienced people who are willing to be mentors or supporters. For instance, Chicago AMA has a mentorship program, or consider your alumni program
  1. Tip of the iceberg

If you’re going to develop meaningful connections, you’ll need to put some time into it beyond the networking event or original meeting point. Then be sure to follow up with people after the event to advance a conversation. If you feel you had a great conversation, be sure to send a note over email within a week. You may also look them up on social media, invite them to connect on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter. Like dating, just don’t advance too quickly, or all at once.

I’m typically rather time-constrained, so I don’t take a one-size fits all approach here. With some contacts, there’s a heightened need or opportunity. So I look to arrange a call or in-person meeting in the next week or two. For others, a simple “nice to meet you” note will suffice. And there are those who I don’t want to invest time with right now, for instance providers with a service or product I don’t need. Those business cards just stay in my file. No action required.

Tips:

  • Bring a pen and write notes on the business cards you receive. Date, event, location, a memorable note from your conversation. Follow up with an email note within a week
  • Set aside time to touch base with contacts you’ve met. You may want to enter calendar appointments or time-based reminders to help keep organized
  • Consider setting up a lightweight contact management tool to keep track of your contacts, conversations, and to-do items. I’m a fan of 37signals’ easy-to-use Highrise Their free plan is a great place for anyone to start
  1. Workout your digital presence

For professionals, LinkedIn is the single most important social media channel. (91% of B2B marketers use it) Before I meet or have a call with anyone, I look them up on LinkedIn. Same goes for anyone else I’ll be collaborating with on a project.

Take the time to complete your profile and get to “all-star” status. If you’re looking for a job, consider the keywords you’re using. Just think about the effort you put into your resume—except many more people will likely see it now.

To draw another parallel, let’s say you’re looking to meet someone on an online dating platform. Someone shows interest in you, but they have a rather incomplete profile with the bare minimum information. Think you’re going to meet with this creeper? Far less likely.

There are different perspectives on how LinkedIn can be used. I call this “open source vs closed system.”

Open source: Panelist Paula seeks to openly connect with people, unless it seems obvious they’re from completely outside of her loop. She takes an ‘aspirational view’ of her network—you never know who could be of help to you, or vice versa—so widening the circle is a good thing.

Closed system: On the other hand, my personal preference is that I typically do not link in with someone unless I have had a few interactions, or at least one in-depth conversation. I want to feel like I have an authentic human connection with someone before that is represented digitally. These authentic connections increase the value of my network and the value I can offer them. In the event I get a LinkedIn invitation from someone I don’t recognize, I respond with a short, friendly note to ask where or how we’ve interacted in the past. This isn’t to say I’m aloof or unapproachable, but that I’m simply being discerning about my professional network.

As for other social media platforms, there’s so much that I could say here, but I’ll limit it to what I’ve learned from my friend and previous client Margaret Molloy: think Linkedin plus one. In other words, use LinkedIn as your primary platform, then augment with one other platform.

For me, the ‘other platform’ is Twitter. In the context of networking, Twitter is a fantastic tool for interacting with other attendees during a speaking session. And unlike LinkedIn, I’m less reserved with people connecting with me on this channel.

For the Chicago AMA’s Michelle, it’s about her blog. Michael Cates, one of the attendees said it best: “… the most memorable part for me was Michelle sharing about her blog. I think knowing of people with outside-of-work identities are inspirational. It also validates some things I’ve been hearing lately about more consciously developing a digital presence.”

Tips:

  • Having a LinkedIn profile strength of “all-star” and 500+ connections increase your chances of being found by a Hiring Manager/HR
  • From an international perspective, Sarah was surprised to learn how important LinkedIn was to networking and her job search. Since Chicago attracts people from all around the world, LinkedIn can be used to lay an important foundation
  • As you build your LinkedIn presence, be prepared to respond to requests from outside your network. Know when to ask questions, know when to yes—and no. Diplomacy is required

Conclusion

I’m honored to have been able to participate in this session and share a few learnings here. Stripping away the layers, fancy words, tools and tactics—we humans meet because we all desire community. Each of us has something we can give to those around us. Each of us has something someone else may need. When we gather in community, a large part of what we do is to exchange.

In our professional lives, ‘networking’ is simply the label we affix to this type of gathering. As in other areas of life, there are a variety of motives a person can have, with varying degrees of nobility. To be able to exchange well, it’s essential to know you have both parts of the equation—we each have needs and something to offer. The gathering of people for just such a purpose is a beautiful thing.

My encouragement for you? Think about networking in simple but powerful terms:

Develop authentic relationships with people. Do it all the time and in whatever venue you find yourself. And don’t do it for what you can get out of it.

Over the past fifteen years in the marketing and brand strategy world, every single career opportunity that I’ve had has come through trusted people in my network. I am fortunate—and thankful—for the relationships in my life.

About the author
Headshots-7_smallerPhilip Black has a 15-year track record of helping business leaders achieve their full potential in ways that yield tangible results — such as creating and establishing brands, developing employee and customer engagement programs, launching new products and attracting outside investment. At Avenue, a leading B2B marketing firm, he helps shape early-stage client strategy and map out business growth with new engagements.

Philip can be found online at:
linkedin.com/in/mrphilipblack
twitter.com/mrphilipblack

Photo: Tommy Martinsen

Special thanks for our venue sponsor i.c. stars and our other guest panelists and event organizers:

Sarah Goebel

Paula Kapacinskas

Michelle Batten

Pon Angara

5 Good Reasons Why You Should Join a Professional Association

Professional associations have been pivotal to my career and success.  Unfortunately, far too many professionals in the marketing/advertising/public relations industry feel that they are too busy to engage with a professional association. As a marketing executive I am always busy— but am actually less stressed on a day-to-day basis as a result of what I get in return from my professional associations.  I have mentors and colleagues who I can talk to about all things related to my profession at any time, I have a wealth of resources at my fingertips, I am well-versed on the latest marketing techniques, I have career opportunities popping up constantly along with a pipeline of potential candidates who would love to work with me.  Most importantly, I have the leadership ability and confidence to give every day as a marketer my absolute best.  Take it from someone who worked full-time as a Marketing Director while going to graduate school, mothering a one-year-old, serving as President of the American Marketing Association Chicago, and contributing to several other associations—you are never too busy to focus on building a better “you.” Here are five reasons why you should be part of a professional association to help build a better “you”:

1.      Build an awesome network. Due to spending time outside of the workplace interacting with others through professional associations, my network consists of thousands of people that can help me on a regular basis.  I have no limit to the amount of mentors, respected peers, marketing experts, future managers, recruiters, potential clients, agencies, vendor partners, future team members, business leaders, and the like who I can call upon to aid me in all my endeavors. 

2.     Attain a career opportunity (even when you aren’t looking). Two of the biggest career moves of my life are thanks to my involvement with professional associations and the recommendations that I received because of them.  I have just announced that I will be taking the helm as Chief Marketing Officer at Sikich—a role that a fellow American Marketing Association Board Member has held and recommended me for.  I c ouldn’t be more thrilled to achieve a top leadership role at a respected company at this point in my career.  The benefits that I have received by being part of the American Marketing Association are key to why I was selected for the job.

3.     Develop and grow professionally. Professional associations often offer members ways to get hands on experience within their field.  This can be a great way to build your resume with skills that you do not receive in your day job.  For example, the majority of experience I have gained in mobile and social marketing has been through my associations since these tactics aren’t heavily used in my industry.

4.     Boost your personal brand. Through professional networking, I have perfected my elevator pitch of who I am as a brand.  This has led to countless opportunities for me in the way of speaking engagements, mentoring arrangements, guest blogging and even a magazine feature that I obtained through meeting the editor at the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago (click here to review).

5.     Be at the cutting-edge of your practice Marketing as a practice has evolved more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100 years combined.  During its search for a new marketing leader, my new employer was clear that they needed someone who has evolved with the marketing evolution. I could confidently say that because of all the programs, conferences, books, social engagement, and expert interaction I have had with my professional associations, I am that marketer.

Tara Giuliano

Tara Giuliano, 2013-2014 President, Chicago AMA, and CMO, Sikich

Don’t sit on the sidelines and wait until you need a job or a resource to get involved with an association.  Build a better “you” today! Tara Giuliano is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sikich, a top 35 accounting and professional services firm.  She also serves as the President of the Chicago American Marketing Association.  In 2008, Tara published her advice for young professional women in a self-help book, Little Helpful Guide on How to Have Everything.