Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Business Card: Another Aspect of Effective Networking

Networking can occur anywhere, and it’s important that you are ready to capitalize on any such chances.

So, always carry an ample supply of your business cards with you wherever you go.

One never knows who they might run into that could be a good business contact -- whether you are in a grocery store, movie theater, plane, elevator, restaurant, conference, or the gym!

This has paid off for me, in the strangest places. One day this preparedness paid off – when I was on a skiing vacation, I gave my companion on the lift my card. It turns out she was in a position to book my services … and did!

Even if your company doesn’t print cards for you, spend some money and have a calling card – name and personal contact information – printed.

If you do make contact with someone you want to speak to again, ask for a card, then give the person yours. This way, you can make the next move.

I also like to jot down a note or two on the back of the card – where we met, what we talked about, and I want to do when I return to the office (send articles, follow up with a phone call, etc.).

If the other person doesn’t have a card, take yours and write his or her contact details on the back, crossing off your front information so you don’t accidentally give that card to someone else!

Enter all business card information in your computer database, Rolodex, or PDA as soon as you return, and, most importantly, do what you promise!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Networking Nuances

Every day businesspeople are presented with opportunities to network.

How would you rate your networking skills?

Do you cling to the wall like static electricity when you’re at a cocktail reception? Or, do you confidently move about the room, meeting and greeting new people?

Successful networkers have the ability to enter a room where they don’t know anyone, and make beneficial contacts before they leave.

The contacts you make at networking events can open doors for you throughout your career.

If you feel nervous about the idea of networking, consider this: You have already been doing it all your life, without stopping to think about it.

Everyone you have ever met is part of a network you have already constructed, and it is larger than you think. It is made up of all your friends, neighbors, social club or sports team members, your doctors, dentist, banker, your accountant and religious leader, as well as any current and former co-workers, customers and competitors. A surprising number of people are part of your personal network.

There are opportunities to network all around you, even in places you would least expect. You simply have to train yourself to channel your networking efforts into furthering your professional goals.

Always keep your eyes open for networking occasions.

Here are some opportunities for networking within an organization:

•Sporting events. If your company has any, join in. It doesn’t matter at all if you aren’t a pro. Learn as much as you can about the activity, arrive equipped, and have fun!

•Lunch. This is a great time to get to know your colleagues on a more relaxed, informal basis. Don't eat alone at your desk; if you do, you are relinquishing a good opportunity to network. Besides, everybody needs an occasional break from the office.

•Look beyond your own position or department. Volunteer to assist with company-wide events or activities. This is a great way to demonstrate your versatility and your team spirit.

•Be a volunteer. Become involved with a charitable organization or cause in your community. Donate your time, not just money. The good feeling you will get from helping others will be an extra bonus.

•Join organizations and participate actively. Naturally, it is important to join professional or trade organizations related to your career. But there are many other good opportunities as well, such as participating in programs given by your local Chamber of Commerce, or running for a place on the school board. There are social groups and groups that form around a specific interest, such as investment groups, book clubs and photography clubs. Speak up at meetings, serve on committees and attend the events.

Revisit my blog over the next few weeks, when I’ll explain more networking strategies, and how to really work a room.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Risk-Taking Redux: Getting Started

My post last week encouraged everyone to start taking risks – accepting a new assignment, trying something outside your “comfort zone.”

Risk taking can lead to reward. But, if taking risks is hard for you (or someone you know), it’s OK to begin slowly.

I’ll call this “Risk Taking for DUMMIES” …. Hey, they’re best-sellers after all!

1) First, write down small risks that you would be willing to take.

Here are some suggestions:

•Deliver a presentation to your peers
•Be responsible for a segment of an upcoming corporate or departmental meeting
•Volunteer to serve on a company-wide initiative or taskforce

2) Next, put a deadline date next to the risk you plan to take. Then, ask yourself the questions I posed last week: “What is the worst that can happen?” … and, “Then what?”

3) Then, take the risk. Evaluate how everything turned out.

4) Celebrate the accomplishments – even the smallest steps of growth.

Keep building from taking small to larger risks. Embrace the adage, “Success breeds success.”

Remember your childhood when you were in the playground on the jungle gym? In order to cross to the other side, you needed to let go of one hand, and move it forward to grab the next bar.

That is what I suggest we all do for career-related risks – let go of one hand. Open up to the possibilities. See what you can learn, and contribute.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What’s the Worst That Can Happen? And, Then What?

To risk or not to risk – that is the question. And, it’s a great question to ask.

Throughout our careers, we are faced with opportunities that require some risk-taking.

Some risks that you may already have faced include:

•Switching industries
•Asking for a raise
•Taking a new position

What are some of the things that you need to ask yourself, as future situations arise that require risk?

Here are 3 questions that I always consider before taking a new risk:

1) What is the worst that could happen?
2) What are the odds that it really will happen? (In other words, how often does the worst thing happen)?
3) If the worst DOES happen, then what? For the most part, if you are taking calculated risks, there will always be a “then what?”

Years ago, I had the opportunity to take an early retirement from my job as a college professor -- allowing me to turn my part-time training and coaching business into a full-time venture.

Talk about risks! I was the sole support for my two daughters, and never had worked in business before. I first discussed the situation with my dad – a successful businessman. His response was, “Are you crazy?”

That was not what I wanted to hear.

What I have since learned, over the years, is that it is important to surround yourself with people who are positive. Positive people can still be cautious – but at best, they help you explore all possibilities.

Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Some people are naturally negative – stay away from them! Other people may be overly cautious, even fearful. Their negativity may be fear-based, but don’t buy into these fears.

Of course, I’m not talking about jumping out of a plane without the parachute! Calculated risks are what I’m talking about – and, the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the risk.

Consider this model:

Big risk = big reward -- Probably worth taking
Big risk = small reward – Questionable

The people I know who are most successful in their careers, and are satisfied with their lives, are the ones willing to take risks.

What risk are you willing to take?