The benefits of making yourself accessible to others

Putting yourself out there is a scary thing. It used to be that only a very specific type of people would do that- artists, writers, “celebrities”. Enter web 2.0 and we can all (in theory at least) connect to everyone, everywhere (I’ve discussed the benefits of having multiple connections in previous posts: https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/).

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If you are accesible, they will find you

But the fact that you can connect, and sometimes actively do doesn’t mean your are accessible. Most people will content with just connecting to people they know, or to people whom they’ve just met ( see https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/), but that would be it. And it is a shame because every human connection has two sides. And if you’re not accessible, than you are making it harder for OTHERS to reach out to you. What do I mean when I say accessible? First of all- you must have some sort of online presence. Some place people can come and see you, hear what you have to say and be able to assess whether connecting with you is sensible for them. It can be social media account (obviously Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but also the more visual Pinterest and Instagram and the likes), a private blog or a corporate blog. Anywhere online which is the “digital you”. This was once an exception but today it’s pretty much standard practice for everyone. And even if you are exceptionally shy and reluctant to share any detail of your private life- do remember that you control every aspect of this exposure, so you can determine how much and what to share.

If you are still not convince- think of the downside of not having any online presence at all- in all honesty, this might appear as you have something to hide from the world (surely potential employers would be very suspicious of this).
Once you’ve set this up, do try to make it accessible- meaning allowing people to look you up, see your information etc. obscuring this using elaborate “privacy” settings defeats the whole purpose of being out there. Next, think about you inclination to receive connection request. Would you accept these from everyone, just people you know well or even from people you’ve met briefly? I believe that unless the other person clearly has malicious intents or uses questionable ethics (such as utilizing a fake image) it worth connecting to, if only to increase my visibility. And this is the real secret of networking in large scale networks- the more people you connect to (or connect to you), the more visible you become- hence more people are made aware of your existence seek to connect with you. Sure, some would like things from you – an intro to another person, or for you buy whatever it is they are selling. But for most people- they seek to connect from the same reasons you are. Some might even have a genuine interest in you and what you are doing, and, when called upon, will be happy to extend some help ( I will elaborate on how to utilize this enormous resource in future posts).  So don’t be shy, and make sure you are visible and accessible. You network will grow as a result, and you might, just might be opening yourself to new opportunities which were never available to you until now.

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Growing your network as an introvert

So we’ve established the necessity and value of multiple connections in your professional life (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/17/you-are-the-sum-of-your-connections/).

Connect- it doesn't hurt
Connect- it doesn’t hurt

But do you go about obtaining and maintaining these connections? Well, if you are an outgoing type, than making connections should be a breeze- you simply talk to people, call then, chat them up and connect with them on social media (and keep their cards in the rolodex).

But what if you’re an Introvert?

What if mingling or “networking” isn’t really your thing? What if you shy from social interactions with people you don’t know, and think that calling people you don’t know is simply too embarrassing? Well, since we are in 2015, there’s an easy solution. It’s called the INTERNET. And using internet tools such as email, social media and CRM you can easily avoid most of the awkwardness associated with making new connections.

But let’s start with the easy part- regardless of what you like or not, you are bound to meet and talk to new people- be it when meeting customers, attending professional seminar or even on your leisure time. And since you’ve already talked to them (delivered a presentation, participated in a sales call, whatever) you can easily reach out to them later and “claim” the connection. Simply look them up in the appropriate social network (in 99% of cases it would have something to do with your profession, so LinkedIn would be it) and send a connection request. That’s it.

No words spoken.

No awkward email introduction needed.

No awkwardness on the receiving end.

And if you want to connect to someone you haven’t actually met? No need for “extra smoothness” (as you recall we’ve met at …) – all you need to do is to write how you’ve met (or came to know), what is it that you want and why. Something like- I’ve attended a presentation you deliver last week at the conference and would like to add you to my professional network.

With time this will become easier and more natural, and as your network grows your visibility will grow and voila- people will start contacting you, asking to connect with you. Be kind and reciprocate. It costs nothing an has enormous value to your career, even if it is not obvious right now.

You are the sum of your connections

The power of connections
The power of connections

We tend to measure the progress in our careers by looking at tangible things- how much we earn, how many people we manage, how important is our title. These are all metrics that measures ourselves. But few of us ever consider that we might not be the most important elements in our own success, but others that we are connected to. I would even dare say that who you know is sometimes more important than how you are. The concept of “connectors” was illustrated to great effect in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The tipping point”.  Gladwell claims that social epidemics (that was back in 2006. Today he would have used the phrase “viral”) are dependent on the involvement of three types of social agents: Maven, Connector, or Salesperson. Mavens and salesperson are easily identified and defined- just think about that guy who knows everything about gadgets and the guy always trying to persuade you to dine at this new restaurant. But Connectors are more difficult to fathom. Gladwell defines them as:” the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people who “link us up with the world…people with a special gift for bringing the world together” (if you haven’t already read it, I recommend you do so now: http://gladwell.com/the-tipping-point/).

And since we all have about the same capacity for close connections (we can maintain close-ish relations with about 150 people at a time, according to Dunbar’s law), what sets true connectors apart is their ability to establish and maintain a much wider network of secondary (or “weak”) connections. The importance of these weaker connections was first identified in the 1960s, a Doctor Mark Granovetter who conducted a study to determine the role that friendships play in helping individuals find employment. Granovetter discovered that in the process of landing a job, weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than strong-tie friendships because weak ties give us access to social networks where we otherwise don’t belong. And while we expect sales-oriented people to be good at this, and them alone, the truth is that having access to multiple social circles is crucial for anyone who’s ever going to migrate between geographies, change her line of work or care about a non-work related cause. And since this maybe true for only a fraction of the population now, it will surely be a decisive edge in the future, where expert foresee no job stability and diverse employment models being the norm.

So the next time you submit a job application, remember that in addition to your resume, the people reading your CV also look at who you know and how many you know. This network of connection could be your decisive edge (in future posts I will explore further how to establish and maintain such large networks of connections).

How to make the perfect “to-do” list

I need to do one thing today, but what?
I need to do one thing today, but what?

Everybody has a way of compiling they’re own “to-do” list. Some color code. Other glue post-its. Other use apps. Engineers and project managers love writing endless list on whiteboards. No one seems to be able to update and actually get anything done, but it feels good to have a long list of tasks on the wall (and make your superiors feel you are busy at work).

While these are all nice techniques, they all have the same basic falsity- they list multiple items, and focus on recording open tasks rather than on their completion.

But what eventually happens is that you spend time every day crafting your near-perfect list, cross some items off (hopefully) and copy it to the next page to serve as a reminder for tomorrow. And while I’m all for rigorously recording your tasks and your traction in completion them, the real challenge is not to list everything you must do, but to identify the one important task that you simply cannot afford not to complete today.

That’s right.

Just one.

Make it a “Task” list. Record all the open tasks elsewhere. Spend the time and mental effort in identifying one (ok, you are allowed to list between 0ne- three items) that if you don’t accomplish today your tomorrow will suffer. This one task can be as specific as completing and posting this blog post today or a more generic, managerial task such as “make sure everyone on the team is aligned with the new product strategy/ release schedule”. And make sure you don’t go home until you’ve completed that task. If you ask Peter Thiel, he will tell you that this tactic should actually be the strategic way you should manage your company- making each employee focus on one task only, excelling and completing it flawlessly. And while this strategy can be overwhelming for how most organization and people mange themselves, it makes sense on a most basic level- get the important things done, the rest will take care of itself.

The power of habit – or how to ditch a bad habit and consume less coffee

I’ve finished reading “The power of habit-Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” ( by Charles Duhig) a few weeks ago. In addition to being an exceptional read it provides many tools to comprehend how habits are formed and how they can be established. But it also got me thinking- what if we could reverse these rule to undo bad habits? So I’ve created a little experiment on someone very dear to my heart- myself.

Why don't you have another cup?
Why don’t you have another cup?

I’ve noticed how lately I’ve been drinking more core and more coffee during the week. How much? Let’s say 6 cups and up. I use to drink one double espresso in the morning, just to wake up, have another when I get to work (9 am), another at 11, another during noon when I was feeling drowsy… another at 4 PM to get going and another, sometime iced, later in the evening. Luckily it did not affect my sleep patterns yet (one of the only benefits of being sleep deprived for several years is the fact that I can pretty much fall asleep anytime, day or night, unaffected by even severe Jetlag). But I was feeling that this is not a good habit in the long run. So I’ve started to log when I was having my coffee. I’ve actually drafted a coffee “table” where I wrote a big “x” every time I’ve drank a cup. And you know what? This simple activity reduces my consumption immediately. I than tried to limit myself to 3 cups a day. Having the dreadful table it was easy to see I needed to pace myself- If I’d have one cup at home and one arriving at work – that was already 2:3. So I’m now skipping the “home” cup and having one once I get to work. I then realized that if I eat lunch around noon, I don’t really need another cup in between, so I dropped, the 11 am one and going straight to 2 PM, which leaves me with the option of having another at 4PM at the office, or drink it later that evening at home with the missus. Of course I sometime drink more (going for a business meeting at a café it would be rude not to) but in general I pretty much adhere to the guidelines I’ve set for myself. And it feels good- to know you can undo a bad habit. Because if “The power of habit” has taught me anything, it was that habit tend to control us and not the other way around – so to have the power to change your behavior for the better is a real testimony of character and willpower.