What I’ve learned from arranging my first Meetup

It started as some kind of joke or a dare- a guy I don’t know asked on Quora if there are any meetups for local Quora users. The replay was that it sounded like a good idea but it was never done before. So I thought to myself- why not?

So I started a new meetup group called the Israeli Quora meetup (neatly labeled “IQ”) and set a tentative date for a meetup.

IQmeetup

I published the existence of the group and the meeting on social media and Quora itself and waited. Pretty soon people started joining the group and RSVPing to the meetup. Now that it became more tangible I had to actually find a place and set an agenda for the meeting. Finding a location proved more difficult than I first expected. All the places I knew that could host us for free were unavailable. I didn’t want to start collecting money to fund this activity. Through open discussion we’ve reached the conclusion that it would be ok to hold the meeting in some public place, as long as it had ample parking and access to public transportation. 

I then came across an unexpected hurdle- I originally set the date to 7.7 to make it memorable, but it turned out my wife had to be abroad that day and I had no one to look after my kids. So I postponed it one week to the 14.7. I booked us a large table at a local beergarden and waited. 18 RSVP, but I was almost certain not everyone would show up. It didn’t bother me much since I knew at least several people were actually going to make it and I would not have to sit at a table set for 18 people all alone.

Long story short- they came, we dined and drank beer, talked and talked and had a great time. We said goodbye some 2.5 hours later and everyone, self-included, were pleased. I took some notes (written and mental ones) during the meeting and I’d like to share these with you here:

1.      Quorans (that’s insider jargon for Quora users) like to talk. A lot.

2.      Quorans interesting and merry folks. There were people from all over the country (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other places) aged 18-60 (I think, I never asked but some were fresh from high school and others had gray hair. I dare not guess the ladies’ age…)

3.      “If you arrange it, they will come”- People like to meet like-minded people. Period.
No professional agenda is needed, no high profile speaker or hip location…  just provide people the platform to meet face to face and they would gladly come.

4.      Networking works better face to face (and over beer)- Sure, I’ve been following and corresponding with these people over several months on various platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora and meetup inmail platform) – but 5 minutes sitting next to them were so much more meaningful.

5.      People really appreciate others who take initiative- all the participants thanked me and people that I didn’t even think of praise me for arranging this meetup. In reality all it took was 5 minutes to setup the Meetup accounts, some 20-30$ for the account fee, a few emails and phone calls. Nonetheless, people see you as the facilitator and acknowledge you’ve done something they’ve only dreamed or talked about. 

And they respect you for it.

So what am I taking from all this? Will I arrange another meetup?

You bet.

I just extended my subscription to Meetup and moved to unlimited account, which means that more than 50 people can actually join the online group. I will certainly push for another meeting in the fall, and make sure we will be meeting in a more convenient location. And yes- I will delegate most of the work to others. There are at least a dozen of IQ members that know how fun such a meeting can be and will surely help me arrange the next one.

One last note- I’m looking at 2016 as a year in which I experiment and try new things. Arranging this meetup, while not planned or thought of as part of this experience, was a great learning experience for me, and I’m really glad I’ve made the effort to pull it off.

And I know my fellow Quorans are grateful, too.

Stop procrastinating by asking yourself this one simple question

Let me just look at this status update, and then I'm back at work
Let me just look at this status update, and then I’m back at work

As I’ve explored in a previous post (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/10/02/why-procrastination-at-home-is-killing-your-career/) Procrastination can be deadly for your career. The difficulty is to identify when and what make you procrastinate, and stop it.

Most people use elaborate to-do lists (which never work- see another post : https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/09/how-to-make-the-perfect-to-do-list/), create reminders and other mechanisms to help them cope with the sad reality of not being able to complete the task they need to complete. But all these are doomed since the real problem nowadays is that procrastination is difficult to detect, and therefore, mitigate.

What do I mean? In today’s world, so many activities look like actual, beneficial work, when in fact, they are nothing more than time-consuming, exhausting habits we indulge in. Take email for instance- it is easy to get lost in endless emails that swamp your inbox, and forget that only a minute percentage of these is actually work related AND productive. Or the daily routine of “where should we go dine today/ what should we order in?”- this is another time drainer which does little to advance your daily tasks. And finally- social media and web surfing- 2 activities which take up sooooo much of our time today. Sure, it is nearly impossible to ignore these and some people (self- included) actually use these platform for work. But for most it’s a huge waste of time, and so is the endless communication apps which constantly beep to alert us about a new message post by some family member or distant friend. Whatsapp groups are the worst, endless babble all day long, and it’s enough to have one bored member of the group who keeps posting to annoy all the other members (remember- that guy isn’t working like you, so do not engage him! He will naturally get bored and stop eventually).

So given that all these activities SEEM like work (or desired/ expected social behavior at least) how do you block yourself and concentrate on the important stuff?

Easy. Just ask yourself, at any point during your day (and preferably, multiple times)- is this the best use of my time? If I had only 5 minutes left before leaving the office, is this what I would have been doing? Chances are that no, you are not putting your time to the best possible use, hence you are eroding it’s value, which is an awful lot like procrastinating.

So stop, and do something more productive.

Keep asking yourself this daily, and at some point it will become second nature, thus minimizing your time wasting habit and eventually eliminating them.

And if after that you still need a list to complete your tasks, be my guest. At least you’ve made sure you will actually focus on completion rather than spend more time on Facebook…

When is it OK to utilize your network?

When is it OK to utilize your network?

Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right
Reach out to your connections when in need, but do it right

So, if you’ve been reading my latest posts about networking (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/27/the-advantages-of-being-accessible/

And https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/17/you-are-the-sum-of-your-connections/)

Then surely you realize it is important and very much possible to cultivate a large network of connections.

But when and how can one utilize this awesome network of followers?

First let’s dwell on why I refer to the action of asking something from your network as “utilizing”? well, I consider my network one of my greatest resources, and I utilize it regularly- as a reader base, to ask specific questions and even the odd “ can you help me get a job at your firm” request.

So now that we’ve established this is a resource, one must wonder how not to abuse or over use it- or, simply put- one must ass when and how I can utilize this awesome network of followers?

Well, like everything else in life – the answer is “it depends”. It depends on your need, urgency and level of intimacy with the person you wish to engage.

The need- simply put, is the person qualified to help you with what you need to do? If she is 100% relevant to what you want to achieve (for instance, is in charge of recruiting in a firm you want approach) than it’s ok to approach her and simply ask what it is you want her to do (introduce you to someone, sample your product, provide feedback on your website etc.).

Urgency- this is easy to grasp- sometime speed is of the essence- like when a new job opening is posted on a company website and you happen to know someone from the inside who can make sure your friend’s CV is one of the first to make it to the recruiter’s desk. Or when you really need to reach out to someone now. Most people appreciate that “desperate times” call for desperate means and if you will explain why the request is urgent they are likely to accept even if otherwise they would have rejected the request.

Intimacy- in today’s world of loosely related networks (also known as “weak connections” we cannot expect the same level of intimacy as before. And yet, there is a wide spectrum of degrees of closeness. Starting from the obvious- Family and close friends are pretty much open to help request anytime. Weaker connections and ones which are purely virtual- people you’ve never met, spoken to or even emailed, but are connected to on Social media ) are less likely to assist, given that they don’t actually know you.

Given that you’ve considered these factors and decided to move ahead and utilize the connection, please bear the following principles in mind:

  1. Be polite: You are making a move here, so the reasonability is on you. Be polite, use proper grammar and respect the other side (don’t “Bro” anyone you are not actually bros with). It will go a long way in helping the other side to decide to assist you.
  1. Be specific: Tell them why you approached them, why now and what it is you expect them to do. The worse case scenario is someone telling you it’s out of their reach, but more positive outcomes could be that people who wants to help but can’t/ not capable of, will often direct you (or even approach on you behalf) another individual who could be of help.
  1. Don’t erode your currency- Don’t ask multiple times the same request, don’t bug people if you don’t get an answer. Being “connected” to someone does not mean you have the right to annoy and spam. And respect the “No”- if someone refuses to help accept it and move on. Fighting such a person will seriously erode your credibility for the next time you have a need for assistance.
  2. Be willing to give back- reciprocation, even if not specifically mentioned, is to be expected. If you are not comfortable with someone asking you to reciprocate with an introduction to a guy in your firm, don’t ask them a similar thing in the first place.

Conclusion

It was said that in ancient China, if you managed to get some face time you could have asked for anything, it would have been given to you. This made sense because such a tiny percentage of the population ever had a chance of actually meeting their ruler, so if one had the resources and means to achieve this it was usually important enough so the emperor would abide by the request. Today you don’t have to wait a lifetime to ask anyone (even famous and powerful people) anything. And yet, it might be sensible to think of the story of the emperor and save the requests for important stuff. Building a large network of connection is easier than ever before, but that does not mean we need to abuse this powerful resource.

The two alternative social platforms you should be using this moment

If you are reading this by all likelihood you’ve came here from Facebook, Twitter of LinkedIn. You probably dwell there daily, follow the links to sites and blogs such as this, and if you are a “power-user” you even contribute from time to time, posting witty twits, posting thought and images on your Facebook wall or longer opinion pieces on LinkedIn Pulse platform. Or you might even cultivate your own blog on a platform such as WordPress or Blogger. And you might feel this is enough, but I’m here to tell you there are 2 social platforms you simply can’t ignore at the moment, especially if your into marketing.

Medium and Quora
Medium and Quora

Medium

Founded in 2012  by two ex- Twitteroids, Medium is fast becoming THE blogging platform of our time.  As the mission statement on the “about”  page says:” Medium is a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends. It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world. It’s used by everyone from professional journalists to amateur cooks. It’s simple, beautiful, collaborative, and it helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say” (https://medium.com/about/welcome-to-medium-9e53ca408c48)

And the beauty is that it does just that. If you want to read great content- its all there. If you want to simply start writing and publish it to a potentially massive audience- this is the place to do. With the simplest “what you see is what you get” interface, it’s really is all about writing (it’s easy to combine images too, but it’s not a tumbler-like site at all. Words are the essence here.

Why should you care: well, it’s where I’d go for a great read, and I enjoy publishing posts there occasionally. It’s also free of charge, hassle free and visually appealing.

Quora: you could write posts on Quora too, but that’s not the point. The point of Quora is answering every conceivable question in the world. From silly questions to philosophical ones, anyone can post a question and anyone can answer (the site editors remove duplications and maintain the discussion on proper term). You can ask someone to answer a specific question, “pay” them with credits and even accumulate credits for answering others. If you think this is childish (does sound like a dream machine for any curios 4 years old), just know that many famous and smart people visit the site regularly and contribute from their experience and wisdom. People like Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban, Werner Vogels, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreesen and many others. The site has a large Indian population and the Quorans seems to infatuated with entrepreneurs in general and Elon Musk in particular. Still, if you have any question worth asking – this is the place (and you do get great answers from people in the know- you can ask VCs what they are looking for in a startup pitch, or ask people how to improve your SEO, and just about anything else). The think I like the most about Quora is that if used properly, you are genuinely helping others (and receive the recognition you deserve in return).

Why should you care: a great place to get answers for just about everything you ever wanted to know, and one of the only places online you can really help others. It’s also free.

So, to summarize, publishing posts on LinkedIn is nice, but you should really be exploring more sociable alternatives. Note that I’m refraining from using the term “blogging platforms”- both sites are much more of a social meeting place than a mere platform. One word of advise- these sites can be fairly addictive, Quora in particular ( you will check your app in the morning to see how many people have upvoted your recent answer, I guarantee it.

What I’ve learned from my grandmother about life and Owntrepreneurship

My grandma passed away last week. She was 90 years old, and until very recently mostly healthy and extremely sharp minded. She was diagnosed with cancer some 2 months ago and the decline was swift and painful.

person-731423_1920 (2)

Putting aside the pain and the longings, I got to thinking about what my beloved Grandma taught me about life, and which of these lessons can be applied to Owntrepreneurship. We’ll, taught is not the right word. She never “Told” me or “taught” me anything, but by observing her life and her behavior I’ve learned many important lessons about what’s really important in life:

  1. Resiliency- we tend to forget this, but Europeans living through the first half of the 20th century, and especially Jews, have had much harder lives than we will ever have and had to overcome many obstacles that later generations don’t have to face- like war, immigration and economic crises.
    My Grandma was born in Sambur- then Galicia, Part of Poland (today in the Ukraine), immigrated to Argentina when she was 10 with her family. She started elementary school in Rosario without knowing a single word in Spanish, but quickly overcame this obstacle and led a happy lives in the thriving local Jewish community. She married my Grandfather, a young doctor and had her first daughter, and then decided to immigrate to Israel. Arriving in Israel in the 50s must have been a big shock- made worst by the fact they settled in a Kibutz (a communal settlements), living in tents and sheds and forgoing all luxury of middle-high society she enjoyed in Argentina. She was a trained optometrist, but that was not a required profession at the new settlement, so she worked whenever she was needed- at the communal kitchen, tending babies and finally settled on a job as a seamstress, where she worked for many many years, mending the clothes of dozens. Since my grandfather was a doctor who worked travelled often she was also tasked with raising my mother and her younger brother. And yet, through all the hardship she remained optimistic, and adjusted quickly to the new, oftentimes worse situation. Perhaps that was the trait of many people living in harder times (I’m guessing one might even call her lucky- had her parents not left Poland the entire family would likely have perished in the holocaust), but to this is one thing I will always admire about her- the ability to adjust, bounce back and keep a smile on the face while doing so.
  1. Ability to re-invent (or pivot)- having been the “Doctor’s wife” for most of her life, when my Grandfather died at 68, she was left with a big hole in her life. But she kept going and re-invented herself as the ultimate grandma. She was the driving force behind our family and always made sure we were together on holiday and family occasions. She became more independent and started to travel the world, go to concerts, movies and shows and never had a dull moment until her recent decline. Even a broken hip in recent years did not hold her back. She was truly another person, no more the shy, appeasing, small women, but a strong, appointed and fun loving.
  2. The power of a supportive network – research shows that one of the crucial elements in longevity is the existence of an embracing community. My Grandmother had just that- a group of friends who were together from their 20’s and stayed together through good and bad, living in a small, protected community. Several of her close friends attended her funeral – all about her same age (90). The ability to create and maintain such a network is crucial in achieving long and happy life. But her network was not limited to her friends- she also cultivated an extended family-like network, of many, many “adopted” children she took care of when they arrived at a young age to the kibbutz (as a result of Israel facing many immigration waves in the 50’s, many kids from large families were sent to more established families since their parents were unable to support them having just arrived in a foreign country with no job or knowledge of the language). These kids grew up, had kids and grandkids and they all referred to her as “Grandma”. Until her very last days she would remember who was doing what, where everyone was living and even kept a small notepad with names, addresses and phone numbers, just in case she would forget someone’s contact details. This large supportive network was evident in her last days when people from all over the country came to pay her a last visit, and the many people who came to her funeral.
  1. The currency of Love- my Grandmother was never rich. Whatever she had, she would always give away, and what she couldn’t in terms of money or physical means, she passed on in the form of the most powerful currency available. That of love. And people loved her back, and respected her for it. By always helping others and being truly empathic, she was able to create such a powerful following, of people who would gladly help her, should she ever ask (she almost never asked anything).

I loved my grandma dearly and already miss her. But thinking about what I’ve learned from her gives me comfort, and also serves as a reminder- she would not want me to feel sad or sorry after her demise, but she did wanted me to apply the lessons I’ve learned in my life, and help other just like she did.

Toxic work environment- What you need to do now

The CEO shouts at everyone. Prior to the annual review meetings everyone is scared as hell. Good people leave, replaced by mediocre ones, replaced by truly bad ones.

toxic
If it’s toxic, move away

Yes- you are now officially working in a toxic environment.

Perhaps it’s you to blame- the signs were there, but you chose to pick behind the curtain anyway… you know- lots of people saying it’s a bad place, some rumors about senior executives from hell.. but you were offered a decent paycheck, and the Lady at HR was really nice.

Perhaps it wasn’t always like that- when you started working there it was a smallish company, and it felt like home. Five years forward, 200 employees in the door and all the original C-Suite replaces by class A assholes, and suddenly it’s not so nice anymore. Regardless, the first step of dealing with such environment is to identify it.

The first part is fairly easy- simply look around and smell the air. That’s right, you can sniff fear, anxiety and evil from afar. Second is to consult with your (trusted only) colleagues- do they feel this way too? Chances are you won’t be the only one feeling this.

 

So you wait. Maybe things will change for the better? (they won’t, they never do. Only for the worst). But once you’ve waited long enough, you need to act to control the situation.

Many people want to know how to handle working in a toxic work environment. It is a question repeatedly asked in forums and Quora-like websites. It resonates all over the corporate world, meaning that many suffer from this ugly phenomena.

So how do you deal with it?

In three step: acknowledge it game over, mitigate and depart.

Wait. Did you say depart? I did. From my experience (not exclusive to work environment, but in general) toxic environments don’t change. They don’t change without a fundamental change, one that is almost impossible for most companies. Consider this- if the executives are ok but the majority of the established employees are useless, than in all likelihood the company will fail, sending the execs home to be replaces by more aggressive one, which will in turn drive the decent employees away, spiraling ever down. Or the opposite case- where the majority of employees are cool but all the top brass (or just the founder/ CEO) are worthless- the same result- good people (especially in mid- management positons) being pushed away, second tier people brought in or promoted, average people leave, etc.

So the very first step in acknowledging the place is toxic- is also the last- acknowledging you will not work there long before being corrupted yourself.

Once this is behind you (leave the blame game behind – at this it doesn’t matter why and what brought you here- like the Titanic, you are only interested in finding your way out safely.

But in the meantime- you need to create a “safe Zone” for yourself. A place (physical or metaphorical) where you can avoid the daily dosages of poison. It could be a coffee club, a running group, or ideally, a group of close colleagues working together on a project. These will serve as your “buffer” from the environment, provide support and help in need. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking this safe haven can keep you safe for long. Even if you’ve amassed several people who help (or even follow you), and even if you have some senior executive is grooming you to be a future VP- don’t stop looking for way to get out. And this is really your goal- to find a better place for you to work. Not only an “Ok” place, a genuinely BETTER one. Who wants to go from a bad to a mediocre company? And this may mean you will have to settle (for salary, location, position). But don’t despair. These are all temporary setback, and a small price to pay for “cleansing” your environment. I can tell you from my own experience it’s worth it- I’ve left a secured, high paying position in which I could have done pretty much everything I liked (my Boss was located in a different continent and cared little about me and my whereabouts – oh, the wonders of the multinational corporate!), for a less secured one, which paid less in a much smaller company. Why? My first daughter was just born and I didn’t want to spend my days working is such environment- I knew this would reflect on my behavior at home and I was not going to let my company have such negative effect on my little one. Two and a half years later I can say it was worth it and I would done it again given the same circumstances.

And so should you. Don’t be a quixotic hero trying to fix what cannot be fixed. If you’ve identified the toxic vapors in the air, get a grip and evacuate.

 

 

The most overlooked skill required for successful networking

Networking does not come easily to everyone, that’s for sure. If you’re an introvert, it is definitely harder for you to be a good networker (https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/07/20/growing-your-network-as-an-introvert/).

Your memory is your greatest asset when utilizing your network
Your memory is your greatest asset when utilizing your network

Or is it?

Because there’s one overlooked skill of networking. Sure, it helps that you are open, flamboyant or chatty. But that only gets you that far along. Because in order to be an exceptional connector you need to have a skill that is not immediately associated with communication.

That skill is memory.

Just being able to reach out to people and “connect” with them, means little if you don’t have the ability to catalogue them in your memory and being able to access it at any given time. And even that is not sufficient. You must remember when you’ve met, what he or she are doing, how they connect to others and how you can reach out to them if need be. In short, you need to be able to create and maintain a mental map of all your connections, preferably categorizes into sub-networks (people you went to school with, people you’ve worked with, friend of friends etc.). while this may sound trivial, it is very complicated when you are considering very large networks. Technology helps- LinkedIn contains a lot of information about the people you’re connected to (I have more than 6000 of them), and some people maintain excel sheets or even keep rolodexes filled with business cards with hand written notes about the person. But the really good connectors? They have it all in the most awesome data base the world has ever known- the human brain.

So if you feel the social aspect of networking is difficult- do not despair. Most chances are you can more than much up to it with good memory skills.

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/).

system-571182_1920
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.

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).