ladieswithcomputersOK. I wouldn’t be a responsible recruiter, blogger, writer and networker if I didn’t tell you the truth. I have been and continue to be a huge advocate of social networking and using sites like Linked In to build your professional brand and network. But I think it’s getting a wee bit out of hand now. Let me explain.

Yes, the primary purpose of those sites is to get to know people and make lasting connections. However, I have read one too many articles and heard far too many “experts” tell people to get on and use it to find a job. “Don’t be afraid to seek out people in companies you want to work in and let them know you’re looking for a job or ask for an introduction to a hiring manager within the company”. Ordinarily I would agree with that, but with a caveat. Anyone who has read anything I’ve written knows that I tell people build relationships and get to know people. Yes, you should be bold and reach out to people you don’t know. But there is an etiquette to it. Make an effort to get to know the person and build some sort of relationship with them. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten an email asking to introduce someone to one of my contacts. I don’t have a problem making connections, but if I have never communicated with you or hadn’t heard from you since we initially connected, do not ask me to refer you. See, it’s a credibility issue with me. My name and reputation mean everything to me. Anyone I recommend is someone I know in some capacity. If I don’t know you from Eve, how can I introduce you to someone not knowing what you bring to the table?

Think about it. Would you refer someone you don’t know? If things went wrong, that could damage not only your reputation, but also your relationship. One time I passed along an introduction figuring I would help this person out because they needed a job. I didn’t know her, but she sent an email introducing herself to let me know she was on the market. I made the introduction and forgot to tell my contact I did not know her personally. The person went on to badger my contact. She called her repeatedly and sent email after email asking for an interview. My contact said she told her she didn’t have anything at the time but to watch the website. She also told her she’d be in touch if something came up. The woman would call her every time she saw a new opening on the company website. I was so embarrassed and had to work overtime to mend my damaged relationship. Well, I generally applaud initiative. But stalking is another issue altogether and I cannot condone that.

I think writers have been very irresponsible to tell readers to go ahead and reach out to people without giving them the proper etiquette lesson that goes along with that advice. I truly hope that you all do go out and network, you’re supposed to, otherwise how would you build your network. But please be responsible about it. Don’t go in there reaching out to folks you never met asking for introductions or worse, making your initial contact about getting a job. I am not heartless. But I am a realist. Get to know the people you reach out to. Ask to speak with them via phone and chat a little about yourself. Don’t go into interview mode or ask to send your resume. What you can do is talk about your expertise, and casually mention that you may be interested in hearing about the right opportunities. As them if they mind if you keep in touch with them periodically. Remain in touch by sending relevant articles, events and books. A follow up email every now and then is welcomed by most people. Sending an email every week, well, is stalking.

So “Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers”, but do it responsibly. Be courteous and respectful. If you manage your network with class, common sense and respect I promise that you will benefit from leads because you took the time to nurture the relationships. Remember, it’s give and take.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

The hottest trend on the internet and in business today is Social Networking.  At the forefront are powerhouse sites like Linked In and Facebook.  Anybody who spends anytime online knows about (or should know) the power of Social Networks. Many have heard about Linked In, created a Linked In network, and even toyed around with the Groups and Answers features.  But most people don’t know how to effectively use Linked In to grow their careers or business effectively.

Many people join the site, and send and receive invitations to connect.  Some follow the unspoken rules of the site, some don’t and make spamming a pass time.  While some people have managed to just barely navigate Linked In and create great networks, few people know how to effectively use the Social Networks they have created. While there are many social networking sites, for the purpose of this blog entry I will focus on Linked In.

There is a lot of information on Linked In and other places on the internet describing the features of the site.  You can find stories about the site owners and how they’ve raised money for the site.  You can find self professed gurus telling how their expertise can help them turn a Linked In network into a sales pipeline or using it for successful job hunting.  But you rarely learn about the work and effort you need to put into it to make it work for you.  Signing up for an account is the first step.  Putting up a profile is the next important step.  But if you leave it there, you are doing yourself a disservice and only adding to Linked In’s numbers, not it’s success stories.

To be effective in any type of networking, you need to put in the effort.  I set aside time each quarter to connect with all of my 700+ connections to let them know what’s going on in my world and how I can help them with any issues they are dealing with.  I am on Linked In daily because I run two groups on there and  get approval requests daily, not to mention inmail and invitations I need to weed through.  Every weekend, I am on Linked In looking for potential people to connect to.  I craft personalized introduction letters and request connection.  I also take time to answer questions when I can.  Sometimes I’ll answer publicly, sometimes privately.  But I try to take advantage of opportunities that will allow me to showcase my expertise (not solicit business or recruit, but show my expertise).  I send notes to my connections who have posted recent promotions, successes and good news.  They are almost always surprised by that action.  It shows I’m paying attention.

Another thing I try to do is humanize my networks.  To me, it’s not enough to just join a group or add a connections.  If I am connecting with someone it has to have meaning.  I’ll call when I can, and in some cases plan to meet face to face.  This coming Friday, I am having lunch with some of my connections and I am very excited.  What is the sense of “knowing someone” without getting to know them?  I’m not in some contest to see who can have the most connections.  I connect with whom I want to connect.  Somehow it all works itself out.  Remember that video I posted a little while back by IBM, where the guy is explaining he has 600+ friends on his network, and his boss tells him to find 10 potential high level employees?  And he responds that he doesn’t know anyone like that?  Well that’s an example of poor networking form.  I can guarantee that any type of position someone has I can find a contact who knows someone who is an ideal fit.  That is a wonderful advantage to have.  Because I keep in touch with my network, it is easier for them to remember who I am and makes them more willing to help me.  I’m not bothering people with forward requests.  I’m not referring people I don’t know.  I respect my network and am growing it organically. That is what makes me a successful networker.

There’s more to social networking but this blog isn’t long enough to hold it all.  I teach courses on social networking that breaks it down to the bare essence. If you’re interested, come check one out.  They’re not expensive.

So before you Link In, consider why you are linking in and what purpose it’ll serve.  Consider what amount of time you plan to put into it and what your expectations are.  Don’t connect for the sake of connecting or numbers.  Cultivate your network like you would your garden.  I guarantee the more attention and love you give it, the better your return.  If you don’t know how to do it, learn.  It’ll do wonders for your career and/or business

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

A few hours of your time per month.  That’s the price for building a network.  Networking is hands down one of the top three elements for success.  Why is it so many people decide to let it fall to the bottom of the priority list?

Men do it all the time.  They get together for golf, at the country club, at exclusive dining clubs, cigar clubs, etc.  They come together to shoot the breeze, chip some balls, and do business.  They seem to do it seamlessly.  Women for some reason, aren’t as focused on networking, or shall I say the true value behind networking.  Men do it without giving it a name.  They put in the time, get to know their peers or counter parts, and they make things happen.  No really, understand what I’m saying here.  Women network, but not like men.  We are often pushed into it and out of our comfort zones.  I don’t know. For some reason, women feel that they cannot safely network, especially with other women.  I guess they think someone will steal their idea, turn on them, steal a client, or whatever.  Women also get so caught up in being all things to everybody (mom, businesswomen, corporate executive, student, etc) that they feel they don’t need to network.  This is especially true for Black Women.  Yes sisters, I’m telling it like it is.  I see it first hand every day.

I am blessed and fortunate that I forced myself to learn how to network.  I’m a Recruiter by trade so it’s par for the course, occupational hazzard.  But I have learned along the way that my sisters don’t take networking too seriously.  As you know, I started a network for Black Women to network.  And it has been wonderful, now that I have tightened the criteria for joining the network.  There are wonderful women from all backgrounds, levels of responsibility, locations, companies, etc.  But a lot of them don’t feel comfortable networking just yet.  That is why I go out of my way to facilitate networking opportunities.  Right now, we are all coming together to master networking amongst ourselves before moving on to networking with others.  It’s coming along.  I had to remove some folks who signed up and never again returned or participated.  And when asked, the response was “I’m just too busy”.  Sad.

It really doesn’t take that much to network.  You set a purpose, list the people or types of people you want to connect with, and reach out.  The worse they could say is “No”.  Most times, people are glad you reached out to them if you have a stated purpose for your initial contact.  Sites linked Viadeo, Linked In, Facebook are godsends.  But they create a safety net.  As long as you can shoot an email, why should you bother getting to actually know a person.  Heaven forbid picking up a phone to introduce yourself to Bob who just linked to you on Linked In.  It’s not that hard.  You shouldn’t use online sites as the core of your networking, only reaching out by email to connect or when you have a problem that needs to be solved.  Develop relationships.  Get to know the people you connect with.  You might find you have some things in common.  Don’t wait for the annual conferences to tell people about yourself or to find out about them.  Follow up often (perhaps quarterly like i do). People like to help or do business with people they are familiar with.  Remember that.

My next conference call for my networking group is on September 4th.  I’ve decided to make it an interesting exercise to encourage more connections.  I don’t want to disclose anything just yet, but I’ll keep you posted on the results.  Next week, I’ll be meeting some of my Atlanta connections (men and women) for the first time ever.  I am very excited about it and can’t wait to sit down and break bread with my Linked In connections to get to know them better.  I’ll let you know how that went too.

So bottom line is relationships and networks get you where you need to be and what you want faster than going it alone.  It only costs you some time.  Pick up a phone.  Go to the golf course.  Attend networking events.  Ask for introductions.  Introduce yourself.  Just start networking.

How much are you is it worth to you?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Social networking is a topic that is on fire these days.  You have Myspace, Linked In, Facebook, Viadeo, Xing, Twitter, and a host of other social networking sites on the web.  The one thing I find is people rush to sign up for these sites then never do anything with them.  People who are traditionally old school and don’t put social networking high on their list are doing themselves a great disservice.

Now, true that old fashioned networking methods will remain forever and not everyone has the time or is cut out for social networking, but it can add a boost to your brand and credibility.  This is 2008, not 1988.  We are a flat world and technology and communications allow us to virtually reach out and touch anyone anywhere.  It only makes sense that we look at social networking in the same way.   I teach sessions on using social networking and I am always pleased to see how amazed some people are by the time they finish the session.  They get to see social networking from the inside out and get a better understanding of how to incorporate it into their branding and development plans.  I do have a slight advantage as a recruiter, but I don’t use social networking merely for the purposes of recruiting.  I build genuine relationships and I keep up with my connections.  That in and of itself has gotten me clients, speaking opportunities and publicity (all unsolicited).

One of the main questions I get asked is what site should a person join.  It is purely subjective.  You have to determine what your end goal is and the type of people you are trying to reach.  Go into each site with an agenda in mind.  If you don’t have a plan, you’ll just be wandering aimlessly.  The next popular questions I get asked are what should I put on my profile and how can I learn how to use *insert site name here*.  Again, it takes time and patience and a little bit of exploration.  Most people come to me because they want an overview from a real person who has experience with the site(s).  I also let them know that they need to be careful about completing their profile.  It shouldn’t read like a resume or CV.  It should give just enough information to give people an idea of your professional self.

Business owners also are slowly turning to social networking.  But for them the rules are slightly different. All of the basics for the career person apply, but they need to incorporate other aspects to get their brand out into the world.  Something as simple as adding video can give potential clients something tangible to work with.  You not only want to showcase your expertise, but SHOW them what you can and have done.  But don’t go overboard with it.  You should not go into social networking thinking it is the magic key to fill up your client load.  Relationship building should be your foundation, always.

Social networking used to be about instant messaging, participating on message boards and sending email.  But it has evolved into viral message, branding and networking through the use of video (You Tube), blogs, message forums, social networking sites, etc.  But remember, these are the TOOLS, a means to get your message out.  It is ultimately up to you to take it to the next level and connect and build relationships with the people you meet.  It takes work just like traditional networking.  It just allows you to move faster and reach more people.

If you have any questions about social networking or are looking for instruction, please feel free to reach out.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Do you really know how to use your social network? If you have hundreds of contacts but don’t use them for networking, then why do you have them? I always said it seems like a waste to just be “connected” to so many people and not cultivate relationship. I am very particular about who I allow in my network. Other than the obvious (having commonalities), the person and I should be able to effectively network for mutual benefit. I don’t just add people for the sake of adding and I don’t accept every invitation.

Before you set off to build this vast network, stop and think about what you want out of it. Be selective about who you link to and why. Don’t just accept any invitation. Find out about the person first and also tell them a little about yourself as well. Relationship building is the true power of Social Networking. As IBM says, stop talking, start doing!

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Ladies, networking is one of my passions. I’ve mentioned countless times the importance of a strong network and always being accessible to your network. Everyone is in a mad dash to build their connections, link to as any people as they can, get to know countless acquaintances. But have you ever thought about beyond your networking sphere? I’ll explain.

Thursday evening I hosted a conference call. I sent out a ton of invitations to the wonderful, successful, powerful Black Women in my network. Over the years, I have built an incredible network (not just of Black Women, but overall). In February, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit. There were phenomenal women as far as the eye could see. We chatted, networked, exchanged contact information, and vowed to keep in touch. That’s where it all came together for me. Fast forward to last week. I decided to pull together a power call. Connect all MY connections to make the network phenomenal.

Many could not attend, as schedules were already full. But the call was phenomenal. The ladies who did attend the call were excited and overjoyed at the possibilities of connecting and sharing with one another. We chatted about the power of a network, and each woman introduced herself, told us about herself and let us know her urgent networking need. I explained that often times we, as women, don’t ask for what we want. I gave these phenomenal ladies an opportunity to do just that.

Unlike at conferences and trade shows, we vowed to continue the dialog and communication so we can not only benefit ourselves, but also give back and pay it forward to one another. And it has already began. Several of the women emailed and called me the day after to express their joy over the call. They have began reaching out to one another and are eagerly awaiting the next call.

So do something FOR your network. Introduce them to one another. Make connections between your connections. Share, don’t be selfish. We are all 6 degrees from one another. Do your part to keep everyone connected. I for one am looking forward to seeing the power of MY network helping one another.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Here is the schedule for the upcoming Lunchtime Strategies Webinars:

May 8, 2008- Linking In to Linked In- $39-

The web offers tons of opportunities to establish yourself and make solid connections. Join us to discuss how to make Linked In an effective tool in your networking, finding business leads and job search.

May 22, 2008- Get Recruited!- $39-

Recruiters are getting more and more tech savvy and are turning to not only traditional search, but also social media and the internet. Learn how to position yourself to get recruited, instead of searching for a job. What better way to learn than from a Recruiter herself!

June 5, 2008- Brand Me- Rules for Building a Successful Brand- $39-

There ie no more important brand than the brand called YOU. Your reputation is the basis for your personal brand. If you don’t take action to define it now, someone else will do it for you. Learn what it takes to discover your brand mantra, cultivate your image and create a solid brand that identifies with excellence.

June 19, 2008- Negotiating- Her Seat At The Table- $39-

Women often leave a lot at the bargaining table because they don’t have the skills to negotiate. Learn to participate in decision making from a place of knowledge, not fear, ignorance or habit.

Additional information can be found at www.empowermeseminars.com. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Social Networking. That seems to be the term of the decade. Everywhere you go, it’s Web 2.0 this, social networking that, Linked In this, Facebook that. Who would have imagined back in the day that social forums would evolve into professional networking opportunities?

I teach a few webinars that focus on not only Linked In, but also social networking to its core. One of the features I read and take advantage of often is the Answers section of Linked In and Yahoo. By answering questions and giving my advice, I seem to draw a lot of people who ask to network with me.  An avid user an fan of Linked In, I am cautious about how and with whom I network and connect.  Daily, I get invitations to connect.  Despite the fact that I have clearly mentioned on many occasions that I prefer people send a note asking to connect and making it personal (ie: an introduction), and that I always take the time to send a personalized note letting a person know how I found them and my reason for asking to connect, this is what I still manage to get from people:

Adrienne,

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

It drives me nuts!  It’s as if they haven’t even read my profile.  Recently I received the same generic note from a young man .  I politely responded back to him my preference for contacting and connecting with me and asked him to a least introduce himself.  He replied back that he was sorry I didn’t see anything in his PROFILE that would make me want to connect.  I was taken aback.  So not only did he not honor my request, he STILL didn’t even take the time to introduce himself and tell me how he’d like to network with me.  But he was upset.  It left me scratching my head.

I tell this story to illustrate a point.  When you are stepping into a social networking situation, it’s not like being on Myspace, Facebook, Blackplanet or any other social networking site for pleasure.  When you join a professional networking site, you must have a different approach and mindset than you would with the above mentioned networks.  You cannot assume that people will take the time to read your profile if you didn’t put any thought into introducing yourself properly or abide by their wishes.  The rules of engagement are simple.  Do your research.  Read a person’s profile and see if there are any specific request about how to contact them.  Make sure the person wants to be contacted, and what their preferences are (if you are a pet lover who wants to share an event for your pet, you wouldn’t contact someone who doesn’t own a pet).  Do NOT EVER send cookie cutter or standard template messages.  That will turn a person off immediately.  I know it turns me off.  Take the time to properly introduce yourself, indicate why you are contacting them, and offer to discuss any possible synergies.

Building networking relationships takes work.  Building networking relationships ONLINE takes not only work, but also the proper etiquette.  The people you reach out to cannot see you.  So you have to be extra diligent about presenting the proper first impression.

The next webinar will be held on Saturday, April 26th.  Please be sure to visit the website for more details.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Ladies, online networking is a mandatory component of your overall networking strategy. If you aren’t on Linked In, or are on but don’t utilize it, you are letting tons of opportunities slip though your fingers. Recruiters have tapped into this tool and are using it to find star talent for their companies. Others simply want to get to know you to keep you “warm” for networking purposes. In either case, you are doing yourself a disservice for not tapping into the power of Linked In. Come join us for a 60 minute Webinar.

  • March 20, 2008- Linking In to Linked In- $39-

The web offers tons of opportunities to establish yourself and make solid connections. Join us to discuss how to make Linked In an effective tool in your networking, finding business leads and job search. Learn how to get the most out of the free and paid subscriptions, incorporate Linked In in your job search, build your profile to attract recruiters and hiring managers, position yourself as an expert in your field, how to incorporate online networking with your traditional networking strategies, Linked In Etiquette and how to reach any contact whether you are connected or not.

To reserve your seat visit us online. Seating is limited to 100 attendees. Register today to guarantee your seat.

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