Happy New Year!!! It’s a new year and time to shed the past and look towards creating a new future. With the economy not really making any progress and the unemployment rate still scary (double digits), it’s time for people to stop waiting on a savior (or the government) to come rescue them.  Many of the jobs of the past won’t be returning. So it’s time to dig deep and figure out what you need to do to move on with your life. The past is buried. No need to stay in mourning over something you can’t bring back.

As I peruse the various news sites and blogs, I see a fast growing sentiment of anger and despair from a whole lot of angry people. People have a right to be angry, I don’t take that away from them, but you cannot wallow in anger indefinitely, blaming Republicans & Democrats.  It is so much deeper than that. At what point do you pull yourself together and start seeking other options? Who’s to blame for you not learning new skills or exploring other career options? To find that answer, you need to look in the mirror. Hey I tell it like it is. We are all responsible for our own lives. Your life is what you make it to be and no government or corporation has an obligation to help you figure it out.

Everyone needs to understand that in this age of change and ever growing technology, you have to gain additional skills. It’s mandatory and this is nothing new. Look at what happened to the steel industry, auto industry, manufacturing, airlines, and on and on. Every year or so, another industry takes a big hit.  It’s inevitable. Before I understood that, I felt a deep sympathy for people who were ousted from their jobs. I would think, “wow, who’s going to hire all those people and save them?”. But as I got older, I realized myself that you have to stay versatile. It’s great to have that one special skill set that is bankable. But you always have to be mindful that skills (and people) become outdated or replaceable.  I’m not being mean or uncaring, I’m stating the facts. We can no longer rest on one or two skills. You are responsible for securing your future.

So what do I propose? Well for starters, make sure you educate yourself. Sometimes education doesn’t have to come from a college or university. A whole new industry and set of jobs were created by social media.  People didn’t go to school to learn how to maximize social media. They used their current skills and learned social media as they went along.  With the onset of new gadgets (iPhones, iPads, Blackberry, Android, etc) a whole segment of jobs opened up in App development. Take an inventory of the different things you like, what you’re good at, and what you would like to do. Then you need to figure out how you can gain the skills that will pave the way for you to do what you love.

There are tons of websites and books out there to help you learn just about anything. But let’s look beyond that. In the early 1900’s there were no gadgets or technology. It was survival of the fittest. If you had an idea, you could start a business or hire yourself out to proprietors. People had survival skills. So today, with all the luxuries of technology, there is no reason why people can’t switch into survival mode like our ancestors and find new things to do.  Not everyone is meant to be a business owner, but you can take your skills and market them to companies who are willing to pay top dollar for your knowledge. Look to continuing education and certification programs. If you’re currently employed at a company where they will reimburse for professional training or in a state where the local Department of Labor is able to pay part of all of the expense, take advantage of it. Also look into scholarship or waiver opportunities to help with the expense.

In addition to continuing your education, you should be networking with people who are where you want to be. Tap into your human resources to help you gain the knowledge you seek. People are more likely willing to share with you if you show a real interest. Be respectful of their time and don’t push them too much for knowledge. Many people won’t share everything, but will share as much as they can. How you approach them and how you ask will determine how much they will share. Also look for a few mentors. A lot of people will limit themselves to one mentor. But no one person can be all things to you. Diversify a bit. And also ask to shadow for a day or two so you an get the hang of the day to day aspects of their job. You pick up a lot by observing someone in their professional environment.

Stop looking for a JOB. Or rather, stop giving off the vibe that you’ll apply for every and anything just to get work. I think many people fall short here because it becomes a matter of survival and hiring managers can sense that. A person in a desperate spot exudes just that. Hiring Managers spook easily and will think “will this person leave my position if something better comes along?”. Nobody wants their company to be a stepping stone. I agree, we are not obligated to one position or career in a lifetime. But in a scary economy, you have to do your best to assure employers that you are legitimately interested, even if it is your intention to seek greener pastures.  If you approach your job search as a strategy in advancing your career as opposed to looking for a pay check, you will find yourself in the driver’s seat in interviews.  This is your career. You, not your circumstances, should set the tone and the course.

What am I saying? STRATEGIZE! All positions you apply for must fit into your master career plan. Don’t just apply for a job because it’s posted, or you like the company. Make sure you can actually do the job (and have a proven track record of accomplishments) before you apply. As it is, many resumes submitted through company websites and job boards are ignored. So if you don’t have the skills or experience, not only will you be ignored, but you’ll probably be deleted. Take time to read the different job postings and get an understanding of what they are looking for. Then review your resume and cover letter to see if you address those specific needs. Then research the company. We have the power of Google, Linked In and the like to get all the information you need about your potential employer. They research you so why can’t you research them? Plus you’ll get some extra points for knowing about them before you walk in the door. Finally, tap into your network to see who knows who in your target company. Ask for introductions to key people who may have influence over who gets hired. But don’t abuse the opportunity!

And finally, sit down and map out what you want. Where do you want to go with your career? How do you plan to get there? Who will you need to connect with to be successful?  What tools and resources do you need?  What skills do you need and how will you get those skills? And what are you willing to do to create your brand and market yourself to be seen and noticed? The ball is in your court. You get what you put in. Don’t let the unemployment numbers or ratio of applicants to jobs scare you. If you do what needs to be done, you will be a survivor. But sit on your hands waiting to be rescued, and you find yourself up a creek…literally.

Til Next Time,

Adrienne Graham

I recently stumbled across a post in one of the Linked I forums where a young lady was asking for help. She said “I have a BS in Accounting & an MBA in Finance and I’ve applied for over 1500 jobs and nobody will hire me”. Would you like to know what I told her? Stop applying for jobs. Period. You might be saying “that’s harsh” but it really isn’t. Everyone else is doing the same thing and nobody is getting the desired results (or at the least very few people are). There were tons of other constructive feedback but I felt none of them really dug into the heart of the matter.

Her mentioning that she has her degrees tells me absolutely nothing about what she has accomplished other than she was determined and smart enough to make it through school. People tend to throw around degrees and acronyms like they really hold a lot of weight in the recruiting world. Newsflash, they really don’t (unless of course you’re a doctor). You have to be sure to let people know what you’ve done, what your expertise is (and what makes you that expert) and how you’ve impacted your previous employers. On paper, anyone can look the part. But if I interview you and I can’t determine what you’ve actually contributed or done for your past employers, I consider it a wasted conversation. I’m not being facetious, I’m coming from the perspective of a Recruiter.

So like I said to the young lady with the dilemma, you have to stop applying for jobs. It fascinates me that people don’t stop to think that there are hundreds of other people just like them applying for the same jobs. What makes you so special? That is the million dollar question and trust me, if you want to stand out you better be prepared to answer it. In the mean time, there are things you can do to make sure you increase your odds of finding a job or creating an opportunity. It’s not enough to apply, you have to work at finding a job.

Tired of not getting interviews? Well take your skills and strike out as a consultant or start your own business. I wouldn’t try to do something that takes you out of your skill set. When a recruiter scans your resume or profile and they see you moved out of your skill set, a red flag goes up. You may have had honorable intentions or may be filling the time to bring in a check until that ideal job comes. But remember, you are one of hundreds applying. Your resume has 30 seconds to wow a recruiter. Don’t sabotage your chances. Now I don’t say this to discourage you. I know in these tough economic times, everyone needs to bring in a paycheck. But be careful about what you choose. You want to stay as organic to your strengths as possible.

Next, boost your networking. Don’t just be connected to people, communicate with them. Get involved. Make yourself known. But make sure you are building a list of ‘must know’ people and not just connecting with anyone for the sake of connecting. Sounds harsh but if you’re hanging out with customer service reps and you should be hanging around finance professionals, it’s time to make a change. True anyone can be a great networking source, but you have to be laser focused when you’re looking for a job. You have read me say time and time again to get out and build networks and relationships. You can’t just turn to people when you need work. Cultivate those relationships so that when you are in need, people are more receptive and empathetic to you.

Get out and get known online and offline. Do something to showcase your expertise (podcasts, blogs, guest articles, etc). Recruiters are looking at those things more than you know. Social media is very powerful and it levels the playing field. Building your professional brand is key. Show them what you’ve got and don’t be shy about it. You want recruiters coming to you, not to chase after jobs and recruiters.

Create a job opportunity. Research companies you want to work with and identify sore points that they are dealing with where you know you could be the solution. Speak to the hiring manager, department manager, etc (not HR) and ask to meet with them to network. During the conversation mention their problem and ask for clarification on what ails them. Then offer some (generic) solutions by giving them the what and the why (but not the how…that’s how you come into play). If they seem interested in hearing more, ask for an interview.

I have a feeling many of you are going to job boards and applying for everything you are interested in. I’ll let you in on a recruiter secret that’s probably going to get me kicked out of the circle. Those are usually ads to pipeline candidates. Some (not all, but some) companies have no intention of filling the jobs, only building a database. So if you choose to apply, find out who you need to get in front of that matters and go through them first to let them know you’re interested. Then apply online per protocol. You must approach online job ads as if there is a potential that it is solely for pipelining. Make sure you back that application up with some roll up your sleeves, investigative work to connect with the true hiring manager. Express your interest in the position, let them know you’ve applied per protocol and make sure it gets to the right people. You just never know in this day of technology and applicant tracking so it’s up to YOU to do the due diligence if you really want the job.

If you’re getting interviews but no offers, ask someone to do mock interviews with you so you can identify the problem(s) and correct where necessary. Don’t be afraid to connect with agency recruiters who specialize in your field. I forgot to mention if you are applying online the hiring manager will not see that application in most cases. The recruiter will be screening out and most times will not send the cover letter. You still need to include one, but don’t assume they will see it. That’s why I suggested finding out who the hiring manager or department head is and contact them directly.

And what’s coming up when you Google yourself? Make sure you’re building a strong professional brand for yourself. You want to be sure nothing negative is coming up. You don’t want NOTHING coming up about you so make sure to document your professional achievements and expertise online. Make it easy for recruiters to find you. If you want a job you have to go above and beyond the norm. Tactics of yesterday won’t work today. Make sure you are giving yourself every advantage to land that job you want.

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham

Stay tuned for the release of my new book “Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter to Use Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy

Professional development is your responsibility. Any woman serious about career advancement always has it on her mind and in her sight. The biggest misconception is that it is costly to continue professional development. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Money is the number one reason why a lot of people bypass professional development and end up stunting their career growth. But blaming cost is a cop out.

There are several low cost things you can do to invest in your professional development.

  • Get biblical with it and “tithe”. OK for those of you who attend church faithfully, you understand the concept of tithing. It’s where you give 10% of your earnings to the Lord. Well I content that you can tithe to yourself as well as the Lord. I always tithe in thirds. 10% to church, 10% to build my savings and 10% dedicated to my professional development. Set yourself up a Professional Development Fund. It can be a separate savings account at your local bank or credit union, or even using the envelope system. Each month count up your contributions and decide whether to invest in a course or certification or if you want to continue to build the account up to invest in a conference or something bigger. But no matter what, don’t touch that money for any other purpose. You’ll be surprised at how much money you accumulate.
  • Remember that Reading is Fundamental. I am a voracious reader. I have been since I was a child. Don’t over look your local library. Granted some area libraries are better than others, but take an afternoon and stroll through. My local library has a book sale the first Saturday of each month. I always find great books (it could be because I live in an area where a lot of prominent business people live). I’ve paid anywhere between 50 cents and $5 for quality books. I’ve gotten books by Jack Welch, Seth Godin and many more prominent thought & business leaders. You never know what gems you’ll find. Also, sign up for member cards at book chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. You get special discounts and sales. I love the clearance table! And of course there are online book sites such as Amazon.com, Half.com and Alibris. Reading books keep you up to date in your industry and social trends.
  • Trade with your friends. If you hang with an intelligent crowd, which I’m sure you do, you can always trade books, CDs, and programs. My friends love coming to my house because I have an actual library in my home. Yes, a separate room that is a dedicated library with all my books, CDs, Magazines and DVDs. Rather than lending stuff out, I make trades. That way I know I will get my things back! You’ve heard of cookie swap parties and even clothing swap parties. Each month, make it a point to have a Knowledge Swap Party. Everyone invited should make a list of what they have (books, CDs, DVDs, etc) so there is no overlap. Then have everyone bring the items to the party and trade. You are educating yourself and helping your friends educate themselves at the same time. Trust me it’s fun and saves lots of money.
  • Enlist your boss in your professional development plan. I know times are tight, but some companies are still willing to invest in their top talent. If you are a valuable employee and you stay on the cutting edge of your field (and that in turns brings value to your company’s bottom line), your company may pay for you to attend conferences, training and/or certification courses. It’s up to you to write a compelling proposal and presentation that convinces them why you are the person to attend, what benefits you’ll gain, and how it fits into the company’s success. The burden of proof is on you so make it a good case. Request a meeting with your boss and explain to him or her where you’d like to see your career go. Then ask for his or her help in achieving your goals. Inquire about tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement programs.
  • Learn a new language. You can access tons of free and low cost websites, buy CD and DVD programs, instructional books or get a tutor. Local community colleges offer courses for continuing education credits. Visit their websites and find out what language classes they offer and what levels you can take. Being bilingual (or multilingual) can dramatically increase your earning potential. While some people still fight embracing additional languages (Spanish in particular) the smart people are immersing themselves in new languages. Learn a new language.
  • Can’t afford to return to college, look into continuing education courses. The beauty of continuing education is that you can often get credit that can be applied towards certain certifications and job promotions. There are certificate, diploma and certification programs in everything from Office Management to Project Management to Bookkeeping & Accounting. These courses prepare you to sit for certification exams.
  • Get a team of mentors. Yes, a team. No one mentor can fulfill all of your needs. Also, no one person is meant to be your mentor forever. It’s a great professional move to find multiple mentors from varying backgrounds and experience. Draw from the collective experience. Make sure you set up regular appointments with them on a rotating basis. Take plenty of notes and challenge yourself to learn more in between your meetings. Remember to give back in return. After all, your mentors are being gracious with their time. Even if they don’t ask for or require anything in return, it is still proper etiquette to establish a give and take relationship.
  • There’s always the internet! When all else fails, you can find a wealth of information on the web. There are resource websites available on every imaginable topic. Exercise your Google skills to find new and up to date information. While some would caution you to stay away from opinion blogs, I say read them, but be objective. It’s always good to get other people’s point of view on different issues. Set up Google Alerts so that you are notified every time an article, blog post or event pops up on the internet.

Don’t let lack of money keep you from advancing your career. In this economy, you must be creative and resourceful. It is your responsibility to cultivate your career. Over time, you will find that you’ll be able to afford more sophisticated professional development. Until then, try the suggestions above.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Ah, the Internet. The great equalizer. The medium designed to reach more people in less time to expand your brand. I’ve been hooked on the Internet since it was first made available to the masses at home. I’d spend hours on end trying to find as many sites and as much information as I could. Remember those AOL days with the message boards and chats? Remember when social networks first started popping up (and no, I don’t mean Myspace and Facebook). It was the early 90’s when I really took an interest in the Internet and all it could do to help me grow my business and make a few friends along the way.

Fast forward today. There is text messaging, tweeting, status updates, tweet ups meet ups, and so on and so on. We’ve become an instant message kind of society. It’s all about shooting out quick sound bites telling people what you like, don’t like, what you’re mad at and thrilled about. We can leak breaking news, update on critical situations, find out business news or even what Grandma made in pottery class. We can make “friends” with millions of people online. That’s what Facebook and the like sell to us every day. We are on overload! But one thing is sorely missing. You see, in this ever growing, real time, microwave, too much information society. Real communication.

But what do you mean lack of real communication? You just said we can tweet, update and post what’s happening right now. And I have over 5000 friends who I communicate with every day” you might be saying to yourself. Bullshit I say. I love the fact that we can communicate with millions of people at any time, and if our branding and messaging is on point, we might even be able to get some two way dialog going. But there is no way that you are “connected” to 50,000 and realistically having healthy, productive conversations with each and every one of them every single day. I have long since defended the notion that you can have a big network and still cultivate it without looking like some spamming moron. I even achieved it at one point myself. But then the numbers grew and my time got more and more scarce, and I was not able to keep up my consistent “keep in touch” networking.

What happened? Same thing that always happens when you get a few people who claim to be “gurus” at something, package lessons, then sell people on the idea that they can teach them how to become social networking gurus. The space got over saturated, everyone’s messaging became carbon copies of one another, spammers gained control and people started losing interest in hearing from new people for fear that they were going to be sold to pitched to or solicited in some way. The recruiting gurus told companies that social media was the key to recruiting top talent but then didn’t give them the right information to do it correctly. Job seekers thought it was the in thing to blast emails and resumes to recruiters (regardless of their specialty) because they were told by an irresponsible guru that all recruiters are using social media to recruit and they better jump on the bandwagon quick. Celebrities (and internet celebrities) use it to talk about themselves, what they’re doing, where they will be appearing, who they’re hanging out with. How many do you actually see chatting it up with the masses? Not many. It’s all about “me, me, me” with them. Social media and social networking has become a way to blast self important messages and marketing spiels to the masses. Any way you slice it, the ‘social’ aspect is fast becoming extinct.

I have had more than a few prominent people (celebrities, business leaders, “internet” rock stars and prominent personalities) follow, friend or subscribe to be my “friend”. Many of them verified too. No, I won’t name names. I’m pretty sure you can go on any of my social networking profiles and check (the ones that are public anyway), plus they know who they are. I was sincerely flattered because I mistakenly thought that they were interested in what I had to say or in getting to know me. I would connect or follow them back only to get an automated message from them thanking me for following them now go check out something they wrote, created, released, etc. I would send a private note saying that I appreciated the follow but I was more interested in getting to know them and build a REAL networking relationship. NO RESPONSE. My guess is that they are only on there to build their popularity.

You see, I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I join a social network, group or whatever, I expect to be social. You know, interacting with others, having two way conversations, and eventually taking the relationship offline. But nooooooo. The massive popularity of social media tools, social networking sites and social marketing have lead to a cheapening of the experience. I cringe every time I hear someone say “social media is a free cheap way to get your message out and capture the eyes and ears of millions of potential customers”. WRONG! Those millions are not meant to be your customer. A smart business person knows that a targeted audience brings much more success. And I won’t even get into how the recruiters out there are using it the absolute WRONG way. I’m tired of being blasted with marketing messages, squeeze pages and links.

Well I’ve had enough, but rather than just bitch about it or try to convince people how to use these tools and mediums the way I want them to, I came up with a solution. Well, I wouldn’t call it a solution as much as a challenge. A few weeks ago, I came up with Operation Social Outreach. Here’s the gist: Every day (or maybe every week if your schedule is like mines) you pick 5 people from your “network” that you really don’t know. You reach out to them and invite them to a quick 5-10 minute phone conversation to get to know one another. Email is not good enough. You want to put a voice with the name. If you’re local, try taking it to the next step and meet for coffee or something. But here’s the kicker. The people you reach out to can’t be people you already know of even communicate with periodically. The goal is to get to know the people you connect with.

I’ve already started this and so have a few others and I have to tell you, people were shocked and pleasantly surprised. It was totally unexpected and very much appreciated. I’m that chick who is going to put her money where her mouth is. I have tons of followers, friends, listeners, connections and readers. But I want to cultivate relationships. I don’t care about marketing messages. I don’t care about having high numbers of followers. I don’t care about being label a social media rock star. I want to get to know the people who are taking an interest in what I have to say. Who knows, they may have ideas and points of view that I want to know about.

I really love that Fast Company has launched the Influence Project. I would love to know if I’ve been crucial in influencing people around the world. But it’s not really ‘social’ enough for me and I can only influence so much by words on a screen. I want social interation. So starting this week, I want everyone to sign up for the challenge. I’ve put together a tracker sheet you can download and use or edit as you see fit. Here are the rules:

· Go to Operation Social Outreach and sign up for an account to post.

· Go in and introduce yourself and tell us about your objective for participating.

· And then each week, come back and report on your progress.

That’s it. You choose whether you want to reach out to 5 new people each day or 5 each week. If the people you reach out to don’t want to communicate with you, it’s time to delete them and move on. They clearly serve no purpose. So why give them the numbers by staying connected? And don’t go looking people up and then connecting with the purposes of reaching your 5. The idea is to get to know the people you are connected to first, then you’ll have good social networking habits in place going forward as you get to connect with more people. This project will be ongoing until December 31, 2010. At that time, we will see just how connected people have become. We will have a special prize for the top 5 connectors (with verification of course). Details to come soon.

I hope that through this project everyone who participates has a chance to really get to know and grow their networks. Are you ready for the challenge? Happy Social Networking everyone!

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

What We Can Learn (Good or Bad) From LeBron James?

*Disclaimer* I do not hate LeBron James. I’m a Knicks fan…and proud of it!

OK so unless you’ve been living under a rock or just not that into sports, you would know by now that the flamboyant self professed King, LeBron James, has opted to leave his hometown Cleveland for sunny skies in Miami. *cue Will Smith’s ‘Welcome to Miami’ song* Yes, LeBron has joined the Heat. Boy are the people in Cleveland HOT. I can’t say that I blame them for feeling betrayed. But they’ll get over it. This morning I was watching CNBC and they talked about Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s rather scathing, public open letter he wrote and released immediately after LeBron made his announcement. So much is running through my mind. From a business angle, I think this entire story has been a circus and one big ego stroking session for LeBron. My own son spent 30 some odd days counting down the momentous occasion of LeBron choosing where he wanted to go.

Where do I begin. Let’s start with Dan Gilbert and get him out of the way. As the owner of a team I think he has shown a complete lack of class and has publicly set his city and team up for failure. Mr. Gilbert blasted LeBron for making his own FREE WILL decision to move on. The Cavs have not delivered on a championship. That equates to there being no growth on the job. They didn’t make their best efforts to build a solid well oiled machine by bringing in talent (real talent) to complement LeBron. Yes, they’ve gotten as far as an Eastern Championship, but where’s the ring? So how can anyone in their right mind blame LeBron for wanting to move on to find better opportunities? Who wants to stay with a losing team? If he was in a corporate position, I’d say seven years would have been way to long to hang in there with a lackluster company. Then he goes on to GUARANTEE the Cavs will win the championship without LeBron and before he ever gets a chance to. Hah ! Way to be real mature. You have just set your city and team up for a fail of massive proportions. If they couldn’t get it done with LeBron , what makes you think they’ll get it done now? Mr. Gilbert, you are a sore loser, poor boss and even worse “project manager”. NEXT.

On to LeBron. Wow, so much I can say here. But for the sake of time I’ll narrow it to the highlights (good and bad). LeBron, or as you proclaimed yourself King James, I say brilliant move. You have shown not just the sports world, but the business world just how to leverage a strong brand. I’m quite impressed. Not impressed with your court skills, but majorly impressed with your business skills. You have got to be the smartest business man in the NBA and I hope up and coming players take a page out of LeBronomics 101. You have positioned yourself as a valuable employee, commodity if you will that had the world sweating, anticipating, and praying on where you would land. You called your own shots, set your own terms and made great use of your free agency. A lot of times players (and employees) allow themselves to be the company, be the brand and representation so that you cannot separate the business from the person. But you made sure to differentiate your brand and stand away from the team. I’ve always said I would much rather be a contractor/freelancer than a fully engaged employee. There’s a certain freedom you have. You can get in, get the job done, dazzle and impress then move on to the next project. And that’s what you did. Right or wrong, you made the best decision for your brand, your earning potential and your shot at excellence (and a ring). Bravo for you.

However, while I am impressed by the branding and marketing strategies, I’m less impressed by the grand standing, disloyalty, and disrespect. There is a thing called common courtesy and you could have told Dan Gilbert and the team privately that you would not be returning. Yeah, yeah I know it’s about the excitement and the mystery and I’m sure you had a blast. But from a business perspective, common courtesy goes a long way. The right thing to do would have been to let them know at least that you would not be returning home instead of letting them find out on TV. So I can see why Dan and the rest of Cleveland are pissed. Let’s move on to your arrogance. Yes, arrogance…not to be confused with confidence. I’ve seen it in Jordan, Kobe, Rodman, Shaq , etc. It’s not cute. You take it to another level. I can see if you had the ring to back it up, but you don’t. I don’t know if it’s because the public places so much emphasis on you or because you’ve become self important on your own. Either way, it’s not a way to be a TEAM player. It’s the perfect way to be the selfish player.

So how does all of this ranting fit into this blog? I’ll tell you. As a manager you have to respect your players. You should always be sure to give your top talent the support they need whether resources or other talent to complement their strengths. No one person is obligated to any company or team for the life of their career. While we all want to keep the best for ourselves, if we’re not creating the ideal work environment for them to thrive and produce, can we really be angry when they choose to go somewhere where they are more appreciated? No we can’t. If you lose an employee, you learn the lessons from the mistakes that were made and work on revamping what you have. You don’t throw a hissy fit and publicly deride someone for exercising their FREEDOM OF CHOICE. Look to your own blueprint for your company then make adjustments so you can begin to attract top talent and create ideal work environments that make them want to stay and be loyal. And most importantly, if you don’t have the talent don’t make statements or guarantees about delivering excellence when you know you won’t be able to deliver. Man (or woman up) and don’t be a baby about it. Learn and grow.

For the employee or “free agent”, you are absolutely supposed to have confidence in yourself. If you’ve spent your professional life building your skills, owning your craft, then hell yes, you deserve to be confident and self assured. But, you never burn bridges. I tell clients you always end things on a good note, even if you have no desire to ever return. Common courtesy and class are lost these days. If you know you’re not happy and want to leave, at least tell your boss. You don’t have to tell them where you’re going, but a heads up would help. Especially if you’re in a high profile position. Yes, the company that gets you are the lucky ones, but there will always be that thought in the back of their minds that you could bail on them too. It becomes a matter of trust. You don’t want to be known as flaky , unpredictable or worse, disloyal. You don’t want to have a relationship where they feel they need to always keep one eye on you at all times for fear of what you might do. Remember the saying “how you get them is how you lose them”? Keep that in mind. You can be and do anything you want, but always end your business relationships on good terms. No matter how your current business or job relationship is, don’t burn your bridges, ever.

As for branding yourself, I say we all should take a page from LeBron’s book. That man, love him or hate him, has done a hell of a job in branding himself. He has continuously improved his craft, aligned himself with the right people, paid attention to people smarter and richer than himself, and understands his worth. He understands the value he brings to the game, the sport, the world and he’s not afraid to continue to build it. He has done what was in his own best interest and used his business acumen to make sure he was looking out for his future. He wasn’t swayed by money or even “hometown loyalty” (or as I call it guilt). Did he overstay his welcome? Yes I think he did. Seven years is a long time in NBA years to dedicate your heart and soul to a team, a company only to not see tangible results. LeBron sought professional greatness and I am not mad at him for making the decision he did. He refused to allow anyone, any organization dictate where his career goes next. And I think we can all learn from that. He also leveraged the power of negotiation. He wanted what he wanted and was willing to take a pay cut (not that he’d notice!) to get it. If a company wants you bad enough, they’ll be willing to adhere to your terms. He went for what he wanted and didn’t let anything or anyone get in his way or in his head. You’ve got to admire that. More of us need to do that!

Good luck to you LeBron. I’m not a fan of your basketball game, but I am in awe of your business game. I hope it’s all you hope it to be. Dan Gilbert, Grow Up & Do Better!

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

OK, so everyone knows how gaga I am over social media and the act of social networking. It is a key component to my overall networking (and marketing) strategy. Being able to connect with more people in more places across the globe has allowed me to stay up on industry trends, challenge my opinions on certain issues, and educate myself (yes, you can be educated through social networking…who knew!?). I often like to tell people I’ve been social networking since before it had a name! I’ve been using social media since the primitive days (and before that too had a name). As an early adopter I’ve had the distinct advantage on many occasions to get the pure essence of many sites and tools before they became overrun by the masses. Back when people were leery yet excited about the potential of a new site and the opportunity to connect with some great people. The one thing that always sticks in my ass these days is the way people and businesses take a site or tool and “commonize” it (is that even a word?) for all purpose marketing and dare I say harassment. Social networking sites have become a way for people to tout how many “friends”  or followers they have. It has become a sport and even worse, bombarded by marketing messages.

Coming from a recruiting background, I am all about the relationship. I’ve never been big on growing numbers for the privilege of boasting how popular I am. Call me crazy, but that’s never been my thing. I’m into organic growth and real relationships. Granted, I don’t know each and every person who follows or connects with me. But I am trying to make meaningful connections and get to know those people who find me interesting enough to follow and connect with. I’ve put my own quest to connect on hiatus because people are tired of getting invitations to connect. I can’t blame them. I get tired of trying to figure out the motives of those who try to connect. Are they genuinely interested in getting to know me? Do they want to connect and learn more about my expertise and possibly learn from me? Or do they just see someone who’s numbers are growing or who’s been on panels and in articles and want to connect to get a piece of that? Who knows these days. Especially when you get email after email saying “Hi I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linked In” without so much as a hint how they found you or why they want to connect. Well I say enough.

This week I decided I had enough and launched a new social networking project- Operation Social Outreach. No, it’s not an official name or or website or anything, I just like the sound of it. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of connecting with people or accepting invitations to connect only to receive an automated response telling me to click a link, download a “gift” or check out a website. Or still getting those generic Linked In invites. People just don’t feel they need to take the time to introduce themselves. Would they come up to you at a conference and say “hey connect with me”? No, they wouldn’t. They would introduce themselves properly. So why don’t they feel the need to do it online? They wouldn’t walk up to you and say “you want to learn more about me, check out my website”. No, they would tell you a little about themselves. What the hell happened to common etiquette? A simple “thanks for connecting, tell me about yourself” or “thanks for the add, let’s connect via phone to get to know one another” goes a long way in building a relationship. So why aren’t people doing it? Well I have a couple of theories, but let me stick to three of my favorites.

Celebrities & so called Internet Celebrities have taken over.

Yes, you read me right. Every time something big gets going for the common folks, celebrities come on board. Now I’m not saying they aren’t entitled. But they take social networking to another level.  They set up accounts, gain tons of followers, then sit back and engage only with people they know personally. So they’ll have a couple of thousand (or in some cases millions) of followers and communicate with about 10. Well if you know them already, use the damn phone! A smart celebrity or public figure would tap into the power of social media to ENGAGE their public and build (or strengthen) their brand. As someone who is becoming more in the public eye, I use social networking as a means to engage in conversations, find out what my public wants to talk about, and educate by sharing my knowledge. I pay attention to what people say and want. And most importantly, I do my own communicating. Some of these celebrities hire people to communicate for them. Where’s the authenticity? And do I even need to talk about the Internet Celebrities?

Internet Marketers & “Gurus” told people it’s OK to blast their business services/products because it’s free or cheap and EVERYBODY is on it.

OK maybe it’s unfair to paint Internet Marketers with one broad stroke. But it seems like many of them are reading from the same manual when it comes to social media. There is nothing worse than being bombarded by marketing messages, especially when it’s intrusive.  I like to get to know about people, not their products or services, when I connect. Ease me into it. People buy from people they know and trust. If I just connect with you on Monday, what makes you think I’m going to buy from you on Tuesday? By immediately bombarding me with sales pitches and marketing messages, you’re showing me that I’m a lead, not someone you want to connect with. How do you expect me to take you seriously? So many of these people are so caught up on making a sale, they forget about the SOCIAL aspect of social networking. And besides, don’t you know that after a while, all of those messages all look alike. If you’re going to follow the Internet Marketing “Gurus” at least change up your style! A lot of those websites look exactly the same. Here’s a tip for you. If you even think I’m your “target market” get to know me and what my touch points are. Take the time to interact with me and learn how to work with me. I care more about relationships than I do making purchases.

People just don’t care. They’re joining because everyone else is doing it.

I’ve seen this in the recruiting world a lot. A site will pop up and a few early adopters will try it out. Then someone like clockwork will write a book or post or teach a class that positions them as the “expert” of this site. Then everyone and their momma will go running to the site because it’s the in thing to do. I find Facebook to be the latest victim of this. In the beginning, people avoided Facebook. They dismissed it as being something kids used. But somewhere along the line, business crossed over into the personal and we got what we have today. It’s talked about on television shows, mentioned in magazine articles, it’s even part of every day life in movies. So now everyone is on it. Some people don’t even know why they are on. Whatever the reason, people are using it to avoid having to network in real life or because everyone else is doing it. In my opinion, this cheapens the experience and goes against the intentions of networking.

Networking, especially online networking, is about relationship building. It’s not about selling or popularity contests or number padding. It’s about finding people who add value to your life in some way. It’s not supposed to be about egotistical, selfish motives. It’s supposed to be about engagement. If you’re not communicating or opening yourself up to connecting with people, then why are you wasting time and bandwidth? It’s not supposed to be about You. Networking is a team sport. If you’re not ready to embrace that, perhaps it’s not for you. So I’m calling out the fakes. Don’t waste people’s time. We don’t care about your self serving purposes. It’s all about making real connections.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

If you listened to my radio show Views From the Top this past Friday (June 4, 2010), you would have heard a very interesting conversation. I had Shireen Mitchell and Chris Curtis on my show discussing Black Women (or the lack of) in Technology. These are two women who are great examples of Black Women who started off in technology early (think Radio Shack Tandy computers that hooked up to the television….wait, I’m dating myself because I was one of those geek girls early on) and spent all of their adult lives in the heart of technology. My path was different in that I went into Recruiting in the technology space, but I still continue to keep a healthy interest in technology.

The heart of the conversation was about the many excuses that companies and hiring managers use to justify or excuse the fact that Black Women are poorly represented in the space. Now I’m an advocate for all women in tech, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing on Black Women. In my 17+ years of recruiting, most of those years in the tech industry, resumes of Black Women rarely came across my desk for technology positions unless they were in web DESIGN or Business Analyst. I’d get the occasional Technical Writer or “Sales Engineer” but anything deeper than that it was a ghost town. Being the type of Recruiter I am, I never waited for them to apply. I would always have to go out and hunt for them. And trust me, it wasn’t very easy in the beginning. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was to get these meaty technical positions and get the same profile of candidate: male, 20′s or 30′s, White or Indian. Sure, I would get the occasional Woman candidate, but more times than not, she was White. The more I noticed that a pattern was developing, the more I counseled my clients to step out of the norm and do something, anything to attract more women of color. I would always be met with subtle resistance. “Well Adrienne, you’re the Recruiter. We’ll leave that to you”. It burned me up to no end to hear that. I KNOW I’m the Recruiter. I can identify your sore spots and bring you the talent you need. But I need some help to do it! One woman shouldn’t be charged with taking on the diversity initiative for a major corporation. Recruiting need buy in, resources and support to build and cultivate relationships with communities and organizations to be able to attract these talented ladies. Yes, I know where to look and build organically. Can you say the same about YOUR recruiting team?

I would try to connect with the Diversity departments and some times they were absolutely clueless. They were more concerned with avoiding discrimination lawsuits, meeting certain “quotas” and providing sound bites to the public. Sure, they would have their marketing departments create the touchy feely warm and cuddly “look we employ everyone and our people look just like YOU” ads. But I knew the truth. My job is to get the most qualified PERSON for the job who can deliver and fits in with the company culture. But it’s also my job (with the backing of the executive suite) to make sure the company gets in front of a cross section of people. But when you have companies that care more about avoiding lawsuits than truly creating a diverse environment, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

But back to the subject at hand. I would really like to see the numbers of Black Women or any women of color for that matter in the hands on development and leadership technical positions at companies like Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Google, Yahoo, etc. Yes, I’m calling names. I NEVER EVER see any visual representation of any Black Women in prominent technology roles. I see them as end users or customers. But never as developers or contributors. Now, I’m sure someone from these companies will come back and challenge me. Bring it on. This is not an attack. I’m just curious about your numbers. I have recruiter buddies and some tech folks (I won’t name names) who share their stories with me in confidence. If you’re worried about who would be telling secrets, maybe that’s a sign that you should be focusing on getting more women of color in the mix, not alienating or ignoring us.

Let’s turn the focus if you will to the media and conference organizers. Are you not looking hard enough for women of color to showcase? Fast Company, Inc, Wired I’m talking to YOU. Hold on now, Black Enterprise, I’m not leaving you out of this. I rarely see a Black Woman tech business owners or executive adequately covered. You have a Black Woman as a Tech Editor! Come on, we need better representation. And hey all you conference organizers, you mean to tell me you can’t find ONE Black Woman to have on panel? Oh wait, from what I understand, one of my associates said that you were more concerned with the “quality of the content and sessions”. Hhhhmmmm. I don’t know about you all, but to me that reads “a Black Woman would not be able to bring anything to the table to intelligently connect with the audience. OK got ya! To the women focused organizations out there, please, I beg you, do a better job of outreach. Start tapping into the women who are fortunate enough to be in the spotlight. Connect with recruiters because they (well some of them) should know how to tap into that market. Have a Black Woman on your board, facilitate sessions, or work with you to drive membership. There are a whole segment of Black Women out there who are frustrated because they feel left out or alienated. Reach out to them and I guarantee your membership will diversify….if you truly want it to.

Now as I said on my show, Black Women please don’t think I’m going on the war path and only pointing fingers are the companies. Because we have a role in this too. There have been many times where I had solid Black Women candidate who opted NOT to go after certain roles because they didn’t want to be part of the politics and bullshit (their words, not mine). They knew that it would be an uphill battle to get hired, then accepted into the fold by their tech comrades. I’ve heard the horror stories, I’ve seen the treachery. But what does not kill us makes us stronger. Now this is for all women. We cannot hide away in the shadows if we want to be recognized for our achievements. I want to see apps developed by Black Women (or Latinas or Asian Women, etc). I want to see platforms and systems created by women of color….hell, by women period! Don’t keep your ideas and projects under wraps. Be proud of what you bring to the table and take every opportunity to show people what you can do. Reach out to other women and start building relationships. Be vocal in meetings. Don’t just sit back and let the “boys” speak at the table. Be heard and respected. I you start feeling left out, minimized or disrespected, nip it in the bud from day one. Continue to upgrade your skills and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. Get better at what you do. And stop denying yourself opportunities because of the likelihood of bullshit and politics.

Ladies make sure you connect with your HR representative and managers and map out your career path. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your path. If you’re gunning for the CTO title, do whatever you need to do to improve your skills, volunteer for projects, network, keep up certifications and training, showcase your expertise and everything else you can do to climb your way to that CTO spot. Let your skills speak for themselves. Open the lines of communication with Recruiters in the tech industry. If you’re in a company where you are under appreciated or devalued, take your skills elsewhere. Recruiters can help you find the best environment for you. And if you don’t find the right fit, take your knowledge and talent and start your own tech firm. When you do, I’ll be that one to find you the talent you need….a diverse cross section of talent, male and female, White, Black, Latino, Asian, etc. The most successful companies with the happiest employees are the most diverse companies.

You can only use how the corporations treat you as an excuse but so long. Own your part in it then work past the corporate politics to excel at your craft. Companies, pay attention. Technology is not just a guy thing. There are plenty of women, especially women of color, who have a lot to offer. Don’t let ignorance keep you from hiring the best.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Believe it or not, I believe we are in the midst of a fear epidemic. I have had more than a few conversations in the last two weeks with women who are passionate about what they do, articulate about their ideas, but scared to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. They have come up with a product, service or way to do business that could turn into a sustainable, highly successful business. But something is preventing them from following through on their dreams. I can’t even say it’s exclusive to women, because I know a few men who are just as gun shy. But for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to the women.

So why are we victims of failing to move forward with great ideas? There are lots of reasons. It surely isn’t due to a lack of creativity or passion. All of the women I have spoken with over the last few weeks had this certain something in their voices. You know, like that sound of pride a mom exudes when speaking of her baby being on the honor role. They want so bad to tap into their inner CEO and share their “baby” with the world. But something is holding them back.

  • Fear of Failure. This one is a biggie! Trust me I know. There were many nights in the beginning I sat up wondering what people would think of me if I failed. It’s a huge burden on women’s minds. Women are held up to a higher scrutiny than men. We are the Moms, the caretakers. So if we fail at a business, it can be perceived as something that was expected of a Mom with a “hobby”. Hey, *I* didn’t say that, but I’ve heard it. I say to hell with what people think. Many prominent people (women AND men) have failed…on more than one occasion too. Failing should not be feared. It should be used as a learning lesson to prepare you for your next steps. Don’t let fear of failure keep you on the sidelines.
  • Fear of Success. Once again, guilty as charged. Even worse than the fear of failure is fear of success. This is a bit more psychological for some people than others because it’s all about the expectations others put on you. Once it became obvious that I was on the cusp of something big, the expectations of others crept into my head. I worried so much about letting people down, which is a lot different than worrying about what people will say. I felt that pressure hard. A lot of time women panic because they feel if they grow too fast too soon, it will take away from their family obligations or that there will be such great demands on them that they won’t be able to deliver. Don’t fall victim to this. Success can be wonderful if you manage it right.
  • Lack of Support. Single Moms are hit hardest by this. They are already doing it all on their own, raising the kids, being the breadwinner. It’s hard to move forward with a business idea if you feel nobody supports or believes in you. But don’t let that stop you. There are many women’s and moms groups that are out there that would love to support you. You can look on the internet and find local groups that fit your needs.
  • Lack of Money. I learned from a great friend that it’s not always necessary to have the funding to start a business. There are ways that you can creatively finance. There are microloans, business plan competitions, small business loans, angel investors and joint ventures. You can also offer equity, commission, revenue sharing or deferred salary to key staff. Not being capital rich, doesn’t mean you can’t move forward with your idea or business.
  • Fear of Losing a Stable Paycheck & Benefits. This is without a doubt the worst excuse of them all. I know you’re saying “but the economy!!” and yes we are in a bit of a jacked up economy. But that’s no excuse to not move forward. First of all, you can probably search online for better benefits at sites like EHealthinsurance.com for insurance, and Fidelity or Sharebuilder for 401K programs. I have consistently found better coverage than what companies can offer by researching online. And if you are passionate enough about your company, willing to market like crazy, and are hungry enough to get out there and close clients, the money will come. What gets lost is that you have to potential to make MORE money. I don’t think anyone deliberately goes into business to make less money or to fail. Do you want someone determining the most money you are allowed to make? I didn’t think so.

Don’t let fear keep you from bringing your idea to market. Many of us have the capability to be business owners. True entrepreneurs are OK with taking a risk because they know the rewards greatly outweigh them. You can overcome any of the excuses listed above. It starts with changing your mindset. Believe in yourself and you will be on your way to succeeding. Fear is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real. As I always say no limits, no boundaries, no fear.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Hello, hello! As you can probably imagine I am just giddy about my new website launch. After much blood, sweat, tears, prayer, false starts, hard work, and yes sometimes cussing, the official website for the Fearless Woman Magazine is now live! I have waited so long for this and have encountered so many obstacles along the way. I even considered quitting….yes, the “Q” word because I had a few people tell me I would not be able to get it done. But I’m here to tell you that not only am I still standing, I have a real live functional website to show for it.

Now I know a few sour heads are going to say “hey the site is up but what about the magazine itself?”. It’s a great question…and I have a great answer. As you may already know, Empower Me! is hosting the Fearless Woman Summit at the Georgia International Convention Center June 16-17 right here in Atlanta. Originally, I was planning to do a simple launch party to announce the magazine to the world. But my team has taken over and transformed this event into the must attend professional development event of the year, in addition to a kick ass launch party! So the soft launch or unofficial launch of the physical magazine will be June 16 and it will be revealed to the attendees of the Summit and Empower Me! members (they of course get their subscriptions for free with their membership). Everyone who attends the event will get an advanced copy and will be able to help us celebrate the launch. I am so excited I can barely contain myself. For the rest of the world, the official launch is July 1st.

Our first issue is focused on Diversity from Her Perspective and we have a stellar line up of articles that make you think, reflect, and take action. The magazine will motivate you to live your best professional life…fearlessly! From Dr. Ella Edmondson Bell to Barbara Corcoran to Audrey Lee, to Sarah Evans, to Aliza Sherman, we have some phenomenal ladies who share the distinction of being in our debut issue. I can’t wait for you to read it! Trust me, the website has NOTHING on the actual issue!

In the mean time, we want you to feel like the magazine’s website is your community. We have a top notch roster of Contributing Bloggers who will share their wisdom, encouragement and expertise each week. You can catch snippets of our videos, listen to Views From the Top Radio Show, join our Facebook Fan Page, and even follow us on Twitter. You will even be able to catch previews of our shows in the brand new EmpoweredWoman.tv. Soon, you will have the capability to translate the site into your chosen language!

Be sure you bookmark and share the website with all your friends, family and co-workers. If you’re a man, be sure to send your wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, female colleagues over to the website. I guarantee it’ll be the best thing they can do for themselves in the name of professional development.

Please stop by and let me know what you think.
Til Next Time.

Adrienne Graham
Fearless Woman Magazine (an Empower Me! Corporation publication)

On Friday, Michael Bivins shared with us on Views From the Top that he was supporting a worthy cause. March for Babies is a wonderful cause and they are marching on April 25th. So please take a moment out to make a donation to the March for Babies. See Mike’s message below:

We are proud parents of our daughter who has been chosen as a poster child for the march of dimes march for babies fundraiser campaign. I made a pledge to raise money for this cause and walk. I’m asking each of you to make a donation to this campaign at www.marchforbabies.org/sportyrich. If $1 is all you can donate we will reach our goal.

Thank you all lets start the walk!

Mike Biv

If you missed the show on Friday, please take a moment to check it out. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/viewsfromthetop/2010/04/09/the-man-show or catch it on iTunes.