February 2009

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In case you didn’t know, Jack Welch is the former CEO of GE who did legendary things to make GE a top notch company. Too bad Jeff Immelt has messed it up. Jack wrote a book Winning Intl: The Ultimate Business How-To Book
and spent two decades really defining what a true CEO should be. Take a look at this video for some of his insight. Enjoy!

This isn’t my article. It was written by Nadira Hira of Fortune Magazine. It is  very timely piece and I recommend you read it.
nadira_hira202The Gig
With Nadira A. Hira

February 16, 2009, 11:03 am

Using your contacts without making them feel used

If there were ever a more important time to network, I can’t remember it. I’ve been to so many going-away parties in the last few weeks that I’m starting to wonder what I’m still doing here. People who thought they’d played it professionally safe — bankers, lawyers, significant others of bankers and lawyers — are suddenly finding themselves among the nation’s growing jobless. And even those who remain gainfully employed are hoarding their cash, certain they’ll be the next to go.

So we young people do what any sane person would do: We spin the old mental Rolodex. We note all the people who don’t hate us and might be of some use. And then we send messages that read something like this:

Hey, Person I Need!

Long time no talk! How are you?! Sorry I haven’t written you in 17 years — boy have I been busy — but here’s some contrived anecdote to show I’ve been thinking about you. Thought you’d like to hear these few random things that are going on with me, too. Oh, by the way, I was thinking you could hire me/refer me/help me in some other way I’ve been generous enough to dream up for you. And since I’m sure you’re dying to read my resume, it’s attached. Totally can’t wait to catch up!


Most Transparent Jobseeker Ever

If that sounds extreme, believe me, it’s not. I have, in fact, received a number of notes not unlike these myself in recent weeks. And for the record, it isn’t that I wouldn’t be happy to help if I could. It’s just that the approach is so completely disingenuous that it’s actually detrimental to the person’s cause. (And we Yers tend to be more prone to it because of our sometime lack of social graces, the quick and familiar way we communicate, and the broad if not deep virtual networks we’re able to maintain.)

As understandable — and essential — as the urge to work one’s connections is in times like these, there’s still an art to doing it. It’s rooted in basic common sense and good manners, and it applies in every situation, whether you’re sending an e-mail, Facebook message, smoke signal, singing telegram, or (gasp) letter. So, in the interest of maintaining our networking dignity, here are a couple suggestions for reaching out the right way…

  1. Be honest — no, really. It’s important that any networking note we write contains the usual niceties (a “hope you’re doing well,” and some punctuation, for example), but don’t overdo it. When we try too hard to be all “great”s and giggles — especially in an attempt to obscure the fact that we want something — it usually has just the opposite effect. Not only does it draw attention to our self-serving motives, it can also be fairly insulting to the intelligence of the recipient. Why not, instead, try telling the truth? “I know it’s been a long time,” you might say, “but I recently started looking for a new job and, since you’re one of the people who’s offered help in that arena over the years, I thought I’d check in.” (And if the person’s a legitimate friend, a light-hearted nod to the awkwardness often diffuses any tension: “I’m so sorry you’re only hearing from me now, when I need you, but I hope you won’t hold it against me forever.”) It’s nothing revolutionary, but with trust in short supply these days, a little sincerity goes a very long way.
  2. Ask for advice, not a gig. It’s never really proper to ask for a job outright unless you’re in an actual interview. But with the job market in the state it is, and everyone worried about their own job, it’s particularly poor form right now. Some people may not even respond to you if they feel pressured to produce a possible job or broker an introduction, so focus your energy on seeking out good advice, insights, and resources. If, for instance, there’s a job you’re interested in at an acquaintance’s company, write to ask what s/he thinks of the department, not to look for the hookup. This tack is flattering — after all, who doesn’t like the idea that their perspective might be valuable? — and it puts you in the positive light of a potential protégé or close colleague, someone that your contact may think of (fondly, and maybe even first) should a job prospect arise. This way, if they have a post or person to share with you, they can do so on their own terms. And if all they have to give you is a few words of wisdom, at least they know that’s worthwhile to you, too.
  3. Do not attach your resume. And for that matter, don’t attach any other representations of your wonderfulness that are likely to lock up people’s inboxes, even if you’re sure they like you. Not only can it seem presumptuous, it also looks a bit desperate. Even if you’re posting to a group of friends about your job search, it’s much more effective (not to mention safer) to just include a few sentences about what you’re looking for and what you’ve done, rather than giving them your entire work history, which they’re not likely to read anyway. As a rule, re-establish contact first, then ply with documents.
  4. Facebook doesn’t change anything. In our age of social networking, it can be tempting to use the relaxed attitude of tools like Facebook to take the work out of networking. It’s so easy now to just “friend” a person you haven’t talked to in years — without so much as a, “Remember me from high school?” — then hit them with the old, “I really love your company, so…” But take it from me, that isn’t going to be received any better by a Facebook friend than it would be by anyone else. Even on the Web, people know when they’re being used, and they don’t like it. So apply the same amount of courtesy and concern there as you would everywhere else.
  5. Show a little gratitude. Remember that everyone, from the C-suite all the way down, is under pressure right now. So thank them for their time, and if they make an effort to respond, even if they don’t say much, realize it means something — and say so. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it fosters a continuing relationship. We’re so connected, and it’s so easy to maintain those connections in today’s world, that there really is no excuse not to build and nurture as many substantive relationships as you can. (And just to be clear, by substantive, I don’t mean poking and gifting, but actual communication, like with words.) That may seem like a big investment of time for not very much immediate return — and goodness knows many of us really need the return at the moment — but trust me, you just never know.

wp_logo1Hello everyone! Well, I didn’t make it to the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Orlando, FL this year. I am so upset. I caught the flu so I couldn’t go. I had it all planned out. I would stay at my Mom’s (free room & board!), meet some of the ladies outside of the Summit for drinks or dinner, and network my butt off! I had the sessions I wanted to attend highlighted and was ready with my business cards. I even ordered some extra copies of my book- just in case. Needless to say, I was disappointed when I realized I would not be attending. *sigh* Yes, I’m whining.

Well, a lovely friend of mine, Michelle Greene, a Director of Business Infrastructure, who I met at last year’s Summit, called me and told me to get well and stay in bed. We both wished we could get together and turn that event out, but I was too sick to make it. Michelle did something that was even better than me being there. This dear woman talked me up to anyone who would listen. You see, I advised Michelle to get some Resume Cards a few weeks ago as part of her self marketing efforts. She had some made and bought them with her to the Summit. Everyone she gave them to complimented her on a genius idea. She promptly told them that I was the one who advised her to get them AND she told them about my book. Amongst them was B. E. Editorial Director Sonia Allyene- I’m really sorry I missed her!

And as if that wasn’t enough, Michelle stood in line after a session with Carla Harris- a managing director in global capital markets at Morgan Stanley- to get an autographed copy of her new book Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet just for me. When she called me to say she had a surprise for me, I had no idea. I am so touched that she did that for me. The power of networking! I am going to be sure to send Ms. Harris a note of thanks, and I owe Michelle a dinner or something for looking out for me like she did. I am truly blessed.

Another example of my brand transcending myself is I received a call from a woman who is doing research for an article on women entrepreneurs. She left a voice message for me and in it she stated that in talking with other women, my name came up quite a few times as a person to know. She took that as her hint to look me up! I have no voice right now, but I will call her back as soon as I can speak again. I don’t know which women spoke so highly of me but I am so grateful to them for respecting me and thinking so highly enough of me to make the referral.

So see, your brand really does represent you when you aren’t there. It is important that you continue to represent yourself in the highest integrity and respect. People talk, and you want them to always speak well of you. It’s the highest form of flattery and confirmation when people share your name. Don’t disappoint them.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

ks1114How much of your time does it take to do a kind act for someone else?  Making an introduction, forwarding a resume, passing along a job lead.  These things may seem trivial to you at the time, but you never know how much of an impact it has on the person on the receiving side.  Often I do things without giving much thought to it. It doesn’t cost me anything to pass along a lead. With this economy in such disarray, now more than ever is the time to reach out to others. Nobody is saying you have to give all of your money away or even create jobs for people…although it would be nice.  But taking a moment out of your busy day to help someone else is priceless. It really doesn’t cost you anything.

The other day, I was on the highway and decided to give the toll clerk $5 to pay for the next ten people.  She looked at me like I’m crazy.  I didn’t get to stick around and see how the other people responded. Didn’t have to. My heart felt good.

I asked my Twitter buddies to perform one random act of kindness this week, and if they already had, to share what they had done.  So far I’m loving the responses.  So I challenge you, my blogging buddies to do the same. Giving to others gets you returned blessings ten fold.  Find it in your heart to do something for someone other than yourself.

Adrienne Graham

womentalkCan you out do the Networking Diva? I’ve used some pretty wild networking strategies in the past (and most likely will again in the future!). I’ve even shared some tips in my new book, Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking.

Networking is not limited to just attending events labeled “Networking Event” or just handing out cards. I’m looking for the most unique and creative networking idea you’ve had. Tell me your story and you may be featured in an interview on the Fearless Networking Page. It must be something that has worked and can be verified. You can share it here, send me an email at huesconsulting@gmail.com or Twitter me @talentdiva. The winner will receive $50. You must be a registered member of the Fearless Networking Facebook Page to be considered. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fearless-Networking/59372166163

Oh yeah, and tell your friends!

So let me see what you got. Good Luck!

Adrienne Graham

23314358There’s a lot to be said for full time employment. But you know what? I personally think it’s over rated. As witnessed by corporate implosions, nothing is secure or sacred these days. I’m not a full time type of person myself. Never have been. Although I can respect those who want the stability of a constant paycheck and benefits, I prefer to think of myself as a free agent and keep my options open. I don’t want someone to dictate how much I’m allowed to make in any given year, or at any time for that matter.

Back in the days, a good salary and benefits package would be the hook that got people to commit to a job. My parents , just a generation ago, used to drive home the point that we needed to get a good job with stable benefits and advance through the company as high as we could then retire. Loyalty was a big thing for them. My Dad worked for New York City Housing Authority (city job) and my Mom was a bank supervisor for many years before being wooed by another company. Guess what though? I’m not my parents as you could pretty much guess. I’ve never been one to want that kind of long term committment. Not because I didn’t feel I could hack it in the corporate environment, but because I always felt I wanted to diversify and advance my skills, learn new things, meet new people, and I never believed I could do that working for just one company forever. Plus, I love being able to pick and choose which contracts I want to work. Talk about total freedom!

I long ago joined the ranks of the Free Agent, the Independent Contractor. Yes I am considered a business, and there are no corporate perks, but I get to call my own shots. I don’t need any fancy benefits package because I did my research and comparisons, then I chose the appropriate medical, dental, life and disability insurance for me and my family needs. Yes this can be a little costly, but here’s the beauty of it…I make more as a contractor than a salaried employee. I can set my own rates and make it where I can afford my coverage. I also researched and found a good self 401K program and enrolled. So the benefits package doesn’t sway me. As far as vacations, the best part of contracting is I take off the months of November and December- by choice- each year. If I need to take a few days here or there during the year, it’s ok. Sure I don’t get paid for hours I don’t put in, but again, the freedom of being a contractor is well worth it. Some websites to check out are: http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/, http://www.ahip.org/, http://www.healthplans.com/, http://www.sharebuilder401k.com/, http://www.401kadvisor.com/, http://www.mykplan.com/, http://www.401k.com/. So don’t let insurance be a determining factor for you. It is becoming easier to set up your own plans. Remember, contractors make more money so consider it part of your overhead when calculating your rate.

Contracting is not for the faint of heart though. As I stated earlier, many people are happy with knowing that a timely paycheck will be available every week, biweekly, etc. They can’t handle the unpredictablility of the work. Contracting can be short term, long term, or even end abruptly. And usually here is nothing you can do about it. Oh, but yes there is. Remember, being a Contractor is like being in business. Just as you take care of your own expenses and taxes, you also need to prepare contracts. Most times, companies want to give you a standard contract that ends up protecting them more. But you have a right to revise a contract. I eliminate this need by having my own. If a company needs to make changes within reason, I allow it. But I always make sure to have an attorney look it over and I put in verbiage about giving at minimum two weeks’ notice of terminating a contract. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t help to know you only have two weeks before you have no gig. But you can contingency plan in thet two weeks. Actually, as a contractor, you need to always keep your ears and eyes open for new opportunities, even when you have a contract, simply because you never know.

There are a few places you can search for contract positions.  Of course, they are listed on some of the major job boards. But you can find them on Craig’s List, Sologig.com, Civiliancontractorjobs.com, SimplySAP.com, Contractjobs.com, ContractJobHunter.com, iFreelance.com, Freelancewritinggigs.com, GoFreelance.com, Project4hire.com, Contractedwork.com, Elance.com, Guru.com, ODesk.com, and of course Dice.  Of course you can do a good old fashion Google/Yahoo/Live.com search using keyword criteria. And you can always find out through networking what companies hire contractors. Tap into Linked In to find contract opportunities as well.

So if you’re looking to step into a Contractor’s Life make sure you prepare yourself and you’ve got the resolve to deal with uncertainty. Do your due diligence and investigate all of your “benefit” options. Make sure you cover yourself legally with a solid contract. And finally, take advantage of every contract opportunity you get and soak up as much knowledge as you can to enhance your skills. Get to know as many people as you can so that you can leverage those contacts in the future.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham