Celebrating American Workers and their Achievements!
Opportunities to Network can be viewed much like the half full or half empty glass. While results do vary widely, the approach taken can have a huge impact on whether or not the take away is a success. There is a lot of confusion about what networking really is all about. There are a few professions that may not emphasize soft skills, but it’s a shrinking group. Networking is about soft skills.
Add to the mix that there are now four generations of people still in the workforce and number five is entering now. Soft skills are needed to network well within a like generation to yourself, but when you mix it up a little, it becomes imperative that you are very aware. That won’t change as you move to most working environments, so consider networking with various generations to be time well spent. Here are some dos and don’ts that come to my mind.
Do remember that first impressions matter. If you are unsure, ask your friends to practice networking with you and invite them tell it like it is with the way you look, the expression on your face, and how you act.
Don’t get fake with it. Let your self improvement from your networking practice be a help, but don’t get so stressed about it that you come off like you are unsure of why you are there.
Do some research on multiple generations in the work place. There’s lots of deep information available but you really only need to Google a few charts of the different values of various generations. It’s for your awareness, not to share at the event!
Don’t evangelize on your generation compared to others! Under no circumstances let words come out of your mouth like, “I bet you are one of those Millennials that doesn’t want to work…” or “You are probably one of those Baby Boomers with a flip phone…” Just Don’t.
Do be genuinely interested in others’ accomplishments. Listen for the way they think.
Don’t be desperate, even if you are. This goes back to your practice sessions with friends. I think this is the hardest part for the job seeker who has been at it for a while… and has bills.
Do spend some time assembling a shortlist of ways you might be able to contribute to the concerns of other people in other generations. This is for your mind only. It can help you engage in conversations.
Don’t read the list when networking. Don’t get the list out of your pocket. Don’t view it as a checklist. It’s a resource for your mind only.
Do keep your business cards with you. After meaningful conversation, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn and share a card with them. It’s ok to ask if you can have their card… but be reasonable. And yes, business cards are still in – the app is great, but keep business cards with you.
Don’t shove cards in peoples face like a speed date! It’s obnoxious! Don’t bring your resume to pass out, unless specifically asked to do so. Have those in car, just in case someone asks – but they probably will not. That’s for later, maybe.
Do be a learner and look for opportunities to ask questions. Look to learn more about other people and interact like you would over a cup of coffee.
Don’t become pressuring in the conversation. Don’t bring the 45 lb planner, leave that in the car or at home. And don’t ask the main speaker what he or she does for a living… speaking from experience – just avoid that. Pay attention to what’s going on.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but just some of the things I’ve learned in my networking experiences. If I view networking as a necessary evil, I will in some way communicate that message and it won’t end well. However, I must say that I have come to really enjoy networking opportunities.
Never pass up the opportunity to network even if the opportunity isn’t about what you want to do. There’s a lot to say about being seen. There are a host of professional networking groups to take advantage of. As my friend Chris Waymire has taught many times, don’t miss an opportunity to network, take a friend with you, and ditch them. You will both be glad you did.
I welcome your thoughts!
One size does not always fit all. I learned long ago that “one size fits all” baseball caps – don’t – namely – don’t fit me. I think other people look great in them but when I squeeze my head into one with great pain and agony, I only get a deep ring indent around my
skull and a nice “marshmallow with a rubber band on one end” type of look. It’s a fat heads need not apply kind of thing.
In life, education, processing of information, etc., categorizing and making assumptions is part of the fabric of human functioning. The greatest of human accomplishments depend on this basic process. However, it doesn’t always work in relationships with other people. One size does not fit all.
I’m a firm believer that teams are stronger when creativity and trust are fostered. While it is true that team members should demonstrate trust and trustworthiness, it should be “doable” on the team. This becomes NOT doable when we measure motives instead of actions and categorize and assume without truly understanding a person’s motives. Don’t expect a one size fits all mentality to work.
For example, one of the areas where I see this issue arise is in the workplace because it is now occupied by four identified generations. While these identifications are only general references, they do help highlight differences in the way of thinking of different age groups. We are all impacted by world events and influences in our upbringing and life experience. How work is done and how it is viewed has evolved tremendously the over the last 60 or 70 years. It’s an area ripe for categorizing and assumptions about people from one era or another, which means it’s a conflict generator. How things once were or perhaps “should be” easily can become one size fits all thinking that will lead to false assumptions and wrong categorization.
We’ve been focusing on this issue at cfd Investments, Inc. where I serve as Project Manager. We’ve developed some activities to help us discuss this issue and we have sought out resources to educate our company on this topic. We want to avoid making assumptions about “young” or “old” that hinder the creation of trust, creativity, and productivity. I’ve seen our efforts to move away from a one size fits all mentality make a difference.
Keep assumptions and categories where they belong, but use great care when it comes to people. Even though there are challenges, I don’t believe it’s ever a mistake to be vested in your team or your teammate’s success. When it comes to people, avoiding a one size fits all mentality is a win all the way around.
Is technology a barrier for seasoned professionals?
YES! The answer is yes.
I don’t want it to be so, because I am a seasoned professional. I want to be able to say that tech isn’t a problem – just get trained on it. But that’s the trouble… no one’s going to train you any more… you have to do that for yourself. No one owes you that anymore. “Come on board and we’ll train you” doesn’t exist anymore. Get over it!
If I’m interviewing someone, I’m looking for aptitude. I don’t need to build a program to train someone, I need to walk them through a few screens and have them producing. I don’t really like this position because the tables are easily turned on me. But it’s where I find myself.
So, how does this happen – the turning of the tables? It’s when I find myself across the table from an interviewer… and the skin crawls on my neck when I sense they will take one look at me and assume I can’t deal with tech. They are incorrect, but that doesn’t matter. It’s on me to cleverly prove otherwise. Is it right? I don’t think so. But do a few interviews or talk to a few recruiters when in midlife and you’ll figure it out quickly. Get ready for those canned automated rejection letters.
There are solutions for this issue, but they are not easy. It takes a continual openness to redefining what work looks like. Need a shortcut? Good luck. Need a quick list so you can get back to the way things “used to be?” I don’t think you’ll find it. Want to know the best tech to get educated on? As long you are buying, you can learn a lot of different tech packages. Everyone and their uncles and aunts have websites, books, and seminars on such for purchase. But which one? You won’t know till you apply for a Job! And then it’s too late. Oh by the way, the best tech list changes all the time.
Aspiring professionals were reared with technology at their fingertips – it’s woven into who they are. Will they someday become seasoned professionals about whom these types of conversations are had? Most likely – so if you find yourself with the upper hand in quickly integrating tech into your life, be KIND, you will probably reach a point in your life when the tables will get turned on you.
Does that mean seasoned professionals can’t be in the tech game? Absolutely NOT! Here are a few suggestions I think are helpful.
Change your mindset. Dump the criticizing of other generations. Dump the dream of having “earned the right” not to be in learning mode. Be open minded. Be in learner mode. The best teachers are those who continue to also be a student.
Find a Mentor – swallow your pride and get one younger than yourself – maybe considerably younger. You can help them gain Training Experience by allowing them to train YOU. It’s a win-win. Is it going to work for everyone? No, but look for opportunities… you’ll find them.
Use LinkedIn Jobs whether or not you are looking for a job. Set searches for Jobs you might be interested in and note the technology that is noted in most of the descriptions. Make a to-do list accordingly.
Subscribe to a Course Offering. Turn off the news – it’s not hard to catch up on and you probably won’t really miss anything you can do anything about anyway. Spend that time auditing online course offerings. I maintain a subscription to CareerAcademy.com. Very reasonable in cost and rich in content.
Network. This is not just talking with people like yourself, but connect with people of all ages. You’ll learn stuff and you may encounter your next opportunity.
I’m a strong believer in connecting generations to create value. I’d love to have your thoughts.
In my work as a Project Manger for cfd Investments, Inc. and also with InterGenLink, I get to work with some of the neatest people in the world! CFD has entrusted me to supervise our Interns this Summer as they have for some time. I enjoy this part of my job a lot. We are currently working on a effort that is right up my ally: connecting the generations. We were inspired at a workshop we attended with the presentation because it was an interactive game. (No powerpoints read to us!) It was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend to any organization.
The workshop was provided by Shafer Leadership Academy in connect with IndianaINTERN.net guided by Mitch Isaacs. I believe that overcoming generational differences in the workplace is the key for a company or organization to succeed. You can bring Shafer to your establishment with confidence.
Shafer’s activity lasted 5 hours for us. Sound like a long time? Nope! It went by too fast. I and my team learned a great deal. We developed our own much lighter version of a similar game to help our staff consider why generations have a different view of the workplace, and to work on ways to bridge the differences to create value for our company.
The old saying that the things that bind us together are stronger than the things that separate us is so true. If we can peel back the layers of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, politicized news coverage and 24 hours a day of social media and marketing, we can discover the things that bind us together – and they are many. It can change the way you see the world.
Our team of Interns along with one of our Compliance Analysts and our HR Director worked tirelessly on this project. It was really neat seeing it come together… and it was a bit different than the normal financial services business landscape!
We have been spending an hour with each department in our company playing the game which incites discussion and provides some background to why people may think they way they do. While this transcends the workplace, it is very impactful there. The more we play the game, the more we realize that a little understanding really helps see the best in the people we work with. Skill levels are different. Technology is way different. Goals and
focus vary. Being human… doesn’t. Does this fix every problem… nope! But it does help lay the groundwork for people from different generations to reach across to someone of another generation to solve very real present day problems.
In my mind, organizations that find a way to make this possible are the ones that will succeed in the rapidly changing environment we find ourselves in. As for those who don’t, a very unsure path lies ahead.
If you are a CEO or Manager, consider giving Mitch Isaacs a call! It’s very worthwhile.
The old saying “take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins” couldn’t apply more than to those who deal with mental health issues. The phrase comes for a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. Fast forward to the 21st century, and not that much has changed. My hometown, Kokomo, is blessed with an organization supporting homeless women and children called Walk A Mile.
You don’t notice stuff like this, until you or someone you love encounters a need. Three situations bring this need especially close to home for me when it comes to mental health care.
My dad passed away a number of years ago. All of my memories of him are of a man tortured by paranoid schizophrenia. He was a very good man that was often choked down with an illness he didn’t understand or know how to cope with. My late brother-in-law dealt with debilitating Manic Depression as well until cancer stole his life, way too early. I cannot adequately express how crucial appropriate mental care was for either my dad or my brother-in-law.
My brother is one of the most gentle, genuine, and intelligent people I know. However, he deals with Manic Depression. My dad was difficult because he didn’t accept his issue, whereas my brother seeks help and this type of care is crucial.
Needless to say, I take notice of organization who serve those with this need. In my experience they are led by caring professionals working for a fraction of their value. They have passion for those society can easily forget or even ridicule.
My friends at MHA in Kokomo serve this need. Recently I was privileged to deliver a contribution to them on behalf of the employees of the company where I work:
I came to know Mental Health America many years ago when then as a minister, my church provided an annual Thanksgiving meal for 250 MHA clients and staff. I’ve moved on but Center Road Church of Christ continues the tradition today.
Perhaps you have life ambitions, just as I do. Regardless of that journey, let us always remember to Walk A Mile.
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.
Judge Softly, poem by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895
Being kind to someone is valuable and lives on, even past your memory of it. I was reminded of this on a recent trip to see my mom in Arkansas. As I enjoyed my KFC I heard my mom say my name (she was having a conversation at the table behind us, which she always does, because she knows everyone). “Well, he’s right there…” and I entered a conversation with a lady I didn’t know.
Her name is Sherry and she was telling my mom I had given her
a Bible many years ago (way too many). I had no memory and still have no idea. More than all of that, she still has it! “Oh, I’ve got in the car” as she scooted out the door. Upon return she produced the Bible.
Let me tell you that 1981 was a long time ago. At the risk of locking myself in the wrong algorithm for any future job prospects in the ever popular Applicant Tracking Systems — I was a high school junior. We spent a few minutes catching up on life and went on our way. It’s such a big small world!
That gift obviously meant more to Sherry than it did to me. My brain doesn’t hold that kind of info. Want to bridge time and make a difference? Be kind and give people important stuff – like eternal words. Be encouraging – it will probably come back to visit.