Another week bites the dust. Comes every Sunday, though I’m not exactly sure how. Until I realized that I had felt like I missed so much because while neighbors were mowing or running in the Johns Creek 5k, I was still Netflix’n and chilling. My time had been swallowed by the black hole that is […]
I recently watched a documentary entitled Happy. Contrary to my single objective when deciding to watch Happy and much to my dismay, I was not happy thereafter. As summarized in this documentary, it would seem only retirees in Japan or Hawaii and hippies living in community compounds truly find happiness. Not what I was hoping to discover, as I am not a beach person nor am I going to cook for 10 families once a week and share a bathroom with 5 other women down at the community compound. I would benevolently accept that I was doomed to being unhappy for the rest of my life. Imagine then, how pleasantly intrigued I was when my Mom came over for our weekly coffee and yoga and announced "you can be instantly happy, Sarah. It is so cool how!"
You can be instantly happy. And it is SO cool how!
She then pulled out a small framed piece of paper. Initially I thought, okay this is really cute of Mom. She's always been so crafty and extremely cute. Like the time I told her how tired I had been from work, and the next time I saw her she brought over a flower, reusable Keurig cups, a mini-spoon - the size for afternoon tea with the Queen - and small teapot shaped holder for said mini spoon. And while cute, the framed paper was just what the doctor had called for. Nicely framed sat before my eyes, the four agreements.
"Have you heard about the four agreements? Agreements that we make with ourselves and for ourselves. And I'm telling you, if you do these 4 things, it will change your life." My Mom exclaimed.
I hadn't heard of them, though I do have a mindfulness book that needs dusting ...and reading. I took a look down at the agreements and quickly read them. "Hmm, I thought. This could make a lot of sense." These Four agreements are meant to be four agreements with your self that are unencumbered and disjointed from the actions or expectations of any other.
Agreement 1: I will be Impeccable with my word
As kids we learned to respond to sandbox bullies with the following rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately that is not true. Not by a long stretch. Words dig into our unconscious minds and can act as a poison in the most unexpected of places. They take root, and like GA kudzu take over everything.
With my kids we talk about this often. Not calling each other stupid, don't talk negatively or talk about people (a.k.a gossip). But we have also talked about not doing these things to yourself. Words truly have the power to heal or destroy and we use them more often than we are aware. Try and speak only what you mean. If your anger or hurt takes you to a place where that is hard to do, try understand what you are truly upset about rather than defaulting to more hurtful words. Try to rebuild that moment for yourself or with the other instead of continuing to break down.
Agreement 2: I will not take things personally
I wrote on a sticky note several years back; 'this was not the Sarah show'. I wrote that because I can be emotionally needy. A lot of this comes from my past. Some of it is human nature. It's natural to internalize what happens to us in the moment. But nothing that anyone does or says has anything to do with us. Every person is master of their own ship and choices are made independent of others. What others say and do is a projection of their desires, their hurts, their focus, their defense mechanism and even their ability to address a situation in that timeframe or not. Unchaining ourselves from interpreting someone else's very complicated and ulterior motives frees us from needless suffering. Don't take it personally and move on.
Agreement 3: I will not make assumptions
Recently I had a little argument with the hubby. After work he and the kids were out. I assumed they were our having fun without the drama of a continued argument. I hadn't planned on a continuing argument but after coming home to an empty house, I was upset again. When I called my husband he mentioned that they were 'just out' and they'd be home 'whenever'. Didn't make me happy to hear that. I assumed he was still angry. I didn't think the argument was that serious. But my assumption that he was angry, made me angry. Ten minutes later hubby and kids show up with some beautiful Cacti. (My favorite house plants)
What we imagine is far too often more terrifying than reality. Don't make assumptions. Be brave enough to ask the right questions if something is on your mind or bothering you. When we are free to ask questions we not only allow another person the freedom to honesty, we allow ourselves to discover the reality of things from which to start from.
Agreement 4: I will always do my best
This one is more fluid than the others. Our best is going to change from moment to moment and situation to situation. Sometimes we have all the support, time, skill, health and resources available to knock the ball out of the park. Sometimes we are lacking in any one or all of those needs and instead knock the ball straight into an outfielder's mitt. But if we always do our best under any circumstance, we will avoid self judgement, regret and self persecution.
Stuff happens in life and in work alike... adopting these four agreements can help us navigate them with integrity, boldness and wisdom.
I got home late last night. A large project had allowed me to work from home the past 6 -8 months, because I was putting in extra hours. However, same said project was now keeping me at the office as the wind-down was approaching. I had missed both breakfast and dinner. But, I rushed home to make sure I didn't miss the tuck-in. As I quietly talked with my son, he said to me "Mom, sorry you had to work late. I missed you." My heart mush. I told him he didn't have to be sorry; that I love what I do and I love being good at it. Job satisfaction can be considered lucky, for those that aren't in their dream job. And even still, taboo for those of the population that still believe a woman's place is only in the home.
I felt so lucky to have a compassionate son and it had dawned on me that job satisfaction was not something some people are just lucky to accidentally find. And I hadn't always have it, and many times still hit plateaus and rough spots. But it is possible to create job satisfaction. Yep, as in the power is yours. All yours.
And we don't always have to find a new company to create it. More often than not we can find it within our own situations.
1. Analyze and recharge
Our brains, while machine like, capable of complex computations and quick downloading times, are simply put: muscles. Muscles that get tired, pulled and can become incapable of using. As any pseudo athlete or Sunday yogi knows, you have to rest and recharge your body. Our working minds work the same way: we have to recharge if we want to have optimal performance in the coming days.
So what I started doing was investing in some serious time management skills (read here) and opened up time for me to also invest in the things that bring me joy - time with family, music, learning new skills, etc. What I found is that I wasn't okay with giving up certain aspects to save the other. I needed those additional areas in my life in order to be the best version of myself inside and outside of work. When I didn't make time for these other areas, it was costing me more than just time spent on other opportunities.
In our pursuits we have to be cautious of what we are giving up and where those lines are - for ourselves. If we don’t, we get disgruntled and angry or make ourselves sick with guilt, worry and anxiety. We have to understand that in our pursuits we make daily decisions to give up something else. What are we giving up? Are we okay with those opportunity costs? If not, we need to make some changes.
It's a continual process: Clean up your work day (time management), do more of what makes you happy, analyze your opportunity costs and recharge
2. Remember where you've been
From stuffing invoices to driving business for successful mergers and acquisitions, I've put in a lot of hard work - a lot. When things start to weigh on you at work, think about where you have been. Where you are headed and take stock of where even your current situation aligns (or perhaps can align). Our paths are riddled with stories of doing things we never thought we could do. Better yet is still to come. When we can look back on the road we travel and realize just how much we have accomplished, we can be supercharged for the challenges ahead. Chances are while we were accomplishing those same things, we had some of these same emotions and more than likely on the fence with our job satisfaction rating.
Don't forget where you've been. It could be the answer to where you are going.
3. Switch things up
I ran track in high school. Not a long distance runner. I was a sprinter. But my coach would continuously try to up my mid distance game. He would require me to compete in races up to a mile. Doesn't sound like much now, but in high school it was going to literally kill me. The best advice I received was that runners switch up their stride, pace, arm movements or breath when fatigue sets in. Switching even small things like that, help your mind and body to push through.
So too, when in a work rut, which low job satisfaction is almost always the indicator, I like to schedule out time to switch things up. I consider myself a project. What does the company need most and even if outside my wheelhouse, I acquire those needed skills. Do something different. Switch up roles. I switch up how I do things or how I respond. Perhaps I change how I breathe through out the day. I reconsider how I interpret the day. I switch who I talk to, I switch what my objectives and goals are. But mainly I switch up my skills until my second wind comes in. And it always comes in.
No one can find job satisfaction when the job is mundane, mindless and excruciating for them to even think about. So switch things up. What can you do have an impact that is different than what you did yesterday?
“Where have you been!? I don’t see you on Facebook anymore!” Hubby has gotten off of Facebook and I have visited less frequently. As a result, we have been able to be more intentional with keeping up with our friends and family. We have had more visitors to the house, deeper and more meaningful conversations […]
When I want someone to know how I feel, I stoutly wear that feeling all over my face. Nope, not emotional... intentional. If I have something to say, you will know it. So when I was constantly being interrupted at work, by emails that should have been delegated to someone else, unnecessary questions, and office gossip pouring into my office, I had to take an honest look around and could only blame myself for the interruptions. After all, as I stated: if I wanted anyone to know that I wasn't "feeling" these interruptions, I would have shown it by now. Not only was I getting annoyed, I was falling behind on my to do list. Of which makes me feel entirely unsuccessful and fulfilled at work. Apparently, I had some very clear boundaries I needed to set and some time management issues to resolve.
At the time I was working on a very large and very serious project. One that was not only challenging but one that required undivided attention. Ergo, when I had the opportunity to complete said project from the comfort of my own home: I jumped at the chance, ran screaming for the doors, peeled out of the office parking lot and never looked back.
Well, until I had too...
True, I wasn't being interrupted every 10 minutes. And true I could get up at 4:00 am and power through lunch without a break in order to help the kids with their homework. Then, yes, I could pop back on and get in a 12 hour work day before most had started the dreaded rush hour traffic home. And yes, speaking of traffic, I was no longer sitting in it. However, after returning to the office, I started to notice things about the office environment that had once helped meet objectives, not threaten them.
According to cnbc.com, time management is a big issue at the office. Stating that over 3 hours a day is wasted by email, phone, internet, personal phones and co-worker drop-bys. For those of us dreaming of a remote lifestyle (or continued remote lifestyle), this news certainly pushes us to get up from our desks - like right now - march into our boss' office and demand the flexibility to work from home. After all, there are too many distractions at work! Right?!
But before you storm into your boss' office and demand remote work, I'm here to let you in on a little secret:
Work distractions are not only inevitable, some are necessary. And quite honestly, the cost of not only doing business, but the cost of doing good business.
With our sense of accomplishment, confidence to preform our jobs and the bosses perception at stake when we begin to miss deadlines, it's vital we curtail these office interruptions and/or transform them into time management powerhouses for good business - I'll tell you how.
First, let's understand how interruptions are good for business:
People change people that change the business
My daughter and I religiously were watching this Disney show titled: "Girl meets world'. A spin off from throwback 90's show: "Boy meets girl." It's a kitschy show packed with encouraging and powerful one liners:
People change people.
I have found myself quoting this as my daughter gets closer to all the drama of being a growing pre-teen and the importance of choosing friends wisely. But I began to see it's relevance after returning to work. People change people. And I had been missing out on all of it.
From my office, in the break room, or during those co-worker drop-ins; I could hear business processes breaks, control issues, items that had negative - or positive - financial impact. Co-workers that were customer facing had great ideas of how to retain customers and employees. Co-workers over in development had great ideas on how to help market our product. Sales reps talked about what developments could help meet customers needs. And all these great things were either communicated or NOT communicated up through, you guessed it, PEOPLE. Without some of those co-worker drop bys or water cooler talks that take maybe a little bit more of our time than we intended when we said "good morning, Bob" - turns out they can be good for business.
These are ideas that wouldn't necessarily come up on sweat pant conference calls because they weren't happening in the normal business conversations. They were happening as people talked with people. And in those conversations, people had the opportunity to help change what was happening to the business. When this clicked for me, the once biggest pet peeve of mine, (unannounced drop ins), can be appreciated and necessary. And I then needed to couple this with effective time management skills for a more effective working atmosphere.
Human interaction, discovery, communication. People change people who change the business.
Build relationships and promote team work
Another thing I noticed, when we allow time for this interaction, we create bonds with those of whom we work. Call it allies in the jungle of the work place, call it friends, call it partners, call it frenemies (I can't believe spell check can even pick up this millennial slang) - I don't care. What is important is that when you spend half of your waking life either driving to, or working at your place of business you, tend to form some kind of connection with those of whom you spend that waking time. Working effectively is not just about time management, but also with whom you are working during that time.
If we can make those connections meaningful, we get a group of team members that buy into one another and help each other head in the same direction. And while we are tech savy and social media frenzied, we are still have a disposition for personal contact, connection and physically social interactions. These interactions build trust and promote teamwork.
Invite deeper investment
And what comes of relationships and teamwork? Satisfaction on the job. And what of that you say? Our teams end up investing more of themselves, their ideas and their skills into the company. Our teams are invited to invest deeper into their careers, which benefits the top and bottom lines.
"But my team spends WAY too much time on things like personal calls, gossip and emails", you say. And I get it. No one gets it more than I do. Trust me, I've offended many a people when I've had to shut down these distractions for sake of a deadline. I'm not saying we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should accept some of these distractions as beneficial, and then with our remaining time, be extremely aware of our use of time management skills to still accomplish our goals and use the information garnered in those distractions to propel our companies further.
4 highly effective time management tips
Cut out the toxic interruptions
First, let me start by saying: abusing company internet use, gossip, and personal phone overuse is not what I'm talking about here when I say interruptions are good for business. Those interruptions are unnecessary, toxic and completely in your control to reduce. Do you have someone coming into your office daily and complaining about anything and everything? Sure, blowing off steam is one thing. Constantly creating a negative work space is another. This impacts the work of others and if you are spending your entire morning helping someone else feel better, (that just isn't going to feel better no matter what). This kind of interruption is only going to be toxic. It's a horrible interruption that needs to be expired ASAP.
Furthermore if you are the naysayer and toxic interruption, I'd suggest finding another outlet to blow off your steam, perhaps outside of company walls and co-workers. Or do something about it and either be the change you want to see, or find another devil to dance with and say adios to your current company. In the long run it would be better for everyone involved.
I equate it to a poor marriage. If the two spouses of said poor marriage complained to one another about one another, neither one of them would ever have the courage or encouragement to do anything that would make their marriage thrive. So too with work environment and relationships.
Let's face it, we spend too much time at work to feel like we are in a dead marriage with it. So, don't let yourself or anyone else worsen the atmosphere. For effective time management, cut out the toxic interruptions.
Manage your time before anyone else has the opportunity
Manage your work day before someone else has the opportunity to do so. There are several areas in this time management tip that you need to consider.
Email: Many times we get to work and first thing we do is open email. Stop doing that, like yesterday. What this says to your brain and to your work day is that you are here to accomplish what ever objective is in your inbox, instead of the objectives you have on your plate, desk or to do list. You immediately are giving your first line of business away to someone else, in order to respond to someone else's need. Stop doing this. At least stop doing this as action item number one. First focus on the emails you need to send out before responding the emails that were sent to you. This ensures that something on your plate has been addressed and you have established with your brain and your workday that you are here to accomplish very specific goals, from YOUR list.
Meetings: Blog out time on your calendar for meetings with yourself. Seriously. Finding it hard to get things on your to do list accomplished? Block out time on your calendar so others don't schedule meetings at those times. You now will have a set time to work on your items. After all, your to do list is to help your boss and your company. This is not a selfish way of handling business. This is a smart, proactive and effective way to not only handling your business, but in getting things done.
To do Items: You need to be spending time at the end of your day prepping your following day. Why? Because it helps you close the day out so you have a clear mind when you are home. This clearing of mind, helps you to refresh for the productive day ahead. Additionally, this allows you to walk in the next morning with your goals set and ready to tackle. Knowing what you need to have accomplished when you first walk into the office, helps to focus on accomplishing those things. And while some of those requests from others may be important, you still have your objectives that you must accomplish in order to preform well for your company. You might want to concentrate on those.
Do only the top 3 most important tasks
I'll keep this short and sweet. And this advice comes from the CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company where I was employed. In an interview the CEO gave some important advice for productivity and time management. Fist he had this to say: a whole lot of people in any organization are working hard, but not many are actually getting anything done.
And we all have been there. We all know what it feels like to work ourselves to the bone and not have touched the items on our to do list, nor meet the objectives set by our employer. To combat this, said CEO advised to have only the 3 most important tasks on your to do list for the day. And do only those 3 things until they are done. Anything else delegate or ignore.
Want to make an impact? Do only the 3 things that will make the largest impact for the company or your boss. Put all your effort into those 3 things. And those other million items that fall on your desk, perhaps they could be someone else' 3 most important things. But we can all only effectively manage 3.
Yes, 3. I'm serious. Make them impactful, make them meaningful, and make them push the needle for the company. Otherwise, you are just working hard, but not getting anything done.
Learn your work rhythm (do the hardest items during your 'go time')
Finally, I'll leave you with this: do your hardest items during your peak hours. For me, my peak hours are between 4:00 am and about noon. My husband is about 5:00 pm to midnight. Take a mental note of when you are your sharpest and most alert. Do those top 3 items during those hours. When you have your dead zones, (mine is around 2:00 pm), do simple things like clean up emails and delegate work.
I sat with co-workers as recent trips to Europe became the topic of conversation. I remember the feeling of somehow not yet feeling that I had arrived, because I hadn’t yet made that trip. Yearning the financial freedom that trips to Europe seem to offer, I could only gaze past the cityscape. I could not […]
I can trace my professional career back to one assignment. I worked for a company of 60 employees with buying interest from large organizations. And with the needed push for an increase in sales productivity we worked to improve back end support in sales operations. At this moment, an assignment popped up on the radar and my boss asked me to take a shot. The one assignment that would ultimately shape all other assignments: a multi-functioning excel based ordering template easily used by the sales organization. But there was one problem: zero Excel training.
Hello, crash course in Excel programming. Since there wasn't any one else in the organization that could tackle this project, I regarded the task as one that could propel my knowledge base as well as my visibility within my department. Little did I know, the weeks that I spent investing in Excel training has made all the difference in my professional career development. And after years of experience I know why:
Excel training benefits the entire company
As a finance professional it makes sense that I am experienced with Excel. But, despite popular belief, Excel is not strictly an accounting and finance related program. In fact, Excel helps users track information across the entire company. And thus Excel, is used anytime money OR data is used. Since, it is the age of technology and data, most companies are overflowing with data. Because of this, these companies are in need of employees that can organize and interpret the data into useful information. From administration, operations, project management, servicing, logistics and marketing. All departments receive benefits from users who are comfortable with using Excel. As such, Excel training is an excellent way to increase employ-ability while improving your effectiveness within your organization; no matter what department.
When we use our time to invest in these types of skills, we increase not only the companies ability to turn data into useful information, but we also increase our own earning potential.
Most popular uses of Excel
Organize and interpret information more easily
Creating and outlining business processes
Project management tool
Budgeting and Forecasting
Reporting and Visualizations (charts, graphs, presentations)
Analyzing sales, business intelligence and marketing data
Defining beginner and advanced Excel skills
Navigating the user ribbon
Entering and editing data, text or numbers
Inserting and deleting rows, columns and fields
Creating simple math formulas
Building charts and graphs
Using pivot tables
Creating micros in Visual basic
Creating complex formulas
While Excel is not a program mastered overnight, Excel does offer skills that can be built upon one another. And simply knowing a few Excel formulas, can get you started right away. In the following weeks and months, I will be creating a series of Excel basics to help you in your pursuit of Excel training. For this reason, here are 3 Top formulas that I've used time and time again to help organize and use data within Excel.
3 Top Excel formulas
SUM / AVERAGE
The SUM and AVERAGE formulas do exactly as you would expect. They SUM or AVERAGE 2 or more numbers organized on an excel spreadsheet.
Formula:=SUM(value 1, value 2) or =SUM(values from one cell through another) =AVERAGE(value 1, value 2) or =AVERAGE(values from one cell through another)
What's interesting about this formula is that it can be used to sum numbers stacked horizontally, vertically, or even sum numbers with in different areas on the spreadsheet.
Let's take a look at a few examples:
The first example looks at SUM values stacked vertically.
SUM values with in different areas of a spreadsheet (not stacked).
As mentioned, SUM and AVERAGE are very similar in application. Simply substitute "Average" in place of "SUM".
And again, you can SUM or AVERAGE values not stacked. Even if the "3" was in column D, row 7 (not pictured below) one could use the same formula = average(C4, D7)
SUMIF / AVERAGEIF
The SUMIF and AVERAGEIF formulas build upon the formulas above. Not only do they SUM or AVERAGE 2 or more numbers organized on an excel spreadsheet, they sum and average IF a certain criteria is met within the set of data. For example, if you have a list of sales reps with their monthly sales along with the state of sale; say Georgia and Florida. But what you need to do is to sum or average sales only in Georgia, not all states listed (your criteria) you could do so with this formula.
Formula:=SUMIF(criteria range, criteria, sum range) =AVERAGEIF(criteria range, criteria, sum range)
As an example:
What this formula is doing is looking into the range C4:C18 for the state "GA" and adding the values in D4:D18.
And again, substitute "AVERAGE" in place of "SUM".
Month / Year
The Month / Year formula which allows you to pull from a date entered into a designated field, only the month or year of that date. As a result, this formula allows the user to pivot, filter or sum based off of the month or year instead of a set of `30 dates in every month.
Formula: = Year (date reference), or Month(date reference)
Initial data set below.
And now, adding in the Year and Month formula for sorting and pivoting needs.
These Excel formulas should get you started. If you found this helpful, let me know what you Excel formula you would like to understand or excel problem you may need help with and I'll be sure to include in a recent post as part of our Excel training!
When I went back to work, we were in the middle of a recession. I took the first job that I could find with the intention of achieving higher levels of career advancement once my foot was in the door. After leading several teams and talking with several friends and co-workers, this is quickly becoming the single most discussed topic. How does one advance their careers?
What I’ve found is that there isn’t just one way to advance your career. Career advancement happens by pushing and pulling several different levers. There is no get rich quick scheme. It takes skill, hard work and dedication. And it’s not only possible it is inevitable.
Here are 3 Tips for Advancing Your Career
1. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself:
It is common place for women to apply for a job, only when they’ve meet 100% of the job requirements. While men tend to apply when they’ve met only 40%. Why is that?
Studies show that this phenomenon contributes to the assumption that women don’t have enough ‘gumption’ when it comes to career advancement. Yet as a working mother with more than enough reasons to be serious and dangerous about my career advancement, I can unequivocally tell you that women have some of the strongest motivators existing today. In fact when we commit to a company we commit to success. But what is happening is that as natural processors and organizers, we tend to view a job description as the end all be all in the check list of required skill sets. However, by applying for jobs higher than our comfort level, and even current experience we stretch ourselves and land those dream jobs.
I was presently surprised to learn that job postings overstate requirements by atleast 20%. We should understand that job postings are intended as a wish list of the perfect candidate. Know that a perfect candidate does not exist. If you have confidence and comfort in the amount of boxes you can check on the list of requirements, then don’t be afraid. Stretch yourself and apply for the position!
Learn what is out there and what other companies are looking for in an in·tra·pre·neur like you. Apply, and then gear up for tip # 2.
2. Always be in the practice of interviewing:
It is always good practice to be in the practice of interviewing. My mentor would tell me that I should be interviewing monthly to quarterly if I wanted to achieve continuous career advancement. At the time he was my boss, so I couldn’t understand why he would tell me to go interview. However, after completing the first handful of rounds, I understood.
When I went for my first Director interview I had stretched myself and applied for that next level as suggested in the first tip. It was exhilarating to recall my fast paced career path. Better yet, I gained insight into what would be required of me in the next phase.
When interviewing you not only learn how to hone your elevator pitch, but also what skill sets are required to achieve your expected career advancement. If nothing else, you are forever expanding your network. You then take what you learn and put it into practice in the final tip.
3. Demand of your current role what you require for career advancement:
The age old adage of “ask and it shall be given to you” no longer applies. Companies are operating on learner teams than ever before. Organic growth seems to be a thing of the past. Mergers and acquisitions are becoming the quickest way to boost revenue, while streamlining operations and headcount to supercharge EBITDA. With out the proper “promote from within” infrastructure your boss and his boss aren’t able to cater to your requirements for career advancement. They need the next level of skill and they needed it six months ago. (For example: Excel Training)
Regardless of where you choose to implement a new set of skills, the feedback you received in your interviewing rounds can give you a baseline of what you need to be doing today to raise yourself to the next level. Seize your Career advancement on your own terms.
Because of this, I interview a level up and I always ask what skills are most important to the interviewer. Since I’m interviewing a step above where I am currently employed, this gives me insight into what I need to learn. I then take that knowledge back to my current role and implement away. As captain's of our own ship we must think critically and strategically about implementing this new experience into our current rolls. For some that may mean a candid conversation with the boss. For me, I usually just start doing the work on my own fruition. I can’t waste my time trying to waste someone's time on training me.
I will admit it is not always easy. Once you know what you need to learn; examples, training and the like are not readily available. That’s where you have to pull out your thesis work experience and start researching the heck out of what you need to know. Research what your perfect job looks like, and gain that experience right in the comfort of your current role. It will allow for a more smooth learning curve and will provide your company with needed resources.
In the end the inevitable will happen. You will achieve career advancement through your current company due to the fact that you are functioning on a higher level than you were before. Or you will have checked off the last couple of boxes you needed to land your dream job.
Today we all have one of the biggest networks ever known to mankind. Technology has both made our world smaller and more accessible, yet expanded our pool of individuals with which to connect. Our social media feeds flood us with the importance of networking. Articles explaining how our networks can connect us with the right influencers and create opportunities down stream. Feeds that remind us that networks offer security and career advancement. Yet, the problem is there isn’t a lot of information out there on how one goes about networking. And while many of us ‘connect' with large networks of individuals, our networks are not very effective nor beneficial.
Here are 5 key strategies in creating a beneficial network and utilize what you already know:
1. Understand that you already know how to network.
Networking can seem like a big deal. With all the focus on building networks these days, it’s easy to get carried away. Have perseverance. It doesn’t have to be so complicated. Simply put, networking is something we’ve all been doing since grade school. Remember when you needed to get out of traffic ticket, needed help with a teacher, or needed grandma to convince your Mom to let you go on Spring Break? Or perhaps as an adult recall when you needed the cheapest tree removal service or best home painters and you called all your friends to find a service that fit your needs and budget. You didn’t worry yourself with how to ask for help correctly. You simply called the people you knew (your network) to create a desired outcome.
That is really all we are talking about here. Networking is simply working with people you know that can do life with you. To ease the burden, networking has been a part of our DNA and life skill since we starting having desires we could not meet on our own.
2. Understand that Networking is not using others:
Every time I see an article or book on networking my eyes roll into the back of my head. Not because I do not value the importance of networking. But, because networking is so overly explained in regards to "getting ahead in ones career", it can seem that networking is really just using others to get ahead. In my book, this is not networking. Networking is not creating connections for the sheer purpose of using them somewhere down the road. When people try to connect in this manner it is not only disingenuous, but obvious and can feel awkward all parties.
Recall the ticket, teacher and Spring Break previously. Or the tree removal service and painters. We were able to reach out to our existing network and ask for help without it being awkward because we already had mutual relationships with those of whom we asked. It’s important to connect with others for the purpose of creating mutually beneficial relationships, not for the purpose of abusing or overusing their extended network or skills. By asking ourselves what can we offer to the relationship we create not only a more fulfilling connection, but a stronger one as well.
3. Understand the difference and importance in creating multiple networks for various reasons:
Understand that certain networks work for some areas of your life, while additional networks work for others. As a vegan, I can not go to my business network of predominately meat eating men and ask them for vegan dishes. Nor could I go to a vegan meet up and ask try to talk about Financial Planning and Analysis trends and topics on a deep level. When we needed that tree service or painter we were careful to reach out to those of whom could help us source the information. We didn’t reach out and waste the time of those that couldn't help us source the information.
When beginning to build out networks, be mindful of what it is that you wish to obtain and depart upon the group. Hoping to find strong business women who encourage you to climb the corporate ladder? Desire to be surrounded by entrepreneurs that help you scale to new heights? Perhaps, you really do just need some updated recipes or want to work on your golf swing. Whatever it is, realize that you can not meet all your life’s needs in one group of people. Our multifaceted lives demand a range of interesting people, some that overlap in interest and many that connect with very specific attributes of our personalities.
4. Get out there and star networking:
To do this, ask yourself what it is you desire and look for organizations that you can server or join to meet that desire. Be strategic with your search. As a leader in finance and technology, that is where I would start. Getting to know more people in my space of interest. Once you find your organizations, attend a few sessions or activities and feel out the crowd, message and trajectory. If none of it aligns to your goals and aspirations, it’s okay to move on. When you do find a organization that you want to explore deeper, start out by being present, don’t go in sneaking business cards into everyone’s palms and pockets. Show up, be present, invest and what the connections unfold.
5. Make time and Show up:
As a busy mom, we are the first to ‘no show’ an outing with friends or co-workers. We have to stop doing this. Often times it’s easier to put our heads down to meet that deadline than it is to peel away and connect with our newly formed network or co-workers. And harder still if there are family responsibilities that we must tackle after our long work day. We may think that plowing through and over preforming will get us the promotion that we deserve. But studies show, it’s the network and interpersonal relationships that create career advancement (within and outside of the company).
Not only do we need to make time to be there for others, but when we commit we should follow through. Breaking commitments is the quickest way burn bridges. And with the interconnections of networks, one bridge can shut down your entire network. We must be mindful of others' time and follow through. Sometimes we can forget that when both parties commit to something, both parties were saying no to something else in order to be there. In short, make time and then show up.
6. Ask for help and and give help when needed:
If your network is our net worth, then all the activity within that network, is a bank. Make sure that within your network you and investing in others, as mentioned before. Make those deposits into the bank, and when you need the help, ask for it.
Unfortunately women are the least likely to call in favors and ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. In fact leverage is the rich mans tool. When you have connections with others with whom you have a mutually beneficial relationship, go to them. Understand that no one gets anywhere on their own. Those same people we are afraid of asking for help, are in desire of someone to help. They themselves received help in their climb and are not only willing but wanting someone with whom to pay it forward.
To make things short, you already know how to create lasting and effective relationships, so go and do. Make time and follow through. Then remember when you get to where you are going, turn around and help the next one in line.
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