A little day brightener, with thanks to Recruiting Nevada. Remember, it could always be worse. Happy Friday.
A little day brightener, with thanks to Recruiting Nevada. Remember, it could always be worse. Happy Friday.
Christine Comaford-Lynch is an interesting CEO with a unique perspective on life and work. One of the things I heard her comment on lately was about being true to yourself, and understanding why it is better to give than to receive, whether in life or work.
“Far too often, and for far too many people, networking is an uncomfortable social ritual. Most of us don’t do it well, and most of us don’t enjoy it, either. When done right, networking will not only be a career-enhancing experience, but will also build fulfilling personal connections.” – From Rules for Renegades.
I recently attended a Merrill Lynch event and was introduced to a dynamic speaker and a kindred CEO spirit, Christine Comaford-Lynch. I had the privilege of hearing her speak the same day her book, Rules for Renegades, hit the New York Times bestseller list.
What makes her a kindred spirit is that, like me, she seems an unlikely person to become a CEO. She has an eclectic background and history. She is a five-time CEO, and is currently CEO of Mighty Ventures, a “growth accelerator” and venture capitalist firm, but she started her career as a model after running away from home at 15. She also has been a Buddhist monk, geisha trainee, Microsoft engineer, and entrepreneur. Today she advises 700 of the top Fortune 1000 companies. She is a very dynamic speaker and iconoclastic.
I liked her approach and her style. She talks about her commitment to authenticity – remaining true to yourself. As part of that commitment, she also talks about showing up as CEO with a Joan Jett haircut and a Blondie T-shirt. (I can relate, since I once did an interview for membership in the Alliance of CEOs in a Ramones T-shirt, leopard-print leggings and a cowboy hat.) I can empathize with much of what she has to say, like taking 100 percent responsibility for your life and what it means to really do that.
One thing she said in particular resonated with me is her approach to networking. She has a unique approach that seems surefire in building your personal network. If you attend an event, in 30 minutes you should be able to connect with five people in a meaningful way. You should take six minutes with each person to learn who they are, what they need more of, and how you can help them get it. Her idea, and I agree, is that the universe represents a perfect accounting system and what you give to people will come back to you.
This approach also can be characterized as the difference between palm up and palm down – giving as opposed to grasping. If you approach someone with your palm down, you are grasping for something, but if you approach palm up, then you are giving something – a much more open gesture.
I expect we will be hearing more from Christine in the future, and I intend to keep an ear cocked to hear what she has to say.
They share 80 percent of our DNA and when they land in a secure place, they eat their own brains. Are you a sea squirt? Or do you have higher career ambitions?
"The sea squirt assumes that nothing is going to change in its environment and that it will no longer need to make significant adjustments. This may work for the sea squirt, but human beings can't afford to follow suit." – Stephen James Joyce, “Teaching an Anthill to Fetch.”
How many professionals do you know who are sea squirts?
A sea squirt is a small marine creature that, when born, expels itself into the ocean looking for a secure place to attach itself. Once it lands and establishes a secure place for itself, it begins to eat its brain. Why not? Its job is done and there is nothing left to do in its simple life.
In his book, Stephen James Joyce uses sea squirts to illustrate the old paradigm – you land and you are set for life. The same is true in career management. How many executives do you know who land that terrific job, hunker down in their new role, and never lift their head to look at other opportunities around them. These are the kind of sea-squirt professionals who find a comfortable home and start to eat their own brain. Now I know why they call it “landing” a job, because once you’re anchored, you have little inclination to prepare to take off again.
Well, I’ve got news! Just when you think it’s safe to eat your own brain, there’s a surprise in store. We’ve blogged in the past about the high turnover rate among senior executives. The only constant is change, and what Joyce points out is the most valuable skill you can develop, whether as an executive or as a human being, is resiliency. You need to be able to adapt and evolve to survive, and cultivating your CQ improves your resiliency. The knowledge of the group exceeds the knowledge of the individual, so you need to be able to harness the intelligence of you network.So think about the larger value your networking contacts give you, and that you give them. Don't abandon your networks just because you landed that new job - that's sea squirt behavior. Don't anchor yourself and drift with the tide. Instead, maintain those contacts and do what you can to help then with their own needs. The result will not only keep you prepared for your next move, but will make for a better work environment overall.
We often measure our expertise or abilities in terms of personal IQ, our intelligence quotient. In the new Internet-driven world, the power of the group has come to outweigh that of the individual, so to get ahead, in your career and other areas, you need to tap your Collaborative Intelligence (CQ). CQ is the ability to create, contribute to and harness the power within networks of people and relationships.
“Several million ants sharing a colony do a better job collaboratively, than we do in most of our organizations. Unprecedented levels of connection via the internet and intranets have, as yet to be transformed into unprecedented levels of collaboration. Although technology is an incredibly useful tool, collaborative intelligence is fundamental quantified by what human can and will do together, rather than what a piece of software will allow them to do (because there is no guarantee they will).” – From “Teaching an Anthill to Fetch” by Stephen James Joyce.
I’ve been reading a terrific and thought-provoking book lately that has been offering plenty of ideas for effective job search, “Teaching an Anthill to Fetch.” Written by Stephen James Joyce, this book focuses on understanding CQ and the emergence of the collaborative mind.
The title of the book was coined by Jim Donehey, who made the statement when he was CEO of the Capital One credit card company. To quote from the book: Donehey “was referring to the task of helping his organization of 1800 people adapt and respond to a very competitive and rapidly changing marketplace. The challenge facing Donehey was how to focus the attention of the entire organization around vital business objectives.” It’s all about being able to adapt to embrace change and work together toward a common objective. The ants survive because they have adapted to the challenge of building supportive communities that can address problems as a collective that they couldn’t solve as individuals.
Joyce’s book also discusses how technology is driving the need for increased collaboration. The Internet and Web is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Joyce quotes Ray Kurzweil’s book, “The Age of Spiritual Machines”. Kurzweil predicts that we will see 20,000 years of technological progress in the next 100 years. Technology is advancing at a staggering rate, and Joyce’s point is that to be effective we need to be able to adapt and be resilient in order to survive the pace of change. The larger problems, like global warming, will take a larger group intelligence to solve.
One example is Social Edge, an online forum for social entrepreneurs who share their collective intelligence to try to address global problems. Social Edge is the brainchild of the Skoll Foundation, a non-profit group founded by Jeffrey Skoll (formerly president of eBay), which promotes social entrepreneurship as a means to promote systemic change. Thought of another way, this foundation, through outlets such as Social Edge, is using technology, the web, to promote CQ on a global scale to benefit society.
So as you are building your personal network, think about your own CQ and look beyond your next corporate role. Consider the larger picture, and how your contribution to your company can add to the triple bottom line – financial, social, and environmental. Just as the collective can achieve more than the individual, the group rewards are substantially greater as well.
I previously wrote about how your networking needs evolve with your career. And as you move up the corporate ladder, the allies you need to enlist to help you along the way change as well. The challenge is that as you move up the corporate ladder, it’s harder to determine who your allies really are.
As you move up into the chief executive suite, finding peers with whom you can share your woes and problems becomes a problem in itself. As Machiavelli advised in his book, The Prince, the wrong kinds of allies can be dangerous. If you are having problems with the board of directors, for example, you don’t want to share your woes with the CFO. The rapport you had with your peers will change as you assume more responsibility. It’s time to find a new support group.
As we referenced in our last blog entry, your networking needs evolve with your career. As you move up the operate ladder, you start looking beyond your immediate coworkers to expand your professional and personal network. When they give you the keys to the executive washroom, it’s time to start looking around you. Those around you can help you, or they can hinder you as you try to make your mark within the organization. The question becomes, whom can you trust?
That’s where online peer groups can help you. Seeking out online executive peer groups like NETSHARE, the Chief Executive Forum, and The Executive Forum all will give you an outlet to share some of your managerial headaches. Online anonymity makes it easier to pose question such as, “My board or directors is trying to fire me and I don’t know what to do?” If you are a chief executive for a public company, anonymity may be a prerequisite before you start seeking group therapy online.
You need to broaden your network resources so the network fits the need. You need to be able to find reliable resources that can give you valid insight into managerial problems. Chances are you won’t find those resources on LinkedIn or Facebook, so you need to dig deeper into forums that will give you the right kinds of support. There are both regional and vertical forums, like the Western Information Technology Council (WITC) or similar groups for CTO, CFO, CEO, CxO – just find a group where you feel comfortable. You can also use your alma mater to connect with other professionals. Harvard, The Sloan School, Haas School of Business, and any other number of programs offer a built-in group of bright, neutral professionals who are more than willing to help a fellow alumnus with a professional challenge.
So open your options and broaden your professional network. Find other professionals who share your experience and your pain and ask them what they think. It’s a great way to deal with immediate professional challenges and build your professional network.
A few weeks ago I posted a blog noting that job seekers need to be clear about their job objectives, and they need to be prepared to tell recruiters or hiring managers exactly what they want. I used a modified version of my blog post as the foundation for my monthly communication to NETSHARE members. I received a really strong reaction from the executive membership.
Many experienced managers came back to me and challenged me. They took this message very personally. They couldn’t understand why, with a wide breadth of experience, they had to focus on one aspect of their career to sell themselves into a job. There is a lot of fear about being pigeonholed into a narrow job position that doesn’t take advantage of a broader skill set.
Okay, if you are a Renaissance man with a lot to offer, so much the better for your prospective employer. But the fact you can “do it all” won’t help you get in to the first interview. The point of my blog was you have to be able to focus; to identify which aspects of your career experience map to the position you are applying for.
It’s like any sales job. You can’t walk into a prospect, hand them an order sheet, and ask, “Which one do you want?” You have to sell the wares, pointing out benefits and identifying which model will suit the customer’s needs. Your potential employer is your customer, and you have to be prepared to sell the goods that he or she is buying. That means highlighting the expertise that fits the position.
The real challenge of being a Renaissance manager is that you have to reinvent yourself for each role. You have to understand who you are, what you can do, and weigh your abilities to understand which part of your skill set you are going to use to land that new job and succeed at it. If you have an embarrassment of riches, then you need to pluck those gems from your portfolio so they will stand out for that particular job you are seeking. Don’t bury the hiring managers with irrelevant accomplishments and expect them to sift through your resume looking for the pearls. They won’t.
By knowing what you really want, you are applying a laser sharp focus on your immediate objectives, with a deeper understanding of your long-term career goals. A good place to start is by looking inside yourself. You might start with our Experts Connection series on leadership. The first session focuses on how to develop your inner career compass to set your direction. If you know where you are going and what you want to achieve, it will be easier to see how to get what you really want.
Networking means different things at different stages in your career development. As you personal priorities change, so do your professional priorities and the means by which you choose to find new associates.
It has been my observation that professionals who are first entering the workforce tend to view their job as an extension of their education. Going to work is like going to school, and just as in college where you made friends of your classmates, the tendency at work is to make friends of your coworkers. The line between your professional life and your social life is blurred, so the tools you use to connect with your friends tend to cross those boundaries as well.
Facebook is evolving as a meeting place for young professionals because they also use Facebook for personal interaction. But the challenge with Facebook for professional networking is the fact the boundaries are so blurry. While, as a professional looking for peers who can help me in my business (or as a recruiter or potential employer) I am certainly interested in biographical information, professional information, and maybe some high level personal information, I don’t want to know about the party you went to last night or where you are now or who’s zooming who (or rather who’s zooming whom). As part of the new Internet craze for connectedness, services like Facebook and Twitter help you keep track of your “buds” throughout the course of the day, but that’s not necessarily something you want as part of your professional networking strategy (although, surprisingly, some people do).
As your career develops and you mature, the tools you adopt to develop and maintain your professional contacts evolve as well. At some point, you start to separate your professional and your personal life. (I personally think that happens when you realize it’s time to stop dating coworkers.) You start looking for fulfillment in different places, which means you start to compartmentalize your home life, family, hobbies, and work. In the same way, you start to compartmentalize the tools you use to maintain those different relationships. At this stage you start using tools such as LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy, Jigsaw, and NETSHARE to maintain your professional connections. These types of services are more geared to professional networking and provide information in a context where you are clearly indicating you are looking for professionals who can assist you, not online friends.
As we have noted in this blog in the past, these professional networking sites could broaden their offering to make themselves more effective. Being able to share photos is useful, and basic personal information such as whether a contact likes golf or collects wine can be useful in a business context. But all in all, these professional sites are designed to help you connect with like-minded professionals in a way that promotes business dialogue. Many of my best professional contacts started through a LinkedIn introduction or a blog commentary.
Of course, as you advance up the corporate ladder, the challenges of professional networking become more profound as you reach the executive suite, but more on that in the next blog entry.
Since we all have limited time and resources, you should take a hard look at the tools you are using today to manage your professional relationships. Are you able to give them enough time and attention, and are they connecting you with the right people in the right way? Is there something about Facebook that you still find valuable, or are you getting more business leads from Jigsaw or Linked In, or do you need both? As with everything, you get as much out of your networking tools as you invest, so allocate your time and resources wisely.
There was a time when a college degree was considered a luxury, but not a career necessity. There are still plenty of high-paying career jobs or careers available to those who choose not to pursue a four-year college degree, but for those looking for executive roles, a college degree is essential. But what about the value of an MBA?
Statistics from the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) show that in 2005, 21.2 percent of bachelor’s degree candidates elected to immediately pursue graduate school, hoping to jump-start their careers. What can they expect to earn by adding a master’s degree? A survey of the MBA class of 2006 shows they can expect a 41 percent increase in salary. The average salary before the MBA was $61,302 and post-MBA was expected to increase to $86,350. According to the Census Bureau, in 2004, those with an MBA earned on average $74,602 per year, as opposed to those with bachelor’s degrees who earned $51,206.
So is the MBA worthwhile? Sure it is, if you are just starting out on your career. If you look at the job boards or check the want ads, you will note that the phrase “MBA preferred” is becoming increasingly more common for middle management positions. But once you achieve a certain level of professional achievement, once you have been advancing your career for a couple of decades, the value of that MBA is balanced by professional experience. The education of the school of hard knocks, while intangible, delivers increasing salary value while the value of formal education decreases. Depending on the job and the company, the MBA may be the price of admission, and your professional experience may be required to qualify. Some consulting firms, for example, require employees to have an MBA, and often hire them straight out of graduate school. Applying for some jobs requires an advanced degree to get a foot in the door.
Everyone approaches education in a different way for a different reason. Some find it easier to continue on to graduate school while still in “school mode,” so they advance to the next level. Some even elect to sail through the master’s degree and go right to their PhD, postponing their career in favor of education. Others balance work and school throughout their lives, supplementing their careers with continuing education courses as they work toward a degree at a leisurely pace. Some of us take a little longer to get in the education groove. I will confess here that I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree until I was approaching 40, and that was a challenge. (My advice to all my nephews was to finish their degrees while their parents were still willing to pay for their education!) However, for those who wait to tackle their master’s degree, there are different rewards.
I have seen a number of seasoned professionals who decide to go back to school in their 50s and 60s. In most of these cases, the decision to return to school is more for personal than professional reasons. For example, an MBA is good for is building your personal network, and for recruiting new talent. Some look to an MBA later in life as part of a career change. I believe, most often people return to school later in life to recharge their batteries, not to obtain marketable skills. Going for that advanced degree shows you are still in the game and can compete with the up-and-comers. It also helps you keep your head in the game, helping stimulate new ideas and new approaches to solve business problems.
So no matter what your motivation, if you are thinking about going for that advanced degree, be really clear about your objectives, and the rewards you can expect. Education is a wonderful thing, and the rewards, both tangible and intangible, can be terrific. Despite the advice I offer to my nephews, I intend to go back and get an MBA for my own personal satisfaction.
One of the topics we have written about in this blog in the past is the prevalence of digital dirt, and how to control it. I recently saw an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the growing prevalence of “people search engines” to help you find former classmates, boyfriends or girlfriends, or to check out your current boyfriends or girlfriends. As the article points out, this new class of search engines do all the heavy lifting so you don’t have to; they sift through the web, scrutinizing web sites rich in people data and aggregate that data in various ways.
Wink made its debut last March as a new people search engine that lets you track down people by location, interests, or name. When I entered my name, I came up with a number of different profiles, most of them considerably younger and in the wrong geographic area. I did find a link to my Linked In profile, although Wink had me listed as “webmaster” which is interesting because this is far from my professional persona.
I also tried Spock, which delivered more results when I searched on my name (okay, so I have a common moniker), and, again, my profile came up as webmaster, with a link to my Linked In profile. And I tried Pipl, which yielded much more interesting results. There were actually two profiles relevant to my profession, including a link to Hoovers and one to Jigsaw, as well as some interesting results from around the world. (Apparently I have a kindred namesake in Connecticut who is a master in pastels.) ZoomInfo was also cited in the article as a search engine more focused on business profiles. A rudimentary search yielded no relevant results.
What all this tells you is that the Internet is capricious at best, and malicious at worst. Which is why it is more important than ever to manage your online persona. Many of these services are targeting consumers offering simple search information, while others, like ZoomInfo, are surfing for recruiters and online marketers, and all of them have their flaws. Jaideep Singh, CEO of Spock, says that it is an ongoing challenge to filter out fake profiles, and those legitimate profiles (like mine) never see the light of day.
So as these emerging web sites are vying for market position, it’s the job seekers who are losing the race. Recruiters and hiring managers are using these same tools to uncover job candidates’ past history. If these online search tools are turning up little or no information, then you are lucky. If they are turning up wrong or misinformation about you and your career background, then it’s time to worry.
As with most things, the best defense is a good offense. Be proactive about managing your online persona. Check these people search sites regularly, as well as more conventional sites like Google and Yahoo, to see what the Internet is revealing about you. And you can fight back with more positive public profiles on Ecademy, Linked In, NETSHARE, Monster, and other searchable profile sites. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the web bots. Manage your public profile with positive information about you and your professional brand.
There is a persistent myth in job recruiting that passive candidates are more valuable than proactive job seekers. The conventional wisdom is that if you can find that hidden genius who is a top performer at your client’s competing company, then you have struck recruiter gold. The challenge is to lure that candidate away from his current job, even if he’s not looking, to work for your client.
What’s the real advantage of this kind of fishing expedition? And fishing seems an apt metaphor; which is more attractive (or more tasty), the wild trout you catch on your own or farm-bred trout from your local supermarket? More importantly, which entrée can you count on when you are planning a special dinner party? So why go chasing after a dream candidate when you have a ready pool of active job seekers with great qualifications just a mouse-click away?
Let’s face it; there really is no such thing as a passive candidate. The lines that define the active and the passive job candidate have become blurry. The number of happily employed professionals who maintain profiles on BlueSteps, LinkedIn, Facebook, NETSHARE, and other job sites is enormous, and growing. Professionals have figured out that the only constant is change, or to quote another well-known saying, “If you are not in transition, you are in denial.” So the smart professional is preparing for career change by building their personal network and creating a platform from which they can springboard into the next job, even if they aren’t actively considering a career change.
The rules of employment have changed in recent decades. The concept of corporate loyalty is dead in the face of pension scandals, massive layoffs, and dot.com busts. There is no corporate loyalty any longer, and as a consequence there is no employee loyalty either. Every smart chief executive is prepared, should they be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. We’ve cited the turnover statistics before in this blog – even senior managers tend to have a shorter tenure these days.
So why do recruiters continue to overlook the obvious and seek the holy grail of the perfect passive candidate? For high-profile positions there is a certain cachet in luring a CEO superstar from the competition, but in general, the pursuit of the passive candidate seems counterintuitive. Those candidates are harder to find, which means job placement takes longer, and those candidates generally cost the company more in salary and benefits. So who benefits other than the recruiter who can demonstrate his/her prowess as a great white-collar hunter? And even if a recruiter has a reputation for bagging those hard-to-find passive candidates, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
So why make recruiting harder than it has to be? Don’t buy the line that the perfect candidate is hidden in some office somewhere, waiting to be wooed. Look around you! There are thousands of highly qualified job seekers actively networking and looking to offer their expertise to your company. Why not start there?