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Every Connection is a Career Opportunity
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.



This globally interconnected digital world has replaced traditional career ladders, requiring new training and understanding to connect people with opportunity in the workplace.The Way It Is
How many jobs have you found through your networks, friends, colleagues and others who know you? How many times have you been hired because of your resume or a job posting board? The facts are – with the competition today – your best bet for getting the job you want or the best opportunity for repositioning yourself – especially inside your current organization – has to do with your personal connections and reputation. It’s who you know and who knows you that counts.

You Are Who You Know
At the beginning of the information age, content was primary. In today’s network age, relationships are primary. This globally interconnected digital world has replaced traditional career ladders, requiring new training and understanding to connect people with opportunity in the workplace. Every connection is an opportunity. Every opportunity increases your career potential.

  • A Job Boards. Job boards may not be a total waste of time, but four out of every five career opportunities come from personal and social networking while resumes, job posting and job boards account for only 20% of job opportunities.
  • 6:1 Hire Ratio. To make one hire, hiring managers look through more than six times as many applications from job boards than they do from their own websites, according to an analysis of hiring data by Jobs2web Inc.There has been an unequivocal shift to global networks – LinkedIn is the Job Board of the Present. http://careerenlightenment.com/history-statistics-of-job-boards-infographic
  • The Changing Scene. Companies wade through “about 219 applications per job postings on a major board, such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com, compared to 33 applicants who find the job on the company's own career site and 32 per hire from a [business social network] search engine.” See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/06/01/linkedin-is-about-to-put-job-boards-and-resumes-out-of-business/

Who Are Your Connections?

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn points out that people are still focused on information instead of networks. “Aligning your focus more on the network and surrounding yourself with the right people in your networks will change the way you approach problems and advance through life.” The old "Dunbar's Number," the suggested limit of 150 people whom you can maintain cognitive relationships is outdated. Hoffman says, "One hundred and fifty relationships might be the limit for our short-term memory — our RAM, if you will — but under that lies a hard drive that has much more capacity." He has 15 million people in his third-degree network (friends of friends of friends) on LinkedIn. "That's more than the population of Greece or Portugal." http://blog.ted.com/2012/02/29/be-the-entrepreneur-of-your-own-life-reid-hoffman-at-ted2012/

So, who are your connections? You certainly don’t need 15 million connections to find extraordinary opportunities.

Here are five basic tips to establish and build your network:
  1. Make a diagram – people in your organization, people in your profession, your industry and your personal life. Follow, link to, or send requests to them. Then view their connections, groups, links, friends, followers and explore the possibilities. See the NETWORKSMART® Assessment.
  2. Establish your basic profile. Clarify your strengths and gaps - Where are the strengths and gaps in your network? People you know are your best connections
  3. Build strong relationships - Build relationships with others to get to know them well by listening to their needs and helping them. It doesn’t take time, it takes a listening heart
  4. Review and add to your network on a regular basis. Put them in your database and note how you can help them and how they might help you.
  5. Change your social and business networks as your business goals change. Review and update your diagram frequently.
 

Turning Connections Into Opportunities
People are your most valuable resources. The more people you know, the more opportunities you'll have in work and life. Does your daily work require interaction with a broad group of people? Is your career success partially contingent on the power of your colleagues – both inside and outside of your organization?

I know a young finance director who is a consummate networker. She builds strong relationships with everyone she meets and listens carefully to what they have to offer and what they need. She has become my own “go-to” person for insurance issues, mortgages, car leasing, tax questions, pricing, legal questions, and organizational problems or issues. She helps everyone because she listens generously and makes strong, personal connections. This is not her job. Networking is part of her character. Do you have “go to” people in the important areas of your work and life? You are blessed if you do, but if not, check out the skills you need to build networks.

  • Organically Grown Connections
    Six degrees of separation is a reality in my life, but resources are out there - if you take the initiative and ask for what you need. I was waiting for a friend and struck up a conversation with the two women in a restaurant. They were both graphic designers from Florida Atlantic University. I had been looking for an illustrator for a children’s book I’m working on and asked them if they knew someone. They had a friend who had illustrated many children’s books and connected the two of us. The connection happened by being authentic and generous. We moved quickly beyond superficial chitchat to who we were, what we cared about and what we would really like to be doing with our lives. These wonderful “synchronicities” (haphazard serendipitous events) seem to happen all the time. When we know what we’re seeking, a conversation or chance meeting brings the information to our fingertips. Our Wonder Kids Cards will be released in July with the illustrator coming from this chance meeting.
  • Skills for Building Networks
    Grow your networks through emails, reading blogs, interviews, web research, associations, and telephone contacts. Engage in conversations to sincerely help others with their projects and work. Master networkers don’t use people. They give more frequently than they get. They listen well in their daily interactions with colleagues, friends and family. Authentic relationships are the fertile ground for building strong networks. Listen for what others need or want and be alert to finding resources for others. Give generously – send an article or video link that furthers someone’s goal. When you’ve heard what others need, they show up in your own life and you can fast forward them. Great networking is a two-way street. Make giving part of your daily routine and you’ll have plenty of people who give to you when you ask.

BEFORE expanding your network -


  • Know What You Want. Clarify the list of your needs and concerns. What questions do you need answered? What problems do you need solved? What challenges are you facing? What do you need to learn?
  • Know What You Have to Offer Others. Honestly appraise your knowledge and skills. What can you offer others? Keep it simple.
  • Be a Good Listener. Listen carefully to others so you can match your expertise and resources with the needs of others.
  • Listen for Openings. People talk about job openings before they ever show up on a job board – because someone is moving on, because someone is leaving or retiring. Tune in and listen.
  • Trends Create Jobs. New products, services, strategies create new jobs. Pay attention to where your organization is growing. Talk to people who work there. Ask about new needs and new jobs and see if you might fit their needs. Talk to the hiring manager before the job ever goes live.  Even though it may need to be posted, you’re already a candidate. People hire people who they know.
  • Explore LinkedIn and Other Sites. Some organizations are ahead of yours in the new jobs and career opportunities they create. Get to know people doing similar work in other organizations through business networking sites. See the new skills and the new jobs your organization might need, but hasn’t yet created. Be in the know on what’s leading edge. Get yourself ready.
  • Create a New Job. As strategies, products, services changes new jobs emerge. Be the first to spot a need and propose a new job to your manager or other managers to provide the expertise now needed for the changes. If you have built strong relationships with your manager and other key people, they will listen and probably let you experiment and pilot a new job.
  • Ask for Help. Use your network for referrals. Ask for ideas on jobs that fit your dreams.

Strong connections are needed from CEO’s to entry levels. Outstanding performance is closely linked to broad and deep networks of support. Given the pace of work, having a broad and deep network of people in your industry, organization and profession is essential for success. Everyone you know is a career opportunity, now or later. Listen, share your dreams, give generously to others, ask for referrals and always say THANKS.

Summary
Networking builds competencies and creates strategic relationships while expanding your visibility and credibility. Focusing more on the network and surrounding yourself with the right people in your networks will change the way you approach problems and advance your career. Start by knowing what you want, what you have to offer to others, be a good listener, listen for trends and openings and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Review the basic tips to establish and build your network. Make every connection count.



About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Bayer, Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, CapitalOne, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Sprint, Sandia National Labs and Sodexo. MasteryWorks, Inc. provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is a leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.



MasteryWorks, Inc.
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