I Prefer Windows to Doors

open windowMy dad was an amazing man and a huge influence on who I am today. Of course there are some traits that he cultivated that, if he were here to see them in action, I am sure he would be doing a mental face palm. Not like I didn’t see enough eye rolling or hear enough sighing growing up.

Now, don’t go feeling all sorry for my dad, he also had a wicked sense of humor. Like the time he gave me a black spiced jelly and after I put it in my mouth said, “Isn’t that the worst thing you ever tasted?”

Or the time we were on a fishing trip and he told me that the little round things in the tapioca pudding were fish eyes. He ruined that for me for good.

I did get my dad’s sense of humor and my son has suffered for it. When he was in elementary school my son got in trouble for a “food fight”, he threw a piece of cheese at another student. He also lost a tooth that day and put it under his pillow that evening for the tooth fairy.

The next morning he woke up and excitedly looked under his pillow only to find a piece of cheese. He looked at me with the same face I am sure I gave my dad about the tapioca/fish eyes thing and I told him, “The tooth fairy heard you had a thing for cheese, especially throwing it at school.”

I’m not that mean, there was money there, just further back.

But there were times that I got the combined look of “what the heck” and “I’m kinda proud of that” from my dad. Like the time we talked about house keys.

Well after the house I grew up in was sold, we were talking about if we still had our house keys. I told him that I hadn’t had one for years. This shocked him because we grew up as what would be called latchkey kids, so how did I get in the house?

I pried open the basement window with a screwdriver I had buried in the flowerbed.

I specifically remember the pause in the conversation and that “what the proud” look on his face. I looked back and said, “What, you created me.”

And he did. He and my mom created several foundations within me. This one was there is a solution to every problem. It may not be typical or “normal”, but sometimes creativity is exactly what is needed.

All though junior high and high school I basically broke into my own home, hey, it worked. Does that count as breaking in since I lived there? I think not, I just called it an alternative entrance due to a locked door.

In your career, you will encounter seemingly locked doors. A promotion you want, a new job you desire, having to find another job after losing your current one, additional learning/educational opportunities –doors you want to go through, but seemingly do not know how to unlock it.

Walking through these doors will give you access to a whole structure; rooms filled with floors, walls, furniture, electricity – and windows. Stop banging your head on the door and take a step back – you can see the windows.

These windows may be represented by networking, volunteering, part time jobs, speaking up asking for what you want, taking your work to the next level. The one thing they all have in common is this: they are there waiting for you to discover them, you just have to get off your rear-end and do it.

Just because you see only one path as a solution to a problem does not mean that is the only path. Too often we get so focused on the problem that we get tunnel vision and do not allow ourselves to see possible solutions. When that one solution seems impossible, we want to throw our hands in the air and declare it is impossible. Done deal, never going to happen; poor me, I have no control or ability to do anything about this.

Several years ago I was a part of an organization and I was at the point of frustration, I just did not feel that I was getting anything out of it. I realized that I was attending, but not participating. So I set a timeline and made a deal with myself. I would go through the window of volunteering on committees and give it a certain amount of time for me to gauge ROI.

I joined three different committees; I was a little go getter. My logical mind thought that the ROI would be more business. Boy was I wrong. The ROI I received was expanding my network to befriend some amazing women. Today these women are my friends, mentors, cohorts and inspirations.

If I had not gone through that window my business would not be what it is today, nor would I as a person.

I also met many women and was able to lead by example and assist them in becoming more active in the organization, which provided value to them and their businesses.

The other benefit of going through a window is you can get inside then open the door for someone else; remember, the best way to get is giving to others.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

4 Steps To Create Engagement In Any Conversation

a conversationCommunication is important in business, communication is vital. It is not enough to introduce yourself while networking, tell your clients what you do and take orders from your boss. You have to exchange information and build alliances.

It is called engagement and there are four steps to creating engagement in any conversation:

1. Ask a Question

Soliciting information from another person opens the door for them to share information and insight with you. In turn, based upon their response, you can then help guide the conversation.

2. Keep Quiet and Pay Attention

Once you ask a question, give the recipient all your attention, do not talk over them and do not be distracted by anything else in the room. Give them your undivided attention in order that you can hear what they say and relay their importance to you.

3. Listen

This goes beyond hearing their words or preparing a response before they are finished giving their response. Listen, really listen to what they say, what they do not and their body language. The total message is comprised of all three.

4. Follow Up

If you were paying attention and listening to what they said, you will be able to formulate either a follow up question for further clarification, deeper understanding or to be able to provide comprehension of what they said. It is validation to the other person that you were listening, what they said was important and you are engaged with them.

Using these four steps, you can build rapport with anyone at any time in an easy manner allowing them to provide all the information and clues to guide the conversation and find a common ground, allegiance, prospective opportunities and collaboration.

The Help You Get is Not Always the Help You Need

Luke paintBedrooms were painted this weekend at my house, it was an event in which the whole family participated – which means the humans painted and the dogs got paint all over them.

Bless my little puppies, they really did think they were helping. They wanted to be a part of the process, to not miss a moment of the fun and to share the experience. I highly recommend the color Wicker for a room, just not for a dog; although I do believe Luke wears it well.

Sometimes people think they are helping and they really are just getting your paint everywhere and getting hair stuck to the walls.

There are plenty of articles that will tout that up to 80% of jobs are secured through networking, the numbers vary but this is a pretty common and accepted percentage.

Networking is critical not just in finding the right job, but also in building a connection of influencers, prospects, allies and accountability partners. I am all about networking. I love it, I teach it and I am a great networking wing-man.

As great as networking is and allows for an abundance of opportunities, there are downsides.

Some people do not know how to help you.
Some people do not want to help you, only themselves.

Painting Helper Luke – Do Not Know How

The ones that do not know how to help you have the best of intentions, they really do. They may hear that you are looking for job so they give you a couple of names of hiring managers. Unfortunately, the jobs they are hiring for are just not right for you. The job could require a lot more certification or experience than you have, in an entirely different field than what you do (and you have no desire to change industries) or in a whole other state (one in which you do not care to relocate).

These are the Lukes – very excitable and anxious to help, but not really having a clue what you need. Luke thought he was helping this weekend by being close, he would sit right next to us as we painted and that meant sitting his butt right up against the wall. Luke lacks focus.

How to focus the Lukes – give them details that they can relate to and remember. If you are in purchasing then you need to explain this in a way that resonates with them. Explain what you do in a way that you would to someone that is not in the industry or use an example of how you would do what you do for them or their company. They need to understand to be able to help, and this means they need a little bit of clarity.

Painting Helper Lexi – Do Not Want To

Those that only want to help themselves normally are trying to make themselves look good or they are just going through the networking motions because they see it as a necessary evil. These are the Lexis. She wasn’t so much of a helper as a hindrance. More than once we had to gently ask her to move because she would position herself right where we needed to paint.

I have encountered the “I’m such a connector – I’m awesome, even though it has no value to you” and the “here’s a name just so I can look like I’m contributing although it is not a good contact for you”.

How to eliminate the blocks set up by Lexis – ask why. When someone says you need to call so-and-so ask them why. It is not rude, so do not worry about that. It can simply be asked as, “Thank you for the contact, so why do you think we would be a good connection?”

And it is okay to do follow up questions. If they respond, “Well, she knows everyone!” That sounds good, but no one knows everyone. So a good follow up question would be, “Great! Does she know a lot of people in the XYZ industry/hiring managers/purchasing department etc.?”

Gain as much clarification before you make that call and waste your time and theirs. This happened to me. I once called a woman – just because the person I knew from networking was so enthusiastic that she was wonderful and a great connection for me. When I did call her, bless her, she asked me why I was calling.

I told her I was referred by this guy and she said, “Okay, but why?” I was stumped! I was honest and told her “I have no earthly idea, but thank you so much for taking my call and I apologize for being unprepared and taking up your time.”

Turns out she and I met up again months later at another event and we hit it off. She is now one of my closest friends and a mentor.

It is wonderful and exciting to get leads through networking, just do a little more homework before and after getting the lead to make sure it is a good one and that is worth your time and theirs.

One last word – be sure to reciprocate. Now that you know how to handle the Lukes and Lexis – do not be one. Listen to what people are saying, ask questions to clarify and offer assistance when you can. To give, one must give.

The Lost Art of Listening

listeningOne of the most vital and under-utilized skills of business leaders is the ability to listen. This skill is imperative to those in a position of leadership to those providing service to clients. It is the foundation of engagement.

Yesterday I had to call my cell phone provider, my phone and I have a love-hate relationship. It loves to do funky things like not show calls coming through or registering voicemails and I hate it. Just to preface this, I am not a highly functioning technical phone person. When I got my phone, I handed it to my son so he could explain it to me.

I talked to a very nice technician who was extremely knowledgeable about the phone and systems but I wanted to pull my hair out during the entire conversation. Each time she would ask me a question I would begin to answer and she would cut me off midstream.

There were several times that I had to repeat myself because she assumed she knew how I was going and would take it in a different direction. When she asked me for my phone number for the fifth time, I knew the problem: she might have heard me to a point, but she was not listening.

I used to drive my son crazy, in so many ways, but on this topic frequently. If I asked him to do something the follow up conversation would sound something like this:

Me: “That’s not what I asked”
Son: “Yes it is”
Me: “No, did you listen to what I said?”
Son: (with exasperation) “Yes, Mom, I heard you”
Me: “I know you heard me, but I need you to listen to me”
Son: “It’s the same thing, Mom, I listened to you”
Me: “Then what did I say?”
Son: (eye roll)

There is a difference in hearing and listening. Too often we “listen” only to respond, not to engage or learn. In the middle of a response there is something that triggers our brain to prepare a response and we stop listening.

One way that I have found to improve my listening skills is to ask questions, with a twist.

Sometimes asking questions can be taken as being challenging by the other person. Therefore, I add a clarifier and modify it depending upon the audience.

Working in partnership with someone or gathering more information when providing service, starting the question with, “I want to make sure I understand…” can demonstrate your interest in the person and what they are saying and build upon the communication.

When talking to your boss or an alpha, you do not want to come across as though you are not challenging their authority or being submissive. Sometimes it is best to state flat out, “I am not challenging, I am clarifying because I can see this from a couple of different perspectives…” This also demonstrates that you are not only listening, you are thinking on a deeper level about what they said.

In networking it is normally a more relaxed environment and therefore with an understanding of a shorter engagement period, saying, “What does that mean…” in a nice tone can encourage the other person to elaborate and demonstrate interest.

In a personal or casual conversation the simple words, “Tell me more” can demonstrate to the other person that you are not hearing to respond, but care enough to let them have the floor.

One phrase that I think is a conversation and engagement killer is, “I hear what you are saying.” For one thing I anticipate the word “but” after that statement which totally invalidates the listening aspect and for another, it reminds me of Stuart Smalley.

I would also caution against the phrase, “Could you repeat that” as a standalone phrase. It can imply that you were not listening when in fact you perhaps could not hear or understand the person or you did not understand. Simply stating that you did not hear them and then ask them to repeat what they said will not disengage or disrupt the flow of conversation.

The lessons, most of the time, had paid off in our house. My son and I have gotten to the point that we acknowledge when we only hear and will say something like, “I heard you but I have no idea what you just said.” I do not recommend saying that to your boss, staff or clients.

One last suggestion: pause before answering. When someone response as soon as you finish that last word it is a trigger that they were preparing their answer instead of listening to you.

Listening is a skill. It needs to be practiced, repeatedly, to hone it. Keep practicing because it can always be improved upon. This morning I was talking to a client and I caught myself immediately responding. Once I recognized what I was doing I immediately shifted focus to asking questions rather than responding. It resulted in a much more rich conversation.

What are some ways that you have found that improve your listening skills? I would love to hear them, I’m listening….

LinkedIn – Taking a Connection to a Relationship

business high fiveLast week I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the Indianapolis chapter of Human Resource Professional Development Association about LinkedIn and utilizing it to build a personal brand internally and externally. There was one question that I think can be asked in many different ways but boils down to four words:

How do I connect?

Not in a sense of click on the connect button or accept, but how do I really connect with someone after we become connections.

I think one challenge or misconception about LinkedIn is that there is no true communication or connection. It is simple to click a button, request or accept a connection; however it leaves us feeling flat. A simple button does not open the door to communication.

The problem is not with LinkedIn – it is with the user.

The tool is only as good as the way in which you use it.

I have a small tiller. It sat in my garage for a few years all bright and shiny but useless. I also had an area in my back and side yard that was perfect for a garden. I used to be frustrated that I didn’t have a garden and how much work it would be to create that space.

Last spring I used the bright shiny tiller and created my garden. It made quick work of it and by the summer I had a wonderful garden full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, herbs, cantaloupe, watermelon and asparagus.

I could complain about not having a garden or I could use the tools I had to create what I wanted.

It is the same concept with LinkedIn.

Requesting or accepting is step one, but there is more to be done to start conversations and build relationships. It begins with a few simple steps:

Say Thank You
When someone accepts or sends you a request, thank them for the connection. It is a simple thing to do and opens the door for the other person to respond.

Be Selective if You Choose
Although some users will not allow you to send them an invitation unless you actually know them, some do not accept connections unless they see a business reason to do so.

Key word there: business reason.

You can address this either in the invitation or in the follow up. In either one, instead of using the template that LinkedIn provides for a connection request, simply put a statement such as, “I noticed that you are connected to Bob Inbox, who I worked with at DCB company…”

Follow Up Without Demanding
You have sent/accepted a connection and sent a thank you, now is time for a conversation, not a request for a coffee meeting.

Send them an inbox message and begin with – again – a business conversation or topic. It could be something about their company or position or that you appreciated a comment that they left on an article. From there you can let them know that you would like to know more about what they do, about their company or their insight on a certain matter.

Do not assume that just because someone connected with you on a business social platform that they are willing to take a couple hours out of their day to meet with you in person. Everyone’s time is valuable.

If someone immediately suggests a coffee time I ask for what purpose. I am trying to eliminate time wasting activities in order to devote my time to my clients. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately go up when I get an instant coffee message. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you want, you want me to give you at least two hours of my time and more than likely you are going to try to sell me on something.

Instant coffee meetings do not equal instant business relationships.

With a few extra minutes, consideration and thought you can start conversations that build relationships. LinkedIn provides a platform, you have to provide the effort. As LinkedIn says: “A healthy professional life starts with healthy relationships.”

To be a Better Networker Don’t Try to Network

Indyfringe MagicThere are various reports, articles and statistics that reiterate the importance of networking in finding a new job or client. Networking is a vital tool in initiating new relationships, establishing your reputation and discovering opportunities.

No pressure there.

That’s the rub, there is such a high importance placed on networking that often people put so much pressure on themselves that they either:

  • Don’t enjoy it
  • Don’t succeed at it
  • Don’t do it

I would like to offer a suggestion to help take some of the pressure off and mix up the networking tactics: don’t try to network, just have fun.

Let me clarify one thing: I believe we network any time we interact with someone new, we just don’t realize it. But being reminded often of the importance of networking, we have somehow changed our concept of it. Often, it is thought of as a chore or choreographed activity.

In reality it is simply having a conversation.

My mom was the first one to teach me networking, but neither one of us knew it. When I was little and we would go to the grocery store, my mom was the one that would talk to everyone. I do mean everyone: people in line, the checkout clerk, the bag boy, people in other lines, the produce person….

I remember once she was writing a check and asked the clerk what the date was, June 14. When she heard this she told the clerk, “Oh yes, it is Flag Day.” Being about eight years old, I was mortified. It only got worse when they had a discussion of Flag Day.

But the point is, besides I have turned into my mother, that she was networking and the reason we did not realize it was because she was always having fun with it.

Last night I attended a fantastic event with a dear friend: the showcase event for the Indianapolis Winter Festival at IndyFringe. It featured snippets of the performers acts for this weekend’s festival.

Two words: mind blown.

The plan was attend the show and grab a bite after. We were quite late in getting that bite to eat because we had so much fun talking to the performers and other attendees after the show. We networked without trying because we were having so much fun. Beyond the magic, which again was amazing, here is what I gained:

• I made friends with a photographer who works at most of the fringe’s events, although he won’t be there this weekend; he and his wife have 4.5 cats and he realized one of them looks like an owl; and his wife is indeed taller than me.

• Owls are not as intelligent as we thought, it is kinda cool to watch them decapitate and eat a mouse (it was already dead) and they have teeny, tiny thin necks, the rest is feathers. The bird guy

• There is a certain theater in London that you should not wear purple because it burnt down some time ago and the performer at the time was wearing purple, also, London audiences are very polite – even if they love you they don’t really. clap Oscar Muñoz

• There are several classifications and competitions, world competitions for magicians.

• The audience, no matter the size, is the partner in the show; when performing it is a balance between performing, relating and engaging; no matter what they are doing or how long they have been doing their craft, they have this sparkle in their eye and enchanting enthusiasm with they talk about it. Trent James

• If they use cards, they buy decks by the pallet load, they are amazingly quick on their feet, adaptable and a little sly but the goal is not to have someone fall over themselves in amazement, it is a smile even from the most stoic and staunch person. Hannibal

• IndyFringe is like a magical garden to the members of the Board of Directors; they unselfishly and enthusiastically provide it with care, dedication and love transforming it into a beautiful and enchanting wondrous place to be shared with the entire community. They meticulously attend to every detail from the building of a second theater, attending to performers and guests and planning for what is next. They are parent gardeners and this is their child and they are a force of nature.

I found all these things out by talking with several people last night, by networking. I made new friends and connections. It was an absolutely successful evening of networking because my intention was not to network; it was to have fun.

Mission accomplished, and then some!

To find out more about this weekend’s Winter Magic Festival, click here. Shows are appropriate for all ages. I promise you will be amazed and possibly transformed back into childlike wonder…

Networking: Break the Rules to Make Connections

HandshakeThis morning I had the pleasure of doing one of my favorite things: talk to a group about one of my favorite topics – the elevator pitch.

If you are in business the elevator speech should not be anything new to you. It is simply 30 seconds of verbal mayhem that supports or blows up your first impression.

Your introduction is critical because all business begins with an introduction; either you introduce yourself or you are introduced via a third party.

This morning a couple of the attendees mentioned that what I presented is different than what they have heard from other professionals. What they had been told was more about structured rules, protocols and expectations.

There are many networking groups and they have certain protocols that their members or attendees are expected to follow. You should respect these protocols. As far as all the “rules” of elevator pitches, if they do not work for you – break them.

You can talk to 10 people that do what I do (career, networking, business building coaching or resume writing) and can get 12 different answers to the same question. You can also do an internet search on the topic and really get overwhelmed with advice, dos and don’ts.

Given this overload and sometimes conflicting information overload my suggestion is this: read or listen to it all then stop using your head and listen to your gut. Use what resonates with you. This morning what I said, as explained below, resonated with the audience. For them it felt like breaking the rules and it felt good!

The Context of an Elevator Pitch

If you break down networking to the core it is all about building relationships. Relationships are based on an exchange of value. Before you can build a relationship, you must first make a connection, which is the point of your elevator pitch.

Make a memorable impression

I have a hard enough time remembering names, there is no way I can remember titles. My brain filters those out because they are unimportant.

Titles are meaningless for two reasons:

1. Titles allow your audience to determine your value. If you had a friend that had an unscrupulous broker who caused them to lose all their money in the market, what do you think their personal impression of brokers would be? If they were at a networking event and someone walked up and introduced themselves as a broker, do you think your friend would have the warm and fuzzies for this person?

Your friend is assigning a negative impression and value to someone they just met solely on the basis of their title.

2. Titles do not convey value. There are certain titles that do not need to be elaborated on, for example Pediatric Surgeon. That pretty much sums it up. However, for the vast majority of us titles are ambiguous.

The Crafting of an Elevator Pitch

You are not a title, stop introducing yourself as such. Introduce yourself as your value.

Make it clear

What do you do and for whom? Break it down to the very basics. What do you do? I have a friend in insurance and he does lots of things for his clients. Planning, sells insurance, blah, blah, blah. But what does he do at the core? For him and his clients it is all about retirement. His core is preparing and guiding his clients to be able to retire when they want with the income they want.

His what is retirement his who is his clients. He changed his introduction after we spoke from “I work in insurance to help my clients plan for and …….” I am not including the rest because I am pretty sure you started nodding off after hearing “insurance”.

He now introduces himself as “I’m a retirement coach.”

Make it less (to get a response)

I was at a networking event a month or so ago and a woman and I were talking when we were approached by a young man. We followed proper etiquette and invited him into the conversation asking what he did.

That was a mistake. After two minutes we started shifting in our places, after three minutes we started shooting each other sideways glances. By five minutes we were saved by an announcement over the loudspeaker. And we still didn’t know what he did.

You want to elicit a response from your audience, preferably a positive one. Ideally you would want a question. This gives you leeway into a conversation.

My friend who is the retirement coach is almost always asked a question. He purposefully uses a very short introduction to lead to a deeper connection.

Make it personal

I love the IT industry. I have a great deal of respect for people who work in this industry. I also know they get a bad rap. I also know that a lot of them do not help themselves clear that rap. I work in branding, I work with social media and with technology. I know what I know and it enough for me at this time. I also know when I am out of my league.

When I have to call on IT professionals the first thing I tell them is “I am an IT idiot, explain things to me as you would a three year old.” I just do not get what they are talking about when they use IT verbiage. I am also not alone.

When you describe your value, describe it in a way that other people – us non-industry people – will understand. Make it relatable to me. If I can understand it and relate to it I will remember it. I cannot talk about you or refer you if I can’t remember you.

One client started introducing himself in this way, “You know when your company does a system update and you come in the next morning with a crashed computer?” pausing for a positive response “I’m the guy that makes sure that doesn’t happen.”

Make it real

This is about you so it should sound like you. Not resume you, real you. The person I am talking to right now and at any time in the future. Be authentic, be yourself. My dad told me many years ago that a lie is much harder to remember than the truth. It is much easier to be yourself in every situation than present a façade and keep it up.
Some people are going to like you, some are not – there are no two ways about it, you cannot please all people all the time. The real you will resonate with the right people, clients, prospects and organizations.

I am a straight forward, blunt and high energy. I also practice the art of effervescent witticism (sarcasm) and sometimes my language does not meet with my mother’s approval. I am this way in my blogs, seminars, talks and coaching. I am consistent. You know what you are getting. I am passionate about what I do, I give my clients my all and I celebrate their victories as much as they do.

I also am the kind of coach who tells her C-level executive client that he has a bad case of verbal diarrhea. It clicked with him and he appreciated it. He also said no one had ever told him that before (even though he knew deep down he was doing it) and I told him because everyone else was afraid he would fire them.

This does not resonate with everyone, this is why everyone is not a client and I do not want everyone as a client.

When he refers me he can tell his peers what to expect and they get it. Part of my brand is my consistency in who I am and the value I provide to my clients.

This leads me to my last point:

Make it repeatable

The more I understand what you do and how it relates to things I can understand the greater the chance I will remember you and more importantly, mention you.

Many times in structured networking events you are expected to mention the types of contacts or companies that you are seeking for an introduction. If I know that contact, but not your value, then how can I introduce you?

If I tell one of my contacts that they need to talk to you one of their first questions will be either, “Why?” or “What do they do?” If I cannot answer that question I will feel stupid. It is as though I am telling my contact that I am using them and it is a one way introduction – for you to get value from them but not for them to get value from you.

Telling them a title will not answer their questions. If they ask me what you do and I say you are an IT Manager they will ask more follow up questions to determine if they want to have that conversation. Your value will determine if they will share one of their most valuable resources: their time.

Sell me on you so I can sell you to others.

–Lisa

Increase Your Career Value: Eliminate JOB from Your Vocabulary

job xJob has a negative connotation.

It evokes the feeling of a chore, a burden; something that you have to do to get by, not something you want to do. A way to pay the bills. A place where you count the hours, days or months until you can escape.

It certainly does not convey a place where you feel you add value or are valued.

This makes it a perfect acronym for three of the most dangerous words to your career:

Just
         Only
                  But

Used repeatedly, these are not merely words – they become a mindset.

“I am just a … (insert title here)”
“I only … (insert value here)”
“I want to move forward, but… (insert reason here)”

When you say statements like the ones above, you are letting your audience know that you do not value yourself. More importantly, you are telling yourself the same thing.

If you do not see value in what you do, how can someone else? Why would they?

Just

I am not a big fan of titles. I give a lot of talks and seminars about not introducing yourself as your title. It limits your value based upon your audience’s perception of that title. If you find yourself introducing yourself as just a title name – eliminate the just. Once you have comfortably mastered that, then you can move on to stop introducing yourself as your title and start introducing yourself by describing the value you provide.

Only

If you are getting paid to perform a service, there is value in it. I do not care if you put widgets in a doohickey, you are providing value. Think about what your position entails and how it creates value for others. Instead of saying “I only answer the phones” try “I am the telephone gate keeper – I get to welcome our clients to our company on the phone and keep the solicitors away from our team.” Does it sound a little goofy? Maybe. But if you met someone who said this, I bet you would remember them because they sound like they enjoy what they do and see value in it rather than a task.

But

This one is the worse. Using “but” in a sentence divides that sentence into two parts with everything after the ‘but’ cancelling out everything before it. Our minds make a quick switch when we hear the word ‘but’. Our unconscious immediate reaction is to immediately recognize the first part of the sentence did not count, it is what is after the ‘but’ that is the speakers true intention.

If you are getting feedback and hear “I think you are doing a good job, but you need to improve your programming skills” what does that really tell you? Your reviewer is not happy with your programming skills and said something nice to soften the blow, without necessarily meaning it. Think about the “I really like you and think you are awesome, but I just want to be friends” line in dating. Same concept.

When you say you want to move forward or accomplish a goal but there is this thing preventing it you are telling others – and more importantly yourself – that the thing stopping you is more important and of greater value than your desire.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons, for example if you want to get your degree but you do not have the money at this time. Even in this situation using word but that lessons the desire for wanting your degree.

How to you trick the mind of yourself or others listening to accept the first part of the sentence? Exchange ‘but’ or ‘and’ for ‘however’ – and say it nicer.

“You are doing a good job and I think with more improvement on your programming skills you will be doing a great job.”

“I like the work you are doing; however, I need to make some changes.”

One word can make a difference in meaning. When someone wants to lessen the impact of a negative they will often use the words ‘just’, ‘only’ or ‘but’.

“We only lost one game” – never mind it was the Super Bowl

“It is just a temporary downturn” – speaking as to the worst drop in numbers this year.

“You are doing a great job, but we have to let you go.”

Words are powerful. They are notes that come together to create music. They elicit emotions and reactions. Eliminating the three words of JOB can take your song from off-key to a beautiful melody.

What NOT to Say to Someone Who Has Been Fired

Getting fired sucks.

Side note: I apologize to my mother for the language, content and sarcasm in this blog.  The woman has spent a lifetime telling me to “be sweet”.  There is nothing sweet about being fired and really, this should not surprise my mom, but still, sorry.

I do not care if you saw it coming, if it was out of the blue or even if you wanted to quit – getting fired sucks.

It is emotional, humiliating, degrading, demoralizing and can cut you to the core.  We so often identify ourselves with our position that it completely eliminates who we are in one fell swoop.

It strips of us our identity, our perceived value and what we think is our worth.

It is like that really bad breakup.  You know the one, like you were planning a vacation together and a few days before your significant other decided they no longer wanted to be in a relationship by announcing that “it just isn’t working for me.”  And that was that.  No explanation, no reason, no measure of dignity.  Just. Over.

But here is the difference: when you have a bad break up, you can assign a bad guy.  Deserved or not, you and your friends can designate the other person as the bad guy.  It helps you feel less unworthy.  It helps you fully grasp the “it wasn’t you it was them” concept.  They were a jerk, period.

You can’t really do that with a job.  You could go around telling everyone what a jerk your old boss was or what a crazy-looney bin the organization is; but all this will do is reflect badly on you.  It is bad business; it is bad for your reputation to badmouth your former employer.  Just don’t do it.  Someone you bad mouth them to will know someone else and it will come back and bite you in the butt.  Trust me on this one, please.

Yet, when someone tells us that they were fired (let go, released, downsized – whatever) what do we instinctively do – we treat it like a break up.  I am not pointing fingers; I am saying this is a natural reaction and human nature.  We ask or say the dumbest things that to the person who was dumped for no good reason whatsoever.

We do not do this intentionally; our brains and our mouths disengage at the moment that we hear the word “fired”.  We morph into fixers or sympathizers and say something to try to make them feel better, but more often it is to make us feel better.

Husbands and boyfriends want to fix it, wives and girlfriends want to talk about it infinitum; generalization, I know.  This blog is primarily for interacting with people that you are not intimate with, those you know on a professional or business friendship level.

Let them vent if they want to vent, do not assume that getting them to get it all out is what they need.  If you are not close enough to this person to know if they need a shot of tequila, a shot at a boxing bag or a shouting match, do not assume.

Here are a number of things I have heard said to someone who was fired (and this includes me) along with thought bubbles in the fired person’s head:

Oh crap, what did you do?
     Seriously? Way to jump to a conclusion!
Oh crap, what happened?
     Because I want to relive this horrible moment again
What are you going to do?
     Sit on the couch and eat bon-bons and wait for the perfect job to knock on my door
Man, I thought that was the perfect job!
     It was, just apparently not for me
Wow, I’m so glad I still have my job!
     Because this is now all about you?  That helps
So what have you been doing, I would go crazy not doing anything all day!
     Bon-bons all day long
If you could get fired, that makes me nervous about my job.
     Oh, well, then let me take this opportunity to make you feel better
Yeah, I heard, the boss is really trashing you at the office.
     I wasn’t feeling bad enough about all this, thanks that takes it to a whole new level
At least you had a job
     And now I do not, what the hell is your point??
You’re young, you will bounce back
     I’m not flubber and now I feel old, too
I am so glad I have never gone through that!
     Congratulations, jackass
At least your significant other is still working
     Yes, so now half of our bills can be paid and half of our children can eat, whew, what a relief
You know you will land on your feet
     I’m not a freakin cat
There is a reason for everything
     What is the reason that I am talking to you?
Hey, I heard you got fired – what’s up with that?
    Apparently I sucked at my job, thanks for the delicate way in which you approached this subject
I always hated that place anyway, this is a good thing, you just don’t see it yet.
     I wonder if anyone would see me punch you in the mouth if I employed my ninja skills
Here is what you need to do…
     Gee, just what I want, someone to give me a detailed chore list while my life is in the crapper
I heard, Joe and Suzie were just telling me the other night at a dinner party
     Not only was I not invited, but you were talking about pitiful me? I hope you chock on the networking chicken
Oh my gosh, that happened to me, but I got the perfect job like a week later!
     Not about you cupcake and I do not have anyone beating down my door right now, but yay you

After being fired people process the emotional roller coaster in different ways in different time frames.  They can be upbeat and happy shortly thereafter and then – boom – panic and depression out of the blue.

They may be barely holding it together and then they hear one of the above.  It is enough to send them over the edge.  I don’t care if is a day, a week or a month later – it can be the feather that knocks them over.

No matter what your internal feelings are, insecurities about your own job or personal experiences with being fired – remember, at this very moment, it is not about you.

So what can you say?

I’m sorry.  What can I do?

Or

When you are ready, I’m here; I will do whatever I can to help.  In the meantime, I will check up on you now and then, is that okay?

Be real, be genuine, be all about them.  It is okay to say, “That sucks – what can I do for you?” Do not try to get the gorey details and remove the pity from your voice.

They will hear a lot of people tell them that they will be there, but it will be difficult for them to reach out to ask for that help.  Remember the demoralizing factor in all this?  It doesn’t go away easily.  They may be thinking, “not only am I incompetent to keep a job, now I have to go beg people to help me get another.”

Rational, no; reality, yes.

Check up on them.  Send an email, text or phone call to just say Hi and see how they are doing and is there anything you can do to help.  Do not force yourself upon them, but be kind in letting them know that you really are there and wanting to help however you can when they are ready.

If you have a lead or suggestion, ask them if it is ok to send to them.  They still might be a little insecure about their ability to bounce back or they may see it as an implication that you do not think they are doing enough on their own.

Rational thinking is not always utilized during this time so better to be safe than sorry.  It also helps open the communication a bit and let them know that you are not making any assumptions; rather, you truly want to help without overwhelming them.

The single most important thing you can do for someone going through this is to treat them with respect as the same person that you respect and value.

–Lisa

My Anti-Networking Secret Weapon: Shoes

I am a shoe freak.  When traveling most people get trinkets with the name of the local on them, I get shoes.  Boots from Dallas, killer pumps from Ocala – no matter where I have been I have a pair of shoes from there.

My grandmother started it.  When I was growing up she had a full size walk in closet lined in shoes, rows and rows of shoes.  It was heaven.  She knew every shoe store in the tri-state area.  I have proudly continued what she began.  It is one of the things I am known for – my shoes and boots.

I will admit, I do not always love networking.  Sometimes on the walk in phrases like “necessary evil” pop into my mind.   Then there are events that are just not good.

You know the ones; you are expecting one thing and end up in an environment that is completely different.  Whether that environment is a low turnout, the feeling of a singles bar or a complete different venue than what was offered.

This is when I find it difficult to network because there is a disconnect in my mind and the environment. I call it being in the ‘anti-networking’ mode.  You are there, but you just do not want to do it.

That is when I use my secret weapon: shoes.  I start looking at people’s shoes and I make a game out of it.

I will walk up to someone and compliment their shoes.  I do not try to talk about business, certainly not mine; I talk to people about something as random as their shoes.  I give a genuine compliment that is personal to them.  It is amazing how many people are thrown off by compliments to their shoes.

Instead of being approached with a horrible networking line or a fake conversation, they hear “I love your shoes” or “my son would love your shoes”.  Yes, my son has inherited the shoe lover gene.

This leads to fun conversations, real conversations, relaxed conversations that take the pressure off ‘networking’.  It helps draw in the introverts, exclude the creepy card handers and forms a sort of unique dynamic.

Not every networking event is going to be a business success.  But that does not mean that you cannot have fun and engage people from a different perspective – through a genuine compliment.

Sometimes when I run into those same people at other events they greet me warmly with, “It’s the shoe lady”.  That works for me because if nothing else, I did make a connection.

Isn’t that the whole point of networking?

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