Sunday, February 27, 2011

How Full is Your Calendar Campaign?

I started working as a writer on political campaigns when I was a college senior.  In addition to writing promotional copy were the more mundane but necessary tasks of stuffing and labeling envelopes; cold-calling voters; and scheduling the candidate's events to ensure they were interacting with as many voters (read: decision-makers) as possible.

I remember poring over the morning newspaper on a daily basis with my supervisor Donna, searching for events for the candidate to attend which would expose them to the maximum number of voters.  Our job was to fill up the candidate's calendar every day, 7 days a week until Election Day.  "There's a pancake breakfast at the firehouse on Saturday, let's schedule the candidate for that event," Donna directed.  I stopped, pencil poised over the campaign calendar.  "Does the candidate know the folks at the firehouse?  Isn't that weird to just show up and start shaking hands with people you don't know?  What if the candidate tells us they don't want to do it?" I asked a bit anxiously.  Donna looked at me, arching an eyebrow.  "Weird or not, if the candidate can't do it, they shouldn't be running for office."

It was an expansion of the success practice my father instilled in me:  10 decision-maker prospect calls a day; at least one decision-maker prospect meeting a day.  Whether you're searching for jobs, customers or voters.  It's the same Zen practice.  Open up the newspaper, Business Review, Chamber of Commerce website, etc. and start filling in your calendar.  My particular angle on this best practice is to focus on decision-maker events where I can practice needs-based, win-win networking.  Another one of my colleagues combines donations and pro bono work to charity events near and dear to her heart with her networking:  another great win-win example.

If for some reason there's a dearth of decision-maker events on the calendar, I catch up with my Board of Directors. Or I sharpen the saw by attending events where I hone / expand my skills and horizons.  Or I stay home and catch up on my reading.  Unless you're running for political office, I certainly don't advocate the 7-day-a-week calendar practice.  It's a creative choice process, ripe with possibilities.

However you decide to plan your calendar campaign, one success statistic remains constant:  business owners / entrepreneurs must spend at least 50% of their time marketing for new business in order to sustain / grow their businesses.  A potential best practice is for all of us is to do the same, whether the marketing is internal to the organization (as an employee); or externally (job-seeker, networker, entrepreneur, business owner).  I love the implied potential of all of us working towards that growth goal.

How full is your calendar campaign this week?  And every week thereafter?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Career Yente

When the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof was in town recently at Proctor's Theater, I attended one of the Sunday matinees.  It was a wonderful show.  During the performance of "Matchmaker," I was struck by how different our life goals are just 4 generations after late 19th-century Russian shtetl life.
Actually, not so different for the 3rd generation removed.  On the trip north to drop me off at SUNY Albany for my freshman year, I was asked why I wasn't getting married and getting a job rather than attending college.  It worked out fine, despite the 3rd generation's concerns.  I finished college, established a career, and to my surprise, got married, albeit a little later in life than the 3rd generation preferred.

Also, unlike some of my contemporaries, I have absolutely no talent for romantic matchmaking.  Seriously.  Don't ask me to find you a date, it will not work out.

I do, however, love vocational matchmaking.  And I'm great it.  My hit rate is about 98% or better matching up the right candidate for the right job.  Either via the phone or face-to-face.  For profit (in one of my SME career workstreams as a recruiter), or even better, for fun.  Connecting potential business partners; employers and employees; and mentors and mentees.  At work, at social events, at church, you name it.  I hear and/or intuit the needs, the matchmaking wheels start to turn, and I start doing my vocational / business connector thing.  A Career Yente, if you will.

However, unlike the slightly kvetching tone of Fiddler on the Roof's "Matchmaker," I don't sit on my tush waiting for the Matchmaker to make me a match; I'm the Matchmaker, connecting my network and building our mutual success and reputation. And fortunately for me and my network, there are a number of us out there, constantly connecting the dots to support our mutual success.

Who will you connect this week to create new career and business opportunities?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sandbox Your Way to Success

I have been a member of Professional Women's Network in Albany, NY for almost 16 years.  Unlike other business, professional, leads and networking groups (such as Chambers of Commerce, etc., which are also important yet different), we support each other's success organically.  That is, among other benefits, we are each other's personal Board of Directors.

Our members are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, business owners and executives.  Truly a marvelous talent resource.  The difference with our group is the smaller size and our guidelines, both of which engender and breed trust.  What's said in PWN, stays here.  We have each other's backs.

And not just from a business standpoint.  Anywhere from walking together through the crucible of  breast cancer with the unwavering support of our group's subject-matter experts (SMEs) to long-term warrior status (no stinkin' survivors' badges here), to marshaling the group's great minds and savvy to rally a virtual barn-raising to enhance and support the business or career strategic plan of any given member.

However, the greatest gift of PWN has been the sandbox space we create together.  That is, a safe space where we can experiment with new career and business ideas, and know that we will get a candid and expert, yet heartfelt response.  To be clear:  heartfelt is not candy-coated feedback, it is direct and authentic.  And if that experimentation is a failure:  no harm, no foul.  It has truly been freeing to take those necessary creative risks in order to move to the next level of business and career success in that sandbox.

From the beginning, PWN has used me as an HR and Career SME, both individually and as a group.  I talk to a member at least once a month, if not more frequently, asking for my guidance on the labyrinth that Human Resources / Employee Relations / Recruitment and Retention can be.  In my commitment to stand up for my fellow members as an HR SME, they, in the process and safety of our group sandbox, have taught me to truly become an HR Consultant, allowing me the great privilege to first serve them.  Thank you, good women:  another reason why you rock.

Yet PWN is not the only group like this:  there are many others like it.  For example, I've had the privilege to bear witness to a similar sandbox through the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute.  Under the leadership of RCCC's President Linda Hillman, her talented staff and equally resourceful Board of Directors, the Leadership Institute has created a wonderful sandbox for its up-and-coming students to learn from SMEs, CEOs, and most and best of all, from each other.   They're stuck with each for the rest of their careers:  what a wonderful opportunity and resource.

Like a chicken in every pot, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone on a vocational / entrepreneurial path driven to success deserves a sandbox to play, grow and succeed in.  So much so, that I recently matched up a small group of entrepreneurs and job-seekers (who are becoming entrepreneurs) from my church (Who then invited some of their friends / colleagues, see how it catches on?), to create such a sandbox together.  They're supporting each other to develop and win proposals, whether they will become employees or business owners.  I love witnessing the discovery and growth of their own success in the new hothouse of their sandbox.

Looking for a sandbox?  There are lots of sandboxes to play in and join.  Or, if you build a sandbox, they will come.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Interview as Business Proposal: And the Product is You

The job market is starting to pick up, thankfully, and many of you have job interviews this week.  I'm thrilled for you:  break a leg.

Some of you are spending the evening with one eye on the Super Bowl and multi-tasking with Google and the very best intentions to find the ultimate answer to the ubiquitous (and uninspired) question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"  Your navy suit, which will telegraph trust to your (hopefully) new employer, is pressed and ready on its hanger in the closet.  Your alarm is set. You've Google-Mapped the (new) employer's address. Your portfolio is stocked with multiple copies of your resume'.  You're drinking O'Doul's to ensure that you're bright-eyed in the morning.

A much smaller percentage of you are finalizing the proposal / presentation of how you're going to meet / exceed the business needs of your future employer (read:  customer).  You've done your homework and your metrics are crisp and to the point.  The customer is expecting a potential employee, and you will knock their socks off by exceeding their expectations as a potential strategic supplier, in-sourced or out-sourced.  You will present the product that you know the best:  you.  You will also conduct the same preparations that your competitor candidates are currently undertaking, e.g. the well-pressed suit, etc., but your unique selling proposition -- that puts you ahead of the pack -- is that you understand your meeting tomorrow is a sales presentation to meet the new customer's needs, not just an interview.  And if you've played your cards right, you're the only candidate, because you've made the right connections thanks to your network to reach the decision-maker before they've even thought of advertising their needs to the open market.

How do I know?  I've done it and won it myself.  Several times.

And you will, too.  Happy hunting; let us know how it goes.