Tag Archives: Networking

What Do You Recommend?

A thoughtful recommendation is a fine thing to give or receive.  LinkedIn has made this process a whole lot easier.  My first attempt to get a recommendation from the Head Librarian where I worked during college didn’t go as well as I planned.  While she appreciated the work that I had done, she never did get around to writing that recommendation and sending it to me.  I think that she might have been more likely to follow through with her intention if she’d been able to post it to my profile.

 

Back in the day, a professional kept a portfolio that would include originals of recommendation letters on company letterhead, carefully saved in clear plastic sleeves.  I still have my dad’s judiciously built portfolio, in a nice leather binding, glowing letters spanning his career.

profile-plea

I have actually enjoyed writing the recommendations that I have given.  (I also see benefit in thoughtfully writing employee reviews.)  I spend time thinking about the characteristics and skills of that person that make them effective at their job.  I tie these to specific projects and tasks that the person has completed.  Sometimes if time has elapsed since we worked together, I might ask to meet and talk to refresh my memory.  Vague platitudes from me aren’t going to do anybody any good.

 

I learned about having that conversation beforehand from one of my HR friends.  I asked her for a recommendation and she asked me about my goals and expectations from the recommendation.  A nice addition to the question – would you give me a recommendation – and the usual casual answer – sure.

 

But I don’t want to be told exactly what to say either.  Any more than I am going to answer a survey on a company when they tell me that they want to hear that I was highly satisfied.  (If you already know the answer, why bother to pretend to ask the question…)  The reader will be able to tell when I have taken the time to craft my impression of that person from my own experience and interactions.

 

I’ve come to see recommendations as another facet of writing as communication.  It might be simpler to ask and to post now, but that just means the effort can all go to being thoughtful in your expression.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Identifying Connections

When I am fully alert, aware and focused in my current moment (instead of running through the constant lists in my head of what should be done, and where else I must go, etc.) I remind myself to look for connections and not distinctions between myself and the people around me.  There are plenty of things that separate us from all the people around us, even those who should be closest.  We often tend to focus on these differences.

We have more similarities with all of other people on this Earth than we recognize, sometimes we have to look deeper and sometimes just think more simply.  We could be worlds apart ideologically, but both appreciate a hug or a kind word when we are hurting, say.  And back before we were quite so global, sociologists did studies that nearly all people named facial expressions of basic emotions the same – sadness, anger, happiness and such.

Closer to home, and having just celebrated Christmas, the connection between my almost 24 year old son and his 6 year old cousin makes me smile.  Other than being part of the same family and both male, they have very little context that aligns on the surface.  But they have a mutual interest in Legos.  And since my son was willing to pull out a few boxes containing a portion of the million Legos that he owns to sit with his cousin for a couple of hours they have found other things that they can talk about together and enjoy.

High Five - Copy

I don’t know you and all the joys and challenges that you encounter, but I imagine that we could quickly find some means to bond if we started to talk.  We don’t have to be friends forever, or even ever see each other again to have a moment of connection.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Making Connections

I read this short story in my early teen years that described an unusual and cleverly designed prison.  The cells were set up in a sort of spiral within a stone enclosure.  Each cell contained one prisoner and the prison term for that prisoner was based on the length of time that it would take for his cell to work through the spiral to the opening once again.  During his term he would have no contact with other people.  I found this both fascinating from a logical standpoint – how would he eat, how did they remove waste, etc.; and horrifying from a human standpoint.

 

I no longer remember the title or the author but the premise for this story stuck in my mind.  Perhaps because it is the antithesis of our social human experience.  The time alone appealed to my introverted side, but disturbed my extroverted brain cells.  Even the most rabidly introverted person can usually see some benefit in connecting with other people, if within a much smaller group.

 

At about the same age that I came across this story, I believed that if you made a deep connection with someone, you would remain connected to that person forever.  I have a collection of hurtful memories that belie that idea.  Connection does not equate loyalty or longevity, but it doesn’t require these traits to be worthy.

 

A person met in a time of need and never seen again can have a profound effect upon you.  One person caused a terrifying car accident when my boys were very small but I choose to remember the dozen or so strangers who stopped and offered assistance without ever expecting anything in return.  I return this gift by doing the same whenever I can for other strangers in need.  These are the fleeting connections that go under the name of random acts of kindness.  They strengthen our humanity.

 

We have blood connections with family that extend from close relatives to cousins two and three times removed.  There are shared experiences of various family gatherings, there is a built in support network when times are tough.  My aunt and uncle took time out of their busy schedules to drive up and sit with my boys when I had major surgery a few years back.  It was right before Christmas but they understood that my boys would need to have advocates who had been through such an experience before.

 

The sibling relationship is so nuanced and complex.  We have shared so much, but sometimes as rivals and sometimes as allies.  When it comes down to it, a brother might be the worst tease of a sister but don’t take that to mean that as an outsider to the family you can do the same.  The brother may take you to task.  (Can you tell that my brother teased my sister and me mercilessly as children?)

 

Then there are friends and acquaintances.  The selection process for these connections begins randomly – a shared class or activity – and grows deliberately in depth, breadth and length as we nurture the relationships.  My oldest active friendships originated in my junior high years.  The interactions may go dormant here and there and due to all my moves we have a physical distance as a barrier, but we remain friends.  Connected.  In this past year I have added new people to this category; met randomly, identification of some kindred sensibility, connection growing.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to  4 of the 13, not counting myself.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to 4 of the 13, not counting myself.

 

Sometimes I might feel as though I am stuck in a stone cell, but I can shake this feeling off by remembering all my varied connections.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Creating Small Successes on LinkedIn

We think of success in these very narrow terms, specific to an end goal that usually involves improved finances as a component.  Success in this case is an ongoing strengthening of position as opposed to an end goal.  Success is also gaining better understanding of a system or process, bringing us closer to a goal and not just arrival at an end.  A broader and deeper definition of success enriches our ability to achieve meaningful success.

profile-plea

I am not an early adopter of much of anything, including social media.  LinkedIn was the first social media site that I joined, about 5 years ago, at the invitation of a business contact that I respect.  I created a basic profile and left it to its own devices; accepting invitations to connect from business contacts who found me and occasionally seeking out contacts.  I did no research into the power or potential of this platform.

 

Then I decided to get my profile to that 100% distinction (LinkedIn is smart, expecting to hook competitive spirit with this feature); and promptly returned to benign neglect, still not making an effort to understand the intent or possibility of the site.

 

When I found myself on the hunt for a job, I turned to LinkedIn as a resource.  I had incentive to figure out what this LinkedIn could do for me.  It was recently pointed out to me that most working people have very basic profiles and only unemployed people have robust profiles.  Perhaps, up to a point.  The professionals who have clued into the power and potential have taken the time to either hire someone to write a stellar profile or have sat and spent time researching and clicking around within all of the features.

 

It seemed to me that the LinkedIn Groups feature would be an important part of this search.  I had joined a couple of groups during my early days on the site and received the weekly update emails.  I ignored the emails and did not make any effort to understand the how and why of these groups that I had joined because someone had said it was a good idea.  (Lemming behavior, I admit it.)

 

I moved into group participation in the same way that most people enter a pool – slow acclimatization starting with a foot or a toe.  I belong to about 15 groups, some industry specific, some directed to my profession, some for job seekers, and a handful of regional and local groups.  I found that I would get bigger bang for my buck in the smaller, more focused groups, until I had built up enough activity to have impact in larger groups.

 

I have made comments, always aware that my activity is traceable and visible to anyone checking me out like recruiters or potential employers, on group discussions where I felt that I had something to add to the discussion.  I have also started discussions, both using someone else’s outside content and also posing my own original questions.

 

This was a good exercise and then one day I decided to take it to the next level.  I had participated in a discussion where someone I saw as an expert (and a person it would be good to meet) had made insightful comments and I reached out to him using the reply privately option.  He responded favorably, I read his profile and took his invitation to connect as a challenge.  Once he accepted, I realized that this was a whole new avenue to connect with people that I would like to have as contacts.  I now have a good size showing in my ‘met through LinkedIn’ tagging of my contacts.

 

I count this as a success and know that at some point I may use this group of people to leverage mutually beneficial future activities, whatever they may be.  I recommend to all that there is real value in learning LinkedIn and taking advantages of this platform.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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