Category Archives: networking social mediq

The strength of a weak network

In the past year I have attended more conferences, courses (on and off-line) seminars and webinars than possibly in the whole of my previous career. I have read articles , periodicals, blogs, newspapers, e- zines, magazines and worthy tomes. I wouldn’t consider myself to be especially perceptive generally, but I could see a year ago as markets crashed and millions of people were impacted by events outside their control,  that for my profession,  adapting to change would be key to prepare for any upturn.  So there was a strong need to get up to speed.  I identified pretty early on and somewhat unusually quickly for me,  the strength of what is now called a “weak network”.

Resisting change
In my role as a coach and an executive search professional I constantly come across individuals erecting barriers to embracing change in the way business is now being done across many sectors, but especially in recruitment and search on both sides of the process. People who are active in these new media tend to endorse each other’s efforts and so are essentially preaching to the choir. But in the general congregation I have noticed undoubted resistance and scepticism.

Impact of social media
Last week I attended the AESC European Conference ( Association of Executive Search Consultants) where a number of speakers eloquently shared their thoughts and studies of different economic changes and the impact these would have on talent management and executive search in Europe. @GeorgKolb  of Pleon,  Deutschland, gave a great and dynamic presentation on the impact of social media on the sector and  there was some talk that executive search could be reduced to a job  matching process by these new developments.

Wide networks
Many executive search consultants rely on their Rolodex contacts to facilitate introductions to potential candidates. But at the same time global internet sourcers, who could be based in India, Eastern Europe or anywhere else in the world, are equally active using Boolean Strings to remotely identify passive and active candidates they have never even heard of,  from information that is in the public domain via the internet. These might be professional networks, or any other source.  Many of us are not aware that  we all constantly leave our footprint in cyber space and are visible and traceable, whether we or not we want to be,  or even like the idea. The profession is in the throes of a major refocus when as a recruiter I am  possibly more likely to  identify a candidate from  social media or  on-line network than my immediate physical one.  My LinkedIn network, modest by some standards,  has a global reach of over 18 million people. Most of them could care less about me until maybe one day, they appear in a search and I approach them for what might be their dream job. The chances of me reaching that number of people through traditional networks are I’d say…. zero.

Cyber Sleuths
There is now a new breed of recruiter called a Cyber Sleuth! Such is the power of having a wide “weak ” network Shally Steckerl  of Arbita  has been arbitrarily stopped by LinkedIn from extending his network any further now it has reached 30000 LinkedIn users.  One client Nils Oudejans has voluntarily limited himself at 26000 connections before any restrictions are imposed on him.

Another strength of a weak network is that it is democratic. You don’t need to be in the right club or church, have attended a certain school  or worked in  a specific company to get connected. Generally if someone has a strong and professional on-line presence,  adds value  and  communicates  in an appropriate way, they are accepted. There are no barriers to entry based on academic qualifications, age, gender, race or sexual orientation. There are no exorbitant subscription or membership fees.   Porn and affiliate marketing spammers are treated the same as they would be in any network – excluded!  People who don’t engage get left out. Same as in  a physical network.

Personal Branding
On the transition side I coach clients specifically in raising their on-line visibility, now called Personal Branding.. Many are conservative and concerned because they don’t know  ” these people” who contact them via social media platforms and who invite them to “be- friend” “follow” or “connect “.   It’s sometimes an uphill struggle to explain that it doesn’t matter if they haven’t been physically introduced and no one cares about that,  and it’s about the added value of the contact, however remote. Do any of us know absolutely everyone in our alumni associations or golf clubs? No, of course not. This is no different.  On-line connections can actually be just as meaningful and sometimes more so, than physical ones. It’s about being visible, not just to them directly, but to their networks and being seen to offer quality.

Wide networks can be narrower than you think!
I can only speak from experience. I have more daily contact with some members of  my virtual network than even my family, who  I suspect might not understand what I do! This isn’t even a generational issue. My own Gen Y son,  is completely resistant to the idea that recruiters access Facebook to search for entry-level candidates  and will not use it for professional purposes. His new LinkedIn photo bore a striking resemblance at one time to what I can only describe as a tree. Happily this has now been changed. I have baby boomer executive search colleagues with limited on-line presence who balk at the idea of filling out their profiles and others who resist using keywords in all their presentations,  despite all the evidence that this is what they need to do.

When I met @MarionChapsal who I connected with via Twitter, my brother @MD60 was issuing ominous warnings about  potential axe murderers lurking in cyber space.  As 1 in 6 marriages today in the US  begin with  an on-line connection,  the way adults initially interact  before physically meeting  for the first is time  is constantly changing.   Not that I wanted to marry Marion by the way, beautiful though she is – it was just an illustration of changes going on! As we saw in the backlash against  Jan Moir,  after her  ill advised article about the death of Stephen Gately,  Twitter has the potential to be more powerfully viral than swine flu.

Best combination for best talent
I am in no way dismissing traditional executive search and recruitment strategies for identifying the best talent. They are invaluable skills. At some point telephones have to be picked up and face-to- face interviews arranged  – so for me on -line job matching is not the best option for finding high calibre candidates.  Just as job seekers  have to leave the security of their computers and exhibit strong inter personal skills.  But the combination of the old methodologies combined with the new cyber sleuthing skills, make a formidable combination for identifying the best global talent.

Mind Management: Beat Negative Thinking

Every day I coach incredibly talented, successful people with amazing skill sets, backgrounds and experience. But whether they are entry level, mid career or CEOs with long track records, many struggle to market themselves in the right way. One thing most have in common is without exception, they self -sabotage and block their own progress, not so much with what they do directly – but what they think. These thoughts not only control the outcome of any actions, but equally significantly, can also be at the root of inaction, lack of engagement and follow through. This is particularly hard to track if we develop strategies for seeming to be active (” busy-ness”) when indeed the opposite is going on. There is a lot of truth in the old adage “mind over matter”. Or mind matters!

Mind fabrication
I’m not talking about people losing sleep over being losers or useless. That would be too obvious. These thoughts are much more passive, pernicious,subtle and insidious, so ultimately more damaging. They are small disruptive internal messages that insinuate our sub-conscious thinking and keep re-playing in our heads until we believe them and ultimately act on them. We don’t know why, or sometimes that these notions are even there. My son has a great phrase “drowning in my own thoughts” to describe those negative messages, which pop up when we least want them. Worse still, they provide an invisible, sub- conscious structure for our decision making processes but just as importantly for our lack of decision making.

I had a Skype call with a guy based in London this week who wanted some job search support. No problem. During the conversation he mentioned several times ” being out of work for 2 years” and a need to explain a ” 2 year gap on my CV”. I scanned his CV. I checked and double checked. Nothing. Eventually I asked him when this 2 year gap had started. He replied December 2008. Okay.. we’re now July 2009 – how was that 2 years? That thought was a complete mind fabrication !

Self sabotaging
At some level he had persuaded himself that his mid career decision to take a 12 month MBA course was ” opting out” and therefore a period of unemployment, so he would need to defend his position with recruiters and interviewers. I have no idea where this pressure came from, that is complex and we only talked for 45 minutes. I just saw the outcome. Another approach could be that he had taken a brave risk, left a great job in a top company to strategically develop his career. It required leaving his own country and moving to a foreign one, adapting to a different culture and learning another language. His graduation coincided with the height of the credit crunch. That was the fault of a group of out of control bankers and a global trend in mindless consumerism. Nothing to do with him. Not only should recruiters not see this career enhancement step as a negative, but they should recognise it for what it is – a great series of achievements. (GC I hope you’re reading this!)

Re-frame with questions
So if you feel that anyone doesn’t understand you, start asking them some relevant questions to check they have insight into your situation. In this case they might be monolingual or mono cultural and lived in the same town all their lives. If they can’t see what you’re about – perhaps you need to change the type of recruiter you’re choosing to work with. Negative thinking is at the root of most self sabotaging coping strategies: procrastination and perfectionism to name just two. We all do it because we fear what other people will think of us and ultimately we fear failure. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. No one is unique, everyone goes through this at different times over different issues and even outwardly successful senior people have doubts at times.

Write things down
So how can you tackle that? Simple. Write the thought down. When written down a thought becomes clearer. Let’s pick one and track the subsequent underlying thinking that might be churning beneath the surface and needs to be teased out. This is a very typical negative thought process that I work through with many people on a weekly basis.

Track the message !
ORIGINAL THOUGHTHmmm… I should apply for that job” write that down and then track in writing, your subconscious ,internal negative dialogue which might be something along these lines:

**But.. wait… if I send in my CV, they might call me .. **and I won’t know what to say … **then I’ll make a complete idiot of myself on the phone and maybe in the interview… **then they’ll know how useless I am..** then I won’t get the job .. .**then they might tell everyone….**then everyone will know I’m stupid and laugh at me.. **then I’ll let my whole family down… ** then I won’t get any job anywhere, ever… **then I’ll never work again… then I’ll have no money so I’ll be bankrupt … **then I’ll lose my house .. *then my wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/kids/goldfish will all leave me forever.. **then I’ll be on benefits/welfare or living in a box … **then everyone in the world will hate me…then Hmmm … OK…. I just need to go to the supermarket/pub/shower …I’ll send the CV off after dinner.

Sound vaguely familiar? So how do you deal with this?

Look at the facts
Ok, now write down some opposing thoughts. Look at the facts. Realistically just by sending off your CV, what are the chances of you living in a box, with everyone thinking you’re a fool and everyone completely hating you? Right.. Absolutely ZERO. You indeed be might be mismatched for the opening or your CV is not strong enough, but that is quite different. Why? All those things can be changed. There is quite often underlying wisdom in humour and as the joke goes everyone doesn’t know you. Keep a job search log so you can’t convince yourself into thinking that you’re active when you’re not. Facts talk.

Reality check
The reality will be that the most damaging outcome is nothing. Your CV will not be selected by the ATS and you will sink into job search oblivion. Nothing is not good. So any action or activity from that process, even the messages you don’t want to hear, are learning experiences and not negative ones.

What have you learned from doing nothing? That you you need to act now, otherwise the whole process repeats itself .

Twitter: Cynic to Convert in 10 weeks

Hello, my name’s Dorothy. I’m a Twitter convert!

About 10 weeks ago @MikeDDalton (my brother) suggested I sign up for Twitter. He insisted that it would be fun and a way for our dispersed family to stay connected. Unconvinced, mainly because of what I’d heard and read, I did finally register, but truthfully, it was because primarily President Obama was said to use it, rather than any family loyalty.

My efforts were rather half hearted. I followed @MikeDDalton, plus a couple of well known British celebs, which actually turned out to be duller than watching paint dry (sorry Bro!) I posted a few mundane things myself, trying to enter the spirit of it all. The minutiae of their daily lives held no interest for me at all. Cosmo Landesman of The Times (London) suggested that Twitter made even interesting people seem dull. I was in total agreement. I even bored myself.

Support
But a few people, even through cyber-space, picked up on my “lost caused -ness”. @karenpurves, @nicolabird and @judethecoach, all came to the rescue and went to huge lengths, with super supportive basic tips about choosing the right people to follow, posting a photo, leaving myself open to be followed (hadn’t realised I was closed) and some of the other protocols. But even then, despite their encouraging words, cynicism still prevailed. Honestly… I did try – but the whole thing just completely eluded me. I sensed the tearing out of cyber hair.

Breakthrough
Then one day – something kicked in. I have no idea really, even now, what it was. I think more by accident than design, I left the social media robots behind and finally started connecting with people with 3 digit IQs. Their tweets caught my eye and I started reading and responding. I engaged. I began to get, just a little, the Twitter etiquette and protocols. Gradually, there seemed to be a few people I was connecting with on regular basis who seemed fun, on the same wave length and prepared to give, rather than send automated messages and self publicity. I finally understood ( after 8 weeks – I know a slow study ) that I needed to download Tweetdeck to manage the activity.

Don’t worry I’m not going to launch into a ” How to…” pitch! Wouldn’t dream of it! There’s clearly no way someone can advise people on the detail of this process, when they only found the Tweet shorten button today! This is just to share my own Twitter journey. Sometimes the voices of the clueless, resonate as much as the voices of experts – a bit like Forrest Gump.

My rules
Generally, as an almost total beginner, what I look for are people that I find fun and interesting and are active in my areas of general interest. That’s all. Nothing strategic or sophisticated at this point. I have no master plan. I make it a basic rule to only connect with people who have a photo or a convincing bio, wearing clothes. They do make a difference – so are mandatory, for me at least. I only follow animals if they are extremely funny.

I look at the stats just to check they’re balanced and I can see that the individuals are active. I avoid braggers and give anyone pre-occupied with target-reaching a miss. Same for anyone who tries to hard- sell me anything early on. I am gradually identifying the egoists and I can see now that there are people who have the same messages on automated feeds which come around and around, 24/7. You know who you are! Guys, change the tape or stream ( or whatever it is that goes round) I suspect I will eventually decide to “un-follow” some of them, when I summon up the courage. Apparently this is ” not a good thing”. Whole contentious blogs are devoted to this process, with a slew of vitriolic exchanges in their wake.

So what has this got to do with a Talent Management Strategist based in Europe? Why since last week, have I included a section introducing it into in my coaching programme?

At the moment 47% of Twitter traffic is US based, but that will change for sure. Just like the Big Mac, it will take root here in Europe. As more and more corporate HR and recruiters use it as a network, it will be another opportunity for candidates to raise their visibility and connectivity, in the hope of being found. With a job loss: job creation ratio at 3:1 in Europe, right now, job seekers need that. The churn on Twitter is huge, but people leave their bio details, and provided that the contact info doesn’t change, that’s great for internet sourcers.

Added value
But for me personally, and this is the message I share currently, the greatest value is the high speed communication of really useful, up to date information. Having it distilled and recommended by trusted sources is a major bonus. It’s the sheer pace of the circulation that is amazing and fascincating. It’s a wonderful way to stay in touch and keep a finger on an ever changing pulse. It has not only saved me hours of time, but brought my attention to sources and resources that I may have over looked or not even considered at all, simply because I didn’t know they were there.

IRL ( In Real Life)
Earlier this week, I had dinner with a Tweet buddy @marionchapsal who was visiting Brussels. We had connected via Twitter. Despite mutterings from @MikeDDalton about meeting strangers from cyber space, and the lady from Lyon turning out to be a potential axe murderer ( that thought is rooted in extensive knowledge of heinous on-line scams, following a long career in internet security) we had a wonderful, fun evening, sharing experiences and getting to know each other. What was most interesting, was that I saw immediately how 140 characters can convey a person’s personality. She was exactly as she seemed in her Tweets! It was simply global networking at it’s best. Virtual, became actual. Would our paths have crossed otherwise? Probably not. Just brilliant!

Somewhat approropiately, the restuarant of choice was the ” Idiot de Village”. Nothing lost in translation there.