Monday, June 3, 2013

It Takes a Network

In my May 27, 2013 blog posting, I wrote about the book, The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, and Ben Casnocha, an entrepreneur and author. Here is a link to the visual summary of the book. Last week, I wrote about the two Es (Experimentation and Element). Today's blog posting will focus on the importance of creating a network, which Hoffman and Casnocha describe in Chapter 4 of their book. Here are some of my favorite principles from Chapter 4: 
  • Relationships matter to your career no matter the organization or your level of seniority because, ultimately, EVERY JOB BOILS DOWN TO INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE. 
  • People control RESOURCES, OPPORTUNITIES, INFORMATION and the like.
  • And THE PEOPLE YOU SPEND TIME WITH shape the person you are today and the person you aspire to be tomorrow.
  • Relationships are like any living thing. . . If they're not getting STRONGER, they're getting WEAKER
One of my favorite social media sites is LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, almost everyone I know has a LinkedIn profile because it's a powerful way to reinforce and form new connections. LinkedIn revealed new job opportunities and helped me reconnect with former colleagues from all over the U.S. I also enjoy being able to serve as a resource for people interested in my line of work. Last week, a woman who used to belong to the Fightin' 49ers Toastmasters Club in San Francisco, reached out to me for advice about becoming a financial advisor. Even though she was a member of our club for a short time, I remembered who she was and I spent an hour with her on the phone. I hope my advice will steer her in the right direction. LinkedIn is also a great way to feature recommendations you receive from current and former managers and colleagues. Here's a valuable tip I learned from a former manager: Provide a link to your LinkedIn profile at the top of your resume. This will allow hiring managers to view recommendations you have received.  

Last month, I heard a talk given by Carla A. Harris, a managing director for Morgan Stanley. In her talk, she discussed the importance of having an adviser, a mentor, and a sponsor. In Chapter 5 of her book,  Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving  in the Workplace, she explained the difference between an adviser, a mentor, and a sponsor:
  • Adviser - Someone who can answer your discrete career questions, those that may be isolated questions pertaining to your career but are not necessarily in context of your broader career goals.
  • Mentor - Someone who can answer your discrete career questions and who can give you specific tailored career advice. You can tell them "the good, the bad, and the ugly" about your career and you can trust their feedback will be helpful to your career progression.
  • Sponsor - Someone who will use their internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization.
Throughout my working life, I've had several advisers, mentors, and sponsors. Many of my advisers are also personal friends of mine. Most of my mentors are managers I met at firms where I worked. Some of the best careers I've had came about as a result of my connections with powerful sponsors. 

When I was younger, I believed that the job duties of a particular position mattered a lot more than the people I had to work with inside the organization. Boy, was I wrong! Later, I discovered the importance of corporate culture and the people factor. Some people flourish in a smaller corporate environment where employees are treated as family members. I had that experience when I worked for Howard Tours, Inc., a tour operator company, and Lumetra, a nonprofit healthcare consulting firm. 

Other people thrive working for a much larger corporation. I have been fortunate to have worked for small and large corporations. In the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . And Others Don't by Jim Collins, Wells Fargo is listed as one of the great companies. I spent four years at Wells Fargo and I have to agree with Collins. It's a great company to work for, and if I had not decided to switch from financial services to healthcare, I would probably still be working for Wells Fargo. In 2012, I returned to financial services and I currently work as a Financial Advisor for Morgan Stanley. 

The people you work with can also have a huge impact on career satisfaction. Over the years, I've worked with a tremendous number of people whom I deeply admire. Many of those individuals have become my friends. Even when I worked for very large corporations, I found ways to form friendships with people within and outside of my department. According to a Gallup Organization study, having a best friend at work is one of the 12 traits of highly productive work groups. In almost every job I've held, I had a best friend at work. My best friend at work was someone I could count on for advice because I trusted his or her judgment. We looked out for each other and helped each other become aware of new opportunities. 

Don't underestimate the power of weak ties and acquaintances. According to Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, "acquaintances usually introduce diversity to your network. They tend to hail from different social circles or industries and so they can be useful to find opportunities or intelligence outside your inner circle." To learn more about the importance of weak ties, I recommend reading Mark Granovetter's study, The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited. According to Granovetter, the lack of weak ties deprives us of valuable information. “This deprivation will not only insulate them from the latest ideas and fashions but may put them in a disadvantaged position in the labor market where advancement can depend on knowing about appropriate job openings at just the right time. Furthermore, such individuals may be difficult to organize or integrate into political movements of any kind since membership in movements or goal oriented organizations typically results from being recruited by friends. While members of one or two cliques maybe efficiently recruited, the problem is, without weak ties, any momentum generated this way does not spread beyond the clique.”

One of the reasons why I love social network sites such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter is because these sites allow me to create hundreds of weak ties. In our new social economy, those with the most ties (strong and weak) have a distinct advantage over those with the least ties. As Granovetter describes in his paper, weak ties are critical to getting work, gaining access to information, and organizing. Those who are unwilling or unable to establish, and leverage weak ties will struggle to survive in our new social economy. 

According to Hoffman and Casnocha, "the people you spend time with shape the person you are today and the person you aspire to be tomorrow." Have you ever conducted a "friends audit?" When I was younger, I became friends with anyone who wanted to become my friend. But as you can imagine, letting other people choose me rather than making friendship choices on my own is not a sustainable friendship model for the rest of your life. According to Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford and the author of How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks, most of us can maintain only around 150 friendships. Anthony Venn-Brown, a professional coach, wrote about a friends audit. If you think you have too many friends, here are some tips from Venn-Brown on conducting a friends audit:
  1. List the 10 most important things YOU value about friendship. Ask yourself what type of friends you want. 
  2. Place this list in order of priority with the most important at the top down to the least important being number 10.
  3. Write a list of all the people in your life you classify as friends.
  4. Give each person a tick if s/he matches your values.
  5. Delete the ones with the least ticks from your phone and address book.
  6. If they contact you, they may still be meant to be in your life. You then choose whether to reinstate them or not. Some people need lots of support. You choose if you want to give that support because you want to -- not because you feel obligated. It could be your way of being a giving person.
  7. You have now created a world of like-minded people who are in harmony with your values and created space for the right people to come in.
Every friend in my life possesses values I admire. That is why they are in my life. When I was younger, I became friends with people more from a default position. For example, when I was in first grade, I became friends with a little girl named Heidi. Unfortunately, Heidi didn't like school (except for recess) and was always encouraging me not to do my homework so I could spend more time playing with her. My grades started to slip which really bothered me as well as my parents. I didn't want to end my friendship with Heidi because she was my only friend in first grade, but my parents forced me to break off my relationship with her. 

When I moved to Hawaii, I discovered who my "real" friends were. Your "real" friends choose to stay in contact with you even if you move thousands of miles away. Having said that, relationships are a two-way street. I try to stay in touch with the people I care about even if I only have time for a weekly phone call or email rather than wait for the other person to reach out to me. Since I'm an avid reader, whenever I come across an article that might interest friends I know, I email the articles to my friends. On Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I like to post interesting articles I find so that even people who don't know me can benefit from the information I'm sharing. I'm a strong believer in giving back to the community I live in, which includes not just the state and country where I live, but the entire world. 

No comments:

Post a Comment