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The Chicago Sinfonietta is named the most diverse nonprofit board in the city, and CEO Scott Hoesman is proud to be apart of it. Read more about them on Crain’s Chicago.
I network a lot. I have to, we all do. Networking is often the first introduction someone will have to you and your company, and it’s also something that can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. But if you go in with a plan, you’ll feel more confident and relaxed. Let’s look at a few ways to approach networking.
Plan, Plan, Plan…
I spend a nice chunk of time learning about who will be present at the next networking event, and why I need to talk to them. I typically will review LinkedIn profiles, bios and even ask around about particular people or organizations ahead of time. This information gathering allows me to identify key targets and prepare specific questions for certain people. I know it’s a lot of work, but it gives me an opportunity to create a targeted conversation with someone who could potentially be a value-add to my network.
Know Where You Stand
Networking provides a great opportunity to know more about what’s happening in the marketplace and with competitors. Sure, you can do an internet search to find some of this information, but often times people will give you additional details that are useful to you and your company. A real example of when a conversation made a difference occurred when I met someone who had developed a similar product to my company’s product. We had no idea something similar existed. It wasn’t exactly like ours, but it was interesting to learn about their process to launch the product. In addition, insights on what had worked and what hadn’t turned out to be great information to have. This level and detail of information was not available online. What’s even more important is understanding that this information would not have been uncovered without networking.
Get Your Name Out There
Not every networking opportunity will be perfect. Sometimes you’ll find that the crowd is not the perfect fit for you and/or your company. In this situation, there is still a silver lining. You can use the time to focus on building your brand and to practice your sales pitch. I recently attended an event where the other attendees were not necessarily the target audience for Contineo, inQUEST’s new D&I Training Game. I recognized this quickly and instead focused on meeting as many people as I could to talk about inQUEST and Contineo. It turns out that this was the perfect environment to just practice. I met some interesting people and organizations that are a better fit as strategic partners or vendors. You have to be flexible and leverage each situation to “Get Your Name Out There.”
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
You get back to the office and you’ve got a pocket full of cards – now what? Don’t shove them in a drawer. Go through them right away and follow up with the people you had a connection with. Doing it right away is important because you will forget – and they will forget you. In that case, you will spend a lot of time trying to reintroduce yourself. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are great in helping you reconnect. Small things like an updated profile picture or a quick note about the networking event can help make a quick connection. You should also send a formal email to set up an invitation to meet for coffee or to have a quick call. What’s important is that you quickly establish another connection point to keep you fresh in their minds. Trust me, people love to meet and talk about what they are doing. Leverage these opportunities to hear more about them and assess if the person is a good fit for your network.
There’s the business side to networking, but there’s also a pretty good chance you’ll make some friends along the way. You will meet some people with similar backgrounds and interests and you will meet some who are completely different than you (and that’s OK, too!). Your network is a source of information and should therefore be diverse. Use this as an opportunity to make personal and professional friends. Your network is your own source of human capital. These are people you can tap into for different ideas, people who can help see or know things you didn’t see or know before.These are people who can help you excel in every avenue of life.
And if you’re not the most outgoing person, that’s OK. Just like anything else, you will get better with practice. Remember that networking is something we all have to do, and if you plan ahead, stay focused and follow up where you see promise, it will become a natural part of your personal and professional work… and you may have a little fun in the process.
“The economic costs of mental illness will be more than cancer, diabetes and respiratory ailments put together.” – Director, US National Institute of Mental Health at the World Economic Forum
On March 31st, Gloria attended Beyond Accommodation: Mental Health in the Workplace, an interactive panel held by the Chicagoland Business Leadership Network. Gloria shares key insights and takeaways from the event.
The Four Key Principles for Driving Change:
1. Know the Impact — Mental illness is more prevalent than physical illness. 1 in 3 people are diagnosed with a “mental illness.”
Ways to know the impact:
- measure the impact of health on productivity
- examine usage of mental health and substance use
- examine organizational pharmacy spend
- determine the impact on short- and long-term disability
2. Break the Silence — Create safety and build trust so people feel safe enough to discuss it. The goal is to normalize mental illness so that people feel as comfortable talking about it as they do physical illness. The disease of the stigma about mental illness is as big (and bigger) than mental illness itself. It serves to delay acknowledging and/or getting help or, worse, it serves as the motivation for individuals, managers, families and cultures to hide and deny that there is a mental illness.
3. Deliver Affordable Access – There are many organizations and programs that are FREE that people can take advantage of to help them if they have a mental illness.
4. Build a Culture of Well-Being – Companies that support the well-being of their employees will find higher employee engagement and loyalty, which correlates with improved productivity, effectiveness, and business results. The person is not the illness, the illness is an experience the person is having. The people-first approach has to extend to people with mental illnesses.
The panel discussed the need and benefit of measuring the impact, teaching managers and HR professionals more about mental illness so they’ll know what to do when they witness behavior that leads them to believe the cause may be mental illness. The intention is to help people get help sooner rather than later in a way that honors them.
- measure the impact of health on productivity
Have you ever had something come out of your mouth and then you immediately regretted it? Of course you have. Everyone has, including me. Even when our intentions are good, sometimes our filter disappears and we accidentally hurt people or make them unintentionally uncomfortable with our words. In this blog, I want to share a story with you about a time I misspoke and discuss what I did so my relationship and mutual trust didn’t suffer and, in fact, was made stronger.
I Can’t Believe I Just Said That
I was on a call with a group of friends, and we were chatting about someone I like working with. We were all laughing and I said something I say quite often to people that lets them know I like working with them. All the people on the call have heard me use the phrase before and they’ve all laughed with me with humor and understanding. The problem was this time, the phrase that was innocent and uniting before, included words that could have related to a personal tragedy in one of my friend’s lives. I heard the words coming out of my mouth and I cringed. I couldn’t believe that I had said that. I thought, “Oh my goodness, Gloria. Given what’s happened in your friend’s life, how could you say that?!”
I apologized to my friend. With a soft chuckle, she said it was all right. And, though I believed her, it didn’t feel all right. Because we had a well-established a relationship filled with trust and respect, she understood. That it wasn’t intentional. That I hadn’t had a temporary lapse of judgment nor was it intentional. I just wasn’t thinking. And while she was fine, I felt as if I’d opened my mouth and inserted both feet.
We’ve spoken several times since then. Everything is fine and I believe I was more upset than she was. Still, I felt badly because I’d never want to hurt my friend and it scared me to think that I might have. Not only was I uncomfortable, but I had to trust that when she said it was OK, it really was OK. That WE – both our professional and personal relationships – were and are OK. I had to resist the urge to apologize repeatedly each time we talked. I finally realized I had to work it through with myself, learn and forgive myself so I wouldn’t be distracted each time we talked – which might have put a damper on our relationship and the fun we have as we do wonderful work together. I wasn’t willing to let that happen. Following are the things I thought about, worked through and, made peace with.
Accountability Is Key
When you’re talking with people, even when you’re comfortable with each other, be sure to be consciously aware of your actions – what you’re doing and saying. Even what you’re thinking, as that can influence your tone, pace and body language. When you’re building a new relationship, make sure to work to build understanding so that you each know the others’ intention. Let them know you respect them and never mean to invalidate their feelings or their experiences. And discuss and agree upon ways you’ll each let the other know if you are doing and saying anything that can erode trust or build barriers between you. That way, when mistakes happen – and they will – you can hold yourself accountable, look that person in the eye, apologize, feel certain that your apology has been heard, felt and accepted, and that you can move on together with respect in tact or even made stronger. But you do have to confront the issue – you cannot ignore the person, or pretend it didn’t happen.
I said Something I Shouldn’t Have… Now What?
If you feel you may have said something that could hurt someone’s feelings, but you aren’t sure, ask them. Ask them if your relationship is solid and safe, and if it isn’t, what you both can do to make it better.
Being human is not an excuse for hurting people, but being human means we will from time to time make mistakes. You do not have to continuously apologize. Learn when to let it go and trust the other person to be truthful with you. When you have done everything you can and the relationship is restored, learn from what’s happened, forgive yourself and move on.
…And Do Better Next Time
Every time you apologize for something, make a note to never do that thing again. Don’t be shy about asking other people for feedback when it’s appropriate so that you can continue to grow and form strong relationships. And remember to give people about the things they’re doing that helps build trust and respect without their asking for it. And ask them for feedback about what you’re doing routinely. Be trustworthy – that is worthy of the trust of others. Build relationships of mutual trust and respect so that both parties can share easy-to-listen-to and hard-to-listen-to things with compassion and clarity. That way, even if one of you does misspeak, the relationship, comfort in working with each other nor performance will suffer. Celebrate the learning and put it into your EQ Toolbox.
Last fall, I touched on veteran mentorship as a way to leverage your skills off the battlefield and build an enriching and impactful career. Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important and what you can do.
How do I find a mentor?
Try to find one mentor who has already transitioned from solider life to corporate life. Ask him or her about differences and similarities between the two. Then find a non-veteran mentor who has expertise in the field you’re targeting. See what steps he or she took to get there, and learn about potential areas of growth you’ll need to address to make yourself a competitive candidate.
Finding a mentor isn’t difficult, but it is important to find the right person for you. Try a mentoring program, such as eMentor through AcademyWomen, which lets you browse mentor profiles to find the right match. You can also find mentors outside an official program. Maybe you know someone in your chosen field whom you admire, or you’ve built a strong connection with a fellow veteran.
Now is your time to reach out. I know this can sometimes seem intimidating, but just remember that these people probably had mentors, too – they’ve been there.
You could start with a simple email. Here is an example:
Dear Potential Mentor:
My name is ________ and I am a _____________________________ (Solider, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman) looking to transition into your field. I heard you speak at the XYZ conference (or I follow you on Twitter, LinkedIn, I read your blog, etc.) and would like to learn more about how you got to where you are today. Would you be open and available for a possible mentorship? I understand you are very busy, so even a quick career chat over the phone or coffee would be greatly appreciated.
It’s as simple as that. The important thing is to ASK.
What Will My Mentorship Look Like?
Mentorships can follow different paths depending on what you need and what your mentor can provide. With your mentor, determine how you want to communicate (Email? Phone? Face to face? All of the above?) and how often you’d like to communicate (Once a week? Once a month? As needed?). Typically, a mentor relationship lasts about six months, but you can shorten or extend the relationship as you both see fit. And if for some reason the mentor isn’t quite the fit you were looking for, that’s OK – you can politely end the relationship at any time.
Flash mentoring is a one-time mentoring session to get feedback, advice, or an energy boost from an experienced professional with very little time commitment. Maybe you’ve been a military healthcare professional and you want to know what it’s like working in pediatrics. A flash mentor session can give you a quick glimpse into that world so you can see if it’s something you’d like to pursue.
You can even find mentorships that focus on image and presentation. Do you know someone who has great presence and always puts people at ease? Seek out someone to help you transition through cultural and social differences.
How Do I Know If My Mentorship Is Successful?
A successful mentorship is a helping hand while you transform your identity and career. May sound a little extreme, but it’s true. As a veteran, you were identified by your rank, or by your service. This is the time to break those boundaries. A mentor can help you visualize that goal and go for it.
And when you’ve gotten to where you want to be, don’t forget to reach back and pull someone else up. Being a mentor gives you fresh perspective and an opportunity to give back in a meaningful and impactful way.
I hope you take advantage of this time to grow. If you’re looking for more information and resources for veterans in the workplace, visit our Veterans Services Practice page.