Join the Discussion: Building your Network vs. Enhancing Current Relationships

Photo cred: D. Sharon Pruitt

One year ago, I was just graduating college.  I had only really been networking for a few months, so it was still very new to me.

Every day, I’d meet someone new, who would introduce me to someone else, and so on…  Before I knew it, I had a healthy sized network of trusted professionals that I could turn to.  Many of them have became close friends over time.  Others not so much.

The problem is that all connections, even those connections that you have become so close with, can fall out of touch over time.  There are a number of reasons for this happening…

  1. We all have jobs to do which means less time to “catch up”.
  2. As our networks grow, we can’t commit as much time to keeping up with current connections.
  3. The worst reason but one that needs to be addressed: You just don’t need those people as much as you used to.
  4. Sometimes you just go different ways.  It happens with friends too.

It happens, but I don’t like it.  I feel terrible some days when I see someone cross my twitter feed and realize how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to them.

I understand that it happens…but I also feel like I can do more to enhance my current connections, instead of focusing only on expanding my network.

Have you faced this dilemna?  Please, share your thoughts in a comment.

You can also join us for a full discussion on this topic at the #u30pro chat on Thursday (May 27th) at 8pm est on twitter.

7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now

Photo Cred: Jasmin Cormier

Whether you’re about to graduate in a couple weeks or you have a few semesters ahead of you, there are lots of things you can do to get started on your career.

I know I know, you want to enjoy your days at school while you can without having to worry about the “real world” that lies ahead.

You don’t have to devote all of your free time to developing your career.  There are little things that you can get started on now, that will pay off dividends after you graduate.

Want to get your career off to a good start after you graduate?  Here are some tips.

  1. Plant your seeds. If you’re not sure where to get started networking, just look around you.  You’re surrounded by future professionals (classmates) and seasoned vets (professors).  You also have a huge network of active professionals (alumni).  Sign up for Linked In, and start connecting with EVERYONE that you know.  You never know when a simple Linked In connection could lead to a big opportunity.  Here, you can start by connecting with me.
  2. Participate in projects. There are tons of things you can do around campus that will look great to future employers and will give you some great experience.  Start writing for the college newspaper.  Or better yet, start your own as a blog!  Start communities for students in the same position as you.  Just start something.  If you fail, who cares…?  You’ll learn a ton and it will look a lot better on your resume than whatever other crap we tend to fill that POS paper with.
  3. Attend events. Have you met Patrick Johnson?  No?  Well there are a ton of PR professionals who do because the kid is at every conference he can make it too.  Think you can’t afford it? Guess again.  Most conferences have student discounts, and pretty much ALL conferences take volunteers.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazingly prominent professionals by volunteering at conferences.  Usually how it works is you work for half the conference, and the other half you can do what you want.  Start shaking hands.
  4. Join communities. There are hundreds of communities online for professionals.  You can find them on Linkedin, twitter, facebook, and niche social networks.  I got started in my career by joining 20 Something Bloggers and Brazen Careerist.  Just join them and start asking questions.  Professionals respect a student that’s taking the initiative to get out there and learn.
  5. Start writing. Whether it’s for your blog, for someone else’s blog, in your own private notebook…whatever.  Writing will help you learn and grow as a professional.
  6. Establish mentorships. It’s not something you can just set up usually.  By participating in communities, attending events, and networking, you’ll start to build stronger relationships with professionals.  Email them.  Ask them for skype chats.  Ask questions.  When you dive off the college cliff into the rapids of the real world, a mentor can be your life vest.  (Take that home…chew on it).
  7. Ignore me and do whatever you want. These tips are what worked for me.  They may or may not work for you.  If you have the motivation to kick off your career right, just do.  The first and biggest thing I’ve learned since graduating is that the doers will flourish.  No matter what I, or anyone else tells you, you just have to do what you think will work for you.  Just do.

Do you have any more tips for college students?  If you’re a college student, do you have any questions?

“You, Inc.” a New Way To Look At Your Personal Brand

Photo cred: Thomas Hawk

Do you get emotionally affected when someone criticizes your professional work?

Do you get depressed when business doesn’t go your way?

I’m reading the War of Art (affil) by Steven Pressfield and he discusses a concept he calls “Me, Inc.”  It may be more relevant to the self employed, but it really has me thinking…

Pressfield separates himself from his work by looking at himself as two different entities: Him as a Person and him as a Corporation.

“Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-the-work from the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show.  No matter how much abuse is heaped on the head of the former, the latter takes it in stride and keeps on trucking…

If we think of ourselves as a corporation, it gives us a healthy distance on ourselves.  We’re less subjective.  We don’t take blows as personally.  We’re more cold-blooded; we can price our wares more realistically.”

Then this really resonated with me…

“Sometimes, as Joe Blow himself, I’m too mild-mannered to go out and sell.  But as Joe Blow, Inc., I can pimp the hell out of myself.  I’m not me anymore.  I’m Me, Inc.”

Is this the same as what we call “personal branding”? Are you the same as the personal brand you’ve created?  Or is your personal brand a separate entity from yourself, created to distance your emotionally driven personal self (You) from your professionally driven corporate self (You, Inc.)?

I think if you separate yourself in this way, personal branding, the way we understand it, becomes more acceptable.  You’re not promoting yourself, you’re promoting “You, Inc.”  Because really, that’s why we’re here right?  To build our careers or corporations.

Sure the personal and professional lifestyles are become intertwined, but that doesn’t mean they’re one and the same.

What do you think?

The Blur

This is a guest post from Carlos Miceli.

Photo cred: Ségozyme

There are two reasons why anyone would want their business life to meddle in their personal life: more money or more freedom.

If your job or projects are going to get in the way of your leisure time, they better make you some cash, or help you enjoy life more. The problem is most people are working harder and the money or freedom never comes.

Take social media for example. There’s an air of business-like responsibility once you get involved in it. Business concepts like deadlines and networks get together with more philosophical terms like authenticity and transparency, and the result is a set of rules that you can’t ignore even if you are there “just for fun.” The reason this happens is because in social media there are no fences. People doing business and people being social are in the same room.

This is positive for those that work with social media. But for those that don’t, they see their social life getting tainted by these professional impositions like personal branding that force them to be more professional in their social life. I’m not even sure there’s any way to avoid this, but I’m sure many people didn’t choose it. And the worst part? All these people are not even getting richer; they are just getting busier.

These rules brought more responsibilities and fewer payoffs.

The real opportunity of this blur is to get more freedom, but it’s not what capitalism wants you to do (despite its claims of the contrary). People that have let their business and personal life unite in a positive way, have improved either the amount, location, or schedule of their work. Sadly, very few people have made this possible. To pull it off you need either a very valuable set of skills that let you negotiate effectively your professional life, or you need to be very good at critical thinking to develop a customized professional life of your own.

In the end, this fusion of rules may be disguised as a positive change, but I doubt that most people are enjoying its perks. It seems to me that we are only complicating our lives with it.

What do you think? Is this change good? Did we want this to happen?  Would you go back if you had the choice?

Carlos is an Argentinian philosophy lover, who surfs through life smiling, debating and reading. He blogs at OwlSparks, and is also co-founder of Untemplater, the guide to shatter the template lifestyle!  Follow him on Twitter @carlosmic.

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

Are Young Professionals Forgetting to be Young?

Photo cred: Davo

Yet another interesting discussion sparked by the bright minds in #u30pro.  My friend Jon Klar shared,

“I think social media is making it much easier to grow up too fast. Young professionals need to remember to be young while they can”.

Social media platforms have allowed me to tap into so many resources that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise.  I learn new things from thought leaders, I connect and engage with professionals that I never would have had access to, I’ve developed mentorships, I’ve shared my own ideas with a large audience and the list of benefits goes on...

…but is it a double-edged sword?

I’m 22 but I don’t feel like it. My ’09 graduation feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I now work full time, run #u30pro, maintain my blog, engage with my network regularly and more…  I have more things going on since I graduated about 7 months ago than many people I know who have been working for years.  Without social media, I wouldn’t have so many opportunities, but I also wouldn’t have so many responsibilities.

I don’t think I’d have it any other way.  I’m in a phase of my life where I am very career focused and I’ve set many high goals for myself.  I realize that I have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve those goals.

…and I’m still enjoying my personal life.  I still go out on weekends.  I still hang out with my friends regularly. I still get my share of video game time in there.

And when I look at many of my old high school buddies and what they’re doing, I don’t feel envious of the extra time they have to “be young”…I feel lucky to be gaining so much experience so quickly. I feel like I’m spending my time wisely.

In 10 years, will I look back at my 20’s and wish I spent less time building my career?

Am I growing up too fast? Are you?

(Perspective of those who have been there and done that are welcome and appreciated)

How To: Find a Mentor

Today’s Mentor Monday post comes from my friend Ryan Knapp.  After reading this post, check out his blog to find out more about him.

Photo cred: Kathy a.k.a. "K"

In 2006 I went from a PhD program in Linguistics to becoming a President/Owner of a minor-league soccer club (quite the life change, right?).  Thrust into my new position, one of the first things I did was make a list of what I needed to be successful.  Right below ‘make loads of $$’ and just above ‘hire an assistant’ I had scribbled ‘Find a Mentor’.

So I Googled, “Find a Mentor” and after reading 10 posts about why a mentor is so important and how to find a mentor in 5 steps (or for $29.99) I had a silent freak out moment,

“Oh God, I DON’T have a mentor…what do I do? Where do I start? and HOW do I find one?”

My previous life in academia I was lucky enough to have been ‘given’ three amazing mentors, or advisers as they are more commonly called.  I know many college students who are stuck with an adviser they despise, but my adviser in High School and my two advisers in College (Dr. Jeri Jaeger and Dr. Wolfgang Wölck) are/were incredible mentors and friends, but I never had to venture further than down the hall to find them.

For the first time in my life I was stuck finding a mentor on my own, and I had no clue.

So I took up an industrious approach and searched out potential mentors and read their bios and scrutinized as if I was interviewing them for a job to work with me.  “Nope, too young.  Nope, not in my field.” Lo and behold I came up empty.

However, after a few months of my failed mentor search I realized something — finding a mentor isn’t about trying to find a mentor at all.

Finding a mentor comes from forming quality connections and relationships with new people without a set outcome in mind.  Using this approach opens up a world of possibilities and you view mentorship in a completely different context.  The ‘search’ becomes unnecessary and your focus shifts to a productive two-way relationship with both give and take.

From the get-go you may have been looking for a big-shot in your field to be your mentor, but just because someone isn’t a big shot means they have less to give you.  Maybe you are a business focused person but your mentor might be someone who is an artist but can show you 1001 different ways to look at a situation.

I have been lucky enough to find two incredible mentors who have been instrumental in my growth professionally and personally.  Both Kiko Suarez and Keith Burtis became my mentors during transitions in my life, and they helped me get to where I am today, and are helping me reach where I’ll be tomorrow.

So, if you do not have a mentor but you are looking, don’t fret.  Put yourself out there and keep on making connections and meeting new people.  The beauty about our world is that your mentor could be someone half way around the world, a group of people, or you might become a mentor to someone in the process.

How did you find your mentor?  Were you looking, or did it just happen?