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Networking

Some months back, I asked Mr L if he would join me for a lunch catch up with a mutual ex-colleague, Mr T. We have not met in 14 years. Mr L was busy being angry about everything, his former employer, his PHd application being rejected by XYZ University.

Fast forward to June, I found out that if Mr L had joined me for lunch with Mr T, he could have walked his way into a job vacancy in Mr T’s company.

Is this how Krumboltz’s Happenstance works? Sometimes opportunities whiz by and miss us because we are engrossed in the past.

Lesson learnt today.

As an IJ, unplanned meetings drain me. But think of the exciting future that awaits you from the little step you take.

One of the things I missed about being self employed is not having colleagues to try out new lunch venues or chill at tea, “whatsup” catching up with office gossip, and especially the learning workshops we were forced to attend. And the travelling. Which was quite fun, since it was only 10%, in my work – no budget. The free newspapers, so essential to keeping up with research and client information.

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While I enjoy managing my own time, minimal department meetings, no office politics (I still have a boss. My clients are my boss.), there is a downside to being a free lancer/ gig economy worker/ self employed. Lonely. Iron sharpens iron. (Confessions of an introvert.)

How do freelancers thrive in the future of work?

NTUC has set up a chapter for Free lancers and self employed, check out their facebook.

There will be an upcoming 2 day workshop to equip free lancers with digital skills, considering that coaches can still be paid through cash, app, and internet banking.

Step One: Company Name and type of work

First, think of a name for your company and register it with the government. Set up an ACRA account. Its not difficult. https://www.acra.gov.sg/

How do you use your time wisely as a tennis coach, if classes are cancelled on a rainy day?

Today, many of the younger generation prefer to be self employed. Digital tools have made it possible.

Step Two: Join NTUC FSE

Join a community. Why? Social, getting ideas, learn something. Example, how to pitch yourself?

There are a number of associations to join:

Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals
Screenwriters Association (Singapore)
IoTalents for online and IT workforce
Caregiver Asia
Creatives at Work (CAW) for media freelancers
Tueetoer (for free lance tutors)

Step three: Market yourself

Get a professionally done photograph, nothing fancy, but very presentable @ caregivers asia. You can check out the photographs done for their freelance caregivers. Joel Tam.

You can start a Facebook, Instagram or even Blog. Register with a number of providers like Fiverr, Upwork, Tueetor etc.

72 Best Freelance Jobs Websites to Get Remote Freelance Work (Fast)

You can create a podcast with your mobile or a youtube video.

For a lady who does storytelling for children. She was articulating the benefits of her course. Learning while playing. Joel articulated that her blog could include a simple Powtoons tip of the day for parents, “Three things your child can play while learning without realising.”

Even creating Infographics. I especially like the tip of how Joel broke into writing reviews for cars. He took a photograph of his own car and sent it to major automotive brands. Wow. Such a simple and impactful idea. Sometimes, just talking to someone who has done it, helps break down the “barriers in our head”.

Many of the self employed entrepreneurs I discovered, wear multiple hats and have multiple streams of income. Joel is Marketing Director at Caregivers as well as Care review etc.

Recognise that you need T-shaped skills. Deep expertise, applied to different businesses.

An important tip he shared was, if you have 70,000 followers on your Instagram account, but they are not in your target market, then you may want to start afresh. Localise your content. Especially for freelancers working towards a local clientele.

Step 4: How do you hook clients with a strong pitch?

In your self introduction, dont just talk about ideas. Talk about yourself as an idea. Your transformational journey, eg from a chemical engineer to a muay thai instructor, and how those little bits of you are combined to make you who you are today.

Not just another mindfulness instructor, but a sports coach who combines mindfulness in the journey.

What are three superhero characteristics you bring, from your life journey?

I was a _________. (Painpoint: A conflict I felt _________. I decided to ________. The pivot helped me _____________.

So what are you waiting for?

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Close to my Chinese roots, my mother put in a lot of effort to find my Chinese name, it means the bell that rings at dawn because I was born pre-dawn. Embeded in my name is my mother’s hope for me. Wisdom, riches, beauty, fame, peace are the typical aspirations. Every Chinese knows this tradition, and in some families, we even choose characters that reveal your position in the family tree.

Yet when it comes to getting an English name, many Chinese/ Taiwanese / Hong Kong Chinese would choose names like Noodle, Rock etc and we puzzle at the quirkiness.

Not so, a young British girl. Beau Jessup. She is making more than $300,000 and funding her way through college by naming Chinese babies. As founder and CEO of Special Name, a website designed to provide Chinese parents with culturally appropriate English names for their babies.

How did she come up with the idea?

Jessup was inspired to start the business in 2015, when she was just 15. She has since named a total of 677,900.

Empathise- A chance encounter

Jessup was traveling with her father in China, when a business contact, a Mrs. Wang, asked for help in naming her three-year-old daughter.

Where are the pain-points?Constraints can be opportunities

“Due to language barriers and internet censorship in China, the ability to research English names can be limited, often resulting in unfortunate and sometimes comical selections”, Jessup noted.(Source: http://flip.it/BN0YJM)

Prototype: A minimally viable Idea

Back home, Jessup hired a freelance web developer to build a Chinese language website for the Chinese community. Meanwhile, in her spare time, she filled a database with more than 4,000 boys and girls names, attributing five characteristics that best represented that name, such as honesty and optimistism.

Ideate – create choices

The website uses algorithm to generate the names. It also allows collective decision making by encouraging users to share the three name suggestions with their friends and family via a direct link to Chinese messaging app WeChat on the site — to help them settle on their favorite and avoid any “cultural mistakes.”

Travel, Empathise, Talk to locals

Beau Jessup’s idea came about because she is a bridge to a diverse network. How many English speaking Chinese can do what she did? Many.

Sometimes, a simple idea is waiting to be discovered.

Go out and talk to people. Empathise with their constraints and see if you can help solve their problems in a win-win way.

Network for ideas

University of Chicago sociologist Ron Burt has referred to this sort of networking as bridging a gap between different social networks.

Burt studied 673 managers in a large U.S. electronics firm and found that those managers who had a broader network of contacts were consistently rated as generating more highly valued ideas.

Their access to diverse, often contradictory information and interpretations gives them an edge when it comes to spotting and developing good ideas.

To develop our personal brand, many of us struggle to find our niche. What is an area that can define my expertise?

The best way to find out is to Ask!
1. Who is the person in the mirror? Ask yourself, do a personal reflection.
2. What is my preferred style?
3. Am Iikeable? Do I like myself? (Many people would rather do business with people they like, rather than with a jerk.)
4. Do I have access to people who need my services or products?

For anyone who is feeling a little lethargic after the New Year Break, here is a networking challenge for the brave hearted.

Let’s start your networking challenge

Day 1: come up with positive adjectives, strengths and weakness that describe me
Day 2: draft my personal brand statement
Day 3: come up with 5 ice breakers
Day 4: Bring my closest friends to lunch and ask positive adjectives describe me.
Day 5: start my daily list of 10 thanksgiving items. Creative positive energy.
Day 6: list my rewards or motivators on challenge. (Positive energy)
Day 7: Rest Day, Reflection
Day 8: write home call home (parents, siblings), plan next family gathering. If not convenient, send positive thoughts and thank them in mind. Send postcard.
Day 9: start my project of saying hello to a different colleague or classmate everyday for 30 days. Ask: what are you working on? What’s a trend that may bother you? What’s a skill you wish you had time to pick up?
Day 10: create a Linkedin account
Day 11: join a public speaking group such as toastmasters in your area
Day 12: identify an area of professional interest
Day 13: join a group in professional interest
Day 14: Rest Day, Reflection
Day 15: identify a person to start a personal friendship group
Day 16: List 5 latest books affecting your area.
Day 17: Arrange to have coffee with former internship supervisor or colleagues
Day 18: Keep in touch with (one) classmate from past. Repeat with different person next cycle.
Day 19: Sign up for a talk in area of interest
Day 20: join a group of personal interest, faith or hobby, eg. Mahjong or tennis
Day 21: Rest Day, Reflection – list 10 topics you have collected from conversations.
Day 22: Start a blog, write your first article
Day 23: List of social causes, pick one Volunteer for a social cause
Day 24: Congratulate a friend
Day 25: Rest Day, Reflection
Day 26: Update my Linkedin. Write my first post
Day 27: Celebrate friend’s birthday or anything worth celebrating!
Day 28: Compliment a service staff (stranger).
Day 29: Send postcard to relative
Day 30: Celebrate with loved one!

Repeat cycle!!

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Photo: Visit to Adecco Singapore office with RMIT (HRM) students.

Do you have a friend at work? It matters to your happiness.

12 Tough Questions to ask yourself regarding Workplace Happiness

According to Gallup Organisation, 71% of American workers (as of 2012) are “disengaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work.  Surprisingly, Gen X are more disengaged than Baby Boomers (above 65 yrs old) and Gen Y (below 30 yrs old).  Those with college education and above are more disengaged than those with High School Diploma.  Perhaps not so surprising, considering that the Gen X and those with higher education qualifications may be caught in the middle management squeeze and unfulfilled dreams.

How do Singaporean workers fare?  According to a Bloomberg report, 2% of Singapore workforce is engaged, down from 6%. Global average is 11%.

Source: Gallup

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Given the strong relationship between workers’ workplace engagement and the company’s positive business performance, employers should care that their workers are engaged.    What can employers do?  After 80,000 interviews with 400 managers,  Gallup narrows down 12 questions that all employees should ask:

Network upwards:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

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Source: Lunch atop a skyscraper in New York

Networking sideways: 

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work?

Looking inwards:

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

From First, Break All the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

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Photo: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Transiting from a technical to a management role, young managers  lack a power base of followers.

Jean Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet in MIT Sloan Review suggest 3 areas to plug this deficit:

  1. Legitimacy
  2. Critical resources
  3. Networks

1. Legitimacy with bosses sends a signal of your credibility to others leading to more visibility and influence, boosting your standing.  Your boss can also connect you to influential people and information.

Research on (LMX) Leader Member exchange indicates that bosses mentally divide their members into “in group” vs “out group”.

How to build legitimacy with bosses?

On the job:Hard work while important is exaggerated to secure credibility.

LMX research suggests that one’s attitude and perceived compatibility with the boss are more powerful determinants of good relationship.

Style:

  • Understand the boss’s style, objectives and preferences. Example: Do they prefer short or long meetings? Email vs face to face?. Brevity vs depth. Adjust your communication style accordingly. Goals and interests to provide the kind of support to help boss succeed.
  • Deliver on those objectives.
  • Seek feedback as appropriate.

Accumulate credits by helping superiors get things done.  Kick start the virtuous cycle of reciprocity by making good faith deposits upfront.

2. Be a resource. Gain special expertise or niche.

  • Find subtle ways to advertise your expertise by publicly volunteering to help colleagues tackle difficult problems.

What sort of expertise ?

  • Identify problems nobody else has noticed especially regarding disruptive trends or that few people are capable of resolving and then work to address them.
  • Consolidate your strengths.  Be so good you can’t be ignored. Don’t just be a generalist.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co once said, “To be a future leader, one should have a skill that everyone looks at and says X is the go-to person for that skill. Unless you’re really known for something, you don’t stand out from the pack.

One of the risks involved is that you’ll be locked into the position.

3. Build your own network.

A high quality relationship with a poorly connected boss may do more harm than good. Protect yourself from toxic bosses. Otherwise, you’ve to identify escape routes for yourself in the event of sudden organisation shake up.

Cultivate useful allies. Sponsors who know your work and speak up for you during promotion meetings. Look beyond titles and formal roles to discover informal ties and actual dynamics that drive decision making in a group. Real movers and shakers.

How?

Reach out to both internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include government relations, customers and analysts and institutional investors and board members. Ask customers what they really need.

Curate– create forums where ideas and information can be exchanged.  This could be physical, e.g. company dinner and dance or a virtual forum where you help people connect. Gain a reputation as someone who knows how to connect people.

Many of these roles contain risks, acknowledge the authors. So walk a fine line as you may be seen as using the role for your own gain.

Assess the areas of influence which you lack.

Small Talk Topics.

Why connecting is good for our brains but social rejection is not …

9 relationships we need in our network

Career fairs are around the corner. Job search especially networking can be stressful. Why attend when we can read online company info?

Make your presence felt at these pivotal moments. Practice in small doses to acclimatise your amydala. The ability to ask insightful questions reflects an intelligent mind. 

Ask not questions from available open source material such as company website, Hoover, Bloomberg etc. Demonstrate the extent of your research by asking insightful questions.

Note that timing is important when asking questions. The questions below only serve as a guide. Use your judgment as to when you should ask the questions. Pay attention to the “flow” of the conversation to avoid the conversation sounding awkward and abrupt.

Questions about the company

  1. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
  2. How will you measure success?
  3. Between two equally-qualified candidates, what’s the deciding factor whom to hire?
  4. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
  5. What do you want to see accomplished in your team/ department/ company in the next 3 to 6 months? What would be ideal outcome or key performance indicator?
  6. What impact, if any, has Web 2.0 made on your organization or you personally?
  7. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry today?

Questions to the speaker at a personal level

  1. Can you share what insights impacted you most personally as a leader? Was there someone who was a mentor to you? In what way was this person an impact on your life?
  2. Is there any way I can be of help to you right now?
  3. What advice would you give someone going into this industry for the first time?
  4. What do you like to do? (Instead of what do you do?)

Don’t crowd the CEO of the company. Younger company reps may have more relevant advice since they were  in your shoes, not too long ago.

News-worthy events

  1. How do you read the impact of a [XXXX] on your industry?

Questions to the speaker

[Source: http://michaelhyatt.com/20-questions-to-ask-other-leaders.html%5D

Michael Hyatt is one of my favourite gurus. Do check out his website and podcasts.

  1. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
  2. As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
  3. How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the “core values”?
  4. How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?
  5. How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
  6. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
  7. What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
  8. What resources would you recommend to someone looking to become a better leader?
  9. Could you share some of the resources you use to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
  10. What are some of your go-to resources for guidance in your field of work?

What other questions would you add to the above list?  Pls comment below.

Happy Networking and career success.