Friday, December 19, 2008
News of the current unemployment rates in the US and job losses saddens me. Even in India the papers are saying that there's a slow down in hiring. As I look back at 2008, I realize that this is probably the tenth year of my working life, albeit three years in the middle, when I took a hiatus. I came to India, got myself a degree, and learned new skills. I worked on freelance projects and tested the waters of corporate India. All this time, I've never looked for a job. Not even for the freelance gigs. I did it because I had a great network of friends, colleagues, and a caravan of characters.
When I think about my luck at getting phone calls of jobs and projects from folks, I realized that it can't be just luck and friends. There has to be something more. And I'm not even including the HR consultants who call on this list because my resume is not registered with any job sites. However, I am on LinkedIn and Twitter -- which I suggest you get on too if you're not already there.
I'd like to share the 6 key things that I do that gets me offers for jobs without looking:
1. Don't be comfortable
I'm a person who is never really settled. I was born a nomad and that I will always be. Usually I'm not comfortable with doing just one thing. My "monkey" brain often wanders off. That's how I get great ideas, and keep myself creative and innovative. I'm always in search of "the next level." In order for you to grow as an individual and a professional. Ask yourself: "What's MY next level?" Be brutally honest with the answer. You might even have to change yourself, re-learn things, or pick up new skills. It's natural to be scared of change, but it's OK. And you're not alone in being scared of change here's a study on why change is so hard.
2. Know your shitz
When I started out in film, I only had the creative brain to write stories. I had no idea about filmmaking. When I became managing editor of a print magazine, I had no idea how to run a magazine. When I took over my current position, I had no clue about email marketing. (Catching my drift?)
For filmmaking, I was selected to be in a summer intensive course. We were taught about everything from the process of filmmaking to film theory. Then we shot the film. For being a managing editor, I read a lot of books, on writing, and on running a magazine. My boss was gracious enough to teach me Quark Express and give me pointers on how the printing press worked when he was free. I had to research all the stuff about what makes email marketing work. I'm so grateful that sites like ClickZ, MediaPost, and iMediaConnection exist. I would be lost without them.
My then boss gave me a general direction to work with the creative. We had great brain storming sessions on content, but that wasn't going to give me clicks. I had targets to meet, and fast. I evaluated the creative, hand coded and changed the back end HTML structure. (I was told not to touch it ^_^) Oh, and I threw away the software I was supposed to be working with. But yes, the targets were met and we set new ones. All my bosses were happy. I get to keep my job and I'm happy.
Go back to your paper: what will it take to achieve your goals? Do you need to train yourself more? Remember even doctors who are professionally trained need to keep up with the latest medical journals. Again, do you need to change something that you've always done? Just because it's always done that way doesn't mean you can't improve the process for better results. Know what you have to change, experiment, wait for results. Repeat.
3. Give advice or ideas freely
If you know it, act like it. You won't believe how many times people walk up to me and ask me for directions on random streets and bookstores. In fact, just this morning a family walked up to the most foreign looking person, me, and asked me if they were in the right metro station.
Once you get on Twitter, or any forums, groups you hang out you'll see topics and questions. When someone asks a question, respond to it if you have the answer. Chances are, he or she is not the only one who have the question in mind. For LinkedIn go to the Answer section. If you're going to be active I suggest you get the feed of your field of expertise on your feed reader
This is also how I get more people networking with me or following me. When you sound like an expert on something, you ARE an expert. You don't need to prove that with paper certificates and rubber stamps (which are very very very important in India and Myanmar.)
Word of warning: people should not be using you as a walking Google or Wikipedia (they call me "yu-kipedia" here.) There's a limit. That's when you politely say, "Type so and so on Google." or wear a tee shirt that says, "Just Google It" (no, I haven't done that! But if you want it you can get it here.)
4. Network like a diplomat, not a headless chicken.
Whatever I learned about networking today, I learned from my career diplomat parents. The diplomatic community in any city is always close knit. They know who the people are to network with, what country they represent, and what they do officially. Remembering this is very important, it determines precedence, protocol, and how you act with the person. My parents stayed connected with both people from their own country and other countries.
Here's how to apply that to the Internet: Go to Twitter Search and type in your industry, field or profession check out people's profile. Follow @MrTweet and get your report on who to follow. Decide whether it'll be good for you to follow or not and follow them.
Do the same on LinkedIn but remember it's a more professional space than Twitter. Best way to do it on LinkedIn is to look at the Answer section and add the people who have interesting answers to the questions. Of course this space is best for people whom you've actually met at trade shows, conferences, conventions etc.
Don't add people like a headless chicken, adding or following everyone you see. Leave that to the teenagers (or now not so "teen" folks) on MySpace. The number of followers or friends will just be a useless number if you can't harness the power of your network. Besides, twitter will kick you out if you're following insane amount of people, have very little updates and almost no followers. Chances are tweeple will see that you're a bot and block you.
5. Never burn bridges
This goes hand-in-hand with networking like a diplomat. You know what happens when diplomats stop talking? War. One of my mentors wrote that we should know people in high places as well as in low places. But that's very vertical or linear. Life's not like that anymore -- today's mail room clerk (do they still have them?) can be tomorrow's CEO of a fortune 500 company. Just because someone is your staff, colleague, or someone who is not related to your current job process doesn't mean they would not be at a place of influence -- chances are, they already have a sphere of influence.
People are more networked and well connected today than before. Your future employers will ask about you to their friends, clients, people they've worked with either formally or even informally in conversation. Your future colleagues will always ask to the people who have worked with you, "How is she to work with?" "What is he like?" This happens a lot in India, not just for an expat like me but people generally talk about people. (Of course, you get a special spotlight when you're an expat.) Your friend or classmate can become a client. The decision your future employer makes between you and the guy or gal next to you can be that one reference. (Yes, I've faced both scenarios.)
Now once you burn a bridge, their friends, friends of friends, connections, potential clients, potential job offers are gone too.
6. Keep in touch, be visible, and put yourself "out there" (for the right reasons)
I started carrying business cards in high school. I was a cocky school president who tried to pick fights with Rudy Crew, the Chancellor of NYC Board of Education. I advocated for the alternative school system, I was part of that system. Now, I've stopped carrying business cards. I tell people I meet to just google me. I'm narcissistic enough to get a kick out of it, but I'm saving trees.
Ask yourself: Can people google me? What will they find if they do? If you don't like what you see, you better bury that stuff with the good stuff you want them to find. A quick way to do this is to sign up for all the major professional social networks like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Naymz, Xing, join a niche social network of your industry on Ning, Facebook (though it's more 'social'.) Make sure your name is in the URL like: http://linkedin.com/in/yuyudin. Remember, your name IS your brand. Protect it with your life. Manage your reputation online and offline. The next thing to do is to have a blog with your name on it. But you need to update that on a regular basis. Talk about the subjects that you know. Read this article for personal brand. Read this one on your online reputation management.
Thanks for reading this until the end (it came out longer than I thought) ^_^ Click here to get connected with me on LinkedIn or click here to follow my crazy thought process on Twitter. Thanks CC for the proof read!
Photo by: khalilshah