Tag: Networking

Something that has long frustrated me about the professional services industry in particular is the thought that recruiting can be done in a silo, separate from delivery teams.  Sure, it is nice to have headcount dedicated to this activity as it can be incredibly tedious and time-consuming, and really doesn’t fit into most typical delivery models as far as bringing in the front-line teams to assist with much of the burden of recruiting.

It is really frustrating, though, to talk to recruiters who have a bulleted list of skills that are tied to a given role, position, or opportunity.  It is not a knock against the recruiter.  I know that they will only have surface level information at best.  But since their KPI’s are generally tied to ensuring those positions are filled (or a given budget/target is met for positions), they are likely going to severely embellish the opportunity and oversell the opening to the point where it seems like you’d be a fool not to jump on board with it.  And that is a horrible waste of everyone’s time.

It is highly important to take everything that is said in the recruiting process with a bit of caution, and be sure to discuss roles and responsibilities for the position with people who are well-versed in the needs (i.e. the front-line delivery teams that are working on that project or similar ones).  I have seen too many people jump ship from a great place just to find out that what they were sold for another position or company was way off base from what the expectations they had were.  One of the people I trust most in the industry said it best when she said “After all these years, I can confirm the grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s brown everywhere”.  Now, before you indict this person and claim it’s blasphemy that green grass does exist, consider the fact that what they have effectively said is that there are pros and cons to every situation.  If you leave one company for more money, sure you may get a great pay bump – but maybe you’ll be pigeon-holing yourself into a technology/project phase that you loathe (ever had a “Testing Manager” role that made you swear you never wanted to execute another test case in your life?).  Or, perhaps you take the job at the sleek and sexy new startup with the local delivery model where you don’t have to travel.  I’ve seen a lot of people who do this get really frustrated with their roles on projects becoming merely staff aug for large in-town clients where they feel as though they get stale or lose their focus on continued advancement of skills and knowledge.

Regardless, I think there are tons of opportunities to improve the recruiting process.  And I think it all starts with putting the focus on the delivery teams.  Nothing is more frustrating than talking to a recruiter who claims to have insight into “what it’s like” when you’re staffed on a “typical project”.  No offense, but they 1) aren’t delivering projects, and 2) there is no such thing as a “typical project”.  So please – in the absence of more robust recruiting – please be cautious about who you talk to when shopping for roles, projects, or companies.  Do your own homework and talk to the right people.  Only then will you start to get a good feel for whether you will enjoy yourself as you try to acclimate to the new spot.

Til Next Time,

Michael

I polled my friends last week asking for a topic to blog about to kill some spare time over the holidays, and one of my close colleagues actually had a great idea for a piece on how to differentiate yourself in the workplace (whether you are fresh out of school entering your first job or perhaps heading to a new company or project).

If you think about it, people stand out in the workplace for many reasons.  There are physical attributes that may catch the eye as well as personality traits, work behaviors, collaboration profiles, among others.  At the end of the day, though, it is tremendously important to have self-awareness of these areas of uniqueness among us, as each of them generally pushes our needle in one way or the other among our colleagues: either more in their favor, or further away from them.

So what’s the right way to ensure you differentiate yourself as quickly and effectively as possible, without rocking the boat too much or creating a closet full of skeletons or enemies?  Well, I will be honest with you and say that I have nowhere near all the answers (or at least necessarily the right ones), but I’ll put down a few behaviors that I think may at least drive useful discussion or provide opportunities for self-reflection on the issue.

Good Behaviors for Differentiation in the Workplace:

  • Networking Downward in Addition to Upward: Often times, the people who are shaking hands and rubbing elbows up the food chain are the people who the rest of the workforce resents or considers “brown nosers”.  That is why I like to make the distinction that networking “downward” is equally as important as networking upward.  I have long held that the single most important person to be friends with in any organization is the administrative support staff.  They are really the people who run the business.  They are responsible for scheduling time on the higher-ups’ calendars, often times have shortcuts to navigate tedious or difficult procurement processes, and are generally nicer people to bounce ideas off of because they typically don’t have any sort of personal agenda or thoughts on deep functional matters over which they have zero responsibility or investment.  Building rapport with everyone throughout the organization is paramount to making a name for yourself, and often times lets you have a better attitude when roaming the halls because you always have someone to chat with.
  • Composing Polished Communications (EVERY Time): I thought about rephrasing this to be “…polished, concise communications…” but then realized I would be pointing a loaded gun at my own foot.  Either way (long or short), communications of all types must come across as polished, well-thought-out, and appropriate for the audience in order for the message to be received in the best possible manner.  Emotions like stress, pressure, bitterness, apathy, or even hatred stick out like a sore thumb in communications, as much make-up as you try to apply.  That is why it is really important to always think before you speak (or write) and proofread/polish often.  Whether it’s your spoken word, written notes, emails, or phone conversations, it is entirely too easy to be misunderstood.  So – take the time to eliminate that threat – and be sure to compose polished communications at all times.
  • Participating in Extra-Curriculars: Programs outside of your day-to-day 9 to 5 responsibilities are a great way to add character to the volume of work that would otherwise adorn your internal resume.  Joining charitable causes, assisting with internal initiatives, or scheduling and participating in work (or non-work) functions such as subject matter expert societies will not only increase your own competency, but it will expand your network and reach as well.  Pick something you are otherwise passionate about (e.g. helping children, feeding the homeless, caring for animals) and use it as a springboard to engage the support of your colleges by spearheading an activity for your coworkers.  You will be surprised at what the power of positive actions will do not only for your psyche, but also for your personal brand in the workplace
  • Dressing Properly: As I have mentioned before, dressing the part is critical to ensuring you are well-regarded in the workplace.  Even if you work in a dress casual work environment, taking the extra time to look just a bit better than the rest of the workplace will cause people to look at you and assume you are prepared, polished, and ready to work each and every day.  Doing the little things like dry-cleaning or ironing also help with coming across put together.  I will stress again, though, that it is not beneficial to take it too far.  Wearing a suit in an office place where jeans and button ups are the norm will make you look overdressed and out of place.
  • Selectively Opting in to Fire Drills: I am certain I will revisit the topic of fire drills in the future, but suffice it to say I generally make a habit out of avoiding them at all costs.  I think that they largely are created by people who are unprepared or indifferent towards doing real work, or onset by people who have the propensity to procrastinate (no offense to those people – I have been known to put myself under extraneous pressure by intentionally waiting until a moment’s notice sometimes as well…).  However – there are circumstances where stepping in to help in these situations will make you look like a great team player and give you the opportunity to provide leadership in order to help achieve a required outcome.  Stepping in to help on high profile projects that are critical to your business or functional area is something your colleagues and superiors will remember for a long time to come – especially if you made a significant contribution to arriving at something great.  Just don’t make a habit out of it – people will form a dependency on people like you and ultimately take you for granted.  And that’s the quickest way to ruin work-life-balance: always being the person going the “extra mile”, working the weekends, and maintaining late nights just to help someone who didn’t do an effective job of planning their project in the first place.  We should all agree to stop rewarding poor planning when it becomes the rule rather than the exception.
Just remember that in everything you do in and around the office (or even outside of it), you are adding to your work profile in one way or another.  If you don’t want to be adversely judged for your actions – think about doing something different.  It may not always seem “fair” to be judged for some of the things you think are petty or inconsequential, but I’ve always believed one thing to be true: life’s not fair.  Not trying to be pessimistic – just realistic.  Welcome to Corporate America.  Knowing and playing by the rules is a huge part of your success, and the ability to act appropriately within those confines is something that will leave you prepared for the next level in any endeavor you choose.

Til Next Time,

Michael

I know Twitter isn’t for everyone, but I think we all owe it to ourselves to at least see what people are saying in this vehicle as it is really a powerful platform which many industry leaders, visionaries, and highly intellectual people go to for their most personal, unabridged, and raw thoughts.

That being said, I would like to offer a couple great follows on Twitter:

  • Tim Ferris: the man behind the 40 hour workweek and all things productivity-centric
  • Richard Branson: the CEO of Virgin Air and a true visionary in technology and society
  • Mark Suster: a technology entrepreneur-turned-venture capital guru who has authored a very popular blog Both Sides of the Table
  • Cindy Ratzlaff: a marketing expert with great insights on creating buzz for your brand (perhaps I should heed her advice more?)
  • Jason Fried: Co-Founder of 37 Signals (a Small Business software) and author of one of my favorite books: Rework, for which I, sadly, don’t get commissions upon referrals :)
  • Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook COO and visionary for the advancement of women in the professional environment
  • Malcolm Gladwell: best-selling author of several of my other favorite books including The Tipping Point, Outliers, Blink, and his newest – David and Goliath among other professional accomplishments (and, lesser known fact, he’s a big sports enthusiast)
  • Mark Cuban: a professional idol and consummate businessman/entrepreneur (and owner of a sports franchise, the Dallas Mavericks, another profession on my to-do list)
  • Steven Colbert: talk show host and all-around funny guy; hey, we need someone to add humor to life events every once in a while right?

Anybody you follow that’s worth paying attention to?  Drop me a line, would love to hear!

Til Next Time,

Michael (clearly I am more of a follower than a poster on Twitter, unless pushed 4square checkins count!)

Funny Workplace Ecard: I need to get some business cards so I seem like the kind of person who has business cards.

So a quick blurb about business cards.  You know, those things your company helps you get in your first couple weeks on the job, mostly so they can teach you how to use your internal procurement systems (which, by the way, will definitely have their own rant at some point – promise)?  The 500-pack that you swear you’ll never use, and laugh about a few years from now when it’s still unopened?  Those pieces of ancient history which are no longer relevant because everyone has embraced the digital age, wants to reduce our carbon footprint, and hates the thought of killing trees?  Don’t shoot the messenger, but…

I actually think they are wildly useful.  And have formed the basis of many key relationships for both myself and many of my close colleagues.  And you should never leave home without them.

Think about it: when you first meet someone, 99% of that interaction is going to be words spoken between you, your ability to engage with that person, and the common interests, products, needs, or skills which you are able to discuss.  I am not going to debate that.  And, whether or not you choose to follow up with someone is definitely up to you and will likely be influenced by the mutual perceived value of that interaction and your ability to help each other later on down the line.

But I cannot tell you how many times I have met someone, really enjoyed their presence, and then totally forgotten their name or moved on to something else requiring more focus 5 minutes later.  Hence, no ability to add them on Linked In, shoot them a follow up note, or do deeper research into their role, company, or industry.  And, you know what?  Shame on me for that.  But the bigger “shame on me” in my opinion is not at least giving them my business card.  I have zero excuse.  I should have them on me at all times.  Because even if they don’t carry theirs with them – I should be confident that my interaction with them was engaging enough that, when they go to clean out their pockets that day (or later that week, the next month when they finally do dry-cleaning, whatever – I don’t judge!), odds are that seeing my business card will make them recall that interaction.  And, in the event that I am able to get one of theirs in return – I am going to do the exact same thing.  I may not follow up immediately, maybe not even in the next month.  But when I stumble upon that business card later or add that person to a professional network/contact list of mine, I have provided some form of cement, something tangible, to that relationship which may not have been there without the trusty business card.

Listen, I know they aren’t for everyone and some people are anti-business cards.  I get that. But for those of the rest of us that still need some traditional crutches or subtle reminders over time to connect with someone, look someone up, or add someone to our professional records – they are a fantastic way to ensure there is something physical to back up a relationship besides the memory of a great chat.  I am a huge advocate and invite you to reassess whether or not it may be time for you to issue your next order for a fresh set.

Editor’s note: Sorry for all the continued someecards images alongside the articles.  To be honest, I was really just aiming to get some color behind the blog.  And – I’ll admit – I think they are generally wildly entertaining and provide witty commentary on issues facing us all.

Til Next Time,

Michael

I work at a company that places a huge emphasis on the value of people and collaboration. Naturally, a lot of my colleagues have (since we started working together) morphed into friends. Which causes me to continually assess my professional network and understand what value my relationships, colleagues, and network bring me (and, converesely, and value I am making sure I bring them).

Just the other day, I asked a few people to take a peek at my site and offer some feedback. Of course, I didn’t expect a 100% take rate. I knew that some of them would punt it because they were too busy, some would give me the bare minimum to make sure I knew they valued our relationship, some would go over the top and give way too much, etc. Such is life.

An excellent colleague is irreplaceable. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy finding someone that I work well with (inside as well as outside of work) and aligning myself with them in future endeavors, even if they aren’t project or work-related. You know they have your back and will always go to bat for you or help you in a pinch. Largely, the people I sent the michael-wiggins.com survey to were those people. But it’s still intriguing to see how much time and energy some of them have dedicated to ensuring that I am fulfilling my goals with the site and helping add further value by offering suggestions on my next post or helping point out grammatical issues/typos (even if, as much as I hate to admit it, imperfection in my original drafts has somehow unsuspectingly entered a post – kidding). I truly value those kinds of feedback and it is my goal to always make sure I am giving them the same type of help if asked.

Another Public Service Annoucement: the holidays are rapidly approaching for most of us. Be sure to recall those excellent colleagues and do something special for them. A bottle of wine, a hand-written note, a $5 Starbucks card. No gift is too small. But also be sure to remember them at other times of the year. If you ignore those relationships, there’s a chance they will move on from you because you aren’t reciprocating their energy and collaborative spirit. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.

Til Next Time,
Michael

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