Networking is an Ongoing Endeavor
Networking is an essential part of a job hunt. It gives you exposure to many more potential employers and is a much better targeted approach than just sending resumes in bulk to every company in your field of expertise. But networking is not just a job-hunting tactic, it’s also part of successful career development.
Networking, whether through social gatherings organized specifically for that purpose or through online social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, can help you advance your career, get you within reach of new business opportunities or, why not, lead to a desired career change. It’s not always about direct business opportunities, either, and it doesn’t need to be. Networking can bring professional insight; it can help you find a mentor to advise you in your professional development or, at the least; it will help you stay in touch with the latest developments in your area of work while also expanding your network of personal contacts, something that could come in handy when you decide on a radical career move such as, for instance, starting your own business.
One thing to bear in mind is that networking is not a single isolated event. You need to maintain the new contacts you make, develop the new relationships that could prove to be mutually beneficial over time. This is true for both face-to-face events and social networking. In both cases, you need to bear in mind that though everyone participating is marketing something, a business or themselves, this should not be done in a direct, pushy way. Be patient, no matter how eager you are to tell everyone what a great company you’re working for or what a great professional you are. Networking is about socializing, after all, it can provide a nice break from your usual work, an interesting conversation with like-minded people, even if there are no direct material benefits evident straight away.
When it comes to networking on a digital channel, make sure your profile creates a consistent, favorable impression. What this means is, avoid posting improper statuses or links or, there are now privacy options that allow this; filter them and take good care of your public profile. If you’re in marketing, for example, posting a status which says that marketing is the worst business there is would be unwise, even if you’ve meant it as a joke. Share it with your personal friends, not professional acquaintances. It’s common sense, really, but it bears reminding in a digital world where everyone is connected.
Just like politicians are always preparing for elections, regardless of whether they’ve just won or lost them, a successful professional should always be ready for a change that would take them further along the path they have planned for themselves. In this, networking is an invaluable tool — you never know when you’ll need a contact that you made at a social event or on Facebook. You also never know when someone who’s needed your help will be able to help you, so be ready to offer help and assistance. After all, all relationships are about giving as well as taking.
Trust at Work — Why It’s Essential
Trust is the basis of all relationships and although perhaps most of us would first think about personal relationships and the importance of trust in them, work is also about relationships and trust is equally important at the office. Think about it, if you can trust your co-workers and your boss, or your team if you’re a team leader or manager, work will go much more smoothly than if everyone is suspicious and distrustful of everyone around. Building and maintaining trust at work is a continual process that brings benefits for all parties.
Workplace expert Nan S. Russell says there are ten ingredients of a trust-based work relationship, and they’re much like the ingredients of any relationship. Starting with the fact that a successful relationship holds mutual benefits, Russell goes on to list factors such as bringing the best of your personality into the relationship, being honest, trustworthy and tolerant, and investing your time, commitment and communication in making this relationship work. Trust-based relationships mean people showing genuine concern and compassion about the other’s problems, being polite, inclusive and appreciative of their efforts and always aiming to give more than you get, but without forgetting your own interests, of course. Trust is also about respecting others, acknowledging their achievements and helping them perform at the top of their abilities.
It may sound easier said than done but it doesn’t really take this much effort — just treat the others in the same way that you want to be treated by them. There’s hardly a person who wants to be ignored and disrespected, isn’t there? If all the ingredients of a trust-based relationship are in place, or at least most of them, it will drive engagement among employees and that’s something that’s been a big problem for companies recently. Engagement makes us more productive, more willing to cooperate with our co-workers, more accountable and even more creative. At the end of the day, it makes us happier about what we do and happiness is the key to great performance at work.
If you’re wondering whether you’re doing enough to build and sustain trust-based relationships at work, here are six steps of developing trust at work suggested by business consultant Pat Mayfield. The first step is honesty, even if the information you’re sharing could be to your disadvantage. Next comes using good judgement, which means protecting the personal information of anyone you work with and being careful about excessive truth-telling which could have the opposite to the desired effect. The third stage of building trust is being consistent, in words and actions, fulfilling your promises and doing the job that’s been assigned to you. A fourth step is being honest in your nonverbal communication, including direct eye contact (but without intent staring, of course) and an open posture. There’s a lot about nonverbal communication online, read some if you think you can improve yours. Fifth on Mayfield’s list is a mutually beneficial attitude, that is, avoiding a self-centered approach at work and building mutually beneficial relationships. Last is a special advice for leaders and how to be a strong one. Leaders, says Mayfield, are not afraid to ask the tough questions, they focus on issues and their solutions, not on personalities and they set an example for those around them with their accountability and responsibility.
Good Work Ethic — A Guarantee Of Success
What is work ethic? It’s the way someone conducts herself or himself at work, how they interact with others, how punctual they are, how well they do their work and how committed they are. It follows naturally from this short description that a strong work ethic is vital for the success of any enterprise. There isn’t — or at least there shouldn’t be — an employer in the world who doesn’t care how committed their employees are, how engaged they are with what they do. Engagement and job satisfaction drive better bottom lines, after all.
Strong work ethic has five characteristic features, which ambitious employees should strive to develop and constantly improve, and employers should try to foster in their employees. First among these is integrity, the ability to create and maintain relationships of trust with your co-workers and managers, as well as with clients, being able and willing to give honest feedback, in short, displaying sound morals and reliability. Another feature of a person with a good work ethic is the sense of responsibility. Fostering personal responsibility in employees without making their work sound like a punishment is probably one of the harder tasks of managers. After all, the inherent sense of responsibility is different in different people, some are naturally more responsible in everything they do than others. But fostered this sense should be — feeling personal responsibility for a task makes us excel at it, put our best effort into accomplishing the set goal.
Another thing that sets those with a good work ethic from the rest is that they don’t compromise the quality of their work. Many unmotivated, disengaged employees can only be bothered to do the minimum of what is expected of them. In contrast, people who are engaged and committed will be ready to go the extra mile in order to perform at the top of their abilities and skills. This excellence requires what is the fourth feature of a strong work ethic — discipline. Nobody is in full working mode all the time, productivity and energy fluctuate during the day, so it takes some discipline to stay late in the office and finish an urgent project, for example, or come in earlier to help a co-worker with a particularly difficult task.
Last but by no means least is the sense of teamwork in each of us. Some are better at being individual players, others are born to work in a team, so this is also something that takes improvement, as most work environments involve some form of teamwork. Here the key figure is that of the team leader whose job it is to encourage team work and make everyone feel like they belong. That of course doesn’t mean that team members shouldn’t contribute, on the contrary. Managers can do initiative after initiative for improving the work ethic of employees, but nothing can replace the genuine desire to improve your own ethic. It’s worth it too, as it makes the foundation for a strong reputation of professionalism, something that’s invaluable throughout a career.
Change Is What Drives Us Forward
We human beings are creatures of habit. As a rule we like things that are important to us to stay the same. We fear the unknown, a fear that has its roots in the dawn of humanity when so many basic things were uncertain, like will there be food tomorrow and what’s that scary sound in the night. But this fear has always clashed with the desire to make life better, to gain knowledge, to progress. And progress, any progress, is inevitably driven by change, a change in thinking, a change in perspective, in the least. Progress brings change with it, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but change is always there.
Few are those among us who can embrace change wholeheartedly, without fear. House would probably say there’s something wrong with their heads, but they’re probably luckier than the rest of us. Even if the change is something you’ve dreamed about, like starting a new job in the city you’ve always wanted to live, even if you’re getting married to the love of your life, there’s always that quiet voice — for some it’s very loud — that asks “What if it doesn’t work?”. Well, every change involves some sort of risk, that’s unavoidable, but shunning change just to avoid risk keeps you still, stops you from becoming better, more successful and, ultimately, happier. Because, besides risks, any change, even those events that make us feel it’s the end of the world, such as losing your job, abound with opportunities. It just takes a little change of perspective to see them.
If you think about it, life is a series of changes and there’s no way around that. Even if we’re unaware of it, we ourselves are constantly changing as time goes by. We learn new things, we acquire new skills, we meet new people, go to new places, and our lives are in a constant flux. All this changes us in ways so subtle sometimes that we can only realize how major the change has been in hindsight. Even planned changes such as education and career choice can go in an entirely different direction from what we planned initially. That’s what makes life so interesting, in fact, that it’s always full of surprises, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. And why bother?
The way to accepting and embracing change starts with accepting that there are many factors in our lives over which we don’t have control. It is impossible to hold the reins of absolutely every aspect of life, pure and simple. Besides being impossible, it’s also not very smart — exerting constant control, or rather trying to, is a stressful undertaking and as such it takes away much of the joy that personal and career achievements could bring you. A smarter approach would be to look for the opportunities that come with every change. No matter how adverse it may look, there is literally no event that doesn’t create an opportunity. Think back to the worst thing that has ever happened to you. Did you come out of it wiser, though scarred, a better, or at least more knowledgeable, person than you were before? Did you learn something new from it? If the answer is yes, then you’ve been able to take advantage of the opportunity without realizing it. Don’t be afraid to embrace change. You can’t run away from it, you can’t hide and let it pass you by. Embrace it and see the opportunities it brings with it.
How Being a Mother Fosters Entrepreneurship
Women-owned businesses rose by a striking 59% in the period between 1997 and 2013, while the overall number of companies went up by a more modest 41%, according to figures from American Express OPEN. The increase has been attributed, among other things, to the Great Recession and tech advancements that have made it much easier to start a company. There’s a third factor, however, that’s no less important than these two and it’s the fact that once we become mothers, the working conditions we’d been used to before very often don’t suit us anymore.
Many women entrepreneurs, according to a report by NBC, previously worked in large companies but after becoming mothers they felt they needed much more flexibility and their employers could not supply it. Running your own business also means being solely responsible for the use of your time, which allows moms to juggle family and work better. Meanwhile, it has become clear that women-led businesses as a whole do better than the national average, even though they’re still relatively rare, a fact that should be considered by women willing to start up their own company but afraid to do so in case they fail.
Great as it sounds to strike out on your own and become a company owner, like with any other job it’s not all roses. Being an entrepreneur means that you’ll have to make sacrifices when it comes to your family. According to entrepreneurship author Rhonda Abrams, you could be kids-first oriented or business-first oriented. In the first case, when you start a business you should be aware that you’ll be missing out on profitable opportunities, not that you’ll care too much if your kids come first, anyway. Of course, the opposite is also true — if you’re focused more on your business, there will be things from your kids’ lives that you’ll miss out on. Since there’s no way around this, you should just accept facts and avoid torturing yourself.
Sometimes becoming a mother in itself is enough to push you toward entrepreneurship. You find ambition you did not suspect you had, willing to do all it takes to provide your precious one with the best possible start in life. This ambition sometimes unlocks a great creative and business potential and it’s up to you to realize it. Being a mother and a business owner could be a very taxing undertaking but it’s also immensely gratifying. Even when you have to work instead of going to your son’s first baseball game you know you’re not doing it for an unsympathetic, distant employer, you’re doing it for your son and yourself. Being your own boss also means you can do work that you like, you can choose what projects to take on, giving yourself enough time with your family, at least from time to time. And finally, as a business owner you can create jobs, helping other moms support their families. Starting a business requires a lot of work, from business planning to finding money to finance it, to arranging daycare if your children are small. It then takes a lot out of you to keep it going, but if you love what you do, and you’re more likely than not to start up in an area that you like and are knowledgeable about, every effort will pay off.