Archives for category: Professional networks

social media

The social media acknowledgment, specifically the birthday reminders; some say this digital act is informal, heartless, and insincere. Clearly this is not the best method to use for your loved ones and those closest to you. Reach out to them, talk to them, maybe even spend the day with them when the occasion comes up. But don’t completely disregard the small act of using social media for wishing someone a happy birthday or “thinking of you.”

You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. Social media has given us the tools to keep in touch, or at least up to date, with people that we would probably otherwise lose touch with altogether.

Around the time of my birthday I had all kinds of things on my mind that had me stressed out. Some people knew about these things but most didn’t. So needless to say, I felt kind of alone at times. But I remember seeing the birthday wishes from people from all stages of my life, who are also geographically all over the world now. It didn’t take those people more than 10 seconds and zero money to write a three word post and send it off. But it meant the world to me.

Some of those people I still see and talk to on a somewhat regular basis. But for many of them, we only stay connected through social media. When I saw their posts and birthday wishes, it was so uplifting. It was more than just seeing that they were wishing me a happy birthday. It was a moment where I reminisced in my mind about how or when those people paths crossed mine. And I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason!

Now knowing what it meant to me, I make it a point everyday to acknowledge those reminders and reach out to say a quick hello.

Don’t discount those small random acts that you may think are informal, insincere, and meaningless. You have no idea what that other person may be going through at that time and it just might mean the world to them.

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It always sucks to be the new guy – in any career field or job. It was especially hard for me because I’m so impatient by nature. I remember being mad that I wasn’t old enough to enter my field. And when I finally did, I was always in awe of my mentors stories, resumes, and accomplishments. 

Even people I knew who didn’t have formal educations had so much work experience, and life experience for that matter! That had real world expertise doing all the things I couldn’t wait to do – things that I dreamt of having the opportunity to do. 

Recently I was gathering some paperwork for some possible new ventures and had to gather my resume and transcripts. And I have to say it was a little ego boost. Not because I wanted to run through the streets bragging about anything but because I sat there and looked at classes I had taken, awards I had received, and it all led to different professional milestones in my life. 

After looking over everything I was very proud of myself for chasing my dream. I was the architect of my life. But not everything was perfect. I found “F’s” in some classes and old applications for jobs I didn’t get. But it made me smile to know that I tried and didn’t have to wonder what might have been. 

Don’t ever hesitate to chase your dreams. Go after what you want – because you want it. Don’t follow a path that someone else wants you to or deny yourself your dream because someone else thinks it won’t be good for you. You need to be the architect of your life, chase your dreams, and be able to look back and smile at all that you achieve. 

I was a a little tied up last week dealing with a life long fear. It’s nothing crazy – I was not battling cancer, swimming with sharks, or crawling through snakes – I was asked to speak in front of a group and present a topic. Yea yeah yea I know this is not ultimate craziness but the elements behind it go deeper.

I have always been out spoken and very friendly. Ever since I was able to speak I was known to talk to anyone and everyone – about just about anything! But when assigned with the task I would always freeze up. From class assignments throughout school to best man speeches, public speaking has always just hit me the wrong way.

I was very aware of this fear and analyzed myself over and over again. Why was I so afraid?? I truly don’t know but here is what I came up with: I was not confident that people would want to hear what I have to say. I was fearful that those I would be speaking to would jump up and correct what I was saying. Maybe I was fearful of being judged. All of this despite that my daily role involved taking charge of groups and being an authority figure.

So when I was asked last week, at the last minute, to present at a local university I felt like this was my chance. Well, first every fear and negative thought about public speaking hit me. Only after that I decided – quite literally – the hell with it. I talk to people all the time. I know my topic because it’s my life. I decided I would just talk to the group like I was talking anyone else any other day.

I had one day to prepare for a 30 minute slot, with a question and answer portion. I felt good – then I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fill up 30 minutes !

In the end the professor of the class cancelled the second hour she had planned and allowed me to continue speaking. I spoke for over 2 hours. I was told it was the most engaged the class had ever been. I was honored to hold their attention! More importantly I was so glad I did not let fear control me.

Judging by the feedback, I owned it. That’s not easy for me to say because I’m normally modest. But how many times have you been your own worst enemy and held yourself back from your potential?

What do you have inside you? What will it take for YOU to believe in YOU. Fear is ok. Try it. If it doesn’t work out, step back and regroup. But get back In there. If you don’t give yourself a chance – who will??

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If you’re lucky you will meet countless people throughout your life in many different settings. Some will be strictly acquaintances that you know from work or through other friends. Some will grow into true friendships, and other may grow into more.

Realistically, it is nearly impossible for all of these relationships to stay strong throughout your life. You will meet them in different setting during different times of your life. Your interests should and probably will evolve and change over time. The person you enjoyed running track with in high school, may or may not be the same person you want to be your best man. As you become more interested in your kids soccer games, your happy hour friends may stay at the bar.

No matter what the reason for the change, you should learn something about yourself in the process and not keep any negative feelings when different people take different paths. Just as you change and grow so will these people you crossed paths with. If you are very lucky, even as you both change, you will be able to hold strong with a handful of these bonds you made over the years. And if you have any control over it, you should certainly work to make that happen. As long as you presented the real you when you met, and they did the same, it should be a mutual respect to see the paths each of you take. There should be no hard feelings but only well-wishes.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a great group of guys and girls.
Our “group” started to come together when we were 3 years old. More joined as we were in kindergarten. We went through high school and on to college together. We were a part of each others weddings, divorces, children being born, and every other milestone you can think of. Yet during all that we each moved across the country, took different paths, and continue to live very different lives. Yet we never lost touch. We reunited this past weekend (as we often try to do at least once a year) with the largest number of us in years. We brought out parents, and our kids.

Even with life taking different, and not always good, courses for each of us we keep our bond of friendship strong.

Make it a point to keep in touch with those who matter to you. The phone works both ways, the internet makes things incredibly easy. There is no excuse to lose touch unless touch wants to be lost.

Remember those people who you can be true with and remember the good times you shared.

Remember when everyone you knew was a stranger to you? No? They were. Even the closest person to you was once a stranger.

People get caught in their routines of life. They rush from their car to the door and back to the car as fast as possible. They do the same thing when they get home. Who wants to bother with the neighbors ? They say they aren’t in the mood to be sociable or they don’t need to make new friends. Nothing can be further from the truth.

My life long friends were strangers at one time. We met way back when we were 4 years old. Some of my best memories were made with people who were once strangers – but we met in college or through work, some of us met having drinks at a bar or in the pool. I don’t know what I’d do without them. We have a blast together. Even your significant other was once a stranger, but one of you took a chance and talked to the other one.

I’ve heard if you grow old and can say you have 3 close friends you can consider yourself lucky. I think we should aim for a lot more than 3!

Don’t underestimate the people that cross your path. Open your kind a little and let people in. You never know what they can offer your life, or you to theirs.

You never know what memories are waiting to be made.

First impressions are made fast. One study I read said 90% of one’s opinion of someone else is made up in the first 90 seconds of meeting them. That’s fast! But test it out, sit somewhere at do some people watching. See how fast your mind makes up a story (good or bad) about the people you see. And it will
all be based on you simply seeing them, no conversation, no back story – just a quick size-up.

So upon meeting someone, you have your visual presentation of yourself, some very brief conversation skills/ openers, and the always underrated handshake. A lot can be told, and should be known about handshakes. There have been entire books and industries created around body language. But here is some basic info for you to start with:

The awkwardly loooong shake:

This greeting isn’t necessarily a problem if you are spending 5-10 seconds catching up, giving an extended thank you, or on sincere terms with the recipient. Otherwise, the recipient is probably wondering why you are standing there staring at them..

Pulling in:

This motion gives the puller the essence of control over the recipient. As the receiver gets pulled in closer, they are pulled off balance. Naturally, if you don’t have a strong stance or aren’t expecting this as a receiver, you tend to automatically stumble forward.

Palm vertical (each person’s hand is karate chopping the air):

This is the most neutral of all handshakes. It shows equality. It takes out all the possible misunderstandings of body language. When I see this I tend to think that person is being straightforward. You get what you see.

Palm down (forces your palm to face up):

This action is also known as a controlling behavior. It is basically the person saying (and literally demonstrating) that they are above/ over/ superior to you.

Palm up (forces your palm to face down):

This allows the receiver to automatically have a sense of control in the situation. It can be read a sign of humility and graciousness. I’ve seen men attempt to shake a woman’s hand in this manner. It is a professional yet gentle way of shaking hands. However, some powerful women will be immediately turn their hand vertical or even flip the scenario over to demonstrate their superiority.

Wimpy/weak hand:
(Or as my dad calls it; “wet toast”)

Unless there is some medical condition or extremely dainty-ness you are worried about, don’t do this. Stiffen up and put some effort into it. Otherwise it will be read as extremely low interest in the situation or extremely low confidence.

Left handed:

What?! Yes, lefties are out there. And they are forever adapting to our right-handed world. However, in many cultures it is very disrespectful to offer your left hand. That’s because is some cultures that is that hand you use for…uh hmm.. well wiping yourself. So know your audience, but that’s a good rule always follow!

But having said that, I usually use my left hand if I am going to incorporate a hug with my right arm. It gives that “great seeing you/working with you WITH a touch of “hey we’re buddies too ya know!”

Hand in hand:

This is when someone shakes your hand with one of their hands and covers the whole execution with their other free hand. It’s used as a sign of sympathy and caring, and extreme thankfulness, if you will.

…And last but not least (and newest):

Knuckle/ fist bump:

There is a coolness and casualness to the fist bump. Its very informal, but becoming more and more popular. I wouldn’t advise it in a professional situation unless the ties are loosened and the sleeves are rolled up. But in some circles its extremely acceptable and simply replaces the traditional handshake because of germs and grime. I’ve also done the “elbow bump” for those types of situations.

So be well! Crack your knuckles inconspicuously ahead of time, wipe your hand on your pant leg, and start to pay attention to people’s body language. It’s definitely not all-inclusive but it can tell you a lot about a person.

The first time I realized I was actually out on my own was my first year in college. I got sick with the flu thanks to the Midwest weather. I had missed classes for a couple days and Tylenol and soup just weren’t cutting it. I finally broke down and decided I needed a doctor. I happened to be talking to my parents on the phone and explained my situation. My mom chimed in and offered to make me a doctor’s appointment. The only problem was I was 3 hours from home and she had no idea of any doctor in my area. Its not that I was spoiled and incapable of completing such chores, this was just the first realization that it was all on me. I honesty don’t remember if I had the energy to find a doctor or not, but I lived nonetheless.

Years later, I have moved from college, this time much further that 3 hours away from home. I ended up on the other side of the country in an area where I had no friends and no family. So everything was new – and everything was on me. It was time to step up and grow up.

Its not that this was a treacherous experience or anything, but it just addresses the little issues in life we often times don’t think about. Our parents raise us. Their network is our network. We go to the same doctor for years. We take our car to the same mechanic because that’s what we have always done. But if you really want to fuel your independence, start a list of your own “go to” people.

I actually had a 20-minute conversation with “my butcher” today as we discussed the right cut of meat to use for my Italian beef sandwiches. That led to football, which turn led to the discovery of us being from that same area of the country and cheering for the same team. That small conversation turned a random trip to the store into a very friendly experience. I now have a connection, a “go to” person, that will give me their expertise as friend.

I’ve repeated this experience with doctors. A random pre travel exam prior to my trip to Costa Rica led to a connection with the doc. He loves Costa Rica and travels there often. I was privy to some local advice before my trip.

Mechanics are another great connection to make. I hate car trouble. I’d rather be punched in the face than have car problems. So any time I need to take my car into the shop I’m already on edge. I happened to make buddies with a local mechanic over beers at happy hour one day. His shop is very close to my house. I still hate car problems with a passion but its much less stressful knowing I can trust the person who will be doing the work.

Not only will these “go to” people make your life easier in most cases, but it will also make you a more well rounded person. You’ll be able to add some local flare to the next conversation you find yourself in.  And don’t be afraid to share your own expertise. You may end up being someone else’s “go to” person. And there is no better advertising and networking than this word-of-mouth style. It makes the world a friendlier place to do business.