Sunday, December 20, 2009

It’s a Process, Not an Event

Two people whose blogs I follow religiously – you know about being religious; you may not check in regularly, but you are faithful – are Tom Peters and Seth Godin. These are thought leaders in their fields and often have posts that change the way I think. Two recent posts really hit home.

I often work with clients to create profiles on It’s become a reality that social networks, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, are critical to building and maintaining one’s brand – differentiating oneself from the rest of the pack. Many of my clients – especially those of a certain age – don’t quite get this yet. They may reluctantly post a profile on LinkedIn and then ignore it. Social networks are online communities. Like most communities, they require participation to be effective. You can’t just show up; you’ve got to contribute. Most folks just want to show up; have a presence on LinkedIn, and expect the world to beat a path to their door. They get discouraged when it doesn’t happen. They’ve posted their profile, but no one seems to care.

Another group may be more active. They troll LinkedIn, extending invitations to connect. They get pretty excited when their invitations are accepted and their connections build. “Oh yeah,” they’ll say, “I’m on LinkedIn. I’ve got over 100 connections.” The problem is they’re still not contributing; they’re just collecting.

Godin recently posted about the reason social media is so difficult for most organizations. He noted that it’s because social media is a process, not an event. Events are easy to manage; processes build results for the long haul. The same holds true for individuals and their participation in social media. Posting a profile is the event, but effectiveness comes from the process of contributing. LinkedIn has groups to join and Q&A sections to participate in. Contributing to both raises one’s profile in LinkedIn and sets one apart from the millions of other, more passive, profiles on the network.

So, having encouraged you to contribute to the social media community and be involved, virtual participation isn’t enough. Peters hosted guest blogger, Karyn Polewaczyk, who in her post Meeting Up: The New Black, reminds us that we shouldn’t confuse the importance of virtual contacts with the value of face-to-face interactions. There is no substitute she admonishes us, for presenting our “best, polished self in realtime. Social media is the fancy awning that hangs from a building; human interaction is the bricks and mortar.”

Part of the process of networking is getting in front of people; actually connecting and building relationships. My friend Peter Larson notes that it’s all about relationships. The people with whom you take time to build relationships will most likely be the folks that help you find your next position. They will have an investment in your well being and will want to see you succeed.

So the process of building relationships occurs both in social networks and face-to-face. It’s not an “either or”, but a “both and.” Be active in and contribute to your social network community. Meet face-to-face with those to whom you’re connected. Build relationships.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Heal Thyself

A couple of weeks ago we addressed the need to Know Thyself; this week, we will address the need to “Heal Thyself.”

During the last week, I’ve been struck by comments about how the long-term unemployed are struggling emotionally: A colleague shared that a client of hers appeared to be exhibiting symptoms of clinical depression as a result of his year long unemployment. A client of mine revealed that he and his wife were about to engage in family therapy, as they were having difficulty adjusting to a more limited lifestyle based on the significantly less income he has earned over the last year.

I’ve addressed this in past posts – one on core beliefs and another on feelings, beliefs and behaviors with the help of my wife, Camille. However, the comments by my colleague and my client have really brought these issues home. How can we as consultants and coaches help our clients facing tough emotional issues related to their changes in employment? Again, relying on Camille’s expertise as a therapist and spiritual practitioner, my sense is that these folks need to help themselves. We can suggest changes in behaviors; point out how feelings and beliefs are affecting intentions; and let them know they are not alone; but it is up to the client to take charge and make the necessary changes to get back on track.

These changes may include – like my client and his wife – seeking help from mental health experts. Career consultants can offer strategies to improve the job search, but we’re not typically qualified to address the issues that affect our clients’ mental and emotional health or financial issues. We can suggest that clients might need to seek the advice of a therapist or other advisor; but it is up to the client to take the appropriate action, to make the call.

Similarly, mental health therapists and other advisors can make suggestions, point out issues and behaviors and offer changes. However, it is up to the client to execute on their advice. They have to do the work; they have to take the initiative.

Some behaviors can be changed without the help of a therapist. For example, simply pushing yourself away from the computer may be a first step. Instead of cruising the internet, get out and meet people. Attend a networking group with people in your profession. Focus on those groups that don’t attract only other unemployed people. There is no sense in hanging out with people who will feed your current emotions. Most professional organizations hold local regular meetings. Seek them out; learn what is happening in your profession. Find out who the leaders are in your profession in your region. Connect with them and ask for their insight on the profession and advice on the companies you should focus on.

Volunteer. Get out and work with groups that serve the down and out. If you want to feel better about yourself, work with those who are worse off. Believe me, there are folks who have it tougher than you. ‘Tis the season for helping; pick an organization and offer your help. No doubt the organization will be happy to have you.

Take a class. Learn something new. Exercise your brain. It doesn’t have to be related to your career, but it could. Pick something that you’re interested in and will challenge you. And hang out with your classmates; discuss what you learned in class; do your homework together.

So, if you’re feeling depressed as a result of the loss of your job; if you’re feeling paralyzed and can’t get out of the rut you’ve found yourself, help yourself by getting help or helping others.