June 16, 2008

Verbal Fluency

Posted in Life, On the Job tagged , at 8:33 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Chapter 17, The Art of Small Talk, is great because it’s one of those chapters that allows you to walk away feeling confident that you have the tools to improve one small skill within the massive toolbox for networking. The reason it should be easy to master? It is simply about being honest and listening. Ferrazzi states, and I agree, that having the skill of easy conversation is not something you are born with, it is something you learn. And there should be motivation to learn, because the most common characteristic of successful people is verbal fluency. So let’s aim to master it.

It is easy to spot those who are uncomfortable, or who have yet to master the skills of small talk – they are the ones who can’t stop commenting on the rain we are supposed to get this afternoon or how hot it is outside. Sure those conversation starters are fine for a quick brush with a colleague when you really don’t want to have a conversation that lasts longer than 15 seconds, but when you want to connect with someone you have to be more memorable than the weather.

One of my favorite passages from this chapter reads, “I’ve always told people I believe that every conversation you have is an invitation to risk revealing the real you. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond in kind. So what. They probably weren’t worth knowing in the first place. But if the risk pays off, well, now you’ve just turned a potentially dull exchange into something interesting or even perhaps personally insightful — and more times than not, a real relationship is formed” (p. 147).

I completely relate to that. I would have said that up until maybe even a few months ago, I would have tailored my conversation topics to match my co-workers or whoever I was with, because the real me didn’t “appear” to fit in with them. But if I would have applied Ferrazzi’s words, I could have risked revealing the real me, and even if a great relationship didn’t come of it, maybe we would have had some interesting conversation between two “different” people. I also agree with being up front about your vulnerabilities. I have formed some of the best working relationships in my current job by being up front and saying that I’m not sure of what I’m doing. The majority of the time, the other person didn’t know either and then we could commiserate together and it resulted in us having a stronger bond.

The other half of learning the art of small talk, is learning the art of listening. People feel important when you make them the center of your attention and play off of what they are saying. Ask questions based on their last statement or tag team their thought to lead into yours. Always pay attention to names and say it again at the end of the conversation – “let’s get coffee sometime Lindsay. I’d love to hear more about that show you’re working on.”

So be observant at work or school or when you’re out in public. Listen to other people’s conversational styles and pick out what you like and use it as your own. Be all honesty and all ears and you will be on your way to mastering verbal fluency!

June 9, 2008

Music for my soul…

Posted in music at 8:07 pm by Katelyn

I would be remiss if I did not take a minute of your time to tell you about the album that has been playing non-stop in my stereo for the last 3 weeks – Yael Naim. Maybe I’m a bit behind and everyone else has already discovered her, but if you haven’t you at least owe her a listen. Yael Naim Cover

Most of us will recognize her voice as the background music in the MacBook Air commercial where she sings “New Soul”. The rest of the album only gets better from there. Her melodies are soulful and revealing and every time it plays I am in awe and inspired.

So close your eyes and take a listen. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

June 8, 2008

Effortless Consequence

Posted in Life tagged , at 2:34 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

“When your day is fueled by passion, filled with interesting people to share it with, reaching out will seem less like a challenge or a chore and more like an effortless consequence of the way you work” (p. 104).

This is the final paragraph of chapter 12 – Share Your Passions – and I took away more from these few lines than I took away from the other 5 pages in this chapter.

Go ahead, read that closing paragraph again…

Ferrazzi is calling us to a life where networking isn’t really networking, it’s simply being excited enough about your passions that you want/need to share that with others.  Then it’s continuing to FILL your life with interesting people, whether they be fully interested in your passions or passions of their own.   So to me, this isn’t really about networking at all, but about finding the passion in your life and then seeing it as your responsibility to  spread it.

It’s true when you think about it – people who are in love with something, whether it’s their business, music, politics, a community organization, etc. you get wrapped up in it and you feel a connection to that person.  You feel vested in their passions because you see the way it makes them feel.  That can be one strong network.

So what about those of us who are still in search of that passion that can’t be contained and has to be shared?  I think that we start our networks based on those who share our interests.  We can easily form connections with people who enjoy running as much as we do, or who enjoy the same band that we love.  So we start from there as we continue to soul search and experience as much as possible in our search for our passions.  When we’ve found that fire, whenever it may be, that is when we will be able to form connections with all types of people who will be drawn in by the excitement we have for what we believe in.  Our network will be an effortless consequence of the way we live.

June 2, 2008

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

Posted in Life tagged , , at 9:34 pm by Katelyn

I recently had to make yet another big decision in my life.  And by big decision I mean anything that will affect my daily life for a possible extended amount of time.  In the week and a half of torture that I went through in weighing my options and finally putting myself behind my decision, I learned something about myself that I am writing down so I remember it and future decisions will feel less like purgatory…

My initial reaction/feeling when first posed with my alternate option or decision is really my gut instinct speaking to me and that is ultimately what will make me happiest.

I have many friends, family members, and mentors whose opinions and insight I value very much.  Because of this, when a decision is placed in front of me I feel that I cannot make a choice until I have heard the thoughts of these people.  While they always stretch my mind and get me to consider different perspectives, I am influenced by them and sometimes in directions that are not in line with my heart.

That initial reaction that we have to something, anything, is what we think before we think and before we are affected by external factors like opinions, money, status, etc.   I know that decisions are hardly ever that black and white, but I think that listening to our heart and going with our gut is what we should strive for in the majority of our decisions.

In the end a decision must be made and we will never know whether we made the right one, but at least we made one and we stayed true to ourselves in doing so.

May 15, 2008

Lessons From Kindergarten

Posted in Life tagged , at 9:25 pm by Lindsay

In the play “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”, based off the book by Robert Fulghum, there’s a scene where a teacher is asking a group of kids a series of questions.  When the teacher asks, “Who here can draw well?” the entire class emphatically raises their hands shouting “I can!” and “I’m a great artist!”  The children give the same response when the teacher asks “Who is good at sports?” and “Who here can sing really well?”  Then the kids disappear and are replaced with a classroom full of college kids.  When asked the same set of questions, only one or two raise their hands.  The others respond with statements like “That’s not my major” and “I’ve never taken lessons or anything”. 

 

For me, this scene illustrates a really interesting point about a difference in attitudes at different ages.  Obviously, as we grow older we develop a keener sense of our own talents when compared to others.  No, not everyone in the world can sing “well” or draw “well”.  But why should that stop our enthusiasm?

 

I’ve overheard people being recruited for the church choir say that they’re not a good enough singer to join the choir while expressing an enjoyment of singing.  Who cares if you’re not Renee Fleming??  If you have fun singing, sing!  Same thing with friends wanting to join the intramural leagues in college.  Gee, I really like to play basketball, but I’m not good enough to join a team, they say.  Who cares if you can’t make a three-pointer??  If you have fun playing basketball, play basketball!!

 

I think it’s tragic that when we age, we let our perception of standards inhibit us from enjoying things that we’re not especially talented at.  Think of all the fun we’re missing out on.  Think of all the experiences we’re missing out on.  Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that life isn’t always about being good or being the best, sometimes it’s just about enjoying ourselves.     

May 5, 2008

Making a Life Not a Living

Posted in Life tagged , , at 9:25 pm by Katelyn

If you’ve ever had a job that was not quite your ideal job, you know the feeling that comes with the common question, “what is it that you do?”  That slight drop in your stomach, the eyes that break contact, and the tendency to speak at a much lower frequency in hopes that the questioner will not catch your entire response.  It’s not that we don’t do our jobs well or that we despise them, it’s more that we would rather be responding with the job we have always seen ourselves doing.

It’s moments like these when I wish our society would value people’s lives rather than their positions.  I wish we could respond with what we do when the clock hits 5:00p.m. and our own lives begin.  Aren’t those post-5p.m. activities where we find the most in common with others?  Sure we can make professional contacts by professing our job title, but the true connections are made by finding a similar activity enjoyed outside of work.  Besides, my time outside of work is far more interesting because that is the time when I do my best thinking.  I brainstorm ways to learn and I think long and hard about what job would be my dream job (not all of us know!).

Instead of a project manager, I would respond with, “I am a reader, a singer, a philosopher, a blogger, a runner, an artist…”  These titles tell more of the story of my life than my job title.

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.'”

April 22, 2008

In a World with Google – No Excuse

Posted in Careers, Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:13 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Never Eat Alone was really my saving grace last week. In an effort to put into practice what I’ve been learning from Ferrazzi, I scheduled a lunch with someone my former boss recommended I meet. I received his contact information from my boss and knew nothing about him other than that he had also interned for her some 10 years earlier. The night before we were scheduled to have lunch, I opened Never Eat Alone to read the next chapter titled “Do Your Homework.” Coincidence? I think not. The opening quote sums it up:

“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation” – Robert H. Schuler (p. 67)

Ferrazzi continued on to contradict my entire thought process on researching someone. Normally I would assume you would research future acquaintances to have the upper hand, the inside scoop, the dirt, but Ferrazzi learns personal details so he can uncover a similarity that might exist. Similarities lead to interesting conversation which can lead to genuine connections and friendships, which is what we are learning networking is all about. Besides, he is also correct in that people are flattered when you show you’ve taken the time to do your homework on them.

Needless to say, I immediately googled and researched as much as I could about my lunch partner for the following day. It turned out that we had a lot more in common than a previous boss and our lunch was so much fun as a result!

April 20, 2008

A New Approach

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , , at 8:33 pm by Lindsay

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Networking is no longer a dirty word. 

Until now, I’ve always felt that networking was just a nice way of saying “using people” and I’m sure to some people, that’s all it is.  But Ferrazzi explains that in reality, networking is all about helping people.  He says,

“The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others.  It’s like the Internet.  The more people who have access, and use it, the more valuable the Internet becomes.” Page 16

When you think of networking in this light, it becomes easier and more fun.  View networking as a way of contributing value to the whole group, and know that you are not the only beneficient.  The more people you help, the greater your network of connections become.  No matter what level of your career you’re at, there are always people you can help.  Keep your eyes open for situations where you can be of service to a friend or colleague. 

Ferrazzi says that another way to make networking more positive is to involve your passions in the process.  He suggests ideas like bringing someone along to participate in a shared hobby or a mid-day coffee break at a cafe – something other than a standing meeting in an office.  I think this is a great way to shift the focus onto making a friend, instead of just making a business connection.  It’ll make the relationship more personal and more beneficial for all involved. 

What are your views about networking?  What are the best ways you’ve found to connect with people?

April 17, 2008

Following Your Bliss

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , , at 11:03 pm by Lindsay

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Okay, so I’m a little late with this post, but that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute to do my taxes.

The concept that jumped out at me the most was Ferrazzi’s idea of the “blue flame”.  He says,

“We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities.  And we have to take those into account in figuring where our talents and desires intersect.  That intersection is what I call your ‘blue flame’ – where passion and ability come together.  When that blue flame is ignited within a person, it is a powerful force in getting you where you want to go.” Page 26

 So often the question of what we’re meant to do in life or what career will make us happiest is overwhelming.  This “blue flame” idea is a great way to go about answering those questions.  You make a list of your greatest joys and another list of your greatest strengths, and wherever those criss-cross can lead you to a career you’ll be passionate about.  This can also be a great red flag as to your fufillment in your current job.  If you make a list of the things you’re passionate about and your current career isn’t related to any of those passions, chances are you’re not as fulfilled from work as you could be. 

The hardest part for me is not discovering what I’m passionate about, but discovering what I’m most passionate about.  I’m the type of person that when I like things, I like them a lot.  (Any Journey fans out there??)  So when I think about my passions, I end up with a longer list than I know what to do with.  I suppose this is a good problem to have, but I really can never decide what my ultimate passion is.  In a previous post called “Question My Sanity“, Katelyn and others made lists of daring career and life choices that could replace their current plans.  I believe I would be truly happy doing any of those things I listed.  I also am quite happy in my current field.  Which one of these is my truest passion?  How do I decide? 

Maybe I don’t have to.  It would be no use to me to put pressure on myself to decide which path I should pursue if that means not taking the time to enjoy the one I’m on.  It’d kind of be like worrying about how to be happy instead of just being happy.  I like my field.  It’s exciting and interesting and I have a steady income.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy it.  If there ever comes a time when I’m not as thrilled, I have those other fields to try my hand at.  In the meantime, I’ll work in those other passions as extra-curriculars.   

How about you guys?  Is anyone else torn between more than one passion?  Do you wonder whether there’s a career that you would like more or be more suited to?

 

April 13, 2008

Friends Remain

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , at 8:28 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

This weekend I finished reading Section One (The Mind Set) of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. These are great introductory chapters that outline the need for a network and motivate you to alter your mindset and go out there to make lasting relationships & friends.  The summary points at the end of chapter 2: “Don’t Keep Score” are what really stuck with me from this section.

“Business cycles ebb and flow; your friends and trusted associates remain” (p. 21).

“Job security?  Experience will not save you in hard times, nor will hard work or talent” (p. 21).

Both of these statements really hit home for me in our current economic times.  I feel increasing uncertainty for not only what my personal career holds for me, but how the economy will effect my ability to find my dream job.   What I am learning when it comes to finding or landing the job you want is the importance of having contacts rather than an impressive resume.  And wouldn’t it be great if those contacts were not simply a friend of a friend, but someone you have a relationship with who can really vouch for you?

For now, I feel grateful to have a job I feel secure in, where I am learning and growing professionally.  I know though, that this will not be my last job, and I know that when I am ready to move on, I will need the help of those within my network.  Without knowing exactly where I want to go next, I am going to make it a point to meet and build relationships with people from all different areas of business and service, because you never know where they may be able to help you in the future.  So I plan on using this time while my job is good and steady to meet people and network as much as possible, so that when the timing is right, my relationships will be in place.

Speaking of building our careers and changing jobs – Ferazzi mentions a branding idea that I have heard before, but would like to mention here.

“Each of us is now a brand.  Gone are the days where your value as an employee was linked to your loyalty and seniority.  Companies use branding to develop strong, enduring relationships with customers.  In today’s fluid economy, you must do the same with your network.”

I plan on creating lasting impressions and really looking for relationships rather than simply a collection of business cards.  I plan on giving/helping before receiving.

I’ll keep you posted on my continued reading of this great-so-far book and also of my own networking experiences now that I am motivated and reminded of their importance.

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