Network with Gratitude to Gain Altitude

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by Chris Barton, President & Founder

The importance of effective, vibrant, personal and professional networks cannot be overstated. The first ever survey of LinkedIn members published by Anderson Analytics reflects that those with larger networks through LinkedIn earn more than those who have smaller networks. Should this be a surprise to anyone? One would certainly hope not! More specifically, the survey states that those with personal incomes between $200,000 and $350,000 are seven times more likely to have 150 or more LinkedIn contacts compared to those professionals who made less money.

Hmmm. You can’t resist doing the math (while it’s probably not the intended use of the survey) that a single LinkedIn contact could be worth somewhere between $1,300 – $2,300 per year in annual income! This is probably overstated for the example but the point made is clear. Professional networks and, more importantly, the relationships involved are very valuable indeed.The question that we have to ask ourselves deep down inside where only we can hear that still small voice is this, “What have I done lately to show the people who support me professionally how much I appreciate their role in my success?” The answer to this important question cannot be a big “Zero” or “Nada”. Our professional persona, and thus our career, both gain altitude when we opt for thoughtful consideration of the people who make it all possible. While there are many, many ways to show your gratitude for your colleagues and mentors, here are six practical and inexpensive ways to accomplish the mission:

  1. On a monthly basis pick 10 contacts in LinkedIn that will be your focus contacts. Reach out to these 10 and schedule a brief catch up call to say thank you.
  2. Keep an eye on trends and news related to your networking contacts and forward along valuable information when you have it.
  3. Acknowledge a recent promotion, educational achievement, or job change with a hand written note. It’s easy for anyone to blast off an email. Handwritten notes are impressive.
  4. Use the old holiday-card-thank-you-trick! A great end of year reflection process is to thank all those that support your business or career.
  5. Play matchmaker! Introduce one of your valued contacts to someone you know that may help them in their career.
  6. Give special treatment to your top 5 relationships. These are the folks that have helped to make or break your career. Take them out for a cup of coffee or lunch every 6 months to keep it warm and productive.

Implementing these simple tips can have a powerful impact in showing your colleagues that you care about them as much, if not more than, you care about your own success. These regular relationship account “deposits” truly are the keys to getting everything you want out of your life and your career. If you build your network with gratitude you’ll have all the professional altitude that you can handle.

Confidence: Gasoline for Your Career Search Engine

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by Chris Barton, President & Founder

There is a lot to be said for the latest technological tools in powering your job search.It is critically important that we take the time to develop impressive materials including a powerful resume to stand out in an otherwise difficult economy. Having a solid plan for execution that includes multiple lead sources will ensure a diversified approach to the hunt. All of the aforementioned is true and at the same time it can be misleading.

The holy grail of a well-executed career search is confidence.As a matter of fact, confidence is the very power source, the gasoline for your career search engine.Lack of confidence can be easily spotted. Often a professional going through the initial phases of career transition can be easily swept away into a sea of self-enabled helplessness and inactivity. What is often surprising about this phenomenon is that many professionals affected by a crisis of confidence are often so emboldened in others areas of their life. Why then can an otherwise self-aware, highly skilled individual fall prey to such destructive circumstances? The keys to answering the question lie in understanding the messages we allow ourselves to receive and process. Also central to the query is grasping the “why’s” associated with destructive professional behaviors.

The Answer Part I — The Messages

When we reach a point where our career search is stalled we need to examine what messages we are allowing into our heads. The human brain is exceptionally talented at painting pictures.Sometimes the pictures are so vivid and fearful that they produce a physiological reaction.In short, if the messages we are receiving and internalizing are negative our results simply cannot be positive. A large part of fixing the messages is doing an audit of our information sources.Who are our job search friends?Are they helping our hurting us? What are our sources for job market information?Do we spend a lot of time consuming shocking, depressing news messages? We must read positive stuff, associate with up-lifting people and carefully choose what we allow inside our heads. The six inches between our two ears is the most valuable real estate we have.The best part? We own that space and if we want to put up the no trespassing sign, no one can say no.

The Answer Part II  The Why’s

Being careful not to move toward amateur psychology, it is important to note that there are many reasons for destructive behavior that extend well beyond the analysis of a career transition practitioner.Depression and other serious mental health disorders have a separate and appropriate place for care. However, one’s level of self-esteem is powerful in explaining the why’s of destructive career-related behaviors. Self-esteem, or lack thereof, accounts for a high percentage of the success factor for those making a career move.Those who lack it may not have the confidence that their skills, experience, and education are of value. Further, they may not have ever had to truly look for a new job or have a strong aversion to asking for help. The absence of concrete, time-bound goals only compounds these issues. Direction, action, and a Career Emergency Preparedness Plan (C.E.P.P.) are central in supporting how we feel about our prospects.

We find our power and effectiveness as professionals when we have the confidence to attack the challenges that present themselves in our respective careers.Building confidence through interactions with the right people, solid goal setting, and management of the messages from our surroundings undoubtedly leads to improved performance. Action conquers fear.

My Learns as an Outplacement Entrepreneur

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by Chris Barton, President & Founder

Over the last three years I have learned a lot about being an entrepreneur. I would say that 50% of what I have learned has come from actually “doing” my job as a leader of a business that is innovating in the outplacement industry. The other half of my learning has come from a combination of sources: reading (I’ll share my list shortly), networking with other leaders of high-growth organizations, business development wins/failures, insight and collaboration of partners, and a confidential entrepreneurial mentoring relationship. If I was put on the spot, it would not be easy for me to assign a percentage to each of these channels of information. I’ll say this though, with 100% certainty, you are going to need all of it.

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely – particularly if you have experienced rejection from others who do not share your passion for changing the world. So, finding and defining trusted channels of information is critical.  There is a statistic that is widely quoted from a study done by and the National Business Incubation Association. Simply stated, 80% of new entrepreneurial businesses fail within the first five years of operations. That’s a mind-blowing number for most people and more than enough to convince many not to take the chance.

If you are considering launching a new venture or interested in joining one as a leader, you should take some time to reflect on your resolve.  It goes without saying that your “risk tolerance” should be high.  But that is not enough. If you are going to make your “roll” on the big craps table of entrepreneurship, I’d like to share just a few diamonds of information distilled from my learning over the past three years since launching our outplacement business.

Define Your Values Early On

When you get started with any new venture, it always seems as if the mere momentum and passion for your new idea are going to be enough.  Trust me, it will not be.  Becoming an entrepreneur is a whole lot like getting married. If you want the relationship between you and your company to last the test of time, then you better get clear on values right from the beginning. I am not talking about personal values. I am referring to the values you want your organization to live, breath, and display every day.

Defining and knowing business values early on can give you some solace when the monthly revenue numbers are not going your way.  We have a set of ten values that we live in the outplacement business.  One of the most prominent is “Investing in People. Investing in the Future.” I ask myself each and every day, ”Are we true to our values? Did we make a difference for this client?” I know if we get the values right that the P&L will take care of itself (for the most part). Further, one can go back to their values regularly (particularly when you are feeling stale) to regain energy and passion for the long fight ahead.

Measure Your Performance

Many start-up ventures, including mine, do not hit their initial, overly optimistic financial projections.  This does not however excuse the fact that a line in the sand has to be established somewhere. You have got to figure out the key performance indicators for your business and attend to them like a hawk. If the numbers don’t say what you like against the plan, resist the temptation to lower your goals.  It might make you feel good today, but you will pay for it down the road when it is time to ask for funding and other outside assistance.

There is yet another reason to measure performance.  Celebrations!  There is nothing more important than planning a reasonable reward for yourself and your team when the business exceeds its projections.  Celebrations and rewards are an affirmation of your hard work, diligence, and intelligence when it comes to “making it happen” on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.  You are going to need this because there will be many times when you have to say, “No celebration this quarter. We missed our numbers by 9%.”

Know Yourself

I am still amazed at how some professionals will strike out on an endeavor without having some knowledge of their individual attributes as a person.  Specifically, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you better know yourself. Let me say it again.  You better know yourself.  Why is this so important?  Well, there are some things that you are just not going to be good at in business and you will need to find others to help.  Further, it is important you understand your skills, personality attributes, desired work, risk tolerance, and working methods.

An example from my own personal background might be worth the effort here.  My Myers Briggs personality type is ENTP.  In the assessment we use in our outplacement business, I am described at a high level as a “Classic Entrepreneur and Inventor”. Sounds great doesn’t it? My personality seems almost perfect for someone in my line of work!  My “dark side” comes out when I recognize the opportunities for growth in my personality.  Specifically, I like to design things and then move on to the next thing.  This is not always a good thing.  I have learned to surround myself with great project managers and structured people who can bring necessary order and rhythm to the business.  Where would I get this insight from had I not invested the time to get to know myself?

Pick Great Partners

I am fortunate to have had picked some great partners as I began my quest to change the outplacement world. Specifically, I get to work every day surrounded by a great bunch of entrepreneurial minds at CBI Group and Placers.  These are people that understand what it is like to structure a business, build a business plan, develop a culture, and be the driving force behind a dream. More importantly we share a set of common values that allows the combined group of entities to share resources and key market insights.  Even more powerful is our ability to scale and capture business opportunities only available due to our combined competitive advantage.

As do most start-ups, Barton Career Advisors needed to establish both formal and informal partnerships to grow the business. While CBI Group and Placers represent our formal partnerships we also have developed informal linkages to complimentary referral sources, executive search firms, business leaders, consultants, clients, and friends who share our vision for the future.  These informal partners have become an invaluable part of our support network and a community of believers that perpetuate the story of a new paradigm in outplacement and career transition.  Great partners, both formal and informal make the odds of success in entrepreneurship just a little less daunting. If you want to win as an entrepreneur you need to create a fellowship of believers and supporters. Pick your partners wisely!

My Entrepreneurial Reading List — As Promised!

Here are a few titles that are on my reading list.  All great reads for those of us with entrepreneurial ravings!

  • Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  • Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
  • Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
  • Losing My Virginity – Richard Branson
  • When the Little Things Count…And They Always Count – Barbara Pachter
  • The One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard, Ph.D. & Spencer Johnson, M.D.
  • Born to Win – Lewis Timberlake with Marietta Reed
  • Business Relationships That Last – Ed Wallace