Memorial Day 2014

I’ve  posted before both in my blog and on Facebook about how much I appreciate the men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces.  If you’re not willing to defend your freedom, then someone will take it from you.  This is a common theme throughout history and appears to be both part of the human condition and something that won’t change (certainly not any time soon).  This is why I support the military  since without them, we’d live in a very different world here in the United States.  Perhaps we’d all be speaking German, or maybe Russian or Japanese or some other language and the freedoms we take for granted would have been long since stripped away.  This country was paid for by the blood of those who stood up for it.  From the original patriots who gained our freedom from the British to the hundreds of thousands that were killed in WWII to the tens of thousands who have since given their lives in places like Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.

I have very low tolerance for those who claim our engagements are all about protecting business interests like big oil.  South Korea is a very different place today because we drew a line and stood firm.  And while our engagements in the Middle East may in fact protect our interests in oil, it’s not about wasting people’s lives so Shell Oil or BP can keep producing.  If we had not remained deployed with bases throughout Europe, it would be a VERY different place than it is today and not likely one most people would enjoy.  So while lots of mistakes have been made in our foreign policies over the years, and there have been plenty of times the military leadership of our country as well as the  politicians have ‘blown it’, I’d prefer what we have warts and all, to what I believe the alternatives would be had America not stood up so many times and defended freedom for itself and countless others which in turn has slowed as well as eliminated other forms of government that were significantly oppressive to people.

Our military is awesome because the people who volunteer to serve do so largely by choice.  We are blessed to live in a world (and even more blessed to live in this country) where other fellow Americans love our freedoms so much that they are willing to lay down their lives to protect them.  I know that when they are in the battle they fight for each other, but they still are also fighting for us and to protect the freedoms we enjoy as well as to advance those freedoms to elsewhere in the world by helping democracies form and take root.

Memorial day is a time when we honor those who died while serving in the military.  This is not to be confused with Veterans day which honors our military veterans who may be alive today or at least came home from their war alive and have since passed.  This is a time to honor those who never made it home or when they came home it was in a coffin.  How blessed and fortunate the rest of us are that we are surrounded by men and women who value our freedom so much that they would sacrifice  their lives to ensure the freedom and safety of their generation and for future generations to come.

One of those people who died while serving their country is Medal Of Honor recipient Jared Monti.  I grew up with Jared’s mom Janet and dad Paul in my life as they were great friends of my older brother Bill and his then girlfriend and now wife Marcia.  I remember being in my early teens and becoming an uncle as Bill and Marcia had their children and around the same time frame Paul and Janet’s family was growing and before long they had a daughter Nicole and sons Jared and Tim.  While I never got to know them very well and my own young life took me off in other directions, I’d still bump into them at my brother’s place sometimes.  I always enjoyed hearing from one of my high school friends Jim Monti, another member of the Monti family, who would talk about Jared and how fast he was growing up.

So while I never got to know Jared well, I felt connected to him and his family.  Jared grew up to be a wonderful man who knew early that he wanted to serve.  He joined the delayed entry program as a junior in high school and pretty much went straight into active duty right after he graduated.  His original plan was perhaps to use his service as a way to get college educated, but he quickly grew to embrace and embody all the characteristics the military hold so dear.  Duty, honor, sacrifice, strength, service are just a few of the core beliefs that Jared lived and demonstrated most every day.  He served in Kosovo, Korea and Afghanistan and reenlisted without hesitation as he became the consummate NCO who watched out for his troops.  He had an infectious smile and a warmth about him and his troops wanted to serve him because he measured his success not by how his superiors felt about him but by how his soldiers felt about him.  He was a true leader that did not tell others what to do.  He showed them, taught them, and he would do those same things that he asked of others and because they knew that, they would follow him anywhere.

During one of his tours in Afghanistan,  on June 21st 2006 Staff Sargent Jared Monti and his 16 man patrol were attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters.  After calling in indirect fire support while being pinned behind a rock formation he engaged the enemy multiple times personally as they tried to flank his troops position.  Then, Monti discovered one of his men Pfc. Bradbury was severely wounded and unable to move and was laying in an open depression about 20 meters away.  Another soldier Staff Sargent Cunningham yelled over to Monti that he would go for Bradley.  Without hesitation Monti insisted that Bradley was his soldier, handed off his radio and moved out from behind cover to retrieve Bradbury.  Under machine gun fire moving low and fast Monti was twice forced back under small rock cover but managed to get within a few meters of Bradbury.  Not willing to give up, Monti attempted a 3rd time where he was mortally wounded by an RPG that exploded in his path.  Unable to move from the severity of his wounds Monti spoke to his unit and said he had made his peace with God, asked them to tell his parents that he loved them and then went silent.

Nothing I write here could do justice to the bravery and heroism of Monti and countless others who have gone before him (and after him) who have made similar sacrifice for their brothers in arms and for our freedoms.  But if you happen to read this and my writing was good enough to keep you interested to get this far, hopefully you now know a bit more about Jared and memorial day 2014 can be a little more personal and real as you connect with someone who embodied all that we value from our troops.

Thanks Jared.  You would not have remembered me but I won’t forget you.

In loving memory of Medal Of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love is action.

It’s not just a word.  I was reminded of this during the homily that was given by my pastor Father Frank Schuster this Sunday.  As with any other good sermon it makes you think about where it applies to our lives.  One can see it in how most parents behave with their children or how people who love each other don’t hesitate to sacrifice something to help please the other.  Their actions speak louder than the word itself.

On a weekend that has me thinking a bit more about how awesome this country is and how much thanks we owe to the soldiers for their sacrifice I could not help but apply that same thought.  Love is action.  When I apply that thought to our military it really hits home for me.  While I know that there are a lot of reasons that you could chose to join the military aside from the love of your country (education, discipline, getting to play with cool toys that blow things up) I can’t see people signing up knowing that they could be placing themselves in danger and not having a love for their country.

I’ve read the rhetoric that would have people believe that the military is made up of under educated people or those with little choice.  However the statistics on recruitment don’t bear that out.  Median income for families whose children join the military is at par with the nation and education wise 98% of recruits have a high school education or higher.  Basically the makeup of our service men and women are very much along the lines of the makeup of the country and the idea that the military relies on people who are poor, undereducated or minorities for their personnel is a fallacy.

Even when there were drafts our armed forces did not behave like some other conscripted forces where there was little or no commitment to their country’s cause.  I’d like to think that for most of those who were drafted that while they may not have liked being forced to serve, they understood the need and loved their country enough to follow that through.  Which brings me back to love is an action not just a word.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Our military is largely made up of awesome men and women who by their sacrifices allow us to live in the greatest nation in the world and enjoy so much freedoms that many others do not have.  I know war is stupid and horrible.  But until the rest of the world also “gets it” you have to be willing to fight for your way of life or you’ll be living someone else’s idea of what your way of life should be.

All our rights that we enjoy have been preserved by our military.  If you are ever angry about where we fight, save that for the politians since it’s not the military that chooses where to fight.  They simply serve the nation they love and for that I am eternally grateful.

Please say a prayer for those who served and never came home or came home in a coffin.  And while you are enjoying your Memorial Day, look for a vet and thank them for their service and for loving their country enough to stake their lives on it.

The Optimal Human Experience

I’m sorry for the gap in posting. I’m almost to the point of proving the statistics of most blogs being 6 or more months out of date…

In December 2008 I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Infosys customer forum called Confluence. I enjoyed the time interacting with others and got to meet some neat people who were facing similar challenges in outsourcing and share experiences. As much as I enjoyed it, I hadn’t given it much thought until recently. That’s because recently I started to remember what it’s like to be having a blast and to truly enjoy yourself at what you do. It’s a state many of us would like to be in all the time. However, it seems few of us actually achieve it frequently. As I start to settle into my new role at Amazon I have found that even in a short period of time I’m seeing all the right ingredients of what it is to have a great time and truly enjoy your work. This got me thinking about what makes for an optimal human experience in one’s life which brings me back to my time at the customer forum.

At Confluence, like any decent customer forum, they had speakers brought in to speak on the themes in the conference. One of those speakers was an engaging lady by the name of Jane McGonigal. Jane was there to talk about collaboration. As she reminded people, you need to collaborate or perish. While this in itself is great advice and pertinent to her area of expertise (Game Theory), it was not the gem that I took away from her talk. As she talked about collaboration she covered how gamers collaborate better in order to achieve a common goal. As part of this they frequently are having fun and that’s where she dove in to highlight why they were having a good time.

This is where it gets good. As a manager and someone who has been fortunate enough to experience this (and perhaps arrange for my teams to experience the same thing) it resonated a lot and had me jotting down the 4 key ingredients to the Optimal Human Experience . Jane was able to put into simple terms what makes us generally happy as human beings. As managers of people this is something worth remembering since if you can put these 4 ingredients into your team experience, I believe you will have a team that not only functions better, but is truly having a great time while doing so. If you can put these 4 ingredients into your career, I would probably argue that you’re not working but instead having a great time and getting paid while you are at it. I don’t know about you but these are the kinds of jobs I like (and look for).

So what makes an Optimal Human Experience?

Something to do

Or more specifically, “satisfying work”. Most people enjoy work that is satisfying and engaging. Work that allows you to engage and perhaps lose yourself in it. If the day is dragging on for you at work, I would argue it’s probably not very satisfying. If the day seems to fly by because you felt challenged and energized by the work, then you are experiencing what I would consider satisfying work.

The experience of being good at something

Most people get incredible personal satisfaction and joy at doing something they are good at. This may seem obvious, but I’m not always sure we take it into account when working with others or assigning work. When you know you’ve done well it makes you happy. If you are managing a team and can find a way to play to people’s strengths, you are providing more opportunity for them to experience being good at something. If you’ve done a job and know that you “nailed it” (and you’re not just a carpenter) then you get a great feeling from a job well done.

Time spent with people we like

If you’ve read my prior blog posts I cover a variant of this in “don’t be that guy”. It stands to reason if we don’t like being around negative people, we probably enjoy being around positive ones. We can like folks for more than just being positive, but regardless of why you like someone, if you like them, then you enjoy spending time with them. Are you surrounded by people you like? Are you building teams where people are likable? Or are you willing to put up with unpleasant people in order to get a job done? I would argue that if you want to enjoy yourself then you should be spending time with people you like. As an individual, if you feel surrounded by people you don’t like, then you should consider leaving because you will be miserable otherwise. If you are a manager and you are overlooking unlikable behavior just to get some hard to find expertise I would argue that what you are losing in team dynamics may outweigh the gain you get from keeping an arrogant expert.

The chance to be part of something bigger than yourself.

There’s an old adage of 3 masons who are working on the same site. When asked what they were doing, the first responded “I’m laying bricks”. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? The second responded “I’m building a wall”. Perhaps it was satisfying but was it a big deal? The third responded “I’m building a Cathedral”. Now THAT is exciting and certainly bigger than he was. That’s the type of opportunity we want to be a part of and that is the kind of opportunity you want to engage your teams in. Get them to see the bigger picture. Show them the hill, then go climb it with them and put a flag on it. When they look down with you at what they accomplished they’ll get incredible satisfaction. So will you. Go build something bigger than yourself.

In my new role, I’m finding I’m not very efficient yet. So I don’t yet feel like I’m truly “good at something”. However, I expect that will change with each week as I get more familiar with my surroundings and the resources at my disposal. I can already see that I have engaging and satisfying work. I’m surrounded by a lot of people I like, and I’m definitely part of something much bigger than me. If I could tell you in concrete terms the immensity of the AWS platform and just how cool it is it would blow your mind. Hmmm….  3 of 4 ingredients that make an optimal human experience and I can fix the 4th myself. How cool is that?

So as a manager if you want to build a legendary team be sure to keep those 4 ingredients in your mix. As an individual, if you want to have an awesome time, go find those 4 things and make them part of your life/career.

What optimal human experiences have you had? Did they have the same ingredients that I’ve listed above? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

– Yeti.

The Right Stuff

I’m sorry for the time between posts.  Our family has been very busy over the last few weeks with one daughter graduating high school and another getting married.  It was a lot of fun and we also had a tremendous amount of family and friends that stayed for awhile after the festivities and we had some tremendous fun in and around the Rockies.  Everyone else has gone back to their homes now and the house is a lot more quiet leaving me time to think.  Recently my thoughts have turned to hiring quality talent or people with “the right stuff”.

Some time ago I worked as a manager at a start-up that had been acquired by EDS.  As you might expect with a company like EDS, they had a well defined program for training new managers that I was fortunate to attend.  I had already been managing small teams and had done some hiring.  We were still growing at a good clip and adding new people so part of the training was devoted to hiring the right people for the company.  Up to that point when hiring new people for the team my focus had always been on their technical ability and experience with the systems and networks that we had in use.   Interviews were peppered with questions that helped determine if the candidate understood Cisco’s IOS or could program in C.  Did they have wireless/cellular experience and if so what platforms.  While I am certainly glad we asked a lot of those questions (because we did weed out some folks who claimed to be expert in those areas and did not come close), we were only covering a small portion of what mattered.

At the managers course I was asked a series of questions that helped change the way I view bringing in good talent.  For example I was asked if someone demonstrated a strong knowledge of FORTRAN (OK, this was a while ago) could they learn C?  Or if someone knew how to troubleshoot a T1 could they learn to manage DS3’s?  Basically if someone was demonstrating great proficiency in a technical area that was of similar complexity could they learn what they needed to master the technology we were using?  While I know that this needs a standard disclaimer that past performance is not necessarily a guarantee of future performance, it’s fair to say it’s a good indicator.  My thoughts were that most people who were good at other complex systems could quickly come up to speed on new systems of similar complexity given the right amount of training (investment in their skills).

Then the questions turned to things that were about as far from technical as you could get.  If a candidate was a dishonest person, could they be taught to be honest?  If they were lazy, could you teach them a good work ethic?  If they had a negative attitude, could you teach them to be a more positive person?  The list went on but I think you can get the picture from here.  Basically, while we know people can change and we all do change and grow even in later years, ethically speaking, a lot of what makes you who you are is fairly well set by the time you are in your early 20’s and entering the job market.  If you did not have the benefit of being taught the importance of integrity by your parents how well can a hiring manager fix that?  If you weren’t taught a strong work ethic, how easy is that for the company to train?  Would you prefer to teach an employee who demonstrated proficiency in Ethernet how a switch works or would you prefer to teach an employee who likes to call in sick all the time the value of a good work ethic?  Which one do you think would be more successful?

As I talk with candidates lately about their experiences in the market I’ve noticed what appears to be a fair amount of companies focusing more on very specific skills or market experience and less on figuring out if the candidate is the right kind of person for the culture of the company.  Or at least that is the way it seems.  Over the years while working with candidates applying for jobs I have split my energy between hard skills and the more subjective soft skills and I feel that I have made much better hires when I know someone who would be truly passionate about their new role and quickly adapt to their new surroundings.

In a difficult job market like the current one, I think it’s good for a company to be choosy (actually it’s smart to be choosy in any job market).  Hiring smartly is something that pays dividends for years and years as you stock up on great employees that can help move your company forward.   I would be curious for feedback from the readers of this blog.  Do you think companies are valuing the ethics and attitude of candidates or do you think people are stuck on whether or not you are a god with Java?  Please give it some thought and leave your feedback!

– Yeti

P.S.

If you are looking for good leaders who also happen to blog, there are two in particular I enjoy that you might want to check out:

Dan Caruso who is the CEO of the Zayo Group and he has a blog at Bear on Business.

Brady Rafuse who is the CEO of euNetworks and he has a blog at BradyRafuse.com.

Precious Little

Memorial Day. May 25, 2009.

There’s a song by Eleanor McEvoy that came out about 13 years ago called “Precious Little”. The chorus repeats the phrase:

Precious little in your life
Is yours by right
And won without a fight

I’ve always loved this song because those words spoke right to me in their simplicity and truth. Rights that we have were given to us. We were not born with them. And while we all might agree that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are basic human rights that we think everyone should have, not everyone does. Why? Because there’s always someone out there who is willing to take them from you for their own gain. This is why freedom is not free.

So how did America become so free to the point that we think of our rights as “God given” or somehow irrefutable? Because people who came before us were willing to fight and give their lives in order to gain the rights we have and then again in order to keep them. Had we not been willing to do that as a people and a country, it’s fairly clear that someone would have been happy to come take them from us.

Today is Memorial day. It is a day that was designed for us to reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed services who have won and then maintained our freedom. They believed so strongly in those rights that most of us take for granted that they were willing to fight to keep them. They started the fight here in the United States of America (before it was the United States) and won our rights. So many gave their lives just to create this country. Then, their ancestors as well as countless immigrants who made this country their own, continued that fight. They took the fight to distant shores and many never came home, countless others came home but in a box and others with pieces of their bodies missing or forever scared physically and/or emotionally.

These people understood how precious our rights are as well as how fragile our freedom really is.

Like countless other Americans today I will spend time with family and probably cook on the grill, horse around and enjoy the day. But as the day started I found myself praying for those who fought to keep freedom for us and those who still do. I can’t thank them enough and words fail me to adequately describe how grateful I am.

Freedom is not free. You’ve heard the words enough now that perhaps it’s sounding rather trite. But like the chorus of the song the words may be simple but the meaning is deep and truthful.

If you truly appreciate your freedom, then thank all the members of the armed forces for their sacrifice and don’t let memorial day just be another excuse for a BBQ. Have the BBQ. Enjoy the freedom. Thank a vet.

– Yeti.

P.S.

My dad was one of the ones who landed on Omaha beach. He lived to talk about it. Funny thing is, he never really talked about it. Thanks Dad, I miss you.

Don’t be “that guy”.

Did you ever work with “that guy”?  You know the one I’m talking about.  The guy (or gal) who’s always got a reason to be unhappy.  Every now and then we run into people who seem to like bemoaning the various situations that they find themselves in.  Have you ever actually enjoyed being around someone when all they seem to do is bitch about how bad a situation is or how tough things are for them/etc?  I’m guessing the answer to that is no.  Face it, spending time with folks like that can be downright depressing.  We’ve all been there and most of us have taken a turn or two at being that guy.

I know that we can all have an “off day” where not only do you feel you can’t catch a break but that you want to talk about it as well.  And it’s OK to vent now and then or bemoan how something seems unfair or not right.  But if you are networking, then this kind of behavior can kill you.  Save the venting for your close friends, your spouse, or a counselor.  They either care enough to listen (and know you would do the same for them) or get paid to.  Everyone else, simply put, doesn’t want to hear it.

Moods, just like viruses, can be infectious.  If you are around people who tend to be in a good mood then they can put you in a good mood.  Depressing folks can do a pretty good job at depressing others.  So what if you find yourself suddenly unemployed and now you are networking with other professionals and they hear you complain about how you were mistreated at your last job.  How is that furthering your cause?  Basically, it’s not.  So even if you feel righteous about the fact that you were handled unfairly, before you go and share that with others in your network, ask yourself if it will help you get a job?

Also, for anyone lamenting that they gave so many years and so much dedication only to be let go, allow me to remind you of something.  If you suddenly found yourself in a situation where you could do reasonably better than you had been by getting paid more and still enjoying work/etc, most of you would change jobs “in a heartbeat”.  It’s not personal and you figure hey, the company will survive (and it typically will).  Well the same thing applies in reverse.  If the company can’t economically sustain itself at a certain headcount and needs to trim positions, it’s also not personal and they sometimes have to make hard decisions (sometimes there is no easy choice but a choice has to be made none the less).

So if you are suddenly unemployed due to a layoff, as hard as it may sound try to remember:

  • It’s not personal.
  • You’d have left the company if it suited you.
  • Complaining to people about the company or its management does nothing to help you get a job or get over your loss.

I’ve often said to teams that found themselves doing a hard task that I’d rather “a fake smile from someone than a genuine frown”.  So even if you don’t feel like smiling, fake it.  The results will still be better than if you were a genuine sour puss.  Nobody wants to refer or hire a negative person.  But when people meet you, if they see an upbeat and energetic person, then they will be a lot more likely to want to help.

– Yeti

On the Internet, everyone knows if you’re a dog.

OK, I know what you are thinking.   He’s got it all messed up.  The original cartoon from the New Yorker  reads “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”.  Well that was in 1993 and now it’s 16 years later, we have Web 2.0 and social networking sites that were not even imaginable back then in full swing.  Facebook has more than 200M users, LinkedIn more than 40M, Twitter more than 9M, and the list goes on.  A month from now many of the numbers will have grown again dramatically. 

So where am I going with this?  Well if you are intending to network then you will find yourself using sites like LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook or Myspace (which has been eclipsed globally by Facebook but still has more US subscribers).  Also, even if you are not intending to purposefully network, you may find yourself using sites like Flickr to share pictures with close friends.  Sites like Flickr are incorporating social networking tools that allow groups of users to congregate and share.

So unless you are purposely avoiding a lot of these sites then you are likely putting out a lot more information than you may realize onto the net.  Or perhaps you even realize that but haven’t given it a lot of thought?  I would like to take a moment to encourage you to give it a lot more thought.   A long time ago a good friend and colleague, Ed, told me that he thinks of every email he ever sends as being “public”.  That is, it could be published for the world to see, even if that was not his intent.  It’s a good way to view things since we have already seen countless examples of emails that were forwarded for enjoyment or even ridicule that were never meant to be shared with millions of folks on the net.

I have been having a lot of fun with the openness of this information simply because it has allowed me to do some great research on people I intend to meet.  I might find that they love photography and perhaps are enamored by pictures of nature, or even urban decay.  I can then use that information I learned to help strike up a conversation and relate to them on a more personal level.  I’ve even met people for the first time and had it be on or very near their birthday and been able to wish them happy birthday.  How do I find this all out?  Well it’s all part of what we willingly put out there as part of the social or professional networking that we do intentionally or unintentionally. 

Why should you be thinking of this?  Well the person that has the biggest control of your reputation is you.  These days, you can expect future employers will do some simple yet powerful searches on your background.  What will they uncover?  If you want to work on an on-line “brand” or “persona” then you may want to purposely leave your networks very open so that people can find it easy to discover you.  That’s fine but then give it some thought as to what they will find and keep thinking that way whenever you post.  Because once you put it out there, you can’t take it back. 

If you love Facebook and leave yourself searchable, will your future employer be amused or even impressed when they see what groups you have joined or read some of your rants and posts.  Or, will they be aghast and think this person is not the kind I’d want on my team, they look like a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen!  I don’t want to make everyone uptight.  I like to have fun on-line too.  But I try and be sure that generally if my mother suddenly joined Facebook, I would not be embarrassed by having her read all my posts/etc. 

So take the time to learn about the policies and privacy settings on the various sites you use.  If you are intending to be incredibly frank and perhaps a bit risque, then you should probably put some serious restrictions on how public your profiles and posts are (just remember, that even if you tighten down who can see your profile, sometimes your friends will share things you have done without your permission anyway).    Or, just give it the Mom test.  If your Mom read the post or saw your profile would you be embarrassed by it?  If not, then you’re probably doing OK.

Social networking on-line is a powerful tool that lets you have fun and expand your network.   Just remember that like a lot of other powerful tools, you can get hurt if you don’t use them carefully.

– Yeti.

Building up contacts quickly

I’m not sure that I will keep blogging only on LinkedIn much longer.  Not because I ‘m out of material, but simply because there’s a lot more to think about aside from just how to build up your LinkedIn contacts.  Since I believe that this tool can be of great assistance to building and maintaining a great network of contacts I wanted to share some quick advice on how to at least get started.  I have heard a lot of people lament not having built up their network until after they needed it (which is why I wrote “Dig The Well“).  I’ve also heard and seen a lot of other things I’d like to write about as I meet with other people who are networking.  So I will probably move on from just LinkedIn and mix it up a bit from here.

In the mean time, those of you who have been wanting to take LinkedIn a bit further are saying shut up and get on with it will ya?  OK, here goes…  So you should have set up your profile with all of your experience and companies listed.  And now you have gone in and searched for people you know who have worked at the same companies or gone to the same school.  But what about the contacts you already have in places like your Outlook contacts list as well as address books from Gmail or AOL/etc? 

Don’t discount the contacts you have and even some of those you have but don’t realize it.  (More on that later.)  The toolbar on the left side of LinkedIn has the “Add Connections” button in green at the bottom.  After clicking that you will come to the now familiar set of tabs to manage your connections.  Click on the “Import Contacts” tab and you will come to a screen that will let you scour all your best sources.  From here you can use LinkedIn to import contacts from any of your web-mail clients as well as Outlook. 

If you are an Outlook user with less than a few hundred contacts I would simply use the import on the feature on the far right that allows you to import directly from Outlook.  If you use Outlook and have more than a few hundred contacts it’s not unusual to have that feature timeout since it talks directly to Outlook.  Instead you can export your contacts from Outlook to a CSV file and then import them using the same screen but clicking on the “Other Address Book” button which allows you to import a CSV file.  So how do you make a CSV file from Outlook? 

Go into Outlook and bring up your contacts (i.e. your address book).  Then using the menus along the top select “file” then “import and export”.  That will bring up a separate screen and you should choose “export to a file” select “next” and then “Comma Separated Values (Windows)” and “next”.  You will be at a screen that asks you to select a folder to export from.  Select “Contacts” and “next”.  The last screen will ask where you want to save the file.  I would use the browse button and save the file to your desktop.  Once complete, you can import this CSV file directly into LinkedIn and it will find all your contacts that are already on LinkedIn and allow you to send them an invite.  It will also ask you to invite the contacts it found that do not have a LinkedIn account.  I will leave this to your discretion as to who you might want to invite or you can simply skip them all.

You will have also found the “Check Webmail” button under the “Import Contacts” tab.  When you click that you can specify which web mail client you use and then provide an email name and password.  It will not store the password but use it temporarily to log into your web-mail and extract your address book into LinkedIn.  Again a handy tool for getting your contacts into LinkedIn quickly.

LinkedIn also has some other tremendously useful tools you should explore rather than wait for me to tell you how.  🙂  At the bottom of each page in LinkedIn is a footer.  It has a list of links for the “Company”, “Tools” and “Premium”.  Look across from “tools” and you will see links for “Outlook tool bar” and “Browser tool bar”.  Both are excellent tools and I would suggest using them as another way for you to quickly capture contact information for use with LinkedIn.

Good luck and feel free to send me a note if you get confused or lost.  I’ll do what I can to help.

– Yeti

So you’re on LinkedIn. Now what?

OK, so let’s just humor me and say that my prior posts have made you think seriously about expanding your professional network .  You’ve created a LinkedIn account or finally logged into the one you created 5 years ago that you didn’t do anything with.  Now what?

Well first things first.  Before we talk about what you can do to import address books in order to quickly build up your network of contacts one of the more powerful ways for you to find people (and for people to find you) is for you to create a history of positions that have your title, dates worked, and most importantly Your employer.   Even if you are not yet sure how you want to fill in the details of what you did for each of those rolls, it’s important to identify the role and show it in your history.

The reason why is that LinkedIn has search features and these are the beginnings of the keywords that people will use to search for you as well as the way you can find others.  So look to the left side of the screen, find the profile section and then click on “edit profile”.  Then use the “add position” button that is across from the header for Experience.  Add in all the places/positions you have had even if there’s no detail yet as to what you have done.  You can (and should) put detail in later but lets just start with identifying positions.

If you’re like me, some companies you have worked at have changed names or were purchased/etc.  You can add a company name to one role and then a different name to another role at the same company.  For example I worked at BBN which became BBN Planet which then became GTE Internetworking which then became Genuity (whew).  So I used those company names at least once each for the jobs I progressed through during my time there.  Why?  Because if someone searched for former colleagues at BBN they would not find me if I left it off.

Once you have all your prior positions listed, along with all the company names, here’s where the fun starts for building your network.  Go back to the LinkedIn home page.  Along the left side you will see the menu and at the bottom is a green button labeled “Add Connections”.  Click it.  Go ahead, you know you want to.  🙂

This brings you to a screen that has four tabs along the top.  Click on the one that says “Colleagues” and you will come to a screen that lists all those companies you put in when you were filling out your positions.  You can then either use the “View All” feature to get a list of all past and present employees of that company, or “Find New”.  If you’re just starting, use the “View All” and this will help you catch up quickly.  Once you have looked through each of the companies and selected people you have worked with that you want to add to your network the system will send them an invite and you will see your network start to grow!  Also, you will see another tab labeled “Classmates”.  If you put your education experience in your profile, then this tab will list the colleges you have attended and you can find old classmates as well even if you did not work with them after graduation. 

Remember the “Find New” button I mentioned above?  This is how you dig the well a foot a week.  Once you have settled into LinkedIn and your profile is up to date (more on what to add into that later), if you come back every week or two, select “Add Connections”, “Colleagues” and “Find New” it will find any new people who joined LinkedIn since you last looked from each of those companies.  I’ve added more than 500 connections by just checking every few weeks over the last 6 years.  That’s one of the ways to build a deep network of contacts without having to be intimidated by it all.

Next post I’ll cover address book imports which is another way to quickly discover contacts and add them to your network.  And remember, you are only doing this so you can then use this network to be able to find and keep track of all your colleagues.  So if all you’re doing is adding to your network but never reaching out to contact some of these folks, then you’re not really doing much to stay connected.  Just remember, if you are looking for work, they can’t help you if you aren’t communicating to them. 

– Yeti.

Using the right tool for the job.

When I was young I learned 2 things from my Dad who was very handy with tools. 

  1. Use the right tool for the job.  It makes things so much easier. 
  2. If you don’t have the correct (or specific) tool, improvise. 

I’d only get schooled by my Dad when he saw me using the wrong tool if he knew the right one was available and nearby.  The job always came out better when you used a tool designed for the job.  You don’t have to stress out if you don’t have all the tools but if you have the right tool why wouldn’t you use it?

So what kind of tools do you use when you are networking?

  • Email
  • Address books (Outlook, Gmail, ACT, etc.)
  • The phone (Yes, I know many of us don’t like using it, but we just have to get over that).
  • Social sites on the web (MySpace, Facebook, Multiply, LinkedIn, Spock, and too many countless others to mention).

If you are going to be effective at networking then you should realize quickly that it’s difficult to reach out and contact folks when you don’t have an up to date email or phone number for them.  That stack of business cards you’re stashing off to the side or the ones you put in your address book are going to be out of date quickly.  You will find tools on the network that are intended to help you like Plaxo or CardScan’s “at your service”. However, these tools can fall short because they put the burden of updating your contacts on the contacts themselves and this is for your convenience, not theirs.  In other words, there’s no incentive in it for them to update their contact info for your benefit.

People on sites like LinkedIn or even Facebook and Multiply update their information without being asked.  If you are linked to them, or “friended” then you get the latest on their personal or professional situations (depending on the site) and it will be easier to stay in touch. 

So if we’re talking about professional networking, what’s the best tool for the job?  How about a tool that is designed to allow users to:

  • Update their professional experiences
  • Search for contacts according to where they work or have worked
  • Discuss industry trends for their line of work
  • Search for job openings or post jobs targeted at industry specific professionals

While you can improvise with other tools and you should still consider them as part of your arsenal in your quest to create an effective professional network, the best and most widely adopted tool for professional networking is LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn is geared specifically towards professional networking and currently has nearly 40 million users and is growing at about a user a second.  While Facebook has 5 times that membership, it is not geared towards managing your professional network.  

So if you want to create a deep well of professional contacts that you can use to find good talent or be found as good talent in someone else’s network, join LinkedIn.

For those of you who did not “dig that well” before you found yourself looking for water, I will post later on how you can quickly get your profile in shape and build up your network. 

– Yeti