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