Bad allies and good allies

Clearly, the community in general is not my ally in pursuing a less coherent career goal because people expect you to do something when graduating. Even as a master’s student I felt that answering the question: What do you do? with the answer I’m studying is not good enough for some. Of course there’s a set model which says that once you graduate, the normal thing to do is have a job. Even as a student you are in search of a job, preparing the field for later. That’s why there is so much focus on practical internships and extra-curricular activities. Because just going to school is far from being a good enough answer even in your twenties. You have to have a plan, to say the least. A very common question nowadays in Romania, with the spread of mass university education, is: “what do you come out to be out of university?”

I was studying social sciences - which has ambiguous correspondent in the labor market - so I was a little worried before graduating. Having to explain people what my job is was hard enough, but explaining how come I don’t have a job or work for free in research grants, internships, NGOs, student associations is even harder.

I had it in my mind very clear that I have to invest in whatever I want to get and I knew that I wasn’t a slacker. What I noticed was that my friends who had the most resources and came from wealthy families still haven’t taken jobs or haven’t invested in anything, not in themselves. And my other friends who are basically poor and couldn’t afford to graduate from university were the ones who did get jobs and still work hard, even if it’s temporary jobs and they could do much better if given the opportunity. So in the end it comes down to what you want to do, and how you make use of your resources: your allies are your resources.

So I had just graduated last July and I was having a beer with my dad. We were talking about me going away for an unpaid traineeship at the Council of Europe, having raised money to go and still needing his support to be able to make it. And when I told him that I am kinda scared about the reactions at this coming from relatives, friends of friends and society at large he said: “You have a lifetime of jobs ahead, still have plenty of time. You know what’s best for you, do your thing and don’t let others talk you out of it”. And he mumbled something about life being interesting particularly now when traveling and experiencing stuff.

So my parents are major allies for giving me all the freedom in the world to make my own choices, move around, travel back and forth. Both them and my life partner, for their moral stances and financial support as well, are my major allies. And they also become part of my goals: to make something I am proud of because I know in turn they will be proud. And my rewards to my parents so far have moved from being a good kid, having good grades, being mature about my entourage even when it was pulling me down, having scholarships, choosing well my partner in life to finally getting paid for my work and having a great first job – a so called consultant for the Council of Europe (it’s basically being part of a team working for the Edgeryders project). At the same time, I am now sitting at a seminar and wearing a badge saying “freelancer”, a term I wouldn’t know if it’s looked down upon or not. But it does imply some insecurity.

Which is what brings me to my next potential allies. More recently, I notice that professional networks matter greatly in terms of opportunities. My networks so far are mainly rooted in university, and I find that investment as a student had paid off. But I’m curious about how to continue to nurture those relationships not being a student anymore and physically absent.

What does it mean building networks? Do you build long term networks or rather it’s a chain of reactions – if 1 person in your 5-members-network is reliable, he will put you in contact with other 5, and taking it from there would mean perpetuating your belonging to several mixed networks, but not so much reinforcing the older ones? What is the best strategy?

Network and community building

To build and maintain a vibrant social media network effectively, you need a community. It is important to develop your own social media tribe. The ultimate goal for networking is to bridge online reality to real life relationships.

You already are immersed in a community now: the Edgeryders. So from now on, if I were you, I would move into high gear, and set aside daily time for network building tasks.

For instance, you can connect with as many participants as possible, ask them on LinkedIn, follow them on Flickr, send them information, find out what tribes they are in.

To expand your base, you have to be an active social media participant. Adopt other tribes, like #Usguys for instance, or other tribes focussing on some of your interests. Participate to online chats helps building a tribe quickly. All you have to do is perform during the chats, and be friendly with people, highlight them. Repeat this every week for a short period of time, and you will see results.

You can use Klout to network. Give your daily K+ to people you admire and follow. They will be happy to receive them, and this will give you the opportunity to have a dialogue with them.

Being part of online social networks is about figuring out more about who you are and finding people who like the person you are on those platforms.

To get attention on social media, show that you have something of value to share. This means that you also have to spend energy on your blog (original content). Post your content in we-blogs for more exposure. Tweet about your content. Post it on LinkedIn.

I would put a lot of energy in building a LinkedIn network, because your Linkedin profile is your personal brand.  Your profile is your billboard on the internet highway.  Like billboards along the freeways, you never know when someone will notice you. Join LinkedIn groups and become an active participant.

Remember that the real power of networking is not who you know but who they know–2nd and 3rd degree networking. I do a lot of browsing though people’s list of contacts on LinkedIn. I also bring in a lot of new contacts to my contacts. I receive less than I give, but that’s ok. People perceive me as the connector, and whenever I need some help, they are happy to give me a hand.

Use professional photos on LinkedIn. Make it a good head shot that clearly shows your face.

Find a mentor.  A relationship with a mentor offers a unique perspective, because this person knows you and watches you evolve. This is the person who has reached the level of success you aspire to have. You can learn from his/her success as well as his/her mistakes.

Identify the connectors. This is a person who has access to people, resources and information. As soon as they come across something related to you, they are sending you an e-mail or picking up the phone. Connectors are great at uncovering unique ways to make connections, finding resources and opportunities that most people would overlook.

I don’t like flirting :slight_smile:

Thank you so much Lyne! Both for your advice and for taking the time to give a hand :slight_smile:

You’re obviously very active in your own networks and do a great job bringing people together, this is helpful for us Edgeryders and equally for your own development. My doubts are in the following areas:

The ultimate goal for networking is to bridge online reality to real life relationships. - I want to take it slowly precisely because I care a lot about real life relationships and have a hard time understanding how it works in the online environment. It does take up a lot of time, and I’m not sure I want to pursue this actively just for the sake of building networks. Even paying attention takes a lot of time, and sometimes I’d rather do just that : sit and watch, and filter. As with time management, work, and making friends, being selective is very important to me. Otherwise I’d get lost on the way, and risk being superficial.

To get attention on social media, show that you have something of value to share. - Until one has smth to share, I think it’s better to just learn, study, read. and I have a long way to go.

Summing up, LinkedIn seems a good way to start, less blogging for now until I have something to say.

And having a mentor, wow. I’m thinking about that ever since I read Andrea Guida’s advice to Di:

What you could need now is a mentor, a role that is completely missing nowadays. Somebody that could nurture your skills, help to sort out your feelings and challenging you continuosly, help you to find your own questions and answers. Few of us are lucky enough to have parents like this, or their boss, or their friends. I’m not, I never found one.

Mentors are a real gift. I had a few, and I am grateful for it. Mentors are usually people close to retirement or already retired, who want to give a hand to young people in which they see opportunities.

In some organizations, they offer mentoring programs. I’ve never tried these programs. I think that a mentor is like a friendship, one does not shop for a mentor (or boyfriend) by catalog. Every time I found one, it happened ‘naturally’.

You are a very mature, really talented person. I am not worried for you, I’m sure you will find people who will help you along the way. For example, when you are in contact with people in the high spheres that came across your work, if possible, ask them to recommend you on LinkedIn. This is the new trend: people do not really write letters of recommendation on sheets of paper anymore. Prospective employers use social media to recruit. I certainly read what people write about others on LinkedIn. Do not be afraid to ask! Do not wait when you need the recommendations, ask for them right away. You will often have to submit them drafts of letters of recommendations, to inspire them and save them time.

I also try to make sure that I always keep in touch with former colleagues. They are useful when I need to provide names of people who know me to new employers (or in job interview screenings). But most of the time, I do not have to do this, because my reputation precedes me. And even if they do not ask me, I try to arrange for my future employers to be in contact with my ex exployers or key people in my circles.

We live in a small world. We never know who can bump into us in a couple of years, therefore it is better to avoid falling out with anyone. The contacts that you create now may serve you in 10 or 15 years. The husband of such woman, or the father of a friend… we never know what surprises life has for us.

 

I congratulate you for the attention that you show to people. It’s a good thing to care about the people around you, and strive for genuine authentic relationships. I consider this a fundamental quality to develop in social media. I also prefer to have fewer numbers, and try to take care of those in my circles. Sometimes I look at my colleague John Moore, for example, with some envy. 45.000 followers I do not know how I would handle it all! I don’t know how he does it!