Advocates Offer Support

Hand-Balance-1-285x300In your life, there are individuals who know you, care about you and want you to succeed. These admirers are your  advocates, people who speak on your behalf, not because you ask them to but because they believe in you and want you to succeed. They are the ones who tell other people how gifted or talented you are, how you would be perfect for a job or position or would be a great addition to a board of directors. Many of my advocates are responsible for my career success. Because of them, I was recommended for – and landed – several jobs and board positions.

Years ago, I received a call from a professional woman who was also my mentor. She had been at dinner the evening before with a man who was looking for a marketing director and company spokesperson. When he asked if she knew anyone who was qualified for the job, she immediately said, “I know the perfect person.” The next day the man who would later become my boss called me, and I ended up working six years for that company. I didn’t ask my mentor to help me find a job. She recommended me because she believed in me and wanted to see me succeed. You see, my mentor had seen me in action, and was familiar with my work style and the quality of my work.

A young woman who I have watched grow in her career for more than 20 years shared her story with me. When I first met her, she was just 18 and had accepted a position with a nonprofit organization as an administrative assistant. She was working her way through college. She had a positive attitude and engaging personality and loved working with people. Several years later, she left that position to work in the Human Resources Department of a large corporation. She had found her career passion.

Early on, she shared with her boss a future goal: To become head of the department. He told her what she would have to do, and said that it would require obtaining experience at one of their out of state plants before moving up within corporate headquarters. When such a position became available, she was the first person he approached. She accepted the position and happily worked her way up through the corporate ranks. It didn’t happen by accident, of course. This boss of hers was her advocate. He believed in her and wanted her to succeed. When the position became available, he knew the “perfect person.”

As you move through your life and career, identify who your greatest advocates are. Keep in contact with them so when greater opportunities become available, they will think of you. Let your intentions become known. You just might receive a call, text or email from your advocate who thought you were that perfect person.

What are you doing to keep in contact with your greatest advocates on a regular basis? How are you letting your intentions become known?

Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 5

peoplecutoutsLesson Five: Cross-reference your database. “Who do you know who…?” is often a question you are asked by colleagues and friends when they are seeking the right person for a business partnership, career position or task. When you are ready to make a referral, you need an efficient system that will help you find and connect people through a quick search. Because your database contains all of your important contacts, you want to design it so it stands ready to help you when you need it the most.

Database software helps you to design a robust database so it works best for you. When my technology consultant set up the database for my business, she began with an important question: “What do you want to be able to do with this information?” She opened up my eyes to what was possible. Together, we designed a custom system that meets my specific needs.

When you set up (or revamp) your contacts database, add a variety of fields that will create different lists. For instance, you can retrieve target groups of individuals, like men, women, chief executive officers, vice presidents of sales and marketing, women business owners, etc. simply through the identifying codes you use. You can also run lists of people by occupation, like human resources, sales, marketing, training, finance, etc., or by geographic location. When a client was looking for a facilitator in the Washington, D.C. area, I was able to retrieve my facilitator colleagues in that area and make several recommendations. “Point and click” makes it easy to make a referral.

As you review your database and its various demographic groups, consider how you can make referrals and bring people together. Who can you connect today?

Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 4

linkedin-icon1Lesson Four: Take advantage of electronic networking groups. The most revolutionary change that came from entering the new Millennium was the introduction of social networking sites. Professional and personal e-networking groups like LinkedIn, Facebook, Meetup and Twitter, to name a few, allow you to “cast your net(work) far and wide.”

This is how social networking sites work: Sign up as a member of the group. Send an email to anyone in your network of contacts who you want to include in your electronic network.  Your invitation is either accepted or rejected. For those individuals who accept, what happens is quite fascinating: Your contacts, who are in different networks, become intricately linked to each other so networks expand and grow. Your professional profile travels far and wide via the Internet. You also have the option to join special interest groups within these e-networking groups based on your background, profession or personal interests, keeping the lines of communication open with your contacts.

For professionals, LinkedIn allows you to introduce and refer people to each other or recommend or endorse individuals within their areas of expertise. When viewing their profile, you can see who they are connected to. If you see someone you want to meet, you can ask your contact to provide an introduction. LinkedIn’s internal messaging system makes it easy to refer people to each other. A Facebook page can either represent a business or a person. Your contacts can choose to “like” your Facebook page, which is a form of endorsement, or “like” a post. For people who prefer to put a face with a name and meet in person, Meetup brings together people online who share specific interests. Events are held offline within geographic areas around the world (either where you live or where you may be traveling). If you live in Cleveland and are visiting London on business, you can check to see if a Meetup event is happening during your stay. Twitter allows you to post short comments (less than 140 words) and also to follow top Thought Leaders and news sources. People can follow you on Twitter and re-tweet your tweets, which is a way of saying “I like the way this person thinks.” To me, that’s a form of endorsement.

As a busy professional, you can use e-networking groups to keep in contact with colleagues and friends, make referrals and expand your network. With a click of the mouse, watch your network grow.

Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 3

1WomanExcited Lesson Three: Join a “lead” generating group. In lead generating groups, individuals usually pay an annual fee to become part of an exclusive business networking group. This means that only one or two individuals from specific industries are represented.

Lead exchange groups limit the number of members from various industries, like law, accounting, insurance, marketing, real estate or interior design, to name a few. Most groups meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly with the specific intent of delivering business referrals to each other during the meeting. Traditionally, the group as a whole gets permission from the other members in the group to share their names with anyone they come in contact with who might be interested in doing business with them. That’s different from randomly giving out names to other people without the other person’s knowledge (as you already know, I do not support that practice).

Some lead groups work better than others. Do your homework first. Get as much information about the group as you can. Talk to people who are already members. See if you can attend a function as a guest and observer. Carefully study who else is in the group. Make sure they are people you want to associate with before you commit.

For a lead group to work well, four key criteria must exist: 1. Mutual respect for each other; 2. Trust among group members; 2. High business standards/ethics; and 4. A generous or giving spirit. When those four criteria exist, the group will work well for you.

Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 2

Email abstractYou have available to you the gift of technology to connect people and refer them to each other. The great benefit of connecting people using electronic technology is that you have a thread of the connection, easily accessible with the click of a mouse.

Lesson Two: Make e-connections. I have met many colleagues who are in the same fields of work as I am – training, speaking, coaching, facilitation and consulting. Occasionally, I will meet a new contact and discover that there is someone in my network who they “must” meet. In my mind, it is a perfect fit. In this case, I will send an email to both of them, and make an “e-introduction.” Within the body of the email, I include contact information for both of them (name, title, company, address, phone, email) and a brief paragraph description on each person so background information is provided in advance of their connecting. It is up to them to contact each other. The intent is not just of referring business to someone, it is also to bring two colleagues together for mutual benefit. Try it. The result: People will respect you for your thoughtfulness. It positions you as a considerate business professional, one who is thinking of other people first.

Throughout the years, I have referred a number of people to each other through e-connections. People respond positively to this simple method because of the background information that is provided to them. Who do you know in your network who you believe needs to know each other? Get busy and make some introductions. Your colleagues and friends will look to you as a great resource and thank you for expanding their network of contacts.

Make Referrals The Right Way – Part 1

2MenShakeHandsOne of the most widely accepted forms of reaching others is through a referral, those personal contacts that can help you locate resources, build a business or become more successful. Referrals are the most credible way to get other people’s attention. You can either refer someone to another person, or they can refer someone to you. It is a powerful way to expand your network. The personal connection opens doors much faster. Beginning with today’s post, and continuing for the next five weeks, I will share with you the top tips on making referrals the right way.

Lesson One: Contact your associate first. When you try to put people together, or match them up for business or social reasons, call or email your main contact first, and ask permission if you can send this person to them. For instance, I met a business woman several years ago who was new to our city. She and her husband had two small children, and they lived in an eastern suburb. A friend of mine, also a business woman and married with three small children, lived just several blocks away from the newcomer. I called my friend first and asked if she minded that I put this other woman in contact with her. “Go ahead and send her my way,” she said. It’s a simple courtesy, and it shows the other person that you are considerate enough to think of his/her needs and desire for privacy.

Today, it is easy to call or send a quick email to contacts, telling them there is someone who you would like to refer to them. It saves them the embarrassment of being caught off-guard when they receive a telephone call from someone they do not know. It positions you as a considerate, caring person with concern for the other person. Before you make that next referral, call or email in advance. Your thoughtfulness will be greatly appreciated.