ed muses upon

2009/12/15

Herding Cats

One of the challenges in coordinating activities in a volunteer group of professionals is that of empowering professionals properly, so that the energy and work are focused properly and achieve the desired objectives. This becomes increasingly so when discussing several such volunteer groups that are just starting to coordinate objectives and processes. Indeed, it’s probably fair to refer to it as herding cats.

But I am firm believer that the key to addressing a challenge remains in understanding why the challenge exists in the first place. In this case, the challenge exists for two reasons:

1) PSGs are comprised of professionals in transition. Therefore, activity is in some measure inversely correlated to the economy–that is, a strong economy = less PSG activity and vice versa–and therefore, members land jobs, the critical mass of people needed to maintain a group’s activity is potentially threatened.

2) No matter how effective or over how long, most PSGs have had bouts of inactivity, and whatever practices or institutional knowledge was built-up prior was then lost.

So now that the why is understood, how can this be addressed and avoided going forward?

The nature of the group cannot be changed: a group of professionals helping one another find their next jobs is by definition going to be composed of job seekers. But this time, we are making sure that does not happen again by making sure we leave records of our institutional knowledge. We are establishing independent online presences such as web sites, social media and LinkedIn groups. We are coordinating with one another to share, establish and document best practices. And most importantly, we are creating succession plans so those who follow us need not reinvent the wheel.

I have long felt that the best legacy any member of an organization can leave is a method or process that remains in use thereafter.

I feel very good about what ours will be.

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2009/12/08

Staying Focused: Paying It Forward

If you were to see me at a networking event, I would strike you as a fairly sociable sort. When I attend networking events, I really get a charge out of meeting someone I don’t know…these days. The majority of such meetings are larger groups than I prefer, but I tend to do fairly well with them.

The funny thing about all of this is that even a few years ago, I would have described myself as shy and afraid of public speaking.

Shyness isn’t exactly uncommon, and fear of public speaking might with some justice be said to be a pandemic: according to WebMD, public speaking is the single most common fear in the US.

Now, reading this column will not make you a better public speaker—although this link might be helpful in getting you through it. Instead, I want to share with you a technique that gets me over my own anxiety.

And it’s very simple: by paying it forward.

That might sound glib, but it’s honest…and true. It’s taken a while to understand this, but I realized that yes: I do have something worthwhile to add to a conversation going on around me. And so do you.

What changed for me was entering conversations with the honestly and sincerely-held intention of trying to help someone overcome whatever challenge he or she was facing. While it’s true that this isn’t always an objective that can be realized, in the vast majority of cases, it can be. We all know other people who are employed, and we might even know hiring managers who have a need but don’t know of suitable candidates. We can certainly all add value to someone else’s job search.

And let’s not pussy foot around the fact that job search can be exceptionally discouraging. For my part, I spent the first six months of my own job search not getting anything more than an automated “thank you” for applying for a job. I didn’t get so much as a single “we’re going another direction, thank you” response in that entire time—never mind an interview.

When I can genuinely help a fellow job seeker, that’s positively huge! There is such a dearth of interaction in applying for jobs—it can be incredibly discouraging. Being able to be helpful to someone gives you a measure of control you might have difficulty finding otherwise. Indeed, if I am able to help someone else in their search, I consider it a pretty big win.

Knowing that you were able to help someone else in their job search is a great feeling. I cannot state this strongly enough: helping a fellow job seeker is incredibly valuable.

It is valuable, neither because it gives you a sense of accomplishment—although it certainly does that—nor because that person might then be inclined to help you, although that too might also be true. It isn’t even that positioning other people to help you by helping them land a new job is good, even though this too may be true.

No, it is incredibly valuable because it empowers us. Without that, it would be all too easy to curl up in a corner and not emerge for days at a time.

At the end of the day: paying it forward helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next jobs.

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