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On Being Opportunistic about Networking (Guest Post)

February 2, 2011 12 comments

Most often asked question, “How are you always successful?” My answer is always the same; 1) I’m not; but like any gambler, you only hear of the successes, not the failures 2) I never underestimate the power of a person; I seek out mentors, find people who are smarter than me; and I latch on! So it only made sense that my first guest post was written by Allison Cheston – Career Expert, Marketer, Mentor, and most importantly – authentically unique “Baby Boomer” who UNDERSTANDS Gen Y!

As a Boomer who spends a lot of time with Gen Y’s, I can attest to the value of connecting with all kinds of people to ask and answer questions, trade information and share expertise. It’s what I do, all day long. And judging by the number of people contributing on sites like Brazen Careerist, it’s a pretty popular activity.

Why is it popular? It’s the combination of the sense of community and the appeal of crowd sourcing. The idea that you can post a question such as “Do you know any branding firms in Chicago?”, and within several minutes to an hour, not only receive a list of firms but often, someone willing to connect you to someone at that firm. Without knowing you. That’s amazing.

The majority of Boomers don’t operate that way—most of them want to be able to check someone out before making a referral. All the books on networking, like Never Eat Lunch Alone and Love is the Killer App—they’re all directed at Boomers. Because Boomers always want to understand the purpose of networking, what is the end goal. Or they’re not interested.

It’s one of the great things Boomers can take from Gen Y’s. Of course there’s risk attached to it, but there can be great rewards.

Let me give you a direct example of the power of being opportunistic when it comes to networking. I’m writing a book: In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults. In the spring, I posted requests on Brazen Careerist.com, LinkedIn and Facebook, inviting Gen Y college grads to interview with me. Because these are Gen Y’s, they were responsive. They loved the idea of the book and they wanted to be part of it. Some of my Boomer friends asked if I was paying them. I was not.

One of the first people to respond and interview with me was Jamie Nacht Farrell. We hit it off, and she sent me a huge number of her friends to interview. And then she hired me to coach her. And then she became my #1 editor for the book. And now she is making deals for us to turn the book into a curriculum both for online use and as a companion product to a variety of career sites catering to young adults. And by the way, I live in New York City, Jamie lives in Dallas and there are 20 years between us.

This probably seems totally plausible to those of you reading this who happen to be Gen Y’s. But from where I sit, I can tell you it’s unusual. And that’s too bad.

The first two ingredients necessary: openness on both sides and a generosity of spirit. And Jamie has that in spades. Not to mention her genius for packaging and selling people and products. So we’re a great team.

The message: With risk come rewards. No matter what your stage of life, stay open to opportunities and network with people you might not cross paths with in your daily life. That’s the beauty of the Internet but you have to be ready to take advantage of it.

Allison Cheston
Career Advisor
Contact Me If You’d Like to be Interviewed for My Book!

It’s NOT “All About the Benjamen’s Baby”

June 5, 2010 15 comments

Puff Daddy (I believe he is now referred to as “P.Diddy”) captured one of the human motivations for work in his number one hit, “It’s all about the Benjamen’s Baby”. While money is “nice”, Mr. P.Diddy obviously 1. did not do his ‘research’ (shocker) and 2. Was speaking about a very different generation that today’s “Gen Y” working professionals.

I’ve perused thousands of articles that talk about “what Gen Y wants in the workplace“, “what motivates Gen Y“…and here is my favorite part about them; they were all written by baby boomers or Gen Xers.

Here is my “Gen Y” advice to executives: Stop managing the masses and build your “Gen Ys” using mentorships. This is not brain surgery. All articles I’ve read have several points that most of the fancy Harvard, BusinessWeek, and other Business Journals agree on; 1) Gen Y’s value relationships (TRUE) 2) Gen Y’s want meaning in their jobs (TRUE) 3) Gen Y’s grew up in the era of constant reinforcement, hence – they want feedback; and they want it NOW (TRUE).

There is one apparent solution to managing Gen Y’s. MENTORS!

That said, as with any relationship, this is a “two way street”. CEO’s can’t just ‘assign’ mentors. The HR departments need to take the extra 30 minutes to provide questionnaires to these young employees / our future executives. And then like anything else; proteges must be matched with the mentor that “meets their needs” and genuinely care about not just the success of their protege, but their professional AND personal growth. Gen Y’s want mentors who will not only teach them the ‘business world’, but will listen to how business is affecting their life; and give advice on how to maintane both their business and personal life.

In my last post, “Does Your Mentor Ever Leave You”, I stated the best career move I ever made was to take a salary cut. I did so because I knew the two men I’d be working for would mentor me; and they did. They turned me into who I am today, both professionally and personally.

Now that I don’t work with them anymore, I am constantly taking consulting jobs where it’s NOT “all about the benjamens”, but where I see baby boomer and Gen X talent. I’ve turned down $250 / hour jobs to work for $50 / hour just so I can learn from certain executives. I wonder though – if these executives have even given a thought to how they can utilize my “want” to be like and learn from them. It would seem they have not. I would work for free in return for being mentored and taught what they know. If every executive would invest a couple hours a week to professional and personal development; giving challenges and then providing feedback; I bet most of us would work for far less money. Not only that, but we would also stamp out the “stigma” that we are ‘job hoppers’ as we would be loyal to our mentors, and thus, our companies. I know the Gen Y’s I surround myself would do the same. While we may like the ‘short term gain’ of money, we far more value the long term gain of knowledge and experience.

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