Are you a Talented Nobody? Don’t Be.

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“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

In our current economy most people are looking to be reassured of future success. Success could mean having a steady job, several streams of income, or a comfortable savings account (i.e. your mattress). To say that we live in a consistent state of panic or fear may be an overstatement, but things aren’t economically “normal” for sure.

Allow me to be the first, however, to welcome you to the new normal. That is right, this is it – all of it. Economists say we won’t return to previous abnormalities. Think about it. As a country we had unrealistic money principles; we were already abnormal. This post isn’t about negativity – I promise. I want you to be successful, even in uncomfortable times. The easiest route to success is your network and your networking abilities. Networking is a talent for some, and a skill to be learned by others.

Those most likely to need a Networking 101 class are introverts. Some extroverts could benefit from this class too, but the lesson would be on focused conversations versus networking basics. The majority, a little under half, of the U.S. population is introverted. Introverts are not hermits, nor are we social sores. In fact most of us really like people. As an introvert I gain energy from myself, while my extrovert friends “feed” off of the energy of others. Most “I-s” will tell you that they often feel “complete” alone. So when a crowd is gathered we may not be as eager to fuel a new conversation. As a result, we can appear stand-offish making it easy for others to mislabel our actions. When that happens negative ideals about networking may develop, and we dismiss it’s value all together.

Personal preferences and skills, however, don’t take away from the importance of having a solid network, and networking. It is common knowledge that skills alone don’t signal success. Having a voice, a platform, a sponsor from your network makes a big impact. Now, when you receive the spotlight it is important to have the talent; however, if no one knows you exist you will just be a talented nobody. The world is filled with those, don’t be one.

Here are 6 tips on how to build a better network, and be more social at networking events.

1. Change your mental perception. Most people feel icky at the thought of networking. It’s all about what we have told ourselves and less about the action. If you knew every time you met someone they had a $100 bill for you or a vacation with your name on it, would you feel different? I doubt either of those will happen but your attitude probably changed at the thought. It’s that simple. Find a mental trick you can play on yourself such that networking feels more natural. Your brain is so silly, it will believe anything you tell it – honest.

2. Start with your current network. Rather than striking out on your own enlist the help of friends. Purchase an extra ticket to an event you want to attend and invite someone you already know (for free). It would be wise to pick a more outgoing person than yourself, but the strategy works the same if not. It’s plausible that you both may meet the same people while “working” the room. An experience like this will strengthen the relationship you currently have, and open doors for new ones. As an added benefit if you drop the follow-up ball, someone else can keep the relationship going in your absence. Just a warning though: don’t use your friends as a crutch. Strike a balance between having support until you build confidence, and never wanting to be alone. No one likes a “needy” person.

3. Be you. Don’t force yourself to join the young opera professionals if you dig punk rock. There are associations and groups for everything. For example, I found this website for you. The Center for Association Leadership has taken the guess work out of finding professional associations in your community. Just click on the website, enter your data and a magical list will pop-up. Joining the National Association of Floral Designers will assuredly help you expand your network as a designer yourself. Not to mention websites like meet-up provide great chances to find people in your community who love Jane Austen too (shameless plug for one of my favorite authors).

4. Be a better version of you. Attend a conference or volunteer. Improving your skills at a professional/personal development conference is a great way to meet like-minded individuals. Additionally, nothing is better than helping someone else. Volunteering is a great way to improve the world around you and yourself at the same time. Websites like VolunteerMatch can help you pick a cause, and a project.

5. Talk. We have reached the place of no return. It’s time to just do it – like Nike. Speak with people you know, speak with people you don’t know. Here is the catch, don’t try and get anything from them. Talk about your interests, their interests, the weather – just talk. By building an organic relationship you will uncover what you can offer them, and what they can offer you. It won’t be forced, it won’t be obvious and you may avoid the greasy feeling.

6. Extend a biscotti or a brew. Invite people out for coffee, martinis, or a lap around the park. Networking is all about relationship building. Like it or not, all of life is about relationships. If you are in a healthy romantic relationship you have a leg-up on the singles. Why you ask? Well, you’ve (hopefully) learned the importance of investing time into someone else; as well as, the art of listening and true communication.

Having a reliable network is hard-work at first because it requires being organized. However keeping track of your contacts should not be overly taxing if done efficiently. It may take you 2 hours to enter everyone’s birthday on your calendar, but how nice would it be to hear: “I’m shocked you remembered my birthday! How are you; would you like to get together soon?”

It took less than 10% of 1-day to maintain that relationship. Yet when you need a last minute recommendation or an introduction you can feel comfortable making that request. I’m trying to save you from the dreaded “Hello Mr. Man, do you remember me from 6-months ago?” e-mail.

People like helping; they don’t like being tricked. So build geniune relationships – slowly and surely. And, while you are at it, find a way to help someone else.

Networks are like bank accounts. You can’t withdraw what you haven’t yet deposited. Make deposits into someone else’s life; make investments into your own network. It’s all about people and relationships anyway. Hey, if you master this and you are single today, you may not be single for long. Feel free to send me a picture of the new couple…and my finder’s fee while you are at it.

-Alex Cole

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Not to late to learn about the Birds and the Bees.

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”Let’s imagine for the moment that we are tiny enough to follow a bee into a hive.Usually the first thing we would have to get used to is the darkness…” Excerpt taken from The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk

Bees have an efficient way of making sure that flowers are able to survive the environmental changes we humans set into motion (my plug for global warming), it’s called cross-pollination.  The process entails bees going from flower-to-flower and “sharing” the pollen.  This process alters the makeup of the flower making it stronger and giving the flower a greater genetic variety. School is dismissed now, no more biology I promise.

The point is this, sharing information and opening up your network gives an individual a chance to create an interesting and unique brand.  Additionally, businesses can use this same concept by making sure they partner with people across various industries.  For the sake of this article I will only focus on the individual outlook.

To open up your network to new opportunities consider the following:

Read books, articles and journals from a variety of sources.  I realize most people don’t like to read, while others can’t find time to read.  Here is a tip:  the more you read the more you like to read, and there is always time to do the things that truly matter.  Sorry I wish there was a sexier way to say that but the truth is often times unsexy.  Most people who read a lot on a variety of topics develop a system.  I’m sharing my system so feel free to use whatever you like.  I sign-up for a new electronic newsletter every week.  I aim to read them all on the same day, so normally on the weekend I get caught up.  I give it one month and if I find I’m not getting good information I unsubscribe.  I also suggest setting up a junk/newsletter email account.  Once you find that you like the information consider moving the e-newsletter to your everyday email address.  These suggestions will help ensure your inbox isn’t filled with junk, making it easier to read everything that comes in.

Join new networks. We all love old friends but keeping your network fresh (and avoiding group think) means meeting new people.  They don’t have to become your best friends but it is wise to have associates. Consider joining new Meet-Up groups in your area, joining a museum membership group, finding a softball or golf league as well. One of life’s greatest treasures is human interaction.  We all have great things we can share and those things can’t be found online, in a book or in the house alone.

Don’t be a carbon copy, but find an image you can relate with. Don’t make yourself an exact replica of someone else. I repeat, do not make yourself an exact replica of someone else.  With that said we all need to find someone who inspires us or encourages us.  Finding a mentor, even from a distance, means that we have someone who has walked a similar path.  Wise counsel, clarity in goals and confidence comes from positive mentorship and having someone you can “look up to” even if from a distance.

Interesting people are often times authentic, genuine and unique (sometimes interesting people are also a little strange).  In our world you must remain interesting in order to stay in the “flow” of an ever-changing society.  Consider this, when my mom was born the microwave didn’t exist; when I was born the flat screen television didn’t exist.  Technology has changed everything and we now live in a world where things change overnight.  In order to protect yourself from being outdated it would be wise to cross-pollinate like the bees.  There is a reason why hybrid roses exist, they survived when the environment changed.  Will you survive, or become extinct?

-Alex Cole

Who is the Urbane Professional?

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“At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

René Magritte, referring to his famous painting, The Son of Man.

We have heard of Urban Professionals, but what is the Urbane Professionals?  Are they a 21st century description for “Yuppies”? 

Yuppie is defined as a Young Urban Professionals or Young Upwardly Moving Professionals.

The word Yuppie was popular during the 80’s and has rebirthed with many critics calling our President the embodiment of a Yuppie.  Author Victor Davis Hansen wrote in his article “Obama: Fighting the Yuppie Factor” about this said Yuppie.

“Yuppism, remember, is not definable entirely by income or class. Rather, it is a late-twentieth-century cultural phenomenon of self-absorbed young professionals, earning good pay, enjoying the cultural attractions of sophisticated urban life and thought, and generally out of touch with, indeed antithetical to, most of the challenges and concerns of a far less well-off and more parochial Middle America.

For the yuppie male, a well-paying job in law, finance, academia, or consulting in a cultural hub, hip fashion, cool appearance, studied poise, elite education, proper recreation and fitness, and general proximity to liberal-thinking elites, especially of the more rarefied sort in the arts, are the mark of a real man.”

It seems as though the Urbane Professional has become a modern-day version of the Yuppie.  Do not go around calling yourself that until you understand the connotations associated with that word.  Yuppie has been described in various articles with quotes such as  “conspicuous personal consumption”, “obsessed with social status”, and “vain and materialistic”.   In cities like DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and other heavily populated urban areas the Urbane Professional is thriving.  But is that a good thing?  Have we allowed our plight for the “American Dream” to cause us to:

  • Job hop every 1-3 years in order to increase our marketability, but never spend enough time to learn and fine tune our skills.
  • Seek status in a well-paying job in name and reputation, but forget about the importance of giving back to the same community that we erupted out of in a rapid accent.
  • Dress in clothing that defines the status for the life we live, but lose sight that the cost of the clothing is 90% less than what we spent and we have just contributed to someone’s gross margin.
  • Attend cultural events and indulge in the finest delicatessens, but unaware of our own culture and lack there of.

The reality is we have become Yuppies.  We did not wake up and intentionally put on our Yuppie hat, but at some point we have slowly grew into a class that is self consumed and self-absorbed.  To some it up we have become egotistical.

So, what does the Urbane Professional do to decrease their Yuppie factor?  Hmm…do you really want to know?  Many of you still don’t see the fact that you have become a Yuppie.  I must admit, I have bought into the life of a Yuppie…the journey for status, the lust for material things, attending every who’s who event, and living a life that I have grown to love.  But, the person deep inside, knows that this lifestyle will only last but for a moment and I have to invest in a life that will produce a positive ROI.  This site is to help other Urbane Professionals, Yuppies, and down right Uppity folks use our talents for more than just ourselves.  Like the picture above, there is so much more to us than what meets the eye.  Its time to pull the visible away, so that we can see the hidden.

Welcome to the Urbane Professional.