Over the course of 30 years, a career can teach you a lot about yourself and the kind of person you are. You will likely develop some opinions about the type of businessperson you are as well. I have had the chance to try many different things with many levels of success and failure. I have no regrets.
I walked out of a small software company. Why? The guy who ran sales was one of those jump-on-the-desk-and-tell-you-you’re-stupid kinds of leaders. He would threaten to fire you daily. I refused to go through the abuse.
The Pros – It was over, and I could focus on something new. I felt good being away from all the negative energy and I clearly wasn’t going to learn anything I wanted to emulate. I learned many things “not” to do at this company.
The Cons – Loss of income, especially as my wife was pregnant. I selfishly created stress for those around me. Some feared I might be labeled a “quitter” though that never really bothered me. Labels suck.
I Was Fired:
A large brokerage firm fired me. Why? I refused to sell proprietary products to my clients, so my production fell, and they showed me the door.
The Pros – Few people who get fired are surprised, so there is some element of relief that comes with the experience being over. I could sleep again. I had checked off one more thing I wanted to try; it didn’t work, so I was one step closer to my career ambition.
The Cons – Loss of income, as my wife was pregnant again. Being on the 72nd floor of the former World Trade Center was – bar none – the most dynamic environment in which I have ever worked. A couple of hundred brokers and traders who were smart, witty and equally adept, whether male or female, at telling the best jokes on the planet. I still miss them, 25 years later.
Then I Retired … Well, Almost:
After we (the executive team I was part of) had negotiated the sale of the software company we managed, I walked away from a large retention bonus and took a shot at retirement. Why? I worked every day for eight years and missed every significant milestone important to my kids and our family.
The Pros – Time, free time to do whatever I wanted. I got to spend time with my beautiful and wonderful sister before she died. I learned how to go to the supermarket, and I enjoyed it. I cooked a lot.
The Cons – I had too much free time. I had no plan, no bucket list. I had all this time and nothing to do. I don’t play golf and am not a boater. I stayed up late, slept even later and developed every vice a middle-aged man with a few bucks in his pocket can have.
In my quest to experience everything in my career I think I have just about closed the book, but there is a lesson learned here. With all I have experienced, I still have a thirst to learn and try new things. That’s why I went back to the business world after retiring. I think I am improving my business skills and still have career-related goals that I would like to achieve.
So I have quit, been fired and retired and just don’t recommend any of them… at least not for me. There are still many mountains to climb.
I have been an introvert all my life. Put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I am uncomfortable. Further, put me in a room full of people I do know but don’t trust, and my response is the same. I say little. Lastly, put me in a room with the small group of people I am comfortable with, and I will talk their ears off.
I was one of the first handfuls of employees at Albridge Solutions in the summer of 2000. I was a member of senior management but never attended one company picnic or any of the many social events. I did attend the holiday party each year because it was just too hard to avoid. If given the choice, I would likely have passed.
I hate it when colleagues ask me to go out for a drink after work. When the day ends, I want to go home and be with my family. I will go out when I travel, but that is about it.
We have lived in our home for 22 years, and I barely know our neighbors.
There is an oxymoron here, though.
I connect with approximately 15k people on LinkedIn, 17k on Twitter and 500 on Facebook.
So over 32k connections across social media. Sounds like a lot. I do value those links, but I don’t know or have relationships with all of them. I would say the quality relationships I have are likely about 1/2 of 1percent of my connections or say, 160 people. Of that, those I am close to number less than 10, these are also the people I call close friends.
Seems depressing but it’s not to me.
Social media connects many people and can connect us all. No one ever promised our networks would make us all best buddies. I imagine that could happen to some individuals who link online. Some meet spouses and partners on social media. Online dating is big business.
There is value in having a lot of connections. Somewhere between zero and my 32k connections is Gladwell’s tipping point.I sense it is as about 10k connections. That is when things changed for me.
Along my writing journey, my post views increased steadily and then shot into the thousands. I have more work to do here to continue growing. Big networks of connections contain the necessary ingredients for rapid growth. I use my network for messaging, distribution and more networking. It sounds like advertising and sales to me, and you know what?
Indirect and passive communication are wildly powerful messaging channels. These allow an executive with trust issues to run marketing and sales at the many companies I have worked at. This work is what pays our bills.
Social media has provided me a platform and raised my profile in a way that I could never have accomplished on my own. I feel safe on social technology platforms. I have worked hard and paid extra attention to how I am viewed and perceived online. The most important thing I have learned is to be helpful to others. It will be returned exponentially back to you. The Golden Rule plays out big time on the Internet.
For example, I recently posted an article and asked people to criticize it. My hope is to get it published on The Huffington Post website. I received over 50 responses highlighting suggestions so my post would read more fluidly. I incorporated the changes and now have more than 1100 views, 153 likes, 34 comments and 58 shares. Not one person said anything that wasn’t helpful, no nasty or smug comments at all.
So I looked at who was responding. I noticed that some were folks who wrote articles I have commented on, liked and shared. There were other people who were new to me. These folks all get it. They gave, and I am poised to give back when they post or ask for help.
Here is a tip that has paid itself back many times. Every person who shares one of my posts gets direct thanks from me through LinkedIn. It takes about 10 seconds to say.
John, thanks for the share. CF.
I would say about a quarter of these folks say “thanks” back to me for thanking them. Unreal but effective. Some make a comment about something they liked in the post. Often this is a day or two later which makes me feel good knowing I had an impact and they remembered it.
One more best practice is to make sure you comment to everyone who makes a sensible comment on your post. I try to do this within 24 hours. Often I respond before I leave for work in the morning, so I do not have to worry about it. If you get a nasty comment or troll, don’t engage with them. If you do engage with a troll here is what you can expect (per my friend John White of Social Marketing Solutions). John taught me the following lesson. You will endure 48 hours of unpleasant exchanges – so don’t waste your time.
Lastly, pictures are super important. As we all know, they mean so much more than anything you may write. Here is how I choose my photos. I receive many comments about them, so I think I am doing something right. I type into Google exactly what image I want. The first one I like, I choose. I don’t spend any more time on it than that. I think our first instincts serve us well.
Here is an image of social media.
So remember to put yourself out there. Be helpful. Comment, Like and Share and say “thank you” to those who went out of their way to read your content and respond to it. In short, all these activities add up to the exact definition of the word engagement. But perhaps the best thing you can do with social media, in my opinion, is to have fun with it.
While in college in the early eighties, I decided I wanted to be a secondary education teacher. I added the necessary course work and continued down that path. One of the requirements was to attend and observe a class in one of the local schools. After doing so, I promptly dropped Education. That following spring I limped my out of Lycoming College with a BA in Sociology.
Next, I did what any recent college grad with an obscure major would do; I worked as a laborer for the summer and in the fall headed off to Europe to travel with friends. Armed with our Eurail passes and backpacks, we moved from country to country over the next few months. We had delayed the inevitable job hunt until the holidays arrived.
I was fortunate that my friend whom I traveled with landed a job in Human Resources at Chase Manhattan Bank. The bank was looking for entry level recruiters. I applied and landed the $19,000 per year job with two weeks vacation. My thinking at the time: “Wow! Whoever thought I would work for a bank on Wall Street in New York City?”
A few weeks later I discovered that my friend, who had the same job as me, was making $19,500! He was making more than me, and we had the exact same position and level of experience: Zero! Over time, he explained to me the reason he made more money than I did was because he went to Catholic University, and I went to Lycoming College. It wasn’t an issue for us. But it was the premium the head of the department put on his choice of university back in 1984. The $500 difference became my first step into what I would learn was the bullshit people believed differentiated us in the workforce. Where you attended school, your specific major and the number of degrees earned would turn out to be the biggest hoax for career success.
I am the head of sales, despite being a lousy salesperson. I was firedfrom a sales job at Morgan Stanley years ago.
I am the head of marketing and never took a marketing or business class. To reiterate: my primary area of study was Sociology.
I have carried C-level titles in small companies and large ones alike but do not have an MBA. My post-graduate studies include only a few courses which happened to be in employee benefits, not exactly what I’m doing today!
I have been a featured writer on several platforms but had to work hard to maintain a C average in my college English classes. In fact, my first boss back at Chase, during a performance review, told me that I should feature my verbal communication skills because my writing sucked.
In short, from an education standpoint, I went to an ok school and did ok. That said, I have competed with and won against any number of elite business school types. Over the years many of these men and woman would report to me.
I have had a long and fruitful career in financial services technology despite never taking a business class and only one technology course.
Perhaps the most blatant irony in my career is that I have spent the last twenty years managing, marketing and selling accounting systems – while never having the skills needed to prepare my personal taxes… Go figure…
Thinking back on it, here is what I did do which made all the difference in my career.
Stopped caring what others thought of me and my career decisions. I just went for it. I did what I wanted to do.
I had and have a genuine and supportive partner in my wife, Susan.
Read everything that interested me. Mainly business, marketing, and personal challenge stories.
I worked hard. Never a face time guy for 30 years (I rarely have spent more than 40 hours in the office) my mind constantly is thinking about my work and always has.
I have been fortunate to surround myself with A-players. I also actively engage with a network of A-players whom I hope to work with in the future.
My intent with this article was not meant to celebrate my career but to highlight one key point. If this man who never aced school or took a formal course related to his career could choose to be successful, so can you!
Ironically in retirement, I plan to teach and lecture. I guess that one hour class I attended as an observer had some impact on me after all.
I often tell young people it doesn’t make any difference where you go to college. What is most important is that you go to college. Sure, there are some advantages from going to an elite school. Specialty areas of study, an active alumni network and the sheen that comes from the reputations of some of these schools all help. Some open doors of opportunity. Often when some doors shut on alumni, for almost any reason, another opens. That’s good.
If it doesn’t work out the way you planned and you have to settle for a B-rated school, so what. Wherever you go to school, some things will happen. You will get four years older, depending on how long it takes you to graduate. That’s real important, those years between 18 and 22 are significant maturity years. Young men and women gain practical experience figuring out how to live on their own. Millennials, who believe they are entitled to respect and an award for everything they do, will learn valuable lessons when mom and dad aren’t there to fix everything they don’t like.
The average age of a full professor is fifty-five. Therefore, this September your child will be taught by someone more like your age. If we blame the entitlement culture on the parents of Millennials, keep this in mind. Those professors care about their kids the most. Therefore, your son or daughter will expect much but receive less. After complaining to you that something isn’t fair, you will light up the switchboards at the college. Fortunately, the calls will go unanswered, and your child will have to figure out how to do things on their own. What a valuable lesson, it is almost worth the tuition you will be paying. If you are a student don’t spend all your time planning everything, you’re bound to fail. You want to go to Harvard, great. Careful what you wish for.
See what it feels like when you get there with all the top students in the world. You will quickly find that there are many who are smarter than you are.
The high school hero often becomes the college zero in some of these environments. The suicide rates for MIT are alarming with Harvard not far behind.
Think there is a relationship? And for parents how about this one: sounds great to be in the top 1% of income or net worth doesn’t it? This population owns 40% of the nation’s wealth. When you get there, though, you realize how far it is from the top to the bottom of the range. That must be why we have basis points (a basis point is one-hundredth of one percent). Our generation grew up with things. The more toys, the more you were a winner. But, nothing trumps toys like money. Making a cool half million must sound great. However, you won’t bump into anyone from the top of the 1% at cocktail parties. You can’t afford to go to them, and there is no chance you will get a free invitation.
The point here is some of us baby boomers produced those Millennials. We held their hands through thick and thin. We cried foul when they didn’t get enough playing time or make the team they coveted. We rewarded them for first steps and missed steps to make them feel better. Now we are complaining because they don’t want to work in restaurants or on the back of garbage trucks for money before they go off to school. They demand respect when they haven’t earned it. They want to be treated like us.
Because we raised them that way.
Now they all want to go to Stanford, Harvard or (insert school name here) because that is what we taught them. Well, the news here is most of them won’t get into one of these schools. They will be disappointed and have to settle for something they believe is less.
In this case, it just might turn out that less is more. To be successful in life, this generation of young men and women will have to figure out how to do things on their own.
That’s always a good lesson.
They most likely will do this later in life than we did and that’s our fault. We are the ones who raised them to depend on us. We changed after 9/11; we drew our family and kids closer never wanting to let them go or to make a decision on their own. In the end, they will figure out that success in life, love, and work takes effort. A lot of it and a little more just might get them there.
Ten years from now they will be working their asses off trying to establish a career. Twenty years from now they will be in the throes of hard work and the beginnings of how success feels. Thirty years from now they will be telling their kids, they wanted to go to Harvard but couldn’t get in. They will follow this up with the reasons they became successful, hard work and experience.
I often say if you raise your profile in life by definition you raise the profiles of those around you too. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well so be careful who you run with.
Your profile is all you have. It is defined primarily by who you associate with, your actions and how you communicate your thoughts and beliefs. That’s about it.
To raise your profile, there is simply no more effective way than using social media. If you are not an active user of social media, you will need access to the press or some other kind of platform on which to stand to make yourself known. It also helps to be successful in your career which often draws attention and people to you.
Social media is highly cost effective and really just requires your time. If you go down this path it will take real time to do this right so getting some help is a good idea. There are consulting firms like John White’sSocial Marketing Solutions who can add valuable strategic and tactical components to your social media efforts as well.
Always be thinking of ways that you can give back to your network by sharing your knowledge for free, providing valuable links, insightful videos, thought-provoking quotes, and being helpful. If you read a post and find it useful click the “like” button. If it moved you in some way, “share” it with your network, they will appreciate the new insight and view you as a thought leader.
In May of 2015, I began a crusade to raise my profile and that of the company I worked for. I started to write posts just like this one on LinkedIn Pulse and have published 82 times through this outlet. My topics range from business to social and humor. I have also begun to publish outside the platform. A friend suggested I submit my work to The Good Men Project, I have and am featured in each of my submissions.
So here is what has happened to my social profile since I started doing this. My connections and followers across platforms have risen 33x to approximately 33,000. I think these are some good results but here is the question some people ask me.
Why is this important?
Some of these followers and connections are sticky. They come back for more and over the past year the number of them has risen substantially. People have asked me to help or write for them too. For me writing is therapeutic, so it doesn’t feel like work. In fact, it is fun. As my plan is to become an adjunct professor in retirement I think it will be helpful to have my syllabus complete before I do. My business related posts will become just that. Addressing Millennials is key for me as that is a group I want to influence and connect with. There is no better way than sharing the experiences of a long and successful career as they begin their journey through work and life.
Again, why does it matter?
If I raise my social profile by definition, I will have risen the profiles of everyone in my universe of connections on social platforms. I went through the effort to connect with every person in our company so I could raise their profiles on the back of mine. We are effectively building a communication platform for the business to talk to the marketplace. You have to do this first before you begin a dialogue; then the market can talk back. Once this happens it becomes real marketing, which is my job.
What do you need to get to the next level?
Enterprise commitment. If I can have such an increase in connections and followers, the potential across the company will have a multiplier effect that reaches into the millions. I did the math here. As a marketer, do I want to reach millions? Hell yes. In those millions is our target market. Once our range is vast and comprehensive, there are segmenting techniques that will unearth the target market and create the dialogue that will be for the benefit of my company and everyone connected to me.
The time value of money is the idea that money available at the present time is worth more than the same amount in the future due to its potential earning capacity. In my experience, the same principle applies to your career.
Your skills and experiences are unique to you and are highly valuable. I recently celebrated my 56th birthday and the 34th year of my career. I know I am at my absolute best right now. Here is where it gets tricky.
How do you know you are maximizing the career opportunities available to you? A typical career lasts 35 to 50 years, so you have to be judicious about where you hang your hat.
Who you work with is even more important and here is why. Who you run with speaks volumes about your reputation, honesty, and the all-important integrity quotient. The people around you influence how others see you more than anything else. Therefore, it is critical to be with like-minded professionals who value the same qualities. For me, “like-minded” means they share similar business qualities and interests. For example, all of the people I work with believe in value-based pricing and growing profitable revenue. We all share the common interest in building premium service and support. In fact, at on company we created the tag line Premium Service for Premium Value. Further, my colleagues all believe in having A players on their team and are careful who they choose to join them. Again, who you run with DEFINES YOU!
So questioning where you work, why, as well as your posse, are essential for defining whether you are maximizing the time value of your career. If you can’t check these boxes, then you are wasting your valuable time and your colleagues, so you better move on.
Here is how I assess my opportunities to ensure I haven’t wasted my time and paid a hefty opportunity cost.
People: I’m the person who brings teams that I have worked with before into new situations again and again. People won’t follow you if they don’t believe you have high integrity and a skill for finding meaningful opportunities. I love the men and women on my teams. We know each other and have a high degree of trust between us. We share personal stories about our lives and families which form a bond that we can draw on when things get tough.
Opportunity: I continuously check in on the value my work brings to me. Helping others and the company is great, but you have to think about yourself too. I ask myself what kind of legacy I will have when my current situation has run its course. It has to be additive to my story, or it fails. How much money you make doesn’t make any difference. I have lived and believed the quote “If you love what you do the money will follow” for a long time.
Why: What your company does is a key driver for personal motivation and company culture. If your work is beneficial to your customers, it will go a long way toward making it meaningful to you. No one wants to push on a string all day to pass the time until the horn goes off. While those jobs exist, I have never met someone who was happy doing them. If your customers need you to perform for them, you are in a strategic position, and you will know exactly why your company does what it does.
Outcome: Knowing the end run is key and ties back to your business goals and the strategy to get there. Your company might want to be the biggest, best, number two, highest quality, luxurious, premium and a hundred other possible goal oriented identifiers. I have had the honor to work with both small and large businesses. In the bigger ones, we tended to want to build scale with enough profitability to meet Wall Street expectations. In the small companies, we focus on growing profitable revenue with the destination being to monetize the business for our investors. This outcome is very clear to me.
Measure your current opportunity against how special you and your unique skills are. Your career DNA make up the building blocks of your occupation. Don’t waste them by spending something so unique in any old job. Instead, use your passion to create and maximize great experiences for yourself and others.
Want to sell value to your customers? If you do, you had better make sure you have a rock-solid reputation in the markets you serve. Value-based selling in enterprise software and services is critical. Companies deciding about enterprise software know the benefits and consequences of their purchasing decisions. Partners and vendors selling to these companies know how important their reputation is. In fact, the good ones know a good reputation is essential to their survival. They also know that finding the value with the customer allows them to charge a premium. Many buyers can justify paying a premium.
If they are creating value with a trusted partner with a strong reputation.
While there are many reasons why a sale can fail, the three most important legs of the value stool are:
· The Business Case
All three require that your company receive high marks from your customers and your prospects. If one leg fails, you will lose your sale and hurt your reputation as well. Rebounding from a poor reputation is not impossible, but it is hard. Think of Johnson & Johnson and their Tylenol brand back in 1982. It controlled 37% of its market. Several people died taking Extra Strength Tylenol that year. The product seal was compromised, and poison added by someone who would never be found. The result was Tylenol’s market share fell 30%. Over time, the drug maker regained 100% of their market share. It cost J&J money and time, two killers of business productivity. The case is a best practice in crisis management.
Everyone knows the Apple story and how Steve Jobs brought the company back from the brink. It is now one of our most valued and envied corporations. These are extreme cases that illustrate how hard it is to rebuild a reputation.
In enterprise software, the software services the needs of the organization. The desires of individual users take a back seat to the business.
The needs of the organization are the most important that the company has. If the company is public, enterprise software supports those that drive shareholder value. Buying the right tools is essential. Many buyers use a business case to help construct the argument for a decision maker or team. The case should include quantitative and qualitative data. When summed up, the result is an overwhelming reason to launch a project or make a buying decision. No matter how good your business case is, if it is coming from a selling company with a weak reputation, it will be less convincing.
Pricing is one of the most important activities for your Product and Marketing teams. It is also a critical part of the business case. It should be fair, reasonable and justified. Sellers must be able to explain any premium to market prices. If you are launching a new product, you have some flexibility. It is a challenge to try to pick a price point that will sell and maintain the desired profit for your company. Your price is an exchange rate for the sum of your business intelligence. It is the combination of your products, services, support, and research. Pricing is at the heart of where your reputation makes a difference. If your company has weak stature, your assumptions will face extra scrutiny from buyers. They may assume that if your firm has a questionable status, you are pricing to make up for other issues. That may not be the case, but the reputation of your business can reap undesirable consequences.
Delivering and supporting a company’s products and services is difficult. It involves the staff who implement and maintain what you have sold to your customers. They make the software work and ensure that the value you and your client agreed to is realized, day in and day out. The effort ebbs and flows as new business problems, bugs, and design failures surface. Customers expect there to be some amount of issues tied to supporting enterprise software. What they want is a partner that is attentive to the problems and that takes a proactive approach. If your company has a bad reputation with customers, it is likely that delivery will be a source of the dissatisfaction. These staff are responsible for fixing the issues and they are often maligned for being the problem. Rarely do they get compliments for a job well done. If you have substandard delivery your reputation issue just got worse. It will become much harder to turn around marketplace perceptions.
Like your personal reputation and integrity, your corporate reputation is all you have. If you are trying to sell value at a premium price, a poor reputation will make your job that much harder. Your prospects will question you on every assumption. The sales process will become longer. Customers will demand discounts and doubt your ability to deliver.
If you are working in a company with a poor reputation, it is imperative that your senior management makes improving it a top priority. If you do not, they risk the long-term health and security of the business.
Most people associate fear in business with losing a job and becoming unemployed. That is a reasonable thing to worry over.It has never been anything that has concerned me though. I have been fired and quit as well. I often reasoned that I was getting closer to the place where I belonged. You know, where I wanted to be.
I have spent my career developing a network of people who come from all walks of life. I have over 33 thousand connections and followers that cover dozens of industries and thousands of different titles. I count connections in many countries. That is important to me because I have held roles with global responsibilities. Some are C-level people, and many are middle management folks. There are a lot of Marketing and Sales professionals in my network. They make up the core of it. I take special care with these folks because that is where my career is. In short, it is how the Farber’s pay their bills.
I have been fortunate to have added some new and exciting professionals over the past 18 months. I have been writing articles for various social media platforms.I have added: writers, authors, poets, editors, professors, consultants and a handful of others. Many with diverse backgrounds from my own. They add a unique quality to my network. The number of connections I have is large however, it is also increasing in diversity.
Why is that important?
Diversity in your network provides differing opinions. This allows you to ask for feedback from a broad array of professionals.By definition, you think more strategically. You also tend to think bigger, I believe.
If all I had were connections to 33 thousand sales people, that would be powerful. But imagine if just a third were sales people. Now think about the other 22 thousand connections. What if there were 1000 connections across 22 different professions? In comparison, I would take the latter network every time.
I want as many people from as many differing backgrounds opining on my writing. Often I put business problems or opportunities out in my posts and ask for feedback. In fact, I wrote a piece seeking help on a goal I had which was; getting my work on the Huffington Post. My network responded. A week later I was published on HuffPo.I had many Emails, Inmails, Tweets and even a phone call offering help. All I did was offer some advice and ask a question. Remember, people are kind and want to help.
Here is how I think about my network. I imagine it to look like a pyramid. In my view, my network sits on top of me. I don’t consider myself to be an Egyptian King or anything. I do believe my network dwarfs me and is far bigger and influential than I could ever be on my own. That is why I try to handle it with care. A mishandling could upset the delicate infrastructure and cause it to come crumbling down on me.
Imagine if, for some reason, people started disconnecting from your network. Say you did something illegal and it ended up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. One by one, day after day, people would disconnect from you.All the potential good you could receive from your network OR provide TO your network would go down the drain.
During times of career challenge or trouble my network has provided help and bailed me out. During the good times, my network has provided encouragement. It has also helped me to maximize my opportunities.
When I publish something, I get the same feeling every time before I hit the enter key. I hope my writing is good and will make a difference for someone. I give the best of what I have and hope that someone learns something. If so, that person might think it would be a good idea to become a part of my network.
The fear of putting out poor quality and the consequences that come from it is a healthy motivator to do my best work. The fear of losing my network is just too great.
The saying “burning bridges” comes from ancient Roman Times. Generals invading new territories would order their soldiers to burn the bridges behind them. This way they wouldn’t retreat. It is similar to the point of no return in military speak, or PONR. In career and social relations, it means not to piss off people who can damage your reputation. You want a network that says good things about your skills, integrity, and reputation.
That is precious.
Often we don’t get a chance to repair the damage done to any of these, particularly reputation. The consequences can take on a life of their own on social media. You have no chance of stopping them once they are set loose in your network. It’s kind of like the wind-driven wildfires in the deserts of California.
Your career includes your experiences, network, and skills. In that order. Your background builds over time and becomes your story. I have worked in over a half dozen companies in my career. For each, I have my story. I had different experiences at each place I worked. I provided an experience for my staff, co-workers, and clients. In return, I received new experiences.
My story grew, I own it, and it’s mine to tell.
I remember adding to my LinkedIn profile how much PNC paid for Albridge Solutions back in 2008. I had left the company. I received threatening phone calls. I hadn’t signed anything that said I couldn’t disclose the price. I was proud of it. I told the attorney it was my story and kept it there.
There is a flip side though that you only have limited control over. What others think of you, your experiences, network, and skills are important. That’s why you want to maintain a degree of consistency in your behavior.
Who you run with is super important as well. I have been fortunate to work with a great bunch of executives over the decades. Some of us continue to work together, others are at other companies, but we all talk and share our stories.
It’s how we learn.
Sharing stories is one of the key components of network value. There is value in the gross number of people in your network. At 10k connections, your posts and updates will start to gain attention. At 15k connections, your network will start to grow with little effort. I connect to about 50 people a day. Most of these are people reaching out to me.
As your platform builds, you can be more selective. First, you must develop the core of your network. An active core has people you know and have done business with. These folks are key have influence on defining your reputation. They are also the people who will alert you to new opportunities. These are who you will reach out to discuss your opportunities and challenges. These connections are super powerful. When you tell them about an experience you had with a rogue employee, client or vendor their reputation just took a hit. Don’t get me wrong; people are fair, but the core of your network is where opinions develop. I estimate them to be in the top one-half of one percent of your network. It is here where you want to protect the bridges you worked so hard to build. I once knew a woman who I had spent a lot of time grooming for a senior executive role. She had a lot of pressure in her life and work. Her behavior became erratic. She argued with other employees and became disruptive to the business. We had a few confrontations, and I tried to help her. In the end, I had to remove her from contacting me via text and phone. She quit and burned a bridge with me and the core of my network. While I will never go out of my way to hurt her reputation, I will not go out of my way to enhance it either. Your network is a reflection of you, and the core of it is the heart of who you are.
Having a blend of hard and soft skills is key to improving your chances of success. I have some hard skills in sales, marketing, relationship management, and business management. The skill that has been most useful in my career is team building and talent management. Looking back, I curated some key people and took great care not to piss them off. So when I called with a problem or opportunity they picked up the phone. The bridge I had built remained intact. One executive I know joined me at my current gig, but not the one immediately after we had success together. The relationship is strong, the network intact, she is at the core of my network.
The golden rule of treating others how you like to be treated is a priceless bit of advice. The bridges you have built over a career combined with your skills and experiences are powerful. These are three key components that will lead you to a career filled with achievement and success.