New acquaintances, or lost opportunities?

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Preparing to go to a networking event a few weeks ago, we spoke about how to network. It turned out that none of us liked networking, and we all thought we were pretty awful at it. There is always that dread that nobody will want to talk to you, or worse, that you are going to make a fool of yourself, and that you will walk out 2 hours later with a piece of lettuce stuck to your teeth, French mustard all over your shirt, and not a single contact in hand.

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Avoiding networking is not a feasible option. Standing in a corner, or only talking to people we already know,  serves no purpose. Remembering the purpose might help propel us into the thick of things, and there are any number of reasons why we might want or need to network.

  • Looking for a job? There are estimates that as many as 80% of jobs are landed as the result of networking. Even if the figure is lower, it is still too significant to ignore. The same holds true for promotions.
  • Professional development. Building a relevant network, and maintaining it, is a surefire way to stay informed of who is who, and what is what, in your chosen field. You will be exposed to new faces as well as new ideas, new contacts, new mentors – all of which will help build your knowledge and your skill set.
  • Expanding horizons. Not everybody you meet will be in your line of work. But even people in completely different professions and industries can teach you things, inspire you, give you new ideas and new ways of looking at old things, and energize you.
  • Confidence. Every time you  conclude a conversation, you gain a bit more confidence, that makes your next interaction with a stranger just that little bit more easy.
  • Make a friend. Some of the people you meet while networking, you will never have contact with again, while some will become regular contacts and advisors. But there will also be a few who, over time, will become good friends, and your relationship will extend far beyond the workplace. After all, a stranger is just a friend you don’t know yet, remember?
  • Do unto others. Whatever you gain from networking, is what you offer others as well. Networking is not about finding people you can use and exploit. (Don’t even try that – it will not work out well for you!) You too will become a mentor, a person to contact for information, insights and references. Don’t hesitate to pay it forward, and don’t keep a tally, it is not a competition.

Having said all that, I know that networking still remains daunting. Even though I’ve given you some good reasons to network, it does not make it easier. And I’ll write about some things you can do to make it less intimidating in a few weeks. Until then, have a look at ‘How I Stopped Sucking at Networking’ by Pam Ross, talking about how she:

  • uses Twitter, and
  • the rule of three,
  • scraps small talk,
  • shows a genuine interest and curiosity, and
  • loves connecting people.

How are you at connecting and networking? And how do you make it work for you?

It will only hurt, well, a lot…

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Some messages are easy to communicate. They offer something with immediate gains, for very little pain, or at least not immediate and clear pain. Others promise a long delayed payoff, and a noticeable immediate cost.

Lemonade or transit?

It is much easier to convince people to buy a lovely, sweet, refreshing drink on a hot summers day, than to get them to stop smoking, or to pay more taxes for the next 10 to 20 years so that we can build more effective mass transit networks. (And not only the people who have to pay more taxes, but also the politicians who have to face the voting public every few years.)

So how do we convince people to commit to things that offer no immediate gratification?

1. Paint the picture:

Show people what the end goal will look like. Tell them how it will benefit, if not themselves, then their children (or grandchildren), their communities, their country, society at large. Make them want to be part of the bigger picture, the solution.

2. Highlight the values:

Point out the ways in which it is the right thing to do, how it is consistent with people’s values and morals. Again, make them want to be part of the solution.

3. Case studies:

Show people comparisons, where has this been done, how was it done, and how did it turn out.

4. Third-party experts:

Find people who have no vested interest, but who have authority, respect and credibility in the community, to talk to the idea. Even if they differ on some points and issues, do not stifle their input, rather listen to them, and be seen to listen to them, and incorporate their ideas where it is possible.

5. Educate:

Make sure people know what you are doing, how you are doing it, and most importantly, why you are doing it. What is the background story, the history, the context?

6. Be transparent:

Be open and up-front with people, not just in the initial phases, but all the way through the project. Even, no, especially when things go wrong. Admit mistakes and failures. Do not justify them. Solicit input. Outline solutions. Move on.

7. It takes a village:

Include your audience/community at every level. Let them become part of the planning, the execution and the evaluation. Build relationships with your audience.

8. Be consistent:

Both in actions and communications, you need to stay on message. Don’t change the message halfway through. Don’t allow different and/or conflicting messages. One voice, one message, throughout.

 

So what do you think, can we still get people to commit to long-term projects?

Marketing sexism in a box.

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A week ago, a tweet from Waterloo flew around the world. A University of Waterloo professor posted about gender stereotyping after seeing these baby pyjamas in Target.

Hero or zero?

Hero or zero?

Here she talks about why she took issue with the outfits:

Waterloo prof's photo of 'sexist' baby pyjamas leads to online outcry | CTV Kitchener News.

The response was instant, global, and varied. She received numerous retweets, including many more pictures of gender stereotyping in children’s clothing.

Invariably, some responders felt that she was overreacting, that she had too much time on her hands, and that she was overly sensitive. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” seemed to be a popular response.

But not all girls like pink, and not all girls think painting their nails and bedazzling t-shirts is bliss. And not all boys like blue, or have an avid fascination with Iron Man. And it makes you wonder, when marketers look at branding and packaging, do they not know this, or do they just not care? Or are they starting to look beyond the obvious stereotyping?

This question lead me straight into Toys’R’Us, a shop where branding flourishes, to see if the perceptions I formed a decade ago still hold true. Then, walking into the store, you were overwhelmed by the clear division between PINK, and all the exciting stuff. The good news is, there has been some changes. 10 years ago, all the scientific and discovery related toys would have been packed in the boys section of the store. Now there is a wide range of science and exploration learning toys displayed in a gender neutral section.

The bad news is that the differences between the boys’ section and the girls’ section still play firmly into traditional gender bias.The girls’ toys are still dominated by princess dresses, toys geared at nurturing girls’, well, nurturing side, and toys designed to practise the art of looking pretty and making pretty things.

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Boys, on the other hand, have toys that allow them to explore, have adventures, be protectors and rescuers, and build.

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Clearly, when it comes to marketing to children, the concept of boys playing with dolls that are not action figures, or engaging in arts and crafts, has still not quite penetrated the minds of the manufacturers and marketers of toys. Neither has the idea of girls as action figures or risk-takers.

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So, is this overreacting, or does gender stereotyping in products geared towards children entrench stereotypical behaviour? What do you think?