networks

How To Generate New Career Opportunities

stepping-off-a-cliff

When you’re considering how to generate your next career opportunity, the challenge is often about knowing where to look. Here are some ideas about how to go about it in a clever way that maximises your reach, and your time.

Most people think too narrowly when they’re looking for the next role. It limits them to only a few choices. As a result, it’s often the case that none of the choices can look too appealing, so they’ll stay put, stewing in frustration.

Don’t do that.

When you’re looking for the next role, start broad. Simply put, consider everyone, and everywhere, as a possible source of career opportunity. At the same time, be smart about how and where you focus your efforts.

Here’s an approach to help with that. It’s something I’ve developed and used to help hundreds of people generate new opportunities.

First, identify the critical few criteria for what you want in the next role. Aim for 5-6 key words or ideas that sum it up. For example: tech industry, challenging work, a boss who will actively mentor you, an opportunity to make a real difference, autonomy, financial stability, et cetera. Those criteria will help inform what is a ‘right fit’ for you. A tool like Career Anchors can be useful here.

Next, it’s about identifying the people and organisations that may be useful. Not just the ones you’d like to work with, but a  broader list that covers four bases:

  • People and organisations you know, and you think would be a right fit for you
  • People and organisations you know, and you think aren’t the right fit for you (for now)
  • People and organisations you don’t know, and you think would be a right fit for you
  • People and organisations you don’t know, and you think aren’t the right fit for you.

A useful place to start is to scan your LinkedIn contacts. You can export your contacts into a CSV file for easier scanning.

Then map these people to the model below.

career-opportunity-generation-model-v2

Think of it like a stovetop. You use different burners, at different heats, for different groups.

  1. Generate: these are the people and their organisations that you know, and you’d love to work with. Approach these people directly. Your aim here is to create alignment between what you’re interested in, what you offer, and what they need, and then generate commitment for you to work with them.
  1. Leverage: these are the people you know who, for whatever reason, you don’t think would be a right fit for your criteria. However, they are likely to have good connections and/or advice for you. Leverage those relationships to get referrals to people and organisations in the top left quadrant, and to strengthen your positioning with those in the top right.
  1. Educate: these are the people or organisations that you don’t have a strong relationship with yet, or perhaps any relationship at all. And, you’re excited about the idea of working with them. Use your contacts in the Generate and Leverage quadrants to help you connect with them. When you meet with them, your goal is a) to listen well, and b) to educate them about the value you bring to help solve their issues.
  1. Monitor: these are the people, organisations and industries you don’t have a lot of interest in working with, and don’t have connections into. Don’t write them off. Be curious: you can learn a lot from difference. Set up monitoring mechanisms (eg subscriptions to magazines like Fast Company that cover mega-trends across a range of industries) to help you spot practices that could be transferred into your domain. When you meet someone new in this quadrant, put your ‘learning hat’ on. See what possibilities you can discover.

You can use the  Career Opportunity Generation template to make all of these easier for you.

Right in the middle, there’s ‘Add Value’. Regardless of who you meet in your search, find ways to help them, regardless of what you might get from the interaction. They payoff is a) they’ll remember you as being a useful person (which can only be a good thing) and b) you’ll have made a difference (which is what it’s all about, right?) I’ve written about the value of adding value before – see Networking For When It’s All Too Hard for more ideas on that.

Go well.

 

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Photo source: brendaknowles.com

 

Meta-Skills For Interesting Times

 

Robert Kennedy Intersting Times 2

“May you live in interesting times.
May you live in an interesting age.
May you live in exciting times.”

This phrase purportedly has it’s origins in China.  Over the past couple of hundred years, its popularity in the western world has tended to peak whenever the world goes into turmoil. I think it’s fair to say that we’re living through interesting times right now.

Some might say the changes and challenges we face in the world today are unprecedented. While that might be true, let’s not get too excited. Back in the day people were saying the same thing. They got through it.

And, if you think about it, the challenges YOU face in your life and times are unprecedented, at least for you. Assuming you’ve only been on the planet this one time, you’re writing your playbook as you go. That takes some doing.

Interesting times test us. They challenge our assumptions and boundaries, and ask us to invent new ways of seeing and living in the world. That goes for whether we are talking about individuals, organisations or whole societies. The work of leadership is to step up to those challenges and create a way through.

There are a few key skills that make the difference to whether we thrive or just merely survive during interesting times. Beyond the technical skills required for specific roles or situations, these are meta-skills that are fast becoming prized in organisations and communities the world over. Savvy companies, particularly in disrupted industries, are looking for, and appointing, leaders who embrace disruption, can connect across diverse demographics and cultures, and are exceptionally curious, open-minded, and courageous.

The World Economic Forum, The Institute for the Future, and futurists such as Bob Johansen have all researched and reported on the types of work skills required for 2020 and beyond. In synthesising their findings, the conclusion is that we need to shift from a world that values Conformity, Competencies and Certainty to one that embraces Curiosity, Connectedness and Courage.

Six C's model v2

 

These are the skills we need to cultivate in ourselves and the people who will help us to navigate these interesting times.

Courage

To act without being assured of success, without needing approval or permission, to experiment, innovate and try new approaches, be agile, and to challenge existing ideas and practices. For more on this, see my post “Do You Need Confidence, or Courage?”

Connection

The ability to seek out and connect meaningfully with a diverse range of people, apply social intelligence, serve others, and to collaborate effectively in a wide array of settings. The ability to deliberately cultivate an effective network  is an essential skill in interesting times.

Curiosity

The insatiable drive to ask questions, learn, unlearn, sit with ambiguity and ‘not knowing’, to step back, critique, and make sense of things objectively, to seek and find deeper meaning in the patterns, and see things from new and different perspectives, to have novel and adaptive thinking. Leonardo Da Vinci was a master of curiosity, which helped to make him one of the most creative people the world has ever known.

What would be the value in having more of these three C’s, both in your organisation and for yourself?

While aspiring to having more of these three C’s, we also need to transcend (but not throw out) another set of C’s:

Certainty

We are wired for certainty. In fact, our brains crave it. Certainty helps us make predictions more confidently, so we can operate in the world without having to use a huge amount of mental resources for each and every activity. In interesting times, the challenge is not to get rid of the need for certainty, but instead to learn to live in paradox: to create certainty while knowing that nothing is certain (besides death and taxes).

Competencies

For a most of the latter half of the 20th century and well into the current one, the default method of thinking about development has been through the lens of competencies i.e. the behaviours and skills you demonstrate. This approach overlooks the fact that our behaviours are guided by our mindsets – the way in which we think and see the world. If we want to thrive in interesting times, we need to move beyond upgrading competencies to also upgrading our thinking. This is known as vertical development. As Einstein said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Conformity

Like certainty, conformity has its place. We need standards, norms and laws to keep things running smoothly. In interesting times, it is often these norms, and their underlying assumptions, that are being tested. Rather than uphold conformity for it’s own sake, the more useful approach is to get behind the reason for the rule, and explore its usefulness in the current context.

Making It Happen

To cultivate your own three C’s of Courage, Connection and Curiosity, start with these tips:

Three Actions for Building Your Three C's

What Next?

If you’re interested in cultivating more Courage, Connection and Curiosity in your organisation, please get in touch for an interesting conversation to see what we can do together.

And download my latest thinking on how to future-proof your organisation by developing the three C’s in your next generation of leaders: How To Play With Fire – Equip Your Next Generation of Leaders To Deal With Anything

 

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Networked Leadership

Last week, I was invited, along with a number of others, to a lunch meeting to help out a colleague who was looking for fresh ideas on where to take her career. The conversation was lively and engaging, and my colleague came away with a plethora of new ideas – in fact, way more than she’d even hoped for.

As the conversation unfolded, I was struck by the diversity of the people in the room. Around the table were people from very different walks of life, with quite different perspectives on what our mutual colleague’s future could look like. Conflicting views often emerged, which caused disruption, debate, and some discomfort amongst us. Some ideas were built upon, some robustly challenged, others left hanging. In the end, they all formed the tapestry of our mutual colleague’s future possibilities.

Reflecting afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder whether she’d deliberately chosen such a diverse bunch. As it turned out, she’d done just that.

My colleague’s approach to how she chose the lunch participants is a great example of the benefits of having, and leveraging, a diverse network.

As leaders, we need to seek fresh perspectives and ways to innovate. The best innovations frequently come from a completely different field, and are evolved to be applied in our own context. To be effective, we need access to those different fields and ways of thinking. This applies whether you’re leading organisational change and growth, or shaping your own career.

How diverse is your network, and how well do you leverage it?

Brush Park by NZ artist Marita Hewitt

Brush Park by NZ artist Marita Hewitt

I frequently come across leaders whose networks have evolved by travelling the path of least resistance. The people they count in their network are the ones they’ve naturally come across in their day-to-day work, and / or are similar in mindset, experience and interests to their own. They’ve ‘collected’ people along the way without necessarily thinking about who will be the most useful people to associate with to get work done, design the future, or support them through tough times.

While collecting is fine, it’s not the most strategic approach, and can lead to a somewhat limited mindset that’s blind to new opportunities and possibilities. Researchers call this a ‘closed network’ (which, in fact, can have some benefits, particularly to help short term work get done efficiently).

Let me offer a different approach. One where you deliberately cultivate a network that works for you over the long term. It’s not size that matters. It’s the breadth, diversity and quality of relationships that does. 500+ contacts on LinkedIn does not necessarily make for an effective network, but, for you, and for the people in your organisation, ‘there’s gold in them thar hills’ if you care enough to put the effort in.

Experience tells me that the most effective leaders consciously act on the fact that networks matter. We all know (or at least we should know) that no one person has the answer to our most gnarly problems, and we need to invent answers through collaboration. And research tells us that high performers who are extremely satisfied in their work have these things in common when it comes to networks:

  1. To achieve high performance, their networks include people who offer them new information or expertise; influential people who provide mentoring and resources, and can help open doors; and people who offer developmental feedback and challenge.
  1. To ensure high satisfaction, their networks include people who provide personal support; people who add a sense of purpose or worth; and people who promote balance in their life.
  1. Their mottos are ‘build relationships before you need them’ and ‘give to get’. In other words, be proactive, and look for ways to help people, as well as asking for the help you need.
  1. The people in their networks are ‘energy givers’, not ‘energy takers’.

How does your own network stack up against these criteria? How about the networks of the people that report to you? By deliberately cultivating your own network, and encouraging the people around you to do the same, you catalyse collaborative, networked leadership – a phenomenon that’s increasingly important in our organisations and society today.

Take a moment to analyse your own network. Here’s an activity that will only take you 15 minutes (you can go here to download a template):

  1. Write down as many people as possible that you know who can help you achieve your work and career goals.
  2. Put a star next to the ones who energise you the most.
  3. Map the starred people to a matrix, using headings as described below. The headings are the types of roles people play in your network, based on the research (see points 1 and 2 above).

Network Matrix    4.Write down a result / goal you want to achieve in the next 6-18 months

5. Answer these questions:

  • How could you leverage the people in your network to help you achieve your goal?
  • Who else do you need in your network to help you achieve your goal?
  • How could you connect with them?

 

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