Networking yourself [to a new job]

I’m following this Coursera MOOC on “International Leadership and Organizational Behaviour”, #ILOB and I quite enjoy it. Although I don’t really know about the academic endeavour and value with these classes new learning is always positive.

Today’s lecture is about the Impact of Social Networks on Organizations and Groups, it speaks about different types of networks – strong vs. weak, closed vs. open etc. But I wonder, does it (= networking) work? And if you find yourself in a surrounding aka network and you’re the odd man out what good will a network be to you? In my own situation e.g. it is no secret that I’m looking for a new job and that I come with a good experience and competencies to execute in the jobs I apply for. Only I seem to exist in some Boy zone, that is Brussels public affairs in IT, and even if I turn over backwards I will never be male so I literally don’t fit in. This is not a criticism, it is stating facts of human nature, I believe that the correct academic term is Homophily, i.e. we bond easier with people whom are similar to ourselves. But with result is that unless we dare to go outside the famous box our network will look as ourselves. From a sheer business point of view that while a closed network like this will offer good ways to collaborate, higher trust etc., closed networks like these will also see lack of innovation, high redundancy in competencies and so on. Of course, I understand that there are two in any connection and I am entirely open to the fact that I’m the weak spot in any [future] relationship. Then the question is – what does that say about me? Maybe I haven’t invested enough in my network? Possibly. Like so much in our lives networks are earned, it could be that I haven’t earned my network. On the other hand none of “my” contacts have just landed in my lap.

I’ve always been a firm believer in “keeping shut and getting the work done” and that this will eventually pay off in more interesting jobs, tasks and better remuneration. Yes, I admit there are limits to my altruism and both the landlord and myself like the concept of paying the monthly bills in full, every month. An old-fashion concept I know, but one that I like because well, it works. But no, not so. Apparently I have to look at my wide network as a strategic asset. Dear me, these a people I’ve passed a good time with having coffee or so, but now they are suddenly an asset. I find it all a bit disconcerting, because while I don’t mind helping out as much as I can myself when someone asks for help I dislike the notion of being an asset. And if I dislike this it is easy to assume that so does my counterparts.

So while I understand that No Man is an Island I’m remain a bit uneasy of the concept of regarding my fellow human beings as assets. And to balance the giving and taking. Or am I maybe over thinking the art of networking?

The Thank You letter after an interview – how to formulate?

After each interview I send a Thank you letter thanking the interviewer for their time, re-connecting to some of our conversation and reiterate my interest in the role and the company. I usually also try to say that I’d do well in the role by some additional thinking e.g. a short strategy for communications, PR or Public Affairs or whatever the role is about. The question is should I do that or should I just keep the letter short and sweet?

I’m just asking because once a recruiter gave me some coaching before an interview and I mentioned that I planned to bring a presentation with me. The interviewer cautioned against it because since we didn’t know what the turns the interview would take and if I then left behind something that had nothing to do with the actual discussion I would be remembered by that rather than what I wanted to be remembered by.

With the Thank you letter I of course have a better situation since I know what we discussed so that part is easily managed. But there is still a lingering doubt that I’m wearing a bit off the best route. Why could it be a bad thing to show that I can do the job? Because what I show might not be exactly what the hiring company is looking for and then this will be what I leave behind and my efforts to further display my competencies will then simply be the stumbling block that takes me out of the race.

What say the recruiters in my network? What’s the best way to pen a Tank you letter?

“It’s nothing personal” – “Please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies” ‑ so they say

When applying for jobs one must grow rhinoceros hide and learn to accept rejection after rejection. Of course I get disappointed when I get a no, I mean I applied for the job. At the same time, it goes without saying that in a hiring process the company should identify and hire the person they feel can do the job. Identifying the right candidate is after all the goal with any hiring exercise, no question about it. And in a hiring situation there are more concerns to take into account than I can being to understand.

However, the thing I find hardest to handle are the comments that comes with the rejections, the ones going along the line of “It’s nothing personal and please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies.”

You know what? With the risk of sounding like Donna Corleone, this IS personal. We are talking about my competencies, my experiences. It is me, myself and I that is weighed and found too light. I am the one rejected, not the competition. Of course I accept the message. There is after all not much else to do.

Is flat lining our languages the way forward to better understanding?

I used to love to read magazines like the Economist and Vanity Fair. I loved their elegant language, these fantastic four syllable words that read like poetry had I ever been a poetry reader. The writers and writing had personality. Every time I put down these (and other) magazines I had learned a new word and gained new insights. But lately, meaning the past couple of years, when I read these and other articles, I find the language flat, lacking identity or just plain uninteresting only based on their writing and use of language.

Of course, with better knowledge of English the level of understanding is higher and better that’s a wonderful part of life, we can master what we set out to learn. But maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss? English is a wonderfully forgiving language and it accepts us linguistic mongrels with grace and good will. But when I speak with my English mother tongue friends they all bear witness to having simplified their spoken English to suit people like myself, i.e. someone that has studied English in school as a foreign language. While I appreciate their efforts getting their message across, and that they make an attempt to include e.g. me in their conversation, I at the same time find it sad. Because lower standards rarely complies with moving ahead and for me, one way I learn is to be around someone more skilled than me. And I don’t think I’m unique in this way.

I am not talking about a manual or cooking recipe here, because manuals and cookery books should be basic and straight forward. I am talking about [written]mass media that I do think have a responsibility towards “their” language, their readers “at home” and the “foreigners.”

Am I naïve? Am I looking for elegance where elegance can’t be found? And is this flattening maybe something good that will bring about better understanding?

“The wrong people shared it” a tale of a Social Media campaign gone awry

One of the downsides with having a mother tongue spoken by 10 million people is exactly that. But I wanted to give this a try anyway because it is such a good example of Social Media and an organisation that maybe has a wee bit left to go…

It started on November 11 with a letter from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, it’s the largest Swedish Union and very powerful Union at that and solidly leftist. No surprises there. And let it be know that I have no problems with Unions, on the contrary I have almost always been a card-carrying member. Not so much maybe in a left-wing Union, but in a Union representing me. I feel that as an employee we sometimes are the underdogs and we may need support. It’s akin to having a home insurance, you don’t need it on a daily basis but once something happens its good to have.

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation in west Sweden is vying for more members. Nothing strange with that, all organisations wants to grow. They are using their Facebook page, nothing strange there either. It’s more the way they are doing it and how they address their future members. It is an accusing text in the form of a letter saying that “Your back will never hurt. You’ve been riding on others’ all your life” after which it goes on to list the Union successes e.g. 8 hour working day, holiday etc…

However, when the letter took a national viral spin it was taken down from the Facebook page. Admittedly it was shared for the “wrong” reasons, no one agreed with the accusing approach in the text something that seemed to surprise the local Union and it was taken down because “It was shared by the Tory side” i.e. by the wrong people having the wrong political views.

And this is the crux with Social Media, we can’t control the response, what we can do is our best to use the channels we are comfortable with but we don’t know if the “wrong side” will pick it up and share it. What we also can do is to do our homework first and see to that we have all the answers for come what may. It’s called a communication strategy and it’s not sexy but it’s what makes campaigns work.

So the next time before you publish something, ask yourself “What if” your life as [Social Media] communicator will be so much easier.

You’ll find the link to the text here: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/facket-du-har-ju-ridit-pa-andras-ryggar-i-hela-ditt-liv/

Expelling the fear in communications

In her excellent piece on IT change communications, Theresa Stinson, lists “Expel the fear” as one integral part in any change communication roll-out. And how right she is, getting to test e.g. the new software is an important step to overcome any reticence to change in the organisation.

But this advice is equally valid for other types of IT related communications, I’m thinking about when the “customers” are the IT specialists. Before I move on I’d like to state one thing: I love working with engineers. They are solution minded and are often very enthusiastic. True they more often than not display this enthusiasm by speaking to you in four or five letter acronyms, but the enthusiasm is there and I can take their engineering speak and turn it into something non-engineers understand. And this is where the (expelling) fear come in. Very often I get the reaction from the “IT guys” that the text I have prepared is too high level. At occasion I have been accused of treating the target groups as idiots, and more often than not I have been told that the text is not “techie” enough.

So, what do I do? It should come as no surprise when the answer is: it depends on the audience. One thing I rarely do however, is to rewrite the text so it becomes “techier.” Of course I correct errors, but that’s it.

And, why don’t I listen to the wishes of the customer? Isn’t a fundamental quality in any customer facing job? It isn’t arrogance, trust me, I normally work with colleagues that will forget more about their subject matters than I will learn, I don’t in any way doubt their technical knowledge. But when it comes to communications I’m the specialist. And I also base my advice on many years of pitching journalists whom all have one thing in common, they are pressed for time and need to quickly identify if there is something newsworthy in the material I provide.

I remember in particular one customer that got so incensed I actually made a bet with him. It was regarding a newsletter I had produced and it is true it was high-level but I was convinced ,this was the way forward. I had taken 50 pages Rational Rose schematics and turned them into 1,5 A4 document and I attached the technical specifications. The bet went along the lines: if the stakeholders are upset its my fault, if they are good with this, it’s your sunshine. The result? An astounding success, and for the first time in the life of the programme the developers got much-needed feedback from the stakeholders. In all honesty the doubting programme manager did acknowledge that my way forward was the good way forward. The crux of the matter was the attachment. While many of the stakeholders were very senior managers and only read the short text, they for the first time ever knew whom to forward the technical specifications to.

So yes, expelling the fear is a large part of our job as communicators and sometimes an attachment is what’s needed to move ahead.

Equal pay, ICT industry, men, women and profiling

The so called gaffe by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his statements about women, pay, and the pay gap and some of the opinion pieces penned as a result made me wonder. I frankly don’t think that Mr Nadella thinks that women should be paid less than men, but I do believe that he (unfortunately) might be on the correct side of history when he says that women often can be more uncomfortable in asking in any job related situation than most men.

John Fortt has penned a good opinion piece about the situation where I think he is on to something. In the piece Mr Fortt asks if meritocracies can be biased and he gives #Netflix as an example, from personal experience I can only answer that “Yes” and that includes Netflix.

But the basic issue that needs to change isn’t so much the payment practises as such, they are only the result of the basic flaws and symptoms on the sickness – that unless you as an employee is recognisable by the high-tech recruiter you will not even get hired so forget about getting the pay you deserve.

In my business and city, all one have to do is to take a look around and you start singing the old James Brown song “This is a man’s world” but without adding the following praise to women. There are so many organisations representing the [ICT] industry that only have men hired, or only men at the senior levels, it is frightening. Saying the industry is a bit of a lad is an understatement of the century. So, based on the fact that we women doesn’t even count enough to get hired, why do we even bother about the payment scales? I am not saying it isn’t important and that they need to be adjusted, but if we as women doesn’t even count in the work force? So sorry, people, let’s start with the basics and see to that we as women count, get hired and that our competencies count as much as a men’s so we get hired, then we can deal with the payment scales.