Getting Connected: Networking Communities

In past blog postings, I have written about topics involving social media communities and talent communities. Of course, I am very passionate about both of these types of communities but the main reason behind my feelings towards it is what these communities offer. If individuals get involved in these types of situations, many will be happy to find that the communities offer some incredible networking opportunities. Not only do they offer networking opportunities but they can also be a great resource for learning, development, and thought leadership. So, what can networking communities do for you?

Here are some potential networking communities you can explore:

  • Networking groups: Recently I discovered the website www.meetup.com. It’s a great way for people to discover specific groups who are meeting up in your area. There are plenty of groups meeting up for specific reasons, whether it is for business, certain interests, or generally just to meet people.
  • Professional clubs: professional groups that meet regularly are also a good way to network with people in different industries. For example, in Charleston, SC there is a professional club called the Charleston Young Professionals. They typically set up monthly events to allow people to have fun and also mingle for business contacts.
  • Social media: websites like Linkedin and Twitter are fantastic ways to connect with individuals. Discussion groups and chats that are based on specific professions, topics, or industries can also make it easy to casually connect with individuals.
  • Work events: surprisingly, work events can also be a great place to network. Sometimes in office settings people don’t have the time or ability to talk to people outside of their department or to individuals they don’t directly work with. This can be a great way to get to know about others in your company.
  • Conventions: conventions are a way to meet people who are in a specific industry or specific role. This will allow you to connect with people that could potentially be in the same industry/role as you. Therefore, it may be a quick way to form a bond.

Some of the benefits of networking:

  • Business connections: networking with individuals can help you find business connections that can assist you with specific business needs or business development.
  • Learning and development: networks can help open up opportunities to learn and develop. For example, social communities can present online learning, training, and development opportunities for those who want to extend their learning outside of what their company can offer.
  • Resources: networking can help you discover some really interesting resources. For example, when I was starting my blog I came across some useful reference material that helped me add something extra to my posts. It’s also a great way for people to discover job opportunities or companies that they may never have heard of.
  • Thought Leadership: networking groups can promote discussion, which can ultimately promote thought leadership. I’ve witnessed occurrences where a simple group discussion resulted in a solution that helped better a business and situation.

Since I’ve been networking in some of the ways mentioned above, I feel like I’ve developed greatly as a person. I could almost kick myself for not partaking in this sooner. The individuals I’ve met have been unbelievably inspiring and have helped pave the way to build my knowledge to grow personally and professionally. Being involved in networking communities has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. How about you?

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How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

Determination for a Successful Future

Recently, I was talking to some college students about their expectations for their careers. I was happy to hear that many of them had a bright outlook for their future but became a little distressed when I learned that they didn’t realize the lengths and effort they need to put into it in order to reach their career goals. Many assumed that simply getting a degree and getting a little experience from interning could help them easily land a job. I tried to explain to them that in this economy, the bare minimum just won’t cut it.

That conversation had me thinking about people I knew that were particularly admirable in this capacity. I instantly thought about my friend, Desiree Louca, who I’ve known since kindergarten. She had always impressed me with her drive and self-motivation, even when we were younger. As we grew older, she harnessed these personal traits and worked hard to obtain the future she dreamed of. Her determination allowed her to have a successful future at the ripe age of 21 years old. Her future gave her the financial security and independence to support herself in ways that some adults may never know throughout their lifetime. With that being said, I felt that she was a perfect person to interview for this topic. Here’s the story on how her hard work paid off:

Ashley Perez (AP):   How were you able to pinpoint what career path you wanted to pursue so early in your life?

Desiree Louca (DL): “Growing up, I always had a great feeling inside when I helped out people in need. I was always fascinated with the medical field, probably from watching so many reality shows of the ER in hospitals. This was the first position in the medical field I really had my heart set on. At 14, my mother took me to the local hospital and I signed up to be a junior volunteer. I volunteered for 3 years and it was such an amazing experience.

“However, after only a few months of volunteering, I quickly learned that being a nurse was not for me. I could not handle it emotionally. I always found myself to be extremely emotionally strong, but I could not bare certain situations that I watched. Maybe I was too young to have seen them and would be able to handle them better now, but it is something that will never leave my mind. I simply could not disassociate myself from my emotions on the job. You can’t have a cry break every 30 minutes as a nurse, especially in the ER!

“I still knew the medical field was for me, though, and that there were tons of other jobs in the field. Teeth were another fascination for me. At 16, I began a paid internship at a local dental office. I absolutely loved it! I worked at a multi-specialty practice, so I was fully able to experience every single aspect of dentistry. I was initially working as a dental assistant but I knew I wanted more, so I decided to go to school to become a dental hygienist. While in school I felt a deep sense of comfort, stability, and enjoyment. I knew that this career was meant for me. In conclusion, I was able to pinpoint my career path by basically going and trying out each field of employment that I felt I may want to pursue.”

AP: What course of action did you determine was necessary to get the experience and education needed to be successful?

DL: “Research and resources! We are lucky to have the internet these days but I feel that doing it the old fashioned way is sometimes better. Before receiving the internship at the dental office, I walked in to the office and asked to speak to a dental hygienist. That dental hygienist was very happy to sit and answer the questions I had written out on a notepad. My questions included; job description, schooling, and stability in life.”

AP: Did you have goals and timelines? What were they?

DL: “Absolutely. Procrastination gets nowhere. Everyone at this point in life knows that you will not get anywhere unless you make moves. Right after high school I went right on the path to becoming a dental hygienist while still working at the dental office. This helped me greatly because while learning everything I needed to know about the field, I was experiencing it hands on. My goal was to be done with school in 4 years, that way I would be starting my career at 21 years of age.”

AP: What are the sacrifices you had to make in order to stay focused? Do you regret making them?

DL: “Starting to work in a professional environment at 16 years old forced me to mature much faster than my friends. Going to college to become a health professional from ages 17-21 while all of my friends were partying at college and going out every weekend was very hard for me to deal with at the time. However, being on a career path that I loved was a constant reminder that everything was going to be okay and well worth it in the end. I have no regrets. Even though I hardly went out nearly as much as my friends, I still had the chance to occasionally, and that was all that I really needed. In the midst of my busy life, I sit back and feel very accomplished realizing where I am in life at 24 years old compared to most people my age who live in my area.”

AP: What advice would you give people just starting out?

 DL: “Be a go-getter! Don’t sit back and think something is going to come your way or that the wind will blow one way and magically you will know where you are meant to be. It is a natural instinct to have things that interest you in life. Write them down, research ways you can try them out; such as volunteering, internships, or actual employment. You will not know if it’s right for you in a day or even weeks, so give it at least a few months. As I’m sure most people have heard more than once in their life, ‘Just do it’.”

Desiree provided some great insight and tips on how to pave your way to a successful future. I’ve personally seen her dedicate time and determination throughout the years and can honestly say that it seemed to work. I’m proud of her success and happy to see that it paid off early on in her life. I believe that many college students and early careerists can benefit from these tips and should try to test them out as soon as they can. Desiree is living proof that putting yourself out there can help you secure a place in your career.

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Photo Source: Colourbox

Turning Around Poor Performance

As I’ve mentioned several times before, networking on LinkedIn and Twitter has allowed me to talk to some truly amazing and inspirational people. Today, as I was thinking back on these particular individuals, one stood out in my mind. Over the course of the last few months, he has written so many supportive and encouraging messages to me in regard to my professional competency and my writing. In addition to his motivation, he has also shared some valuable insight in regard to his human resources experience and beliefs. Hearing some of Gio Branco’s whole-hearted values really helped restore my faith for human resource’s future.

As he partook in some of the discussions I had posted in the Linkedin:HR group, I learned he was a Human Resources Consultant. We talked more about his experience and beliefs and I felt that it was a breath of fresh air. I am positive that his clients appreciate his conviction and passion for HR.

As time went on, I saw that Gio also wrote some interesting blogs for his consulting business. Needless to say, I was intrigued to see what he had to say about different human resources topics. Recently,one blog post caught my attention. It discussed some of the reasons why employees perform poorly. Some of the common reasons he mentioned were as follows:

1. Lack of knowledge, skills or abilities.

2. Incorrect role expectations.

3. Lack of motivation.

4. Lack of resources.

5. Poor morale.

I have to agree with the points he made in this posting. A decent amount of times employees don’t perform poorly because they’re incapable of doing the job but because of other factors.

However, there is another thing to consider when it comes to poor performance: management’s role to help fix this situation before it costs the company business or an employee their job. In order to truly assess the situation and determine the best course of action, a manager needs to provide feedback. I feel that one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to only provide feedback in bi-annually or yearly performance reviews. At that point, the damage is already done. It is imperative that managers give regular feedback to employees and create an environment in which employees feel like they can openly express concerns, issues, or suggestions. Managers may fight that they are too busy to take the time to do this, but if they did it from the start then they wouldn’t be busy putting out fires caused by poor performers. Being proactive will help your business and your employees in the long-run.

One of the best experiences I’ve had in my working career is when I worked for a company in which managers gave me feedback on a weekly and/or monthly basis. These one-on-one feedback sessions helped me learn the areas I could work on and also gave me resources to do better. Most importantly, these sessions helped me learn my weak areas immediately and allowed me to fix the problem before it became a habit. Providing regular feedback can help resolve the areas that Gio had mentioned. Additionally, it can do the following:

  • Allow your employees to fix problems before it becomes a regular occurrence.
  • Ensure that senior employees don’t set a bad example for new employees.
  • Increase morale.
  • Reduce the issues that the company would need to spend time, money, and energy to fix.
  • Cut the costs that would incur if the company had to terminate a poor performer.
  • Cut the costs to hire and train someone new to fill the terminated employee’s spot.
  • Empower employees to be proactive, accountable, and responsible.
  • Allow employees feel like the company is invested in their professional growth which could make them want to be more dedicated and committed to doing a good job.
  • Create a better employee and customer experience.
  • Help a company learn that weak points may be in the structure and training, not the employee.

I literally could go on and on about the importance of providing regular feedback. There are so many benefits, both short-term and long-term. What I know is that the feedback sessions I received from my manager allowed me to professionally grow. I soon became one of the most efficient and accurate employees in the department. I was proud of what I did. This also empowered me to have more time and knowledge to spot weak areas in the company’s processes and suggest ways on how to fix them. With that being said, helping me allowed me to help them in return.

You don’t need to have poor performers in your company, but in order to reduce that you must invest time to provide the necessary feedback to help them turn around their performance.

Links:

Gio’s post about poor performance.

Gio Branco Consulting