Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Work+Life Fit: The Modern Skill Every Young Woman Needs to Succeed

Check out her session "The Secrets to Work+Life "Fit" Success" on Friday Morning of the conference.

By Cali Williams Yost, CEO and Founder Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc.

I graduated from Columbia Business School in 1995, and have spent the last two decades in the trenches working with hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals to create new ways to manage work, life and business. 

Earlier this year, Columbia invited me back to present to a group of prospective female students.   I began by asking the 200 bright, ambitious young women in the room, “How many of you are sitting here today making career choices based upon future personal responsibilities that you don’t even have yet?”  Almost every hand in the room went up. 

Perhaps, like those young women, you see personal and professional conflict looming in your future.  They needed a ray of hope.   Thankfully, I was able to I provide it.

First, I urged them to “go for it 100%” professionally, get as much experience as they can, and make themselves as valuable as possible.  I shared my personal stories of managing my work and life, as a business owner, wife, and mother, and I shared other examples of women who had creatively and flexibly found success on and off the job. 

But then, I translated the secrets from those stories into a “how to” practice they could apply in their lives throughout their careers.  I explained how to take action and find their own solutions based on their unique circumstances, because knowing how to manage your work+life fit, day-to-day and at major life transitions, is a modern skill we all need to succeed.  But, unfortunately, few have.

Those concrete answers gave them hope.  Their concern about future limits lightened.  After the presentation, a number of the young women approached me and said, “We are always told how impossible and hard managing our work and life will be.  Not only did you tell us that it will all be okay, but you actually told us how to do it!”

Join me on Friday, June 28th at the MBA Women’s Leadership Conference for my presentation, “The Secrets to Work+Life "Fit" Success,” and I will tell you how to do it too.   I will share the commonsense, real-world secrets for success on and off the job that every woman should know at the start of her career.  Secret #1: There is no balance! 

For more, I invite you to check out my Work+Life Fit blog, follow me on Twitter @caliyost, and “like” our Facebook page.

Cali Williams Yost is an internationally recognized workplace flexibility expert who has pioneered new ways to manage work, life and business in the modern economy for nearly two decades.  She is the author of the new guide for everyday success on and off the job, Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, (Center Street/Hachette, 2013), and the formal work and life reset "how to", Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead/Penguin Group, 2004).   

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Elevator Speeches Fail: The Secrets of Effective Networking

Check out her session "The Secret to Confidence: Upgrade Your Success Story" on Friday Morning of the conference.

By Angela Guido, Founder, Communicate Yourself

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of preparation. Practice makes perfect they say, and there is certainly some validity to that adage. Practicing the things you might like to tell someone in an interview or at a networking event is useful because it gives you the chance to collect your thoughts, organize them in an orderly fashion, and recall the key vivid details of stories you might want to tell. In that regard, practicing an elevator speech or any other story about your life can be very valuable.

The problem though is that you can’t create the “perfect story” that will work every time. Perfection implies something is fixed and frozen. If your goal is to memorize something and use it over and over again, it may work from time to time, but more often than not your networking attempts will fall flat. I am sure we can all remember that time we sidled up to someone we really wanted to meet, launched into our planned talk, and midway through realized it just wasn’t connecting and our value wasn’t getting across. That’s because in a first conversation with someone – the kinds of dialogue you might have at a networking event or with a busy executive in an elevator– the goal is NOT to get your point across. The goal is to make a human connection.

The people you follow up with, the people you remember are the ones with whom you make a connection. This is true no matter where someone sits in the organizational hierarchy. If the CEO likes you when she meets you in that elevator, then the door may be open for a follow up conversation. If you fail to make a human connection, at best she won’t remember you; at worst, she might even avoid you. Elevator speeches often fail

So why does the elevator speech so often fail? Because it’s an attempt to transmit a fixed monologue instead of participating in what should be a spontaneous dialogue. You know what I am talking about – a conversation is a living thing, born in the present moment through collaborative interaction among the people having it. If it’s your goal to “get your message across,” it will go over like a lead balloon. Or worse, like freight train crashing through a lively party.

To succeed in these all-important first interactions, you need to be in the present moment. You can’t rely on a script from conversations past. Although I try to avoid tipsterism, this is a blog post, so I’ll leave you with some tips for being more present in the moment so that you can make deeper and more meaningful connections through your networking efforts:

Get happy. It’s very important to enter a conversation in a good mood. Most importantly, you need to make sure you are feeling confident in who you are.  If you had a bad day at work, if that negative performance review has just flitted across your mind, stop. Do not start a conversation now. Instead, remember some things that you are really proud of – your manager’s kind praises of your most recent career success, that tutoring student who turned her performance around because of you, the giant risk you took in planning a solo trip to a foreign country that turned out to be a magical journey. Do not try to approach others until you are feeling great about yourself first.

Let go of your agenda. There may be something you want from the person you are about to talk to. Putting your attention on that inherently makes you focus on the future and not in the present moment. That is a sure-fire way to fail to make a connection. So just let it go. If there is something you want – like an introduction or an opportunity to interview at the firm – just remind yourself that those details can work themselves out later. Your only job is to connect with the person in front of you. Save agenda items for follow up if that helps you stay focused here and now.

Think about a question you really want to know the answer to. Ironically it is easier to make a connection with someone else by listening than by talking. You will engender more affinity if you give the other person the chance to talk about something that really matters to them and then listen to what they say with sincere interest in understanding them and their perspective. Let the conversation follow naturally from there. That may sound like hollow advice, but if you think about it, you actually know you can do it. The ability to spontaneously interact with other human beings is a natural gift we all have. You don’t have to prepare for what you will say next, just trust yourself. Whatever you do, do not try to think of what you will say next while the other person is talking. That is not listening and people really know when you are not listening.

When in doubt, focus on what you love. It’s great to give other people space to talk about what matters to them. When the spotlight is on you, you will see why. Some subjects just light you up, and that is a wonderful feeling. If you remember to leave your agenda for later, then the subject of conversation doesn’t even matter – it doesn’t have to be professional or serious. It just has to be something that you come alive talking about – that you genuinely enjoy sharing. For me, it is often food or travel or the books I am reading. Talking with genuine passion and allowing your true self to shine through will always make a connection. So find those things that bring you to life and talk about them!

To learn more about the Secrets to Creating New Connections and Discovering the Power of Spontaneity, please join us at this year’s Forte MBA Women’s Conference for our Communicate Yourself Networking Workshop!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5 Ways to Instantly Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Check out her session "Harnessing LinkedIn For Your Career Success" on Friday Morning of the conference.

By Lindsey Pollak, Best Selling Author, Corporate Consultant and Next Generation Career and Workplace Expert

Most MBAs and MBA candidates have LinkedIn profiles. But are those profiles the best they can be? Here are 5 tips to improve your LinkedIn profile quickly and effectively.

1. Get a professional headshot. A high quality photo instantly says that you are someone to know. Wear what you would for a job interview or an important day at work. Many university career centers and job fair events offer photo booths to provide these photos – take advantage!

2. Add keywords to your profile headline. Your profile headline is one of the most important pieces of real estate on your profile. It’s what determines whether someone will read further. Include keywords that a recruiter, hiring manager or other VIP would use to find someone like you. And there is no need for a complete sentence or perfectly crafted phrase. A headline such as “MBA Student / Consulting Background / Expertise in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device industries” can be extremely effective.

3. List your skills. LinkedIn’s new endorsements feature is very popular, so give your connections something to endorse. List at least 15 to 20 skills or areas of expertise that you possess. These are also important keywords that a recruiter might use to find you, so be sure to include words that appear in the job postings that appeal to you. Recruiters do look at endorsements to see what people in your network recommend as your top skills, so make sure you are happy with the choices you are providing your connections.

4. Add the Volunteer Experience & Causes Section. LinkedIn has many optional sections you can include in your profile – Certifications, Publications, Patents and more – and the most important is this one. Volunteer experience demonstrates qualities like leadership, teamwork and community involvement, all of which are important to employers and other networking contacts.

5. Update your status on a regular basis. I’ve heard the LinkedIn status box (which you can update on the LinkedIn home screen or directly from your profile page) referred to as a person’s “professional billboard.” It’s true: status updates are an effective way to stay on people’s radar screens in a relatively passive way. Post articles that would be valuable to the people in your network, share announcements about events you are attending and give people brief updates on your career. You never know when a short post might spark someone to reach out to you with an opportunity.

Above all, remember that your LinkedIn profile, like your resume, is a constant work in progress. Update it when you have changes in your professional experience and delete information that no longer serves your goals. Good luck and I’ll see you on LinkedIn!

Lindsey Pollak, Bestselling Author, Corporate Consultant and Next Generation Career and Workplace Expert 
Lindsey Pollak is a bestselling author, corporate consultant and recognized expert on next generation career and workplace trends. She is an official Ambassador for LinkedIn and the author of Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World. Lindsey’s advice and opinions have appeared in such media outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, CNN, NPR and NBC Nightly News. Her clients and audiences have included Barclays, GE, PwC, Ralph Lauren, Time Inc., UBS, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wharton and many others. She is a graduate of Yale University.
Twitter: @lindseypollak

Friday, May 10, 2013

Preview of Conference Keynote on "Hard Won Wisdom"

Saturday Morning Keynote

By Fawn Germer, Best-Selling Author and Leadership Speaker

I am looking forward to seeing you all at the Forte conference in June!

The one piece of advice I always tell young people is this: You can be spectacularly brilliant but a miserable failure if you don’t put as much energy into your people skills as you do into your actual expertise.

The world revolves around relationships. You need to know how to network and leverage your network. You need to know how to assess the culture of your office environment and find a way to fit in without being high maintenance.

There is a cliché, “It’s not what you know but who,” and there is a reason it is a cliché. It’s true.

People will drive your success more than the results you can deliver. You need to know the right people, but you need to know them in a way that makes them want to help you. Fortunately, this is pretty easy.

I have seen many people make the mistake of assuming that networking is a matter of shaking hands, swapping business cards and following up with appropriate e-mails. You do all of that, but make sure the exchange sparks something personal and memorable. It is far more important that you know that the person has to be home on Thursday night for Grey’s Anatomy or that they have an overweight Dacshund than it is to recite their title. Relationships are all about friendships. Make friends in high places.

You do that by consciously working on growing your exposure. When there are events that expose you to people who can influence your growth, show up. And, don’t just stand there. Work the room.

I know it is hard to talk to strangers, but it is much easier if you come prepared with a few subjects to talk about and a few questions you can ask.

Know something about the people you need to meet so you have someplace to go with your conversation. You always have a conversation entry point when you know that the person is from your hometown or went to your school or likes to surf or is an avid knitter or any other detail that will get the person to talk.

You do not have to focus your conversation on work, but you should be able – in thirty seconds – to summarize what you are doing and where you are heading. If it is going well and isn’t too much of a violation of chain of command, ask to have coffee or lunch, whatever. Just make sure you leave with contact information and tell the person you would like to stay in touch. Then, STAY IN TOUCH. You don’t have to be the person’s pen-pal, but you can forward interesting articles or just send a quick note once a month to stay on the radar.

The point is, your brain gets you your job and keeps you in the game. Your personality advances you. There will certainly be exceptions to this rule, but think of how much more you can do if you don’t count on an exception. Just be exceptionably personable.

Fawn Germer, Best-Selling Author and Leadership Speaker
Fawn Germer is the best-selling author and global leadership speaker who has interviewed the most accomplished women of our times – everyone from Hillary Clinton and Jane Goodall to legends like Susan Sarandon, Martina Navratilova, Carly Fiorina, Nobel Peace Prize winners, Academy Award Winners, Olympic athletes, CEOs, prime ministers and world presidents. She is the best-selling author of seven books and a four-time, Pulitzer-nominated journalist. Fawn is a veteran investigative reporter who wrote for The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report and The Miami Herald. When she went into management as an editor, she struggled mightily as a female manager in a male-dominated environment. She sought the mentoring wisdom that led to her first book, Hard Won Wisdom. That book was rejected 15 times, but perseverance pushed it to best-seller lists and onto Oprah, where Oprah told the world how “very inspiring” Fawn’s book was. Fawn’s second book, Mustang Sallies, hit best-seller lists within two weeks of its release. Fawn is an international speaker on leadership and performance issues and recently presented at the Harvard Business School’s leadership conference, in China, Taiwan, Spain and throughout corporate America.