Looking back at my blog on networking in 2017, I think it’s time and timely to update. In light of a growing pandemic, it’s also more important to practice the art of networking online.
Essentially, the same basic principles apply.
Take quick notes as you find information about the person through LinkedIn or on other platforms.
Ask good questions if you can chat online or meet virtually.
If you see an article that might be of interest to someone, share it with them.
Use LinkedIn to acknowledge work anniversaries or birthdays.
Message the person when you invite them to connect on LI.
At some point, we will be going back to meeting people face to face and looking them in the eye. When that happens, make sure your body reflects genuine interest and you make eye contact. You might also be interested in some tips that Michael Hughes, (www.NetworkingForResults.com) has on offer
In late February, I had the good fortune to attend a session put on by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network at RBC on Hazeldean Road. This five-year-old network provides resources for small business owners in the region. They invited Michael Hughes as their speaker. Within 5 minutes, he had the audience mesmerized. Michael took networking to the next level.
I learned a lot. Michael helped me reconceptualize and understand how networking was really a leveraging strategy. Through extensive research and practice, he has put together a model to manage the social process of networking. Apparently, after the initial second, individuals only have 25 seconds to really capture interest. For this reason, it is essential that business owners are able to articulate their value proposition quickly, ideally in 15 words or less.
Much of what he shared with the audiences added greatly to my understanding:
Business is about results; results arise from opportunities; opportunity arises from relationships.
A relationship is defined as the intentional process of creating and developing connections from initial contact to ultimate outcome.
Always offer something as a contribution to the relationship.
The session inspired me to rethink how important that first impression is and how best to manage it. I have returned to my notes frequently as I’ve been meeting new people online. I want to make sure that the connection is friendly and inviting.
Today, with the onset of COVID-19, I am trying to reframe what I learned to apply to our new reality... self-isolation. Working from home but still trying to develop relationships out of opportunities online. It's a new challenge but these truths still apply: build trust, be visible and show your value. Thank you, Michael. You left me with lots to practice, in real-time and online.
There is considerable irony in job ads that proudly pronounce the employer is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE/AA) but the words in the ad reflect anything but! Recently, I came across one that epitomized this scenario. See if you can spot the bias. For the sake of anonymity, I have changed references but the essence remains.
“Young, enthusiastic person with good marketing skills and technical acumen.
8-10 years of work experience
Manufacturing expertise is preferred
Yup, you got it. The very first word was discriminatory and yet this was an ad from an EOE/AA certified business.
Imagine starting an ad with “white” rather than “young”? Would that have alerted anyone more quickly to the fact that there was bias? It would have been considered shocking in today’s world. However, when references are made to age, no one seems to notice.
Unfortunately, this kind of discrimination is pervasive. Ageism continues to be widely accepted and is so well-tolerated that we often don’t recognize our own internal bias.
Many organizations and businesses are allegedly inclusive. No doubt they are as long as you are indigenous, LBGTQ2S, a woman, disabled, an immigrant or refugee, and ethnically diverse. But, if you are over a certain age and looking for work or you want to stay in your job, you can be sure that your age will come into play.
Age discrimination in both retention and recruitment is a serious obstacle. An American study involving 40,000 fictitious CVs sent in response to advertised vacancies for low-skilled jobs found that applicants between 49 and 51 had 19% fewer callbacks than those aged 29 to 31 with otherwise identical CVs. For the 64-66 age group, the difference was 35%. Source: Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers, Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 2017
What is most troubling is the lack of awareness about age diversity and inclusion. Routinely age is not part of the conversation, nor will it ever be if we don’t start to make a fuss and take ageism out of the closet.
Here are a few tips that will help you make a difference:
Observe the types of diversity being advertised. If age is missing, bring it to the attention of the advertiser.
Write to your local MPP or MP to raise their awareness of this gap in diversity and inclusion.
If you are currently employed, check out your employer’s diversity policies. Is age included?
With the shift to an older demographic, ageism is more topical than ever before. We all have a role to play in its elimination.
Organizational culture plays a critical role in determining productivity, creativity, engagement and other factors of success. When bullies find fertile ground at work, it can spell disaster for an organization’s short and long term goals. In addition to the legal ramifications of bullying at work, the level of disruption it causes not only undermines performance but can actually encourage good employees to leave or it can sabotage their good work.
Given the cost of bullying, why are bullies allowed to work, let alone, lead organizations?
Unrecognized: The first challenge is recognizing that bullying is happening. In competitive organizations, employees are often encouraged to use highly disruptive or even combative tactics. Being cut-throat is not just tolerated, but rewarded. In that type of work environment, it is easy to slip over the line and allow aggression to leak into the day to day operations of an organization. At this point, it becomes a destructive behaviour.
Bullies are also often unaware of their own impact on colleagues. Harassing comments can be interpreted as “jokes” or good-natured kidding around. As we often see in our work, ageist comments are regularly used and viewed as acceptable despite their damaging impact. This is why self-awareness and understanding others are the cornerstones of successful professional and personal development. They allow the individual to check unwanted behaviour before it becomes a problem.
To avoid unintended (or unrecognized bullying), identify bullying behaviour and implement a zero-tolerance policy. Provide examples of what bullying behaviour looks like and be clear on what the consequences will be if the behaviour takes place. Make sure you follow through and that alternative behaviours are suggested. For some insight into examples of bullying behaviour, take a look at the sample list provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provided HERE.
Favouritism: Treating everyone fairly seems like an obvious requirement of workplaces, but sometimes a structural hierarchy can lead to preferential treatment that extends into social spaces. Challenges can erupt when you have unbalanced job designs that result in workload issues or role conflict. This can not only result in giving the preferred employees a disproportionate sense of entitlement but in some cases can result in abuse of other employees creating an unhealthy internal competition.
Conflict Avoidance: When bullying behaviour does happen, ignoring it will effectively reinforce the behaviour. Don’t delay when issues emerge. Address bullying behaviours as soon as possible to avoid future incidents. For tips on how to manage these conversations, check out our article, Tackling Tough Talks
Anxiety: How do you talk about yourself? If you use negative or self-deprecating language to reference yourself or your work, you could be setting the tone for how colleagues or employers engage with you. Some research shows that anxiety, self-doubt, depression and even shyness can result in more frequent incidences of bullying.
Unfortunately approaches for reducing bullying have had inconclusive results. The most significant workplace success has been in increasing awareness of bullying behaviours. The moral of the story is: it’s better to establish an environment that prohibits bullying before it starts!
For North Americans, September is back to school season. Ads for school supplies dominate television and internet sites and despite our age of technology, stores are still filled with books, binders and other traditional classroom tools. Thinking about learning, however, shouldn’t be limited to “students”. Regular professional development is good for employers, employees and customers.
Continuing professional development ensures that employees keep apace with evolving methodologies, standards and knowledge. It can also mean that employees are continuing to contribute to their teams and business by introducing more effective approaches and depending on the nature of your business, perhaps more safety.
One of the limiting factors around maintaining regular professional development is cost. The cost of courses, the cost of time and perhaps the cost of travel. While not every opportunity can come at a lower price, you can find ways to mitigate costs and stay informed and up to date. Consider the following ideas when the budget is low or it’s not a big-ticket year.
Free Lunch and Learns: Numerous tech and other entrepreneurial hubs across the country offer courses at lunchtime. In Ottawa, Invest Ottawa schedules numerous free or reasonably priced educational courses at their facility every month. You can check out their calendar HERE. They also promote activities provided by others on their site so it’s a great one-stop-shop.
Bring in Professionals: If the cost of taking your staff to conferences is too high, then bring in professionals to deliver workshops. Using your own site or organizing your own rental space can offer a much cheaper alternative while still providing high-quality content. Look to professional associations for ideas on what to offer and don’t forget to check out Top Sixty services HERE https://www.topsixtyoversixty.com/Programs.
Do it for Yourself: Don’t overlook homegrown talent. If you have employees who have knowledge that would be worth sharing, then consider creating a lunch and learn series where individual or paired employees teach their colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable presenting; make sure that employees have the support they need to make the experience a positive one for everyone.
Online Courses: Online courses offer a flexible and cost-effective way to continue learning. There are numerous courses offered on a range of topics by recognized universities directly or through sites like Udemy or OntarioLearn. Some courses even offer certification. There are also many online courses offered privately by subject experts on platforms like ThinkifIc or Teachable. You can also consider creating online courses from your lunch and learns that will allow everyone to access or revisit content at their leisure. Remember that people have different learning styles and not all online courses will offer the flexibility some people need to learn effectively.
Below is a list of some of the sites to check out for online learning opportunities. Money doesn’t have to be the reason why professional development is halted. It may simply require initiative and curiosity.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds and ensure your team is in synch. The following ideas provide just some of the ways you can build stronger ties in the warmth of the summer.
Introduce More Flexibility To Employee Schedules
With a slower schedule and holidays running interference with regular activities, why not use the opportunity to give employees a more flexible schedule? Long winter hours can be recouped with shorter summer weeks. Leaving early on Fridays, late start Mondays, or no show Mondays or Fridays, is one simple way to reward employees and is a popular move regardless of age.
Get Together With Staff More Often
It’s hard to break down barriers when you don’t spend time together. The summer is a great time to coordinate group activities. Consider building an employee garden, exploring employee creativity with a workshop, or plan a field trip (picnic, trip to the gallery, hike). Whatever you decide, make sure the activity is appropriate for all participants. A strenuous hike is only fun if everyone is fit enough to enjoy it, and a gallery tour will only work if everyone has the focus required to pay attention. Be sure to mix people up so you don’t have the same old cliques reasserting themselves.
Get Strategic With Employees
Summer is also a great time to reflect on activities to date and begin the planning process for the year ahead. Before vacation times start to play havoc with the schedule, have a planning meeting that captures what has already happened and the direction you want to go. Once objectives are set, give employees the summer to consider next steps and their recommended plan of action. Another meeting can be scheduled for the fall to hear their ideas. This will give employees time to research options and develop tactics to achieve goals.
Progressive businesses and organizations take advantage of the slower pace that comes with summer. It’s an excellent way to build group cohesiveness.
I am, and always have been, positive about intergenerational connections, collaboration, living, learning, working, etc. A big component of our business is about helping organizations take advantage of their multi-generational workforces by turning them into productive, intergenerational teams. What I find disheartening is that we need a national day (Intergenerational Day) dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of connecting across generations.
As a culture, we have become so age-siloed (new word) that we typically don’t have as many connections with those who are differently aged as us. In fact, some research shows that cities are becoming divided by age. It’s a strange evolution of behaviour when you consider that grandparents today are spending far more time with grandchildren than previous generations. Could it be because grandparents are living longer, healthier lives?
The American Association for Retired People (AARP) also has research to show that grandparents contribute quite a bit financially to their grandchildren. The multigenerational divide seems to happen when we move beyond familial relationships and the generations in between.
The problem doesn’t belong to any one generation. We have all grown up in a youth-obsessed culture where the experience and wisdom of an older generation aren’t valued and where media and tv images of the young reign supreme. These images accentuate the advantages of being young and youthful and view ageing as a disease to be conquered.
There is, however, a shift in the media industry; a slow and steady shift that is moving towards representing an older demographic in more positive ways. It makes sense. After all, which generation dominates demographically and which generation holds the purse strings?
When working recently with a youth council in Kuujjuaq, the youth invited an “elder” as a full participant of the group. It was unheard of to not to do so. When questions arose, young people often turned to the elder to ask for their advice. It was natural and normal, respectful with the understanding that longer life means more experience. This belief is venerated in many indigenous cultures. When did we (westerners) begin to move away from seeing experience as an advantage?
Research has proven that children who have had exposure to grandparents and other older relatives tend to have a more favourable view of ageing than those who had little connection with older adults. Other findings show: involved grandparents remain more mentally sharp; grandchildren learn first-hand the historical perspective about how things worked and how lives were lived in the past; and both older and younger benefit from more stable, emotional relationships with reduced depressive symptoms. Intergenerational relationships are a win-win in the personal and professional realms. It’s a shame these realities are not as well-known or recognized as they might be.
Interestingly, the Encore movement in the US has been focused on these intergenerational relationships for many years. The interventions of older adults as volunteers in the lives of younger school children has been proven to show positive gains for kids academically and behaviorally. For older adults, these connections have given them purpose and meaning.
Intergenerational Day in Canada is a novelty but it might encourage future positive interactions among all generations. I am genuinely looking forward to participating with Connected Canadians at Qlik from 10-12 on Saturday, June 1st. If you are interested in learning some digital literacy skills or finding out about the Top Sixty Over Sixty, join us from 10-12 at Qlik, 290 March Road, Kanata. Bring your digital devices to get the help you need and check out the iGen events portal to find other interesting opportunities.
I hope these new intergenerational interactions will provide the impetus to value all generations more equitably.
Not unlike a good wine, many of us over 60 improve as we age. We mellow out, become more compassionate and less competitive and generally have a broader perspective on life. We are interested in the well-being of future generations and have a desire to give back in one way or another.
Well, at long last, there seems to be increasing acceptance of this truth, especially as it pertains to older women. If any of you have watched the recent Golden Globes or seen the NY Times article on this topic, “I am (an Older) Woman. Watch me Roar”, you will understand why I say this.
When women over 60 gain power in positions that traditionally were held by men, the public begins to notice. In many ways it’s unfortunate that they have to gain acknowledgement in the public domain as “powerful” before anyone notices, but if it helps fight ageist bias against older women, I’ll take it.
This January has been an extraordinary start to what I believe will be a new movement. There’s a natural nexus with the women’s liberation and feminism movement of the 60s and 70s, the #Me Too movement and ageism. Nancy Pelosi at age 78 has become the most powerful elected woman in US history; Glenn Close, 71, won actress of the year for the Golden Globes; and Susan Zirinsky, 66, takes over CBC news in March.
These women are all terrific role models and will help start the conversation about how perceptions of age influence decisions that affect hiring, re-employment and general engagement of all older adults. It will help destigmatize some bias, but it isn’t and won’t be enough to penetrate other less privileged socio-economic groups.
It is incumbent on all of us to participate in breaking down these barriers in order to fulfill the real potential of older adults. Everyone has a role to play no matter how small. Starting conversations with younger folks, confronting older friends and relatives about their own internalized biases, and proclaiming with pride how old you are just a few ways to combat the negative understanding of what it means to age.
When my 21/2 year old little grandson started crying when his mother referenced growing up and getting older, he whimpered: ”I don’t want you to get old, mommy, and I want to stay a little boy”. Where does this perception come from so early in life? Obviously, we have to start this conversation at a very young age.
If “gratitude” is one of those words you regard as too spiritual or “new age-ish”, it’s time for a serious rethink especially if you intend to age well both physically and mentally.
It’s actually all about the 'attitude' part in GRATITUDE. Your attitude is observable by others and they react accordingly. When you pull up to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and the young woman at the window has made a mess of your order, she might understandably expect you to be ill-tempered. When you smile unexpectedly instead of growling at her, she feels better, is grateful and is more likely to pass on your sense of well-being. The impact of gratitude is far reaching. It can be contagious in the same way that random acts of kindness and forgiveness are but gratitude definitely has the greatest impact on you.
The positive psychology movement has much to offer, even if you are a bit skeptical. It has been scientifically proven that those who score higher on the gratitude scale tend to be in better moods, have a better quality of sleep, experience less anxiety and less depression. Appreciating the good in our lives actually causes a change in physiology by balancing the rhythms of our heart and nervous systems which leads to beneficial changes in our immune systems and hormonal equilibrium. Interestingly, the same principles apply to older adults as to the young.
A healthy sense of gratitude deepens our capacity to live well--- both physically and mentally, however, it requires awareness and attention. This often translates into slowing down, being mindful, observing carefully, and truly celebrating your life as you live it. It involves being satisfied and being accepting of life as it plays out.
Instead of lamenting older age, try to think of the experience it represents! It’s much more positive to say I have 69 years of experience than saying I am 69 years old. Being grateful that I wake up each morning is a gift which I appreciate.
Fortunately, learning how to be more grateful is one of the easiest skills to learn if you’re willing to practice. Science has proven that even these two simple exercises will make a difference in your life. It’s worth a try.
Find a little notebook which you entitle “Gratitude Journal”. Every night before going to bed enter from 3-5 things that you were grateful for during the day. You need to do this for about 6 to 8 weeks.By focusing on the positive, you will feel the difference. It will help shift you into a healthier, happier mindset.
Think of someone in your life who has had a positive impact on you. Identify some of the qualities that this person has and focus on how grateful this made you. This person’s kindness and help contributed to a positive feeling in you which affects the way your brain fires new neurons and develops neural pathways. If you try to emulate some of those character traits, your sense of gratitude can expand equally.
Gratitude has everything to do with your outlook on life. How well do you observe and appreciate those small, positive details of your life?
Opportunity surrounds you everywhere as long as you can spot it! If you subscribe to “out of the box” thinking, it will be easier. This kind of thinking requires creativity and, by this, I am not referring to becoming a painter or performer. Creativity is a skill that anyone can learn at any age.
In a fast-paced world amid rapid change, individuals tend to ignore the immediate and the present. They live in the future of deadlines and appointments. A wonderful way to overcome the natural propensity for being on top of everything is practicing mindfulness; it represents an understanding of living in the moment, a task that requires effort unless repeated regularly. If we can train ourselves to focus on the present, it helps slow down the outside world and provides time to reflect. Reflection is an activity that is critical to almost everything undertaken, especially when spotting opportunity.
Ideas spring both from within and from the outside world. If you have ever spoken to a child who hasn’t yet attended school, you’ll find that their imagination is resplendent with original thoughts. They are exploring the most basic concepts with awe and wonder. They are in constant “discovery mode”. It is this state of mind that we all need to adopt when looking for opportunity. We have to adopt a beginner mindset to break down the complex and come up with something new and untried.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to think through your day and journal it in its entirety----the good, the bad and the not so bad. Identify what has been frustrating or disappointing; it could be with a person, a process or a product. In order to turn this negative thought into a more optimistic message to yourself, can you think of creative ways in which you might remediate the problem? Sometimes the craziest idea is doable although it might need massaging to make it a reality. This could be the start of a new opportunity.
Another way of trying out new ideas is through association. Let your mind wander and write down any thought that comes to mind that is associated with the original idea. Take post-it notes and just let it flow; then rearrange or chunk them according to the subject matter, feasibility, innovation. Think of the absurd, the challenging, the unusual, the seemingly impossible. Very often, the most brilliant solutions come from making associations.
The idea doesn’t always need to be original. It can be a solution to an existing management problem, a manufacturing issue, a human resources issue or a customer relations issue. The most brilliant solutions come from turning ideas on their head and coming at solutions from another angle altogether. The birth of Airbnb comes from thinking about hotel accommodations without any hotel. Anything goes.
My favourite means of spotting opportunity comes from random encounters with people. It can be the passenger next to me on the plane, the pharmacist in the local drugstore, or my child’s homeroom teacher. Conversations spark creative thinking and I often find that I can come up with new ideas. Being in a certain place at the right time is pure and utter coincidence but it sometimes is a way of making disconnected ideas gel. Every meeting, conference, intentional or unintentional encounter is an opportunity to find a positive connection that moves you forward if you are of an entrepreneurial (learning, discovery) mindset.
Whether you think so or not, you are always part of the opportunity spotting process. Make sure personal biases and preferences don’t act as a block. If you have an aversion to online activity, force yourself to participate. Who knows, this may result in finding opportunities which you typically wouldn’t consider. Most importantly, stay positive. A pessimistic mindset focuses on and finds failure. An optimistic perspective looks for and finds opportunity everywhere.
Following a recent TV interview I found myself reflecting on the implications and challenges of finding oneself on an entrepreneur’s journey post first career. I was invited to be a guest on the show, “Ottawa Experts”, hosted expertly by Barbara Balfour. As callers reached out with questions, I was struck by how many people were struggling to find their feet following retirement. Several young people and spouses called in to the show to ask for advice on behalf of newly retired parents or partners. They expressed concern as they watched a growing despondency in their loved ones as retirement began to take root.
Again, it became clear to me that “retirement” as we once knew it is a double-edged sword. If you are lucky enough to have a healthy pension, your new found freedom can be intoxicating----you might travel, indulge in hobbies, volunteer for favourite charities or maybe just enjoy sleeping in… or not! For some people that level of open time can feel daunting, aimless if not overwhelming.
For others, the daydream of endless hours of relaxed time simply isn’t possible for financial reasons. The idea of countless years without a steady income can take on a nightmare quality as panic about how pending unpaid bills begins to sink into reality.
If unlucky and you have lost a needed job in later life, you may struggle to find meaningful, let alone, any work. In many cases looking for a job can take more than twice as much time as it does for younger counterparts. It doesn’t help when job experts say that ageism isn’t the reason people aren’t getting hired; “its about your attitude, not your age”. This is a refrain I’ve heard numerous times. It makes me want to take those experts aside and explain that a negative attitude results from searching for five years and watching less qualified candidates take roles you were chasing.
This is when I remind myself of some core principles of an entrepreneurial mindset. There is power in patience and in perseverance. Whether searching for work out of necessity or trying to find your footing post career, perseverance and patience are required.
Once I decided to find another venue to put my energy into, it took years before the idea of building an organization that could help older adults reinvest their passion with purpose came to me. I tried all kinds of things, from travel and volunteering to volunteering that involved travel. It took more time still until I could rally the resources to get started; then more time in development and piloting processes and programs.
Now on the cusp of a formal launch as a membership organization, I need patience as we develop an offering and build a sustainable membership program. I need to persevere in the face of learning all kinds of new “stuff”. Building a website, learning how to use social media, finding free images to put on blogs and in ads, understanding how to use our membership site to take full advantage of it. I never needed to know these things before but I do now which means I often have to remind myself how exciting it is to be learning new skills, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Whether the work is in rebuilding self-confidence that has been eroded by rejection or about putting personal power behind an idea that you held for years, you will need both patience and perseverance.
Tips for Building Perseverance
Find moral support from friends and/or family. Starting anything new requires commitment, loyalty and all kinds of support.
Engage with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
Set realistic timelines. If you are not sure how much time it will take to get something done, talk to people who have done it before or read about the experience of others.
Make sure you have the needed resources. It can be very disheartening to start something and not be able to finish it due to human or financial restraints.
Envision the challenges as part of the journey and enjoy yourself.