9 Tips to Network Virtually

2020 is the Year everyone learned to Network Virtually

Networking in person is hard enough, but knowing how to network virtually can be extremely difficult. I would liken it to cold calling. There aren’t too many people around that think cold calling is the best thing since sliced bread. I am not a fan. But, networking virtually is not anywhere near as hard as cold calling. In fact, I promote the theory that to network virtually can help you warm up cold calls.

Let’s examine  my list of options:

  1. Sign up for LinkedIn – and not only sign-up but get some help to optimize your profile (hint – I can help you with that.) LinkedIn is the largest professional network. At the time of this writing, there were 690M+ users on the platform with 169M+ in the US. Click here for the current stats.  Granted there are a bunch of duplicate profiles out there because people forget how to access or lose access, but this gives you a huge pool of professionals from which to choose to build your personal network.
  2. Build the relationships you have – networking is akin to marketing. You need to get your name out in front of people for them to remember who you are. Use the tools at your disposal in Facebook or LinkedIn to be in touch. Wish people happy birthday, congratulate them on work anniversaries, promotions, or new positions. If you see an article that may be of interest to someone share it and tag that person in the comment.
  3. Take it off-line – building upon the last comment above, if you see something really compelling to share with someone, send it in an email AND, take it off line and make a phone call to talk to the person about your idea.
  4. Text – if you don’t have time for a phone conversation, send a text. Schedule a chat for later.
  5. Physical to Virtual Networking – many groups have had to change from meeting in person to meeting over one of the many apps available these days. You may be “Zoomed” out, but it is a great way to continue to keep your presence in front of your network.
  6. Allocate Time – did you meet someone in a webinar or virtual networking meeting? Can’t meet in-person for a “coffee meeting”? Try to schedule something virtually. So many options are available: Zoom, Google Hangouts or Google Meet, Facetime for iPhone users, What’s App, and Facebook Messenger all give you free options to hold a video meeting. Then there are the other platforms that are subscription based – Zoom, WebEx, Adobe Connect and so many others. Take the time to schedule a virtual sit-down with someone new.
  7. Tweetchats – This is an opportunity to participate in a forum type conversation in certain industries. Here is a schedule to check. Get to know who people are by their Twitter handle, AND in the meantime, learn some new things in your industry.
  8. Meet new people – so the people you met in the Tweetchat – perhaps connect with them on LinkedIn. You never know what sort of business relationship might develop. Use the advanced search functions to look for 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn who seem interesting and may be able to provide guidance, leadership, or information, OR just be someone worth having a chat with virtually.
  9. Join Groups – this is a good idea in person and virtually. Find a group on Meet-Up, LinkedIn, Facebook or Eventbrite. Other organizations that are career related may have a virtual presence as well. Participate in virtual conversation threads and when possible attend in-person events.

spreading wings

Now that you have a few tools to try, it may be easier to network virtually.  I always say, “It isn’t about who you know, but who they know!”  When you are talking with your existing network, take the extra step and ask if they know anyone to whom they could recommend  you. Pay it forward and introduce your connections to someone that could use their talent or service. Now go, spread your wings and your network virtually!

Starting a Business

Have you considered starting a business?

With the way the world is going these days, employment is flexible. You may consider starting a business.

Nine years ago now I was happily working. I was working as the Marketing Department for a workforce development agency that put people back to work after lay-offs. I got laid off!! The irony of it.

So I took that opportunity to do some informal polling with my, at the time, 1000 connections on LinkedIn. I got a good response. Of those that responded about 70% start your own business. That was a scary thought because my husband was already running a business and that would mean both of us were dependent upon contracts to meet our family obligations.

That was nine years ago. I haven’t looked back except to offer advice to those that ask me. Here is what I would suggest if it is something that you are willing to do.

  1. Do some labor market research – use your state department that provides the Labor Market Information (LMI). Check out the growth of the position you are considering. Would a consultant in that area be a good opportunity?
  2. Find an SBDC – Small Business Development Center in your area. These are typically federally/state funded offices that provide free business guidance and support to businesses in the area.
  3. Speak with your accountant about which business model option might be best for your particular business.
  4. Speak with the SBDC about the proper steps to setting up your business as a sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability partnership, or a corporation.
  5.  Speak with an attorney about the legal documents you need. An attorney isn’t the only person that can help you. I worked with Laura Wilcox of Corporate Minutes Inc. to help me square away some of the things I had bungled up with my DIY approach.
  6. Accounting – while you are still drawing unemployment and trying to decide whether or not you should take the plunge, track your expenses in Excel. Income and expenses is as simple as it gets. File everything. Once you actually incorporate open a separate checking account and set-up a Quickbooks account (or other accounting software) to do the accounting properly. I didn’t do this properly and it cost me headaches for a long time until I paid a Quickbooks expert to help me sort it out.
  7. Healthcare – if your spouse is still working and carries the insurance you are golden. If not, we investigated a Healthshare plan. Many of them are faith based, but if you are healthy, this is a much lower cost option than going with one of the health care giants or even Cobra insurance.
  8. Networking – get out and do it! Join a chamber or industry organization. If it works for you, offer to give a free 30-45 minute presentation. I almost always get at least one client from an event that I speak at for free.  The Elgin Area Chamber of which I am a member even offers a Small Business Academy for people thinking about starting a business or are just getting on their feet.
  9. Website and email  – this is super important. An email address at the domain name of your website gives you better credibility than joeswelding @ gmail . com. Let me know if you need help with any of your marketing needs.
  10. Read the book – The E Myth Revisited. Let me give you a synopsis – hire someone to do what you are not good at. The best thing I ever did was hire someone to do my monthly bookkeeping. I was spending way to  much sweat and heartache to get it done. I would put it off until I had hours of work to do. Now I still write checks and pay bills but the bookkeeper does the reconciliations, enters the things I pay through billpay, and files all the paperwork. If I have to help her figure something out, I don’t get all frustrated. If you need help with marketing, I can help YOU with that!
  11. Another great resource to use is Illinois workNet BizHub. Once you are up and running, you may need additional resources to keep you moving forward. Things you can use like human resources suggestions and filing quarterly taxes and more are located in one convenient space.

I am sure that there is all sorts of advice out there. But take it from someone who tried the DIY approach and lived to talk about it, there is all kinds of help out there for you. Take advantage where you can!

 

Working Remotely

Are you new to working remotely?

With the spread of Covid19, many employees who can have been working from home. This could be new for some people. I have been working remotely since 2011. So this is old hat for me.

working remotely home office
Yeah , it looks kind of messy but…

 

All sorts of tips and articles have been posted but here is what I have experienced and would like to share.

Working remotely – Early on…

Early in my working remotely experience, I was easily distracted. Oh, I have this laundry to do, let me walk out to the mailbox and get the mail, look at those dishes in the sink, and all sorts of other distractions.

I noticed, I would start working early in the morning and forget to walk the dog. I would work very late and forget to start dinner. After dinner, I would work some more and then I couldn’t get to sleep, or I would wake up because I thought of something I needed to do.

Networking was still part of my routine, but it was cut back measurably.

As business picked up, I fell into a decent routine.

Working remotely – Now…

With my right brain and probably an undiagnosed ADD issue, I can still be easily distracted but here is what happens regularly.

I get up, walk the dog right away, fix breakfast, do a few chores and try to be at my desk by 9AM. Somedays it is earlier, but that is my goal. If I feel my attention waning, I will take a lap around the house, check out a snack or fill my water, let the dog in or out depending. Then right back to it.

Some articles say get up get ready for work just like you would normally, but I look at my calendar and see if I have to be at any appointments or networking events and if not, I stay in whatever clothes I walked the dog in. I am more comfortable that way.

Whatever I eat, I normally bring it into the office and eat while working. Yeah I know, you are supposed to get away and eat to give your brain a break but that is what networking luncheons are for in addition to meeting new people.

Now, I don’t work after 6PM unless it is on one of my volunteer projects.

If I have errands to run, I schedule them for a slow period or between projects to give my brain a break. The advantage is where I have to go is usually less crowded mid afternoon or morning and I get in and out faster.

What I miss by working remotely…

I do miss talking with co-workers, but there are these things called phones and I use mine regularly. Co-workers can be a distraction.

What I like about working remotely…

I have gotten to learn about a bunch of cool computer programs that allow me to work with a team of people in other places. I regularly use Zoom for webinars and meetings. One client taught me about Trello, that I taught to another client who taught one of his clients…. I use Teams with one client and that is often better for quick communications than a phone call, plus it allows for phone calls, video calls and screen sharing.

My commute is the best part of working from home. I walk 15 feet from the bedroom to my office.

Now, the one thing here is I don’t have small children to distract me or that require my attention during my day, but I do have a husband – ‘nuf said?

Research, Research, Research – Comcast got me again!

Research – Before you make decisions get both sides of the story.

It pays to do your research thoroughly. I pay a boat load of money to Comcast for my phones, cable and internet and I now have Xfinity phones. I switched us away from Sprint because they were eating me alive with fees and I found the by the gig option that saved us over $100 per month.

smart city and wireless communication network, abstract image visual, internet of things

Recently, while at a networking luncheon, I met a salesperson for Comcast Business. I spoke with him several times about the service. He told me that he had spoken with a residential person about what the cable would cost if I moved the phones and internet to the business side. It sounded like I would save about $40 per month. He also told me that the Xfinity mobile deal would be fine because everything was all billing to one address.

My Story

WELL, I should have called residential myself!!! I got my Business bill AND my residential bill and noticed that no one told residential to turn off the service. Now silly me, I thought maybe once they ported the numbers over from one to the other, that one hand would know what the other hand was doing. My first mistake.

On a Saturday morning, I make a phone call about why my residential was still active, blah blah blah. After getting the word that my cable bill would actually go up because I was no longer getting the “TriplePlay”, I did some quick math and discovered that I would actually be paying about $20 more a month if I retained the Business service.

I decided right then and there to switch back to the residential side of Comcast. The faster speeds that I was promised were not happening, I wasn’t saving any money, and I wasn’t going to wait around to see if the service response time was faster or not.

After I got switched around to the third person… whom I was able to completely understand, we talked about making the switch. This last person I spoke with on Saturday from Florida claimed they were Customer Solutions. She promised to call me back at 8AM on Monday my time. By this time I had spent 90 minutes on the phone. She wasn’t able to get in touch with Comcast Business.

The UpSide

When Monday at 9:30 rolled around and I felt “stood-up”, I called customer service back. i found out that there were no notes on my account. I got transferred three more times and was up to my eyebrows with rage. The bright spot in this whole story is an operator named Shannon from Mississippi. I was so mad from having to repeat myself, I thought the top of my head was going to explode. When I get really mad, I cry and I was probably unintelligible to Shannon, who listened and kept reassuring me. Shannon was on the phone with me close to 90 minutes. She made calls to Business and got the process started to port the numbers back to residential.  She had another person on the other line to facilitate the transfer. There was a hold-up because it takes up to 24 hours to release the numbers. We finally had to hang-up. But Shannon assured me that she would call me back and talk me through switching everything back to the residential modem that I had not returned.

Anxious to get this going, I called back in the late afternoon and spoke with someone who did some  checking on the numbers and they still weren’t able to port. BUT, Rachel (the second customer solutions person) told me that she checked with Shannon who told her she had been continuing to check on my case.

Lo and behold, on Tuesday morning, I got a phone call (while I was off-site teaching a class) from Comcast Technical Assistance to port my numbers over. I couldn’t talk but this kind tech called me back in the afternoon when I was back in the office. Over about 45 minutes, we got everything switched over and back to residential service.

While I was driving to return the business equipment to an Xfinity store, I got a phone call on my mobile. It was Shannon!!! She had been thinking about and following-up on my case since Monday. We chatted a bit about how frustrated she and her supervisor were. If they were frustrated, imagine how bad it was for me! I feel that even though the name is Comcast, one side of the business doesn’t know and can’t help you with the other aspects.

My Advice

This is a long story and if you got this far, take this advice from me: Do your own research! Check on what things will cost you if you move your service. If you are moving it all, find out installation, taxes etc. If you are leaving partial, find out the associated costs. If you tell a company you are leaving their service they might offer you a better deal to stay. Do your research. Do your due diligence.

Shannon from Mississippi, you deserve a gold star, a medal, an extra day of vacation or something. You remained calm during my stress and helped me solve my problem. God Bless you!

 

One Small Step

One Small Step at a time!

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first man on the moon. That’s one small step for a man, one small step imageone giant leap for mankind. I remember what I was doing that day. My parents were at work. They left implicit instructions that I was to  watch with my girlfriend Liz and her family. It was moving thinking back that I was able to see history happen. This historic event can only be matched by the first step by a man on Mars. Read the wiki about Apollo 11 here.

I don’t remember what I was thinking, but I just had to be impressed. How could I not be. Several years ago, while visiting the Kennedy Space Center, I was awestruck by the significance of what I was seeing and remembering what I had witnessed, albeit by television, in my youth. The bravery, resolve, and spirit of all the men and women who made space travel happen is incredible. One of our family friends, who worked for Boeing in St. Louis, was even a small piece of the puzzle that made all of it work. I remember seeing the pictures of him in his white coverall suit. I remember a certificate signed by the president.

Thinking about this whole series of events means that, while I am awestruck with one small step that someone took, it had to start somewhere. A dream, a vision, a discussion, led to putting man into space, on the moon, and living in a space station. I believe that we will one day live out the dreams of many creators in all the space travel adventure series. Or live like the Jetsons! I know I will probably not live long enough to see it or participate fully, but I know that I would be encouraging.

Taking One Small Step

What do you need to do that requires that one small step to get you moving toward a larger goal?

  • Starting a work project
  • Losing weight
  • Holding yourself accountable
  • Posting on social media regularly
  • Writing a blog article twice a month
  • Sending out a newsletter

If I can be of assistance, please let me know.