“Every March 28th, I make two phone calls — one to the person who took a chance and hired me in 2003 and one to the person who taught me to drive on the other side of the road when I came to the U.S. from Singapore.”
If you knew Lynn Wong, you wouldn’t be surprised that she remembers those important people in her life! I met Lynn via an introduction from my friend, Jenny DeVaughn. (That’s not very surprising, as I’ve written about how Jenny is a connector.) After spending some time with Lynn, who is on a brief work hiatus before she begins a job as senior managerÃ‚Â in global logistics at a Fortune 500 company, I knew she’d have a lot of terrific ideas to share, so I asked if she’d let me interview her about a few key topics that interest both of us:
- Emotional intelligence as it pertains to the job search and working world
- Networking — how to do it well and make it effective, even if it doesn’t appeal to you
- General tips and advice from someone who has interviewed a lot of candidates
I hope I can do our interview justice! Lynn shared a lot of gems…
When we first met, Lynn mentioned one of the reasons she was invited to interview for her new position was because she had spent time at a social event years ago with a senior executive she knew. He remembered their conversation and having worked with her and suggested her name (a few years later) as a possible candidate for her newÃ‚Â position. After a series of interviews and meetings, Lynn earned the job.
Was it pure serendipity that things turned out so well for Lynn’s career? Not entirely. After spending time with her and learning about her goal to always be “as kind to as many people as she can,” — with a focus on being “kind and consistent with integrity,” it’s easy to see one factor in her success is her emotional intelligence. As a manager, she believes emotional intelligence, in particular, empathy, is key to thriving in globalized and matrixed teams that have become the norm in many organizations.
She explained, “What does it mean to be successful? You cannot be everything to everyone, but you can care for people holistically. If you don’t get to know people, you won’t be able to bring out the best in them…It’s important to find common ground (between colleagues) in order to build winning teams, achieve consensus and move forward.”
Lynn points to self-awareness, another aspect of emotional intelligence, as crucial to success in the workplace. How can you become more self-aware? She suggests reading two books, Brag! by Peggy Klaus and Little Book of Big Networking Ideas, by Nadia Bilchik. Brag helps effectively develop “brag bites” to share experiences and Little Book teaches how to make meaningful connections by becoming a “go giver.” Tips from both books help networkers build bridges to other people.
One thing Lynn looks forward to when she begins her new job is being able to meet and ask her colleagues their stories — not only what do they do, or what is their role in the organization, but how they got there, what they enjoy and what keeps them coming back. She’ll file their stories in her mind and revisit them later if an occasion arises for her to connect them with others for personal or professional growth.
I asked Lynn for tips to help people learn to make a strong connection with strangers while networkng. She suggested thinking of touchpoints that connect all of us — but don’t necessarily have anything to do with work. In particular, focus on what you have to give. Her suggestions:
- Food connects people — where can you get the best wings in town? What’s your favorite recipe? (Not surprisingly, this is a big topic on Twitter and Facebook!)
- Where to get tickets for events
- Vacation spots
- Great websites and online resources
How do you bring these topics up in conversation? Lynn suggests “playing host” at a networking event. If you’re uncertain or lonely, no doubt there are others feeling the same way. Find two people and act like it’s your party — introduce them to each other. Ask what brings them there and ask questions about themselves. (Feel free to bring up your key touchpoints you like to talk about.)
Lynn explained the skills you need to successfully network and to consistently make a connection with new people — self-awareness and being in touch with your strengths and your limitations (and knowing how to acknowledge them) — overlap significantly with successful managerial and interviewing skills.
For example, she suggests candidates must be able to use “I” and “we” statements appropriately in an interview. When she interviews a candidate who uses only “we” statements — “We created…We initiated…We accomplished…,” she wants to know the candidate’s role in the team’s success. However, using only “I” statements does not serve an applicant well, either. Weaving them together, for example, “I partnered” or intermingling them as necessary provides the interviewer a sense you know what you offer and how it relates to working with other people.
The best interview preparation? Lynn appreciates hearing stories — including humor, and even a punchline (as long as it is appropriate, maybe even a little self-deprecating). While no one wants to hear your autobiography, a brief, funny story from your childhood that illustrates a quality you want to show, followed by explaining how you use that skill today, may be well received and help make you more memorable.
Lynn suggests preparing stories to address topics from your resume, but also preparing how to answer typical interview questions, since most interviews do tend to ask for similar insights. (As for the weakness question — know your weakness and explain what you are doing to work on it.) Be ready for anything in an interview, and don’t be intimidated if a panel evaluates you. As Lynn notes, “You need to be able to talk to several people at once in a job setting.” So, it makes sense to incorporate a panel to evaluate you. (Plus, she explains, sometimes a candidate who isn’t right for one hiring manager is perfect for another position.)
Networking does not have to be stressful and intimidating. Lynn does not attend networking events; she built her connections through active volunteerism in her company and community. She explains, “When you meet someone working for a cause, chances are good that you will make a meaningful connection, because you already have the cause in common…When people are stripped of their corporate and work personas, you really learn what makes people tick.”
Lynn believe is “paying it forward” and being a go-giver of ideas and connections whenever she can. Being a valuable resource to other also means becoming the “go-to” person over time in your niche or community. Lynn notes, “This role pays you back many times, because others begin to seek you out to share ideas and connections.” As Lynn says, “Good people beget good people.” Her go-giving philosophy ties into her belief that connecting with others is a way of life, not just restricted to sharing contacts on LinkedIn or swapping business cards. She notes, “You can smell it when someone is networking to get something from you versus making a genuine connection. Why would you share a precious resource with a stranger until you make a real connection?”
Take a lesson from Lynn — think about how you can manage your career by focusing on how you engage with people everyday. Your success may depend on it!