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Saturday, July 16th, 2011

5 Easy Ways To Increase Serendipity

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I love serendipity — who doesn’t? I met a mayoral candidate for San Francisco last year due to some stuff I did to increase serendipity.

We all love serendipity — is it ever even a negative thing?

You never hear someone say:

“That guy really stabbed me in the back — how serendipitous.”

Right?

The layman’s definition of serendipity is “happy accident” — the word serendipity is said to come from author Horace Walpole who riffed on the word Sernedip (an old name for Sri Lanka) used in a fairy tale called “The Three Princes Of Serendip” about making discoveries by accident.

Here are 5 things I do to increase serendipity:

1) Send Out “Beacons” To Let Others Know You Exist

The most effective way to increase serendipity is to send out “beacons” — I first heard this mentioned by entrepreneur Jack Hidary in the book Power of Pull.

Jack — who works on the neat iAmplify.com business with his brother Murray — uses the analogy of a ship at sea that sends out beacons to let others know where it is and where it’s headed.

Beacons — I like that.

Here are some examples of beacons I’ve used to increase serendipity:

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Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Wow, Here’s An Excellent Thank-You Letter 16 Of Us Just Received

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A crafty college student named Brian Kerr networked his way into a phone meeting with me back in March — I was impressed by his chutzpah (I welcome cold-calls from ambitious folks!).

However, what really impressed me was the “thank you” letter he just emailed sixteen of us — that’s right, he talked to 16 people in his job searched and thanked us all.

This thoughtful thank you letter (full text below) made my day!

I’m blown away by the tenacity and professionalism of this young man: He even included details about why each of us were valuable to him in his job search.

I’ve included the email below (with his permission)…we have a lot to learn from this man.

His email is more thoughtful than ones I receive from most “professionals” with decades of experience!

From: Brian Kerr

Subject: Thanks to you, I got a job!

This email is a thank you to everyone who played a part in helping me in my career search.  I graduated from SFSU 5/21 with a major in Business Administration: Marketing.

5/22, I was hired by Firetide as WLAN Business Development. (How perfect, I know) Firetide is a Wireless technology startup that is located in Los Gatos, CA.

They specialize in Wireless Mesh infrastructures.  As part of WLAN Business Development, I will be working with two other individuals to ramp up and scale Firetide’s WLAN division.

Ultimately, the people at firetide truly won me over… (the CEO is hilarious, the Sr. Product Manager always has me smiling, and my team is made of Swedish tennis players….what more could I ask for?)

Mentions:

Kostas, Navid, James: Thanks for all the help on my resume, with your feedback, you helped me build one hell of a resume.  (The final version is attached to this email)

Rob, Gady, Greg, and Dana: It was from speaking with you that helped me get a clear understanding of what I truly wanted from my first professional job.  I learned that I wanted to be a social connector, someone who can do sales, marketing, pr, and management.

I realized that I needed a small entrepreneurial environment where I can wear many hats and take on lots of responsibility, so I can feed my desire for variety while still allowing me to take ownership/responsibility.

Ultimately, the most important thing was that I realized I wanted a place where I could make connections and build lasting professional relationships, internally and externally.

Jon, Kerry, Skip: Thanks for such a great time at TKG, you guys showed me that no matter what, I have to love the people I am working with.

Nancy: I can’t thank you enough for creating the environment at SFSU where I could learn inside the classroom, but also really truly learn by connecting with the faculty, orgs, and administration so that I could learn whatever fueled my interests.

Don, Anne, Foo, Mike, Jan: Your classes were by far my favorite.  It was because of you that school was a pleasure.  Please continue being amazing teachers, students need more teachers like you.

Everyone:

Thank you for helping me reach the next step in my career, one day I will be sure to return the favor.

-Brian Kerr

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Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Discover How To Network Like This Top Web Site CEO

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I chatted with DocStoc Founder & CEO Jason Nazar the other day.

You should know abut Jason and DocStoc because Jason is an amazing networker (among other things) and DocStoc has been one of the fastest growing Web sites in the last few years (ranked 407th by Quantcast with 15 million unique visitors per month, according to DocStoc).

Jason and I had a little chat in which I asked him a few questions. He agreed to let me share it with you.

Q: Hi Jason, you really value business networking — tell me your philosophies.

I personally enjoy networking. I like meeting smart, interesting successful people.

From a professional standpoint, I believe the principal of it’s “who you know not what you know” is very true.

One thing about the Internet is that we spend a lot of time behind our computers…you’ve got to get out there and meet people.

Typically the larger the network you have, the more opportunities you have.

We spend a lot of time behind our computers…but business still gets done in person.

People want to work with other people they like, trust and respect.

And you don’t do that by just sending emails and sending IMs…you have to get out and meet people.

And if you want to have opportunities such as getting hired, raising money, building your company, and hiring the right people…you need to have a large network.

Typically, the larger your network is the more opportunities you have.

The business we’re building is a consumer-facing Internet company – we’re trying to get pretty much everyone in the world to use DocStoc.

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Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

7 Easy Tips On How To Be A Go-Giver (Not a Go-Getter)

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I first heard about the concept of being a “go-giver” from Bob Burg in a book he wrote called Winning Without Intimidation; he later made the phrase more popular by writing Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.

I used the Go-Giver phrase, which is corny but good, in a speech I made to entrepreneurs a few years back.

source: Túrelio, Wikimedia Commons

source: Túrelio, Wikimedia Commons

From that speech, and others, here are seven tips to being a better networker or go-giver:

1) Giving is Attractive — “No matter what your profession, if you can give increase of life to others and make them sensible [i.e., “aware”] of this gift, they will be attracted to you, and you will get rich.” Wallace D. Wattles from The Science of Getting Rich

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Thursday, April 30th, 2009

How To Mazimize The Number of Valuable People You Meet In Life (The Connector Exercise)

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A number of people ask me how I obtained a large network of contacts (I have 3,000 names in my iPhone).

I took two of my "Connectors" to the Famous Gene and Georgetti's in Chicago

I took two of my "Connectors" to the Famous Gene and Georgetti's in Chicago

Strangely, I’ve never thought of myself as a schmoozer…I’m actually fairly introverted.

But I’ve been very lucky. A few things were in my favor:

  1. Same Career Track — I have followed a fairly narrow career track of technology/media/Internet for 20 years now.
  2. Social Positions — My positions have centered around other people (I was a journalist, a deal-maker, entrepreneur, etc.)
  3. Decently-Organized — I’m a detail-oriented/organized-type of person and so I’ve done an ok job at entering in people’s contact information over those years

So, the 3,000 names isn’t that impressive — it really just came from 20 years times of storing an average of 100+ contacts per year.

That’s just 1 new contact I made (and stored) every 3 days. I’m sure you could do that (unless you’re a monk at a convent in which case you’re probably in the wrong place right now!).

But there is one secret I was reminded of a few years ago that I wished I had implemented earlier on in my career!

It’s only briefly mentioned on page 37 of the soft-cover version of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

In a word: “Connectors.”

Here’s an exercise I’d like you to do (should take 15 minutes and be fun):

  1. Get out a blank piece of paper or word processing document.
  2. Make a list of the 40 most valuable people to you with one per line (exclude family).
  3. To the right of each person’s name, write down the name of the person who introduced you to that person (now you have two names on each of your 40 lines).
  4. Now to the right of that second name, write down the name of who introduced you to that person.
  5. If you can’t remember who introduced you to a person (or perhaps you just met at school or work then leave that line alone.
  6. Keep adding a person to the right of the previous person until you feel like you can’t go any further.

Here’s a snippet from my list:

  • Jamie>Chad>
  • Charlie>Ted>Erin
  • Jen>Ted>Erin
  • Lenny>Jen>Ted>Erin
  • Alex>Ted>Erin
  • Zack>Chris> Chad & Ted
  • Bruce>Chad>
  • Todd>Dave
  • Mike>Dave
  • Jacquie>Tracy>Erin
  • Robert>Chad
  • Mary>Dave

Now, you’ll start to notice that just a few people — in my case Chad, Ted, Erin and Dave — are responsible for connecting me to most my friends.

Gladwell calls these people “Connectors.”

I’m a Connector too, though not as good as my Connectors.

So, if you want to to expand your network, here are a few lessons:

  1. Identify the Connectors in Your Life — Find out who they are and add value to their life (so they’ll keep introducing you to others).
  2. Ask Your Connectors Who Their Connectors Are — Connectors are usually very good at having many Connectors themselves.
  3. Try Being a Connector Yourself — Offer to introduce people of value to others who need help!
  4. Leverage LinkedIn — Read why You Must Be Linked In, an article about that amazing networking tool.
  5. Read Tipping Point.

I was inspired enough by this exercise to take Chad & Ted out for a yummy steak dinner at Gene & Georgetti’s in Chicago where I presented each of them with a personalized gift. It was of minimal value compared to the value they have given me through their Connections.

Thanks, Mr. Gladwell and thank you, Connectors!

What do you know about Connectors and Networking? Please comment below.

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Friday, April 24th, 2009

Why You Should Be LinkedIn: Is $948 Per Connection (Per Year!) Appealing?

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Are you linked in?

If you’re in business, you likely should be!

LinkedIn is a business networking tool that allows you to keep track of your previous and current contacts as well as get linked to new ones.

Why should you care? Because each of your contacts is worth an average of $948 in annual revenue, according to a 2009 article by Business Week Magazine/Harvard Business Review. (note: there used to be a link for this article but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have been archived — at least I can no longer find it). .

I’ve been using LinkedIn since it was founded by Reid Hoffman in December of 2002.

You can see my profile here: LinkedIn (note: You’ll only be able to see my public profile there unless you are already a LinkedIn member).

LinkedIn is similar to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, only it’s focused purely on business.

There are numerous other professional networking sites out there — with names such as Plaxo, Xing, ZoomInfo, Ecademy, Spoke, OpenBC — but I believe LinkedIn has them all beat.

Here are some of the reasons I recommend this online networking tool:

  • Old Friends & Colleagues Can Find You — LinkedIn has a neat feature that allows you to enter in past emails that you have used (e.g. from old jobs or personal email addresses you don’t use much if at all) so that your contacts don’t have to know your current email address to reach you.
  • You Can Network Into New Partners & Customers — You can go onto LinkedIn and find individuals with their titles at most major businesses and many smaller ones. LinkedIn will indicate how many connections away from you they are (e.g. 2 connections away means that the two of you have someone in common (which LinkedIn will then tell you so that your friend can introduce you to the third-party!).
  • Company Profiles — You can search a company by name and find profiles of many of their current and former employees; as well as see who their newest hires are and the most-viewed profiles. The Companies section even shows you their average age, gender breakdown and top schools that their people attended!
  • You Can Size Up People You Are About to Meet — If you’ve been introduced to a person and are soon going to meet with them for the first time, I recommend linking in to them ahead of time; that way you will be able to see who their connections are (perhaps you even have shared connections) and do some extra homework for the meeting.
  • You Can Have a Permanent Resume/Biography — LinkedIn allows you to put the background of your entire career in one place for you or others (recruiters love LinkedIn) to use.
  • You Can Post/Find Jobs Closer To You — LinkedIn’s Jobs section is a very logical way to match a business with a worker since it shows how many connections away from each other the hiring manager and prospective employee are.

I have a short-cut for you to beef up your number of LinkedIn connections..the following tool helped accelerate the growth of my linked in network.

Use their Import Webmail Contacts feature (It’s an option in the Add Connections section and might also be offered when you first sign up). LinkedIn then will go check out all of the email addresses from your email account and offer you the option to invite any or all of them to link in.

I personally chose to invite only the people who were already LinkedIn members (LinkedIn indicates that) and you can send one email to all of them with a personalized message (which I recommend).

Here’s a great 8-Step Action Plan on Setting Up & Maintaining LinkedIn written by a networking pro for a Webinar he presented to Chubb.

And if you want to expand your network even further, check out The Connector Exercise.

Good luck with your networkin’.

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