Networking Takes Time – but you CAN get it right!

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The young man’s message to me this morning sounded so desperate, I paused from the presentation I was preparing.

On my Facebook business page, I have hundreds of followers whom I don’t know personally.  They may have heard me speak at an EDGE Communications Seminaror found me through my website or blog or some other means.

Occasionally someone will reach out to me directly with a question or comment and I welcome that.

Today’s message really touched me,

Please, I just graduated college. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money.  Can you hire me?”

No, I’m so sorry. I cannot.   But I remember that same feeling of  uncertainty when I was about to graduate.  I was involved in a variety of activities at Indiana University. I had decent grades.  Although I dreamed of becoming a television journalist, that was NOT the job I had lined up upon graduation. Far from it.

My first job out of school was as a classified ads receptionist for the Orlando Sentinel.  People called me to sell their couch, their car, their whatever. In today’s era of Ebay and Craigs list, this job doesn’t even exist anymore!  Eventually, I did land my dream job as a CNN correspondent. But it took time!

It’s May. Many college seniors are preparing to graduate. And like my young friend today, they too, may be looking ahead at a sea of uncertainty.

So, this is the advice I gave the earnest sounding and polite young man today and I hope it encourages you too today.

  1. Get your CV PERFECT.

Yes, every word better be spelled correctly.  Yes, the lay-out should be clean and simple. But it’s not enough to have lists and bullet points. Make your CV is the story of you. Google “Engaging resumes” and get some ideas. Whatever materials you hand out when you meet someone in person, make sure it reflects the “you” you want to be!

  1. Ask for introductions. And be “introducible!”

We’re not born understanding what “Networking” means. Some think it’s only being interviewed for a job. It’s more than that. It’s getting yourself out to places where you can meet interesting people. Join Toastmasters or attend a free meeting at BMI.  Talk to the people there. Tell them about yourself. And that means you better be able to talk about what it is you would like to be involved in. Practice what you would say about yourself. Out loud. Ask the people to whom you have been introduced to introduce you to more people. Get names and follow up. You MUST take the initiative. Not the other way around.

  1. Understand that networking TAKES TIME in the initial phase.

I moved to Ireland in September. The first place I met other grown-ups  was at my daughter’s school. I advise you not to be overly aggressive, but yes, this kind of place is most certainly one of opportunity.  So, I casually mentioned upon meeting parents, that I am a communications consultant. One parent happened to work for a large multi-national beverage company. He asked if I provided training sessions. I said, “Yes!”  We chatted a bit more and in November  I met with the training director of that organization. I submitted a proposal to provide presentation training in advance of an event in February. I did NOT get that opportunity.

But! Because, I believe, I had continued to check-in in a kind – not desperate – way, with the training director, she reached out to me again in early March about another opportunity in April. I submitted another proposal.  And, voila, this past Monday, I was delighted to work with five executives from that company.  Mind you, my initial meeting was in NOVEMBER!

  1. After the initial phase, your Networking can increase in momentum.

Since Monday, I received my training evaluations.  They were extremely positive! Each participant said they would recommend my training to others.The training director already emailed me to propose additional follow-up dates. Yey! How you handle your networking meetings and, of course, how you perform, can accelerate your momentum.

Don’t wait for a single perfect meeting.  Meet as many people as you can. If anything, it helps you practice how you present yourself and your goals.

The journey from dreaded job to dream one is rarely a fast one.    But is will pick up momentum as you make connections who help you make more connections and on and on.  Think of your network as growing waves of concentric circles. They get wider, faster as you go along.

But first, you have to work hard to drop that solid stone in the water to set the ripples in motion. The trick is to get going.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

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Proof you CAN reinvent yourself on a trip to Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher

One of the most breathtaking experiences in Ireland occurs when you stand upon the Cliffs of Moher looking out over the Atlantic while the 702 foot (214 m) stone walls are rhythmically and dramatically battered by waves and wind.

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The Cliffs of Moher the day we visited them

Powerful and moving as it is, as I recently trekked them with my seven-year-old daughter, the cliffs would have been mere rocks if not for the rockin’ tour provided by our local Paddywagon guide, Michael.

Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest
Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest

Paddywagon runs a fleet of tour buses –departing daily from towns around Ireland like Dublin and our home here in Cork. I had been meaning to book an excursion for months but was afraid it might be a boring waste of money. Drive you to the sights with a few monotonous “on your left blah-blahs”along the way and that’s it. But no! Our driver Michael was an absolute raconteur. He regaled us with colorful tales of Irish history, sprinkled with juicy gossip, charming jokes and kindly folksiness throughout. He even sang us a few ditties that were high in personality even if they were a bit low on songmanship!

We, along with everyone else on the bus, were absolutely enchanted.

We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!
We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!

At the end of the day, before stepping down from the bus, I had to learn a bit more about Michael. We chatted and he told me he’s from Tipperary and worked as a professional engineer for years before he was suddenly laid off during Ireland’s (and many other countries’ ) recession in 2010. Michael described his life afterward:

I tried everything and then a friend encouraged me to get my bus drivers permit and I never looked back,

I logged onto Trip Advisor after we got home to tell everyone about Michael. What I found was that “Bus driver Michael” was already a Paddywagon celebrity. My review joined dozens of previous brightly glowing posts about him. While Michael may no longer be building roads and bridges, now, as he drives over them and tells his stories and sings his funny songs, he is building different kinds of bridges – those of warm memories and experiences – for tourists from all over the world.

Life is not about discovering yourself, it’s about creating yourself.

Coco Chanel once said that and I think life is a combination of the both. As you go through your life and your career, things will happen that you’re not prepared for; maybe you are unexpectedly laid off or fired.

And as you force yourself to update your CV and get back into the job market:

  1. You will discover you have a fortitude and determination you didn’t think was in you.
  2. Your discovery will give you the extra-strength and confidence to adapt and reinvent yourself in ways you may not have imagined.
  3. Stretch yourself. Maybe you won’t be in the same field as you were in before, but:
  4. You can create yourself anew.
  5. You CAN do it.

You are ready for the next chapter of your life. Life is certainly a journey, and if your journey takes you to Cork, Ireland – do yourself a favor and take a Paddywagon Tour.

lulu running

Ask for Michael, the engineer-turned-singing-tour-guide. Tell him Gina sent you. You’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Nigerian Diary: Leaving Lagos!

I sit in my hotel room with my bags all packed.  This improbable trip to Nigeria, born two years ago through a Tweet and a big dream from a remarkable Nigerian businessman named Ayo Owodunni, has come to a successful close.

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The Find Your Edge Dream Team!

He and fellow visionary businessman, Ayoola Jolayemi, their wives, the amazing support team of Ayoola’s company, SwiftThink, the indomitable Richmond Dayo Johnson, and many others all helped to make this project such a resounding success.

We all believe that Mastering our ABC’s (Appearance, Behavior and Communication)  goes a long way to making a difference in our personal and professional lives  – and the world around us.

The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session.  A+ !!
The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session. A+ !!

Over the past six weeks, our Find Your Edge programs have brought communications training sessions and workshops to businesses, organizations and students.

Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.
Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.

And last night, two of SwiftThink’s best and brightest, Tope and Ibukun, treated me to a special night out on the town.

All work and no play...
All work and no play…

Without any instructional slide shows, white boards or case studies, we danced, laughed and sang at Isaac Geralds’s birthday party.

Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.
Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.

An incredible evening of good fun held at “Freedom Park” in Lagos.  It used to be a prison during British colonial times, but now is a gathering place for freedom of expression.  And fun.

No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!
No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!

Thank you, gentlemen, for all your hard work during our Find Your Edge project, and for taking care of me last night.

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Thanks, gents!
Thanks, gents!

And thank you Isaac, for your incredible voice that you so freely gave last night AND at the Student Summit on Wednesday.

Check him singing live my favorite song: “Ijebu Girl!” below!

Thank you again, Ayo, for dreaming such BIG dreams. And thank you, Ayoola for putting the business wheels into high gear.  Thank you, Folake and Seyi for being so supportive, sharp and caring. Thanks to everyone of you dear hard workers at SwiftThink.  This is only the beginning!

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Ayoola and me before the start of the Student Summit. Dream BIG people!

As I prepare to get on the plane this evening that will take me back to the United States – which I haven’t visited in three years –  I’ll be remembering all the inspirational experiences and new friends I had and met here in Nigeria.

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Faces of inspiration at our Student Summit this week!

I’ll be looking forward to seeing my husband and daughter whom I haven’t seen since I came here, 34 days ago.  I’ll be thinking of my dear mommy whom I haven’t seen during the whole time I lived in Tuscany.  And I also can’t help thinking about the people who yesterday boarded Malaysian Flight 17 only to meet with unexpected and preventable tragedy.

Nigerians often tell me how much they love life.  Last night’s birthday party certainly demonstrated it in a most joyful way.

Party! :)
Party! 🙂

I love life too – and want to savor and embrace every second of it because as we all know, life is fleeting.

Let’s encourage one another and unapologetically dance, sing, laugh and celebrate every moment that we can.

I love you, Lagos.  See you soon.

Baci!

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All rights reserved.

 

Nigeria Diary: The questions I am getting

Besides the ubiquitous, “How do you find your time here in Nigeria?” which I answer at least half a dozen times each day, some probing souls are asking me more pointed questions.

Questions like, “How can you relate to us as a white?”

I believe there are always ways to find common ground.
I believe there are always ways to find common ground.

“Don’t you think policies in the West will not work here?”

Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!
Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!

As someone who has worked and trained –and even lived – in a variety of places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Tunisia and Egypt, I welcome each and every question from each and every person.   I am never offended when someone is straightforward and honest.  It’s through the questions, that I can learn more about the person and find ways to overcome his or her concerns.

So, for the record, here are some of the questions and my answers I am receiving here in Nigeria.

  1. How can you relate to us as a white?   It’s more than obvious that my skin color is lighter than most everyone I meet here in Lagos. For example, I sat in service yesterday at a parish of Africa’s fastest growing church, The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ.  Did I say “sat?!

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I meant to say, I “stood, danced, sang and shimmied” for four hours! The meeting was a party. An encouraging celebration of each other and God.  I loved all of it.  And yes, I was the only pinky-skinned lady in the hall.  After the service, a young man interviewed me for his blog – asking how I got started with my career.  I offered some relationship and networking strategies – telling him to make sure to keep in close contact with his favorite professors after he graduates. He hadn’t thought of them as possible relationships, only teachers.  We connected on that point.  He is young. I am not as young. He is male. I am not. Yes, he has dark skin. I do not.  Years ago, when I trained an incredible group of Iraqi women running for office, their country was (as is still now) in the midst of chaos and fear.  I couldn’t relate on that level, but I could understand their desires to balance family and career.  We were able to find common ground.  And that’s the trick. Searching for those common hopes, dreams and fears that link us all together as human beings on the planet, regardless of our different cultures, traditions, backgrounds and even skin tones.

2. Don’t you think policies in the West won’t work here in Africa?  Let’s break that down.  Which policies? The policy of being thoughtful to your customers, employees or citizens?  To considering and providing for their well-being?  To holding peaceful, free and fair elections if you call yourself a democracy? Injustices happen everywhere, not just in Africa, and the only way to affect change, is to constantly and consistently expose and push against those injustices.  Observers sometimes complain there is not enough investigative journalism here.  But as I work with journalists and civil rights organizations in places where there is less than free expression due to a variety of real or perceived dire consequences, I am often impressed there is any level of investigative journalism. I try to encourage the increase, not carp about the short-comings.

3. Can you really teach journalists, you seem very motivational?  This was probably my most surprising question, as it didn’t come from a Nigerian at all, but rather from an American who seemed more than skeptical; she seemed down right cynical.  Whew!

Journalism training session
Journalism training session

Of course I try to be motivational. Encouraging.  Supportive. Inspirational.  Call it what you what.  To me,  it’s part of what you do as a trainer, as a coach.  First, you must try to establish a connection or a relationship.  I would NEVER come into a newsroom or any training room for that matter, and immediately launch into how to write better, or how to manage better, or how to stay on message better. What’s the incentive to change, aka work harder, from that approach?

Having once been a working journalist myself, I know that most journalists everywhere are not paid well.  We likely got into the field because we liked telling stories.  Stories that might make a difference.   The way I try to connect with journalists is to re-ignite that flame still burning inside them.  To inspire them that their writing – if credible and accurate – might make those differences over time.

I have read in diplomacy circles that relationships are, for some reason, labeled with the jargony impersonal word, “architecture.”  As in, “how strong is your architecture with journalists??”  Whatever the word, the point remains the same.  If you don’t first connect with your audience on some level, they are never going to care about what you say.  It’s basic 101 in presentation training lessons for anyone, regardless of your audience’s ethnicity or country-origin.

 First you connect. Then you can teach, or inform or persuade.  It seems obvious and yet it is too seldom done. Perhaps the obstacles seem too high.  But if we spend time building the architecture, the relationship bridges, to get over them,  I think the outcomes will be worth the effort.

Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.
Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.

Yours from Lagos,

Gina

 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

“You are Welcome” – My diary of Lagos, Nigeria

“You are welcome.”  “You are welcome.”  In the three days since I landed in Lagos, this is the phrase I have heard most.

From the gracious team at the luxurious Wheatbaker Hotel where I am fortunate enough to be staying –

Willie, who said he watched all my shows.
Willie, who said he watches all my shows. 😉
Cynthia cooked an amazing omelette!
Cynthia cooked an amazing omelette!
More the the impeccable team at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos
More of the impeccable team at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos

– to the esteemed journalists and managers of various media outlets including The Nation and Business Day newspapers and TVC and The Channels radio and television networks.

The editorial staff at Nations - One of Nigeria's top newspapers!
The editorial staff at Nations, one of Nigeria’s top newspapers.
Meeting with the Kayode Akintemi, the GM of Channels TV
Meeting with the GM of Channels TV
After being interviewed by Business Day's Kemi Ajumobi
After being interviewed by Business Day’s Kemi Ajumobi

I am visiting Lagos for the first time.  Working with my local strategic partners, Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited, I’ll be conducting a series of strategic communications training sessions and workshops between now and July 18.  We kick-off activities tomorrow with the Find Your Edge Summit here at the Wheatbaker.

My incredible partners - Ayo and Folake Owodunni  from Amplio Consulting and Ayoola Jolayemi of SwiftThink Limited. Go, Team, Go!
My incredible partners – Ayo and Folake Owodunni from Amplio Consulting and Ayoola Jolayemi of SwiftThink Limited. Go, Team, Go!

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday between 9AM-5PM participants will have an opportunity to practice real hands-on techniques and develop new skills from me, veteran CNN correspondent and international communications consultant, and my new friend and colleague Richie Dayo Johnson, a local and proven leader in communications training, etiquette and business savvy.  The Summit is open to the general public and registration is ongoing.  Click here to learn more!

http://findyouredge.com.ng

This morning, I spoke on Radio Continental to explain why communication counts – especially in the digital age where you can be instantly judged by a global standard.  And later, I met the talented hosts of “Your View,” on TVC to share some secrets of better communications to get results. At every place, the people have been warm-hearted and congenial. These first three days have been very rewarding.

Your views

Yes, it’s true we have driven through scenes of poverty. And yes, it’s true I have a machine-gun toting federal police officer riding at all times in the front seat of my car to stem off unwarranted stops.

Meet Abdul, my bodyguard, my friend.
Meet Abdul, my bodyguard, my friend.

But one by one, individual by individual, I am meeting an incredible number of accomplished people.  Nigerians who are proud of their country and are committed to making it a better place.

folake and me

I feel very welcomed indeed.

Chukwugozie onyeobula nilee (Thank you all!)  

In gratitude, Gina

P.S.  Are you Nigerian? What are you most proud of?  Are you not Nigerian? What do you think? Looking forward to hearing from you! Ciao –

 

 

Bends in the Road: From Arezzo, Italy to Cork, Ireland to Lagos, Nigeria in less than a week!

It’s almost too easy.

For the last five days, since we first landed in Cork, Ireland, from our former adopted home-town of Arezzo, Italy – we have been greeted by helpful, warm and chatty people.  It was much the same way with the terrific people in Tuscany, but the language hurdles naturally made our adjustment into that region more complicated.

Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago - and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!
Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago – and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!
This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.
This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.

Here, if I soften my “a” when I ask for “to-mah-toes” or bring the American silent “h” to life in “herbs,” I’m pretty much all set.  Oh, and they take out the “h” all together and say “tank-you” instead of “thank you.”  “Tank you very much.”  But, really, it is almost strange to be hearing English everywhere again.   I miss Italian with its bright “Buongiorno’s” and “Ciao’s.”

Last night, Lulu turned to me and agreed.  “I miss speaking Italian,” she said.

“Well, you can speak to me if you’d like,” I responded in what I thought was a helpful way.

“I miss speaking  to my friends who can speak back to me properly,” she countered.

Of course Lulu,  after three years in Italian schools, has a point.  She and all of her friends spoke Italian every single day fluently.  Not the stammering version I utter.  It must be hardest on her.

That said, we enjoyed our week here in Ireland.  It was surprisingly quite sunny as we toured Scotty’s new university, Lulu’s new elementary school, and strolled along the Lee River that splits in two and runs through Cork.

University College of  Cork
University College of Cork
Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!
Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!

Cork’s residents are charming and rightfully proud of their heritage.   Lulu and I were even given a tour of the city by our new friend Fionnuala Mac Curtain.  Her grandfather, Tomás MacCurtain, was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920, who was horribly killed by the British Army in front of his pregnant wife and their young son who later grew to become Fionnuala’s father.   She gave me a copy of the book she wrote about her grandfather. I am honored to receive it and plan to read it on the plane tomorrow to Nigeria.

A poignant book I am sure.
A poignant book I am sure.

Yes, Nigeria.  I am flying to Lagos tomorrow to conduct a series of communications sessions and seminars for the next six weeks (For more information, check out the Find Your Edge website!).

Many friends have urged me to keep safe as I travel to Africa.  I certainly hope to! I’ll be staying at the best hotel in Nigeria: The Wheatbaker (thanks Find Your Edge team!); All vaccinations are in order (thanks Scotty Walsh); and I am registered with the State Department (thanks US Embassy in Nigeria). I hope it will be a valuable experience for the participants, the team and myself!

These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos!  Cool and humbling.
These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos! Cool and humbling.

I said goodbye to Lulu and Scotty earlier today as they flew back to the US to be with his family in Washington State.  It will be the longest time I have been away from our daughter since she was born.

As we trekked to our hotel near the airport yesterday, Lulu stopped to pick a few little flowers growing along the sidewalk.

“These are for you so you won’t forget me while we’re apart.”

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I won’t forget you my angel.  I also won’t forget all the incredible people we met in Italy – and are now meeting here in Ireland.  I look forward to the people I will have the privilege of meeting in Nigeria, too.

Around every bend, and in spite of the differences, the world is filled with promise and adventure.

A warm embrace to you all!

Gina