New Rules of Networking

Not long ago, when internet was not an integral part of our day to day life, keeping a network of 50-60 important people was considered sufficient for the long term career success of a professional. Even small businesses could successfully survive with 100-200 customers and prospects.

Networking

Since the internet started to significantly impact our lifestyles, the game of networking has completely changed. Technology has made it a lot easier to reach and access thousands of people. Today if your LinkedIn profile shows less than 500 connections, you are not considered an active networker. For businesses, large or small, it is pretty common to have a network of millions of customers.

Despite the technological advancement, many executives and professionals still feel challenged and overwhelmed when it comes to networking. Firstly, they wrongly believe that it is practically impossible to network with large groups of people. Secondly, they don’t realize that the game of networking has changed.

The power of internet and social media has even changed the meaning of networking. Today you do not have to physically go to conferences and networking events to develop new contacts. With your devices you are connected with the external world 24/7 and it is convenient possible to communicate with hundreds of people in a day without leaving your place.

To leverage the networking for your career or business success, it is important that you have access to large number of important people. Technology has made it possible. You do not need to have an intimate personal relationship to keep people in your network. A professional link or business connection is sufficient reason to invite people to your network.

On LinkedIn half of the users have 500+ connections and about 20% have more than 1000. These are high leveraged networkers who are making best use of technology. But it’s not only a number game. Quality is crucial and technology also gives you power to narrow down your focus on people who can be most relevant to your networking objectives.

Below I have compiled the 8 rules of networking that are crucial to follow in today’s highly competitive and technologically advanced professional environment.

1. Social media is a fantastic place to rapidly build up a large high quality network:

Most people do not like the idea of meeting strangers in person to develop networking. Time is also a major constraint towards physically attending networking events. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is a fantastic place to get started. LinkedIn allows you to send connection requests to expand and build your network.

If you are a beginner, you can start with your school and college friends and then include your work colleagues from your current and previous employment. To build up further you can add contacts among your customers, suppliers, bankers, auditors etc. This should easily take you to 500+ level in few weeks.

2. Clearly define your target segments

While social media can give you access to thousands of people that you may connect, networking is not a numbers game only. You need to clearly define the target segments where you want to build your connections. It mainly depends on your networking goals and objectives. Usually, it is the domain of your professional expertise e.g. Finance executives and professionals.

3. Make yourself visible and approachable

While you are growing your network, it is critical that you make yourself visible and approachable to the outside world. Not only that the people you send connection request to need to know who you are, you may also want people from your target segment to approach you for connection.

Keep your email and phone contact visible in your profile, if you can. People feel more comfortable to reach you if you tell them how to.

4. Protect your time from wasteful networking

Time is your most valuable asset. While social media has made it quite easy to reach thousands of potential connections, it is also very tempting to waste lot of time just surfing the spicy and irrelevant contents. Discipline yourself and keep the irrelevant people and their contents out of your network.

Same goes for physical events. Select very carefully which event you want to participate and what objectives you want to achieve. Attending events in person is very time consuming and you must have a clear reason. If it is networking, you must achieve a good ROI.

5. Protect your reputation

A man is known by the company he keeps. Connect with people who make professional and business sense depending on your current position or occupation. Particularly, be careful while accepting connection request from the people you do not know. Evaluate their background and see if their profiles match with the people you desire to connect with. Ignore if there is insufficient information.

Also, do not get indulged into political, unethical or cheap conversation. It impacts your personal brand.

6. Patience, please. Networking works like dating

Networking for the sake of networking is a waste of time. Set and define your clear goals and objectives. It could be finding a new job or seeking a new business opportunity. Experts estimate that 70% of the jobs are found through networking. But it’s hard work and requires patience.

Networking works like dating. In dating you never ask for marriage in the first meeting. Similarly, in networking you should never ask for a job during the beginning phase. It takes time and some serious efforts to build up the connection from a mere introduction to a compelling relationship where you can ask for help or a favor.

7. Make yourself transparent

In today’s digital world there is hardly any privacy. Every click you make leaves clues somewhere to be added to your personal profile. Every time you pass through a public place, your image is captured by hundreds of cameras. It is hard to believe how much personal information Facebook has already gathered for all of us from different sources.

Those who have excessive concerns about privacy and are reluctant to share their personal info on their public profile, do pay a price. Opportunities may not reach them because their profiles may not be transparent or there is insufficient personal information for others to be interested in them.

8. Networking is a process

Networking requires continuous efforts. Even if you have reached a high quality, high volume network, it may soon die if you do not make continuing efforts to keep it alive. Develop a general approach of GIVING rather than TAKING. Try to benefit your network by regularly providing relevant and useful information.

Always response personally to each and every contact from your network. Keep in touch with your network through your personal and professional updates that others may be interested in.

Networking is all about building relationship. Relationship is the vehicle on which you ride your career journey. Relationship is one of the main ingredients of success for top leaders.

Networking and building relationship should be your natural trait. We are social animals. We all want to connect with each other. Relating is human.

Develop the confidence that you are important enough for others to be in their network. But don’t wait for them to contact you. Take initiative and you would be pleasantly surprised how many important people are happy to connect with you.

Good luck and happy networking.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

How To Not Only Survive But Thrive In Your Career

Achieving Career Breakthrough in 2016 – Part 2

In this video you will learn:

• Five key strategies to differentiate your talent from the crowed and stand out.
• How to attract recruiters rather than chasing jobs.
• Effective ways of networking to access job leads.
• Control your inner game for outer success. Six mindsets to thrive in your career.

Questions? Thoughts? Please post your comments below and I will try to reply.
Also, be sure to hit the “Like” button below so that you get notified via Facebook when I post my next blog.
– Saleem Sufi

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

Achieving a Career Breakthrough in 2016 – Part I

In these difficult times, is it really possible to achieve a career breakthrough?

Well, there are still many great jobs available, great people are still being hired and even being promoted to great positions. So yes, it’s very much possible, with only one caveat; the game has significantly changed and become somewhat more challenging.

To help you understand the challenges of the current talent (job) market and help you equip with the right career strategies and tactics, I have prepared a 4-part video training for you that I will be releasing in the next few days.

Here is the 1st part:
Part I: Current Challenges in Talent Market

Hope you will find it useful. I will send you the remaining parts soon.

Part II: How to Not Only Survive But Thrive In Your Career
Part III: What is Working and What is Not Working in Today’s Job Market
Part IV: How to Stand Out in a Crowded and Over-Supplied Talent Market

Questions? Thoughts? Please post your comments below and I will try to reply.
Also, be sure to hit the “Like” button below so that you get notified via Facebook when I post my next blog.
– Saleem Sufi

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

Path to the C-Suite: Formal Education or Self Education?

I am frequently asked by early to mid-career professionals whether they should go for another professional or academic qualification to accelerate their career. This is a difficult question and the answer really depends on the individual situation. The general rule I apply to answer this question, however, is simple. If you are already around your mid-career, it’s probably a little late for this level of investment.

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I have no hesitation to say that our traditional educational system whether academic or professional, is significantly lagging behind the demands of today’s businesses. As a consequence we see increasing number of qualified professionals remaining unemployed or doing junior level jobs.

Today’s businesses are smarter with a brutal focus to make money. They value talent and require the skills that help them grow their business and create value. They care less about how many alphabets you have next to your name.

As a matter of fact, the value of a professional degree or certification has become limited to an entry ticket to the profession. Your career success largely depends how street smart you are to play the game of career warfare.

If you already hold a higher education qualification then don’t worry about adding additional certifications or degrees. You are considered highly educated and that makes you eligible for senior management jobs. What really matters to get those jobs, however, is your leadership skills and up to date business knowledge that can be learnt much faster through self-education.

If you have already reached around mid-career and have the ambition to climb up to the C-suite, a better strategy probably is to adopt the habits of continuous self-education for the rest of your career. To remain competitive in your field, you must spend at least 10% of your time on your professional and leadership development; preferably 15% and ideally 20%.

To achieve rapid growth and sustainable results in your career, create a structure for self-learning and follow these 5 rules:

1. Read Books:
Read at least one self-help or a business book a month. No matter how much information is available online, books have their special place and will never be obsolete. When you go through a particular topic in depth through reading a book, it gives you deeper insight that brings your knowledge to an expert level. Remember, leaders are readers.

2. Attend Seminar / Workshops:
Attend a 1-2 day live seminar or workshop each quarter on a topic that is critical for your leadership development. Chose trainers carefully. A good trainer or a coach can bring a dramatic improvement in your habits or mindset through short interactive sessions.

3. Read Business Magazines:
Read professional and business magazines. My favorites are Fortune, Forbs, Inc., Money, Fast Company, Success etc. These magazines bring the latest thoughts and innovative business ideas that will help you cultivate and nurture your habit of strategic thinking.

4. Watch Educational Videos / Read Blogs:
Develop the habit of watching short educational videos and subscribe to top bloggers in your field. Blogs are probably the first place where new world changing ideas are shared. You will earn a high ROI on your time if you can shift your habit from meaningless FB browsing to watching these short educational videos and reading blogs.

5. Follow Mentors / Role Models:
Chose a couple of mentors or role models and follow them closely. These need not be the actual people you meet in day-to-day life. With social media, we now have access to inspiring celebrity-level business leaders, coaches and gurus. Pick the ones that inspire you the most and follow them through their blogs, videos, articles, books etc.

If you are able to follow the above 5 rules as your well established habits, let me assure you, you can learn a lot more practical education, a lot faster and a lot cheaper than you can learn in a formal education environment. Your career success, after all, is all about delivering results.

Leave me a comment if I miss a poit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

We Are All Entrepreneurs, Aren’t We?

Increasing globalization, changes in technology and continuing instability of economic environment have blurred the distinction between the employed and self-employed entrepreneurs. Job security does not exists anymore. Life-long employment with one employer are now things of past. We are fast transitioning into a free-lance society. Average job tenures are shrinking fast. Experts are predicting 8-10 job changes for an average professional in 21st century over their career lifecycle.

These shifts have been so fast that many professionals are not realizing the impact of such changes until it becomes too late for them. Downsize, upsize, right-size, or wrong-size; whatever you call them, something happens beyond their control that seriously impact their economic status.

Businessman with entrepreneur

Managing your career in 21st century requires altogether a different approach. You must act like an entrepreneur. Think as if you are in the business of selling and marketing your talent. That means you should keep your talent marketable and manage risk by keeping yourself highly competitive.

To gain a better control over your career and professional life, apply the following 5 approaches:

1. Develop an entrepreneurial mindset:

The entrepreneurial mindset will help you effectively deal with the job security issues and give you a completely new and fresh perspective to manage your own career. Think like a good consultant who is fully dedicated to the current projects but keeps eyes open for the potential new opportunities.

Entrepreneurship is about ownership and taking responsibility. Rather than leaving the fate of your career at the mercy of your employer, take ownership and assume full responsibility. There is a psychology involved with this mindset. When you own responsibility, your sub-conscious mind gets alerted to new opportunities and subconsciously triggers actions.

2. Manage your career proactively:

All jobs are temporary; your career or profession is permanent. Don’t lose focus to proactively manage your long term career. No doubt, your current job is important and you must dedicate yourself to give your best. But keep a bigger picture of who you are. You are not your job.

If you are a Controller, try to become the best Controller in the world. That’s a professional focus; not a job focus. By becoming the best Controller in the world, you would naturally be giving your best to your current employer. It’s a win-win.

When you have a professional or career focus, you go beyond the capacity and means of your current employer and try to learn new things outside your job to develop yourself into a thorough professional. This is very important for professionals who work in smaller companies where they do not have many opportunities to learn and develop.

3. Keep learning and developing your talent:

Peter Drucker once said, “Businesses have only two functions – marketing and innovation”. In today’s economy this is also applicable to individual professionals. Your talent is your business. You must keep updating your knowledge and skills and learn how to market yourself.

Not long ago it was considered sufficient to rely on one major academic or professional qualification like MBA or CA for a life-long successful career. Today, these credentials only give you an entry ticket into the profession.

Once you are in the practical battlefield of your career, the game is very different. Your academic or professional qualifications, no doubt, provide you a sound foundation but to carry forward your career you need to rely on practical and up to date learning. The world is changing faster than we can imagine. Today, in many disciplines what students learn in the 1st or 2nd year become obsolete by the time they complete their degree programs.

As you advance in your career, what really matters is not your degrees and certifications but your practical learning, relevant experience and achievements. According to experts today you need to spend at least 10% of your time learning new things in order to stay where you are. And if you really want to progress, that ratio jumps to 15-20%.

Ongoing learning in your career does not require you to go back to school. Nowadays you can actually learn faster outside the formal education system. Read blogs, attend webinars, watch educational videos; there are endless means to learn.

4. Develop a side economic activity

As an entrepreneur or business owner of your own talent you must think of opportunities to grow your earnings and diversify your risk. The globalization and the growth in digital marketing have created endless economic opportunities for professionals to generate additional income. Consulting, coaching, or offering your professional services through online communication are common means that do not require much financial investment and may create an additional stream of income for you.

Consider starting an online business on the side that you can manage in your spare time or on the weekends. This will not only give you a sense of economic security but enhance diversity and enrichment in your thinking helping you develop a balanced view of life.

5. Create work-life integration

Work is an integral part of life and it must align and balance well with the family and personal life. It’s not about creating schedules; it’s about mindset. Technology and increasing job pressures have faded the boundaries of so called working hours. It’s hard to detach from the work environment even on the weekends and vacations. We are on alert 24/7. Adjust your pace and rhythm; you are not in a sprint race.

Always keep the big picture in mind. We spend our life helping our employers accomplishing their business mission and forget about the mission and purpose of our own life. Have you figured out the purpose of your life? Do you see your work and profession well aligned with your purpose? If not, find some quality time to do some soul searching. It’s critical. Stop living in compartments; you have one life and it is short.

If you are a senior Finance professional, and want to accelerate your career, please visit What it Takes to Become a CFO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

Emotional Intelligence: A Missing Link to Your Career Success

When it comes to the leadership development, it is surprising how little attention is paid to the subject of Emotional Intelligence. Most leadership development programs jump on communication, relationship, attitude and performance without any regard to Emotional Intelligence which is the foundation of such behaviors.

behaviour_iceberg

Experts say that 20% of a person’s success is based on what is normally considered general intelligence i.e. the ability to learn, understand and reason (IQ). The other 80% is based on the ability to understand ourselves and interact with other people i.e. emotional intelligence (EI). If you look around, no doubt, great leaders are not the ones with the highest IQ but those with higher emotional intelligence.

In Finance profession we are trained to be less emotional and more logical and left brained. By developing our senses more towards objectivity, materiality and tangibility we become perfect accountants which is good for the early part of our career. But as we progress in our leadership responsibilities the same qualities tend to become barriers to our career growth.

Emotional Intelligence is fundamental to leadership growth. Our behavior, attitudes, communication style, relationship etc. are a reflection of our deep values, emotions, beliefs, and thoughts hidden inside us. Emotional intelligence is the connecting link. By creating self-awareness and developing self-discipline and control we can bring lasting change in our attitude, behavior and performance.

According to Matt Lewis, a senior partner at Boyden (one of the largest executive search firms) among the top qualities they look for a CFO role is high level of emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find. No wonder a CFO search can easily take 6+ months.

There is good news, however for serious-minded career professionals. Emotional Intelligence is a subject that can be learned and easily applied to day to day leadership practice.

If you are new to this subject, try this simple 3-step approach:

1. Gain the Knowledge:

Read the classic title ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman. Goleman is a living legend and global authority on the subject of Emotional Intelligence. The book is written in simple language with lots of practical examples. It’s an enjoyable read and has the power to change your life.

2. Do the Self-Assessment:

Carry out an Emotional Intelligence test. Don’t much worry about the final result or outcome. The main idea is to go through the self-evaluation and self-assessment process. Take your time and deliberate on each question thoughtfully. This is about your ability to succeed in your life. (Disclaimer: I am not associated with this website, nor I recommend to buy any of their products including the detailed report of this test.)

3. Clarify Your Personal Values and Commit to Follow:

What are your guiding principles in your life? How you want to look back at your life when you are in twilight years of your life. Give yourself a rocking chair test. This last step is profound and key to trigger a change. Evaluate and define or re-define your personal values that align well with your life mission and vision. Make a firm commitment and follow these values as your guiding principles in your day to day life.

If you are able to accomplish the above 3 steps diligently, you will create higher self-awareness and greater self-control leading to a noticeable change in your behavior. Your higher level of emotional intelligence will be naturally reflected in your communication, relationship and personal brand to further strengthen the foundation of your leadership.

Do you think it will work for you? Let me know your thoughts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

5 Reasons You Are Not Growing in Your Career

Growth is a natural human need. Throughout our life we seek to fulfill this need in different forms. Our childhood is full of physical growth until we reach to adulthood. As we pass through college and university our mental development takes care of our growth fulfillment. Even after starting our career, we continue to grow through professional learning and career development. The problem however starts when we hit the middle.

The mid-career crises are synonymous to mid-life crises. At this stage the career growth opportunities rapidly shrink while at the same time competition intensifies. To further aggravate the problem, most mid-career professionals get extremely tied up in their current job demands so much that they even cannot find time to think about their long term career. They basically leave the fate of their career at the mercy of their employer.

Illegal business

Most of the successful corporate executives reach to the peak of their careers around their mid-to-late 40’s. Where do you stand today? Are you stuck in the middle and your time is running out? Even if you may have ample time, are you on the right track?

If you believe you are not growing fast enough in your career, evaluate the following situations and see what may be hurting your growth:

1. Your company is not growing:

Your career growth is seriously jeopardized if you stay too long in a company that is not growing or not profitable. The stressful work environment due to financial pressures may itself be toxic enough to poison your leadership potential.

2. You are stuck with a wrong boss:

This is seriously a killer. Every day you are required to deal with a person who does not understand you but has lot more authority to control you and your work. Don’t try to fix your boss; it may do more harm. See if you can improve anything on your side. Read my blog ‘Why Your Boss May Not Be Listening to You’ for a fresh perspective to address this issue.

3. Your work environment is unhealthy:

We spend our life at work. Being social animals we cannot isolate ourselves from the people around us. Good and healthy relationship boost our emotional energy. But the best part of the day is spent with work colleagues, not with our family. See whether your colleagues at work are feeding you with positive energy or sucking your emotional energy.

4. You are too busy and living your life in your job

Your work demands are crazy and you have no life outside work. The busyness syndrome make you feel important and inevitable for your employer. But this is at the cost of new opportunities by-passed. You become so important to your employer that it’s hard to find a replacement of you and you are stuck.

5. You lack leadership talent:

While you may have excellent professional knowledge and outstanding technical skills, when it comes to the senior leadership roles, you are simply not considered. You are either ignored or politely assured how important you are for your current role. Sounds familiar?

Well, if you are already in your career for 10-15 years and believe one or more of the above reasons are hindering your growth, this is the time to take matters in your hand before it is gets too late. Proactive self-career management is an important attribute of corporate stars that make them shine distinctly from the average performers.

As a starter, consider developing the ‘6 Mindsets for Corporate Success’. It’s a 7 minute excerpt from my talk at the MECA CFO Conference last year in Dubai. It will give you a completely fresh perspective how you look at your career and your prospects. You can view it here.

And if you are living your life in your job day-in and day-out, read my most popular blog ’10 Step Formula to Get Rid of Busyness Syndrome’. The practical tips and strategies, if executed with discipline, may create 20% more capacity in your daily schedule to manage your career more proactively and strategically.

In my next few blogs, I will continue to address how you can drastically shift your focus to enhance your career potential and speed up your leadership journey to the top. Leave me a comment or question, if you want me to elaborate on a specific issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.

3 Easy to Learn Skills that May Take You to the C-Suite

Corporate environment is becoming fiercely competitive every day and even surviving one’s job has become a major challenge. Average job tenures for senior positions are shortening. Life-long jobs with one employer are now history. To survive and grow your career, being marketable has become more important than keeping employed.

Peter Drucker once said, “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation”. This is becoming true also for all senior level professionals. In a highly competitive talent market, you must continually innovate and market yourself to grow your career.

Knowledge is power but without its application it is useless. We, the professionals or knowledge workers, are in the business of selling our knowledge. This requires marketing. Unfortunately, most of us particularly the Finance professionals are not good marketer.

Boardroom and man

Marketing is a learnable skill. It’s not a rocket science. Most of it is just common sense but common sense is not common. As we gradually get matured with our intellectual wisdom we tend to ignore or undervalue simple things that can enormously benefit us. Personal marketing is one of them

Contrary to some conservative thinking, personal marketing and selling is not a bad thing. It’s a talent. We must understand the game has changed. In an oversupplied talent market, we need to ensure that the world appreciates our talent and knows what we are good at.

Marketing connects a need with the solution. Without marketing remarkable ideas would die and useful products and services will not reach us. Even Steve Jobs needed marketing to bring his ideas into reality. Personal marketing works the same way.

Here are 3 most powerful but most neglected, easy to learn personal marketing tools that may give you enormous leverage and at times even undue advantage over others to boost your career progress:

6 Mindsets for Corporate Success

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