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Posts Tagged ‘Networking’

I recently had a wonderful conversation with a smart professional in our industry whom I’ve known for years, Kari Gearhart. Kari had a long career in commercial pharma (much of it with Merck), and was heavily involved in many facets of corporate training during that time.

karigBut, as she started to look ahead at new career options – either within the industry, or potentially after retirement – she realized the importance of expanding her network. Not only within the narrower circle of her company or industry, but also in other areas of professional and personal interest.

Kari and I had a number of talks over the years about these transitions, and when she was ready to retire from Merck, she had created a robust network of other people who shared her interest in professional development. This led to a board member position within the Healthcare Business Women’s Association (HBA); strategic alliances (and referral relationships) with like-minded others; and an opportunity to build her own consulting practice. An important part of this transition was to create the space and the time to pursue her passion in women’s leadership development and in particular a program called Fit-to-Lead that she co-developed with a colleague. The program focuses on making the connection between taking on a significant fitness challenge (e.g. Triathlon), and leadership growth.

According to Kari, it was the outside volunteering opportunities (through HBA and other groups) that led to the most fruitful connections as she planned out the next phase of her professional and personal life. Many of us, as we get older, begin to pay more attention to “legacy passions” brewing within us – those things that we want to accomplish which may have little to do with the next step on the corporate ladder. Kari’s desire to impact others compelled her to start exploring these new avenues, even as she continued her work at Merck.

One of the joys of her current status is that Kari now has more room to explore, to be open-minded, and to let opportunities take shape at a more organic pace. Her “master plan” during this phase of her life has lots of flexibility built into it, and many of those avenues of exploration come via her growing network.

Careful financial planning and long-term thinking about how she wanted to evolve into new opportunities kept Kari from being lost in the cold after leaving corporate life, a fate which befalls many who retire or are involuntarily downsized. In fact, within days of catching up with Kari, I sat down with a gentleman whose many years in the industry came to an abrupt end, and he had to ruefully admit that he had not pro-actively built a wide network ahead of time, or explored other potential options before being suddenly set adrift.

Kari and I concluded our talk with several summary points for all of our colleagues to consider:

  • Build a broad network NOW, before you need it (hint: some of your best potential contacts will be on the vendor side; in adjacent roles/companies; and in volunteer roles). Connect to, and cultivate, pro-active networkers.
  • Talk to people who can help you think differently. If need be, do some strengths assessments and hire a professional coach for a season.
  • Get in touch with your legacy passions. What do you want to accomplish in your latter years? How can you plan backwards from that future to make it happen?

I will add this, from my experience – making weak ties with hundreds of people (such as LinkedIn connections) cannot hold a candle to cultivating strong ties with a handful of smart, pay-it-forward people. They are the ones who will go to bat for you and make things happen. Successful networking is not merely a numbers game – it’s primarily about quality and authenticity.

There is no corporate safety net anymore, right? Start building your own opportunity network.

More in the Impactiviti Interview series:

Training Journey – From Major Pharma to Startup

Training for the New World of Specialty Pharma

Becoming a Consultant – Should You?

Two Keys to Successful Product Launches

Clinical Training Innovation at Depomed

Development of Field Leadership at Gilead Sciences – “Touchpoints”

Lessons from the Dark Side

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As human beings, we always have a tendency to pop on our rose-colored glasses and talk about the “good old days.”

Remember the good old days, when pharmaceutical manufacturers were almost constantly growing and profitable? When expansion was the norm, not the exception? When a career arc was fairly secure unless you really fouled it up?

Now it’s all about lean. Entire sales forces drastically cut, or eliminated, or re-organized. Career people suddenly without careers. Downsizing sometimes feels more like capsizing.

We’re on a roller coaster these days, and with all the turmoil of the ever-shifting healthcare environment, that’s not changing anytime soon.

rollercoaster

So what is a pharmaceutical professional to do?

Do yourself a huge favor. Build your network. Build it now, even long before you end up looking for a new professional direction.

There is no corporate safety net. There is only your opportunity network.

I’ve given small and large workshops on professional network-building to industry audiences, and have also spoken to I don’t know how many dozens of colleagues in the industry who are having to re-assess their direction, usually unwillingly.

One very common regret – not pro-actively building a network ahead of time.

LinkedinUniversally, for our industry, I’ve pointed to LinkedIn as the best place to build your professional network. Don’t worry too much about Twitter and some of the other avenues (unless you’re deep into social media for other reasons). There are ways to be effective using LinkedIn that any intelligent person can employ without a huge investment of time.

This is where your colleagues are. You contacts outside the industry that should be cultivated. And probably, your next job.

If you’re in our industry, feel free to connect with me and let me know what you’re seeking to accomplish. I’ve built the Impactiviti network for you, not just me. We’re a bunch of us helping each other find what we need – not just optimal vendors, but new professional opportunities.

Get IN and let’s get started

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Yes, I believe in the power of network-building (the entire Impactiviti business model is based on it!) So I’m happy to announce that I’ll be presenting on that theme at the upcoming SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) conference in New Orleans (June 4-7).

The workshop title? Build Your Own Professional Opportunity Network.

Let’s face it – there is no job security anymore. The one security we can build is our network – that is where future opportunities will come from. In this workshop, I’ll give you all the practical steps and advice you need to build your circle of contacts into an opportunity network.

Look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about us here.

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Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection semi-weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professionals

(Image credit: Jessica Murray on Flickr)

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As more and more pharmaceutical companies dip their toes into social media, one of the issues that surfaces regularly is this: do you put someONE in charge of a blog and/or Twitter account, or do you make it more anonymous? Or something else?

Let’s discuss this. I’ll put out my thoughts; add yours in the comments.

I’ve always advocated that pharma companies should use social networks to humanize their companies, which means employing human faces and voices – having real, authentic, and effective communicators working these channels. People. Folks you can relate to meet, meet at a conference, carry on backchannel discussions with, etc.

J&J has been very effective with this; Marc Monseau has served effectively as the “voice” of J&J in the socialsphere. Recently, Pfizer (@pfizer_news on Twitter) has updated its Twitter account to include a face and a name – Jennifer Kokell, self-identified as tweeting from Global Corporate Media Relations in NYC. Jennifer works with Ray Kerins, who has been aggressively shaking up the Communications practices at Pfizer, including a healthy push into social media.

But the question comes up – what if a company’s social media presence is too dependent on one person? And here the fine line must be walked – on the one hand, social media is all about individuals and personality and dialogue between people – but companies are not one person. And people move on.

By and large, people don’t want another nameless, faceless monolithic channel in social media – some unnamed drone churning out one-way communications in the name of “the company” who has about as much relational value as a dead fish. So – how to strike the balance?

Here’s one idea for larger companies – have a team presence for your blog and Twitter account. Multiple people – say, 3 or 4 – who contribute posts and tweets about a cross-section of the company’s activities. These would be real people with names, pictures, and off-line appearances – but the team approach would reflect the reality that a company IS made up of diverse individuals, and would also make the social media presence less dependent on a solo individual (reflecting the hit-by-a-bus reality of the non-expendable individual). While J&J’s social presence is spearheaded by Marc Monseau, their corporate blog actually has other contributing authors.

That would be one approach for an “official” social media presence. What about “unofficial” social media representatives? I like what is happening at Novartis, where various individuals such as Brad Pendergraph, Colin Foster, Mark Davis, Erik Hawkinson, Ben Atkins and others tweet as professional and accessible human beings who work at Novartis (thus achieving some humanizing of the company) but who have a unique presence reflecting their personal interests and professional perspectives. In fact, with Novartis, the “unofficial” social media presence has far outstripped progress on its “official” corporate social media footprint.

We’re all still on the learning curve with this stuff and companies are experimenting and evolving. What’s your take? One? Many? None? How can a company project humanity and authenticity without too much solo-representative risk?

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Download free e-book: Getting Started with Social Networking.

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My latest blog post for MarketingProfs Daily Fix is now up: Do you Have an Opportunity Net(work)?

Get beyond the idea of building a professional “safety net” – your network is an Opportunity Network!

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Perhaps you’ve never been a Boy Scout. Whether you have or not, the Scout motto – Be Prepared – is a good one to consider right now.

You’ve read about all the recent layoffs in our industry. You’ve heard about, or been part of, one or more of the many mergers in recent years. There is simply no more certainty in corporate America. Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us:

NETWORK!

The time to build a network – a professional and social web of contacts who can help out when needs arise – is now. It is very likely that your next career move (horizontally) or advancement (vertically) will come about because of pre-existing relationships. While you can post a resume on-line that the world can (theoretically) see, so can a few billion other people. Doors are opened by people who listen to the recommendations and referrals of other people.

How do you build a wider professional network? Let me suggest a few straightforward steps:

1. Embrace networking as a high priority, and determine to do it. Yep, it starts with an act of the will. Maybe you’re not a native schmoozer (I’m not). Maybe you’re introvert-ish (I am). Maybe you think, “I can never build relationships like so-and-so.” Actually, you can. You might not have the same ease as some, but believe me, you can do it, and even become good at it.

2. Help others. That’s right, don’t start with your immediate or future needs. The best way to build a network marked by mutual help and sympathy is to help others. You may have been schooled in the “me-first” ladder-climbing corporate mentality. Drop that like a bad transmission. When you pro-actively offer to help people, you’ll be shocked at how popular you become.

3. Focus on one drop at a time. You can’t just turn the spigot and gush out a flood of networked contacts. But you can greet one new person a day. You can help out one co-worker today. You can reach out to someone in a similar professional role with a question. Networking should be seen as incremental and cumulative – it becomes a lifestyle, not a one-time act.

4. Attend meetings. Not the kind that clog your daily calendar (well, I guess you should attend those, too)! Go to national conferences, join local chapters of professional societies, expand your network beyond the next few cubicles. New opportunities may open up from unexpected directions.

5. Cultivate healthy vendor relationships. Vendors and consultants often know “what’s going on” outside your four walls, and may be able to facilitate new contacts for you. Weed out the sharks, and find those people who are genuine, service-oriented, and personable (this goes for recruiters as well). If they do good work for you, recommend them to others. That will definitely increase your bank account of good will!

6. Take advantage of the web-based networking platforms. I highly recommend LinkedIn (see graphic) for helping expand your network through electronic means. Facebook is usually for more personal/social contacts but can also be valuable. Create a very robust professional profile and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and new links with others. “Social media” can be helpful in many different ways.

7. Cultivate a limited circle of influential, wise, discreet professional colleagues. These are the trusted advisers you can turn to when you see storm clouds on the horizon – your early-warning safety net. These are your serious allies who will go the extra mile for you when the ground starts to shake.

8. Be “findable.” Who will rise to the top these days, when there is information overload? Those who can be quickly found (especially on-line), and who make a professional and interesting self-presentation before the need ever arises. If you have the drive and the ability to write, create a blog around your interests. If you can engage in electronic discussions, jump into Twitter. Put your talent and creativity and accomplishments out there. When people Google you, they should find you, AND be impressed.

For those in the pharma sales training community for whom this strikes a chord, I can see you at the upcoming SPBT conference, or you can shoot me an e-mail at any time. I’m happy to help you get started.

(Image credit)

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This week, a group of over 80 bloggers gathered in NYC, from all over the United States and a number of countries around the world (map). There were no keynotes, no workshops, no educational events. We gathered to…socialize. Blogger Social ’08.

Why?

Ten years ago, it never would have – or could have – happened. But through blogging, e-mail, instant messaging, and technology-enabled collaboration, this remarkable group of marketing bloggers “found” each other and began to collaborate. We’ve written one book together (Age of Conversation) and are about to start on the next volume (with 275 authors this time!) Some of us had met face-to-face in various local meetups, but there was a groundswell of desire, for those who had gotten to “know” each other electronically so well, to actually have a meeting where we could get better acquainted face-to-face.

So we shared meals, meet-ups, book signings, drinks, and a boat ride together. Not much sleep, but an incredible amount of socializing with a very diverse, high-quality, talented group of fun people.

One of the attendees called it a preunion. Apt name, that! And it did feel like a reunion – people hugging and talking and deepening friendships that had started through the power of the network. Shared interests leading to shared sympathies leading to deeper levels of shared life.

Some of these bloggers have undergone tragedies such as cancer, or the death of a loved one, and the virtual community rapidly rallied around these folks to provide support, donations, and other tangible help. A young man in Oman embraced by new friends worldwide. A breast cancer sufferer around whom an entire movement (the Frozen Peas Fund) coalesced. A dynamic lady who was surrounded by love and care when her mother passed away.

For some, technology-enabled networking seems cold and austere. But for this creative and energetic group, blogging and collaborating and ooVoo’ing and Twittering have led to something far richer. Warm, human relationships. Shared interests, shared tables, shared life.

The vast majority of my professional life centers around pharmaceutical sales training, and I thoroughly enjoy the community and network growing here. However, I am, at heart, a marketing/branding/communications guy, and I’ve also cultivated a marketing blog and a network in that world, which led to collaborative ventures up to and including Blogger Social. And I have no doubt that the connections in one world will lead to helpful opportunities in the other. Because networking and making connections is the new black when it comes to professional growth.

Are you starting to use the incredible tools that are available? Are you on LinkedIn, for instance, or Facebook? Are you finding out about professional meetups that might build your pool of connections? Are you creating your own community of shared interests? It’s not a bad insurance policy in times of unexpected layoffs, and the enrichment of meeting new people is a great reward in and of itself!

I’m committed to serving my clients and colleagues in this community by building a wide and deep network. The testimonials thus far show that it’s working. The Impactiviti Job Board has grown out of this network-building, trying to help people and companies find new talent and new positions. I’d encourage you to take steps to build a broad network of people who will accompany you along the way – even if you’re a native introvert for whom this is out of the comfort zone (voice of experience here). The benefits can be amazing…

(Photo Credit: Matt Dickman)

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