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Three Reasons Why You Should Be Networking (Even if You Love Your Job)

I love going to networking events.Networking3

No matter where I’ve moved over the years, one of the first things I’ve done is look for professional networking events in my area in hopes of finding a new career opportunity.

But after getting my dream job at Salesforce last year, I started to wonder, ‘Do I really need to attend networking events anymore?’

After all, I was mainly attending to make business connections that would hopefully lead to a new job. After that happened, I found it hard to commit to continually going to networking events. All I could think was, ‘What’s the point?’

After settling into my new job and taking a break from networking, I realized there are actually many other important reasons to attend professional events, other than finding a new career. Here are three reasons you should commit to networking, even if you love your job.

  1. Find new talent – Networking events are a great place to find people who are looking for a job. Even if you’re not in recruiting, most companies offer a referral bonus for finding new talent. That right there is worth an hour of your time after work. Also, if you have enough time before an event, talk to HR or check your careers page to see what positions your company is hiring for. Then you’ll know what to look for when you’re talking to new people.
  2. Connect other people – Often times you meet people at events that don’t have much to offer you. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help a colleague or a friend! Try and connect the dots when you’re talking to see if they can help other people in your life. If they can, get their info and make the connection!
  3. Find friends, partners and fun – When I first moved to the Bay Area, I attended a Young Professionals of San Francisco networking event and met someone who invited me to play on his volleyball team. That led to many seasons playing together, new friendships and even meeting my current boyfriend. In addition to new career opportunities, networking events can also lead to friendships, relationships and finding fun things to do when you’re off the clock.

What are some other reasons to attend networking events? 

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Rising Pro

Rising PROfile: Jen Dewalt Writes Her Own Code

Jen Dewalt is not your typical developer. final_square_600

Unlike many of her peers who have degrees in computer science/engineering or received extensive training, Jen has a background in art and taught herself how to code.

Originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Jen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the summer of 2011 to help launch a hardware company. 

Although the company didn’t make it off the ground, Jen realized she loved working in tech and decided to find new ways to immerse herself in the industry.

After working on some user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design in her next job, she had a revelation.

“I loved working on the products I was designing, but I really wanted to be able to build them myself by learning how to code. I tried reading textbooks and working through online courses in my free time, but nothing really stuck.”

Then she had a crazy idea.

“I decided if I was going to learn to code, I needed to do it seriously. I quit my job and decided I was going to do something self directed.”

Jumping right in, Jen came up with the idea to build 180 websites in 180 days.

“It was a great motivator to keep me on task and moving forward. Self directed learning isn’t for everyone, but I’m a huge believer in learning by doing. It’s the fastest way to really absorb something new.”

After several frustrations, mistakes and triumphs, Jen successfully built all 180 websites in 180 days.

And thankfully, her theory of putting all her focus on teaching herself how to code worked. She learned several coding languages, like HTML, CSS, Javascript and Ruby on Rails. She also learned about running her own server on Amazon, using git and GitHub, how to work in the terminal, interfacing with APIs, and how to build a rollout strategy.

When asked about some of her ‘failure days,’ she responded,

“In a sense, every day was a failure day because every website I shipped was unfinished. They all could have used more design, more features, but because I had a deadline for publishing them, I had to get comfortable with releasing something that wasn’t perfect.”

After she wrapped the 180 project, Jen started YumHacker, a restaurant discovery website, as a follow up project to explore how to build a full web product.

Then after a short stint as a hacker at Wit.ai, Jen co-founded her current company, Zube, a project management tool for software development teams that love GitHub. The core of the app is a board where you can organize and visualize the task your team is working on. Everything on your board is two-way synced with GitHub in real-time, so everyone has a clear picture of the project’s state.

“We started Zube after our experiences working on small to mid-sized development teams. We were having trouble communicating what was going on with bugs, features and other work that needed to be done…[so] we started Zube to make a project management tool that’s designed for the way developers work.”

Jen still codes every day to keep her skills sharp and takes on a lot of side projects. She has also spoken about the 180 project at conferences like South By Southwest (SXSW) and JSConf Argentina (watch it here). 

Jen has come a long way since she first landed in the Bay Area, and she credits a lot of that success to her support system.

“I find my friends and peers are the best motivators and inspirers. Surrounding myself with great people who are interested in the same kinds of challenges keeps my creativity flowing. Seeing my colleagues succeed is a great motivator.”

The idea of learning how to code can be daunting, but Jen shared some advice for those who have thought about trying it.

“Do it! It can be super intimidating, but push through and get started. I’m a big fan of building real things. Setting your goal to ‘Make this thing’ rather than ‘Learn this fact,’ makes it much easier to push through confusion and frustration. Also, don’t feel like you have to do something massive to get started. Start with something small and then grow from there. But most importantly, #JFDI.”

Outside of coding and cofounding companies, Jen is an amazing volleyball player, which she says is a huge stress reliever, and has also been known to enjoy cigars and tequila.

Although it hasn’t always been easy, Jen is continuing to write her own code and shows no signs of slowing down.

Interested in connecting with Jen, learning more about Zube or recruiting her for your volleyball team? Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter and GitHub

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Rising Pro

Top 5 Rising Pro Posts of 2015

I can’t believe 2015 is almost over!

A lot has happened this year and I hope you’ve enjoyed my advice and experiences over the past 12 months. Every year I like to take a look back at my posts and see which ones you enjoyed the most.

It’s no a surprise two of the five most read posts are profiles on rising pros who were kind enough to share their personal journeys and helpful career advice with us. I’ll make sure to keep profiling folks in 2016. Feel free to e-mail me if you know someone who would make an interesting profile (even if it’s you).

Ok, the wait is over. Below are the top five posts of 2015, in order of popularity:

  1. Rising PROfile: Appstem CEO Robert Armstrong
  2. Goodbye MSLGROUP, Hello Salesforce
  3. Three Thoughts from Joe Garvey
  4. Stop Saying ‘Sorry’ at Work
  5. How to Leave a Job with Grace

What was your favorite Rising Pro post in 2015?

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Rising Pro

How to Find a Mentor (Who’s Not Your Boss)

Mentors are great, but they aren’t always who you’d expect them to be.

Having a mentor to champion and guide you is one of the best ways to advance in your career. But finding someone on your team to play that role isn’t always easy.

Sometimes the person you want to be your mentor is too busy to adequately help you navigate your career. Other times the people who are available are not ones you really respect or trust.

So what do you do?

Go up and out.

If your immediate boss or colleagues are unable to be a good mentor (for whatever reason), look up inside your company.

Is your boss’s boss someone you look up to? Is there an executive or an experienced pro on a different team who you aspire to be?

If you’re looking around and don’t see anyone, go outside your company. Identify people you already trust and admire, who may offer good career guidance.

This could be a past boss or colleague, someone from a professional organization you belong to, or even a friend or family member who has a successful career. Once you start looking, you’ll probably see there are a lot of people who are willing to help you.

Once you find a mentor, how to do approach them?

I like to start by sending a short e-mail or text to a would-be mentor. Ask them if they have 20-30 minutes for a coffee during the workday to talk about [insert subject]. If they don’t work close to you, ask to arrange a phone call.

This short amount of time makes this ask seem doable and believe me, people love making time to offer advice and talk about their past experiences. If you don’t hear back from them, don’t be afraid to follow up after a few days.

Once they agree, make sure to always pick a time and place that’s convenient for THEM. After all, they are doing you a favor.

Before the meeting, develop a few talking points to stay focused so you don’t waste their time.

During the meeting, have a pen and notebook handy to jot down their insights. A laptop or tablet is fine too, but sometimes it can seem like you’re not paying attention in a face-to-face meeting.

At the end of the meeting, thank them for their time and ask if it’s alright to reach out for advice periodically and they best way to do so.

If you discover they aren’t the right mentor for you, keep searching. There’s a ton of professionals out there who can help you in your career. In fact, don’t limit yourself to one. You can have multiple mentors who offer you different things. Maybe one is your career path guide, one is your work-life balance guru and another is your industry expert.

Lastly, your relationship with a mentor should be ongoing. Make sure you continually stay in touch, even if it’s not career related, like wishing them a happy birthday or sending them an interesting article. This builds your relationship and shows you care about them, not just their advice.

Don’t get discouraged if your immediate boss isn’t fulfilling all your career needs. If you look up and out, you will find a wealth of information all around you.

How did you find your mentor? 

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Rising Pro

5 Tips for Acing Your Next Performance Review

We all get one every year; the dreaded performance review.

Whether you’re giving one or getting one, performance reviews are stress enduring not only because it’s hard to give and receive feedback, but also because they require a lot of time and thought.

You have to dig up old ‘nice job’ e-mails, remember and write down all the things you’ve accomplished over the year and think about what goals you want to achieve by your next review.

This can take hours, and many of us don’t have enough time as it is. In effect, many of us do the bare minimum and go into a review with confidence in our performance, but only a few accomplishments to back it up.

Don’t do this.

You should be going in armed and ready to present all your hard work in a comprehensive package, especially if you’re asking for a raise.

I know this sounds time consuming, but here’s the trick; don’t wait until your review to collect all this information, do it throughout the year. Then when it’s time, all you have to do is review and finalize what you’ve gathered.

Not sure how to start? Below I’ve provided five tips to help you ace your next performance review.

1. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments:  Sharing a list of accomplishments during a review is a great way to show how much progress you’ve made over the year. But it’s much easier to remember everything you’ve achieved if you record your accomplishments as they happen.

  • How to do it: Start a Word or Google doc that you can just throw accomplishments into as they happen. Then when it comes time, review and clean them up by adding additional details, like context and figures, to give them some added punch.

2. Maintain a List of Goals: Similar to a list of accomplishments, create and manage a list of goals. Seeing your goals written down and tracking them throughout the year will give you the added push to make them happen.

  • How to do it: This list can live in the same document where you keep your list of accomplishments. This makes it very easy (and gratifying) to move a goal over into the accomplishment category. Present your list of goals to your manager during a review to show them you’re thinking ahead and motivated to advance. In addition, your manager can see where you need support to achieve your goals.

3. Start a Happy File: The best part about the review process is reliving all your wins. Sharing positive feedback you’ve received throughout the year is a great way to give your accomplishments some weight. It shows you’re not the only one who thinks you’re doing a good job.

  • How to do it: Whenever you get a praise or appreciation e-mail, text, written note or message, save it in a ‘happy file.’ Don’t wait to find it in a few months because you may forget about it or not be able to find it. You can create both digital and hard folders, just make sure to merge them when it’s time for your review. Then use each note as a supporting statement for your work during the review.

4. Fill in Your Job Description: Your job description is one of the best tools to figure out and demonstrate how well you’re performing. It takes some time, but treating your job description like a worksheet can help you see where you’re doing well and where you can improve.

  • How to do it: Find or write out your job description and leave enough room under each responsibility to record how you are exceeding, meeting or not meeting every aspect of your role. This is great to do a few months before a review because if you’re not meeting a lot of requirements, you still have time to meet more. Then share it with your boss during your review to visually show them how you’re killing it. But don’t forget to also discuss the areas you’re actively working to improve. This shows initiative and will help your boss see where you need more training or mentoring to fulfill all your requirements.

5. Fill in Your Next Job’s Description: The above exercise is also helpful to do for the next position you want.

  • How to do it: Repeat the above, but note you will most likely not meet as many of the requirements. Don’t get discouraged, this exercise is a great way to see where the holes are in your skills and expertise and can trigger you to fill them in. Sharing this with your boss in a review is also a good way to show them how you’re already doing, or learning how to do the job above you, which can help your case for a promotion.

What are your tips for acing a performance review? 

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Rising Pro

Stop Saying ‘Sorry’ at Work

“I’m sorry, can I have a minute of your time?’

‘Sorry, can you repeat that?’

‘Can I sit here? Sorry!’

Sound familiar?

I’ve been hearing the word ‘sorry’ a lot lately, from both men and women, and it’s been making me wonder; why is everyone apologizing so much?

I think most of us are saying ‘sorry’ without realizing it, it’s a default response. But this simple word we throw around like it makes us look good is actually hurting us.

Comedian Amy Schumer even made fun of how women specifically over-apologize in her sketch, “I’m Sorry.” Although funny, it’s also a little scary how close it is to the truth.

Constantly apologizing doesn’t make you look or feel good at work.

You may be thinking, ‘I don’t care what others think of me,’ but if you constantly come off as timid rather than confident, your boss is going to notice. As a result, you may not get the responsibility you want because to them it looks like you aren’t confident in yourself.

Saying ‘sorry’ also doesn’t make you feel good.

Whenever I apologize for something unnecessarily, I instantly feel submissive and like I’m taking up space. It isn’t good for your self-esteem or career if you constantly feel like this. You should be using words that help you feel more confident, not less.

So what should you say instead? It’s simple; drop the ‘sorry’ off your sentence.

Believe me, no one will miss it.

You can say each of the statements at the top of this post without apologizing and no one will think twice (try it).

You shouldn’t have to apologize for going about your day. Save ‘I’m sorry’ for when you actually need to use it.

Do you say ‘I’m sorry’ too much?

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Rising Pro

How to Help a New Hire Succeed

It’s hard starting a new job.

Everything is new, you’re not exactly sure where to go with questions and you often feel overwhelmed with all the information coming at you. But after a few months, you start to get your bearings, learn where to go for answers and feel more secure in your role.

I remember experiencing all of this recently when I started working at Salesforce this past summer. I went from confused to confident in a matter of months, but what made it easier was having coworkers who were willing to help me get up to speed. Without their guidance, I might still be lost!

Although it can be time consuming, annoying and even stressful to help out new hires, it’s important to remember how lost you felt on your first day, even during your first month. Just the thought of it will put you in the mindset to help someone feel confident as soon as possible.

But there’s something else you should keep in mind when offering help; don’t fall victim to the curse of knowledge.

The curse of knowledge is a “cognitive bias that leads better-informed parties to find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed parties,” (Wikipedia, July 2015).

Basically, it’s hard to remember what it’s like to not know what you already know. This happens more often than you think, especially if you’ve been working somewhere for a while.

But what seems obvious to you as a veteran employee may not be so obvious to a new hire. So when you’re addressing a question, make sure to give a comprehensive and clear answer that’s easy for anyone to understand, even someone outside your company. Here are some quick tips:

  • Don’t use internal acronyms or lingo unless you’re spelling them out
  • Give them some context
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Anticipate questions and address them in your response
  • Ask if everything makes sense

Also, although it may be hard at times, give people your full attention when addressing their questions. This will help you focus on providing more helpful insights and get them on their way faster, since they won’t have as many follow-up questions.

It’s easy to forget what it was like to be a new hire and how hard it can be, but try to always remember that feeling. Don’t let the curse of knowledge keep you from helping new coworkers be just as successful as you are.

How have you helped a new hire succeed?

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Rising Pro

Two Things I Learned From My First Dreamforce

Well, I survived my first Dreamforce.

The Golden State Warrior’s NBA Championship Trophy

I must say, it was one of the most stressful, yet amazing experiences of my career so far. Apart from being sleep deprived, developing some new blisters and being pulled in 100 different directions, it was so much fun to play a part in such a huge event.

In case you didn’t know, Dreamforce is an annual Salesforce event and is the largest software conference in the world. It brings in over 150,000 professionals to San Francisco from all over the globe to close deals, learn, promote their company, be inspired, network and give back.

My role leading up to Dreamforce was to manage all the main VIP speakers, including Actor Adrian Grenier, Fashion Designer Donna Karan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Actress Patricia Arquette, The Honest Company Founder and Actress Jessica Alba, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Actress Goldie Hawn, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and many others.

On Stage Before the First Session
On Stage Before the First Session in YBCA

Once I got on site, my role shifted to production lead in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) Theater, where I helped produce sessions with the Golden State Warriors, Salesforce Chairman, CEO Marc Benioff & Salesforce Co-Founder Parker Harris, and five of the six Women’s Leadership Summit sessions, among others.

I was busy to say the least. But amidst all the craziness, I learned two very important lessons:

1) Let people help you

During the event, there were a lot of fire drills, unexpected requests and countless issues, but instead of trying to tackle everything by myself, I recruited the help of my team to address each challenge quickly and creatively. This helped calm my nerves and made me feel like I wasn’t alone in all the chaos. If even you think you can do everything, delegating will keep you sane and help you find solutions faster.

2) Don’t forget to enjoy your creation 

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

When I wasn’t running around backstage in 4-inch heels, I made sure to leave the building and take a walk among all the awe-struck attendees. It was a great way to take a step back and enjoy what I helped create, and also see the amazing effect Dreamforce had on its attendees. This gave me a new perspective and also helped me reboot and stay focused throughout the event.

Although I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience, I’m so glad Dreamforce is over so I can start focusing on the next big event!

700+ Person Audience
Jam-Packed Sessions in YBCA

 

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Rising Pro

You Are What You Wear

What do you wear to work?

The answer is a little bit different for everyone.

Just looking around on your way to work, you can see dozens of different looks. Some professionals are suited up, others are upscale casual and some are rocking a T-shirt and jeans.

Even though some people are a little less polished than others in the workplace, they are usually just as smart, productive and successful, if not more, than their pencil-skirt, collared-shirt wearing counterparts.

But like it or not, what you wear at work can impact how others perceive you.

Who would you respect more?

I can still remember meeting one of my first managers who didn’t care what he wore.

Before we were introduced, I imagined meeting someone who was put together and wearing something that made others respect him, like a tailored jacket, a crisp button down shirt or some nice dress shoes. But I was met with something quite different. He was wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and running shoes. I remember thinking; ‘How can I look up to someone who’s wearing a hoodie?’

Harsh, I know, but it really was my first thought.

As time went on, I came to respect him for his experience and management skills, but that initial meeting made a big impact on my perception of him.

Every time you walk out your door to go to work, think about the statement you’re making with your clothes and ask yourself if you’re ok with it.

My rule of thumb is this; if I’m not coming into contact with anyone outside of my organization, i.e. conducting a meeting, job interview or meeting a business contact for lunch or coffee, it’s alright to dress down for the day. Although I also like to dress professionally around my colleagues, they’re less likely to judge me on my outfit compared to a client or potential new hire.

Even though you may not care what others think about your work outfit, sometimes what they think can affect your career.

Do you think what you wear at work matters?

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Rising Pro

Three Thoughts From Nathan Clapp

Nathan ClappThis past week, I had an e-mail exchange with Nathan Clapp, who is an art director at PJA Advertising and Marketing. Originally from Boston, Nathan moved to San Francisco in January 2015 after PJA, headquartered in Cambridge, offered him a job opportunity in its SF office.

Now seven months later, I decided to see how he’s doing and ask him a few questions for my ‘Three Thoughts‘ series, where I quickly connect with rising professionals and get their candid insights on career-related questions.

1. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career and did it work out?

The biggest risk in my short career has been moving [to San Francisco], of course.

I was feeling anxious for some sort of change in life for about a year or so before my move. I knew I wanted to do something bigger than I had before, so when I got an offer to work in San Francisco, I sort of just jumped on it. In hindsight, I don’t think I ever fully grasped how much of a change that it would actually be, but I think that’s honestly the best way to go into a situation like this. Moving here put me in an entirely new mindset. I’m no longer trying to plan my future so diligently, that never leads to anything good. You end up regretting all the things you’re not doing, instead of enjoying what you are.

But my big decision to move to San Francisco stems from a lot of smaller risks that all laddered up to get me here. The company I work for now [PJA] I actually left about a year ago. I was not getting paid enough in the Cambridge office, and when I got an offer for a better paying job in Boston, I decided to take it. It was only 3 months later that PJA came back to me and offered me this new job in San Francisco with a raise on top of that! It just goes to show how important it is to leave a company on a good note.

2. Would you still work if you had all the money in the world? 

I would definitely still work, and I’m not just saying that to sound humble. I would just be too bored otherwise. I think work is good for us, I think it’s stimulating and rewarding. You can definitely work too much, and of course not all jobs are as stimulating as others, but I think it’s good to work. If I had all the money in the world though, the question is, what would I want to work on?

3. What do you think is the best way to stand out at work?

Keep your cool as much as you can. I try to be someone who people feel is consistent. I have had people tell me how much they appreciate how I can deal with situations without getting heated up or lashing out at others. It makes people want to work with you more, and that’s definitely a good thing, in any field.

Interested in connecting with Nathan? Find him on LinkedIn.

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