google analytics

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Power of Connections

Yesterday, I spoke about using LinkedIn as a job search and networking tool at a workshop at Walsh College.

The auditorium was packed - normally a good thing, right? Except when you consider that everyone in the room is a worker-in-transition.

But, I felt good about the session. And I felt very proud of the people in the room. The attendees were, in fact, taking charge of their futures by getting out of their houses and attending a workshop. There was good energy in the room, and we're hearing a lot of great feedback from attendees.

Just this morning, I was asked to connect on LinkedIn by several attendees, including a woman named Lisa Gilkey, who had this as her status update:

Lisa Gilkey: Fired up after attending a "Taking Charge" workshop at Walsh College. 14 hours ago

That makes me smile. I am happy that the session was positive for Lisa. I'm happy that she's sharing with her connections the positive comments about the workshop. And hopefully that status update will prompt some of her connections to take notice, and maybe lead Lisa to her next career.

On a related note, I invited a guest speaker to the workshop yesterday, Keith Burke ( Keith attended the same workshop back in January (February?) and we connected via LinkedIn afterward. Since then, Keith has asked to be introduced to one of my connections, who in turn informed Keith of a job opportunity. If he hadn't attended the workshop, and connected with me, and if I hadn't connected with this person, Keith would not have heard of the job. I have a strong feeling that he will find something soon.

Keith and Lisa are two perfect examples of great transitional networkers. They are getting out there - meeting new people - taking full advantage of opportunities during their search. They are being assertive and positive in their search.

And they have inspired me. And that is the power of my connections. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I Love Toastmasters

Several years ago during an annual performance review, I asked my manager how I could improve on public speaking. I knew that working in marketing, I would someday need to be comfortable speaking in front of groups in order to move up in the organization. He suggested Toastmasters and told me a bit about the group.

At the time, the thought of speaking up in front of a room freaked me out. And speaking in front of a group of people who were GOOD speakers freaked me out even more. But this manager, Keith, was one of the best managers I have ever had. And he is a confident, engaging speaker. (Visit him here: So for Keith to tell me to join Toastmasters, it made me think that maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea...

A few years went by, and I finally started looking into professional organizations and found Toastmasters again. After several visits, I joined the Warren Toastmasters Club. It took me a few meetings to make the commitment, and I'm so glad I did.

Toastmasters is known as the "public speaking" organization, but what it's really about is improving your communication and leadership skills. Thank you to Vera for reminding us of this. When people join Toastmasters, they join for their personal goals. It might be improving their public speaking skills. It might be overcoming their fear of speaking in front of groups. It might be working on improving their English. Or, it might be because someone told them about Toastmasters and they really liked the members of the club. But regardless, I've found that when Toastmasters has started giving back to me is when I started giving back to my club and to our members and guests.

Toastmasters has taught me how to turn nervousness into positive energy. Toastmasters has given me the ability to practice speaking on a regular basis, so it's not as nerve-wracking to speak. Toastmasters has helped me to think on me feet - really helpful for those tough job interview questions. Toastmasters has taught me that it's not about me and my message, but it's about the audience and making a connection. And Toastmasters has taught me that I actually ENJOY speaking in front of people. This is coming from a person who was painfully shy.... plus it has given me confidence in myself and it has helped me to find my speaking voice.

And Toastmasters has introduced me to some really great speakers, friends, and mentors. People like Mary Comfort who has the gift of being an incredibly engaging and down-to-earth presenter and motivational speaker. People like Jim McVicar who has the ability to make you smile and laugh when he gets up to speak - and this is before he has said a word! And people like Joe Meirow, who started a new club in Shelby Township, Michigan - and he wasn't even a Toastmaster when he started the club! And people like Vera Johnson and Nancy Zychowicz - both which I consider to be true role models and mentors. Vera: for her enthusiasm and passion, while balancing an amazing career and young child. Nancy: for her willingness to support members of every club, and for her spirit and warm demeanor.

I aspire to be a strong speaker like Keith, Mary, Jim, Vera, and Nancy, and I know that Toastmasters will help me get there. Yes, I'm still nervous when I'm asked to speak, but I find speaking to be such a great experience that I push that nervousness aside. And now instead of dreading speaking, I actually enjoy it. In fact, I competed in a contest tonight and came in 2nd place!! :)

There are so many reasons why I love Toastmasters. If you're intrigued, check out a club sometime. and click the orange FIND button to enter your zip code.

ps -- here's a sample speech I gave at the Park Street Presenters group at Walsh College about my son Joshua, entitled, "He's Only Four."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

That's what the boats are for...

There are a LOT of good people out there looking for work in Michigan and I've been blessed to meet many of them. I've seen every level of motivation, from those who are frozen into doing little for their own job search and waiting for an email or a phone call offer, to those who are out there every week - networking, taking advantage of all available opportunities, offering help before asking for help, and being open to other possibilities with their careers.

It reminds me of a story.

There is a flash flood in a town, and a man is sitting on the roof of his house to escape the rising waters. A boat comes by, and they ask the man to come join them and get out of the water. "No thanks," he says, "God will take care of me." Another day goes by and another rescue boat approaches the man. "No thanks," he says, "God will take care of me." The next day the water overtakes the house and the man drowns. The man is up in heaven and meets God, confused. "God," he says, "why didn't you take care of me?"

To which God replies, "how do you think the boats found you?"

Whether you're religious or not, the moral of the story here is that help is available. You just need to be open to accept it. Sometimes, help finds you when you are helping others. Other times, you might need to be more open to other possibilities (such as networking) to find the help you need.

I hope that for all the good people out there doing there best to look for work, people like Marie McCarthy and or Priscilla Mary Owczarksi, that they will be the "boats" for others during their career search, and that these journeys will lead them to a job they love.

Marie impresses me with her dedication and people skills, and will make someone a phenomenal Administrative Assistant (visit her here: Just one week into her "worker in transition" journey, Marie joined me for an Inforum networking breakfast, where she learned about Motor City Connect, which resulted in an on-the-spot job lead and an interview. Sure beats surfing the job boards! Plus, Marie is adding new skills by joining Toastmasters International.

Priscilla Mary Owczarksi has helped others find jobs while she's looking for a job. For example, she will happily lend a helping hand when she is at the Michigan Works office to others that need help on the computer. Yes, she is searching for a job of her own, but during the process she is demonstrating her passion and experience working in HR (visit her here:

Keep your eyes open for those boats, and also consider extending your "boat" to a Michigan worker-in-transition. Especially for amazing people like Marie and Priscilla Mary.