The Connector’s Advantage | No BS Job Search Advice Radio

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EP 2030 Connectors have many advantages, not simply in their job search but in their career overall. Michelle Tillis-Ledderman, the author of The Connector’s Advantage https://amzn.to/3qF9WAE discuss how to become a connector and using it throughout your search and your career. BTW, she offers a bonus at the end of the interview for the purchase of the book  ‘BTW, Tis the season… for CONNECTING! Get this holiday deal from @MichelleTillisLederman to make that connection you’ve been meaning to make all year. She’ll send a signed book, one-of-a-kind bookmark, and personal message to the person of your choosing – $15 for the bundle. LIMITED SUPPLIES – order here: https://michelletillislederman.com/gift-of-connection/

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So my guest today is Michelle Tillis-Lederman, one of Forbes Top 25 networking experts, and the author of four books, including the internationally known "The 11 Laws of Likeability" and her latest, "The Connectors Advantage," which is what we're going to be focusing on today. She's a connection creator and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communications and leadership programs for Fortune 500 firms and other substantial organizations. And she's appeared on a host of different networks, NBC, CBS, Fox, NPR, The New York Times CNBC, the usual suspects. Michelle, thanks for making time today. I really appreciate it. How are you?

Good, Jeff, happy to be here.

I'm glad; it'd be terrible if you weren't happy to be here. So connector. What's a connector and why do we care about that?

I love that question. A connector is simply somebody who prioritizes relationships in everything that they do, in all of their interactions, professional, personal, across the board, the relationship comes first. And that's a really simplistic way of thinking about a connector. But why we care is because connectors have an advantage in whatever it is they're working on. Whether it's a new job or promotion, getting a client, you know, even health and happiness. You are going to get there faster, easier and better as a connector. And that's what the advantage is faster, easier, better results.

I mean, we don't have to do it the hard way.

You know, I tell a story in the beginning of the book about how some things have happened for me. And I really people go 'you're are so lucky.' I'm like, I'm not. I'm not lucky. I'm a connector. And it's those relationships that enable things to happen.

Tell us the story of how it happen for you?

Well, I think one of the stories I tell is, is when I got laid off, right after 9/11, you know, with the rest of the world, you know, and I was doing great. I had great reviews, it was just everything was getting slashed left and right. And so it was a Monday. I got laid off Tuesday. I cleaned out my desk. I called my friend from Business School. He said, "Come work here." I mean, I wasn't calling for a job, I was calling to say, 'hey, let's go out and get a drink because I just got laid off.' And his response was come work here. And that was on a Tuesday, I went to his office Wednesday. I met with his boss on Thursday, I started the following Monday.

I know for me, when I worked in search, so many of the referrals I got to institutions came about as a result of a relationship with one person who got to know, like, trust and respect me for what I could do for them. And they said, "oh, by the way, have you ever spoken with so and so? Let me put to the two of you together?"

Yep. And you know, the thing is that a lot of companies have internal referral progra ms, where, if you are working for a company and you bring somebody in, you refer them in, you actually get the commission rather than a recruiting firm because they trust the people that are already there to know who would be successful there. So it's actually not just to your advantage to make those connections. It's to their advantage as well. And 85% of jobs at any level are coming from networking.

I find that one stunning, because the number I've always heard was 70. I knew LinkedIn had upped it to 85. And it doesn't surprise me. And I think what's fascinating is also in the original number of 70, of the 70%, 70% of them (or 49% in total) came as a result of introductions to people that your network knew who you didn't.

Yeah. And it's the executive level, that number goes even higher-- 90+% at the executive level. You're not getting the big ticket jobs unless you know someone.

It's the original social proof. You know, in The Stone Ages when I started in recruiting, it used to be "the old boys club." And the old boys would all know one another. They went to the same schools, and they referred one another. There's a Women's Club as well now, but more importantly, there are ways that we can connect with people in order to develop those relationships and impressions. So there's lots of different ways of being a connector. What do you recommend for people when you coach someone at an executive level? How do you train them to be an effective conector?

So, what I talk about are the seven mindsets of the connector. And I'll list them out;you can choose whichever ones you want to focus on. But these are the mindsets that help enable you to prioritize relationships. So we are an "open and accepting" connectors have a clear vision, connectors believe in abundance, they trust, they're social and curious, they're conscientious, and they have a generous spirit.

Versus the non-connector personalities who are miserly in so many different ways. Clutch, hold on to, rather than be generous,

it's the opposite of abundance is scarcity. And that's really one that people focus on a lot, because especially in the job search, there's this scarcity mindset. "I need," and I need to protect. I shouldn't tell anybody this, and somebody's going to take this out from under me." You know, we take these very defensive protective stances. And I understand it, scarcity is tangible, right? It makes sense. I understand scarcity, probably better than anybody else. And I tell the story in my book about kind of growing up with scarcity. And it's a shift not to say everything's fine. It's a shift to say, I believe in the possibility of being better. I believe that there's enough to go around. And so I take a mindset of 'I don't have competitors, I have a lot of strategic partners, or alliances.' And if I am, you know, going after a job, and I don't get it, what I would do at that point would say, "You know, tell me what, you know, what it was that I didn't have? Maybe there's somebody I know, right? Or where do you think I would best fit in in this organization. Because sometimes, you weren't applying for the right job, but there's some somebody else that you'd be great for. And you might get referred, you know, to that other person. But also, if you build that relationship, and you help them find somebody else, you do favors. That generous spirit that we're talking about, of giving, then you've built two strong relationships. And you know what? When we think about connecting, we're not in a short term perspective. We're thinking long term, you don't know where they're going next. You know, you don't know who else they know who's looking. And so it is really about a non-linear spirit. Right? It's not 'I give you. You give me.

and one of the fun places where people really wrestle with this, I know is when they talk to recruiters, it's all about me get me in the door. And even when they're not able to because there's a skills deficiency or some knowledge about you that makes them not interested or some other reason, is reluctance to refer for fear that fill in the blank the thousands of different fields. And I think that's probably the biggest inhibitor to why people are reluctant to be connectors. Is that what you say?

I don't know, if people are reluctant to be connectors, I think it is that that sometimes that scarcity mindset takes over. Sometimes it's that they don't have a clear vision, right. That's why there are seven mindsets, and they enable each other. It's hard to have a generous spirit if you don't have a mindset of abundance, right? And it's hard to get the advantage of faster, easier, better results if you don't have a clear vision of what you're going for.

The difference between a connector and a networker doesn't sound radically different, except networkers seem to be more transactional versus connectors have a mindset that it comes with being a networker.

I've always hated the word networking. It has the word work in it. Like who wants to do it? You know? And, and my, my publisher said, I had to use the word networking in my first book because it was for SEO. And so when my brother in law came in my office, I was finishing up "The Connector's Advantage," and he's like, 'Oh, another book on networking.' Like, no, no, this book is on connecting. He's like, 'well, what's the difference?' And I looked up at him. And I was like, 'that's a great question.' And I thought about for a second, I said, 'well, networking is something you do. But a connector is who you are.' And I think that's the mindset difference that I want people to take away is that oftentimes, when we think about networking, we're flipping a switch, we're buying, okay, 'I now go to this networking event. All right, now, I'm going to hand out cards, and I'm going to do this thing,' right? Versus a connector is always in the mindset of the relationship, and of connecting to others. And, you know, it could be on the playground, it could be you when you're volunteering for something it could be when you're running at the park. I mean, I met somebody at the dog park and ended up hiring her.

Fabulous. So let's talk about these mindsets, and give people a sense of where they might fit in, into these attitudes. And maybe we can talk about how you can grow into a next level mindset from that position. That good with you?

And what you just said actually made me think of the connector spectrum. And it might be helpful for us to explain kind of the levels of connector, because you were saying grow into, you know, and one of the things that I want people to recognize is probably everybody who's listening to your show is already at some level on the connector spectrum. They're not non connectors, right? That's a very rare breed of people who don't value or believe in the value of relationships who are really just kind of recklessly, right? At a minimum, people are emerging, right? They're emerging connectors, they see the value, but they're not really competent in their skills, not really employing those skills, yet those mindsets, then we have the responsive connector. So when your responses Connect, or people are asking you for introductions, people are asking you to connect, people are asking you for favors, and you are responding. Right? So you are actively responding. But it's only when somebody else is doing the initiation. If you want to get to the acting connector level, and this is a great target group for most people, you want to start initiating as well don't just respond, but initiate be thinking, How can I help this person be thinking? Who would they want to connect with? be thinking, who do I want to connect with, and who can help me connect with those people. So being a little more proactive, and initiating will get you to that acting level? Now,

I'm gonna pause you there for one second, because I want to work with with this one, since this is the one that you consider the initial aspirational category. So put me in that position. I'm attempting to connect, I'm a coach, I help people find work. I do career coaching. So I help with transitions for people. And if you are encouraging me to be a more effective connector, let's assume that all I'm doing is waiting for the email to come in from someone who wants help. That sounds like a lot of you, folks. What could I do differently,

As the coach or the candidate.

I'm going to be the candidate trying to find additional situations.

Alright. So as a candidate, what you want to be thinking about is, you know, look at some technical things that you can do is to continue to support and nurture the network that you have and expand, right. So if we are just being in that responsive acting level, then we're really focusing on the network that we have, and making sure that it is, is strong. So I want you to maybe spend 15 minutes a week on LinkedIn. Find five new connections a week. Send five notes to people that you already connect with, engage with them on social media. That's one place you can do it. Maybe make five phone calls a week. Maybe send five emails a week. So it's just you don't have to do big things. But like yesterday, something popped into my head and I immediately texted her saying, I'm thinking about you. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. And then we got into a text chain. You know, somebody emailed me after 15 years, and we got on the phone for an hour and a half. So, it is about not being afraid to do that reach out, you know, and to just, you know, make those new connections on LinkedIn are great, too. But I want you to make sure that you're nurturing the network that you have, and I want you to always do this. Ask this question in whatever you're doing. What are you working on? You know, how can I help? You know, where's your focus right now? Or who do you want to connect with? Any one of those questions, is going to tap into your generous spirit and your willingness and desire to add value to somebody else. And when you do that, the connection strengthens, and it extends.

So some of you, as you were talking about this, you reminded me of someone I knew many years ago, the first woman commodities broker dealer, Merrill Lynch, I say the old Merrill Lynch, pre financial collapse. And she had an audio tape, you know, a little cassette tape of the top performers at Merrill Lynch at a junket in Hawaii, that used to happen, and they have a speaker coming to talk to them. And he said, I want to teach you how to increase your book by seven to 10% in three seconds. Is there anything else I can be doing to help you? That was the simplest question in the world, and really was about service and about help? It wasn't saying any more business? It wasn't transactional in that way. It was just the friendly question. Designed to deepen the relationship a little bit more.

Yeah. And, and I don't want to get sidetracked. I want to take your time. But I do want you to be able to answer that question as well. Right? I want you to pose it, but I want you to have an answer for it. And that's that clear vision, right? Because somebody might say, Oh, thank you so much for asking, what about you? How can I help you? And if you don't have Oh, no, no, no, no, that's not what we're trying to do either. Right. You can have an answer. You can say, Well, you know, right now I'm focused on connecting to people this industry or, you know, I am really thinking about the job with this company, and would love to talk to somebody know anybody

who works there. And I think we all know relationships. Come out of give and take. But it starts with a gift.

Yeah. And it's give without expectation. But if they invite the question, make sure you have an answer.

So we've covered two of the spectrum because you repeat the first two again.

So everyone has a non connector, emerging connector to responsive connector all the way up to the first target, which is acting connector. And that might be as far as people need to get, the further up the spectrum you go, the faster easier, better the results can be. So you know, it's not I am a what you call a global superconductor. So I got a job in literally three days after I got, you know, cleaned out my desk, that's rare. When we start to think about two other levers we can pull one is the depth of our connections. So how deep in a geographic region an industry that function? Can we go? Right? somebody knows, Oh, she knows everybody in town, or she knows everybody in media, or my sister knows everybody in, you know, that's an HR professional, or whatever it might be. So having that depth in a certain area, that's called a nice connector. When you start to have breath, that's when you are a super connector. So the breath could be up and down the ladder across demographics, geographics. function. Industry, right, so you got a guy, right, you always know somebody. That's that super connector. And when you know people beyond your country's borders, then you're a global super connector.

I love these descriptions. And I'm gonna back up to the niche connector. Because thinking of my own background in search, where I have specific expertise, that becomes a nice connector, someone who has in depth knowledge around some subject that allows the

subject is the people in that subject. Right. And you are definitely

thank you, and specifically around job search now, and career transition, but again, different conversation, and that we elevate to get in breath. And how does someone become more expansive, when they've been? I don't wanna say siloed. But they've self created the silo.

I love that. And this is so important right now. And you know, I wrote this book about it, you know, it came out over a year ago. And it is probably more relevant right now than ever, because the last section of the book is called expanded, diversify your connections. And I talked about how to be an inclusive connector. And with the social unrest, and with the polarization of our country, it is so important to think about how do we expand and diversify because when you have diversified thought, you actually make better decisions, you make more innovative decisions, you make faster decisions, when you are open to other ideas, and you have that relationship, you are seen as more innovative, more credible, more trustworthy. So yes, it's so important. And by the way, before I forget, I have a quiz. So people can take a little quiz, you'll put it in the show notes, to figure out what level they are. So they know how to get up to that next level. So if you are thinking about that expansion, how to be inclusive, there's certain mindsets just in that, but you want to make sure that you are putting yourself in places to be social curious, and the mindset with people that are different than you. And one of the tips is to have a host mindset, wherever you are, whether it's in person or online, have a host mindset, invite others into the conversation, especially those that might not be using their voice for those that might not look like everybody else, or those that might have been there for the first time. So by making other people comfortable by inviting them in, I have a friend another author, he says that every time he goes to a conference, he looks for the person who looks the most out of place goes over and introduces himself and asks if they'll sit with him. And I just love that it's just simple little things to to, you know, and he doesn't because I think he's always felt like the unicorn, and he wants other unicorns to feel, you know, part of the group. But you know, I love the idea of just looking for somebody who you don't normally get to talk to. And

I remember the days when we couldn't meet in person. Remember back in the old days when we actually met in person? One of the . . . one of the classic scenarios was, you know, you're at some version of the conference, whether you're the speaker or just another attendee, having a host mindset might be walking over to that one person at the large table seated by themselves and sitting down next to them. But first asking, "Can I put my plate down for a second?" Or "can I get something for you" as part of the simple question that starts the conversation that allows you to break the ice with someone. Because they can say, "Oh, I'm saving that!" Okay, fine. But it opens up a door to conversation with someone who you don't know, and allows them to feel comfortable with you. I love the smile on your face.

I love that you said that because I have a story. And it was, I don't know, maybe two years ago or something like that. I was at the National Speakers Association Conference. It's like 1500 people, a huge conference hall. I . . . you know, it can be very overwhelming. And it's probably the first time I had gone in years. And I, I saw this woman sitting alone at a table eating lunch. And I walked over and I said, "Nobody should be eating alone. Can I join you?" And she said, "Absolutely." I sat down and we started chatting. Turns out this woman was sitting alone because she was tired of being bombarded by everybody. Because she was the founder of TEDx.

When she told me that, you know, 20, 30 minutes into a conversation, I was like, Okay, I'm like, "Oh, looks like you wanted to be alone." And at one point, somebody who knows me took a picture of us from another table. She was holding my hand. And he sent me a text going, "How do you do it, Michelle?" And she said to me, she said, "You know, I was happy to have lunch with you, because you came over for me. You didn't come over for you."

And there, folks is huge takeaway. If you haven't caught this yet, pay attention. It's give first, care first.

I had no idea who she was. I just didn't want to see somebody eating alone. And I, you know, wanted to give them company. And I love her. We're still friends. We talk about kids, it's, you know,

Perfect, absolutely perfect. And notice, folks, this isn't hard. It's about caring about other people, and having conversations with them, about where they are and not about, "I need, I need." And going back to that miserly spirit that I spoke about earlier of being (I'm going to use the New York term that if you want me to translate, folks, I'll do that_ the mooch.

There is something about that I think of it as being hungry. I know that when you're in a job search, sometimes you feel hungry. And that could be a literal hunger. And that could be a figurative hunger. But it's, it can kind of feed that desperation and feeds that scarcity mindset. And this feeds, you call it the moocher, the miser, I just want you to think about that, that focus on what you're full of, right? When you focus on the fullness of what you have and what you're grateful for. And when we practice gratitude, that actually helps us embody the mindset of abundance. And, you know, this has been a really challenging year. I mean, God, you know, 2020 has not been easy for anybody, even if your business is doing well, it's still been a difficult year socially, emotionally. We've all had losses, we've all given up things that were important to us this year. And so, you know, when we think about practicing gratitude, it's, it's a shift. It is going like, "Oh, you know, my son had to do his Bar Mitzvah virtually. Oh, we had to cancel this vacation. Oh, right. Or I can say, Oh, my God, I am so grateful every day, that my kids are old enough to manage homeschooling. I'm so grateful that I have my dogs that cuddle me, I'm so grateful that we have a deck outside, but that we can sometimes work outside and get fresh air. And so, like, I mean, I just couldn't list list, I can fill up your whole half hour with things that I'm grateful for. And so it's an idea of focusing on that will enable you to try to start to reach that mindset of abundance, because that really is going to flip a switch for you and how you interact and how you connect.

Folks, it's kind of like opening up from a clenched fist to an open hand. And being

Likr a hug.

I'm starting with baby steps. We work up to the hug. If someone's that has a closed fist, we're not getting into a hug instantly. But we start the small steps that change things. Like any change, it's a new habit. Try it, see what works. See what doesn't work. Experiment. What's the worst that's going to happen? You're going to be back in the same position anyway. But you might not be.

And I give a lot of practical to do'ss and what I call mindset missions in the book so that they can implement the concepts.

You got one you're willing to share tonight. Come on, Michelle.

Sure. So, one of the mindsets. You know, one of the I guess, arguments people always get is "I don't have the time, especially now. Like I've got the homeschooling. I got the blah blah. I get it. I really, really get it. It's my my major excuse, as well. But there's a lot of underutilized time in our life. And I'm not talking about downtime. I want people to have their downtime, their relaxation time, absolutely protect it. But you know, when we were commuting, and some people still are, that's kind of underutilized time, when we're in food coma, right. So there are certain energy levels of the day that go up and down. When you push yourself in a down energy, you're not productive. So when, you know, you have down energy, and I know after lunch, I'm like, Ah, you know, I'm dragging, that's a really great time to clean up your email to send a few notes, Fridays, from four to 5pm is the least productive hour of the workweek. That could be your hour for connecting, right? So it is, think about the things that you already do. So, for example, I said, I could take my dog to the dog park, right? I might invite somebody to go to dog park with me, I go to the gym. I've had meetings at the gym, or at the diner after the gym because I have to eat breakfast anyway. I've had business meetings, getting my nails done. So if you think about the things that you're doing already, invite somebody to do them with you. And you find underutilized time.

There's so many different ways and places that people can experiment with this, even during COVID and all the other justifications. That's the polite way of saying rationalizations that people use to not be connected. Now I'm curious, during these times are, it's a little bit harder. Do you have one suggestion that people can implement, since they can't necessarily tag along with someone or have some tag along with them to have. One suggestion you might have for folks.

I don't think it's harder, necessarily. It might be a little harder for new people. But I think it's actually the reason because people always say, "I don't have any reason to reach out." Well, yes, you do. Just say, How have you been holding up? How you doing? How is your holiday? How are you feeling?" I mean, anything like that. Thinking about you. But that's all you need to do. So it's really easy right now. And I will say that, you know, we have a group in my town, and we we have one guy who is like the cruise director, right, from The Love Boat. I'm dating myself, but that's okay. And he has done a 80s, 90s trivia night. And now we're doing a game night. And we've done birthday dinners. And I've had people in my backyard meetings to warm it up, college reunions and high school and business school and, and so it's kind of like everybody wants that right now. So it's really easy to say, "hey, let's do this."Create something. Pick a date. Invite people. And even if it's online, people show up.

Yeah, you know, I walked into the excuse scenario, in posing it as being harder. I know, for me, I'm talking to lots of people. And, as we're recording this, it's the last day of November 2020. And we're entering or have just entered, the pre Christmas run up, which historically is the easiest time of the year. People are more generous. Start with people who you can text who you haven't spoken with in a while. Reach out. Do that. "Hi, how are you? How are you holding up" conversation. Expand it, as Michelle has suggested, and you know, reconnect, and then don't let it go fallow. So what haven't we covered yet that we really need to focus. In your typical, direct to the point, fast paced manner, we've covered a lot over what what haven't we covered that we really should?

You know, one of the things I want to circle back to because I know we talk a lot about the job. But one of the things about the connection advantage, it also impacts your health and happiness. And I don't want that doesn't get lost, because I think that's also something that's impacting people a lot right now. And social isolation is an epidemic in this country, and has been so amplified by social distancing and quarantine and COVID. And there's a greater impact to your mortality, for being socially isolated than there is to smoking 15 cigarettes a day for 10 years, and equal to obesity, right? So, eat all you want smoke all you want, but make sure that you're out there being social, you know, and so, social isolation is not the right word. We have physical isolation, but we don't need to have social isolation. So, you know, when we think about happiness, one of the studies, it was a Gallup study on engagement, showed there's 12 questions that really directs to whether or not you have an engaged employee. One of those questions is do you have a best friend at work? When you have close work relationships, your productivity is increased, your happiness is predicted. I mean, there is a 50% increase in that productivity. So if you want to be happier if you want to be healthier, just get connected.

And folks, it starts with courage. Because for many of you, you're frightened to do it as though some Boogey Man is going to come out and get you. They aren't. Just take the first step, follow the other person's lead. You'll get there. Take time, take more steps. And I've loved this interview. Michelle, how can people find out more about you, the work that you do, I know I'm gonna have the link to the quiz in the show notes. But talk with folks about the book, how they can get it. And the special feature,

I actually do have a book special. So the best place to find and connect with me is starting on my website, which is MichelleLederman.com. So go there. And from there, you can get everywhere else. So you can look into me, you can find my YouTube, I do video series, I call them success shorties and four foot 10. We won't talk about that. So it's a play on height, as well as the length of the videos. I have a blog, lots of free content there. If you join my community, you will get a video series, you'll get free chapters from the book, you'll get different assessments all for free. That's right on the main page of my website. But I'm also doing a book special. And I want people to have the gift of connection. So I want you to be able to gift this book of connection to somebody else. I put in a signed copy, a personalized note, a bookmark and a cute little package and I ship it off as a gift from you. You can get that. And you'll see below at my website slash gift-of-connection or something like that. But the link will be in the show notes.

Yes, it will. And Michelle, this has been wonderful. Thank you. And folks, we'll be back soon. With more I'm Jeff Altman, as you well know by now. Visit my website, the big game hunter.us there's a lot there to help you as well. Michelle and I have different themes to the work that we do. She's great around networking, I think I do a pretty good job too. But I have a lot more than just simply that. So, visit the blog, go exploring. Thousands of posts. Also, I encourage you-- my class on Udemy, the book on Amazon,, The Ultimate Job Interview Framework. Both are available; they're both terrific. They will help you interview far better than you would without. And, lastly, connect with me on linkedin at linkedin.com/in/TheBigGameHunter. Mention that you saw the interview. I like knowing I'm helping some folks. Right? And once we're connected, I'm going to stay connected to you. Hope you have a terrific day and most importantly, be great. Take care

ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER

Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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