Offline Networking in the Digital Age
Zurich

With Five Pandemic Proven Methods for Connection

Modern society has evolved in many regards, especially in how we interact with each other. A significant amount of these interactions now happen in digital social spaces than real ones. One excuse I get a lot these days is that you can’t “network” because it’s very difficult to meet other people in person, especially people you don’t know.

Digital spaces are revolutionary and have brought people at great distances together but if you are like me you probably feel entirely ready to leave the house and meet a stranger in person. I have started to chat a bit longer with the bakery lady and the guy who fixes my doner kebab. It’s weird but necessary because human interaction has become so scarce and I also feel that we all deserve a bit more love these days. Don’t get me wrong: I’m generally not a very chatty person unless I’ve known someone for a long time. I rather keep a “professional” interaction short and this might come across as arrogance to some. 

However, over the last year I changed my attitude a lot. The pandemic has made me realize how little I often connect with people in business as in good German style I still separate business and pleasure, colleagues and friends. If you have listened to my workshops about the importance of building relationship you probably wonder how I can hold up this paradox. 

My answer is simple: It’s a deeper level of trust that I share with the friends and more personal connections. I also don’t hold back whereas in a professional environment I would probably not use certain expressions. Today it’s all a bit more blurred because I speak to everyone from my living room. I feel like I let everyone into my personal space, hence they must be able to handle the more authentic “Angela” as well.

Building Trust Through Offline Networking

When was the last time you trusted a random person on the internet? In fact, isn’t the first advice given to anyone on online social media to ignore and not trust anything a stranger tells you? Just how much of a relationship do you have with someone you’ve only interacted with in Twitter DMs? And even worse, if you are on social media you probably get abused by scammers and other annoying people a lot. Social media for me has a dark side and it’s very easy to feel vulnerable there after you were told for the 100th time that someone wants something from you. Most of the time I find it irritating and frustrating.

Professional networking, similarly, can only go so far to building your relationships if they’re limited to online interactions. Face-to-face meetings help develop a higher level of trust among participants – positive body language plays a great role in helping put nervous people at ease. Similarly, interacting in the same physical space (over a coffee, at a lunch or even a mixer of sorts) is a great ice-breaker. Shared experiences always do leave a lasting memory, what better way to start building a repertoire with your network?

Believe in the Networking Karma

The thing about networking is, it’s not a transactional relationship. You don’t go into it expecting rewards, or even gratitude. You do it because you believe in ‘networking karma’. That said, you are only human and even the most generous of givers can find themselves overwhelmed at times. That’s why it is important to set up boundaries that help you prevent burnout and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and your network. I have adopted the “Five-Minute-Favor” from Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” as one of the principles that I can easily say yes to. With knowledge exchange it depends on whether I feel I get the same inspiration out of the relationship that I give in. Usually, this is the case in most of my networking groups, usually I prefer “Erfa”-Groups where practical tips are exchanged to a captive audience and “Mastermind-Groups”, where we usually bring our lazy selves forward and overcome imposter syndrome. In Switzerland you can also follow the institutionalized networking by joining an association or club that is dedicated to your profession. If you need more advice on this please reach out to me. I’m offering my resources and recommendation to readers and clients within our HireMeExpress program.

Five Pandemic Ideas for Offline Networking

1 – Go for a Walk at Lake Zurich with a Cup of Americano

The easiest way to network offline right now is the walk along the lake with a coffee to go. I have finally bought a reusable cup because the waste of coffee cups and general one-way packaging is starting to get on my nerves. My local bakery accepts that you bring your own plate or bowl when you buy lunch from them.

2 – Allow for a Weekly “Watercooler Chat”

What I am missing the most about working in an office environment is the social part, the watercooler chats about not so professional topics, the casual bumping into colleagues and asking them about their cats and the general exchange of fun and pleasantries when you work with the same people for years. As a global digital nomad you will have to get used to building up relationships fast but there are always people that you have known for a long-time even if you worked at different companies or on different projects. And it is absolutely okay if you contact them without a reason and set up a “Watercooler” chat where you strictly make smalltalk only or chat about your family or the last tech problem you faced when trying to organize a vaccination for your mother from abroad. I know you are as keen as I am in turning into a mega productive robot but allow yourself this time by blocking half an hour once a week (that’s in addition to a daily lunch break).

3 – Visit the Zoo or Kunstmuseum

I admit that I haven’t been to the Zurich Zoo yet and the last time I went to the Kunstmuseum was probably when I was here as a tourist or when I had friends over from other countries. I admit that I tend to not fully utilize all the opportunities Zurich offers during “normal” times but if you wanted to meet me right now these two options are open and you can connect while watching giraffes or looking at a Warhol. I am sure this will go down really well as a networking opportunity. 

And: If you aren’t convinced yet at least take your kids there to support the Zoo because…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztC2QCkge2I&ab_channel=ZooZ%C3%BCrich

4 – Go for a Hike

Generally we have a lot of opportunities for small hikes in the city and out in the countryside. If you are a workaholic you might not be aware of them so I suggest you start with Uetliberg, Felsenegg, Greifensee and Pfäffikersee. I don’t own a car but most of these locations can be accessed by public transportation and if you wish to save your contact time you will need to let them know how they get there or pick them up.

5 – Share a Themed Take Out Meal on a Park Bench

With the upcoming week and the spring weather we are expecting you could invite a person you wish to meet to a themed take out meal on a park bench. Even if restaurants are still closed we have these beautiful parks in Zurich and a botanical garden where you can take your lunch in a beautiful atmosphere. If you want to make it even more interesting you could combine it with a topic or an expert interview.

If you are a Giver Watch your Boundaries

If you’re a seasoned professional with the wisdom of experience to share, offline networking can help you build trust with those who wish to seek your advice but would hesitate to reach out to you directly. By giving off an approachable vibe, perhaps giving a little impromptu talk to a group of people, you can embed that necessary bit of trust in younger professionals to reach out and network with you and others at your position. They’d go on to do it when they reach your place in their careers, and continue the cycle of positive networking!

A natural consequence of purposeful networking is the asking and giving of advice. For experienced professionals, especially those who actively network, it can soon become an overwhelming practice. Giving advice is great, it’s what makes the world turn, but when your network constantly reaches out for advice on anything from spreadsheet optimization to career planning, it can lead to the sort of burnout that makes you want to stop networking. It may also negatively impact your health!

Learning to say no is never easy, especially if you’re worried about coming off as impolite. It is, however, essential. Let your principles guide you: Develop a strategy that lets you identify scenarios where you say yes and those where you say no. Stick to this guideline and maintain your sanity!

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

Why you need networking principles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRUXcBT_QS8&t=10s&ab_channel=AngieWeinberger

https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/how-to-not-let-pandemic-fatigue-turn-into-pandemic-burnout/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdFudLPyqng&ab_channel=RobBulder

Why Building Professional Relationships is Harder for You

I have this tendency to not want to work with Germans who have just arrived in Switzerland. I end up seeing too many of my own mishaps and small failures back when I was a newbie in Switzerland. Instead of reminiscing about my failures however, l would like you to meet Dr. Rainer Schulz.

This German leader from one of the cases from The Global Mobility Workbook (2019) has never done any intercultural training. He manages a global team which is mainly based in Switzerland exactly like he manages everybody in Frankfurt. Tom Jones, the main character in this case study challenges a lot of his assumptions about hierarchy and collaboration.

At the age of 55, Dr. Schulz cannot get over the fact that everyone in Switzerland goes to first name and “Du” in no time. Even his children call him stuck up and old-fashioned. Dr. Schulz is a typical example of someone stuck in their own cultural preferences. He could have made an effort and offered Tom the first name basis. He could have tried to build trust when they began working together. Instead, he just cannot get out of his comfort zone, hides behind his intellectual competence, relationship to the Management Board and his assistant. 

Tom on the other hand, is a little naive and not even aware of intercultural differences. He made an effort to learn German but he is still depressed. He attributes his issues to others. His weakness in this situation is that he does not take responsibility for his learning and progress. Tom also limits himself and could have done more to work better with Rainer. Tom quits the company, an assignment failed, the retention score is down and people are even more convinced that working with people from other cultures is just too hard. No happily ever after.

Having lived here in Zurich for over 10 years now, I also prefer to run my life Swiss-style. Despite considering myself open and tolerant, I still mess up intercultural communication. I’m not always understood and sometimes I’m just wrong. I recently got into a long discussion about left and right and I know that I have a weakness there. At the end I had to find out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Communication across Cultures is a Challenge

My team members sometimes don’t do what I thought I had asked them to do. Then there is the occasional issue where I thought I had sent an email with a spreadsheet attachment but the person at the other end never received it. We hop on a conference call to discuss a topic with the assumption that the other person has the spreadsheet in front of them but IT Security blocked it. The whole conversation goes in circles. (Remind me to explain the “Asian Loop” to you sometime.) 

And yes, there could be plenty of reasons behind these issues. Maybe it’s “not my fault” or “not my responsibility”.

[tweetthis]If we don’t achieve our goals as leaders, then we are not good enough as leaders. [/tweetthis]

Do you also in such situations then tend to take control and do everything yourself?

And does that then lead you to burnout, depression or anger?

Does your partnership or family life suffer?

I have had to learn to accept the fact that people are as diverse as sand corns or snow flakes. You can learn to improve your leadership style but it is a never ending story of continued failures. Eventually you’ll get the swing and then you are asked to retire from the working world…

(Isn’t it crazy that our society doesn’t value the experience of our elders? Personally I intend to work until the day I die… hopefully with a nicely branded fountain pen in my hand.)

With this post I would like to give you an intercultural explanation to these phenomena and help you get out of your cultural comfort zone.

What is Global Competency in Global Mobility?

Global Competency is the ability to work effectively in a global, complex environment with a high level of stress, while achieving goals sustainably and in accordance with your own resources”. (Weinberger, 2019)

One of the major themes in my work with clients is on how they can improve their relationships at work. In order to find a new role in the Swiss market a number of trusted relationships are required. Relationships are usually built through a third-party introduction, at events and through long-lasting cooperation. And while this is similar in Germany, the German approach to building relationships always has a hierarchical component. Usually, the younger or newer members of the crew are treated with a little less respect. Globally competent leaders know how to gauge the hierarchy level and address the person according to status and seniority. However, in Switzerland where 70% of your interactions are with other expats it is trickier than in Germany.

You can almost assume that everyone is on your experience and intellectual level. And most locals are modest, so they could easily be underestimated.

Five Reasons why You might find it hard

  1. You are shy, introverted or not convinced that they are good enough to deserve success. Many partners suffer from the “impostor syndrome”, a psychological state of mind where people doubt their own accomplishments or consider themselves frauds just about to be exposed, especially if their career-driving partner just got another promotion in another country.
  2. You are embarrassed and ashamed of being “unemployed” in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. You come from a culture where achievement is overly emphasized and ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time they are blindsided by the fact that they had an ascribed status in their home turf.  Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner used to associate the achievement dimension with mainly protestant work ethic and belief. However, even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, we have catholic cantons as well and status is often equal with family name, wealth and also how many generations you have already been a member of this society. So, there is still a strong ascription component that is not so obvious to outsiders. you don’t recognize that you have been in the out-group until you join the “Circle of Trust”.
  4. You are not aware of how they come across in person and assume that your style and behavior is “normal”. You have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that would indicate to them that they might be too pushy or even rude. A common example in Switzerland is that expats tend to overstretch a time commitment. For a society that runs on the clock and is a role model of the sequential time approach according to E.T. Hall’s time dimensions, this is often creating a lot of stress for the other person.
  5. You are sending messages with which in your home turf you would mark  your status such as the “Dr.” title in Germany or a certain seniority by name-dropping the influential VIP’s you used to hang out with but in Switzerland for example this is either not understood or considered boasting, egocentric and merely annoying. 

Over the years of running my own business and projects I often noticed that all the tools I tested to maintain a strategic approach to networking failed miserably with the extensive network that I’ve built over my professional life. 

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation”. We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach showing how much you trust the other person.

The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”, e.g. the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German. The meaning of the informal way of addressing a person with “Du” has a different meaning in Switzerland than in Germany.

Without intercultural training a German manager will behave like a bull in a China shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach. I prefer to work with you when you are beyond the honeymoon phase and you understand that you might not function in Switzerland like you are used to.

My approach after 10 years in Zurich

Some of my colleagues in the #GlobalMobility world have become friends over the years and some of my best friends from the university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have almost become family and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. And some friends will never pay you while others will insist on giving back. The world is colorful and so are people.

While saying this, I don’t want to imply that you have to like everybody you work with and everybody you network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person without a doubt.

When you know in your head and in your heart, that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. I thrive in safe and collaborative environments but these require “relationship work”.

[tweetthis]We can’t stay on the task-level (the “Sachebene”, one of my favorite German words) if we want to be great leaders in a globalized world.[/tweetthis]

Let me know what you are doing today to work on your business relationships.

The Expat Experience (XX): Walking alone at the shores of lake Zurich on a rainy Sunday morning.

“Networking” includes the word “Work” for a reason
Is there anything I could help you with?

You probably despise networking. You think of networking as wasting time and you don’t like to go to events with no direct outcome. Are you appalled by “coffee meetings” with people who never plan to support you but happily take your free advice? Know that feeling?

You probably heard me say this before: For me, time has an immense value and since I started my business I’ve come to the conclusion that I have three major priorities: 1) My health, 2) My time and 3) My support group (including my family and partner). Without these you cannot run a successful company of one.

In order to use my time effectively and to the best possible outcome, I am constantly reviewing my “networking” strategy and have become very strategic about building connections in a way that suits me but also generates business. At the same time with recent health challenges, working from home and restrictions on events I had to think of other ways to “network the network”. The term “working the net” already indicates that there is work involved in building and maintaining mutually beneficial business relationships. AND while this comes natural to expats and other people from more relationship-based cultures, it requires energy for people from strictly task-based cultures.

The secret to making peace with “networking” as I often explain in my talks and workshops such as “#Networking4Nerds” is to treat your business relationships similar to other friendships and to be a giver.

Here are my five recipes for working your net:

1) Connect those who would not meet

A big benefit of being a networking queen or king is that you can organize connections. Think about who would need to know whom in your network in order to move ahead one step with one of their issues. Maybe a friend needs a new job or a business contact wants a new client or needs to solve an immediate problem at hand. Risk a little discomfort. Set them up for a “Professional Blind Date”. Trust your judgement and see what happens.

Over the last few years I have made several professional introductions. Mainly I helped my clients to find jobs that they would otherwise not even know. I also benefit from introductions so I try to keep the karma of connections spinning. 

2) Accept that Relationships require work

As in a good marriage you want to keep the relationship alive by making it beneficial for both parties. Once you know too many people you might just react once you are asked but even a small advice to a junior colleague might help them to move ahead in their career or move out of a job where they have stopped to learn.

A lot of professionals I know have lost the ability to trust their managers and colleagues. Being a mentor for a more junior professional in your industry can be really motivating for this person.

3) Share your knowledge and expertise graciously

There has never been a time where too much knowledge was hurtful. It’s also impossible to shock people with well-written report summaries or other insights you have about your industry. Start posting on LinkedIn. Tell people what you know and how you view the trends. In a worst-case scenario you get a negative comment. Be bold and bring in your unique perspective to the world.

4) Help others and increase your self-esteem

It sounds like a boy/girl-scout value but “a good deed a day keeps the shrink away”. When you help your contacts then you will feel more self-respect and wake up with a smile on your face. It always makes me so happy when a client tells me they found a job they love or that a connection was really helpful.

It’s even more fun to just support people in your network (for FREE). Give them likes, +1, endorsements, retweets and hearts when you are not paid for it. It’s a great way to give people appreciation and we all could get a bit more of that especially in the corporate world.

5) Challenge yourself and treat networking as a game

I often ask my clients to set a networking target. That includes that they must give before they take. It could be a small weekly challenge such as meeting a person you never met for a coffee. You could also offer to connect someone to someone else because you know they share a theme, hobby or interest.

These connections really seem to bring out most amazing collaborations. You obviously want to ask permission before sharing details. You could implement a score card on your whiteboard and whenever you helped a connection you add a smiley there. Imagine how that will make YOU feel.

 

If you would like to know more and keep updated on how to find work in a new market sign up here to join our HireMeExpress Waiting List.

Lack of Digital Competence Affecting Your Productivity? Here’s How You Escape That Rut

I’m sure you have been told countless times in recent years that in this driven, fast-changing world, the agile will reign supreme. I’m sure you have also wondered, what exactly does that mean?

I think the simplest answer to that is: Professionals who can keep up to date with their skill set are the ones who will find sustained success. Keeping your skills and knowledge in tip-top condition is something I’ve touched on in a previous Club Sandwich too, but today I’d like to focus on the aspect of digital competency. For many professionals, maintaining a current skill set as this new world gets more digital-centric is the real challenge. This means asking yourself, are you someone with a robust IT skill set or do you ‘just get by’?

If your answer is the latter, perhaps it is time to consider ramping up the attention you give to this aspect. Being able to work with a few basic apps and systems will no longer take you the distance. I understand that getting to grips with this rapid change can be too much for some professionals, who feel that their learning progress has hit a brick wall, or become a slow crawl. This can naturally lead to a feeling of frustration and impatience for ‘not getting it’, which may directly affect your productivity and self esteem.

What I’d like to do today is to help you boost your productivity in ways that may also bolster your digital competence. The following are a few methods I’ve used personally and have assisted clients as well. Let’s do this!

Have a read through of Jane Piper’s excellent book Focus in the Age of Distraction
Jane Piper is a digital wellbeing expert who draws on her experience in Focus, highlight key consequences of living in the digital age that can impact productivity. There have been several studies on how digital apps, especially networking ones have affected our ability to focus and engage – something that is now visible in workplaces around the world. For those among us who find themselves struggling to focus and perform at their peak, this book is a must read!

Start using a productivity app
Now, don’t get scared! Most productivity apps on the market can appear daunting, and hide most features behind a paywall, that is, they let you use their basic version for free but require you to pay a one-time or recurring cost for premium features. That means you never know if the money spent will be worth it. Instead, I’ll focus you towards the best apps that offer these features for free, allowing you to find your own groove.

A productivity or task management app can be something as simple as Gmail’s Tasks list, or something more elaborate like Microsoft To-Do and Todoist. What is similar about these apps and what you will learn is this: lists help your mind declutter and refocus. These apps provide additional help by providing reminders, categorization options and cross-system(platform) support.

The unique thing each app brings is what will determine if they are something you will wish to use long-term. People who enjoy the satisfaction of making lists will prefer Todoist, while those who may require organizational options will go for Microsoft To-Do.

Find the app that works for you and start planning your day better!

Are You More of a Visual Thinker? Then Play to Your Strength! 
Productivity apps are great but only if you can harness their power effectively. For those among us who are more visual thinkers, or work with visuals and design, will definitely find themselves flocking to Trello and its card-based approach. It’s like having a digital corkboard to map out your tasks, and definitely worth trying out.

Experiment with Global Virtual Team Collaboration Apps
For those among us who run teams, there are group productivity and task management/collaboration tools such as Slack and Asana that are worth looking into. A note on Slack usage: It is primarily a team collaboration tool but its productivity boosting capabilities come from its ability to integrate with Google Drive/Dropbox and Salesforce. I find it important that you experiment with your team and review after a few months what worked well and what didn’t work well. You might notice generational differences in app usage and effectiveness.

Simplify and find tools that work for your team or collective
Yesterday, I listed all the tools we are using in one of our collectives on a flipchart paper. I tried to paint the icons without looking at my iphone and had to smile later because they actually look slightly different. However, I realized that we often use many tools already but we haven’t agreed on simple communication principles. So the work only starts when you have identified the right tools. (The hammer alone doesn’t help. You also need to bring in energy to slam in the nail.) We will continue to discuss global virtual team collaboration in the upcoming issues.

Unplug and keep a have-done diary
One aspect (that is also addressed in Jane Piper’s book) is how the pressure and stress of work combined with the always-on digital aspects can put us in a state of mind where we are unable to focus on anything, much fewer deliverables and time management. 

Here’s what you do: List down your completed daily tasks. I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise. Not only will this give you a break from the screen but help you analyze your productivity cycle, its peaks and low points. I’ve learned this method from my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen and it served me well during hectic times.

I talk about more productivity hacks that can help you reclaim your diary here. Practice one of these hacks per week and let me know how your experience went in the RockMeApp! You can add them to your “weekly practices”.

 

 

Three Ways to Stay Sane as a Giver

I recently came across this article “Learning to say no” and since a lot of my clients seem to struggle with saying no in a polite way I thought I would write a post about it. I think the issue is not that we all want to say yes all the time but to understand better why you say yes in the first place. Maybe networking is a good example.

When you network with purpose you give people a reason to contact you again. You provide advice and you invite people to get in touch with you. You promise them knowledge, education, and access to your professional network. You could help them save time on meaningless research and formatting tasks. You could even offer them your administrative support for free. Believe me, no one will believe that you are doing this without intention and an agenda. This is different. It will stick. You cannot make one key mistake though: You cannot expect reward or even gratitude from your counterpart. You need to believe in the “networking karma” as I like to call it.

You keep the relationship alive, even if the background of the other person doesn’t match yours or even if the person might be a competitor. You might also feel the tendency to continue giving to certain contacts without getting anything back and you might think this is a bad thing.

I don’t think so, but I think we all have to be careful that we are not abused by takers.

You never know when a contact will play a role later in life. I learned yesterday it takes between 5 and 7 years in Switzerland until a newbie is a fully accepted member of a “Zunfthaus”. You can learn more about this Swiss tradition when you speak to an expert. (I’m no Zunftexpert at all). I think this is a good time frame for your networking effort too. If you have not messed up the trust you are building in five to seven years you might be allowed to ask for a small favor.

What could happen if you invest in your professional network without an agenda and without immediate expectations is that you suddenly have too many balls in the air. You juggle your network of contacts and you are a sought-after expert in your field.

I get at least one request for a scientific research project a month. It usually means that I spend about an hour preparing for an interview and another hour with the interviewer. Sometimes I dig out literature or I promise to send a link or literature list afterward. Most students don’t see how much time it took me to prepare all that knowledge but I usually get their thesis as a gift, which is great because I have a very specific library now. So, I continue to say “yes” to students because it helps me to keep up to speed with the academic research in my field. I work with an intention but not based on immediate gratification. In my view that is a different mindset.

You need to know when you say yes and when you say no

My own coach and mentor recently explained that we all need to learn to say no in a polite way. We need to be professional “Nein, danke” sayers. And for a giver that’s not so easy. What I recommend to do is to set yourself some principles and guidelines. This is how I came up with the ten professional networking principles initially. I used them to help me in my efforts to be less strategic but still network according to my purpose and values.

You could collage a thank you-wall or have a box of thank you cards

We forget sometimes how grateful people are when you help them achieve what they would like to achieve. One idea I have is that you could put together a wall with all the emails, notes and postcards you receive from people who just say “thank you”. Or you could keep them in a box or nice folder.

Learn to say “NEIN, DANKE!”

Instead of saying plain “No.”, you could consider a “yes, if…” or “no, thank you.”. You could say yes if certain conditions are met and if you are declining you have a few good arguments to decline. For example, you could say: I’m happy to meet you if we meet during lunchtime in a restaurant close to where I work.” or “I’m happy to give you advice if you prepare five questions and send them to me 24 hours before the meeting.” or “I’m happy to support your refugee program if you show my logo on your website.”

What will you decline politely this week?

Angie

Read more

Give and Take by Adam M. Grant

On Perfectionism
http://www.vanschneider.com/perfectionism-is-killing-your-creativity