What I like most about Sheryl Sandburg’s new career book is the title, Lean In.
During twenty-five years of advertising management in New York City and San Francisco, eight years as a retained executive recruiter, and eight years as a career strategist and coach, the most memorable people I have known are those who “leaned in”, who pushed the pace of the relationship.
I particularly admire the men and women who “leaned in thoughtfully”, with class and a sense of urgency, but also of balance.
We are all trying to reach all sorts of people, be it customers, people on LinkedIn, recruiters, hiring executives, board members and other targets of our business and career-building activities.
Most of us are reticent to press ourselves on others. We think it is impolite or boorish. Others overdo their outreach and burnout their relationships before they even get started.
Leaning in and pushing the pace with balance is a tricky, but important, technique to develop.
From my view, the world is a much more competitive arena than in past years. Time is of the essence, jobs are fleeting, companies and people come and go. That requires that we become much more tactical and agile in our business-building and career-building activities. Everyone understands this now; everyone “gets the joke”.
The “joke” is that we are constantly communicating one-to-one, by phone, tablet, laptop, etc., to make something happen. People understand that because they are doing the same thing.
So, now that you realize that everyone is in this self-promotional boat, you can start rowing yours faster. You can lean in more, you can push the pace with people, especially in your career search.
When you send an introductory email to meet someone (with your bio, NOT your resume attached), leave them a voice-mail a day later calling attention to your email with date/time and purpose in contacting them. Be brief, but clear in what you are seeking (a meeting, a reference, a lead, etc). Then, follow-up one day sooner than you are comfortable with (leaning in means being a little uncomfortable), and every few days a little sooner than you normally would until you achieve your objective.
If your reason for meeting them is legitimate (meaning that you have done your homework and you know what real value you could bring to the person or company you are contacting), then pushing the pace of getting to them is totally appropriate. As far as you are concerned, they NEED you, for very good reasons that you can readily describe.
At job fairs, professional mixers, local coffee shops and other venues of potential contacts and opportunity, don’t fail to move out of your comfort zone and “lean into” the crowd. Shake hands firmly, look people in the eyes, smile, speak with sincerity, poise and knowledge. Ask them what they do, why they do it, how you might be able to help them. Briefly make them aware of those same factors on your behalf.
On phone calls, stand up, lean into the conversation, again with poise and balance. Be present. Push the pace. That is called energy. And people react well to energy, as long as it is not nuclear.
And in interviews, be present, aware, poised yet slightly intense. Lean into the conversation when appropriate to make a point, then relax a bit so that you do not take over the conversation.
Remember, Sheryl said “Lean In”, not shout, boast, dominate or otherwise overwhelm the other person. We are speaking here about a balanced playing field between you and whomever you are speaking with.
Move a little out of your comfort zone. Lean in. Practice it!