Archive for Business Skills

Using Your Resources

I mentioned before about how much I have gained in just a few months from utilizing the public library system (just look how many of my posts are book reviews). I think that concept should be expanded to include utilizing all your resources. There are so many organizations that just give away knowledge on a plethora of subjects for free or nearly free. You can learn anything you want about any subject, and use it to help you in business. I have read many great articles on the need for people to take the initiative to learn and do new things. (Check out a few at I Will Teach You to Be Rich) Really, you have to make the time you need to do extra things. Trust me, I know this can be hard (I’m finishing a MS in Engineering in a year), but it’s the only real way to design your life to please you. Here are a few great examples of opportunities you can take advantage of:

Library: You’ve got the entire stock of books in the nearest library to you, but public libraries are generally run on a county level, so you can have any book shipped to you for nearly free and you turn it back in to your local library. How can your access to information get any better? Additionally, many libraries have a “Friends of the Library” bookstore. They generally sell books there for a couple of dollars, which is a way better deal than almost anywhere else. If you want to find information that is not at public libraries, such as scientific journal articles, just walk into any university library. They won’t question you at the door, you can look up all the information you want and you can even legally photocopy some things.

Community Centers, Classes and Activities:
A few weeks ago I played my first game of Frisbee golf (or disc golf) for free. A local community center had a course. They even had Frisbees to borrow for free and instructions. I also get a quarterly schedule of classes that are offered for adults and children. There are the more artsy classes like cake decorating and jewelry making, and even those can be turned into business opportunities if it’s something you enjoy, but there are also classes on computers, business skills and etiquette, etc. These classes are not always almost free, but they can be a good investment in your future.

Seminars: Many employers offer training and seminars. Take advantage of them to learn all you possibly can. You will learn skills to help you in your current job and your new job when you get promoted.

Open Houses and Tours:
Companies want to have a positive public image, and one way they achieve that is to hold open houses and tours. Open houses tend to be on an annual or biannual basis, so you might have to do some research to find out when they are. I attended an open house at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. It was amazing to see the technology and expertise that go into the space program. I took a tour of Johns Manville fiberglass insulation factory in Willows, California which showed me what processes chemical engineers designed to make everyday objects. Tours and open houses are free, and you don’t have to go with a Boy Scout group or something. Just go online or call to find out the schedule.

College:
If you’re in college like me, there are thousands of opportunities for you. You can take any class you want in any subject. Don’t want to study for an extra class? Just audit it; go to the lectures and take notes as if you were being graded, then take the day off when the rest of the class has a midterm. (Added bonus: you get to sit at the beach while your classmates study for and take an exam!) Besides classes, when else are you going to get to use a gym for free and take inexpensive sports, dance, and martial arts classes. Also, there are thousands of experts you can talk to. Just email a professor with whom you’d like to speak (then email them again, because they’re busy and might lose your email, but almost all are genuinely delighted to talk to you). If there’s one resource you use in college, it should be the career center. Career centers seem to be the most under-used resource, but they have so many workshops, counselors, and connections to potential employers, that you can use to effectively plan your career and life.

If you’re not in college, find the nearest community college. They have excellent classes, and from experience I know they charge something like $10 a unit (about $40 to take the class).

Those are just of a few of the examples of ways to get out of your house, get off the internet, stop watching TV, go on a date with your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse (who wouldn’t want to be taken on a romantic tour of a nuclear power plant in San Onofre or something…or is that just me haha), and become a better, more intelligent person. But seriously folks, find something about yourself you would like to improve, or choose an entirely new subject and find a way to learn about it. You’ll be a better person for it. Now I’m off to schedule that nuclear power plant tour!

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One Phone Call Away – Meshel

One Phone Call Away – Secrets of a Master Networker
Jeffrey W. Meshel

Let me tell you more about what I did while I lived in Argentina. I was a missionary so I tried to find people who had interest in religion and try to convince others that it was a worthy subject. I spent everyday all day talking to as many people as possible, walking up to people in the street or going door to door, and meeting new people through charity events. This experience helped me to conquer the fear I had of just starting a conversation with someone, especially because I was doing it all in Spanish, which is not my native language. Not only did I learn not to be shy, but I also gained a great love for helping others.

Jeff Meshel emphasizes exactly those two things in his book on networking, One Phone Call Away. He has become a master networker, because he does it to help others. He tries to go out of his way to connect two people that can help one another, and the great thing is that it brings business in to his company as well.

One Phone Call Away gives great tips for novices on how to overcome shyness and how to control the perception others have of you. This part was very helpful to me as someone just starting to enter the business world. He also has tips for expert networkers about organizations they can join, and how they can expand their networks. I assume those tips are great also. They sounded good for CEOs and other executives.

I found myself with two opinions throughout this book. The first was very positive and appreciative of the advice to ask “How can I help others?” and not “What’s in it for me?” It shows that networking is not a selfish thing to, but rather a very productive business practice.

The second opinion stems from my own desire to not change my behavior because of money or my status position. Because Meshel networks with executives and other high status people, he finds it profitable to adopt habits of the rich and famous. One example he gives is paying twice as much for a yearly health club membership to be an “executive member”, which ended up giving him business opportunities with other executive members he met at the gym. This is probably simply a sound business practice. I just don’t like the thought of putting myself above the regular members of the gym.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Here’s the list of networking rules Meshel gives. It’s basically in order from novice to grand master black belt level networking.

As Meshel also mentioned, I would advise anyone to get a job as a retail or door-to-door salesman (or be a missionary like I was). It really gets the fear out of you, and makes you comfortable initiating a conversation.

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