‘Stretch Your Comfort Zone’ is Key Message in Concordia University Chicago Presentation

Yesterday, as part of the Concordia University Chicago College of Business Guest  Speaker Series, I shared key principles that have been integral to my professional and personal journey.

Many of the students in attendance are studying marketing. (Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.)

Among those principles:

*Stretch beyond your comfort zone on a regular basis;
*Ask for help and seek out mentors in your field of endeavor:
*Value all people–not only those you think can help you;
*Look for ways to add value to others, without seeking anything in return.

Photo courtesy of Concordia University Chicago.

Speaking of stretching comfort zones: I shared a poster from my time, a decade ago, as the alter ego “Super Shopper Spotter” in the Village of Oak Park’s effort to spur on local shopping within the various business districts in the community. You can see the poster in the hands of the student in the image immediately on the left.

Thank you to Cathy Schlie, Marketing, Communication, and Events Manager for the College of Business, as well as professors and students who turned out–it was a most engaged audience and I appreciated the interaction and interest.

In light of the prominent role that business and personal networking has had in my career, it is fitting to note that Cathy extended the invitation for me to speak a few months after we met at an Oak Park – River Forest (OPRF) Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event at the River Forest campus.

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Anatomy of A LinkedIn Recommendation

In a recent Inside Edge PR post, I outlined my philosophy of why I write recommendations for as many of my LinkedIn contacts as possible.

In this post, I share some of the how.

My approach to writing recommendations:

1. I do it whenever I feel I have enough knowledge and interaction with someone to write an endorsement with conviction and authenticity.

2. Periodically, I review the list to see if there is anyone whom I’ve not yet recommended but whose horn I could toot without thinking twice.

3. I try to do it in batches, getting myself in a recommendation-writing mode.

4. I try to provide enough detail that will be useful to both the person I’m writing about as well as those who are seeking to learn more about them.

5. I try, sometimes less successfully than others, to avoid cliches, fawning praise, and long-winded opuses.

6. Where and when appropriate, I like to interject some humor.

7. Here’s a new step: I just began to offer to put my words in writing, on my company letterhead, if someone wants it. I also ask if there’s anything they’d like me to revise, or add, that may be of particular help (as long as I believe in the change).

8. I do it without asking for a recommendation in return. If someone decides to reciprocate, I appreciate it. But this isn’t about obligating others to gush about how wonderful I am.

For a look at the recommendations I’ve made on LinkedIn, go here.

My Recommended LinkedIn Route

At this writing, I have 94 connections on LinkedIn, the professional online networking site.

But the figure that I’m more focused on is 35.

That’s the number of my connections for whom I’ve written recommendations. In my observation, most folks have a recommendation rate of less than 10 percent, some recommend maybe 1 out of 100 contacts, and still others have monumental lists of people, into the hundreds, with nary a recommendation in sight.

What makes those lists any better than a glorified address book?

Over the past two years, I’ve decided to take a markedly different approach and emphasize quality over quantity in my LinkedIn world. My reasoning is simple: I want to share honest praise about people whom I respect and value. After all, that’s often why I want to Link-In with them in the first place.

There are some potential benefits in the process.

First, because recommendations are relatively scarce, they stand out and visitors are more apt to read them and click on the recommender’s name to learn more about his or her background.

Second, as a writer, recommendations are an opportunity to showcase my ability to communicate. And, it shouldn’t be overlooked, you need not be a writer for that skill to be deemed a relevant professional asset.

By the way, here’s the door to my LinkedIn profile.