Thursday, May 26, 2011

Life Without Headphones

When I first bought my iPod in 2005, I can remember people saying that soon after I started using it, I would begin to wonder how I ever lived without it.

I don't think I ever got to that point, but I did begin to rely on it to avoid those people on the street who accost you ask ask you to give money for charity. And then it was important for blocking out the squeals of the subway system. The iPod drowned out people talking near me on cellphones, whiny children, and any noise I didn't want to hear. (I confess that I am not very good at tolerating small repetitive noises, particularly when I can't identify the source.) They became my own little haven as I walked the streets of my city and rode the subway. Since I tend to walk the same routes, it was easy to autopilot and focus on the latest KT Tunstall album or my favorite Mozart Symphony #30.

I went to San Francisco recently, and while I was there, I had to focus more on where I was, since it's not a city I'm very familiar with. I left the headphones in my purse, and spent more time looking at the people around me, spotting costumes from the Bay to Breakers run. I looked at the plants that are common there that aren't so common at home. I listened to the voices, street singers, casual conversations, other out-of-towners.

Not surprisingly, I found all of this very calming. Instead of trying to decipher whatever the heck Tori Amos was singing while I walked, I could focus just on the moment in front of me.

It's amazing how plugged in I am all the time. I sit in front of two screens every day, pop on and off my iPod Touch and BlackBerry on the subway, and Tweet constantly. So after discovering the joy of hearing what's around me, and seeing it fully, on the West Coast, I'm leaving my iPod in my purse here while I commute. (Of course, I'll still use it at the gym, because I can't stand the techno music they play there.) Today, I was able to stop on my way to lunch to give someone directions.

If I'd had my headphones on, I probably would have walked right by.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Building Professional Networks Online

Let's say you are a recent college graduate, looking at a terrible job market, and you are very tapped in to the online world like most whipper-snappers these days. So you decide to set up a LinkedIn profile.

As one of those aged Gen Xers, I want to tell you, do not think LinkedIn is Facebook without games. Because it isn't. It's the online version of going to a real networking event. People talk business, check out your experience, follow up with leads on Facebook.

And please, don't just start your LinkedIn network by dumping all your email contacts in and asking them to connect with a generic message. Just don't.

This afternoon, I got an email from "Jessica Powers" (not her real name), asking me to join her LinkedIn network. I was just at a conference last week, and met a ton of people and I'm still following up, so I thought maybe this was someone I met there.

But the name didn't match any of my notes, so I ran the name through my email inbox at work. Turns out Jessica had applied for a job with me, when I was hiring two months ago. I still had her application filed in the folder with all the other people I sent emails to saying "Thanks for applying, but you're not what we're looking for." I hadn't even phone screened this person, and it was only because I'm an email packrat that I had a touchstone at all to remember who she was.

This is what I wrote back to Jessica:

Hi Jessica,

Thank you for inviting me to join your LinkedIn network.

I use LinkedIn to only connect with people that I know personally or professionally, so please do not be offended if I do not accept your invitation.

I would recommend that you start building your network by reaching out to only those people that you work with or network with personally. Once you have built a good network in real life, you will find it easier to build a professional network online.

Best regards,

Kate Hutchinson
It's good advice, so I thought I would share it. Build a network in person first, and then take it online. You can't build credibility if no one can remember who you are beyond an email address. Networking is very hard work, involving attending events, calling people, writing emails, and remembering details about people and making deals that help everyone get something they want or need. 
Networking is not an address book dump into a website.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Wear A Watch

Seth Godin writes:

Nobody wears a watch any more.
Nobody wears a tie either.
Nobody shops at a bookstore, at least nobody I know.
The market of nobody is big indeed. You can do really well selling to nobody if you do your homework. In fact, most companies selling to nobody outperform those that are trying to sell to everyone.

News flash: While a lot of our commerce has become e-commerce, there is still a market for watches, ties, and books from bookstores.

I appreciate that Godin works hard to analyze the trends of online life and marketing, but this brief soundbite gets my dander up.

Maybe I'm biased, since I won't leave the house without my watch. I'm not a Luddite, since I also carry a BlackBerry, an iPod and a MacBook on a regular basis. But I will always check my watch for date and time before I pull out a cell phone.

Godin's making the point that companies who do not move forward and embrace change will end up losing their market, or any market. But he's overlooking human irrationality. My daily watch is an Invicta, but on fancy occasions, I wear my husband's grandmother's wind up silver Gruen model, or my own grandmother's gold Hamilton. I buy a new watch every now and then, and I have one in chocolate gold, one powered by a solar cell, and one that's old and battered that it's okay to scratch and beat around.

Do I really need so many watches? Do I need a watch at all? Certainly not. Everywhere you go there's a clock, on your phone, on your laptop, on the wall, scrolling on subway announcement boards, on whatever electronic gadget is in your hand... you don't need an extra time piece on your wrist.

But the watch is a reminder of routine. It's something that keeps me grounded. It's got enough dials to remind me what day of the week it is when I'm so busy I forget. And really, there is a market for this. There is a market for watches. There will always be a market for watches. Just because it won't be made of the same people doesn't mean that the market disappears.