Tag Archives: networking

Career lessons from Joe Walsh

Today, careers everywhere have been shaken up. No gig is guaranteed, and many people are on their own when it comes to benefits or health plans while politicians sort out the details. But musicians have always lived this way. Recently, you might have caught some of the History of the Eagles documentary on TV that cast the latest light on the dark corners of that business.

The lot of the musician is one of constant adaptation, persistence and reinvention. You have to prove yourself every night in front of a new audience, pretty much for the rest of your life if you plan on being around that long. Many don’t make it.

But a good example of successfully navigating this sea of uncertainty is Joe Walsh, as a solo artist and an “Eagle,” he’s always proven to be maneuverable, versatile entertainer devoted to his craft. So since we’re in a rocking mood, let’s glean some career lessons from this iconic guitarist.

Always look for opportunity. Walsh started his career in the James Gang when their song Funk #49 kicked off the 1970′s by blowing out Camero speakers everywhere. After three records with the Gang, Walsh had some money and fame, but he knew it was no time to get comfortable. So he bailed out of the James Gang to start a new band, Barnstorm, and then kicked off a solo career that would result in over a dozen albums. Do you balance staying “comfortable” with taking risks?

March to your own drummer. Not too many artists put their solo career on hold to join a band, but that’s what Walsh did when he agreed to replace Eagles’ guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1975. The result was a new direction for the band that produced their classic Hotel California album. Walsh’s guitar solo on the title track ranks as one of the best ever. Always be open to new options, and keep in mind that your next gig might be in a direction you didn’t anticipate.

Always bring something to the table. Walsh brought three things to this established band. 1. An edgy guitar sound that gave The Eagles the opportunity to venture out into fresh territory. 2. New song ideas including riffs and lyrics. 3. The willingness to collaborate and compromise in a team environment. (The latter is often not easy for those used to calling the shots, such as solo artists.) New ideas and fresh thinking are not the sole province of entrepreneurs and start-ups. If you are joining an established organization it’s just as important that you bring creativity, money making (or saving) ideas, and a team-player attitude.

Cultivate your network. Over the years Walsh has helped out by playing guitar on records for many artists from Dan Fogelberg and John Entwistle to Any Gibb and REO Speedwagon. He’s also known to be generous with his gear, sharing vintage guitars from his collection with other musicians such as Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page. Do more than just connect with others on LinkedIn. Cultivating a network where you share your time, talent and treasure pays lifelong dividends.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. While he’s a member of a superstar band and his songs have been rock radio staples for decades, Walsh doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s known as one of the most laid back approachable “rock stars” around. His albums reflect this with titles such as, “So What,” “Ordinary Average Guy,” and “Got Any Gum?” In a world of inflated egos, social media status updates and bloated bios, take the road less traveled and let your work speak for you. Do that and you’ll be in business…for the long run.

Lunch

You have a lot of emails to attend to. You have spreadsheets to fill out, forms to complete and a desk covered in problems and projects. It’s easy to keep your head down and plow through the work. But sometimes some of the best work gets done when you talk to others and get to know them.

Understandably, many people are “too busy” to go to lunch. But that’s even more reason why you should do it.

Going to lunch with someone could be the best career move you make all week.

How are you doing?

New York City Mayor Ed Koch died today at age 88. Like any politician his legacy will be debated and written about by historians. While others dwell on his policy decisions a simple habit Koch had stands out.

Koch would famously ask constituents, “How am I doing?” Not just when running for office, not just when he thought the answer would be one of gushing admiration, but a question borne of genuine interest.

How am I doing?

It’s a simple question anyone can employ. Rather than waiting for feedback from others, take a bit of initiative. Now and then, ask colleagues, subordinates and superiors this simple question. Ask your clients. Query your friends and family. Run it past a significant other. It can start conversations. It can make sure you’re on track and provide an early warning sign of something that might need correcting. You might learn something.

Why not try it?

Thanks, man

Tired of negative noise?

Maybe it’s time to wage a campaign of the positive.

Send notes, emails or tweets to companies you like and praise products you use.

Patronize local stores that you want to stay around.

Take a minute and inform a supervisor or business owner about a good service experience.

Send a note to a colleague’s boss sharing how that person helped you get a job done right.

When something is done well be the person who notices and encourages more.

Watch as it comes back to you.

Names

So I ordered a doppio at the local Starbucks and the barista asked my name. “We’re trying something new,” she said. “We’re asking people their names.”

“Edward,” I said. (When in Rome, right?)

“Edward!” the barista repeated with zest.

I felt instantly welcomed.

It’s probably in Dale Carnegie’s classic, but its a known law of the universe that everyone loves the sound of their own name. It’s true. Using someone’s name gets their attention. It makes them feel warm and happy.

But many people don’t appear to make an effort to remember names. (Why bother, when you can just use “Dude.”) Some people even wear this trait as a badge of honor. “You know, I’m just not good at remembering names.” Well you should get good at it. It’s a handy little trick that doesn’t cost anything and it sets you apart.

When someone tells you their name pay attention and then repeat it back to them. And if it’s an out-of-the-ordinary moniker, make a confident effort, “That’s ‘Ag-a-mem-non’ you say? Nice to meet you!” They’ll be impressed that you are interested in trying to pronounce what they likely know is an uncommon name.

We’ll see if the barista remembers mine tomorrow.

Plan

Plan “A:” You can do something you might dislike (deal with angry customers) and get paid.

Plan “B:” You can do something you enjoy (watch movies) without getting paid at all.

You can do “A” as long as you can put up with your circumstances and you need the money.
You can do “B” as long as you can go without a paycheck.

You probably can’t do A or B indefinitely. So you might opt for Plan “C,” falling into a life working a job you don’t like and augmenting it by zoning out in front of your flat screen during the off hours. You can get away with this for years. People understand.

Or you can make a new plan, Plan “Z,” and put on paper how long you intend to stay at your job, your options for moving within the organization or moving on, deciding where opportunities are and how you can leverage your skills, experience and interests to take advantage of them. But that takes some work, and you could fail. And the TV has 900 channels.

Your choice.

The power of listening

The great Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz famously said, “90% of people don’t care about your problems and the other 10% are glad you’ve got ‘em!”

It’s not that the 90% are all rude, it’s that they’re living in their own heads, it’s the only reality they know. The people you see walking around are fighting their own fights. Every morning they put on their armor–clothes and a smile–and face another day.

If you want to connect with someone the key is to listen, especially to their challenges. (It’s not easy, and it’s more cathartic to share your own problems, but resist it.) If you make a point to genuinely listen to others they will be amazed. That’s because no one listens to them. Their spouse and kids don’t, their boss doesn’t, politicians don’t, and even their friends tend to focus on what they’re going to say next instead of listening.

If you truly listen you will be remembered. Go listen to someone.

Smartphone zombies

Look around and you will see you co-exist with legions of smartphone zombies. In meetings, restaurants and bars, their eyes are sunk into the small screens. They even jeopardize their own well being by texting while driving or jaywalking.

Aside from the risk to life and limb, smartphone zombies miss out on networking opportunities by signaling that they’re too busy to talk. They miss out on opportunities to hone their powers of observation. And, seduced by a glowing screen, they even miss out on the powerful perspective granted by the grandeur of the night sky.

They go through their day thinking they’re keeping on top of it all but they actually spend much of their time oblivious. This is an opportunity for you. An opportunity to put your phone away and consciously make an effort to become fully engaged in your surroundings. While others text mindless drivel you can shake hands and introduce yourself to people and ask open ended questions that signal your interest. You can be present, aware, and in the moment.

It’s a way to differentiate yourself and you can start right now.

Go talk to someone and tell them I sent you.

Who are you following?

As part of your new year planning, take some time to review who you are following on social media.

Are they adding valued insight to your life or contributing to the achievement of your goals? Are they people you’d really like to work with or associate with? Are they challenging you?

Or are they just offering distracting, meaningless status updates? If it’s the latter consider cutting them loose. You’ll benefit from less background noise.