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When One Door Closes…

An old quote takes on new meaning in 2009: “When one door closes, another opens.” The possible origins of this quote are numerous with most based on life experience. A few sources are listed below.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” (Helen Keller, 1880 – 1968)

“This proverbe was fulfild, when one doore is shut the other openeth.” (Lazarillo, tr. D. Rowland, 1586)

‘Where one door is shut another is opened.’ (Cervantes, Don Quixote, tr. T. Shelton, 1620)

“When one Door Shuts another Opens…. How often does the Divine Bounty surprize us with unthought of Felicity!” (S. Palmer, Proverbs, 1710)

So…what to do when the first door closes – how do you find the one that is opening and step through it?

We all feel the pressure of an economy with the highest unemployment, lowest returns, and steepest decline seen in decades. Companies’ shrinking budgets, increased competition and trends toward commoditization make it more difficult that ever to manage, or even maintain, your career.

But there are strategies you can embrace to reveal new opportunities all around. Take a deep breath and read on. Your skilled integration of online social networking and traditional networking can certainly take you the distance, but you’ll have to work it. Here, I present just two things you can do to make yourself or your company known to prospective employers and/or clients. After all, what else do you have to do today?

Social media and online networking. Social media marketing is collaborative dialoguing among individuals within an established online environment. It is incumbent upon you to bring value to the dialogue to “pay” for what you take or read or learn (no lurking!). This is an activity best managed by you, personally. Are you signed up at LinkedIn®, Plaxo, Facebook and Twitter? If not, you are missing strong opportunities (with no cost) to get to know your potential clients, employers and referral sources.

LinkedIn® and Plaxo are all about business connections. For example, you may want to contact one of my secondary connections (essentially, a friend of a friend). Your request to me can be forwarded to my contact, who will forward it to her contact. How easy is that? Your professional profile belongs here, along with a good photo and information that you would want clients to view. On LinkedIn®, look through the groups (your alma mater, professional associations) and ask to join them for instant contact expansion. If you have a network that is deep and wide, these two sites allow you to serve as a valuable go-to referral source for others as well as benefit from their referrals.

I recently spent 45 minutes looking through 30 LinkedIn® contacts and emailing a dozen of them with requests for updates on business and life. All twelve responded, and two referred us to proposal opportunities! Not bad for a few minutes’ worth of online networking.

Facebook defines itself as “a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.” The environment is casual, and you are more likely to have peers connect with you for personal or quality-of-life purposes. However, Facebook is a fabulous resource for business professionals to get to know the “other” you – the person who is working late, or hurrying through a snowstorm to get to a client’s office. I keep up with business associates easily through the “What are you doing now” function. You can read through what your contacts are doing at any time, and email them with thoughts, support or questions.

Twitter calls itself a “free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time.” You can use Twitter to learn what your peers and contacts are doing right now. The value of this microblog utility is in “following” others, linking them to your blog (and vice versa), and establishing your profile. Keep up with breaking news, learn what your favorite political pundit or technology purist is thinking, follow the top cool hunters, or tap into your favorite networking diva’s latest exposé. The ultimate is to have others follow you and what you are thinking, seeing, doing or predicting. Now that’s a great positioning tool.

Face-to-face social networking: buy someone a cup of coffee. You can rarely predict where the people you meet will turn up five or ten years down the road. Has a friend or associate ever asked you to meet with a newly-degreed niece “who is interested into getting into the research field?” Suppress those groans of “Not again” and buy her a cup of coffee and learn how you can help her become a taxpaying citizen. What about the email from that mid-level manager in one of your client marketing departments who was laid off last week? Buy him tea and discuss his career objectives and the folks to whom you might introduce him.

I cannot recall all of the people to whom I’ve extended this seemingly-modest offer of time and a comforting beverage. But surprisingly, most of them remember that act of kindness and generosity, often after they are employed in a position of influence that allows them to invite us to discuss research opportunities. You never know where you will reconnect with these contacts, but the act of paying it forward pays off in amazing ways.

As an example, after 9/11, business contractions resulted in ten unused hours weekly that I redirected to business development: inexpensive business lunches and coffee meetings with prospects and account managers whom I did not know well. During the market recovery that occurred a year later, many of these marketing professionals invited our firm to provide research services, based on what they had learned about our organization a year earlier when budgets had been back-burnered. Our measly outlay of dollars for meals and coffee was paid back a hundred times over in the first project.

These are just two examples of how you can market yourself when the economy is down, the job market is thin or the customer base shows attrition. Both are effective, and each has long-term implications in terms of an expanded personal network.

And, ultimately, neither will be useful until you establish a “no whining” zone for yourself, as I discovered long ago. So, get out there, find the opportunities, and make some new friends!

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