Thursday, 16 June 2011

LinkedIn Etiquette: Is there such a thing?

 Miss Manners would be rolling in her grave…or, is she still alive?

I have been enjoying the power of LinkedIn and recognize the value of being able to pre-qualify leads and target exactly the right company and person to pitch to.  It’s also a gold mine of great advice and opportunities to brainstorm with other experts in your field.  I belong to a few groups that are stellar (like Freelance Web Writers run by Paul Lalley).  Bottom line…I use LinkedIn, I enjoy it and it’s been a real incredible marketing and professional development tool for me.

Developing Contacts
But, it has its irritants.  For me, it’s people who don’t seem to know how to use it properly or at least don’t use common sense and good manners.  Maybe I approach it too old school and need to get with the program but I still feel that there should be some commonly accepted ground rules. 

What do you think is the best way to develop new connections on LinkedIn?  Some people troll the 2nd, 3rd and 4th contacts of their contacts and blindly send requests to connect to people they want to do business with using false claims of being “a friend” or that they’ve done business with them in the past (I get this constantly).  In my opinion, the better approach is to ask the common contact to make an introduction.  Wouldn’t that be more productive…and professional?  At least include a note as to why you’re contacting the person.  However, there are those who bi-pass this extra step (that takes just a little extra time, and time is money, right?).  They’re counting on the fact that since there are millions of users and a good portion that are doing the very same thing (playing the numbers game) there’s a good chance that a high percentage are going to accept the invite (whether the connection is of any value or not).  Then what do you do with it?
Rules of Engagement
Wait, there are no rules.  Where one invitee is clicking his tongue and shaking his head over what you’ve just done another will welcome you with open arms.  Some groups will police behavior in discussions but in others it’s a free for all.  LinkedIn does have some rules that you must follow but, for the most part, they don’t seem to be applied consistently or very stringently.  We’re to police ourselves (which isn’t a bad thing but some people have no self-discipline).  It really is the Wild West out there.  What do you think?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Book Review - Expat Women: Confessions – 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad

Finally a way to let it all out among friends!  I have to admit, I found the title, Expat Women:  Confessions a little misleading.  The term “confessions” leads one to believe that there’s something scintillating or juicy “a la Desperate Housewives” but if you’re expecting wife-swapping and shop-a-holic stories you’ll be disappointed.  However, what you will find is page after page of sage advice from two women, Andrea Martin and Victoria Hepworth, who have “been there, done that” for years.  Each chapter highlights a question from a woman in the thick of all things expat, followed by an answer that is thoughtful, insightful and thorough that includes great tips and helpful suggestions.  The authors have backgrounds in HR and psychology and have both lived around the world.  They come to the table with an in-depth understanding of human nature and a boatload of empathy built from personal experience.

In the introduction, expat author Robin Pascoe says, “remaining silent about your concerns can be a survival tactic.”  Wow…that one really hit me.  I go through entire conversations in my head thinking, ‘if I said this out loud, everyone would think I’m nuts!’   So, you smile through the confusion and start each day believing it’s going to be a little better.  For me, it really was.  I thoroughly enjoy my expat life.  But, for many, it’s torture.  You can almost feel the cathartic relief as the “confessors” pour out their souls (anonymously) looking for reassurance and advice on how to make it better.

Each chapter attacks a different aspect of expat life from career advice to raising children.  There’s great general information as well like “Spend as much time as possible researching your new home location and office environment.  Go online and learn as much as you can about both the country and it’s people.”  Of course, if you’re planning a move to a whole new country and culture and you’re not already doing that, you should probably stay put.

One of my favorite bits of advice that few people suggested to me but I went ahead and did myself is - “If you don’t find a group, network or association that interests you, do not be afraid to set one up yourself.” You might be thinking that it’s way out of your comfort zone and you’ve never done anything like that, but Andrea and Victoria suggest that sometimes it’s just a matter of “recalibrating your mindset.”

“Sometimes expat life calls for improvisation and resourcefulness,” they say.  Even consulting an expat life coach could be a good step for some, they suggest.

Their advice comes not only from their own experience and expertise but also from well-respected resources like the Global RelocationTrends 2010 (Brookfield Global Relocation Services).  The stats they quote go further to reassure the confessors that they’re not alone in the world.

Do the Research
There are so many issues that can create problems in a relationship when making a move overseas but they’re often the same issues that create problems in relationships no matter where in the world you live.  There’s a great chapter on considering the financial ramifications of an overseas assignment, which gives some great advice.  They caution new expats to research the policies of moving money out of certain countries, like China, and to look into the laws in countries like the UAE where Shari ‘a Law prevails (for example, if your husband should die, your local bank accounts are frozen and you won’t have access until the courts decide who the rightful heir is, which can often take several years). 

Expat Scenarios
One expat wife writes that she is worried that after several years of living the expat life (which can very exotic and inebriatingly addictive) that she and her husband are repatriating and lo’ and behold, only have about two months salary saved up!  What happened to the rest of it?  You can’t cry over spilled milk so the authors take her (and us readers) through a step-by-step process for moving forward so that this “worst case scenario” has a not so horrible outcome.

A new mom in Korea, cooped up in a small apartment, no parks, no way out…yeesh!  My heart broke for this young mom.  Trailing spouses are often “trying to deal with various situational, environmental, emotional and personal issues simultaneously.”

Andrea and Victoria give this mom some very practical, applicable, easily followed advice…if you have the will.  My mom always said, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” They suggest for this mom, if you don’t have a yard for your son to play in, find a friend who does have one or enroll him in a nursery school a couple mornings a week – great suggestions!

Expat families can become enmeshed families (a new term for me)…where they start to rely on each other for everything from moral support to entertainment and everything in between.  The authors caution the new expat to be aware of this starting to happen and to force yourself to get out and meet new people and make new friends. 

Even after all the years I’ve lived as an expat, Expat Women: Confessions was still a great read and offered some new advice I hadn’t thought of as my husband and I plan our next expat adventure. 

You can check out the regular Expat Women Confessions column on for more ongoing advice…It’s like Ann Landers for expats!

Expat Women Confessions