Staying Engaged

Andre Hughes, managing director of human capital for Accenture, says Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need (Currency; $16.95) provides a colorful blueprint for constructing an all-star roster of contacts to leverage opportunities and maximize professional success.

“Connecting with others heightens your exposure, levels the playing field, and adds to your growing repository of resources,” says Hughes, a 19-year veteran consultant.

Developing the right contacts involves skill. Hughes warns that not following proper protocol can leave you digging holes instead of wells.

Hughes highlights the following book excerpts for hitting pay dirt:
Willing to travel to gain experience? Good, because overseas assignments are rapidly increasing. According to an annual survey published by GMAC Global Relocation Services, an employee relocation and assignment management services firm, more than 69% of multinational corporations reported an increase in the number of international assignments in 2006. “Employees looking to move into senior management should seriously consider obtaining this specialized experience,” says Patricia Lewis Burton, vice president of human resources for IBM’s Global Technology Services Americas division.

Burton, who oversees divisions in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, expects global companies to continue sending employees abroad to meet market demands.

For professionals contemplating the opportunity, Burton offers the following tips:
Ask the important questions. How will the overseas responsibilities add to your experience, skills, and expertise? Also, ask yourself if this assignment fits into your career plans and will help you achieve your goals?
Weigh the pros and cons. Decide whether the benefits of an international assignment outweigh the challenges.
Decline an unacceptable offer. Insist on what you need-compensation, relocation assistance, support, etc.-in order to make a successful transition.

Don’t wait, dig now. Continually work at getting to know other professionals in your field-and you don’t have to wait for a party or event. E-mail the author of a book you’re reading. Call your peer at a competitor. Invite the president of your alumni association to lunch.

Be prepared to converse. Practice your introduction. Perfect your ability to engage in small talk. Know what topics you want to discuss before you show up.

Plan beyond the first mouthful. Avoid making shortsighted requests; think long term. Uncover reasons to continue the relationship after making the initial acquaintance and devise a plan for keeping in touch.

Sustaining profitability in a technology market rife
with commoditization, long sales cycles, and short shelf lives proved challenging for Texas Instrument’s Marketing Manager Gerard Andrews.

“In this market-driven industry, a sell-what-gets-made approach is not a winning strategy,” says Andrews. “Understanding what the customer wants and what he is willing to pay is the only way to generate sales and outpace the competition.”

Andrews signed up for the Strategic Marketing of Technology Products course at the California Institute of Technology last June. He says the three-day class outlined tactics for overcoming industry barriers and gaining the competitive advantage. The class also provided each participant with the book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (Collins; $17.95) and an invitation to join the Technology Marketing Center, the school’s