Appreciation: A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

By Kristen Harris

Quick, what are two words you can never overuse?

Thank. You.

My parents called thank you the “magic words”, and I still think they’re magical today. Showing a little appreciation goes a long way. It makes the world a nicer place, and never makes things worse.

Show gratitude by thanking people in a way that reflects the level of what they did for you. If it was a simple favor, a sincere thank you will suffice and is always appreciated. You can thank them in-person, via email, in a call, or with a handwritten note. Say thanks freely, and say it often.

Ten reasons to say Thank You more:

  1. It’s simple and easy.

  2. It’s free.

  3. It’s always positive; at the minimum, it never makes things worse.

  4. It makes the recipient feel good.

  5. It makes you feel good too!

  6. It’s only takes a second, or a few minutes at the most.

  7. It’s memorable and sets you apart from others who are not appreciative.

  8. No one dislikes being thanked or appreciated.

  9. It’s hard to misinterpret or take the wrong way.

  10. It reminds others to thank someone too, maybe you.

Appreciation is definitely a case where it’s the thought that counts. However, when you are really tuned into people, you’ll realize that we all respond to different expressions of appreciation. There are five key ways that people feel appreciation: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, and Physical Touch. We each have preferences from this list, and tend to show appreciation to others in the way that WE prefer. The key is to show appreciation in the way that THEY prefer. That is when people start to really feel valued.

If someone went out of their way or did something very impactful for you, maybe they would appreciate a thoughtful gift. Depending upon the person, a short note or letter sharing how they helped, the impact it made, and how much you appreciate their help could also be affirming and meaningful to the recipient. Others really appreciate your time and would like to meet you for lunch or would love it if you helped them with something in exchange. And yes, some people do like physical touch, and that is when a workplace-appropriate gesture like a handshake or high-five can make the difference in how one of your colleagues feels valued.

When you show appreciation to others, it comes back tenfold. If you’re saying thank you and genuinely appreciating what people have done for you, others will show appreciation to you as well. It feels good, and who doesn’t love a few seconds of feeling good? Thank someone today and bask in the glow!

Mentoring — Getting Help and Giving Back

By Catherine Lang-Cline    

If you are an entrepreneur, I am guessing that you started your business with a great idea for a good or service that you really believed in. You may or may not have gained some business knowledge along the way before creating your own business but regardless, there is no way you could have been prepared for all of the nuances involved with running a business. So what can you do? You can get help.

The first thing you need to do is admit that you need it. And just so you are aware, everyone needs it. That is why large corporations have Boards of Directors and advisors, they get the expertise they need. And you can too.

To get started, think about where some of your weakness are. These are the first areas that you must seek help for and you could start with finding an advisor, or better yet, create an advisory board for your business. You can ideally pay this board or just buy them lunch, but meet quarterly and discuss the issues of your business and the areas that are not your strengths. Is there someone on your list that you would love to have as an advisor? Ask them. You will be surprised as to how much people are willing to help if you respect their time and their expertise

You can also find a mentor or maybe a couple of them because more than one opinion on something is always better. But a mentor is more like someone you aspire to be like in business, in your personal life or both. They can share how they achieved their status and guide you around some of the potholes that they encountered. There is nothing better than someone who can help navigate you to your goal.

Now that you are well on your way to growth with your new advisors and mentors, start to think about how you can pay it forward. Once you have been in business 5, 10, 15 or more years, your experience to someone that is starting up will be invaluable. And by this time, you really know more than you think. Think that you don’t have time for that? Well, someone else did make time for you and I am guessing that they were busy as well. Which means it can be managed and scheduled a bit on your terms. After all, they are coming to you for help. Maybe you meet with your mentee quarterly to discuss problems and give them a to-do list to walk away with? You will be amazed as to how much you know and how much you can guide them through the issues of starting business. And an added bonus— you just might get a free lunch out of it.

Having done both, I can tell you that the power to give help and get it is incredible. If you start working with a mentor or advisor, be on-time, be courteous, and really listen to what you are being told. Ultimately, it is your business and your choice to move forward with any advice, but really take the knowledge to heart. And if you are mentoring or advising someone, be on-time, be patient, and speak about your own experiences because it is those life-lessons that teach the most.

Mentorship: Ten Tips for a Successful Relationship

By Kristen Harris

Recently I participated in a Business First panel discussion about mentorship.

Here are Ten Tips for a successful mentor/mentee relationship:

  1. Take charge. If you’re the mentee (the person being mentored), you need to take charge of the relationship. Your mentor has agreed to share their time, experience and ideas with you–it’s your job to coordinate meetings and do all of the follow up.

  2. Be flexible. While it’s your job to coordinate, be as flexible as possible. Meet at the best time and location for your mentor, even if it’s less convenient for you. Also be flexible in the content of your meetings. You should have some questions or topics in mind, but if they head off in another direction go along for the ride. You never know what you’ll learn!

  3. Be receptive. Mentors can help you identify issues, problem-solve, brainstorm ideas, make introductions, and so much more. They will also challenge you, question assumptions, and suggest alternatives. Listen and be receptive to their ideas, then filter against what is best for you or your business to make a final decision.

  4. Show up. Figuratively and literally. Always show up for your meetings, don’t be late, never cancel especially at the last minute. Also show up mentally. Be awake, charged up, ready to think, ask questions, and listen. Time with your mentor is precious, make the most of it.

  5. Be appreciative. Whether you use their ideas or not, always be appreciative of efforts to help you. Most mentors do this because they genuinely enjoy helping people. Say ‘thank you’ early and often. Always buy if you meet over a meal (or at least offer every single time).

  6. Give feedback. Let your mentor know how an issue turned out or what decision you made with a quick update at your next meeting. It’s helpful for them to know what happened, and they may have more input based on the outcome.

  7. Ask questions. Again, it’s your job to lead this relationship. Come to meetings prepared with questions, listen to what they have to say, and answer any questions they ask you as well.

  8. Be helpful. Even if your mentor is much more experienced or connected than you, there are ways you can be helpful. Introduce them to new people, share technology or an interesting article, talk about their business or career, invite them to an event...just ask how you can help them too!

  9. Be respectful. Sometimes you won’t agree with your mentor, don’t like their idea, or decide not to take their advice. That’s fine. They’re trying to help, but should have no expectation that you’ll do every single thing they suggest. They’re an adviser, not your supervisor. Always be respectful, consider what they’re saying, and thank them for the advice whether you take it or not.

  10. Pay it forward. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a mentor, pay it forward by mentoring someone else. No matter your age or experience level, there is someone who could use your advice. Offer to mentor a student, a budding entrepreneur or a more junior person in your company. Giving advice and helping your mentee can be equally as rewarding as getting help from your mentor.

Applying these simple principles to any mentor/mentee interaction will help build trust and mutual respect, leading to a more successful and rewarding relationship.

You Online: Ten Tips for a Better Profile Photo

By Kristen Harris

When we first started Portfolio Creative, one of my advisers told me I really needed to add a picture of myself to my LinkedIn profile. “No, I hate pictures of myself! I’m not photogenic, no one wants to see a picture of me.” She didn’t care about my hangups. “Get over it. People like to know who they’re doing business with. Get a headshot taken and put it up there.”

She was right. In this digital world we ‘connect’ with people long before we meet them, and we might never meet in person. Potential clients, employers and business contacts use your online image to gather a little more information about who you are.

It’s important to use a profile picture that conveys the right message on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. Simply put, you need a professional-looking photo that looks welcoming and doesn’t give the viewer a negative impression. (Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more personal, so you have more leeway. But don’t forget that professional contacts can still find and see images you post there too.)

Ten tips for a better profile picture:

  1. Do smile. Who wants to work with scowly frowny guy? It’s not cool; it’s off-putting when they don’t know anything else about you.

  2. Don’t made weird faces or crop out a piece of your face. One giant eyeball is just weird, and doesn’t help me find you in a crowded coffee shop.

  3. Do have a photo taken specifically to use in your profile. Go to a professional photographer, or have a friend, relative, or co-worker take a few that you can choose from.

  4. Don’t pull out a random snapshot from your wedding or last year’s holiday party. The busy background and other people are distracting.

  5. Do make it mainly your face and torso. Online images are so small, it’s easiest to see your personality expressed through your face.

  6. Don’t include cats, dogs, kids, or weird props. It’s just distracting.

  7. Do wear a color that looks good on you. Most people look best in colors, not black or white. Solid colors and simple patterns photograph the best.

  8. Do choose your location wisely. Pay attention to what’s around and behind you. It’s fine to have some texture or objects in the background, as long as it’s not distracting.

  9. Don’t crop yourself out of a photo that has another person in it. We can tell your arm is around someone, and their disembodied hand on your shoulder is awkward.

  10. Do let your personality shine. Have fun, and pick a photo that feels like a person you’d like to meet. Others will feel the same way!

Overall, keep the profile picture simple and focused on you. Fair or not, that photo is on the internet and people WILL make judgements based on it. With a good profile picture, they’ll make the positive judgement you’re looking for.

Facebook is Fantasyland: 5 Tips to Manage Your Online Presence

By Kristen Harris

Social media is everywhere. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, social media sites are being used in a variety of ways. People build company brands and their own personal brand, communicate with family and friends, share personal interests or beliefs, champion causes, and plan business or personal events. Because you’re interacting with so many people, for such varied purposes, being aware of your online presence is critical.  

Beyond the people within your immediate circle, friends-of-friends or people who are savvy with online search can often see your posts, even when they’re not a direct connection. Employers, clients, and business contacts often search potential candidates or vendors, and make judgments based on what they find. Is this discriminatory? Not necessarily. Saying something others disagree with or showing photos from your party-hearty weekend does not put you in a protected class. But it could change their view of you.

The porous nature of these sites surprises some people. Aren’t these your personal accounts, created for you to communicate with the people you’ve chosen? Yes and no. They are your accounts. But nearly anything posted online can be found, and once it’s found you can’t erase the impression it makes on someone. There are no take-backs. They saw it, and can’t un-see it.

Here are five ways to manage your online presence:

  1. Assume it’s a public forum. Don’t say or share anything you wouldn’t put on a billboard, with your name attached. That’s the equivalent of what happens when an unintended viewer sees your post. On these sites, we interact with co-workers, friends, family, business connections, acquaintances through organizations, friends-of-friends, and more. Be aware of this massive audience when deciding what to post or share online.

  2. Manage your image. These online sites are carefully curated peeks into a person’s life. It is NOT their whole life, just what they are comfortable sharing with the world (see point #1). The term “Facebook Envy” describes the depression some people suffer because they think their life is so bad compared to what they see from friends online. Be the person that creates a little Facebook Envy in others.

  3. Be nice. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say to that person’s face. Comments can easily escalate or be misinterpreted. If someone looks at your profile, you want them to think you’re a nice, reasonable, respectful person, right? Right. Behave accordingly.

  4. Keep it interesting. Your posts are always part of someone else’s newsfeed. Share thoughts or images that are fun, interesting, informative, or inspirational. Be the post that catches the viewer’s eye, that makes them stop, as they scroll through endless comments, rants, and irrelevant ads.

  5. Know Your Audience. Each site has a specific audience. LinkedIn is professional and career focused. Facebook is for personal connections. Twitter is a newsfeed, and Instagram is image-based. Make sure your posts fit with the focus of that site. This is NOT a free pass to say anything you want on the more personal sites (again, see point #1).

Social media sites have a variety of purposes, uses, and focuses. Being aware of the audience, both intended and unintended, helps effectively manage the online impression others get of you.  

Networking for Introverts: 10 Tips to Survive and Thrive at Events

By Kristen Harris

NETWORKING. Just the word can send a chill down the spine of an introvert.

When someone says, “do you want to go to this networking event?” I envision everything I hate—walking into a room full of strangers, an overload of social chitchat, needing to interrupt others to get a word in edgewise, shaking hands and handing out cards to everyone in the room, pitching my business or myself a thousand times—ugh. Let me just go home and curl up with a good book instead. If this is how you feel, you’re probably an introvert too.

I have some good news for us! Networking events don’t have to be painful. They can productive, useful, and maybe even fun.

Here are 10 Tips to Help Introverts Make the Most of Networking Events:

  1. Go with a friend. It’s intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers. Invite a co-worker or friend with similar interests. Go together, or arrange to meet at or near the event so you can walk in together.

  2. Give yourself a goal. When you’re considering whether to attend an event, think about what you can and want to get out of it. Assuming it’s a good fit for you, set a goal before you get to the event. It could be to meet three new people, get to know members of the board, or accept your award without tripping on the stage. It’s your goal, embrace it.

  3. Set a time frame. Before attending the event, decide when you’ll arrive and how long you’re going to stay. If you’re having so much fun that you don’t want to leave, that’s great! But if your “exit” time rolls around and you’re ready to go, leave without guilt. You met your commitment.

  4. Get to know a few people well. Introverts tend to gain energy from fewer, deeper relationships. If you meet someone you like, spend a little time with them. Getting to know a few people well can be more powerful than shaking hands with everyone but not being remembered by anyone.

  5. Ask for introductions. Look for someone you already know, and ask for an introduction to the person they’re talking you know two people! If you go with a friend, introduce each other to people you know. If you meet someone that you like, ask them to introduce you to someone else. Introductions build your network and relationships in a meaningful, memorable way.

  6. Have fun. Yes, events can be stressful. Focus on the parts that you enjoy…meeting a couple of interesting people, delicious food, a cool venue. Introverts really hate feeling embarrassed, and often think they did or said something awkward that EVERYONE noticed. Believe me, no one noticed or will remember, they’re all too focused on themselves. Just enjoy yourself. One note—if there are drinks involved, know your limit. People often drink more when they’re nervous, which can lead to those embarrassing moments.

  7. Reward yourself. After the event, spend a little time doing something you really enjoy, and congratulate yourself on stepping out of your comfort zone.

  8. Follow up after the event. Within a day or two of the event, reach out to anyone you met and want to maintain a connection. Send a LinkedIn invitation, or link them with a resource they might find useful. If it makes sense, invite them to meet for lunch or coffee soon.

  9. Get involved in the organization. One of the best ways to not walk into a room full of strangers is to be part of the organization hosting the event. Become a member, attend regular meetings, or volunteer for a committee or the board. Working together on a common interest is a great way to get to know people more deeply.

  10. Don’t over-commit. If you are an introvert, events and large groups of people will drain your energy. Pick and choose the best events to help you achieve your goals, and don’t feel like you have to attend everything all the time.

By applying these tips, I’m able to not only survive, but actually thrive and enjoy events. If you nodded along through this whole article, you’re probably an introvert. If you’re not sure, take this quick quiz:

Effective Networking

By Catherine Lang-Cline

“I see you everywhere!”

That is what I hear, but honestly, that can’t be true because I can’t be everywhere. But I do make where I do go really count. Like most people, when you first start networking, it can be difficult. You search the room over and over for someone that you might know and then never leave their side for the entire event. But you know that you are there to get a deal, a big deal; that is what networking is all about, right? Not exactly.

Be confident in how you talk about yourself.

Let’s start with how you talk to people about you. What do you say to people? Many times I have heard entrepreneurs say, “I am just a start up.” “It’s just me right now.” “I have just this small business… “I am handling all the work I can.” All of these statements are awful. If you are saying this, please stop. Just those few words could not make me less interested in doing business with you. I like to work with people that are confident, people that see themselves as a thriving business. So talk bigger. “We are experts in …” “We are eagerly looking for ....” “We have # years expertise in this industry....” What? There is no “we?” Think again, because unless you are selling yourself as a consultant, you are a business made up of many roles. Yes, they may be currently all you. But a one-, five-, ten-person shop doesn’t matter; no one else needs to know that but you. Because you will find a way to get any size job done.

This is not the time for a sales pitch. 

On the other side, I hear a lot of business owners and people that work for someone else try and sell me too hard. I have just shaken your hand and you want to know if you can sell me your goods or services. The quick answer is “no” because I don’t know you, which means I do not trust you to enough to give you my money. Trying to build a relationship with me that is not all about you. Really listen and really hear what I do, what my struggles are, even what brings me to the event today.

Listen first.

Overall, talk to people and listen to people like you are their partner in business. Approach networking as a “what can I do for you?” experience vs a “who can I sell to in here?” Sales are important. But, again, no one buys from someone they don’t like or someone that immediately wants something or that they don’t believe they can complete the work effectively.

Build relationships, not prospects. 

Next up, you need to decide where to go to network. If you are new to networking, I’d advise you to go to as many events as you can just to practice your networking skills. After you are feeling more comfortable, you can get more strategic. Start going to events where your potential clients may be. Go to events that people in your industry attend. Attend events where you can get to know the game-changers first hand. Then tell everyone what you do. Note how I didn’t say sell to them. Get to know the people in your industry, learn what they do, and find out who you can help, even if it means you connect them with someone else. People remember that. I have had many, many conversations with people that buy nothing from me. But they might know someone that does need our services. I have also gone to networking events that turned into me joining a committee or the board of the hosting group. This is solid gold way of getting to know people better and getting to know who they all know in your industry. It’s about expanding your web. You could also consider sponsoring an event. Mentioning that you are a sponsor when introducing yourself tells people that you care about the people involved in an event. A little skin in the game is always a good thing.

What you will find is that the more events you go to, the more people remember you, the more people learn about what you do, how much you care about the industry you serve, and the more people will either use your services or happily recommend you.

Lessons Learned: 10 Years of Portfolio Creative

By Kristen Harris

Ten years ago my friend, Catherine, and I had this crazy idea. We’d spent many years in a variety of creative environments and positions, and kept seeing the same issue over and over again. Creative people were always looking for new career opportunities, and companies needed creative help. But there was no good way for them to find each other. We’d been on both sides of the equation, and knew there had to be a better way. 

So we started Portfolio Creative; two ladies with laptops and a vision of something better. We saw the opportunity to create something that would improve lives, strengthen the local creative community, and make a lasting difference. So, with all the enthusiasm of budding entrepreneurs, we dove in. Ten years later our vision is coming to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.   

I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, here are a few that stand out:

People matter. Our business is completely focused on people. I work with nothing but people all day long. We don’t make widgets; we help creative people find work that matters, and we help clients connect with talent that will help their companies succeed. No matter the size of company, team or organization, it’s only as good as the people involved. I am fortunate to do work that revolves around people, and to see the differences we, and they, make every day. 

Relationships matter. I can’t even begin to count how many relationships I’ve built over the last ten years. Not to mention relationships that continued from my previous positions. Getting to know a person, finding out what makes them tick and what’s important to them, is endlessly fascinating and rewarding for me. Building long-term relationships that benefit everyone involved is something that deserves everyone’s regular time and attention. People work best with those they like and respect.

Live honestly. Put your money where your mouth is. Do what you say you will. If you make a mistake, admit it and do whatever you can to make it right. Be honest, even when it’s hard. These things are never easy, but I’ve found people appreciate honesty and usually are willing to work together to find a solution. If we’ve built a trusting relationship, they know I’m also keeping their best interest in mind.

Keep learning. Change is constant. If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. Every day I am challenged by something new. I’m constantly learning in large and small ways. If I stop learning, I’ll stop growing, changing and improving. Some lessons are more fun than others, but I keep learning and changing every day.

You matter. When I stop and think about everything we’ve accomplished in the past ten years, it’s almost overwhelming. We have helped thousands of people find work, hundreds of clients connect the right talent they needed at the right time, and put millions of dollars of payroll into the local creative economy. Every once in a while, take a moment to stop and think about what you’ve accomplished. It can be powerful and motivating. Just don’t linger there too long—realize it, take note, and then keep doing more!

When we started this business I wanted to make a difference, and that has happened in ways I never could have imagined. Thank you for the opportunity, and bring on the next ten!