The Social Petri Dish Has Moved

The Social Petri Dish has moved here.


September 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

Fame and Fortune Befriend the Bold

I have never considered myself brave.  Not for a second.

In fact, I always thought of myself as someone who twitches at the thought of having my bubble broken.  But perhaps my bubble is not as small as I thought it was.  Maybe it’s more of a balloon.

To think of it, I have been doing some pretty amazing things with my life lately and am glad it’s turning out so well (with a few flops, of course, but it’s ok).  And to think of it even more, best things in my life happen when I force myself to be brave and get over all my risk aversive convulsions.  Without thinking twice, I’ve turned myself into an extremely social and active individual.  And, even though this is outside of my anxious little bubble, now is the happiest I’ve ever been.

So I guess I have guts.  Perhaps this is what success is about – how ballsy you are.

I recently read Blink, which is an excellent read by Malcolm Gladwell.  Blink demonstrates the advantages of snap decision-making based on pre-learned responses that wire our brain to make accurate “blink” decisions.  The book got me thinking about how people constantly overanalyze things beginning with “should I have non-fat milk with my coffee” and ending with “which theme should I pick for my website.”  It sounds like I’m not going anywhere with this, but I do have a point…

After reading the book I realized that I need to reorganize my thinking.  I was always planning something and doing nothing about it.  I overanalyzed every little detail until I convinced myself that the plan was a failure before it turned into action.  All of the ideas boiling in my head would eventually boil out and new ideas would replace them and vanish in equal despair.  Sounds like a simple case of laziness.

But perhaps my problem is not laziness.  Perhaps it has more to do with overanalyzing the risks and always wanting to feel “safe” and “comfortable” in my status quo.  Well, screw that.  Safety and comfort are overrated and get you nowhere in life.  Plus, it feels great to keep adding to my “things I know I can do” list.  From now on I will practice less thinking and more doing.

As a Russian saying goes:  “Those who do not take risks, do not drink champagne.”

August 27, 2009 at 7:09 pm 2 comments

I Have an Idea. Now What?

Having a great idea is not going to help your career growth. Executing the idea will. However, very few people have the initiative to not only think, but also do. I wonder why people are so inert?! Perhaps it’s because school taught us too much theory and not enough practice and, now, so many of us are faced with this internal conversation:

Your Optimistic Self: “Ah, awesome! This is a great idea! Let’s do this!”

Your Pessimistic Self: “Oh, but I don’t even know where to begin. Ahh, it’s too hard. Forget it.”

Your Optimistic Self: “Ok. There will be another time!”

I believe this happens not because of laziness but of fear of taking the first steps when you don’t even know what those steps should be.  I think it’s time to go back to the basics. And because I like step approaches to life, here is a 5-step approach on how to share and initiate your brilliant ideas in the workplace:

1. Flesh it out With a Colleague

It’s easy to get lost in your own thought, so it always helps to get a second opinion. Find a peer who understands the ins and outs of your company and ask for objective feedback and an honest opinion. Incorporate what you think fits with your objective.

2. Develop Your “Elevator Pitch”

Short and sweet. Get to the point.

3. Communicate to the Top

Take your “pitch” to a senior who is most likely to understand the value of the project. That’s why it’s always helpful to be aware of your colleagues’ responsibilities. Make sure that you can answer some basic questions and ask for other contacts that could contribute to the idea and its implementation.

At this stage, you should also propose assembling a team to begin working on the project.

4. Communicate to Your Peers

Once your idea is secured, you can begin raising interest among your peers and building a “winning team” (yes, I’m that cheesy). But remember to give credit to others for their contributions.

5. Communicate to the Top (Again)

Make sure to “iron your tie” for this one. Your idea needs to be simple and polished. Fancy power point presentations are not always necessary and sometimes a comprehensive memo will be sufficient. But make sure to ask for advice on how to incorporate the project with the company’s “big picture.”

The last step is implementing the idea, but that would make it a 6-step approach, which is a lot more intimidating. And so I leave it up to your genius to make it happen.

June 9, 2009 at 4:32 am 2 comments

How Bragging Can Get You What You Want. Or Not.

The more I work, the more I realize how important it is to develop smart career strategies. I’ve heard a lot about the idea of working smart, not hard, which advises you to prioritize tasks, work efficiently, delegate properly, etc.  This is all great advice, but I think one of the more important aspects of career building is making the right work product known to the right people. In other words, don’t brag about being good at things you hate doing!

But, as you are probably thinking, it’s very tempting to show people that you can be good at EVERYTHING! Don’t do it. Remember that your career path needs a focus, unless you want it to turn into a maze of short, unpaved trails. (Use this step-by-step process by Jenny Blake if you still have no idea what you want in life)

Here is some advice on how to communicate a “custom designed” skill-set to people that can give you projects to match it:

Make Your Work Known to the Right People

Always do your best on ANY project that comes your way but copy your superiors on emails and other office communication (presentations, conference call, team meetings, etc.) exhibiting your skills and knowledge on projects that matter to you and fit your career focus. Similarly, don’t be a timid wuss and make sure that you are attributed proper credit by your peers.

Give Credit to Others

If you were not the only one working on a project, then don’t hog all the credit. You WILL be found out and this will reflect poorly on your reputation. Thank others for even minor assistance – they will do the same for you.

Make Yourself Available for the Right Projects

This is a tough one. But, remember, patience is a virtue. So do not over-commit yourself to projects that provide no or little personal value and leave enough room in your schedule to jump on opportunities that matter to your career growth.

This is hard to do without appearing picky, so make sure to always do the following:

Establish concrete time commitment targets.

If you are only able to commit 2 hours of your time/week on a project, then make sure others are aware. This will prevent meaningless work “over-swamp” and allow you to stay flexible.

Realize that creating career focus takes time and commitment

No one will staff you on an interesting project if you have no prior experience. Sometimes, you will have to start from the bottom to establish your reputation and to show interest. So don’t brush off seemingly unimportant projects – they may be small steps towards your goal, but they may make a difference in the end.

Communicate your career goals to your advisors, managers, and peers.

This will ensure that your team is aware of which projects you would potentially be interested in and your name will be more likely to pop up during staffing decisions. This is when you SHOULD brag about what you are good at and how you want to apply your “goodness” to benefit the firm.

To sum up, make sure that you feed your office network with the correct and up-to-date information about your skill-set. You are the only one fully aware of what you can do, so COMMUNICATE this to people that matter and you will see results.

June 1, 2009 at 11:33 pm 8 comments

The Introvert’s Guide to Social Disinteraction

I know that the purpose of my blog is to promote social networking, which clearly requires communicating with others. Duh. But I think it’s also important to know how to spend quality time with yourself. And I am not talking about the weekly appointment you have with your TV to watch Gossip Girl, but rather actually going out there and doing stuff solo; stuff that you would normally do with your BF, or BFF, or even your dog.

Yes, it’s scary…

Social stigma has much influence over HOW we perceive “acceptable” behavior. Notice that I am not saying “WHAT we perceive as acceptable behavior,” because behavior can be socially acceptable and yet still be perceived as bizarre. Just like eating lunch by yourself in High School was for losers, being your own best company is just … odd.

Well, I think people should do stuff solo more often. In my opinion, this type of “disinteraction” allows you to learn about your personal preferences and form individual opinions sans the social “noise,” which sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate between the opinions you form and the opinions you adopt from others.

With that said, I encourage everyone to try one of these:

Eat Out Alone

How often do you walk into a restaurant and say “Party of one, please”? That’s what I thought… Why is it that people rarely eat out alone? Is it that the food tastes better when you have someone to share it with? Why not pick a new place, order a house special and a glass of wine, whoop out a great novel (or even better – the latest issue of Glamour), and enjoy your dinner without feeling the pressure to discuss ANYTHING with ANYONE.

Go to the Movies with Yourself

If you can’t find anyone to watch the latest chick/man flick with, then do it alone. Trust me, the only awkward part about this is buying the ticket, plus all you are doing is staring at the screen anyway…  

Go to Networking Events… Alone

Forget your wing-person and check out one of these organizations in your area: I think this one speaks for itself. Find an interesting, local group and just go…!

French Tuesdays is geared towards young professionals. The events are exclusive but always fun. And you will not be the only one going solo.

Net Party is coming to San Francisco soon. I haven’t been to this one yet, but am looking forward to the launch party!

Get ONE Ticket to a Local Performance

Ballet, opera, musicals, symphony, concerts, museums… Shall I continue?

I was actually forced to test this one out last Saturday when a friend flaked on a Red Poppy Art House performance that we planned to attend (no, I’m not mad). I made a last minute attempt to invite someone else. Denied. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to follow my own advice and go alone. And I did. Did I meet anyone new? No. But it was still awesome!

Go for a Not-so-Lonely Hike

A while back, I posted an ad on craigslist for free dog walking services. To my own surprise, I got 2 responses IMMEDIATELY. People love free stuff! So I got to enjoy the city weather for a couple of weekends with a cute Jack Russell Terrier while feeling really good about helping someone out.

So stop being so dependent on others to provide you with entertainment, get out of your bubble, and do it ALONE! Trust me, you will be really proud of yourself afterwards. Just don’t overdo it. Let’s revolutionize the typical one step at a time.

May 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm 8 comments

Communicating in the Grey

I love sarcasm. I think it makes conversation more fun and engaging and allows you to get the “mean” points across without actually being mean. It’s almost like a diluting substance for honesty, making it easier to swallow. In spite of this exuberant analogy, I have been very reluctant to give up sarcasm as part of my professional interaction.

It’s tough. I’m too honest and this always gets me into trouble.

It took me ages to develop my sarcastic personality and now I have to put it aside and think about how I want to be remembered. Do I really want to be the person to “tell” you that your perception of reality has no realistic foundation? Well, yes. But only if you are my friend and I know that you will come up with a witty come-back to shut me up. In my opinion, work calls for something different. Like “empty” sarcasm. It’s not honesty; it’s empty, humorous statements that sound sarcastic. I am yet to develop this skill.

This brings me to my second point, which is: How do you know when you are sacrificing tact under the pretext of honesty?

For example, I was at the Revolution Cafe last Sunday, listening to classical music and sipping on wine like a true adult (OK, OK.  It was iced tea). All of a sudden this monkey-like creature stumbles his way to my table and asks me: “Are there any cute people in this city?” What does this even mean?  Should I take offense? I’m cute! These were my thoughts as he continued to insult me while repeatedly making a point that, at least, he was honest. Indeed, he was. Honest and tactless.

So I thought to myself, would it be better if he tried to be sarcastic about it? Not really, because sometimes honesty is only valuable within one’s own realm. Others don’t need to hear, nor do they care about, your opinion about every little aspect of life. Just like you don’t care that I think your salmon-colored shirt is actually pink…

Some notes to self:

1. Keep brutal sarcasm to a confined circle of close, trusted friends. I also think that it’s socially acceptable to practice sarcasm with people that are rude to you.

2. When networking, be genuine and honest, but not sarcastic. At least not until you really get to know the person. Test your waters first, because everyone has a different threshold for the acceptable depth of professional/social interaction.

3. Don’t think that honesty is always a good thing. Sometimes a white lie, or an awkward silence, is your best friend.

April 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm 13 comments

“Stress Eat” No More

As promised (to myself), here is my first blog post.  I’m excited to be writing this!

To warn you, I am not exactly what you call a social butterfly. I “stress eat” at networking events and secretly hope that people will stop being polite and just leave me alone as I vulture around the snack bar making eye contact with food instead of the people around me.  It’s not that I don’t care or am rude, it’s just that great conversation topics always come to me after the conversation is over.  

So I escape and retreat. What a coward!

Last week, my friend made a failed attempt to network at a book launch for I Will Teach You To Be Rich and wrote a blog about it titled How I Failed at Networking (that was dead on). And even though she failed, I still admired her persistence and her determination to make it better next time, which inspired me to start a blog about social networking.

Networking is important! And only recently did I realize this. The other day, I was talking to a very close friend who is a decade my senior and does not have the “stress eating” problem. I told him about my college plans and mentioned how I will need to gather recommendation letters to get into my dream MBA school. His instant response was:  “I can get you a rec letter that will get you into any school you want.” Apparently, he knows some guy who is like a Mr.  Big Deal in the lawyer world, who will meet with me “because [my friend] will ask him to.” That easy? Probably not, but at least now I know a guy who knows a guy, which is a lot better than not knowing anyone. Life is glorious, I thought.

But wait, I will have to MEET with Mr. Big Deal! Even thinking about it makes me want a cookie. So from now on, I will practice social networking and I WILL fail and I WILL try again, only to realize that it’s not so scary and people are people after all. Or so I hope.

The Social Petri Dish is my attempt to use social media to:

A. help me expand my social network (both virtual and physical),

B. gather networking advice from you,

C. encourage others to network back, and most importantly,

D. force me to break out of my very stuffy bubble and make valuable connections

Some ideas for the next post are boiling in my head already. Will do my research and report back soon. 

April 8, 2009 at 5:49 am 8 comments

Recent Posts

@katerishka tweets:

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

RSS Shared Items

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Brazen Careerist

March 2018
« Sep