16: ‘Meet at least one new person a day.’

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The Importance of Networking and Connecting. In this episode, Matthew West of Advice Personnel speaks on the topic and importance of networking and connecting for personal and career advancement. Matthew has worked in the advertising and marketing fields for almost 20 years. For 13 of those years, Matthew worked for McCann Health in the pharmaceutical and healthcare space as an Account Manager, Vice President, and Chief Talent Officer.
Two years ago, he joined Advice Personnel to build out and lead the first ever pharmaceutical advertising and marketing recruitment division. Over the years, Matthew has become known for his very keen business strategic sense, for his sharp understanding of the importance of brand building, and for his ability to identify extraordinary talent. Matthew earned a BS from Cornell University and a Master’s from Harvard. He has received multiple awards for his unparalleled impact, influence, and results orientation from prestigious organizations in both the healthcare marketing industry and the HR practices domains. 

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What drew Matthew to this career and led him to where he is today? Matthew worked as an Account Manager prior to joining the McCann Health network. He was able to acquire account management skills, develop his knowledge, and understand the industry before going into recruiting, talent advising and networking as a career. While he was at one of the divisions in McCann Health, he was finding talent for the company before they had an HR person on staff. When he first started at the company, there were approximately 30 people at the company. At that time, there was no social media - no LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter. He found himself going to external industry events, making connections, making friends, and obtaining business cards. By default, as Matthew was doing this, he was finding talent for the company. The company said to him, “You’re already doing this. Why don’t you become the Chief Talent Officer for the company?” He’d never thought about that, and he said, “Oh, that’s something I should really think about.” So he was able to take the skill set he already had in the industry and use it as a more credible voice when interviewing people. And that turned into a career in HR, which turned into a career in talent acquisition, which turned into a career in managing everything from employee retention to turnover rates to building a company through talent. He left the company in 2013 and ultimately joined Advice Personnel.
  • Matthew’s passion. Passion in general is essential. The ability to be resilient is also important. It is inevitable that you are going to have ups and downs in your personal life and ups and downs in your work life. But you need to have the ability to be resilient, no matter how stressful the day was before. You need to be able to get up the next day, roll up your sleeves, and get started. Now it’s a new day. Be focused, resilient and unrelenting. Get ready to start again. You are fresh. You can recharge your batteries and start over. It’s OK to have dips and turns and ups and downs in your career and your personal life, but you should get up the next day, mourn the loss, and move forward.
  • A natural propensity for networking and connecting with people. Matthew has always valued people. He has always loved reading biographies and finding out how people got to where they are, whether they are famous people or people he meets on a daily basis. He believes that everyone brings value to life, to the workforce. Everyone is bringing value to the world. He is very passionate about and interested in finding out how people got to where they are and where they want to get to in the future. Everyone can learn from everyone else’s background.
  • A sense of curiosity and discovery. To be a successful HR or talent acquisition professional, Matthew believes you need to have a sense of intuition. Sometimes that is not inherent, and that can be learned by doing it over and over again. You need to be an intuitive person and understand a little bit of the psychology of how people think. If you can understand that, you can make more effective decisions about people and talent and see how those decisions can affect the organization as a whole.
  • A memorable lesson. You need to go after what you want. People who have always been doing the same thing over and over again will always get the same results. Matthew encourages candidates, coworkers, and clients to take a step out of their comfort zone and try something new. It could work, it could not work. Matthew provided an example using demographics in hiring people. Ten to 15 years ago – especially in the creative, advertising, and marketing space – it had been taboo to hire more seasoned, experienced professionals. Now these same individuals are attaining the digital experience that they didn’t have 10-15 years ago. They can compete with the ‘newbies’ that are two or three years out of school. It’s OK. Very successful companies have realized this, and they are recruiting a balance of more seasoned employees as well as newer employees in the workforce. There’s learning happening on either end. These companies are doing what’s been “taboo” and finding that they’re becoming very successful. There’s learning happening on both sides. There’s diversity in the workforce. Diversity has been studied and researched. It will always be a successful ingredient to successful companies.
  • Critical traits for successful HR professionals. Matthew has always believed in a sense of professionalism, especially in this very important role in a company where you are asked to be very discreet, you are holding information that is very confidential, and you are holding information that can affect others, perhaps even financial information. It is always important to be professional. Yet, as HR or talent acquisition professionals, we cannot be robots either. We’re people. We need to balance the professionalism with having a sense of self and having a sense of humor, to a certain degree. HR professionals have traditionally been viewed as the people that are going to be firing individuals or who are going to be the rule makers. Really impactful HR or talent acquisition professionals are the ones that are creating strategy. They are strategic thinkers. They are actually integrated. Having that sense of professionalism, having that sense of self and humor in it all, can really make for a very successful partnership.
  • What additional skills or competencies are needed to successfully connect and network? Is there anything else fundamentally critical to be successful at networking and connecting? People are not taking advantage of everyday opportunities. Meet at least one new person a day. It doesn’t matter if it is on the train, in the lunch line when you are going for food, meeting a new colleague at a water cooler, or if it is a person where you live. Make one new “friend” a day, face to face”, not online or via social media. You should have that personal interaction with someone, because you never know who that person is connected with. You never know if that person is going to be the next influential person in your career or if that person will lead to a potential new lead or lead to other new experiences or people. Make one new connection a day. That is Matthew’s challenge to the industry. He does it, he challenges his team to do it. He challenges his family to do it. Friends and colleagues and new connections are important to your personal and professional life. It will carry through for the rest of your life. Having those skills will take you to new places.
  • Who does Matthew follow? Research shows that the most successful people, the entrepreneurs of the world, read. They read everything and anything every day.  Matthew has great respect for Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank. She started with $1,000 from an ex-boyfriend and turned that into the multi-billion dollar empire she has today. She’s an example of someone who takes chances, who takes risks, and she reads. She reads every single day. Mark Cuban is another one of the Shark Tank entrepreneurs who reads every single day. These folks are gleaning so much information from not only reading but by being voracious recipients of information. Learning every day is so important.

“Meet at least one new person a day.  It doesn’t matter if it is on the train, in the lunch line when you are going for food, meeting a new colleague at a water cooler, or if it is a person where you live.  Make one new friend a day, face to face.”
- Matthew West

Recommended Reading and References from this Episode

To Follow Matthew West

Matthew West’s Question to HR Studio Podcast Group Members

What would you do, what are you doing right now, or what could you be doing to increase your database of people? Are you talking to people very day? Are you connecting with people online? What are you doing today, and what more can you do to stay connected and build your personal network?

Matthew West HR Studio Podcast Notes
Matthew West HR Studio Podcast Notes
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 8:00am
Talent Acquisition & Assessment
Linda Hlavac
Matthew West
HR Studio Podcast