We sometimes think that office work is more important and productive than attending events and networking. Some may think its a waste of time to attend outside events, luncheons, meetings, or other events away from your desk. While each position is different and you have to decide how to best manage your time to meet your goals, I think networking can be more productive than office time in most cases.
Here are some tips for how to prioritize your time out of the office:
1. Set clear goals for your time at events. Don’t just attend events for the sake of attending events. Come up with clear goals of who you want to meet, what you want to discuss, and how many new people you plan to meet. This will help you focus your time during the event and give a measurement of your success there. For example, obtain a list of people attending a conference in advance and ask for side meetings. If its a reception, look at the RSVP list or Facebook and make connections that way.
2. Set up meetings regularly. We can get more accomplished by working together. Collaboration is an important part of building coalitions and leveraging comparative advantage to create the most value. For AFF, this includes partnering with think tanks and policy organizations to bring their research, speakers, and resources to the young professional demographic.
You can start exploring potential partnerships by getting out of the office and going to lunch or coffee with your colleagues at organizations you think could be partners. If you don’t have time to meet outside the office or geographic proximity, ask for phone meetings or meet at a conference (see point #3). If you’re not sure where to start, ask a colleague in your organization or in your field what he or she recommends. Maybe look through your friends’ connections on LinkedIn and Facebook.
3. Attend lectures, luncheons, panels, happy hours, and other events. In Washington, DC there are events every day you can attend that almost always include a networking component. Review this post for a list of organizations that host regular events (usually free or very low cost). Get on their lists and go! Then follow up with people you meet and grow your network. In some situations, attending one event can be more productive than several hours in the office, and create better personal connections than phone calls.
4. Attend conferences in your field. Almost every field has an industry conference each year (or several) where the best and brightest get together to discuss the latest trends and make plans for the future. For those working in the free market/conservative/libertarian movement, there are a few conferences I highly recommend.
The best conference in my opinion is the annual State Policy Network meeting. Hundreds of state think tank leaders gather and strategize with national partners, hear great speakers, and go through excellent training on best practices for development, communications, policy, and other fields. CPAC is the longest running conference for conservative organizations and speakers in Washington which tends to attract students and older activists. The Atlas Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner is an outstanding opportunity to network with domestic and international partners in New York City each fall. The Heritage Resource Bank is an excellent opportunity to meet national policy leaders and discuss strategic communications with partners across the country. FreedomFest is a gathering of libertarians in Las Vegas each summer that focuses on ideas.
You may find that you are more productive in the office and networking does not add value, but I’ve found that to be rare. If that is the case, please comment on this post or send me a message. I’d like to hear more about your experience.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation
Last week, we went over some basic email etiquette tips. Here are some mistakes that are commonly made over email that you should avoid.
1. Proofread your emails. You should re-read your email before you send it. Check for auto-corrected words or words that the spell check does not pick up (for example there, their, they’re). Imagine yourself as the recipient of the email and what that person might perceive you are saying. For example, take out sarcasm or jokes that might be offensive and be very clear about what you want. There’s nothing worse than writing something like “tits” instead of “its” and not catching that in the proofreading.
2. Double check the recipients. When I was in the first year of my first job, I hit “reply” instead of “forward” with a dumb email to my colleague about why the person should have sponsored a booth at a conference since he was wealthy. You can imagine the fall out when he received it and was very insulted. Needless to say, he didn’t sponsor a booth at the conference! Had I simply double checked and changed the recipient (or better yet, not sent the email at all), that never would have happened. Don’t let it happen to you either.
3. Check the content of what you are forwarding. When you hit forward, the entire chain often comes with it. You have to manually delete the prior discussion if you only want the recipient to read the latest message. You can also cut and paste the section you want to share to avoid all the deleting. Otherwise, you may be passing along too much information as well as the messages other people sent you in confidence.
4. Don’t forward inappropriate messages. You become part of the problem as soon as you forward an inappropriate message. You are not responsible for what other people send you, but you become responsible as soon as your name is placed at the top. Only forward emails from your business account that are directly relevant to your colleagues. If you really want to send it to others, consider forwarding to your personal account and forwarding to your family and friends after work on your own time.
5. Watch your tone and avoid sarcasm. Emails are difficult to interpret since you can’t see the person’s face or context of the comment.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
It’s never too late to brush up on your email etiquette. Here are a few pointers.
1. Use the cc, bcc, and reply all functions appropriately. There is nothing worse than an email chain that has tons of people in the cc field where everyone can see. It gives away people’s privacy and often leads to other people replying at will. Always use the bcc field for mass emails, or choose a service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp to manage your email list. Using cc is only appropriate when you specifically want the recipients to know who else was on the message. For example, if the boss sends an email to the whole program team. Don’t reply all with trivial responses like “Thanks” or “Great job” or “Congratulations.” It wastes people’s time sorting through and might bury important, substantive replies. Reply directly to the recipient individually if you want to send a short note.
2. Call when you have a long or sensitive issue to discuss. If you need to discuss something in depth or your email is going to be more than 3 paragraphs, just call the recipient or hold a meeting or conference call with those concerned. This is important because 1) you don’t want to send an angry tirade at length, and 2) it saves time for you and the recipients and is more interactive.
3. Spell correctly and use proper grammar. Remember when people used to write formal letters on paper? I sometimes wonder how our current communications will be displayed in museums in hundreds of years because everything used to be written on paper. Anyway, you should write your emails using proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Avoid sarcasm that might be misinterpreted and remember that your emails will never disappear and may be used against you. (see point #5).
4. Include your name, phone number, and email at the bottom. This step will make it easy for people to contact you in the future if they don’t have your business card or can’t remember your number. Also, it will allow people to be in touch with you even if you are slow on email replies or have a strong spam filter.
5. Use the Washington Post test. Don’t write anything in any email that would embarrass you if printed in the Washington Post. This includes negative or sarcastic comments about anyone, secret or private information, and personal items on business email accounts. Call or talk in person with your colleagues about sensitive or negative items so there is not a written record that could come back and haunt you, or be misinterpreted.
Technology helps us get work done more efficiently, but has many risks. Practice careful communications over email and you will do well in your career. Next week, I’ll discuss some common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation
Panelists with a few years of experience discussed their story and how they used networking to get jobs and then do better once they started working. Several common themes emerged, and I challenged attendees at the end to do the following:
1. Read the IHS Guide to Public Policy Careers and AFF’s “Free the Future” blog. Specifically, we recommend Nigel Ashford’s networking chapter and Peter Redpath’s networking series for an introduction to networking.
2. Attend at least one networking event per month, or more! There are all kinds of free or low-cost events each week for you to attend, including breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and dinners. Hear interesting speakers but also meet new people and learn what they are doing. Consider events outside your direct area of study so you become more well-rounded and broaden your network. Your college probably has alumni events, too.
3. Talk to 3 people at an event and follow up via phone or email. There will be 50, 100, or more people at each event, so make it your goal to only meet 3 new people at each event, in addition to the friends and colleagues you already know. Ask for their business card and follow up the next day with a nice note saying you enjoyed meeting them and hope to see them again soon.
4. Take initiative to ask lunch or coffee. Ask the people you meet at receptions to meet you for lunch or coffee to get to know them better. Choose people who are working in jobs that you want someday and ask them how they got where they are and what advice they have. Prepare by reading their bio and having questions ready about their work, their alma mater, family, etc.
5. Find a mentor for longer term relationship. This could be the person you ask to lunch or coffee.
6. Sign up for free resources including email lists, twitter, and facebook. Here is a sample of organizations offering resources, compiled by Peter Redpath:
American Enterprise Institute
America’s Future Foundation
Conservatism on Tap (Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s DC Alumni Chapter)
Conservative Women’s luncheon sponsored by Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute at The Heritage Foundation
Federalist Society (monthly DC Lawyers luncheon, Young Lawyers Chapter cocktail receptions, Practice Group events at the National Press Club, Capitol Hill Chapter luncheons and evening receptions)
It’s First Friday monthly happy hours
Leadership Institute (monthly Wednesday wake-up club breakfasts, weekend training schools and monthly happy hours)
Young Republicans (DC, Arlington/Fairfax, etc.)
Banquets and national conferences like CPAC, ,Values Voters, Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the Dream Summit, Federalist Society’s annual National Lawyers Convention, Faith & Freedom Conference, Right Online, etc.
7. Stay in touch with the AFF, IHS, and AEI staff. We are here to help you!
If you are a student or intern, you can start your networking now. Read this advice.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
I don’t generally write personal blogs on this site, but this news deserves a special post.
Yesterday, the conservative weekly Human Events announced that it would stop publishing its newspaper. It was founded in 1944 and has been a mainstay of conservative journalism ever since. President Reagan even called it his favorite publication.
I was honored to be named one of the Top Ten Young Conservative Activists in the country by Human Events. Since then, it published several of my op-eds and pieces about Ithaca College and intellectual diversity. In 2012, they published my op-ed about why the rich are that way because they serve others, not through exploitation or corruption.
More recently, my friend Adam Tragone was managing editor and AFF (along with IHS) hosted an event with Cathy Taylor when she became editor. I’ve always been a fan of John Gizzi‘s encyclopedic knowledge and the political quiz, which was always an educational challenge.
While I’m disappointed that Human Events will not continue in print, its a lesson in free markets. These days, it is not profitable to deliver a product when people expect it for free, regardless of the content. That’s why both the Washington Post and New York Times, along with print newspapers across the country, are downsizing and looking for new ways to make a profit. Its not the best use of resources to subsidize a product that isn’t making a profit. This is the same reason why the federal government should not subsidize any business. Its also the reason why Doublethink stopped publishing a print edition in 2009.
Thanks, Human Events, for making your contribution to the conservative movement all these years.
Every day, we have conversations with those around us in our business and personal lives. Whether on the phone or in person, conversations are the best way to get things accomplished. You can distinguish yourself by making it a habit to actively listen. Here are some quick tips, loosely based on Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
1. Ask questions. In the conversation, think of some questions to ask the other person. People love to talk about themselves and answer your questions. Ask them follow-up questions about what they say and think about open-ended or unusual questions to ask. For example, the weather is always a go-to question, but you can spice up the conversation more by asking about pop culture, music, sports, or the person’s hometown. I’d much rather talk to you about my tastes in music than the weather!
2. Speak 25-50% of the time. Strive to speak less than the other person by asking questions and giving concise answers that end in questions for the other person. (Something like this: “I work as a policy scholar at X Organization. What policy areas interest you the most?”) You may perceive the conversation as the other person talking too much, but almost always the other person is enjoying it and will remember the conversation better than if you talked 50-75% of the time.
3. Have a humble, learning attitude. Why are you in this conversation? Are you truly interested in what the other person is saying with an attitude that you can learn from him or her? Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had were unexpected because the initial judgment of the person’s knowledge and background was totally wrong. You can always learn something.
4. Repeat the other person’s themes. In some situations, you can repeat what the other person has said or emphasize the same themes he or she likes. For example, the other person is probably not interested in what you want to discuss, so listen and go the direction that person wants. Embrace awkward situations and continue asking questions to move the conversation along. Have a few back-ups ready to go so there is not a lull. For example, if the person mentions she has to pick up her kids after the event, ask how many kids and their names.
5. Practice your elevator speech. You have to speak during the conversation and will be asked questions, too. Have an elevator speech ready when asked the most common questions. “What do you do?” “What is your background?” “Where are you from?” “What policy areas interest you most?” “What do you do in your free time?” Give quick, practiced answers so you can move to ask the other person and continue to listen.
No one likes a gabby person or “that guy” who dominates the conversation and always has to make a point.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
Happy New Year! Learning is a life-long pursuit, even when you don’t get a report card with letter grades. When you join the professional world, you can distinguish yourself by continuing your education. Always seek knowledge in your chosen field and keep up with the best practices. In the legal field, this is required. But for most of us, it is not required and thus a way to distinguish yourself.
Here are some practical ways to continue learning that apply to nonprofit managers, but you can use the principles in any chosen profession:
1. Know A Lot About A Little. Become an expert in your chosen field through experience that is supplemented by outside infleunces. See below for examples of books, conferences, mentors, email lists, blogs, and other resources that will help you become an expert in one area. If you focus on free market organization fundraising as I do, make sure you receive Ben Case’s daily advice email and Kevin Gentry’s weekly email.
2. Know A Little About A Lot. Learn something about a broad range of topics so you can converse with a wide range of people and hold your own. Watch “Jeopardy” so you learn facts about certain areas and study categories where you don’t know much. Read newspapers regularly so you know about international affairs and a wide range of domestic topics.
3. Attend Events. There are events and conferences in almost every field you should attend. Most professions have a “trade conference” where the industry leaders get together to discuss best practices and browse an exhibit hall full of relevant vendors. Also attend local events at think tanks or lectures on campuses to hear from experts in your subject and others with interesting arguments. For the free market nonprofit community, the best meetings include the SPN Annual Meeting, CPAC, Heritage Resource Bank, Atlas Liberty Forum and Dinner, International Students for Liberty Conference, Defending the Dream Summit, and FreedomFest. Attend AFF’s professional development programming or check out the Leadership Institute‘s various training programs.
5. Take Advantage of Resources Read blogs, listen to audio books, listen to podcasts, get on email lists, and use all the resources that are available. In this area, I recommend EconTalk, Cato Podcasts, Heritage Morning Bell Email, Daily Examiner, and Erick Erickson’s Morning Briefing. There are many others you can select for your specific profession and interests.
6. Read Business Literature. You may not work in a for-profit business, but many of the ideas can be applied to your work. I think Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent book that will help you improve at working with others. I also like Little Bets by Peter Sims and Forces for Good: The Six Practices of Highly Effective Nonprofits by Crutchfield and Grant, which is a special take on Good to Great by Jim Collins. I like the way Brian Tracy thinks as well.
Start with one thing at a time and you will distinguish yourself over time. It is surprising how few employees take advantage of the resources that exist. Will you?
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
Robert Novak, a lion of American journalism, proposed the Journalism Fellowship Program in 1994 to restore balance to the media. In recent decades there has been a shift away from objective journalism towards advocacy of government intrusion and opposition to free market solutions to the nation’s problems. Since inception, the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program has nurtured 110 Fellows, who are climbing the ranks of American journalism as award-winning reporters, editors, columnists, and authors.
The Phillips Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2013 Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program. The Foundation created this program to provide fellowships for writing projects which promote its mission to advance constitutional principles, a democratic society and a vibrant free enterprise system.
The Phillips Foundation awards $50,000 full-time and $25,000 part-time fellowships to undertake and complete a one-year project of the applicant’s choosing focusing on journalism supportive of American culture and a free society. In addition, the Foundation offers separate yearlong fellowships on the environment, on the benefits of free-market competition, and law enforcement.
The Novak Journalism Fellowship Program serves as a catalyst to launch freedom-loving journalists on careers as stewards of economic freedom and personal liberty. Print and online journalists with less than 10 years of experience are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is February 12, 2013. For more information, visit www.novakfellowships.org.
Tonight, the Young Conservatives Coalition will award five young professional conservatives with their prestigious Young Conservative Leadership “Buckley Award.” Join us tonight at the Capitol Hill Club to congratulate them during an event cosponsored by the Young Republican National Federation, America’s Future Foundation, the College Republican National Committee, and Allegiance Direct.
The awards recognize individuals between the ages of 21-40 who’ve made a significant contribution to the conservative movement at large in the last year. The awards are in honor of the late William F. Buckley Jr. – a conservative movement leader/icon who founded National Review and wrote God & Man at Yale all before the age of 30.
This year, several AFF members are bring recognized. Katie Pavlich is a regular guest on AFF Radio, Patrick Coyle refers YAF graduates to AFF, Alex Schriver is a participant in AFF’s Liberty Alumni Group and a regular sponsor of the AFF Gala, and Heather Pfitzenmaier helps coordinate regional programs with Heritage Foundation and AFF chapters.
The Young Conservatives Coalition is a DC-based, young professional conservative leadership, educational, and networking organization dedicated to initiating and fostering valuable working relationships for professional development to advance the conservative movement. They organize numerous educational and professional networking events throughout the year including Reaganpalooza – the largest annual gathering of young professional conservatives in DC.
Here are the biographies of the Buckley Award winners:
Katie Pavlich – Townhall.com, News Editor & Author of bestseller Fast & Furious
Katie Pavlich is the news editor for Townhall.com and a contributing editor to Townhall Magazine. She is the author of the New York Times Best Seller Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up. Her book was timely and helped shaped the debate over the ‘Fast & Furious’ controversy. As a reporter, she has covered topics ranging from White House scandals and the 2012 presidential election to the Second Amendment and border issues. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Journalism and is a current National Review Washington Fellow. Pavlich has shared her perspective on multiple media venues including Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and Fox Business, in addition to a host of national and local radio shows. Her deep love of the outdoors and respect for firearms are rooted in the formative experiences of growing up in the mountains of northern Arizona, rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and hunting big game with her father in the forests and deserts that Barry Goldwater called home.
Lila Rose – Live Action, President
Lila Rose, a recent UCLA graduate, has dedicated herself to building a culture of life and ending abortion. At age 15, Lila founded Live Action, a pro-life nonprofit which specialized in investigative journalism, media and youth education. Live Action works to expose abuses in the abortion industry and advocate for human rights for the pre-born, using new media to educate and mobilize both local and national audiences. Rose has led numerous undercover investigations exposing corruption and illegal activity at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion chain. She also founded the largest pro-life student magazine The Advocate, which is circulated at over 300 high schools and college campuses with a circulation of 200,000. Rose is a frequent guest on radio and television programs including The O’Reilly Factor, The Glenn Beck Show, CNN, EWTN and the Laura Ingraham Show. Numerous newspapers and blogs have also covered her work including feature pieces by Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and National Review. CNN featured Rose in a documentary “Right on the Edge.” Rose has written for magazines and news groups including Politico, the Hill and First Things.
Patrick Coyle – Young America’s Foundation, Vice President
Patrick Coyle is responsible for overseeing student programs including creating and implementing new activist initiatives, resources, and materials. A few of the programs created under his tenure include the 9/11: Never Forget Project, No More Che Day and Freedom Week. Human Events named Coyle as one of the top ten young conservative activists in the nation, citing his success in reaching hundreds of thousands of students by sending high profile conservative speakers to college campuses. He is also co-editor with Foundation president Ron Robinson of The Conservative Guide to Campus Activism and wrote the Campus Conservative Battleplan, both of which are published by Young America’s Foundation. Coyle is a graduate of Penn State University, where he first became active in the Conservative Movement by joining the Penn State Young Americans for Freedom (PS-YAF) of which he eventually became chairman.
Alex Schriver – College Republican National Committee, National Chairman
The CRNC is the elected governing body representing more than 250,000 members on over 1,800 campuses nationwide. Schriver served as Deputy Political Director for Alabama Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bradley Byrne and on the Alabama Republican Party’s Steering Committee in 2010. Most recently, Schriver worked at The Gula Graham Group, a Washington D.C. based political fundraising and consulting firm. Schriver has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, POLITICO, ABC News, & Roll Call. He has also appeared on television for Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, NBC News, PBS, & CNN. Schriver serves on the Board of Directors for Crossroads Generation, a SuperPAC formed by the CRNC, American Crossroads, Republican State Leadership Committee, and the Young Republican National Federation. Schriver now sits in the same chair that Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Morton Blackwell, and Grover Norquist once sat. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Auburn University.
Heather Pfitzenmaier – Heritage Foundation, Young Leaders Program Director
As the dedicated director of the prestigious Young Leaders Program, Pfitzenmaier oversees The Heritage Foundation’s efforts to reach out and promote their mission to the next generation of Americans. YLP is part of the think tank’s External Relations division. These programs include a rigorous internship program, expanding campus outreach events and “video webchats” through their Virtual Think Tank. Pfitzenmaier, who joined Heritage in 2007, previously was intern coordinator for the Young Leaders Program and has had thousands of young conservatives matriculate through her program – training the next generation of conservatives. Herself an alum of Heritage’s intern program, Pfitzenmaier holds a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from the University of Michigan. She was born in Royal Oak, MI and grew up in Livonia, MI.
In economics, we discuss the allocation of scarce resources. Those discussions generally focus on guns and butter, labor and capital, or other economic-speak but don’t cover our personal resources. You can distinguish yourself by properly allocating the scarce resource of your time.
The saying “time is money” is true because you are using your employers’ resources on the job, and your personal resources for the rest of the week.
When you view your time as a scarce resource, there are several ways you can increase efficiency:
1. Consider email as a separate task. Set aside a few hours each day for email instead of keeping your client open and constantly responding to emails as soon as they arrive. While you may not be able to reply affirmatively when your colleague inevitably asks “did you get my email?,” you will have more time to concentrate on specific projects without interruptions. You should also consider scheduling your Facebook and social media time so it doesn’t consume your time in small chunks throughout the day.
2. Choose events carefully. There are many demands for your time, including AFF programs. Don’t attend events simply to attend. Could you spend a few extra hours in your office finishing a project that would be more valuable than attending a happy hour? Make sure the benefits of attending the event outweigh the opportunity costs of your time. (We’re biased – but AFF events are worth your time!)
3. Find appropriate work/life balance. It is not healthy to work excessively. Schedule yourself for plenty of time to rest, relax, be with family and friends, and engage in hobbies. Your production in the office will be better as a result. Work smart, not hard.
4. Use technology to keep an efficient schedule. Today’s technology makes it easy to schedule yourself as much as you want. Utilize reminder emails and don’t give any excuse for missing meetings, deadlines, or appointments. Or – you can be old fashioned and use a paper calendar. Just make sure you have an organized calendar that works for you.
5. Give yourself deadlines. When working on a project that is important but not urgent, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. The consequences of missing this deadline might be none, but an achievement based mindset will help you get the task done faster.
Distinguish yourself by using time efficiently. It’s an important skill to have, and you can get there by developing good habits. There are only 24 hours each day, so use them wisely!
Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation.
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