Whether you are an independent professional or a small business, keeping track of “who you know” is always a daunting task.
Surprisingly, I have found it rare to meet fellow professionals who truly have a grasp of the skills and talent they can call upon from their extended networks. Most of us, in my experience, tend to operate as if we were a part of small, extended families. When forming and building teams, we usually work with the same individuals, sometimes even stretching the experiences or skill sets of team members to match specific opportunities. This is not without good reason – when you find someone who’s a good personality match, capable/competent and, most important, delivers high quality all the time, you want them batting for your team.
This scenario plays out whether we’re talking about an individual professional or a small company. In the case of the small company, calling on a trusted group of people to deliver your projects can give a sense of continuity and security. However, drawing from the same small pool of individuals can be a a significant limiting factor in your ability to win new business, expand beyond your original niche and certainly puts a damper on your ability to scale.
The answer for the small company is the equivalent of the superstar consultant’s Rolodex: the CV database.
You’ve seen the doorway to the CV database if you’ve ever looked at job opportunities online; companies post their open opportunities, and for website visitors who don’t find their experience appropriate to any of those, they offer this option: “Send us your CV and we will contact you if your skills are a good fit for something in the future.”
If you’re like most professionals I know, submitting your information to a company’s human resources database ranks right up there with cleaning the bathrooms. This is something you might do when you’re truly scraping the bottom of the barrel and need to get some cash in the door. The worst part about it is that these databases tend to be a black hole – you spent a good deal of time and energy inputting your information, and nothing ever comes of it. [If you disagree or have had a different experience, I’d love to hear from those of you in the Aidpreneur community who have experienced success – that is, landed work – submitting your info to CV databases maintained by companies in development or aid).]
On the other side of the fence, inside the company, it’s been my experience that a great deal of time, effort and money goes into developing these online forms into which applicants can input their information, and even more into the search and reporting tools used internally to try to find qualified talent when it’s needed. It has not been my experience, however, that companies regularly find, then subsequently call upon, the random masses who submit their information. Much like small companies, large firms tend to rely on the people they know, or the people their permanent staff know.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not belittling the CV database, in general. Activating new talent is a critical factor in growing your practice.
Here’s a personal example from my company, International Solutions Group (ISG): One of ISG’s core practice areas is performing evaluations for governments, UN agencies and NGOs large and small. While we maintain our performance expertise in-house, we often need specific technical expertise to complement or round out a team; for example, individuals who specialize in disaster preparedness or the small arms trade.
In one case, we had an inside track into a set of evaluations in the Caribbean for a fairly well known international aid agency, but we needed a consultant who had expertise with cholera, as well as local language skills and recent experience in the country. By quickly searching our CV database, we were able to identify someone with this exact match and won the work. [P.S. That consultant delivered such high quality work that he is now a part of our core “bullpen” of consultants that get the first calls when we have a new opportunity.]
Individual consultants and small business owners and managers (generally) don’t have the money to use the systems employed by larger firms. Yet they still need an effective way to collect, sort, search and take action on the human resources information their companies are (I hope!) collecting on a daily basis.
Fortunately for us, there’s something called Google Drive. [There’s also Microsoft’s version, now called OneDrive, and other online cloud options, but I haven’t used them so can’t vouch for their utility.] Through the simple act of setting up a shared folder to which you can upload CVs as you collect or receive them, you have instantly created a searchable database of talent.
Here’s a step-by-step (this assumes you have a Google account, which comes with a free Google drive account and plenty of storage for 1,000s of CVs):
- Create a new folder
- Name the folder “my company’s CV database”
- Share this folder with the appropriate individuals who should have access
- Create a policy or procedure within your company that any and all CVs received should be uploaded to this folder. While I prefer text (e.g. Word, Pages, .rtf, txt) documents, it does not matter if you use PDF files.
- When you are searching for talent for a particular team or proposal, go to Google drive and search for the exact keywords you are looking for (e.g. Southeast Asia, human rights, gender issues)
Over time, you will build a robust database of potential talent that you can use to grow your company.