May 2019 - Meet My Network: Elise Engen
When was the last time you ‘connected the dots’ in regards to how you met someone? Sometimes it can be easy to remember a general time of year or perhaps a specific location of where you met someone but can you take it a step further and think of who led you to that particular place or person?
Today, I’m excited to introduce you all to Elise Engen. She is someone I’ve known for less than a year but can say with full confidence is someone you’re all going to want to connect with.
Elise holds a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and received her M.B.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. For almost nine years Elise has worked with U.S. Bank and currently holds the position of Development Project Manager, Customer Experience.
Don’t just take my word for how awesome she is, click here to see first hand what U.S. Bank has to say about her incredible work ethic and amazing networkingskills!
Let me connect the dots in regards to how I met Elise just 6 months ago. (FYI, connecting the dots is a great networking exercise that helps us stay in touch with old contacts that have likely made an impact on our professional/personal networks and is a great way to create a ‘reconnecting list’ for future emails, coffee meetings or quick ‘checking in’ phone calls.)
I’ll use initials for privacy sake -
(2011) RCF - YE - MC - AM - RF - DG - MG - U.S. Bank = Elise and Alyce connect! (2018)
As you can see the first organization/person that ultimately led me to Elise took place 8 years ago via 7 people! Networking isn’t just about building a large network on LinkedIn but about maintaining relationships with key individuals and organizations over periods of time and always thinking, “How can I be helping that person or organization, not what are they doing for me?”
As you’ll read below Elise epitomizes this notion and here is one of my favorite lines from her, “Networking is a two-way street, and something you must invest in doing both sides of. When I meet someone, I usually wonder if and how I can help them professionally. I wonder if this person and I can really connect, and if so, I usually try to link-up with them in some way. There may be times I’ll need to ask them for help, but at the same time, when I am called upon by someone in my network, I will do my best to make time for them. I’ll almost always meet with them to listen, be their sounding board, champion for them, or see how else I can best help.”
Elise is truly one of the most thoughtful networkers I’ve met and is a sincere, smart and kind person. I know you’ll enjoy reading more about her below!
1. Why do you do what you do? Aka how do your values align with your work on a day to day basis?
I love helping people and I love learning what drives people to make the decisions that they do. I enjoy connecting with people, and truly understanding them. I’ve worked at U.S. Bank for the last 9 years because I see the customer-centric approach that the bank takes that isn’t always seen with other companies. I work in a Customer Experience Strategy role that allows me to ask consumers why they do what they do specifically with banking, what they would like to see from their bank, and how we can improve their experience. This stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s basic communication and then taking your customers’ advice to make them happier; however, I feel like so many companies, miss this principle. I love that U.S. Bank invests in listening to our customers and making changes for the better- and how lucky am I that I get to work on something I enjoy every day?!
2. Tell us a bit about your journey that has helped you get to where you're at today?
My professional journey started at a career fair at the University of Colorado, Boulder towards the end of my senior year of college. I met a recruiter from U.S. Bank who I instantly hit it off with. We discussed that although I wasn’t a Finance major or that I wasn’t graduating from the Business School, they were looking for candidates who had “soft skills”, who could connect with people and communicate effectively for a Leadership Development Program they were recruiting for. From there, I interviewed, landed the job, and have moved my way around U.S. Bank holding five different roles, spanning over three different business lines in the last 9 years. I’ve gotten into four/five of my different roles all through networking. I’ve worked hard to connect with various senior leaders at the bank who became my mentors, and sometimes even my sponsors. The key was that they all got to know me, saw my potential, and were pleased to help get me into roles that played to my strengths.
3. How has networking, both personally and professionally helped your business and/or career?
I believe in networking whole-heartedly because it’s been the best way that I’ve advanced myself in my career. Over the last nine years, I’ve worked hard in my various roles to get ahead in my career, but I’ve also never stopped talking to people, networking to better understand their career paths to see if I could identify with what they’ve done in the past or what they’re looking to do in the future. Throughout my career, I’ve networked inside and outside of the bank, even when I was very happy and comfortable in my current role. When I’m ready for that new challenge, I usually call on my network and ask them for their advice, what I could be working on today to get me to that next point in my career and the best way to position myself for that next job. Networking has led me into new and great roles that I would have never considered if it weren’t for my network encouraging me to try them out. When you get to know people and create relationships with them, you start to understand what they’re naturally good at and what they’re passionate about. This has helped me tremendously because my network has gotten to know me and can sometimes see talents/abilities that I’m not able to recognize in myself, therefore leading to new opportunities. Networking is an invaluable tool that I’ll continue to use throughout the rest of my career (and my life) because I know it’ll open the door to new opportunities.
4. If you had to pick one networking tip, tool or strategy that's increased your confidence what would you say it is?
The #1 networking tip that helps boost my confidence is the follow-up email. Usually people will send a thank you note after an interview, but in my experience, I’ve seen few people send a follow-up or thank you email after we have a networking or mentoring meeting. These emails are so essential because it shows that you respect the fact that the person you’re meeting with took time out of their day and job to meet with you, and that you are taking the process seriously and are invested in growing in your career or personally. I almost always get a positive response back from my email, and they’ll even calling out that they’re impressed I followed-up. This really boosts my confidence and helps me stand out!
5. What specific strategies or tactics do you utilize to maintain your various networks?
Maintaining a network is challenging, especially if you don’t know some of the people in your network well. I don’t always reach out, but when I do, I like to make it meaningful. If I see an article that reminds me of a conversation I had with someone in my network, I’ll email it over to them. Or, if I saw some article or posting on LinkedIn or another social media site that makes me think of a person in my network, I’ll try to send that over to them as well. Sending meaningful emails or articles will remind someone why being in each other’s network is mutually beneficial and will keep the relationship relevant.
6.What challenges or obstacles have you faced along the way and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome with networking and in my career is that I sometimes struggle with people taking me seriously as a business woman because I look (relatively) young. When I meet someone for the first time, they are usually surprised that I have been with U.S. Bank for nine years and that I’ve held a variety of positions there. I almost always hear something along the lines of, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize you’ve worked at the bank for so long, you look like you just graduated college!”. I usually smile, thank them for letting me know that I’m “aging” gracefully, and then quickly change the subject to discuss something more relevant and meaningful. I like to ask them questions about themselves, their career, their passions, and I like to share the same about myself in return. Overcoming the feeling that I am not being taken seriously is challenging, but I find as soon as I have a conversation and allow a person to get to know me more, we get past this obstacle. Sharing pieces of who I am and what I care about both professionally and personally helps me overcome this.
7. What are your 'secrets' to success?
I rely on two principles when I am networking. #1- if I find someone I really connect with, or see myself connecting with in the future, I will share this with them and ask for a follow-up conversation. It can be scary to ask someone to meet with you, especially if you haven’t quite figured out how they fit into your network and vice versa. But my best advice is to follow your gut- do you think you can help this person within their career or personal life? Do you think this person might have some invaluable advice for you to help with your career or personal life? If the answer is yes, then GO FOR IT! Ask them if you can treat them to coffee, or if they wouldn’t mind having a quick follow-up call, and most importantly, ask them for their business card! If you’re seriously considering meeting with this person, you need to know how to connect with them.
The second principle I rely on is that follow-up/thank you email. If someone agrees to meet with you, and then you take them out to coffee, remember to send them a thank you email. You might not know the details of their current job or personal situation, but you can assume that they’re probably pretty busy, and they still chose to meet with you. Thank them for their time in a brief email, or hand-written note- it’ll really go far!
8. Where can people find you online or in networking situations to meet you in person?
- The best way to find me in through LinkedIn:www.linkedin.com/in/eliseengen
Please reach out if you’d like to chat more!
9. Anything else you’d like people to know about you, your philosophy on networking or about business in general?
I think it’s important when you’re networking to not just approach this as an opportunity for a person to help you. Networking is a two-way street, and something you must invest in doing both sides of. When I meet someone, I usually wonder if and how I can help them professionally. I wonder if this person and I can really connect, and if so, I usually try to link-up with them in some way. There may be times I’ll need to ask them for help, but at the same time, when I am called upon by someone in my network, I will do my best to make time for them. I’ll almost always meet with them to listen, be their sounding board, champion for them, or see how else I can best help.
Also, networking takes TIME and patience. If you’re networking because you recently found yourself wanting to get a new job or you’re exploring a new career path, do not expect to land in a new role the next day or month. Meet new people, connect with them, and create a professional relationship with them. Over time, as you build a network out, you’ll meet more and more people who will get to know you, your passions and interests and naturally will help connect you with others in their own network who could potentially help you land that next role or into a new career path. Give networking the time it deserves, and you’ll definitely see the benefits!
Elise, it’s been an absolute pleasure connecting with you and I look forward to growing our relationship in the coming years!