Connecting the Personal and the Professional

Integrating Your Life

Susan McPherson

In the past year, so many people who had commuted to work daily began working from home because of the pandemic. Office workers shifted from formal office settings to having to integrate job-related work into their home spaces. But Susan McPherson, CEO of McPherson Strategies and author of The Lost Art of Connecting (McGraw-Hill Education, 2021), believes this shift actually coincides with a another shift that people are making—integrating their careers and personal lives in ways that can be a benefit to both. Read on for the former Girl Scout’s advice on blending the different aspects of your life to help strengthen both.

1. Expect your interests—and your network—to link the personal and the professional.

“Gone are the days of ‘Work Susan’ and ‘Home Susan,’” she says. All of the networking you do can and will help you in every aspect of your life.

“Join a local nonprofit, because you will meet people of similar values, and volunteer. If something faith based is important to you, join those groups as well,” she suggests. 

2. Decide what “sparks” you. 

“In my day, you would start a job and have it for decades. But young people today will have several careers,” Susan says, adding that she suggests looking for multiple career paths that might interest you.

3. Use social media to stay on top of the fields you find interesting.

“Go online and research who the leaders are in those spaces,” she says.

Her suggestion for simplifying the task? Follow hashtags on Twitter. After determining who the leaders are in a given space, follow them on Twitter, and “like” and compliment things they say.

“When it comes to cold emails, you have to start somewhere, and the cold email gets warmer when you reference something they said on Twitter,” Susan says. “Suddenly, you have greased the skids.”

4. Become a joiner.

“Sign up for groups on LinkedIn and look for related virtual conferences, where you’ll likely learn about even more groups and associations that can really give your career a boost.”

5. Build your network—and a community.

Susan says that she thrives on bringing people together.

“Convene social groups and make introductions. Take a virtual walk, or a socially distanced walk or hike,” she says. Digital tools—including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime—make this work of connecting with people from disparate places easier than ever before.

6. Spend that time listening.

Susan recommends taking the time to build trust with new connections and thinking about how to get other people to open up.

“I never think you should pitch at the first moment,” she says. “Listen for people’s desires, hopes and dreams. In what way can you offer a support, an intro? When you do this, you build more meaningful connections.”

“Tuning in to what is challenging in another person’s life and then helping them is something I learned in Girl Scouts—where it was all about what I can do for others,” Susan says.

7. Be authentic at work and at home.

“It used to be more about being buttoned up and professional, but now there’s a smaller number of moments for that,” she says.

Susan encourages people to be vulnerable and open about their own personal challenges. As a result, she believes, you’ll make meaningful connections with people who will come back to you in your life.

“Today, 98 percent of my company’s business is inbound,” Susan says. “Those people, those meetings, those nonprofits I raised money for—they’re all a part of the work I am doing.”