The most important 120 characters on your LinkedIn profile

120We’ve hit a dead end. My customer is over the limit by two characters. “What if we use an ampersand instead of ‘and’?” I suggest. No, she doesn’t like this idea. Doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing. Doesn’t match the flow. She’s exasperated…I’m getting exasperated.

We’re running on 10 minutes just trying to figure out how to stay within 120 characters that are so important to her LinkedIn profile, so important to everyone’s LinkedIn profile. I’m talking about the Professional Headline, or what I call the Branding Headline (BH), as it’s an important part of your branding.

My customer and I are limited on time, and I can sense her impatience. “Is this really important?” she asks. Oh yes, extremely.

The Branding Headline can only be 120 characters (including spaces) long. Less characters than a tweet. It’s prime real estate. Basically it’s where you state what you do and how well you do it. You may choose to go with a branding statement or your title/s and areas of expertise. It’s the first verbiage visitors will see, and it contains keywords that help you get found through a commercial search—it can make the difference of you being on the first of second page.

A poll taken awhile ago on LinkedIn deemed the BH more valuable than the Summary section but less than the Experience section. More valuable than the Summary?! Needless to say, your words must be well chosen.

Visibility: Where does the Branding Headline appear? Part of it appears on your connections’ homepage when you share an update, such as an article or quote or bit of advice. A quick glance at my homepage reveals that the majority of my connections are not posting original content; therefore, they’re not selling their skills in their BH.

Your Branding Headline doesn’t appear when you simply 1) respond to an update, 2) “Like” an update 3), connect with someone, 4) start a group discussion, etc. In a commercial search your BH will always appear in its entirety, and the title and skills the person seeks should be highlighted in your BH.

Importance: For me if I don’t know a person who is asking me to join his network, I will make my decision based on 1) if he has a photo and 2) what his BH says. No photo and a weak BH, I won’t accept that person. Like the photo, the BH tells me quickly who the person is. I don’t have time to view every profile to see if the person is worth connecting with. In short, the BH should accomplish:

  • Along with your photo, your BH first brands you; it is a value statement, an attention grabber.
  • It sets the tone for the rest of your profile, a mini Summary statement. Another poll taken awhile back on LinkedIn says the important sections of the profile, in order, are Experience, Branding Headline, and Summary.
  • It contains important keywords that help employers, potential business parties, customers, and visitors in general find you.

Below are LinkedIn members’ Branding Headlines.

Change your Game and Make More Sales. My clients increase sales 30% or more. A mere 76 words, this Branding Headline captures my attention because of its value statement.

This BH is more impactful because of the accomplishment in it: Sales & Leadership Coach & Consultant; Award Winning Sales Consultant & Director; Wine Consultant/ Wine Judge/ Crafter. It uses 118 characters.

My BH consists of my title and areas of strength. I created it to optimize my profile for “LinkedIn” searches. I’ve used 111 characters. LinkedIn and Career Search Strategist | LinkedIn Profiles | Author | Blogger ~ Job Search, LinkedIn, Introverts

Another BH that sells this LinkedIn member: Online Branding Coach ✮ LinkedIn Trainer ✮ Social Media BootCamp Instructor ✮ Career Specialist ✮ INfluential Speaker!

There are other Branding Headlines that impress, but the time the LinkedIn members put into crafting them was probably significant. I’ve lamented over how I can utilize the remaining nine characters in my BH. My customer eventually settled on the ampersand, but only after minutes of deliberation.

On the mind of a recruiter

Worried on phoneIt’s Casino Night for my kids’ school. I don’t expect much from this event, but it turns out to be more fun than I would have thought. It’s surprising how PTA volunteers can really let loose when alcohol is consumed at great quantities. I talk with two stupid-drunk people at length, and another person with whom I have an interesting conversation.

The interesting conversation of which I speak is with a recruiter from a local computer and network security company. We talk about our occupations, sharing the good, bad, and the ugly. The main message I learn from him is that recruiters don’t have it as easy as we think.

There are jobs a plenty. This recruiter asks me how I see the job market. I tell him it’s getting better but not as good as I’d like. He confirms my statement by telling me he has a ridiculous number of job requests open. This is good, I think. I tell him there are jobseekers with excellent qualifications who come through our career center.

I ask him if he only looks for passive job candidates—those who are currently working. He says his company looks at unemployed candidates, as well. How many months out of work will they consider for a candidate, three, six, nine? He says one year is usually the limit. This is better than I thought. I’m encouraged.

Difficult finding talent to meet his employer’s needs. When I lament that companies expect their new hires to hit the ground running, he corrects me with, “You mean sprinting. Hit the ground sprinting.” Sadly that’s the fact at his company. This recruiter’s job is to find people with extensive Java experience. Not just some Java experience, not even enough Java experience to get them going. He’s looking for people that can jump in on day one.

“How about someone who is capable of mastering what the company needs, within a couple of months.” I offer. He agrees but points out that one of his hiring managers has had an open job for four months. This befuddles him. “A quick learner might be a better in the long run,” I follow. He agrees, but ultimately it isn’t his choice who gets hired.

The résumés, in general, suck. When he tells me this, it is not new news. I’ve been hearing and reading this from frustrated recruiters who skim through poorly written and formatted résumés. Worst of all, they have little to nothing to do with the job a recruiter’s trying to fill. “What can you do?” he says. People desperate for a job will do anything to get an interview.

This, by far, is the worst part of his job, trudging through résumés…all those résumés.

He finally finds the right person, but they don’t interview well. He finds people who have all the skills, job-related and soft, but can’t demonstrate them at an interview. Other recruiters have echoed this; they have no control over what goes on between the hiring manager and the candidates during the interview. Some candidates just don’t do well at interviews.

It must be like sending your child away to summer camp and hoping for the best. In most cases they know the candidate will handle him/herself well, but there’s always the chance that a person will bomb at the interview. Lose their resolve and slide under the table because of their nerves. Shame. Many a good candidate is passed up because he can’t pass the “test.”

Everything goes fine until negotiations. Another recruiter I spoke with told me she was willing to bring someone in for an interview because he had the talent necessary for the job. However, he wouldn’t budge from his salary requirement. She and this person were $10,000 apart for a $100,000+ position and she was sure the gap could be narrowed. He was so adamant that she gave she gave up on him in frustration.

He uses LinkedIn exclusively. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this said and probably won’t be the last. This recruiter no longer uses Monster because his searches aren’t as focused; there’s too much garbage. Linked allows him to zero in on exactly what he needs. I remark that I read only 20% of résumés stored on Monster are read. He doesn’t doubt this.

I bitch about LinkedIn taking away us common folks’ commercial searches. He hasn’t heard about this new rule because he’s a recruiter and benefits from a $12,000-a-year premium account. (This is the figure I’ve heard.) Now I wish I were a recruiter.

He wonders what I do to help my customers. “I teach them to fool people like you,” I tell him. He laughs. I go into my dog and pony show telling him about how I lead workshops on job-search strategies, as well as provide individual assistance through résumé and LinkedIn profile critiques. He seems interested.

Can he meet me for lunch, he wants to know. Now I’m wondering if he wants to know my secrets, or if he’s looking for a job. He’s been with his company for five years. I’m thinking he’s doing damn good—I heard the average tenure is less than two years for a recruiter. I see on LinkedIn that many of the recruiters with whom I am connected, in fact, hop jobs like wildfire. Yes, he’s doing quite well.

I agree to meet him if he’ll talk to my networking group about what recruiters think. He says he’s not much of a public speaker, so to make a joke I tell him neither am I. He laughs. If he doesn’t come in, at least I can tell my customers what’s on the mind of a recruiter.

7 ways to drop the ball in the job search

mistakegirl

I’m not known for my etiquette. For instance, I often forget to send birthday cards to family members,; or I forget their birthdays entirely. When I’ve forgotten birthdays, I’ve essentially “dropped the ball.”

There are a number of ways jobseekers “drop the ball” in their search. They may not be aware of the mistakes they’re making, or they simply may not care. But it only takes dropping the ball once to lose out on an opportunity. Here are seven mistakes that come to mind.

1. Don’t update their résumés to reflect the job requirements. Some of my customers admit to sending a cookie cutter résumé, or one-fits-all, to a prospective employer because it’s the easy thing to do.

Not recommended. It’s sort of like giving someone a Valentine’s Day card that you’ve given your loved one the year before…and the year before that…and the year before that. In other words, you’re not showing any love.

Employers hate receiving résumés that aren’t written to them, ones that don’t address their needs and concerns. So make the extra effort when writing the most important document you’ll write until you land a job.

2. Don’t send a targeted cover letter. Again, like the résumé, the cover letter must reflect the skills and experience that are needed for the particular job. Your cover letter is a great way to tell your story and point the reader to the key accomplishments on your résumé.

One customer of mine sheepishly admitted that she once sent a cover letter with someone else’s name on it. That’s just plain embarrassing but goes to show you that care goes into writing and addressing the requirements of the job.

3. Fail to follow up after sending the documentation. Unless the employer strictly says, “No phone calls, please,” follow up to see if she has received your material. Employers aren’t dumb; they know why you’re calling. You’re calling to put a voice to the résumé and cover letter. In that case, make sure it’s a good voice.

Be prepared to talk about your interest in the job and company, but most importantly be prepared to state what makes you better than the hundreds of other applicants for the job. Have your personal commercial ready to deliver, a commercial that’s tailored to that particular job.

4. Avoid networking. Even though you’ve heard over and over again that networking is the most successful way to land a job, you would rather apply for jobs online. Guess what, the majority of jobseekers are applying for jobs online, and these jobs represent 20% of all jobs available in the job market.

The best way to land a job is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market by networking. Employers would prefer promoting their own employees, but if that isn’t possible, they’ll turn to referrals. The only way to be referred is by knowing someone at the company or knowing someone who knows someone at the company.

Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone, nor do some people like it; however, it must be done. You don’t necessarily have to attend networking groups, but you should make it part of your daily routine. Network wherever you go, whether it’s at a sporting event, your religious affiliation, your dentist’s office, a social gathering.

5. Aren’t taking LinkedIn seriously. I know this is tough for those qualified jobseekers who don’t know what LinkedIn is and don’t understand why it’s important in the job search. I see the dear-in-the-headlights look on my LinkedIn workshop attendees when I ask them how their profile matches up.

These are people who are curious about the application—how it can help in their job search. Well, it can’t help if your LI profile isn’t up to snuff. Rather it can hurt. Here are a few ways it can hurt: 1) it’s identical to your résumé in that it doesn’t provide any new information; 2) it isn’t fully developed; 3) you only have a few contacts or recommendations. There are many more mistakes you can make with your profile.

As a side note, the other night I was talking to a recruiter from RSA who said he spends every day on LinkedIn looking for people to fill his software engineer positions. One point of interest: he told me Monster.com is dead to him. This is how important LinkedIn has become.

6. Don’t prepare for the interview. At the very least you should research the job and the company so you can answer the difficult questions. Take it a step further by gathering insider information on the job and company. Some of my customers have been savvy enough to use LinkedIn to contact people in the company.

However, the night before you can’t locate your interview outfit. You haven’t taken a drive by the company to see where it’s located and how long it will take you to get there. How many times were you told to practice answering some of the predictable questions you may be asked? Again, can you answer questions like, “Why should I hire you” or “Can you tell me something about yourself”?

7. Don’t send a follow-up note. This one kills me. After all the hard work, you don’t follow through with a Thank-You note that shows your appreciation for being interviewed, mentions important topics that were discussed at the interview, or redeem yourself by elaborating on a question you failed to answer. I tell my workshop attendees that the interview isn’t over until they’ve sent the Thank You note.

Don’t drop the ball for any of the aforementioned reasons; instead keep focused on one of the most important times in your life. My not sending birthday cards to my relatives, or even forgetting them all together, is minor in comparison to losing out on an opportunity.

3 reasons why only clicking Like on LinkedIn is meaningless

Like buttonOne day I shared an article on LinkedIn. No sooner had I done this, I received a Like from one of my connections. Now this person must be the fastest reader on earth, or she simply saw my name and hit the Like link.

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate my articles being Liked. But I would rather receive a comment with or without a Like. Yes, even if the reader thinks it’s total bunk. Here are three reasons why only clicking Like is a waste of time.

1. It’s too easy. Clicking Like takes approximately two seconds, whereas writing a comment involves thought and effort. When I enjoy a great article, I am happy to praise it. But to simply Like it makes me feel lazy.

On the other hand, if the article starts off with a bang and ends dismally, I won’t comment or Like it. Chalk it up as a waste of time, as they say. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything is what some of us were told by our parents. I follow this advice.

2. It doesn’t promote real interaction. The recipient of a Like has no real recourse, not like he would if a person were to write a glowing statement about the article he shared or comment he contributed. With endorsements, LinkedIn made a statement about its members being more engaging and interacting with each other. At least endorsements provide us with the option of returning the favor.

When I saw the Like that day, I didn’t feel inclined to write a note to my connection, “Thank you for liking my post…uh….” You see what I mean? On the other hand, if said person wrote a comment praising or criticizing it, I would gladly write, “I see your point about brainstorming being appreciated by intuitive types, but for me it’s a drain and often uneventful.”

3. It clutters people’s homepage. Alex Likes a group discussion. Katie Likes this [photo]. When I’m trying to read through the updates that stream on my homepage, I don’t need Likes cluttering it. One of my connections Liked a large photo that had an inspirational quote on it. I’m a huge fan of Morgan Freeman, but I don’t appreciate an image that covers half my screen, as well as an inspirational quote that…didn’t inspire me.

Do the right thing; comment on someone’s update. Whether it’s an article a person shares, a few words of sage advice, a work anniversary announcement, or even a photo with an inspirational quote; don’t merely Like it. Write a comment, instead; or Like it and write a comment. Comments are so much more meaningful.

If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t; write a comment instead of just Liking it.

Brainstorming; does it work for introverts?

BrainstormingOn a visit to my brother’s school (he’s a principal), I noticed a whiteboard in his office with various notes on the school’s vision written on it. “Brainstorming session?” I asked. He nodded.

I thought to myself that I wouldn’t want to have been in that room when a group of people were throwing ideas against the wall like spaghetti to see which ones stick. Furthermore, there were probably others who felt the same.

Brainstorming is good, right? Brainstorming is where great ideas come from, right?

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, explains that introverts excel in closed environments as opposed to open ones. A self-professed introvert, she supports the belief that a closed environment brings out creativity in introverts, not open environments like those depicted in the movie about Facebook, Social Network. I agree with this assertion to a point.

The work environment Cain describes precludes open brainstorming sessions where employees hold impromptu brainstorming sessions in an open setting, or arrange spontaneous meetings at a minutes notice. Totally unacceptable for the introverts in the group.

open work environmentAs an introvert I consider brainstorming sessions a waste of time, if there is no semblance of order and structure. I grow weary of meetings that resemble a social gathering, where the majority of the talking is done by the extrarverts. However, a well-run meeting that covers all the topics in a quick manner can be extremely effective.

What has proved to be effective with introverts is paring them up with someone to solve problems, rather than chaotic brainstorming sessions. Even if one works with someone who is not in total agreement. “Working alone is good for creativity – but being paired with someone who thinks differently from you can lead to more creativity yet,” states the article.

Why introverts appreciate closed work environments with offices and cubicle supports a number of beliefs about them, such as they learn and gather more through independent research. They don’t want the distractions of colleagues walking into their work-space uninvited. A closed environment also gives them time to recharge their batteries if they’ve been interacting with groups or speaking in front of an audience.

thinking2Does this mean introverts are anti-social? No, but they’re not like their counterparts who seek out the company of others. Although it’s true some introverts, such as the stereotypical programmers, need almost complete privacy; many introverts can join the fracas and engage in office conversation. But, again, their preference is to be alone when it’s time to get down to work.

Read what Cain says in the article about the importance of solitude for introverts: “Solitude, as Cain says, is a key to creativity….Steve Wozniak claimed he never would have become such an expert if he left the house. Of course, collaboration is good (witness Woz and Steve Jobs), but there is a transcendent power of solitude.”

What does this mean for the job search? Jobseekers can gain a lot from understanding their introversion or extraversion preference. At interviews they should make careful note of the work environment and ask questions pertaining to collaboration (brainstorming). If introverts get the sense that brainstorming plays a significant role in the decision process, it may not be the organization for them. Extraverts, on the other hand, would be happy to know that they’ll be among the social, freewheeling types.

To share is golden: 8 reasons to share others’ posts

Share buttonRaise your hand if you share your blog posts and other bloggers’ post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

Now raise you hand if you only share your posts.

Those of you who share others’ post understand the value of sharing.

  1. It creates reciprocity. I, for one, am more likely to share what others write if they share my posts. It’s just plain right. Blogging pundits say that your posts will be shared more often if you reciprocate.
  2. It demonstrates great personality skills. Sharing posts of other bloggers shows you as someone who thinks of others, not only of yourself, thus portraying you as a team player. You read others’ articles, see value in them, and share them with your audience; demonstrating your awareness and desire to educate your audience (your team).
  3. You are secure in your established expertise. I understand the desire to establish oneself as a thought leader in the industry. But this can also be accomplished by sharing posts of others. Some of my valued connections, who are experts in their field, aren’t afraid that sharing the writing of others will affect their reputation.
  4. You know sharing won’t hurt your brand. “If I promote others’ material, readers will get confused by my message,” you think. Hog wash. If you are so insecure that you feel your message isn’t strong, your voice isn’t poignant, your style isn’t unique; maybe you shouldn’t be sharing your posts on LinkedIn and other platforms.
  5. You don’t come across as narcissistic. Ouch. I know this one hurts. At times I believe I’m guilty of this, so I try to be the best curator of information as possible. But if you only share your posts, you come across as “all that.” The true blogger will acknowledge the efforts of others, not act as though he’s standing in front of the mirror primping himself.
  6. You become known as a curator of great information. LinkedIn is known as the most professional networking platform online. One reasons why LinkedIn has this reputation is because its members provide information capital. I know, for example, that I can find a plethora of articles on the job search, LinkedIn, and introversion—my preferred topics—on LinkedIn.
  7. Sharing is a great way to educate yourself. The posts you share are the ones that teach you something. So impressed with them that you want to comment on the lessons you learned. I learn more about the job search or LinkedIn when I read others’ posts; and, as such, I want to educate my connections.
  8. You add value to LinkedIn. Related to number 6, LinkedIn offers its members more value when they can read a well-written, thoughtful post and learn somethings from them. It makes visiting LinkedIn worthwhile. Conversely, if one were to only post his/her articles, the content would be limited and LinkedIn wouldn’t be the valuable platform it is.

Conclusion: I could be better about sharing; I know this. I search for job posts that are relevant to my connections, posts they will appreciate. I fear that my posts outnumber the ones I share from others, but I’m trying to be better. For those of you who don’t share other bloggers post, perhaps you haven’t learned the lessons of sharing.

7 ways to prevent burnout in the job search

burnout2Here’s a story about a man I knew years back. His name was Ted and he was in his sixties, failing in health, and had a frail wife at home. I saw him often when I visited an urban career center in central Massachusetts.

One day I was conducting intakes of participants with disabilities for a computer training program I was coordinating. After my sixth intake I was exhausted, so I walked over to where Ted always sat.

I asked him how things were going in his search. He told me not so good. Curious, I asked him how much time he was spending on the job search. He told me he spent 60-70 hours a week on it. “The job search is a full-time job,” he told me without skipping a beat.

I asked him how things were going in his life. I meant his home life, not his job search. With all seriousness he told me that his wife and he were on the verge of a divorce. “She’s mad at me being out of the house so much,” he said, as his eyes teared up. “But I have to find a job,” he finished.

While it was unclear whether a divorce was eminent because  of the long hours Ted was spending looking for work, it was crystal clear that the outrageous amount of time he was spending was doing more harm than good.

When I tell this story to my workshop attendees, I end by saying, “Don’t be like Ted.” I tell this story when bringing up the topic of commitment to the job search. How many hours should one commit to the search? If the job search is a full-time job, as Ted said, should jobseekers dedicate that much time?

My answer to them is no; spending as much time on the job search as Ted did can lead to burnout. Some ways to prevent burnout are:

  1. Developing a plan. The plan I’m speaking of should ideally be day-to-day, even hour-to-hour, which can be kept on an Excel spreadsheet. If this seems a bit daunting, try to reach at least 60% of your goals. Don’t exceed six hours a day during the week and don’t let up on the weekends, which can be a great opportunity to put a bug in people’s ears about your situation. Without a plan you’ll end up spinning your wheels, going nowhere quick.
  2. Using different methods to look for work. Networking has always proved to be the best way to look for work. Supplement that with LinkedIn. Make follow-up calls. Even knock on companies’ doors if it’s a possibility. Spending six hours a day on the Internet is not a good use of your time. You’ll feel more productive if you employ a variety of methods; just don’t spread yourself thin. Four methods should be fine.
  3. Taking a break. You are most likely going through a roller coaster ride of emotions. You need time to take occasional breaks to regroup. Not too long, mind you; but long enough to regain your energy. Go on walks or to the gym, or if the weather’s nice sit on a bench and take time to reflect about your plan. Decide on a day during the week when you’ll put the job search on hold; maybe go to the beach with your family, or putter around the house.
  4. Volunteering in your area of work. Volunteering is a good idea for a number of reasons. One, you put yourself in a position to network with people who are currently working and may have ideas or contacts who can be of use. Two, it keeps you active; you’re not spending time sitting at home behind your computer. Finally, you can enhance the skills you have or develop new ones. Perhaps you’re an expert at HTML but need to know Java. Find an organization that needs a website developed and has the time for you to get up to speed.
  5. Getting job-search assistance. Your local One-Stop career center, an outplacement agency (if you were granted one by your employer), and alumni association are sources of job-search advice. And they will also keep you preoccupied from your current situation. Many people who come to our career center speak not only of the advice we provide, but also the emotional support we give them.
  6. Joining a networking group. The benefits of joining a networking group, large or small, are obvious; but consider how they can offer support and a reason to get out of your home. I tell my workshop attendees that getting out of the house is essential to emotional health. A meet-up group consisting of four to five people may be more your style. Whichever you prefer, keep in mind that you must offer career advice and support as well.
  7. Seeking professional help if needed. Sometimes the stress of being out of work is too much to handle on your own. You may feel anxious and even depressed. It’s important to realize this, or take advice from family and friends, and seek help from a therapist. You may find talking with a third-party person refreshing, non-judgmental.

I don’t know what happened to Ted, how his job search went and if his marriage lasted. Before I left him that day—the last day I saw him—I told him to “give it a break.” I’m not sure he took my advice; he probably didn’t due to his stubborn nature. He was unrelenting in his desire to find a job. I see hints of Ted in some of the jobseekers who come to our career center. And I worry they’ll turn out like Ted.