I have become lazy on LinkedIn

No, I haven’t been slacking off at work or not taking out the trash or neglecting my children. I’ve simply been replying to LinkedIn invitations with a simple Accept, and that’s it. No thank you note; not even something as basic as, “thanks for connecting with me.” Trust me, I feel awful about this.

In my defense, I’ve joined OpenNetworker.com, a service that provides its members with a list of thousands of LinkedIn users. I did this on a recommendation from one of my connections who knows I’ve been yearning to grow my network on LinkedI, so I figured I’d follow her advice and see where it leads me.

OpenNetworker.com has come through on its promise to grow my network; I get at least 100 invites a week. At this writing there are 27 people waiting to be accepted, including someone who is a gun-loving  pit-bull breeder. I’m thrilled to get this volume of invites; but as I mentioned above, I’ve become a lazy slob.

I used to thank everyone who invited me to their network with a quick little note like, “Ed, thanks for inviting me to be in your network. I hope we can collaborate on projects in the future. Bob.” But now I do nothing after I hit Accept.

The reason why I don’t write a thank you note (thanks to OpenNetworker.com) to the slew of invites I receive is because they arrive with the impersonal LinkedIn default message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Not to sound dramatic, but It’s like returning from a hard day’s work and not getting a kiss from my wife or being ignored by my kids. Where’s the motivation to write a thank you note, I ask you?

What did I expect when I joined OpenNetworker.com—that everyone would take the time to write a personalized invitation to me? No, that would be too much to expect. I know people who use OpenNetworker.com are limited by the technology. They copy and paste a ton of e-mail addresses, separated with commas, in the Add Connections field and blast them off.

So you can imagine the crossroads I’m at. On the one hand I want to grow my network to gain more exposure, but I also want to feel the love that one does when he receives a special note inviting him to join a network. I guess I can’t have it both ways.

I think what we have here is an agreement of mutual laziness. I guess I can live with that. But for those of you who want to invite me to your network and take the time to write a special invitation to little ole me, you darn tootin’ can expect a personalized thank you in return.

Martin Yate’s advice for if you were fired

Guest post from Martin Yate.

Firing someone is the single most unpleasant responsibility a manager has, and never a decision that is made lightly. If you have been terminated, it is easy to point the finger of blame, but for your own financial well being, please look at where your other three fingers are pointing – right back at you.

It is difficult to face, but almost always, you bear a degree of accountability. If you take responsibility you can clean up your act and leave the past behind. If you do not take responsibility for past actions, you cannot change the problem behaviors that cost you that job and they will continue to dog you through the years.

Ignore this advice and get a couple of terminations and you kill any potential for professional growth and good jobs at better companies. So the first and most important thing is to take responsibility for the actions that led to your dismissal.

Learn from your mistakes & clean up the mess

Call the person who fired you; your aim is to clear the air, so whatever you do, don’t be antagonistic. Reintroduce yourself and take responsibility for what happened. Say that you appreciate that the manager had to do what was done, that you want to apologize for being such a problem, and that you learned from the experience. Be sincere.

If the manager talks to you about your transgressions, don’t take offense: you are here with a business agenda not to fight battles already lost. Instead listen, try to learn and whatever is said thank the manager for the insights. Even if the termination was unjust it doesn’t matter. It is better to eat a little crow now if it will help you get back to work and make a living, and benefit you for the rest of your working life.

After you have made your apologies, explain that you are still looking for a new job. Then address what you learned and ask, “If you were asked as part of a pre- or post-employment reference check, what would you say about me? How would you describe my leaving the company? Would you say that I was fired or that I simply resigned? You see, every time I tell someone about my termination, whoosh, there goes another chance of getting back to work. You had a right to terminate me, and I have learned and I have apologized and I am suffering financially in ways you can’t imagine. Can we bury the past so that I can put my life back together? It’s in your hands.” Most managers will give you a break. Taking responsibility and cleaning up the past really works and is the first step in putting yourself back on a success track.

Check company reference policy

You should also call Human Resources. Tell them you are an ex-employee who was terminated and ask them

* What is company policy on giving references?

* Are managers allowed to give references?

* What information will HR give in response to a reference request?

Unwarranted crappy references have led to enough lawsuits over the years that many companies have a policy that managers are not allowed to give references and that all HR will confirm are dates of employment and salary at end of employment. This may give you an added line of security that the past employer will say nothing about your termination.

If this is the case, but that past manager, despite your efforts to clean up the past still insists on damning your future, tell HR. Tell them what he has said he will say about you, that he is actively striving to deny you the opportunity to put food on your table and a roof over your head. Ask if there is anything they can do? If they “aren’t sure” ask again, adding that you don’t want a lawsuit, you just want to get back to work. If you have followed my advice, ninety nine times out of a hundred, someone in human resources will spike his guns.

You can learn more about resumes, job search and interviews at Martin’s free weekly webcast http://my.knockemdead.com/.
Courtesy, www.KnockEmDead,com

Can’t we all get along?

Some of my customers, not all, for the most part think recruiters—internal and third-party alike—are unfair and the reason for their failure to get a job. They think recruiters are only concerned with two things: 1) determining if my customers meet 10 out of 10 requirements and 2) want them to work for peanuts. I know this is not necessarily true, I know that recruiters have a job to do, which is to find what the employer wants. This is how recruiters get paid.

I’ve read some pretty good articles on things that tick recruiters off. There was one from the annoyed recruiter who wrote about how lazy some jobseekers are, like they don’t return her calls when all she’s trying to do is match jobseekers up with her companies. Danielle Powers essentially took jobseekers to task for poor communications. I wrote a response entitled Response to the Frustrated Recruiter Lady to her scathing article.

Most recently Mark Bregman wrote an article entitled Don’t get De-Selected, in which he talks about faux pas jobseekers want to avoid at an interview; six in fact. All common sense to me. And I warn my jobseekers about mistakes to avoid; that’s all I can do. I believe Mark Bregman when he says talking too much or asking too many questions is bad practice. Hell, I hate it when people talk too much.

You see, I agree with how recruiters wish things were, like jobseekers would communicate better and show initiative and think at interviews. I also agree with jobseekers on how they wish things were, like recruiters would return their phone calls—to which recruiters are probably thinking, “Be real, Career Trainer Guy. How can we return tons of telephone calls, and do we want to listen to people whine?”

Another point of contention for my jobseekers is how recruiters start the phone conversation by asking what salary they made at their last job or what is their minimum salary requirement. Between you and me, it’s better to be sure both parties are on the same page, rather than waste time interviewing only to find out they’re so far apart.

Another complaint I hear is, “Don’t mess with my résumé; I spent a lot of time and money having it written.” I know recruiters’ response to this is, “Here’s the thing, Mr. jobseeker, you may have had it written by a professional résumé writer, but my customer (the company) wants to see specific qualifications, even if they go back 20 years.” Hey, I get this; recruiters know what employers want to see on a résumé.

But this isn’t an entry on defending jobseekers or bashing recruiters, because I realize recruiters are under a lot of pressure, pressure to place polygons into polygonal holes, not square ones. I know you gals and guys make a lot of phone calls and listen to some BS now and then, like, “My experience at XYZ Company makes me ideal for the Marketing Directors position.” Even if Ms. Jobseeker’s experience is that of a Marketing Specialist but the President of the 25-employee company allowed her to use on her résumé any title she desired.

What’s the solution? How can we get jobseekers and recruiters to play nice? I suppose the answer is getting both sides to be realistic about the system and the roles each play. I, for one, will try to get the message across to my customers and recruiters. Until then business will go on as usual.

A networking success story

On occasion I’ll write an entry about people who have landed. I sheepishly admit that what you read below was written 100% by one of my former customers, who acts as  a LinkedIn profile sample for my LinkedIn workshops. Howie, a former member of our career center, has been a true networker, and I imagine he’ll continue to network, because he embraces networking and realizes there are no constants in life. Below is his story:

I am thoroughly thrilled to be writing the next 10 words: I have landed a great direct job in my field.

When I was laid off, I figured I’d be rehired in a matter of months. That was in August of 2008. Weeks later the economy tanked. If this was an old movie, we’d dramatically indicate the passage of time by showing a wall calendar, with the daily pages flying away in the wind, although in this case, you’d have enough time to go and make a sandwich.

I got my first contracting gig ever in September 2010, working for several months on a 1099 basis with a former associate who needed additional help with a contract Project Management job he was working on. This was successfully accomplished through networking.

In February 2011, I landed a 6-month, W2, contract Program Management position. I landed it purely through networking as well. If “Kate,” a networking buddy, had not gone to choir practice one Wednesday night, I would not have even known the job existed. I posted that landing story at the time, with the subject “A solid touchdown.”

I began networking before the word “network” meant anything other than communications infrastructure between computers and telecom equipment. My oft-repeated definition of networking (some would say, “too oft”) is that is it what you do to maximize blind, dumb luck. I have seen the networking concept of “the more you give, the more you get,” been proven over and over again.

I have done it, and you can too.

Back in mid-November, 2011, a networking friend emailed me, saying, “I’m starting to hear of potential openings in program management here…I was just wondering if you would like to talk/entertain the idea?” Right. I’ve heard so many, “We’d love to hire you, but we have this hiring freeze now…” that my résumé  was getting frostbite.

But we did stay in touch, as I was stepping up my job search, and things started coming together. I went through several rounds of interviews in December. I received the offer to be a senior-level Program Manager for the company’s flagship product in early February, followed by the usual screenings. We set my start date so I could work out a good transition plan at my then-current job. I started on March 5.

I’ll say it again ­ I’m thrilled.

Networking works. I didn’t do anything beyond being a good networker, staying positive, staying active, maintaining my tech sills, reasonably expanding my own network of people both through tools like LinkedIn, and more importantly, by getting out there and meeting people whom I could help and who might also help me. It’s never too late to start, and it’s never time to stop. Perhaps we’ll meet at a networking or professional meeting or on-line sometime soon. Feel free to let me know how I can be helpful to you. In the words of Jean Shepherd, “It’s all based on hope.”

Don’t neglect these components of your LinkedIn profile; the Photo and Title

Jobseekers and professional should know by now how much a powerful LinkedIn profile can impact their job search, as well as how a poor profile can be detrimental to their online networking success.

According to Jobvite, approximately 89% of recruiters/employers use LinkedIn to cull talent on LinkedIn, so it doesn’t take a genius to know that your online footprint can make the difference between being hired quickly and languishing in limbo. Those who don’t get a second look are jobseekers that ignore the importance of every component of their profile.

So what components of your LinkedIn profile should you focus on most to avoid the disapproval of recruiters and employers? This is a trick question for eager jobseekers. All of them! Rule number one: every single piece of your LinkedIn profile is important, from your photo to the Personal Information section. This series will look at the components of your LinkedIn profile that make it a winner, not one that drives visitors away.

Component #1, your photo matters for two reasons. First, it is part of your personal branding. Visitors will recognize you and feel comfortable opening your profile. Every time you post in update, your attractive mug will appear on your first degree contacts’ home page. If you’re worried about age discrimination, let go of your reluctance.

Second, the alternative is displaying a default, ugly light grey box. This is a turn-off, and I personally don’t open profiles without a photo. Because the majority of today’s profiles sport a photo, recruiters are suspicious of profiles that don’t have a photo.

What should your photo convey? Your photo must look professional. You’re not posing for friends at a family picnic, standing with your wife and three-year-old daughter, hiking in the mountains, raising a pint in an Irish pub; nor should it be an animation or caricature. These are signs of immaturity and unprofessionalism.

Most experts agree that your photo should be a tight shot of your face and upper shoulders. Please don’t use a photo that misrepresents you; such as a high school or college photo, while in fact you’re in your forties or fifties. This will only cause you embarrassment and further suspicion.

Component #2, your title needs to describe you effectively in 128 characters or less. Don’t worry, that’s plenty of space for you to tell your story. It can neither be too brief and general nor lengthy and contrived. It must accurately describe the value you’ll provide to an employer by explaining who you are, where you sit in the labor market, and the return on investment you’ll bring to companies looking for outstanding skills and accomplishments.

Poor title: Financial Analyst

Better Title: Financial Analysis | Predictive Modeling | Internal Consulting | Millions Strategy | Millions in Cost Savings | Bottom-Line Results

You’ve also been told that keywords are important to being found by recruiters and employers. Your title, therefore, must be rich with keywords. Carefully scan the job descriptions you run across and note the keywords and key phrases employers use. Your photo and title are the first components of your profile employers will see.

If you are curious as to what a powerful title looks like, type in the Search field financial analyst, business development, certified project management, marketing manager, or any occupation that fits your interests. Chose the ones that you’d like to emulate, and the ones that contain the keywords which match the jobs you’re pursuing. You’ll get a good sense of how you should structure yours by doing this.

We’ve looked at just two components of your profile. One hundred and twenty million people are on LinkedIn; more than one-third are jobseekers. With this kind of competition, you can’t afford to present a poor image in just two components of your profile. Next we’ll look at the summary section of your LinkedIn profile.


LinkedIn is a professional networking site; don’t over-share

When you hear LinkedIn being called a “social media site,” do you hear fingernails scratching the blackboard? If you do, I’m glad. This means you’re onboard with those who see LinkedIn as a professional networking site. Facebook and Twitter are social media sites and mighty fine ones at that.

What makes LinkedIn a professional networking site are rules of etiquette that are followed by most of its members, one of which is not disclosing too much information or the wrong type of information.

I was delighted to see an article, Are You Over-Sharing on LinkedIn? written by one of my LinkedIn contacts, Laura Smith-Proulx,  that backs up this assertion. Laura does a great job of covering three areas of which you should be cognizant:

  1. Posting negative comments about your job search in a LinkedIn group.
  2. Issuing Status Updates that are unrelated to your professional image.
  3. Misusing LinkedIn Answers – revealing confidential data or using the site for non-professional queries.

Please read Laura’s article if you’re wondering about how to effectively network on LinkedIn for business and the job search without over-sharing.

Why it’s okay to send a handwritten note, and what you should also do

This article is in response to one written for BusinessInsider.com about the pitfalls of sending a handwritten thank you note after an interview. I see the author’s points of view, but I would do it differently. I also stress there is no one way to do it right.

While many people prefer to send an e-mail thank you note after an interview, just as many prefer to send a handwritten note—this is based on unofficial polls I conduct during a few of my workshops.

The pros of sending a handwritten thank you letter.

It’s a personal touch and shows the recipient that you took the time and spent the money to purchase the cards. You thoughtfully wrote the card without the use of spell check. And you either hand delivered it or supported our government’s mail system by mailing it to the interviewer/s.

The feel of a heavy-stock thank you letter is oh so pleasing. The sight of a professional, tasteful card with gold trim and “Thank You” printed in gold is eye appealing. The words written in your own hand are so much more intimate than the standard Arial, Calibri, Cambria fonts. And if your handwriting is nice—please no hearts or smiley faces—it’s an additional bonus.

Best of all—because this is what I do when someone thanks me for helping them find a job—a thank you card is tangible; the interviewer can hang the card in her office for all to see, as well as your gratitude for the time she took to interview job candidates.

I like to tell the story to my workshop participants of a recruiter, a burly man who came to our career center to talk about interviewing. He was asked if he appreciated handwritten thank you notes and proceeded to tell the group about the way the hairs on his arms would rise when he held a card in his hands. A man who stood six feet, four inches talking about the sensation he felt left an impression on me.

The cons of sending a handwritten card.

Unlike the e-mail thank you, it doesn’t get there seconds after you’ve written your words of gratitude. Most will tell you to send it off 24-48 hours after the interview. As well, the card isn’t guaranteed to reach the recipient like an e-mail will (Unless you hand-deliver your thank you card. Here’s a thought.)

You generally can’t include a lot of verbiage on some of the interesting topics discussed at the interview, nor can you practice damage control, e.g., amending an answer you gave or completing it with some research. Unless, of course, your write real small.

The thank you card may not go over well with the IT recruiter…wait, I just told you about the recruiter who spoke at our career center about the feeling of ecstasy he had when he received cards.

What to do?

I’ve presented my opinion fairly objectively (not really), but what I really believe is that first you should send your thank you note via e-mail and then a week later send a handwritten note following up your e-mail. In my opinion, it’s the handwritten card that will impress the interviewer. But to play it safe you might want to do both.

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