Self-promotion is necessary in childhood and adulthood

kidz playing basketballI’m not worried about my son.

My son is in his second year of playing basketball. He’s quite good, for someone who just started playing, and talks a lot of trash. He’s usually the shortest kid on the court, but he’s fast and dives on the ground like Larry Bird used to.

All the parents get a kick out of watching him play. (One parent once asked me before a game how many times I thought he’d fall to the floor.)

The thing that makes going to his games fun for me is the conversations he and I have driving to and from the games. “Dad,” he’ll say, “how many buckets do you think I’ll get?”

“Four,” I’ll pick a number out of the air.

“How many steals and assists?”

“Four each.”

Wouldn’t you know it, he scores 10 points; steals a ton of balls from the slower, less interested kids; and passes the ball to four of his teammates who don’t know what to do with the a basketball.

I’m worried about my daughter.

My daughter is an excellent soccer player. She plays in the backfield and loves stripping the soccer ball from oncoming forwards. And she’ll take out anyone who comes near her, despite her rail-thin body type. I’ve witnessed her lay a tackle on girls twice her size, the collisions reminiscent of a train wreck.

The conversation she and I will have before a game is quiet like two hummingbirds. Occasionally she’ll ask me after a game what I thought of her performance, and I’ll use the old sandwich technique—compliment her on a crushing tackle, criticize her for letting a girl slip behind her, and finish by telling her she passed the ball well. These are great conversations between a dad and his daughter.

My daughter has been reserved and humble since she first started playing soccer. When she first stepped on the field, she was about the age my son is now, so I can gauge the differences between the two fairly accurately. It’s fair to say that my son promotes his skills more than my daughter does. Now, I didn’t say better. I said more.

It would be shallow of me to worry about who is the better athlete, my son or my daughter—and I’d be a fool to declare whom I think holds the title. No, I’m worried about my daughter’s ability to promote her accomplishments, particularly later in life when it really matters.

I also worry about my customers.

In the job search it’s all about marketing yourself—on your résumé and in your cover letter, while you’re networking, on the phone, and at the interview. It’s all about accomplishments and it’s all about using them in context. The written and verbal communications skills have to be in place—one is not exclusive of the other.

Recently a customer related a story at one of my Personal Commercial workshops about how she had mobilized nearly a whole city to promote the arrival of a professional wrestler. She had no budget with which to work, yet she was able to barter with a marble sign company to create a welcome sign for Cold Stone Austin; and she persuaded the city to rename a street for “Cold Stone.”

The event, as she described it, was a smashing success. Her enthusiasm in describing the event was similar to how my son talks about his basketball prowess; not how my daughter reluctantly talks about her soccer game.

My customer succeeded on the verbal front but not in her written campaign. Following the workshop, she asked me to review her revised résumé. I expected to read about her coordination, management, persuasion, creativity, and a whole slew of other skills that made the Steve Austin event an outstanding accomplishment.

While the story she told at my workshop was captivating and her enthusiasm was contagious, her résumé didn’t hint to any of her strong skills. She was unable to tie her strong verbal and written communications skills into the full package necessary to market herself effectively.

I would tell you about the time my customer had to coordinate the flushing of an entire sports center’s toilets, but that would be too long a story.

Will my daughter be able to promote herself in her written and verbal communications, or will she wait for someone to drag all of her strong accomplishments out of her? Will she express her accomplishments, or fail to express her accomplishments, in the whole package? Perhaps I worry too much.

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10 essential policies to follow in the job search

kids-bike-sizes-18261717The other day I was walking up a hill I used to run up. Riding down the hill were a group of four boys. Only one of the boys was wearing a helmet, so I said to them, “How come only one of you is smart enough to wear a helmet?” They shrugged their shoulders, riding on. I’m sure I embarrassed the hell out of the one smart boy.

As I walked on I thought that the parents of the one boy probably enforce the helmet policy, and they won’t let him leave the house without one on. I further thought that there are some obvious policies jobseekers should follow when they look for work. Here 10 essential policies.

  1. Have a game plan and establish goals. Having a plan and goals means, first of all, you need to know what job you want to pursue, which can be the most difficult part of the job search for some. Without a plan, you’ll have no direction, which is essential if you don’t want to spin your wheels getting nowhere. Smart jobseekers have a plan for every day of their search, striving to meet the goal of following the plan at least 80% of the time.
  2. A résumé that to brands you. A very important policy is writing a résumé that is tailored to each job, showing employers you can meet their specific needs. Showing immediate value with Summary that attracts the attention of the reader, having a Core Competency section which shows you have the required skills, and touting quantified accomplishments throughout the résumé; are all necessary to fulfill this policy.
  3. Creating an online presence, namely LinkedIn, is a policy every jobseeker must abide by. At least 95% of recruiters/employers use LinkedIn to find talent, so if you’re not on LinkedIn you’re definitely hurting your chances of advancing in the job search. Keep in mind that daily engagement is necessary to stay in the minds of LinkedIn members. Only updating your status once a week is not going to do the trick.
  4. Writing cover letters that stir interest. If you’re writing cover letters that fail to express your personality and are, well, boring; you’re violating an important policy. Worse yet, if you’re sending form cover letters that don’t show you meet the specific requirements of the job, you’re killing your chance of getting an interview. Forget what you’ve been told about recruiters not reading cover letters. I’ve spoken with many who do read cover letters to get a better idea of the canidates’ value.
  5. Don’t only apply online for positions. I’m not saying not to use job boards, but don’t use them as the foundation of your job search. Networking still is, and will be, the most successful way to find employment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that sending out hundreds of applications will advance your job search. This leads us to the next policy.
  6. Make Networking part of your vocabulary. If you’re not going to networking events, meet-ups, or connecting with everyone you know, you’re missing the boat. Networking is proactive and a great way to uncover hidden opportunities at companies/organizations that may be hiring. Opportunities can also be uncovered while connecting with people in your community.
  7. Securing informational meetings. The goal behind information meetings is networking with people who are in your desired industry and selected companies. While you’re not interviewing for an advertised job, impressing the people with whom you speak can create opportunities that might include being recommended for a job developing in the company, or may lead to speaking with other quality connections. This is a policy that can lead to hidden jobs.
  8. Following up with potential connections is missing from the equation. You’re great at meeting people at networking events or other places to connect. You promise to email or call your connections. But you don’t. This is surely a policy violation. Don’t let all that good work go to waste by not making the phone call or sending the email.
  9. Prepare for interviews. One of the most important policies is preparing for interviews by researching the position and company. You think you can wing it because you know your business like no one does. You’ve heard of behavioral-based questions but aren’t too concerned. You don’t get the job because of your lack of preparation.
  10. Send a follow-up note is the final policy. Simply thanking the interviewer/s in the follow-up note isn’t enough; show the interviewers you were listening and engaged by mentioning some points of interest or revisiting a question you didn’t elaborate on. Oh, one more thing; send a unique follow-up note to each interviewer. Now that’s showing the love.

I have deep admiration for the parents of the boy who wore his helmet, despite what his friends may have thought. Having kids of my own, I know how difficult it is to set this policy and enforce it. Similarly I know how difficult it is for jobseekers to follow the policies I’ve mentioned above. They’re all important policies that can lead to a shorter job search.

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3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section

recruitersWhile I’m amazed that some people don’t have a LinkedIn Summary, I’m just as befuddled by folks who don’t see the value of a strong LinkedIn Experience section. When employers and visitors see a profile that lacks details in this vital section, the letdown is like air escaping a balloon.

Here’s the thing, a stunning Summary is great, but when your Experience section comprises of bare essentials, such as your titles, company names, and dates of employment, you’re LinkedIn profile lacks the punch that propels you to the top of the list.

Many believe the Experience section is the most important part of your profile, as it includes your years of experience, accomplishments, a story of what you did for each position, and keywords for search engine optimization (SEO). So here are three reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.

Your experience section needs to tell a better story. A quick fix of copying the content of your résumé to your profile is the first step in building your Experience section; however, you’re not done yet. You still have to modify your profile to make it more of a networking document. This means your point of view should be first person and, of course, include quantified results.

Take, for example, an accomplishment statement from a résumé I recently read: Trained 5 office staff on new computer software, increasing production by 75%. It has the action statement and a quantified result, but it lacks excitement, the excitement you get from a LinkedIn profile.

Instead: I extended my end-user expertise by volunteering to train 5 office staff on our new database software. All members of the team were more productive as a result of my patient training style, increasing the team’s output by 75%.

Your position doesn’t tell it all.  You’re a director, CEO, or CFO, so you think that says it all. Wrong! Executive Resume Writer, Laura Smith-Proulx believes the more relevant information, the better; particularly when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other executives. She writes: 

“The key to a strategic message in your CFO résumé is to do MORE with the details – taking the hard facts of budgets managed, teams directed, or cost savings achieved to fold in personal brand messages.”

At the very least, your leadership as a director of an organization plays an essential role in its success. What is the scope of your authority? How have you helped the organization grow? Have you contributed to the community or charities? Have you turned around failing companies and made them more profitable? Remember, you’re representing the organization. Or perhaps you’re passively looking for another job.

The power of LinkedIn is greater than you think. LinkedIn’s search engine is extremely powerful. If you have the proper, and numerous, skills (keywords), your chances of being found are great. Don’t forget to emphasize the quantified accomplishments!

Businesses are looking to connect or employ people with expertise; and although you have what they need, without the skills listed your message isn’t crystal clear. An organization would like to pay you to talk about how you developed a fund-raising process that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but your Experience section is nothing more than a place mat. Lost opportunity.

Suppose you find yourself out of a job and suddenly need to connect with others who can help you in a big way. Rushing to create an Experience section that warrants the assistance you need is a bit late and will lengthen your job search.

These are three reasons why you require an Experience section that is strong and worthy of your greatness. Your Summary is a great start; now you need to follow it with an Experience section to support it.

Next we’ll look at 4 reasons why your LinkedIn profile needs a strong Media section

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4 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Summary

I still remain perplexed that some LinkedIn members put little effort into their Summary section, or don’t have one at all.

Would you go to an interview or business meeting without shoes? Of course not. So I wonder why people feel that a Summary statement on their LinkedIn profile is unnecessary. Having viewed hundreds profiles, I’ve seen many  that simply begin with the Experience section and have no Summary.

The absence of this section of your profile can greatly hurt your potential of capturing the attention of visitors, e.g., potential employers, networkers, and business associates.

I have three theories why people don’t include a Summary: 1) they don’t have the time or energy to write one; 2) they don’t know what to write; and 3) they follow advice of those who say, “Recruiters don’t read a Summary statement. You don’t need one.”

I can understand the first two reasons, although I don’t condone them, but the third one escapes me. Many pundits, recruiters included, say a Summary is necessary, as long as it adds value to the profile. So if you don’t have a Summary because you lack the energy or don’t know what to include, consider 4 reasons why the Summary is important:

It gives you a voice. You’re given more freedom of expression on LinkedIn than you have with your résumé; so use it! Be creative and make the employer want to read on. Your voice contributes to effective branding. It should be some of your best writing and can be written in first person voice or even third person.

Most pundits lean toward first person, as it expresses a more personal side of you. A Summary written in first person invites others into your life. Not many people pull off the third-person voice well; it can sound stilted. But if done right, it can also make a powerful branding impact. People who are established as leaders in their industry warrant a third-person Summary.

It tells a story. Perhaps you want people who would consider connecting with to know you on a more personal level. You have aspirations or philosophies to share; and it’s not about impressing people with your accomplishments in marketing in the nonprofit sector, for example, as much as the positive impact your work has had on the population you serve. You want people to connect because of a share common bond.

The Summary is also a clear example of how LinkedIn separates itself from the résumé. It’s a known fact that the majority of hiring authorities don’t enjoy reading a résumé, which is due, in part, because of its Summary. The Linked profile is more creative because it tells your story, your aspirations, and philosophies.

You can make an immediate impact. Stating accomplishment statements with quantified results are a real attention grabber. If a visitor is going to scan one section of your profile to determine if he’ll read on, make it be your Summary, and leave him with a positive image of you.

Here’s part of a Summary from Doug Caldwell, who calls himself a Facilitator Extraordinaire. (I told you I read a lot of profiles.)

MANUFACTURING COMPANY

✯ Improving unit output by 2,200% over a five-year period.
✯ Reduced manufacturing cycle time by 30%.
✯ Achieved cost saving in excess of $25,000 annually.

Read the rest of his Summary to feel it’s power and excitement.

It’s another place to include keywords. Keywords are the skills employers are looking for, and the more you have the closer you’ll be to the top of the first page. So don’t think “less is better.”  In this case, the more of the 2,000 characters you’re allotted, the more you should use. Please don’t use your Summary as a dumping ground for your keywords, though.

I tell my Advanced LinkedIn workshop attendees that excluding their profile Summary is like neglecting favorite pet. You shouldn’t do it. Find the energy to write one, figure out your story or unique selling proposition, and get to work writing an attention-grabbing Summary. By all means, don’t listen to naysayers who don’t believe in this very important part of your LinkedIn profile.

Coming up 3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.

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12 egregious mistakes you don’t want to make with your LinkedIn profile

linkedin-sumary1

I’ve reviewed many profiles as a workshop facilitator and LinkedIn trainer. Many profiles are well constructed, while others are not indicative of future success.

Is it easy to create a compelling profile that gets noticed in a positive way? Not for all LinkedIn users. It takes hard work  and commitment.

The mistakes I’ve seen on LinkedIn profiles range from a poorly done photo to typos and spelling mistakes. However, when I think about 12 egregious mistakes you don’t want to make, the following ones for jobseekers come to mind.

  1. Posting a poor photo. The advice to not post a poor photo hasn’t reached enough ears, as there are still those who have inappropriate photos. Think about what a photo of you skiing on the slopes of Killington says about your value as an employee? It says you’re a helluva skier but not much about your brand.
  2. Writing, “Unemployed” in the headline. Even, “Looking for next great opportunity” doesn’t say much about your talent and potential to help future employers. This is prime real estate for branding yourself and including some keywords. (As far as I know, not many employers consider seeking unemployment as a key selling point.)
  3. Bragging in your Summary statement that you’re the solution to every problem will get you nowhere, save for an immediate click on the back arrow. Though you may think bragging is acceptable because you’re suppose to “sell” yourself, it comes across as dishonest. Proof, such as quantified results, goes a lot further than words like, “outstanding,” “excellent,” “awesome”….
  4. Being dishonest. Forbes advises against lying and 9 other mistakes. Don’t be dishonest in your Employment section. Employers can smell a liar like a bloodhound can smell a man on the run. Don’t write that you achieved 100% customer satisfaction because it sounds good. A “near perfect” rating is more acceptable and easier to defend at an interview.
  5. Not elaborating on your experience and accomplishments. Some people will write a stunning Summary but only provide the bare minimum in their Experience section. This is a crime. Visitors, especially employers, want to know about your most relevant duties and accomplishments—the more quantified accomplishments the better. A poll was taken on LinkedIn awhile ago (but it’s still relevant) asking which section people thought was most important. Can you guess what the majority chose?
  6. Copying and pasting your résumé to your profile and leaving it at that. I advise those starting out to make this first step, but then you have to modify it to fit its purpose, which is a vehicle for networking. A professional photo and personal Summary that tells your story are a must for networking. A good thought to keep in mind is that your profile  is an extension of your résumé; employers aren’t expecting to see an exact copy of it.
  7. Neglecting LinkedIn’s tools which are meant to enhance your networking. Use the tools LinkedIn gives you, such as the Skills and Endorsements section, Additional Information, Publish a Post, Media capabilities, Certifications, and Awards are just a few of the tools that can give employers and networkers a sense of your accomplishments.
  8. Not letting people in your network know about significant changes. You should update your connections when you’ve made major changes, e.g., a career change, a new photo, etc. Of course your network doesn’t want to know when you added a comma to your Summary.
  9. Love it and leave it. Although your profile is fairly static—you don’t change it often—revisit it from time to time to make sure all the information is current. The other day I sat with a customer who told me he hadn’t touched his profile in over a year—didn’t even know his password.
  10. Failing to ask for and write Recommendations. Even though I think this feature is growing out of favor—due to the increase in the popularity of Endorsements—Recommendations are a great way to increase your branding by describing you as a great worker (receiving them) and as an authority (writing them).
  11. Not customizing your LinkedIn profile’s URL. This advice comes from Joseph Catrino, who wouldn’t appreciate me plagiarizing him, so I give him credit. Yes, often we see business cards, résumés, and other marketing documents with the default URL listed on them. This shows a lack of savvy; whereas the contrary shows awareness of LinkedIn.
  12. Neglecting to include keywords. To be found on LinkedIn, your profile must include the skills and areas of expertise employers are looking for. If you’re not sure which keywords to include, take a sample of six or so job descriptions and identify the common keywords for your occupation. Hint: use http://www.wordle.net to accumulate them into a word cloud.

Your profile is your online presence. Potential employers might judge you based on what you say and show on your profile. If they like what they see, your chances of success will be greater. If they don’t like what they see, it’s on to the next profile. So be sure not to make the six mistakes listed above.

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Be smart; say, “thank you” when you’re invited to someone’s LinkedIn network

Thank YousIt’s well worth repeating the importance of showing your gratitude for being inviting to someone’s network, especially if you’ve received a thoughtful, personalized note–not the default message LinkedIn provides.

In a previous entry I ranted about how sending a thoughtful invite on LinkedIn, instead of the “cold,” “lazy,” “uninviting” default message, is necessary to make a good impression on the potential connection. Now I’d like to remind those who have received the proper invite to say, “Thank you.”

If you receive an invitation to be part of someone’s network, reply to the sender by thanking him/her for being considered. It’s an honor the sender has chosen you, so show your gratitude. Don’t let the momentum end. In effect, this is similar to walking away from a conversation at a social gathering. Would you simply walk away from a conversation without saying, “Thank you for the conversation?” Our parents taught us better than that.

If I know the person who sends me the invite, I will thank the person and then add to my note of appreciation. My note will begin with, “Thank you for the invite. And thank you for the personalized message.” And if I want to carry on the conversation, I will add, “It would be great to talk about our common interests, as we’re both in (the occupation). I’d be happy to call you at your convenience.”  You may write a script and paste it into the note, unless you want to personalize your acceptance.

All too often some LinkedIn members invite someone to be in their network, receive an affirmative, and break the link by not showing their gratitude. The sender is notified of the acceptance, and leaves it at that. This sends the wrong message to the new connection and essentially stops networking in its tracks.

To make professional online networking effective, you must keep the ball in play, keep the lines of communication open. This is made easier by extending civility and appreciation for someone accepting your invitation to be in your online network, “Thank you for being part of my network” would suffice. Or you may add, “I invited you to be in my network because we’re both (occupation) or (interested in) and think we can be of assistance to each other.”

Invites can be one of our best reasons to communicate via LinkedIn. It’s important to do the right thing, and that is to say, “Thank you for inviting me to be in your network” and “Thank you for accepting my invite.”

Photo: Johnna Phillips, Flickr

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13 activities to do after losing your job

Number 13I was once asked, “When you get laid off which is more important, to start networking or spend a week writing your résumé?” I thought this was a great question but believe jobseekers need to think of other important activities after they’ve lost their job.

Below are some of the must do’s for people who are starting their job search. You’ll note that dusting off your résumé and networking are far down the list of priorities.

  1. Take time to regroup. This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do when starting your job search. It’s also something people neglect to do by jumping right into the hunt the same day they’re laid off. Conversely, some people wait too long to begin the search, considering this a time to take a “vacation.” Take a week to group at most.
  2. Evaluate your frame of mind. Understand that unemployment can play emotional havoc on your psyche and may require seeking professional help. Many of my customers have shared with me their despondency and even depression after being laid off or let go.
  3. Think about what you want to do. Now is the time to think about what you really want to do, not what you feel comfortable doing. When I was laid off, I realized that I wanted to change my career. Deciding what I wanted to do was one of my top priorities. I had direction.
  4. Develop a plan. You have direction, know what you want to do. Now you need to determine what you have to do to reach that goal. Start with small steps, such as conducting one job-search activity a day, and build up to three a day. Eventually you’ll start planning out each day to include job-search activities like networking, contacting recruiters, following up on your networking meetings, using the Internet (sparingly), contacting your alumni association, etc.
  5. Be dedicated to your job search. Determining your direction could take some contemplation, especially if you’re changing your career. Once you’ve decided on path you want to take, dedicate all you effort to getting there. Is it necessary to spend 40+ hours on your job search I ask my workshop attendees. I don’t thing so. More like 25+ hours of smart job seeking is more like it. And remember, you’re looking for work seven days a week.
  6. Assess your greatest skillsThis is tough for many people, especially those who have a hard time promoting themselves, so solicit the help of others with whom you worked or know in your daily life. Create a list of your strongest skills and accomplishments. These will make good fodder for your new and improved résumé.
  7. Begin telling everyone you know—everyone. That’s right, everyone. You may think your sister in New York would never know of opportunities in Boston, but you never know who she may know who knows someone in Boston. Don’t focus only on the people with whom you worked; you’re limiting your reach. Start attending networking events if you feel comfortable; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
  8. Dust off the résumé. Ideally you should have been updating your résumé  while working, but we know how work demands leave little time to do this, and when we return from a hard day of work we have little if any energy to work on our résumé.
  9. Get on LinkedIn. With all the articles written about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, you should know by now that most employers—approximately 95%—are culling talent on LinkedIn. Take the time to do it right, though. Create a powerful profile and be active by updating often, joining and participating in groups, sending invites, etc.
  10. Get out of the house. Your style might lean more toward attending networking groups, professional affiliations, volunteering, or using your local library’s computers (even if you have your own). Don’t forget your local One-Stop career center that offers you resources and training and education. Get out of the house.
  11. Step up your exercising or begin exercising. Nothing is better for the mind than improving your physical condition. You don’t have to join a club. Simply walk every morning or do yoga. Make sure you get up at the same time you rose from bed when you were working. Do not let your routine slip.
  12. Develop your company list. You’re now in a good position to figure out what type of companies for which you’d like to work. Identifying the companies can help you with your research on them and career possibilities. Your list will also come in handy when networking with jobseeker groups and informational contacts.
  13. Start knocking on companies’ doors. Use your company list to be proactive by approaching growing companies either by sending an approach letter introducing yourself to them or literally visiting your companies. Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute, asserts that your chance of getting a job is 47% if you use this method alone.

The list of must do’s could be endless, but it’s important to keep in mind the important actions needed to properly start your job search. If you are having difficulty getting motivated, speak to close friends, relatives, or trained job-search professionals who can help you with this serious problem. Motivation is required in order to put our plan into action.

Photo: Andreas Gessl, Flickr

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