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. 

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.

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

4 reasons to let your boss know about your accomplishments

managerA woman I work with whispered to me that one of her customers wrote her an email complimenting her on a job well done. I congratulated her on her accomplishment and told her to tell our boss.

“No way,” my colleague said. “I don’t need to show her what I’ve done. She knows.”

I argued my case for a brief moment and then realized that convincing my colleague to promote herself was a lost cause. She’s just not that kind of person. She would rather people see her great work—she does great work—then point it out to them. She doesn’t like to “brag,” in her words.

If you’re like my colleague and don’t feel it’s necessary to promote yourself, consider the following points.

1. The philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” comes to mind in the instance with my colleague. I reason if your manager isn’t around to hear or read of your accomplishments, she won’t hear it; there’ll be no sound. All the good work you’ve done may go unnoticed and unrewarded.

So bring your boss into the forest so she can hear the tree fall. Of course a tree makes a sound when it falls, but the sound doesn’t reach human ears. Only when human ears hear the tree will they believe it made a sound.

2. It’s okay to promote yourself in a tactful way. The wrong way to self-promote would be to announce during a meeting that your customer said you’re the best thing since sliced bread. This will cause your colleagues to turn to each other and mouth, “What a braggart.”

The correct way would be catching your boss alone and making her aware of the flattering email you received, without going into detail ad nauseum. If you are more introverted, simply forwarding the email to your boss would be fine (it also creates a paper trail for future recall.)

3. If you don’t promote yourself no one will. Do you think your colleagues who are eyeing a promotion that is suitable for both of you is going to promote your greatness, instead of his? Hell no. Additionally, he might make it clear that he is the best person for the job by touting his accomplishments any time he can (even when it’s not warranted).

You are the captain of your ship, so don’t let anyone else steer it. By no means am I saying to look for opportunities to self-promote. No, promote yourself when the time warrants it.

4. Your chances of advancing at work will be greater if you promote yourself. My colleague believes her results speak louder than words, and this may be true; but the spoken word can better reinforce her results than if she were to say nothing…or not send an email.

Advancement comes to those whose performance are recognized. You may be equally strong, or stronger, than one of your colleagues; but if your colleague tactfully promotes himself, he will probably get the nod when it comes time for advancement at work.

You may feel the same way my colleague does about self-promotion. You may be a person who believes self-promotion is bragging. Read this article from Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution: Success without Self-Promotion.

But ask yourself this: will I kick myself for not at least forwarding an email to my boss? Is it possible that she would appreciate knowing about my accomplishment? If the answer to these questions is yes, promote yourself in a way you’re comfortable with.

5 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

baseball

When I made our town’s Little League All-Star team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping him fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. Instead of sharing my excitement, he told me not to brag and turned to finish working on our neighbor’s lawnmower.

I’ve thought for a long time that that day my father taught me an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was such an important lesson. Some believe that our inability to promote ourselves is due to being told as children not to brag. To brag is inappropriate; to be humble is honorable.

This inability to self-promote often rears its ugly head in my workshops when my customers declare they cannot “brag.” I assume, like me, they were told not to brag as children.

I also understand that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, yet objective way—which is to say, not brag. Here are five tips on how to promote yourself during the job search.

  • Understand your audience. Know what interests potential networkers and employers. If you have the “stage,” this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job search and eventually the position for which you’re applying. If, however, you’re in the company of people who have no interest in what you’ve achieved, save touting your accomplishments for the proper audience.
  • Back up your accomplishments. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. As well, if you can quantify your accomplishments with percentages and dollars, they will carry more weight. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  • Be relevant. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  • Don’t overdo it. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.
  • Give credit where credit is due. I often tell my customers that they should talk about their accomplishments, because that’s what employers want to know; what they’ve accomplished. But when they’ve worked with a team that achieved a common goal, this needs to be expressed. No one likes a smoking gun who takes all the credit.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. We’ve been taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League All-Star team, but we have to realize that promoting ourselves at the right moment isn’t bragging.

Photo, Flickr, Roiz, Roiz, Play Baseball

6 sources of accomplishments for your résumé

The other day one of my résumé writing workshop attendees told the group she couldn’t think of any accomplishments from her last job. As I’m known to do, I told her she wasn’t thinking hard enough. Silence.

She’s an administrative assistant and, like we’ve all heard before, she was just doing her job. I began by asking, “Did you reduce your boss’ stress?”

“Yeah,” she said. “He told me I organized his life. He’d be lost….”

“Do you have that in writing?” I interrupted.

She smiled. “He sent me e-mails saying this. They were really great to read.”

“Did you keep them? Forward them to your personal e-mail? Did you keep a brag e-mail folder?”

No she hadn’t. I’m not one to harp on past mistakes; but this was a mistake, and a good lesson for the rest of the group. I didn’t need to say more; the lesson was learned.

Normally we think of quantified accomplishments as the only ones that matter—they matter a great deal—but what others write and say about you also matters. Take the following accomplishment for an administrative assistant:

Created an electronic filing system that reduced paperwork and increased productivity, prompting the following statement from the VP of operations, “You’ve made this office much more efficient.”

There are very talented people who don’t have access to dollar amounts or percentages to quantify their results. This is where what their boss said can be used as an accomplishment. If this is the case with you, consider the following sources of accomplishments for your résumé:

  1. E-mail is fair game. If you’ve received e-mail from you supervisor that touts your accomplishments, hold on to it and store it in a safe place, like a brag e-mail folder. I do this when I get e-mails from my customers thanking me for the help I’ve given them.
  2. Voice-mail can be used, as well. If your boss compliments you, consider using it on your résumé and other written communication. You might want to get your boss’ approval before you use her words in a public forum; it’s only courteous.
  3. Performance reviews are an obvious source of fodder for your résumé. These are professional documents that are often placed in your employee folder, used to justify promotions and raises if your performance is consistently good. Receiving outstanding marks on your performance reviews are certainly reason to tout them on your résumé.
  4. Verbal comments from your former boss can also be used on your résumé as quotes. “Director of marketing commented, ‘Josh, your ability to build and foster relationships has helped Company X achieve the financial success we’ve striven for.'” It’s especially important that you’re both on board with this, just in case she’s questioned about it during a reference check.
  5. Thank you cards from customers/clients speak to your customer service and other skills you’d like to highlight on your résumé. Have you received cards that thank you for your help and caring nature, or assistance in closing a large deal? If so, ask the sender if you can quote him on your résumé.
  6. LinkedIn recommendations have been used by my customers as fodder for their résumé. Not all employers will see your LinkedIn recommendation, either because they’re not on LinkedIn, or aren’t Internet savvy; so take advantage of what your connections have written about you.

Given that it’s difficult to think about accomplishments that are quantified using numbers, dollars, or percentages; don’t discount what your supervisors and manages have written or even said about you. You may want to set them apart as quotes or integrate them with accomplishment statements. Keep in mind that some industries, particularly high tech, may not fond of quotes. To others, quotes carry a lot of weight.

You’ll receive many opinions of your résumé; rely on 10 sure things

10Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Knowing the answer to this dilemma may require a crystal ball, for without it you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers.

Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

The answer is the person who invites you in for an interview is correct. Résumé reviewers are somewhat subjective when they read résumés, and sometimes there’s no rhyme nor reason.

While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section. While one person prefers two-page résumés, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.

The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your résumé is ready to go. Do you want to drive yourself nuts by having a slew of people give you their “expert” advice, revising your résumé twenty times over?

Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.

  1. Quantified results are a must*. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Did you simply increase productivity? Or did you increase productivity by 55% percent?
  2. Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
  3. Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring hundreds of résumés.
  4. Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Anything you did beyond 20 years isn’t relevant; the technology is obsolete. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.**
  5. Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found by the applicant tracking system (ATS) at the top of the list or not at all. (ATS are said to eliminate 75% of applicants.) Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their résumé.
  6. Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of résumés for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires many relevant accomplishments. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.
  7. No employer cares what you need. That’s right; employers care about what they need. If you happen to care what they need and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that speaks only about you and not how you can meet the employer’s needs.
  8. Start your résumé with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding headline. Within approximately 90 characters you can capture the employer’s attention with stating what you do and in what capacity. Project Manager doesn’t do it like: Project Manager | Lean Six Sigma | Team Building | Enhanced Product Line.
  9. Make it easy to read. Your résumé should  not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of résumé s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter paragraphs, three to four lines at most.
  10. WOW them. Use accomplishments in your Performance Profile. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. “Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at public relations, resulting in $50,000 savings for the company” will entice the reviewer to continue reading.

At some point you need to go with what works—a résumé that will land you interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking on your résumé, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.

* It is agreed that not every positive result can be quantified with numbers, dollars, or percentages, particularly if you don’t have access to these figures. To simply say you increased…or decreased…can be enough.

** In some cases, executive-level jobseekers, more years of experience may be more helpful. A superintendent of schools with 30 years of experience will probably have more luck than one with only five years of experience.

Photo from Andrea, Flickr