3 ways LinkedIn is the perfect place to tell your story–part 1 of 2

LinkedIn-is-the-PerfectMy son loves to hear a story I tell about the “Perfect Place,” an isolated area with climbing rocks and meadows that seemed to span for miles. He is taken by how 10 of my neighborhood friends–probably more like five–would journey to The Perfect Place and hang out to watch cows graze, climb trees, and how we once tried to build a tree house.

Then there was this time when we saw a wild dog and ran from it until we reached our homes miles away–more like a quarter of a mile. My son likes this part of the story the most.

What does my Perfect Place story have to do with the LinkedIn profile? Everything; LinkedIn gives us the opportunity to tell our story. If done right, it will capture the visitors’ attention and keep them on your profile. But done poorly, it will send them away.

Your photo is the first place to tell your story. I appreciate a person’s photo, especially one that is professionally done. Not a “selfie” like my daughter is constantly taking with my phone. Professional or business casual photos are acceptable as long as they contain only you. A nice head/shoulder shot helps me recognize my connections.

In addition, a photo tells visitors about a person’s character. It tells whether the person is sensitive and caring, serious, authoritative, friendly and outgoing, creative, reflective, etc. The eyes can say it all in many cases, or maybe it’s the wide grin. Note: I read that profiles with photos are 7 times MORE LIKELY to be viewed than those without.

Your story continues in the Summary. The LinkedIn profile Summary puts your story into words, and the limit on words–2,000 characters–isn’t all that restrictive. An interesting story is told in first person. While some prefer third person, most agree it makes the Summary seem stiff and unfriendly.

My workshop attendees ask me what constitutes a story, so I ask, “What is your passion? Tell me about your accomplishments. Where do you want your career to go? How do your combined skills contribute to your career? What is your philosophy? What are your greatest areas of strength?” These are just some of the topics you can discuss.

My Summary starts with: “When asked about my career, I tell people I 1) disseminate trending career search strategies that help people find work, and 2) I train LinkedIn members on how to take control of their online networking, thus improving their career search and business success. And for kicks I blog about the career search.”

Continue telling your story in the Experience section. Begin each job with a statement that describes your role or mission at that position. Why were you hired or promoted to the position? What makes you unique and better than the rest? Do you have a unique selling proposition (USP)? to state in the first paragraph?

I begin my story in my current position with a statement about my role: “I’m more than a workshop facilitator; I’m a career strategist who constantly thinks of ways to better market my customers in their career search. My goal is to provide the career center’s customers, as well as the staff, with the latest career-search strategies.”

These are just three places on your LinkedIn profile where you can tell your story. Although not as dramatic as the story I tell my son about the Perfect Place, your story will be authentic and keep your viewers on you profile. Read the next post that addresses the Media, Interests, and Recommendations sections.  

8 reasons why brevity is important in your job search and at work

 

Keep it shortThis is a topic worth repeating. I’ve added two more reasons why brevity is important.

I began reading what started as a great blog post. The topic interested me, the writing was humorous and demonstrated expertise. I was settling in for a good read, but there was one major problem; this post was too long.*

When the scrolling bar was only a third way down the page, I was wondering when this darn thing was going to end. So I scrolled down only to find out that, yes, my suspicion was correct, I was reading a novel on the topic of the résumé. I couldn’t finish reading this promising post.

My purpose today is not to write about the length a blog post. No, I’m writing about the importance of why brevity is important in your job search and at work.

Brevity in your written communications

1. The debate over the one- or two-page résumé has some merit. My answer to this one has always been, it depends. If you can write a one-page résumé that covers all your relevant accomplishments, do it. Otherwise your two-page résumé has to be compelling enough for the reviewer to read. Often we’re in love with our own words, but this doesn’t mean others will, especially if what you write is superfluous.

2. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, had something going when he launched a social media application that allows users to tweet only 140 characters, including spaces. At first I was frustrated with the limitation—and I still think it’s too short—but I’ve since come to see the brilliance of this model. Whether the twesume comes to fruition is another matter.

3. Thankfully LinkedIn puts limits on characters for its profile sections. For example, you’re only allowed 2,000 characters for the Summary, 1,988 for each section in Employment, 120 for your title. This has caused me to think more carefully about what I write on my profile. These limits have also kept the length of prose under control for those who, like me, tend to be verbose.

4. Don’t you hate long e-mail messages? If you’re nodding in total agreement, you and I are on board with this one. The general rule is that if your e-mail to a supervisor or colleague exceeds two paragraphs, get your butt of your chair and go to his/her cubicle or office. A good rule of thumb is to write your brief message in the Subject Header, e.g., Meet for a marketing meeting at 2pm in the White room on Tuesday, 11/18. The body of the e-mail can contain the topics to be discussed.

Brevity in your verbal communications

5. The interview is not a time when you want to ramble on about irrelevant details. Answer the questions as concisely as possible, while providing compelling information. If the interviewer needs to know more, he’ll ask for clarification or deliver a follow-up question. Many people have lost the job because they talked too much.

6. The same follows with your networking endeavors. People generally like to be listened to, not talked at. Allow your networking partner to explain her situation and needs, and try to come up with solutions. She’ll want to hear about you, if she’s a valued networking companion.

7. At work you must practice brevity whenever possible. It’s a known generalization that extraverts tend to talk more than introverts. Try to be an ambivert–a mixture of the two dichotomies. Keep this in mind when you’re speaking with your manager, as she is extremely busy. So state your business as clearly as possible and listen carefully to her suggestions.

8. In your daily life consider how much you’re talking to friends, even strangers. If you see their eyes gloss over, you’re probably talking too much. Past posts of mine will confirm that I’m not a fan of talkative people; that is unless I enjoy their company and the topic of discussion. Read this post from a friend of mine who describes ultimate hell for an introvert.


I’m brought back to the blog post I couldn’t finish which I’m sure is very good, based on the number of comments it received. It’s a shame I’ll never find out, and I wonder if those who provided comments actually read the whole post.

*Many believe the appropriate length is 500 words maximum. I’ve failed this rule by 216 words.

 

Being selfish and 3 other important ways to lead a successful job search

We often think of the job smeearch as consisting of writing our marketing documents, preparing for interviews, networking, and using LinkedIn. But there are intangible factors that need to be considered by the jobseeker; the first of which is being selfish. Maybe this isn’t the optimal word, but it comes down to demanding the time you need to conduct a successful job search.

Demand the time you need. This is one of the messages I impart to my Introduction to the Job Search workshop attendees. I tell them, “OK, I need to tell you something; and I want you to listen.”  And for effect I pause to make sure all eyes are on me. They must think I’m going to say something brilliant, but what I tell them is:

“In your job search, you can’t let anyone get in your way of looking for a job. You can’t let anyone tell you to watch the kids or grandchildren. You can’t let anyone tell you to do some errands that will take up your whole day. No home products, unless the pipes have burst. Just be cause they think you have free time. Do you get what I mean?”

Almost everyone of my attendees nod in agreement; some lower their head and look at the desk. After another moment of pause, I tell them that there are other things to consider when they’re conducting their job search. Things other than their résumé and interviewing skills.  

Show a positive attitude. Throughout your job search, it’s important to display a positive attitude. The operative word is “display.” I’m not going to preach the importance of feeling positive and keeping a positive outlook. I’ve been unemployed and know how it sucks, so how you feel is really a personal matter.

I am, however, advising you to appear positive. This begins with the way you dress for the day. Because it is entirely possible that you can run into someone who may have the authority to hire you or know someone who has the authority to hire you, it is important that you are dressed well. Not to the nines mind you, but certainly not in sweat pants and a torn Tee-shirt.

Other ways to show a positive attitude have more to do with your behavior, such as suppressing anger, wearing a friendlier countenance, making an attempt to be more outgoing, and (this is tough) not showing your desperation.

Dedication to your job search and how you’re going to use your time wisely. If you’re going to demand the time it takes to conduct your job search, you have to show your loved ones that you are working toward a goal; not rising late, lounging in you pajamas, watching Ellen, going out with the buds at night, etc.

How can you rightfully deny those around you who need your assistance when they don’t see any effort from you? You can’t. They don’t see any dedication in the job search from you, so naturally they’ll want you to pull your weight in other ways.

How many hours you dedicate to your job search can vary from 25-40 hours. Any more than this may lead to burn out. I say look smarter, not harder. Looking smarter requires a well thought-out plan.

Have a plan. The best way to strive toward a goal is by creating a Career Action Plan (CAP)  and following it as closely as you can. Sure there will be times when you slip and miss a date or change your plan around. This should not discourage you and cause you to abandon your plan. Your plan may look similar to this:

  1. Morning wake early and take a walk or go to the gym.
  2. Following your exercise, attend a networking group.
  3.  Lunch with some networking buddies (you can write these off).
  4. Afternoon apply for jobs online, using niche boards.
  5. Optional: Volunteering at an organization where you’re utilizing your skills.
  6. Spend time following up with people you’ve connected with.
  7. After dinner, attend kids’ events or use LinkedIn to connect with more people.

Note: Your activities will vary from day to day, and you may include other activities, such as meeting with recruiters or going door-to-door and dropping off a résumé (yes, this works); but the outline is similar.

When you show those around you your CAP they’ll realize you’re serious about your job search and will most likely encourage you to follow through with your objectives. Keep them updated during your week to show them your progress. Most importantly you’ll feel better about your job search, especially if you’re meeting the majority of your objectives.

Being selfish…I mean demanding time for their job search…is difficult for some folks, who feel the need to be of help to others before helping themselves. But it’s a necessary component of a successful job search . Of course I stress to my workshop attendees the importance of supporting those around them when they have spare time…but only when they have spare time.

10 ways to prepare before leaving your job

soccerOne of my good friends is gainfully employed as an accountant at a large company. He’s pulling in a nice salary and enjoying the great things in life. But he’s worried about his future with the company for which he works. He’s probably no different than most people. No job is entirely secure. No job.

We had a moment as we were watching a professional soccer match. The kind of moment that isn’t the most comfortable, but a good reality check. It began when he told me he comes home everyday feeling like he hates his job and fears that most days will be his last.

I asked him if he’s looking for another job, and he gave me a response that’s very typical for people who are paralyzed by the fear of losing a miserable job. No, he hasn’t and doesn’t know where he’d look. Furthermore, he’s afraid that he’ll be unprepared if he has to look for another job. “I don’t even have a résumé,” he admitted.

I was glad that he at least realizes he needs a résumé. Many people don’t think about this until they wake up the morning after when their job no longer exists. Further they don’t realize they should be updating their résumé while they’re still employed, adding accomplishments as they are achieved.

I asked him if he’s touched his LinkedIn profile lately. No to that. No time with the kids’ activities. “Do you want help with your résumé and profile,” I volunteered. He’s not one who likes to reach out for help, a proud guy. No, his wife would whip one together when the time comes.

If we had time to talk more…rather if I wanted to push the issue, I would have laid out a plan for him in terms of looking for a job while working. I would have included 10 ongoing steps I’d recommend to everyone in his situation:

  1. Resign yourself to the fact that it’s your right to prepare for your next job would be my first bit of advice for him. When you know your company is hurting or you’re unhappy for any reason, it’s fine to look elsewhere. Loyalty is a great attribute to possess and well admired, but being loyal may not be to your benefit, especially if your company cannot sustain itself. Many people try to ride out the inevitable only to find themselves unemployed along with hundreds of other people.
  2. Don’t use the company’s office equipment, including computer, phone, and fax machine. Conduct all you computer work at home or at a public place. Use your cell phone during lunch, not during office hours, as this is most likely a violation of company policy. Most companies/organizations understand you’ll be looking for work if you’re unhappy, but don’t flaunt it in their face.
  3. Get that résumé in order. Let me reiterate the importance of having an updated résumé that includes, most importantly, quantified accomplishments with numbers, dollars and percentages. How have you increased revenue or productivity? Have you decreased cost or time? Improved processes that increased productivity? Scrambling to write a resume, as my friend intimated, will only put more pressure on him…and his spouse who’s writing it.
  4. Compile an accomplishment sheet that includes 10-15 accomplishments. I put this challenge to my workshop attendees because this can be a great networking tool, as well as nice to have by your side during a telephone interview. In addition, it gets you to think about the value you bring to employers. Take the accomplishments already on your résumé and try to add more, even if they’re from your volunteerism.
  5. Update your LinkedIn profile. Many people are starting to realize that LinkedIn plays a major role in hiring authorities vetting talent. For them it doesn’t involve reading a huge pile of résumés and interviewing many strange people, thus enabling the Hidden Job Market (HJM). Rather they visit people’s profiles to see if the skills and experience they’re seeking are on them. If so, a nice conversation or two may ensue, leading to a real interview…for the formal process.
  6. Speaking of the HJM…get out of the office and do some networking. My friend works where he can get away for an “hour” lunch, which is a great opportunity for him to meet up with some targeted networking partners. Locate people through LinkedIn or referrals from a group of trusted people, and call them for lunch or discrete meetups. “Honey, I’ll be home late” may be a necessity in this situation.
  7. Don’t confine your networking to people who are in your industry; let other people know you’re unhappy at your current company and that you would consider new opportunities. My friend volunteered that he’s unhappy, which set my job-search advice wheels into motion. Now I’m thinking of ways to assist him in his job search, perhaps by writing his résumé. Sometimes it’s the superficial connections who come through with leads when you least expect it.
  8. Think beyond your comfort zone. I asked my friend if he would consider companies smaller than the one at which he currently works. He was slow to answer, which makes me think he’ll need some persuasion. While larger companies are appealing–offer higher salaries–smaller companies combined hire more people per capita. Plus there’s more competition from a slew of people who are applying to the blue-chip companies.
  9. Start cutting back on the luxuries. If you see the writing on the wall and know your days are numbered, make plans to spend less money. Perhaps start paying off bills so they won’t be hanging over your head should you lose your job.
  10. Have an earnest discussion with your boss. If you trust your direct supervisor, ask for a moment of his/her time and discus your concern about the future of your position. Perhaps your concerns are unwarranted, or as my wife would accurately tell me at times, I was being paranoid.

This was an uncomfortable conversation between my friend and I, and it’s a difficult topic to write about. Nonetheless, it is a reality that anyone’s job is not 100% secure. It’s important, therefor, to take measures to prepare for the possibility of losing your job. Perhaps my friend, who’s been at his company for 30 years has nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, as the cliché goes.

10 ways that test your courage in the job search

courageAlthough I understand my workshop attendee’s reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their personal commercial/elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get at an interview.

They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.”Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it. You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage in certain areas.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other jobseekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know to most people this seems like a no-brainer; how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees. I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most; but networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other jobseekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you. For many attending organized networking events takes courage.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.” I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in a mock interview. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service. But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. The pressure of a mock interview shows in my customers’ answers, voice, and body language. I give them credit for their courage.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee. Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.” This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market. Contact those companies with an approach letter to ask for informational meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of informational meetings. Informational meetings have been the reason for many of my jobseekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them. Once you’ve secured an informational meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional and behavioral. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect. How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.

Reader, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews. To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

10 Lame excuses for neglecting LinkedIn

No excusesAre you on LinkedIn? That’s my favorite question of the day. Some of my customers say no, and we leave it at that. But others turn their nose up at the greatest online networking application out there and give me excuses as to why they’re not on LinkedIn.

Of the many excuses I’ve heard for not being on LinkedIn, here are three of my favorites.

  • A self-assured jobseeker told me that he doesn’t need to be on LinkedIn, that he’s found jobs before without social networking. That was before LinkedIn existed.
  • One person told me she was going to get her job back in a few weeks, so why waste her time with LinkedIn. Nothing for certain, especially a verbal promise that you’ll have a job.
  • Another jobseeker once told me he wouldn’t lose his current job. He looked so smug as he said this that I wanted to tell him I wouldn’t bet on it.

Here’s the thing: life happens. The guy who told me he’d always have a job is now serving coffee. Well technically that is a job, but I’m sure not the job he imagined. I remember vividly the day I asked him if he was on LinkedIn, to which he answered, “I’ll never be without a job.”


These are people who’ve made a conscious decision to avoid LinkedIn, and I suppose I have respect their choice. So I wonder what’s worse, not being on LinkedIn or being on LinkedIn and putting in very little effort? These are but a few excuses I’ve heard from people for not conducting a strong LinkedIn strategy.

My LinkedIn profile is great. One day I received a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to skip my LinkedIn Profile and Using LinkedIn workshops so he could attend the third and last one. While he was explaining over the phone his expertise in LinkedIn, I was looking at his profile which was sparse and only showed 94 connections.

I don’t want to connect with people I don’t know. Here’s the thing, networking–whether it’s in person or online–is about meeting people and developing relationships. Not everyone will turn out to be a valued connection, but if you don’t extend yourself, you’ll never know the potential networking offers.

I don’t have the time to use LinkedIn. I hear this often in my LinkedIn workshops. This is a huge excuse. I only ask them to spend 20 minutes, four days a week on LinkedIn. Just because I am on LinkedIn approximately 30 minutes a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year doesn’t mean my workshop attendees have to do the same. That would be crazy.

I posted my résumé on LinkedIn, so I’m done. Whoever told you this has his or her head in the sand. Start your profile by copying and pasting the contents of your résumé to your profile. But that’s just a start–from there you’ll turn it into a networking document. Your résumé is a document you send out when applying for a job, while your profile is a place people come to learn about you as a person and professional. Keep in mind that your résumé and profile can’t display contradictory information.

I don’t want to brag. Related to the previous excuse, what you’re really saying is you don’t want to promote your value to employers and potential business partners. You’re not bragging if you state facts and provide proof of your accomplishments and you stay away from superlatives, like “excellent,” “expert,” “outstanding”…you get the idea. Too many people have given me this excuse for not promoting themselves both on their résumé and LinkedIn profile.

I don’t know how to post a status update. I get this. You’re not sure how you can provide your connections with relevant information. You’ve just been laid off and lack the confidence to write words of wisdom. Don’t sweat it. Let others educate your connections. Read blog posts from your connections or from Pulse and share those. But please make sure you read them before hitting “Share.” Read how to share valuable content.

I don’t want to endorse anyone; it’s a disingenuous. The argument against endorsing others and being endorsed is that people endorse others without witnessing them demonstrating their skills, whereas recommendations are from the heart. This is valid. However, endorsements are here to stay whether we like it or not. But there is a solution: if you want to endorse someone, contact them and ask them which skills they feel are their strongest. Read my hints on endorsing others.

The fact of the matter is that people will find jobs without LinkedIn or not using it to its fullest potential, but by employing this platform you will only enhance your chances of landing a job. There are some instances where a person is just not ready, nor ever will, to use LinkedIn. With these folks I tell them not to get stressed out. You have to be committed to using it.

6 reasons why you still need to network after finding a job by using LinkedIn

linkedinCongratulations, you landed a job. You used LinkedIn to get introduced to the hiring manager at one of your target companies. Although no job had been advertised, she called you in for a preliminary discussion.  This was after perusing your LinkedIn profile.

At the meeting she indicated that they needed to fill a marketing position that would require your level of social media experience. She said she’d be in touch. When the company decided to fill the position, you were called for a “formal” interview.

You answered every question they asked to their satisfaction and even demonstrated your understanding of key issues the company had, and how you would solve them. The VP and hiring manager offered you the position on the spot.

LinkedIn played a large role in getting the job. Now you can take a breather from networking on LinkedIn, right? Wrong. Now you need to maintain and even ramp up your activity for six very good reasons.

  1. Don’t abandon your connections. Some of them were instrumental to your job-search success (especially the woman who alerted you to the unadvertised position). Keep your ears to the pavements for those who were also looking while you were. Reciprocate by introducing them to the people who can help them get to the decision makers.
  2. Build on your expertise and strengthen your brand. Continue to  contribute to your groups and join other groups to share your knowledge with industry leaders. You’ve become well-known in LinkedIn circles; you’re respected for your knowledge and are in prime position to further brand yourself as a social media expert.
  3. LinkedIn was part of your routine. You were on LinkedIn on a daily basis, connecting with new people, using the Companies feature to locate and get introduced to decision makers (remember the one who granted you the conversation?) Of course you attended personal networking events, but LinkedIn added to your overall networking in a big way.
  4. LinkedIn became a community. You met some great people who welcomed you to their network, exchanged messages with you, and encouraged you during your job search. Why would you give this up? LinkedIn is a community consisting of professionals with the same goal in mind, sharing information and social capital. You built some outstanding relationships.
  5. Your new company understands the importance of LinkedIn. The VP of marketing wants everyone in your group to be on LinkedIn to connect with potential business partners and customers. He also wants to enhance the image of the company. A company with employees who have great profiles is a company that means business. He’s looking to you to share what you know about using LinkedIn–you’re his expert.
  6. Continue to build your network for a rainy day. You were looking on LinkedIn for a job almost every day for the last three months, attending networking events, and connecting with people on a daily basis. Your online and personal networks are strong and served you well. Now, more than ever, you want to continue to build your networks for future job search activity. How does that saying go? The best time to network is when you’re working.

When you began your profile, struggled with making it strong, increased your activity, and really began to see its benefits; you never thought it would get you this far. You never thought you’d buy into it and be an evangelist of LinkedIn, spreading the word of its great attributes. Even thought you landed, you still need to network on LinkedIn.