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.

How to make your mark on LinkedIn by providing great content

shareSo you’re looking for great content to share with your LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers because sharing content is what good networkers do, right? Sharing content that is pertinent to your community educates them, inspires them, makes them think. True. However, some people misunderstand the purpose of sharing articles on LinkedIn or other platforms. They think the more they share, regardless of content, the better. Not true.

A Forbes article, Become A Leader On LinkedIn: 4 Steps To A More Active Profile, shared by one of my LinkedIn connections inspired me to write this post. Hank Boyer is one of those people who shares information worth reading. The Forbes article is one of the many articles he’s distributed to his LinkedIn connections and the groups he’s in.

The article advises first to publish your own content on LinkedIn. Which seems like a no-brainer if you want to be known as the authority in your industry, a leader on LinkedIn. But let’s face it; not everyone has the time, writes well enough, nor has the inclination to write on a regular basis. Some people, one of my customers attests, simply like to read what others write. My feelings on this are explained in this post.

If you’re not a writer, share the writing of others.

Share an updateIf you’re going to share the content of others, you must be an active reader. Read and understand what the author is saying, then share it on LinkedIn and Twitter–if you’re on Twitter–and write a word or two about said article in the “Share an Update” box. I feel comfortable sharing a post only if I’ve read it and have an intelligent comment to add.

In my LinkedIn workshop when I’m teaching the participants how to post an update, I show them how to share an article with their connections. I make it clear that they must write at least a brief comment, but to do this they have to read the entire article. In order to demonstrate this I have read the article prior to the workshop begins so I can write something intelligent about it during my demonstration.

The Forbes article also suggest becoming a groupie. Find someone who shares content you find extremely valuable and then follow that person. There are a number of my connections who share valuable content of interest to me and my connections. Some share content of other writers in the groups we’re in, while others share content to the public on LinkedIn.

These are my connections who I trust enough that whatever they post on LinkedIn, I’ll open an article and read it in its entirety. That’s how much I trust these folks. I’ve already pointed out Hank Boyer, but others who come to mind are Sabrina Woods, Hanna Morgan, Rich Grant, Greg Johnson, Pat Weber. The list goes on. These people are prolific readers and they also write great stuff.

Make sure what you share will add value. I say this with seriousness. Nothing can hurt your leadership status than posting articles that are poorly written, off target, in some why insulting to your readers, or are used as a platform for venting. Some LinkedIn members read the titles of articles and simply hit “Share.” I understand people want to appear as leaders, but this is irresponsible. They can’t possibly know if the article is valuable if they haven’t read it.

Reciprocate. I’ll add this advice, as it’s important to develop relationships with fellow writers. Reciprocate by sharing articles of writers who have shared your articles, but only if they’re worthy of reciprocation. When you share an article that is poorly written just for the sake of reciprocity, you are soiling your reputation as a leader on LinkedIn.

When my workshop attendees ask me what they update status they can share, my first response is sharing an article. I’m sure to tell them that whatever they share will be a reflection on them as a professional. This is an important message for them, as well as all professionals on LinkedIn.

 

Newsflash: LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone

anxiousFor a long time I’ve considered it my mission to recruit people to join LinkedIn, like a college recruiter goes after blue chip basketball players. But after having a discussion a few nights ago with someone in my workshop, it finally dawned on me that my persuasive style of exciting people to join LinkedIn might be too strong for some people.

After the workshop, where I spoke about LinkedIn like it’s the solution to finding a job or building business, a very nice woman approached me and said she just wasn’t ready. She cited many reasons for this, including not understanding a word I said (not my fault, she said), not sure if she can master the mechanics of LinkedIn, being more of an oral communicator, etc.

As she spoke nearly in tears, I remembered some of the statements I made, “To build your business or increase your chances of getting a job, you must be on LinkedIn. If you are the one responsible for establishing and nurturing the company’s LinkedIn account, you must recruit others in your company and encourage them to have the best profiles possible.”

Oh my gosh, I thought, as this woman was pouring out her soul to me, I created despair in this poor woman. It occurred to me that a few people like her are not ready to be on LinkedIn, never will be. Because I am active–to a fault–on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean everyone must be active or even a member.

I thought further, if someone told me I had to join Facebook, I’d tell them to take a hike. No time, no interest. So, what makes it right for me to tell people they must be on LinkedIn? What makes it right to cause anxiety in this poor woman and perhaps others who are merely trying to make their way in business or a very competitive labor market?

It would never be right. I can’t tell people they must be on LinkedIn. In fact, in a moment of honesty, I have told my customers in other workshops that, “LinkedIn isn’t for everyone. If you’re not ready for LinkedIn, you will only be frustrated.” Perhaps I need to be more consistent in repeating this to every group I lead.

For those of you reading this post, keep in mind that nothing holds truer than having a poor profile and scant presence on LinkedIn will hurt you in business and the job search. With this in mind, I felt justified in telling this woman that she should join LinkedIn when she’s ready. That she’ll be fine if she continues to network face-to-face. She thanked me profusely, as if I released her from prison, and went on her way.

For those of you who are thinking, Bob, how can you betray us LinkedIn die-hards? I say, “Easy, LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone.”

One example of how a photo effectively brands a person

AntonOne of my LinkedIn connections, Anton Brookes, sports a photo on his profile that prompts me to say to my LinkedIn workshop attendees, “Now this is a kick ass photo.” They give pause and nod in approval. Previously I told my folks that there are acceptable photos for a LinkedIn profile and there are others that are not.

Acceptable photos, I’d tell them, are ones that are highly professional or business casual; after all, LinkedIn is “the world’s largest professional network.” Unacceptable photos are everything else.

Anton’s photo is neither highly professional or business casual, but it proves as an excellent example of how the photo can catapult your personal branding.

I’m not the photo Czar–never claimed to be–but I feel strongly about how one should display his/her image on their LinkedIn profile. And I certainly believe that a profile without a photo is like a car without wheels.

Your photo serves to make you memorable and can reveal a lot about your personality. Further, it has been quoted that people trust photos and are seven times more likely to open a profile that has a photo. I agree with this statement, as I rarely open profiles that lack a photo.

The photo in question says a lot about this photographer whose branding headline reads: Owner | Fashion/Lifestyle and Street Photographer at Mock Turtle Moon. It describes what he does, while his photo supports more of the street photographer side of his business.

Homless woman

Anton’s photo speaks volumes about his expertise as a street photographer. It tells us that he’s for real and living his job, comfortable in his setting. It’s gritty and by no means pretty. It transports us to the streets of New York City. But most important, we get the sense that this photographer is knowledgeable of his trade.

A suit and tie or a button-down shirt wouldn’t have the same effect; it wouldn’t brand him nearly as well as the one he sports on his profile. Not by a mile.

I’ve told Anton that his photo helps me point out to my LinkedIn workshop attendees the importance of having a photo that brands a person, and for selfish reasons I hope he doesn’t change it. But if he decides he needs to portray himself as some one else, I’m sure he’d know how to do that.


If you’d like to see a short documentary on Anton Brookes filmed by Aljazeera America, click this link.

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