Author Archives: Things Career Related

About Things Career Related

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 17 job search workshops at an urban career center, as well as critiques LinkedIn profiles and conducts mock interviews. Job seekers and staff look to him for advice on the job search. In addition, Bob has gained a reputation as a LinkedIn authority in the community. He started the first LinkedIn program at the Career Center of Lowell and created workshops to support the program. People from across the state attend his LinkedIn workshops. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. For enjoyment, he blogs at Things Career Related and Recruiter.com. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

No job is permanent: 19 career-development pundits weigh in

This article is the result of a post I wrote recently, answering the question, “What was the best career advice you received from someone?” Currently, there are close to 70,000 views, more than 730 reactions, and nearly 120 comments. I’ve compiled the best comments received from this post.

laid-off

Four years ago I was leading a LinkedIn workshop at a local community college. One of the members arrived early and was quietly working on his laptop. To start a conversation, I asked him why he was taking the workshop.

He responded by saying he was told he had to take it. You see, he really didn’t need it to find a job. Smugly he told me he worked for the City Mayor; he would never have to look for a job. I wasn’t going to debate with him about job security. My workshop was about to begin.

People were entering the room. The young man continued to work on his laptop and ignore what I was teaching.

Months after our conversation, when the City Mayor changed hands, I saw him working at a local coffee shop. I asked him how things were going. He responded by saying that he had lost his job.

What the career-development pundits have to say

“We have insurance for our homes and our cars, but not for our careers. Career development is like career-insurance. It’s having a plan in place, should, heaven forbid, you lose your steady income.Maureen McCann

“There is never job security. The first problem is that people see LinkedIn as just a job search tool. I start off my workshops stressing that LinkedIn is NOT a job search tool, but a career management tool.” Greg Johnson グレッグ ジョンソン

“…A great reason to etworking and helping others on their Journey. Do all of it for the right reasons but also know that strong social currency may be the down payment on your next big opportunity.

“The tough truth is that no job is truly safe, and no one’s employment future is set in stone. With so many variables beyond our purview—I advise clients to control what they can. We should always have a plan B. Period.” Virginia Franco

“And we career professionals aren’t immune either. I too was laid off, but I followed my own advice & got a new job long before my severance ended. It’s a hard lesson to learn though.” Edythe Richards

“One of the best things you can do for yourself—and your career—is to stay prepared, even if you feel comfortable in your job. Research, foster your network, keep your resume updated, and invest in professional development.” Adrienne Tom

The parachute applies in cases especially like this. We should always be developing ourselves for inspiration, professionalism, but also in case we have to make a switch unexpectedly.” Sarah-Joy Kallos

“I’ve said many times that the jobs of the future are entrepreneurial in nature, yet our schools prepare us to be the same kind of employees they always have. With a little sense of business, we can see a layoff coming a mile away and be ready for it, including when it might impact us.” Phil Kasiecki

“I am always prepared to put my best foot forward in the workplace and continue to build my skills but also remember in the back of my mind that the job market is always changing and nothing is entitled to me.” Caitlin Outen

“A career search shouldn’t just be when you want/need a role. It should be part of your ongoing career strategy. Things like: ✅ Keeping a record of your career achievements. ✅ Keeping your CV up to date. ✅ Consistently building your networks. ✅ Establishing & maintaining a personal brand ✅ Using LinkedIn regularly for posting, establishing expertise and building connections.” Elaine Weir

“I read recently that 80% of people will lose their job at some point over their careers—and it is rarely ‘a good time.’ As Diana YK Chan, MBA coined, ‘You have to ABC—always be connecting’ and looking for the next opportunity.Sarah Johnston

“The good news is you are in charge of your own career: continually improving your skills and developing yourself, becoming an expert at something, delivering quality work, maintaining a strong reputation, building a solid internal and external network, etc.” Karine S. Touloumjian

“I suggest to any young person that they ought to continually work on developing their skills and adding to their toolkit…Also, work on a side hustle. I see a side hustle as an insurance policy in case the day job disappears. Lastly, networking is your best friend…Those seeds you plant bear good fruit for your soul and career.” Maisel Mazier

“Ideally, yes, where the business and the employee’s goals, aspirations, etc. align, it can be a great thing – but it doesn’t mean it’s forever….making connections, becoming more visible, and promoting your career when you don’t need to is far easier than having to do so when you’ve lost your job.” Barry Braunstein

“A recent lay-off caused me to face my pretense about ‘permanent’ placement, and I now consider the full range of employment possibilities having let go of the self-importance that formerly kept my options self-limiting.” Justin Birnstihl

“Had I not been proactive, this could have caused me great financial hardship. This is why you ALWAYS need to network, no matter how long you have been in a job. You just never know what will happen.” Shelly Piedmont, SPHR SHRM-SCP

“Think not just employment but go even further and envision the possibility of being an employer yourself! All the above can only be achieved with flexibility and open-mindedness.” Everline Griess

“It’s easier to stay ready than to get ready. Always prepare for your next opportunity as if you’ve already thrown your name in the hat for consideration.” Ashley Watkins

“I was laid off back in August and am proud that I had ‘packed a reserve parachute’ by way of savings and several side hustles as a website builder, marketing ghostwriter, and an EMT. It truly is up to the individual these days to write and stamp their own ticket.” James Finn


As a career coach and workshop facilitator, I see many people who tell me that they never saw their layoff coming. At 50-years-old and 30 years at the same company, they thought they would retire from their company. They never saw their layoff coming.

The majority of our career-development pundits say that staying ready while working is key to rebounding after losing one’s job. I like Maureen McCann’s term “Career Insurance” as describing the process of being prepared for the inevitable.

Photo: Flickr, Martin Sharman

3 types of job-search mentors who can guide you in your journey

And five places you can find them.

When you think of mentors, you probably think of someone who advises you through school or your career. But have you thought of someone who can offer you sage advice and nurture you through your job search? This, I argue, is one crucial time in your life when you should have a mentor.

wise man

You might wonder who could mentor you through your search, and where you can find a mentor. These are fair considerations. But first consider how important a mentor could be in your job search.

Like a mentor you might have had at a job, your job-search mentor would make you far more successful in finding your next job. Would your mentor cut your job search in half? Perhaps not.

You should look at your mentor as someone whose goal is to guide you toward a rewarding job, whether it takes three weeks or three months. Your mentor wants you to stay at your next job for years to come. This is how important a mentor can be.

Three types of mentors

Who makes a great mentor? There are three characteristics of a great mentor. A person who possesses one of these characteristics is a find. A person with all three is gold.

The wise person

In the job search, this person can be invaluable. You might have questions about various aspects of your job search. You wonder how to best represent yourself in your written and verbal communications. This person will guide you, based on our occupation and industry, with the proper verbiage.

You’re an engineer. Your former director of engineering will help you structure your résumé and LinkedIn profile. They’ll help you with your networking and interview techniques. They speak the language and know what people who have the authority to hire. They’ve hired many people of your status.

The facilitator

Where are the jobs? That’s what every job seeker wants to know. Here’s a fact: most jobs aren’t advertised. They’re hidden and to find them requires a facilitator to lead you to them. A facilitator is someone who’ll connect you to almost anyone you want. They are well known in your industry and know the key players.

You want to connect with someone in Fortune 100 companies. No problem. Start-ups are your target companies. Again, no problem. If they don’t know someone at a company, they’ll find out who you need to know and make the introductions for you. “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

The cheerleader

Better known as a closer, this person won’t let you quit. They are enthusiastic and stand in your corner. You feel like giving up on a possible position, they won’t let you. I’ve spoken to many job seekers who say they’ve just had a bad day or week. I get this; the job search is a grind.

I can offer a pep talk, but a dedicated cheerleader will do more. They’ll call you in the morning; and if you don’t answer the phone, they’ll drive to your house. If you’re a member of a buddy group, the cheerleader will be the one who’ll stay later to provide encouragement. Have an interview, they’ll encourage you to the point when the interview begins.

Where you can find a mentor

Have I convinced you to find a mentor? I hope I have. Now you’re wondering where to find the person or people I’ve just described.

Former colleagues

One person to turn to is a former colleague. Perhaps you had a director of marketing who always offered you sage advice related to work. That person even gave you career advice while you were working for them; when you were laid off they told you to contact them at any time.

Little did you know that your former director knew many people in your industry. They could make phone calls or introduce you on LinkedIn. Think about people like this and reach out to them. Ask if you can call them occasionally. You might find that they’ll reach out to you on a regular basis.

Networking buddies

I’ve had the privilege of knowing many job seekers who made it their mission to help their networking buddies. One person who comes to mind was a true facilitator. He started a networking group. At meetings he was always throwing out names during Needs and Leads.

You’ll know when you’ve found the networking buddy who will fit the role you need, be it the wise person, facilitator, or cheerleader. Don’t look at this relationship as one-sided. Your networking buddy is looking for work as well, do your best to help them.

Career advisors and coaches

As a career coach working for a One-Stop career center, I’ll tell you I see thousands of people a year. There are so many job seekers coming through our doors that it’s hard to keep them straight. One type of job seeker who stands out is the one who is totally dedicated to their job search.

Should you find a mentor, show them that you’re motivated to succeed in your job search. Make the effort to send pings on a bi-weekly basis, letting your career advisor/coach know your progress. This will keep you on their radar—especially important if your career coach is extremely busy.

Searching online

Although a slower method, finding people who are thought leaders in your industry is a possibility. When you send a potential mentor an invite, don’t make the ask immediately. Develop a relationship first. Get a feel for some of your connections and, if they’re local, ask to meet with them in person.

The ideal person might not live locally. No problem; use Skype, Zoom, or even Facetime to conduct sessions. I have a friend who I’ve Zoomed with on many occasions but never met him in person until just recently. He was like I had imagined. Over the years he has given me sage advice, so I consider him to be my online mentor.

Happenstance

It’s true that things happen when you least expect it. Your goal might be to find a mentor, and you try your best to find one. However, “that” person is nowhere to be found. Perhaps you’re trying too hard. Does it make sense to write on the Internet that you’re looking for a mentor? No

Like that great job that happens when you don’t expect it, meeting your mentor might be by happenstance. Imagine you’re at a holiday party and you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. That person comes across as very knowledgeable in your industry and others. Furthermore, they know almost everyone who you should meet.


A great mentor in your job search can be the difference between landing a rewarding career quickly or enduring a long job search. Of the three types of mentors, either one can be important.

5 tips for busy people using LinkedIn

I’ve often said that my use of LinkedIn can be classified as extreme, almost bordering on a sickness. No lie; I’m on LinkedIn every day of the year for at least half an hour a day. There are other people like me, maybe worse.

busy people

You might be wondering why I use LinkedIn as often as I do. First, I teach hundreds of LinkedIn workshops and individual sessions a year. Second, it’s great advertisement for my side hustle, LinkedIn profiles and training. Third, I enjoy using LinkedIn.

If you think this article is about using LinkedIn as often as I and others do, don’t fret. In fact, I’m going to suggest that you don’t follow my lead. As I tell me clients, “Don’t be like me.”

So let’s talk about you. You are unemployed, underemployed, trying to leave your current job for a better one, or running a business. You don’t see using LinkedIn as often as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. LinkedIn’s not your priority. You’re busy.

However, you realize that you have to use LinkedIn to accomplish your goals.

This article is for you busy people. I’m going to make LinkedIn doable for you by offering five tips.

  1. How much time to dedicate to LinkedIn.
  2. How you should create your profile.
  3. How to connect with other LinkedIn members.
  4. How to engage with your network.
  5. What to do after your land your job or have established your business.

But first, why you should use LinkedIn

Perhaps you’ve been told by do-gooders that if you use LinkedIn alone, you will land a job easily and quickly or business will pick up in a snap. That’s bunk. LinkedIn is part of your networking campaign; you’ll also have to network face-to-face. Consider LinkedIn a supplement to your face-to-face networking.

Here are three strong reasons why you should be on LinkedIn. One, anywhere between a 78%-95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent. Two, LinkedIn is a great research tool, which will allow you to locate and follow or connect with pretty much anyone you want to. Three, LinkedIn can be a great professional community.

1. How much time to dedicate to LinkedIn

I’d like to say, “Whatever makes you comfortable,” but some of you might follow the average LinkedIn user who is on LinkedIn a mere 17 minutes a month, according to various sources. You might consider me judgemental when I say those people should leave LinkedIn immediately.

If you fall under the 17-minutes-a-month category, heed what I write next or close your account.

I suggest you use LinkedIn two days a week, 10 minutes a day, at a bare minimum. Better would be four days a week, 15 minutes a day. You’ll make more progress. But I know you’re busy, so do what you can.

2. How you should create your profile

Do yourself a favor by having a professional who won’t break the bank write your profile. This is if you have the resources. Most people don’t have the resources, so I’ll make this short and sweet. Copy your résumé to your profile for the time being.

Some of you LinkedIn profile pundits are groaning, even cursing me for saying this; but I’m not finished. After this—when you have time—revise your profile.

If you are struggling with verbiage, look at other profiles that reflect what you do, but do not plagiarize.

Read this article to learn how to take your profile to the next level.

3. How to connect with other LinkedIn members

Here’s the thing: despite what you’ve been told and what you’ve seen written, connecting with others and networking online strategically, is more important than creating a kick-ass profile. More groans from the pundits in the wing.

Here’s my challenge for you: send connection invites to 10 people a week. This might seem like a lot, but my goal is to get you to 250 LinkedIn connections as quickly as possible. The question now is who to connect with? Connect with the following people:

  1. Your former colleagues, if you haven’t done this already;
  2. like-minded people who do the same type of work you do and are in similar industries;
  3. people at your desired companies, and;
  4. your alumni.

At this point, you’re wondering how you find said people, how you properly invite them to your network, and what you do after you’ve connected with them. To answer how you find them, let me simply say, “Make All Filters your best friend.” Read this now, or come back to it. But do read it.

The key to properly inviting LinkedIn members to your network is by the personalized messages you send. You might want to create templates that fit most connection-types, strictly to save time. The proper way to write invites is to tailor them to each position.

I’ve included some examples at the end of this article of the messages you can send.

The last part of the “invite process” is where most people fall down. Don’t be this person. Of course I’m talking about following up with the people you’ve invited to your network. I believe that the people who fail to do this are afraid of rejection or insulting their new connections.

4. How to engage with your network

You’re busy, so this component will also trumps a kick-ass profile, for now. You’ll have time to create a profile worthy of greatness, one that demonstrates your value through compelling narrative and knock-em-dead accomplishments.

The goal is to be noticed. To be top of mind with your network, you have to be present on LinkedIn. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” is so true when it comes to LinkedIn. People in your network will see in their timeline your photo and Headline.

However, the Notifications feature will alert you to when:

  • you react to or comment on a post your connections have written,
  • your connections have commented or reacted to a post you’ve written,
  • they’ve tagged you in a post or article,
  • they’ve shared something you’ve written,
  • basically anything your network has done concerning you.

You’re busy. I get that. So I’m going to ask you to take a few actions at first. See the little buggers below? When you read a post or article, hit one of them in the response to a post from one of your connections. Gasp from the LinkedIn pundits.reactions

Next you will be writing a comment on something you’ve read or a video you’ve watched. Nothing huge, because you’re busy, but something that shows you’ve read or viewed the content. Contrary to what you might think, you do have the right to write your own content.

Total time to do this, 15 minutes. You can break it up into chunks throughout the day.

Read this article on how to engage on LinkedIn. You can simply react to it or write an insightful comment.

5. What to do after your land your job or have established your business

I know you don’t think I’m going to say, “Put LinkedIn to bed.” To the contrary; use LinkedIn as much as I’ve told you. This especially goes for you business owners but also applies for you former job seekers.

I wrote a post that has had more than 40,000 views about 8 reasons why you should still use LinkedIn after you land. It’s called I HAVE A JOB. WHY DO I NEED TO USE LINKEDIN. Read it to better understand why using LinkedIn is important after you’ve landed your next job.


Three invite examples

The cold invite

Hello Susan,

We met at the Boston Networking event. You delivered an excellent presentation. The way you talked about interviewing resonated with me. As promised, I’m inviting you to my LinkedIn network.

Bob

The reference invite

Hi Dave,

You and I are both connected with Sharon Beane. She and I work for MassHire Lowell Career Center as workshop facilitators. She strongly encouraged me to connect with you and would be willing to talk with you about me. I believe we can be of mutual assistance.

Sincerely,

Bob

The introduction invite (probably best sent via email)

Hi Karen,

I see that you’re connected with Mark L. Brown, the director of finance at ABC Company. I’m currently in transition and am very interested in a senior financial analyst role.

Although there is no advertised position at ABC, I’d like to speak with Mark about the responsibilities of a senior financial analyst role in ABC’s finance department. It is early on in the process, so I’m also scoping out the companies on my bucket list.

I’ve attached my resume for you to distribute to Mark and anyone you know who is looking for a senior financial analyst.

Sincerely,

Bob

PS – It was great seeing our girls duke it out in last weekend’s soccer match. I hope the two teams meet in the finals.

 

Is it time to de-clutter your résumé? 10 items to consider

Recently one of my clients presented to me a seven-page résumé to critique. My first reaction was to see if there were duplicate documents. Nope, it was one résumé. Before I had a chance to speak, he said, “I know, it’s too long.” Too long was an understatement.

Reading a Resume

I’m not a proponent of limiting the number of résumé pages to one, or even two. But seven-pages is definitely overdoing it. There was what I refer to a lot of clutter on this résumé. To begin with, I noticed multiple duplicate duty statements; some of them were repeated verbatim. This résumé needed to be de-cluttered.

Now, I’m asking you what has to go when you de-clutter your résumé. Here are 10 items you should remove from your document before submitting it for a position.

1. Home address

There are two reasons why you shouldn’t include your home address on your résumé. The first is pretty obvious. We no longer communicate via snail mail. Hiring authorities will contact you with email, LinkedIn messaging, and even text.

The second reason is that you can exclude yourself from consideration if you live beyond what hiring authorities consider commuting distance. Years ago a recruiter was kind enough to review my client’s résumé for an opening. He looked at it for two seconds and said, “No good. She lives 50 miles from our company.” Case in point.

2. Fluff

My gag reflex kicks into gear when I read a Summary that begins with: “Dedicated, results-oriented, Sales Professional who works well as part of a team and independently….” There are so many violations with an opening like this.

The solution is obvious; stay clear of meaningless adjectives. The golden rule is show rather than tell. Try: Sales Manager who consistently outperforms projected sales growth by double figures. Collaborate with departments company-wide, ensuring customer satisfaction is achieved.

3. Graphics

Graphics are cool. They add panache to your résumé, are visually appealing, and say a thousand words. However, the applicant tracking system (ATS) doesn’t digest them well*. For example, one of my clients used a graphic for his name. Stunning. But when we tried to look him up with Bullhorn, he didn’t appear in the database.

Graphic artists, web designers, photographers, and other artistic types rely on graphics to demonstrate their work. Business developers, marketers, salespersons, etc. feel numeric graphs make a strong point when expressing their accomplishments. The ATS will kick these out.

If you feel your résumé could benefit from graphics, the solution is to get your résumé in the hands of the hiring manager, which is good policy anyways. Or if your résumé will be opened as an attachment, format your résumé to your heart’s content.

4. Objective statement

These words should be erased from your vocabulary. There is nothing redeeming about an Objective Statement. Most of them read: “Seeking an opportunity which provides growth, stability, and a rewarding opportunity.” Where in this Objective Statement is there mention of what the client brings to the employer?

Nowhere. That’s where. A Summary, on the other hand, does a better job of telling what value you’ll bring to the table. That’s, of course, when fluff is excluded from it and an accomplishment or two are included. If you’re wondering how your résumé tells the employer the job you’re seeking, simply write it above the Summary.

5. Duties

Everyone performs duties, but who does them better; that’s what employers are trying to determine. Take the following duties my aforementioned client showed me followed by my reactions in parentheses. Then read my suggested revisions below them.

Client’s duties

  • Responsible for terminating 40% of employees. (That’s unfortunate, but so what.)
  • Led meetings on a weekly basis. (This is a given.)
  • Spearheaded the company’s first pay-for-service program. (Ditto.)
  • Developed a training program that proved to be successful. (How?)

Accomplishments

  • Surpassed productivity expectations 25% while reducing sales force by 40% due to budget restraints.
  • Increased sales 30% in Q4 2018 by spearheading the company’s first pay-for-service program. This garnered the Sales Department Award of Excellence.
  • Developed the company’s first training program which was adopted by other locations nationwide.

Notice how one of the duties of this sample were excluded from his résumé. It was irrelevant. He was reluctant to let go of other duties, but I told him fewer duties and more accomplishments are the way to go.

6. Death my bullets

Have you been told by recruiters that they want your résumé to consist of only bulleted statements? And have you read a two-page job ad that consists of only bullets? Do you get my point? Reading a résumé like this is mind-numbing. It is hard to differentiate the duties from the accomplishments.

A well-formatted résumé will have a three-to-four line Summary in paragraph format which shows value and promise of what you will deliver to the employer. Each position you’ve performed should have a Job Summary which is exactly that; it summarizes your overall responsibility for that job.

7. Killer paragraphs

The opposite of death by bullets is death by paragraphs. Some job seekers don’t understand that paragraphs—especially ones 10-lines long—are excruciating to read. So excruciating that hiring authorities will take one look at a paragraph laden résumé and file it in the circular filing cabinet.

My general rule is that a Summary in paragraph format should not exceed three-four lines. Similarly, a Job Scope or summary of a position should be brief. (If you’ve noticed, this article’s paragraphs don’t exceed four lines.)

8. Any positions beyond 15 years

Experts will agree that listing history beyond 10-15 years is a deal-breaker. There are two primary reasons for this. First, what you did prior to 15 years is probably irrelevant to what employers are looking for today. Software, hardware, procedures, licenses probably are considered ancient. Think DOS.

Another reason is ageism. Unfortunately there are stupid companies that discriminate against age. Hiring authorities can roughly estimate your age based on the years you have been in the workforce. Why rule yourself out of consideration immediately. Once you get to an interview, you can sell yourself based on the value older workers bring to employers.

9. Years you attended university

This is another way to date yourself and face possible discrimination. Hiring authorities don’t expect to see it on your résumé. The only exception would be if you graduated from university within the past four years.

10. References

I’ve seen a handful of résumés that included references. The reason why job seekers list their references is to include them in one document. By listing your references on your résumé, you 1) give employers authority to call them before an interview even begins, which might hurt you if your references say something negative; and 2) it lengthens your résumé.

In addition, References Available Upon Request is unnecessary.


By the end of our one-hour session, I was able to point out various items my client could remove from his résumé. I was also able to point out where he could write his duties as accomplishments, with quantified results.

*My colleague and Executive Resume Writer, Ashley Watkins, says this about graphics: “As far as graphics, they’re actually fine for the ATS. The system will simply delete it. As long as the information you include on the graphic is listed elsewhere in the document, you should be okay.

 

Photo: Flickr, Helen Greene

8 ways you can benefit from a great mentor in your career

I had a mentor once who taught me all I knew about the job search up to a point where I was ready to fly free. My mentor, Ellen, was extremely knowledgeable about the job search. She set the foundation of my career.

mentoring

Ellen was also one of the best speakers I knew. I used to say she could talk like an angel, so fluid and effortless. Yet, she never over acted like some speakers do; she was a natural. Ellen was also meant for the role of a mentor.

I learned from Ellen that a mentor can be a valuable person in your career. Without a mentor, you go it alone; you don’t benefit from their sage wisdom and career support. So, what are the aspects of a great mentor?

1. Provide advice and support

The Oxfords Learner’s Dictionary describes a mentor as simply “an experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time.”

It’s a given that your mentor will have knowledgeable of your occupation and how you should perform to positively impact the organization. You can trust that what they advise will only help you succeed in your job.

Whether you ask for advice or support, your mentor will give it when needed. They might see you failing in an important aspect of a project or assignment and let you know how to approach it in a better way.

2. Allow you to fail

A mentor will also let you experiment and allow you to make mistakes from which you will learn. Failing is part of the learning process. If you’re afraid of failing, you’re not going to advance in your career. You should seek out a mentor who understands the learning process.

Your mentor should give you that leeway and not step in before you make that small error. Sure, your mentor can see it coming a mile away, but they will allow you to make that mistake and call it a learning moment. A great mentor will then explain how not to repeat that mistake.

3. Go to bat for you

I remember a time when I had totally forgotten about a workshop I had to deliver. It slipped my mind. I went to lunch and didn’t check the multiple text messages sent by Ellen, which told me I had a workshop. What did Ellen do? She did my workshop even thought she had a ton of other work to do.

Naturally I was called to the carpet for spacing my workshop, but Ellen was there to tell our boss that all ended well and that I wouldn’t repeat that mistake. Because if I did, Ellen would kill me. Needless to say, I didn’t repeat the mistake again.

4. Give you credit

A mentor will never take credit for what you’ve accomplished; rather they will share your successes with the organization. At staff or department-head meetings, your mentor will purposely and clearly announce your accomplishment.

The opposite of this would be taking credit for what you’ve accomplished. Someone who does this is not a mentor. Similarly, a mentor will not describe your successes using the pronoun “we.” They will say, “Joe wrote the all the content for our Product X page.” You will do the same for your mentor.

5. Point out their own weaknesses

A mentor will not be afraid to point out their weaknesses. By telling you what they did wrong can also be a learning lesson for you. If your mentor blames others for their mistake, they are not mentoring you; it is telling you that blaming others for your mistakes is acceptable.

Ellen would not blame others from her mistakes; rather, she would talk about them openly and end by telling me not to commit her mistake. I appreciated this because it gave me the freedom to talk about my errors.

6. Will ask for your advice

Your mentor should recognize your strengths and emulate them to better perform their job. When I created the first LinkedIn program at the career center, Ellen would ask me to share my knowledge. I was glad to provide it because I saw it as an honor to be asked.

You should not keep your “secrets” from your mentor in fear of losing job security. Your mentor doesn’t hold back advice and information. Neither should you. Your mentor is secure in their position and, as such, freely offers advice when you ask for it.

7. Their door is always open

I mean this literally. You might need a place to vent or talk about personal issues. A good mentor will give you that space. Just make sure you don’t take advantage of your mentor and constantly use them as a shoulder to cry on.

Your mentor is not your therapist, so don’t treat them as such. One of the things I miss about Ellen is the ability of talking shop with her. We would bounce ideas off each other. And, yes, we would vent every once in awhile. We tried to keep these venting moments to a limit.

8. Keep things real

Of course there will be moments when you’ll need to talk about difficulties happening in your workday. This is an important time where your mentor can provide advice as well as tell you to “suck it up.”

When my attitude became unnecessarily negative, Ellen would tell me to snap out of it. Your mentor will do you the favor of keeping it real. They will not let you complain when there’s nothing to complain about.


Your mentor can be a part of your professional and personal growth. Don’t underestimate the importance of a great mentor. Does your mentor have to be your boss? No, they don’t. Can your mentor be someone younger than you? Of course they can. You can learn from anyone who has the right qualities.

There came a time when I had learned all I could from Ellen. I started revamping the workshops which she had developed. She approved of my changes, realizing I was learning at a faster rate. I will forever be grateful to Ellen.

3 challenges to improve your LinkedIn engagement

At work we’re involved in a citywide step challenge. Our organization, MassHire Lowell Career Center, is currently in first place with 10 days to go. One of my team members is in second place, 3,060 steps behind the city leader. I’ve taken it upon myself to coach her to the top. I’m pushing her to walk farther everyday.

challenge3

Now consider me your coach. I’m going to push you to engage on LinkedIn. I’m going to provide guidelines for you. When you read the entirety of this article, you’ll probably be relieved. It will make sense to you. It won’t seem so daunting. My goal is to get you up to speed in a month. That’s right, one month. Here’s what you will do.

You’ll increase your presence on LinkedIn

Of all the criteria, this is an important one. It’s important because you’ll increase your visibility and climb higher on the LinkedIn ladder (algorithm). Just so you know, it’s important to have a kick-ass LinkedIn profile and a focused network; but to really make an impact, you have to be seen.

One source says the average time people spend on LinkedIn is an abysmal 17 minutes a month. My challenge to you is to almost double that…per day. That’s right, I strongly suggest you spend seven days a week, 30 minutes per day, on LinkedIn. This might seem unrealistic, but if you break down your day to morning and night, morning, mid-day, night, or little segments all day, you can do it.

Here is something that will help you; the LinkedIn mobile app. Approximately 60% of LinkedIn members use the app. While the features are limited, you will still be able to perform most of the functions I explain below. Use the app while you’re waiting for the train or your child to get out of school or just hanging out in the park.

You’ll go from reacting to engaging

I’m glad you’re reading to this point, after having read the proceeding section. This means you’re serious about LinkedIn engagement. Let’s look at some ways to be present on LinkedIn.* I’ll start with the least amount of effort followed by the most.

Reacting—least amount of effort

If you’re a beginner, reacting to what people share is a good place to start. This will help you with LinkedIn’s algorithm but not as much as what follows. I have a feeling that after only reacting to what people share, you’ll get bored.

1. Reacting with the five icons. You might want to begin with reacting to what people post or share. Reacting means you can Like their content or more. LinkedIn as recently added other types of reactions. They are Celebrate, Love, Insightful, and Curious. I react with Insightful in most cases. I have used Celebrate when a LinkedIn user has received good news. You’ll never catch me Loving what people share.

2. Reading articles and sharing them. This is another way to react which takes little effort if that’s all you do. My advice is to actually read the articles and then share them; not just share your favorite connections’ articles unread. Clearly by reading the articles, you’ll form an opinion of their content.

3. Give someone Kudos. This is as simple as going to someone’s profile, choosing More, and clicking Give Kudos. Then you can choose why the person deserves Kudos. I rarely use this, but you might want to for people who’ve been helpful in your job search.

4. Endorse your connections’ skills. While you’re on someone’s profile, why not endorse them for their skills. The debate here is that you might not have witnessed the person perform said skills. Read their profile carefully to see if they back up their skills. Maybe you’ve seen them share posts and articles on LinkedIn and have determined that they know what they’re talking about.

Engaging—more effort

Now you’ve reached the point where your presence shows more value to your network. You’ve gone beyond simply reacting to a post or article, given Kudos, and endorsing your connections. This is what I call the breakthrough moment where you’re noticed more by your connections, as well as by LinkedIn’s algorithm. Let’s break this down.

1. Comment on other’s posts. Read someone’s post and instead of just clicking Like, Celebrate, or the like; write a thoughtful comment reflecting on what the author wrote. Try to be as positive as you can; however, it’s okay to disagree with someone. For example, I wrote a post about being sold to on LinkedIn. One of my connections opposed my opinion, which I respected. He wrote:

Bob, in my line of business, I am responsible for buying products and services. Therefore, I appreciate when people approach me on LinkedIn with a sales inquiry. I can say, “no” in a respectful manner and in most cases, the person respects my wishes. I enjoyed your post, nonetheless.

2. Write a comment for someone’s article. After reading someone’s article—either published with LinkedIn’s Publisher or linked to their blog—you have the option to share it with your connections or directly comment on it. Do both. Of course you can react to it, as well. After reading an article titled Five Steps to A Winning CV Structure, I wrote:

Andrew, I agree with so much of your article. I really try to drive home with my clients the importance of keeping the CV structuring their roles for ease of reading. I’m glad you mentioned this because it is important, especially if someone is reading a ton of resumes. Another point you make which resonates with me is keeping it brief. I can’t stand reading paragraphs that at 10-lines long. Three lines, four at most, are my idea of a good paragraph length.

Note: Be sure to tag the author with @Andrew Fennell; he’ll be notified that you commented on his article.

3. Write your own post sharing your expertise. This, for some, is difficult because they feel unsure of their writing or believe they’re not worthy of sharing their thoughts. This second point, I find, applies to job seekers who see their unemployment as a scourge. One of my clients, a director of communications, once told me that because he’s out of work, he doesn’t have the right to share a post. Nonsense.

I don’t care if you’re unemployed; you’re still an expert in your field. You wrote whitepapers, proposals, press releases, web content, etc. up to three months ago. You still have the ability to write relevant content for your network.

4. Create a video. I’ll admit that this is not in my comfort zone. Some people excel at this, while others make it painful to watch. I feel that I fall in the later category. So I’ll leave this up to you. Some believe the LinkedIn algorithm ranks videos higher than other forms of content. If this is true, it’s probably because LinkedIn wants to encourage people to share more video.

On the flip side you might feel more comfortable producing video because you have confidence in your ability to speak versus writing. The easiest way to create video is by using your phone, where the segment will be stored. Then you can upload it directly to LinkedIn. Like Facebook, LinkedIn has a live version of video production; but you better be able to do it right the first time.

You’ll rinse and repeat

As I mentioned earlier in this article, dedication is required if you want to successfully create a presence on LinkedIn. Engaging with your network once a week will not accomplish this. As your coach, I expect you to share a post at least four times a week. If writing articles is your thing, shoot for one a month and gradually increase that number to twice a month. I personally attempt writing a new article once a week, but you don’t have to follow my lead.

Consistency is key. You won’t appear on your connections’ and  hiring authorities’ radar unless you are seen. Are recruiters paying attention? Sure they are. Your posts might not be directly shared with them, but they’ll be notified of likes, comments, and shared from their first degree connections.

I’ve given you a few ideas on how to react and graduate to engaging on LinkedIn. My colleague, Hannah Morgan, provides 24 ideas of the actions you can take on LinkedIn.* Take a look at her infographic (something else you can share or create for LinkedIn). This will give you some ideas that you might implement in your communications with your network.

24 Ideas Share On LinkedIn

This post originally appeared on Social-Hire.com

Photo: Flickr, Stein Liland

10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings go smoothly

The day a woman called me to ask for an “informational interview” I had a feeling it wouldn’t go well. The tone of her voice was monotone, unenthusiastic. She was smacking gum in my ear. Regardless, I said yes and then there was silence. “Hello,” I said.

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“Oh, I was just looking through my calendar to see when I’m free,” she replied.

As I suspected, the conversation didn’t go well. The woman was probably told by a well-meaning career advisor to ask for an informational interview. But she wasn’t told the questions to ask or why she was asking for a networking meeting. She wasn’t clear on the purpose of our meeting.

The purpose of a networking meeting

First of all, no job has been advertised, so these meetings are not actual interviews. That’s why the term “networking meeting” is more fitting.

Second, you’re requesting a networking meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice, and no pressure on you.

Third, your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

10 ways to make sure your networking meetings go smoothly.

1. Ask strong questions. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because it lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem/s.

2. Your enthusiasm level is high. Chances are the person granting you the networking meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about.

Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone—it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. Arrive or call on time. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting. If you’re calling, set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. Don’t call late or early; call at the exact time.

4. Have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda must provide direction. Don’t come across as wimpy and disorganized.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition—if the person can speak to that point.

While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. Provide data to back up your accomplishments. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you, what you’re made of. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interests are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $3,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $150. Tell her you “love” event planning.

This is great information and should be shared with the person granting you the networking meeting, if asked.

6 Show your gratitude. Don’t make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the networking meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation.

7. Don’t ask for a job. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. A call for action. Always ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often job seekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign as possible. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. Reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website—this will fit nicely on your résumé.

10. Always send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or a card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A nicely written thank you shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the network meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation—perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company—going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.


Networking meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant networking meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

And please don’t act like the woman who called me for our “informational interview.”

Photo: Flickr, Pulpolux !!!