ed muses upon

2011/10/03

LinkedIn Quiz: How Well Do You Know LinkedIn?

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I did a quick search to see if there are any blogs that offer a quiz to see how well you know LinkedIn and didn’t see any on page 1 of my Google search results. That seems odd.

There are a ton of blogs about LinkedIn: how to use it for recruiters, how to use it for job seekers, how to use it for networking. But there aren’t a lot of search results for LinkedIn quizzes that assess a reader’s knowledge of this great professional networking tool. Given that dearth, it appears there’s a real need for something like this.

So I present my LinkedIn Quiz: How Well Do You Know LinkedIn! There are 10 questions, with answers to follow. Ready?

Questions:

  1. What is the benefit of a 100% complete profile?
  1. Once you have created a LinkedIn profile, what URL should you send people to ensure the greatest likelihood of their seeing it?
  1. Is there anything you can do to make that link easier for people to remember and if so, what?
  1. Apart from the LinkedIn Applications, what is the only update you can make to your profile that will have a date stamp?
  1. LinkedIn recognizes 4 degrees of separation from other LinkedIn members. What are they, and how are they distinguished?
  1. There is a part of your LinkedIn profile that will appear anywhere your name does on LinkedIn, along with your profile picture. What is it?
  1. Is it possible to have more than one e-mail address associated with a LinkedIn profile?
  1. There are 3 LinkedIn Applications that will allow a user to share content with other LinkedIn members. What are they?
  1. From viewing a LinkedIn user’s profile, what clues are there to the size of that member’s LinkedIn network if they have more than 500 connections?
  1. When sending another LinkedIn member an invitation to connect, you are required to identify the basis for sending that invitation: classmate, colleague, friend, group, etc. What is the relevance of this requirement after you have sent that invitation?

 

Once you have answered all questions, scroll down for the answers.

 

 

 

[this space intentionally left blank]

 

 

 

When you are ready, please scroll down for the answers.

 

 

 

Answers:

  1. A 100% complete profile will appear higher in search results than a profile that is less than 100% complete. This is of considerable relevance to certain types of LinkedIn users, particularly job seekers, whether active or passive candidates.
  1. You should provide your public profile URL, which is visible if you go to Profile|View Profile. In the summary box, the last field is labeled Public Profile. The link that follows is what you want.
  1. When you go to Profile|View Profile, at the bottom of the summary box, you should see a link that begins http://www.linkedin.com/xx/… as described in answer 2, above. The xx is a 2 letter code identifying the primary language for our profile and what follows is one of 2 things: either a) an auto-generated number created by LinkedIn when you create your profile, or b) whatever you customized it to say by going to Profile|Edit Profile.
  1. Apart from LinkedIn Applications, the only update you can make to your profile that will have a date stamp is to make a status update. Once a status update is posted, LinkedIn posts a “freshness” date on it, with how long ago that status was posted. After one week, that date expires, as does the status update.
  1. LinkedIn recognizes 4 degrees of connectedness: 1st represents another LinkedIn member with whom an invitation to connect was sent & accepted; 2nd represents another LinkedIn member who has done that with another person with whom you too have done this; 3rd represents yet another step removed; and Group is another LinkedIn member who has no other degree of connectedness to you but shares membership in one or more groups.
  1. The part of your LinkedIn profile that appears everywhere your name does on the site is called your headline. It is a 180 character description that you can fill in any way you like. Because it goes everywhere your profile picture and name go on LinkedIn, I find it helpful to conceive of it as a billboard.
  1. Not only is it possible, but recommended, especially if your e-mail address is employer-provided. This can be addressed by going to the Settings page and adding one or more alternate e-mail addresses. This will also help ensure that when other LinkedIn members send an invitation to connect to that e-mail address, you can accept the invitation.
  1. The three LinkedIn Applications are Box.net, Google Presentation and SlideShare, all of which will allow you to upload and share content. Box.net allows your 1st degree connections to download such files, while both Google Presentation and SlideShare will display any such content on your full (but not public) profile.
  1. This is a trick question: no. LinkedIn only indicates that such users have 500+ connections. Users who are LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) sometimes will indicate in their user name or profiles the size of their network but absent that, there is no way of knowing how much more than 500 connections any given LinkedIn user’s network is, whether 501 or 30,000, which is the maximum number of connections may now have. A handful of users have more: these individuals grew their networks to such a size before the maximum was implemented several years ago.
  1. The reason for connecting becomes what is known as a tag, a descriptive label used to help organize those in your network. If you go to Connections|My Contacts, you should see all of your connections running vertically down the left. You will also see several groupings: Classmates, Colleagues, Friends, etc. This is what LinkedIn does when an invitation has been accepted, irrespective of who sent the invitation and who the recipient was: it uses the reason and groups it by this tag. An under-recognized feature of LinkedIn is the ability to add custom tags to help organize one’s network.

 

 

So let’s gauge your performance on the quiz:

10        Guru: you know LinkedIn well enough to teach a master a thing or three

8-9       Master: other than a few obscure features, you know this tool and have done a lot with it

6-7       Power user: you’ve used LinkedIn to do a lot already

4-5       Experienced user: you probably haven’t had the opportunity to explore some of its more advanced features.

2-3       Average user: you know the fundamentals of LinkedIn

0-1       Neophyte: a whole world of LinkedIn awaits you

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2011/07/26

Staying Focused: Perspective

One-point perspective. Tennoji Park, Osaka, Japan.

Image via Wikipedia

“I’m good at offering people advice that works well for them. I just can’t seem to do that for myself.”

Does this sound like someone you know? For that matter, does it sound like you?

This happens to me fairly often and I bet it’s a sufficiently common phenomenon that the odds are good that if you’re reading this, it might sound like someone you know, if not you.

Or maybe this situation sounds familiar. A friend has asked you to review their résumé and see if you can offer some insight. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known for years, maybe it’s someone relatively new to you that you’ve met through networking, but we’ve all been there: someone wants your input on their résumé. And you probably saw a few things that you could suggest.

Perhaps they’re still using an objective, when summaries are now in vogue. Or perhaps it’s something really substantial, like the résumé is lacking in accomplishments, so each position consists only of a list of duties. It could be something as simple as including the LinkedIn public profile URL with the rest of the contact details. Whatever the case: you were able to help your friend make some edits that were helpful and left the résumé stronger than when you first saw it.

I think we’ve all been there.

When I went through outplacement some years ago, a group exercise in which I participated was reviewing one another’s résumés. It was a thought-provoking and instructive exercise. What I learned through that experience was how much easier it is to write about someone else rather than ourselves.

In my experience, I find that quite often, job seekers are reticent to speak confidently about what we have accomplished in the past, and perhaps as importantly, what we expect to achieve in the future.

So let me pose a question: if it’s easier to offer advice to others and it’s easier to write about someone else than about ourselves, how do we improve our résumés?

There are several possible answers, but I can’t help thinking that if it’s easier to talk about someone else, why not leverage that tendency? Why not get together a few friends and get their input?

Part of my branding strategy involves the word “wordsmith”—anyone who’s heard my elevator speech has heard this. Some time ago, a recruiter I know expressed some concerns about the fact that, as a recruiter, he will never do a search for a “wordsmith”. People who want someone with a way with words will never try to find someone that way: they will look for a writer or a copy editor. And if I didn’t use those terms, I would be harming my candidacy.

It took him telling me this to understand. I need to step outside of myself and be sure that how I present myself to others—whether online or otherwise—is understandable. It was an important lesson to learn—and underscores the importance of stepping outside of ourselves. Without his input, I would never have thought to broaden my branding.

That was just one person’s input. Imagine what more any of us could learn if we had more input from people whose views we trust?

At the end of the day: perspective may just help you stay focused on what really matters in your job search process: branding that helps you land your next opportunity.

2011/06/01

Staying Focused: Meaningful Metrics

A donut chart

Image via Wikipedia

Some years ago, I was involved in a project that required negotiating with several dozen data vendors and stock exchanges around the world, both in developed and emerging markets. It was a high-profile mission-critical project so I allocated my time accordingly, working practically around the clock. When I first undertook this project, success was defined as an executed agreement with a data vendor or stock exchange for a given market.

As time went on, I grew increasingly frustrated because these conversations took a considerable amount of time to complete. More often than not, at the end of each week, I could not report the satisfactory conclusion of any such discussion. While discussing this issue with my manager, he observed that I was tracking the wrong metric: completed agreements.

In the ensuing conversation, he noted that where results are not directly related to effort, tracking effort was more appropriate. I had no control over whether or not any given negotiation would conclude on a given timetable: I could only control the effort made to facilitate such a conclusion. And so long as I communicated the effort clearly and my strategy made sense, the lack of completed contracts became less vexing.

This experience relates directly to managing one’s job search. It’s very easy to get hung up on the big events in job search, such as interviews or offers. But not all job seekers have a skill-set and orientation that affords such a volume. So instead, track the effort: number of applications completed, informational interviews, new contacts, networking events attended. These are metrics over which you have much greater control than interviews or job offers.

I have two suggestions for methods to help feed one metric over which you have control: the number of informational interviews you have.

One method to feed your metrics is the Follow Company feature on LinkedIn. Open up any company profile on LinkedIn and in the upper right corner of the page is an option to follow the company. Going forward, LinkedIn will keep you informed about promotions, departures, new hires and new LinkedIn job postings. This is a great way to stay apprised of new opportunities but also possible candidates for informational interviews. It’s important to recognize that this information is based upon when a LinkedIn user updates his/her profile to indicate that they are now working at the organization. Presumably, someone would not so update their profile unless they had been in place for a few weeks and are feeling comfortable letting their professional network know they have landed there.

Another simple way to do so: when attending job search groups, incorporate three of your target employers in your elevator speech. This approach can be particularly effective when you are new to a group. By providing this information, you offer a natural icebreaker to other attendees and better enable them to offer suggestions for informational interviews.

Together, these two steps should yield many more prospects for informational interviews. This is important, because feeling good about your effort in job search will otherwise be very hard to find.

In closing, think about what job search metrics you are tracking. Do they make sense to track week in and week out or do you need to add some good, achievable metrics? I suspect it’s the latter. Success breeds success: succeeding with challenging but attainable goals will help you remain on target.

Tracking achievable metrics will help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next opportunity.

2011/05/13

Target Employers

Welcome to the third installment in the Job Search Best Practices blog series! Although I touched on the subject of targeting specific employers in a job search process previously, I felt it merited more specific focus.

Archer releases arrow at target

Image courtesy of Free Things To Do In Los Angeles

I’ve always had a fondness for archery. When I was younger, I was a Boy Scout and one of my merit badges was in archery. There was something I always found appealing about the simplicity of shooting an arrow. You hold a bow by the grip, nock the arrow and in a smooth motion, draw back the bowstring. Then there’s a moment of calm as you hold the bowstring in place, take aim and release the arrow. I always did, and still do to this day, find a real elegance in the simplicity of that act.

Irrespective of whether a job seeker is remaining in the same industry or attempting to break into a new one, it is important to identify target employers where he or she wishes to find employment. There are several reasons for this, and the relevance of each will likely vary for any given job seeker, but broadly speaking, it’s important for two reasons: research and networking.

Research

I’m very fond of a quotation by Roman philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Perhaps owing to my youthful experiences with the Boy Scouts, I’m a big fan of good preparation.

This relates directly to the job search process. If suddenly thrust into a situation in which you can speak with a decision maker at an organization that interests you, you’ll make a much better impression with him or her if you are able to ask intelligent, informed questions about the organizations, current challenges it may be facing or offering congratulations for a recent accomplishment.

This is ultimately a matter of ensuring you are position to propagate your personal brand, as previously discussed. So by researching organizations where you want to work, you’ll be prepared to take fullest advantage of an unexpected opportunity. And if you get the opportunity to talk with a representative of one of your target employers, think about how well you’ll be able to customize your unique value proposition to the organization’s current needs. If your target employer is completing an acquisition and your skill-set revolves around business process integration, this is an organization that has a specific, time-sensitive need for the value you offer.

Being at the right place at the right time to have that kind of conversation can be dismissed as a matter of luck, but as we already know, it’s more: it’s a matter of preparation and making your own luck.

Networking

Every job seeker has heard the old chestnut that 70% of jobs are landed through networking: it’s a subject I’ve previously addressed. But networking without any specific direction will yield connections that may not be as directly beneficial as may be ideal. So while attending these events, having a target list of employers gives direction to your networking efforts.

If you are able to tell people you are interested in learning more about what it’s actually like to work for Amazon (for example), people will have a clear way to help you. Maybe they don’t know someone who works there, but perhaps they know someone else who does. In this way, having a target list of employers helps give focus and direction to your networking efforts when you meet people. It makes it easy for people to find powerful ways to help you.

There are many job seekers who are unfamiliar with the importance of targeting employers with their job search process. It can be difficult, especially in the case of a more radical change, such as moving to a new geographic area, or changing industries—or both. In these cases, the importance of informational interviews cannot be overstated.

But there isn’t a doubt in my mind that targeting specific employers is indeed a job search best practice.

2011/04/06

Personal Branding

Welcome to the second installment of my new, Job Search Best Practices! If you missed previous installments, you can find them here if you’re interested.

Ever since Tom Peters first wrote The Brand Called You [1], the phrase “personal branding” has had an incredible impact, from those who read it when it first appeared August 31, 1997 and all the way down to the present day, as others first encounter the concept. In its original context, Peters meant it from a career management standpoint—but of course, like any good idea, it didn’t take long for smart career management professionals to see its applicability to the job search process.

Today, Dan Schawbel[2] maintains a personal branding blog and even a LinkedIn group, the Personal Branding Network[3]. And if you do a search on the phrase “personal branding” on Google, you’ll get 1.88 million results in 0.09 seconds[4]. Personal branding is everywhere but let’s talk about why it’s so important: where it really delivers ROI[5] for the job search process.

Let’s begin with something very basic. We all know the stat about 70% of jobs being filled through networking, so presumably, educated job seekers are attending networking events to maximize the likelihood of being in that 70%. But I think we’ve all had this experience: we attend a networking event and afterwards, when that person reaches out to us, we don’t remember them. Or worse, maybe you want to reach out to him or her, but you don’t remember a blessed thing about that person or perhaps how to contact them.

That’s an embarrassing situation to be in, but imagine how much worse if you’re the one who’s failed to make a (positive) impression. Indeed, perhaps you’ve even been in that position, too, unbeknownst to you.

The solution is personal branding.

As Peters himself put it:

“What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.

If your answer wouldn’t light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or — worst of all — if it doesn’t grab you, then you’ve got a big problem. It’s time to give some serious thought and even more serious effort to imagining and developing yourself as a brand.

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”

A lot of people make the mistake of interpreting this as being about marketing. And make no mistake, personal branding is part of it. But to dismiss it as being nothing more is missing the forest for the trees. At its heart, a personal brand is your professional essence.

It’s crucial to understand that understanding one’s personal brand requires a thorough understanding of one’s strengths, aptitudes and experiences. It doesn’t work to hear someone else’s great branding statement and adopt it wholesale, as it speaks to strengths, aptitudes and experiences that another person will not possess. That isn’t personal branding, because it addresses the superficial without engaging the substantial.

So why does it matter?

Two words: corporate culture.

People have been discussing corporate culture and how it can provide a competitive advantage since the 1980s, but at its heart, I think it’s fair to say that corporate culture is really about “the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values (personal and cultural values) of an organization”, per Wikipedia.

For several years now in staffing circles the big question is fit: does the candidate fit? Sure, he or she has the right experience and skills, but is this candidate a good fit for our organization?

Doesn’t this sound to you a lot like: is this candidate’s personal brand a match with our corporate culture?

This is why you care.

By now, we’ve discussed personal branding, what it is, what it isn’t, and why you care. So let’s discuss how to propagate your brand and let the world know what your accomplishments are.

In ways both large and small, here are some ways to do so.

  • First things first, business cards. Not just for the employed set, business cards (available for just shipping & handling at VistaPrint.com) are a great way to incorporate a little pizzazz in your typeset contact details. If you’ve ever tried to read someone’s e-mail address or phone number from a smudged, hastily-scribed piece of paper, you’ll know just how important this is.
  • Social networks. Not just LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, but also some others. If you have sufficient experience and facility with the written word, try blogging. And even if you don’t, try writing a guest blog for a blogger you respect and with whom you’ve established a rapport. Hint: you can easily forge a rapport with a blogger by commenting on his or her blogs consistently. Bloggers love commenters because even a blogger with a great read/comment ratio is 12:1, so by commenting, you stand out above 11 other readers. And offering to guest blog? The odds are very good the reaction will be more than mildly positive.
  • Speak at events[6]. There are tons of local networking events going on. You can use LinkedIn Events or Meetup to identify them and the organizer(s), who will likely be open to you giving a small talk, maybe off the formal agenda at first.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg: there are tons of other methods whereby one can propagate one’s personal brand. So what did I miss? Comment and let me know!


[1] Even now, 14 years after the fact, it’s a great read.

[2] whom Fast Company, publishers of the original Tom Peters article, dubbed a “Personal branding force of nature”

[3] Fittingly, this is an open group.

[4] That’s what I got when I wrote this.

[6] I can’t take credit for this: this is from Keith Ferrazzi’s excellent Never Eat Alone.

Welcome to the second installment of my new, Job Search Best Practices! If you missed previous installments, you can find them here if you’re interested.

Ever since Tom Peters first wrote The Brand Called You [1], the phrase “personal branding” has had an incredible impact on those encountering it, from those who read it when it first appeared August 31, 1997 and all the way down to the present day, as others first encounter the concept. In its original context, Peters meant it from a career management standpoint—but of course, like any good idea, it didn’t take long for smart career management professionals to see its applicability to the job search process.

Today, Dan Schawbel[2] maintains a personal branding blog and even a LinkedIn group, the Personal Branding Network[3]. And if you do a search on the phrase “personal branding” on Google, you’ll get 1.88 million results in 0.09 seconds[4]. Personal branding is everywhere but let’s talk about why it’s so important: where it really delivers ROI[5] for the job search process.

Let’s begin with something very basic. We all know the stat about 70% of jobs being filled through networking, so presumably, educated job seekers are attending networking events to maximize the likelihood of being in that 70%. But I think we’ve all had this experience: we attend a networking event and afterwards, when that person reaches out to us, we don’t remember them. Or worse, maybe you want to reach out to him or her, but you don’t remember a blessed thing about that person or perhaps how to contact them.

That’s an embarrassing situation to be in, but imagine how much worse if you’re the one who’s failed to make a (positive) impression. Indeed, perhaps you’ve even been in that position, too, unbeknownst to you.

The solution is personal branding.

As Peters himself put it:

“What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.

If your answer wouldn’t light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or — worst of all — if it doesn’t grab you, then you’ve got a big problem. It’s time to give some serious thought and even more serious effort to imagining and developing yourself as a brand.

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?”

A lot of people make the mistake of interpreting this as being about marketing. And make no mistake, personal branding is part of it. But to dismiss it as being nothing more is missing the forest for the trees. At its heart, a personal brand is your professional essence.

It’s crucial to understand that understanding one’s personal brand requires a thorough understanding of one’s strengths, aptitudes and experiences. It doesn’t work to hear someone else’s great branding statement and adopt it wholesale, as it speaks to strengths, aptitudes and experiences that another person will not possess. That isn’t personal branding, because it addresses the superficial without engaging the substantial.

So why does it matter?

Two words: corporate culture.

People have been discussing corporate culture and how it can provide a competitive advantage since the 1980s, but at its heart, I think it’s fair to say that corporate culture is really about “the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values (personal and cultural values) of an organization”, per Wikipedia.

For several years now in staffing circles the big question is fit: does the candidate fit? Sure, he or she has the right experience and skills, but is this candidate a good fit for our organization?

Doesn’t this sound to you a lot like: is this candidate’s personal brand a match with our corporate culture?

This is why you care.

By now, we’ve discussed personal branding, what it is, what it isn’t, and why you care. So let’s discuss how to propagate your brand and let the world know what your accomplishments are.

In ways both large and small, here are some ways to do so.

  • First things first, business cards. Not just for the employed set, business cards (available for just shipping & handling at VistaPrint.com) are a great way to incorporate a little pizzazz in your typeset contact details. If you’ve ever tried to read someone’s e-mail address or phone number from a smudged, hastily-scribed piece of paper, you’ll know just how important this is.
  • Social networks. Not just LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, but also some others. If you have sufficient experience and facility with the written word, try blogging. And even if you don’t, try writing a guest blog for a blogger you respect and with whom you’ve established a rapport. Hint: you can easily forge a rapport with a blogger by commenting on his or her blogs consistently. Bloggers love commenters because even a blogger with a great read/comment ratio is 12:1, so by commenting, you stand out above 11 other readers. And offering to guest blog? The odds are very good the reaction will be more than mildly positive.
  • Speak at events[6]. There are tons of local networking events going on. You can use LinkedIn Events or Meetup to identify them and the organizer(s), who will likely be open to you giving a small talk, maybe off the formal agenda at first.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg: there are tons of other methods whereby one can propagate one’s personal brand. So what did I miss? Comment and let me know!


[1] Even now, 14 years after the fact, it’s a great read.

[2] whom Fast Company, publishers of the original Tom Peters article, dubbed a “Personal branding force of nature”

[3] Fittingly, this is an open group.

[4] That’s what I got when I wrote this.

[5] Return on Investment.

[6] I can’t take credit for this: this is from Keith Ferrazzi’s excellent Never Eat Alone.

2011/03/22

Job Search Strategy

Carl von Clausewitz, painting by Karl Wilhelm ...

Image via Wikipedia

Welcome to the inaugural installment of my new series, Job Search Best Practices! If you missed my blog entry introducing it on Monday, you can find it here if you’re interested.

Let’s start with what we mean by strategy. According to the wiki, a strategy may be defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.”

From this, it is clear that the goal of a job search strategy is to achieve desirable permanent full-time employment efficiently.

But what about the plan?

There is an old saying: “No plan survives contact with the enemy[1]”. The observation is from On War, by Carl von Clausewitz, a 19th century Prussian military officer and philosopher. This book, first published posthumously in 1832, is widely regarded as the foundation of most modern conceptions of war. To this day, it is still on military academy syllabi and continues to inform military and sociopolitical thought to this very day, close to two centuries after its initial publication.

And this drives home an important point: plans of action—or strategies—often require fine-tuning once more information becomes available. Military strategies are often formed based on a suspicion or hypothesis of what the enemy will do, but once the enemy has been met, suspicion gives way to facts.

The question is how does one design a strategy for a job search? Along the way to answering that question, there are several subordinate questions that we will explore:

  • What is the importance of having a job search strategy?
  • What are the tactics I should deploy in pursuing my strategy?
  • What are the best practices related to job search strategy?

So let’s talk about the strategy—or plan. Specifically, let’s start with its importance.

Importance

The job search is a journey. It really is in even the most literal sense: after all, what else is a search but a journey—either literal or metaphoric—to find what you seek? Like any other journey, you will proceed from Point A to Point B. After all, if you don’t know where you are, or where you’re headed, it’s going to be impossible to map out a route. No matter how much energy you expend, if it isn’t productive, you might very well be going in circles.

As anyone who’s used a GPS device can tell you, it’s important to verify Points A and B. Are you certain you’ve got the right address for Point A? And are you sure you know the street address for Point B—are you sure you will recognize it upon reaching it?

Point A

This is where you are right now, yes, but there’s more to it than just looking at the GPS: are you ready and properly equipped to commence the job search process? If you have just found yourself thrown into a job search, the answer might very well be no—and it’s important to understand that. Most people need around some time to get their heads straight before they are ready to identify the next step in their career path.

In short: point A is about self-awareness and self-assessment.

Point B

This can be trickier. A lot of people find themselves exiting the industry they’ve been in for years or are otherwise examining alternatives. In such a case, it’s critical to understand what your transferable skills are: in what kinds of environments can your skills and experience add value?

Tactics

There are a host of tactics that you may wish to deploy in the process of developing your job search strategy.

Self-Assessment

Certain skills are transferable: knowing how to close a sale, understanding the influencing skills critical in keep a project on schedule, or having a knack for picking up new technology tools. These are all critical ways in which you add value. So take stock of your skills. On what strengths or talents do you find others most often compliment you? This process can be facilitated by reaching out to former colleagues: it is critical to understand the full scope of your strengths in order to build a bridge between points A and B.

At the time of this writing, there are several tools for self-assessments listed by the Riley Guide.

Once you’ve done that, you can start identifying: a) your target industries and b) your target employers.

Target Industries

Maybe you will remain in the same industry, maybe not, but it never hurts to cast a wider net than a smaller one in this process: too many opportunities is always better than too few. If relocation is not an option for you, that simplifies the matter—but otherwise, keep your options open. What are attractive industries to you? Are these industries expanding or are they contracting? Maybe it’s an industry that’s experiencing consolidation—which may make it an uncertain place to be for a few quarters.

It’s important to explore several industries, because the economy doesn’t treat all industries identically. There’s a saying on Wall Street: even in a down market, someone is making money. Knowing your target industries is a great way to avoid the kind of instability that might lead to reorganizations and layoffs.

Target Employers

This requires understanding the corporate culture in these organizations[2] to ensure that you’d be happy working there. Some companies are all about the bottom-line, and if that’s your biggest priority, you’ll probably be happiest in a similar environment. Others put a priority on corporate citizenship, so if volunteering is important, that should factor into your process in identifying target employers. And of course, make sure you understand the organization’s financial health. If they are publicly traded, they are required to disclose their fundamentals (cash flow, income statement and balance sheet) every year. See what the equity research says about them.

At the time of this writing: for privately-held businesses, you’ll have to check out Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database, or perhaps the site manta.com. For public companies, their financials and equity research should be available on the Motley Fool.

Best Practices

First and foremost: periodically re-examine your Point A, Point B and your strategy. You may find that your understanding of your strengths or of your desired destination may evolve, and of course, these may materially impact the utility of your strategy.

On a quarterly basis, assess the tactics you deploy in pursuit of your strategy: as new tools become available, other tools become less relevant or meaningful. And don’t be afraid to solicit criticisms on your origin point, your intended destination or your plan of action from a few trusted advisors.

Keep an eye out for new tools or tactics that you might be able to adopt and where possible, share your knowledge with others. This can be a powerful form of networking and a great tool for personal branding.

Conclusion

The specific tactics that any given job seeker deploys to develop an effective job search strategy will vary as time passes. The situation may change such that relocation becomes an appealing option, or perhaps vice versa. Perhaps the desired point B has changed radically—maybe going from Wall Street to the non-profit area, or a target industry becomes less appealing due to an economic downturn.

But the objective in this blog entry isn’t to build a comprehensive list of tactics. It is to develop a set of best practices whereby the tactics employed to develop an effective job search strategy can be reviewed.

And I believe that this has been successful in so doing. What about you?


[1] On War, Carl von Clausewitz.

[2] This is a great basis for an informational interview request

2011/03/21

Introducing the Job Search Best Practices Series

Cover of "Britannica Encyclopedia (Encycl...

Cover of Britannica Encyclopedia (Encyclopaedia)

Last week, I make about the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in the entire time I’ve been blogging: I started writing a blog entry about job search best practices. By the time I realized what a terrible mistake that was, I was over 1400 words and there was every indication it would easily zoom past 5000 words.

In case you’re wondering why that was such a mistake: it’s a mistake because the fact is that job search best practices are constantly evolving. By the time such a large reference was done, it would be out of date. And perhaps as importantly, it’s missing the point. People want to know about specific elements of the job search.

Nobody wants a comprehensive reference, a la the Encyclopedia Britannica, about every facet of job search, because nobody is interested in trying to see it all at once. They want to refer to it tactically, search for their keywords and find a link.

Besides, even if that was something that people wanted in blog form, I’m not the one to write it. I’m pretty informed about job search and the process, but when you come right down to it, actual career coaches are vastly better qualified resources for this kind of guidance.

And that’s not me.

What I am is someone who knows a lot of career coaches and other career management professionals, who every week talks with literally dozens of jobseekers, and who volunteers with two different job search/support groups. I read dozens of blogs each week by some of those same career coaches and other career management professionals but also of others. I stay well informed as a consequence.

I’ve seen a lot of advice aimed at job seekers, much of which is clear, admirable and insightful. And every now and then, I’m fortunate enough to encounter advice that isn’t clear, whose value isn’t obvious, and the wisdom of which requires careful deliberation.

So I thought it would be a good idea at least to share the knowledge, insight and guidance I’ve encountered in a series, starting this week. I’m going to kick things off with the first installment in the Job Search Best Practices Series: Strategy. This is easily the hardest thing I think for most people, especially those who might have to start a search after some years. So much has changed in every phase of the job search process since I first started my own career, and I think that’s true for almost everyone.

So I hope to see you back here later this week, when I kick off the Job Search Best Practices series with an exploration of job search strategy!

2011/02/09

Staying Focused: LinkedIn, Your Second-Best Friend

linkedin

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who has heard me talk about it, and especially those who are connected with me on LinkedIn, know that I am big fan of LinkedIn. I’m a fan for several reasons, not the least of which is because I think it’s clear that LinkedIn is a job seeker’s second best friend.

Any job seeker’s best friend is him or her self: nobody will ever be better positioned to advocate for why you are the best candidate for an opportunity. But as far as tools go for propagating your personal brand and your unique value proposition as a candidate, you cannot beat LinkedIn. And I say this for several reasons.

Networking

We know that networking is how 70% of positions are filled, courtesy of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS report. LinkedIn offers an incredible wealth of opportunities to network professionally, which empowers job seekers to get maximum return on investment (ROI) for staying in touch with professional contacts.

But far beyond merely keeping the lines of communication with existing connections, LinkedIn users can prospect new connections. In group discussions, job seekers can raise their visibility among thought leaders and prospective hiring managers. By adding value in this way, a job seeker can win mindshare from professional peers. I’ve received and sent invitations to connect from others solely on the basis of contributions to groups in which I am active.

Personal Branding

Although the networking opportunities in LinkedIn are of obvious relevance to a job seeker, the prospect of establishing and controlling one’s personal brand is less obvious—but potentially more important. A lot of people have been talking about personal branding in the past year: Google shows 7.8 million hits on that search phrase.

Personal branding is simple: it is a job seeker’s unique value proposition: a combination of experience, training, skills and aptitudes no one else has. Identifying your unique value proposition can be a challenge, but pays great dividends. It provides a theme for elevator speeches, LinkedIn summaries and any other content a candidate develops to raise his or her visibility. And the best way to leverage your unique value proposition on LinkedIn is to incorporate it in your LinkedIn headline.

The headline always appears with your name anytime your name appears on LinkedIn, a fantastic branding opportunity! I’ve seen a lot of profiles in the years I have used LinkedIn. Many job seekers have as their headline, “[industry/job function] professional”. But in a job market like this, the odds of someone having an identical headline are quite high—the very opposite of a unique value proposition.

Applications

LinkedIn offers a wealth of applications: pieces of software that each LinkedIn user can choose to incorporate into their profile. Several are of very broad utility: Box.net allows users to share electronic files with others connected with him or her. This is a superb place to house your market plan, so your connections are better empowered to act as advocates for you. This is a far better solution than sharing your résumé, which will almost necessarily be at odds with the experience listed in your profile if you are following the job search best practice of customizing your résumé for each position.

Other applications have a more targeted appeal: the SAP Community Bio and Creative Portfolio Display are only relevant to certain professionals—but for them, may be of considerable significance.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, investing the time to learn where LinkedIn empowers your job search most will help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next opportunity.

2011/01/12

Art of the LinkedIn Recommendation or: Just When You Thought Gift Giving Was Over . . .

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

The holiday season may be over, but gift giving is a year-round event!

One of the great pleasures in my professional life has been found through colleagues whose work I think is extraordinary. I’ve been fortunate: just about everywhere, my colleagues have been exceptional. These people are so good at their professions that the whole world deserves to know about them! And working alongside them has amounted to real gifts to me.

That’s why, as a matter of professional pride, I write LinkedIn recommendations for people who’ve really stood out without any prompting. I suppose you might say I give those people the gift of recommendations. For example, if a certain previous manager of mine called me out of the blue and said, “Ed, I need you to be within 24 hours on a plane to a city you’ve never been to before,” I’d start looking for an airline ticket and would start packing because that manager’s earned a high level of trust from me.

There’s an art to the LinkedIn recommendation. Recommendations you either receive yourself or write for others constitute a visible part of your LinkedIn presence, and therefore, the professional brands of both the recommender and the recommendee can be harmed by poor recommendations. You wouldn’t be impressed to be told your blind date is “nice” or “has a great personality,” right? Well, neither should a LinkedIn recommendation you write or receive offer such lukewarm wording.

I have a few thoughts about how to make the most of LinkedIn recommendations, whether you write or request them.

Writing a Recommendation

If asked for a recommendation—or if you’re offering one on an unsolicited basis—I urge you to consider whether you should ask or so offer. Can you credibly and authentically state that you witnessed the requester do something truly extraordinary? If not, perhaps someone else who has indeed witnessed such an accomplishment directly should make the endorsement.

But if you can, there’s no sense in doing things by halves. Go ahead and state your opinion powerfully. After all, the recipient is someone you’ve had good experiences with professionally, right? So, tell the world! To that end:

  • Phrase the accomplishment in behavioral-interview (situation, action, result, or SAR[1]) form, complete with a metric. Saying “Joe’s influencing skills are peerless” is good, but saying “Joe’s influencing skills ultimately reduced project costs by 20%, thereby allowing the organization’s bid to undercut that of our competitors and resulting in a $50-million contract” is superior because the precise extent of Joe’s contribution through his negotiation skills is given a clear and unambiguous context anybody can easily understand.
  • Be sure to run your recommendation through both the spell check and grammar check of your favorite word processing application. You may be doing someone a great favor by giving the gift of your good word, but a typographical or grammatical error is tantamount to leaving the store’s price tag on.
  • Ask about the strengths or traits the person is most seeking to communicate at this time and whether metrics can be associated with them—especially if you’re responding to a request for a recommendation. The person who did the work will likely remember clearly what the specifics were and be able to tell you so you can incorporate them in the wording. There’s no reason you should have to wrack your own brain trying to recall a situation that might have occurred several years before.

Requesting a Recommendation

If you’re the one requesting a recommendation, I urge you to consider whether you should do so. Can the person you’re asking indeed credibly and authentically state that he or she witnessed you do something truly extraordinary? If not, consider asking a direct witness.

If the person you ask can vouch, position that person to make such statements powerfully. To that end:

  • Arm the person with information to make powerful statements about your skills. Writing a recommendation can be difficult or time-consuming. If you’re asking someone to do something difficult or time-consuming on your behalf, the least you can do is to make the process easier. Therefore, include an accomplishment in behavioral SAR form (see above) with a metric that speaks to a strength you’re seeking to underscore at this time. If you do this, include an out as well: something like “I felt during the time we worked together that I demonstrated [strength], which yielded [metric], but that’s just a suggestion.” But if you cannot offer this kind of guidance, reconsider whether you should request a recommendation from that person.
  • Consider getting one or more recommendations from former reports if you were a manager. Direct reports can speak to your management style. Depending on your career level, your impact as an individual contributor may be overshadowed by your ability to lead a team to exceptional performance. And don’t rule out the utility of peer recommendation; a well-written peer recommendation can add value—provided clear metrics are included.
  • Do not under any circumstance say, “I’m sure whatever you say will be fine.” If asked to provide guidelines about the kinds of skills or expertise you want extolled, an answer of that sort says, “I’m asking you to give me a gift, but I won’t give you any guidance by telling you the kinds of gifts I most appreciate.”

On LinkedIn, recommendations can be received or given only between first-degree connections: those with whom invitations to connect have been exchanged and accepted. Remember that each of us has accomplished much, as has each of our connections. LinkedIn recognizes that truth, enshrining it in the requirements that your profile contain at least three recommendations to be rated 100% complete. A complete profile is desirable because LinkedIn users with complete profiles appear higher in search results and therefore have greater visibility.

For the sake of your colleagues and yourself, please invest the time to make sure the recommendations you give and receive are powerful. So, if you’re going to give someone a gift, wouldn’t you want it to be one that the recipient will love? And in turn, if you’re the one on the receiving end, isn’t it better to receive a gift that you love?

I want to give people gifts they will cherish. Don’t you?


[1] There are a host of acronyms or abbreviations for this form: CAR, PAR, SAR, etc. Can we instead use BAR (blank, action, result) and be done with it?

<!–[if gte mso 10]>  

The holiday season may be over, but gift giving is a year-round event!

 

One of the great pleasures in my professional life has been found through colleagues whose work I think is extraordinary. I’ve been fortunate: just about everywhere, my colleagues have been exceptional. These people are so good at their professions that the whole world deserves to know about them! And working alongside them has amounted to real gifts to me.

 

That’s why, as a matter of professional pride, I write LinkedIn recommendations for people who’ve really stood out without any prompting. I suppose you might say I give those people the gift of recommendations. For example, if a certain previous manager of mine called me out of the blue and said, “Ed, I need you to be within 24 hours on a plane to a city you’ve never been to before,” I’d start looking for an airline ticket and would start packing because that manager’s earned a high level of trust from me.

 

There’s an art to the LinkedIn recommendation. Recommendations you either receive yourself or write for others constitute a visible part of your LinkedIn presence, and therefore, the professional brands of both the recommender and the recommendee can be harmed by poor recommendations. You wouldn’t be impressed to be told your blind date is “nice” or “has a great personality,” right? Well, neither should a LinkedIn recommendation you write or receive offer such lukewarm wording.

 

I have a few thoughts about how to make the most of LinkedIn recommendations, whether you write or request them.

 

Writing a Recommendation

If asked for a recommendation—or if you’re offering one on an unsolicited basis—I urge you to consider whether you should ask or so offer. Can you credibly and authentically state that you witnessed the requester do something truly extraordinary? If not, perhaps someone else who has indeed witnessed such an accomplishment directly should make the endorsement.

 

But if you can, there’s no sense in doing things by halves. Go ahead and state your opinion powerfully. After all, the recipient is someone you’ve had good experiences with professionally, right? So, tell the world! To that end:

 

  • Phrase the accomplishment in behavioral-interview (situation, action, result, or SAR[1]) form, complete with a metric. Saying “Joe’s influencing skills are peerless” is good, but saying “Joe’s influencing skills ultimately reduced project costs by 20%, thereby allowing the organization’s bid to undercut that of our competitors and resulting in a $50-million contract” is superior because the precise extent of Joe’s contribution through his negotiation skills is given a clear and unambiguous context anybody can easily understand.

 

  • Be sure to run your recommendation through both the spell check and grammar check of your favorite word processing application. You may be doing someone a great favor by giving the gift of your good word, but a typographical or grammatical error is tantamount to leaving the store’s price tag on.

 

  • Ask about the strengths or traits the person is most seeking to communicate at this time and whether metrics can be associated with them—especially if you’re responding to a request for a recommendation. The person who did the work will likely remember clearly what the specifics were and be able to tell you so you can incorporate them in the wording. There’s no reason you should have to wrack your own brain trying to recall a situation that might have occurred several years before.

 

Requesting a Recommendation

If you’re the one requesting a recommendation, I urge you to consider whether you should do so. Can the person you’re asking indeed credibly and authentically state that he or she witnessed you do something truly extraordinary? If not, consider asking a direct witness.

 

If the person you ask can vouch, position that person to make such statements powerfully. To that end:

 

  • Arm the person with information to make powerful statements about your skills. Writing a recommendation can be difficult or time-consuming. If you’re asking someone to do something difficult or time-consuming on your behalf, the least you can do is to make the process easier. Therefore, include an accomplishment in behavioral SAR form (see above) with a metric that speaks to a strength you’re seeking to underscore at this time. If you do this, include an out as well: something like “I felt during the time we worked together that I demonstrated [strength], which yielded [metric], but that’s just a suggestion.” But if you cannot offer this kind of guidance, reconsider whether you should request a recommendation from that person.

 

  • Consider getting one or more recommendations from former reports if you were a manager. Direct reports can speak to your management style. Depending on your career level, your impact as an individual contributor may be overshadowed by your ability to lead a team to exceptional performance. And don’t rule out the utility of peer recommendation; a well-written peer recommendation can add value—provided clear metrics are included.

 

  • Do not under any circumstance say, “I’m sure whatever you say will be fine.” If asked to provide guidelines about the kinds of skills or expertise you want extolled, an answer of that sort says, “I’m asking you to give me a gift, but I won’t give you any guidance by telling you the kinds of gifts I most appreciate.”

 

On LinkedIn, recommendations can be received or given only between first-degree connections: those with whom invitations to connect have been exchanged and accepted. Remember that each of us has accomplished much, as has each of our connections. LinkedIn recognizes that truth, enshrining it in the requirements that your profile contain at least three recommendations to be rated 100% complete. A complete profile is desirable because LinkedIn users with complete profiles appear higher in search results and therefore have greater visibility.

 

For the sake of your colleagues and yourself, please invest the time to make sure the recommendations you give and receive are powerful. So, if you’re going to give someone a gift, wouldn’t you want it to be one that the recipient will love? And in turn, if you’re the one on the receiving end, isn’t it better to receive a gift that you love?

 

I want to give people gifts they will cherish. Don’t you?


[1] There are a host of acronyms or abbreviations for this form: CAR, PAR, SAR, etc. Can we instead use BAR (blank, action, result) and be done with it?

2010/12/01

Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

Image via Wikipedia

An abiding passion of mine is best practices. In fact, I think so much of best practices that I consider it one of my core values. In the past three years, I have spent a goodly amount of time learning about LinkedIn. For almost two years now, I have led workshops on it and very few days go by that I don’t learn something new about this tool.

Therefore, I want to share just a few LinkedIn best practices today revolving around profile completeness, Groups, status and Applications.

Profile completeness

This involves several things: a summary, profile picture, headline and three recommendations. A 100% complete profile will appear higher in search results when people search for LinkedIn users. A lot of these searches are being conducted by recruiters, so please do yourself this kindness.

Keyword-rich summary

When those recruiters are searching, they’re generally searching for keywords. Those keywords can be populated in your LinkedIn profile summary. You can see how effectively you have done so by doing a search for your ideal next position based on keywords. If you are not on page 1 of the search results, you may have some work ahead of you.

Profile picture

To achieve a 100% complete profile, you need a picture. It’s important to note that the LinkedIn Terms of Service specifically require a headshot. Most people know a shutterbug: someone in their family—maybe a friend—but someone who’s an avid photographer. See if that person is interested in helping you by taking a picture you can use.

I am aware some are concerned about the prospect of being the victims of subconscious (or even conscious) age discrimination, gleaned through your profile picture. I don’t believe that’s a valid fear because if you get the interview, they’re eventually going to find out how old you are anyway. If it’s going to be a deal breaker, save yourself the wasted effort. Besides, even if you got the offer, would you really be comfortable in such an environment?

Headline

If you’ve spent any amount of time on LinkedIn, you’ll have seen a lot of headlines that say “[job function/industry] professional”. Maybe that’s even what yours says right now. If so, do yourself the kindness of changing it. I ask that you change it because it’s bland, dull…unmemorable. That is the very opposite of personal branding.

Your headline appears on LinkedIn every single time your name does. It’s your own personal billboard: I can’t think of a better branding opportunity.

Give some thought to what you want that message to be. Are you an innovative thought leader in your area who lives on the bleeding edge? Maybe you’re a maven with compliance, skillfully navigating a still-evolving sea of requirements. Or perhaps you are a whiz at logistics, masterminding shipments from developing markets to guarantee expected inventory levels.

Whatever you choose, make it unique.

Recommendations

LinkedIn does not consider your profile complete unless you have three recommendations. The most meaningful, substantial recommendations you will receive are those from direct managers—but do not discount the value of customer/vendor recommendations, where that’s applicable. It’s also important to note that writing a good recommendation is time-consuming and sometimes difficult. Therefore, don’t be afraid to help a potential recommender by providing some guidance—ideally in CAR/PAR/STAR format.

Groups

Associations of disparate LinkedIn users who share a common experience, interest, or perhaps both, groups are a superb means whereby LinkedIn users can expand their reach by literally orders of magnitude. This is because with a group in common between yourself and another LinkedIn user, this can be the basis for sending a message, or even an invitation to connect. Your alma mater almost certainly has a LinkedIn group (common experience). Trade associations (common interest) definitely do: one of the largest is SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management. So do certain large employers, who maintain LinkedIn groups for current and/or former employees.

Status

This is a highly under-utilized part of LinkedIn. A status update goes out to all your first degree connections on LinkedIn. Maybe you’ll be attending a conference in your field: posting that status update might well lead to re-connecting with a friend you haven’t seen who’ll also be in town at the same time. That brings me to…

Applications

There are several applications—piece of software that integrate into your LinkedIn profile—that you can add. These are easily accessed through the horizontal menu across the top of the main LinkedIn page. Go to More|Application Directory. Several popular ones include blogs (Blog Link, WordPress), collaboration (Box.net is a personal favorite) and presentations (SlideShare and Google Presentation).

One of the newer Applications is Portfolio Display, which would be of great use to creative professionals. And a favorite of mine is Events, which allows you to view, create and potentially attend occasions that interest you. If you will be attending an event, the organizer(s) almost certainly created the event on LinkedIn: note your attendance, or at least interest. It might also be helpful to see where your contacts might be congregating as well.

Summary

There is nothing wrong with the fact that odds are there are tons of ways that you can leverage LinkedIn more fully than you are right now. Heck, I’ve been teaching people how to do this for close to 2 years now and not a week goes by I don’t learn something new myself. In fact, I literally did this morning.

Are there any best practices I missed? Comment and let me know what I missed!

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