ed muses upon

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?

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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?

2011/01/03

edmusesupon:2010 in review

Social Media Landscape

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 21 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 28 posts.

The busiest day of the year was July 20th with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Staying Focused: Stand Out with Social Media.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, twitter.com, lmodules.com, hootsuite.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jen-baty 312, the importance to be busy, career coaches, what would you want in linkedin, and linkedin viewed profile.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Staying Focused: Stand Out with Social Media July 2010
3 comments

2

Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices December 2010
6 comments

3

The Importance of Being Busy August 2010
3 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

Just a Few More LinkedIn Best Practices December 2010
4 comments

5

What a Jobseeker Should Know About Career Coaches October 2010
3 comments

2010/12/15

Just a Few More LinkedIn Best Practices

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

Image via Wikipedia

Because of the popularity of Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices (which if you missed it, can be found here), it seemed like a few more are in order.

Thanks in part to the changes recently introduced on LinkedIn, some of the best practices I learned have evolved, while in other cases, new functionality has forced a different understanding. But here is what I expect will be my last blog of the year: Just a Few (More) LinkedIn Best Practices.

Profile

In the Experience section of your profile, where your current and past positions are listed, please make sure that you are seeing a superscript square after the organization’s name. If not, do a Company search for the organization and edit the name in your profile to match the Company Profile you find. The odds are good that due to merger & acquisition activity or simple re-branding the name may have changed since you first walked through their doors. So long as the company’s name is a match for how it appears in the Company Profile.

This is a good thing to do for 2 reasons:

  1. Although this is uncommon, it’s possible that there are multiple organizations with very similar names. In fact, questions and confusion stemming from this appear every week on LinkedIn. Make sure you are not inadvertently representing yourself as a (former) employee of an organization for whom you have never worked.
  1. Listing the organization’s name correctly, in a manner consistent with current branding practices, creates a more professional impression.

Status

I know, I discussed this last time, but I realized there was more that needed to be said here.

When you log into LinkedIn, there’s a slender, rectangular box with the words “Share an update”. In Facebook fashion, you can create an update of up to 140 characters. When you do this, the people in your network receive an update in their LinkedIn “update stream”.

Don’t know what to say? What about some project you recently completed, or a convention from which you’ve just returned? Maybe you just started taking classes for a new certification or license.

Do yourself a favor and update this from time to time. By so doing, you are providing the clearest and most unambiguous indication that you’re maintaining a presence on LinkedIn. I recommend updating no more than once every day, maybe once every other day. This is directly related to the next point…

Status Updates/Twitter

If you’re not on Twitter, you may have recognized that 140 character restriction I mentioned two paragraphs earlier. And if you are, you very likely already knew this.

The temptation exists to integrate your Twitter and LinkedIn status updates. Fight the urge. Fight it very, very hard. Because for the people in your network, filling their LinkedIn “update stream” with your tweets, retweets and the like is a surefire, first-class, all-expense paid ticket to having all of your LinkedIn updates hidden by people in your network—even the really good stuff that’s going on with you.

I’m far from a Twitter hater: I’m on Twitter. I like it a great deal, in fact. But the expected update frequency is very different. On LinkedIn, it’s once/day at the outside. If I’m on Twitter, reeling off literally dozens of tweets (OK, RTs) is normal for me. But I will never push all my tweets to LinkedIn, specifically because I know what that looks like for those not on Twitter.

The truth is that the people who dislike Twitter really dislike it. And I am willing to bet there’s at least a few in your own network.

Heck, on LinkedIn, that includes me, too.

I Found Myself, I’m Right Here

We’ve all heard of the practice of searching (or more specifically, Googling) ourselves, right? Try logging out of LinkedIn[i] and doing a search on your name. If you aren’t the first result, it might be worth asking why not. Having a 100% complete profile will certainly get you higher in the results.

Another, often under-recognized reason to do this is to discover instances in which you might have accidentally created a duplicate profile. This can happen very easily by accident if you accept an invitation to connect that was sent to an e-mail address you haven’t included in your profile.

You can help avoid that situation by adding any other e-mail addresses you have used in the past or are using now. This is done by going to the Settings page (see the endnote re: finding the Settings page nowadays). From the Settings page, select Personal Information|Email Addresses.

It’s important to note that so long as you are not changing your primary e-mail address, it doesn’t matter if you no longer have access to the secondary e-mail address you add: LinkedIn will just create a cross-reference between you’re the one (or more) secondary address(es) in question to the primary address.

Summary

I am sure there are other best practices re: LinkedIn that I neglected to mention either in the last blog entry or in this one. So feel free to tell me what I’ve missed! I removed an entire paragraph because I’m running pretty long here so I can definitely think of one off the top of my head.

In fact, I double-dog dare you.

But whether you can or can’t, a very happy holiday season to you: enjoy the snow in the background!


[i] Perhaps surprising, I do know how to do this. However, due to recent unannounced changes in the user interface, the method isn’t very intuitive any longer. You can do this by hovering your cursor over your name in the upper right corner where it appears on any LinkedIn screen. This will produce a menu with two options: Settings and Sign Out.

2010/12/01

Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices

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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!

2010/11/09

Staying Focused: Moonlighting & Your Job Search

Some years ago, due to films like Grosse Pointe Blank and Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, eighties music was enjoying a resurgence in popularity. My wife and I were leaving a music store and as we were leaving, two teens walked into the store in mid-conversation. Just before the doors closed behind them, we couldn’t help overhearing one exclaim to the other, “Cuz 80s music is, like, the best music evar!!!”

As a child of the 80s, my preferences in music sometimes revert to the music of my high school experiences. As the foregoing illustrates, some of it remains very catchy. But it’s hard to discuss one’s high school experiences without addressing the subject of what was on TV at the time.

One very popular show of the time was Moonlighting. The Cybill Shepherd/Bruce Willis vehicle that vaulted the latter into stardom was a favorite of mine. The show featured some of the snappiest dialogue on television when it premiered in 1985. Something I always appreciated as a writer was the quotable lines the cast delivered with impeccable timing. One quote that has stuck with me ever since was delivered by Bruce Willis: “Everyone’s perfect at something”.

Things have their intrinsic meanings and then the adding meanings brought by circumstances and whim. That’s the case here, too.

Everyone’s perfect at something.” In your professional experience, I am willing to wager that was true of almost everyone you encountered. If I ask you who has the best PowerPoint skills, you probably can think of a name immediately. Who was it that could consistently un-jam the photocopier? When you couldn’t get Excel to do what you needed, wasn’t there someone you always turned to?

I’m assuming that the answers to those three questions are all different. So let me turn this around: if I asked all of those people what you were perfect at, what would they say?

Several groups, including the ETP Network, are big proponents of identifying a job seeker’s “unique value proposition”: the unique blend of skills, experience and aptitude that a candidate offers. And yes, it is unique: no one else has the same exact skills, experience and aptitudes you possess, in the same measures.

That is what you’re perfect at.

Once you have identified what you’re perfect at, it’s a matter of helping the recruiters and hiring managers who need you to find you. Everyone talks about networking as the biggest source of jobs (per the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70%). It is in this way that you are able to demonstrate why you are a great fit for the demands of an opportunity.

At the end of the day, a quote from Moonlighting might just help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next opportunity.

2010/11/03

Staying Focused: Fortune Favors the Bold Job Seeker

In his work Phormio, Roman playwright Terence introduced the expression fortes fortuna adiuvat. The motto of several military units in the US and British armed forces, this phrase is most commonly translated as “fortune favors the bold”. Although Phormio dates back to the second century BCE, the observation remains just as apt today, over two millennia later. Even today we often say “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, which is a re-formulation of the same sentiment: bold action is rewarded.

Looking across classic mythology, we see this sentiment echoed—from an infant Zeus leading his siblings in revolt successfully against their father Kronos all the way to the success of the Trojan Horse, brainchild of Odysseus. Through centuries of mythmaking, the ancient Greeks affirmed their admiration for boldness and ingenuity time and again.

And we are not much different from the ancient Greeks: this same admiration continues unabated in the modern day. In the past several years, popular entertainment is littered with tales of clever, admirable scoundrels as heroes, from the Ocean’s films starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt to the TV show Leverage. While the popularity of the grifter in entertainment is in part a function of broader societal disillusionment, the criminal has always had appeal. How else could one explain five separate big screen films about Robin Hood or the enduring popularity of Bonnie & Clyde?

But this isn’t an exploration of the cultural subconscious. This is about how to draw lessons from the cultural subconscious that will help ramp-up your job search. These are the four lessons that each job seeker should take:

Build Interest

Publicize your résumé bullet points. Your accomplishments are impressive: others deserve to know about them! Talk about one when you deliver your elevator speech—and if you attend a regular job search or networking group, highlight a different one each time. Your professional value is far more than just one achievement.

Own Your Mindset

The abbreviation GIGO—Garbage In, Garbage Out—applies here. What kind of content you take in is reflected in your mentality. If you are relentlessly reading about the poor state of the economy or the latest share price tumble, it becomes much harder to maintain the positive, confident mentality hiring managers want to see. Consider calling a friend or job search buddy for a dose of good news to get in the right frame of mind. One way to do this…

Live Your Accomplishments

Take a few minutes to review your résumé. Look at your best accomplishment bullet points. Remember how achieving them made you feel. Your résumé is a celebration of the great things of which you are capable.

Deliver

In your job search, you have to deliver for hiring organizations, whether corporate or non-profit. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that. But—with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel—since no one is a rock or an island, you’ve met friends and connections who have helped to progress your job search, either with a shared connection, or maybe a tip, or sometimes the right word at the right time. Maybe you’ve even been able to help a few. Well, consider delivering for a few of them, too.

Because at the end of the day, being BOLD will help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next opportunity.

2010/10/26

Staying Focused: Are Your Accomplishments Legendary?

In Greek mythology, Hercules[1] was the son of the Greek god and chronic philanderer Zeus and Alcmene, a mortal woman. More than mildly miffed by this dalliance, the goddess Hera sent serpents to kill Hercules when he was only an infant. Even from his earliest days, Hercules clearly demonstrated that he was destined for great things.

Hercules is best known to modern audiences for his epic Labors, a series of tasks he was assigned as penance for a terrible crime—and again, thanks in part Hera. They have come down to us through legend from slaying the Nemean lion to capturing Cerberus, the three-headed guardian to the underworld. Hercules went on to join the Argonauts, the Greek mythology version of an All-Star game and finished by being elevated to godhood.

It may sometimes be tempting to view oneself as a latter-day Hercules, heroically striving against the mighty challenges an antagonistic figure sets in our way. But the real applicability is in his Labors—specifically, as relates to your résumé.

Imagine what a résumé for Hercules might resemble. What might his professional experience look like?

 

Hero at Large

Righter of wrongs whose boundless energy brings justice, thrills and spills across Greece. Author of heroic feats of strength poets will recount for millennia. Creator of effective solutions for proverbially thorny issues.

  • Overcame Nemean lion through deployment of legendary strength in service to intelligent tactics, ending the lion’s threat to 500+ local residents.
  • Defeated the Lernaean hydra and its many, re-growing heads with the surgical application of medical best practices, resulting in acquiring a unique tactical asset.
  • Won passage to and from the underworld to capture and subdue the three-headed dog Cerberus, the underworld’s guardian, producing the return of Athenian hero and king Theseus.

Examine the accomplishments, each drawn from one of the legendary Labors of Hercules. Although no metrics are included for any but the first, note that the form of each is in the PAR (Problem, Action, Result) behavioral interview question form. In each case, the chief challenge or problem for each task is listed at the beginning followed by the specific action undertaken and closes with the result. And the result is that Hercules looks heroic

Do the accomplishments on your résumé do the same for you? Shouldn’t they?

At the end of the day, making your accomplishments the stuff of legend will yield a more powerful résumé that will help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next opportunity.

 

 


[1]Although I use the familiar form “Hercules” throughout, it should technically be “Heracles” as the reference is to Greek, rather than Roman legend.

2010/10/19

What a Jobseeker Should Know About Career Coaches

Filed under: Uncategorized — edmusesupon @ 2:08 pm

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Susan Guarneri, a career coach who’s so devoted to her craft that she took about an hour to talk about this subject on her birthday. Susan is the holder of a host of coaching certifications, including the National Certified Counselor and National Certified Career Counselor certifications; is co-author of Job Search Bloopers: Every Mistake You Can Make on the Road to Career Suicide…and How to Avoid Them with Laura DeCarlo; and is the mind behind the Career Goddess blog.

In a wide-ranging conversation, we touched on the subject of career coaches and what a job seeker ought to know about career coaches. It was a very informative conversation and hope you see something of value here, too. So without further ado, let me present Susan Guarneri, the Career Assessment Goddess!

 

Q: What should a job seeker expect when working with a career coach?

A: There’s a widespread misconception that coaches fix problems. It’s about collaboration. It’s about two minds coming together. A good coach invites interactivity with the client. And it’s important to talk with a person and find chemistry. It’s about being able to establish trust.

 

Q: Can you enlarge upon “accountability plan?”

A: An accountability plan moves you closer to your goal in the coaching process. Homework from a counselor is part of an accountability plan. Each person’s needs are different and counseling must be responsive to unfolding developments.

 

Q: What should a job seeker know about career coaches?

A: Be sure you are dealing with a professional who does have training and certifications. Several programs are accredited by the International Coach Federation, the largest global association for coaches. Caution may be warranted for those billing themselves as coaches who lack the appropriate credentials. Susan Whitcomb, author of eight books about job search and career management, is President of Career Coach Academy, which also offers well regarded programs for career coaches.

 

Q: What questions should a job seeker not ask of a coach?

A: Prospects often ask, what is your success rate? Coaches are not recruiters; they do not find interviews for you or “place” you in a job.  Coaches guide clients through a collaborative process that often includes client insight and deeper awareness, relevant research strategies and tools, and action steps to reach the client’s stated goals.

 

Q: In your experience as a career counselor, what else should job seekers do that many don’t know to do?

A: Uncover and express their personal brand to capture the prospective employer’s attention in an extremely competitive job market. Microsoft released a survey in December 2009 that found 79% of hiring managers and recruiters in the U.S. conduct online searches of prospective candidates and 70% of those employers and recruiters have ruled out candidates based on what they found online. One immediate way to take charge of your personal brand is to buy your domain name. For less than one dollar a month, you can have your own domain name.

2010/09/15

Change Your Perspective!

Filed under: branding, careers, job search, networking, volunteering — Tags: , , , — edmusesupon @ 4:44 am

My wife & I live close to Philadelphia, so we often visit. We are slowly developing knowledge of and appreciation for the City of Brother Love on its own terms.

I recently celebrated a birthday and to mark the occasion, my wife provided a helicopter flight to tour the city of Philadelphia in a way I never had. We went up recently and had a blast!

The weather was perfect: low 80s, low humidity and the bluest sky we have seen for weeks. The helicopter, a Robinson R44, offers incredible visibility, as evidenced by this picture.

Over the course of the thirty minutes or so we were in the air, I was struck by how different the city looked from this height. At street level, it can be jarring, noisy…chaotic. But from about 500 feet up, the city is majestic, serene and surprisingly green. It was great to see Philly from this new perspective and my first experience in a helicopter.

Seeing things from a different perspective is important. One of the things I find most rewarding about talking with experts in their field is seeing something I thought I understood from a new perspective. That new perspective yields new insights—and from such exchanges, my understanding grows. So in a very real way, one can say that changing your perspective grows your understanding.

That got me thinking about résumés and the importance of having someone else review them. Many of us were brought up believing that talking about our accomplishments is immodest and not desirable. But given a chance to extol the merits of a colleague, the same people who keep mum about their own achievements can’t stop talking up their co-workers.

It’s this phenomenon that needs to be leveraged. Writing a résumé is not easy for most people, as discussed above. But talking about the great things someone else has done, this generally comes quite easily.

So if you know someone who is having trouble putting together a résumé, offering suggestions on how to make his or her accomplishments stronger might be a great way to help him or her. You will very likely offer a sorely-needed change of perspective.

2010/08/31

Staying Focused: Being the Known Quantity

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 70% of all positions are filled through networking. The importance of networking, so often trumpeted to job seekers, depends upon that figure. But it’s worth asking why it’s so important. What makes networking so vital to landing?

The answer is simple: it’s how employers know you are a living, breathing person.

While individual businesses may be more or less open to aggressive solutions or thinking, it’s fair to say that as a rule, businesses tend to be risk averse. This is only sensible in a for-profit enterprise: if an effort or initiative requires [x] resources, then [x] must be lesser than the expected revenue/cost reduction or it isn’t worth proceeding.

The costs associated with bringing on a new employee are considerable: the employee needs to be trained, resulting in lost productivity of the person or people involved in that training; the tasks assigned to the new employee cannot be completed as quickly as when an experienced person is in that role; to say nothing of the costs of recruiting and costs in benefits incurred. And of course, if a new employee doesn’t work out, the whole process might need to be repeated. A business is willing to take the hit in lost productivity, but only for the right new hire.

For those reasons, it should come as no surprise that businesses are even more conservative when it comes to evaluating résumés. HR and hiring managers are flooded with dozens or even hundreds of résumés for each job posting. No matter how well crafted, résumés don’t represent living, breathing people to the screener: they are merely skill sets or aptitudes that either do or do not match the criteria in the posting.

A résumé has no face, no sense of humor and no personality. And that’s the problem: a hiring manager isn’t hiring a résumé: he or she is hiring an employee, someone with the optimal combination of required background and ability to fit into the corporate culture. No matter how compellingly crafted or presented, the résumé will always be a poorer sales tool than the product: you.

We’ve all done it: applied for a position, submitted the relevant material into the black hole and heard nothing back with no way to follow up except a general HR phone number or e-mail address—which is to say, no way at all. This part of job search is easily the most frustrating, unsatisfying and soul-killing part: the stakes are very high but you have no control, influence or even means to gauge your progress as a candidate. In this situation, the screener is a faceless, nameless, and hence anonymous figure…just like you.

It is to overcome this anonymity, this facelessness, which makes networking so directly important to job search. Leaving aside the fact that the people we encounter at networking events might pass along useful leads, by networking, you can become a face, a name and a known quantity.

Psychologists have been aware of the halo effect for decades. In HR circles, the term is used to refer to a hiring manager identifying a positive trait that mitigates a candidate’s negative trait(s). As job seekers, we need to make full use of the tools in our toolkit to land.

At the end of the day, staying focused on being the known quantity is at the heart of networking’s importance, and will help you land.

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