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

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.

2011/03/21

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!

2011/02/22

Networking Best Practices

Description: Social Networking Source: own wor...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a big fan of best practices and a fan of networking, on which subjects I have blogged before and will almost certainly blog again in the future[i]. But until now, I haven’t thought to address the subject of networking best practices—which means I’m probably way overdue.

A lot of people hear the word “networking” and get a mental picture of that guy. You know the one I mean. He shows up at networking events and by the time you’re onto the second sentence of answering his question, you can see his head swivel as he figures out whom to talk with next. The one who’s all smiles and when you go to shake his hand, hands you his business card. The one that when he follows up afterwards, isn’t listening: he’s only broadcasting.

Yeah, I’m talking about that guy. The thing is, a lot of folks think that guy is the ultimate expression of “networking”. We might even, when saying this face to face with another person, use “air quotes” around the word networking.

And that’s incredibly sad, because that isn’t what networking has to be.

What networking really needs to be about is forging an authentic connection with another person[ii]. It requires being present and actually caring what someone else is saying. Because it’s only when you’re engaged in that exchange that you’ll see opportunities to connect on something more than a fleeting, superficial level.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share a few networking best practices. There are four elements to it but ultimately, it all boils down to one word: GIVE.

Generosity

Be open to offering assistance—whether emotional support, a connection or some missing information. It doesn’t cost you very much at all. While there are going to be occasions when there’s nothing you can offer to someone you’ve just met beyond perhaps a sympathetic ear, what that person will remember is that when you met, you tried to find ways to be of assistance. And that may be more powerful than anything else you might offer.

Interest

You can’t really connect with someone if you aren’t interested in what they are saying. How else are you going to perceive opportunities to be generous if you aren’t interested in seeing them? Our perceptions shape our reality. If we are not open to possibilities we will not see them, will not act on them and hence de facto, they don’t exist to us.

Value

When you say something, be sure you are adding value to the conversation or somehow addressing what the other person is saying. The fastest way to ensure that your first conversation with someone will also be your last is to fail to add value. People form a first impression within 30 seconds so make sure the one you leave is one of which you can be proud.

Empathize

Reverse the situation: if you were in that person’s situation, what would be the critical information or insight you could provide that you’d really appreciate? For example: if someone you’ve met mentions that they never sleep well on hotel beds, and that’s why they keep yawning, why not suggest a solution that’s worked for you? Maybe a sleep mask, or earplugs, or a white noise generator are just what he or she needs to conquer that problem. Wouldn’t you appreciate that suggestion if your positions were reversed? I know I would!

Sure, people talk about the importance of good first impressions, how failure to follow up after the meeting is the same as never having met someone in the first place, etc., but the truth is that if you genuinely are engaged and interested in an authentic connection with someone…you’ll make a good first impression and you’ll absolutely follow up afterwards. You will be generous, show interest, add value and empathize.

If you’re genuinely interested, you won’t be able to help yourself: you’ll GIVE.


[i] Yes, that’s a threat!

[ii] And if for some reason you haven’t already done so, please check out Keith Ferrazzi’s seminal Never Eat Alone, which may be the authoritative book on the subject.

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?

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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?

2010/12/15

Just a Few More LinkedIn Best Practices

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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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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.

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