ed muses upon

2011/06/01

Staying Focused: Meaningful Metrics

A donut chart

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011/04/06

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!

2011/01/12

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?

2010/12/01

Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices

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

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

Profile completeness

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

Keyword-rich summary

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

Profile picture

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

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

Headline

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

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

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

Whatever you choose, make it unique.

Recommendations

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

Groups

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

Status

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

Applications

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

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

Summary

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

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

2010/05/18

Staying Focused: Best Practices & Your Elevator Speech

I participate in many conversations about elevator speeches in various networking groups. A question often raised in these conversations is how to convey our key information succinctly and memorably. The elevator speech needs to achieve both of those objectives, but the optimal verbiage to accomplish both can be elusive. So I want to share a summary of the best practices I have encountered thus far about crafting the elevator speech.

It’s a Commercial:

The elevator speech needs to be brief, between 30 and 60 seconds according to most sources. These time constraints underscore the aptness of the other name for an elevator speech: the 30 second commercial. And just as a commercial’s purpose is to make you pick up a product in a store several days later, yours should intrigue the reader or listener enough to ask follow-up questions.

Authenticity:

Many sources about elevator speeches stress that it must sound natural, an honest reflection of your passion for the work and the way you speak. This is important for one very simple reason. If you pique someone’s interest and they ask follow-up questions, an abrupt shift from the highly polished 30 second commercial to a something much less polished may harm your credibility with the listener. While your elevator speech may be so finely crafted that it resembles the work of William Shakespeare, if you don’t usually speak in Elizabethan English using iambic pentameter, using it is probably not the best idea.

Uniqueness:

We each possess a unique set of skills, aptitudes, work experience, and qualifications which make us great candidates. From that rich background should flow the success stories of your work history. Perhaps an idea you had saved your employer millions of dollars. Maybe you landed a significant client—or retained a major client that was considering moving on. Or did you streamline a process so that it required 25% less time, thereby freeing colleagues to spend time addressing other pressing matters? In like fashion, your success stories should underscore the unique combination of talents you represent. While you likely will have time for only one success story when you give your elevator speech, it’s important to have several on hand, because the conversation may lend itself to including a different success story in one circumstance than another.

Adaptability:

Your elevator speech, no matter how polished, natural, or engaging, is never really “done”. As you encounter new situations or new advice that resonates with you, it will continue evolving, a mirror reflecting those experiences and that advice. You would be very unlikely to deliver your elevator speech in a networking group the same way you would in an interview.

And this is a good thing! This need for constant change serves as a valuable reminder that, as with any other best practices, relentless commitment to excellence is the single most important part of the equation.

And at the end of the day, best practices in crafting your elevator speech helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.

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