Month: May 2011

Change is good

Yes, I’ve changed the appearance of this blog.  Once again.  What can I say?   I like change.   At least, change that I’ve initiated. 

Sound familiar?  Yes, over the past few years many of us have been through change that was not in our plan.   Our paradigm was shifted for us.  Our cheese was moved.  A natural response can be to hunker down and resist any further change.  However, this does not carry us forward. 

Rather, we can use the energy released by the initial change and channel it into further changes – changes we steer into taking us down the path we wish to go.  The vaccuum created by the loss of one thing is an opportunity for something else to rush in and fill it.  We can influence that process.  We do not have to be victims, sitting idly by. Instead we can take a moment, think about what we are really striving for and then take specific, productive action to fill the gaps. 

Change can give us a fresh perspective and help us to actually think differently.  The next time you want to think differently, change something – your environment, your schedule, your actions.   That’s what I did.  And I hope you like it!

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Power of the profile

For most people, LinkedIn is the first website referenced in a Google search of their own name. This makes their LinkedIn profile their #1 marketing tool.  How can they make it work for them?  How can you make yours work for you?

A great profile can sell you.  A weak one can sink you.  Whether you are in an active job search, being scouted by the competition, in consideration as a guest speaker or a possible network contact, what people see when they look at your profile will affect whether they reach out to you.   This is your “brand” laid out visually. So, here are some basics on building a powerful profile:

Know Who You Are

Professionally, that is.  Know your strengths, skills, areas of knowledge.  Which stand out?  What are you exceptionally good at?  Of these things, which do you enjoy the most and are the most marketable?   What are some key achievements of yours?  These are questions you should have asked as you built your resume if you have done so recently.  The answers will help you define your profile content. In fact, your profile should include similar information to your resume.

Use Keywords

Searches on LinkedIn produce results based on keyword hits.  Therefore, you want keywords that describe your experience, skills, knowledge and abilities integrated throughout your profile.  What keywords might a potential employer search by?  Read job descriptions for roles that interest you (even if you are not in a job search.)  This will give you some ideas. 

Sections

Here are brief recommendations on what to include in the main sections of your profile:

Summary –  A concise overview which includes an overarching “branding” message – communicate immediately what functional area of expertise you possess and at what level.  Highlight some experience, skills or capabilities or combination thereof which you possess and are your key “selling points”.   Are you a talented software architect with really strong interpersonal and presentation skills?  Say so.  Have you led teams on high visibility projects?  Ditto.

Specialties –  This is the place to list or bullet all the tangible knowledge areas or skills you want to highlight.  Focus first on hard skills then soft skills but only if they distinguish you in some way.  Do not list “team-player”.  In a recent study, this was the most over-used adjective on LinkedIn.  This distinguishes you from no one. 

Experience –  As in your resume, list employers, position titles, a brief description of your overall responsibility (one sentence) and then bullet out a few achievements that illustrate your best skills.  Only detail out the last 10-15 years or whatever is relevant.  Do not go back to the beginning of time.  If you had a big gap somewhere in there, either do not go beyond it, or understand that it will raise questions.   

Education –  List relevant formal education, leaving dates and other details out if you think they may hurt you.

Other –  There are a number of other areas you can complete such as Awards and Personal information.  Remember, only include that which is relevant and which you want people to know and be able to share about you.  Some things like marital status and your physical address, for example, really do not need to be completed on your LinkedIn profile. 

What Not to Include

Information that is irrelevant or even detrimental to you as a potential employee, consultant, speaker, reference…you get the picture.  Interests outside the workplace that are highly charged such as religion or politics – be aware these can hurt you.  If you wish to join Groups that are polarizing – just don’t “show” the group on your profile (can be changed in Settings or Edit Profile page).  More about this in a future post.

Uploading Your Resume

Though you may choose to, you do not need to upload your resume and make it available through an app such as Box.net.  Keyword searches don’t search these, so you won’t produce any hits this way, and you lose control over your document, as others can print, save or share your document without you ever knowing.  Anything you do choose to upload and make available on your profile, save it as a .pdf.  This won’t make it impossible to change your document, if the individual has the right software, but it does make it less likely. 

Applying the suggestions above will help you begin creating a powerful profile.  This is a start.  In the next post, I’ll talk about recommendations and the benefits of getting your profile to 100% completeness.

So you’re ready to get LinkedIn

It’s finally time to jump in with both feet.  Here’s the process, plain and simple, with a few important cautions:

  1. Go to www.linkedin.com
  2. In the box with the blue banner which reads “Join LinkedIn Today” add your First Name, Last Name, Email address and whatever password you want to use for LinkedIn.  This is not for entering your email password. If you want to use the same password as your email account, that is fine.  Or, you can create a different one.
  3. For your email, do not use your work email.  If your employment status suddenly changes, you may end up having problems accessing LinkedIn or updating your account.  Use your personal email or create a separate email for this specific use (I suggest one of the free hosts like Gmail.)  You can always add your work email later as a secondary email, so that you can receive notifications there if you like.
  4. Click “Join Now”

You are now a member!  LinkedIn will now lead you through some initial processes to help you get your profile set up and begin making connections.   Here are some important considerations:

  • You will have the opportunity to include a profile photo.  In most cases, this is a good idea.  LinkedIn was created for the purpose of helping people connect.  The reality is, people feel more connected when they can “see” each other.  If you want people that you meet or that you’ve worked with to accept your invitation to connect, you have a better chance if your photo is on your profile.
  • Profile photos can be a detriment, however, in some circumstances.  Never use a photo that appears unprofessional.  For example, you are in your bathing suit, or at a party with a drink in your hand, or are posing with your dog (unless you are in a profession that deals with animals).   Also, if you are worried about discrimination of some sort, you have to make the decision about whether your photo will hurt you more than it will help you. 
  • LinkedIn will offer to automatically “find contacts” using your email address book.   Unless you want most or all of the people in your address book to receive invitations to connect, I suggest bypassing this feature.  There are other methods to add connections which offer you more control.   You really need to populate your profile first anyway.

More on populating your profile with powerful content in the next post…