job search

Your most important asset: your reputation

What do people say about you when you’re not there?

If you are in a job search, or looking to move up in your career, it makes all the difference.  I speak regularly with professionals who are looking to move up or move on in their careers.  Some rake in referrals to new contacts, informational interviews, and job leads like leaves in the Fall.  For others, it’s like they are walking through a Winter wasteland.

Even though the job market is rebounding and there are about 4 million jobs filled each month in the US, it can take time for that just right opportunity to appear and for the offer to come.  But job seekers who are not getting referrals or warm introductions or never make it past the first interview need to carefully assess the reasons.  In particular, they need to be brutally honest with themselves about their reputation. Here are some of the issues I’ve seen poison reputations:

  • Talking at people rather than with them.  You can’t build a relationship on a one-way street. When you don’t listen to others, they feel you don’t care.  Plus, this is just annoying, and people don’t like to help or hire those who annoy them.  Remedy: listen twice as much as you talk. The old adage about having two ears and only one mouth is an old adage for a reason.
  • Being a user.  If you only reach out when you need something and never have anything to offer in return, even something as simple as information, you may get what you ask for, but you’ll never get more than that.  It is okay to ask for what you need, but you also need to show willingness to give.  Remedy: Ask “How can I help you?”
  • All talk and no action.  If you have a habit of overpromising and underdelivering, or contributing tons of ideas and leaving others to do the work, they may be only too glad to leave you out of the loop now. Remedy: Roll up your shirt sleeves and start making good on your promises. Consistently.
  • A Debbie Downer attitude.  Wah-waaah.  You know the old Saturday Night Live skit.  Debbie is the person who can find the rain in every rainbow.  Who tells you all their personal problems. People find this draining and are only too glad to get away when they have the chance. Yes, sometimes critical analysis and worst-case-scenario thinking is needed.  But it’s not needed all the time, everywhere. Remedy: Outside of your sacred circle of trust, only communicate the negative when it will actually add value. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
  • Instability. This one is tough but it’s real whether we talk about it or not. If you drink too much, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription medication, and think it doesn’t show, stop fooling yourself. Not everyone may be able to identify what the exact issue is, but drug and alcohol abuse causes behaviors that tell people something is “off”.  Things like absenteeism, emotional outbursts (this includes anger), or poor memory.  Others will be very reluctant to stick their neck out for you when they see these behaviors. Remedy: Seek professional help. Now. You will need to act differently for people to see you differently. Others have done it and you can too.

If none of these describe you, your reputation is probably working for you, just like a good investment. However, if any of these sound uncomfortably familiar, it may be time for a course correction. The good news is, you have the power to change, starting today. The bad news is, reputation repair takes time.  Just because your intentions change and even your behavior, it will take time to show – like a Polaroid picture slowly becoming clear.  Keep at it.

Investing in your reputation is like saving for tomorrow – it compounds and can pay amazing dividends down the road.

Let your Skills do the talking on LinkedIn

Last year, I wrote a post about creating a robust profile on LinkedIn.  It’s time to update that because of the  new(ish) LinkedIn feature called Skills.  It has been in beta testing for a long time, and technically still is, but I believe it’s here to stay.  LinkedIn has incorporated it into the initial profile building process.  For those of you who joined LinkedIn a year ago or more, you didn’t get pushed through this process automatically, but it is easy to remedy that now.

The Skills feature has great functionality which benefits recruiters, job seekers and passive candidates alike.  Recruiters in particular, who have access to special features as part of upgraded/focused account types, can and do “power search” in the Skills feature.   This will only work to your advantage if you have skills listed!

Here’s one quick way to identify relevant skills and add them to your profile:

  • Under the More menu, click on Skills
  • In the search box, enter a primary skill that you use in your work (or otherwise possess) and search…
  • On the resulting page, read the description of that skill in the center column and look at the people listed below to see whether this skill is a good “match” for your profile — consider your professional brand.
  • If so, click on the blue Add Skill button.  This skill will now show on your profile.
  • Check out the list of related skills in the column on the left.  Click any which may be a fit, and repeat the process above.  You will soon have a robust set of skills on your profile.

LinkedIn recommendations: recommended

To have or not to have?  That is the question (apologies to Shakespeare.)  

In my book, there is absolutely no doubt.  Have. 

There are people who argue against LinkedIn recommendations and their argument goes something like this: “Who would include bad recommendations?  Of course they are all going to be good.  Therefore, they cannot be trusted and are of no value.”

These cynics are partially correct.  It’s true that you won’t find a negative recommendation about someone on their own LinkedIn profile.  Why would they include such a thing?  And, are there many recruiters and hiring managers who don’t put much value on recommendations, or even read them?  Yes, there are. 

However, the points in favor of including recommendations on your profile outweigh the points against.  As I mentioned in my post Power of the profile, they can be beneficial if done right.  I’ll outline below some reasons to include recommendations, as well as provide a few pointers in making your recommendations work for you. 

Why you should include recommendations on your LinkedIn profile:

  • Without at least 3 recommendations, your profile will not reach 100% completeness.  This negatively affects where you show up in search results.  Say, for example, that a recruiter does a search for profiles which match certain criteria. Do you want to give yourself the best odds you can? Of course you do.  Consider this quote from the LinkedIn Help Center:                                                                                          

 “Users with Recommendations in their profiles are three times more likely to receive relevant offers and inquiries through searches on LinkedIn. Recommendations written about you are visible to members within your network and also to Fortune 500 companies that use the LinkedIn Recruiter corporate tool.”

  • Many recruiters actually do read those recommendations.  And, they look at who wrote them.  If you have a recommendation from a former manager talking about your amazing Java skills and you are branding yourself as a web-based software developer, do you think this will help or hurt the recruiter’s impression of you? 
  • A recommendation of you shows up on the profile of the person who made it.  This gives you additional exposure and the chance to be found by someone who may be looking for someone just like you. 

Here’s how to make the most of your recommendations:

  • Ask for recommendations from people with strong professional reputations who know your work first-hand.  Having a variety of current or former managers, clients, colleagues and employees is a good idea.  Also, recommendations on your most recent work experience is usually best, but it is advisable to have at least one from each job or company in the last several years.
  • Ask them to be specific about some of your skills or achievements.  Saying “he’s a great guy; really enjoyed working with him” is not nearly as helpful as “he was my go-to guy for creating impactful marketing plans under tight deadlines.”  You may even tell them you are trying to highlight your skills in a certain area, and ask them to write about those.
  • Obtain a minimum of 3 recommendations.  You don’t need to go overboard – 30 recommendations is not necessarily better than 10.  Think quality vs. quantity, but at least have 3.

It’s that simple!

To get some recommendations from your preferred connections, simply ask.  Also, consider proactively providing one for them.  You never know when it might help them, and perhaps they will return the favor.  Be professionally generous and it will come back to you.

LinkedIn to career success

Even though LinkedIn is growing by leaps and bounds, I am still finding many professionals out there who are not on it, or are on it, but don’t really know how to use it.   This has inspired me to write a series on LinkedIn – some tips and techniques you can use to make use of it professionally.   LinkedIn won’t be my exclusive writing focus but I’ll sprinkle posts in throughout the remainder of the year that you may find helpful. 

In future posts, I’ll get to more of the how-to.  Today, I’ll address the why-to.  Let me ask you a few questions:

  • have you ever left a job and later realized you can’t find the contact information of co-worker, vendor or client you’d like to get in contact with?
  • have you ever wanted to get in contact with a co-worker, vendor or client who has left their company?
  • would you like to stay up-to-date with your professional contacts, but aren’t the best at taking time for lunch or coffee with them?
  • would you like to be able to reach out, on a moment’s notice, to a large number of professionals in your field to get information on new developments in your field, or get recommendations on resources?
  • would you like to be able to find in-depth information on job titles, job descriptions and job locations within companies, not just what is posted on the job boards?
  • would you like to be able to identify contacts within companies for networking, job search or marketing purposes?
  • would you like to do more to control or enhance your professional brand?

Okay, that’s more than a few questions.  I think you get the idea.  Not only is LinkedIn a great way to maintain control of your ‘Rolodex’ and maintain connections to your professional contacts, it is a gold mine of market intelligence.  In the coming weeks, I’ll walk you through methods for achieving all of the above.  

Subscribe today to be notified by email of future posts, so you don’t miss these timely and practical tips.  I look forward to helping you get LinkedIn!