professional brand

Career Wellness Checkup #15

So you’re on social media.

How well are you managing your brand?

Whether you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs or anything else, you need to realize that every word you write, every picture you share and every connection you make becomes part of your brand.

Here are few tips for actively managing your brand in a way that’s healthy for your career:

1)  Stay engaged. Update, comment, share, tweet or retweet regularly.  When you do, it reminds people that you’re there and often leads them back to your profile.

2) Keep your content aligned with your brand.  If you randomly share anything and everything, you will dilute your brand.  If you’re a tech person, share mostly on tech topics. If you’re a finance person, share mostly on finance. That doesn’t mean you should never color outside the lines but maintain the right balance. A little bit creates interest and dimension. Too much creates confusion.

3) Like, comment on or share content of others with relevant content.  People appreciate it when you share what they say and bring attention to their brand. If they like your content, they may reciprocate. 

4) Stay current.  You are always changing and growing.  Therefore, your profiles and what you share should change too. Read your profile on a regular basis and adjust as needed.

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.

From Entrepreneur to Corporate Life

A number of people recently have sought my advice on their intended transition into the corporate world.  They are entrepreneurs who, for a variety of reasons, have decided that now is the right time to leave that path. Some are in businesses that have slowed down or have become too difficult for other reasons.  Some are in business school, which they entered intentionally to use as a lever for finding a role in corporate America.

Entreprenuers have amazing skills and a lot they can bring to the table within a larger corporate setting.  However, their self-employment history can also be of concern to recruiters and hiring managers.  Why?  Well, here’s a look inside their heads:

Does this gal really want an internal role?

The number one concern is the motivation for applying to a corporate role.  Does the applicant truly want to be a part of, not in charge of, the business?  Or, are they just doing this because times are tough right now, and as soon as the market defrosts, or they simply get the itch, they’ll jump ship?

Can this guy really take orders or will he buck the system?

This is closely related to the question above.  They wonder, Can this person fit within our system?  The larger the organization, typically the more processes and policies in place and the less likely one individual is to influence them.  Ever heard the phrase My way or the highway?  If we’re being brutally honest with each other, we must admit this is often the way it works in large organizations.  In very large companies it’s common to not even have contact with the person who chose the highway.  People who ask too many questions or do things their own way are considered difficult.   Understandably, managers don’t want to hire someone, only to have to fire them later because they don’t “fit”.

Is she really as good as she says she is?

Recruiters and hiring managers may wonder if all the achievements listed on the entrepreneur’s resume are 100% accurate.  They generally don’t have any way to verify the information.  An issue related to this one is salary or overall compensation.

These are just a few issues, but they’re big ones.  If you are moving from entrepreneurship to corporate life, you need to figure out how to counterbalance these concerns. How?

1.   Be ready to talk about why you want a corporate role, not why you don’t want to own your own business anymore.  If you just tried the entrepreneurial thing for a while, it’s okay to say “it wasn’t for me” but if you owned your own business for a long time or are a serial entrepreneur, that won’t cut it.  If you were in a corporate role before and enjoyed it, say so.   Do you enjoy structure?  Being part of a larger team?  Be prepared with a message that will make them comfortable that you understand what you would be getting yourself into and that you truly want it.

2.  Make sure that when you talk about your experience or achievements, you illustrate how you’ve successfully worked with or within larger structures.  That you can follow the rules.  For example, were you a vendor to a large company with strict purchasing guidelines and a rigid RFP process?  Were you a franchise owner who had to work within very closely defined operating standards?

3.  You aren’t obligated to open up all your financial records to any potential employer (unless you’re going into politics, the FBI or something like that), but the more specific details you can share in an interview the better.  Quantify your achievements.  Sometimes non-financial details illustrate this better than dollar figures, i.e. “I won the contract renewal with Large Co., Inc., three times due to our excellent customer service and product quality”.

4.  Of course, always be prepared to highlight what you bring to the table that non-entrepreneur types may not.  For instance, a profitability mindset.  A broader understanding of the business.  A humbleness that comes from knowing how hard it really is to herd cats.

People make this transition successfully all the time, though it is certainly more challenging now due to the competition in the market.  If this is your plan, do your homework now so you can make it easy for a potential employer to say yes.

Find your tribe: LinkedIn groups

After a nice little summer break, I’m back.  In my last post, I said I would next begin covering intermediate LinkedIn functions, so here goes!

Would you like to connect with other like-minded professionals?  No matter where they are located? 

Looking for contacts in a particular company?

Hate networking a room? 

Looking to expand your knowledge? 

Would you like to become better known in your “niche”?

There are many reasons to join LinkedIn groups.  To a great extent, they mirror the reasons to join any group: to share or gather information, to meet people with common interests, to be part of something larger than yourself, to help others.  The reasons go on and on.   But there are over 900,000 groups on LinkedIn!  How do you find the right ones?

Here are some quick tips that can help you find and use LinkedIn groups to achieve your goals:

Find relevant groups

  • Look at what groups your connections belong to
  • Go to the Groups Directory and use the search function to find groups within your industry or profession
  • Find the LinkedIn group for any professional associations you already belong to
  • Find the Alumni group for your alma mater

 

Assess and join

  • Determine whether a group is a fit for you by reading the group description, looking at highlighted members and, if it’s an open group, reading some of the discussion 
  • Look for both quality (in terms of the content) and quantity (in terms of the members and activity).  The bigger the group, the more access you will have to information and contacts; however, small niche groups with whom you will have a lot of interaction can be very valuable as well
  • You can join up to 50 groups, though you don’ t need nearly that many to get the value you seek.  Find 2-4 that you will be very active with and approximately 10 more which give you some variety, but are still relevant  

Engage in meaningful activity

  • Now that you’ve found the right groups, jump right in! One of the beauties of online groups is that people get down to business without much small talk, or long introductions 
  • Add value.  Share your expertise or raise relevant issues through the discussions and comments. This will drive more meaningful conversation
  • Post, share (or apply for) related jobs
  • If you are seeking a new position, find contacts within your target companies and even target location using the search function
  • Encourage others!  Everybody likes to be encouraged and it builds relationships
  • Once meaningful contact is established, consider taking a network contact “offline”.  If it makes sense, you may want to deepen the professional relationship by meeting for coffee, talking by phone, or connecting at a conference

Groups are a great shortcut for networking and building your professional brand.  Use the tips above to get started today!

Summer celebration a success

Thank you to those who subscribed to the blog during my summer celebration!  That was fun and I’ll definitely do it again in the future. Congrats to those who received a free profile review.  What a great investment of your time to focus on refining your online brand. 

In my next post, I’ll delve further into intermediate features of LinkedIn.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

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.

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.

Before you get on LinkedIn…

If you are completely new to LinkedIn, we must start at the beginning.  No, not with registering and creating a profile.  That is step two and three.   Creating an effective online presence starts before you actually get online. 

“Ohhh!  I just want to get started!”  I can hear you muttering at your screen.

I understand, but trust me when I say it will be well worth your while. 

First, when you create your profile, you will want to have certain information at your fingertips: past employers, titles, dates and education details at the very least.   If you have a resume, then you should have this information in one convenient place.  If you don’t, then pull the information together to have at your fingertips.  This is the easy part. 

Now for the harder part.  You need to understand that while your LinkedIn profile is informational, it is also a marketing piece.  And, like any good marketing piece, it must have a specific message about a well defined product with a specific target audience.   You are the product, of course.  To write compellingly about your product, you need to define a few things:

  • How would you want others to describe you professionally?  I don’t mean “he’s so nice” or “she’s a great gal”, but “she’s a great corporate finance gal with tons of M&A experience” or “he’s a real estate guy with amazing market knowledge”  (If you don’t think they would describe you that way now – you have some things to work on, but that is another post.)
  • What are you best at in your job?  What do you do better than others in your same role?
  • What achievements or experience are you most proud of?
  • What are the skills and competencies you most enjoy using?
  • Is there anything unique about your background that gives you an “edge” in the market?  

The skills and knowledge and competencies you identify here are those you will be using as you create your profile.  You are beginning to define your brand.  Doing this helps you really focus your content on that which is most relevant and helps distinguish you from your competition.  Without it, people often end up with the overexhaustive and boring “autobiography” of their professional life, or the completely generic, and therefore useless, list of job duties. 

If you’re going to do it right, do the “internal” work described here first.  The next step is registering and I’ll cover that in the next post.

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!

Want to know your brand?

Maybe you’re not yet sold on the idea that you have a “brand” and that you need to manage it.  Maybe you are.  Either way, the following exercise may be useful or insightful, or both:

1) Pick a “document” that purports to tell people about the professional you:  a resume, a bio, an online profile (on LinkedIn, say…)

2) Go to an online word cloud tool (try www.wordle.net or google word cloud tool to find a similar tool)

3) Either cut and paste your selected text into the tool, or, point it toward your url

4) Let the tool create a word cloud for you

Now, the words that are the largest font size are the words that show up most frequently in your document.  The words that are the smallest show up the least frequently.  The tools are typically smart enough to filter out “the” and “a”. 

So, what are the 5 – 8 largest words in your word cloud?  Are these the “loudest” messages you want your audience to hear?  Because these are the “loudest” messages you’re sending.  At least in that particular document.    You could compare across documents to see how consistent your messages are.   

Try it.  Cool tools.  Easy to use.  Good food for thought.  Perhaps this exercise will inspire some serious thought about career direction and development.  Or perhaps just a serious re-write.