LI: Recommend or Endorse?

The LinkedIn universe has been buzzing lately about the endorsement feature. Is this a good thing? How is it different than recommendations? Should I do it? Here are some quick answers to clear up the confusion.

Endorsements allow a first-level connection to acknowledge that a person has the skills that s/he says she does. For example, Amee adds “customer service” and “project management” to the skills section of her profile. Jim, who worked with Amee, knows that she has these skills and clicks the endorse button next to the corresponding skills on Amee’s profile. Jim can’t endorse skills that Amee hasn’t indicated that she has.

Endorsements are a quick and easy way to add more credibility to a colleague’s profile. The endorser just taps the button and moves along.

Recommendations require more work and can be more valuable. Amee could either ask Jim for a recommendation, or Jim could write one without being asked. Either way, Amee can review the recommendation and choose to show it on her profile or not. Recommendations have the added value of being free form; their effectiveness is limited only be the recommender’s writing ability.

If you ask for a recommendation, be specific as to what it should say. If Amee thinks that Jim can say great things about her project management skills, she should ask for a recommendation focusing on that quality, maybe even offering an example to help jog Jim’s memory. Example: “Jim – Remember when we worked on the Alpha Project. Would you please write a recommendation for me about how I brought the project in 10 days early and $50,000 under budget?”

Both options, of course, allow LinkedIn users to validate what a person is already saying about him or herself. Plus, they help you build your network’s strength by helping others, a foundational concept of LinkedIn. Have some fun, brighten some else’s day and get going with your recommendations and endorsement.

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Your Résumé is Foundational

60 Minutes ran a piece profiling the Platform to Employment program in Fairfield County, CT. In one clip, a lecturer tears a résumé in half, proclaiming it obsolete. Ironically, the same piece shows job seekers practice interviewing with the interviewer reviewing the résumé. Go figure. Articles appear from time to time proclaiming the death of the résumé. Did you waste your time and maybe some money creating and optimizing your résumé? No! It is a foundational piece of your search. Here’s why.

Your résumé is your mandatory ticket into meetings with recruiters and hiring managers. Can you imagine what would happen to the candidate who shows up empty-handed for the interview? “Do I have a résumé? No. You can Google me instead and find my web presence.” This would likely be the shortest and most awkward interview of all time.

[See my series of interviewing advice stories: Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, One Question and Awareness & Adaptability.]

Your résumé is a marketing document. The document tells your story and allows others to present and introduce you to others. I frequently get requests that sound like this: “A friend of mine asked me to send him my résumé so that he could pass it along to his boss.” A LinkedIn profile address might work in this scenario, but maybe not. Note that people are asking for résumés, not Klout scores.

The résumé writing process forces you to clarify your experiences and accomplishments. This, in turn, makes you better prepared for interviewing. The hard work of thinking about your career, identifying the most important results and accomplishments, and putting it all into your résumé forces you to reflect upon, rank and organize your thoughts.

LinkedIn profiles are built off of your résumé. Let’s keep this simple and talk about LinkedIn. You can either upload your résumé and have the system automatically build your profile, or you can fill in blocks that look very much like a traditional chronological résumé. The “obsolete” résumé is the foundation of your profile.

[Get your free e-booklet: LinkedIn Start Up & Tune Up]

Keep that résumé sharp, polished and up-to-date. Be sure that it grabs the reader’s attention in the first few sentences. Don’t worry about it being obsolete. The old-fashioned résumé still has a lot of life and many uses.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Awareness & Adaptability

Here is the tough truth about interviewing: every interviewer, company and day is different. The personalities of the people in the interview – whether in person, on the phone, or by video conference – will sway the encounter. You may have done all of your research and feel that you know the questions you are going to face, only to be disappointed and surprised by an unanticipated angle or a completely different line of questions. That’s where your awareness and adaptability become critical.

Awareness of Your History. Having a detailed awareness of your career history and accomplishments is mandatory. Only you know your story. If you have carefully reviewed your history as you wrote or refined your resume and have updated your LinkedIn profile with your best stuff, you have made a tremendous step in the right direction. By thinking about and reflecting on your accomplishments for these career marketing activities, you will help yourself to have the awareness, memories and stories ready to go for an interview.

Awareness of the Organization’s Culture. This important step is one that is often overlooked by job seekers. Most companies share a lot about their culture and priorities in very open and public ways. Read everything on the company’s career/employment web sites. If possible, get to know people in the organization and learn from them. Then take the step of thinking about how you can best craft your stories in a way that will resonate with your interviewer. Here is an example. Target Corporation lives by the motto “Fast, Fun & Friendly.” If you know this, you could consider how your career stories could be told in a way that show your quick and determined action to resolve a business problem or to exploit an opportunity while staying focused on customer service or employee engagement.

Adapting to the Question. You will have to take your stories and adapt them quickly during an interview. For example, you may be prepared with three stories of accomplishments and you might even have some thoughts of the order in which you would like to tell them. Your interviewer may ask a situational question that changes the order of your stories and the angle you take. Only by knowing your stories well will you be able to adapt. Your interviewer may ask, “Tell me about a time that you saved your company money and please be specific.” If you have a story that fits the question, you can tell the interviewer about the situation, your specific actions and the outcome. If you don’t have the stories memorized and ready, you may stumble through this question and give a weak or poorly told example.

Adapting to the Atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, every interview will be different, and you need to be ready. You could face a one-on-one interview, a small group or a large panel. The interview may be conversational or very formal. It might even include numerous introductions and short interactions. Your emotional intelligence receptors must be on full alert to understand the dynamic and to adapt as needed. By knowing your material and your stories very well, you can devote more of your energy to this critical element and less to the hard work of recalling your stories.

You need to know your stories and must be ready to share them in detail and in a way that addresses the question you face and in a way that is appropriate for the environment. Make the effort to review and reflect on your performance so that you will be ready to adapt as needed. The work that you do will be worth it.

Other articles to help you prepare to interview:

Question 5: Why did you leave?

Question 4: When have you failed?

Question 3: Your greatest accomplishment?

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Service Company.

Unplug. Live.

Your life is more than your Facebook page. The same is true for your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter feed and any other social media that you use. Your life and mine are defined by our relationships with real people that we see, hear and touch. Family, friends, colleagues, customers, clients, and partners in volunteer and civic work all make up our lives. Social media is a side dish, not the main course.

The Atlantic ran a story in May 2012, posing the question, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” A response printed in the July/August issue stopped me mid-sentence and prompted this blog article. Here is an excerpt: “I spend a lot of time on Facebook but have essentially zero in-person friends… (I’m) lonely. I need to figure out how I’ve let my personal life become almost solely defined as an online activity.” How sad!

The social media play a role in our lives. Like anything else, the many sites we use and devices enabled to access them should be seen as tools, a means to an end, not an end themselves. We can have fun, maintain connections, joke, gossip and do so many things with the technology, but in the end it is an empty pursuit. Unless we jump from virtual friendship to real relationships – a shared meal, a round of golf, help painting a room or caring for a friend’s pet during a vacation – the constant tweets, updates, check-ins and the rest all just suck up time and leave us feeling like Lonely Reader. We ask ourselves, “Where did the time go and why is my life empty of meaning and real relationships?”

The self-centered ME, ME, ME of Facebook can lead to a world in which we are constantly broadcasting, sending updates about our lives, to nobody in particular and sometimes nobody at all. If your latest post isn’t funny, inflammatory or interesting enough, if it doesn’t include a picture or link that gets others talking (or at least clicking), it is the existential tree crashing to the ground without a sound. So what could Lonely Reader do to get a life and maybe a few real friends, someone to share lunch with or a walk through the park?

It’s simple, really. Pick up the phone and call some of those friends. Make a date to meet and do something fun. Get involved in civic, volunteer or religious organizations. As someone involved in leadership roles in both a service organization (Rotary) and my faith community, I assure you that you will be welcome. What are you good at? Volunteer. VolunteerMatch.org is a site that will give you options in your area. Do something to help someone else, moving your focus from yourself onto another.

When we come together and work together towards a common goal or interest, real relationships take root and flourish. And that will be something to tweet about.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Social Media Inventory: Unfriend a Few?

LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media can kill your career search. Or, they can be a profoundly helpful. The contributions to your search and the arch of your career are very much up to you. Understanding the importance of these platforms (see this CNN story for a reminder) should give the job hunter the motivation to do some repair work and to take a more proactive stance for future use before it’s too late.

First, understand that it is too late when you have already started an active job search. Should you be fortunate enough to have your résumé get past the applicant tracking system (ATS) and seen by a human, there is a good chance that your social media presence will be reviewed before you get a call for an interview. Your LinkedIn profile and Facebook page are just the beginning. Consider every social media tool that you use, including any comments or interactions that you use with your real name. All of this is very discoverable by drilling down past the first Google search screen.

The time to start is before you start a job search. At the least, review your pages on the big platforms (LI, FB, etc.) Use this criteria as you consider what your presence is saying about you: “If I did not know me, would I want to add me to this employer’s team based on what I am seeing?” If there are posts and pictures and links that leave you uncomfortable with the answer to that question, delete them now.

Next, consider how some of that material got there in the first place. Are your friends and family taking pictures of you and tagging you in ways that will not help your job hunt? If so, ask them to refrain. If they can’t or won’t or just do not understand the reason why, consider blocking or deleting those people during your search so that they can’t continue. If these people are true friends, they will understand. If not, well…

Set some rules for yourself on how and why you will use social media. Those rules may vary from platform to platform. I use LinkedIn and Twitter only for professional uses. Facebook is where I have fun and goof around with my friends and family. No matter what, think long and hard before posting anything that could be controversial or uncomfortable. You may have strong political views. Fine. Choose another outlet for your passions while job hunting. Facebook will be there after you get the new gig.

Finally, be strategic in the future – starting today – with your use of the social media. If you have rules set for yourself on what material goes to which channel, take it to the next step and plan the quality, quantity and timing of your interactions. If you are working to build your brand as an expert in a field, think about and develop content that helps achieve that goal (this blog is an example). If it doesn’t do that, don’t waste your time and that of others with low-value material.

Social media is our new reality. Be diligent and consistent in your interactions in this part of your professional ecosystem. The standard is simple: If your online presence is not helping you, it is hurting.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Pocket-Size Résumé

Twice in the last week I have participated in conversations about personal business cards, useful for networking events and chance encounters. One conversation was with a friend, another on a LinkedIn group. In both settings, hot topics encompassed what the card should include, what it should not, and the value of this pocket-size résumé. Here are some tips on how to write it and make it work for you.

Let’s Start with the Basics

  1. Include your personal contact information. This means a professional and personal email address, not a work email that you lose when you leave a job. “Professional” means sticking with something that is your name and not much else. Examples: JoeSmith100@—.com, MaryLBaker10@—.com. Avoid potentially embarrassing email addresses.
  2. LinkedIn Profile Address. You have one, right?
  3. One phone number. Your best, can reach number that is yours alone. This is most likely your wireless number. By the way, check the outgoing message. Does it portray you as a professional? Re-record it if necessary. Now.

Brand Statement

What is your profession? What are you known for? Under your name, create a title that is reflective of your skills and career, but that is not dependent on your employer. You may be a divisional sales manager for your employer, but you should come up with something else for your personal card. How about this: “IT Sales Executive: Coach, Trainer and Leader.” This same brand statement could even be used on your LinkedIn profile.

QR Code: Yes or No?

Some people love it, others don’t. If you haven’t used a QR code before, it is that square scannable bug that you see on print advertising. Scan it with your smartphone and it directs you to some online content. The destination could be a personal website, blog, LinkedIn profile or anything else that you want. Be sure that if you use it, the destination is something that you want other professionals to see. If in doubt, leave it out.

Flip it Over

A business card has two sides. Use them. Think about your two or three most compelling selling points that you bring to the job market. Refine them down to a few bullets and get them on the card. Points that you have in your elevator speech can work well here. Or, you might change your elevator speech after forcing yourself to clarify your value proposition by going through this exercise. Whatever the case, be prepared to present yourself to people you meet and use the card to reinforce your message.

Complement Your Résumé

Be sure that the card and your résumé are communicating the same message using the same language. Think of them working together as a marketing kit, both presenting you with the same value propositions and both with special uses. You wouldn’t go to an after-work networking mixer with résumés, and you wouldn’t go to an interview with just a business card. The two work together and must complement each other.

Do you have a card that works for you? I would love to hear about it. Please comment and share your ideas.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

LinkedIn: Start Up & Tune Up

One of the most frequent conversations I have with clients in my career marketing services practice is about how to use LinkedIn effectively. Questions about how to build a profile and how to interact with others are common concerns.

Here is my latest e-book, LinkedIn: Start Up & Tune Up, a collection of ideas, tips and pitfalls to allow users to get the most out of the service. Your comments are welcome and I hope it helps you. Feel free to share the link and the book with others.

Thanks for your support!

Three Career Reality Checks

As a pro résumé writer, I am constantly working with people in various stages of career transition. They range from the employed who are just starting to consider making a change to the long-term unemployed, people who have been out of work for a year or more and with few to no prospects for a new job. In every case, these people are in a reflective posture, considering their careers and how to make the next step. Here are a few common discussion points.

Career Velocity. Those doing the same work for years at a time, showing no advancement in their roles and responsibilities, are understandably nervous. They are concerned that the field may be passing them, and they are often right.

The Fix: Step forward and ask for new assignments. Take a class or earn a certification that will make you more valuable to your current and future employers. If employed, explore tuition reimbursement programs. You will still have to do the time and the work, but at least someone else can write the check.

Professional Network. Is your LinkedIn account a reflection of your real network, or is it just a bunch of names and faces, people you don’t really know? Here is a good test: If you called these people on the phone, how many would speak with you? If the number is smaller than you would like, get to work!

The Fix: Start contacting the people in your network. Reach out and say, “Hi!” Share something of value. Let them know what you are working on. Ask them what they are doing. Revitalize the network and make it more valuable.

Your Résumé. Is it current? You should view your résumé as a living document, something that is always current and ready to go in case of emergency. Are you an active job seeker? Are you getting calls for interviews? If not, a poorly written résumé could be hurting you.

The Fix: Invest your time and/or money into this critical piece of your career management strategy. If you don’t have the time or interest in writing it yourself, pay for help. If you do it yourself, review it quarterly and keep it fresh. If you don’t have anything new to add, ask yourself, “Why?”

Spend some time this week reviewing these points and how you are doing. I small investment in time actively managing your career could make a big difference in your long-term success.

Keeping Your Search Alive

Staying motivated in the search for a new job, especially during times of unemployment, can be one of the biggest challenges in the process. After all, who wants to hear “no” all the time, or worse – nothing at all? Sending out résumés and cover letters for jobs for which one is perfectly qualified and not getting a reply can wear out even the most resilient job seeker. What can you do to stay engaged and motivated? Here are a few tips.

Make a Plan for your Day. Whether you create tomorrow’s plan in the evening or start early with a planning session, make a list of the things that you need to accomplish. Don’t stop until you have completed your list. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and something to talk about if there is a significant person in your life who wants to know what you have been doing all day (can you say “spouse”?).

Eliminate the Distractions. While it can be tempting to kill time in front of the TV or with social media sites, set a time limit for these activities and stick to it. If 30 minutes a day is your Facebook budget, don’t stretch it to 35.

Get out of the House. Get your exercise, shower, dress and go meet people. Get out to the job fairs, meet colleagues for coffee and stay tuned in to the current events in your field.

Challenge Yourself to Add to your Network. Your network should include recruiters – both recruiting agency people and staff recruiters – as well as people with whom you have worked and those that you don’t know yet. Attend as many live events with other people as possible.

Don’t Stop with LinkedIn Messages. Anyone can build a network on LinkedIn, but if it is nothing more than a list of people and their pictures – a list of people you don’t know – you have not done enough. Pick up the phone. Send a personal note. Make the connection more meaningful and valuable for you and the other person. You will be surprised at how warmly some will welcome the extra effort.

Learn Something New. Public libraries, state departments of labor and other organizations give you the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people, mostly for free. Explore the opportunities and sign up.

Volunteer. You can add new things to your résumé and meet people while helping others. Don’t discount the value of this activity.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have been doing all of these things and know that you are working as hard as you can to find a job, feel good about your effort. It’s a challenging labor market filled with wary hiring managers and senior leaders trying to chart a course in an uncertain environment. Don’t take it personally and keep at it.

Much More than Baseball Cards

When I was growing up in Dobbs Ferry (NY), an important activity for almost every boy I knew was collecting, trading and competing for baseball cards. Topps was all we knew, and every new season offered a new quest for collecting the whole set. We would trade our doubles, search hard for the best players, and sometimes risk it all with flipping and scaling cards. The scaling option, in which players compete to scale cards to be closest to the wall, was usually a bad one. It was a game of skill and there were a few guys who couldn’t be beat. If you were going against Joe Giuliano, you could save everyone lots of time by just handing him your cards and moving along to your next class. He was that good. Watching him play was like watching a machine. Scale, grunt defeat, watch Joe take the cards, repeat.

I wonder how many people who stack up contacts using LinkedIn view the process much like the search for the missing players, with the difference being that the roster of players counts in the millions, rather than less than a thousand each year. I wonder if the quality of the connections is about as high. For those who have amassed 950 LinkedIn contacts, have they ever thought, “Would MaryJo in Seattle take my call?”

Networking activities need to be a lot more than a few clicks in the latest social media tool. Like anything else in life, your networking activities will only be as good as the effort that you put into them. Find common interests and make meaningful connections. Try making a phone call or sending a personal note, something much more than, “I would like to add you to my professional network.”

Think about your efforts. Have they been meaningful and have they led to important professional connections, creating a web of colleagues who might actually care about the relationship with you? Or have your activities been more focused on body count? If your networking is similar to that of a bunch of 12 year olds flipping Reggie Jacksons, you have some work to do.