Out-Communicate the Competition

Knowing that clients, employers and the general public can spread news about you and your business in moments (think Yelp, Google Places, Kudzu, etc.), why do so many act as if the Internet does not exists? Two examples from this week make the point.

I heard from a new client this week. She had done some research to find resume writing services in the Better Business Bureau directory. I was fortunate to be one of the three businesses she called. When I spoke with her, she told me that of the other two, one never returned her call and the other was rude. To whom do you think she gave her business?

My wife and I contracted to have a big repair done on our house. The builder was recommended to us by a friend. We met with him, felt good about hiring him, and went ahead with the project. Here is where he could have done a better job: the project materials were delivered mid-week, and we never heard from him as to when the job would begin. As we went through the weekend, my wife and I were getting frustrated in that we hadn’t gotten a call about the project start day and we decided that we were going to call at 8AM Monday morning. The builder arrived and started tearing our roof off at 7:45. What was wrong? Nothing that a quick phone call wouldn’t have fixed. “Hey, I’ll be there Monday morning. See you then.”

Keep these stories in mind as you work on your professional reputation, either working for yourself or someone else. Are you hitting your deadlines, communicating effectively and thanking your prospects and clients for the opportunity to serve? Your creativity and effectiveness at keeping in touch with your people at every step is just as important as how you initially contact new employers, peers and customers. Do more to communicate and serve than your competitors and you will be rewarded with more business, a better reputation and a more successful career.

LinkedIn: Don’t Beg

If you are not using LinkedIn, you probably have heard about it and considered how it can help you. There are many great resources available on this growing site, and you should be on it even if you are not looking for a job. One thing you shouldn’t do, though, is beg for a job. I have seen many postings in different groups that are nothing more than people pleading for jobs. The postings sound desperate and the writers seem worthy of sympathy, but are those qualities that attract potential employers? No.

Here are ideas on how you can start using LinkedIn in meaningful ways that will bolster your reputation. If you optimize your profile with great, truthful content, recruiters will find you.

Groups: Start with natural groups that complement your experiences, careers and interests.  Think about college alumni groups, trade associations and other broad interests and pursuits. Participate in the groups you join.

Skills: Use this section to detail the skills you have to sell that employers want to buy. Are you skilled in financial auditing? List it.

Answers: Actively participate in Answers, a tool for you to help others by sharing your expertise. You will develop a reputation and keep your skills sharp.

Reading List: Another fun tool! Tell the world what you are reading and write a review. This can illustrate your commitment to life-long learning and my spark a conversation.

Remember: Don’t beg. Maintain your professionalism and participate with confidence. Good luck!

What Papa John Says

You’ve seen the ads. Papa John’s Pizza advertises with the tagline telling us that better ingredients make better pizza. The same idea applies to our careers and the reputations we earn as we live our professional lives. Better accomplishments and results lead to a stronger history, a potentially superior résumé and a more valuable professional reputation.

How can you be sure that you are doing everything possible to create this scenario of outstanding accomplishments that go into a sterling résumé? Begin with the end in mind. If you want a résumé that will open doors, you have to do the hard work to have the accomplishments and results you will need. Here are a few thoughts on how you can make it happen:

Working with Others: Are you respectful and demonstrate a willingness to work hard to advance the goals of the organization, or is it all about you? People will appreciate your partnership and support. They will also see through phoniness and self-centeredness. For which attributes do you want to be known? Who is going to give you a reference? What will they say?

Own Your Results: Every organization has a scorecard. For-profit or non-profit, there are key metrics that measure and define success. If you are in charge, you own the numbers. Do they tell the story of a high-achiever? Do they say something less?

Lifelong Learning: Our economy is knowledge based. Think about the work that you and your friends and relatives do every day. How many of them work as laborers? How many work in jobs that require thinking, planning and cutting-edge knowledge? Are your skills fresh and valuable?

Professional Affiliations: Almost every field has an associated professional group. Seek out the best one in your industry and get involved. This relationship can also help you stay on course to achieve your learning goals. 

Think about the quality of the ingredients in your career history. If you want them to be more significant, make changes. Unlike a bad meal that goes in the trash, you can make changes today to change the mix, the story and your career success. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Social Media: You Never Know

When new business comes my way, I always want to understand where it came from. How did someone I don’t know in another state come to find me, contact me and trust me enough to work on his or her career marketing materials? A new potential client who contacted me this week illustrates why knowing this and having an online strategy are so important.

My marketing efforts include Resu-mazing Services Company’s website, memberships in the PARW/CC and the Better Business Bureau, activity on LinkedIn, placement on search engines like Google Places, my blog (that you are reading now), and some other local efforts. I also rely on referrals, something that only happens when I do quality work for my clients. Of course, people can review my work and tell the world on Kudzu and Google Places. This new client found Resu-mazing by doing a Google search, checking me out on LinkedIn, and reading the blog article that included the Uncle Rico picture.

The lesson is clear: You never know how people will find you and your company. You never know what material they will find and read, and if that person doesn’t select you as a potential vendor, business partner or employee, you will not know. There will be an abundance of silence.

Know this: Everything you do online is connected, searchable and subject to the closest scrutiny. Others will make decisions about you and decide to contact you – or not – based on what they find. Consider this as you make your next entry on the various social media sites. Will it help or hinder your reputation? As we all become more aware of the value of these tools, they will continue to gain importance. Develop the skills to be effective in this environment or get help. It’s not going away!

 

More LinkedIn & One for Uncle Rico

I see the same mistakes every day on LinkedIn, mistakes that can really hurt users. This is ironic, because people use their time on the site to bolster their professional reputations, but they just hurt themselves. Are you committing any of these LinkedIn crimes?

A picture is worth… You know the rest. If you have a picture up on your profile, how does it look? Does it say confident, friendly, accessible professional? Or does it say something else? I am not going to bore you with a list of don’ts, but ask yourself this question: If I had to submit a resume with a picture, would I feel comfortable using this one? If not, take it down right away. Oh, yeah, don’t use a glam shot by Deb (Napoleon Dynamite fans will know what I mean).

Don’t tell us about dinner. Unless you were at a professional networking dinner and met some great people, keep it to yourself. “Depressed. Made mac & cheese and watched a Lifetime movie” is for Facebook, not LinkedIn. The same goes for being tired, having to pick up your dry cleaning, or anything else you wouldn’t talk about when trying to impress strangers.

Details, details. I have talked about this before, but I continue to see it: Spelling, grammar and errors in judgment about content. You are being judged by the quality and content of your posts on the site and anything that links to it (WordPress, Twitter, etc.) Be careful, edit closely and be sure that what you say is helping you build your online persona.

If you are making these mistakes, take sometime this weekend to fix your profile. It will be time well spent.

 

 

A Few LinkedIn Pointers – An Interactive Blog Post

Consider this another weekend how-to session that can help you make better use of LinkedIn. Many people use it well, making, building and maintaining their professional relationships and online reputations with prudent and careful use of the site. There are others who seem to view it as just another social media tool, and they make mistakes I would like to help you avoid. Here they a few suggestions:

By the way, if you have suggestions to share, please comment to this blog post and share. Everyone would love to hear what’s working for you. Thanks!

Spelling & Grammar: If you are going to write more than a couple of sentences, use a word processor with spelling and grammar check. If you can’t be bothered, at least use a web browser that will highlight your spelling mistakes – Google Chrome and Firefox both use the red squiggle to point out your errors. Why? Recruiters and others judge you by the quality of the material you post, especially in your own profile.

Watch Your Links: One person recently sent me an invite to connect. I accepted and checked out the websites linked to through the profile. Eek! This person’s personal website is full of errors! It could easily torpedo any aspirations to be contacted by recruiters. It is really bad. Avoid sending professionals to an unprofessional site.

Watch What You Say: As LinkedIn is a professional social media site, consider posting things that you would only say in front of your boss or if you were in a meeting with everyone in your network. Is your message professional, concise and on topic? If not, avoid the urge to post. Silence is golden if your message isn’t.

Personalize Your Invitations: If you are going to take the time to send someone an invitation, why not personalize it. That simple step can increase the likelihood that the invitation will be accepted, and can accelerate the development of your professional relationships. Here is an example. “I appreciated the comment that you made in the ____ group about Lean Manufacturing concepts. I would like to invite you to join my professional network so we can share ideas.” This invitation pays a complement and tells the person why you want to connect. Wouldn’t you accept the invitation?

Reach Out After the Connection: If you have accepted or issued an invitation to someone you have never met, get the conversation going with a follow up message or a phone call. I can tell you from personal experience that it is appreciated and NOBODY else is doing it. You can really enhance the value of these relationships through proactive dialogue.

There it is. Review your network and your LinkedIn activities. Are you maximizing the benefit of the time spent on the service?

Here’s the interactive part: Comment to this blog post – or better yet, subscribe – and share your best tips.

You’re Batman? So What.

Pretend you are Batman for a minute. Maybe an unemployed Batman. I know, Batman is very entrepreneurial and makes his own success, but hang with me for a minute. You’re lounging around the Batcave one day, thinking about how you are going to pay the fat mortgage on this hole in the ground, and think about getting a paycheck. Being a savvy masked superhero, you hit the job boards and search to see what is available in Gotham City.

It’s your lucky day, because the city is advertising for a superhero just like you to take a bite out of crime. You know you have the talent and you are the perfect person for the job, so you send out your resume and your standard cover letter and wait for a call. Or an email. Or maybe even that bat-shaped spotlight. But none of it happens. Why not?

Could it be that you haven’t sold yourself in your cover letter? Did you fail to connect the dots for the HR person in city hall who sent your resume to the “thanks but no thanks” folder?

The job posting said that the successful candidate would have the ability to significantly reduce violent crime in the city, especially crime perpetrated by criminals with colorful costumes and weird MO’s. Did you remember to tell the hiring people that you have created an ingenious strategy to capture and successfully prosecute these bad guys, and that you look forward to sharing your skill with the good people of Gotham? Did you mention that you can get it done without the Gotham police officers being in harm’s way? Did you sell yourself?

Enough of the Batman story for now. When you are presenting yourself for opportunities in your current company, for a new job, or when discussing your performance with your boss, are you discussing the benefits that you bring – or will bring – to the organization? If not, you are failing to sell yourself by showing the buyer – your boss or potential employer – a compelling reason to put you on the team. You can remove the pain. The benefit you bring will be much greater than the paycheck you receive.

Nobody will care about what you do unless you can show how you will do it for the organization and how you are worth the investment. Gotham won’t hire Batman unless Batman can persuasively sell the idea that he will be locking up the Joker. Quickly.

Are You Part of the Big Brain?

On what topic are you an expert? Maybe you spend hours each week working in a discipline that has allowed you to develop expert level knowledge in some area. Maybe you have a passion outside of work that others would find valuable. If you haven’t explored Quora, you are missing an opportunity to learn, share and bolster your personal brand.

Inc. Magazine offered a useful tips article for Quora users. Visit Quora, read the article and understand what the site is all about. Then consider this.

If you have a skill that you could share to benefit others, consider engaging in this forum. Pick a topic and search for some of the people who are also involved in the conversations. You will find thought leaders on every topic freely sharing their knowledge, asking questions and engaging in dialogue. If you want to know what the leaders in your field or industry are discussing, this is a great place to visit.

Think about how you can burnish your own personal brand on the site. I have been visiting and posting to help people with questions concerning resumes, cover letters and other career marketing issues. What do you know a lot about that you can share?

File this pointer under “New Things I Have Learned This Week.” Take a few minutes, see if the site and the conversations resonate with you, and decide if this can help you develop your professional brand and online reputation. If so, jump into the conversation, have some fun and show us how smart you are.

ee cummings You’re Not

If you are a famous poet or author this is not for you. If people around the world know you by a single name, go hang out with Bono, Shakira or Fergie and don’t waste your time reading this. If you are like the rest of us schlubs who have to work for a living, and you are at least a little interested in your online presence, stick around.

A very recent posting from a recruiter in my network offered good advice. The recruiter said (I’m paraphrasing), “Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is free of errors.” Her point was that recruiters evaluate you based on your profile. If they like what they see, you may get contacted. If not, you will never know and you’ll be wondering why all your friends are getting interviews and offers while your inbox is full of digital cobwebs. Here are a few things that I have seen that you should avoid.

all lower case: my name is bill florin and i write this blog to help others manage their careers and professional reputations. isn’t it annoying to see someone fail to capitalize? Write the way you were taught in school. Proper nouns (e.g. your name) are capitalized. You aren’t impressing anyone with your nonchalant coolness by failing to extend your pinkies to the shift keys. By the way, E.E. Cummings did not write his name in all lowercase, but others, including F. Scott Fitzgerald did, so it stuck.

High School Yearbook Pictures: No, I’m not talking about your actual yearbook picture. None of us would get anywhere using those (especially me – yikes!). I’m referring to pictures that are neither professional nor appropriate for social media uses. If you sell cars, maybe it’s OK to pose in front of a car. If you don’t, maybe your Dukes of Hazzard snapshot should go. The same goes for bikes, motorcycles, boats, or pictures of you consuming anything (you know – drinks, food, smoke, whatever). When in doubt, get a professionally composed headshot done and us it.

Typos: Be as careful with your LinkedIn profile, personal website and blog(s) as you are with your resume. There is no rule that says you must type your material directly into the LinkedIn website. Write it in a word processor, triple check for typos and grammatical errors, and copy/paste it into the web app.

These are just a few details to watch for, but they are all very common. Review your content, make the changes needed and improve your professional reputation and online presence. And if you decide to make a career change into poetry, forget about all of this, do what you want, and call it “your art.”

The Nine-Fingered Chef

If you have done any reading, research or work on social media tools, you know that terms like “personal brand” and “online reputation” are used by everyone. If you don’t have a robust LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account that you use regularly and a blog with daily updates that display your genius, you are nobody. These tools are very important, and will likely grow beyond anything we can anticipate today, but they are still just tools. My brother-in-law is attending culinary school and he has a set of knives that can be used to create gourmet dinners or disasters.

Dan Schwabel writes a useful blog on at Forbes.com about personal branding. His post today discusses the demise of the resume and how it will be replaced by LinkedIn profiles. There is one point that he doesn’t make, and maybe it’s obvious, but still worth discussing. Do you have what it takes to use these tools without hurting yourself?

First, is the material that you want to put before the world something that the world wants to see? Is the content clear, concise and well written? If not, put down the meat clever, Mr. Flay.

Second, are you committed to keeping all of these online tools current? If you are going to create a blog that you never update and that is just one more chore in your life, it won’t have the energy and enthusiasm behind it that makes it readable. The same is true for LinkedIn, Facebook and any other social media tool you care to mention.

Finally, the skills and attention to detail that are needed to create a great resume are the same skills needed to create a great LinkedIn resume. It’s the same material presented in a different venue. If it’s bad as a hard copy resume, it sure won’t get better as a purely digital document.

If you aren’t up to the challenge, get some help. If you are going to commit to social media, jump in and get to work. If not, put down those really sharp knives, keep your digits where they belong, and come back when you are ready.