Small Steps

Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus makes the point that we have more free time available to us than humans at any other time in history. One statistic that illustrates the point is that the amount of time we spend watch television continues to increase. What if we didn’t waste so much time observing and actually did something? What if we used some of this reserve brain power for some activity, rather than passivity?

I started working with a new client this past week. He is a young man in Los Angeles, and has accomplished much. He has not reached his 30th birthday. Getting to know him, I understand why. He has been entrepreneurial and has been involved in creating value, building businesses, studying and networking – and not wasting time – since he was at least 12 years old.

What are your dreams? How can you see your life better than it is today? Maybe you have a goal of helping other people, improving your relationships with your family or friends, getting fit or starting a business. How could you take your cognitive surplus and move in a direction that can improve your life? The answer does not lie in another reality TV episode, that’s
for sure. What small step can you take right now that moves you even the slightest bit towards your goal? Make the move and take the step.

Just in Case

As the economy recovers and more news stories bubble up with messages about new jobs and opportunities – as opposed to the tales of despair to which we have become accustomed – more people are thinking about change. Rather than white-knuckled grips on their current gigs, no matter how miserable the conditions, some are allowing themselves to think that there are alternatives. Must I stay at this job because I need the benefits? I haven’t had a raise in two years, but what choice do I have? Those questions are being overshadowed by hope and dalliances to consider better choices. Green shoots, anyone?

So what happens when you get a call, text, tweet, email or invitation over lunch to send your resume? As in: “I know some people who are looking for someone with your skill set.” Do you shoot it over from your Android, ping them from your iPhone, or just mumble something like, “Yeah, so, I need to refresh it, so I will get it to you soon…”? Then you scramble, writing and editing through the night, ultimately serving up something that looks like yesterday’s leftovers.

Professionals who are serious about career growth are getting ready. They are preparing to market themselves in a way that reflects well on them and their accomplishments. They are ready just in case that next great opportunity comes their way. Are you?

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.