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.

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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!

I Can’t Take Your Money

A Note about Work: I am taking the Work blog in a different direction as it becomes more obvious every day that our economy and our work experiences are also shifting. In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, working was about finding a good company, staying there for decades, and getting out with whatever the retirement package the organization offered. While this is still true for some (e.g. public school teachers and police officers), more of us are spending at least some portion of our work lives without the comfort of a paycheck. Instead, we have to spend some time, either by choice or by necessity, figuring it out for ourselves and earning some of our money in other ways. Our employment relationships are more contractual and much shorter-term.

It is with that understanding and the experience from my own entrepreneurial efforts that I am adding this dimension to the blog. While there will still be a lot of useful information (at least I hope that you think so) about job hunting and career management, this extra element will make the blog more reflective of the experiences that my clients, my colleagues and I share. My hope is that you can learn from them and me, both copying the wins and avoiding the mistakes. Please share your reactions and ideas.

Sometimes, you just have to walk away from the money. You get excited about the opportunity to close more business, send out another invoice and watch the money flow. It happens a lot if you are running a successful business – however you define success – but there are times when you just have to say, “No, I can’t take your money.”

I recently worked with someone who wanted me to review some of her work and possibly make some improvements and changes. She mentioned several times that she was willing to pay me for my time. Upon reviewing her material, I realized that it was already very good and that there was very little that I could do to make it much better. Maybe a tweak here and a little polish there, but that was about it. I told her what I thought, gave some advice for free and moved on, thanking her for the opportunity to help.

I am not sharing this to make you think that I am a saint, ready to work for free and give away my services. Instead, I share this because there is more to the story. Because of my decision, this potential client went public with the story and gave me a solid recommendation on a huge social media site. I also know – at least with some certainty – that if she ever has the opportunity to refer someone to me, she will.

Consider the value of the good will that you can earn by doing something for nothing. Whether it is in your own gig or while working for others, sometimes some free advice, a little extra effort with expectation of reward, and a “thanks for thinking of me” can pay bigger dividends than a few dollars in the bank.

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.

Social Media: What Are You Waiting For?

Think back to a time not long ago when people used the term “computer literate” to describe themselves and their skills. Understanding how to power up a PC, attach a printer and use productivity software like Office or WordPerfect was a pretty big deal. Having this skill could give you an advantage over your competitors. Those skills are assumed now and you better have them. Remember that every kid coming out of college has been using a computer since birth.

We are at that same tipping point in the use of social media. If you know how to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and other sites, especially in ways that help your organization and your professional reputation, you have a marketable skill. If you haven’t taken the plunge and signed up and figured it out, you are getting lapped by the field.

Think about how you are going to use these tools to stay connected. In the world of many employers and organizations, if you aren’t on line, you don’t exist.

Quora: What do know? Everyone is good at something and has special knowledge to share. Get into it by following topics that interest you and post quality answers. Ask questions and give feedback to the answerers.

LinkedIn: Use the site’s learning center to understand everything it can do. Start with a simple profile with a good photo of yourself (think corporate headshot, not party pics) and tell the world what you do. Start working it to find people you have known professionally and personally. Use the site’s news feature to track industry stories and social media updates.

Blogging: WordPress and others allow you to share longer ideas like this. It also gives others – including potential employers and clients – the chance to understand your thinking and evaluate your skills in a non-threatening way. Take the time to post quality work, and keep it fresh. You don’t have to post every day, but you don’t want to fall into the land of
abandoned blogs, either.

Twitter: Stay current on topics that interest you. Send out tweets that use industry jargon and you will soon have followers. Link your Quora and LinkedIn accounts to Twitter and your thoughts will get out into the world.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Social media activities have short shelf lives, and you can always delete from your own profile. Jump in, experiment and see where it takes you. With some effort, you may be able to say you are no longer “social media awkward.”

Manage Your Rep, Save Your Sanity

There are countless companies that want to help you manage your online reputation, but there are things that you can do yourself for free that can make a big difference. Here are a few ideas that can keep the paranoia monster at bay as you take positive action.

  1. Log in to Google Dashboard. Take control of your image by setting up your profile. Not only will you stake your claim using this important Google resource, you can specify the links that Google shows the world when they look for you.
  2. Search for your own name regularly. Using the major search sites (Bing, Google, Yahoo), search for your name and see what comes up. If there is something that shouldn’t be there, Google offers a tool to address the issue: Me on the Web (available on Dashboard).
  3. Generate positive content. Frequent and professional use of various social media sites can dilute the effect of older content that you may not like. Consider setting up a blog (like this one), use LinkedIn and Quora, or create your own website to define the conversation about you.
  4. Be Smart Online. It is easy to let your guard down and say something you may regret. Before you post it, think about how it will look or sound a year from now to a potential client or employer.
  5. Share the Love. If you see a blog or other content you like, let the author know. Link your blog or site to the ones you like. The favor may be returned with an incoming link that will raise your site and its content in search results.

Do you have other thoughts or experiences to share concerning online reputation management? Feel free to share your comments and stories for all to see. Thanks for sharing!