Chewbacca, a Tired Bird and the Invisible Man

LinkedIn, Profile Picture, LinkedIn Profile Picture, Bad Profile Picture, Personal Branding, Poor Personal Branding, First ImpressionMy blog post title this week sounds like either the start of a bad joke or the start of Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent comedy routine.  Sadly, it’s neither.  It’s a brief list of who’s invited me to connect on LinkedIn recently, based on their profile pictures.

What does that say about their professional, personal brand?  Afterall, LinkedIn claims to be “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories.”  Are any of those profile pictures professional?

Since I don’t know these people (yet), have not been introduced by a mutual connection and did not receive a customized invitation, their profile picture is a big part of my first impression.  Do I need them in my network?  Do I want them in my network?  Perhaps.  Or, perhaps not.

A simple definition of personal branding is how people market themselves and their careers.  It helps demonstrate what sets you apart and what your unique value proposition is.  A strong personal brand can position one as a subject matter expert and provide enhanced credibility.  Naturally, it’s a big part of a successful job search.

So what do these profile pictures say about their personal brand?  Is their profile picture supposed to convey proof of humor?  Could it be misconstrued and leave an impression they might be overly snarky?  Are they “rebels” defying the corporately conservative profiles of millions of LinkedIn members?  And in the case of the individual with the default “ghost image” picture, it makes one question if they’re trying to hide something or simply lack the technical knowledge to change the picture.  Unfortunately, neither makes a good first impression.

It’s always a good idea to review your own personal brand.  Are you making a positive, professional first impression with your picture?  Are you clearly communicating your unique value proposition with your profile content?  The world is too competitive today to have a poor digital footprint.  Find a trusted colleague or friend and have them review it to make sure your personal brand is strong.

Are You Missing Facebook Content?

During a recent conference call for a consulting project I’m working on, someone asked why he wasn’t seeing Facebook updates in his News Feed for a business page he had liked.  He assumed (as most do) that by simply liking the page he’d automatically see their posts.  It’s a great question and one that has two answers!

The first answer has to do with Facebook’s complicated and relatively secretive algorithm.   The easiest way to see more content from a business page you’ve liked is to engage with their posts (like, comment and/or share).  The more you engage with their content, the more Facebook will show you their content in your News Feed.

The second method is also easy but not as obvious to many users.  In just three steps, you can ensure you’ll see posts from a Facebook page you’ve liked!

  1. If you go back through your Facebook News Feed, “hover” your mouse over the logo or name in the News Feed. It will bring up a box that will show the cover image, how many/which friends also like the site, and there will be 3 buttons (Liked, Following, Message).
  2. Hover your mouse over the Liked button within that box and it will drop down a menu (Get notifications, Add to Interest Lists, Unlike).
  3. Click on “Get notifications” and you’ll be sure to see all postings from that page regardless of Facebook’s complex algorithm that computes what it thinks you want to see!

I’ve included a screen shot that shows what this box and drop-down menu looks like. You can do this for any page you’ve liked on Facebook and if you ever change your mind about a page, simply un-click this preference setting (or even unlike the page entirely).

Facebook, Business Page, Facebook Business Page, Engagement, Facebook Engagement, How to See Facebook Content, Facebook Like

If you’re unable to locate a previous post for the page in your News Feed, you can go directly to the Facebook page for the company by conducting a search.  Once on their page, hovering over the “Liked” button (“Liked” button is immediately below the cover photo) will give you the same drop-down menu mentioned in Step 2 above.

Of course, Facebook changes their site features and settings frequently and their mobile apps work differently than the main site.  I hope this helps you with your Facebook experience.  If you’re wondering about filtering content in your News Feed for friends, I’ve written about that in this post.

Experiencing Failure

Failure, Success, Failure Is The Road To Success, Quotes, Quotes on Failure, Quotes on SuccessFor most people, the greatest number of “failures” will be experienced during job loss and job search.  If you haven’t experienced failure often or know how to handle it, failure can be a debilitating emotion.  It can impact you negatively today as well as tomorrow.  So what are you to do if you’ve recently lost your job or have spent weeks/months looking for work?

Remember this . . . “You are not a failure; you experienced failure.”  I read that headline recently and it really resonated with me.  When I was downsized in 2009, I did feel like a failure.  I felt as if I had failed my employer, my family and myself.  That’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of emotionally and until you do so, it negatively impacts and handicaps you – especially as you look for employment.

The sooner one realizes the difference between being and experiencing failure, the sooner he/she will start making significant progress with finding employment.  Your new outlook will restore your confidence as you realize that most successful people have also experienced failure prior to success.

You’ll start to see that there’s something to be gained from each experience whether it’s a skill set, a life lesson, a network connection or knowledge that will make you better prepared for what lies ahead.

The holidays can be a hard time for those who are unemployed – I’ve been there and done that.  With a new year comes a chance at a new start.  Once you truly accept the difference between being and experiencing failure, your new outlook will make a difference to your job search.  Obviously, that’s just a part of the equation as you’ll still need to work at personal branding and your personal marketing plan, your digital footprint, in-person and electronic networking, continuing education, professional assistance and traditional search methods.

While there is no crystal ball as to which method(s) will result in your new job, remember that companies want to be successful (and look for successful candidates).  Demonstrate and celebrate your successes and remember that you are not a failure, you simply experienced failure, as have millions before you.

My Top Ten Posts for 2013

2013The New Year holiday is often a time for reflection and for looking ahead.  While circumstances prevented me from blogging as much as I wanted, I still had a successful blogging year!  Below are my top 10 posts (number of views) written in 2013:

10)  Do You Have A Twin On LinkedIn?  Why duplicate profiles exist on LinkedIn and how you can remedy it if you have a duplicate profile.

9)  The $209,200 Question  My answer to the question, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”

8)  We Take Care of Our Own  What do Bruce Springsteen and networking have in common?

7)  The Value Of First Impressions  How first impressions of schools and universities participating in a college fair passed/failed.

6)  The Secret to a Successful Job Search  My answer to the question, “If you had to narrow down all of the various pieces of job search advice into the singular most important thing someone could do, what would that one thing be?”

5)  Twitter Players  What’s a “twitter player” and how do you spot one?

4)  Follow Up To:  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  Responding to reader questions for more information, this follow-up post provides additional detail on LinkedIn’s #swam policy.

3)  Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings Ahead of Graph Search  A review of how to check and change your Facebook privacy settings.

2)  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  This was the most commented on post I wrote in 2013, which criticizes LinkedIn’s Site Wide Automatic Moderation (#swam) policy for group posts.

1)  Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly  In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found at the time . . .

As 2013 winds to a close, I wish my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing my posts this year.  I look forward to sharing my knowledge, expertise and thoughts with you in 2014.

Pathways To Success

Path, Pathway, PathwaysLast week I had the pleasure of participating as a panel member (social media entrepreneurs) in Pathways to Entrepreneurial Success 4.  While the event was obviously focused on entrepreneurship, the tips and information shared that day apply to all professionals regardless of their entrepreneurial interests and employment status.

Here are a few of the tips discussed at the event:

  1. In order to be successful, you must have a passion for what you do.  A casual interest and a decent effort simply aren’t enough.  You must be passionate and fully invested to succeed.
  2. Surround yourself with a strong network built on quality.  I’ve written about my belief that quality trumps quantity in multiple posts.
  3. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.  You must work equally hard on maintaining your strengths as you do trying to improve your weaknesses.
  4. Everyone is a salesperson, whether you’re selling a widget or selling a service.  If you don’t have the confidence to sell yourself, you’ll never convince the customer to buy from you (or hire you).
  5. You don’t have to offer a niche product or service to be successful.  It’s okay that you have direct competition.  Just make sure you work harder than your competition at satisfying the customer.
  6. The path may not always be clearly marked.  You have to visualize what success looks like for you.

What other “pathways” have you found that lead to success?

An Accidental SEO Experiment

Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Canada, Horseshoe FallsIt’s been 50 days since my last blog post.  Fifty!  That’s a long time for me since I aspire to post weekly (or at least 3x/month).  The reality is, summer simply got the best of me.  I was busy with work, busy with consulting, busy with college visitation road trips, busy with networking, busy with public speaking and busy relaxing.  Busy, busy, busy for fifty days!

My unplanned absence from blogging led to an accidental SEO experiment.  Even though my site contained relatively no new content, I had enough blog posts published (77 of them!) that it still produced a decent number of site views.  While the average number of weekly visits saw a small but gradual decline compared to previous months, it was relatively unchanged during that period.  One could argue that a slight downturn in the summer isn’t necessarily unexpected, given vacations and other distractions compared to other times of the year.

So what does this mean?  Can you simply stop what you’re doing, put your feet up on the desk and wait for the phone to ring?  Absolutely not!  My previous 77 posts took time and effort to write.  There was SEO coding that went with it.  The posts were promoted using social media channels and sometimes referred to in comments left on other blogs.  It’s because of that effort my site continued to attract daily visitors to multiple pages.  Imagine how many more visitors I would have had with new postings on a weekly basis . . .

Whether a business, freelancer or job seeker, my accidental SEO experiment illustrates that original content, SEO coding and social media promotion and activity will bring visitors to your website.  The simplest analogy I can make is to gardening…  If all you do is scatter seeds, you’ll probably see some growth in your garden.  But if you take the time to organize what you plant and spend some weekly maintenance on it, you’ll see a bigger return on your (work) investment.

The Secret to a Successful Job Search

Job seekers are often told that the secret to finding a job is through networking.  I believe that’s very true.  However, these factors are also important:  job boards, recruiters, a good resume, your digital footprint (LinkedIn profile, etc.) and continuing education.  But, the common thread that weaves through all of these important resources is networking.

Networking, Business Networking, Networking Event, Job Search, Job Search Networking, The August Group, Career Fair, TAG, TAG Career Fair

When networking, I’m a firm believer in two guiding principles:

  1. You must give to get
  2. Quality is more important than quantity

Want to know what’s even more important than networking?  Want to know what’s the secret to a successful job search?  You must tell your network that you’re looking for employment!  I recently learned that two friends lost their jobs, but I learned of this somewhat after the fact and indirectly.  Job seekers – your network cannot help you if they don’t know you’re looking for work!

Losing a job can be a hit to the ego, in addition to the checkbook.  I’ve been there; I understand that.  You don’t need a billboard to announce your availability and you certainly don’t want to be over-the-top with your announcement.  That can make you appear desperate, which can backfire.  However, here are four things you should do immediately.

  1. Update/Change your LinkedIn profile.  Some job seekers are worried about showing a gap in their employment history.  While that’s understandable, it’s worse to be misleading and confuse people who can help.  Make sure you make it easy for people to contact you!
  2. Contact your friends and family.  Who’s more likely to help when you need help – friends and family or casual acquaintances?  Most people “take care of their own” first, but they can’t help if they don’t know.  Call or send them a private message – but be specific with your ask!  I have 150+ friends on Facebook, but I probably know the career paths of less than 25% of them because our relationship on Facebook isn’t for professional reasons.  If interested, there are Facebook apps that can facilitate this.
  3. Contact your professional connections.  LinkedIn allows you to send messages to those you are connected to, so why not take advantage of this and touch base with your connections?  Remember the “give to get” philosophy of networking, so your message should not be all about you.  If you expect help, you should offer help first.  If you’ve been a ghost in your network, then I’m afraid you’re about to learn a very hard lesson at an unfortunate time.
  4. Update recruiters you’re connected with on your search, the positions you’re looking for and the companies you’re interested in.  Make sure to ask them how frequently they wish to be updated (typically it’s monthly, but ask) about your search and interests.  Be sure to schedule and conduct those follow-ups to stay top of mind!

My question to those who have successfully navigated the job search waters is this . . . If you had to narrow down all of the various pieces of job search advice into the singular most important thing someone could do, what would that one thing be?

Marketing and the College Tour

In March I wrote a post about the value of first impressions.  That post was inspired by the different marketing and promotional approaches of colleges and universities at a local college fair I attended with my daughter.  Fast forward four months and some of the booths that grabbed our attention that day were visited recently.

Since I tend to view many things with a marketer’s eye, the college tour experience was viewed with the same scrutiny I applied to the college fair in March.  It’s safe to say that some excelled and others failed miserably.  After visiting/looking at 7 schools in 3 states, here’s what stood out:

  1. Photo editing is a marketer’s best friend.  One school that looked great on the web and in their brochures was the exact opposite in person.  Situated in a very poor part of town, there was no dedicated campus and the buildings were quite run-down in person.  This is exactly why you must visit schools and not believe everything you see in a marketing brochure.
  2. Hospitality goes a long way.  Most schools offered visitors something to drink (bottled water, coffee, tea).  Some even offered cookies.  One offered nothing and pointed to vending machines in the lobby.  You certainly wouldn’t apply to a school based on whether or not the Admissions Department offered cookies.  But, which experience leaves a better taste in your mouth (pun intended)?
  3. Personalization makes a great impression.  Most schools followed-up on our visits with a “canned” thank you note and additional marketing materials.  Thank you notes are important, but they need to be authentic.  We received a hand-written thank you note from the student tour guide at one of the schools (in addition to one from admissions).  That simple gesture made a great and lasting impression!
  4. You need to walk the walk.  If you’re going to tout how state-of-the-art your campus is when it comes to technology, then your admissions presentation should reflect that.  A simple PowerPoint isn’t going to cut it.  The schools that invested in a higher quality multimedia presentation reinforced their claim of incorporating cutting edge technology.
  5. Finding common ground.  A few of the schools had large groups of students/parents for the campus tour.  Most simply split the groups randomly.  However, one university split the groups by the prospective students’ potential major/school.  Additionally, they matched that group with a student tour guide from that same school.  Rather than having a theater major attempting to answer questions about a business major, you had a business major answering questions from prospective business school students.
  6. Kids like swag.  Just like point #2 above, whether or not you receive a coffee mug or t-shirt from the school should have no bearing on whether or not you choose to apply to that school.  But, kids like free stuff!  The schools which made a small investment in a promotional budget sent visiting students home with a positive impression (and created a walking advertisement in the process).

The above marketing observations are certainly not limited to higher education.  These same examples and principles apply to small businesses too.  Think about the impression your action (or inaction) is leaving on customers and potential customers.  Quite often, just a simple shift can make a big difference!

We Take Care of Our Own

If you know me personally, or go back far enough into my blog archives, you’ll know that I’m proud of my New Jersey upbringing, which includes being a fan of Bruce Springsteen.  After all, that’s the law of Garden State citizenship, isn’t it?  ;-)

In his last album released in January 2012, Bruce’s first single was titled “We Take Care of Our Own.”  Sample lyrics include:

“I’ve been knockin’ on the door that holds the throne
I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home
I’ve been stumblin’ on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone
We take care of our own
We take care of our own
Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own

From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home
There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown
We take care of our own…”

While the meaning of song lyrics is often left to multiple interpretations, one could see where Bruce is possibly (probably?) singing about economic hard times.

Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, there’s a lot of truth to the sentiment of taking care of our own.  That’s true whether it comes to business networking or job searching.  Think about it.  If you have a friend or family member looking for work, aren’t most people more likely to want to help them first than a total stranger?  What if you belong to a networking group, a social group or even a group on LinkedIn?  Aren’t you more likely to share a lead with a fellow group member . . . someone you know, “one of your own?”

If you believe that premise, as I do, then the song serves as a great reminder in the power of networking.  Networking should not be limited to when you need something or are looking for work.  It’s something that should be done year-round regardless of employment status.  Active networking is more effective than passive networking, so make sure you remain visible.  And, for it to be the most effective, you must give to get.

Listen to the song here, and then get motivated to create a networking plan for the next month!  What does your networking plan include?

Twitter Fraud Advice for the Novice

As with most social media platforms, if you use it long enough, you’ll eventually come across all sorts of hackers, spammers and scammers.  On Twitter, I sometimes wonder if there’s more fraudulent users than legitimate ones – and that doesn’t even take into account inactive members.

The fraudulent Twitter accounts I laugh at the most are the ones that promise thousands of followers a day if I simply follow them, follow their system, purchase their material outlining the secret to Twitter success, etc.  Have you seen these members or even had some follow you?  Here’s a recent example of one to follow me:

Twitter Bogus Member

An account like the one above raises so many red flags for an experienced Twitter user.  First and foremost, if your system truly can deliver 1,000 followers per day, why does your account only have 104 followers?!?  Other red flags include a lopsided following-to-followers ratio, an abysmally low Klout Score, no bio (just a sales pitch – and a bad one at that), and a plea for followers.

For those who are new to Twitter, you’ll want to watch for some of these red flags mentioned above.  I also strongly suggest you value quality over quantity when it comes to building your Twitter presence.  I’ve spent nearly four years building my Twitter account.  Followers come and go, but if you place quality over quantity with how you use and manage Twitter, you’ll trend upwards organically.

What other advice would you give to the novice Twitter user?