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?

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Top 10 Blogs That Help My Career

I’ve become a regular contributor to the Career Development Carnival, a monthly collection of blog posts on career development.  This post reflects the submission theme for the May 2013 Career Development Carnival.

Arthur Catalanello Most Interesting Blogger In The WorldI may not be the most interesting man in the world, but I do enjoy a varied career.  I focus on marketing, social media, advertising research, market research. I also volunteer with The August Group and my efforts focus on career development, job search, personal branding and networking.  My Top 10 List is a reflection of these varied interests.  Some of them are not technically a blog, but a valuable resource nonetheless.  I also wanted to note that I’m intentionally not including the Career Development Carnival, Hannah’s blog or Lynn’s blog.  They are all excellent but should be a given for this particular post!  🙂

Here is my top 10 list in alphabetical order with descriptions and links:

AdAge – They claim, “Ad Age makes people smarter in their jobs in advertising, marketing and media through analysis, insights and news with an objective point of view.”  You can subscribe to 11 different email lists on various industry topics.

Freelance Folder – According to their website, “FreelanceFolder is a community for freelancers, entrepreneurs, work-at-home business owners, and web-workers. We strive to bring you the articles, information, and community you need to succeed.”

Grow – A blog by Mark Schaefer and guest authors with posts on growing your company, reputation, customers, impact, profits and yourself.

LinkedIn – Whether it’s suggested industry articles by LinkedIn, reading the LinkedIn blog, articles recommended by your network contacts, or using the Signal feature to filter news and stay updated on your professional network, I use LinkedIn on a daily basis.

MarketingProfs – They describe themselves as, “Our editorial team cuts through all of this marketing noise to find the experts and in-the-trenches marketers who know what they are talking about. Then we take their know-how and mix it with our marketing smarts to turn it into practical advice that you can actually use through our newsletters, conferences, seminars, podcast, articles, and webcasts.”

Mashable – This site “is a leading source for news, information & resources for the Connected Generation. Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world.”

Personal Branding Blog – This blog, “teaches you how to create your career and command your future, using the personal branding process. You will learn how to position yourself for success so that you become known for your passion and expertise.”

Search Engine Watch – According to their website, “Search Engine Watch provides tips and information about searching the web, analysis of the search engine industry and help to site owners trying to improve their ability to be found in search engines.”

Social Media Examiner – They describe themselves as “The world’s largest online social media magazine, Social Media Examiner helps businesses discover how to best use social media, blogs and podcasts to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate more brand awareness and increase sales.”

Who’s Blogging What – This is an email newsletter with links to articles and blog posts.  You can use it “to stay current on social media, search marketing, user experience, email, web analytics and all of the latest developments of web marketing.”

Perhaps in a future post I’ll detail the local bloggers I follow and/or know personally.  What are some of your favorite blogs and how do they help your career?

The $209,200 Question

Ithaca College, IC, Ithaca, Communications, Park School of Communications

Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (via http://www.ithaca.edu)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with current students at Ithaca College, who are interning at the Office of Career Services.  Our chat centered around marketing, social media and the lessons I’ve learned in “the real world” since graduating from Ithaca College and leaving South Hill for Rochester, NY.  I enjoy giving back to my alma matter in this fashion, so when asked if I could spare 15-20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon I didn’t hesitate to accept.

My favorite question that was asked by a student was, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”  Since I didn’t know the questions in advance, my mind raced with possible answers. . . .

Communications:  I majored in Communications, so this was an easy answer to give.  Virtually all jobs require good communication skills!  I dismissed that answer as something that should be a given.

Marketing:  These are marketing interns, so a broad-based marketing skill set would be valuable.  After all, marketing applies to all job seekers because they’re ultimately marketing themselves to prospective employers.  So, I dismissed that answer too, since it should also be a given.

Networking:  As a job seeker, it’s not just what you know.  It’s also not just who you know.  It’s who knows about you which is equally important.  What’s the best way to make sure recruiters, employers and hiring managers know about you?  Networking!  I had my answer!

Whether in-person or via social media, networking is truly an important skill set that graduating seniors should possess.  It’s also a skill that won’t be taught in most classrooms.  Some colleges do, however, teach networking to their students (along with personal branding).  I have first-hand experience that Ithaca College currently does this.

I was able to stress to these students that their networking efforts should begin immediately with fellow students, professors and other professionals.  Two other important points about networking, especially for students who are likely to be new to networking:

  1. Make sure you practice a “give to get” philosophy.  Seek out ways to help the person you’re networking with and/or what you can bring to your professional relationship.  Effective networking is a two-way street.
  2. Emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to your network.  It’s better to have a network that’s half the size but twice as effective.

If you were faced with that same question, what would be your advice to a graduating senior?

As to the title of this post?  That refers to the current 4-year total of tuition/room/board at Ithaca College.  🙂

The Value Of First Impressions

I’ve written previously about the value of first impressions.  A few weeks ago I was reminded about how valuable those first impressions can be.  I had the opportunity to bring my daughter to a local college fair with over 200 schools in attendance.  She did some homework ahead of the event and we had a large list of schools we wanted to speak with.

Upon arriving at the event, what struck me first, was that there was an immediate and obvious discrepancy among the schools.  Some had great signage that was branded consistently with their school.  Other colleges simply made do with what was provided by the convention center.  When you see something like that, what’s your first impression?  Is it that one school takes pride in their brand and another doesn’t?  Or is it something more cynical, such as one school charges more in tuition to support its marketing and promotions budget?

A few of the colleges had more than one representative at the table to help reduce waiting times.  As a parent with many schools on the list and many questions to ask, I found that to be very valuable.  But that begs the same questions, doesn’t it?  Is it “smart business” on the school’s behalf or is it flaunting a larger budget that can afford to send two representatives instead of one?

Many of the colleges had large visuals of campus.  Not surprisingly, all of the students look like models and the campus apparently enjoys nothing but  sunny, blue skies and 70-degree days all year-long.  What surprised me was that some schools didn’t have visuals at all, unless you proactively flipped through their glossy brochures.  You can’t flip through a brochure if your booth doesn’t attract the visitor to begin with!  That seems like Marketing 101 to me, and that doesn’t bode well for the offending schools offering a marketing degree.  I think they need to re-take that class, or perhaps take it at a different school that understands marketing!

My final observation, however, was how few schools had promotional products with them.  I was expecting to bring home enough branded pens to supply a few classrooms with.  Instead, we found one school that had postcards of campus images printed in 3-D and another school that gave out small smartphone screen cleaning pads.

After speaking with 30+ schools, I must admit that many of them blended together at the end of the event.  The ones I remembered either had a great representative, or they had the right combination of marketing and promotional collateral to stand out from the crowd.  For the colleges, isn’t it all about making a great first impression at an event like that?  My daughter was able to eliminate many schools from consideration based on first impressions alone.  The rest will be eliminated on other, more traditional criteria.

Does your business actively plan for making the right first impression?  If you’re looking for a job, what are you doing to ensure your first impression is a good one?

Ithaca College, IC, Roy H. Park School of Communications, Cayuga Lake, South Hill

A first-impression of my alma matter, the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, overlooking Cayuga Lake (image via ithaca.edu)

Five Consulting and Job Search Parallels

I recently had lunch with a friend and former co-worker. When we met back in 2010 and compared notes on our respective job search activities, we learned we had competed against each other for many of the same open positions in the Rochester, NY area.  We ended up working together for a large, local corporation. While our contracts there have ended, I am happy to report that each of us has since moved on to new and better opportunities.

She asked how my consulting business was doing.  As I explained the ebb and flow I’ve experienced, five parallels between part-time consulting and job search immediately came to mind:

Rain and drought:  “When it rains, it pours” is the old adage and I’ve experienced that with both the job search and part-time consulting.  I’ve had weeks without a single phone call or email inquiry and I’ve had weeks where I’m seemingly over-booked.  It’s important to not get too high or too low as riding that emotional roller coaster will make you sick.

How hot is the fire?:  Another old adage I used when I was looking for full-time employment was “irons in the fire” to describe how many opportunities were in various stages of progress.  At various times, I had several positions I had applied to, several I had interviewed for, and several I was waiting for an offer/rejection.  Some weeks, with so many “irons in the fire,” the fire seemed quite hot!  Other weeks, I was hoping for a spark, let alone a flame or a fire.  This hot-cold pattern isn’t always predictable, but know that it won’t last forever, good (hot) or bad (cold).

Personal branding:  If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to differentiate yourself.  You must determine what makes you different from all of the other job applicants.  Then, market yourself and highlight how you stand above the crowd.  As a marketing consultant, I too have developed and maintain a personal brand.

Visibility is key:  Without a marketing/advertising budget, I rely on referrals and word-of-mouth for my consulting business.  The key to that is being visible.  Similarly, job seekers need to be visible.  When a job lead for a sales position comes across my inbox, odds are I’m forwarding it to the first person I think of who’s looking for a sales position.

Networking is mandatory:  Whether I’m meeting with job seekers or prospective consulting clients, I try to network weekly (and in-person whenever possible).  The key to effective networking is practicing a “give to get” mentality.  Help the person you’re networking with first.  They’re then more likely to assist you.

For those who navigated the unemployment waters and have landed, what parallels have you noticed?

Are You Still The Rat?

I often think there are two types of people in this world, those who love famous quotes and those who don’t.  Consider me in the latter group, not because I don’t find value in them.  There’s simply a glut of quotes on social media.  For me it’s overload to the point that I tune them out.

The other day, however, one from Lily Tomlin caught my eye . . . .

Rat Race, Running the Rat Race

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” ~ Lily Tomlin

What’s interesting is, my job search a few years ago felt the most like a rat race to me.  I easily logged 60+ hours a week on average.  It felt like a never-ending treadmill of looking at postings, attending networking events, having 1-on-1 informational meetings, monitoring my online presence, speaking with recruiters, preparing for interviews, following-up on applications and interviews, etc., etc.

But this is where I diverge from Lily Tomlin’s quote.  As I look back on my stretch of unemployment, it really feels like a sabbatical since I ultimately re-landed with the company that had down-sized me.  During my job search, I was able to learn new skills, I met hundreds of new people, I sharpened my existing skills, I re-energized my outlook and perspective, and I returned to full-time employment better than I was before.  In that sense, I no longer felt like the same “rat” who had been running the job search rat race.

If you’re currently looking for work, my challenge to you is . . . what will you do now to improve yourself?  What will you do once you return to work?  Will you continue to network and help others as you were helped?  Will you emerge from the job search rat race a new and improved person, or will you go back to your old self?  Will you make personal and professional changes to shorten and minimize future, unexpected job search rat races? Or . . . will you still be the rat running the same rat race?

photo credit: http://www.domainofhope.com

Networking Worthiness

I’ve previously written about how I prefer to meet with someone in person before connecting on LinkedIn (or at least have had several meaningful conversations via phone or email).  I receive several requests weekly and if I don’t know the person, I typically will respond with a request to meet over coffee so we can better understand how we might help each other professionally.

Surprisingly, less than 20% will respond back to set up a meeting.  The other 80% I never hear from.  I guess they were hoping I’d simply accept so they could put another notch on their networking bedpost (so to speak).  Sorry, I’m not that easy. 😉

LinkedIn Bedpost

December is a busy month for most people; possibly the busiest month of the year between holiday social events, professional networking opportunities, month-end/quarter-end/year-end deadlines at work, vacation days to use before they expire, and holidays from work.  In a “normal” week I try to accommodate up to 3 networking meetings, as my schedule allows.  In December, that becomes even more challenging.

I recently received a LinkedIn invitation to connect.  I responded with a request to network over coffee first, but indicated that my schedule was booked until mid-January (about 5-6 weeks out from the initial request).  This individual replied, “if you are booked until mid January I’m not sure I’m worthy of your time.”  I won’t lie – I was taken aback by that reply.

Despite the rocky start and a bad first impression, I decided to give this person the benefit of the doubt.  I wrote back assuring this person that my availability has nothing to do with worthiness but with truly being booked-up at this time of year with events, obligations, workload and other appointments previously scheduled.  I agreed to touch base in early January once my schedule lightens again (slightly).  We’ll see what happens.

I once waited 6 months to meet with a local, very well-known CEO/entrepreneur because his schedule was booked solid until then.  Meeting him was important enough to me that I made the appointment that far in advance to connect over coffee.

What’s the longest you’ve had to wait to network with someone you wanted to meet with?  Did you feel less “worthy” because you had to wait?  How did you handle the situation?  How do you handle bad first impressions and/or poor networking “etiquette?”

Opposites Attract

There’s an old saying that opposites attract and that’s often true.  There was a story in the local paper recently about the decline of greeting cards due to the increasing popularity and usage of electronic versions and social media.

Stats back up this trend.  A U.S. Postal Service study which shows correspondence (like greet­ing cards) fell 24% between 2002 and 2010.  Hallmark estimates the number of greeting cards sold in the U.S. has fallen by 20% in the past decade.

It’s certainly great to log onto Facebook on your birthday and read dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family (most of whom probably would not have mailed you a physical card).  But, isn’t there something special about opening the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it, written by hand?  That’s a great example of the opposite (of the norm) having a positive effect.

The same principle applies to business or job searching.  Most job applications are filed electronically and many of the larger companies have their own applicant tracking system in place.  Conventional job search wisdom is to send a thank you following an interview.  What if, instead of emailing that note, you mailed a physical thank you card and wrote your note by hand?  Don’t you think it would stand out (in a positive way) in this ever-increasingly electronic age?

With business, when everyone sends an email, why not pick up the phone?  Don’t forget the power of a sincere “thank you” in business – and to do something to make that thank you memorable.  At the end of the day, if you want to stand out from the crowd, sometimes you zig when others zag.  It may not always be true, but very often opposites do indeed attract.

Social Media Days of the Week

In social media, it seems as if every day of the week is devoted to something.  Marketers will use any excuse they can to get their message in front of you.  There’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, Wear Red Day, etc., etc.  This can be both good and bad, depending on your perspective of marketing.

In social media, there are certain “events” that occur on a weekly basis.  Perhaps the most well-known is “Follow Friday” on Twitter (#FollowFriday or #FF in twitter-speak).  This is a way for Twitter users to make a recommendation that their followers should follow certain individuals.  Sometimes it’s for a specific reason (industry, location, interest) and sometimes there’s no apparent reason for the recommendation.

A few years ago, Hire Friday (#HireFriday or #HF) became a variation of Follow Friday.  Job seekers were encouraged to tweet about their job search including location, industry, a keyword or two, a link to a professional profile, and of course include the hashtag.  Those on Twitter, especially recruiters and HR professionals, were encouraged to re-tweet these messages to give job seekers added exposure.  The power of Hire Friday (and Twitter) is real, as I experienced an increase of resume views of 4x-5x compared to other days in the week when I was looking for employment.

I recently read a blog post from CAREEREALISM where they’re trying to encourage “Endorse Monday.”  They’re asking LinkedIn users to take 10 minutes each Monday and endorse people within their network.  This is a great way to be active on LinkedIn and it’s a perfect example of practicing a “give to get” networking philosophy.

Unlike Twitter, where the previously mentioned #hashtags in your stream will serve as a weekly reminder each Friday, I think LinkedIn will need to aggressively promote “Endorse Monday” until this becomes ingrained.  Endorse Monday may not have been LinkedIn’s idea originally, but they’re obviously in favor of it since they referenced it in a Facebook post recently.

As someone who embraces and practices “give to get” networking, I truly hope Endorse Monday takes off!  What other special days do you participate in using social media each week?

Social Media Days of the Week

Five Reasons Why Job Seekers Must Blog

Looking for work is a full-time job but with a horrible “paycheck.”  I know first-hand, as I’ve previously spent an extended period of time looking for work.  I’ve often been asked, “if you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?”

To this day, my answer is always . . . . blog.  When I was unemployed, I had dozens of people suggest to me that I should blog.  At the time, I had my excuses crafted:  I don’t have time, I don’t know what to write, it will detract from more important job search tasks, people won’t find value in what I have to say, etc., etc.

Since I’ve successfully navigated those waters, I can say from personal experience, these are five reasons that job seekers must blog:

  1. Improve Visibility & SEO.  You need to be active and visible if you want to be found.  While Google will find your LinkedIn profile, it simply isn’t enough.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization (improving the natural or “organic” way your site is found via search engines like Google or Bing).  Add to your digital footprint and improve your SEO by creating and maintaining a blog.  Google ♥ blogs because it’s fresh content.
  2. Exemplify Subject Matter Expertise.  What if your resume or LinkedIn profile isn’t read?  What if it’s read, but your expertise doesn’t come across?  Having a blog allows you to demonstrate your subject matter expertise with each post.  Repetition demonstrates your experience and knowledge.
  3. Demonstrate Personality.  By writing a blog, your personality comes through.  Readers get a sense of your style, your passion, your humor.  It takes what’s typically a very 2-D digital footprint and transforms it into 3-D.
  4. Personal Branding & Differentiation.  Most LinkedIn profiles look alike, aside from a few differentiators.  Since you can only customize your LinkedIn profile to a very limited extent, writing a blog allows you to creatively market yourself.  Open jobs often receive hundreds of applicants.  How can you stand out from the competition?  Try blogging!
  5. Proactively Share SCAR/STAR Stories.  A common interviewing strategy is to share a SCAR (“Situation/Challenge/Action/Result”) or STAR (“Situation/Tactic/Action/Result”) Story with the interviewer to demonstrate your experience, problem solving ability and value to the organization.  That’s great, but you need to get the interview in order to tell that story, right?  Not if you have a blog!  SCAR/STAR Stories can be great fodder for blog posts.

And, if you’d like a bonus reason, creating and maintaining a blog gives you the added skill sets of writing, content management, web development, marketing/promotions, publishing and social media!

Is blogging time consuming?  Yes, but make the time – it’s worth it!  Will people find value in what you have to say?  Yes, you’ll be surprised!  If your goal is to be found, be viewed as an industry expert, show some personality and differentiate yourself from the competition, then you must blog!