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!

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Misconceptions Everywhere

I recently visited a close friend who had relocated from the Rochester, NY area to the Cleveland, OH area.  It was my first trip to Cleveland and my friend was happy to play tour guide with the big venues being the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Progressive Field.  I have to admit that prior to this trip, I pictured Cleveland to be the run-down, rust-belt, dirty, “mistake on the lake,” river-on-fire city that I recall hearing about decades ago.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found Cleveland to be a fun, clean, friendly and vibrant city.

While in Cleveland, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a topical blog post.  The blogger had relocated to Rochester and had some misperceptions about Rochester (as well as Cleveland).  The timing of her blog post couldn’t have been more perfect and my relocated friend found a lot of truth in her post.

I grew up in a small town in northeastern New Jersey.  Unless you’re from that part of the country, your perception is likely tied to one or more of these television shows:  The Sopranos, Jersey Shore,  The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Cake Boss and/or Jerseylicious.  Or, perhaps you’ve driven the NJ Turnpike and you think that the entire state consists of swampland, rest stops named after famous people and smelly refineries.  I can assure you the vast majority of the state is much nicer than that.  Trust me.

So that got me thinking about marketers in the tourism industry.  Besides touting the many positives of a given area, how much of their efforts are spent countering misconceptions?  I recently chatted with my friend Carol White Llewellyn, who is a travel and tourism promotion entrepreneur for the Finger Lakes region of NY.

According to Carol, the Rochester area has two big misconceptions.  “The first is that Rochester and this region does not get many tourists. In 2010, in spite of a still-down economy, Rochester alone got $1.3 billion in tourism revenue (http://www.actrochester.org/Indicator/Default.aspx?id=1&indicator=11).  Tourism is huge here, especially because of the growth of the wine and food/restaurant locavore movements. Various communities have also been listed in the “Top 10″ as must-see’s by a variety of travel press.  The other misconception among locals is that there is nothing to do here. In fact, about the only thing we’re missing that’s found elsewhere in the country is deserts and tornadoes.”

Carol goes on to say, “In truth, I don’t spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions. I just keep blogging and talking about all the wonders of the region.  I think sometimes, like most communities, we simply don’t recognize/appreciate/take advantage of the amazing wonders we have in our own back yard!”

As with most things in life, you need to take what you hear/see/read with a grain of salt.  Take the time to do some investigating.  If you don’t, you might incorrectly believe the misconceptions that are everywhere.

Filtering Facebook

If you’re active on Facebook and have friends like I do, you’re encountering plenty of “soapboxers” who believe their political commentary and posts will somehow magically persuade you to vote for their presidential candidate in less than two months.  On a personal note, I can’t wait until I can once again enjoy pictures of cats, pictures of kids and postcards with snarky quotes without having to navigate articles that are obviously and blatantly biased for one side of the aisle or the other.  😉

If you feel that way too, the good news is you don’t have to wait until after the election is over!  Here are two areas in Facebook where you can filter what you see.

The first is to filter the ads in the right-hand column/panel.  If you hover over the ad, a small “x” will appear to the right.  If you click on the ad, it will remove it and you’ll have the opportunity to provide Facebook with information on why you chose to remove it.  In theory, Facebook will learn your likes/dislikes to show you advertising you’re interested in.  Since Facebook is a free site, advertising is one of the ways it makes money, so the ads are not going away.  You might as well see ads that are interesting.

A second is to limit the content by specific friends.  To do this, go to your friend’s timeline or find a recent post of theirs in your feed.  Hover over their picture and then hover over the “friends” button.  Then click on settings.  From there, you can control the frequency of updates (all updates, most updates, only important updates) as well as the type of updates you see (life events, status updates, photos, games, comments and likes, music and videos, other activity).

As with most social media sites, there’s often more than one way to change settings, so it’s not limited to the method I’ve detailed above.  The Facebook filter is not an ideal one, but it’s better than nothing.  When you’re ready to un-filter that soapboxing friend, the steps are the same.

I can say that once I filtered some friends, Facebook became more enjoyable.  Have you filtered content or friends yet?

6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 2)

In the first part to this post, I covered three areas you can and should update to make it easier for people to contact you on LinkedIn.  If you haven’t read that post yet, I encourage you to do so now, as it contains an important overview on where to check/change your various profile settings and preferences.

The first three are in the prior post, so let’s jump right into areas four, five and six of your profile that you can change to make it easier for others to contact you on LinkedIn:

4)  Do you have groups displayed?  You don’t need to display all groups that you belong to, but you should display a few core groups.  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down to the groups section on your profile.  Next to each of the groups you belong to should be a link for “change visibility.”  If you click on that link, it will bring you to the “your settings” page for that group.  The first setting is visibility (the red highlighted box in the screen capture below).  Select or deselect accordingly.

5)  Do you allow group members to contact you?  If groups are moderated well, spam shouldn’t be an issue.  If it is, notify the group manager or leave the group.  If you’re open to being contacted for the opportunities you’ve specified, this is the easiest way to facilitate that.  Follow the steps outlined in the previous point and review the settings in the green highlighted box of the screen capture above.

6)  You can always add contact information to your summary.  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down to the Summary Section of your profile and click the edit link.  You can add contact information as part of your summary should you so choose.  The advantage is someone will still have your contact information even if they don’t share group membership with you.  However, depending on your personal preference, that could be a disadvantage.  Adding contact information here is somewhat controversial among LinkedIn “experts.”

What sections of your LinkedIn profile have you improved as a result of this post or Part 1?  What other areas of your profile have you utilized to make it easier for others to contact you?

6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 1)

I’m actively recruiting LinkedIn members for a LinkedIn Group I created and manage.  It’s been an interesting endeavor, as some people have made it easy to be contacted and others have made it so challenging that I question their motives for having a LinkedIn profile.

Why do you have a LinkedIn profile?  Whatever your reason, do you hope to be contacted if someone finds your profile?  Do you make it easy for others to contact you, or have you created a challenge that will frustrate some and possibly risk missing a golden opportunity?

I’ve identified six areas of your profile that can be used to make it easier to be contacted by others.  To provide the necessary detail on where these areas are located and how you can change them, I’ll split this post into two parts.  Part 2 will be posted next week.

Before I explain the six areas to review, you need to be familiar with where you can change your account settings on LinkedIn.  There’s often more than one way to find the settings you need to check/change, but we’ll focus on this one method.  It’s in the pull-down menu next to your name in the upper right corner of your LinkedIn home page (see the red highlighted box in the screen capture below):

After selecting Settings in the drop-down menu, you’ll want to investigate each of the tabs in the red highlighted box (in the screen capture below) as the options appearing in the green highlighted box will change accordingly:

1.  Have you selected the types of messages you’re willing to receive?  You’ll find this by selecting Email Preferences (red highlighted box in the screen capture above), then select the first choice under the column for email.  It will give you a window that looks like this:

In the above screenshot, you’ll notice there are three areas that you can (and should) complete:  messages, opportunities, and advice.  Give some thought as to why you’re on LinkedIn and the opportunities you’re interested in being contacted for.  I recommend that you complete all three areas.  Under the advice section, you can put contact information if you so choose.

2)  Do you have websites listed?  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down and make sure you include at least one website listed, especially if it will help someone find you (assuming you’re on LinkedIn to be found).  You can include up to three websites, so take advantage!

3)  Are you on Twitter?  If so, and as long as it’s appropriate to include on your professional LinkedIn profile, be sure to add your Twitter account and display it on your profile.  Once again, select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Settings:  Manage Your Twitter Settings.”

In the second part to this post, I’ll cover groups and your profile summary.  Until then, how did you do on the first three areas?  Do you currently utilize them to make your profile more contact friendly?

Social Media Experiment Results

In my post last week, I asked for your help in conducting a social media experiment to see if I could get blog/site views from specific countries for the first time.  I was hoping readers would share their favorite post of mine via social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+) and try to target some of the countries listed.

Immediately after publishing that post, one of the subscribers to my blog was kind enough to tweet it and reference some countries using hashtags.

In less than an hour, someone from Iceland had visited!  My excitement grew at the idea that the map would quickly fill.  I scheduled a few more tweets for the next few days with countries listed, paying attention to the time difference so the tweet would launch during business hours in those countries.  However, no new countries had visited and my tweets weren’t being re-tweeted.

I took to Google+ and tried to get some additional country views using that platform.  While it did bring in some additional views and was on-par with my normal quantity of visits, they weren’t from any of the “missing” countries I had specifically listed/identified.  I changed my LinkedIn status to see if anyone in my network could help.

So with Mike’s comment on my update, I set my sites solely on Greenland, perhaps the largest country missing from my map (land size).  Tweets referencing Greenland weren’t working as quickly as I hoped.  With a promised update for this week’s blog, time was running out.  I took a more strategic marketing approach and searched LinkedIn Groups using “Greenland” as a keyword.  I further narrowed the search to “open groups” plus English-speaking and found a few I could post a discussion thread to without first joining the group.  I decided to post one of my more popular blogs to date, The Lost Art of the Thank You.

Within a day, I had two site visits from Greenland!  Buoyed by the success of this new approach, I tried something similar with China, South Africa, Finland/Scandinavia and a few other countries.

I’m happy to report with just a tiny bit of extra effort this week, I’ve added 9 new countries to my map (many I specifically targeted):  Panama, South Africa, Greenland, Japan, Iceland, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Mongolia and Slovakia.

The biggest lessons learned?  Be targeted, provide something of value, be timely, monitor your progress and be willing to adapt/alter course as needed.

Networking For Life Or Networking Out Of Necessity?

The mantra of The August Group is “networking for life.”  It’s a great mantra that everyone should embrace, regardless if they’re a member of that organization or not.  Yet what percentage of people truly embrace continual networking?  Unfortunately, not a lot.  But this isn’t an August Group problem.  It goes way beyond that.

Unless you’re in sales or are a small business owner in search of leads and customers, most people discover the value of networking when they’re looking for work.  Unfortunately, most people only associate it with job search and discontinue networking once they land a new position.  Very few continue to network and make it an ongoing part of their new professional reality.

Why is that?  Are they lazy?  Do they get complacent?  Do they feel invincible in their new position and immune to another unexpected and sudden loss of work?  Are they so introverted that they network strictly out of necessity and stop once the need passes?

I won’t buy the excuse that they’re too busy.  We’re all busy!  Attending a function once or twice a month for a few hours is something that virtually everyone can find the time for.

When I was looking for work, I had several people tell me that I should only network with employed people.  Really?  Why?  Do employed people make better networkers?  Do they know more people than those who are unemployed?  Is unemployment a communicable disease that’s easily transferable?  If employment is cyclical, then isn’t it possible that the employment status of your network could flip at some point?

As someone who’s been actively involved with The August Group for 3 years, I’ve observed the networking of hundreds of job seekers.  I’d describe their networking as somewhat of a bell curve.  They start with virtually no networking, they lose their job and start to network, they see the value of networking as a job search tool and increase their networking activity, they find work and their networking activity gradually trails off.

But, we’re not invincible and we’re not immune to another unexpected job loss.  And just as you would continually tend to a garden you’ve planted, you should tend to your network by networking regularly/continually.  When you do, your bell curve becomes more of a straight line.

The networking curve. Blue represents networking out of necessity. Red represents networking for life.

So which side of the networking curve are you on?  What’s preventing you from changing it to more of a straight line?  Are you currently networking for life, or networking out of necessity?

Learning With Perspective

I recently met with a prospective client and one of the things we discussed was my blog.  I’m always interested to hear what people think about it – their likes, dislikes and favorite posts.  What’s interesting is the different messages people take from the same blog.  It’s a great example of perspective and how it influences your interaction and learning.

For example, my three most recent blog posts were The Most Important Rule of Connecting, Social Media Abandonment and Big Lessons from a Mini Contest.  If you read them, on the surface they were about social networking, social media and marketing/contests respectively.

Depending on your perspective, you may have read those posts and taken away different messages.  Hopefully a small business owner read those posts and tried to apply the information to his/her business.  Hopefully a job seeker read those posts and applied the lessons to his/her job search.  Someone in marketing hopefully took away different points too.

I’m not sure that enough people read and learn with perspective.  As I review the analytics of my previous posts, the ones with the most views and comments tend to be the ones that are the most universal – at least on the surface.  I suppose in today’s world where we must compete for limited attention spans and available time, that’s natural and not very surprising.

As an author of a blog with weekly content, I have to decide how to properly craft both the content and the headline.  There’s a line between being so specific that you limit your potential audience, versus being so broad that you mislead your potential audience.  There’s a line between wanting to grow your blog readership “organically” versus sensationalism.

The most “popular” blog of my previous three was The Most Important Rule of Connecting.  It drew almost 4x more than the others, despite similar promotion.  Perhaps it’s because there’s somewhat of a universal application to most readers, whether it’s connecting for business or for personal reasons.  Perhaps, people didn’t have to read that post using their “perspective glasses” compared to the others.

So how about you?  Now that I’ve drawn your attention to reading with perspective, what new things have you learned from my previous posts?  Is there one post in particular you learned the most from?  Is there a particular topic you’d like to see me cover in a future post?  As always, thank you for reading!