Dear (LinkedIn) Diary?

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Update, LinkedIn Status, Network Update, LinkedIn Diary

In a prior post, I wrote about LinkedIn content that is perhaps inappropriate for the medium.  In this post I address an interesting twist on that concept – and I’d like your opinion in the comments.

Most of us have shared content on LinkedIn, either an article from an outside source you believed would be beneficial to your network, or sharing an existing post you found on LinkedIn, or publishing a post on LinkedIn’s blogging platform, or maybe even a personal update (ex:  “I’m looking forward to attending the XYZ Event tonight” or “Happy to announce XYZ at this time”).  I’ve always believed that a little insight into you, the person, is a good thing as it helps transform your profile from two-dimensional to three-dimensional.

But, is there a point where your posts can be too personal on LinkedIn?  Is there a point where a personal post can do more harm than good?  Consider this situation . . . Meet Sharon (name and post details changed to protect identify), a professional currently looking for work.  Sharon recently shared these status updates on LinkedIn:

“Received a call from ABCD Company to discuss an open position. I made some resume changes to fit the job description. They seemed interested so I’m excited about the possibility.”

“I had my phone interview with ABCD Company and think it went well. We discussed my experience and willingness to learn new hardware and software. Their decision should be made in a few weeks.”

“As I await ABCD Company’s decision, I have other opportunities I’m actively pursuing and trying to schedule interviews with in Anytown, NY and  Fictitiousville, PA.”

“Today I scheduled a phone interview with a hiring manager at WXYZ Corp. for next Tuesday.”

“My phone interview with WXYZ Corp. went well yesterday.  The level of detail we discussed makes me hopeful.  While I await word from ABCD and WXYZ, I’ve just scheduled an interview with LMNOP Inc.  I’m excited about my interviewing activity and hoping an offer is coming soon.”

So what do you think about this level of personal detail being shared in status updates on LinkedIn?  Do you believe Sharon is successfully branding herself as being high-in-demand, which will help her job search?  Or, do you think that’s off-putting to potential employers that she’s sharing such personal and perhaps confidential information?  I could argue both sides, but I’d really love to hear opinions from recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals.

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Detecting Fake LinkedIn Profiles

On Good Morning America yesterday, they ran a story on how scammers are targeting job search sites (LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.).  After watching that clip, you might wonder how someone could fall victim to such a scam.  It’s easy to be skeptical of email scams because they’ve been in existence almost as long as email itself.  But when it comes to social media scams, it’s sometimes a little harder to  discern.  After all, you have a level of trust with your connections and they couldn’t possibly share something false or harmful.  Right?  Wrong!

I regularly receive LinkedIn requests from people I do not know or have never met.  Since I’m not a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), I tend to be selective when determining whether or not to accept the request.  I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since October 2007 and I’d like to think my “scam detector” is pretty accurate after all of these years.

A few weeks ago, I received a LinkedIn connection request that immediately had several red flags.  The top 3 concerns I had were:

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Invitation, LinkedIn Scam, Emily Blunt

  1. The first thing I noticed was that this person claimed to be a professional in my industry.  While I have an extensive established network, especially in the marketing field, I do not know everyone.  Yet, we had at least 10 connections in common.  Supposedly.
  2. The second thing that caught my eye was the use of ALL CAPS for her first name.  That’s certainly not a guarantee of a fake profile since some people intentionally do little tricks with how their name is displayed to stand out.  And, stand out she did.
  3. The third thing I noticed was how glamorous her profile picture was.  This wasn’t just a picture of an attractive person – she looked like a movie star!  And surprise, surprise, the picture IS of a movie star.  Emily Blunt, meet your alias, NAOMI Thomas.  How did I figure that out?  By using a reverse image search on Google!  This page from Google Support explains how to do that.

So now that you know how to conduct a reverse image search, I suggest you search for your own profile picture to make sure a scammer isn’t using your image for dishonest purposes.  After all, images of regular users are less likely to raise suspicion than a movie star.  If you find your image being used by a scam account, report it to that website immediately.  And as for NAOMI Thomas?  LinkedIn has removed her profile.  🙂

Considerate or Creepy?

FoursquareThat’s the question I posed to my Facebook friends earlier this year when I was wrapping up a consulting project.  I wanted to give the person who referred me to an opportunity, a small token of my appreciation.  At the time, Foursquare had not yet split its check-in activity into a separate app called Swarm.  Since I was connected to this individual on Foursquare (and she checked in on Foursquare frequently), I was familiar with the restaurant and entertainment venues she likes.

At first I was a little concerned that using this information could be construed as creepy.  But, she was posting to Foursquare and syncing her check-ins to Facebook (where we’re also connected).  Rather than guessing at where she might like a gift certificate to, I could give her a gift I knew she’d enjoy, by using her social media activity she’s chosen to share publicly.

But before I purchased my gift, I posted my question to my Facebook friends.  In an unscientific poll, it was a near unanimous opinion that using the shared social check-in information was considerate.

This is just one example of how social check-ins can be valuable.  Businesses can learn about customers who frequent their location.  Customers can often receive incentives for checking in (free items, discounts, Wi-Fi access).  It can also be used as a search engine tool to discover new businesses in an area or see what’s trending in your area.

Social check-ins can also be used in the job search process.  Job seekers may be able to learn information about the hiring manager (and visa-versa).  But, be careful with the information you choose to publicly share and the check-in knowledge you choose to use.  Not everyone will view the “considerate vs. creepy” question the same way!

What are your thoughts on social check-ins?  Do you participate?  Do you find value in them?

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.

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?

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?

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?

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.  🙂