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.  🙂

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Do You Have A Twin On LinkedIn?

Do you have a twin on LinkedIn, or have you ever found someone on LinkedIn with a duplicate profile?  It’s more common than you might think.  There are a few ways this can happen:

Accidentally . . . . It generally happens because someone creates a profile with one email address, then is invited to connect by someone who sends the connection request to a different email address.  LinkedIn has no idea that the two email addresses belong to the same individual, so it prompts that person to create a profile using that second email address.

Intentionally. . . . Someone creates a profile using an email address, but then they lose access to that email address (i.e., a work email at an employer they no longer work for).  Since they can’t access that account, they start over with a new profile but don’t take the time to delete the original profile.

Needless to say, a duplicate profile is confusing for people looking to connect with you.  And whether accidental or intentional, having a duplicate profile isn’t great for your personal branding, because it gives the impression that you’re not technologically savvy.

The best way to avoid a duplicate profile is to provide LinkedIn with all of your email addresses.  You then have the ability to select which one you display publicly on your profile.  Then no matter which email someone uses to send an invitation to connect, LinkedIn will know it’s you.  Here’s how you do that:

  1. Go to settings (hover your cursor above your name, above the search box in the upper right hand corner).
  2. Once on your settings page, scroll down and select “Account” in the bottom window.
  3. You’ll see a section for “Email & Password” with an option for “Add & change email addresses” which you’ll want to select.
  4. Follow the instructions per the screen capture below.

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Email Settings, Avoiding a Duplicate Profile

If you already have a duplicate profile, there’s no way to merge the two together.  Your best bet is to pick the one you want to keep.  Generally it’s the one with more connections and/or recommendations.  Looking at the profile you plan to delete, see if there are connections you have which you do not have on the profile you plan to keep.  You’ll want to send them a customized invitation to connect on the profile you plan to keep.

When you’re satisfied that you can delete one of your accounts, you’ll find that setting in the same general area under settings, then account (pertinent areas highlighted in pink):

LinkedIn, Account Settings, Where to Close Your LinkedIn Account, How to Close Your LinkedIn Account

Once it’s deleted it’s gone, so be sure you’re ready to delete!  If you’re in a situation where you can’t access the profile you want to delete (i.e., you no longer have the password and/or access to the email associated with the profile, etc.) you’ll want to contact LinkedIn customer support to explain the situation.  Long-time readers of my blog know that I haven’t always had great luck with LinkedIn customer support, so be patient.  🙂

Follow Up To: LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Despite my previous post “LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent” being only three weeks old, it’s already climbed to be the third most viewed post I’ve written to date.  I guess the perceived injustice of LinkedIn’s policy on discussion posts and spam touched a nerve with many.  It should, if you actively post discussions to groups.

Many people asked me where on LinkedIn’s website they could read about this policy.  I tried to find it before I wrote that post and couldn’t.  All I had at the time was private correspondence between me and LinkedIn Support, as well as what other have shared (also correspondence).

You can read about other users’ experience with this policy in a LinkedIn forum:  http://community.linkedin.com/questions/573/why-are-my-updates-all-submitted-for-review-now.html

While the above link illustrates that users have been impacted by this policy, it’s still just a forum.  It’s not something “official” from LinkedIn.  Therefore, I’ve decided to share correspondence that I received from LinkedIn, because I feel it’s important to back up my criticism of their policy with something factual.

Correspondence One:

Here’s my polite request to LinkedIn support asking if they could provide me with a URL on their site that specifically talks about this policy:

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

Correspondence Two:

LinkedIn has a tendency to use canned responses.  I guess that’s understandable given the amount of messages they receive.  This didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know from their other correspondence.  It also didn’t give me a URL, which is all I wanted.  Here’s what they had to say:

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

Correspondence Three:

In a final attempt, I asked them once again for a link or URL they could point me towards which specifically details this new policy.  Sadly, they hide behind a generic user agreement and apparently do not address this specific policy on their site.

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

So at the end of the day, LinkedIn is a free site.  You’re not forced to participate.  They get to make the rules.  If you don’t like them, that’s your problem not theirs.

But, that doesn’t mean I have to be silent about an unfair policy that treats its users as guilty until proven innocent.  If you share these feelings, let LinkedIn know how you feel by contacting them directly through their site.  You can also help spread the word by sharing this post and the original post this links to.  And if you disagree, that’s fine too.  You’re still innocent until proven guilty in my eyes.  😉

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?

LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Jury Box, LinkedIn Guilty Until Proven Innocent, LinkedIn Guilty“Guilty until proven innocent” is the message that LinkedIn is sending with one of their recent changes (and there have been many) that you probably have not heard about.  LinkedIn is making a concerted effort to reduce spam in groups.  That’s a good thing!  The problem is, they’ve created a new policy that’s an over-reaction along the lines of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Group managers in LinkedIn have a lot of power.  They can create rules for their group and decide if group membership should be open to all or closed (requiring approval).  As a closed group, they’re able to create criteria to join the group.  They have the ability to restrict the types of discussion posts that are allowed.  They could move a discussion to a promotions or jobs board instead of the main discussion board.  Group managers are able to delete a discussion they felt was inappropriate for whatever reason.  Further, should a group member be a repeat offender or have an egregious post, a group manager could place that member into a restrictive status where future posts would have to be moderated for approval.  As a final step, group managers have the ability to remove someone from a group and/or block them.

That’s a lot of power!  And as a Voltaire (allegedly) originally said (in French), “with great power comes great responsibility.”  If you belong to groups on LinkedIn, you undoubtedly belong to some groups that are managed well and some that do not.  That’s either the hard work and dedication of good group managers or the failure of poor ones.  Either way, it’s on the managers’ shoulders (and should be).

LinkedIn now has a policy that if one group manager or owner flags just one of your discussion threads as spam, your account is flagged as a spammer.  As a result, your account is flagged for moderation in every group you belong to, not just the group that originally flagged you.  It’s automatic.  There’s no review of your posting history.  There’s no investigation to see if what was posted was truly spam.  There’s no appeals process.  You’re guilty.  Period.

What constitutes “spam” becomes arbitrary and inconsistent.  If you want to be unrestricted, you have to ask the group owner/manager of every group you’re a member of to remove you from moderation.  It places additional administrative work on both the user and the group owner/manager.  Rather than letting managers manage the groups the way they want to, LinkedIn has become “Big Brother” and will paint its users with a broad brush, fairly or unfairly.

Yes, LinkedIn is a free site and they get to make their own rules.  But, with great power comes great responsibility.  Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s efforts to curtail spam by assuming guilty until proven innocent is lacking responsibility.  What’s your opinion of LinkedIn’s policy?  Is it appropriate?  Effective?  An over-reaction?

Update as of March 20, 2013:  Read my follow-up post here:  http://wp.me/p1LHj0-n7

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

Twitter Players

If you’re on Twitter, chances are, something similar has happened to you. . .

You receive a notification that you have a new follower.  You view this person’s Twitter account and see that he/she has 4-5x as many followers as they are following.  In other words, 20,000 people follow this person’s Twitter account yet he/she is only following 4,000 people.  A few initial thoughts may pop into your head:

  1. Wow, this person must be really popular – look how many followers they have!
  2. Wow, this person must be really exclusive – he/she doesn’t follow too many people back!
  3. Wow, what am I tweeting about to catch such a popular and exclusive Twitter user’s eye?

If you’ve been on Twitter long enough, chances are you no longer have those thoughts but view your latest follower with a somewhat more suspicious and skeptical eye.  Chances are, someone with such a large follower:following ratio is only adding you to pad his/her numbers.  Chances are, someone like that will unfollow you within a few days or weeks.

How do I know?  I check my account regularly using a free app called SocialBro.  I run the app a few times each week and it lets me know who my recent unfollows are.  When I view their profile summary in the app, I can see how recently they added me and visa-versa.  I’d estimate that 95% of the time, my unfollows are people I never followed-back for various reasons.  The other 5% are from “Twitter Players” – those who clearly view Twitter as a numbers game and put quantity ahead of quality.  Apparently, they never read my post on why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  When this happens, I immediately unfollow “the Player.”

If you’re not familiar with SocialBro, I’d encourage you to check it out.  As a “research guy” I find a lot of their analytics, trending and filtering interesting. How about you?  Do you watch your Twitter account that closely?  What apps do you use to monitor your account?

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?”

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!

Networking When You Least Expect It

“Always be prepared” is the famous motto of the Boy Scouts, but it also applies to networking.  You’ll be able to seize an opportunity no matter when or where it presents itself, if you’re prepared.

I recently co-hosted a birthday party for my youngest child at a local indoor play center.  My wife was asked to wear a name tag for security purposes so one of us would be immediately recognizable to staff and parents.  While watching the kids enjoy the various inflatables, a parent from another birthday party recognized our last name and asked her if she was related to me.  When my wife confirmed it, this person shared that she’s seen my posts and activity in many locations, especially on LinkedIn.

She then brought her over to introduce her to me and we were able to chat for a few minutes while our kids were engrossed in a climbing maze.  It turns out we had many common connections in our networks.  She’s the president of a recruiting company in Rochester, NY and I continue to run social media for The August Group which facilitates networking opportunities for those looking for work.  It was a great professional connection to make when I was least expecting it!  We both had business cards with us and each of us listened (above the joyful screams of playing children) to how we could help the other.

Most people can prepare in advance of a scheduled networking event by bringing business cards, rehearsing an elevator speech and/or identifying key attendees he/she would like to meet.  But are you prepared for that chance encounter that can happen anytime, anywhere?  If not, it could be a golden opportunity that slips through your fingers.

Looking back on your professional networking, what were the most unusual circumstances surrounding a connection you made when you were least expecting it?