Stuck in a Career Rut? Allow us to point you in the "Wright" Career Direction

What if LinkedIn is the New Business Card?

LinkedIn touts itself as the world’s largest professional network with close to 530 million users in 200 countries. It is also referred to as a ‘resume-on-steroids’ because it’s available for viewing 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. As the platform continues to evolve, it is probably time to consider it as an online business card.

Over the past  year, I made a conscious decision to reduce my use of business cards, preferring instead to carry post cards. These are not the most convenient to carry around, but they have more space than a business card to add information about who I am and what I do. During a recent conference at which I spoke, I observed attendees interacting with speakers, and when they asked for a business card, they were told to “Connect with me on LinkedIn”. Suddenly it dawned on me that a LinkedIn profile could be considered a business card.

At the end of one session, I went over to Melody Adhami, CEO of Plastic Mobile, and mentioned that I thought I was the only speaker without business cards, although I had pot cards. She did not say she had abandoned the use of business cards, but said LinkedIn was more convenient for two reasons: 1) everything that anyone needed to know about her was on her profile, and 2) she uses LinkedIn as a recruiting tool. Anyone who engages with her on the platform will get her attention, and more often than not she will peruse their profile, and decide whether or not to connect.

Why am I suggesting that LinkedIn is the new business card? Unlike a real business card that is restricted by size and space, or a resume that is limited by number of pages, LinkedIn offers a good deal more. Users are allowed to include as much information as possible about their background, skills, and accomplishments. They can upload media (videos, images, presentations, etc.). It could probably be the most significant online business card that one will have to tell one’s story, build a professional network, and find opportunities. Assuming that’s the case, many users are doing themselves a disservice when they do not maximize its benefits.

 

Below are 10 easy tips to help you create an almost perfect LinkedIn business card:

  1. Use a professional head shot. Some people are shy and do not want to use a photograph in their profile, but if you are serious about your job search, or about connecting with people, a professional photograph is a must. LinkedIn’s Michael Shamshoian said, “…one’s LinkedIn Profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if a photo is included.”
  2. Headline. The entire LinkedIn profile is important, but the headline and summary sections are considered ‘prime real estate’ spaces, and should be maximized. Think of your headline as an online 30-second elevator pitch that quickly describes who you are and what you do in 120 characters. For those who believe that job titles and degrees must be included in the headline, there are no rules to that effect.
  3.  Create your own LinkedIn URL. Did you notice when you first created your account LinkedIn assigned you a default URL with numbers and letters that don’t seem to make sense? They don’t, neither do they add any value to your brand. Create a simple URL with your name. If your name is already taken, use one from the options LinkedIn offers. Make sure it’s a name that will be found when people search for you.
  4. Write a captivating summary that will entice readers to want to connect with you. Use every last one of the 2000 characters allowed in this space to tell your story and describe your most noteworthy accomplishments. The Summary section is where most people spend their time.
  5. Weave keywords throughout your Profile. Research the keywords that will show up when people search for you on LinkedIn, then weave them throughout your profile. Hint: Most keywords can be found in the job posting.
  6. Complete your Profile 100%. Recruiters have said that the more incomplete a profile is the more likely they are to ignore the profile. Don’t be bypassed by recruiters and hiring managers because you have a skeleton of a profile.
  7. Personalize your Invitations. People are less likely to accept your invitation when you use the generic “I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Help them answer the question, “Why should I connect with you?” Were they in the news? Are you a member of the same Alumni?
  8. Build the relationship first. Asking for favours, or trying to sell to someone you just connected with, kills the relationship before it starts. Some people have even used their LinkedIn Invitation as a way to sell – long before establishing the relationship. Don’t fall into that trap. Begin building the relationship slowly. Comment on, or Like their posts, or share articles and resources that could be of interest to them.
  9. Join LinkedIn Groups. Joining and contributing to industry or interest groups is one way of showcasing your expertise and building your brand. As people see the value you are adding to these online conversations, they will be more likely to connect with you.
  10. Request Recommendations. Recommendations add credibility to your profile, so ask people who know you, and who can attest to your skills and attributes, to write one for you. This takes time and thought, so make it easy for them to comply by drafting one yourself, highlighting what you would like to focus on. Pay it forward, and write a recommendation for them.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn is not your personal web page. Save your profile as a PDF, and download your connections from time to time. You do not want to lose your contacts’ information, neither do you want to be left without a back up of your Profile.

You Are the CEO of Your Career: Take Charge!

CEO or chief executive officer text on black block

As the New Year looms, some people are rethinking their career strategy. Competition, layoffs and uncertainty are forcing them to assess themselves to see how they can take charge of their careers.

A chief operating officer of a financial company and a director at one of the Big Four consulting firms contacted me recently. They were looking for guidance as they plan for the year ahead. The director has already started to lay out her 3 to 5-year plan. She is planning to pursue an EMBA, and has her eyes on a very senior position. Although she has a mentor whom she meets with once per month, she is also looking for a sponsor to help her advance. At the time, I thought to myself: how many people really map out a 3 to 5-year plan in such an unpredictable job market?

The initiative taken by these two individuals is not new. Some people do this, particularly at the start of a new year. But, there are others who invest more time and money on vacation plans than they do on their careers. If your goal in 2016 is to take charge and become the CEO of your career, consider the following:

#1 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CAREER

“There is one person that has responsibility for your career, and that is YOU.” ~ Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley (@CarlaannHarris)

There are many people who believe that their HR departments or their bosses are the ones responsible for their career progression. Not anymore. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. That’s the reason you must begin to see yourself as a take-charge CEO, and map out a career strategy.

#2 TREAT YOUR CAREER AS A BUSINESS

“Manage your career as if it were a start-up business because traditional job security is a thing of the past.” ~Reid Hoffman, Cofounder of LinkedIn and coauthor of the book, The Start-Up of You. (@ReidHoffman)

Even though you may be an employee, in order for you to compete in the freelance economy, you need to think and act like an entrepreneur. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Invest your time (and money if necessary), to get your ‘business’ off the ground. Think in terms of the value you could create for your employer. What new skills could you learn that would make you more marketable? Start thinking that you are in the business of marketing and selling product YOU!

#3 BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

More and more HR professionals are turning to the internet to seek out information about candidates, including social media profiles, personal websites and blogs. ~ The Undercover Recruiter (@Undercoverrec)

Social media is an equal opportunity platform, and does not require a PhD to participate. This means anyone can use it to engage in conversations, demonstrate expertise, build credibility and gain visibility. Don’t be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters frequently peruse LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, to find candidates. It makes sense for you to develop and maintain a robust online presence to make sure you are discovered during these searches.

#4 PREPARE TO ADVANCE ON THE JOB

“Early in my career, I believed that career advancement was based solely on having a strong work ethic and solid performance results. While I still believe that there is no substitute for hard work and strong performance, what I learned over time is that being successful is also highly influenced through the learning that takes place and the exposure to new perspectives gained through mentoring relationships and building your networks.” Arie Ball, Vice President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, USA, and contributor to my book Tell Stories, Get Hired. (@Arie_Ball)

Years ago, it was assumed that longevity and hard work meant one would automatically climb the corporate ladder. The world has changed, and the career ladder is no longer a straight line. Sometimes a lateral move, or a step or two down could be steps in the right direction. It could also mean a chance to learn new skills, gain new perspectives change career focus, and become the CEO of your career.

#5 FIND A MENTOR AND A SPONSOR

“Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth…Not only will sponsors and mentors believe in your potential when you are doubting yourself, but they will champion your successes, to open doors for your next big career move.” ~ Louise Pentland, Senior Executive & General Council at PayPal (@PayPal)

Why do you need both a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor gives advice, and can be someone inside or outside your company. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization who puts his or her career on the line for you. He or she can vouch for your work, and more importantly, has a seat at the decision-making table, so they can speak up passionately on your behalf. They can put a word in on why you should get the promotion or that next plum assignment.

“Sponsors are well-connected to the organization, and the industry, and have insider knowledge about opportunities (and threats). They are very much out in the open. They are visible supporters and champions of your career”, said Christine Brown-Quinn, author of Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired. (@FemaleCapital). Therefore, if you are interested in career progression, especially to the more senior levels, it’s career sponsorship that’s going to make that defining difference.

#6 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“The key to all successful networking for job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second and offer to be of assistance always.” ~Unknown

You cannot avoid networking, no matter how distasteful the word sounds, so reject all its negative labeling. Networking is a series of connected relationships built up over time. It’s making personal connections, not bombarding people with your business card or elevator pitch. It’s getting to know people well enough before you begin asking for favours. Networking is about sharing: sharing of ideas and resources without expecting reciprocity. To become a better networker, get into the habit of scheduling specific time on your calendar to connect with people in your network.

#7 ENGAGE AND NURTURE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” Harvey MacKay, Author & Leadership Guru. (@HarveyMacKay)

Since it is human nature to gravitate towards people we know, like and trust, you should regularly engage and nurture the professional relationships you have developed. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them. In fact, it’s not beneficial to contact your network only when you are in need of help. Keep in touch with them frequently, and always ask questions such as, “How can I help you? Who can I introduce to you?” When you nurture your network, you will be on top of their minds for opportunities.

#8 INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

“Consider volunteering one hour each week to a cause that pulls at your heart strings. Make a habit of volunteering and you will make a world of difference.” Christopher Kai, author of Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. (@UnleashtheKai)

Many people frown when they hear about volunteering. They believe that because they are not being paid, it is useless work. But, volunteering is one way to take charge of your career. It strengthens your leadership and interpersonal skills. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people, take on high profile assignments, and in general, do excellent work. These days, many corporations encourage volunteerism among their employees. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, the employee is participating in a worthy cause, and second, the company is demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

The above points will help you on your journey of becoming the CEO of your career. Are you ready?

Related posts:

Reflections, Resolutions, Goal-Setting & Action

Ditch Your Resolutions, Set Smart Goals

Monday Morning Rx: Don’t Sabotage Your Life with ‘BUTs’

How many times have you said to yourself:

  •  I would really like a promotion, BUT my boss is going to say ‘No’?
  • I would like to change careers, BUT I am too old, or I can’t be bothered?
  • I would like to start my own business, BUT I don’t have the time or the money, and it might just not work out?
  •  I would like to become a ____________, BUT my (friends, family, coworkers, spouse, kids) keep asking if I am crazy?”

How many of those questions resonate with you? These ‘BUTs’ are your fears that tell you that you don’t have the time, the money, the education, the nerve, or the skills to become who you should be. These ‘BUTs’ tell you to stay in your comfort zone, and not venture into the unknown, but if you continue to give in to these ‘BUTs’, a year from now you will still be wishing you had started today. (Karen Lamb)

Get rid of the ‘BUTs’ in your life and:

B – Become the person you were destined to be. Stop playing small.

U – Understand that obstacles are opportunities in disguise. Embrace them.

T – Try and try again. Don’t ever quit. Remember the little engine that said it could.

S – Stop engaging in negative self-talk. If you consistently have these conversations with yourself and allow the ‘buts’ to get in your way, you will never become who you were meant to be.

Today, ask yourself, What if I moved forward in spite of these ‘BUTs’? What if I take a chance?” You may be pleasantly surprised. Emerson said, Beware what you set your heart upon for it surely shall be yours. Set your heart on that dream, and see what happens to your life!