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Why You Can’t Pick My Brain for Free

Can't Pick My Brain_daisywright.comThis blog post is directed primarily to solo entrepreneurs and service providers like me. Too often we are asked for free advice by individuals who have no intention of hiring us, and many times we are left feeling guilty if we don’t acquiesce.

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Related tweet from business diva, Marie Forleo: “If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and method of payment.” @marieforleo

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A few months ago I was returning from a career conference in Florida when my seat companion on the plane struck up a conversation with me. He told me quite excitedly about the new franchise deal he had just sealed. Realizing I was ‘a career expert’ according to him, he asked if he could ‘pick my brain’ and review his bio which he had written himself.  By the time I was finished editing it, it became a full rewrite.

A few weeks later he called to ask if I could give him a few pointers on his business resume. I told him I could, but it would cost him. He told me it was just a review and it wouldn’t take me that long.

Well, while seething under my skin, I asked him politely what his response would have been had I showed up at his deli franchise and asked for a free sandwich. He apologized and said he would call back.

Mr. Franchise Owner didn’t give much thought to ‘picking my brain’ for free for the second time. Consider this email I received last week:

“Hello Daisy,

[Joe Brown] gave me your email address, because I asked him for some tips.

I’m going to have a couple of high level interviews the following week, with two VP´s, can you give some tips??

Thanks in advance!!”

What’s wrong with this picture? Lots! Who is he? What profession or industry is he in? What interview challenges does he have? What position is he interviewing for?

I responded with one of my enquiry emails, asking some of the questions above and, of course, explaining how my coaching works. I have not heard from him since.

The above are just two instances, but I get these requests all the time, and in my client newsletter I discussed two such situations. Unfortunately, individuals like these don’t have any intentions of hiring me. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy helping people. That’s why I have been writing blog content and newsletters for many years, providing a wide array of job and career advice. That’s why, from time to time, I host free career-related webinars or teleseminars. In fact, I continue to offer pro bono services on a personal level, but that’s my choice.

Earlier on, I would have been overcome by guilt if I didn’t offer free advice to all who ask. But, and this is a big BUT…I think some people forget that I actually operate a real business, not a hobby. Successful businesses invest in their employees, making sure they have the resources they need, that they are well-trained, and allowing them to attend workshops and conferences. They want to make sure they have the skills they need to keep the business going. As a solo entrepreneur, I am no different. I do the same things…and they all cost money. That’s why I instituted my Introductory Power Hour Coaching service, which is a win-win all the away around.

Michael Hyatt, the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, wrote a blog post recently on what happened to him when he decided to charge for his blog content which he had been giving away for free for five years. Once he started charging for it, he began to receive some push backs, with some people even questioning his integrity and sincerity. While I am not Michael Hyatt, my time and services are just as important. Here are five nuggets I picked up from his post. (Point #6 is mine):

  1. People don’t respect what they get for free. (In many cases).
  2. Until people make an investment, they are not invested in the outcome.
  3. When you start charging for your services, you go from being an amateur to being a pro.
  4. In short, when you charge, you respect yourself and your own work more. It creates value in your own mind.
  5. Charging for your services is a necessity if you are going to support your family. If you don’t charge, you won’t be doing what you do for long.
  6. If you don’t value your time, neither will others.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do some brain picking myself, but I never assumed it is going to be free. If it is free, I always ask how can I return the favour. However, when someone is going to brazenly take me for granted, then they have passed my threshold of tolerance.

What about you? Have you faced such situations? How do you handle such requests?

A Twitter colleague of mine, Adrienne Graham, summed it up best in her Forbes.com article No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs too Much. She also has book of the same name.

Related Resources:

Why You Should Do It for the Money (and Stop Feeling Guilty About It)

Three Ways to Say No When People Want to Pick Your Brain

Why I Love My Job

There were times when I didn’t love my job, mostly because I felt stifled as promotions were few and far between, and I knew I had so much more to offer. One day I took a leap of faith and landed into teaching and resume writing, then career coaching.

Most of my clients these days come from referrals. This not only makes it easy on my marketing, but it’s third-party validation of the work that I do.

A couple of months ago, I received an enquiry email from an HR Manager who was looking for a resume suitable for a Board appointment; a LinkedIn Profile and another resume in readiness for another opportunity, notwithstanding she had just been promoted a month earlier. In the email, she mentioned she was referred by a one of my clients. While I always aim to autograph my work with excellence, when it’s a referral, I double down, literally.

We met in my office and she explained what her needs were. I reviewed the documents she brought then asked for additional information including past performance appraisals. Within four weeks she had received her career marketing documents and was on her way.

After several weeks I followed up with her, as is customary. While listening to her feedback I asked if she could put some of what she was saying (about working with me) in writing. This is what she wrote. Am blushing even though you wouldn’t notice:

“I too am thankful to Gladys for connecting us.  She told me you were amazing and extremely helpful but I don’t think I realized at the time just how much of a return on investment would come my way when I first reached out to you.

In working with you, I found that the process of resume development should be pursued with thoughtfulness and consideration.  Taking the time to focus in on the accomplishments of my past and quantifying my value in each role has been one of the greatest practical skills I have learned from you.  One of the first things I did at work was to quantify the mediation work I performed into legal/arbitrations savings for my Director.  She was wowed by that information and immediately wanted to show it to her boss.

I was extremely impressed with the extra efforts you took to assist me with my moderator assignment – helping me craft a biography and even building on my speaker’s notes.  The rave reviews I received for that initiative was definitely attributable to your encouragement, support and assistance.  You’re coaching skills are outstanding.  Ever since you recommended ways to build upon my personal brand, I have been journaling my work accomplishments and projects every week so that I have something to look back upon for ease of application and retrieval.  

Daisy, you’re a consummate professional.  You’re passionate about your work and ensuring that your client puts their best foot forward.  You helped me identify and promote myself through an eye catching marketable resume and cover letter.  I even marveled at my accomplishments after reading your work.

I hope that we can continue to work with each other in the future.  You will be the first person I call for coaching and interviewing tips when the time comes.  It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you. Thank you very much for all that you’ve done to help me in this next phase of my career.”

The other client was a star employee for a couple of well-known technology brands. She was not a referral but found me through Google. As an entrepreneur for more than 10 years, she has reached the stage where she wants to do work that she enjoys rather than “chasing the money”. We spent many hours strategizing on what skills to highlight, and what to say if she’s asked why she’s targeting lower-level jobs – yes, lower-level, but interesting positions. I get hot behind my ears when I have to ask for a testimonial, but when I listen to what some people say about my services, I sometimes sheepishly ask them if they mind putting it in writing. Here’s what this client wrote:

“Daisy is a powerhouse of knowledge and compassion.  She has helped me to reposition myself and my resume so that it reflects more of who I truly am. Through working with her I can now approach prospective employers with greater confidence and ease.  It is such a pleasure to not only work with Daisy but to experience her knowledge, care and support that goes well above and beyond!”

While writing this post, I received an email from another client. He hasn’t announced his new position publicly as yet, but his note reads:

“Before I publicly announce it via LinkedIn I wanted to let you know I’ve accepted a role at (Big Name Company) as a Director in Technical Sales.  I am making a huge leap forward financially and in terms of responsibility.  Thank you for helping me to understand my unique value proposition.  I’d love to write you up an official recommendation if you like.”

It’s a given that not everyone who contacts me will be a good fit. I have had to turn away clients and some have had to turn me away, but in all cases it has worked out well for me, and I hope for them. I have learned in the process to narrow my niche to individuals in mid to senior-level management, and those on the cusp of management – who recognize that it takes time to understand who they are, what their goals are, and develop career marketing documents that focus on those goals. They understand that price plays a role, but value is more important than price. They are also willing to accept my advice, believe in themselves, and stretch beyond what they thought possible.

Having said that, am I giving up on other potential clients because they don’t fit the above profile? No, because many of my clients are not in that niche but we have built such a relationship that we’re stuck with each other. Others I have volunteered to work with on a pro bono basis after assessing their needs, and am equally happy to continue helping them.

These are the reasons I love my job, and I am grateful to work with the calibre of clients that I have.

Social Media: The New Job Search Frontier

Recently I did some presentations and a webinar on social media for my clients and a couple of community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Brampton.  These presentations offered simple strategies to build a LinkedIn Profile, how job seekers can use social media to market themselves to employers, and how professionals and entrepreneurs can benefit from having an online presence.

Many people are nervous at the mere mention of social media. They are afraid people might misuse their information; they want to guard their privacy, or they are just plain overwhelmed with so many of these tools from which to choose. One webinar participant wrote me to say, “I am scared of a free service that takes my data to make money and promises not to share my information.” She then asked if I thought she was paranoid. Privacy is a legitimate concern, of course, especially since we know, or have heard of many online horror stories, but one does not have to become paranoid.

At one point, I was hesitant to use Facebook, for example. Although I have had an account since 2008, I did not start actively using it until 2010, when I began to see additional benefits other than getting updates from my nieces and nephews. So, social media is scary, and it might look like a time-waster sometimes, but is that enough not to test the waters? From a job seeker’s perspective, is it worth missing out on potential job opportunities, or connecting with a couple of influential decision makers? Wouldn’t it be nice to address someone by name at one of your target companies instead of “Dear Sir/Madam”?

There are many advantages to using social media. During a LinkedIn conference in Toronto last week, the keynoter said, “If you have hired more than 10 people through LinkedIn, stand.” Over 600 HR professionals and recruiters stood up. In other sessions, presenters spoke about how companies can build their employer brands on LinkedIn by reaching out and engaging potential employees through Career Hub Pages and Groups. The overall message from my perspective as a career coach is that job seekers need a LinkedIn presence, for starters.

I also learned that Canada is the 5th largest country on LinkedIn, and that IBM is one of the most active companies on LinkedIn, with over 280,000 employees and 650,000 followers. Want to join IBM? There are lots of people with whom you could connect!

Here’s a summary of some major social media tools:

  • LinkedIn – known as the number one social media tool for business, it has over 150 million members. Not only can profiles be created, but resumes can be uploaded, and by following Company Pages, one is able to keep track of new hires, promotions and the overall health of specific companies.
  • Twitter – a free micro-blogging platform that sends short messages using 140 characters. Recruiters, employers and HR professionals are quite active on Twitter and quite often use it to announce  job vacancies.
  • Facebook – permits businesses to establish a presence and allows people to “Like” and follow those businesses.
  • Pinterest – a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to pinboards. At first glance, one may wonder how effective this is as a job search tool, and the jury is still out on this. However, if you are the creative/artistic type, you can certainly market yourself or your business with it, so, join Pinterest and ‘get ‘Pinspired’!
  •  Google+ – another content sharing service, with an added feature called ‘Hangouts’. It’s a new video service where one can hold meetings, arrange study sessions, family meetings, or social gatherings with up to 10 people. Some companies have already started to conduct interviews with Hangouts.
  • About.me – serves like a parking garage for your online presence. It is a personal page that points people to everything you do around the web. It can be useful as a link in an email instead of uploading your resume and your other documents.

I believe the new job search or business frontier is through social media, and job seekers and entrepreneurs need to leverage its use. None of us can afford to be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Does this mean social media is the ‘be all’ of your job search or business? No! What it does is help you build relationships, engage in conversations, and demonstrate your expertise. This will (over time), lead to opportunities, value and profitability.

Still scared? It’s time to jump on the social media bandwagon. Experiment and see which ones resonate with you, because these tools have become major players in how we conduct a job search, how and where we do business, what we purchase, and who we connect with.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Own Your Name. Build Your Personal Brand. Up Your Job Search Game

Do you own your name? “Of course, I do”, you say! Last week I hosted a free teleconference for job seekers and professionals to gauge their career plans for 2012, and see if I could help them achieve their goals. I offered some options on how they could up their job search game in the new year, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. A few days later, I had coffee with someone who had missed the call, but who wanted to bring me up-to-date on her next career move. She told me about her plans for the year and about her new website. While discussing the website, I suggested that she claimed her name on the web by registering it as a domain. Her eyes opened widely as in “What do you mean?”

These days whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, one of the first steps to building your personal brand is to claim your name – register your name as a website. I learned this early. You see, actor Jude Law’s former nanny has my name, and I wasn’t aware of it until I heard of the scandal surrounding their alleged affair. Soon after that, I claimed and registered www.daisywright.com and www.daisywright.ca, as domain names through Hostmonster (Affiliate Link). I have since given up the .CA domain.

Why is it important to own your name? The hiring process has changed for job seekers, and personal branding has become very important.  Recruiters and employers don’t rely solely on traditional methods to learn about or evaluate potential employees. They are swamped with résumés, phone calls and emails. It is, therefore, your responsibility to change the way you market your stories and your skills to employers, and raise your visibility because your résumé and cover letter are no longer enough. The same is true for entrepreneurs.

To begin your brand-building process, your first step is to register your name as a domain, if it’s still available.  Use it as a one-stop haven for your social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube (if you’re venturing into videos). When employers and recruiters begin searching for you, or when you need to connect with someone of influence, it’s easy to send them a link to your own website which houses your other profiles.

In a recent Fast Company article, the writer tells a story of how a 16-year old high school student emailed her out of the blue, and asked to join her as a guest on her TV show. He did not send a résumé, but instead included links to his website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and three relevant YouTube clips. This is a 16-year old! He has already learned how to use the web to his advantage–building a strong and positive personal brand before he even reaches his adult years. Twelve months into his brand-building exercise, he is already a well-known regular tech TV expert and blogger–and he’s not even out of high school yet.

What about you? Are you ready to step forward and do something as daring as ‘Mr. 16-year old’? Do you own your name on the web? Are your profiles up-to-date and housed in one place? Have you scoured your Facebook profile to make sure that everything is professional? Do you have blog? If not, are you contributing your expertise to industry blogs? If a recruiter or employer begins searching for someone with your stories and skills, will you stand out from the herd, or will you stay hidden in the crowd?

CEOs, HR Executives and recruiters encourage job seekers to use social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to improve their chances of getting a job. One CEO stated in a Boston Globe article that, “We often find hires because of their activity in social media and, especially, the blogosphere.”

A recruiter said, “We like to see candidates who have filled in their LinkedIn profile completely. Upload your resume, and if you are a blogger (and it is relevant to your career), post the link to your blog. With respect toTwitter, she said,”We use Twitter directory tools to find candidates whose bios match our hiring needs.”

The field is too competitive these days for you to continue doing what you have always done and expecting different results. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile in bringing visibility to your story. It’s time to up your game, begin building your personal brand and let the job vacancies find you.

Sources:

Five Steps to a Better Brand

Social Media Advice for Job Seekers

 

Boost Your Visibility & Profits With Web 2.0 Technology

The caption of a recent article written by Janis Foord Kirk, career columnist for the Toronto Star said, “Entrepreneurs need coaching”! As I read the article I couldn’t help but see the commonalities between an entrepreneur and a jobseeker. Both have attributes and competencies that their ‘clients’ need, both are facing challenges in these turbulent economic times, and both need strategies on how to brand themselves, stand out and stay competitive.

As a departure from the norm when I would focus on jobseekers, I am dedicating this article to CEO’s (Chief Entrepreneurial Officers), otherwise known as small business owners. Some of these people are also feeling the residual effects of downsizing and layoffs just like GM, Chrysler and Ford. I will discuss three simple strategies that small business owners can implement to increase their visibility and ultimately their profits.

One of the first strategies a CEO could implement is the tried and trusted act of networking. Networking – whether it’s face-to-face or online – is a crucial skill for entrepreneurs, and should be practised regularly. This is a good time to get out of your comfort zone and connect with people you hardly know, including your competitors. Many business relationships and alliances have been forged between people who once considered themselves competitors.

The second strategy is to become familiar with social media or Web 2.0 technology such as LinkedIn, Twitter, VisualCV and MuchMor, among a long list of others. A former spokesperson for Facebook said, “People are going beyond their face-to-face network and reaching toward that next layer of people that could play a role their success…but these people may be hard to reach through traditional media”. The rise in the use of social media is not limited by geography and has allowed people to connect with each other wherever and whenever they wish. These forums do not replace face-to-face communication, but add another dimension to networking and increased visibility. Below are several popular social media resources you may find beneficial to you and your business:

LinkedIn. This is “an online network with more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries”, according to its website. Its main aim is to help professionals forge and maintain business connections, but more and more business owners are making valuable connections through LinkedIn.

Twitter. The new kid-on-the-block, when compared to LinkedIn, but it is growing at an alarming pace. What started out as a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing, has blossomed into one of the most popular online communities. Not only are business relationships being developed through this forum, but it provides fertile soil for learning and keeping up with industry trends. One of the great things about Twitter is that one has only 140 characters to get one’s point across.

VisualCV. You may not have a website and probably you don’t need one, but you do need an online presence. If you want to put together an online bio or portfolio, then you will want to take at a look at VisualCV. It combines elements of a traditional resume with additional features like videos, photos, and a portfolio with samples of one’s work. Because it’s web-based, it is very easy to be incorporated into an email and send to prospects.

Blog Talk Radio. Are you aware you can host your own radio show to keep in touch with your clients or reach a wider audience? There are numerous online radio stations available, but you can check mine out at www.blogtalkradio.com/CareerCoach.

Maestro Conference. The third strategy is specifically for business owners who conduct teleconferences on a regular basis. Do you host teleconferences or teleseminars? How would you like to be able to have breakout sessions during one of your teleconferences? Literally having several discussion groups going on simultaneously and you, as host, having the capability to monitor and moderate these groups. Think Maestro Conference. Maestro Conference allows you to create a dynamic environment combining the convenience of traditional conference calls, with the interactivity of a live workshop. Check them out at http://www.thewrightcareer.com/links.htm.

MuchMor Business Network. Muchmor is a dynamic social media organization that powerfully combines online business & social networking with real life events & workshops. The vision of Muchmor Media is to provide our clients with a quality & knowledgeable service that enables their businesses to grow & prosper.

“Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth. Trust is the new competitive advantage”, states one company’s tagline. What about you? As Chief Entrepreneurial Officer of your business, are you ready to explore the benefits of social media? If you would like additional information or need help in creating your profiles for any of the above media, call us at (905) 840-7039 or send an email to daisy@thewrightcareer.com.

Links as referenced in the article:

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/careercoach4u

Follow me on Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/daisywright

VisualCV:
http://www.visualcv.com/daisywright

Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/CareerCoach

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