Category Archives: LinkedIn

LinkedIn: leave those kids alone!

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In an attempt to attract younger users to a new university section of the website, LinkedIn has reduced its minimum age limit for members from 18 years to as low as 13 years of age in some geographies. Coming into effect from September 12th, the age limits will vary according to statutory requirements  in different countries:  14 years old: United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, 16 years old: Netherlands, 18 years old: China.

13 years old: All other countries

A number of measures have been taken to “safeguard the experience of LinkedIn members under the age of 18″ with additional precautions for privacy. Their profiles will not appear in search engines and neither will their ages be published in the public domain.  Profiles will be displayed   “first name, last name initial, and general region”.

This has produced a flurry of debate in the blogsphere and amongst the Twittererati.

Is this a good thing?  The jury is out.

Dilution

There are many who think having an influx of 13-18 year olds will dilute the professional content of the site. Concern that high-flying execs will be bombarded by a veritable flood of text speak about  dates, discos and school projects is anticipated.  Just a short conversation with my 16-year-old neighbour made that possibility seem remote.  The signature simultaneous rolling of eyes and raising of eyebrows, to the unspoken “whatever” pretty much said it all.

It has been some years since my kids were 13, but chances are that Mum and Dad saying  “go and complete your really fun LinkedIn profile after you’ve done your homework ”  will be met with equal derision.

Will we see a deluge of disruptive teen activity on LinkedIn in the next months?  I suspect not. I have to plead with MBA candidates to set up a professional profile and they are generally more than twice their age,  let alone Year 7 or 8th and 9th graders.  Kids are hardwired to rebel against anything parents think are cool or necessary. That is the whole point of being a teenager.  This is their time to hang out,  have acne and find their own way.  My nephew is 13. Do I think a priority in his life should be his online professional presence or crafting a succinct value proposition?

No I don’t.  Not unless it relates to the U14 cricket team. His response to whether he would like a LinkedIn profile was ” What’s LinkedIn?  Is this about jobs and stuff?”

Parents

I suspect that much of this will be centred around the parents.

One dad told me “My son (13) can have a professional profile when he knows what to do with it and how to handle the process appropriately.  At the moment he doesn’t understand the implications of online activity or the  potential repercussions of any mistakes.  He’s simply too young.”

Another spin-off of this development will be that its taps into the essence of that ever-growing demographic:  the pushy,  helicopter parent. I have no doubt that whole hosts of  “yummy mummies” and “driving dad’s”  will be creating adult style profiles for their coddled offsprings in an effort to create a perfect CV.  Will the next dinner party conversation be centred around the number of hits their kids have had on their junior LinkedIn profiles in the last seven days? I’ll put money on it! These are the kids who will be offered a rotation of internships with the friends of their super connected parents by the age of 18 to build up impeccable credentials. That is on top of their funded trips to dig wells in Africa and build homes for underprivileged families in Eastern Europe.

The aim of the new ‘University Pages’ feature  is to give prospective students access to information about colleges, plus the ability to connect with other students and alumni.  That is all fine.  I am all for a more strategic approach to careers and definitely think university is the time for this to kick in.

But for me 13 is far too young.  How many thirteen year olds go to university anyway? The last two years of high school allows plenty of time to start being a career-focused grown up.

Let them be teenagers

Protecting kids from inappropriate internet activity is fine and dandy but most are on Facebook anyway,  so I’m not sure what difference this will make.   Teenage years should be spent worrying about kissing with braces, debates about who to take to the prom and thinking your lab partner is a nerd. With a bit of luck there might be a passing interest in grades and homework.

Their mission at this point in their lives is to be embarrassed by their parents. Not attempting to be their clones.  This is how it absolutely should be. Just as crawling before walking is a vital developmental function, this is a rite of passage and a necessary part of the maturing process to independence.

This is before we even start to explore the impact of the gap created between teens who don’t have professionally savvy parents, who will get left even further behind.

What do you think?

7 downsides of DIY recruitment via LinkedIn

The false economy of focusing onlow hanging fruit

The false economy of focusing on low hanging fruit

Two people apparently join LinkedIn every second  of every day.

This platform and others like it have changed forever the way organisations identify and recruit talent. Some aspects are improvements. Others are not.

These platforms should potentially reduce the need for external recruiters and change the way they are managed by corporations.  Historically the key claim to the added value of third-party specialists was their networks and in-house data bases.  These were built up over the lengthy careers of each consultant and protected ferociously.  Much of this information is now obviously in the public domain,  creating a level playing field for all.

In certain de-regulated geographies anyone with a LinkedIn account and a lap top can set up shop and call themselves a recruitment specialist, whether internally within an organisation or as an independent third-party.  But it has also produced a slipshod DIY approach to hiring talent, carried out by those involved in the process who mistakenly believe it’s an opportunity to recruit on the cheap.

I was approached myself by  a London-based  in-house recruiter only last week!  Yes really! Me! Sadly,  my credentials are as distant from the required profile as Brussels is from Beijing.  However, my name had appeared in a LinkedIn search. I was what I call  a “low hanging fruit” candidate. Visible and easy pickings.

This I believe will ultimately back fire. And here’s why.

7  reasons why DIY recruitment can fail: 

  • So anxious are organisations to reduce the length of the recruitment process that in-house recruiters  are taking on the searches themselves and are targeting the “low hanging fruit” candidates. Minimal or no skill is required and they can be identified by the most rudimentary search.  These are the candidates who are on the market,  rather than a thorough search of the talent that is in the market. And therein lies a huge difference. Researchers usually  junior,  end up calling the wrong people.  This only serves to extend , rather than reduce the timeframe,  generating even further costs,  estimated at between 3-5  times the annual salary of the open position.
  • Hiring managers can be so focused on reducing the cost of the process of filling  each individual open position, that they fail to link the expense of the recruitment assignment to the bottom line of their own businesses. Very often the  “butts on seats” approach,   affectionately  known as the “Homer Simpson hire” also  has extensive hidden costs. An unsuccessful or  inadequate hiring decision can lose companies thousands in the opportunity cost of an under performing new hire or one who leaves early.
  • With the growth of LinkedIn an increasing number of us ( 21%) have 500+ connections.  Identifying the most on-target candidates will becoming more complex.
  • Highly sought after profiles will become beleaguered by numerous contacts from recruiters targeting “low hanging fruit.” They will either stop using LinkedIn altogether or refuse to engage.
  • It’s not enough to identify the candidate, but to bring  him or her to the to the hiring table.  This requires professional soft skills in what Greg Savage calls “candidate seduction.”  I would love to put that in my profile but have concerns about the type of  impression “Dorothy Dalton: Candidate Seductress” might create!
  • Changing careers  is rarely an emotional snap decision although I  have seen that happen. It is usually a protracted process involving partners, families and other factors. A relationship with a trusted partner with a strong reputation  who acts as a sounding board will be important in that process.
  • The fear of getting hiring decisions wrong shunts recruiters into “copy-paste”  placement  mode,  playing safe and ignoring valuable transferable skills leading to  more  “low hanging fruit” candidates who are easily sourced.

Does the proliferation  of online profiles mean that the future of the industry is under threat? I don’t think so.  But it is certainly a game changer and any one in the sector would be unwise to ignore that fact.

If it weeds out the unskilled,  incompetent DIY-ers that would welcome collateral damage.

Debunking 4 online professional profiles myths

Much is written about professional profiles by many “experts” that frightens the life out of the average job seeker, or even passive candidate who simply want to have a strong online presence. The list of dos and don’ts is never-ending, with the net result that many are totally confused.

I’m actually confused.

Debunking profile myths!

Debunking profile myths!

There are many so-called pearls of wisdom written about what people in the executive search or recruitment business are looking for, which completely mystify me.

But hold on…..I AM in the executive search  business. Am I making decisions on these so-called “deal breaker” criteria? Truthfully? Not really.

The reality is that many pundits are no longer (or have never been) involved in executive search and recruitment and are out of touch with the process or a are not even currently working in a corporate environment.They are merely expressing a personal opinion, not issuing irreversible imperatives.

Let’s go through some of the main ones that cause consternation!

  • The LinkedIn summary –  everyone is in agreement that this piece is where the punch should be packed. It is a searchable field so should have a good smattering of keywords but not stuffed (over done in layman’s terms) Most recruiters don’t really care if it’s written in first or third person because they don’t have time. It’s not up for the Pulitzer Prize in literature.  Personally, I would avoid referencing myself by name and generally favour dropping pronouns altogether. But that is a personal opinion.
  • Text rather than bullet points is de rigueur  – recruiters and search specialists take about 8 seconds to read the top half of a profile – so it doesn’t really matter to most of us as long as it is easy to digest. The object of a summary is to entice the reader to scroll down and make contact.  If you are a bullet point type of person it makes no sense to present yourself as a writer of prose.  If you are a indeed a wordsmith, an editor or targeting a sector where writing skills will be important – this is a good place to showcase them. But by no means mandatory. Will the prose writer carry more weight than the bullet pointer with the same skill set? No. Not in anything I have been involved in. Ever.
  • Your CV and LinkedIn summary should not be the same – who says? I have never  sat in a candidate review meeting and heard anyone say  ” You know, I think we should cut X. His/her  CV profile and LinkedIn summary are identical ”  It just doesn’t happen. If you meet the skill set required by the job profile you will likely be contacted unless there are other mitigating factors (typos, your biz pic looks as if it belongs on a police report  and so on.)
  • Put different content in both  – once again not sure why this gem is doing the rounds. A LinkedIn profile gives possibilities to highlight different areas of expertise and skills in greater detail because there is no space limit. It also offers opportunities to highlight recommendations, endorsements,  make a slide share and so on.  So it will, de facto, be different. But a CV should still include all the key points contained in an online profile, but in a more concise format perhaps using more complex  vocabulary and syntax to showcase writing skills. I recently raised a poll  in some recruitment groups on LinkedIn and most participants said they are now reading a LinkedIn profile before they read a CV.

What anyone involved in the search and recruitment business needs  in terms of content is what my back in the day high school Economics teacher Mr. Malcolm Thomas used to call C.P.R.: concise, precise and relevant. If you can write that with a Welsh accent you will be fine!

And this is where the real skill lies.

LinkedIn endorsements – why I’ve done an about turn

DD LI EndorsementsWhen LinkedIn rolled out their skill endorsement programme my immediate reaction was not positive.   My inner voice said “Tacky, superficial, transactional. Tapping into the worst aspects of social media interaction and white noise, akin to Facebook “likes” and Twitter Follow Fridays.  There was no way to quantify the scope or quality of any endorsement and it all seemed like a silly popularity contest.   They are no substitute for a detailed and thought out Recommendation from a colleague or superior,  who actually knows the work of the person involved and can genuinely reference that particular quality.

Downward trend?

It’s hard to know why LinkedIn followed this trend. I can only assume that advertising revenue is correlated to member engagement and page views.   This is one way of generating inter-connectivity via the alerts which appear on your LinkedIn dashboard, in your updates and as an email.

The other is that apparently as many as 60% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete,  making it difficult for recruiters to tap into profiles via keyword searches. By allocating keywords to each other,  we very obligingly save the individual work and provide the LinkedIn algorithms with the necessary keyworded skills on his or her behalf.  So this seems to be a way of improving results for recruiters, thus making LinkedIn more attractive and by extension enhancing their revenue stream.

Downsides

The danger is that we can endorse skills provided conveniently in the pop up window which may not be skills that the person actually has. I am regularly endorsed for very peripheral skills and even activities in which I don’t specialise. I can only assume that someone has clicked the yellow endorse button, which covers all skills,  rather than deleting the spurious skill which I don’t have.

LinkedIn endorsements

However, despite this, I do confess to being something of a convert. I have not done a complete 360°, but certainly a bit of an about turn. Definitely  a 180°!

Here’s why.

  • Although not as strong as  a recommendation, a LinkedIn endorsement is a way for a person to acknowledge a small courtesy or service.  I have received endorsements from individuals whose path I have crossed years ago, perhaps in some minor way.  It’s a way of saying thank you and showing appreciation.
  • It can be a form of networking and staying in touch. It’s a quick and easy way to let someone know you have been on their radar with a bonus of public recognition,  rather than just an email. It’s a way of leaving a digital footprint in your network while eliminating  the nuisance factor.
  • It can be a way of acknowledging skills the individuals  themselves don’t recognise  or perhaps they don’t even understand they have. It is really useful for introverts to have that done for them, or those starting out on the online profile path. I’ve just endorsed the deserving members of my MBA  Career Management workshop for leadership, team playing and engagement. All important factors in contributing to the success of my sessions.
  • We can manage our endorsements  – we  have full control over which skills are endorsed and which endorsers are visible on our profiles. If  specific skills are targeted or even if the preference is to have endorsements hidden, this is our choice. We can leave key influencers in our networks visible.
  • Endorsements provide feedback.
  • Endorsements provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships,  not by automatic reciprocation but via the initiation of dialogue.
  • We don’t have to approve endorsements from people we don’t know.
  • We don’t have to reciprocate if the endorsement is not genuine.

LinkedIn logoSo  it seems provided that we all behave sensibly, genuinely and with integrity there is no reason why the endorsement system can’t provide some added value.

Like with many other processes, it’s the responsibility of the user not to become the abuser.

How do you use LinkedIn endorsements to enhance your online presence?

Could LinkedIn get you fired?

Does the corporate world wants to have its cake and eat it too?

Social media and the corporate cake
I have observed and somewhat portentously anticipated, storms brewing in cyber space.

The corporate mindset appears to be several steps behind the outside world. In many areas it is now playing catch up, but nowhere is this more self-evident than in the area of employee engagement in the social media arena.

So it didn’t come as a surprise to read that an executive had been forced out of his job, not for uploading or being tagged in compromising photos, sending out risqué tweets or saying he hated his job on Facebook. No. He simply posted his professional CV on LinkedIn and checked the contact box ” interested in career opportunities.”   This seemingly was against company policy.

Having and eating the cake
The executive in question John Flexman of BG Group, responsible for graduate recruitment, is pursuing a court case for constructive dismissal. This pre-supposes that any interest in career opportunities, by default has to be external only and brings no benefit to the existing organisation. It was also claimed that Flexman had divulged confidential information by listing reduced staff attrition as one of his achievements.  Now there is possibly more to this than meets the eye,  but nevertheless there is still a court case hanging on the premise of the supposed inappropriate use of a LinkedIn profile .

Double standards
We live in a world where many catalogue and communicate every waking moment and thought in their daily lives. Most of us have no interest at all in what people are eating, or the quality of the weather, restaurants or roads in Manchester, Mumbai, or anywhere else for that matter. This is in stark contrast to the corporate world where confidentiality agreements are common place and covert deals struck behind closed doors are the norm.

But having said that, organisations tap into this disparate information in the public domain to keep their fingers on the pulse of their customer bases. They extract key nuggets of market and competitive intelligence, tracking our spending patterns and other consumer trends, as well as keeping tabs on the competition, from what would appear to us regular mortals, to be totally inane data. Research shows that a high percentage of companies also use social media for identifying and screening candidates as part of their own recruitment processes, with 86% of businesses now saying they use LinkedIn and even Facebook.

Ring fencing
This issue raises a number of questions. Do organisations such as BG Group want to have their cake and eat it too? Are they happy to use social media platforms to achieve corporate goals, but not thrilled when employees use these platforms to meet theirs?

But  more importantly, shouldn’t the role of management be focused on motivating its employees to be committed and engaged to a company, rather than ring fencing them,  making it difficult to leave? Would that perhaps account for a need to reduce staff attrition?

Career changers: 30 minute daily strategy

Can you afford not to?

For anyone embarking on a job search related to career change and developing what is now called a “personal brand” for the first time, I outline the steps and options involved using social networking. As I do so, I am always aware of two things. Faces turning ashen with panic and then groaning, as clients,  whether individually or in groups, mentally try to calculate how much time this process is going to take out of their already busy day. There is a reason it’s called net “working” (not net “vacationing”).  It is indeed a lot of work, it does take time and much of it is doing stuff people have never heard of before  (and wouldn’t choose to do if they had!) .

Authenticity
Today,  job search is personal, flexible and strategic. Sadly there is no template or blue print which can be reproduced, although guidelines can be given.  What works for one individual, will not work or sound authentic for another. The whole point of it is also to be unique and stand out, not to be a clone of your neighbour.  The learning process is  intuitive,  as we move away from the old style rigid approach. This does indeed makes life far harder for any job seeker today and it is time-consuming. However,  authenticity is key,   which is why we have to run, stroll or even crawl,  the hard yards for ourselves.

Strategic alliances
As recessionary thinking starts to hit us again after a very brief interlude of optimism,  the job market looks set to shrink.  Economic downturns touch even the brightest and the best. It’s imperative that developing a  personal brand  and raising visibility becomes a daily part of all job seekers’ routines –  before there is a crisis.  Social networking is a great way to supplement and enhance actual networking,  although ( and I stress)  not a substitute for it.

Simple basics
—Select a primary platform  – for most people this should be a professional network   (e.g. LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing)  to showcase career success stories and background. The largest English language one is LinkedIn for and anyone seeking a career in an international arena,  I would always advise a profile placed on this platform. — As a minimum I would suggest the following activity:

  • Send out 1 update daily to develop your reputation. If you have a blog so much the better,  otherwise any nugget of information that could be interesting taken from the press or other media related to your new function/sector. Twitter is a good source.
  • Post 1 comment in a LinkedIn group related to your target career.
  • Indentify and connect with 5- 10 new connections in your target sector – preferably ones you hope to meet in person.
  • Research companies in your target sector.

Connect with other platforms  – extend your reach via Twitter and Facebook which are becoming fast growing global job boards as the Like, Share and Tweet functions become a quick way to circulate job information. Employers are also strengthening their Employer brand on these platforms and offer increasing opportunities to inform and connect with job seekers. Trend spotters are suggesting that these 2 platforms will change the job search  landscape in 2012.   Although their figures are US-based, Europe is  usually only a few steps behind. Get ahead of the game. Even a British spy agency is seeking code-crackers via Twitter and Facebook.

  • Post content via Twitter.
  • Share content from others ( RT).
  • Comment on or “Like ” a blog or LinkedIn update.
  • Post an update or a note on Facebook.
  • Locate followers and friends that might be helpful to you.
  • Pay it forward  – share any new updates with your peers or other job seekers in your network.
  • Partially automate when you are busy. Bufferapp hits Twitter and Facebook. I would advise not to over do it  – engagement is key.
  • Filter out the white noise of LinkedIn updates using LinkedIn signal 

—One of the advantages of Social Networking is that it’s self scheduling  – so any of this can be fitted  around other activities and in a piece meal fashion. It’s a question of carving out 10 minutes of time, 3 times a day which may make a difference. Yes, initially it might take longer, but as skills are honed and knowledge acquired,  it can be whittled down to become  rapid fire productivity. Eventually you will think in terms of the time this is saving you.

 The real question is perhaps not if can you afford the time,  but can you afford the risk of not allocating those key minutes, in the current economic climate? If you don’t take time to plan now,  you may find you have  more leisure than you planned for  to live with the consequences.

Personal Branding Conflict: Ownership of Online Connections

Storm brewing over online connections

 A problem waiting to happen.

Personal Branding  as a career management tool for all employees and job seekers has been strongly encouraged since Tom Peters urged us all to become our own Chief Marketing Officers.  Today,  many employees network strategically in both their personal and professional lives to create an effective career strategy and now have strong personal brands.But could it be we are headed for a clash?

Personal vs Corporate
This  recent development is proving to be challenging for some businesses, as they are becoming aware of a growing need to manage employee individuality within the context of their own organisational structures. Some are now playing catch up.

I had two interesting conversations this week. Both made me think that there ‘s trouble brewing out there in cyber space, the ramifications of which we have yet to fully understand. And according to a report by DLA Piper, Knowing your Tweet from your Trend,  I am not alone in these concerns.

Complex
Many column inches have been given over to employee content on social media, where the nature of some tweets and Facebook updates has resulted in disciplinary action and even dismissal. But what about the unchartered territory of the ownership of contacts and connections with whom employees are engaging? Whose are they exactly? Organisations are struggling to exercise control between an employee’s business and personal life on social media, where the  divide is often indistinct. This is particularly true on LinkedIn, which now has 130 million members globally.

Who owns your LinkedIn contacts?
The first chat last week was with an executive search associate who told me that his company was now using LinkedIn as a date base and had all but stopped using their own in-house applicant tracking  system. It was simply easier to keep up with changes in potential candidates movements on-line and saved a huge amount of time for all concerned, cutting data inputting costs totally he told me. Little warning bells jingled in my ears.  “What happens if the consultants leave?”  I asked. The response was that the  connections would be transferred to the practise partner. At that juncture, the little tinkles, became massive gongs, as the company had no contractual legal procedure in place to cover this.

Fast forward to the end  of the week. Simon was a Business Development Director with a Financial Services Consulting organisation. On Friday, he was called into his bosses office and although he was clearly aware that business was slowing down,  he was shocked to find that within  2 hours he had been “let go” and cut off from the company server. Amongst the mountain of paperwork he has been asked to sign,  is a clause asking for his LinkedIn password to transfer his connections to another sales person in the company.

Now Simon is a very strategic and creative networker. He invests a significant amount of time cultivating a meaningful network, both physically and virtually. He feels that his associates and superiors  never  committed to online networking. He maintains that his contacts have been developed over his entire career and have nothing to do with his employer. He is also well-connected personally via his family, high-profile school and university and is not about to hand those details over without a fight. The company differs and is arguing that many of his connections were cultivated as an integral part of his role with them, on their time and need to be returned. Both are seeking legal advice. How do we decide if a contact is a personal or a business one and what happens if those connections are inter-changeable?

Legal Action
According to The Telegraph, a British court has already ordered a recruitment consultant to hand over his LinkedIn contacts to his previous employer. In this particular case the consultant had started trading on his own account before then end of his contract, which muddies the water slightly. But if the data for all his connections is in the public domain – are they “his” in the first place?

Personal Profiles
LinkedIn profiles are indeed personal online resumés, reflecting individual achievements and success stories, rather than company branding messages. Some individuals are very savvy about the use of this platform and maximise the opportunities it offers both personally and professionally often times merging the two areas. Others are lethargic and disinterested, with incomplete profiles and minimal or no activity.

DLA Piper suggests that only 14% of employers have policies in place which regulate social media activity outside the workplace.  Failure to provide clarity on the ownership of connections will result in many unforseen ramifications. It will also cause confusion on the value of personal branding as a career management tool and  perhaps impact the energy individuals put into online networking.

So should employers be able to claim individual online contacts when an employee leaves? Would you take the time to build up your online connections and create these strategic alliances, if they become the “property” of your employer on departure?

For me, it’s no different than asking the employee of yester year to hand over his/her Rolodex or Filofax on departure. When a client interfacing employee resigns or is fired, there has always been a commercial risk of them taking their contacts with them. This is why many organisations have non competition clauses in their contracts.

Whether contacts are actual or online in my book, will not make any real difference.

Or will we see a return of the adage – ” Never mix business and pleasure” ?

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