Category Archives: LinkedIn

I “link” therefore I exist! Modern connectivity

Drowning in the Google pool and sinking into oblivion

 Modern connectivity There was a time probably no more than 5 years ago, when I could do my job very effectively by going into my contact data base and simply picking up the phone. Those days are gone. In 2008, as world markets crashed taking many global businesses with them, millions lost their jobs and disappeared into the ether of unemployment. If, and when they resurfaced they were difficult to reach. The foundations of the way most of us did business crumbled beneath us, as we tried to find new ways to stay connected.

At the same time we saw a dramatic upturn in the use of social media, which heralded a new era for business generally and became especially valuable in the executive search and hiring process. Early adopters got a head start. Now it is less ” I think therefore I exist” but more ” I link therefore I exist”. We are in an age of super connectivity.

Google ranking
Many column inches have been written about online connections. The quality vs quantity discussion rages unabated and I’m not even going to get into that one. My simple point is that unless you are a high-ranking executive in publically registered company, or some sort of super star, with acres of media coverage to your name, and land a first page Google ranking (for positive reasons!), an online professional profile or other virtual presence, which benefits you professionally, is a must. For the average, mere job seeking mortal, the failure to have an online professional identity, while possibly not total career hari kari, will be tantamount to jumping into the Google pool with lead weights on your ankles. You will simply sink into oblivion.

What  to do?

  • Get going! Create an online professional presence:  this enables you to be found  not just by search specialists and hiring managers but anyone who wishes to locate you or your professional expertise. This will vary from one country to another. The strongest global English-speaking platform is LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Viadeo or Xing also carry traction in different geographic areas.  The 3 demographics most reluctant to do this in my experience are entry-level, women and Boomers. This one simple process shows you care and are switched on!
  • Complete the profile fully and strategically: using  strong key search words. Generally I find the people who get most frustrated (and whinge the loudest) with a tendency to blame other external factors,  are the ones who have the weakest profiles and fewest connections.
  • Connect and engage strategically: build up your professional network, establish relationships,  generate credibility in your industry or sector. Set up an online trail of links to you! You can’t tap into your network unless you have one. Reluctant categories in my experience are: entry-level and women
  • Manage your reputation: leverage social media to cement the professional you. Use key words in your other online profiles and even a link to your online CV or LinkedIn profile.   Entry level, women and Boomers are the equally reluctant to do this. Social media is no longer just social, but has a professional component too. That’s why it’s called Personal Branding. Change your privacy settings if this really bothers you.
  • Don’t neglect other personal  networks: there is tendency with social media pundits to drink their own Kool Aid and believe their own hype, that these platforms are the “one- stop- shop” solution. No matter what, you have to get out from behind the computer and network personally! An online professional presence is only one tool in a much bigger job search tool kit. Category most reluctant to do this – women and entry-level.

As we teeter yet again on the brink of a possible financial services meltdown, with Greece clinging to the edge of the Acropolis by its fingernails, those without professional online “links” will almost certainly be caught at a disadvantage. There is even in my anecdotal experience, an emerging pattern of which demographics are constantly at risk.

Regrettably we have to do more than “think” to exist today. We have to “link“.

Criteria for a strategic network

It's not important what your strategy is -just that you have one

So what criteria do you use to create your network? Who is missing? Who do you need to add? What strategic alliances can you create?

Although not an open networker, I am a strategic one and I have over time become an advocate of the theory that there is strength in a weak network. I don’t  connect with just anyone and everyone, but I don’t mind if I don’t know the individual personally. That particular connection may not be directly helpful, but perhaps will be connected to someone who might be. Being pathologically curious I am always open to meeting new people.

Everyone will have different needs when creating a strong network. It will depend on age, level of experience and the type of professional activity you have and of course your personality and career goals. It’s not important what your strategy is – just that you have one and it works for you. And it should be effective and support your main goals, rather than a time consuming end itself. It’s not about building up numbers for their own sakes . So what do I look for when I try to extend my network whether on-line or IRL (In Real Life)?

  • Professional connections:  I try to link to people who are well-connected in my areas of special interest: executive search, coaching, career transition, and women’s issues in the workplace.  I aim for balance. For me this is very much related to the sharing of experiences and ideas and intellectual stimulation, as much as their influence .
  • Established and /or senior connections and allies: I look  to connect with some people who are deeply established in their field or holding senior positions in their organisations.  A quiet word from them in the appropriate ear can carry a lot of weight. If you are in any organisation, these are key contacts, especially if you are junior and they will act as a mentor or better still a sponsor and advocate for you.
  • Junior connections:  I love being connected to #GenY in particular. As we get older and more set in our ways we need the energy of this generation to keep us in touch. Even if you are entry-level, there will still be people behind you!
  • Peer connections : these are people doing what you do and can understand any major issues you might have. They might be good contacts to confide in, but be cautious also, you may end up competing against them for work, a contract or even a job.
  • Sector connections: I like and need to stay in touch with different sectors – specific industries and functions, coaching , sourcing, executive search and so on. This is about staying up to date
  • Geographic connections:    I work internationally, so I ask myself the question : have I got all the key contacts in specific locations that I could tap into if needed? Which area needs strengthening?
  • Connectors:  If needed, who will be my  go-to “connector”, the super networker, the person to whom I could pose the question” who do you know?”
  • Local connections:  contacts based in the places where I spend most time. There is no substitute for dealing with people face to face – especially if they are just down the road.
  • Specialists: unless we are all-singing and all-dancing, all of the time, we cannot do without the specialists whose passion and skill makes what they do invaluable. Whether this is the web designer, presentation expert, DIY fiends or even a walking restaurant directory.
  •  Information generators:  some people like to be totally up to the minute and they save us all a lot of time researching current events and developments.  Do you want to know something obscure? Then these are your go-to people.  We all need a few of those fabulous time- savers in our midst!
  • Devils advocates :   I’m very opinionated, so other great additions to my, or any network, (even if you are not) are the ones who will challenge the flaws in your argument! Definitely track down a few of those. It’s not good to surround yourself with clones of yourself.
  • Social connections: we all need to have fun and very often people we know socially have  the most surprising connections. Some are just plain likeable!

Who would you add? Let’s connect:

@DorothyDalton

Dorothy Dalton

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

The new “actively passive” candidates

According to research carried out by international organisations such as Manpower and Deloitte, there are many indications that after a period of cautiousness brought about by stringent economic times, a high percentage of employees will now be open to new job opportunities. The numbers range from 66% – 84%, but whichever one you take, they are pretty high.

Risk averse
The recent recession made those that were fortunate enough to have survived a dramatic downturn, risk averse. The old mantra of ” last in, first out ” played loudly in their ears. Now, with small signs of recovery people are lifting their heads above the parapet to step down and are willing to dip a toe gently into the job search water. In the executive search sector we call this category of candidate, “passive candidates”.

This doesn’t mean to say they are “passive ” people. It’s a generic term used to describe job seekers who are in employment, but who are not necessarily actively sending out their resumes , or are advertising themselves on job boards. For many companies, for reasons I sometimes struggle to understand, passive candidates are considered to be more highly desirable prospects. This is why the catch phrase “it’s easier to get a job while in a job“, is so popular and proved a huge frustration to job seekers during the recession, when many good people lost their jobs and were actively looking for employment.

Actively passive
However, there is huge mileage into having carried out some self assessment, coming up with a career strategy and creating a plan to achieve that. Candidates might not be sending out CVs blindly, but there are certainly some very strong smoke signals in the air, with active self promotion going on and the raising of visibility to the right people. This doesn’t necessarily detract from being open to unforseen possibilities or suggest lack of focus. For the first time in several years candidates have choice and there is no problem saying that. As someone who makes those calls to candidates every day, very often the opportunity I present may not have occurred to the potential candidate. But receiving that straightforward, time-saving communication of “Thanks, but your opportunity is not in line with my current career plans. Let’s stay in touch.” is also quite acceptable.

Reputation economy
With this upturn, executive search specialists, passive candidates and hiring managers alike should find themselves in stronger positions. But all parties are going to have to up their games , as the sheer volume of possibilities kicks in. For passive candidates this is a critical time as we move towards a reputation economy, where everyone can be researched online.
– Make sure your online presence is precise and of high quality content to guarantee that key word searches are accurate. Otherwise you will find yourselves being approached for the wrong type of searches, which will eventually become irritating.
– No online presence could mean no contact unless you have a very strong actual network.
– If you are not open to job opportunities currently, close that option on your LinkedIn profile. This should deter all but the crassest of recruiters.
– If you are, contact details should be easy to find. Search consultants for the first time in years have a wide choice and if you are hard to reach, they will move on to the next candidate.
– Make sure all your networking is strategic and you are connecting with hiring decision makers in targeted and researched companies. The right opportunity could be around the corner.
– Have a polished up to date CV ready to send out at the push of a button. Hiring companies and search consultants no longer have to chase anyone too hard.

It’s great to feel the stirrings of a recovery! Let’s hope it continues!

Staying on message: A job search challenge

How much to share and with whom?
Another confusing area for job seekers is how much information to share in the job search process. This is another topic where every man, woman, child and goldfish has an opinion. Using buzz speak this is about brand alignment, when we are all supposed to produce consistent personal brand content, all the time. The irony of course is that any resume you produce might be correctly professional and neutral, but your cyber foot might leave behind yeti size tracks in its wake and you will open your mouth, only to change feet. Understand well, that you will be researched prior to an interview and there is very little room to hide. So how do you stay true to the professional image you’re trying to create, when there are so many ways to check us all out , especially as most of us have multiple interests and are multifaceted?

Here are some issues that have been posed to me

Claiming a passion There has to be back up. If you say you are passionate about renewable energy – make sure that there is evidence out there somewhere. We do check. So join LinkedIn or local groups and visibly participate. If you have multiple interests and goals then be prepared to explain them. On the other hand I know an accountant who has a fabulous blog on food and restaurants which he writes under a pseudonym, simply because he doesn’t want his employer perceive him as frivolous. In my view he is hiding a key part of who he is, which is a shame. Others have multiple blogs where they write about other areas of interest. Check out Gilly Weinstein a professional coach, who showcases her alternative interests in a blog separate to her professional web site.

Age and birthdate – this is no longer legally required on a resumé, but any recruiter with half a brain can figure it out. There is a double bind here. Withholding can send red alerts that something is amiss – either too old or too young for the position in question. But I suggest that you don’t include it, simply because you may be bypassed by some pre programmed Applicant Tracking Systems. But be proud of who you are and offer metrics that add value. You cannot hide all references to your history on the internet or air brush every photo. If you lie – you will almost certainly be found out.

Religion – unless you are applying to a religious organisation where your affiliation will be meaningful and key, then it would not be necessary to supply this information to a secular organisation.

Home address – I would leave out. There are some strange people in this world and you don’t want them pitching up at your home. Simply stating your city and country should be sufficient

Hobbies – now here I really go against many career pundits. People’s hobbies and past times tell me a lot about a person. They might show energy, committment, discipline, attention to detail, community spirit and many other qualities – so I always look. If your idea of surfing is sitting on a sofa changing channels, I agree that is best omitted. Those interests also have to be current. Unless you were an Olympic medallist , telling an employer of your university sporting achievements is only appropriate for entry-level candidates and possibly one level above. 15 years down the line regretfully they add little value, especially if you are a little soft around the middle.

Marital status – agree not necessary information, although many volunteer it. Do not include photos of yourself with your partner on professional profiles

Children – agree the CV is about you. Ditto about pictures of your children (or pets) on professional profiles

Links to online platforms – if they are relevant to your job application and have a professional content, they can certainly add value, especially a LinkedIn profile URL. It’s also a way of giving more information such as recommendations and a slide share presentation. They show you’re in touch with current technological trends and offer insight into your personality.If your FB status updates are along the lines of ” Yo dude… see you in the pub … ” Then no. Omit. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos online and you are not tagged in anyone else’s. Check your Facebook photo line ups are how you want to be perceived. I was horrified to find I had been tagged in a photo taken two days after I had surgery recently. I looked in pain – probably because I was.

Sexual orientation – this is no one’s business except your own. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. If there are any photos of you with partners in cyber space, regardless of orientation, they should be appropriate.

Life objectives – this is now considered to be old school and has been replaced by a career mission statement, so definitely should not be on a CV. At some point any long-term goals can be shared, but I would advise waiting until you know the person you will be sharing that information with. Any general, gentle social icebreakers such as wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, are perhaps best included in the hobbies section, in my book are completely OK.

Online conflict this is a tough one. Healthy debate on even contentious issues I feel is part of life’s rich tapestry. However, anything abusive or defamatory should be avoided. We are now entering an era where individuals are being disciplined or even fired for negative remarks about bosses, employers or team mates on Facebook and Twitter. The difference between this and a real life situation, is that your words will be recorded somewhere… forever. No one knows what happens to deleted material on many of these online platforms.

In today’s social media age it is truthfully difficult to keep anything completely secret – even your weight! The trick is to try to manage your cyber foot print, while remaining true to yourself. In my view this is one of today’s greatest job search challenges. No matter what you leave out, or how professionally neutral any of us are, it is very hard to be constantly on message.

But really how much does that matter?

What do you think?

New year and new decade. Plunging into a crowded talent pool

Employed during the recession but ready to make a move?
The last 2 years have seen dramatic changes in the job search market characterised by massive job reductions and a significant discrepancy between the number of job seekers and jobs created. Those that were fortunate to remain employed during that period, kept their heads down, quite often tolerating salary freezes, increased workloads, longer hours and reduced teams. Frequently, these same people were involved in laying off colleagues, but as they were still employed there was very little sympathy left for them and they were just left to get on with it.

Recovery on the horizon
Now with small glimmers of economic recovery on the distant horizon this demographic is looking for change. A new year and new decade might be the catalyst that many need to get them started. In a recent report from Manpower 84% of employees polled in the United States indicated an intention to change jobs in 2011. Elsewhere, research shows that 60-65% of individuals expressed a desire to leave their jobs as soon as more solid signs of economic recovery appear. Although they have honed their workplace survivor skills, as job seekers they are still debutantes and much has changed in the last 2-3 years on today’s job market as we know. From a search and recruitment point of view, we will have a wonderfully high level of top talent open for discussion, creating great choice for hiring companies. For the job seeker , the talent pool will now have become very crowded and competition for open positions will be more fierce than ever.

So if you have spent the recession simply keeping your head above water, but are now ready to take the plunge into an unfamiliar and busy space, what do you need to do to make sure you are counted in those numbers?

Check if you have what has become known as a personal brand.
While you have been working like crazy, your ex-colleagues after an initial crisis, have been coming to terms with the job market in the 21st century. The savyy ones will have created and extended their personal brand. Do you have an updated modern CV and a well maintained professional online profile, both reflecting your career achievements and highlighting what you can offer any potential employer? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If any of this sounds like a foreign language, seek professional help.

Evaluate your life and career goals Create a strong mission statement with a clear job seeking strategy within a specified timeframe. Establish a plan A, B and even C if necessary.

Check your on-line visibility How easily identifiable and contactable are you? Can head hunters, recruiters and sourcers find you and easily reach you?

Network While you were keeping your head out of firing range how active were you at networking? If you are one of those who wonders why all these people from LinkedIn are contacting you, now is the time to pick up the pace. Make it actual and virtual. Attend professional conferences or any other networking events and if possible find a mentor, someone who perhaps has recent experience of changing their careers.

Invest in some personal development If the last 2 years have been spent keeping things ticking over this is a good moment to make yourself a priority. Make a commitment to personal development and learning. Take a workshop or course, extend your reading list, renew a subscription to a business magazine or blog and supplement your career goals with some dedicated research or study. The competition for any job is going to be tough, so it will be essential to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t burn bridges So now you have committed to making that change, tempting though it will be to slacken off slightly, don’t. It’s still important to maintain 100% motivation. This is the only job you have and will require the same energy levels as before. It could be months before you write that letter of resignation. Your ex-colleagues know well that the length of time an average job seeker takes to land that great job is at least 6 months or even longer.

The job seekers who hit the market during the last 2 years by now should have a modern and creative approach to the job seeking process. Many will have the heads-up on the employment market as it exists today. In a demand driven economy, sophisticated and strategic preparation will be necessary not just to get in the game, but to stay in it too.

Visumés: The new way forward

PLEASE NOOOOO!!

Many people have talked about the concept of the visumé and their almost certain roles in our futures. Well, I was sent my first one yesterday and I have to tell you, that thought fills me with total horror.

As a coach, I can see they might have potential. The exercise would give individuals the motivation to focus on the content of their mission statement and USPs, as well as to the opportunity to perfect the delivery of their elevator sound bites to camera. It would certainly make any job seeker stand out if done professionally. As a recruiter, the thought of sifting through hundreds of 3 minute You Tube type presentations, delivered by what look like robotic newscasters of the lowest calibre, or possibly worse still the swaggering arrogance of Apprentice wannabes (see below), would frankly be intolerable.

So is this just my narrow-minded European view? Am I being a reticent Brit who sits there cringing through webinars and promotional clips from even quite highly regarded and rated amateurs? I decided to ask some contacts in the US, the home of “Show and Tell”, to let me know exactly what their thoughts are on the other side of the world.

Think hard
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Career Strategist at Career Trend suggests ” before stepping into the abyss of creative resume production, consider the goal of a resume: to hook the audience for further conversation (aka, the interview). As such, the buyer of your product initially is less interested in clicking on a 2-3 minute video and more interested in quickly absorbing your message through a glimpse of your written resume story.”

Professional
So to get past people like me  if you are going to do it – it has to be done well.  Creating a video resume  will mean more than sitting on a sofa, in front of a web cam in your living room and reading your CV.  But as interactive on-line video resumés become more commonplace,   I anticipate (dread?) a time when candidates will,  as part of their job seeking  and brand management strategies,  start crafting an on-line video presence to add to their search portfolios. 

There are also some basic operational issues as Jacqui mentions “ the viewer is required not only load up a video (and not all computer and smart phone systems will easily load up your video, causing frustration), but to listen and watch for 1-3+ minutes, versus an initial 15-30 second scan of a written resume. Most hiring and recruiting decision-makers I network with still prefer the written resume vs. a video for the initial touch point.

Performance
When you send or upload a CV or deliver your sales pitch,  the recipient reads your message before he or she hears it or sees it. With a visumé , you are essentially skipping the early parts of the process which are part of the job seeking building blocks and going straight for an audition. Julia Erickson, Career Expert at Careerealism.com, suggests that this is “actually not a resume at all, it’s a performance where you are attempting to show your personality as one the employer would like. So even if you have the qualifications, if the person watching the visume doesn’t like you or how you look or what you’re wearing, you won’t get an interview. “.

Image
There are advantages to both search strategies, if you are actually a skilled presenter. But as I know from my days of working in corporate HR for a major British TV company, working to camera goes one step beyond normal presentation skills and even the best presenters need on-camera training, with additional focus on image: clothes, hair, make up (even the men) and body language, more so than in an ordinary interview. Dan Harris’s sunglasses on his head are a definite NO!

Julia adds ” It’s been fascinating to watch some of the video resumes on-line and it confirms my opinion about them. It is even tougher to produce than a regular resume. If you are not using a professional videographer, you can make a mess. Vault.com is promoting them to a certain extent; they have a YouTube “primer” on how to make one that contains very basic tips. If you spend some money, you probably could get a video resume that was OK – if you want one

Across the Atlantic divide we agreed wholeheartedly, that as video is not an interactive medium, any personal chemistry is removed and there is no opportunity to respond to any body language or obviously questions. The candidate’s performance is generic and static, but each viewer will have a different perception of the delivery and you will not be there to engage.

Visual Resumés
Visumés are not to be confused with visual resumés. LinkedIn is a visual resumé site and I also have many clients who have added visual resumés to their own web site with great success. Julie cautions ” The important thing is to make your paper resume consistent with your virtual/visual resumes. All the information needs to be the same“.

Both sides of the pond also agreed that a Visual CV would never be used to replace a paper one especially when organisations have their own software application methods. Anything that creates extra work for hard pressed hiring or recruiting managers puts the candidates at risk. If you do go that route Julie recommends 2 sites : “Slideshare allows you to create a visual CV, and VizualResume that put your basic information into a jazzed up format”.

Visumés and VisualCVs allows candidates to give employers a look at your work product or portfolio, so as part of a wider approach they can certainly add value. They can also be added to a LinkedIn profile or website to enhance any job search strategy.

The general intercontinental consensus is that to rely exclusively on a Visumé as the only tool in your job search box would be high risk – unless of course, you are looking for an opportunity on television.

Special thanks for great insights to :
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW, CPRW, CEIP, Chief Career Writer and Owner – CareerTrend
Julia Erickson: Career Expert at Careerealism.com http://julieannerickson.blogspot.com/ http://twitter.com/juliaerickson