Category Archives: Personal Brand

LinkedIn: leave those kids alone!

admissions_year7_1

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?

Personal branding: 5 tips for women

Snow boarding is a learned skill

At the risk of being shot down in flames I don’t think that a reluctance to self promote is always and exclusively a gender issue. I know as many men who struggle as badly with framing their success stories and articulating them as women. I also come across any number of women who will self-promote at the drop of a Philip Treacy.

What I have observed over time is that once men have understood what they need to do and the process, they do become more at ease and adept with simply presenting the facts and adopting strong and appropriate vocabulary to present themselves in the best possible light. Why? Because they know their content will be well received by a primarily male audience.

Women on the other hand who do the same,  feel and fear they will be judged more harshly than the men,  because gender stereotypical expectations suggest that they should be more retiring and modest, as well as being more communally orientated than self-centred.  So personal branding is counter- intuitive for many women.

Stand out!
According to Connie Glaser, author and women’s leadership expert, societal expectations for female behavior promote modesty and collaboration,  but these characteristics don’t necessarily lead to professional advancement. This requires actions closely associated with  standing out from the crowd  rather than  blending in,  by being able to identify, articulate and promote our USPs.

We know that women are competitive and are more than willing to be highly visible in all sorts of other arenas  (homes, husbands, kids, recipes, gardens,  b.m.i.). But how can women overcome this reluctance to self promote professionally and develop a badly needed personal brand,  which for many doesn’t come naturally?

Snow boarding is a learned skill.  So are driving and dancing. But women do learn how to do all three.

Tasteful  self – promotion
 

It’s not necessary to stand on a soap box proclaiming brilliance to the world.  Women can do some or all of the following to promote their success stories:

  • Self-insight :  Women need to be able to identify, recall and articulate those successes, both on demand and even when not requested. There are no short cuts.
  • Use powerful vocabulary: there is no need to appear boastful. If you ran a team of 100, or closed a deal worth several million  – simply say that. It’s not necessary to embellish by telling people what a great sales person  or manager you are – that will now be evident. Powerful action words such as led, ran, created, drove, initiated, generated, leveraged should feature regularly in  self evaluations.
  • Harness modern technology :   women are great at building relationships and should leverage these to generate recommendations for their  LinkedIn profiles, creating websites showing testimonials and  by keeping copies of any complimentary emails and performance reviews for future  use.
  • Accept praise and compliments graciously: bite your lip on lines such as “it was nothing ” or  “it was a team effort” or ” I got lucky“. It is OK to say “I worked really hard and am very proud of the result.”   Don’t forget we create our own luck.
  • Create a  strategic network.   Extending brand reach by widening your reputation. Set up a professional profile ona platforms such as LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo.  Tap into your Facebook network for professional purposes as well as social relationships.  Being known as a strong resource will be always be helpful.   Find people to support, sponsor and mentor you,  not just to chat to! Return the favour.  Let people around you know what your goals are and that you are ambitious.

Women also have to be prepared to ask for support. They seek specialist advice from others in every area imaginable: physical fitness,  snowboarding, their nails, health issues, styling, children  and marriage guidance, but place far less emphasis on professional support.

This is an additional barrier which needs tackling .

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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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“.

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!

Will there be an end to copy/paste selection?

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Makeup: A career issue for both men and women!

How makeup is impacting the workplace
I was facilitating a meeting in Paris last week and one delegate asked about women, makeup and career advancement. There wasn’t time to go into it in detail – but we were obviously in France where the grooming benchmark is particularly high. As I was still recovering from surgery and leading the meeting on one crutch (not the height of chic) and struggling to stay on my high heels, I possibly may not have been a convincing fashionista. In fact had I not been wearing makeup, combined with my crutch, I suspect para medics might have been put on alert.

Visual world
There is much research to suggest that basic looks, appearance and grooming lead to more rapid promotions and higher salaries. We live in a visual world where appearances matter. However, just to focus on one tiny aspect of the lookism and appearance issue, is the application of makeup that critical to career success? There is strong empirical evidence to suggest there is a connection for women.


Make up = making an effort
In fact,a recent survey, commissioned by The Aziz Corporation, reveals new information about appearance in the workplace. A survey reported in The Times also suggests that 64 per cent of directors considered women who wore make-up look more professional and 18 per cent of directors said that women who do not wear make-up “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort”. As a career coach I would advise any woman to focus on overall professional grooming and that would include sector appropriate make-up. In a general professional sense all women are advised to wear light make up. A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetics Science in 2006 on Caucasian women has found that people judge women wearing cosmetics as higher earners with more prestigious jobs

Claire Soper an Image Consultant based in Brussels told me ” Without doubt make-up is part of your professional dress and is as important as your outfit. It must be appropriate and well applied and if you wear none, you look under dressed. A well-groomed look sends a positive message about who you, your capabilities and potential. Think about how you are perceived if you wear none? Believe it or not you could be sending signals that you are disorganized, uninterested and unable to cope and you need to be aware of this. We can control the way we look but not how people perceive us and our professional dress, the impact our image makes has a massive impact on our chances of promotion and career advancement. Know that internal career progression is based 50% on image!”

According to the Mail Online, the average British woman spends £9000 in a lifetime on makeup. Given that women are the greatest global consumer group, I’m assuming the minute they start feeling OK with their faces, bodies and general appearances whole industry sectors would simply disappear. It would seem that there are certain economic imperatives for us all to feel insecure about our appearance and therefore spend huge sums striving for improvement.

However in light of Josef Ackmerman’s CEO of Deutsche Bank’s suggestion that women would  “add colour to the boardroom“, a major faux pas, how and where do we we start overturning traditional stereotypes? Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Member of the European Party retorted pretty promptly “If Mr Ackermann wants more color in the management board, he should hang pictures on the wall.”

Claire adds “If you look capable, motivated and interested you stand a better chance of getting the promotion. It’s about releasing your potential. Many people’s careers are blocked simply because of the way they dress and women in particular, can gain authority and credibility by wearing make-up so they are perceived as somebody worth listening to.

The male view
Further research from The Aziz Corporation would indicate that men are also changing their perceptions about personal grooming. According to a study a carried out by Opinion Research, cited in the Mail Online – there is a sharp rise in male attention to makeup, with 20% admitting to wearing it to work.

William, a Senior Partner in an international law firm told me ” we live in such a “lookist” society that of course I use men’s grooming products. Men have to make sure their grooming assistance is not obvious. Women are actually lucky in this area because they can hide and enhance certain aspects of their appearance with makeup. At one time men as they got older, were deemed distinguished and women were simply “older”. Now it’s changing. If a man obviously wore make-up, it would probably be professional suicide. Most of the well-groomed women I know in their 50s, look way better than their male counterparts. An increasingly number of men in my circle have had cosmetic surgery to maintain a more youthful appearance, because they see it as a professional advantage .” Nip/tucking does indeed seem a bit drastic, when a quick dab of YSL Touche Eclat might do the trick. Guys – here’s how!

So I wondered, thinking that through, is it really better to be in a lower earning junior position, looking younger, wearing full make-up , than being a senior partner, on a great salary, looking his age? “That’s the irony” said Tom ” women are penalised for not wearing make-up and men would be penalised for doing so

So is it time to let go of our stereotypes and if women want to go to work without their “faces” and men want to head for the cosmetic counter, or will light makeup eventually be recommended for both sexes to enhance career prospects? Should any of it make a difference to the way we’re perceived in the workplace?

What do you think?