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As with so many aspects of LinkedIn, your Home Page can be a tremendous resource in a job search. The more 1st level connections you accumulate, the more useful it becomes.
The Home Page lists updates from all of your connections. They may include:
Posts of news or comments
Comments they make on other’s posts
Introductions to others
Changes to profiles
…and so much more!
Keeping in mind that LinkedIn represents your professional connections, those updates can be great pieces of market intelligence or specific leads for your search!
Did one of your connections update their title to reflect a promotion? What a great opportunity to nurture a relationship by congratulating them. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to professionally, unassumingly inquire about opportunities in their organization now that they are in a more senior role. Perhaps their promotion leaves an open position that needs to be filled. What other opportunities might you deduce from one of your connections receiving a promotion?
Did one of your connections change jobs to a new company? Are they announcing a new venture? Are they referencing someone else that works at one of your target companies? Have they reached a new anniversary milestone that makes clear they’re well entrenched at their company? Did they comment on an article that reflects your views or expertise?
These, and so many other “updates” can represent great opportunities to learn about new companies, new people, new industry ideas or trends, or further foster a valuable business relationship to further your networking opportunities for your job search and career.
Too often, people skip their home page in their quest of other information on LinkedIn. Taking the time to scroll through and creatively think of professional and mutually beneficial ways to improve the quality of your network or find new opportunities is time very well spent!
Don’t skip past your LinkedIn Home Page… look for news you can use!
While I’m a proponent of having an effective resume, it’s often unnecessary if the job seeker is doing a great job of networking!
That’s a startling thought to many people when I say that. People usually think that one of the top requirements of a job search is to have an attention-getting resume.
It depends, let me explain.
When a great resume does help…
When you apply for a position where your background fits the job requirements very closely, and you can’t find an opportunity to connect directly with people at the organization… a resume that emphasizes the fit, and connects the dots effectively between the requirements and your qualifications can be an important tool to gaining interest. In particular, where you have very sought after, and difficult to find experience and skills, a resume where those skills jump off the page can have a tremendous impact.
When a great resume doesn’t do much good…
For most people, however, jobs they apply to are close to their experience, however, not an exact match. In those cases, a resume is very much a hit and miss proposition, regardless of how well it is written. When a recruiter or hiring manager reviews multiple resumes, they simply look for which ones seem to match the closest to the job requirements. A marginal fit, will not often get a call.
How networking minimizes the importance of a resume…
When a job isn’t an exact match to your experience, you’re not likely to get a call from sending in a resume. However, if you are talking to someone in the organization, or referred by a respected contact, the value you bring can be communicated even when the background isn’t perfect.
Ultimately, a hiring manager wants to hire the best person for the job and the organization, not just the best skills listed on a document. The best person may have some of the skills, however, bring a great deal of value in their communication skills, cultural fit, determination, ability to get things done, and other less tangible qualities that can’t be demonstrated well on paper.
When interest is raised through face to face communication, the resume simply becomes a tool to confirm what they already know about you. They want to see that your experience has been what you’ve told them it is, however, they are not determining their selection process based on the resume at that point. A basic document which simply shows your career history with responsibilities serves the purpose.
If you’ve read much about an effective job search at all, you certainly know that networking is, by far, the primary way that people find jobs. Focusing your time, effort, and attention to becoming a great networker will be far more fruitful than taking days or weeks to create a written masterpiece! Don’t take a good resume too lightly, however, certainly don’t value too highly what a great resume will do!
I’m not generally one to recommend books to job seekers very often. Mostly because I know that people will rarely read them. There is a great deal of valuable information online for free (including on this site!), and people usually don’t go spend the money.
This is one book, however, that I do highly recommend…
The 20-Minute Networking Meeting: How Little Meetings Can Lead To Your Next Big Job by Marcia Bollinger
The book had been referred to me a few times over the course of a few months when it first came out, and I, like others, just never got around to it. Finally, after hearing it brought up enough times, I read it… and WOW!
Marcia Bollinger, a recruiter like myself, articulated what great networking should look like as well as I’ve ever heard. She illustrates through real-life stories what most people do wrong, and gives terrific instruction and examples of what could be done right!
Her style of writing is very easy to digest, and the book is a quick read. Most importantly, however, page after page I was agreeing with her about networking blunders and what a highly effective meeting can look like. It takes preparation, and a conscientious effort to stay on track, and on time. She describes each in great detail.
While there certainly is a lot of great information out there about networking, this book is a direct, concise, and spot-on tutorial on how to do it well.
I have no stake in this book, and get no compensation if you buy it… but The 20-Minute Networking Meeting is a book well worth reading if you want your networking efforts to be far more productive!
Everyone likes being efficient. And most people feel somewhat awkward in meeting new people.
So, most people in a job search try to do their “networking” online and over the phone. It seems more efficient in being able to get to more people faster, and it’s less intimidating to send someone an email than to meet face-to-face.
Results, however, are FAR greater from those face-to-face meetings than countless phone calls and emails.
Do they take more time, effort and risk? Definitely. However, the potential outcomes far exceed the alternatives!
Contemplate these considerations…
You’ve got their attention!
There is no substitute for gaining someone’s full attention than to meet them face-to-face. Email responses are easy to procrastinate, and it’s easy to be distracted while on the phone. A meeting in-person, however, becomes more personal and requires more engagement. When they are fully engaged, it’s easier for things to pop to mind for them in your discussion. People, companies, ideas and recommendations come up that they would never have thought of from quickly reviewing an email or partially listening to a phone call.
You have an opportunity to make a better impression
In an email, they have no idea whether you make a professional personal impression or not. In a phone conversation, while you may sound professional, they have no idea whether you might be inclined to show up to a business meeting in a suit or in slippers and a robe. In a face-to-face meeting, they can see how you present yourself, and can gain a greater sense of confidence in referring you to their additional business acquaintances. Professionalism matters. People always make judgments that affect whether they are willing to refer you to others or not. The best way to create the right impression, is in-person.
You have more time
While a networking meeting should never take a great deal of time out of a person’s day, a 20 or 30 minute meeting is certainly likely to be longer than you would have their attention in an email or on the phone. The additional time can be used very effectively to learn more about them, allow them to understand your skills and objectives better, and think about ideas, advice and referrals.
Be deliberate in seeking meetings, and be deliberate in how you run them. You are the one that asked for the meeting, so the burden is on you to run it efficiently. Don’t expect your contact to drive the conversation or know what you want. Be concise, be professional, be direct, and humbly ask for what you are seeking.
There are ample other materials about how to do an effective meeting. However, be sure to get as many meetings as you can!
There is no substitute for face-to-face networking meetings!
The degree of sway it has, however, has a lot to do with the likelihood it will be read. A note that isn’t read, has minimal impact. There is still a positive impression made, however, it’s not likely to make much more difference beyond that.
Adhering to a few concepts when crafting a note can greatly improve its effectiveness…
Brevity is a virtue!
As mentioned in multiple pieces I’ve written… Brevity is a virtue! Writing concisely, in “short-substantive soundbites”, makes for better cover letters, resumes, and thank you notes.
We live in an information-rich world. Business people in particular and bombarded daily with things to read… a seemingly endless stream of emails, letters, memo’s, news, and reports. Most business people quickly learn that it’s impossible to thoroughly read everything, so they decide what’s important, and what they can skim, or skip altogether.
When a new email, letter, card, or other form of written communication comes in they look at it and make a decision quickly. If it’s long, with big blocks of text, the likelihood that it will be read in any depth is infinitesimal. Unless it’s critical to the current work they are doing, they will likely do a very brief scan, and move on to their next message.
They’ll notice who it came from, and they’ll think well of the person that sent it. However… no matter how powerfully it was written, if it isn’t read, it has no impact!
If they look at the message and see that it’s a quick read, the likelihood of them reading it in its entirety increases dramatically. Brevity is a virtue!
Professionalism and conscientiousness matter
Even when a meeting or interview went exceptionally well, the conversation flowed easily, and things just seemed to click personally… the decision to refer someone to another professional contact, or to hire them, is still a business decision.
A Thank You note that is too assumptive about a relationship, too casual, or careless can do more harm than good.
Write the note with a professional tone and respect. Be very careful to write well. No mistakes, typo’s, or texting acronyms… “ROTFL” does not convey professionalism!
When a networking contact thinks about referring someone to another contact they know, or when an employer considers hiring someone, they think about whether the person will improve their own professional reputation or not. An overly informal or careless note can be deleterious!
Briefly accentuate one key qualification
Highlighting a particular skill, strength, or characteristic that is a critical requirement for the role is an effective way of reminding them of the value you bring. Rehashing a number of minor qualifications does little, to nothing, to confirm your fit. However, reminding them of a qualification that is at the heart of the need for the role goes a long way to solidify credibility!
What it looks like…
An example of an effective note, letter, or email may look something like:
Thanks again for your time and consideration at our meeting today!
Thank you, also, for sharing details of the challenges you’ve been facing in the implementation of the new ERP system. We faced comparable challenges in gathering requirements from key stakeholders. In the process, I learned how to lead tighter meetings and put a greater focus on results while continuing to build strong working relationships.
The opportunity to put the skills I learned into practice in your organization is very appealing to me. I look forward to hearing from you and taking next steps soon!
Short, direct, and with one impactful selling point.
An effective Thank You note can have a wonderfully positive affect on your prospects of a job offer. Send them every time, and do them right!
Do Thank You Notes Really Matter???
I’ve written much about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude during a job search. It impacts every step of the process, from networking, to writing a resume, to interviews and follow up.
One aspect of a poor attitude I have not discussed before, however, is how particularly destructive discouragement can be to the process.
I have spoken to many job seekers where discouragement has torpedoed their potential success in their quest for a new position. They’ve allowed discouragement to cloud their view of their skills, their value, their talent, and certainly their confidence.
Conversations I’ve had, often with formerly highly successful and effective professionals, have shown that they are no longer looking at the world as it is, but rather through a fog of self-doubt and sometimes bitterness. As a result, discouragement too often leads to more discouragement.
Discouragement snuffs out the flame of a can-do attitude.
When one is discouraged, it often manifests itself in a lack of interest or confidence in potential opportunities. Jobs that might otherwise seem a worthy challenge or an intriguing opportunity, now seem mundane, unappealing, or a poor fit. The discouraged state of mind taints the view of potential roles that do arise. That lack of interest keeps one from pursuing viable opportunities because they don’t seem as appealing as they might otherwise. That lack of interest in a prospective position comes across poorly in the interview process and leads to a greater likelihood of an outcome that is even more discouraging.
Discouragement breeds self-doubt.
Not only do jobs look less enticing than they might otherwise, the self-confidence to feel qualified to do various jobs fails as well. When someone deals poorly with rejection from job interviews, they often begin to doubt that their experience, skills, and abilities have any value at all. While a job may fit well, a discouraged person constantly questions whether they can really live up to the expectations. That self-doubt leads to rejecting opportunities, and being rejected when they project a lack of confidence in their ability during interviews.
Discouragement can become a downward spiral.
Unfortunately, when someone becomes greatly discouraged in their job search, it can turn into a sinking cycle that seems to never end. Someone that is not chosen for a couple of opportunities they had their hearts set on, begins to lose confidence, that leads to a poorer presentation at their next interviews, which leads to more rejection, which leads to a greater sense of unemployability, which leads to longer term unemployment, and so on… and so on. Allowing oneself to wallow in discouragement typically makes a bad situation even worse.
Don’t let it happen!
While it may sound overly simplistic, the best strategy to beat discouragement, is to not let it set in to begin with! Too often, in the job search process, the results are taken too personally. More often than not, an employer doesn’t reject a particular candidate specifically, but rather picks the one they believe has the best combination of skills, experience, and culture fit. Any one candidate doesn’t generally know who their competition is. When they are not selected, rather than looking at it as a personal rejection, they should see it for the truth as it is… there simply was someone else that happened to fit better.
Constantly reminding oneself of appropriate concepts often helps:
- Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
- You can CHOOSE how you view and react to the fact that you didn’t get a job
- How you react will have a great impact on your next prospects
- You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest!
- You usually can’t keep negative thoughts from popping in your mind
- You can, however, determine whether you will dwell on those negative thoughts or not
- Maintaining a positive attitude is one of the most difficult yet most important things you can do for a successful job search.
- Keeping in mind how critical a positive attitude is, will help you choose to react in a positive way when things don’t go as planned
Discouragement can lead to more discouragement. Decide today that you will do what’s necessary to keep from falling into that downward spiral!
While I’ve written on this topic before, it’s become top of mind for me again as I have a son preparing to go to college this Fall.
Much has been written about the enormous unemployment rates of new college grads. It’s not a new problem, but rather one that’s been growing over the past decade or more. New grads consistently experience unemployment rates two to three times higher than the overall national average.
Conventional wisdom tends to point to challenging economic conditions. The reality in my opinion, however, has more to do with the kind of education so many graduates received that hinders their employment prospects.
Historically, much smaller percentages of high school graduates went on to college. When someone did, they were viewed as an obviously superior choice over someone that had no degree, regardless of their major. A good liberal arts education was viewed as valuable as a more technical or career related discipline because it still showed that the person could complete a long-term goal.
Information Systems positions, for example, were often filled by a variety of educational backgrounds with the idea that if they hire a smart person, the technical skill education can be provided by the employer. In today’s world, however, when there are greater numbers of graduates with directly related degrees, it becomes much more difficult to compete with an unrelated education.
Additionally, enrollment in “studies” programs have mushroomed in the last decade. Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Latin-American Studies, Folk Studies, Asian Studies and so many more may be interesting, however, have very few prospects in the job market.
A prevailing idea that getting a degree, any degree, will assure career prospects and success is simply not proven in today’s marketplace.
In today’s reality, greater numbers of high school students than ever go on to obtain a college education. While that is definitely a positive development, it means that competition for jobs that require a college education is stiffer than ever.
If an employer is considering a number of applicants, some of whom have a degree directly related to the position at hand, and some who have a more general or unrelated degree, the choice becomes obvious. If a Software Development Manager that is hiring a new Programmer considers some applicants that have graduated with Computer Science, or Software Engineering degrees and already have some training in the software languages the company uses, compared to others that appear smart, however, have degrees in Russian Literature, Women’s Studies, or even Physics, it becomes an easy choice when selecting who to interview.
Certainly there can be a great personal value in gaining a college education for the sake of personal development. However, when a four-year degree generally costs between $50,000 and $100,000 or sometimes much more, there are few cases where that kind of investment makes sense without a potential return on investment.
More than ever, direct career related degrees are critical to gain employment in today’s market. The unemployment rate among new graduates in Accounting, Engineering, Computer Science, Medicine, Finance, Hospitality Management, Emergency Management, and many others is incredibly low.
A college degree, in and of itself, is no longer a ticket to higher earnings or automatic job prospects. The return on investment in non-career related degrees is dismal. While pursuing a degree program of great interest can feel worthwhile, the job prospects for the program ought to be considered if a job is the goal.
The kind of education matters!
It’s not unusual for someone to ask me why they don’t get any calls from recruiters from their LinkedIn profile. They have a 100% rating on their profile from LinkedIn, yet they don’t seem to get anyone inquiring with job opportunities.
As I’ve written several times before… there has never been a tool for a job search as powerful as LinkedIn has become the last few years. However, it is not the automatic panacea for every job seeker.
Usually the problem arises because they don’t think through how they are likely to get found or contacted from a recruiter or potential employer.
As LinkedIn approaches 300 MILLION users, it ought to be apparent that no one randomly browses through profiles to find potential candidates for jobs they would like to fill. They realistically only find people they want through targeted keyword searches, and generally only contact people when it’s clear they are a very close fit or it’s obviously easy to reach out to them.
Many profiles are very descriptive of what kind of person the LinkedIn user is, but little to nothing about what their skills or marketable experience is. When a recruiter or potential employer does a keyword search… they almost certainly never use keywords describing personality traits or personal strengths! They are highly unlikely to enter keywords like “strategic”, “dynamic”, “hard-worker”, “effective-communicator”, or other such descriptive terms. Instead, keywords are virtually always going to be concentrated on hard-skills or experience with specific tools, industries, processes, or education like professional counselling courses. Those keywords will obviously vary by position, however, as an example for an accountant, they may include terms like “CPA”, “SOX”, “GAAP”, “Accounts Payable”, “Oracle”, or others.
Regardless of how qualified an individual may be, if their profile doesn’t include keywords that an employer is using to find candidates, that users’ profile will never appear in any search, and consequently not be contacted. To improve the chances of being contacted, be sure the profile includes the most relevant keywords that are likely to be used to find someone with your background.
Similarly, if they don’t have sought after skills listed on their profile, either because they haven’t listed them or haven’t gained the experience, they will also not likely be found.
Another consideration is how easy, or difficult, it is for an employer to contact them. LinkedIn only allows someone to see a users contact information if they are direct / 1st level connections. If the employer sees a profile that is an obvious fit, they are likely to use LinkedIn’s communication options to contact the person. However, if the person looks interesting, but not an obvious fit, the recruiter, or employer are likely to move on to other candidates… UNLESS it’s obvious that it would be easy to connect! Including an email address and/or phone number in the Summary section at the top of the profile makes it easy for them to reach out. While the recruiter may not want to use up an Inmail on a questionable candidate, they are far more likely to connect directly if contact information is readily visible. Make it easy to be contacted!
Out of nearly 300 Million profiles on LinkedIn, not everyone is likely to be contacted for potential opportunities. Using LinkedIn as a tool FIND the contacts at targeted companies is of tremendous value and the unique value LinkedIn brings to job seekers. Determining how to maximize your chances of being contacted, as well as how to use LinkedIn in additional ways will take advantage of the awesome tool it is.
One significant downside to the wide use of the internet and Google for many job seekers is the ability for potential employers to find information about them online.
Particular younger job seekers who may be active on social media, it’s not uncommon to have a large number of pictures posted online over a period of a few years. College pranks, parties, and activities often provide ample opportunity to share “funny” pictures with friends.
The problem obviously is… employers may not see those pictures as so funny.
Surely they must understand that college is college… and that you’ve matured beyond that now! Well… some might, and many won’t!
What you post… or friends post of you online MAY have a very negative lasting affect on your career for years to come.
Prior to the internet, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, and other venues online, youthful indiscretion was usually undocumented, and easily forgotten. Today, those same indiscretions are often immortalized and very difficult to erase. They can, and are searched, and seen by people you might least like to see them.
While I’ve written on aspects of this topic before, it’s worth repeating because it has such a negative impact on so many careers.
Surveys show that a majority of employers Google potential employees at some point in the hiring process. What they find certainly has an impact on their decision to hire a particular candidate, or not. The candidate will never know why they may have been rejected for a role, however, it’s not at all unusual that the decision to pass was a direct result of what was found.
The adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is certainly true in those circumstances. Whether the judgment made is fair or not, doesn’t really matter. The negative result of not getting the job is the consequence. Subjective decisions on a host of factors are what always determine why one candidate is selected over another.
While sharing what seem to be fun, comical, and otherwise unprofessional pictures online are your right, seemingly harmless, and a common thing to do, they can affect your career and your life in very negative ways.
Furthermore, it can be very difficult to “clean them up” or remove them later. It is often a great challenge or impossible to remove pictures from the internet once they’ve been posted. They are often copied to other sites, stored in multiple domains, or cached in search engines.
What may have been posted impulsively in a moment of ‘fun’ can become a permanent hindrance to gaining future opportunities!
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem for people in college, or people that can claim a moment of youthful indiscretion. People in every age range have increasingly become careless about the things they post online, and the consequences are often damaging.
If you are one who does have pictures posted online that can be interpreted in very negative ways, doing what you can to remove them can have a positive effect on your career and other areas of your life.
If you haven’t posted anything that can hurt you in your career… be very conscious of the potential consequences and post pictures with discernment.
When you are in a job hunt, pictures matter!
I got a call from a job seeker that was having a hard time deciding between two job opportunities he had available to him. He was looking for advice to help him decide which one to choose.
It was no easy choice, because the two opportunities were very different and would send his career in distinctly separate directions.
Making the right choice is usually a very personal decision that someone else can’t and shouldn’t make for you. It may, however, be very helpful to use others as a sounding board and consider their opinions and insights.
In the case of the phone call I got, the job seeker had an opportunity to take a big promotion at his current company that involved a big raise and greater responsibility that was somewhat attractive to him. The other opportunity was in a field that was very attractive to him, however, at almost half the pay of the promotion he would receive.
Neither option was a bad choice, however, would send his career in different directions that would likely have ramifications for the rest of his working life.
So how should you make the right choice?
There are several things to consider…
What are your financial requirements?
Having two, or more options is great… however, if one of them doesn’t pay enough to pay your existing bills each month, then it’s probably not really an option at all. If it’s a role that is so attractive to you otherwise that you’d be willing to completely restructure your financial commitments, it’s something that you should very carefully consider. No matter how attractive a job is, life can become very stressful if you find yourself falling behind financially from month to month.
What is most interesting to you?
The job that’s most appealing in terms of responsibilities, industry, and organization’s culture should certainly be considered thoroughly. The job that energizes you the most and makes you want to get out of bed each morning can do much for your well being.
Which offers the best growth potential?
While a job may seem attractive now, will it grow with you and be as interesting and challenging a few years from now? A job that you outgrow, or becomes boring in a near term and there are no real opportunities for growth is not likely to be a great choice for the long run.
Which sets you up better for the next job?
It’s common to hope that the job you pick will be the last job you’ll ever have to look for. However, the reality is that things change. The organization may need to lay people off at some point, they may be acquired, or close, or the culture may change to the point that it’s not attractive anymore. Will the experience you gain there make you more marketable to other companies, or less? The future prospects that the position opens for you is an important consideration.
What does your gut tell you?
While it shouldn’t be the only consideration… it would be foolish to ignore what your gut tells you about the options. If one option gives you a sense of restlessness, or heartburn, and the other seems exciting and “feels” right, it may be the answer. Just be sure it’s what you truly believe, and not just a reaction to a bad burrito!
So, if you have a choice to make between two or more job opportunities… consider all the different aspects of each role, make your decision with confidence and don’t look back!
I had a discussion with a senior level executive recently about the best way they can find a new job. I was encouraging them to network with as many people as they can to gain information, leads, and referrals.
They were cynical of the recommendation. They pushed back saying… It seems like a waste of time talking to a bunch of people to see if they know about a possible job opening when there are so many jobs posted online that you know are open!
Logically, they were right! It does seem inefficient to be networking to find possible openings when there seems to be so many actual openings easily accessible.
This person, like many others I talk to had already been looking for quite a while. So my question back to them was… How’s that been working for you?
Most people, in their job search, do the same as most others… they search online job postings endlessly, apply for job after job, and get discouraged because of the lack of results. They occasionally get phone screens, or even in-person interviews, however, rarely ever actually land a job.
The reason? Because once a job is posted online, every other job seeker is now aware of it as well, and the competition is staggering! Even if you are a great fit, it is so easy to get lost among the sea of other applicants, whether they are qualified or not. There are a great number of people that apply for a mountain of jobs, even if they are not qualified, hoping they may get lucky and something will stick. When your resume lands in the online application system, even if you are the best fit for the role, it’s easy to be missed.
What’s achieved in networking is finding, and being considered for positions before the rest of the world knows about it, or to gain an opportunity to make contact with a decision maker rather than just remain a piece of online data along with the sea of other applicants!
When you are one of a small handful of candidates, rather than one of dozens or hundreds, your odds of landing a role are dramatically improved.
Surveys consistently show that jobs are filled within organizations through some form of referrals or networking at overwhelmingly greater rates than any other form of recruiting.
So ask yourself… If that’s how most jobs are filled, why wouldn’t I spend most of my time pursuing that avenue?
Those same surveys show that 12% or less of open positions are filled through response from job advertising, online or otherwise. If the percentage is so low, why would you spend the vast majority of time pursuing those postings?
The key to effective networking is to help your contact see how they can be of help in additional ways beyond simply telling you about open jobs. Most contacts you encounter understand that you’re interested in hearing about appropriate job openings, but they’re not likely aware of what jobs are out there, even in their own organizations. It doesn’t necessarily occur to them though, that you may also be open to additional contacts, or company information, or referrals to other organizations. It’s your job to help them help you!
While it may seem inefficient to network for your new job rather than pursue online postings, the reality is your results are likely to be dramatically better. Sometimes, the counter-intuitive solution is the most effective!