Joining groups on LinkedIn can be a very profitable opportunity for building relationships and gaining information for job seekers if used effectively.  Job seekers often ask me how to meet people on LinkedIn, and I can tell you right now that asking people you do not know to add you to their contacts list isn’t the way to go.  Here is a quick list of 7 things you can do to create a professional presence in your LinkedIn Groups which will result in building your contact base.

  1. Introduce yourself on the group.  Let everyone know you have joined and what you hope to learn from the content discussed.
  2. Join in on conversations in the group.  Comment on what you are learning or maybe add something you have recently read. 
  3. Watch the LinkedIn and online activity of the other members of the group.  See what others are doing and try to emulate when appropriate.
  4. Look for group member’s blogs and be sure to comment every now and then. 
  5. Ask to connect with members of the group once you have established yourself.  This might take a few weeks or a few months.  You just want to make sure you don’t join the group and immediately start asking everyone to be your contact.
  6. Follow the companies of group members and show interest in the companies represented.  The people involved in groups all belong to potential employers. Always remember that very important fact.
  7. If joining a group for an association, look for information on national conferences and either attend or join in on discussions for those not attending.  A growing trend is group conversations for those not attending a conference.  Look for twitter hash tags. 

Building a professional reputation online isn’t about increasing your number of contacts alone.  You have to prove that you are interested in what others have to say and that you want to learn from the experts.  Remember the simple rule of effective networking is showing you care more about other’s needs than your own.

Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If this is the case, then insanity is rampant amongst job seekers today.

Are you frustrated that no one is responding to the dozens of resumes you are submitting online? Do you find yourself discouraged at attending career fairs only to be told to apply online and then nothing happen? Not only is this unsuccessful practice a form of insanity, but the frustration will lead you to insanity as well.

Get off of this hamster wheel. The job search process is frustrating enough. There is too much in life you can’t control, so focus what you can control. If something is not working in regards to your job search strategy, then change it. Here are a few quick tips to increase an effective job search process.

  1. Talk with a career coach: Career Coaches have the experience. These experts know the job search process across industry and functional area of business. They know the pulse of business today and work to guide job seekers towards the goal of finding employment. Visit www.careerealism.com for a solid list of professional career coaches.
  2. NETWORK: I can just imagine all of the eye rolls are reading my recommendation to network. Simply put, networking is the key to finding employment. Remember that applying for positions online is only a piece of the process. It is not THE process. Too many job seekers spend their time only applying online. If this is your approach, you are missing the most important step which is to connect with real human beings. Humans hire; systems track candidates.
  3. 3. Build a solid and professional online presence. Your LinkedIn profile should be a comprehensive marketing story of your past successes and future abilities. You should have a strong presence on Twitter making sure you are following industry professionals and employers of interest. Use Hashtags to search for conferences in your field in which you cannot attend. Get involved and be seen. To learn the very best tips on social networking, please read Miriam Salpeter’s book “Social Networking for Career Success”.

I recently read that job seekers should stop focusing on pushing our resumes for a successful job search and instead draw people to you. The former is how you put yourself on that job search hamster wheel. You will keep running in place without getting anywhere near your goal. Get off the hamster wheel and stop the insanity in your job search and career management. Stop doing the same thing and expect different results.

While it has been close to two years since I opened a Twitter account, it has been about a year since I have been active on Twitter.   I love Twitter!  It is the fastest, most effective way I have found to browse information that interests me and connect with other professionals.  Twitter has been an instrumental resource in elevating my passion and understanding of my profession to a whole new level.  Thank you Twitter!

I must say, however, that one of the most difficult things for me to grasp about Twitter was the #hashtag.  Trying to figure out what #FF means is a day I will not forget.  I was so confused, but once I learned the concept and how to effectively use hashtags, I was off to the races.  In my work, I have found two major areas in which hashtags have helped the most. 

(1)  Network and learn what is happening in your profession:  Along with dozens of other attendees of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) National Conference last week, I tweeted what I learned from speakers and colleagues throughout the event using the #NACE11 hashtag. Twitter and the hashtag brought the conference to those who could not attend the event, and I found great use in the hashtag search in learning what others were hearing.  This hashtag alone strengthened my connection with fellow Tweeters and those not attending.  My grade for the #NACE11 hashtag is an A+!

(2)  Join others in chats on the jobsearch:  Some of the best trending hashtags for job seekers include:  #career, #jobsearch, #jobseeker, #resume, #coverletters and the list goes on and on.  However, you can also find the best job search discussions with hashtags for professional chats.  Some of my favorite chats to follow include:  #internchat, #tchat, #hfchat and #careerchat. 

Using hashtags to get connected to conversations and information also helps you identify key people and organizations to follow.  Professional activity with Twitter and the use of hashtags can have a positive domino effect in your professional development and increase your business network.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Trust me!

My favorite time of the year of professional development is upon me.  I am getting ready to attend the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) National Conference in Dallas next week.  What a great time to connect with current friends and colleagues and meet new ones in both the career services and college recruiting family.  I return home from this conference every year with great new contacts, pages of notes, tons of energy and somehow a great sense of relaxation as well.   As you prepare for any professional development conferences this year, please follow these 6 musts:

1.  Join pre-conference conversations through the organization website or Twitter.  Start connecting with those who are attending the conference which builds energy for the event and offers opportunities to schedule side-meetings as well.  I also love that Twitter allows non-attendees a way to stay connected to the event.  In today’s economy, many organizations are tightening financial belts and Twitter has helped keep those not attending as connected as possible. 

2.  Plan your schedule.  Research the keynote presenters and know which breakout sessions and receptions you will be attending.  By planning your schedule, you have an idea what your expected outcome will be for the event.  You have heard the saying “plan your work and work your plan” so make sure you know what you are doing to do during the conference and then go do it.   

3. Never Eat Alone:  Not to steal the title of Keith Ferrazzi’s best-selling book, but this concept should be the first commandment of attending conferences.  Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone else attending the conference.  I even suggest you split your dining time between current and new colleagues. 

4. Followup with people after the conference:  Warren Barhorst, author of Game Plan, talks about acting within 72 hours of learning something new.  Either send emails or handwritten notes within 72 hours of returning home from a conference.  Collecting business cards does not do a bit of good if you are only going to take them back your office and stuff them into a drawer. Take the time to connect with the person you met or a colleague you hadn’t seen in a long time.  

5.  Send thank you notes to the organizers and speakers.  If you have ever planned an event or spoken at a conference, you know the amount of time put into producing the product.  Send notes to those who invested so much in making sure your experience was fulfilling. 

6.  Share what you learned with your co-workers and fellow members who could not attend.  Chances are, you gather some amazing nuggets of information and innovative ideas at your conference.  Bring it home and share.  Ask you coworkers to have lunch with you on your first day back to the office when your energy is high so you can share what you learned.  Tweet or blog about what you learned so that those who couldn’t attend or potential new members to the organization can grasp a piece of the experience.     

The purpose of professional conferences is to share information.  Make the most of your experience and do the same.

I often hear introverts say that they are poor networkers.  I completely disagree.  Introverts are some of the best networkers because they usually spend more time listening to what is being said in a conversation rather than waiting to interject his or her thoughts. 

Great relationships whether they are personal or professional stem from getting to know one another and building rapport. We, as people, want to be heard.  We trust people who hear us. I wrote a blog last year titled “Be Interested, Not Interesting” which proves my point in this blog.  If I’m intent on being interesting, I am concentrating on the wrong person in the conversation.  If I’m interested, then I’m focused on the right person because I’m listening. 

The reason introverts are so good at listening is that they are typically not the type of people to wait for the person talking to take a breath to interject with a story of their own.  Great listeners focus on the person talking and answer with questions about the story at hand rather than trying to trump that story with one of their own. 

How often have you talked with someone who focused on you and your story then walk away thinking you had a great conversation?  Of course you have.  On the flip side, have you ever talked with someone only to walk away thinking to yourself, “That person never shut up!”  Don’t be that person.  Use your listening skills to build your network in these three easy steps: 

  1. The next time you attend an event, focus your conversations on listening to what other people have to say and only respond with comments or questions directed to the person talking and not about yourself. 
  2. Send the person or people you met an email or hand written note the very next day and mention something discussed in your conversation as opposed to something about you. and….
  3. STAY IN TOUCH!  Don’t drop this potential contact.    

Be a great listener, and you will a trusted and respected colleague and friend.

Where’s the Beef?

March 28, 2011

Do you remember this series of commercials from Wendy’s in the 80’s?  The little old lady is standing next to her friends and they are staring at this massive bun, only to open it and find a little bitty beef patty.  What a disappointment!

Managing your brand is just like this.  You have to have a great package (hb bun), but the key is to also have a big juicy pattie in the middle. We don’t want to open the bun and find that there is no content, nothing to sink our teeth into, nothing to water in our mouths.  We want the real deal, flavors, thick meaty patties with all the fixins.

Job Seekers: It is great to be polished on the outside, but you have to know and understand the value of what is on the inside.  If I unravel that bow, I want to see something substantial in that gift.  Know yourself and what you have to offer.  It is great to be humble, but you still have to know what you have to offer. Know your skills.  If you don’t know your skills, ask people close to you what you are good at and see what they say. Take some professional or personality assessments to help provide the terminology to use to describe yourself.

And stop comparing yourself to other burgers. How could Wendy’s, Whataburger, and Burger King make it in the shadow of McDonalds’ success?  By not comparing, by being different, by differentiating themselves, but knowing what they have to offer and to whom they want to offer their product.

So I encourage you to not only package your professional image well, but really focus on what you have to offer a prospective employer.  Google a list of skills and circle the ones you think you are good at.  Then think of tangible examples of how you have demonstrated those skills within your professional or academic work.

And don’t forget…Always show me the beef!

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For your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75diEyiA0

Not Go-Getter…GO-GIVER

March 23, 2011

In every encounter and every situation, think about ways you can help. And think of it in terms that do not directly benefit you. I read a book a while ago called The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  This book was given to me as a gift from one of my mentors.  It is a short read, but it delivered such a profound message about how we should stop working for ourselves and begin working for the benefit of others.  In fact, this book delivers a method to begin doing just that.  I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, not just job seekers.

As a result of reading this book, I was able to reflect on my approach with my students, clients, family, and friends.  I have now given this book as a gift to many professionals and friends to aid in the development of their own professionalism and business perspective. Remember: it is through service to others that we find fulfillment and happiness.

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