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!

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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.

My blog today is all about thanking five great career experts and bloggers I follow.  This is my #FollowSundaythroughSaturday list.   

1. Debra Wheatman @debrawheatman  The career coaching reputation Deb has created with http://careersDoneWrite.com is inspiring to say the very least.   Her blog is no nonsense, and her enthusiasm for coaching great people towards great careers is contagious.   

2. JT O’Donnell @jtodonnell and @careerealism  This career management guru’s energy amazes me.  She works with the very best in career experts, and if you can’t find the answers at www.careerealism.com, then I would bet you are asking the wrong question. This is simply the one-stop shop of career resources.  I read her daily updates every morning before I read the morning newspaper.  You must join her email newsletter list my friends.

3. Brent Peterson @interviewangel Look for Brent’s work at www.interviewangel.com.  I had the pleasure of hearing Brent speak at the National Association of Colleges and Employers National Conference last summer in Orlando, FL and am looking forward to meeting Brent again next month in Dallas.   I always look forward to Brent’s blog and Twitter updates. 

4. Kirk Baumann @kbaumann  Kirk and I have many common interests such as helping the next generation of college graduates find their career passion, Students in Free Enterprise and FOOTBALL!  Kirk is exactly what he notes on his Twitter bio:  a Social Media Enthusiast.  If Kirk doesn’t know someone, I would bet he knows someone who knows that person.  This guy is CONNECTED!  His blog at http://campus-to-career.com is a must add to your blogroll. 

5. Diane Gottsman @dianegottsman  Diane’s Protocol School of Texas http://protocolschooloftexas.com is sharing etiquette wisdom with every age group of life.  She receives rave reviews from her work with children to college students to business executives.  I was so honored to have Diane here at Texas A&M speaking to the Mays Business School Fulltime MBA Program last fall.  The company tag line says it best:  A Better Way to a Better You.

This might be a short list of must-follows, but it is a most powerful one.  Please follow these experts, and I promised you be inspired and find yourself looking to learn more.

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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How’s the weather?

October 14, 2010

Do you ever find it difficult to engage in small talk?  How do you feel  when you walk into a room full of people you don’t know?  Do you stand on the sidelines waiting for someone to come and talk to you?  How do you engage in conversation?

It’s easy…just start talking and asking questions.  Okay, maybe it’s not that easy, but the savviest conversationalists ask lots of questions.  They show genuine interest in the other person; they laugh at any jokes; they think of ways to understand and compliment the situation.  They seem to know every current event and historical moment in time.  You almost want to be a fly on the wall to watch them in action.

Well, you can do it too.  How? 

1. Read – Take a few minutes out of each day to catch up on current events in your field.  (Networking tip:  If you find something interesting about a company in which you have a contact, be sure to “ping” them by sending them the information.)  Pay attention to things you overhear from TV, the newspaper, people chatting on the street, and things you hear in any training sessions; jot things down that you need to look up or interesting tidbits of information.  All of these things can provide you with interesting topics to use as you engage in conversation. Do your research – If you are going to a meeting with a large group of people, research the topic at hand, the people invited, and utilize Linked In to find out about those people, their companies, interests and way in which you share commonalities. 

2. Know yourself – Remember that a conversation goes both ways so have interesting things to talk about.  What are you good at?  What are your talents?  Why are you interesting?

3. Engage – You’ve got to go for it.  Begin the conversation by introducing yourself, and then allow the other person to introduce himself or herself so that you can include his/her name in the conversation.  It shows that you are interested in that person. 

What about when you walk into a room of people you don’t know and you are supposed to be there to “network”…what do you do?   Now, if you are like me, you like to take in the situation, stand back for a little bit to assess the situation before engaging…somewhat like a Lioness before she leaps for her kill…only kidding.  I really like to look at the room, the people in the room, and the organization of the people to decide where I want to begin, and then I approach a group or person and introduce myself and take it from there.  One of my wonderful mentors told me something that really resonates with me regarding engaging with people in a group setting.  Think in terms of putting the other person at ease.  They are just as nervous and unsure of themselves as you, but you can help with that by being the one to initiate the conversation.

4. Listen –  Ahh the lost art of listening…There is nothing worse than someone who completely dominates every conversation.  Listen and allow them to tell their stories.  Act interested and entertain questions.

5. And finally, Practice, Practice, Practice…oh and have I mentioned that you need to practice?  Just go for it!  If it flops…oh well!  Try again with someone new, taking in what you learned from the last experience.  If the conversation is not going where you want it and you have Dudley Doorknob on the other side, just excuse yourself politely and make a restroom stop or grab a drink.  Then you can engage with someone new.  Not every conversation you have will be a great conversation with small talk, deep insight, and magical inspiration.  Learn from each of your conversations. 

Before you know it, you will be the King or Queen of small talk! 

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Last week, Cindy passed on a very interesting blog from Hannah Morgan that consisted of a checklist for a job search. See http://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/02/check-list-for-a-job-search.html

This is a very good list for the professionals in today’s marketplace because, as we know, people are not staying with organizations as long as they used to.  It is important for the professional/job seeker to maintain a robust culmination of well-crafted job search tools.  In addition to absolutely everything on this list, I argue there is one very important omission that should be near the top of the list.  It is something that can close the deal or close the door within 5 seconds.  It is a person’s professional image.

I manage a large number of professional-level Master’s students each year, and it is not coincidental that often times the students who struggle the most finding a position are also those who struggle with presenting a polished professional image.  This is not always the case, but it occurs often enough to be recognized.  Some professionals have a natural knack for creating a polished and professional image, while others struggle to grasp what kind of investment it takes to create an image that promotes their “brand” instead of one that hinders it.

I have had students, friends, and coworkers that are so incredibly intelligent, well spoken, driven, organized, essentially have everything listed on items 1-21 of the checklist, but struggle with presenting themselves as a crisp and polished professional.  Studies have shown that image is an incredible determinant of success in business.  In business, everyone is selling something…whether it be a service, product, or information but regardless people want to purchase from people who are well put together.  So businesses want to hire people who are well put together.

My addition to the magnificent list presented by Hannah is for every Job seeker to have some sort of image profile done, whether that be professionally or by someone you can trust to be honest with you and by someone who has the credibility to give the feedback.

The saying is true, “You feel how you look” so why not take the extra step to make sure you are always at your professional best.

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