Tag: business (Page 1 of 2)

Building The Brand: LinkedIn

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

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So, when I sat down to write this post on building a personal brand using LinkedIn, I had a few false starts. Over the course of the past few months, LinkedIn has played a pretty big part of my activities online, so I needed to find my focus before writing about how I actually utilize this network. First, it started with someone sending me information about a job that I should apply for. Then, a friend asked me about how to beef up her profile and another asked for help on using the LinkedIn advertising network. Finally, last week, I got a promotion at work. Needless to say, my profile needed to be spruced up.

As for what to do with your LinkedIn profile, well, therein lies the challenge. If you’re already active on Facebook and Twitter, you might not want to jump right in to being active on another network. But if you’re job searching and want an opportunity to get some attention, you should absolutely be a presence on LinkedIn. For me, LinkedIn is where I get my industry questions answered. It’s also a place for me to establish a bit of credibility because really, at the end of the day, that’s what your online reputation is all about.

So, let’s dive into the three main parts of LinkedIn that I think are critical to personal branding: your profile, LinkedIn Answers, and LinkedIn Groups.

The first thing that you should know about LinkedIn is that it allows for you to announce your skills to the world, as well as the network you’ve built on there. Skills such as public speaking, writing, and marketing are just a few of the things you can emphasize when you put together your LinkedIn profile and luckily, this is a network that is very flexible. With tons of apps to be added to your profile, searchable skill sets, a resume-like setup, and the option for people to recommend you with testimonials, LinkedIn is a job searcher and networker’s best friend.  This is where professionals find each other. 

So, if you:

  • Are looking for a job,
  • Want to expand a skill set,
  • Need to build up your network,
  • Just graduated and need to start building a personal brand,
  • Want to improve your online visibility and reputation,
  • Want to establish yourself as an industry expert,
LinkedIn is the place to be.

LinkedIn Answers

One of my absolute favorite features of LinkedIn is the answers community. It’s sort of like Yahoo! Answers, only without the teenage drama. Most of the questions are industry or professional base, so in a way, you get to use this feature to pick the brains of people in the business without having to pay for a consulting fee. In the past, I’ve asked questions about copywriting, public relations pitching, and what books I should be reading outside of school, but really, you could ask about anything. If you have a question about what you should be doing or how to handle a professional or work-related issue, then this is a wonderful and free resource to consult. Plus, it’s a great way to expand your network.

When you participate in the LinkedIn Answers, you have the option to not just ask questions – you can answer them too. Answering questions and connecting with other professionals in this community is a great way to expand your personal network and show off your expertise. If someone sees that you’re a frequent presence in the Answers, they may come to know you as an expert in a particular subject or a resource in another. If they see you asking lots of questions, they may think that you’re someone who is always learning and inquisitive – two skills that can be a great match for a variety of positions. I mean, there’s no way to really tell how you’ll be perceived, but one thing is for sure: activity on LinkedIn will keep you at the forefront of your network’s minds and if you’re looking for a job, being on someone’s mind is a good thing.

Also, people want to connect with other knowledgeable people in their industry. When you show that you’re knowledgeable, people notice and may seek you out to connect with you to pick your brain, offer you a job, or just say, “hello.” All good things.

My Profile

Now, when it comes to your LinkedIn profile, this is where the personal branding business comes in. If you look at my LinkedIn page, you’ll see that I’ve filled it out almost in its entirety. Taking advantage of the space it offers is a good thing for me, since it gives you a much more well-rounded and complete picture of someone. There’s only so much a resume can tell you. LinkedIn lets you be creative and more importantly, expand upon those resume items that you usually note in your online profiles: position name, company, dates worked.

As for best practices, here are my biggest takeaways:

  • Underneath your name, in the headline, that’s reputation gold. Most LinkedIn users will notice your headline, name, and photo in quick succession and those are the things they remember (in my ultimate geekyness, I actually read a study about this a few weeks ago). So, for that headline, make it count. Most people go with their current job title, but you can also get creative with it.
  • In your profile, I think it’s also good to list some of your responsibilities and experiences to go along with your job, just like you would a resume. Maybe put 3-5 or so points below each position held, detailing what you did as well as any significant successes (e.g. Aided in coordinating Project X; grew budget by 50%, etc.).  This gives dimension to the jobs you’ve listed and can be a great way to emphasize what you can do.
  • Don’t forget about the Skills section. Add in specific skills, like Microsoft Word, as well as more “abstract” skills, like marketing, communication, project management, organization, public speaking, etc. These are things that people look at and say, “Hey, this is someone that could really fit well with the organization.”
  • Choose a professional picture. For the love of God, this is not Facebook. A simple head shot where you can clearly make out that it’s you will do. Aside from the headline and your name, this is one of the most heavily viewed areas of your LinkedIn profile.
  • Beef up your additional information too. Don’t be afraid to share a wide array of interests. If you love cake decorating, say so! Really into yoga? Note it! Again, this is something that people can connect with you over. Plus, it gives a much more “human” side to your professional achievements.
  • Link to your Facebook, Twitter, website, etc. If content is part of what you do,  having touch points for people to find it is important.

You can also play around with different LinkedIn add-ons, like WordPress, SlideShare, Amazon Book List, etc. to add dimension as well as portfolio material. Anything that you can share to show another user who you are and how you’d fit in their network makes a difference.

Using the SlideShare LinkedIn app, I’ve added a copy of my portfolio. Granted, my portfolio is always a work in progress, but this was a great way for me to show a little bit more about the work I’ve done without cluttering up the page. My portfolio is just your basic PowerPoint presentation. I’ll get into my portfolio in more detail in another post, but the goal is to convey examples of some of my best work in a variety of media. That media option is HUGE when  you’re job searching because it eliminates that extra step for people finding your work. You put everything you want right in front of them. Convenience is a powerful thing.

Finally, get some recommendations.  People may give these to you without asking, but don’t be afraid to ask for them if you need them. You’ll want to reach out to your connections and try to get recommendations for your work personally, academically, and professionally. There’s a reason that word of mouth is so powerful. Recommendations make you more than a resume – they make you a person. They establish trust. They give a feel for what you’re like.

LinkedIn Groups

I love the groups feature. Just like Facebook Groups or Facebook Business Pages, LinkedIn groups is a place where you can connect with others, expand your network, and again, show off your industry expertise. If LinkedIn Answers is like the library, then LinkedIn Groups is like that coffee shop you really like. Conversation is the name of the game in Groups, so if you want to have some more in-depth discussion on a particular industry issue or get some thoughts or feedback on some of your recent work, a Group may be the place to do it.

Most groups are divided into categories based on geographic location, industry, interest, professional society, etc. There is no shortage of opportunity for you to connect over something you have in common with others. Groups (as well as Answers and your profile) can sometimes lead to job offers or introductions to new people. They can also result in real-life connections, speaking invitations, collaborative projects…the list really goes on and on.

I’m sometimes bad about participating in groups. I would say about 80 to 90 percent of the time, I’m a lurker. I’m observing the conversations taking place. I should really chime in more, but sometimes, it’s just nice to listen.

As for developing your LinkedIn presence, I could write about how I manage my page, how I expand my network, etc. But I’ll save those topics for other posts in the future. These are really the three core features that I feel are most important if you’re just getting started with LinkedIn or want to start making something of your page.

Thoughts? Feedback? Discussion is welcomed!

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How I Build My Personal Brand

Research on Iran. by Negar Mottahedeh Social M...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about personal branding, but it seems like now is the perfect time to do so. After completing the #Trust30 Challenge and writing a few reflective posts, I’m ready to get back into marketing, social media, and branding. It’s what I know best and feel most passionate about.

In previous posts and in some of my guest posts, you may have read about ways to strengthen your presence on LinkedIn, blog successfully, or utilize social media tools like Facebook to grow your brand, either as an individual or an organization. In this next series of posts, I’m going to share a behind the scenes look at what I use to grow my own personal brand, both online and offline.

Here’s what you can expect to hear from me:

  • Why I keep things PG-13 on Facebook
  • What social network I’m still exploring
  • Why I have two Twitter accounts
  • What’s in my portfolio
  • How I pay it forward
  • How I was a guest poster even before I got into blogging
I’m not a celebrity in social media by any means. What I’m writing about isn’t gospel, but it’s what’s working for me right now. I’m just sharing my perspective. Other opinions and points of view are welcome!
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Guest Post Round-Up: 9/13/2011

I’ve been busy guest blogging since my last guest post round-up, so I thought I’d update you all and shamelessly self-promote my creations :) . Check out some of my latest posts from around the interwebz.

My 7 Favorite Swipe File Tools

3 Summer Styles of Writing You Should Practice

It Ain’t Easy Being SEO Copy

Toss Out the Essay: The 7 Alternate Styles for SEO Copywriting

Your Relationship With the Muse: A Writer’s Intervention

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Google Search Results

Google, NPR, and Why You Should Vary Your Marketing, Part 2

Google Search Results

In my last post, I talked about what the Google Panda update meant for most sites. This post is going in a somewhat different direction.

Let’s talk collateral damage, or, the sites that got hit. Whether or not they should or shouldn’t have isn’t the matter at hand. Google’s official position on the matter is that no algorithm is perfect, but in this SEO’s eyes, I think there’s a little bit more that we can take away from here.

Search Matters

Google controls the lion’s share of search in this country and we all know this. In fact, most of us utilize Google as a tool on a daily basis. We search for movie times, gifts for our Mom, directions to a vacation destination, or even just that totally random information that gets stuck in our heads. You know what we do. We surf. I do it a lot, especially when Brent makes the declaration that he thinks a famous movie actor is dead and I have to show him that he is, in fact, alive and making movies.

Anyways, back to search. We use it on a daily basis and as a result, it’s become a powerful place for people to do business. A lot of money can be found in the search and online retailing industry. Consumers searching for something to buy can usually be found trolling Google for product reviews, prices, different color varieties…you get the picture.

So, it’s no wonder that so many people put their marketing weight into search in order to compete. It’s a tough marketplace out there and certain industries can be downright cutthroat. Money, time, and/or effort has to be spent on strengthening search presence. But when it comes to choosing WHAT strategies are actually worth investing in, this is where things get tricky. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s look at what makes doing business online different.

It Pays to Be Different

Let’s say you’re a site owner that sells hand carved coconut shells. You make them yourself and started this business first as a hobby. In fact, you used to carve coconut shells with your grandfather every weekend. After some time, friends and family started requesting orders for coconut shells and BAM! Suddenly you’re a business owner. So you take yourself online. You’re not the greatest copywriter of them all, but you’ve got a pretty interesting story behind your brand, so you write authentically about why you started your business. You tell people how you carve your coconuts and what inspires you. You share your successes and appreciation for their business with every Facebook status update and tweet. You don’t do a high volume of transactions yet, but people who buy from you tend to be repeat customers. Your selection is really small and the prices are a little high, but in your mind, people are getting something special.

Now, picture this: you’re now another site owner with thousands of products. You don’t actually make them, but instead, you’re a drop shipper. Those product descriptions telling people about your products? They came from the manufacturer. It would have taken too long to write something unique. And the story behind your brand? Well, you’re not quite sure how it all started, but one day, you decided to open an online store and it’s been a wild ride ever since. You don’t really do Facebook or Twitter – you’re not really sure what the point is. But you’re big and affordable and you sell a lot of products to a lot of people.

Now tell me: which site would you rather do business with?

Getting Into Business

I’ve seen people getting into online retailing for all of the wrong reasons. There’s a sad number of people who believe that once you put up a site, people will come. This isn’t the .com of dreams. It’s a real business. It has a storefront. It has a brand. It requires work. But most importantly, it requires marketing to make things happen.

BOTH the coconut carver and the drop shipper are examples of the collateral damage the Panda update caused. Business owners (yes, people like you) who had websites of all different shapes, sizes, and types were affected. Just check out the Google Forums and you’ll see everyone from large , ecommerce furniture stores to small, holistic medicine information sites were affected. Some of the reasons why were discussed in my last post (thin content, duplicate content, spammy SEO tactics, etc.) but I think it’s more important to take a look at what the sites were doing before Panda. Did they have a marketing strategy? Were they putting too much stock in SEO?  Were they even trying to market at all?

Varying Your Marketing

Now with the two site scenarios we described above, we saw one that had a lot of products and one that had a great story behind it. The cool thing about marketing is that BOTH sites can end up being successful if the right approach is taken. It would take some time and strategy, but it’s doable. Now, with Panda, we saw sites taken down some notches. Some only got knocked down a few results. Others got buried. As for who is surviving, only time will tell, but I tend to think that sites with varied marketing approaches are holding on a bit stronger.

SEO is a huge part of getting found online and I can bet that most ecommerce store owners put at least some thought into what they should be doing for SEO. But I don’t think it’s wise for a site to put all of its marketing weight behind one tactic, especially if it’s an established business. If you were a brick and mortar store, would you throw all of your advertising budget into just doing print ads? Marketing has to be varied and targeted. You just have to see what works and where you’re getting a return on investment. SEO can be tough in that aspect. Tactics like PPC have a much better chance of getting the attention of a customer who is further along in the buying cycle. SEO may attract the larger numbers, but there are some less qualified visitors coming in too. Not to mention, calculating ROI on SEO can be a bit of a challenge.

But what if a store owner only has a limited budget? What if it’s not economically viable to invest in multiple tactics? Some businesses may only be able to start out with focusing on one tactic. I guess in this case, I would say that if you absolutely must do only one thing, make sure it’s the right thing and then be disciplined enough to use some of those early profits to diversify marketing as soon as you can so that you’re not relying on one tactic forever. Knowing the right thing is the tough part, but I think if a business understands its audience well, finding that right tactic might be easier than one thinks.

It’s About Paying Attention and Being Flexible

My two cents? If you’re an ecommerce store owner that was affected by Panda, I think it’s time for you to examine your overall marketing strategy. Where could you be spending smarter? What areas have been neglected? Where do you need boosts? The most successful businesses are mindful of the needs of their audience and the health of their marketing efforts. Using that knowledge, successful businesses are flexible in mindset so that they are more nimble and responsive to changes than any other competitor. Ultimately, it’s not just being flexible that counts; it’s what you do with that mindset.

Panda is a wake up call to businesses that have dabbled in marketing but have never fully committed. It’s a reminder that you have to be focused, organized, and willing to put in the effort to be different.  It’s also a sign that it takes more than a storefront to do business online. You need:

  • Content that engages and offers value.
  • A trustworthy brand.
  • A presence in the search engines as well as social media.
  • Varied marketing efforts.
  • Flexibility.

I put flexibility as the last point because it’s the one that I’d like people to walk away from this article with. Being flexible makes your business sustainable. Whether you sell furniture or carve coconuts, you need to be flexible to the changes in the business environment. Maybe change will come in the form of an algorithm update. Maybe it will come from a shift in public perception. Maybe it shows up as a law. There’s one thing for certain: change will come and you have to be ready for it.

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Guest Post Round Up 10/4


More guest posting goodness from around the internetz.  Stay tuned for upcoming posts on The Next Great Generation, Search Engine People, The Communications Blog, and The Solid Cactus Blog :)

Interview with a Communications Professional: Gini Dietrich – TheCommunicationsBlog.com

Interview with a PR Pro: Deirdre Breakenridge, Part I and Part II – The CommunicationsBlog.com

5 Tips for a Better Online Portfolio – TheCommunicationsBlog.com

Using LinkedIn to Build Your Online Reputation – The Solid Cactus Blog

Coming Soon: The New Twitter.com – The Solid Cactus Blog

Session Recap: Email Marketing, Meet SEO and Social Media – The Solid Cactus Blog

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thumbs up

Real Takeaways in Customer Service

Last week, I dealt with a phone company, an insurance provider, and a doctor’s office. My experiences with all of the above ranged from great to maddening. This lack of consistency in service is what inspired this post and in honor of Customer Service Week, I thought I’d share some of my ideas (and maybe some constructive criticism) about serving those who keep your business, well, in business.

The Phone Company: I started off my week looking for a car charger. In fact, I entered the wireless provider’s store with the intention of buying one since my phone was dead and I really should have one in my car. I wasn’t looking for anything else; just a car charger. When I walked into the store, the salesperson walked over and greeted me with a friendly tone and asked if I needed anything. I told him about my search for a charger, I showed him my phone, and he apologized. Yes, the first words out of his mouth were “I’m sorry.” He apologized because they didn’t have the right charger in stock but would have it later on in the week. Oh well, but since I was there already, why not ask about my contract? I wasn’t quite sure of my contract end date and I was actually looking to switch carriers based on cost, not on service. He quickly pulled up my info and gave me a straight answer. There was no tiptoeing, no pushy sales tactics. He gave me the answers I needed and for that I was thankful.

The Take Away: Say you’re sorry. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to turn what was going to be a sucky customer service experience into a really good one. I appreciated that the guy was honest with me and that he apologized for my inconvenience. That attention to my needs as a customer really stood out. Also, I liked the way that he gave me straight answers about my contract. He didn’t try to sell me anything and he didn’t push and shove. Just gave me the info I needed and let me be on my way. Sometimes, being short, sweet, and to the point is all the customer wants.

The Insurance Provider: Oh my. My blood boils just thinking about it. My ordeal with the insurance company was just beyond awful. If there’s a company that needs to give customer service training to its employees, it’s this one. My issue with the insurance company arose when I called to inquire about a problem I was having with my prescription coverage. When I finally got someone to take my call, I was not greeted with a friendly tone. The representative sounded annoyed that I had called. Strike one. Then, as I explained my problem and asked for help, I got silence. Yes, silence. And it wasn’t golden. Despite what I was telling the service representative about my issue, he refused to listen. He actually said, “No, that’s not how it works” when I was describing something that had actually happened. To boot, the insurance company’s records were incorrect, he tried to get me to enroll in something I didn’t want, and it took forever to even find out what was going on.  I had described my issue and he essentially said, “Well, that’s not our problem.” Oh my. Then I lost my temper. I’ll admit, I got a little snippy, but I was really put into a bad position here. I hung up without a resolution. Then I called back after I cooled down and got a representative who was much better and explained what I needed to do.

The Takeaway: Silence is not golden. There’s nothing worse than being silent when a customer is asking you for help. Do not ignore them and definitely do what you can to make it right, even if it’s just listening to the problem and then providing what answers you can. Effective communication (and good listening skills) are key. Also, be sure that you’re being accurate and that your answers are defensible. It makes all the difference. Let the customer know what’s going on and be helpful. Remember, it’s your job to provide service so don’t treat every call like an inconvenience.

The Doctor’s Office: After Prescription Fiasco 2010, I had to call my doctor to get a new scrip. So, I called her office first thing in the morning and got helped quickly by the receptionist. She ran through my record, told me that the prescription note would be ready as soon as I needed it, and then gave me options for receiving it. She could mail it or I could stop to pick it up, whichever worked best for me. When I went to pick it up, I was greeted by a nurse who actually is good friends with my cousin. We chatted, she told me to call back if there were any problems, and got me out the door quickly…and with what I came for.

The Takeaway: I loved the fact that the nurse took the time to make me feel comfortable. She introduced herself and asked if I was related to someone. I said I was, and then we connected over her friendship with my family member. That personalized attention is what will keep me coming back to that doctor’s office forever. I love when I get treated like a person. Also, I appreciated the responsiveness. They recognized I had a problem and worked with me to solve it. Simple as that.

Those were my experiences and some takeaways that any company can learn from. I didn’t use names because it doesn’t matter who the company was. All businesses in all industries should examine their customer service when someone voices discontent or praise. See what you’re doing right (or wrong) and always look to improve. I can tell you from experience that good customer service goes a long way and bad customer service…well…that just makes you lose another customer.

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Look Before You Jump In: Questions to Ask in Social Media

Cover of "Are We There Yet ?"

Cover of Are We There Yet ?

I’ve seen a lot of people – and businesses – jump into social media well before they’re ready. Instead of going in with a clear idea, strategy, or even some sense, they just decide that it’s enough to have a Facebook or Twitter profile. It’s not. The “me too!” mentality doesn’t work. You have to have a purpose.

Before starting any social media efforts on behalf of a brand, business, or even yourself, you must take a look at four important things.

Deciding to Go

First, one must ask the question, “Can I invest the time into managing social media profiles?” If so, that’s great. You can now move on to developing a strategy and setting goals. If not, then it’s best to consider your options. Businesses or non-profits can hand off social media to employees, volunteers, interns, or even an agency if the owner doesn’t have the time or ability. If you are letting someone else take the wheel on your social media presence, make sure that he or she knows the environment. Choose someone who is familiar with social media best practices. Do your research. Know who you’re trusting with your image and online persona.

Also, make it your responsibility to know social media and at least attempt to understand its function in the big picture. Remember – social media is not an end. It’s a tool. You may not need to know all of the subtle nuances, but you have to have a general idea of what it does and how it can help you.

Where Am I Going?

Then ask, “What are my goals in social media?” Setting goals is an important part of any marketing or branding strategy and social media allows for you to do both. Think about what you want and then set realistic expectations and actionable steps. Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Do you want more reviews from customers? Do you want to solve a customer service issue? Do you want to generate leads? By identifying your goals, you enable yourself to develop a smarter social media strategy that includes action that leads to an end. You don’t want to walk into your social media presence with a “me too!” attitude. It’s not enough to just be in social media. You have to have a purpose.

How am I Getting There?

Next, ask yourself, “How will I achieve those goals?” Make a list of ideas and steps that can move you closer to that goal. For example, generate ideas for what kinds of things you’ll post and share on your profiles. Also, think about how you can differentiate yourself from your competition. Will you provide faster feedback? Will you answer more questions? Will you use a custom Twitter background to achieve your goal of better branding? Brainstorm with employees, friends, and even customers to find out ways to reach your goal. Also, during this step in the process, it’s best to start brushing up on your social media skills. Read blogs, attend webinars, and do everything you can to find out what others are doing to gain social media success. Find out what the best practices are and then relate them back to your goal. Take actions you think will work. Don’t just try a “spray and pray” strategy where you’ll try everything once.

Are We There Yet?

Finally, determine how will success be measured. Will you measure success in more traffic? More followers? More wall posts? More leads? More phone calls? Begin your foray into social media with a clear idea of what you want and think of different metrics to determine whether or not that goal is met. Everyone is different, so don’t worry about measuring your business by, let’s say,  the same standards of a major brand. Have a clear idea of what you consider a success before you start and you’ll always keep your expectations within reach – as long as you stay realistic.

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Privacy and Reputation: We’ll Have to Wait and See

Recently, a professor of mine posed a few questions to his students regarding an article published in The New York Times Magazine section, entitled, The Web Means the End of Forgetting. One of those questions was:

How big a problem do you see this issue (online reputation and privacy) becoming?

As discussed in the article, there are a variety of paths which this issue could take.

Firstly, there’s the notion that we, as a society, will become more forgiving.

To illustrate this argument, I’ll use a stereotype.

(DISCLAIMER ***Please note that this is clearly an illustration of stereotype and not necessarily the way that I view the situation, nor the way others view the situation. It’s probably a really crappy illustration of a stereotype to boot. ***)

During the 1960s/70s/80s, one could make the argument that experimentation with drugs was pretty common. Everyone was doing it and the drug of choice changed with the decade. During those times, people reacted both positively and negatively to drug use and sometimes crafted a person’s reputation around it. “Don’t hang out with him – he does drugs.” “She’s always high, so she can’t be trusted to do this.” etc. Yet, when put in professional situations decades later, those same people who may have smoked pot in the sixties, are given quite a bit of understanding. “Oh yeah, it’s okay. Everyone smoked pot in the sixties. No big deal.” I think the key idea here is with time, comes understanding and that understanding is usually centered around forgiving others for the mistakes made in youth or in a turbulent time. It begs to ask the question: what will future generations think about our drunken Facebook pictures 20 years from now? Was the time just different? Did these people learn and grow? Will we be accepted for our youthful mistakes because, let’s face it, everyone does it? Will things change when we suddenly aren’t that much younger than our bosses?

The simple truth, in my mind, is that people make mistakes and should be given the opportunity to explain themselves before judgment is passed. If the person learned from the experience and regrets an unfavorable action, or can explain the circumstances around an unfavorable action, then that’s one thing. Not regretting a poor decision and continuing to make bad decisions is another.

On the other hand, there’s the notion that we won’t be more forgiving and we may actually further scrutinize each other based upon our digital trails. In this scenario, I see our society as being less forgiving and more apt to jump to conclusions. We’ll probably be a lot less human. The whole “zero tolerance” approach to our digital records seems unfair and I think after enough people come forward, it could be determined that some level of understanding has to be expressed in the making of certain decisions. Plus, I think it will raise questions about the importance of free speech in the online sphere.

Although, a “zero tolerance” atmosphere could cultivate a culture of more professional behavior and more thought before action on the internet. Moreover, the internet may become a safer place if we develop a sense of vulnerability regarding our online reputations. Maybe we’ll think twice before posting something and maybe we’ll take more care to ensure that our personal information isn’t out in the open for everyone to see. Maybe we’ll reduce our rates of identity theft. There’s a lot of maybes surrounding this sort of future.

Will it hurt the ability of people and companies to communicate on the web as we do today?

In terms of communication, I think it all depends on which future becomes a reality.

If we’re more forgiving, employee relations can improve greatly and you may find a greater percentage of people who feel loyal, trusting, and more satisfied in their careers or in their relationships with certain employers. On the flip side, one could argue that a certain level of professionalism in staff would be lowered and that companies would be serving those who don’t think before they act. Not to mention, some people could feel resentment for people getting “a free pass” in certain social or professional situations which they themselves deem to be embarrassing, disturbing, or immoral.

On the other hand, if the future is filled with more scrutiny, I think there will be a culture of resentment surrounding the workforce, employers, and business as a whole. People will feel like Big Brother is always watching and may feel less inclined to express themselves, which could stifle creativity and the sharing of new ideas. Plus, people could feel less loyal and trusting of their employers and could, potentially, be inclined to perform behaviors which could compromise the integrity of the company but not necessarily the reputations of its employees. However, there is the argument too that this future culture of mindfulness could breed a more professional workforce with improved critical thinking skills and a tendency to think before taking action.

I think no matter what way you look at it, the future has both positives and negatives in store.

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Making Your Online Portfolio Stand Out

Virtual Resume & Letter
Image by Olivier Charavel via Flickr

My blog is a lot like a patchwork quilt. A little bit of writing skill here, some expertise there, and a stitch of what things interest me. It is designed to be both a form of self-expression and a portfolio, which makes it difficult to hone down exactly what I’m doing. Chances are, I fall into the huge category of young professionals trying to differentiate themselves from the competition by taking an active role in their web presences.

An online portfolio shouldn’t be dry or boring or cookie-cutter. It should pop and really speak to your strengths and personality. Over the past week, I’ve been reading about how you can make your portfolio stand out and here are some of the tips I found most helpful:

1.) Give Your Portfolio a Human Side:
a short bio of who you are, what you like, what you’re interested in, and what you’ve accomplished gives a prospective employer or client more information about you. They get a feel for who you are and what you might be like to work with. Plus, it shows you’re not just another producer of bland content.

2.) Pay Attention to Design: this is especially critical for those looking to enter an artistic or visually-driven industry. Having a killer design captures your audience and gives your portfolio a chance at standing out from the crowd. Plus, it’s another way to express your personality and reinforce personal branding.

3.) Clear, Crisp, Concise: we don’t want to be bogged down with a lengthy tale of your career history. Short, sweet, and to the point information will get your point across quickly to a prospective employer or client without making anyone feel agitated in the process. Slim and trim your paragraphs. Write actively. Keep the reader engaged and make sure your resume, case studies, or project descriptions are clean and neat.

4.) Make it Available: this is one of the biggest mistakes people make when they put a portfolio online. Either they put it in a place where it can’t easily be found or they make it difficult to share, save, or email. Make sure that your online portfolio or resume is saved in a PDF format (it’s pretty universal) and can be downloaded easily. Also, you may want to think about adding a share button so that it’s easy to email or post.

Try adding a link to your portfolio on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Brazen Careerist. You can also create a button for your blog so that prospective employers and clients can find your stuff and access it easily.

5.) Show Off Your Skills: Be sure to provide a body of work that displays your talents and really speaks to your abilities. Don’t just put in one or two samples of work in the same field or genre. Try to tailor your porfolio to a specific career goal, or go all out and show a little bit of what you’re capable of. As always, only put in your best work.

However, if you’re looking for another way to be creative, try writing a blog post that features some of your not-so-best work and discuss what you learned from the experience and what you’ll do better next time. This can be a great way to show an employer that you’ve got some mad critical thinking skills and that you care about improving.

What are your favorite portfolio tips?

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10 Reasons to Be on LinkedIn

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
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LinkedIn has been getting buzz in the professional world since its launch, however, many people aren’t choosing to take advantage of the network. Why should they invest time in another social media tool? Don’t they already use Facebook enough?

Here are 10 reasons why I think people should take advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer.

1.) First off, it’s a great way to network with your friends after college. We go our separate ways after graduation and keeping up with everyone after jobs have started can be difficult. LinkedIn, like Facebook, makes it easy – however, in a much more professional environment.

2.) LinkedIn can help you grow your professional network. You can connect with professors, colleagues, friends, or people you’ve just met at a conference. Either way, y our network is going to prove vital once it comes time to get answers to a question, leads on a new job, or even a reference for an upcoming job interview.

3.) LinkedIn Answers is a great resource for finding answers to specific industry questions. Think of it like Yahoo! Answers all grown up and gone to college. It’s smart, likeable, and everyone’s favorite invite to the party.

4.) LinkedIn isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of resume. It’s a dynamic professional presence that allows for you to bring together references from past and current employers, your social media profiles, your resume, and your personal interests to give employers a good look at who you really are and what you have to offer. The key is to keep interacting on the network, growing your connections, and reaching out to others to give references, answers, and input.

5.) LinkedIn can be a way to get your foot in the door at a specific company. Take for example GE. For a school project, I worked with other students on developing a presentation on the management strategies employed in the company. To get some first-hand accounts of what it was like to work at GE, I turned to LinkedIn. I searched for employees and sent them messages asking for their help. Out of the seven I contacted, I heard back from four. I got answers to my questions, some great insight for my presentation, and I made connections with four people within a major organization – four people who may provide a good word should I apply for a position with GE.

6.) LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to network by joining online groups. These groups can help you find professional organizations, people with similar interests, and even great news articles and blog posts that relate to your industry.

7.) LinkedIn can help you control your online identity. Prospective employers tend to search for applicants on Google before conducting and interview and having a great LinkedIn page can be a strong first impression that can help you land that position.

8.) LinkedIn helps you search for jobs! I know how frustrating it can be to look for jobs and sometimes you feel like you’ve looked everywhere. Luckily, LinkedIn offers a wider network of jobs to pull from, which means more chances for you to find the position that fits your skills best.

9.) LinkedIn helps you prepare for interviews by helping you find out more about who may interview you as well as the company you’re hoping to work with. Profiles of people who work for a specific company may provide useful info on their job history and background, not to mention, their roles within an organization.

10.) LinkedIn helps you stay in touch with your contacts on a more professional platform. You can connect with friends, family, teachers, coworkers, or even that volunteer coordinator you worked with once at a fundraiser. Just keep growing that network!

I’m on LinkedIn and I’ll be your first connection!

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