Tag: career

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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Connections

Making Friends - Marketing Cartoon
Image by HubSpot via Flickr

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old classmate from LLHS. Andy, who is currently living and working in Asia, is living the dream. He’s traveling and doing what he loves – and to me, that’s pretty darn awesome.

He and I chatted about what we were up to and though we never talked much in high school, we had the chance to connect over the idea of connecting. More specifically, social media.

This brings me to my point: connections.

No matter what you decide to do in life, you have to keep in mind your network. The people you connect with can be responsible for you losing or finding a job, getting an interview, or even finding your life’s true passion.

I call myself a communicator, but when it really comes down to it, I’m a connector. I like meeting new people and expanding my network. I connect people I know with others who may provide them with some help or advice. I connect people to information they may find valuable. I share my connections.

It’s not easy.

Keeping up one’s network takes a ton of time and effort and while some consider it to be worthless to try to keep up, I beg to differ. I say “Happy Birthday” to people on Facebook. I reply to emails. I send a random “How are you?” every once in awhile to some friends. I’m not perfect about it, but I do make an effort, and believe me. It can be a huge challenge.

Challenge yourself to connect with your network for 10 minutes today. Email some old friends. Facebook someone to catch up. Meet someone new on Twitter. Write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn. Really take the time to contribute to your network and keep it up. Just ten minutes every day can make a huge difference.

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Being On, Feeling Comfortable, and Passing Judgment

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. In the article, the author raises questions and discusses several arguments surrounding online privacy and how our digital reputations can come back to haunt us. Also within the piece, he examines different reputation management strategies, ranging from legal assistance to online services.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share some of my response concerning this article, as well as my answers to my professor’s questions.

Being On When You’re Online

I think it’s important for people, especially in my generation, to recognize the fact that they are always “on” in the online sphere.

When we’re online, we have a tendency to be braver and a more “expressive”. We share more freely. We express ourselves more vividly through words, images, video, and other media. We get emotional. We connect with others over a variety of issues and voice our opinions. We get more vocal about discontent. We build cultures around certain brands, emotions, ideas, or people. All of these things are directly connected to our human nature to be expressive. The web provides a sort of insulator which makes us feel more secure in our expression. We don’t have to deal with looking someone in the eye if they criticize a blog post or a photo. We don’t have to hear the pain in the voice of someone who has just been flamed in a forum. There’s little emotional connection between what we say and who we’re saying it to in the online sphere.

However, it’s a double edged sword. Words still hurt, bad reviews still cause a loss in business, and photos can still cost you a career. There’s no escaping the fact that our reputations are much more valuable now than they were in previous generations. Word of mouth was hard to prove. Seeing something in writing or in a photo is a lot more concrete and a lot more potentially damaging.

Feeling Comfortable

I feel that my generation has a developing sense that what we put out there online can come back to bite us, yet, we’re still young and we still make mistakes. We will still write horrible things on Facebook. We’ll still laugh at Texts From Last Night and share unflattering photos of ourselves. We’ll Tweet things in sarcasm when really we mean something else. The problem with the internet is that there’s little context and that most things are taken at face value. My generation is having a hard time transitioning with that idea because we’ve been told, both in and out of the classroom, to look at context. Though I will say, it’s not exactly without our natures to examine context. We like jumping to conclusions and passing judgment. It puts us in control. It makes us feel powerful in a way. It also feels a lot more comfortable. Once again, these conclusions are usually based on something that isn’t easy to convey in the online sphere – emotion.

Passing Judgment

We get emotional when we see something disturbing and we pass judgment. We see a photo of a drunk girl and think that she’s irresponsible. We see a text from someone with profanity and we think that person is violent. We read a blog post with grammatical errors or a misspelling and we think the writer is less intelligent and credible. It’s within our nature to pass judgment without considering context, simply because we want to feel in control of our opinions and feelings and its comfortable to be able to put things into certain moral and society categories. Human beings like to categorize. Think about it. We’ve always tried to explain things, whether it’s through science or religion or morality or creativity or otherwise.  We like when the world around us makes sense.

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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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