Your career on LinkedIn: 16 tips to look your best

For a long time, I saw LinkedIn as basically a big ol’ box of resumes and not much beyond that. That changed (somewhat). This post contains my tips for your LinkedIn profile to help you if:

  • you’re on LinkedIn, but you don’t have a clue what to do except add your resume and anyway, what exactly should you put in your profile anyway?
  • you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in a year.
  • you’re not yet on LinkedIn but want to get started.
  • (If you’re active and happy on LinkedIn, this post by Jeff Haden on Inc.com gives you additional tips.)

I won’t tell you how to sign up. If they’ve made it too hard they deserve to go out of business. If that’s the case please let me know 😉

How does a complete, updated profile on LinkedIn help your career?

Your career on LinkedIn

First reason: LinkedIn comes up with job suggestions that are deemed relevant for someone with your set of skills and experience. Second: if you’re going to show up in search results you want to be found by the right recruiters. Third: once you’re found, you want to make a favorable or at least an accurate impression so people don’t offer you all the wrong jobs, or none at all.

Get your LinkedIn profile in shape using these 16 tips which I’ve grouped for your convenience:

LinkedIn profile basics

  1. Picture: professional looks are best, but anything which isn’t either downright unprofessional or 5 years old is acceptable, at least until you get something better. Dig out an online picture of you that’s more or less professional.
  2. Fill out your headline. This may contain your job title, or otherwise should contain one or two keywords which characterize what branche or task you’re interested in.
  3. Fill out your postal code, or that of the most relevant city for your profession if you don’t mind the commute or having to move. Your profile will mention a general area based on your information.
  4. Add some contact details. Decide which of them you want to show to your connections, and which you want to be publicly visible (in my case that’s at least my Twitter handle and this blog).

Job experience

  1. Summary: people use their summary in different ways – sometimes to describe what their current job entails, or to describe what they are like as a professional, or to describe the business they own. If you’re not sure, leave it for later.
  2. Use your resume and your description of your tasks and responsibilities. If you’re a student, or you’re in your first job, you may find your resume looking rather empty. Or if you’ve worked at company X for the past 18 years you may look like a boring person who would like to stay in your current job indefinitely. Compensate by describing separate tasks in light of:
    1. skills,
    2. professional attitude, and
    3. experience they demand from you or that you have acquired as a result. Don’t overdo it. If anyone calls your manager or mentor they should be able to confirm your story.
  3. Add team projects. Projects show up twice: underneath the job they’re connected to, plus in a separate projects section. Adding projects is also a great way to find out if there are people you might connect with on LinkedIn – after all, you worked with them at some point so you know them professionally. That is always the best (possibly the only good) reason to connect.
  4. For writing folk: add a separate section for your publications.

Skills and languages

  1. Skills: this part of your profile is just a list, but it makes you more visible (search results) and others can endorse you on those skills if they think you actually have them. Be specific, because you might get endorsed for knowing about “art”.
  2. When can you mention a language among your skills? If you teach it, if you’re a translator, or if you’ve spent over a year in a country speaking the language daily so you’re practically a native speaker – and you’d like to get a job that requires knowledge of this particular language because it sets you apart from the competition. Don’t forget to list it among your languages too.
  3. Languages: overview of all the languages you know. Add your proficiency level. Some people throw all their languages in with their skills which leads to my receiving endorsement messages like “Does Dave know about English?” 😉

Courses

  1. Independent coursework: this is where you list courses that are not tied to a study or a job. This section is important if you’re interested in a career switch or if you’re just someone who likes to keep up to date all round.
  2. Don’t add ALL of your courses though, unless it’s not that much of a list. If you’re looking for a specialized job, select courses that are relevant for that kind of job. If you’re not sure what kind of job you’d like, add a mix of job-focused courses and the courses you enjoyed the most.
  3. While you’re pondering your selection, ask yourself why you enjoyed specific courses.
    1. Was it the type of activity?
    2. The team work vs. having sole responsibility for the task?
    3. Was it the topic? Try to find out, because this is what you are about. Write it down as a start for your LinkedIn summary.

Volunteering & Causes

  1. Add any not-for-profit activities in this section. If you feel these activities don’t ‘count’ when you’re looking for a job, consider this:
    1. You have used and developed people skills, project skills, or your creativity.
    2. It shows what you value in life and can spice up a resume that seems a bit too single-mindedly careerdriven!
    3. If you’re in a very technical or specialistic job, this is also a great way to show you have other interests that require different skills and even a different mindset from what people might expect.
    4. You may get asked about your activities – which gives a nice informal flavor to an interview!
  2. For these reasons, describe your voluntary work just like any job or project. If you’ve done certain tasks for years, say so – it shows you can stick to a job even if you didn’t have one at the time.

I hope I’ve given you enough to get started until my next post (Wednesday). If you have any questions about your LinkedIn career – if I’ve left anything out which you need at this stage, leave me a comment to read and reply to!

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How to start your career on LinkedIn

Last week I read a post about LinkedIn that got quite a few comments. One of them was “this is all very interesting but I’d like tips that will help me get started”. I recently updated my profile so I decided I’d think up some tips that might actually help rather than frustrate your career without your even noticing. Today’s post is the short-cut for hasty people – if you want to know more, read my next (Friday) post.

How to best invest your time and effort on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not where you’d start your social media ‘career’ today. Instead, you’re on Facebook or Twitter and at some point you’re told you need to be on LinkedIn for your career – or, at least, to make sure you don’t miss out on job opportunities because you’re not there.

My advice is to take the professional approach from day one. I have been on LinkedIn for over 4 years and all I can say is it probably pays to start even before you finish your education – in stead of switching careers 2 or 3 times beforehand, like I did 😉

Your career on LinkedIn: start here

Get your profile sorted first. To show you just how much this matters, I’ve written a separate post about it. If you want to get started today, but you don’t want to share your unfinished profile with the whole world just yet, sign up and then check out your settings – profile – Edit your public profile.

LinkedIn settings: Edit your public profile

In the next screen you can opt to share only the bits you’re happy about, or hide your profile altogether with this useful menu in the column on the right:

LinkedIn Profile Visibility

Here you can review your public profile and hide anything you feel is not up to scratch. If that leaves you with a minimalistic profile you know which parts you need to tackle at once.

Continue to work on the other parts and share those after extra thought and editing. After all it’s important information – based on this, a recruiter or a potential client may decide whether or not to contact you. They may check for your name elsewhere but let’s assume they’re human and therefore either too lazy or too busy.

Don’t forget to change your settings back when you’re done!

Tips to turn your profile into a career on LinkedIn

Try any or all of these actions. If you’re on LinkedIn but don’t have a clue how you should do any of it, just ask – I’ll write a post or two on individual actions I’ve listed here. My comments section below is open for business 😀

  1. Follow a couple of businesses you wouldn’t mind working for (as an employee or a business owner).
  2. Seek out recruiters who match your standards for social media usage. Some hide their networks from their connections, some don’t. Decide which kind you’re comfortable with.
  3. Connect with fellow students who basically face the same questions and consider teaming up to get the LinkedIn part of your lives up and running together.
  4. Find some active groups that are relevant to your professional interests. This way you keep up to date about your field of expertise, and these groups are shown on your profile (unless you hide them).
  5. Connect with a couple of teachers/professors. Criteria: depth/breadth of expertise, network, they teach your favorite topics, or you just get along with them well.

If you’re thinking of starting on LinkedIn and/or getting serious about your career, you’re welcome to share your thoughts – I promise to reply to any non-spammy comment 🙂

Blogging impressions: two tips for (automatic) sharing

One lesson I learned from all the blogs I read before starting my own blog is this: Mind how you share. In this post I’ll give you two tips plus reasons why you might consider trying them out.

1. Check every sharing button on your blogMind how you share

This may sound silly but have you checked what happens if you click any of the sharing buttons on your blog? Serious bloggers have all manner of cool stuff added to their blog, like floating sharing bars, that make it easier to share their content – if it all works! You should be able to just share. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

However I wrote on this topic quite a while ago. My second tip is about something quite a few people don’t do – but they should!

2. Check your shared messages on social networks

If you’re on Twitter you may have noticed crappy tweets that stop mid-sentence because they were automatically shared to Twitter from another social network, like Facebook.

On the other hand, if you’re on Twitter and you share to Facebook automatically, you may end up with tweetlike stuff on your Facebook page. It’s why I added, tried, and then quickly removed my automatic sharing connection from WordPress to Facebook earlier.

Why share if you make it obvious that you don’t know, or don’t care, what your messages look like?

Using the Publicize option to share your blog posts

In case you’re not using it: on WordPress you have the option to connect several of your social network accounts to your blog. You can view and edit these messages just above the “Publish” button. Every time you publish, your message is shared to every account you’ve hooked up. Unless you uncheck the check boxes first. You can edit the message before you publish your post, but you can only send one message that’s identical for all networks.

A perfect tweet may well be a crappy Facebook update!

If you need your message to go out to several social networks:

  • Skip those #!#! hashtags (for Facebook)
  • Keep it short (for Twitter)
  • Check the result every now and then, say every 5-10 posts (This goes for IFTTT recipes too).

The good part of automatic sharing

I’m mostly so relieved to have pressed the “Publish” button at 10 PM on Friday I then shut down my laptop and call it a weekend. Which means that unless I use this publicize option I end up not sharing the results of my thinking and writing on social media until much later.

Having my automatic messages in place means:

  1. I can concentrate on writing my posts and, after I finish them,
  2. I have more time to read other blogs and to comment on them.
  3. When on social media, I can focus on the social bit 🙂

If you feel it’s too much hassle to get onto social media AND figure all this stuff out AND actually be active out there so you decide to not bother at all, that’s completely fine by me. I understand and appreciate not bumping into your ‘zombie’ Twitter account 😉

That’s it for this year! See you here next year. If you’d like to add your thoughts about sharing please do so in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to your contribution!

Social business homework: all employees are not (yet) equal

Do you know the one thing that amazes me the most about social business? It’s the way it doesn’t seem to take off even though your boss says it’s a good idea 😉

Social Business Homework: all Employees are not (yet) equal

Social Business Homework (based on OCAL image)

Of course it really helps if your CEO and/or CFO and others are blogging or tweeting and generally showing their support of social media use by actually being present on them…

Your company may even have a number of employees dedicated to filling social media channels with fresh branded content or teaching others how to use social media for business purposes.

But there’s a snag somewhere I think – wouldn’t things go a little faster if there were not? So where exactly is the hurdle we need to jump?

The perceived value of social media for business

One issue is perception. My impression is that in many parts of businesses, processes are rolling on like they always did with social media seemingly adding little value. But I happen to have done a bit of archiving in my time 😉 and here’s the thing:

  • an archive contains process-bound content. That content is produced as a result of you doing your work. This is valuable information which people may want to know about at a later time, so you need to store it for a number of years.
  • on the other hand, there is information which you may have read to inform yourself about a topic in order to do your work well. Stuff you need to read up is not considered of direct value for the process. So you can chuck it out whenever you like (well, after a year).

This perceived difference in value affects decisions as to who is allowed or expected to use social media as a regular part of their job.

Social business homework: all employees are not (yet) equal

Depending on where you are in your organization you’ll be able to use social media for different purposes. Some of them add value directly and some indirectly.

  • For people with a lot of professional connections on LinkedIn – I mean connections they actually know and have spoken with – and for whose job a large network is essential it’s relatively easy to use LinkedIn to benefit their company. If they need to come up with new leads, they check who in their network is familiar with the topic or has connections that bridge the gap between their own company and the potential customer’s business.
  • Making new connections is easy on Twitter, but not everyone wants to engage in conversations. Finding people with similar interests is great though. If they’re in your industry or in the same region as well you may at some point meet up at an event and add your new connection on LinkedIn (or Facebook if that’s your preferred place for contact).
  • Another thing: I use Twitter to look up recent posts/articles on subjects I need to read up on. Actually Twitter is the reason I’m not using search machines exclusively anymore for finding relevant information about anything regarding social media, social business, content marketing. Because social media marketers and content marketers are out in force on social media 🙂

My point is that each way of using social media adds value – but that value is not equally visible. And nothing you do counts unless you make sure people notice you’re getting results doing it.

Accepting that using social media can work

How to integrate social media into your work:

  1. Examine your job and identify one or two tasks, where social media may add value.
  2. Make sure you know exactly at what point and to what purpose you will be using social media.
  3. Don’t overcomplicate. If it means you “search database X, Google it, and check Twitter” for information about a topic, fine.
  4. Keep it up for at least a month, because apparently that’s how long it takes us to form new habits.
  5. Then check the results and ask yourself if you’ve developed new methods that allow you to get the most from your new way of working.
  6. Make a note of any tangible result you got through social media.
  7. Review your daily activities again for other tasks that may benefit from using social media.
  8. If there aren’t any, fine. One or two tasks are a great start. Don’t rush.

The best way to prove the value of social media for business would be if you could tell your manager that you found that excellent article/that lead/a piece of information through a search on Twitter or a tip from a Facebook friend or a LinkedIn connection… if that leads to raised eyebrows you can always add that your study at X has given you an excellent network of professionals in your field 😉

As far as I’m concerned you’re ‘social media-enabled’ as an employee when your manager (and the level above that) accepts that you use social media for some aspects of your work because it helps you get the results they need.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that accepting the fact that social media can contribute to almost anyone’s work is crucial – and not always straightforward.

Please add your thoughts about social business, social media, and any related topic in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to any non-spammy contribution as I value your input 🙂

Blogging impressions: time for reflection

My previous post has given me food for thought… Lately I’ve taken to writing down my blog posts in less time than before. This has some advantages like not being able to overdo the editing part. One drawback is that it doesn’t leave much time to do any editing at all.

Blogging: time for reflection

In this post I’ll share my recent experiences with you and hand out some tips based on them.

I hope you’ll find my tips useful – feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!

Tip #1: Try to write your post in one session

My previous post was written on one day, but in several sessions. Family life and working hours take up time that I can’t spend on blogging.

I’ve noticed that whenever I pick up where I left off, my perspective has changed slightly. Even though I interrupt my writing process, I can’t just shut down my thoughts to wait until I have time to write on. This is a major issue if you want to write coherent posts!

Distractions are BAD news

Anyway, what with working from home, tending to a sick child, cooking dinner and so on, I was editing until well past 10 PM… after a broken night with our kid crying in bed several times. If you have kids and a blog, it’s bound to happen to you at some point.

In my case the result was: a post that might have been better, with a title that I wasn’t happy about but every time I changed it seemed worse than before. In the end I just hit ‘publish’ because I had planned to publish and after I did I could stop.

I came back to change the title the next morning after thinking of several alternatives after around 4.30 AM. Yes, that was our son crying again – you guessed it 😉

My conclusion is that quiet sessions to get your thoughts written down are essential.

Tip #2: Take time for reflection (if that’s your style anyway)

Depending on whether you’re writing a personal blog or more businessy stuff in the latter case you may need an editing session as well…

Mind you, not being able to put off editing, or deciding you don’t need a separate editing session means you do it while you write. Telling yourself you’ll reread and edit after you get your post written down should help you get things done before you start criticizing your work.

My inner editor seems to have returned – or maybe I’m just more aware now that I try to write my posts in less time from draft to publish. Or being tired means the inner editor becomes more of a nuisance than usual – what do you think?

Your inner editor messes with your writing process!

Worse than the editor telling me I’ve done something wrong is the inner quickly-excited person (also my inner editor?) who keeps telling me “hmm, this is interesting too… can you put it in?” or “hey, I’ve a great idea for an image to go with this post, how about checking for suitable pictures on OCAL (the Open Clip Art Library) now?”

Seriously, it’s like having a kid standing at your table trying to give you ‘food’ or wanting to sit on your lap and then asking “What’s happening now” every 30 seconds while watching Bob the Builder. Which is happening today because I’ve decided to sit down for once and write this thought down before it flies off.

Tip #3: Watch your inner editor or it will make you rewrite everything

You reread your post, and upon reflection, think of something you want in there… and this, and that… STOP! This is the same thing that happens to me if I interrupt my writing. You’re really writing your next post into the one you already had!

If this has ever happened to you – and it’s more likely to happen if you don’t blog (almost) daily – you’re blogging a lot more than you think. Except all your thinking and writing energy goes into far fewer published posts!

All in all I guess the bottom line is:

  • More editing means less publishing.
  • More publishing also means less (time for) editing.
  • You get a lot of published posts, or a few heavily-edited posts, but rarely both.

There’s probably a precious balance hiding somewhere out there for every one of us. Have you found your ideal mix yet?

Please add your thoughts in a comment – I promise to reply to anything that’s not spam 😉 How do you make blogging, editing and reflection work for you?

How to turn your business social: Back To Front

If you’ve checked my “social business” Twitter account, you won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been reading quite a lot about social business, social media, content marketing and several other buzzwords.

At this point I’ve come to an important conclusion:

Many articles about content marketing and what it will mean for your company are full of marketing BS.

They are completely focused on marketing and what that team, or the organization as a whole should be doing to get social business right.

Road Narrows in your company?

Are there road narrows in your company?
[OCAL image]

Not a lot of help if your middle name isn’t marketing. Is it?

The main idea of most articles is that you’ll hire them to organize “social business workhops” or to take care of the actual transition. That’s obvious enough.

What I don’t read enough about is what happens if you succeed. Maybe they tell you that after you invite them to talk about your plans. I sure hope so.

The viral nightmare

Suppose you get everything right on the ‘marketing’ side of your business. You get your content sorted, your marketing team is social media savvy, and your campaigns are getting results. Actually it would help if things didn’t go quite thát fast…!

Because suddenly your marketers are up to their ears in questions and complaints coming in through social networks. Your sales people can’t handle demand. The phone at customer service is red-hot.

This is a really bad time to discover you should have trained your customer service team to handle social media for your business… three months ago!

If marketing and sales employees fail to keep up, anyone who is seriously displeased about a purchase is now also annoyed because their complaints via social networks don’t get an answer either… and if you’re really lucky they’ll end up on the phone with your call center.

How to prepare your business for success

You’ve done step 1: reading this article. And if you’ve read more on the subject, please add any must-read articles in the comments section!

Step 2: you need a plan.

  • Plan A: All-is-well if you have the time and resources to prepare thouroughly.
  • Plan B: “Oh… Beep” if you don’t.
  • Plan C (recommended): Combine A and B. You’ll see why.

Plan A: if you have enough time and resources to change your organization

A rough plan A could look like this:

  1. Train your call center/customer service staff for business social media.
  2. Get them onto social media accounts for your business. They are to handle any feedback, positive as well as negative.
  3. Get everyone else involved who will be in touch with customers at any given moment. Marketing – sales – after sales – customer service, the lot.
  4. How do customers get ‘handed down’ the organization? How would this work if you added ‘social’ to the picture?
  5. Get your CRM system hooked up to your social media accounts. It shouldn’t matter who talks to a customer or which channel they use.

Once you feel you’ve got every relevant part of your company connected to the expected information stream…

Time for a trial run.

You have three options to find out if you’re prepared for the big one:

  • A simulated campaign
  • A real campaign targeted at a very specific group. Mind you: it’s online, so if your campaign is in any way interesting to people outside the group you want, you may end up with a runaway (viral) campaign at a time when you don’t know if your business will be able to handle the consequences.
  • You don’t run campaigns. Business as usual, but social is now part of that business.

Plan B: the ‘what-if’ approach

Aim for a quick fix for any nasty side-effects of taking the plunge by asking yourself a few questions for hypothetical situations.

Examples of ‘what-if’ questions are:

What if: your campaign leads to so much demand you can’t possibly meet it? You can only say “No, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait… we’ll help you as soon as we can!” so many times before people get really annoyed.

  • Can you identify anyone up front who can pitch in if it’s urgent?
  • Can you give your customers any idea of how long it will be before they can expect their purchase?

What if: the social channels you set up are hijacked by complaining people? How or to which team or person will you refer complainers? Is that team available through social media?

What if: your intern gets hold of your business password and accidentally publishes a private update on your account? (Note: if you want to prevent this, I suggest you make it very clear to everyone they are never, ever to delegate their responsibility).

You’ll notice this is not a miracle cure – just risk management the quick-and-dirty way. Depending on the type of business you’re running, you’ll come up with your own set of major and minor risks.

A few thoughts on business change

All of the above isn’t just true for developments in social media. Every organization runs into challenges of scale. At such moments it’s either you lead the horse, or the horse leads you. Go on, you choose 😉

Social media may act as a katalyst and propel your business onto the next level backwards. Based on that observation I would have you consider to prepare your business for success – back to front.

+ If you found this article of interest, please share it.

What else can you do today to turn your business social?

Blogging impressions: how to improve the focus of every post

Just around the time I started to blog I found a post which didn’t sink in at the time I read it. However a few posts later I realized the value of this remark:

Don’t try to save the world in a single post.

(If you happen to recognize this quote please let me know and I’ll be sure to mention the author for inspiring me.)

When you start blogging you may have so much to share that you end up cramming too many (interrelated) subjects into one post.

Blogging Impressions 2: Add Focus to your writing

Add focus to your writing

By doing so you run a few risks at once:

  • You find yourself running out of subjects quite soon (or so it may seem);
  • You exhaust your readers by the sheer length of your post. If it’s a detailed “how to” step-by-step guide you’re excused – people love that like they love one-stop shopping!
  • Your post would have been better if you’d chopped it up into several posts so you could focus on one subject – rather than saying a little about a lot of different subjects.

How to improve your posts: quick fix

Suppose you find you’ve just written an incoherent, rambling post that offers a “sight-seeing tour of my favorite subject”. What can you do about it?

  1. Take a moment to identify subjects (or aspects of your main subject) that would be much happier in their own post. Sometimes a single paragraph contains enough information for a whole post. You’re not doing it justice by confining the subject to a single paragraph.
  2. Get rid of paragraphs that lead your reader off the main track. Move any paragraph which does not support your main statement or question into a separate space (note, document, draft). Leave it there for a few hours.
  3. Edit your original post. Make sure your recent pruning session doesn’t leave ugly marks in your text. Remove arguments that don’t make sense because the only reason you wrote them was to lead up to the subject that didn’t quite fit in…
  4. Then come back and see if the paragraph you took out has the potential to grow into a whole post once you’ve added water and proper soil.

New post: try to start writing by not writing

Approach every subject you’d like to tackle in your blog as though it’s a project. Here are a few steps that may help you.

Explore your subject. Your main aim is to find out what different aspects there are – some of which might lead you into opposite directions. You can try mindmapping, or just sitting and thinking if that suits you better. Find information on the internet if you think you have missed anything.

Select aspects to write about. Take one or two aspects you could write a nice, focused and ‘complete’ post about. Try to be clear on why you need to focus on your selected aspects today, and why other aspects can wait.

If you’ve chosen more than one aspect, determine what the connection between those aspects is: why and how do they fit into one post? If you can’t find an answer, putting them into the same post may be a mistake.

Then sit down and write.

Edit your new post. Are you happy with the result? Are there parts of your post that seem out of place? Check if those parts happen to belong to different aspects of your subject, which you resolved to write about at a later time.

Think of your blog as a book. You don’t need to write it in one day. You just need to know what the chapter you write today adds to your story line.

Simply knowing what each separate post is supposed to solve or add should give a sense of direction to your efforts. Good luck!

+ If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

How has this post helped you? What other methods do you use to improve your blogging?