When creating your LinkedIn profile, bring your pineapple

If you’ve read my posts about LinkedIn in the past two weeks, the title of this post may puzzle you – so I’ll explain. In a way your LinkedIn profile is a lot like the elaborate self-portraits from centuries ago. That’s my background in art history popping up – just in case you’re wondering 🙂

Show off your expertise: this is how you do it

A portrait that showed what you were about, what you did – and what you owned – was an absolute must-have for wealthy Dutch people in the 17th century. This painting of Agnes Block and Sybrand de Flines tells us a few things about Agnes even without any previous knowledge about her story:

Portrait of Agnes Block and Family

Portrait of Agneta Block and family (1694) | Amsterdam Museum [click to view site]

This is very much a painting about Agnes (or Agneta) as everything she valued is collected around her. It shows Agnes seated at the center, with her (second) husband Sybrand (Sijbrand) de Flines at the right. In the background are details which set the scene at her country estate “Vijverhof” growing exotic plants and keeping birds. Agnes was a horticulturalist, and a good one – in the Dutch republic, she was the first who managed to grow a pineapple plant that bore fruit. We can admire the result in this painting, on the far left.

Agnes is also known to have made drawings of plants and birds. She was an artist and a patron – which explains all the arty attributes in the painting (aside from her husband’s interests). On Historici.nl this painting by Jan Weenix is dated around 1694. This would mean we see Agnes at the age of 65 (she lived from 1629-1704). I’ll bet if LinkedIn had been around she’d have put her pineapple in her summary, job experience AND in the section “Honors and awards”! As it was, it was probably a bit of a struggle to avoid over-cluttering the composition.

(In case you wondered) What about the children in the painting?

Two children accompany Agnes and Sybrand in this painting – their identity is uncertain but it’s assumed they are relations of Agnes. Agnes was married twice, but she never had children. Sybrands daughters, from his first marriage, would have been grown women by the time this painting was made. The girl by Agnes’ side is wearing a dress that looks rather more fancy than the garment worn by the other child, who may in fact be a young boy – if you’re curious about that you may like this lengthy post I found about children’s clothing in the 17th century. However the examples in this post don’t show any difference in clothing style between boys and girls, whereas there is a clear distinction between these two children.

How does Agnes’ portrait relate to your LinkedIn profile?

Nowadays few of us would consider having a painting made like Agnes did, or even having our photograph taken together with all the attributes that show off our skills and experience. At the same time we do something very similar when we present the results of our efforts on our blogs or via our presence on social media. Think WordPress, Flickr, Facebook and LinkedIn. I would say LinkedIn most resembles a painting – I’ve seen the others used as a portfolio.

How to put the pineapple into your LinkedIn profile

If you decide to get your LinkedIn profile assembled, identify your pineapple and see where it should go:

  1. Take inventory of ALL your achievements whether they are related to your professional life, volunteering, study or even your private life.
  2. Make a selection of things to include in your profile (from must-haves to nice-to-haves)
  3. If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like and would like to turn one of your hobbies into a career at some point in the future, the least you can do is list it as one of your “interests” and include any skills you have related to that hobby to your “skills” section.
  4. Whatever else you do on LinkedIn, remember to find and show off your pineapple! I’m serious 😉

Creating a complete and accurate portrait of yourself as a professional means you need to include your ‘professional attributes’ – your skills, experience, strengths and personal achievements in the best possible way. Don’t hide the things you’ve worked hard to accomplish!

Note: This post was getting longer while I got the feeling Agnes, and this painting, deserved more. So I’ve decided rather than letting this post turn into a ‘miscellaneous subjects’ post I’ll let her have a separate post, if I can dig up more information about the painting.

Until then, you can read more about Agnes on:

If you enjoyed this post, please share it! Or you can share your thoughts about LinkedIn, art, and Agnes right here.

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The value of your (LinkedIn) connections

If you’ve read my earlier posts about LinkedIn you’ll know I’ve been on there for some time, but others – maybe including you – are getting started right now. One question you’ll want answered is: how are you going to make LinkedIn work for you? In this post I aim to give you at least the start of an answer.

Your LinkedIn profile, which I discussed earlier, will help you to keep track of:

  • the jobs you’ve had, the tasks you’ve performed
  • the clients you’ve helped
  • all of your courses

Oh, and people can read it if they like 🙂

(LinkedIn) Connections

Your LinkedIn profile’s not really something you’d get excited about. Why not? Simple – it’s all about your past performance. None of the above gives you any reason whatsoever to connect with people. If you’re fairly secure in your present job you may not see any reason to start connecting with a lot of people. After all, you see them at lunch, you get their e-mails…

You could connect with anyone you ever worked with. That means that your presence on LinkedIn also allows you to keep track of all the co-workers you ever worked with. Yay! … Nope. I’m still bored 😉

How to make LinkedIn work for you

The only possible way to make LinkedIn work for you is if you decide to join conversations and connect with people (including colleagues) with an eye on your future. Why? Because your future is unknown territory. Unless you did something really dreadful in a previous job, it’s not coming after you to club you on the head. But the future is a different place. One you haven’t visited yet.

Start by asking yourself what you want for your career in the next, say, 5-10 years. Now you may not be at all clear about the answer to that question. Scan the scenarios in the next few paragraphs. I’ll ask you questions in each one. Some of my questions are based on my own experiences at various points in my career.

You’re still studying (part time)

Will you be able to do parts of your study within this organization? Like getting an internship, or even working there as an employee while adding it as the job experience you would otherwise gain from an internship? Will you be able to write your thesis here? Is the company you work for part time likely to offer you a job after you graduate?

You’re looking for a career change

Does your current employer offer possibilities for your newly chosen career? If not, what organizations look better equipped to house the likes of you in the (near) future? What can you do by way of a hobby or as a volunteer that would qualify you (even at a basic level) within 4-10 months?

All you want is… job security

If you want, first and foremost, to keep your job because you’re happy where you are and you have a family and you don’t need the hassle right now: what do you know about the organization you’re in that might impact your chances of keeping your job? Are there other positions within your organization that you could move to if necessary? What skills can you learn that would make it easier to shift direction within your organization? Who else works in a team where you might end up if you had those skills? In other words, how can you make it more probable that a change will involve a new job in the same organization rather than having to look elsewhere?

Start by deciding where your priorities lie in real life

Suppose your organization is big enough to hold several positions you could fill if you wanted (or had to find another job) – it would make sense to get to know a few colleagues from different parts of your organization.

What if it’s not big enough? What if you’re in a tiny team that is more likely to shrink even further rather than grow in the future? What if there aren’t going to be any jobs after you graduate? In that case getting to know people in other organisations is important. But don’t forget the ‘network-happy’ people in your own organization who know absolutely everyone in your field of expertise!

What value can LinkedIn add to the connections you have in real life?

LinkedIn is a handy extension for real-life relationships. Connect preferably first in real life, then follow up by connecting on LinkedIn. Once you connect with anyone on LinkedIn, you can view their ‘updates’ which contain their every activity.

  • Some activities are alterations to their job title – you’ll know it if an ex-colleague starts in a new job, so you can send her a message about it.
  • If a connection who may or may not be in the category “companies/departments I wouldn’t mind working for” shares a great article about a subject you’re interested in you can comment on the article while also letting ’em know you’re still around.

All in all, the information you receive in the shape of LinkedIn updates gives you (extra) starting points for interacting with colleagues and other professionals – which is great if you’re NOT running into them twice a day. Your contacts on LinkedIn are not about instant results. They’re about staying in touch – and in the picture even though you, and they, are busy.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. Or you may leave your thoughts about your (LinkedIn) connections in a comment below for me to read and reply to!

5 key questions to help you write your LinkedIn summary

After my rather long 16-LinkedIn-tips post of last Friday I’d like to stick to just one detail of your LinkedIn profile in this post: your summary. If you’ve left it for later like I suggested, great. Today you can fill the gap.

Why do you need a summary on your LinkedIn profile?

Writing Your LinkedIn Summary

In real life (IRL) you may meet someone, chat a bit, find you have common (business) interests and decide to exchange either business cards or anything ranging from email to phone number or Twitter handle. Just so you can follow up a pleasant and potentially beneficial contact.

On LinkedIn, your summary should give a first impression of you as a professional as you’re not present to introduce yourself.

Who are you as a professional?

If you’re having trouble deciding what to tell the world about what matters to you most, ask yourself what tasks or situations bring out the best in you. A few examples:

  • Suppose you’re completely result-driven. There’s no better moment than when you get to present your solution to a nagging issue your colleagues or clients have been working around for ages.
  • You’re a people person. Helping people out is what you get up for in the morning (or would, if you didn’t have a job that doesn’t suit your personal strengths). Or, nothing can beat having meaningful conversations that allow you to really connect with people – some call this ‘networking’ and treat it like a chore but for you, it’s the air you breathe.
  • Or say you’re both. There’s no buzz like the one you get after you’ve helped resolve a really sticky problem that was ruining someone’s life. You can do this kind of thing in absolutely no time at all – you power up, get things done, and make your co-worker, client, or a complete stranger for that matter, immensely happy.

Describe who you are in a business setting. That’s you as a professional.

What do you put in your LinkedIn summary if you’re a student?

Exactly the same kind of information. Except your ‘business setting’ is the projects you’ve done, an internship, a part time job, tasks you performed as a volunteer. Anything anyone ever asked or required you to do for them. What activities or situations are the spice in your food?

How should I use key words in my LinkedIn summary?

You can add key words to appear in search results but they should look natural in the context of your summary. Do NOT just open a text book and select anything you think would attract potential employers or clients. Your summary is not about what you studied, but what you (intend to) do with the knowledge and skills you’ve gained as a result.

How long should my LinkedIn summary be?

Think of your LinkedIn summary as an “About the author” bit above or below a blog post, or a Twitter bio. It can be anything from 30 to about 100 words. If you go well beyond 100 you’re probably adding too much detail to your ‘first impression’ and chances are you’re repeating yourself. See what details you should rather use to describe individual projects, jobs or other activities. Or add a link to your “About” page if you have a blog, or to a short video.

In short, use your summary to introduce yourself as a professional. Stick to what you know to be true about yourself. This way it’s clear to everyone that “what they see is what they’ll get”. Wouldn’t it be great to get an interview based on who you are?

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. If you did, please share it – I would really appreciate it! You may also leave your thoughts and questions about your LinkedIn summary in a comment – I promise I’ll reply to anything non-spammy 😉

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!

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!

Incoming! Using a content ‘landing strip’ for your visitors

Anyone who tries to get marketing to ‘do’ social media is in danger of ending up in another tiny unit next to the established teams, like I mentioned in my previous post. The effect of ‘siloing’ – chopping up anything to do with customer/contact into ever tinier areas of specialization – is that you get people adding social media ‘on top of’ whatever content is produced by a different team, or probably several teams.

Providing a content ‘landing strip’ to your visitors

Content landing strip for your visitors

Perhaps you’ve found that there are considerably more people who visit your web page than actually click through to a specific piece of content you’d like them to view.

You may be looking at visitors who walk off after passing through layers of information that are not in sync with each other.

A perfect landing strip provides a consistent experience every step of the way toward a particular piece of content you want a certain type of visitor to view.

Compare the following situations.

Situation A: Content and distribution coming from isolated teams

  1. You spot a super-interesting message on a social network you’re using. It fits right in with an issue you run into as a part of your work. You want to know more.
  2. You click the message which leads you to a page on a website. The subject that triggered you to click through doesn’t seem to be there: this page contains a general text about issues people in your business role encounter. There is a report on the page which the message also mentioned, but nothing on the page mentions the specific issue you are interested in.
  3. Now I’m sure there are people who are interested enough, and who know your company well enough to know that you deliver real value in your reports, to click through to the report.

This is no comfortable ‘landing strip’ for your visitors – this track is more fit for a bit of off-the-road experience!

Situation B: Content and distribution coming from collaborating teams

  1. You spot a super-interesting message on a social network you’re using. It fits right in with an issue you run into as a part of your work. You want to know more.
  2. You click the message which leads you to a page on a website. The subject that triggered you to click through is the main topic on the page. The text gives you an example of the issue mentioned in the social media message you clicked on, and refers you to paragraph 3 in the report on that page.
  3. You decide to click through knowing more or less what you’ll find, and where to look for it.

Example number two gives you a consistent experience. It triggers your interest and doesn’t allow you to get ‘lost’.

Is a content landing strip necessary?

Some – perhaps most – customers are able to find their way to your most precious content regardless of what you do. Unless of course you make it too hard for them. My point is you are not the person who decides what is too much work to get at your content. That decision lies with your visitors.

My bit of amateur psychology:

  • Curiosity, and the optimistic hope that you may have something good to offer them, is a ‘happy’ state of mind triggered by your initial message.
  • If you throw up any kind of barrier that makes visitors to your website ‘work for their money’ some may leave. And they may not come back for a while.
  • Others will still click through but they’re in a different state of mind: searching, analysing which part of your report is the most relevant. For some, solving this problem is a reward in itself, but anyone who is pressed for time will expect more value for, well, ‘money’. You end up having to make your content better to counter the “So what?” attitude you’ve just created yourself!

How do you improve your visitors’ experience?

Creating your landing strip

Work your way from the inside out. Things to consider while designing your visitors’ experience:

  1. Who do you want to view your masterpiece? What do you offer them?
  2. If there are people with different needs out there, you need a bit of information on your website that addresses those precise needs. Two or three ‘bits’ if you’re talking about a major industry report that addresses issues that are relevant to people with different interests.
  3. A marketing guy will want to see different information than someone in customer service. You may point them towards the same section in your report – but you’ll invite them in different ways. You need to decide if you want to do all this on your website, or on a social platform.

Evaluate the result going from the outside in. Once you’re happy you have every step covered, walk a mile in your visitors’ shoes. My tips for this:

  • Take every step a visitor would take from your social media message down to your content masterpiece.
  • Act stupid while you do so.
  • Do this when you don’t have a lot of time, you’re tired and generally fed up to make sure you nag about anything that’s not perfect 🙂

That concludes my thoughts about a content landing strip to suit your visitors – leave a comment to add your thoughts on the topic and I promise to reply to anything non-spammy!