X is for Change. Making good ideas work in big organizations

This is a bit of an odd one out in view of all the knowledge management posts I’ve written lately. Yet there is a common background to them: change in organizations.

Apart from knowledge management, there is social business, and probably a couple of other great change initiatives I’m not aware of, but that you’ve witnessed from the enthousiastic launch right down to the moment when the last “new way of thinking” motivator turned their minds to different activities – or¬†launched the escape pod to another company in hopes of finding converts there.

Change in Big organizations

Change for the better? – Image by HikingArtist.com

Big change is bad news in big organizations

Getting an existing company to change the way it does its work may involve changing the organization chart. It’s messy and people tend not to like that. Employees don’t like it because it could be their job on the line. Managers and the people with jobs that start with a C don’t like it because change, real change, could backfire in a big way. That would leave them looking rather silly in terms of return-on-bonus ūüėČ

But they can’t do nothing. So they hire someone to handle the new project. This one person may even grow into a small team. They target groups of people at once, trying to make as many converts as possible.

After a while, budget is moved elsewhere and the expert or team may move along with it to another department. The bar may be¬†lowered because things don’t go as smoothly as hoped.

Small change is… very small change in big organizations

In a big organization, small changes look like background noise. They may still be fundamental changes, but it takes a while for any change to come up to the surface to get some fresh air.

Most people who try to change the organization (or at least parts of it) are experts in their own field: knowledge management, social media in business, or anything else. Unfortunately it looks as though the cash cow is grazing on a different field: that of change management. Knowledge management, social business, and the like, give you something to aim for. Lack of knowledge and skills to help you get there frustrates your whole project.

Good ideas in big organizations need change management

What is change management? If done right, the recipe contains organizational theory, strategy, ideas about how to deal with the human resources side of it all, possibly some other herbs and spices, and psychology (quite a lot of that actually).

Suppose you’re trying to get someone to fly to the moon. Or to abandon their cart in favor of travelling by train. You need to convince your intended converts:

  • that the goal is worth working towards.
  • that¬†your contraption won’t break up, explode, crash or simply grind to a halt in the middle of nowhere.
  • that they can actually operate the vehicle – that they will be trained thoroughly.
  • that they will get real help quick whenever they don’t know what to do next (I just got a flash of the Apollo astronauts calling the helpdesk…yikes!).
  • that they will benefit from their effort – not chucked out into the cold.
  • that there is no true alternative, even though they think they’re¬†sitting on it – that there is no comfort zone.

Make¬†any change¬†look too insignificant, and¬†people will be so slow in moving you’ll barely notice their progress. Make it look too big and scary,¬†and people¬†will freeze up and wait for you to leave and leave them alone.

Disruptive change? No thanks.

Steer clear of the organizational terminators if you really want to change anything.

X is for change

In the course of your working life you may have read articles calling for a CIO, a CKO, or a CMO¬†– and I just remembered a CCO too. Some of them even exist in a couple of companies, though rarely on a par with the “big C”s: the CEO (boss) and CFO (finance).
Based on my own experiences my vote would go to a CXO: a change leader. Just to get the good ideas going on a strategic level. I can’t guarantee it’ll work – but I have the impression it might just make things that little bit easier.

Read more:

Have you ever initiated what would have been a welcome change (for the better) for your organization, or part of it?¬†Or, have you ever wished a co-worker¬†success with their attempts to change anything wondering how long they’d last?

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Why the nature of knowledge frustrates knowledge ‘management’ (part 1)

What do we know about knowledge? This is the kind of question that bites its own tail. Even so, thinking about the nature of knowledge may give you some idea of how managing it might work. Since there’s a lot to¬†the topic of knowledge management this is going to take more than one post. Not because it wouldn’t fit into one post, but because I’m still thinking…

The central question in this post is:

What is the nature of knowledge?

Let’s skip definitions and get down to a few basic rules that seem to apply – unless you¬†prefer¬†a holistic, universal view of knowledge.

Knowledge is personal

Ladder Of Knowledge

Ladder Of Knowledge, Barcelona [Click to view Flickr image]

  1. Limited to a person. If you bend over sideways, knowledge tends not to run out of your ear as the by-product of an intellectual ear infection.
  2. Limited in subject matter. Some people seem to know everything about everything, but omniscience is usually attributed to a single divine being. Humans spend their whole lives accumulating knowledge. We tend to know a lot about a little, and a little about a lot of things.
  3. Based on your own experience. It’s rare to run into someone who’s actually reviewed every bit of new information on its merits. You live life, bumping into random facts, and construct an image of what the world is like.

(Talking about the ‘personal experience’¬†aspect: you can see the need to get the world sorted out in kids of 3 – I have a handy specimen upstairs in bed. It’s quite a challenge to pry bits of fresh knowledge out once they’ve found a way into such a¬†little head. Offering a bit of context, or examples where newly found truths don’t hold up, is often the only way to¬†influence loudly-stated facts.)

What other characteristics does knowledge have?

Knowledge is subject to change

Knowledge evolves. You’re always learning. Which means you find and assess new information. You end up acquiring knowledge. Sometimes that means you¬†need to¬†review things you¬†knew (things you thought were true).

In the book¬†Dune by Frank Herbert, Paul Atreides got some unexpected advice upon reciting¬†what he’d been taught. He was told that he had some ‘un-learning’ to do. Somewhere around the age of 20 young adults go through a phase when they assume they know how the world works. I know I did, and I’ve witnessed the same thing in others. In many cases that opinion is revoked or at least toned down a bit some¬†5 to 10 years later.¬†A mature brain is one of nature’s wonders, and running into a few of life’s¬†metaphorical but painfully unyielding walls sure helps too.

Knowing ‘everything’ is something you will only achieve if you live in a stable and uncomplicated¬†environment which only changes in nearly unnoticeable detail (until the volcano erupts, anyway). If you’re reading this blog, that place is probably somewhere else.

Knowledge can be taken beyond its original context

You learn¬†certain skills or ‘facts’, and at the same time you learn¬†the¬†methods you need in order to learn, or in order to solve a problem.¬†Whether or not you take those methods and learn to apply them in different contexts depends on the environment in which you live and work. In a more or less static environment you may never need to apply your knowledge to any other field than the original one.

Examples of when you need to take your knowledge one level up:

  • When changing jobs, especially if it involves moving into a different branch, if you switch to a different career or start your own company, you may find yourself scraping the bottom of your knowledge barrel for anything you can use in your new situation. This is the moment when even the most unlikely bits of knowledge can prove useful. You’re forced to get creative.
  • At university¬†you’re supposed to acquire an academic attitude towards information, methods, knowledge – but it’s still up to¬†you to actually make the connection between¬†one specific situation and others. If you do, you find yourself zooming out to see similar situations in which your knowledge applies, and then, if you’re very¬†lucky (intelligent?),¬†zooming out still further to notice how scientific methodology is relevant outside the academic realm.¬†As a final step in this recipe,¬†don’t forget to¬†add a dash of social skills¬†to avoid looking like a total wise-ass off campus. But that’s a different story ūüėČ

Read more:

If you feel I missed anything major about the nature of knowledge, or if you have any other thoughts on the topic, just let me know. In my next post I will briefly (if possible) discuss a few ways in which knowledge management teams have tried to herd the curious cats of knowledge, and go into a central issue that has to do with the nature of knowledge management Рand probably with a couple of other recurring business issues as well.

New knowledge: how to breathe creativity into your business

How do you instill creativity in places where it seems to be lacking big time? In an earlier post I mentioned that an investor’s mindset seems to chase away innovation. But what invites creative thinking? What sets us off on the hunt for new knowledge?

Why knowledge acquisition and the creative process grind to a halt

Firstly let’s add a bit of detail to my earlier thoughts about why inventors leave a company (after an IPO). Money seems to have an oddly familiar impact¬†if you’re¬†a business owner: it burns in your pockets, leading to buying decisions based on affluence. You have the money. This fact severely reduces¬†your need to employ creative brains.¬†If you choose¬†your resources based on their availability,¬†you¬†can either¬†put in creative thinking and the time you need to realize your ideas, or you can chuck in a bag of money at any given moment to buy the results of other people’s efforts.

When and how does creativity leave your business?

San Matteo by Caravaggio

San Matteo by Caravaggio [Fragment
of image on Wikimedia Commons]

  • Following my instincts I’d say the first awkward moments arise when you find that your best ideas no longer lead to reactions like “that sounds great – go do it and let me know when you’ve got something”. Instead you get “that sounds interesting – is there anything out there we could use?” or “okay, draft some requirements we can use for our vendors”.
  • The absolute get-out-of-here-right-now trigger is when decisions for further development are made without consulting the company’s innovative minds. It makes sense to leave when no one cares enough about your opinion to ask for it¬†before taking a major decision. The best (or most independently thinking) inventors will leave at this point.
  • The other inventors¬†may choose to deliver what’s being asked for. However their ‘inventions’ are probably the products of ideas born from the minds of investors, market researchers, and the like. No wonder they don’t match the level of the ‘breakthrough inventions’ done by pioneering innovators!

What does this tell us about factors that’ll get innovation and general creative thinking into a team or company? It’s not just “leave them alone and great things’ll happen”.

Apple or IBM: two methods to bring creativity into your business

1. The survival method: be creative or else

To draw upon my own education, one of my teachers in art history argued that Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) would not have reached the peak of his own ingenuity if his patron had accepted some of the paintings he made. As an inventor you may well need someone who will warn you not to become complacent – push you out of your comfort zone – tell you they know you can “do better than that” and will not settle for anything but the best.

To me this is a part of the Steve Jobs approach – if engineers come up with new¬†adaptations of old inventions you demand they think of something better. I can imagine this method does not go down well with people who are either independent thinkers themselves, or who aim for ‘okay’ solutions that lack a ‘wow’ factor. It’s a method that smells of survival basics (and can inspire real terror for that reason): either you come up with a solution that works, or you starve because all the animals run away. How’s that for a creative spark?

2. The cocreation method: the benefit of having different points of view

Another part of innovation at Apple which Jobs was probably good at, is the ‘naive outsider’ approach (I’m borrowing from a Forbes article on creativity in marketing here) – taking a fresh look at familiar things and asking the questions that experts overlook. But there’s a definite downside to having one person doing ‘creative quality control or CQC (I just made that up for the occasion).

If you’re into social or ‘open’ business like IBM you can get input from people outside your company and even your industry. If you have your creative process in full operation, this should give you plenty of alien points of view – forcing you to rethink what would otherwise pass for ‘obvious’ arguments.

Creative quality control: which method suits you?

In view of the possibilities offered by social media and the like, and the psychological effects of each individual method, my vote goes to the ‘many voices’ option of social business. But depending on the type of company your in and the goals you’ve set, another method may be more viable.

More reading:

How do you foster innovation in your organization? Let’s talk about new knowledge, “CQC”, creativity, business, and social media in the comments!

The content priority matrix – focus your blogging efforts

In my previous post I¬†applied the Eisenhower priority¬†matrix to companies/investors’ priorities. In this post I try to answer the question: how does the money issue affect the nature of (corporate) blogging? I also give¬†away 6 tips¬†for single-topic blogging and my thoughts about part-time business blogging.

The two sides of the content priority matrix for blogging

What is the main issue with blogging to make money in whatever way?

Content Priority Matrix for Blogging

Content priority matrix for professional bloggers

It could be this: the point of anything you do to influence other people is that there are two sides to the window (or priority matrix) you’re looking through.

Where there are bloggers looking out, you’ll find readers looking in. At least, I sure hope so.

Content priority matrix: focus for professional blogging

Professional bloggers, from their¬†side of the ‘window’, would be interested in¬†these aspects of potential blog topics:

  • Money generating topic – adjacent but non-commercial topics
  • Expertise – no expertise

As a¬†full-time professional blogger¬†you would invest most of your time¬†on topics that let¬†you share your expertise and that could yield money by addressing people’s urgent and important needs. If there were a related topic that could make considerably more money you’d spend some of¬†your time extending¬†your expertise in that direction. The other bits you’d leave out or use to add interest to¬†your¬†otherwise fact-ridden business blog.

The ‘expert-no money’ quadrant is also amply filled¬†by personal blogs.¬†‘No money’ may in fact not be an accurate description,¬†because showing yourself to be an expert at anything, including being consistently funny, may still end up in some kind of¬†business or career opportunity!

What matters to business blog readers?

What writing is there on the window sill on the outside – the side of the readers of a business blog? You might learn more by taking a peek at¬†the matrix I made for this post, in which I try to visualize the way we (sensible consumers that we are) prioritize our purchases ūüėČ

  1. Relevant – not relevant (‘important’)
  2. Urgent – not urgent

If a blog post deals with a relevant topic, you’ll read it – note that this involves a decision to invest your time! Now, if I try to coax you towards signing up for more, I’ll have the greatest success if I’m not only spot on topic-wise, but if you’re also convinced that:

  • you need to know more
  • you need to buy this service or product urgently

You’ll find plenty of blogs out there that tell you how you should tackle the issues of being utterly relevant, building trust, and connecting. Crafting a sense of urgency is an absolute knack of some sales folk. You know, the ones who catch you viewing stuff like door locks and come up with a special offer only for today to “help you keep your precious family safe” from the big bad world outside if you’ll go for the Complete Burglar Alarm Set For Pros. Them.

If you don’t want to be pushy, remember not everyone responds well to the “buy now or miss out on a life-changing experience” approach. You can opt to be more subtle.

6 tips for single-topic blogging

“Stick to one topic and forget the rest”¬†is the advice professional bloggers/content marketers give to others who want to make money blogging. To make a single-topic blog work, you need to:

  1. check every month which of your posts got top numbers in readers, subscriptions, and conversions.
  2. skip the rest and focus on the stuff that works
  3. keep experimenting by introducing the odd off-topic post and check the results
  4. plan ahead so you don’t run out of content juice
  5. haul in guest bloggers to take the strain off your blogging or to increase the frequency with which you post
  6. keep an eye on similar blogs for more ideas.

Part-time blogging

As a part time (business) blogger you might find yourself running into a serious writers’ block if¬†you tried to stick to just one topic and write about it several times per week. The alternative is to blog once or twice a month. That’s often enough for blogs that are part of a business website. You’ll keep fresh and relevant content coming without it costing too much time and effort.

The main thing is that you think about your blog and make decisions. It’s fine if you change your mind later – just remember to make another informed decision rather than drifting into a blogging routine you never intended to develop. Especially in corporate blogging, focus is key.

If¬†you run into unexpected topics on this blog,¬†I hope¬†you find¬†them¬†a pleasant surprise. Add¬†your thoughts about content, priority, money¬†– please¬†share this post – I hope I’ve given you food for thought ūüėČ

Money and the infinite pursuit of innovation

Having a couple of million dollars in your bank account takes the urgency out of your drive to innovate… Just last Tuesday I ran into this piece of Stanford research. It shows that an initial public offering (IPO) on¬†the stock market¬†has a negative impact¬†on the¬†level of innovation in a company. I get that. Being rich might even make a lot of bloggers lazy ūüėČ

But.
I wonder where true inventors¬†go after they leave such a company. Do they spend the rest of their lives hanging out by the pool side? Somehow I don’t think so. So why do they leave? An IPO – or the presence of money – seems to cause a shift in a company’s priorities away from creativity. In this post I will explore the issue (without suggesting I did any kind of thorough research myself).

Money Creativity Matrix

IPOs seem to cause a shift to urgency (left) at the expense of R&D activities

Why do innovators leave after an IPO?

At one point in my career I was working at a, well not a start-up because it was a couple of years old, but still a company in the early pioneering stage. Characteristics:

  • Most people around are actively trying to improve the product, or they’re helping out on the stuff that needs to get done.
  • No one gets excited over quarterly reports, but they do get wowed by anything that will make the product easier or more fun to use because everyone wants people to know it and love it and, yes, buy it too.
  • The bottom line is that there is no budget but you’re allowed to tinker. If you have an idea, you check with your boss (the owner/entrepreneur) and he may well give you permission to invest your time, energy, and intelligence. So long as the¬†dull must-do¬†tasks are¬†taken care of¬†too.

Creativity scare #1: investors’ risk adversity

The moment IPO and suchlike is around the corner this all changes. Inventors become the engineering department. That may sound like an important part of the company, but more and more people within the company get interested in things like marketing and quality control and business process management. Which basically means more rules.¬†It means that¬†if you are really excited about something you thought up, you need to make sure¬†you’re talking to the right person by the coffee machine or risk:

  • watching their eyes glaze over as they say “Oh – yeah. That’s great, really great”.
  • having them say stuff like¬†“I’m not sure that’s¬†allowed/safe actually”.

That’s exactly the kind of situation that might, apart from no longer having to worry about money, cause this:

“I find that the quality of innovation produced by inventors who remained at the firm declines following the IPO and key inventors are more likely to leave.” (Shai Bernstein)

Key inventors – that doesn’t sound like people who were in it just for the money. These are the born tinkerers.

Innovations that do pass the risk-and-legal test may have been compromised at an early stage – any part¬†deemed risky is replaced by add-ons to bits that were invented at an earlier stage.¬†It seems that investors want you to do what you’ve proved yourself to be good at, only more of it, and without risky adventures now that their money is involved. Think sequels ūüôā

Creativity scare #2: a sense of urgency

Marketing talk on its own is unlikely to scare innovators away – start-ups all try to come up with a viable product. What else is there? An innovator is motivated by curiosity – wanting to find out how things work, how problems can be solved, products might be improved…

A shift in¬†your company’s mindset from opportunities to threats¬†(to the investors’ money, for example) will lead to¬†decisions based on¬†a sense of urgency. Especially if you have the money to act immediately – you find yourself¬†buying a company that has the necessary tech rather than wasting time trying to figure it out yourself.¬†Added effect is that¬†such an action¬†knocks out a potential competitor, or allows you to effectively monopolize a couple of relevant patents.
Invest wisely – don’t gamble.

How to pull off the combination of money AND the pursuit of creativity

There are at least two things you can do to safeguard creative processes in your company:

  1. I found this sentence: “Firms with more entrenched managers, whose greater job security makes them less likely to be sensitive to market pressures, experience a smaller decline in innovation novelty, and interestingly, their inventors are less likely to leave the firm.” I could translate this as “Firms that don’t get completely taken over by shareholders don’t scare their inventors away as much.” Make sure your company has solid management before even considering going to the stock exchange.
  2. Don’t interfere with creative processes by throwing risk and legal stuff in at an early stage. Let innovators tinker and give them credit for being good at it.¬†This is¬†what companies like Google understand. Inventors, while liking the idea of having enough money to live a comfortable life, need to know they are allowed to tinker (part of their time). There’s nothing quite like someone asking themselves “I wonder if it’s possible to… How about if I try…” and taking off. This is ‘flow’ for inventors. Mess with¬†that and you should not be surprised if¬†your inventors pack up and leave.

If you don’t like the sound of ‘letting them tinker’, you need to accept that your top innovators will turn elsewhere to do what they do best.

Source: Research paper No. 2126 “Does Going Public Affect Innovation?” Shai Bernstein, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, December 2012.

P.S.: I just found myself wondering how this relates to blogging vs. corporate blogging. What do you think?

I hope you found this post of interest! Please add your thoughts about innovation, creativity, and tinkering in general in a comment Рwhat else could you do to keep inventors on board?

The usual suspects: why we don’t buy as readily as we sell

After my recent ramblings about LinkedIn I thought I might return to another topic of interest: marketing and blogging. There is a lot to be said for taking a marketing approach what you do on your blog. Especially if you’re wondering why some things you do just fall flat for no apparent reason.

Buyers Prioritization

You got yourself an audience, a good call to action to get your readers to join your subscribers list, you’re sending them information about your products/services… and then, well, nothing. Well, not nothing – but… You’re an expert. Surely everyone is going to want to buy the valuable stuff you have to offer? Why aren’t the %% higher than this?

In this post I’ll take a roundabout tour through marketing and then get back to your blog.

Marketing and the usual suspects

Purely from a marketing/sales view it’s a matter of buyer’s journey or even ‘buyer cycle’, which has phases to mark where on the road towards your first or next purchase you might be.

  1. If¬†you’re in the right group of people (say busy working mum who loves high-heeled boots but won’t risk twisting an ankle again running after child no. 2) you’re a suspect. In fact we’re all someone’s suspect. We all buy something at some point.
  2. The moment you subscribe to anything, you turn into a prospect: someone who shows a definite¬†interest in the kind of services/products¬†a company¬†offers. In some cases it means you get spammed daily – companies seem to think they need to haul you in NOW or you might end up buying a competitor’s product.
  3. Once¬†you’re in their webshop…
  4. … loading stuff into¬†your shopping cart (or taking similar actions) there’s an almost audible drum roll.

In many cases people never get beyond stage two. Why not? There are plenty of tips out there that focus on mending the leaks in your sales funnel, but I’m not going¬†to discuss¬†incontinent marketing processes here.

Theorize about¬†your¬†potential buyers’ priorities

Think about yourself as a reader of blogs (and a potential¬†customer for someone) for a moment. Since I don’t know you, I’ll make up for this bit by talking about myself and pretending I’m a version of you. In this multiverse there must be a universe where I’m you ūüėČ

You¬†read and view¬†loads of stuff every day, either for personal or professional purposes. Depending on your job and other interests, some topics matter a lot, others a little. There’s one topic that you’re mainly interested in because it affects your job. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to keep up to date. So you read up online. After all what’s the internet for? Then you attend an webinar. From the moment you subscribe you get spammed by at least half a dozen companies trying to sell you stuff¬†that’s related to the subject of the webinar. Preferably expensive and¬†IT-related. Oh, great…

Enter the wonderful world of the¬†‘buyer persona’

Using¬†a buyer persona (or several) means you basically¬†assemble some¬†characteristics into a credible theoretical buyer. Age, lifestyle, and depending on what you’re trying to sell¬†you throw in a¬†job title, professional issues –¬†or health problems and family situation. It’s a lot like certain police series, where they try to narrow down the group of possible suspects.

In¬†the case where you¬†are the customer, companies are¬†guessing what you might be interested in buying,¬†and they approach you with information that seems¬†relevant. Despite these efforts many marketers still can’t, or won’t, take into account your personal priorities (or your influence on your company’s budget, for that matter). Now, rather than¬†veering off into a discussion¬†about¬†prioritization¬†in this post, here’s a link if you’d like to read how¬†Eisenhower prioritized¬†his to do list. I’ll stick to reinterpreting this handy matrix around the question “to buy, or – to forget about it”.

Your priorities – and how they affect your buying decisions

Many of us – those of us with any savings in the bank, anyway – make buying decisions much like this:

  1. Do I need it? Yes. When? Now!¬†Unless you’re broke you’ll have no problem spending money on things you really need, urgently.
  2. Do I need it? Yes. When? Well, let’s say within the next 3 months. Hmm, I’d better get some more information… and see if I can get a discount somewhere.
  3. Do I want it? Yes. Do I need it? Not really. How much does it cost?
  4. Do I want it? I might, if it’s fun. Do I need it? Nope.

Businesses put a lot of effort trying to close the gaps that make you hesitate. For example, many retail shops know their customers, including you,¬†well enough to be just within the price range you had in mind ūüėČ

Back to your blog’s usual ‘suspects’

When you’re blogging you may get a lot of visitors, but the ones in category 1 are a definite minority. You do need some casual visitors though – a blog that never gets comments, likes, or shares won’t appeal even to people who are looking for a solution to their problem, NOW. So you cater, in some ways, for visitors of¬†categories 2, 3 or even 4. If that means your blog is more fun and less businessy, hey, what’s wrong with a readable blog?¬†But do¬†make sure that there is something for Number One.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If so, please share it – or share your thoughts about marketing, blogging and the like¬†in a comment. Thanks ūüôā

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 ūüėČ

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?” ūüėČ

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!