This is a follow-up to our earlier articles on social media, which you can find in the Members Only section of our website. For this article, we asked a group of Five O’Clock Club coaches to give us their opinions on Social Media in general and LinkedIn in particular. The coaches were: Damona Sain, Win Sheffield, Celia Currin, Mary Anne Walsh, Anita Attridge, Bill Belknap, Roy Cohen and Chip Conlin.
More frequently than ever, social media websites are helping people in their job search. Popular sites, such as LinkedIn, are allowing people to reach out to new contacts in a field—or even company—that they are targeting in their job search. But the very popularity of these sites means that it can also be difficult to stand out from the crowd. We asked several of our coaches about the most effective ways to use social media in a job search.
Technology changes, and you have to change with it, but the basic techniques and thought processes for job searches and career development don’t change. As one of our coaches said, “I constantly give my clients this advice: even if you do not embrace social networking, you need to understand how business is using it because it will come up, sooner rather than later, in business conversations.
“So, please, for self-preservation, avail yourself of the data. By the way, www.mashable.com is one of the best sites for keeping pace with the business uses and business trends involving social media.”
Yes, times have changed. In the 1960s and 1970s, if you left your house and the phone rang, you missed the call. People did not have home answering machines. Nowadays, people are connected to their cell phones everywhere they go.
Twenty years ago, the Internet did not exist. Today, it can dominate our lives. We think that the new Social Media are meant to extend our relationships, but there are perilous risks, as well as benefits.
We can all build lots of connections, but let’s be smart about it. Facebook is the cause of many relationship break-ups. A 2009 study makes the claim that “increased Facebook use significantly predicts Facebook-related jealousy” in romantic relationships.
While Facebook tends to be more of a personal medium, LinkedIn is more for professional relationships. Used correctly, it can help you to improve your current career, find a new job, or build a consulting practice.
In future articles, we’ll look at Twitter, blogs and other forms of Social Media and how they can affect your career.
Social Media in General
Keep up your contacts while working
Before Social Media came into being, we urged our clients who had landed jobs to make sure they had two networking meetings a week — no matter what — to keep up their contacts, keep up with what was happening in their fields and industries, and to already have developed contacts if they needed information to help them in their careers or wanted to search again.
Be smart about building your connections.
Social Media can help you to keep up your contacts, particularly given how busy everyone is these days, but our coaches caution that “nothing substitutes for face-to-face contact. Don’t ever forget the value of a phone call over an email.” Meeting people virtually does not replace meeting people directly — either in person or via telephone. One coach advised, “Make sure that 20 to 30 percent of your time — whether in your job or job hunting — is ‘in the field’ meeting and connecting with people face-to-face.”
Social Media are a serious part of the resources and tools that help people in their jobs and in job search. The basics of managing your career, looking for a job, or building a consulting practice have not changed — just the tools that help people to connect have changed — ranging from email, online search, to LinkedIn, blogs and Twitter.
Use Social Media as one tool to develop your career, build a consulting practice, or find a new job.
These tools help you to stay in contact with your network of people and companies, and to continue to build your network. You can use social networking tools to build your reputation as an industry or subject expert by blogging and tweeting — or every bit as important — responding and commenting on other people’s blogs and tweets.
As one coach said: “Social networking should not be viewed as just a job-search tool. That’s wrong and inefficient. This would be the equivalent of going to just one interview with the belief and expectation that it will produce a job offer. It’s a resource for managing and navigating your career. Yes, you use social networking to conduct a dynamic job search, but it’s so much more than that. Use it to expand your network, as a resource for information, and to build a community of like-minded people who will support you both on the job, as well as in job search.”
Social Media Can Waste Your Time
Whether you are employed or not, we all know that anything on the Internet (or computer or handheld mobile devices, especially Smartphones) can suck up too much time. One coach advises that for one or two weeks, you should assess how much time per day you spend online. Track how often you click on interesting links and surf to unrelated topics. Then cut all your time in half for two weeks. Use that extra time to meet with people directly via phone and in person, rather than relying on virtual meetings alone.
As one coach put it: “Let’s face it, it takes a lot of time and care to build Stage 1 and 2 contacts (getting to know people who know about your industry and field and then those who are more senior than you). It’s easy to avoid the sometimes intimidating and anxiety-producing effects of reaching out to people in person. Social Media are also pretty much a ‘2-D’ interaction. That can increase miscommunication possibilities.”
Comparing Various Social Media
Facebook is generally for social purposes, rather than career development. Twitter can be very time-intensive and the tweets move so quickly that you can lose track of them easily if you stay away for a couple of days (even hours sometimes!).
Blogs are labor intensive, but can be effective if you like to write and write well. But check out the blogs you return to time and again, and figure out why they are appealing. Being too wordy with no graphics or other media (such as a short video) can be a recipe for a lack of traffic. Other media include verbal podcasts, but you need good recording equipment or no one will stay to listen. This coach notes: “I think well done video podcasts (NOT amateur YouTube versions!) on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and whatever else there is, would likely appeal to more people—but ONLY if they are well done and if you are photogenic or a natural in front of a camera.”
All of the above can take up so much of your time! Be sure to track the amount of time you are on the computer and what you are doing there. It is very easy to waste time digging through newsletters, blogs, junk mail, and it is important to keep the time invested under control.
What’s more, Social Media can be a new way of “hiding out” instead of actually making contact with real people. The Internet in all of its forms is a great research tool. But as we used to say, if you are spending all of your time in the library (or on the Internet), get out more. If you are spending all of your time meeting with people, research more. You need both for a successful career today.
Finally, Social Media are used more heavily in certain industries and professions than others. Here’s one coach’s thoughts on the subject: “Social Media are a tool to support your career. Like any tool it’s best used when the audience you’re targeting has embraced it and believes in it.
“Know whether your audience uses it so you don’t waste a lot of time using the wrong tools to advance your career or your search. If everyone in your desired target is heavily invested in social networking then you should be, too. For example, I have a client who just became the president of a digital ad agency. He’s on Facebook and LinkedIn to keep his universe of contacts — both professional and personal — apprised of his whereabouts and plans. He also uses and promotes other technologies to demonstrate his commitment to being ‘wired.’”
Every professional needs to be on LinkedIn. We have over 1,000 members in our Five O’Clock Club LinkedIn Group. LinkedIn has gotten rave reviews at The Five O’Clock Club. Wrote one Clubber to his group: “LinkedIn is a terrific tool that can help extend a person’s network and simplify the process of identifying members of your network in target companies and industries. It’s free to join so I’ve tried to recruit lots of other Five O’Clock Clubbers. As a quick anecdote, I received a cold call this morning from a distant contact in my LinkedIn network who is looking for help on a number of his projects. I was the perfect fit. A perfect lead! I wish you the same good luck, and pass it on. If you join, make sure you connect to me; the bigger your network the more effective it will be.”
From one coach’s point-of-view: “LinkedIn is being described as ‘the best’ online career-management guide around; and rightly so. There is a huge WOW factor knowing that at least 45 million others are on LinkedIn.
“Remember more than 85% of recruiters are trying to find you daily. Just a few years ago we thought of career management as a ladder: Get that first job and hang on that rung until you or someone else decides it is time to go. The current thinking is to visualize your career as a ramp where you are consistently, conscientiously, and concisely moving forward up this ramp using all the tools available to you, especially the art of building and maintaining relationships on an on-going basis throughout your career. What better vehicle than LinkedIn to assist you in accomplishing this lifetime project of managing yourself?”
Another coach offers comfort to concerned employees: “Clients sometimes worry that their employer will see their activity on LinkedIn and assume they are looking for work. You can update your status on a quarterly basis, or at a minimum, when you complete each major project. You can even mention to your boss that you are tracking your accomplishments using LinkedIn.”
Our coaches tend to agree that LinkedIn is simply a tool. As one said, “The key is to build relationships; to some extent LinkedIn can nurture or even extend a relationship. I think of LinkedIn as a fancy Rolodex and I rely on it as I would a Rolodex. It is not a substitute for developing the relationships. It is a medium, a sophisticated medium, but in the end, a medium.”
Would you like to see a great LinkedIn profile? Look at Guy Kawasaki’s.
Get the Professional Headline and Profile Right!
One coach represented many of our coaches when she said, “Mainly, I work with two categories of people — those high-potential clients who are on the cusp of promotion and are ripe for business coaching, and those individuals who are interested in transitioning into a new career. The most important first phase of coaching is assessment or identifying one’s career distinction, which is a cornerstone piece to crafting a dynamic profile. I strongly suggest working with a Five O’Clock Club Coach at this assessment-stage to help you identify your professional reputation or positioning. Keep in mind that it is hard to do these alone and much more fun to do in concert with a professional coach.”
Before writing your LinkedIn Heading and Profile, re-read the section of our Interviewing book on the Two-Minute Pitch. As we say at the Club, “if your pitch — the way you’re positioning yourself — is wrong, everything is wrong.” As one coach said, “Whether you are looking to advance your career, build a consulting practice, or are looking for a new job, it’s extremely important that your profiles on LinkedIn and other social networking sites be consistent in how they position you professionally. It’s amazing how many disconnects we see between a member’s profile on LinkedIn, the Summary Statement on their résumé, and even they way they talk about themselves in their pitch.”
The LinkedIn Professional Heading is a small field, but the most important. As one coach noted: “It is your positioning statement and is the reader’s first impression of your perceived promise of value — and we all know how difficult it is to change a first impression! Remember your positioning lives in the hearts and minds of others for a long time.” This same coach developed the following list for you to consider:
Coaching questions to ask yourself:
- What is the impression I want to create in the Professional Headline?
- What do others say about my Professional Headline?
- Are these congruent thoughts?
- What is the feeling you want it to evoke?
- What is the feeling others get when they read your Professional Headline?
- What does it say about your career distinction that you bring to an organization?
Compare the feeling you get when you read these two very real Professional Headlines — Joe: “In career transition” vs. Jill: “Big picture visionary who gets the job done using creative non-traditional tactics.” Which person would you want to get to know?
Most people decide they want to reposition themselves depending on where they want their career to go. A Clubber who had worked for the big consulting firms her entire life wanted people to instead see her as a “Communications Executive with 10 years of international experience.” How do you want to be seen?
Would you like to see a great LinkedIn profile? Look at Guy Kawasaki’s:
I know: Social Media are his job. The Internet is his life’s work. But he is a good example of someone who has taken full advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer. Pay special attention to his summary statement. You can see that he’s put a lot of thought into his. If you have been working closely with your coach, you may be able to simply insert your résumé summary statement onto your LinkedIn page. Every Five O’Clock Club coach would tell you that you want to consistently communicate your pitch in all of your communications: résumé, cover letter, your verbal pitch about yourself, email messages, and all other Social Media.
Develop your LinkedIn heading and summary after you’ve completed your résumé. That way, they both position you the same way.
By the way, if you are proud of your LinkedIn profile, be sure to list your LinkedIn address (see Guy’s address, above) in all of your email correspondence, at the top of your résumé, and so on. If you’ve done a good job on your LinkedIn profile, you want others to see it. And, rather than using the address that is assigned to you, you probably will want to change your LinkedIn address and use Guy’s format (with his name as part of the url).
All of our coaches echo the same thought: Complete your LinkedIn profile after you have completed your résumé. The Headline, 120 character limit, should define who you are and what differentiates you from others. The summary, 2,000 characters, should position you strategically for your career development, consulting business or job search. Start with the summary section from your résumé. Use bulleted points or short paragraphs so that it can be read easily. LinkedIn doesn’t give you the option for bulleted points, but you can get them by using a copy/paste of bulleted points from Microsoft Word into your profile, or simply use dashes or asterisks.
Another coach suggested: “I understand that people who have completed most of their LinkedIn profile are more successful in attracting employers through the LinkedIn service that finds people for employers.”
We asked our coaches about the number and kinds of recommendations a person should have. Here’s what they said:
- Have at least three or four. Be careful not to have too many “reciprocal” recommendations (i.e., if you recommend me, I’ll recommend you).
- People usually get a little suspicious about too many recommendations. (Even Guy Kawasaki has only six.) On this subject, when you ask people for a recommendation, it can be very helpful if you tell them quite specifically what you are hoping they will be comfortable in saying — to the point of writing a “draft” of a recommendation that they might want to use as a sample and change or adjust in any way that suits them. This takes the hassle out of the process for the recommender and helps you get the recommendation you really want.
- Recommendations should ideally be from previous managers or colleagues. As with references, if there are key points you would like them to include, let them know.
- Many of my clients have been contacted by both internal (company) recruiters, as well as external. Several were told they were being contacted because of the quality of their references. This is because I try (not always successfully!) to have my clients:
- Create a script for what they want said.
- Make sure the content from the reference is performance-based or behaviorally worded, NOT just a rave about the person. For example: “When Mary led the XYZ project team we met all of our committed delivery dates and came in under budget. I don’t think we could have done this without her leadership.”
- Choose the same people who are your job references; this makes the process much more efficient.
Too many recommendations make you look insecure.
Why Update Your LinkedIn Page?
Some people — especially consultants — regularly update something on their LinkedIn page so that a notice will be sent to everyone in their network and keep them top-of-mind. Whether or not you are a consultant, you can let people know what projects you are working on. What our coaches say:
- Check your profile regularly to see if there’s anything you can add that will keep your name and expertise showing up via status updates. Also, LinkedIn keeps adding features. Make sure that you take advantage of any that will showcase your skills.
- Like all updates (e.g., on Facebook), it can be overdone.
- People change their headline and summary as they become clearer about what is important to their target markets.
Using LinkedIn to Build a Consulting Practice
You can use LinkedIn to build a consulting practice by contacting companies or key people of interest to you.
Said one coach: “One financial client who wanted to work with small companies contacted all the smaller CPA firms on LinkedIn in his target market. He then met with them to let them know about his skills, since many small businesses contact the CPA firms to ask about recommendations for financial people.” Excellent idea.
Another coach suggested using LinkedIn regularly to record your accomplishments and advertise your events.
Your LinkedIn Photo
I’ve seen some photos that were not professional looking. They were way too sexy. This is not a dating service. Our coaches say:
- Use a plain background, have a warm smile, use solid colors for background and clothing. Have your hair under control. Preview your photo and ask others for their input. If you have your own consulting business, it’s best to have either a studio photo or one at high resolution so it can be reduced or enlarged for this and other purposes.
- The photo needs to be professional — ideally, professionally done. The photo is your business picture and should be as professional as your image and presentation would be at an interview.
Don’t use a sexy photo.
This is business, not a dating service.
Should you put Personal Information on LinkedIn?
To repeat what we say at the Club, if it helps your search, put it in. If it doesn’t help, leave it out. If you’re interested in skiing, for example, a reader could have a positive or negative reaction to this information. Our coaches say:
- Be strategic about personal information.
- Don’t think of LinkedIn as a place for any personal information. It seems out of place there — it’s more appropriate on Facebook.
- The Club rule is right.
Joining as many groups as possible increases your network base. Groups that can be most helpful are professional (industry and function), alumni groups, special interest groups and, of course, the Five O’Clock Club group. What else do our coaches have to say?
- Joining groups is a great idea, especially when you can participate in their discussions. Not only do they help you to showcase your knowledge and skills to a very targeted audience, but you can keep up-to-date in your field as you read others’ posts. However, if you join too many groups, you can waste time with status updates; so prioritize the ones you think will be best for your purpose. Searching is all about finding the right keywords. I remember trying to help a client find groups related to accounting and the results were not what he was looking for. That might have been a keyword issue or simply that typical accountants don’t set up these groups. (There were plenty of groups for CPAs, for example.)
- A footnote to the advice about not joining too many groups: If you are going to join a group try to be active in it and get to know the people in it. That’s the point — not just having a laundry list of groups. As in all career development activities, you should be conscious of whether it is working for you. Are you seeing real results? Building a network? Study the metrics.
- Again, Club rules apply: if it works, do it, if not, stop.
Use LinkedIn the same as you would any other medium. Use it in a professional manner.
How to Contact People through LinkedIn
I get requests all the time. The standard request that LinkedIn provides does not help me to figure out who this person is. Here’s what our coaches have to say:
- Always customize your invitation to others you ask to join your connections list. The standardized invitation is very impersonal and shows you don’t care enough to reach out personally.
- I absolutely agree that if you are building your network, you should personalize all correspondence — this is the chance to reach out and touch, and make it personal and leave an impression in someone’s mind. Don’t blow it to save two minutes.
- I am not offended if someone I know sends a standard request. Even so, I appreciate a custom note. If the custom note is from someone I don’t know well, I feel it is a little pushy. In the end, I will only connect with those I know.
- Personalizing your LinkedIn request helps to make your request stand out from many other requests that the person may be receiving.
The standard request that LinkedIn provides does not help me to figure out who this person is.
How to Build Your Network on LinkedIn
- Be sure you know the people you LinkedIn with — whether you are going to them or they are coming to you. Make sure that your network is full of people who actually know you and you know them.
- Check out the connections your connections have. If you find someone you’d like to reach out to, first check with your connection to find out how they know the other person, just as you would in a live networking situation. Then customize (always customize) your request appropriately.
- I stick to my contacts’ contacts. I tried to go further and it fizzled out— no relationship, so no result.
- It’s important to be selective in the invitations to accept. On most sites, as soon as you accept someone’s invitation you become part of their network, and may get invitations from people who may really not fit within your network. If they cannot really help you, or you cannot be of help to them, why do it?
How to Contact Someone in a Targeted Organization
Should you simply contact that person directly (direct contact) or should you ask someone else for an introduction (networking)? Is contacting someone via LinkedIn any different from our typical advice?
- Most of our coaches agree: This is just like the Club’s advice with other mediums: Contacting the person directly will provide you with the most control in connecting with someone. If you are trying to connect with a very senior person, you may want to contact a person you know before contacting the senior person. LinkedIn is the same as with any other medium.
- At The Five O’Clock Club, we advocate both ways to contact others. I’d look at the person’s level. Unless you’re a high-level executive, don’t approach a CEO of a medium to large company directly. Remember our phrase, “contact people one to two levels higher than you are.”
- Most job hunters I have observed are more successful when using LinkedIn and other sites to develop contacts and generate informational meetings. It’s really about going after those Stage 2 contacts (people one or two levels higher than you are who are in a position to hire you or recommend that you be hired), then following up with a targeted mailing, and good old-fashioned phone calls.
- I have observed a trend among some job hunters using LinkedIn to identify the hiring manager, or someone of influence within the company for which they have applied online for a position. It’s what I call the “one-two punch” — the same as if you were answering an ad, but also get your résumé bumped up because of your effective use of direct contact or networking.
Some General LinkedIn Suggestions
- I think it is important to regularly spend some time on LinkedIn and to be thoughtful about extending your network before you might really need to. LinkedIn makes networking quite easy and it lets you reach out and touch lots of contacts before you need the favor — and when you might be able to put some money in the favor bank.
- As for the time you might spend on LinkedIn, review it as you would ads, maybe look at it after the workday, once a day or look at it once a week.
- LinkedIn should be used as any other resource on an as-needed basis and with a purpose. It’s important to build your LinkedIn network by including groups. With a rich LinkedIn network, you can then use it to source candidates and companies. Like any of the social networking tools, it should be used with a purpose in mind.
- Check your privacy settings. Look at your progress bar and try to have it at least 75% complete. Look for groups pertaining to your industry/profession and join them. Follow discussions and contribute whenever possible.
Getting a Job Interview Through LinkedIn
We asked our coaches whether any of their job hunters have ever gotten a job interview through LinkedIn ads. Here are some of their answers:
- One group member did and was surprised to be hired for a position overseas.
- None of mine, but I have heard of people getting interviews through it.
- I have clients who have gotten interviews through recruiters. As many have noted, recruiters regularly troll LinkedIn for candidates.
- One client today said a recruiter called her about a position that he had posted, since her skills fit the profile. It appears that
- recruiters — both independent and for companies — are more aggressively using LinkedIn to identify candidates.
If you’re not using Google Alerts, you’re not a player in your organization, industry or profession.
Some Cool Advice
One coach suggested this very powerful LinkedIn technique:
“Use the counterintuitive approach of typing in your target company’s name in the People box. If you type in Medco, as an example, the search engine brings up the names of all the people 1, 2 and 3 degrees of separation from you who work [or used to work] at Medco. Very powerful.
“You can also do this on Twitter and Facebook. For those who are social-network challenged or cynical (believe it or not many of my clients are…but not for long!), this will quickly tell you if some of your targets are social-network savvy. For example, Medco and WebMD (and hundreds of Fortune 500 companies) pay for Twitter ads. Currently, many of the world’s largest companies and consulting firms use Twitter as part of their recruiting strategy.
If you do the above on Facebook (e.g., type Medco in the people search box), it will give you a list of people who work or have worked at Medco and are on Facebook. It also give a hotlink so you can make Direct Contact! How cool is that?
Keeping Plugged into Your Industry and Profession
One problem is that we tend to focus on the next hot thing, but spending your time wisely matters! Whether you are employed or not, you need to conduct research to stay up with what’s happening in your industry or field. Don’t forget the basics that we teach at The Five O’Clock Club. If your only source of research is LinkedIn, that’s not good. Consider the following basics for starters:
- Many members use Google for industry, company or people information, even if they’re going after esoteric industries such as social service agencies, ethics, education policy, think tanks and nanotechnology. Key any industry name into Google and see what comes up. You may have to look through a few pages of information, but there will probably be a site that is a key one for your industry or field. Key in the people you are trying to research. Chances are, you’ll find them.
- Make sure you use Google alerts for the organization you work for and your main competitors. If you’re not doing that, you’re not a player. Just go to Google, key in the word “alerts” and it will take you to the Google alert page. Key in the words you would like an alert for, see a preview of the kind of results you would get, modify the word if you don’t like the results, and note how often you would like to get alerts on these keywords. You’ve probably already Googled yourself to see what the world would see. If not, you really ought to.
- Go to the Google Blog page and see what comes up. You might get some really good (but not necessarily trustworthy) information about a person or organization.
- Take a look at our Research Resources in the Members Only section of our website: www.fiveoclockclub.com.
- Subscribe to online journals about your field or industry. You’ll get their newsletters with the hot topics of the day.
- And, one of our tried and true favorites: Join professional or trade associations. You really do need to get out there and see real people.