5 Winning Qualities That Make You Irresistibly Referable

What makes someone “referable?” With 80% of jobs filled by referral – aren’t you curious to know the answer?

By referable, I mean you are that person a colleague will rave about to an employer, saying “I’ve got someone you’ve gotta meet.

The colleague sees your gifts clearly.

She wants to champion you.

She wants credit for introducing you!

If your job search has stalled maybe you’re not passing the refer-ability test. No worries! Embrace the following 6 qualities to help you pass the test with flying colors and get referred.

1.    Be specific about what business problems you solve

Conduct a self-assessment before you begin your job search. What do you do best? For example,

·        Does your team always send you the most difficult clients? (Customer Success Expert)

·        Do you ease employees through a rapid growth phase? (Change Management Leader)

·        Do you notice problems others fail to anticipate? (Risk Disruptor)

Knowing what problems you solve helps differentiate you from everyone else. Think of it as your highlight reel which helps your network understand your value.

For example, my client Rachel knew she was good at streamlining administrative processes which boosted efficiency and morale.  She shared her “highlight reel” while networking and within 5 weeks of launching her search, she landed a job.

People who know what specific business problems they solve are much likelier to be referred.

Consider this:

  • Why were you hired at your last job? What gave you the edge? How did your edge impact the company positively?
  • Think of an accomplishment you’re proudest of. What personal qualities or skills did you use to complete it and what was the impact of the accomplishment?
  • If you were hired today, what would set you apart from everyone else a year from now, and how will it affect the bottom line?

2.    Be clear about the role you want and companies you’re targeting

Too many job seekers say, “I’m keeping my options open.” This approach may be convenient for you, but boy it’s tough on everyone else.

Here’s an analogy: You would never say to a friend, “I want any old spouse.”

It’s silly, right? Because

  1. You DON’T want any old spouse. You’d be miserable with any old spouse.
  2. As your friend, I want to help you. But you don’t “help me help you” if you don’t know what you want.

Instead, if you tell me “I’m looking for someone mid 30’s, open-minded, who’s mad about Harry Potter” you give me easy markers to make a mental inventory AND someone to look out for if this person ever crosses my path.

Consider this:

  • Using keywords and skills you generated from #1 above, do a search on LinkedIn to discover what roles match your skillset. Course correct as you go, refining the role you’re seeking.
  • What industries are you interested in working/breaking into? You can get a list here, from LinkedIn. Narrow the list down to 3-4 and announce these to your network.
  • What companies would you love to work at? Not sure? Check:

·        Local “best of” lists in your city

·        Glassdoor to see who is favored

·        Your city’s local business journal to research and learn about local companies

Being knowledgeable about specific companies makes you look like a million bucks, like a top-notch candidate your connections will chomp at the bit to refer.

3.    Be concise

Can you answer a question crisply with focus and specificity?

If you can, you will leave an excellent impression on your audience. If you struggle with this, take heart.

Consider this:

  • Join Toastmasters. The weekly structure and built-in feedback system is ideal training ground for strengthening your verbal skills in a safe, upbeat environment. It helped me tremendously.
  • Be considerate of your listener by avoiding the typical “verbal dump” of ideas:

·        Slow down when speaking.

·        Remember to punctuate your phrasing (use periods, commas, question marks).

·        Avoid digressions – particularly in professional situations where people are forming impressions of you.

4.    Listen

Employers want someone with ears. I meet many job seekers so filled with anxiousness they forget I’m there. The conversation is disappointingly one-sided and doesn’t reflect well on them. I don’t feel comfortable referring them to colleagues.

In contrast, according to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman “good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.” When I meet a great listener, I instantly run through my mental Rolodex thinking, who can I connect her with?

Consider this:

  • During a conversation, beyond 1 minute, do you know most people tune you out? Flip the conversation back to your listener after 1 minute.
  • Be curious about others. A good rule of thumb for job-referability: If there are 2 of you, talk less than 50%. How can you deepen the conversation and offer value?

5.    Remove Chip on shoulder (if it’s there)

You may not have a chip on your shoulder. If you do, you may not know you do.

Tell-tale sign: You catch yourself complaining to others about how hard job search is:

·        “Job search shouldn’t be this hard.”

·        “Hard working people deserve good jobs.”

·        “HR sabotages the job search process, making it impossible for job seekers to meet the hiring manager.”

I’ve heard these complaints recently from job seekers and while I feel sympathetic, they don’t endear me to the person who said them. The attitude smacks of “I’m a victim” which makes you –I’m sorry to say – resistible.

Consider this:

  • Be impactful somewhere (see Toastmasters, above). If you feel your influence in other arenas, you’ll easily shrug that chip off your shoulder.
  • Assume an officer role at some organization. During my last job search I recruited Guest Speakers for our job search club. I interviewed each one and always wrote an exuberant introduction for them. One of them hired me.

The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people thrilled to refer you. The key to refer-ability?

Be clear about your value. Be concise. Listen well. Stay positive.

Stay connected to your highlight reel and not only will you own your job search, you will leave an indelible impression.

Have I left anything out? What qualities make you refer someone?

Photo by Asher Lapham

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer, LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Ways Successful Job Seekers Think like Entrepreneurs

While driving to the gym this weekend I spotted a young girl in the neighborhood selling lemonade, sitting comfortably in the shade. I thought, stuck in one place, she won’t get much traffic. Still, I saluted her efforts: She’s launching her business woman identity!

A lot of people view LinkedIn like a Lemonade Stand, thinking I’ll create a decent product – park my Profile – and hope people ‘drive by’ and find me. The problem is this strategy doesn’t work and after awhile of not getting found, they say:

  • LinkedIn is a waste of time and energy!
  • Clearly no one’s hiring these days
  • No one’s looking for someone with my skill set
  • There must be something wrong with me

Now compare the Lemonade Stand with the Food Truck. Successful food trucks thrive because they know they have to differentiate themselves. Their product has to be unique and delicious. They bend over backwards to connect with their ideal audience. They go where the crowds are. They develop relationships with fans who develop a taste for their food.

My nephew-in-law Tim Meador and his partner Brandon Spain own a food truck in Ft. Collins, CO called The Tramp About. With a 5 star rating on Yelp, their business is thriving. They have an active Facebook page and post astonishing food photos weekly. (If I lived there, I would be his Food Truck Stalker). They communicate with their audience consistently and are always creating new mouth-watering, gorgeous sandwiches. Behold:

I rest my case.

As a job seeker, are you the lemonade stand or the food truck? I’ve found the job seekers who think like food truck entrepreneurs land a job faster. Here’s what they do differently:

They relish what they do

Many job seekers obsess over “doing the right thing,” and following the rules. While there are gobs of important rules in job search, giving up your personality, passion and joy will sink your job search efforts.

What are your skills and superpowers? What have you learned about your role or industry that you wish other people knew? What gets you fired up professionally? Share it. Teach us about it! Sincerity is palpable.

Tips:

  • Set up several Google Alerts about topics you care about. Articles will arrive in your inbox several times a day. Sift through them and select the best, sharing them with your network.
  • Create memes of your favorite quotes.
  • Blog

They engage regularly online

It’s so tempting to remain undercover as a job seeker. You fall under the toxic spell of “I’ve got no credibility, I’m unemployed!” or “What do I know that hasn’t already been said?” Non-engagement actually sends unwanted signals: That you don’t care, that you’re not current and that you’re not confident.

When you engage regularly you send the opposite signal: That you are confident, relevant, and care about contributing value. You also create a digital footprint many hiring managers seek. When people learn about you they will Google you. What does your digital trail say about you? Engaging regularly, especially on your target company’s website and social channels, shows energy and relevance, qualities recruiters and hiring managers look for.

Tips:

  • Follow companies on LinkedIn and their Facebook pages. Share your opinions, support, enthusiasm, curiosity.
  • Comment on others’ status updates, blogs, in Groups. Be positive and supportive, yet don’t be afraid to share your differing perspective. We all learn from varying perspectives. It’s juicy. Teach us your hard-won wisdom. I have gained followers and clients by commenting. Teach us the way you think.

They take risks to set themselves apart

My colleague Jean recently shared her son’s job search success story. Unhappy with his starter finance job out of college, he decided, “That’s it. I’m going for the mountain top.” He targeted the 5 best finance firms in the Chicago area, and reached out directly to the recruiter at each firm, requesting a brief exploratory conversation. Within 5 weeks, Jean’s son landed a new position at a significantly higher salary.

What would be a risk for you? For some it’s attending a networking event. For others it’s asking for help. In job search, differentiating yourself is vital in order to stand out from the crowd and become known. The key is stretching yourself to meet new people who can open doors for you.

Tips:

  • Connect with people in your industry whom you admire. Write them a customized LinkedIn connection request telling them why you admire their work. Be sincere. I reached out – okay, gushed – over someone who writes for a respected journal. We stayed in touch, and now she refers clients to me.
  • Talk to new people who do what you want to do. Interview them for an article. Ask for advice. Ask them to refer you and definitely ask them how you can help them. Remember your networking etiquette!

I encourage you to share the best of you, both online and in person. People are hungry for content, so share what you know: Regularly, with enthusiasm, and in new ways that stretch you. Dazzle us with your delicious and unique energy. The days of sitting in the corner and hoping you’ll get found is for beginners – not a pro like you. Ditch the lemonade stand. The mountain top awaits you.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer,  LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Traits of a Badass LinkedIn Profile

Is your LinkedIn profile bad or badass?

If it sounds like my client John’s did, it’s bad:

I am an experienced business development leader with a track record of success in multiple positions.  I am a hands on, outgoing, team player.  I am looking for a company culture and position to utilize my skills and many years of experience to contribute to their growth and overall success.

Here are the problems with John’s LinkedIn profile:

  • It lacks humanity – he sounds vague and robotic.
  • It lacks results – he offers no examples of past accomplishments.
  • It focuses on features rather than benefits to an employer: He describes himself as an “experienced business development leader,” a “hands on, outgoing, team player,” but never shows the business pain he solves.

Know this: You are being Googled, and your LinkedIn profile is the first result in a Google search. As the host of your LinkedIn profile, are you wowing visitors who drop by?

Be distinctive. By sharing your humanity, your proudest successes and how you’ll benefit an employer, you’ll transform your own profile from bad to badass.

And get the attention you deserve.

Here’s how:

Disarm viewers with genuineness

Please ditch the 3rd person. It may make sense for a BIO or resume, but not for your LinkedIn summary, and here’s why.

Your likeability is key at this stage of the game. In contrast, 3rd person builds a wall between you and your viewer, making you seem stiff and aloof.

Using 1st person drops the wall. Here are some sparkly lines I re-wrote for 2 clients’ profiles:

John: I thrive in a challenge. Got chaos? Stuck in neutral? I’m on it. I love pulling companies and teams forward in their mission.

Becky: I’m old school in the best ways: A genuine, hand-holding insurance professional who goes the extra mile for my clients. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

Tell us:

  • In what way are you the best at what you do? C’mon, tell us what you’re secretly smug about (but don’t sound smug)!
  • What business problem do you love to sink your teeth into?
  • Why are you passionate about your industry and what is needed that only you can provide?

No matter what position you’re aiming for, from sales to C-suite, be relatable. Hear ye, executives! You can be genuine and a powerhouse.

Succinctly describe past successes

Nobody wants to sound like a braggart. That’s why so many profiles sound like John’s. According to LinkedIn’s Catherine Fisher, 46% of executives don’t feel comfortable sharing their achievements.

Know this: If you don’t, you will be skipped over. Achievements make you stand out whereas listing features like “team player” and boring keywords make our eyes glaze over.

Here’s how I’ve described clients’ successes on their profiles. Tell me if it sounds like bragging:

Yasmine: When I see potential in others, I want to nurture it. At one engagement I mentored a colleague through a sales cycle and within 6 months, her impact helped triple the account revenue to $1M+. Today, she is a high-performing senior sales support contributor.

Jerry: In my work with Fortune 500 companies prior to focusing on healthcare, I mastered the art of revenue management.  When asked to help a struggling healthcare practice in 2004, I turned the business around from $4M to $20M in revenue in only five years.

Provide high level detail – a sentence or 2 that drives home what you accomplished. Too much detail isn’t appropriate on your LinkedIn profile. Share enough to be convincing, that will invite a conversation. No need for a career autobiography.

Here’s a formula:

  • Describe your superpower(s). Then describe a result you achieved using those superpower(s) – in 250 characters.

Emphasize benefits, not features

Your features — strengths and competencies — matter. But they take a back seat to how you benefit your future employer, who reads your profile thinking, “What’s in it for me?”

Here are some different ways to emphasize the benefits of hiring you that address an employer’s  concerns:

John: As a kid, I could fish ALL DAY, hooked by the thrill of “What’s next? What’s bigger?” That same curiosity and fascination for what is possible stays with me today. I love creating ideas and concepts, testing and improving processes, nurturing productive teams to meet aggressive sales goals.

Doug: My secret? I run your business like I’m the owner. You’ll NEVER hear me say, “Let’s throw this food away, I didn’t pay for it.” I don’t waste your product, your labor, your time, or your materials. Sure, I can do it the easy way, but I’d rather not waste money.

Tell us:

  • Something you learned as a kid or in your early profession that has stayed with you. How do you apply that knowledge to solve problems, grow revenue or streamline processes?
  • Like Doug, frame a cherished principle as a secret. Then describe how it provides value, solves problems or saves money.

As the host of your LinkedIn profile, expect surprise guests to drop by. When they do, it’s essential you make it worth their while: By being relatable, sharing your accomplishments and describing benefits over features, your guests will never want to leave.

Image above drawn by Anya Talatinian.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer,  LinkedIn trainer and Career Transition Coach. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

What Joan Lunden Can Teach Us about Busting Through Career Barriers

How is your mindset affecting your job search?

While it’s important to master the mechanics of job search – networking, relationship building, personal branding – what you tell yourself can make or break your search.

I recently saw Joan Lunden – morning show host pioneer and intrepid journalist — deliver the keynote speech at a TrueU conference. She shared how she busted through thick-as-brick walls to reach her goals, demonstrating it’s how you champion yourself that matters.

Here are the mantras she used that cleared the path. Adopt them. They are free for the taking:

“If you want to play the game, find a way to get on the playing field.”

After Lunden graduated college, a family friend in TV suggested Joan apply for a job at a local TV station. In spite of the fact there was no actual job opening and she lacked relevant experience, she showed up at the TV station the following day and requested an interview and an audition.

Afterwards, they told her, “Nice job. Except we don’t actually have an opening.”

The weatherman there noticed her audition, and was impressed. He recommended her to another station, where she became the first female “weather girl” ever hired in Southern California.

Lunden was not thrilled being a “weather girl” because:

a) She knew nothing about weather

b) She had to wear a tight, white mini-dress and white lace-up boots (this was the early 70’s). Nevertheless she was determined to break into TV. Intuitively she knew this role was her ticket to landing a job she could eventually sink her teeth into.

As a job seeker, aim toward your future, as you chart your career. When less-than-ideal opportunities land in your lap, ask yourself: Will this opportunity provide either skills or connections to others which will move me forward? Lunden reasoned the “weather  girl” role was her ticket. It gave her exposure in front of a camera, strengthened her poise, and taught her to think on her feet.

Lunden landed on the right playing field, then bolted to 2nd base, but she had to embrace the idea that . . .

“Sometimes you have to take the risk of not being great in order to learn how to be great.”

Lunden’s popularity grew quickly after taking the weather girl job. Within 6 months, 6 stations across the country offered her a job. Not sure what to do next, she asked the same family friend for advice. He recommended she speak to his network executive friend in New York. When the executive found out she had 6 offers, he offered her a job, as a journalist. Something she’d never done before.

Fortunately, Joan had a nurturing “inner champion” who said, Say yes, then figure it out. Many of us lack an audible “inner champion,” and instead listen to our (really loud) “inner thwarter,” who says, I can’t do this job because I’m not qualified! or,  I have no experience doing that, or I’ll fail! Sound familiar?

What would be possible if you let yourself be a beginner at something you’re excited about? Imagine this: Decca records rejected the Beatles, telling them “We don’t like your sound. You have no future in show business.” It’s helpful to remember The Beatles weren’t always The Beatles.

Lunden accepted the journalism job. On the first day, a cameraman asked Lunden, “How many magazines will you need?,” referring to the film reel holder. She said, “Oh, I probably won’t have time to read magazines today.” They burst out laughing,  and took her under their wing. And thanks to them, she learned about journalism.

 

“Take every small assignment and make it shine. And then you will grow.”

After Lunden landed the coveted morning host spot on Good Morning America, Barbara Walters took her aside and gave her the advice above. Walters  chose not to fight the male-dominant TV culture (Lunden’s 2 predecessors fought it and were let go). Sure enough, Lunden’s initial assignments were about home-improvement, parenting, and consumer products, all topics she actually loved. She researched like a fiend, adding her own unique spin, and her work gained attention. Eventually she landed interviews on par with her male counterparts, reporting from 16 countries, interviewing 5 U.S. presidents, and covering 5 Olympic Games.

While Lunden clearly had good mentors who helped her along, she hit roadblocks that might intimidate the best of us. She hurdled the roadblocks because she followed the wisdom of her positive, inner champion.  Lunden models for us, be mindful of what you tell yourself. It may just come true.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

 

6 Steps for Pivoting Into Your Next Job Breathlessly Insanely Fast

My friend Amy just nabbed her ideal job, after a 6 month search. While she’s thrilled where she landed, she knows this won’t be the last company she ever works for.

“Next time, I don’t want the job search to take so long. I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” she asked me.

Not at all. In fact, I wish more people thought like Amy.

No job is permanent. All it takes is one little change of command to get hauled into HR on a dime. No one expects to be laid off or stuck in a dead-end job, but that’s life these days. Here are 5 steps you can take to pivot into your next job breathlessly, insanely fast.

1. Engage on LinkedIn enthusiastically

First, your LinkedIn profile is optimized, current and engaging, right?

Second, if you’re not active on LinkedIn now, today is a great day to start. William Arruda suggests all you need is 9 minutes a day:

  • share a status update on something you’re an expert on
  • request to connect with someone you admire
  • join a Group, comment and provide insights
  • share an accomplishment

Worried your boss will think you’re passively job searching as a result of your activity on LinkedIn? Choose one of these responses:

  • “You’re not interested in massive brand reach and lead generation? Oh my, we need to talk!”
  •  “By highlighting my accomplishments, it makes YOU look good. Other companies enjoy doing business with winners.”

I have a lot of clients who love their jobs, who actively work the LinkedIn ecosystem. They understand this platform is much more than a job search tool: It’s a vibrant way to provide value, serve others, and learn.

2. Keep a running list of the ongoing impact you’re having, quantifying results.

I’ve created LinkedIn profiles and resumes for CFOs, Lean Six Sigma experts and Sales Managers who scratched their heads when I asked them how they contributed to revenue, sales and bottom line – the very information hiring managers care about most.

You will make your life so much easier at the next go-round by tracking your accomplishments along the way. While your job isn’t only about numbers, you will forget the results you created during that product launch 2 years ago. Record your successes!

3. Have productive conversations at least twice a month with people who work at interesting companies

Really. You can do 2 a month. Over a year, that’s 24 people you’ve developed relationships with whom you can help, who may be able to help/refer yousomeday.

I get it. It’s so easy to say, I haven’t got time to meet new people. Consider this: People are much more open to meeting with a stranger who is employed than one who isn’t. (Though you meet with and help job seekers, right?)

To find both interesting companies and the people who work there: Google

  • Top Workplaces 2016 in [your city]
  • [your state] chamber best places to work
  • Top companies for work-life balance
  • Contact thought leaders in your industry and ask them

Once you’ve discovered which companies to pursue, find insiders and hiring managers who work there using LinkedIn, and write a glowing, personalized connection request.

And at the end of every productive conversation please always ask, “How can I help you?”

4. Grow your number of LinkedIn connections

The greater number of connections you have, the greater your reach. The more genuine, legitimate 1st degree connections you have, the more people you have in your corner who can refer you to people in their network.

It’s to your advantage to be a genuine connector, not a people collector.

5. Grow your number of LinkedIn Recommendations

Recommendations are like stars on Yelp – and you can never have too many. Make sure recommendations written by colleagues, mentors and managers are specific and reflect the superpowers you most enjoy using.

I really like this recommendation template by Adrian Granzella Larssen. It’s not rude or over-stepping by inserting it into your LinkedIn recommendation request. On the contrary! Do you enjoy writing a recommendation from scratch? Didn’t think so. Help out your reference by providing a guideline. They will appreciate you.

6. Do you pass the “ layoff test ?”

I learned the phrase, “pass the layoff test” from Alan Henry. Here’s the test: If you were laid off today, do you have 10 people in your network you can reach out to, for support and to troubleshoot next-steps? If not, that’s a sign you’ve let your network languish. Time then to get to work and rebuild relationships.

John Maxwell says, “Your network is your net worth.” In other words, your best asset is the people you know. Take good care of your future while you’re still employed by following the steps above, and remember: The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people who are thrilled to refer you.

Stay in touch, build new relationships and keep thrilling others by serving well.

Image:Depositphotos@iqoncept

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

6 Job Search Strategies that Provide Lifetime Career Insurance

Extra-terrestrials looking down on Earth might study our job search process and be baffled. They would notice a disconnect: Jobs are required for survival, yet we lack a humane, transparent structure for actually obtaining a job.

“Huh!” they’d say. “It’s as if swimming is required for survival on their planet, yet they don’t teach them to swim. How bizarre!”

The traditional job search process is inhumane, shrouded in mystery, and rigged in favor of the employer: Apply to a job board along with hundreds of others, and wait. You follow up, with little or no response. It’s frustrating and mysterious with no human contact. All aspects of it feel beyond the job seeker’s control, demeaning, and rarely yield a job.

There’s another way.

Is it easy? No. Will you get frustrated? Sometimes. Is it faster than using job boards? YES.

Here are the payoffs:

  • You control most aspects of it while maintaining your dignity
  • You create and grow lasting relationships (for your next job search. And there WILL be a next job search).
  • You evolve professionally because you’re having live conversations with people at companies that interest you, learning what you like and don’t like.
  • It’s career insurance, because it’s a sustainable process. It hinges on relationship building, on the fundamental principle that people want to hire people they know . . . not people who applied to job boards. (See Hannah Morgan’s excellent article here).

Here are some examples of how to apply sustainable job search strategies:

Demonstrate how you stand out from your peers

As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “To be successful you must be remarkable – a purple cow in a field of monochromatic Holsteins.” If standing out is hard for you to do, please enlist help from a career professional. “Purple cows” get found, and establish their credibility faster. Your LinkedIn profile and your resume should skillfully convey your uniqueness and how you will solve an employer’s problems. Whether you like the idea of personal branding or not, it is necessary these days.

Nurture old and new professional relationships

This morning I heard from my LinkedIn client Eric Dudley,* whose profile I completed early December 2015.

Here was our conversation:

Eric: Hey Julie! Just wanted you to know I landed a job this week

Julie: What great news! Congratulations! I’m curious, how did you land the job?

Eric: I sent out a letter to old friends and co-workers last fall, announcing I was available.  One of them needed an operations guy. It’s a great fit.

Eric understands a fundamental job search basic: Maintaining close professional ties with colleagues while you’re employed translates to job insurance when you’re not.

Take a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach

Don’t let anxiousness propel your job search. Instead, first define what you really want to do next, by clarifying your best strengths and accomplishments. It will save you time.

“Keeping your options open” will slow your search. I know a job seeker who sent an email to his entire network saying, “If you know of a job I might like, please let me know.” Make it easy for your network to help you by being specific.  Provide a job title you’re aiming for, an industry, and companies you’re targeting. Read this fantastic article by Lisa Rangel on how to build your list of targeted companies.

Structure your job search

Be sure you go to bed each night with a plan about what you will accomplish tomorrow. Waking up with an empty calendar is depressing and overwhelming. I spoke to a job seeker recently who refuses to set goals so he won’t be disappointed in himself if he doesn’t accomplish them. “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself.” Not surprisingly, he hasn’t had an interview in weeks.

Next to a job offer, your primary objective is landing an interview. During my own job search, I set the goal of landing 3-5 interviews a week. Was that hard? Yes! However I learned that the more new people I met, the higher likelihood of an interview. My days revolved around increasing the number of “productive conversations” (what some refer to as informational interviews).

Solicit and engage in productive conversations

Invaluable, these will make all the difference in your job search. Here’s a success story: I worked with a client last fall who wanted to land a job fast. She knew she had one superpower: Transforming chaos into order. She had lots ofaccomplishment stories to show for it too.

She targeted 5 specific companies she wanted to work at, and introduced herself to people who worked there, either over the phone or met them for coffee, asking for advice and gaining insights about what it was like to work there. Within 5 weeks she had a job offer.

What is a “productive conversation?” An introductory conversation based on like-mindedness, which you initiate with someone who works at a company you’re targeting, who can give you career advice.  It’s an information exchange.

Productive conversations increase the value of the relationship both ways. You are valuable to them because many companies offer referral incentives today. To learn more about the art of productive conversations, read these excellent suggestions by career expert Lilly Zhang.

Join a job search community

I’ve written about that here. According to career expert Orville Pierson, you will shorten your search by 20% by joining a community. You’ll receive feedback from other job seekers, as well as referrals, and an ongoing support system of people in the trenches along with you. You will lift each other up, and learn clever tricks even your job coach may not have thought of.

To recap: Make your brand clear. Build relationships. Talk to people. Connect with fellow job seekers. By doing so, you learn to swim, not sink, in the job market – cultivating a skill that will last you a lifetime.

*Eric cheerfully gave permission for me to use his name.

Image:Depositphotos@kwest

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

Is Your LinkedIn Summary Loaded for Bear?

Does your LinkedIn Summary capture how you’re extraordinary?

I know, it’s really hard to do, isn’t it? Those who get stuck call me to optimize their LinkedIn profile. The irony is, after I actually write their Summary and Headline, and offer back a first draft, I sometimes catch flak. They say:

“Oh my – I can’t say all that. It’s embarrassing!”

I get it. It’s blinding to be shown your best side.

We are wired for negativity. It’s built into our culture. We’re rigged to see flaws, both others’ and our own. That’s why when we attempt to describe ourselves in our best light, it feels like we’re underrepresenting ourselves – or worse, lying.

A little test: Do you scoff when someone sings your praises?

Potential hiring managers or clients, however, don’t want to see your blemishes in your LinkedIn Summary. They just want to see your grace. They want to be dazzled, intrigued, WOWED. They want to be convinced you’re the one to call to solve their pain.

But because we swim in our insufficiencies, most of us struggle to write an effective LinkedIn Summary. Instead, we write something safe and bland, chock-full of keywords because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” and cross our fingers we’ll get found for that next dream gig.

Unfortunately, blandness is the most effective camouflage on LinkedIn.Frog in camouflage_Is This You on LinkedIn1

Here’s are 3 strategies I use for writing a more impactful LinkedIn Summary:

Write an irresistible opening line.

While there is no one way to write a great opening, here are 2 effective approaches that will pull your reader in:

  • Begin with a question

By beginning with a question, you demonstrate confidence, engage your reader and address an employer’s business pain out of the gate.  I use this approach if my client is unemployed and actively job searching, or is an entrepreneur.

(Note: Permission obtained from all clients, identified below).

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Jerry Godwin)

“An executive with 20 years of leadership and management experience.”

This was Jerry’s opening sentence before he hired me. Since there are many executives out there with 20 years of leadership and management experience, his opener doesn’t differentiate him from his competition.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“What’s preventing your Eye Care practice from thriving? I help optometrists and ophthalmologists grow their practices by recapturing unrecognized revenue and opportunity costs.”

Jerry’s new opening sentences accomplishes a lot: It’s specific, orients the reader, and demonstrates how he would resolve a client’s business pain. It’s much more effective

Here’s a second approach to beginning your Summary:

  • Declare your superpower

Be clear and specific about what you do really well, and express it in a surprising way.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Stephen Pearson)

“GOAL ORIENTED and SUCCESS DRIVEN! I am a well-qualified HR professional with expertise in resource allocation, operational planning, and audit reviews.”

While he’s very enthusiastic, and orients the reader out of the gate with his skill set, it doesn’t captivate the reader as it could.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“I solve complex business initiatives regardless of scale, without a map or any precedence.

I enjoy inspiring teams and improving processes so organizations can achieve their most ambitious objectives.”

His new opening is bold and provocative. Don’t you want to know what the rest of his profile says?

Here’s a second strategy to help you stand out:

Share a business lesson that has stuck with you.

I read too many Summaries without a heartbeat. That’s sad, since LinkedIn is a relationship building tool, and provides a wonderful opportunity to share your personality in a way resumes do not. Take advantage of this opportunity to shine!

Early in your career, what did you learn that has stuck with you? This can be interesting and reveal your unique value proposition.

During our interview, Tom Ward told me that at his first job, he realized his customers had a choice about where to spend their money. This insight solidified his commitment to customer service throughout his career.

After he told me that story, I began his Summary with the following:

“Do your customers view your company as the obvious “go to” choice?

Early in my career, I learned that if I fail to care for my customers, a competitor will be happy to step in. As a result, my driving mission became achieving “go to” status with my customers.”

Out of the gate, Tom makes his customer-service focus clear – an asset for any organization.

And finally:

Share 1-2 proudest career accomplishments.

Share the specific impact you’ve had. Follow the writer’s mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Describe your best strengths, and then back it up with a story that demonstrates that strength.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Scott Lowe)

“I am an experienced business development leader with a track record for success in multiple positions.  I am a hands on, outgoing, team player.”

The line above is vague, non-engaging, with overused keywords. Unfortunately, Scott’s superpowers are camouflaged.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“My specialty? Closing the most challenging deals. Give me the “toughest nuts,” and I’ll crack them.

I have a knack for repairing business relationships previously thought lost. At a past sales role, I was told by the owner of a local company, “You’ll never get our business.” After he agreed to spend an hour with me, he changed his mind, resulting in an average monthly increase of $18,000 of profitable sales for our company.”

In contrast, this accomplishment story is energetic, demonstrates his superpower, uses unique language, and is specific. Scott walks the talk.

Keep in mind a viewer/hiring manager is sifting through dozens of profiles, looking for The One who raises her eyebrows. Specific examples light up a reader’s brain.

Who are you at your best? By sharing how you’re extraordinary, you lift yourself out of LinkedIn obscurity, demonstrating to hiring managers YOU are their “go to” choice for the role they need to fill.

Image: Depositphotos@ginton

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

3 Ways to Overcome Your LinkedIn Stage Fright (and Get Found Faster)

Are you afraid to share your professional opinions on LinkedIn?

You’re not alone.

At a recent LinkedIn training I led for job seekers, I emphasized the importance of circulating in LinkedIn’s ecosystem: Sharing articles, commenting on Long Form Posts, offering industry insights.

“Anyone have any hesitation about sharing your Thought Leadership on LinkedIn?” I asked.

Hands shot up.

“I’m out of a job! Who will take me seriously?”

“What do I know, compared to others out there? I feel like an imposter!”

“What if I say something wrong? There’s no recovering from that!”

The people I trained weren’t recent college graduates with limited experience. Many were seasoned CFOs and CEOs who’ve made millions of dollars for companies. They’ve got skills. And yet on LinkedIn, they’re afraid to express their hard-earned, proven wisdom.

I call it LinkedIn Stage Fright: The fear that you’ll say something wrong and end up with egg on your face. While there are “Negative Nellies” out there who pounce with lip-smacking glee on people whose opinions they dislike, I would argue:

  • Their bad form reflects much worse on them than you
  • LinkedIn is more forgiving than you might think

Last year, I wrote a blog in which I exposed my ignorance about how to detect Spammers on LinkedIn. One of my readers graciously educated me by providing information, both on my blog thread and privately. Did my followers think me a fool? Maybe. Did anything terrible happen as a result of my “oops?” Nope.

Actively circulating on LinkedIn matters, a lot. By sharing what you know, you can quickly establish your reputation as an authority in your industry, which is catnip to hiring managers and recruiters.  LinkedIn is a relationship-building tool above all else, tailor-made for developing the “know, like, trust” factor people need in order to do business with you. Being active increases your profile views, and helps you get found faster.

How to hurdle the fear of blowing it? Take these 3 steps:

Start small

Set up a Google Alert, entering topics you care most about in your industry. (i.e. Business Development, Leadership, Change Management, whatever’s in your wheelhouse). Several times a day Google will send you curated articles on those topics. Select the juiciest one, and share it in the “Status Update” feature on LinkedIn, writing a lead that entices your network to read the article, and lets them know how they’ll benefit from reading it:

Example of a lead: “Excellent article on Informational Interviewing – concise & very helpful. Doing them will ramp up your job search.”

I share about 1-2 articles a day with my network. Next . . .

Practice commenting in Groups, testing the waters further.

Jeff Haden offers this advice for selecting Groups on LinkedIn. Participate there with people sharing a particular interest. It’s a smaller pond, where people tend to engage more and let their hair down. As Haden says, observe the rules of engagement, then dive in. Groups can be an excellent place to find your feet beneath you and gain confidence. Once you’re comfortable there . . .

Comment on LinkedIn Blogs, aka Long Form Posts.

Next, move into the larger pond, and comment on Long Form Posts. Find something to affirm about the article, and then offer your own unique twist. Not only will your name and headline be visible to the blogger’s network, but so will your unique insights.

I’ve obtained new followers, connections, prospects and clients by commenting on someone’s blog on LinkedIn.  By daring to engage, I initiate the “know, like, trust” factor for viewers who, after reading my comment, head over to my profile,which is exactly what I want.

Reframing the Critic

Months ago I spoke with my artist/writer friend Stefanie Newman about my own fear of blogging. I confessed I spend hours writing blogs, and many of them end up sitting in my Draft file, because they’re not “quite right.”

“That’s too bad, Julie,” she said.  “The world is littered with unfinished manuscripts and blank canvases because someone gave a critic too much power.”

The fact is, it is risky to offer your opinion, since someone might disagree, or judge you unkindly for having an opinion. It’s risky to share articles that some people may find uninteresting or unwelcome. You may disappoint someone out there.

While my “inner pleaser” cares what critics think, my inner educator, inspirer, and helper-of-job seekers do not care. I say let the majority rule.

Seth Godin says, “Playing it safe may be the riskiest strategy of all.” I invite you to step on the LinkedIn stage. Tell us what’s important to you, and teach us something new. We are listening.

Image: Depositphotos@alphaspirit

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

Sabotaging Your LinkedIn Profile? 3 Ways to Stop

“I don’t like the LinkedIn profile you wrote for me.”

These words arrived in my inbox at 3 am, written by my client, Jerry. I was baffled, because I loved how his profile “makeover” turned out: Energetic, confident, with two neck-snapping success stories.

Jerry, a former VP of Operations turned entrepreneur from Texas, has the Midas touch. He’s helped several small and large businesses grow by millions annually. Today, he helps doctors manage the business side of their practices for greater profitability and efficiency. He’s developed a turnkey solution that works, with the results to prove it.

I knew I could fix whatever he didn’t like about his Summary. I tell my clients, “We’re not done with your profile until you’re thrilled with the result.”

While talking to Jerry the next morning, I quickly learned it wasn’t the profile that needed fixing. It was Jerry’s beliefs about LinkedIn.

He offered his first concern.

“The Summary you wrote? It’s very conversational.”

“And if it’s conversational, what does that mean to you?” I asked.

Concept of problem in business

“I sound too relaxed. No one will take me seriously.”

I have heard this very argument before from clients, especially Finance or C-suite professionals.

“Actually Jerry, that’s a good thing, at this stage of the “buying” game. When people view your LinkedIn profile, they want to feel you’re relatable. At its heart, LinkedIn is a relationship building tool. Your Summary shouldn’t sound like your resume.”

I shared my favorite Zig Ziglar quote: “If people like you they will listen to you. If they trust you, they will do business with you.” I explained that if a Summary is relational and “connect-y,” it builds a bridge between you and the reader, creating that all important “trust factor” necessary to do business.

He said, “Well, that brings me to my next concern.”

“The Summary sounds so . . . different from other profiles.”

He said, “I looked at Nathan’s [who referred Jerry to me] and mine sounds nothing like his.”

“Oh,” I said. “So you’re concerned it should sound more formal, and use more ‘corporate-speak’?”

“Yes! Like a lot of my friends’ profiles sound,” he said.

“Question, Jerry. If you sound like everyone else, what’s to distinguish you from your competitor? When we spoke the very first time, this was your primary concern.”

I explained that LinkedIn is a fantastic database that allows readers to quickly weed out irrelevant prospects.

It’s the ones who stand out who get the call.

I offered up Seth Godin’s purple cow metaphor. “The key to success is to be remarkable. To be a purple cow in a field of monochromatic Holsteins.” If you don’t stand out, you’ve just made room for your competition.

Jerry’s friend Nathan holds a high level position at a conservative company. His goals when using LinkedIn are different from Jerry’s.  Nathan had made it clear, “I want to convey x, y and z, but withhold certain information.” And so, I reigned in the “purple cow.” He was not aggressively seeking new clients or a new job, but wanted a more substantive, professional profile.

Jerry said, “Well, here’s my other gripe! I’m a humble guy. I teach my kids the importance of humility.”

“I’m worried the Summary you wrote makes me sound like a bragger.”

I hear this from 100% of my LinkedIn clients: “I just want my accomplishments to speak for themselves!”

“Oh, I so get that,” I told Jerry.  “I want you to hold onto your humility too. It’s essential.

But on LinkedIn, you must convey your value in an instant, or else your viewer moves on to the next candidate or company.

“Jerry, no bank will give a loan to someone who can’t demonstrate a track record of success, right? The same applies to your Summary. You turned a struggling, chaotic company from $4M to $20M in 5 years. That’s remarkable evidence. Purple cow stuff,” I said.

It’s a weird world we live in, isn’t it? We are taught not to brag. EVER. But in 2015, our attention spans are short, and we want vital information quickly.

It’s all about context. On LinkedIn, we must “brag.”

By the end of the conversation, Jerry’s point of view had shifted. “Okay. I trust you. Make me a purple cow.”

Here are the cardinal rules for your irresistible LinkedIn Profile:

Be relatable. Be remarkable. Offer evidence.

How else will the world know you can make a difference? Please tell us out loud, because your accomplishments will never speak for themselves.

That’s your job.

Image: Depositphotos@alphaspirit

Jerry Godwin cheerfully agreed to let me tell this story here, for which I’m grateful. For more information about his remarkable company, check out his website, Optmedsol.  To connect with Jerry, visit his LinkedIn profile

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitterand Facebook.

The Costliest Mistake Job Seekers Make

In 2006, my one-year teaching contract ended and I decided to find a corporate job. Piece of cake, I thought. After all, I’d just taught Shakespeare to college students.

Boy, was I wrong.

Three months and only one job interview later, I was still unemployed. This was especially nerve-wracking as I was a recently divorced mother of two. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I contacted my local state employment program and joined a job search club to help me figure this whole “job search thing” out.

That decision changed everything. Within 3 months, I received 2 offers in one week.

Colorful nesting boxes on blue sky

I credit a job search community for not only shortening my job search, but transforming it. According to job search expert Orville Pierson, joining a community of fellow job seekers can reduce your search time by 20%. That turns a 5 month search into a less-costly 4.

Here are the benefits:

You will learn tricks.

I was clueless about how to conduct a productive job search: I didn’t know about elevator speeches, informational interviews, and personal branding. Say what? Explain my “value proposition” in 30 seconds? Speak to complete strangers to “exchange information?” What was this strange language that flowed off of everyone’s tongue but mine?

Before long though, I learned the art of job search by being immersed in a job search culture with fellow job seekers. The state employment program and job club community taught me practical action steps that increased my interview rate. In fact, during the final week of my search, I had 3 interviews in one day. (I don’t advise this, by the way!)

You will receive vital feedback.

While attending the free workshops offered by my local state employment program here in Indiana, WorkOne, we often divided into pairs, and gave each other feedback when rehearsing our STAR stories. Several people told me, “Pare it down. Get to the point faster.” I needed to learn to be more concise.

I had a choice: Feel humiliated or grateful. I chose gratitude and adjusted my behavior. The feedback you receive won’t just make you a better job seeker, but a better employee. Without community, you miss out on vital information that will shorten your search.

Today I meet many job seekers who self-sabotage themselves, unaware of how ineffectively they come across to others. If you find yourself in a protracted job search, find someone to practice interviewing with and be open to feedback. The advice shared may be the magic bullet needed to shave weeks off of your job search.

You will gain dozens of accountability partners.

Having a group of kind, like-minded faces peer back at me each week helped me stay positive and hopeful. Plus each week, those who’d been in the trenches awhile beamed in triumph with news of landing a job. All of us were eager to hear them tell their job search success story.

I credit those alliances with fueling my job search momentum. We all reported our progress each week, heard feedback when we’d stumble, received praise for risking. I always left each meeting with new ideas to try. Early on someone offhandedly suggested I add a line of praise from a Reference letter to the top of my resume. I started landing more interviews as a result of that piece of advice.

You will gain confidence.

My confidence took off after I joined community. Because the career coaches and job club facilitators stress face-to-face activities like networking and volunteering, I practiced honing my message with each new person I met. I quickly learned what made people light up with interest, and what made their eyes glaze over. (Hint: People light up when you listen well and demonstrate succinctly how you can resolve their business pain).

As my confidence increased, my number of interviews increased. Like anything you practice daily and are committed to, you improve.

Conducting an effective job search is not instinctive. Most people fall back on the default strategy of applying to job boards. Sadly, that strategy has run its course, and most often leads to a frustrating dead end. (Job boards were my “go to” during my first 3 months. Remember? ONE interview!).  When I learned the actual skills needed to conduct a productive job search, the tide turned in my favor. Learning these skills in the arms of a supportive community made that challenging period of my life so much easier.

To find a state-funded Employment Center near you, click this link: Career OneStop Job Center, and enter your city, state or zip code in the “Location” cell, and click Search. Good luck!

Image: Depositphotos@frenta

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you found some helpful information here today. If you did, be sure to share this article with your connections. They will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness.