LinkedIn: Is Your Profile Helping or Hurting You?

Time to beat this drum again! I still see LinkedIn profiles that aren’t doing you any favors and might actually be hurting your chances of being considered for the position you want. LinkedIn isn’t the only tool you should pay attention to in your job search and career management, but it’s a BIG piece of the puzzle.

Are you “on” LinkedIn but basically inactive (limited content in your profile)? Do you visit your profile only every six months or so and make halfhearted stabs at updating it? If so, you probably aren’t getting the value from LinkedIn that you can–and need to have if you expect it to produce results for you when you want to be viewed as a serious candidate for new job opportunities. Prospective employers DO check your LinkedIn profile when they’re vetting you!

LinkedIn Profile: Desirable vs. Requirements

LinkedIn has requirements that profiles are expected to follow, and yours can be downgraded if it doesn’t. For instance, you can’t use as many characters as you want in a given section, arrange all the sections in the order you want, and so on. However, it does allow you to have a good headline and a substantial Summary (key sections), even though it seriously limits how much of your Summary shows initially when people view your profile.

On the other hand, LinkedIn used to emphasize having good recommendations in your profile if you wanted it to be well ranked. Then they decided to add the skills-and-endorsements section and downplay recommendations. This approach has at least two negative aspects:

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Tight Labor Market: More Jobs & Higher Pay?

According to many experts, we’re currently experiencing a tight labor market, which should be good news for those of you who are looking for a job or thinking about changing to a new job. Of course, this is a generalization and doesn’t necessarily mean job seekers across the country will find employers knocking on their doors.

Still, there are some aspects of the situation that might be encouraging, regardless of the level you’re targeting, where you live, and so on. On the other hand, it does require researching factors and conditions that have particular relevance to the employment goal(s) you’re focused on.

Unemployed, Underemployed, or Just Looking

The stigma that has too often surrounded qualified job seekers who are unemployed might not have been completely broken by the tight labor market, but maybe it has  at least made  a dent. Likewise, if you’re working but at a lower-level position than you’ve held previously, you might find the tighter labor market offering more job opportunities than you’ve seen before.

If you’re employed and in a role that matches what would be expected with your career progression, you could still benefit from a job market where employers are experiencing increasing difficulty in filling positions.

The primary consideration is: Does the tight labor market offer you more of the desirable job opportunities you’d be looking for? If it does, how do you take full advantage of the situation?

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Market Your Way to a New Job Opportunity

I’ve always disliked the advice to “sell yourself” to prospective employers. It smacks of commodity-talk, like something you might buy off a grocery-store shelf. Do you really want to place yourself in that category with potential employers?

On the other hand, if you don’t communicate your professional value to those employers in an effective manner, you might as well sit on the couch eating candy and watching soap operas on TV. Either way, your job search (I use the term loosely) would be just as (in)effective!

So what can/should you do to attract the desired attention from employers, put yourself in the running to set up job interviews, and land attractive job offers?

For want of a better term, I suggest “target marketing” as a concept to try out. In a nutshell, target marketing is how companies build recognition and interest among the customer groups they’re most interested in doing business with. And isn’t that exactly what you want to do with the employers you’d like to work for?

How to Do Target Marketing in Your Job Search

In the first place, there are at least two key points you need to keep in mind:

  1. What do you have that you can (and want to) offer prospective employers that would most likely make you appear valuable to them?
  2. What do those employers greatly need that you can offer in spades and your competitors can’t, don’t 0r won’t–or can’t do as well as you?

Define your answers to those questions clearly and compellingly. This is no time for false modesty (which doesn’t mean you need to come off sounding like a conceited jerk!) Then focus your job search as strongly as you legitimately can on actions that relate to the points you’ve identified in your answers.

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One Thing You Should Never Do in a Job Interview

I could obviously list a lot more than one thing you should never do in a job interview. The list might well be endless! You can sabotage your job prospects in an interview through a variety of poorly planned actions.

And you generally don’t get a second chance to come back and “fix” the impression you made.

So what’s the one thing you should never do? Make assumptions you haven’t confirmed beyond question–as much as possible.

How Bad Assumptions Happen and What You Should Do about Them

You might, for instance, read more into an interviewer’s expression of interest in you than his/her remarks actually justify. Suppose the interviewer says, “Thank you for sharing your involvement with X and your contributions toward its completion.” Does that mean he/she is about to recommend you for the position? Not necessarily. In fact, that assumption could be way off-base.

What should or can you do about an assumption you made that didn’t hold up to closer inspection? First, it’s obviously better if you can avoid making that assumption at the outset. That can help you prevent the disappointment that will follow when you realize your mistake.

Clarify. Ask questions designed to ferret out meaningful explanations so you can gain a realistic picture of the likely situation. Failure to do this could leave you out on a limb and very far from having a successful interview.

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Career Success: You Can Do More Than You Think

I’m often amazed when a client expresses hesitation about the value of what he/she has to offer employers–especially when the individual has had good career success at that point. I’ve seen this in cases where the client is aiming to move up in his/her career, which is admittedly somewhat of a challenge at times, but it also comes up when a client thinks many people could do what he/she has done–that it’s not really special.

Here are a couple of “don’ts” and one “do” for you to think about.

DON’T Underrate Yourself!

I’m not advocating that you imitate the late, great Muhammad Ali and shout, “I am the greatest!” to everyone you meet–or submit your professional resume to. Even if you really are the greatest at what you do, trumpeting that fact to the world is unlikely to make a favorable impression! It will probably make you sound as if you’re really full of yourself, which is not going to strengthen your career success.

However, there’s nothing wrong–and a lot right–about exhibiting self-confidence that’s solidly grounded in reality. Try asking yourself this: Is it unquestionably true that “anyone can do this”? Do you know that for a fact or are you just leaping to a conclusion?

Take a good, hard look at what you can contribute to your next employer. If other people appear to do what you do or something similar, does the evidence suggest they do it in the same way? Maybe you have put your own spin on things over the years and come up with a better–and possibly at least partly unique–way to do whatever it is.

DON’T Let Competitors Outshine You

Without overdoing it, how can you convince employers that you can outperform your competition?

Start by identifying your capabilities that you have good reason to believe your target employers will care about.

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Your Career is Not a Cartoon – Or is It?

Cartoons are often designed to make you laugh. Sometimes they’re intended to hold something up to ridicule to expose its bad characteristics. In any case, cartoons aren’t normally something you’d think of in relation to your current job or your overall career.

That said, it can be therapeutic at times to be able to laugh at situations you’ve experienced in your job search or career. You might also get a heads up about something that could happen unless you’re careful about the actions you take. So, with just a bit of tongue-in-cheek, I’d like to venture into the world of career management and job search planning from a cartoonist’s perspective.

Confidential Job Searches – Fraught with Peril

When you’re gainfully employed and want to stay that way until you land your next job, confidentiality is critical to your job search. The last thing you want is to have your hand forced and resign before you’re ready–or have your employer make the decision for you!

How do you manage to keep your job search plan a secret? While there aren’t any ironclad guarantees, you can and should do at least these things:

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Are You a High-Engagement/High-Burnout-Risk Employee?

Employee engagement has become a popular buzzword and concept in recent years. Burnout risk has been acknowledged longer than that. However, what happens when the two concepts “collide”? And are you affected by that collision?

According to a recent article in Harvard Review, HR and management might be missing the boat in assuming that employee engagement is one version of the Holy Grail. If you’re one of those who feels very engaged in your work but also about ready to scream and start an aggressive job search, you might want to disagree with their view!

Why Engagement Alone is Not Enough

If your desk reflects the chaos hammering at your mind, that’s a possible sign of trouble brewing. Even a highly engaged employee can buckle if the squeeze on him/her creates an overload situation.

The Harvard Review article, “1 in 5 Highly Engaged Employees Is at Risk of Burnout,” talks about the fact that employee engagement, by itself, is not enough to ensure retaining employees who are engaged top performers. For instance:

“These engaged-exhausted workers were passionate about their work, but also had intensely mixed feelings about it — reporting high levels of interest, stress, and frustration. While they showed desirable behaviors such as high skill acquisition, these apparent model employees also reported the highest turnover intentions in our sample — even higher than the unengaged group.”

Does that sound anything like you? If so, it’s something you might want to think about.

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Retirement or Second Career – What’s Right for You?

Whether you’re 30 or 50 (or more), retirement will probably pop up on your radar screen eventually. You might not think it’s an urgent topic if you’re still in your 30s, but don’t rush to that judgment too hastily. Giving early thought to retirement planning can put you a giant leap ahead when the time does come.

In any case, it’s a decision that could smack you in the face if you haven’t given it some serious thought ahead of time. For starters, I have some questions you might want to ask yourself.

Retirement Questions – To Do or Not to Do

Before you get too far into the subject of retirement, start by asking yourself:

  • Do I want to retire at some point?
  • Can I afford to retire if I decide I want to?
  • What will I do with my time and energy when/if I retire?

In short, what does retirement mean to you, can you do it, and do you want to? Does the idea of lying on a beach in a tropical paradise or riding the canals of Venice in a gondola draw you strongly? Maybe it’s something else that pulls you toward retirement.

Whatever it is, give it some practical thought before you make the leap. We know that people are generally living longer these days and often (though certainly not always) in better health than used to be the case at retirement age. That can offer previously unavailable post-retirement opportunities and also some challenges.

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