From the category archives:

personal branding

Never. Burn. Bridges.

by Peter Osborne on November 2, 2010 · 3 comments

A decision I made 22 months ago turned out to be the right one.

I decided not to burn a bridge. I had just been laid off with a lot of friends I made over 16 years.  People who were very good at their jobs — and some who admittedly probably weren’t — were told there was no room for them in a smaller organization.  They were taken care of financially, but a layoff offers an opportunity to “tell people how you really feel.”  But while others packed up their personal things and left that Wednesday morning, I had a decision to make.  I was near the end of a long, difficult contract renewal and knew that my successor would have to start over and the deal most likely wouldn’t get done.

So I asked if I could stay through the end of the week and get the contract signed.  My friend Dan was in a similar situation and made the same request.  We had no expectations that we’d ever be back; it just seemed like the right thing to do.  We both got the deals signed…at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon with our manager graciously waiting to escort us out and go to a family function.

I never thought I’d be back.  Except now I am.  Different role, different part of the bank.  But the reason I’m back is because people respected the way I left.

You just never know...

Never burn bridges.

There was a point in my life where I probably embraced Don Henley’s view that ”sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge,” but no longer.

As you make the decision to leave a job and become a consultant, don’t unleash your frustrations because now you’re going to be “your own boss.”  You never know who might be in a position to hire you for a project or refer you to a new client.  You never know if your boss in a crappy situation could move and become a cool boss who brings you into a great situation.

If you’re mad at a reporter who you feel misquoted you, remember that you should never get into a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel (metaphorically speaking in the new world of digital news).

If you’ve got a consulting client who hasn’t paid you or delayed a project or has been a total pain to work with, don’t unload.  You never know.

Now that doesn’t mean you should take whatever people shovel at you.  But there’s a difference between providing feedback or standing up for yourself and burning a bridge.  No matter how good you think it will feel — or how good it felt — it will almost always come back to haunt you.  It becomes part of your brand with some segment of your audience and changing a brand is very difficult.

I have a reputation as a bulldog.  I — and others — viewed that as an expression of my tenacity and endurance, of my ability to get things done.  But there are some who saw that as an expression of me as a “bull in a china shop,” of someone who was quick to push back and whose “What” was great but whose “How” sometimes resulted in “high body counts.”  That view probably impacted the decision to include me in the layoff and it affected other things (bonuses, promotions, job opportunities).  But I had heard the criticism and changed my approach in the year leading up to my departure.

So when people started talking about this new role and my name was brought up, I am told that how I left the bank played a big role in the hiring decision. Frankly, it had never occurred to me how important that decision would be.

Don’t burn bridges.

Does anyone else have good examples of where the decision not to burn a bridge paid off later on?

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Building a digital presence after age 50: 8 lessons

by Peter Osborne on October 7, 2010 · 0 comments

This post is based on my PodCamp Philly presentation last week.  Here’s a link to the handout, but please take a few minutes to read the background.

I’m not sure if I’m going to make it as a consultant.  It’s not talent; it’s staying power (i.e., cash flow) and visibility.  I have to admit I’m spending more time lately on the search for a full-time position.  I’ve made mistakes along the way.  I’ve spent too much time cultivating prospects who I knew deep down would be slow to decide or slow to pay.  I’m not doing myself any favors with branding myself to attract both recruiters and clients.  I’m not as good as Search Engine Optimization as I need to be to get that visibility. And I prefer to do the work (content execution) than I do looking for it (selling new clients).

I’ll be 51 in a couple of days and compete every day with younger consultants (and job seekers) who are more comfortable with the online tools and platforms.  But the scary thing is that I’m much more advanced than most of my peers who don’t have websites, don’t have blogs, threw up crappy LinkedIn profiles that described any one of a thousand people, and think Twitter is a waste of time (if they knew what Twitter was).  And if they have a Facebook account, they’re using it to share picture of the kids with the grandparents.  And Search Engine Optimization?  You’re talking a foreign language with most of them.

Social-networking use for people 50-64 has risen 88% over the past year, but only to 47% this past May, from 47% in April 2009, according to a Pew study.  In a comparison statistic that’s hardly stunning, the growth was far slower among the 18-29 demographic.  The AARP released its own study in September, saying that while 23% of its members use Facebook, only 4% use LinkedIn and 3% use Twitter.  And then of course there’s the recent Sysomos study of 1.2 billion Tweets that reinforces my demographic’s view of that platform: 71% of messages fail to produce a reaction.  So why bother, they ask. 

Building your digital visibility is a huge deal because the ranks of consultants are being filled by an increasing number of the nation’s unemployed people who have been out of work for more than a year (30% of the 14.7 million and 35%+ in each of the demographics over the age of 35, according to a Pew study released yesterday).  Competition for projects (or jobs) is fierce and you have to make it easy to find you.

18 months ago, I was a digital infant...but I've grown up a lot because I have great parents

I did a digital inventory within 24 hours of being laid off.  I was sure I’d have a new job within 90 days and would be double-dipping for a very long time.  But I was interested in where I stood.  That inventory didn’t take long. I had 127 connections on LinkedIn, 74 of them internal contacts (despite having a relationship-management job with dozens of partners).  I had a bare-minimum Profile, belonged to a couple of credit-card industry and university-alumni LinkedIn groups, and had no idea what an Answer was.  No blog.  No website. No Twitter. No Facebook. One listing — midway down the first page — when I Googled my name.

I’m in a much better place today.  This is one of two blogs (here’s a link to the other one). I actually have three websites, though one is somewhat dormant.  I have more than 500 LinkedIn connections (and less than a third are former co-workers) and a LinkedIn profile that has been described as one that “people can learn from.”  I’ve started some LinkedIn groups and belong to a bunch and use them to promote my blog and consulting services and meet people who have either helped me or I can help. I started on Twitter a few months ago, mostly to learn how to use it but I think I’m developing a pretty strong presence that could pay off with projects or jobs in the near future.  And I’m Googling much better, although I will admit that my brand Googles better than my name (more on that in a bit).

The purpose of this post is not to whine or complain.  It’s to offer my advice to people who are where I was 18 months or so ago, to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made in building a digital presence.  So here are the eight ways you can improve your online presence, build credibility and trust, and (hopefully) get more business.  I’ll keep it brief (although it’s already kind of late for that), and probably elaborate in future posts.

  1. Strategy Before Tactics.  This is so, so important.  It’s not about getting 500 Connections on LinkedIn or getting 10,000 hits on your blog within X months.  Those are tactics for a bigger strategy.  What are your goals? In the big picture, you want people to be attracted to you for some reason.  You want to get a job; keep your skills sharp; create a visual resume; sell your skills or more products; retain customers (or get new ones); build a community; or promote a cause.  You need to build your list and (very important) claim your digital real estate (that one, BTW, is the subject of a future post and a new product I’m developing).
  2. Don’t Just Dive In.  Take your time.  Choose your platforms and don’t try to do everything at once. First, do some listening. I’m not talking about just setting up Google Alerts for your name or company and seeing what people are saying about you.  It’s about listening to conversations about your industry and related topics.  It’s about watching how other people do it — subscribing to their blogs, looking at their websites, seeing how they Tweet (if you want a good starting point, go to our Blogroll on Steroids where you can link to some of the best–that’s how I’ve learned).  It’s not about keeping score or being a Collector; it’s about building relationships. A terrific PR person and blogger in Chicago, Gini Dietrich, told me she thinks 500 Twitter followers is a magic number.  She didn’t tweet anything until she had 500 followers but focused solely on building relationships by sending direct @ conversations until she hit that 500 number.  Those 500 still follow her and she knows most of them in ways, now, other than Twitter.  I admire her discipline and have begun taking periodic looks at my Followers and cutting out the spammers. 
  3. Stay Focused. Avoid Distractions.  Stay Focused is the mantra of my friend Ed Callahan and he’s right.  You have to remind yourself regularly what your goals are and stay on track.  Use keywords within reason.  There are lots of bright, shiny objects out there.  Don’t try to grab all of them.  It’s easy to get caught up with blog reading and Tweet flows. Be careful about mixing business and pleasure.  Schedule yourself and be disciplined.  Regarding my goals, I’ve recently consolidated my WordPress.com blog with my consulting website onto a new domain with a new host that lets me do affiliate marketing, use PayPal to close on my Calls to Action, and take advantage of my Must Read links in my blog to get a commission from Amazon (just a few examples).  I’ve already paid for my first year of website hosting with commissions from partner sites.  I still have a long ways to go on this one, but I’ve done a 180 since I started.
  4. Build a Brand, But Don’t Lose Your Name.  You have to Google well and you need to focus on figuring out your keywords and then using them.  Some will tell you that people should be able to find you by searching on what you do and where (e.g., attorney and Philadelphia).  That’s more difficult when you do many things or don’t fit neatly into a one- or two-word description.  I made the decision to brand as Bulldog.  People like the name.  I get comments.  They smile at my business card. And it accurately describes my brand.  I also created this website to provide tips, links, and advice to new consultants.  I “own” the Bulldog Simplicity and Consultant Launch Pad search terms, but I don’t yet own my own name.  I haven’t done a particularly good job, apparently, at tying Bulldog to my name when I plug it in alone.  You can own your own brand on LinkedIn by focusing on your profile, requesting targeted Recommendations, letting people know when you post, building your industry network, and defining (and using) appropriate keywords.  And one more thing, use and tag videos and pictures on your site and blog.  They search far better than words.
  5. Forget Daily Metrics…For Now.  True story.  My daughter wrote a post about the band Paramore on the Nickelodean website that had 400 hits within a couple of hours.  My ego took a hit. The point is, the numbers really don’t matter for most of us.  It’s the Comments and the engagement.  And that’s different for a lot of people in this demographic because we grew up looking at spreadsheets and getting promotions and bonuses based on the numbers.  I started with a WordPress.com blog and had 14,000 hits in about a year.  But it wasn’t translating into business or calls about a job.  My advice: Think carefully about your Categories, Tags, and Keywords.  Figure out what the important metrics are that impact your goals and do the right things that help you achieve those goals and build a community. 
  6. Learn sharing early

    6.  It’s All About Sharing. People in my demographic are not wired to share, at least not the way you need to think about sharing with social media.  It’s more than sharing your thoughts. You have to have the confidence to give away your processes, knowing that you’re the best choice to implement it.  Comment on other people’s blog with something more than “nice post.”  I’ve seen a big (relatively speaking) jump in Twitter Followers in the past two weeks because I’m participating in evening chats. Offer some perspective.  Sally Hogshead, the author of Fascinate, says “you can be comfortable or outstanding but not both.”  Don’t worry about getting a negative comment from someone, she says.  Clients in the middle don’t care.  The middle position is goodbye.  It’s death.  It’s not caring.  Think about what you can create over the next 30 days that people will want and put it on your website or give it away.  It will come back to you.

  7. Online Is No Substitute for Face-to-Face.  We can all get stuck behind our keyboards “talking” to people and forget that the best way to build trust and get referrals is to meet them in person. I published a post last week about a friend who called me out of the blue and took me networking.  To this point, most of my networking has been with other people looking for work.  Then I went to PodCamp Philly last week and made 15-20 good solid contacts. I’m feeling much better about my prospects.
  8. Without a Call to Action, You May Be Wasting Your Time.  Marketing blogger Jim Connolly says visitors to your website need to be able to tell what you most want them to do.  Your blog can have  a lot of goals, says Chris Brogan, from attract new business or promote someone else, to providing links, starting a conversation, or being helpful.  On LinkedIn, you need to make it easy for someone to find you or to get their attention and you have to tell them what you want.  Just having a blog or a website or a Profile isn’t enough.  This is where your goals come in handy.  Calls to Action are the Mariano Rivera of goals.  You have to be able to close.

We (people over 50) need to be online…to compete, to find the job or get projects, to get into the conversations, and to remain relevant.  Whether you’re looking for projects or looking for a job, the game is Survivor, where the strongest don’t always win and the decision maker looks for reasons to eliminate rather than embrace. Don’t let your online presence be a reason to be voted off the island.  Figure out how to make Google and Bing and the other search engines your friend in your public-relations effort.  We’re all in this together.  If you need help, here’s a link to my consulting pages.

Time to open the Comments section.  What important lessons have you learned while building your online presence?

P.S.  By the way — and this P.S. is both a commercial and a contest entry –  there are a lot of places you can learn how to raise your digital presence and improve your search results.  If your consulting focuses on public relations — and if it doesn’t, you can stop reading – one place to learn a lot would be the 2010 PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17-18.  I’d love the opportunity to learn at the feet of Lee Odden, who will be doing sessions on SEO for PR and Social Media for PR.  I’d love the chance to hear live (and maybe meet) some of the people I’ve been learning from over the past year or so.  If PR is where you consult, maybe I’ll see you there.

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LinkedIn headlines: Don’t waste the real estate

by Peter Osborne on September 13, 2010 · 0 comments

This is the fourth (and final) part of a multi-part series on making changes to your job-seeker (or full-time job) LinkedIn profile to reflect your decision to consult or seek project work.  The entire series can be found here.

Find a way to make your LinkedIn Professional Headline truly memorable

Reporters spend most of their time writing the leads to their stories. People selling their homes make sure the front yard looks great.  The last thing you do before going on a job interview or date is check to make sure there’s no spots on your shirt or tie or foreign objects stuck in your teeth. 

So why do so many people write awful headlines for their LinkedIn profiles?

This series started after I helped JibberJobber.com founder Jason Alba with responses to his posting, LinkedIn Professional Headlines: Yours Probably Sucks.  Go ahead and take a look.  We had about 40 people ask for help and you’ll get an idea of whether I can help you.  I guess I’m sad that Jason stole the best headline for this post subject, but I think mine works too. 

You have 120 characters to get someone’s attention with your headline.  Who’s going to see it?  Your connections.  Your connections’ connections.  And their connections.  And people who search using keywords that can be found within your Profile.  And prospective clients (or employers).  You get the idea.

I took a quick look at my Connections’ headlines.  What did I find?

  • Company names that tell me nothing.  These are the consultants who just assume some combination of letters and numbers, last names paired with the phrase Consulting Group or some such name, and the Something Group are going to lead to click-throughs.  They’re not.
  • Job titles and company name. These are the employed people who are either deliriously happy with their current situation or don’t realize that if someone wants to find people who work at Bank of America, she is far more likely to use the Advanced Search option.  This group includes the people who don’t realize that there is no Central HR Agency that dictates consistency over the responsibilities of an SVP, Senior Marketing Manager, Director, Vice President, General Manager, or any of a myriad of ambiguous titles so your title doesn’t help you all that much.
  • Name. Ask me for a FREE something.  OK, I cheated here.  I don’t think any of my Connections did this, but there are lots and lots of people who jump right to the offer on their (Not So) Professional Headlines. 

Guys, everyone is a Marketer.  Pretty much everyone is in Business Development.  That doesn’t tell me what you do.  That doesn’t tell me what value you bring.  That doesn’t cause me to click on your name among the 10 names on any given page of Search Results.  Plug the word “Marketer” into the LinkedIn search engine and you’ll get 57,000 results (which is actually less than I would have guessed).

Most of your headlines just take up space.  Or to extend the metaphor of my headline, they are vacant lots that don’t help you one iota.  Here are some tips to get people to open your Profile so they can find the real you (if you’ve done something to beef up the Summary and other sections inside):

  • Tell me why I should care about you.  Let’s face it.  You’re on LinkedIn to either find a job (a new one or a better one), find clients, or find someone who can help your business be more successful.  You want dates? Go to Facebook.  You want to build relationships? Probably Twitter.  Your LinkedIn profile better tell people who you are, what you’ve done, and what value you’re going to bring a reader.  If it doesn’t, then you’re wasting your time and the reader’s.
  • Answer the Question Readers are Asking.  If you can do this in your headline you’re ahead of the game.  The questions include What Do You Do? What Makes Your Unique? What Problem Do You Solve? Why Should I Do Business With You?
  • Grab someone’s attention.  Use strong verbs. Differentiate yourself. Get them to want to read more.
  • Keep it tight.  Remember, you have 120 characters.  That’s about the amount of space you get for a Twitter message that you’re hoping gets retweeted.  Make it quick. That’s a decent amount of space, actually You don’t have to tell the whole story.  You just have to pique someone’s curiosity.  A lot of you only use 20-30 characters.  That’s like my son finishing a 60-minute math test in 15 minutes.  Good results rarely come from that,
  • Test different approaches.  Come up with a few headlines and replace them every week or so.  Then keep an eye on the Who’s Viewed My Profile section of your front page.  There are two metrics — Number of Views and Number of Times You’ve Shown Up in Search Results.  Higher numbers won’t necessarily lead to lots of calls, but it gives you a better chance.  See if you get comments from people who know you.

Have you seen headlines that you thought were particularly effective?  Would you like me to provide you with feedback on yours.  Use the Comment box below.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me an e-mail or you can go to a page that will enable you to learn more and even sign up then and there.

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LinkedIn Summary: Let prospects qualify themselves

by Peter Osborne on September 11, 2010 · 0 comments

This is the third of a multi-part series on making changes to your job-seeker (or full-time job) LinkedIn profile to reflect your decision to consult or seek project work.  The entire series can be found here.

So who are you?  What value do you bring?

This is the time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who do I want to read my new LinkedIn profile?
  • What’s my elevator speech?
  • What are the 3-5 things that I want to be known for (these will tie to your keywords later)?
  • What type of business do I most want to do?
  • Why should people do business with me?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can go ahead and start writing your Summary (and frankly, if you’ve stumbled across this post as a job seeker, this advice works for you too).  Time to date myself a bit here, but as they sang in the play/movie Godspell, this is not the time “to put your light under a bushel because you’ll miss something kind of crucial.”  Boring is best left elsewhere.  Stand out.

Explain your basic approach to work.  Talk about the methodologies you use.  As you surf the web, you’re going to find that more and more people are sharing their templates and checklists and many of the tools they use in their businesses.  It’s a question of confidence.  Give away your tools and let people know that what they really need are your implementation skills.  Remember, you don’t need every visitor to your website (or your LinkedIn profile) to buy from you.  You want buzz.  You want people talking about you or linking to you from their blogs or their Twitter feeds.

Let people know what you’re looking for and what kind of client or problem constitutes a “good fit” for your services.  Is your sweet spot someone who’s struggling to stay in business, someone who has a solid foundation but needs help growing, or someone who’s just getting started?  Do you offer creativity to numbers people, or analytics to creative types?  Would you prefer to work with someone close to home, or is your consultancy regional or national.  Let people know.  Don’t waste their time.

Consider creating a SWOT analysis for your consultancy before you write your consultant or freelancer LinkedIn profile.  What are your Strengths?  What are your Weaknesses?  Where are your best Opportunities?  And where will Threats to your business come from?  When you’re done, ask someone you trust to look at the document and give you honest feedback.  Then go write your Profile, leveraging those Strengths and targeting the Opportunities.

Then sit down and think about how you would find someone with your skill sets on Google or Bing.  What keywords would you use?  What combination of keywords?  Before you write, plug those keywords into the LinkedIn Search engine.  Have those keywords at your side.  Look for ways to include them in your Summary, in your Headline (which we’ll talk about in the final post of this series), in your Specialities, and in your Experience (which should closely mirror a Challenge-Action-Results format).

A few words of caution regarding keywords.  First, don’t just jam them in.  You need a flow.  Remember, you want the readers who find you to “hear your voice” when they read your profile.  Second, if you identify keywords that you think your target client would actually use to find someone like you, plug those in.  Then look at the people on the first page of the Search Results and see how many times they use those terms in their profile.  That will give you a target number.  You don’t have to be first, but you do want to be on Page 1 or 2.

The Summary doesn’t have to be long, but it should be focused and aggressive and “authentic.”  If you’ve done it the right way, you should see growth in the number of people who look at your Profile and while you may get fewer calls, the callers will be more ready to buy.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me an e-mail or you can go to a page that will enable you to learn more and even sign up then and there.

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LinkedIn recommendations benefit both parties

by Peter Osborne on July 20, 2010 · 0 comments

This is the second of a multi-part series on making changes to your job-seeker (or full-time job) LinkedIn profile to reflect your decision to consult or seek project work.  The introduction to this series can be found here

Spread the word about other people's great strengths and they'll do the same for you!

It’s one thing for you to say you’re great at something on LinkedIn, but Recommendations act as confirmation and give prospective clients a better sense of what you’re like to work with.  LinkedIn is a lot more than an online version of your resume.  It’s a place to tell everyone what you’re good at, to find potential opportunities, to share knowledge, and to build your reputation (and help others build theirs). 

Review your LinkedIn Recommendations — if you have any — and decide whether they are Job Seeker-focused or if they also work well for the project work you want.  Your recommendations should reinforce your value proposition (your competitive points of differentiation).  If you’ve thought through the keywords that you want prospective clients using to find you, get them included in your Recommendations.   If you haven’t really crystallized your value proposition or identified keywords, you really need to do that first.

HOW TO GET A VALUABLE RECOMMENDATION

Effective Recommendations offer a combination of value-proposition reinforcement, measurable results, and your primary search keywords.   The key to getting a great Recommendation?  Not leaving it to chance.  Just ask.  Here are a few tips, some taken from Ferrazzi Greenlight’s Relationship Masters Academy, from other experts on the subject, and from my own personal experience:

  • Use the LinkedIn recommendations-request system.  Some people suggest you call or e-mail the person…and that may be best if you deal with them a lot.  But that approach could result in your request slipping through the cracks.  The LinkedIn system queues up your request and serves as a reminder for someone to deal with when they have  a few minutes.  You can also ask a client for a recommendation at the end of your project.  I’ve found mixed success with this approach. 
  • Set the tone from the outset.  No matter what you do — AND YES, I’M CAPITALIZING THIS FOR EMPHASIS — do not use the LinkedIn template for your request.  Here’s a starting point for your request (but adapt it as appropriate):  As you may know, I’ve decided to switch my focus from a full-time job search to consulting (or project work).  I’d like to add some Recommendations to my LinkedIn profile that reflect the kind of work I do and the projects I’m hoping to take on.  Would you be willing to write one for me about our work together on [specific project]?  It would mean a lot to me to have your thoughts about my performance.
  • Maximize your chances to get what you need.  Sometimes people are willing to put their name on a testimonial, but don’t have the time or expertise to write a good one.  If you suspect that’s the case — and one way to figure it out is by taking a look at other Recommendations they’ve written (typos and broad generalities are two great indicators of how seriously someone takes these) — consider offering to write it for them.  You might add something along these lines to your note: I know you’re very busy.  If it would help, I’d be glad to write a couple of sample recommendations that would address some of the key points I’m hoping you might include.  You can certainly rewrite or adapt them however you’d like — and tell me honestly if you think I’ve gone overboard.  Thanks so much, and either way, let me know.
  • Write an unsolicited one for them.  This is a great way to get a great Recommendation, and it says something about you in the process.  I’m a big believer in karma and think a few non-reciprocal Recommendations send your network a great message (i.e., how often do you trust Recommendations where two people wrote them for each other at the same time?).  They also help you think through the best way to ask for one from someone else.  If you write a great recommendation, when they inevitably send you a thank you and offer to reciprocate, let them know how much you appreciate that and let them know what you’d like them to focus on.  Have a discussion.  But it will be important that you obviously spent time on theirs.

Please keep in mind that the failure to get an immediate recommendation from someone doesn’t mean they don’t value your work.  Follow up after a few weeks and if they still don’t respond, don’t stress out.  Just ask someone else.

COMPONENTS OF A GREAT RECOMMENDATION

  • Avoid broad generalities.  Offer specific recognition of what makes someone great, preferably with results.  Check out the person’s summary and be conscious of the positioning and try to reinforce that brand.  If you’re still confused, drop him a note and let him know you’re planning to write him a Recommendation and see if your view of his key skills are what he’d like highlighted.  When you’re done, check the Recommendation very carefully for spelling and punctuation.  I’m constantly stunned by how many people wrote great things but never took the time to make sure it reflects their best work.
  • Be very clear about what you’re recommending.  Focus on those specific attributes that others might be looking for (e.g., specific types of communication skills, ability to get up to speed quickly, ability to work effectively on their own after receiving initial direction, how others in the organization interacted with the person).  Go beyond saying someone helped you expand your online presence and offer specific examples (redesigned your webpage, defined online brand-engagement strategies.
  • Feel strongly about the person.  I don’t write recommendations for people I don’t know very well.  If asked, I’ll be honest about that and tell them I don’t feel we worked closely enough or that it was long enough ago that I no longer feel comfortable about writing it.  I think most people would agree that no recommendation is better than a lukewarm one.

The best recommendations explain why the person is a superstar but also explains the best ways to engage with them (and who else with credibility engages with them). 

And one more thing.  There’s a reason I’m writing about Recommendations before suggesting ways to improve your Summary and Headline.   I think you’ll find that others often have a clearer view of your strengths than you do.  I made some important changes to my Profile after seeing what people I really respect wrote about me in my Recommendations.

Good luck.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about your Summary.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me a note at peter at consultantlaunchpad dot com.

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Use LinkedIn to help prospects find you

by Peter Osborne on July 19, 2010 · 2 comments

Summer is a great time to "beef" up your LinkedIn profile and make sure your personal brand reflects your marketing strategy

Full-time job seekers who see consulting or project work as a new career path, as an audition strategy, or as a way to generate some short-term income should consider the impact on their key marketing materials.  Your personal brand and your business brand are essentially one and the same in this scenario, and you need to think about the messages you’re sending in places such as LinkedIn. 

Last week, Jason Alba of JibberJobber.com (a terrific career management site), challenged his readers to submit their LinkedIn headlines for critique (you can see the result here).  I offered to help, which gave me a good opportunity to review some profiles and frankly found them lacking.  Then last night, someone tweeted a link to a rant about people’s About pages that applies to this subject.  That got me thinking.  So I’m going to devote a series of posts over the next four or five days to beefing up your LinkedIn profile to reflect your new consulting/project focus.  

First, though, I want you to set a baseline for who’s looking at your profile today (Who’s Viewed My Profile can be found in the right-hand column of your LinkedIn home page).  LinkedIn comes up short in the metrics area, but checking this a few times before you make changes will help you assess the impact of your changes on your search results.  It won’t tell you if more qualified people are finding you, but the data will be directionally correct.

Second, print out your profile.  Highlight all the references to your job search and to the specific skills you’re highlighting, including the ones in your Recommendations and Experience sections.  How will you need to change them to attract clients rather than employers?  Which words are repeated throughout?  Those are your current search keywords.  Are they the ones you want?

Finally, think about your profile in terms of solutions.  Write down how you can help people achieve their goals (e.g., I can raise your online visibility, I can help you build a killer low-cost computer).  The list you made in the previous step should help you with this exercise.  Over the next few days, this will evolve into your value proposition.

That’s all for today.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Recommendations.

P.S.  The advice I’m providing will help you beef up your LinkedIn profile without outside help.  But if you don’t want to spend the time or realize that this is not something you’re particularly good at, I will be happy to take you on as a client.  Just drop me a note at peter at consultantlaunchpad dot com.

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