Category Archives: Best Practices

Tell Me Everything: Why Your LinkedIn Profile Should Be Complete

linkedin-logoWhile I impress the need to be safe and to be selective in what to share, there are some times when a complete profile and sharing is imperative. Such is the case with LinkedIn. I myself have been using LinkedIn for a while now, but watching the professional networking site evolve into a more social experience, I have set aside more time to not only interact with its members but also take advantage of its options and benefits.

And if you haven’t, one advantage you should be taking advantage of is LinkedIn’s impressive mobile app, a terrific extension to what you can accomplish with LinkedIn working completely for you.

Herein lies the secret of LinkedIn — making it work completely for you. Even though LinkedIn is free, there is still an investment of time. When I found myself aggressively applying LinkedIn in 2012 for a job hunt, I knew I needed to give my online resume a complete update and overhaul, something I hadn’t done since 2009. I spent close to three days in re-writing summaries, collecting locations and titles, and updating employment history. That was when I notice a new feature: the “Profile Completeness” progress bar, located in the upper-right corner of my profile. I was only at 70%. I (can still) remember in college spending a solid week on my print resume, so another day or two to work on that 30% would not be so bad.

I hit the “100% completion” mark by the end of the day.

While I did feel a sense of accomplishment, I wondered why LinkedIn was suddenly focused on Profile Completeness? Wasn’t my degree and work experience enough? On a basic level, yes, but the basics alone isn’t what LinkedIn is all about. LinkedIn is a rare opportunity for candidates to get their name and experience in front of a physical person, and that can be a real challenge as resumes face a cyber-gauntlet designed to weed out candidates based on keywords. LinkedIn has evolved into the online initial screening and this is why a completed profile is important:

  • Completing a profile shows that you can finish a task. Think about it: you’re applying for a job and yet you didn’t feel the need to complete your profile, a trait that is visible when potential recruiters click the “View Full Profile” option.
  • Completing your profile showcases your writing skills. A skill essential to success in the corporate arena is strong writing. Your profile’s “Summary” is a first impression through writing, as well as a chance to pepper your profile with keywords that can improve your profile’s chances of being earmarked for consideration.
  • A complete profile goes more into the person behind the portfolio. While the basic one (or in those rare cases, two) page resumes give the details of you on the job, the complete LinkedIn profile offers you the ability to share published bylines, recommendations of peers and superiors from specific jobs, and honors and distinctions earned in the workplace.

Go on and invest some time in your LinkedIn profile. Set out to create a complete digital first impression that will keep you in front of potential clientele and employers. LinkedIn — when done right — can be your most powerful and impressive platform on which to build upon it a successful career.

The Power of a Share on Facebook

sharingAcross the social media board, perhaps the heaviest of heavy hitters in your online initiative is the house that Zuckerberg built — Facebook. Whether you run a Group Page that nurtures a strong community, a Fan Page granting your brand a new feed, or just a personal page where people can keep tabs on what you’re up to, Facebook remains the most popular of social media initiatives; and with all the up’s and down’s and slings and arrows of trips, stumbles, and “Why did they change that?!” protests, getting the most out Facebook is essential. In my time online though I have noticed a trend that tends to go overlooked. What I see are people stressing the importance of a “Like” on their respective pages. Don’t get me wrong — “Likes” are great and all. It is definitely serious bragging rights when you get a truckload of “Likes” for a posting on Facebook. What I stress to folks when it comes to Facebook — instead of people liking what they see, you really want people to share what they see.

What’s the difference? Quite a bit, actually.

First, you’ll hear many seasoned social media consultants go on about the importance (or, no kidding —ROI or Return on Investment) of a “Like” on Facebook. The “Like” is very important in that it is easily trackable. At a glance, you can see how many times your page or news item has been liked, and your own profile page lets your network know that you have liked something today.

This is where a “Like” on its own falls short. How? Let’s say a posting like “What’s Your Social Media Plan?” goes live on this blog. As you do, I post its link on Facebook, and you like it. The statistic shows up on the article itself and might appear on your profile page, depending on which “look” your Facebook timeline falls into.

Now ask yourself — how is that statistic helping to spread word about or bring new readers to your blog?

sharing_facebook

When you “Share” an item on Facebook, you have a far more effective method to promote your brand. A “Share” will take the entire item — link, title, associated images, and more importantly its page of origin — and place it in both news feeds and profile walls. This way, not only is your link and Facebook home page appearing on their news feed and personal page, your links are now offered to everyone in their respective networks.

Sharing an item is just as easy as liking an item, provided Privacy Settings allow for sharing. Look at the options on a Facebook post, and you should see they read from left-to-right: Like, Comment, and finally Share. Click on “Share” and add your own note or comment to the item. (You don’t have to. Sharing an item without commenting will still share both your article and your Facebook homepage.) Now instead of just a public statistic, an item when shared is distributed throughout your network and, potentially, networks of your friends.

“Sharing” is tapping into the networking potential of Facebook; and with enough shares, it is very easy to see how quickly one story can go viral. This potential all starts with one person sharing. The more people sharing status updates, postings, and photos and videos, the more assurance you can take that your brand is extending beyond your circles and reaching new audiences. So the next time you are visiting brands you enjoy on Facebook, go one step further and “Share” that item. It may surprise you just how far-reaching that simple gesture will go.

Besides, it’s something we’re taught all through life — it’s good to share.

Keeping Things Simple when Planning

keep_it_simpleI am a busy guy. I’m a writer, a public speaker, a social media professional, and I’m a husband and father. Not necessarily in that order, mind you. Busy, busy, busy. On looking at my life in this nutshell, you have to wonder how I keep everything straight.

Rule out “day planner” as one of your options because, well, I have opinions about them.

It was in the early 2000’s when I purchased for myself this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer. (Serious investors in this day planner kit could get it in a leather-bound binder, but I opted out for the beginner’s level vinyl…although I did plan to level up in the future.) It had pre-formatted pages for specific tasks, elegant tabs that could be color coded, and even a set of strategies and instructions on getting the most out of it. I sat down one Saturday afternoon, with the kit’s instructions in front of me, and started planning out projects, prerogatives, and To Do lists.

When I was done mapping out the present day and upcoming week, I looked up at the clock. The sun had set. It was late. I had to go to bed.

“Well, that must have just been for the initial set-up,” you may think, but no. Oh no. It was recommended by this day planner’s “program that I haul this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized binder everywhere I went. You know, just in case I suddenly got an idea, or needed a weapon when the zombie apocalypse happens (and, essentially, achieve my ongoing “living to see another day” goal).

But that really wasn’t the problem. The real problem came whenever an idea came to mind. Unlike that heady euphoria I enjoyed on new ideas or possibilities, I would be overcome with a sense of dread as this meant consulting THE ALL-MIGHTY PLANNER to see if I could fit any of them into my schedule. No, I could not merely “glance” at this calendar. No, I had to consult it, find out if I could fit this inspiration into my already-meticulously schedule, costing me even more time.

Here’s my issue with planners — they can easily devolve into timesinks. We can spend so much time organizing goals, projects, and To Do’s into particular categories, timetables, and spreadsheets, that we lose time in working on accomplishing goals, projects, and To-Do’s.

So how can you keep it all straight? Look at the tools you have on hand and keeping it simple.

For myself, the goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer has been replaced by my iPhone and iCloud. If an event or an idea comes up, I access iCal and tap in a few details. Automatically iCal syncs not only with other Apple devices, but also with apps that are granted permission to access iCal (such as LinkedIn’s mobile app). Events can be assigned multiple alerts for multiple times, and these alerts are received across my Apple devices. iCal also allows you to send out notifications to other people, notifying them in an email of the event and any changes concerning it. All this from an app that is free on your devices.

iCal is a great way to keep it simple. Once you have outgrown it, set your sights on something more robust such as Evernote, a popular planner and organizer for students and professionals. Organization is essential in successful projects and careers, but make certain to keep your goal setting and day planning to the basics. By taking it easy and keeping things elementary in the beginning, you give yourself room to grow.

You can also make sure you’re getting things done, which is the whole point of being organized to begin with.

4 Things Independent Artists Should Consider when Pursuing a Career

inspirationIt doesn’t matter what the profession — public speaker, audio engineer, musician, writer, artist — there is a trend that if you want to be a professional creative, you’re better working independently. You are truly a working artist when you are free of agencies, publishers, or labels.

That is all well and good, but there is something to be said about being an artist and being a successful working artist. Sure, the battle cries of “Take control of your artistic career! Do it yourself!” and “Stick it to the Gatekeepers!” sound seductively empowering, but you might be destined for disaster if you don’t know what you are doing. Across a decade of writing, editing, and book layout, and reflecting on another lifetime where I was a professional actor, I’ve collected a few considerations for any artist — new or seasoned, corporately or independently creative — to keep in mind when it comes to managing a career.

1. Accept the fact that no matter how good you think you are, you need an objective critic. There are some authors I’ve met who have a real resentment when it comes to editors, and I can even think of one or two editors who have voiced their disdain for successful writers. I have always been a writer who respects the editor as well as the editorial process. Why? Because I know when I get to writing, I get attached to a story so objectivity is chucked out of the window. When you’re a creative you are human, making it difficult to take a harder, critical look at what your creativity hath wrought. Objectivity is not a curse or an unnecessary delay on your work. With the right critical point-of-view, your work becomes a diamond cut from a creative rough.

pennies

2. Giving Your Creative Work Away for Free (or Even for 99¢) Should Have a Plan behind It. So how often have you been asked to give a presentation in exchange for great exposure? How about creating a blog or website in exchange for compensation of equal value? And how about giving away your writing online for free in order to build an audience?  Back in 2005, I was one of the strongest supporters of free fiction. Now, over eight years later, I’m still a big advocate for giving ficiton away for free, provided there is a plan behind it.

Giving away free works has proven successful for writers like Scott Sigler and Cory Doctorow, but for whom else has this tactic worked? Even as author Chuck Wendig points out in his “Making Sense of 99 Cents” blogpost, it’s not the best strategy to price everything the same. Free can work as part of a larger plan, but remember when you are building a brand be it for a production or for yourself, you are placing a value on your creativity. Don’t short change yourself.

3. Some People Will Never Want to Pay for Your Work. In a recent episode of The Shared Desk, around 28:38, I made a really dumb remark: “A little bit of book piracy is okay.” I said this before receiving the Google Alert notifying me that The Case of The Singing Sword: A Billibub Baddings Mystery was being torrented. Not the podcast, mind you. A PDF of the print book.

So, to be clear here — a novel I am already giving away for free in audio was being pirated.

I also made that less-than-thought-out statement before I wrote this article on why I did not want people to pirate my book

The business model you set for yourself needs to include boundaries for your work and how you deal with Internet Entitlement.

4. Consider a Double Life for Your Career. My wife, author Philippa Ballantine, is insisting I use here her “Many streams make a river…” quote when talking about an artist’s income. In between developing creative works for a corporate setting, why not create your own brand as an independent artist?

Is it possible? With patience, time, and a strategy, yes.

Breaking into the mainstream can open doors that still remain closed to smaller to the independent; but being independent does offer a maverick freedom as well as valuable lessons in building a brand. I have been published in both mainstream (Wiley, Que, HarperCollins) and independent (Dragon Moon, and my own Imagine That! Studios) channels; and while it is extra time invested in the independent label, I’ve been able to leverage the independent work in order to promote the mainstream work.

The creative independent is not only possible, it is a reality; but there is a method to the madness. At the center of this methodology is patience and time. Financial success does not happen overnight. You invest time in researching your art, time to create, and time to produce. Be prepared to also spend time in finding out if your investment is indeed working. There’s no magic formula for success, but you will know when your investment is coming to fruition.

5 Things to Do after You Lose a Job

walking_the_railsAnyone remember when job creation and unemployment were the priorities of the election? Anyone remember the doom and gloom people projected following our last election? Anyone remember this New York Times article from last month reporting that unemployment was at its lowest rate since 2009? How about these numbers from the Department of Labor backing up this article?

Me neither.

What I do remember is the irony that when I was hired in 2009 by Intersections, the Recession was in full swing with the Unemployment Rate clocking in at 9.6%. And at the beginning of 2012, where a variety of news outlets from around the world were all noticing an economic turnaround at the beginning of 2012 and the rate of 8.5%, I got downsized.

I’ve learned a lot since that time, the reality being that if a company or non-profit needs to get out of the red and into the black, layoffs will happen. Each layoff is different. Some employers treat you with respect and regret, and others don’t blink at blind-siding you and getting you out of the door. It’s hard to predict how bad news like this will come, but I can say there are five things to keep in mind when a rug is yanked out from under you.

1. Don’t panic. Flipping out is easy to do when this news hits; and it’s not going to help anyone. If it does anything, it’s going to make you look like a chump. When I was let go by Intersections, I took a deep breath, and thought, “Go out with class.” When all the formalities were done, I looked the EVP in the eye and said, “It’s been a good run. Thank you.”

Keep it together. Keep it classy.

2. DO. NOT. MELTDOWN. THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA. This was particularly tempting when, with another employer, I was let go under suspicious circumstances. Knowing what I knew about budgets, clerical errors, and executives denied what they really wanted, I knew this whole affair was unethical. When I got home, I felt an urge to go off completely, drop names, and face the fallout; but with my fingers over the keyboard, I paused.

I thought about it. Really thought about it.

What would have sharing my anger and ire accomplished? Social Media still has yet to shake its bad reputation for being all about the meltdowns, as if Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are nothing more than the therapist’s couch online. Remember that when you go public on social networks, you are going public. How do you want to be remembered at your job and represented online?

Instead of the meltdown, I enjoyed a scotch and cigar on my patio, lit a fire in the firepit, and proceeded to Step 3.

3. Get organized. Whether it is the day of your release or the morning after, your priority should be to check, update, and review your LinkedIn page. Upgrading to a “Premium” account in order to get a few extra bells and whistles is a nice option, but not one I would deem a necessity. Another part of getting organized is to look over your accounts. Look up how much your spending, where you can make your dollar stretch, and what you will need to meet your financial obligations. Set up and maintain spreadsheets not only of your bills and money coming in and going out of your household, but also for the jobs you are applying. Track where you have sent your resume, what you’ve applied for, when, and from where you found the job opening. On your job tracking spreadsheet, you will also want to keep track of any responses so you have an idea of how well your resume is performing.

4. Keep it classy (and smart) when reaching out for references. At the time of downsizing, you have a window of opportunity — preferably within the first week of the layoff — in securing some terrific references. I reached out to the Intersections’ executives I dealt with directly and sent the following note:

I wanted to thank you for two-and-a-half terrific years with your company, Intersections. I’m looking back on my time with you all, and I’ve got nothing but positive experiences staring back at me. Intersections gave me a chance when no one else would, and Intersections stood by me through one of the darkest times of my life. Couple that with the opportunities and accomplishments I enjoyed while working there, all I can say is “thank you.” My only regret was that Intersections could not find a place for me.

Each version of this letter was different, personalized for each executive I approached. Within ten minutes I had my first reply. From the C.E.O. Two days later, I had his letter of recommendation.

However, as I stated earlier, every layoff is different. Even after being assured by an executive of another employer that I could turn to him for a positive, worthwhile reference, I considered days later that this was the same executive who had approved my dismissal with no reason in writing, after a solid 90-day review given in the previous month. Could I trust this executive?

Be smart and be savvy in whom you approach for references. In the case of circumstances that can only be described as “sketchy” it’s best to find references elsewhere.

namaste5. Enjoy some downtime for yourself. Yes, you have a workload ahead of you between updating resumes, collecting references, and planning for the job hunt ahead. You also need to make time for you. The night my Intersections layoff happened, I had plans with friends that my wife suggested I cancel. “No,” I told her. “I don’t want to hide. I want to be around friends.” All weekend, I did just that. Friends, neighbors, and, of course, family. Manage this newfound time you find yourself having by banking some quality memories with your family, or broadening your skillset. Your job hunt will be there, waiting for you once you get back from what you’ve set aside for yourself. Prepare yourself for your job hunt. Don’t obsess over it.

There will be some days that are going to be easier than others. By doing some footwork immediately afterward, though, you feel like you’re taking the right steps. If you find yourself in an unexpected, unwanted career change, maybe this blogpost will give you some tips in keeping your career on track.

And when in doubt, head back to Tip #5 and find some time with friends. Laughter makes everything — even getting laid off — a bit more tolerable.

 

Socially Sharing and Staying Safe while Traveling

girl_on_beachHere in Virginia, we’re getting a reminder that Summer is about to begin. (Enjoy those two days of Spring? Seriously, it was in the 30’s last week, and today it was in the 80’s!) Right now, our thoughts are planning for vacations. They could be getaways to places for off or day trips on spontaneous whims. No matter where you might be headed—domestic or international—the excitement of new adventures and new experiences might leave you open and vulnerable to identity theft and data breach. So in the days before hitting the road or checking in with your airline, you might want to stop and consider how secure you are.

Before setting off, make sure to follow these few tips:

  1. Reconsider geotagging features on smartphone apps and other devices while traveling. Geotagging and Facebook check-in’s are a great way to share your travels, but remember each check-in gives thieves information they need to target your empty home. Photos are fun to post as well, but always remember each tweet, each status update, and each check-in shares GPS coordinates of where you are and where you are not.
  2. Secure your computer. Protect yourself by making sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. This will allow you to use hotel hotspots safely.
  3. Exercise caution when logging into public networks. Avoid free hotspots as they can be insecure and susceptible to viruses and malware. Consider turning your own smartphone into a hotspot, complete with its own password. (The more passwords, and the more varied they are, the better.)
  4. Be aware of potential phone scams. A popular method for thieves to practice on tourists is to call unsuspecting tourists and claim they are Reception, needing confirmation on a credit card number after a “problem” has occurred. If you receive such a call asking that you confirm a credit card number, tell them you’ll be happy to provide the information at the front desk in person.
  5. Limit the number of credit cards you bring with you. Carry just one with you when sightseeing, but consider keeping a backup in the hotel safe. (Just remember to collect it when leaving!)
  6. Back up your documents. Before leaving, scan your identification, credit cards and essential documents. Save the images in a secure folder or file, either on a cloud service, smartphone, or tablet. Be sure to be able to access them just in case your wallet is stolen.
  7. Carry emergency contact numbers. Keep a copy of emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts handy in case you find your wallet lost or stolen. If traveling internationally, keep the address and phone number of your country’s embassy accessible.

It’s okay to relax when you are on vacation, but it never hurts to remain aware of your online security and how your identity and all that is associated with it still matters. Consider these tips outlined above as an investment for you to be able to enjoy yourself and time with your family and friends while away.

Safe travels to you.

The Delights of a Digital Packrat

packratSomewhere around 7:30 a.m. on a morning where I had no plans other than to write, my phone rang. The voice on the other end was a client in need.

Sidenote: If a client calls you at 7:30 in the morning, something is wrong. Very wrong.

“A client isn’t satisfied with a class we began yesterday,” the client told me. “We need someone to go in and give a seminar on Social Media initiatives. Kind of a ‘speed dating’ approach to what’s out there. Can you do it?”

A seminar on Social Media. No background on the client. No preparation. No planning.

No problem.

You might be thinking “Woah, I could never do that!” My retort to that would be “Why not?” Think about it: The majority of planning and preparation a presentation happens the first time you give a talk. When you are called on again, you simply repeat your earlier performance, maybe with a touch more polish and finesse. Right? Later on, you’re asked to give that presentation of yours, a client may ask you “But, could you make the focus less on Topic A and lean more towards Topic B?” After some brush-up and a few deep dives into research, you then create a variation on your original theme — same subject matter, but different focus point for varying audiences.

My own log of presentations dates back three years. While that may deem me something of a “digital packrat,” it actually provides me an invaluable resource pool for building brand new presentations. For that unexpected wake-up call, my (sleep-riddled) mind sifted through numerous Keynote files on my laptop. I reviewed the following seminars I’d already successfully delivered:

  • Technology for the Technologically Challenged
  • What is Blogging?
  • What is Podcasting?

Ten minutes of editing and rearranging slides yielded the presentation Speak Geek to Me: Social Media in a Nutshell, a talk I have taken across the country and around the world.

My client told me en route that I would probably wrapping up no later than 3:00 p.m. I did not leave the client until 6:00 p.m. on account of the questions, the answers, and the strategies that came from my seminar. One of the students was so energized, she walked me to my car, still talking up the potential of Social Media in her workplace.

Safe to say, the talk was a hit.

When putting together presentations, keep this in mind: Success hinges on how ready you are, not just for today but for tomorrow. Thinking quickly is essential in providing a client solutions; but results happen when you act, and the ability to act and react even faster on your feet is not a talent but a skill that can be honed and mastered. Give yourself time to rehearse a presentation but plan out variations of that alpha seminar. Prepare two or three alternative versions of your talk, and keep them at the ready in a running log of  files. That way, when that call comes, you have a pool of resources to pull from.

Be prepared, because you never know when that wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. is Opportunity in need of your unique talents.

What’s Your Social Media Plan?

A-Team-Liam-NeesonI see businesses big and small jump into the Social Media fray, and sadly watch as their signal deteriorates into one of two things: Noise, or Silence. The reason why so many attempts at Social Media fail is an easy one — there is no plan in place. Why exactly is this so common? Because of the very nature of Social Media being part of the Digital Native age. Twitter and Facebook are for the younger generation. High school and college kids do this, so how hard can it be?

General Patton didn’t push through Nazi-occupied Europe without a plan. The Doctor never goes up against the Cybermen without a plan. (Alright, maybe the Doctor is making it up as he goes, but track with me…) Your Social Media strategy shouldn’t be any different. You need to know what you want to accomplish, how you want to reach those goals, and what you want your online profile to be. Sounds simple, but if it were so simple why are these things so quickly overlooked? Why? Because people are clamoring to sign up to Social Media to show how connected they are.

Without a plan, there is a dramatic disconnect. If you are launching a Social Media initiative without some sort of plan in place, you are doomed to repeat the present history of so many corporations, non-profits, and small businesses.

You might not think there is wisdom for business in something like The A-Team; but even in the over-the-top schemes that Hannibal Smith would cook up for his team, there was a plan in place. Hannibal is given a goal. He assesses the environment. Then he plays to the strengths of his team. Not a far stretch from how you should be approaching your Social Media. Your goal is to get your business, your product, your title, your property into the eyes of consumers. You want them to come to you as a reliable resource for what they need. Then you play to your strengths, be they blogging, podcasting, or social networking. From here, you build on your connections and your voice is heard.

See? Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Don’t do something simply because it’s cool. Take action with a plan in place. By keeping a clear head and a sharp vision, you prepare for pitfalls while at the same time achieving results. Success happens when you set a direction and a process for reaching it.

What is your Social Media plan? And if you can’t answer that, then it looks like you have something to do today.