Category Archives: social media

reputation management

Social media a danger zone for HR professionals

Career coaches are constantly exhorting candidates to take care of their cyber foot print, especially at entry-level. All recruiters and headhunters usually check out applicants online before meeting them. Line managers have been warned to pay attention when liking and sharing inappropriate content on LinkedIn. Many are unaware it all goes out to an individual’s whole network and can potentially damage their personal brand. Direct reports say that it looks creepy!  But social media is now becoming an unforseen danger zone for HR Managers. They too have to be mindful of their social media activity.  Social media posting is now part of the daily routine for those working in the function, but it can have a downside.  Any ill-considered content could be not just be damaging to their reputations, but can also be used in legal action.

Social media activity reflects our belief systems 

There is a new discussion around posting and tweeting  on issues which are important to us personally. They reflect our views, values, our belief systems. But to counter that, they are they also an indication of deeply embedded biases and attitudes. The question is whether they are going to follow us into the workplace and impact our decision-making.  Or are they  a form of authentic expression separate from our professional lives? Adding a disclaimer may be enough for any organisation, but what about a legal process?

Clearly I could never get a job in UKIP or any European Fascist Party. Needless to say I don’t lose sleep over that. Or I might, if there is a populist takeover and all dissenters are rounded up. That has happened before.

Shifting culture

We are seeing increasing cultural and political shifts, with strong feelings and rhetoric on all sides.  Is it possible to separate what we see posted in the public domain, from the person’s ability to do an unbiased, neutral and professional job? The lines are actually very blurred.

Here are two stories that have been shared with me only this week. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Aliyha is a research chemist with an international company based near Birmingham, U.K. She has received what she experiences as unconstructive and even obstructive communication from her HR Manager, Alison, regarding her career progression. Aliyha is seeing her peers’ careers developing at a different (i.e. more advantageous) pace.  Last week she discovered quite accidentally that Alison has been very energetically re-tweeting Katie Hopkins over a long period.

I checked out the account and the profile is the usual benign HR blurb: “HR Management, CIPD, mother and wife etc.” She also endorses Katie Hopkins and her opinions somewhat enthusiastically  – at least once a day.  Depending on your point of view, Hopkins will be a “controversial columnist” or a provocative hate generating commentator. She has caused outrage and legal action associated with her comments on immigration, overweight people and even children’s names, as well as personal vindictive attacks resulting in libel suits.  Aliyha asked

“I have no reason to believe that my performance is lower than that of my colleagues. My annual appraisals have always been excellent.  I have never had any problems at all until Alison became my HR Manager.  Is it because I am the daughter of immigrants, a bit on the chubby side and have an Arabic name  – could this be what is coming into play now?”

The answer is we will never know for sure, but there is no doubt that if Aliyha’s complaint becomes a case, her lawyer confirmed he intends to reference Alison’s online and social media activity and support of a racist, as an indicator or her inherent bias and prejudice.

Backlash 

At the other end of the scale Michael is a Trump voter. An HR Director in a security company in San Diego,  he believed his social media activity was minimal. However, he  has openly supported Trump on his Facebook page and posted pro-Trump comments on LinkedIn. Since the November election he has been surprised danger zone for HR professionalsto encounter negative undercurrents from colleagues, who now question his commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce for the company.

He has been called a racist and misogynist. His peers and team have told him that even if these are not his personal views, it is clear that he tacitly approves the stance of  President Trump. Michael feels that he has unfairly lost the trust of colleagues and employees and he is the victim of bias and prejudice.

I asked Annabel Kaye, Managing Director Irenicon a UK-based employment law specialist if there is a case.  She agrees social media is a danger zone for HR.

HR Managers should be and always are careful of their online posts. It is entirely possible that Twitter support of Katie Hopkins for example could indicate unconscious racial bias if not active racial prejudice. Whilst it is not definitive proof either way, certainly in the UK it would allow the ‘inference’ to be drawn that any decisions made by the HR person who made those tweets might be influenced by bias and thus put their employer at increased risk of losing a discrimination case.

For this reason most HR people who tweet use things like  “my opinions only – nothing to do with my employer”   on their bio as disclaimers.

But as discrimination cases are often about what people think (consciously or unconsciously) this would still be evidence as to their state of mind. Of course in the UK individuals who make discriminatory decisions are potentially liable as well as the organisation. So all in all, not a good plan to publicly support racists, sexists, or other discriminatory tweeters or characters if you don’t want this coming to an employment tribunal near you.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of discrimination or bias, but it is another item that is going to be used in tribunal.

Separate personal and professional

So what does this mean for HR and our social media activity and how it relates to personal branding and reputation management?  Should HR or even all professionals go back to the old school way of keeping our views on sex, religion and politics separate to our professional personas?  At what point do they decide that social media can be a danger zone for HR managers? And  then what happens if what we tweet is out of alignment with the values of our organization even with a disclaimer?

So where do you stand in the danger zone for HR professionals?

 

 

 

LinkedOff

Why I’ve LinkedOff

Will being LinkedOff make a difference?

I have just cancelled my premium membership to LinkedIn. You could say I’ve LinkedOff with LinkedIn.

Reduced professionalism

Social media is awash with blogs and posts about the decline of the traditional channels. To cut to the chase, one over arching comment is this. With all the automation, the social has gone out of social. There is one notable exception. LinkedIn is now too social and not professional enough.

LinkedIn has been one of my anchor platforms for many years. As a head hunter it’s part of the candidate identification process. As a career coach, I recommend and coach clients on how to leverage it to advance their job search and manage their careers.  As a business person it was an ideal platform for tapping into great contributions and insights from sector leaders.

I now feel as though I subscribed to the Times or Wall Street Journal and am getting the Sun or National Enquirer. Or worse.

In some cases we are seeing a stream of soft porn images. The image below is a screen shot from my LinkedIn stream today.LinkedOff2

I really only joined Facebook initially to make sure my kids were still alive. But I am seeing a higher level of engagement there. I know there are others who have LinkedOff too.

We’re a growing number and LinkedIn need to pay attention.

Barriers to entry

I thought this was great in the early days. Open and democratic in line with the zeitgeist. Now the proliferation of fake profiles and dubious agendas is on the rise, with seemingly no penalties. As a Premium Member I expected all outliers to be taken care of by basic controls at the profile setting up stage. There is no place for a woman’s nipples and bum on LinkedIn, or some stud muffin looking for a date. So I will block and report and not connect with anyone who looks doubtful. This means the first letter of your name should be capitalized. That is a dead giveaway. If you refer to yourself as Caspar in your summary but William in your name, there is something not right. But Caspar/William had 500 connections when I sent his profile for review today.

What I know about coding couldn’t even be covered on the back of a SIM card – but if dating sites can approve profiles and photos, why can’t LinkedIn? Surely this is just some software check? #justsaying

Business model

LinkedIn is a business and they need to make money. I get that. They need to find ways to generate activity and content so people will buy and use their product. I get that too. They have also spawned a whole industry sector around it.  But my patience is being sorely tested. It is no longer my go-to platform for top level content. Why? Because either there is less top level content, or that content is hard to find.

LinkedIn off with LinkedIn

LinkedIn off with LinkedIn

Generic and bland automated content and spam, gratuitous self-promotion, dubious photos or quizzes are the norm. LinkedIn is morphing into an unregulated platform for people to share whatever they want. There is nothing wrong with that per se, if you are interested in that sort of thing. I just want to be able to filter it out, as you can on other platforms.

The extension of the self-publishing facility, LinkedIn Pulse has become a license to publish … well…anything. Thousands do so with no control over quality or content. Members are posting adverts for jobs and services, plus links to other articles with no content at all. Sorting through updates now takes up too much time. The good content gets lost in all the nonsense I see in my stream. Babies, cars, even women in bikinis, and men liking photos of a woman in transparent black mesh pant suit.

Sure it’s ART

There are a huge number of changes and tweaks, presented as improved features. This quote from Henry Havelock Ellis comes to mind: What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.

Freedom of choice

I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t publish what they want. I just don’t want to see it. Just as you can with other platforms. Barbara Safani made a case  that variety of exchange makes up the composition, of any workplace. That is true, but I wouldn’t hang out with women in black mesh pant suits or bikinis around a water cooler and I want that option restored on LinkedIn.

I want what I signed up for – professional content.

I want to filter out the stuff I don’t want to see and only focus on the content I’m interested in. You can do this with Twitter on Tweetdeck or Hoot Suite and Facebook.

For Premium membership  – I expect a premium service. I wasn’t getting it.

If you would like to campaign for tighter control from LinkedIn please share using hashtag #LinkedOff and flag and report all instances of inappropriate content!

LinkedIn is not Facebook. Brand blurring on social media

LinkedIn is not Facebook… right?  But when I look at the two platforms what I see is a blur of blue, off white and similar functionality.

As a head hunter LinkedIn has become part of my daily routine. I use it in every operational and many strategic elements of my businesses. I value the content of trusted contacts and “influencers” and use it as a tool for staying in touch with people as well as issues and trends in my field. Even when the Pulse function opened up and became not so much a pulse, but a palpitation of unregulated content,  I was able to triage key information.

I am not alone

I thought it was just me – but seemingly not. I saw just a very fleeting comment pass through my feed, that suggested that exact same message from someone else. I did try to track that person down, for it but couldn’t find him or her.  Neither of us, it would seem, want to look at photos of  people’s lunches and images with sometimes pithy quotes (sometimes not so pithy), on a professional platform.

The new LinkedIn layout and interface for me has morphed into a Facebook look-alike and left me as a consumer, brand confused. The white noise of unregulated content increases incrementally on a weekly basis, which is becoming a source of irritation by a similar increment.

So as these two platforms take each other on, in both a professional and personal context,  the world’s biggest social networking platforms seem to be leaving the the consumer dazed and confused, with an acute lack of product differentiation.

Facebook at work

Facebook is orchestrating a foray into the world of professional networking and workplace connecting, with the proposed launch of the Facebook at Work currently only available to people who have an account through their employer. LinkedIn has responded by upping the ante, to offer similar features to Facebook on its own platform.

LinkedIn has the had the lion’s share of the professional networking market and established itself as the primary global data base to connect employers and recruiters with job seekers. The new interface seems designed to encourage an even higher level of user-generated content with the possibility to add posts, updates and photos.

There are now also short cuts to “staying in touch” with network connections with “like” buttons very much in Facebook style. We can also take advantage of lists of statistics to generate user activity alerts of how our profile positioning has gone up and down.

LinkedIn, in the early days, was a platform to post your C.V. and create a professional presence usually associated with people who were on the market for a job. But now it seems to be targeting those who aren’t job seekers. The aim of the new look, in theory, is apparently  to encourage more interaction and conversations by people in employment, which in turn will generate traffic and therefore revenue for LinkedIn.

Brand differentiation

For one person at least (me!) it’s having the reverse effect. I find it mildly annoying to have to tune out much of the white and mindless noise that has followed this development. In my network out of 14 updates posted in one hour on a Sunday, three were images: one a piece of jewellery, the others were photos with the “wise” words of so-called philosophers and thinkers which we can see anywhere else especially on Facebook and Twitter. On Monday morning, an increase in traffic saw four out of 18 update were images, with an identical breakdown. I have even had car adverts, a posting for a cleaner/housekeeper and baby pictures. If I see one more quote about Uber, AirBnb and TaskRabbit not producing anything, I will get on my desk and scream!

I am now seeing LinkedIn Pulse articles displaying just a hyperlink to a web site post,  reminiscent of Twitter functionality and culture.

Interestingly, all three platforms have similar shades of blue as their brand colour, which only adds to the brand blurring.

Is it just me?  Anyone else feel the same?

 

 

 

Career changers: 30 minute daily strategy

Can you afford not to?

For anyone embarking on a job search related to career change and developing what is now called a “personal brand” for the first time, I outline the steps and options involved using social networking. As I do so, I am always aware of two things. Faces turning ashen with panic and then groaning, as clients,  whether individually or in groups, mentally try to calculate how much time this process is going to take out of their already busy day. There is a reason it’s called net “working” (not net “vacationing”).  It is indeed a lot of work, it does take time and much of it is doing stuff people have never heard of before  (and wouldn’t choose to do if they had!) .

Authenticity
Today,  job search is personal, flexible and strategic. Sadly there is no template or blue print which can be reproduced, although guidelines can be given.  What works for one individual, will not work or sound authentic for another. The whole point of it is also to be unique and stand out, not to be a clone of your neighbour.  The learning process is  intuitive,  as we move away from the old style rigid approach. This does indeed makes life far harder for any job seeker today and it is time-consuming. However,  authenticity is key,   which is why we have to run, stroll or even crawl,  the hard yards for ourselves.

Strategic alliances
As recessionary thinking starts to hit us again after a very brief interlude of optimism,  the job market looks set to shrink.  Economic downturns touch even the brightest and the best. It’s imperative that developing a  personal brand  and raising visibility becomes a daily part of all job seekers’ routines –  before there is a crisis.  Social networking is a great way to supplement and enhance actual networking,  although ( and I stress)  not a substitute for it.

Simple basics
—Select a primary platform  – for most people this should be a professional network   (e.g. LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing)  to showcase career success stories and background. The largest English language one is LinkedIn for and anyone seeking a career in an international arena,  I would always advise a profile placed on this platform. — As a minimum I would suggest the following activity:

  • Send out 1 update daily to develop your reputation. If you have a blog so much the better,  otherwise any nugget of information that could be interesting taken from the press or other media related to your new function/sector. Twitter is a good source.
  • Post 1 comment in a LinkedIn group related to your target career.
  • Indentify and connect with 5- 10 new connections in your target sector – preferably ones you hope to meet in person.
  • Research companies in your target sector.

Connect with other platforms  – extend your reach via Twitter and Facebook which are becoming fast growing global job boards as the Like, Share and Tweet functions become a quick way to circulate job information. Employers are also strengthening their Employer brand on these platforms and offer increasing opportunities to inform and connect with job seekers. Trend spotters are suggesting that these 2 platforms will change the job search  landscape in 2012.   Although their figures are US-based, Europe is  usually only a few steps behind. Get ahead of the game. Even a British spy agency is seeking code-crackers via Twitter and Facebook.

  • Post content via Twitter.
  • Share content from others ( RT).
  • Comment on or “Like ” a blog or LinkedIn update.
  • Post an update or a note on Facebook.
  • Locate followers and friends that might be helpful to you.
  • Pay it forward  – share any new updates with your peers or other job seekers in your network.
  • Partially automate when you are busy. Bufferapp hits Twitter and Facebook. I would advise not to over do it  – engagement is key.
  • Filter out the white noise of LinkedIn updates using LinkedIn signal 

—One of the advantages of Social Networking is that it’s self scheduling  – so any of this can be fitted  around other activities and in a piece meal fashion. It’s a question of carving out 10 minutes of time, 3 times a day which may make a difference. Yes, initially it might take longer, but as skills are honed and knowledge acquired,  it can be whittled down to become  rapid fire productivity. Eventually you will think in terms of the time this is saving you.

 The real question is perhaps not if can you afford the time,  but can you afford the risk of not allocating those key minutes, in the current economic climate? If you don’t take time to plan now,  you may find you have  more leisure than you planned for  to live with the consequences.

I “link” therefore I exist! Modern connectivity

Drowning in the Google pool and sinking into oblivion

 Modern connectivity There was a time probably no more than 5 years ago, when I could do my job very effectively by going into my contact data base and simply picking up the phone. Those days are gone. In 2008, as world markets crashed taking many global businesses with them, millions lost their jobs and disappeared into the ether of unemployment. If, and when they resurfaced they were difficult to reach. The foundations of the way most of us did business crumbled beneath us, as we tried to find new ways to stay connected.

At the same time we saw a dramatic upturn in the use of social media, which heralded a new era for business generally and became especially valuable in the executive search and hiring process. Early adopters got a head start. Now it is less ” I think therefore I exist” but more ” I link therefore I exist”. We are in an age of super connectivity.

Google ranking
Many column inches have been written about online connections. The quality vs quantity discussion rages unabated and I’m not even going to get into that one. My simple point is that unless you are a high-ranking executive in publically registered company, or some sort of super star, with acres of media coverage to your name, and land a first page Google ranking (for positive reasons!), an online professional profile or other virtual presence, which benefits you professionally, is a must. For the average, mere job seeking mortal, the failure to have an online professional identity, while possibly not total career hari kari, will be tantamount to jumping into the Google pool with lead weights on your ankles. You will simply sink into oblivion.

What  to do?

  • Get going! Create an online professional presence:  this enables you to be found  not just by search specialists and hiring managers but anyone who wishes to locate you or your professional expertise. This will vary from one country to another. The strongest global English-speaking platform is LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Viadeo or Xing also carry traction in different geographic areas.  The 3 demographics most reluctant to do this in my experience are entry-level, women and Boomers. This one simple process shows you care and are switched on!
  • Complete the profile fully and strategically: using  strong key search words. Generally I find the people who get most frustrated (and whinge the loudest) with a tendency to blame other external factors,  are the ones who have the weakest profiles and fewest connections.
  • Connect and engage strategically: build up your professional network, establish relationships,  generate credibility in your industry or sector. Set up an online trail of links to you! You can’t tap into your network unless you have one. Reluctant categories in my experience are: entry-level and women
  • Manage your reputation: leverage social media to cement the professional you. Use key words in your other online profiles and even a link to your online CV or LinkedIn profile.   Entry level, women and Boomers are the equally reluctant to do this. Social media is no longer just social, but has a professional component too. That’s why it’s called Personal Branding. Change your privacy settings if this really bothers you.
  • Don’t neglect other personal  networks: there is tendency with social media pundits to drink their own Kool Aid and believe their own hype, that these platforms are the “one- stop- shop” solution. No matter what, you have to get out from behind the computer and network personally! An online professional presence is only one tool in a much bigger job search tool kit. Category most reluctant to do this – women and entry-level.

As we teeter yet again on the brink of a possible financial services meltdown, with Greece clinging to the edge of the Acropolis by its fingernails, those without professional online “links” will almost certainly be caught at a disadvantage. There is even in my anecdotal experience, an emerging pattern of which demographics are constantly at risk.

Regrettably we have to do more than “think” to exist today. We have to “link“.

Twitter and Me – An Anniversary

Twitter

Annual review – Permit me an indulgent post!
It’s over a year since I signed up on Twitter.  Some of you may remember what a hopeless and reluctant Twitter debutante I was in my early days.  I  just didn’t get it  – at all.  Imagine I put my tweets through  spell check !   My  struggling process is well documented in my post Cynic to Convert in 10 weeks. I was an almost  total disaster and suspect that  in some areas I’m not much improved.

Twitter  now has a place  in my career transition coaching programme for job seekers and in most cases actually encounters huge resistance. A look of total blankness crosses coachees  faces and  truthfully, very few really seriously engage.  The reasons they don’t see the potential are clear. They are where I was!

Working it out
 Initially, I observed from the sidelines and saw what other people  recommended and what they did. Then very slowly I found what worked for me.   Despite all the bumpf that is written I’m still not that strategic.  Many of the big playing , hard hitters tend not to engage and that’s what I enjoy. So  although they might have a gazillion followers  and a  systematic, automatic information feed,   that is very reminiscent  of those  ” too kool for skool”  high school cliques.  If you’re not interested ,  somewhat surprisingly that actually doesn’t interest me   …..except for CNN, the Economist and President Obama,  of course.

I eventually learned to let some of the more extreme positions and outrageous views slide by without even the slightest raising  of a pulse or eyebrow. Particularly in my field in 2009 during  the worst global  recession  in recent times,  it seemed that every man, woman and dog  had a view to share on how to write a CV or get a job. Some of it was excellent,  but  some was so far off the mark to be undistinguishable from Pythonesque fantasy. Now I no longer care. If they want to advise job seekers to write a 4 page CV…  in pink,   telling everyone what their career objectives are –  go right ahead,  My ” Bothered in Brussels ” days are over. 

Eventually, I began to get the hang of it, so that it is now part of the fabric of my daily life.  I read about people trying to detox.  Are they kidding ?  Really there is no 12 step programme that would interest me.

Benefits
So what are the benefits for me? I’m not going to name names for fear of leaving someone out. You  all know who you are!  Well you should!

  •  Global connections : I have connected with people  globally whose paths  I would never have crossed   – ever , in the normal course of my daily life  – professional or personal. Their stories, skills, areas of expertise , energy and willingness to share have been humbling and informative.
  •  Community : These on-line connections  have become actual connections and in a strange way, perhaps as early adopters/adapters I find they understand  more about what I do ,  than my immediate circle  of  friends and family. I have a whole new range of mentors, sounding boards, muses,  professional contacts and people who are just fun to be around.
  • Embracing change: Early adapters don’t care about taking risks, they don’t need to understand everything they do or fully compute the consequences. They just do it. They write blogs, produce You Tube videos,  create radio shows,  host webinars. The energy is fantastic. Do people off Twitter do this? Of course , I’m sure they do – but I don’t know them.
  • Information:  I stand  by what I originally said  that it’s the sharing of distilled information that is hugely beneficial. I don’t want to be too effusive about the time they save me in case they send me a bill. How do I know they’re picking out the right stuff? I just do!   
  • Intellectual stimulation:  there is something very stimulating about being part of  group of people who feel comfortable  with what they don’t know and are not intimdiated by it. It is a black hole learning experience and  not only are we all in it – but we all enjoy it.  
  • It’s democratic: there are no barriers to entry and I might exchange  communication with world renown biz gurus, philosophers, philanthropists,  successful authors, olympic athletes, stay at home Mums, coaches, recruiters , surfer dudes,  antiopodean gardeners or teenage insomniacs –  plus any number of categories I haven’t mentioned.   
  • Content counts: what is good is recognised and shared. Credit is given where it’s due. Plagiarism is outlawed.
  • There is a code of conduct:  poor behaviour is unacceptable and dealt with pretty summarily.  
  • The speed: of the  passage of information is phenomenal. I am frequently asked how I know about something so quickly or early and it quite often via Twitter. It is a powerful  global communication tool not to be under estimated. News channels and their anchor people now refer regularly to their Twitter accounts.  
  • It is affirmative:  feedback is always constructive and positive contributions are generously endorsed.
  • Business  – of course. Everyone’s visibility is raised.

The future?

So where will it all lead to? I’m not sure if  it’s a coincidence that the massive increase in the popularity of Twitter ( which has now stabilised)  occurred during a major recession. Did people have more time? Did they feel the need to try something new?   Did they feel the need to reach out? The answer is I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see as economic activities level out whether  people will engage to the same extent and what the next 12 months hold! Will I still have to defend my Twitter presence at dinner parties in  2011?

Only one way to find out!  See you next year!

But what about you?

Job search and “Gen Y should I?”

students

Where is Gen Y should I?

Because…

As a parent of a Millennial and a search specialist with experience running graduate recruitment programmes, as well as being a university and business school coach who has written about entry-level issues, I am often  approached by young people to support them in their job search.

A lot of column inches are dedicated to descriptions of the similarities in some attitudes between Baby Boomers and their Gen Y offspring. In the matter of job search I am finding this to be true. Astonishingly, but for both similar and different reasons, entry-level job seekers are just as closed to new job seeking methodologies as their 50 – something parents.

Tech savvy
Gen Y cut their teeth on modern technology. If my kids and their friends are a good yardstick, their cell phones will possibly need to be surgically removed from their bodies at some point in their lives. They barely walk 10 paces without an iPod. Their every waking moment is documented on Facebook and they communicate and disseminate information  with their peers at a speed that is unfathomable to us older types.

An article in the Economist The net generation unplugged suggests that  for the generation of Digital Natives “Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics”

Where is “Gen Y not”? What happened to Gen Y should I?
So if this is true, why do they so obviously struggle with applying the technologies that make up the very fabric of their lives to look for a job?

Clive Shepherd  makes the point in his post “Is the net generation really unique ?”  that although Gen Y are familiar with social and digital media  ”  ..that doesn’t mean they understand – or care – about their power and significance; and just because they use these technologies to interact with their peers, doesn’t mean they’ll expect – or desire – to do the same at work.”

This has been exactly my experience. Although this generation has the skills to tap into all the information of job search available on-line for entry-level candidates, they are either choosing not to access it, or if they do, choosing not to implement the recommended strategies.

I contacted someone who is close to the pain of the unemployed graduate, Alex Try at Interns Anonymous. I can’t say  I’ve ever heard anyone using social media for job finding. Nobody. I wouldn’t think it would be an issue of resistance… more that it is doesn’t even come into consideration. As an entry-level job seeker myself – the idea of using Twitter and Facebook is a bit ridiculous. I can’t even imagine how it would work … I never even considered that LinkedIn might be used. I have never heard anyone mention social media in relation to a job search

My experience is that almost without exception that this is the sentiment of most of  the graduates with whom I have been in contact internationally. The standard of their CVs is almost universally inadequate and they would be lucky indeed to get past any ATS. 90% of my personal contacts are resistant to wholly embracing suggestions to create a “personal brand” and harnessing social and professional media in their job search. At a time when unemployment levels in the 18 – 24 demographic hovers at an all time high at up as much as 40% in some countries, you would have thought that any tips to raise visibility would be readily adopted. The 10% of my contacts that did exactly that, were successful in securing employment.

Gen Y  Should I?
I usually encourage them all to set up LinkedIn profiles, but once they go off my radar they tend not to maintain them – even the ones who get jobs. I am happy to report that my son has now replaced his tree photo with a personal one! Their Facebook pages are generally sacrosanct, reserved for social purposes only, accompanied by a deep reluctance to use them for any professional reasons. The idea that e-sourcers or CV data miners look on Facebook every day for entry-level candidates fills them with horror and suspicion. They can be forgiven for this when there is so much conflicting information circulating on this subject. I work in search – and trust me, I use these tools, especially professional platforms every day, as do my associates.

Filling the education gap
Gen Y  clearly can’t get the support they need in understanding the potential of these technologies from their Boomer parents,  because not only do they share the same doubts and reluctance,  their resistance is  further compounded by a skill set deficit. On top of that Boomers  using these limited skills very often coach their offspring in their job search efforts, with poor results.

So who then can fill that education gap? I checked out the web sites of  the career’s services of a dozen top universities internationally. There was barely a mention of modern job search strategies, other than a passing reference to   “internet research” or “networking”.  Alex adds  “university careers services have spent more time telling me what I can’t do, rather than offering ideas/suggestions. “Be a teacher” or “have a look online” seem to be the standard responses… “.

A life skill
Laurent Brouat in his post “The failure of  business schools and universities” makes a case for including job search techniques into university curricula. Like me he finds today’s graduates woefully unprepared for what they need to do to enter the work place. Although I wouldn’t go along with his suggestion that 25% of course time should be devoted to job search skills, finding a job is an imperative life skill and I believe deserves official and specific academic attention.  This should cover networking actual and on-line, plus creating, marketing and delivering a strong personal brand .

The ultimate irony is that despite all the information that is readily available on the internet,  the generation which is best equipped to exploit these technologies for career advancement, doesn’t  recognise the significance of  bridging the gap between social and profession on- line connections. Together with their parents they fall into  demographics hardest hit by the recession, but identically feel that these new technologies are for “other people,”  older or younger, but certainly not them!

Only time will tell.

Can you risk not having a career strategy?

Why strategic personal branding  is vital to career management
At the end of last year,  I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture  and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching.  Although the central  theme,   slightly egocentrically,  focused on my own challenges and  frustrations of dealing with the  concept of  high on-line visibility, now a.k.a.  Personal Branding, there was actually a key, underlying core message. The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.

What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis,  a personal brand and career strategy, regardless of our current age or place in our careers.

Why?
The recent recession has highlighted not just unemployment trends, but shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises.  Some companies have been forced by economic circumstances to re – engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat.   Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace  flexibility to  instantly enhance  bottom line results .

Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags  behind. Permanent positions in companies  have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels.  Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas  and the reduction of  a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps”  is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level  is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of  consulting “,  but senior professionals  with  no other source of income.

Do you need support creating a career strategy? Check out the individual coaching programmes.

In 2009,  according to the UK Office for National Statistics  there was a 31.5% rise  in unemployment for people over 50 ,  so at this age , there is a one in six chance of being out of work,  compared to Gen X  where  the  unemployment rate increased by  21.6 % .   However, even  if you do have a job  David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of  older,  more highly educated professionals  being employed in  lower skill level positions has  also  increased.  At the  other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships.  Their unemployment figures have hit 18%   with predictions  that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.

This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will  continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over.  At all levels.  The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a  planned career strategy will be more important than ever.

Be strategic
Brian Tracy  suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ”  The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career.  They might take golf lessons or learn to paint,  but  the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation  and invests more money maintaining  their  cars, than  planning their careers.  So because they are unprepared,  any crisis (redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments) produces a flurry of activity,  not  specific or focused , but usually frantic  and urgent.  Deadlines  become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term.  CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed  and sometimes  in extremis,  even career coaches sought out. We would never think of taking off  on a  road  trip in  an  un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college), yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!

Avoid brand prostitution
@TomYHowe:    suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again”   that on going brand managemen could lead to   “Life as sales”  and he is indeed correct ,  if not applied strategically. There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts  I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.

Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as  @wpbierman:   amusingly quipped  becoming ego related: “I am being followed – therefore I am”.  Behind that funny one-liner there is for me  an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what Rory Murray   describes as  “maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.

Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends can be misleading.  Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post  suggesting that some  of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.

But for job seekers and headhunters alike there  is a great deal of strength in a weak network. It is the new, global Rolodex and  why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely,  strategically and as early in your career as possible,  as the competition for permanent jobs hots up .

Why? To stand out in a crowded market place

  •  to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me.   That’s how you get noticed
  • To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation  and how you get those calls from people like me.
  • Build up  a strong  network as part of an ongoing career management  plan.

 That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.

Thanks to WP Bierman,  Lisa Braithwaite,   Rory Murray    and Tom Howe

 

Resume Advice: The good, the contentious and the simply misleading


Review of Resume advice  

Did you know that if you Google the phrase  “CV or Resume advice”  almost 57  MILLION results are produced?   Key in the words separately and you get almost 70 MILLION posibilities.  It seems for every  job seeker and CV writer, there is someone happy to dish out advice. This  is confusing to say the least, because although some  advisors are qualified, experienced  and up to date, others truthfully, are complete charlatans.  A percentage of  all this advice can be good.  Some is quite contentious, which is wonderful,  debate  is stimulating. Some can quite often be regionally specific (generally  the US,  but that’s OK … there are a lot of you). There are also some pieces which are simply misleading. And  then finally, there is a small percentage which is actually total nonsense. This last category I’m not even going to mention, most of it is so ridiculous.

Unlike many career transition coaches I am still an active in the area of executive research and search. I review hundreds of CVs and profiles a week with a specific end in mind:  to find the best candidates  globally to meet my client’s needs, so I am often asked to assess CVs or even review articles .

Question? How does the average job seeker sift through the morass of information when preparing their CV and what resume advice do they ditch?

Answer: with difficulty

Here is a small sample of the few things I’ve chosen to react to this year.

It’s the top of the first page that counts

Good : recruiters will generally be looking at your CV because it’s been generated by a key word activated Applicant Tracking System ( ATS)  or HRIS (Human Resource Information System) data base search. They will skim through your professional summary/mission statement which needs to be strong to avoid the reject pile. Make sure all contact information is clear and in the top lines.  We don’t have time to search. I actually get CVs with no phone numbers. Why make our lives difficult?  It doesn’t help you. You have between 15-20 seconds to get a reader’s attention.  Use it  and your limited amount of white space wisely.

Any one who suggests that CVs of more than 2 pages in length are acceptable, are not active recruiters.

The only time a longer CV could be acceptable is for a senior scientific post where references to academic papers add value.

Chronological / Functional CVs are out dated

CV black hole

Contentious : Personally I like to know where a person has worked, for how long, what they did, as well as the major USPs in a tightly worded mission statement. So I prefer to see a mix of functional and chronological information.  I don’t want to have to figure anything out. Most of the CVs I see in an extended functional format tend to be from our US cousins – so a cultural difference perhaps.  They are more likely to advocate hiding your age – but most recruiters will ask for the year you graduated. It’s always best to own your experience. CVs that are not consise, precise and relevant risk being most in the rectuitment black hole.

A professionally written resume and on-line profile will increase your chances of landing a job

Simply Misleading:  A strong , professional CV is vital,  but there are some caveats associated with having one that is professionally written by a third party.  As a coach I believe a CV should be written by the candidate themselves,  with  qualified,  professional  coaching support  as required. This gives complete ownership of the process to the individual. As a recruiter, I have seen too many candidates with strong professionally written CVs fall at the first hurdle of a telephone screening,  literally because they are a shadow of their own resumes. This strengthens my belief that you need to own your own message to guarantee success.

Personal objectives are old school

Good: we actually don’t care what you want! All we want to know is what have you done and can you do it for our client? If the client is interested in you, a good recruiter or search consultant will try to persuade you to do something different anyway. Rigid objectives limit creative thinking. Use numbers and strong language to illustrate your success stories succinctly. Or as Jim Rohn said

“Don’t bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill.”

Cover letters are obsolete

Contentious: This is a view propounded by many.  Phil Rosenberg  President at re-Careered  makes a  compelling case in his post on the subject. To some extent I generally go along with the hypothesis.  In large, international companies with automated processes this is definitely true. However, there are  still some instances when a cover letter does help: in a small company,  with a personal connection or if the cover letter is in a different language to your CV. The latter happens frequently in Europe where the  corporate lingua franca is English, but the readers  themselves are not Anglophones. It’s all about targeting each application specifically, whether via customizing a resume or  making a decision to use a cover letter,  which  I know is hard work. So no  I don’t think cover letters are obsolete  – there is just a  new need to use them judiciously. Many career advisors are American and may not need to understand the systems of other geographies.

Coloured fonts, charts, graphs and boxed layout are advantageous

Simply Misleading : Some ATS systems will not recognise sophisticated layouts, including all of those points. So unless applying for a creative or design job , when uploading a CV especially via a web site, there is no substitute for a straightforward Word Document with clear headings, bullet points, white space, plus  a decent size font, 10-12 points.  Most CVs are read initially on a computer screen and increasingly a mobile device. Resume design should take that into account. Complex layout turns a CV almost into a personal presentation and perhaps best taken as a hard copy to an interview or even included on your LinkedIn profile using the Slide Share Application.

Include your professional network url ( LinkedIn,  Xing, Viadeo, Plaxo  etc)

Good : I always check a CV against an on-line  profile or a professional network if there is one. These profiles quite often contain quick links to company information which is very helpful. However, as I work globally, I obviously have to take into account  that candidates can come from cultures and countries where social media and even broadband penetration is lower.

Traditional Resumes are out dated /dead

Red alert resume

Red alert resume

Contentious : There is no doubt that on-line presence is becoming a major factor in the early stages of identifying  candidates. But  to date I have never been involved in any search where the candidate has not eventually been asked to produce a CV somewhere in the process. Ever. This would be in addition to a professional internet profile which savvy recruiters have already viewed. So I think they will be around for quite a while longer, but perhaps used more frequently in conjunction with other recruiting techniques.

 

 

 

Personal information is no longer required

Simply Misleading : Some personal information can be judiciously included in a CV and can say a lot about a candidate.  I always scan it. Do include non professional achievements, publications, keynote speaking , awards and activities – within reason.   Your U14 MVP mention is clearly of no interest.   I would definitely not give a home address – simply indicate location for security reasons. You are no longer required to indicate nationality, date of birth,  the year of graduation or marital status. Good recruiters will always figure out age anyway – but as ATS are frequently programmed with date parameters that is a good omission. I have seen some articles advocating hiding age  – but if anyone does that, for me it sends a message that they are in an older demographic and uncomfortable with it.  Don’t forget that we all leave our trail in cyber space and recruiters do access Facebook , LinkedIn , Twitter and Google to run checks! Some get to learn more about us than we want them too,  or even realise!

That’s about it – until the next batch of  advice comes out!

“I think therefore I exist?”. Wrong…think again!

Personal Branding and the 50-somethings!
Every week I get messages from executives of a certain age , partly because of my post “ Job search strategies for the 50 something’s “   A typical one would be “ I  m working really hard,  have contacted 4 head hunters, sent off 25 CVs, been called for 8 interviews and short listed for 2 – but no luck.  Will I end up stacking shelves in Tescos/ Walmart / Carrefour  in January?   What do I have to do? P.S  Send food parcels

The answers are in no particular order:  1) possibly  2) postal address  required  3) something different  .

Visible message
The main point I took from this is despite being as pro – active as they can, these execs are still  not being contacted by head hunters as passive candidates. So I check out their LinkedIn profiles , Twitter presence and Google them and can immediately tell if they have what  the new buzz word calls a Personal Brand. This seems to trip off my tongue lightly. Don’t be fooled!  Truthfully it is a phrase that I have only become familiar with over the past year because I had to confront it  both personally and professionally.  It is new speak for your clearly defined, highly  visible, core message.

You too..
I  had always thought that personal branding was something associated with celebs (major and minor) being photographed getting out of cabs  (with or without underwear)  after  launching  over  priced costume jewellery ranges or  marketing dodgy smelling perfume.   So definitely NOT my thing! The news  I received a year ago that I needed to work on an under performing  SEO,  conjured up notions of  an inactive muscle group,  requiring painful sessions with a trainer. Or worse still,  as financial markets lay in tatters  a  meeting with my bank manager .

So not only did I have to adapt my coaching programme to deal with changes in the job search market,  I also had to practise what I preached and get myself out of my comfort zone.  If anyone had told me that by the end of 2009 I would have been posting weekly blogs, writing comments and tweeting  like a trooper,  with my face splashed over the internet I would have been highly incredulous.   But here I am! So,  I can truthfully say that  I have walked the talk. I have also found it challenging, frustrating,  fulfilling, mind-opening. I have made amazing global connections and  come across some individuals who are simply different  in their expectations. Some I have let go, some I have embraced. So a formative learning curve.

Google ranking
A  year ago on Karen Purves’ advice  somewhat embarrassed, I  furtively Googled myself.  I always felt this was faintly narcissistic,  an activity reserved for aforementioned ego fragile  starlets. I gave up after about 10 pages. Even I was bored!  And I am me … or at least I thought I was. Not only was I not unique,  (there are numerous Dorothy Daltons)   I did not stand out from the crowd  at all.  Worse still  I was totally  invisible.  Whatever happened to ” I think therefore I exist”?

So after masses of research and consulting experts including Karen,  it was obvious that there were 2 alternatives : a crisis or a plan .  I opted for the latter, knowing from experience that no matter how attractive drama  can appear  in the short-term, crises are a lot of work. Eventually there  has to be a plan.  It was partly laziness.  Age does have some advantages  – if there’s a short cut we look for it!

Do you need help with your personal brand? Check out the individual coaching programmes 

Get  a new habit
So to paraphrase Paul Getty, if business success is the force of habit , we 50 somethings  indeed have some deeply engrained ones. Some  are undoubtedly good,  some may need tweaking,  a few just totally nuking.  But we also need new ones. One of those is to  let go our cautiousness  regarding  on-line visibility and make that activity part of our daily routine.  If your name is not appearing  in any searches ( metrics- conveniently shown on your LinkedIn home page  – mid right ) or  getting those  discreet under the radar calls  from executive search companies,  this means that you too are probably regrettably invisible.  Gen Y are used to having every living moment  displayed on Facebook. Us Boomers are generally a more private generation.  But we need to get over that. As Karen said  Google yourself!

This personal journey I feel  has actually helped me have some credibility as a coach.  It is genuinely –  me too! If I can do it –  anyone can.

What do you need to do?

  •  Decide on  your “brand” focus.   This involves basic discovery work and goal setting. What are your USPs and success stories.  This is just another way of asking what is your core message? What do you offer?
  • Reserve your name  if you can as a url on a number platforms: LinkedIn,  Facebook and Twitter, Skype,  plus the .com domain.  If you name isn’t available make it something as close as possible. Use that consistently on all platforms.
  • Use the same photo on all media
  • Make sure your email address and urls coincide. Lose hottotrot 1985@hotmail.com That stopped being cool circa 1987.
  • Set up a full LinkedIn profile ( Viadeo,  Xing, Naymz or any other … or all of them) Pro-actively increase your network and raise your visibility
  • Open a Twitter account with personalised home page and start to engage.
  • Set up a blog –   with a feed to your LinkedIn profile establish yourself as  a sector guru and expert.
  • Participate in discussions, answer questions, post comments on other people blogs
  • Create your own web site.

I am a work in progress –  as indeed we all are.     Karen  has very kindly offered to give me an end of year performance appraisal!

Watch this space…