Your Online Brand & Reputation Management

By now, I think most people realize that they have a brand, whether or not they pay much attention it. However, since so much information is available about you online these days, ignoring your online brand and reputation is risky at best.

How Do You Manage Your Personal Brand Online?

William Arruda is widely recognized as the guru of personal branding. A recent post by Tara Kachaturoff in Arruda’s online publication, The Personal Branding Blog, addresses the above question with some practical steps. In a nutshell (read the blog post for details), they are:

  1. Assessment: Create a benchmark from which you can measure progress.
  2. Determine what you want to change.
  3. What’s working for you?
  4. Draft a strategy that works for you!
  5. Rinse and repeat – do what works and more of it!

Think You Don’t Need to Manage Your Brand?

Think again! Whether you’re a job seeker, just managing your ongoing career or a business owner like me, you really can’t afford to ignore the need for personal brand management. The days when you could stick your head in the sand and pretend this issue doesn’t exist are long gone.

Try Googling yourself by first and last name (or your business name if you own a business) and see what comes up. Or what doesn’t, as the case might be.

At times, I’ve found references to myself in as many as 6 or 7 of the top 10 on page one of results and maybe a few more on page two. (There are several Georgia Adamsons, so I’m usually not the only listing.) Most recently, I found just 2 or 3 on the first page and 1 or 2 on the second page. Obviously, I have some work to do! (Of course, if I Google “Georgia Adamson resume writer,” I’m 10 out of 10 on page one!)

By the way, one of the references you might find when you search for yourself is your LinkedIn profile–especially if you’ve updated it recently (even a small tweak now and then will help the profile to come up high on the list). That’s just one of many reasons to make sure your LI profile is current and updated fairly often; LinkedIn does get a lot of exposure. If you want potential employers to find you and to be favorably impressed by what they find, give your LinkedIn presence the attention it deserves.

You don’t need to spend hours every day on managing your online brand and reputation, but consistent attention over time is likely to pay dividends. You’ll be more easily found and better able to make the kind of impression you want to make on the people (i.e., employers) who do find you. That’s well worth some thoughtful effort.

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Job Search Expectations–Are You for Real?

As someone who’s basically an optimist, I believe that expecting good things to happen is a healthy attitude to take. However, having seriously unrealistic expectations for your job search is another matter altogether.

5 Common but Unreal Job Search Expectations

  1. If I put my resume out there in enough places, it will get me a job.
  2. Free help can get me where I want to go–people should want to help me if I’m having a tough time but have years of good experience to offer.
  3. All I need to do to my 3-year-old resume is add my latest job.
  4. After I upload my resume to my LinkedIn profile, I’ll start getting job-lead contacts within days because I have a large network.
  5. I don’t match all the major requirements for a particular job posting, but if I use the right keywords, I should still get calls.

What’s Wrong with Those Job Search Expectations?

  1. Quantity versus quality as a job search technique could seriously extend the length of your job search. Also, a resume doesn’t get you “a job”; it’s a tool to help you open the door and land interviews.
  2. Free help isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to come from good-quality resources. Also, the likelihood that someone will want to help you just because you need/deserve it doesn’t translate into reality. Finally, actively pursuing free support presents you as more of a taker than a giver, which doesn’t inspire people to help you.
  3. Times change. So does the impact of trends and technology on your resume and your job search in general. The way we did resumes a few years ago has changed substantially since then–largely due to factors such as Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening and LinkedIn. If your resume isn’t up to date in more ways than just its chronology, you’re missing something critical.
  4. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for business/professional networking, and you should definitely have a strong presence there. However, just uploading your resume isn’t a substitute for building a robust profile and is highly unlikely to flood your inbox with great job leads. Sorry, but you have to work at it.
  5. You can certainly apply for jobs where you don’t meet all the major requirements, but just packing your resume with relevant keywords isn’t going to plug that gap. Keywords are important, but they’re not a “fix every problem” solution to your job search. If you’re a savvy job seeker (and you should be), you already know that.

How Can I Have Realistic Job Search Expectations?

To start with, create a plan that might be ambitious but isn’t ridiculously over the top. Then work that plan consistently. In addition:

  • Put your time and energy into the actions most likely to yield potentially beneficial results for your job search.
  • Use technology to your advantage as much as possible but recognize the need to work with what is, not what you’d like it to be.
  • Create a professional resume that represents you as effectively and accurately as it can, but don’t expect it to do all the heavy lifting for you.
  • If you’re looking for help from other people, try to put yourself in their shoes. Would you appreciate an in-your-face, what-can-you-do-for-me approach if it were directed at you? No? Then don’t use it on them.
  • Give yourself a reality check every now and then. If what you’re doing isn’t working, is there something else that might be more productive?

LinkedIn: The “Dark Side”–What You Need to Know

Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is a potentially great job search and career management tool for career-minded individuals who want to make smart moves in their careers. It isn’t really LinkedIn’s fault that there’s a potentially dark side to the power it can bring to you. So what’s this dark side?

The big issue: If you’re trying to avoid being found by someone you have to protect yourself or your family from, your visibility on LinkedIn could give that person an edge you don’t want him/her to have. (This might sound like an extreme and probably rare situation, but I recently dealt with a client who was facing just such a situation.) I’ll write more on this problem in a bit.

Employers Tracking You on LinkedIn

Sometimes people tell me they’re concerned about employers finding out they’re looking for a new job because of something they’ve put in their LinkedIn profile. The obvious first suggestion is to make sure you turn off your activity broadcast notification before you make changes to your profile. That way at least you’re not publicizing your update to the world. [Note: Activity feed and activity broadcasts are NOT one and the same. Your feed is more or less posts about “what I’ve been doing lately,” not about changes to your profile.]

In fact, whenever you make minor changes to your profile, you should consider turning the broadcast notification off, so your network doesn’t get inundated with notifications about your tweaks.

I did have a client tell me once that his employer regularly checked employees’ LinkedIn profiles to see what they were posting there and, presumably, get clues as to who might be thinking about jumping ship. The employer didn’t make any secret about doing this–a not-too-subtle form of intimidation, I suspect. In other words, “be careful what you do, or we’ll find a way to boot you out the door.”

I have two thoughts on this concern: (1) Do whatever you can to find yourself another job ASAP, even if you can’t pursue that goal via your profile. (2) In your next and subsequent jobs, make sure your LinkedIn profile is strong and up to date at all times, so employers have no reason to suspect you of planning to leave.

Protect Your Privacy on LinkedIn

You can make your profile private so only you can see it–but what’s the point? You might as well not have a profile. Despite the common belief that you’re almost a non-person without an active LinkedIn profile, I’ve heard from reliable sources that savvy job seekers have found new positions without a robust LinkedIn presence. They just need to work harder and smarter at their job search.

When it’s a matter of personal safety rather than job security, the answer might not be simple. Recently I queried my e-list colleagues about the situation of the client mentioned above. Below is a brief summary of the tips I received and found on my own:

  • Go onto LinkedIn, find the person’s profile, and block him or her. When you go onto the profile, in the top rectangle’s blue bar where it says “Send a message,” the rightmost part has a downward-pointing triangle. Click on it. Second to the bottom is “Block or Report.”
  • Consider asking yourself questions about why you want to be on LinkedIn, such as: What do you expect to gain from being on it? What are the potential risks? What is the balance of potential risk and reward by having a detailed profile?
  • Go into your account’s Settings feature and look at the items to see what the options are and decide whether you want to change any of your current settings:
    Privacy Controls
    * Turn on/off your activity broadcasts
    * Select who can see your activity feed
    * Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile
    * Turn on/off How You Rank
    * Select who can see your connections
    * Change your profile photo & visibility
    * Show/hide “Viewers of this profile also viewed” box
    * Manage who you’re blocking

LinkedIn Endorsements and Your Job Search

Controversial topics can enliven your job search–for instance, they give you opinions on multiple sides of an issue that potentially affects your ongoing career success. LinkedIn’s endorsements feature is one of those topics. I’ve written about it before, but based on what I’m reading and hearing these days, it merits another look.

What People are saying about LinkedIn Endorsements

I have just been reading a thread on LinkedIn by people commenting on the Endorsements feature. Out of dozens–maybe hundreds–of comments, not one comment was favorable! The thread apparently started around mid-2013 and has continued as of April 2014. As near as I can tell, all the commenters on the thread are job seekers or potential job seekers. If any were hiring managers, recruiters, etc., I missed those.

The views ranged from “a waste of time” to “potentially damaging to your career image.” Frequent themes centered around the feeling that LinkedIn has essentially forced endorsements down the throats of its members and is 100% non-responsive to their unhappiness. Basically, these people feel as if they’re seeing a corporate mentality from LinkedIn that says to members, “If you don’t like our rules, take your marbles and go home.”

Can You Opt-Out of LinkedIn Endorsements?

Some people indicated that they have participated, reluctantly, but have made an effort to limit the level of inappropriate activity–such as people endorsing them for skills they either don’t have or don’t want to emphasize in their LinkedIn profile. Others mentioned their efforts to opt-out of the endorsement feature in one way or another.

If you go to the LinkedIn Help Center and search for “Opting Out of Endorsements,” you will find tips on how to prevent endorsement suggestions from displaying on profiles you view or on your own profile when other people view it. However, in order to completely opt-out of endorsements, you have to select an option that hides all of your endorsements already received. That could leave an obvious hole in your profile, and you might not want to do it, but it’s something to consider.

By the way, the Help Center instructions suggest unclicking the two items about endorsement suggestions on profiles viewed (which will supposedly prevent those suggestions from appearing). However, I already had those unclicked on my LinkedIn profile and I still get those suggestions, so I think their “system” for that procedure is flawed.

Who Cares about LinkedIn Endorsements?

Besides LinkedIn, that is. Employers/recruiters might. One thing I’ve read is that LinkedIn designed the feature primarily so recruiters could search for candidates with specific skills because they want to increase revenue from recruiters (or their companies). I don’t know if this is a fact or not, but I suppose it’s a possibility.

I haven’t seen much, if anything, from employers on this subject so far, and it might be that they appreciate the endorsements feature more than job seekers do. I wonder, though, how happy they would be if they had reliable data on just how inaccurate the lists on members’ profiles can be.

For example, my list used to include “career counseling”–I didn’t put it there. Other people endorsed me for it, despite the fact that although I do provide career coaching, I don’t do career counseling (which requires a counseling degree). If someone were looking to hire me for career counseling, they’d be disappointed. (I removed that item from my list, with the associated endorsements.)


Two Ways to Do Your Resume: DIY & HAE

Boiled down to its simplest level, you have two ways to create or revamp your resume: Do It Yourself (DIY) or Hire An Expert (HAE). Since my profession is resume writing, you might guess I’m not going to tell you you should always do your own resume, but I will say that sometimes “it depends.”

Having made my disclosure about possibly not being 100% impartial, I’ll still do my best to give an unbiased view of the two ways you can choose to do your resume.

Write Your Own Resume (DIY)

In some ways, you know yourself better than anyone else does. That means that, theoretically at least, you’re the one who should be most familiar with your strengths, skills, achievements and so on–the elements that will form the basis of your resume.

Here are a few questions you should be able to say yes to if you plan to write your own resume:

  1. Do I have strong writing skills?
  2. Do I have a clear target or direction I want to pursue?
  3. Can I take an objective look at my current situation and identify what I need to do to move forward?
  4. Am I up on how things are done these days? If not, can I spend the time to get up to date on them?
  5. Do I know what to do next after I get my resume finished?

Hire An Expert Resume Writer (HAE)

For some people, hiring experts to do things they don’t have the expertise, time or interest to do for themselves is a no-brainer. They consider it a good investment in themselves and don’t need other reasons.

However, you might be one of those job seekers who either believe you should do your own resume or feel you need to save your money for other (“more important”) purposes. That’s fine, if it works for you. On the other hand, you might want to think about one or more of the following:

  1. You might be very good at what you do for a living–whether it’s sales, operations, or some other role–and know what it takes to be successful in your job. However, do you know how to communicate your value in that role to potential employers?
    Knowing how to DO the work and knowing how to communicate your value in doing it are two different things.
  2. Employment and job search trends seem to change constantly. Keeping as up to date on them as possible is a critical element of a successful job search. That means it’s critical for your resume.
    For instance, how much do you know about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)? Do your resume and your LinkedIn profile work well together?
  3. Well-qualified resume writers can bring an emotional distance that allows them to see important aspects of your situation that you might be too close to. That doesn’t mean they’re disinterested in the outcome–far from it; but they can look at the situation objectively.

How Do You Choose Which Way to Do Your Resume?

No answer is perfect for the entire population, and ultimately no one can decide the answer to this question but you. You’re the one who has the most at stake.

You can, however, consult with people whose opinion you value and give some consideration to their input. In addition, you can do some research into various options and try to evaluate them with regard to your needs and goals.

If you choose to hire an expert resume writer, just make sure the person is reputable and not a fly-by-night operation or a resume mill that churns out $50-$100 resumes on an assembly line. I don’t know any professional resume writer who will come close to doing that!


Avoid LinkedIn Goofs

As you probably know, LinkedIn keeps changing–sometimes it seems as if that happens every time you turn around. However, that’s no excuse for letting yourself get so far behind the curve that your profile brands you as hopelessly out of touch.

10 Amateurish LinkedIn Blunders

According to a Forbes.com article by personal branding guru William Arruda, there are “10 LinkedIn Blunders That Make You Look Like an Amateur.” The first 5 have to do with content, and the remaining 5 concern your contacts.

1. No photo. Bad photo. Wrong photo.
2. Me-Too headline (using your current job title as your headline).
3. Using LinkedIn as a resume. (Create a summary that’s compelling and rich with relevant keywords.)
4. Only using words. (Embed appropriate images and videos into your profile).
5. Making it hard for people to learn more. (Make sure your Contact Info section is complete.)
6. Using the default “I’d like to add you to…” connection request. (Customize the message at least a bit.)
7. Having 499 or fewer contacts.
8. Sending mass LinkedIn mail that starts with “Hello… ”
9. Not using tags. (Organize your contacts by adding tags.)
10. Leaving fingerprints. (If doing confidential research, change your privacy setting to anonymous and then revert to your previous setting once you’re finished.)

The whole article is worth reading–and it’s not all that long.

What LinkedIn Blunders Are You Committing?

Take a good look at yourself and your involvement with LinkedIn. If you’re honest, you’ll probably find at least one of Arruda’s 10 on your list and maybe more.

As a resume writing/career coaching business owner, I know I’m guilty of #4 (very few graphics and no videos). The same with #7, although I’m getting close at this point. My challenge with increasing the number of contacts is that I prefer to balance quantity with quality–I don’t want to say that I’ll invite or accept invitations from anyone who’s breathing! I also haven’t tackled #9 yet, so that’s on my to-do list.

One goof that Arruda doesn’t mention but that occurred to me is this: If you open a LinkedIn account and settle for the default in everything or basically stop with the “bare bones skeleton” information, you’ve really done next-to-nothing. You certainly haven’t enhanced your online presence. In fact, leaving your profile in that shape is almost worse than not being there at all, because it indicates that you don’t take your professional visibility or online presence seriously.

Another point to mention is that if you build and maintain a robust LinkedIn profile over time–rather than just when you’re actively job searching–your current or future employers are less likely to think that you’re in a job search at any given moment. In other words, if they hire you when you have a strong profile, they shouldn’t suspect that you’re looking again if you keep it that way afterward. That’s much better than feeling on edge every time you update your profile.

Of course, you can and should turn off your activity notification feature when you update, whether or not you’re actively searching, especially if you do tweaks fairly often. That way you don’t annoy your network by blasting them with update notices every few days.

Like any other good career-building tool, your LinkedIn profile should be working for you 24×7, and it’s up to you to make sure that happens.


LinkedIn & Your Confidential Job Search

Heads up, confidential job seekers! Your search might have become a lot less confidential than you thought, if you unintentionally selected having a “Job Seeker Badge” (briefcase icon) as part of your LinkedIn profile.

What is a Job Seeker Badge?

According to LinkedIn’s Help feature, here’s the basic answer:

How do I show that I am looking for a job?
A Job Seeker Badge (briefcase) can be displayed next to your name on your profile and in search results and helps you get noticed by hiring managers. Once you have a Job Seeker Premium account, the Job Seeker badge can be turned on and off from the Premium Badge section of your Settings page.
If you don’t see the Premium Badge section, click Show more items under the InMails and Introductions sections.
Your connections will be notified of changes to your badge settings.

Who Needs the Job Seeker Badge?

Frankly, I’m not sure anyone does. Maybe I’m overly skeptical, but it sounds to me more like something LinkedIn has added to suggest value that no one was actually looking for. Certainly if you’re conducting a confidential job search, one of the last things you would ever want to do is to advertise that fact in your LinkedIn profile. That’s especially true since adding the Job Seeker Badge to your profile will be announced to all your contacts, some of whom might be co-workers at your current company. Of course, you could turn off your activity notification before adding the badge, but it would still show up on your profile if someone from your company paid a visit to the profile.

Even for a non-confidential job search, I question the value of this feature. To me, it smacks of something like this: “Hey, Mr./Ms. Employer, I’m kind of desperate here and wanted to let you know that I’m available.” If you have a strong LinkedIn profile, tailored to present your value to potential employers when they find you online, that should be sufficient. Whether or not you specifically indicate that you’re open to new opportunities, those employers will probably check you out anyway.

Caution in a Confidential Job Search

As I’ve said before, it’s nearly impossible to assure yourself of a totally confidential job search, given the amount of information and methods of access to it that exist in today’s electronically connected world. The best you can probably hope to do is to exercise caution and make prudent choices about what you publish, where you publish it and who you grant direct access to it.

Also, with specific regard to LinkedIn profiles, I always recommend treating it as an ongoing part of maintaining a healthy online presence and not trying too hard to keep your employer from knowing that you have such a presence. If the company knows all along that you have a robust profile and you turn off your activity notification when you make a sensitive adjustment to it, I think you’ve done the best you can to safeguard your situation.