Project 9 for Competent Communication – Why LinkIn? – 28 October 2013

Thanks to the advice of Howard, a visiting Toastmasters member from Florida, I was able to check off one of my speeches outside of my regular Toastmasters meeting.  His advice?  Never speak for free. (On a side note, Howard recently participated in a roast for the person who gave him that advice.  So many people wanted to roast the guest of honor, each person was only allowed to speak for a minute.  Howard got up, did his bit and said since he was only allowed to speak for a minute, he could not get speaking credit for it.  He then turned to the honoree and handed the man a bill!)

At the EUI, we assist professionals-in-transition with their job search. We were asked to prepare a short speech to show what we could do as a trainer for the EUI.  I selected the subject of why people should join LinkedIn due to the fact that some people I meet are a little hesitant (and some VERY hesitant) to join.  I admit that I would rather be spending my extra time working on fundraisers or furthering my education, but I know that to have a presence on LinkedIn is vital at this stage in my life and I wanted to share a bit of what I have learned.  So, without further ado, on to my speech/PowerPoint presentation…..

Slide1

To find a job in today’s market, you pretty much have to be on the web to have any chance at all of landing your next gig.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pintrest…..  Where do you start???  My suggestion, start with LinkedIn.  Are you on LinkedIn?  If not, why not?  Is it because you do not know what LinkedIn is?  For those of you who are not familiar with it, think of it as Facebook for professionals.  Don’t know how to create a website?  Trust me, if I can figure it out, anybody can figure it out.  It is made for the average person to be able to use with ease and in fact you are pretty limited on what you can do to “dress up” your page.  How big is LinkedIn?  Let’s go over a few numbers.  There are over 225 million members worldwide and almost 3 million company pages.  As of March 2013, LinkedIn was the 22nd most visited website in the world with over 5.7 BILLION searches done in 2012.  There was an almost 30% increase in year over year visitors in the first quarter of 2013, me being one of those visitors.  You might be saying great, so LinkedIn has a lot of traffic, but what will it do for me?  LinkedIn is the ultimate place to connect with companies that are hiring and to apply for those jobs.  It is a way to connect with employees at the companies you want to work with either by researching them on LinkedIn or finding connections in the chain of contacts you have built up.  Want recruiters to find you?  About 97% of them are mining LinkedIn to find the perfect candidates to fill their open positions.  It is also a great way to reconnect with old school chums or coworkers and to get recommendations of your work without having to deal with the exchange of personal data you might share on Facebook.

Unlike our parents, workers today do not tend to spend their entire working career at the same job.  Today, the average worker spends only two to five years before moving on.  Seven in ten workers actively search for new opportunities on a regular basis.  About a third of Millennials think the job search is more complex than it used to be compared to 43% of Baby Boomers.  My parents thought that all I needed was a professionally written resume, the Sunday paper help wanted ads and a stamp.    I tried every which way I could to explain to them what my plan of attack was, but they just did not get it.  It took my parents about six months, and somebody else reinforcing my spiel about on-line job searches, for them to grasp what a modern job search entails.  God help us all if they needed to find a job again!  But do not make LinkedIn your ONLY way of searching for your next job.  While it is true that 74% of people come across new jobs via online searches, 68% find them via traditional networking and 67% via job boards, so it is important to not neglect those as well.  In 2011, 89% of employers used social media for recruiting.  That had grown to 92% by the next year.  That explains why 88% of job seekers created an online profile.  64% created two and 44% created 3 or more and,I have to confess, I am one of the 44% as I hate leaving things to chance.

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If you have not done so already, I suggest you Google your name.  Besides looking you up on LinkedIn and Facebook, any potential employer will most likely Google you and you want to make sure that the information coming up, especially on the first page, is putting your best foot forward.  This is even more important if you have a common name.  Somebody else’s information could be mistaken for your own.  It might take a little extra work on your part, but you CAN get that information pushed back to page two (or beyond) and make sure you differentiate yourself so that there is no question about which profiles belong to you and which belong to someone else.  Had I found a Karyn Schumaker with a prison record or other bad publicity, I would have created my profile as Karyn S. Schumaker or something along those lines to make sure I was not mistaken for the other Karyn Schumaker.

Slide6

So where is the best place to build your online presence?  LinkedIn is the first place I would recommend you invest your time.  Facebook and Twitter are also used by large numbers of recruiters and job seekers.  Blog sites such as Typepad, Tumblr. and WordPress give you a forum for creating a blog to promote your career and highlight your skills and experience.  VisualCV.com allows you to create a video resume.  How much time would I suggest you spend in these other sites?  That is up to you.  Other than LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and maybe WordPress, have you ever heard of the others?  I had not, so I am guessing they are not nearly as popular and worth my time at this point in my job search.  I also found that several of the sites I was directed to during my research for today’s speech do not even exist anymore!

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If you are reading the slide, you can see that more job seekers use Facebook than LinkedIn for helping to find work.  So why am I promoting LinkedIn?  First of all, it is more professional than Facebook.  LinkedIn grows by two new members every second and has become a powerful talent management research tool, even for executive searches.  Because many executives have LinkedIn profiles, the LinkedIn database has the capacity to allow internal recruiters to replace some external executive search firms as LinkedIn profiles are searchable and easier to compare.  Research has shown that LinkedIn profiles tend to be more accurate than resumes.  It’s much harder for an individual to “get by” with a profile that contains inaccurate information. LinkedIn profiles are also more likely to be up-to-date than resumes because LinkedIn will periodically encourage you to keep improving and updating your profile and, as you are representing your brand, you are going to want to keep it as current and relevant as possible. This differs drastically from some other paid for services that have large databases of collected information.  When you change jobs, this may not be captured for a long time.  When I started at the EUI, we were doing some research on a company.  On a lark, once I was logged into the database, I looked at my old facility.  The GM listed there in May of 2013 left the company in June of 2005 AND had left the General Manager job a couple years before that!  And this was an expensive site to be a member of!!!  LinkedIn also provides a recommendations feature so, if a potential employer needs additional information on a prospect, it can provide them insights into who you are and what others have experienced when working with you. Granted it is subjective as you have the control over what recommendations you are going to allow on your page, but having a variety your connections give you recommendations and endorsements are “social proof” that you are who you say you are.

Besides allowing you to link with blogs of your choice or follow thought leaders, LinkedIn is integrated with many other services like SlideShare and at least partly integrated with many other vendors including Twitter, Taleo, Amazon, and Windows Live Messenger, just to name a few.  They have over 2.1 million professional learning groups and growing.  Many professionals use LinkedIn to get a quick snapshot of a stranger who contacted them or an individual whose name they come across while reading.  It also makes it easier for professionals to find common ground in which to connect.  If someone is looking to make contact, there are a number of ways. One would be to pay for an InMail.  Another would be to try to find an email address somewhere on the public information on a person’s profile to connect. But it may be warmer to find common ground such as hobbies, similar industry, past employers, geographic location lived/worked, education, common connections or common LinkedIn groups.  While the connections and groups are the easiest ways to get connected for “free”, the others give great points in which to strike up a conversation.  We are all on LinkedIn to develop our own brand, so an excellent way to add to your equity is by being active, especially in groups.

Slide10
I have been a LinkedIn user since June 3, 2008.  On February 12, 2013 I had 5 connections.  By March 12, 2013, I had about 200 connections.  As of yesterday (October 27, 2013), I was up to 410 connections linking me to over 7.259 million professionals.  One of the questions asked of me recently was why bother going to the EUI to connect with other unemployed people?  Yes, we may be in transition at the moment, but that is not a permanent state of affairs.  And our networks are filled with working professionals.  I admit, I was a little slow in reaching out to my network when applying to jobs, but I am now using it to my advantage.  When I see a job I am interested in, I check out my network first.  If I have someone in my network, I am going to reach out to them before applying, especially if they are in my first level.  Many companies will offer their employees a referral bonus.  It is also makes a better impression with hiring managers if someone in the company hands them a résumé vs. getting another piece of paper to add to the stack of resumes they already have.
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I will in no way say my profile is perfect, but you can view it at www.LinkedIn.com/in/KarynSchumaker if you want to get some ideas on how to get started.  My journey this year has been enlightening.  I am constantly changing my profiles as I strive for perfection, but I have to face the fact that I will never achieve that.  Show your profile or resume to twenty different people and you will get twenty different opinions.  But if you do not take that first step, and get something posted, your odyssey is over before it even started.  I hope I have persuaded those of you who are not already on LinkedIn to join.  If there is anything I can do to help you, please do not hesitate to ask.
And to you, the readers of this blog, if you have made it this far, the LinkedIn help offer goes for you as well.  If there is anything I can do to help you with your LinkedIn profile, please do not hesitate to ask.  I may not know all the answers, but I sure know where to find them.  And if you are interested in seeing the entire infographic picture I used in my presentation, you can find it by clicking here.
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Project 4 for Competent Communication – The Art of Negotiation – 23 July 2013

For my fourth project, I again went with the evening’s theme to prepare my speech, this week being The Art of Negotiation.  I was happy to win, but even happier to hear that the Ah-Counter had zero items to report on me!

Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests.  The theme for tonight is The Art of Negotiation and it is just that… an art.  One of those skills that is learned from early childhood.  “If you let me stay up for 5 more minutes, Aunty, I promise I will go right to sleep and you won’t have to read me any stories… well, maybe one story…..”  How many times have I heard that one?  Or the more somber, “if you bring my grandmother safely through this surgery, God, I promise I will go back to church.”  From the mundane of postponing a bedtime to the praying to a divine being for a miracle that a loved one pulls through, every day you are negotiating.  One does not even need another person in order to negotiate.  When I reach that weight loss goal, I will get to use my new purse.  I have been within 2-3 pounds for a month now.  That purse has been on the hall tree for me to see every time I walk by.  It is mine.   I found it, I paid for it…  Technically, I can use it anytime I want.  However, I made a goal that I would not use it until I hit the 50 pound mark.  One could call that a negotiation between my mind and my body and I am not going to break that agreement no matter how badly I want to use that purse right now.

Negotiations skills vary from person to person, industry to industry, and culture to culture.  Some people live for the thrill of negotiating, others just want a set price and are happy without any fuss.  Entire phenomenons have grown from industries known for their negotiations.  Who here has seen “Pawn Stars” or “American Pickers”?  They are reality shows about series of negotiations with some small talk thrown in for a little education and/or comic relief.  What about different cultures?  Yousef said last week, the Iranians love to negotiate, but the Indians beat them every time.  Some of the biggest negotiations I have ever been involved with have been on trips to the Mexican border cities of Nogales and Tijuana.  Some of the vendors there are very determined.  One followed me down the street after all I did was glance at an item in his store.  He was giving me lower and lower prices, but I was not interested. He said, “What’s the matter, you no speak English?”  With a puzzled look, I asked “Parlez-vous français?” or “Do you speak French?”  He looked at me for a moment, then turned and went back to his store.  Now before you get too impressed with my French, all I know is “Parlez-vous français” and “Merci.”

Online, there are tons of websites with negotiation tactics for dealing with everything from cars and hotels to contracts and salaries.  Tonight, I am going to bring you some tips for negotiating in 2013 by Ed Brodow, author of Negotiation Boot Camp.  Due to the length of time I have available, I am only going to touch on a few of them, but you can find all 10 at his website.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Everything is negotiable and do not take no for an answer.  However, know the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive.
  2. Shut up and listen. Follow the 70/30 Rule – listen 70 percent of the time, and talk only 30 percent of the time. Encourage the other negotiator to talk by asking lots of probing, open-ended questions.
  3. Do your homework. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have? Doing your homework is vital to a successful negotiation. You can’t make accurate decisions without understanding the other side’s situation.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry. As I stated above, negotiations change from culture to culture.  Brodow thinks being patient is very difficult for Americans and Europeans as we just want to get it over with.  People in Asia, South America, or the Middle East look at time differently than we do. Whoever is more flexible about time has the advantage. Your patience can be devastating to the other negotiator if they are in a hurry because they start to believe that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal and they offer concessions as a means of providing you with an incentive to say yes.
  5. Aim high and expect the best outcome. Successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect more, you’ll get more. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay. Your optimism will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, if you have low expectations, you will probably wind up with a less satisfying outcome.

I hope you been inspired to brush up on your negotiation tactics.  Remember to (1) be assertive, not aggressive, (2) follow the 70/30 rule, (3) do your homework, (4) take your time, and (5) aim high.  I leave you tonight with these parting words from Henry Boyle, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.”  Merci beaucoup and bonsair, fellow Toastmasters and guests.

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Why not me???

I have to admit, I fully expected to be back at work by now.  Today I was listening to some music and “Why Not Me?” by The Judds came on.  The song made me wish I could ask all the companies I have sent resumes to why not me?  I am not sending out mass resumes, but I have sent out a good number of them and I can count on one hand the number that I have heard back on.  Every day, I read articles on what to do and not do on your job search and depending on the article, I am doing everything right or I am doing everything wrong.  Today I was given an article about “8 Secrets of Hiring Managers” by Alison Green of US News and World Report.  It gives tips to job candidates to help end some of their frustrations.  Got me thinking about my situation…..

1. You can ruin your chances by being too aggressive.  Alison gives a variety of items that make a job seeker seem to aggressive, one of them being checking on the status of your application more than once within three weeks.  What about communicating in the other direction?  I have a couple of jobs I know I am qualified for, however the job is still listed several weeks after I applied.  Not only did I not hear anything back about why I did not get an interview, I did not even get confirmation they even received my application!  Moreover, with everything done online now, I am not even sure whom to contact.  If I try to reapply, it will not let me.  All I can hope is that the company really did get my application and that I did not mess up online application and all they are seeing is gibberish… if anything at all.  Might explain why I am not hearing anything back!

2. We really want you to be honest. Not a problem here.  Many people have advised me that I am too honest.  As the article says, you need to let the interviewer get a glimpse of the real you.  I think now more than ever, it is easy for people to find all sorts of information out about one another.  As I stated in my icebreaker blog, I was shocked at what I found online about myself when I searched my name… and I am an average, everyday person who, until recently, pretty much shunned many online sites.

3. You don’t get to choose your references. Bring it on!  I was pleasantly surprised at how much support I received when I started on this journey, most of it offered to me before I even had to ask.  I would like to think that anybody you call is going to give me a glowing reference, but I know that it is probably not true.  If truth be told, even if you call people not on my list, are you going to hear the real story?  In this sue happy world, it seems that most people will talk me up if they liked me, but if they did not, all they will give you for a reference is my name, rank and dates of employment routine.  I am sure that says a lot to you, but would you as a hiring manager give me a chance to explain my side of the story as to why a reference was not stellar?

4. No matter how positive things seem, you shouldn’t count on a job offer. Understood.  But will you have the same courtesy to let me know why I did not get the job?  About a week ago, I read an article about why hiring managers do not send out rejection letters.  I’m a big girl.  I can handle it.  Just let me know that I was not selected and if you liked me that much, why not tell me what it was that made me not be the best candidate… not enough experience with a computer program, not enough education, not related to the CEO’s best friend?  Would really help me know how to better prepare myself for the next interviews I have lined up.  If you liked me that much, I know you would like to see me succeed.

5. The small details matter. I agree with this one.  As a detail oriented person, I get so upset with myself when I find I have made a typo.  I fully agree with Alison on sloppily written follow-ups.  I do not care if it is a casual text to my sister, a Tweet, or a comment on a LinkedIn article, I always use proper language.  Might age me, but it drives me crazy when people do not do the same.  I will admit to using LOL or ROTFL occasionally, but that would be the only part of my message that is not proper.  As for being nice to receptionists, that is a given.  As a former receptionist, I know how much power they have and your first impression with the company is most likely with the receptionist.  Being rude?  Why sink your chances before you even meet your interviewer?!?!?

6. If you can’t produce references, most hiring managers will be wary. Did you not just say in number 3 that it does not matter who I turn in for a reference, you are going to call whomever you like?  That aside, I have several references online already and dozens more available.

7. Wondering how to stand out? Use your cover letter. I usually spend several hours customizing my cover letter and/or resume for each job.  Most of the time is spent with the cover letter.  As stated above, if I never hear back from the person I submitted my application to, I cannot tell you why I did not make an impression with you.  Was the cover letter too wordy?  Little too over the top??  Too stiff or not professional enough???

8. Your personality matters a lot. I just hope you can see through my interview personality as that is not the real me.  I feel comfortable talking and working with people from CEO’s to janitors, I just do NOT do well during interviews.  I am very shy, but once I get to know you, I am a lot of fun to be around.  Honest!  I am working on improving my interviewing skills, but I have a feeling I still will not come across very well.

So, what did I learn from this article?  Not much at this point.  I will go back and reread it once I do start interviewing, but until that point, not much here to help me.  If you are reading this blog because you considered me for a job, but I did not get it, I would really appreciate it if you could drop me a line and let me know….. why not me?  I promise to not sue!!!