Last night I spoke to a group of chemical engineers about the importance of social medial to professional success. Being faced with a very diverse audience in terms of age, computer literacy and field of profession I decided to go with a shotgun approach rather than a sniper rifle and ended up leaving a number of questions unanswered. So let me add some beef to the bone.
I hope it became clear that the determination of the tools you use depends on the target audience you are addressing. No point “tweeting” into the forest, and no point sending letters to “Generation i” (as in iPhone) either. Looking at the portfolio of communication methods available, LinkedIN and blogging seem to be the most promising ones to this particular group. Here is why.
Lets you create a profile that is searchable by employers, recruiters and potential business partners. Of course, the LinkedIN population is much larger than the readership of, say, the New York Times so the pool of names returned from each search is proportionally bigger. Which is why it is a big mistake to generalize:
- Do not declare that you have such broad experience you are practically qualified for anything. People skimming profiles are digging deep these days (is that an oxymoron?), and they will search for very particular skills. Make sure you list these skills.
- Stand out: many profiles are sterile; they are “copy-and-paste” resumes saying nothing about who you really are, and what drives you. Fact is that your social compatibility with your new employer or partner is at least equally important as your qualification. If you don’t fit in the corporate culture, if the “chemistry” is off, you won’t succeed.
- As part of this, put a nice picture of yourself on your profile page. Not the ¾ shot showing you wearing your nicest suit – a picture that says all about you.
- A lot of people are concerned that their age might disqualify them. I believe that’s wrong. With age comes experience, and most great organizations feature a mix of young talent AND experienced experts. If a company discriminates on age, they’ll find out sooner or later, anyway, and you don’t want to work for them in the first place.
- Tailor your approach: nobody says you can have only one LinkedIN profile. If you are talking to more than one target audience, rather than cramming it all into one text box, consider creating two separate profiles.
The same goes for any written material you may send out in response to inquiries. Always customize it to suit the recipient. After so many years in the business you have many stories to tell. Do your research and decide which one is most relevant to the recipient of the document. Be truthful but highlight different aspects of your skills, always with a focus on “this is why you should hire me” rather than “look what a great guy I am”. Few people really care about your past; they are trying to figure out what you can do for them in the future.
Careful with numbers: I’ve seen many profiles stating not only the name of a previous employer but also proclaiming success by “increasing turnover for product line X from Y to Z dollars”. While that’s a good thing you are not only in breach of your obligations of secrecy towards your old company but you also suggest that your new employer might find its business data on your profile as well one day – not a good start.
LinkedIN isn’t just your Yellow Pages, it is also a social network. Find and join LinkedIN groups relevant to your business and be an active member. Whenever you contribute to a discussion on LinkedIN or start a new one, the number of visitors to your profile will go up (you can see that in your statistics). This will grow your network and extend your reach into new companies, areas of activity and to like-minded people. Also, groups serve as “pegs” to show your affiliation with a specific tribe or topic. Recruiters will skim the group directory to find great candidates for a particular task.
To take this a step further, consider blogging. Blogging lets you write on technical topics, assessments of current affairs related to your specialty, or about your visions and views of the future. Setting up a blog is easy. I recommend WordPress because it is easy to use, free of charge, and they let you create a website, too. You can blog about anything but the point of a blog is to offer relevant content to an audience. There are no rules for how often you have to blog. Some people blog daily, others (like me) about once a month. People who subscribe to your blog will be notified automatically so you don’t lose anyone if you keep quiet for a bit. Plus, applications like LinkedIN and Facebook let you link to your blog so your new blog will automatically be visible to your LinkedIN contacts.
A blog can serve as a manifestation of your skills, your level of connectedness with your tribe and current events, and it is an invitation to start a conversation with you. Remember: if you are irrelevant, boring, offensive or too loud, people will turn you off. If, however, you are engaging, provocative, brief in making a point and fun to read then your reward will be an inbox full of comments, questions, criticism…. and a bit of spam which you can delete.
It’s OK to advertise your blog when it’s new, and when it’s appropriate. Don’t frequently participate in online discussions by posting “as I said in my blog [link]….”. It is pretentious, it’s not cool, and people will turn you off. Instead, ask your friends, peers and other people you know to give you feedback. If they like your blog, they will take care of spreading the word for you.
Finally: be patient with everything you do. Remember: the spider builds its web well in advance of being hungry. Flies have no flight schedules.
Good luck! Reminder: you can still download the reading list HERE.