Posted on January 4th, 2010 by Colin and is posted in Career
This is a guest post by Dan Spira
(Part Two of a three-part series)
In the last post, we discussed the first steps of using social media to facilitate your midlife career change: Build your awareness of your new field by seeking out and staying current with the industry “chatter” (or “tweets,” more likely). Also, collect what you find for later reference and use with a bookmarking tool such as Delicious or Reddit.
By now, you have a handle on the terminology that people in your new field are using, and the big trends and issues that they’re focused on. Also, during this time of actively listening to and observing others, you’ve probably come across a few individuals who have accomplished what it is you’re trying to do, or who have gone through a similar transition. These folks will be excellent models for you to reference, for this next step in the process.
STEP TWO: Make your LinkedIn Profile More Aspirational
In the previous post we invoked Steven Covey’s oft-quoted line, “First seek to understand, then seek to be understood.” Now that you understand what’s going on in your new field or industry, it’s time for you to make your intentions known and be understood. To do this, you’ll want to have a good description of yourself and your aspirations, available for public viewing, in an online social/business networking directory.
Where most people start for this is LinkedIn — literally tens of millions of business professionals have their “homepage” on LinkedIn – so if you don’t have an account set up there already, go ahead and take a few minutes to do that.
(NOTE: Everything we cover in this post can apply to other social networking sites, not just LinkedIn. For some industries – for example, film or music –LinkedIn is not the main business directory hub. You might be looking at Facebook, or even MySpace for your particular niche. Nevertheless, LinkedIn provides an easy, “plain vanilla” online networking directory for most of us who must work for a living.)
LinkedIn is NOT an Online Resume
Most people make the mistake of treating LinkedIn as their online resume. It’s not… and even if it was, it would be a lousy replacement for the old-fashioned paper kind.
Resumes are tools designed for job-screeners — the gatekeepers of the recruiting and hiring process — not job-seekers. Resumes are certainly not tools designed for midlife career changers. The physical space of a paper resume is optimized to convey one thing only: your credentials. By cataloging your education, job history, and major career achievements in an easily-digested format, the resume allows the job-screener to reduce perceived “high-risk candidates,” because the job-screener can quickly see if a given candidate’s past work is a direct mirror of the job description they are looking to fill. Even if a recruiter/job-screener tells you they don’t do this, that they look at “the whole candidate” rather than “a good fit on paper,” rest assured that if you called their bluff and in response asked them whether it would be okay then not to submit a paper resume, they’d have a problem with that. (If you are looking to start a business, the above still applies… just substitute the words “recruiter” or “job-screener” with “prospective client” or “investor.”) From your point of view as a recent career-changer, the standalone resume can be one of the WORST ways to market yourself.
LinkedIn certainly covers your job history and credentials, but if you use LinkedIn purely as an online resume you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot. With LinkedIn, you can’t control the distribution of your resume, you can’ create multiple versions tailored to specific opportunities, and there’s no individualized cover letter for each person/recruiter who clicks to view your profile. So I would actually recommend NOT using LinkedIn at all, versus using it as a substitute for a resume.
How To Use LinkedIn for a Career Change
So why use LinkedIn? Used correctly, LinkedIn actually saves you from the “resume screener” problem… you just need to tap into LinkedIn’s other capabilities. In addition to conveying the credentials based on your education and job history, what your LinkedIn profile also does is allow you to greet and engage your audience in a number of ways that a traditional paper resume does not.
In addition to describing the global conglomerates you used to work for and how many degrees you have from Oxford, an effective LinkedIn profile will answer the following questions:
- What are you interested in?
- What are some of your intellectual contributions to your field?
- What is your personality like?
- Who are you connected to?
- What are people saying about you?
- What do you say about other people?
- What do you aspire to?
- What are the different ways to connect and work with you?
To quote the rapper Jay-Z, “It ain’t where I’ve been, but where I’m about to go.”
In a workshop for senior executive job seekers that I co-delivered a couple of months ago, we took participants through their LinkedIn profiles using a checklist of LinkedIn profile elements – everything from their profile picture (or “avatar”), to their headline (or “tagline”). The key message was simple: Make your LinkedIn profile greet your visitor warmly. Convey your credentials certainly, but also convey your reputation and your aspirations, too.
Here are some of the elements of your LinkedIn profile that you should work on:
– a high resolution head shot (avatar)
– a vanity URL
– a headline (tagline, instead of default job title)
– a slightly longer summary statement
– a current status
– links to learn more about you
– recommendations (to and from you)
– a completed the “specialties” section
– an extensive network
Now, go back to some of those folks that you’ve noticed during Step One, and look at THEIR LinkedIn profiles. How are they handling the above elements? What else are they doing?
If you have a decent sized LinkedIn network (that’s what LinkedIn Open Networkers, aka L.I.O.N.S. are for) or a paid account, you can even pretend to be a recruiter or prospective client and do a search for the kind of person you aspire to be. Who comes up at the top of the search results? What are those folks doing with their profiles, that makes they show up at the top of the list?
Closing Thought…for now
Imagine you were applying for a dream job where you knew there was a lot of competition for the position. The hiring manager decided to screen all of the candidates using paper resumes before booking any interviews. However, after getting visited by a friendly NLP-trained hypnotist, the hiring manager invited you into their office and said to you, “I don’t know who you are, but here is the stack of paper resumes from all the other job applicants. Before you send me yours, feel free to peruse what the others have submitted. Based on what you send me, I may then invite you back for a proper interview, when I’m not in a trance.”
What kind of advantage would you now have, in terms of crafting the “right resume” to get the interview? That’s part of the power of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the social Internet in general: Once you know what it is that you want, you’ll have all the reference material you’ll ever need to model excellence.
Stay tuned for
STEP THREE: Participate in the Conversation
Dan Spira is a consultant, coach and trainer at rogenSi. Working with some of the world’s top tier organizations — the largest and best known financial, technology, media and life sciences companies – Dan is passionate about helping executives, heads of business units and their teams get even better at what they do, developing winning skills, attitudes, and processes. Prior to joining rogenSi, Dan was a serial entrepreneur and independent consultant, with a focus on e-commerce and online marketing. You can get Dan on http://danspira.com