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Tips for Creating an Effective LinkedIn Profile

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for researching prospective careers, building your network, and reaching out and connecting with people.  This should be an entirely professional social media tool, so keep your personal life out of it.  It really should function as an on-line resume and professional networking tool.  It takes some time and effort to create a great LinkedIn account, but if you do it right, it will certainly help you in connecting with the right people and getting a job.

Here are some tips on how to set up an effective LinkedIn profile:

  • Create an effective and informative professional headline.  This helps people to understand, in just a few words, who you are and what your skills are
  • Take time to write a clear, concise, and compelling summary statement.  Tailor it to what your target audience will be interested in knowing about you.  Be sure to include key words, industry-specific lingo and job-specific skills so that it is easily searchable
  • Carefully proof read your entire profile. Then, have at least one or two other people look over your profile; ask them to give you feedback on whether it is clear and accurate
  • Get a professional headshot done.  You want to be dressed in business attire and looking sharp.  This is about creating a positive and professional image – think about what message your photo sends about you and whether it fits with your career goals
  • Add industry relevant skills to your profile.  Once you have added these skills, start endorsing others for the skills that they possess.  This will, in turn, result in others endorsing you
  • Similar to endorsements, the process of getting recommendations is founded in reciprocity.  If you want others to write a recommendation for you, first write a recommendation for them.  Take time to write serious and thoughtful recommendations, as they are also a reflection of you.  When you write a recommendation for someone else, they are then prompted to return the favour and write one for you. Endorsements and recommendations add to your credibility
  • Customize your profile URL – go to your profile, click on Edit, click on Manage Public Profile Settings, on the right hand side of that page, click on Customize your public profile URL. This allows you to create a shorter URL that looks better and more professional on contact cards and resumes
  • Join groups that relate to your career interests and industries. Being involved in groups can help you to connect with people that you might not otherwise interact with
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What Now? A Recent Graduate’s Success With Finding a Job

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

end of ropeThis post is a follow-up post from a previous guest blogger Sonja Fernandes.

Growing up I was told, “Get an education and the job will come to you”. As it turns out, this is NOT the case. With that being said, I am sure I am not alone when it comes down to deciding what the best route after graduation is. I considered law school, teachers college, graduate school, continuing studies, post graduate programs, entrepreneurship and several job opportunities. After changing my mind almost as often as I changed my underpants, I decided to attain work experience in order to learn more about myself and to grow as a professional.

I have been employed in 3 different contract positions since graduating nearly one year ago and I wanted to share with you the obstacles that I faced and the tips that I learned along the way.

Where to look. I am always confused about where to look for jobs.  There are so many websites and databases out there that it’s difficult to know which one to use. What I have realized is that depending on what field you are interested in will determine where you should be searching. To get the search started, here are some websites that I found to be helpful:

  1. Being young. In my job search I’ve noticed that because I am young, I am able to take risks that I likely would not be able to if I had a family, for example. This is the positive side to being young but there is also a negative side. I have experienced various forms of ageism in my job search. The most notable is the fact that most jobs require 1-3 years experience. How am I supposed to get this while attending school full-time? My advice: get out there now! Even if it means volunteering at a place of work that you would like to be hired by one day. If it wasn’t for the work-study positions that I took in undergrad, then I would not be employed in the position I am today. Getting professional work experience in your field of interest while you’re a student is the key to landing a job after graduation.
  2. Uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty to deal with in the job search today. Our economy and society is going through constant changes yet educational standards have remained the same. There are so many options, projects, positions, jobs, careers that it can be overwhelming to think about. My best advice would be to embrace the change and educate yourself; find out what industries are growing, find out what jobs will be in demand when you graduate, find out what marketable/transferable skills are in demand ect. Go with your gut, follow your passions, and leave it to serendipity. Planning your whole life at the age of 20 ‘ish’ is so last century anyways.
  3. Google. In other words, the double edged sword. I have found Google to be an extremely helpful tool in my job search. I will use it to look up anything from employer profiles on LinkedIn to research about salary grades. With that being said, there is also a negative side to Google. Have you ever tried Googling your name? I recommend that you do and I also recommend that you look at the image section because I guarantee that there is a picture of you there that you were not expecting. Just as you will Google your potential employers, you should expect them to Google you as well and so make sure that the image you are portraying online is a positive one!
  4. Never stop looking. It is so important to search for jobs continuously. My favorite professor, Dr. Koehn, gave me this awesome advice: Even if you have a job, you should always be looking for other opportunities and that is how to achieve career related success. The students that he sees attain their dream jobs are the ones who never stopped searching. I try to check the job databases listed in #1 daily even though I am currently employed! I often see positions that I think would be a good fit for my friends or family members and they appreciate the time I take to help them and I like to think that this is good karma for me.
  5. Be an entrepreneur. Our society is in need of positive leadership, creativity and innovation. We no longer accept the conditioned belief that if we go to school, then we will be offered a job upon graduation. We are not in the industrial age; we are in the information age. It is time to stop relying on companies, governments, and educational institutions to provide employment solutions and instead take responsibility of our future. Being an entrepreneur helps you identify your skills, ideas, passions, core beliefs, fears and allows you to identify the direction you want to take your life and set powerful goals. In my third year, I started a volunteer training program called Volunteer YA (young adults) and I attribute my personal success to this entrepreneurial opportunity that I created for myself. There are also free resources on-campus, such as BizInc at Western and Fanshawe that will help you along the way!
  6. Seek help. The most useful resources students have are their on-campus career centres where services such as professional development workshops, resume writing and interview coaching are offered free of charge. And most schools allow their alumni to use their career services. Having that one-on-one attention should not be taken for granted because career counseling can cost anywhere from $75 to $450 in the ‘real world’

I understand that every persons experience in finding a job is unique and subjective. So, I am going to be honest, it was difficult for me to write this post. With that being said, my hope is that just one person who reads this post is inspired by my experience and will find opportunities in their field of interest. The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to find meaningful work in today’s world regardless of the sector, your age, level of education, social status or experience.

Take the advice of Thomas Jefferson, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

Sonja FernandesSonja Fernandes is 23 years old and graduated with an Honors Specialization in Philosophy from Huron University College on June 4, 2012. Feel free to contact Sonja at sferna47@uwo.ca or on LinkedIn if you have any questions or comments about this post

Networking Your Way Into the Hidden Job Market

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

I would like to welcome my guest blogger Samantha Laliberte.  She is a graduate from Western University and currently working at the London Economic Development Corporation. One of Samantha’s passions is the ‘power of networking’, which she attributes to the success she’s seen in her career so far. Samantha is taking the lead on the Student 2 Business Networking Conference and hoping to see 600 post-secondary students out for her March 6th event.

S2B

Networking Your Way Into the Hidden Job Market

Fast facts: 98% of all Ontario companies have less than 50 employees and it’s estimated that 70% of job opportunities are not posted through online databases.

So what? Networking is becoming increasingly more important for those entering AND moving within the workforce, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as many students think!

Here are my 5 favorite networking rules to live by:

  1. Get offline.  While LinkedIn is definitely convenient and less intimidating, it can never replace the one on one connection you can build in-person. Attend professional networking events to showcase your firm handshake, genuine smile, and personality that just cannot be revealed online.
  2. Be proactive. Don’t network for the sole purpose of finding a job, and don’t wait until you need one! Create your professional network and build a foundation of mentors early on.
  3. Ask, and you shall receive. Know what you’re looking for and say it! Leave the other person with something to think about and a way to help you out. If they you make a positive impression, they’ll want to.
  4. Think big. Don’t limit networking opportunities to just conferences and events, networking can be anywhere! Although it takes effort, be optimistic when meeting new people in different settings and make an effort to leave memorable, positive impressions.
  5. Just do it. Don’t over think the conversation- just get it started. You’ll be surprised how many people want to hear about your dreams, your experiences, and how they can help.

I encourage you to test your skills and take a leap into the world of networking by attending the Student 2 Business Networking Conference on March 6th, 2013. This unique, professional, and dynamic event will bring together 600 students and 300 employer representatives; a major opportunity to connect in a well-orchestrated setting. Registration is $10 and available with full conference details online at s2b.ca.

Ahead of the Game – Forming Great Professional Relationships

January 15, 2013 1 comment

Networking on the Court

At just under 5’3” you may be surprised to find me every Wednesday at the Rec. Centre basketball courts ‘dominating’ a game of pick-up with 6’2”+ colleagues from across campus.  When I first started playing about 3 years ago my most recent experience had been when I was on the grade 8 team.  At that time I was tall, but not particularly skilled.  Since then I have not actually grown; so, I am now short and still not particularly skilled.

Then why on earth when a couple of the guys from my office asked me if I wanted to play did I agree? According to the Harvard Business Review, “High-stakes activities that ally you with disparate individuals around a common point of interest are the best way to forge tight connections. Whether you join people in sports teams, community service ventures, or interdepartmental initiatives, engaging with them in this new way creates stronger ties.”

It didn’t matter if in the first few months I couldn’t stop laughing every time I ran down the court with the ball because, not only was I getting a great workout, I was demonstrating that I was a team player.  I would show up, work hard and even if I couldn’t get a basket, I could intimidate the other team with my witty and well-timed trash talking.  Although for probably the first year, my main role was comic relief, I have now progressed to the point where I can hold my own and, on the odd occasion, be a decent contributor to the team.

Although I am not likely to be scouted by the WMBA any time soon, this activity has certainly been positive for my career because I have gotten to know, respect, and enjoy a lot of people at the university that I would otherwise not had much interaction with.  The formation of these relationships happens “because these conditions allow for unscripted behaviors and natural responses to unexpected events — things that rarely show up during business lunches or office meetings where impressions are managed and presentations are carefully rehearsed. People will see you as you truly are, and vice versa. Common activities also offer opportunities for celebration and commiseration, which generate loyalty and form close working relationships.” (Strengthen Your Network with Shared Activities)

When I see my bball colleagues on campus there is a common bond, a friendship, and a warmth that I feel, that makes me think well of them and them think well of me.  The one surprising and concerning thing that I have noticed over the course of 3 years of playing a pick-up sport on my lunch is that there is only one other woman that I have ever seen out there.  If young women don’t take these opportunities to connect with colleagues in this fun and critical way, they will be missing out on a foundational aspect of business networking.

Since, January is a time when people make all sorts of resolutions to get active, I challenge you to take it to the courts, or fields, or rink, with your colleagues.  You will all be healthier and more successful for it.   No skill is required – just come and see me play and I will prove it.

Do’s and Don’ts for On-line-Networking

May 22, 2012 1 comment

We have all heard of some of the worst-case scenarios that can happen when you are not careful about your virtual-image and what you or others post to the internet.  At my institution there was the now infamous case of the “Saugeen Stripper”. An 18 year old, who performed a striptease in a dorm room, resulting in digital photographs of the party being uploaded to the Internet.  Now, over 6 years later, the story of the Saugeen Stripper is documented on Wikipedia.  It is not just the young woman who will have to deal with the fallout from that night, but all of the young men in the photos are implicated as well.

Hopefully, in the past 6 years, we are becoming more aware of the long-term implications of one bad decision, but students still need to think carefully about what they are posting to the web and what impact it may have on their or their friends’ careers.

More and more employers are using social networking sites for recruitment purposes.  In fact, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 76% of companies said that they use or plan to use social networking sites for recruitment.  Although companies do have to be careful, as they do not want to be facing complaints of discrimination based on marital status, religion, politics etc.  I would not want to throw caution to the wind and think that they won’t Google me.

So what should and shouldn’t you do?

DO:

Set up a LinkedIn Account – Of all of the sites I have used, this one seems to be the best and most-used for professional networking. Take time when you are setting up this account to ensure that the information that you are adding is eloquent, accurate and error-free.  This is essentially an on-line resume so you want it to be good.  Work towards ensuring that your profile is 100% complete.

Set up an About.Me page – This site is free and easy to use.  As long as you create a professional page, that highlights your skills and abilities in a warm and friendly manner, you are set.  In addition, they will provide you with an offer to get free, super-sharp business cards printed that can help you with face to face networking.

Be careful about who you add to your network – You want to have people you trust in your network.  Prospective employers may base opinions about you on the company you keep, the groups that you join etc.  Also, if you have friends that are not as sensible as you, they may think it funny to post embarrassing photos of you to their pages and then tag you in them.  If this happens, be sure to ask that they remove them.

Upload a professional business headshot – It is worth spending a little money to get a professional photo taken.  You want one that shows your work image, so be conscious of what you are wearing and what is visible in the background.  You also want the image to be inviting and relaxed, so be yourself.  You don’t want it to look like a mug-shot or an always terrible passport photo.

Take time to understand site culture and etiquette –   Some sights are geared more towards making friends, dating etc. and you can add people randomly.  Others, such as LinkedIn, are more for business and you need to be able to demonstrate some sort of connection with people before adding them.  Do not be pushy or overly persistent in trying to add people to your network.  This can backfire and end up making people want to avoid you rather than connect with you.

Follow your dream-employer on twitter – some companies will have a channel or feed that is dedicated to communicating job openings.

Write recommendations for others – It is always great to have recommendations and if you write a recommendation for someone else on LinkedIn when they receive your recommendation it asks them to return the favor.  Nine times out of ten, they will.  So rather than just going and asking people to write a recommendation for you, you are doing them a favor and just hoping that it will be returned.  Reciprocity is essential to good networking.

Don’t:

Post anything on a public forum that you would not want a prospective or current employer to see – Your posts, tweets and comments are public information that just about anyone can access.  If you are bragging about going out partying on a Thursday night, a prospective employer may view this as an indication that you party too much and may not be relied upon to show up for work on time.

Make negative comments about your current employer – What you do now is considered to be a good indication of what you will do in the future.  Posting complaints about business practices, company politics, or your coworkers may feel good for airing out your frustrations, but it will certainly come back to haunt you. Prospective employers will likely feel that you will do the same to them if they hire you and, therefore, you are not worth the risk to their corporate image.

Upload photos of you at the bar last night drinking with your friends – For many this will be common sense, but the number of embarrassing photos that I see is still staggering.  Maybe you realize this now, but didn’t when you were 18.  If that is the case, take some time to do the best damage control you can on what has been posted in the past.  Ask for images to be deleted, set stricter privacy settings etc.

Discuss controversial topics and information – whether it is in your profile, your comments on blogs etc. you want to try and avoid things like politics and religion that can be divisive.  Keep those conversations private by having them off-line or in protected areas with close friends.

The Power of Positive Networking – Student Guest Blogger

February 27, 2012 3 comments

I have decided that the best way to illustrate how you can effectively use some of the strategies that I am describing to find a career is to have some of my students tell you about what they have done.

Therefore, I am delighted to introduce my first guest blogger.  A dynamic, energetic and highly involved young woman, who, becuase of her determination and fantastic networking skills is going to go far.    Welcome Sonja!

The Power of Positive Networking

Hi there! My name is Sonja Fernandes. I am a 22-year-old student currently studying an Honors Specialization in Philosophy at Huron University College. I wanted to write this blog entry to share my experiences of networking with you, how powerful it can be and how you can do it too! Since this is my last semester, I have been franticly trying to figure out what my next step was. For some reason, I felt as if I had to know what it was. What I realized was that this is not the case. When you put yourself out there, the opportunities you dreamt about will come to you!

I decided I wanted to apply to Graduate School and further my education through a more tangible and career focused Masters Program. I thought this would be a good option for me since I was not exactly sure what career field I wanted to work in. I got my application together and sent it away. The very next day, I attended the Student2Business Networking Conference in London, Ontario. I was curious to see what potential career opportunities were available to me and I wanted to practice my networking skills. Little did I know that this one event would have such a large impact on my life!

I went into the event with zero expectations and I think that is very important. In any situation in life, when we have expectations we are more likely to be disappointed. I attended several workshops during the day and spoke with the Huron University College booth and the Emerging Leaders booth. All gave me wonderful insight into their programs. After this, I was asked by a representative from London Community News to be in a story about the conference. I agreed. After this, I made my way into the conference area to listen to the keynote speech. I didn’t bring my glasses so I needed to sit at the front in order to see the presentation. Guess who decides to sit at the table I chose? The President of the LEDC, Peter White and then the Mayor Joe Fontana! After the keynote speech, I spoke with those at the table and I wanted the keynote speaker to know that she did an amazing job and she if she would be interested in coming to Huron and telling the Huron students. She agreed!!!

I have 4 tips that I would share with anyone who is attending a career event:

1. Dress Appropriately; the way you present yourself to others in crucial to making an impression and standing out of a crowd. Don’t be afraid to be yourself with the colors you chose to wear but make sure that what you are wearing is appropriate for the event and is giving off a perfect reflection of you.

2. Think before you speak; it’s 100% normal to be nervous. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you are contemplating approaching someone? Use that energy to move you toward the person, extend your hand and introduce yourself with 3 sentences; your name, what you do, and why you are at the event. Prepare this in advance. If you take a secound to gather your thoughts before you speak to someone, what you say is going to be impeccable.
3. Be confident; think of those who you will be approaching as new friends instead of potential employers. I compare the behavior to my dog; she doesn’t think twice before approaching another dog to say hello, neither should you! Just don’t sniff their butt, that would be kind of awkward. Try some diaphragmatic breathing to calm your nerves and tell yourself positive affirmations like “I can do this”, “I feel confident”, or “I feel happy”. The simplest way to do this is by smiling. Practice your smile in the mirror before you go. You’d be surprised how much of a serotonin boost you get just from smiling.

4. Try your best; only you know your limits and who you are. Let yourself shine! Show others what you are capable of!

Since the Student2Business Networking event, I have made invaluable connections in the London community that I never thought was possible. The week after the Stundent2Busines, I went to a Lunch about London Career Event at Huron College where I again saw and engaged with the same folks from S2B. From a connection made at that event, I was invited to attend another networking event hosted by BizInc at Western. There I saw the same folks AGAIN and I was starting to get ubiquitous and catching their attention. Never give up and never say no to an opportunity to network! You never know what can come from it.

You are your own PR agency

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Remember:

Everything that you do, every letter or phone call that you make is a representation of you. Because of this it is important to invest some time in developing a tool kit of job search resources that you can use.  Also, it is important to go through a variation of a branding process that will assist you in creating an image that will be appealing to employers.

Branding is a way of distinguishing yourself from competitors. The font, paper, language, colours etc. that you use will assist in creating, in the employers mind, a picture of who you are.  You want to ensure that this picture is true to you and is tailored to the job/industry that you are hoping to enter.  Essentially, your resume, cover letter, and contact cards are your advertising campaign, so you need to take time to think out your strategy, who your target market is, and what your end goal is.  Once you have figured this out creating the materials will be easier and there will be consistency in the message/image that you present.

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