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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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Email Best Practices

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment
email etiquette

email etiquette

When dealing with email communication I am frequently stunned by the lack of professionalism that I encounter.  Many times I receive emails that have no salutation or sign-off and no capitalization, grammar or sentence structure.  If these habits continue when the sender enters the workforce he/she will find that it will have a significantly negative impact on his/her career prospects.

You will find that if you take the time to write accurate, concise, and respectful emails that you will be perceived in a better light and will likely receive more positive and helpful responses.

Secondly, if you develop a strategy for effectively managing the emails that you receive, you will waste much less time will be responsive, organized and less stressed.

Below are some tips for helping you ensure that you are creating a professional image and effectively managing your email:

  • When writing emails it is always best to err on the side of formality.  Professional emails should include accurate punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, grammar and spelling. If you are not sure how to address someone, start with the most formal option eg. Dear Ms. Smith, then wait for the reply to determine how to address further correspondence.
  • For professional communication emoticons, abbreviations and slang acronyms like LOL are too informal.
  • Avoid the use of wallpaper or colourful fonts that are distracting and slow down the receiver’s ability to process the message.
  • When it comes to font type and size stick with the basic serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, or san serif, such as Arial, in the 10- to 11-point range.
  • Reread messages before sending.  This allows you to check the tone and content of the message from the reader’s perspective and enables you to catch mistyped words such as god instead of good that will not be caught by your spell checker. An articulate, concise and accurate email tells others that you are intelligent, professional and detail oriented.
  • Keep your inbox clean. Use electronic folders to archive messages that you may need to refer to in the future.  Keep the inbox for current items that you need to deal with.  This will help you feel organized and less overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Insert the receiver’s address last. This ensures that you do not accidentally send an incomplete email or forget an attachment. This is particularly important when dealing with a sensitive topic.  Better yet, if a topic is sensitive, don’t send an email go and talk directly to the person in order to avoid a misreading of your tone or intent.
  • Open an email once.  Don’t waste your time by reading an email and then leaving it to sit because you don’t feel like answering it only to have to return to the same email later.  Have a one touch policy, open it, answer it and then delete or file it.

For further tips on managing your email check out: Managing Your Email, Thinking Outside the Inbox by Christina Cavanagh.  http://www.christinacavanagh.com/book.htm

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.

Networking your way into a job:

January 6, 2012 1 comment

Have faith that effective networking will result in helpful information about job possibilities. You also dramatically increase your probability of getting an interview if you have arrived at a job prospect through your own networking efforts than through other means. The personal contact involved in networking enhances your status as a candidate as compared with more anonymous application methods such as job boards, company web sites, and print ads.

Networking will often result in a job prospect that did not exist before you networked. Positions are sometimes created to accommodate a terrific person who contacts an organization proactively.

The reasons for this have to do with the nature of the job market and the way organizations work. The only jobs that are posted on job boards are those that have been identified as a need, approved by the organization’s bureaucracy, and posted. This is an arduous process in many organizations. Jobs may be at various stages of the HR process, from being written as a formal listing through approval of the personnel requisition. Often, managers do not bother to seek approval for a personnel requisition (“req”) until they have found a qualified candidate; this makes life easier for them. You may never even see those job descriptions.

Information Interviewing:

This can be an extremely important part of building your network and finding a job.  Often people are interested in a particular career or corporation but do not have any contacts.  By setting up an information interview, you can make a contact, find out more about the company and the career, and get a foot in the door for future job openings.

If you really do not know anyone, then setting up an information interview will start with some research on the company and the employees and will be followed by a cold call to the person that you would like to meet with.  As intimidating as this may seem, people are surprisingly willing to talk about themselves.  So you may be pleasantly surprised at the reception you receive provided that you preface the request in the right manner.  You need to ensure that you let the person know that you are a recent or soon to be graduate and are interested in a career in his/her field and would be grateful if he/she would have a few moments to talk to you about what he/she does and the pros and cons of his/her career choice. You do not want them to think that you are calling them to try and get a job.

When you go to meet for the information interview be sure to dress professionally.  Although this is not a job interview, the impression that you make on this person could be vital for the future.

Be prepared, have a short list of questions that you would like to ask and try not to take up too much time.

If you are meeting for coffee or lunch you should be prepared to offer to pay for the drinks/meal.  Basically, if you invite, you pay.

Have a resume in your bag, but do not give it to him/her unless she/he asks for it.

At the end of the interview you can give him/her one of your contact cards and let him/her know that if they do hear of any opportunities that you would be thankful if he/she would let you know.

Be sure to follow up with a thank you card.  This is extremely important and can make or break his/her impression of you.

It is important to keep a journal or notebook detailing sources you have consulted and thoughts or ideas you have had.  This way you will not have to worry about forgetting to follow up on a lead. You will also be able to pick up where you left off the next time you sit down to work, rather than inadvertently duplicating your research efforts. Perhaps most importantly of all, you will remember to follow up on leads generated by your networking contacts and to keep in regular contact with them as you continue your career exploration and/or development.

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