How & Where to Best Use Keywords for LinkedIn Profile SEO

LinkedIn Profile Keyword SEO

Optimizing a LinkedIn profile is critical for job seekers. But what if you are perfectly content in the position that you have, what is the benefit for you?

The benefit is the “what if”.

What if you were offered an opportunity to more of what you love, for more money, maybe in a desired part of the country? What if you were asked to serve as a consultant or expert on an intriguing project?

You may not be looking for these things, but wouldn’t it be nice if they came to you?

Recruiters are looking for the best talent, they do not limit themselves to only the truly available candidates – they look for passive candidates. They leverage LinkedIn because it can provide results quickly and effectively.

According to The Undercover Recruiter, 97% of all HR and staffing professionals are using LinkedIn in their recruiting efforts.

The question then becomes – how can I be found?

Keywords

The right keywords in your profile, using them often and to your advantage.

What Are Keywords?

These are the words that are important in finding that which we search. If you are looking for a certain position, the words you use to search that are relevant for the position are keywords. They are buzzwords, jargon and industry language. It is how the industry or companies describe the job, profession or duties.

Keywords are critical in Search Engine Optimization to filter through search engines, social networks (LinkedIn) and applicant tracking systems (ATS) and resume databases.

Where Should Keywords Be Used?

The most effective sections in LinkedIn to use keywords are:

  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Job Titles in Experience
  • Experience
  • Recommendations
  • Skills

It has been suggested that extra weighting is given in LinkedIn search algorithm for keywords in the Headline, Experience Job Title and Skills sections.

Before we get to how to best use the keywords, let’s get a foundation of what they are and how to find them.

What Keywords Should Be Used?

The keywords that you use will depend upon your industry, job, experience, qualifications and where you want to go in that next level.

Keywords are also how you describe what you do.

In January of 2015, many articles published lists of the top 10 buzzwords for 2014, which was a variation of the following:

Motivated, Passionate, Creative, Extensive Experience, Responsible, Strategic, Track Record, Driven, Organized/Organizational, Effective, Expert, Innovative

Soon we will be getting the lists of what was overused in 2015. Although somewhat helpful, these lists tell you about the previous year, not forecasting for this year and what to use now.

I think there is a bit of subjectivity in the lists. If organizational is in your title or instrumental in the value you provide – use it. If you are a recognized expert, then say it. Yes, many people may overuse the term expert; however, if you demonstrate it in your context then you are perfectly fine using the word ‘expert’.

Determining the Right Keywords

There are several sources for mining effective keywords.

Talk It Out

You are a great resource that you might be discounting. Try this exercise – sit down in front of a computer and type out a conversation that you would have with someone unfamiliar with your job. Describe to them what you do and how you do it. Include people or groups that you work with and how you work with them.

From this ‘conversation’ you can mine several possibilities.

Search For That Job

Do a search on your own or previous job. Pay attention to titles, products, services, job responsibilities, certifications or degrees listed in the requirements or responsibilities.

Job boards are a great resource to mine for keywords. Indeed.com is a very robust job board and easy to navigate. It also has other tools on the website that can be helpful – more on that in a bit.

Scope Out Your Competition

Do a search on LinkedIn for those doing the job you are doing or the job you want to be doing and mine their profile.

The top searches will have certain items in common; pay attention to not only the words, but how they are used.

Power Your Research

Once you have blocks of text, now is the time to synchronize your research and condense it to the most effective keywords.

Copy and paste the text from your internal conversation, competition and job boards into a word cloud application. Tagcrowd.com is a phenomenal site that takes the information you paste and creates a visual word cloud highlighting the most important and often used words.

Below is a screen shot of a word cloud from a project manager position found on indeed.com:

Get Geeky With It

You can take your search one step further on Indeed.com and see how certain keywords are trending.

Go to Indeed.com/jobtrends
– Type in the terms you want to compare; use quotes around the words and separate with a comma
– Click on Find Trends
– The graph will show historical information on how those words have been used in job postings, how they are trending and how popular they are recently.

Below is a screen shot comparing Information Technology with IT, as an example.

How to Use Those Keywords

Remember, these keywords are impactful in describing your brand and the value that you add to an organization, team and clients.

Headline

This prime real estate has 120 characters to benefit from – use it to your advantage. Go beyond your title and company and utilize keywords that make an impact for you, your brand and your value.

Instead of “Information Technology Director, ZBC Company

What about: “IT Director Leading Global Enterprise Growth Strategies – Improves Quality – Strengthens Productivity & Efficiencies

That packs a little more of a punch!

Summary & Experience

Use those keywords to tell not only what you do, but how you do it.

The summary is not the place to list your current job as a series of job duties; it should tell your story. Your experience section should follow suit – do not list a bullet point list of what you were hired to do; tell the reader what you did.

If you were involved in a Six Sigma project and it had an impact, let the reader know. Simply stating ‘Six’ Sigma is not enough. It is putting keywords into your profile, true, but it is not painting a picture.

Instead, try: “Instrumental in implementing Lean Six Sigma processes that significantly improved processes resulting in a 46% decrease in costs for xyz.”

Reflect back on the top LinkedIn profiles of your peers or of those holding the position you seek to get an idea of how to communicate your value.

Job Titles in Experience

Your job title must match up on your profile to what is used on your resume and what the company listed; however, you have 100 characters to expand on that to create a more complete, and impactful, picture.

Financial Analyst

Becomes:

Financial Analyst – Asset Management, Market Analysis, Trend Forecasting, Profit & Loss, Auditing

And that is 97 characters.

Recommendations

When requesting recommendations, forgo the boilerplate template that is provided and create a personalized message. Use keywords when asking for a recommendation to encourage the responder to do the same.

“Joe, as you and I worked together at KDI Company and you are familiar with my skills in trend forecasting, corporate auditing and asset management, I would greatly appreciate if you would write a recommendation for me that I could post on my LinkedIn profile.”

You have not only politely asked for a recommendation, you have given a road map of what you want to highlight!

Skills

Select from the skills provided by LinkedIn ones that best support you, your value and your brand.  Remember, the right key words in your skills section have been said to have extra weighting in the LinkedIn search algorithm.

LinkedIn All-Star Status Rocks & How To Reach it in 7 Steps

linkedin all star banner

The year is coming to an end and soon people will be making New Year Resolutions or professional goals for 2016. I imagine on many lists will be to either:

Get a better job or move up in their industry
Grow their business

Growing your network is paramount in accomplishing either one of those goals. The good news is LinkedIn is king in growing and nurturing your network.

Before you can leverage the power of LinkedIn, you must be able to be found, understood and add value.

Today begins a series of LinkedIn tips and insights to building a strong profile before the New Year to prepare for another series on leveraging LinkedIn to accomplish your 2016 goals. The topic today:

Achieving All-Star Status

There are five levels of status, from least complete to highest completion: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert and All-Star.

Why it is important to be an All-Star

According to LinkedIn:

Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.

That is forty times more likely to receive opportunities including job offers, new clients, new markets, new connections to centers of influence and more.

Whether you are actively looking for a new job or open to hearing about opportunities, a 2014 Jobvite survey found that 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and vet candidates.

It might be safe to assume that recruiters find plenty of candidates within the All-Star category without venturing into Expert or Advanced profiles.

What it Takes to Reach All-Star

For your profile to be considered complete, there are seven criteria:

  1. Profile Picture
  2. Experience
  3. Skills
  4. Summary
  5. Industry & Location
  6. Education
  7. Connections

It is not enough to have each section, they must be completed in the most impactful way.

Profile Picture

Although the statistic of profiles with a picture are 14 times more likely to be viewed, the caveat this statistic does not mention is that profiles with professional pictures are more likely to be viewed.

Not just any picture will do.

Your photo should be current showing you in a relaxed, inviting, professional manner. This means no bathroom selfies, Facebook fun pictures, pets, kids, families or group photos.

There are exceptions to every rule and if your business is all about dogs, having a puppy in your photo may just be the ticket for you – as long as it matches with your profile headline.

Headline

You have a limit of 120 characters for your headline. Yes, I said limit. Your title and company name is not all that you can fill in for this section. This about this as a very short introduction, you want to be known for more than just your title and company, right? Add keywords and phrases here that represent you and the value you provide.

Experience

Your experience section will need your current position and two prior positions, all completed with supporting information. In other words, simply listing two previous positions is not enough.

Use experience section to build your story of where you have been and how it is getting you to where you are going. List the value you provided, who you served, how you served them and the difference you made while there.

You have the parameters of 200 minimum characters in the experience summary and a maximum of 2,000. You do not need to use all 2,000 characters – a short paragraph will do; accompanied with a couple of supporting bullet points is even better.

If you are a student or unemployed, you will still need to list a current position. Without it you will not be ranked as an All-Star.

Skills

For All-Star status, you must have at least five skills listed. You can add up to 50 skills, but let’s not get carried away. Fire eating, fire breathing, small talk, cat herding, chewing gum, Halloween, snacks and drinking water are all listed as skills. Seriously, type them in and see for yourself!

If you do not have a skills section click Skills section under profile summary at the top of your profile. You may need to click View More to find this section

To add more skills:

Select Edit Profile under Profile at the top of your page
Scroll to the Skills & Endorsements section of your profile
Click on +Add Skill button in the top right corner of this section
Select Yes after “I want to be endorsed”
Type in skills and when they populate, click on the skill then click on Add
Click Save when done.

Summary

Your summary is your introduction to you. This is your opportunity to speak to your audience directly, in a one-on-one conversation. It should be an expansion of your headline and incorporate your style, strengths, specialties, experience and atta boys.

Use keywords to emphasize and describe rather than throwing in industry jargon to try to appease. Remember, this is a conversation, not a script.

Think about writing your summary from this perspective: you are sitting down at a foo-foo coffee house across from someone you want to read your profile.

They ask you, “So, tell me about yourself” Now go! How you answer that in a relaxed, professional environment is how you write your summary.

You have 2,000 characters to play with so make them count. It is not necessary to use them all as long as you tell your story the way you want the reader to understand it.

Industry & Location

These two areas simply tell readers where you are located and in what industry you operate.

When editing your profile, click the edit button next to these fields (see below). Enter your country and zip code then enter your industry. To finish, click Save.

Education

Simply add your education in this section. It is not necessary to put graduation dates. The additional benefit of adding education is it gives you an opportunity to connect to fellow school attendees and alumni – you have a built in connection!

Connections

For All-Star status, you need at least 50 connections. Start by connecting with professional contacts you know. Use the search feature to search companies you worked for to find former or current employees on LinkedIn. Do the same for the schools listed in your education section.
These are the basics for reaching All-Star status. Look for articles soon to feature:

Where, when and how to leverage keywords to complete your profile
Above the fold, maximizing the spaces you are not completing
Telling your story to reach and connect with your audience
Recommendations – how to ask for and receive recommendations that work for you
… and more!

★ I have created a tip cheat sheet on several sections and character limits; to view or download, just click here: LinkedIn Personal Profile Cheat Sheet 

You Are Unique, Why Does Your Resume Sound Like Everyone Else? 7 Tips to Stand Out

stand out from crowdJust how many resumes are received for a job opening?

A lot.

Of course it depends on the position, industry and demand; and what little research I found was an average of 75 for each position in 2009 and up to 250 for each position in 2013.

Needless to say, there is a lot of competition for great positions. So many that many companies use software as the first step in eliminating a great majority in an attempt to get a manageable number to review.

With all this competition from other candidates and computers weeding you out – why would you want your resume to look like everyone else’s when you are not like everyone else?

The common sense answer is that you would not; however, the difficulty is figuring out how to make your resume sound like you to get the attention you want and deserve.

Here are some seven tips and suggestions to make your resume your own and stand out among the crowd:

1. Know What You are Selling

Your resume is your personal sales statement. In order to sell any product, you must know the features and benefits. What do you bring to the table, how can you add value, what makes you better at what you do than your competition?

2. The Proof is in the Pudding

It is not enough to tell a prospective employer that you have x years’ experience in a field. Length of time does not equate to quality or value. Haven’t you worked with someone who has been at a company for an extended length of time and wonder how they are still there because they have no clue as to what they are doing? Exactly.

It is important to demonstrate your expertise, skills and value. Instead of telling them you prepare reports (no value, statement only) demonstrate the value of this task, perhaps something like, “compile and present monthly x reports identifying new avenues and opportunities for growth” What is the value to what you do.

3. Duties vs. Value

To be frank: no one cares what you were hired to do; they care what you did. Listing out job duties as bullet points is simply posting your job description on your resume. It only tells the reader what you were hired to do, which does not demonstrate value.

To determine value, think of these questions:

  • Who do you work with?
  • How do you work with them?
  • What do you do?
  • Who benefits?
  • What is the value received by you doing what you do?

From there you can create a value-centered bullet point for each task integrating the answers to these questions into your bullet point.

4. Templates are a Start

There are many templates available to utilize when building your resume. These are fine, as a start; however, they do not customize your resume for you. If you feel stuck on how to start, templates can be a good kick starter. Just remember to personalize it after you fill in the blanks.

5. If it is You is Should Sound Like You

We each have our own style and that cannot be captured in a template or by sounding like everyone else. If you are a very dynamic, go getter than you want to use words that reflect that side of you. If, on the other hand, you are a behind the scenes kind of person using dynamic words is a contradictory.

Think of it this way – when you read a book you get an image of a character based on the words that are presented. This helps your mind form an image of that character in your mind. The same is being done when someone reads your resume – they are forming an image of you based on the words you chose.

6. Research

Keywords are king. If you are having trouble finding the right keywords, find job postings of the position you seek, copy and paste them into tagcrowd.com –  this gives you a word cloud of the keywords used in the position.

Another option is google similar resumes to see what phrases or keywords are used. Do not copy and paste the whole resume, just utilize these to get a sample and make them your own.

While you are searching similar resumes, click on the “Images” tab of Google and look at them from the visual perspective. At this point, do not read them, just let your eye flow over the many, many resumes before you and see what you are naturally drawn to. You can then emulate this design into your own style.

7. Would You Hire You?

Writing your resume is a daunting and not fun task. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to say the right thing that end up saying nothing at all. Take a step back from your resume and read it from as though you were the hiring manager and ask yourself, “Would I hire this person and why?”

Challenge yourself to prove that you own that next job and make sure your sales presentation supports that sentiment.

Lastly, relax and do not try to write the one be all end all resume of all times in one setting. Your resume will need to be tweaked and modified for each position. It is an evolution at every turn so allow yourself to grow and modify it as you go along the process.

The very first resume you write may not be the worst or the best, but through the process of revisions, tweaks, research and modifications the real you will come out and get the attention of the right hiring manager for the right job!

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

I Did Not Connect with You on LinkedIn Because of Your Facebook Picture

facebook picture on linkedinLinkedIn is LinkedIn and Facebook is Facebook. They are two different venues, environments and interactions. Facebook is the silly, personal side. LinkedIn is the business side.

I am not going to belabor the point of mixing behavior between the two. This article is only about the profile picture, and why using a Facebook type picture on LinkedIn is preventing you from expanding your business network.

I have read many articles stating that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression – but that is if you are having an interaction. Seven seconds in meeting someone face to face or seeing their body language. How quickly do we form an impression based on a photo?

As little as 1/10 of a second.

That is what was found in a series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov. It only takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. Click this link to read the full, fascinating article: How Many Seconds to a First Impression by Eric Wargo on Association for Psychological Science.

Here is a list of photos that I have seen that close doors on LinkedIn:

  • Wedding photos
  • Data nights – including your date and the food
  • Bar buddies – you all look like you are having a good time, plenty of cocktails and which one are you?
  • Phantom hands on shoulders – cropping the rest of the other people out, but not those hands
  • All decked out in favorite sport team gear – jersey, face paint, Mardi Gras beads
  • Holding or surrounded by children
  • Cartoons – either a meme or a characterization of yourself, perhaps ok if you are a cartoonist
  • Car shots with seat belts and back seats
  • Up the nose selfie – holding the phone at such a low angle that the inside of your nose is most prominent
  • Painful, angry or confused – not sure if the picture took, well dressed mug shot or it hurts to smile
  • Showing off favorite toys – motorcycles, cars, boats and this has nothing to do with your business
  • Are you in the shot? shots – vacation shots, dog shots, fun in the sun shots where you are merely a speck among the scenery
  • The future is so bright I gotta wear shades
  • Looking cool selfie with a full view and prominence of your arm
  • And the honest to goodness bathroom selfie complete with the shower curtain, sink and holding the phone in front of your chest

All of the above are fine on Facebook, but what value do they convey about you as a business person?  What value does your child, dog, toy, sunglasses or bathroom give your business (unless it is directly related)? My dogs are extremely photogenic and just so darn cute, but having them in my profile picture does not speak to me or my value as a career and business coach.

In other words, in the business world no one cares about those lovely attributes of your personal life unless they bring value to them as a connection, customer or prospective employer.

What comprises a good photo, one that will open doors? It is a matter of five elements:

  1. Expression – Smile. It does not have to be a full on toothy number, but at least look approachable and open. When getting your picture taken, instead of a forced smile, think of something that makes you grin – a funny line in a movie, something cute your child did, hearing praise from your boss – anything that brings a natural, genuine smile to your face without going into full out laughter.
  2. Clothing – Dress for where you want to go or what represents who you are professionally in a business casual sense. Business relaxed, not the corporate suit and tie head shot unless that is the image you and your company want to portray.
  3. Background – This is a backdrop, not the most important element of the picture; it should not be distracting or inappropriate. It does not have to be in an office environment, however, it should be the last thing someone focuses on in your photo.
  4. Proportion – Your head and shoulders should take up at least 60% of the frame, we want to see you!
  5. Likeness – The picture should be somewhat current and look like you, over the age of 40 no high school photos or glamour shots.

Unless in that 1/10 of a second you convey you are about business prospective clients, connections or employers will not take the time to accept your invitation or read your profile. LinkedIn is for business, it is all about making connections, adding value, expanding your networks and knowledge – if your picture is closing those doors you are missing the greatest of opportunities.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

I Prefer Windows to Doors

open windowMy dad was an amazing man and a huge influence on who I am today. Of course there are some traits that he cultivated that, if he were here to see them in action, I am sure he would be doing a mental face palm. Not like I didn’t see enough eye rolling or hear enough sighing growing up.

Now, don’t go feeling all sorry for my dad, he also had a wicked sense of humor. Like the time he gave me a black spiced jelly and after I put it in my mouth said, “Isn’t that the worst thing you ever tasted?”

Or the time we were on a fishing trip and he told me that the little round things in the tapioca pudding were fish eyes. He ruined that for me for good.

I did get my dad’s sense of humor and my son has suffered for it. When he was in elementary school my son got in trouble for a “food fight”, he threw a piece of cheese at another student. He also lost a tooth that day and put it under his pillow that evening for the tooth fairy.

The next morning he woke up and excitedly looked under his pillow only to find a piece of cheese. He looked at me with the same face I am sure I gave my dad about the tapioca/fish eyes thing and I told him, “The tooth fairy heard you had a thing for cheese, especially throwing it at school.”

I’m not that mean, there was money there, just further back.

But there were times that I got the combined look of “what the heck” and “I’m kinda proud of that” from my dad. Like the time we talked about house keys.

Well after the house I grew up in was sold, we were talking about if we still had our house keys. I told him that I hadn’t had one for years. This shocked him because we grew up as what would be called latchkey kids, so how did I get in the house?

I pried open the basement window with a screwdriver I had buried in the flowerbed.

I specifically remember the pause in the conversation and that “what the proud” look on his face. I looked back and said, “What, you created me.”

And he did. He and my mom created several foundations within me. This one was there is a solution to every problem. It may not be typical or “normal”, but sometimes creativity is exactly what is needed.

All though junior high and high school I basically broke into my own home, hey, it worked. Does that count as breaking in since I lived there? I think not, I just called it an alternative entrance due to a locked door.

In your career, you will encounter seemingly locked doors. A promotion you want, a new job you desire, having to find another job after losing your current one, additional learning/educational opportunities –doors you want to go through, but seemingly do not know how to unlock it.

Walking through these doors will give you access to a whole structure; rooms filled with floors, walls, furniture, electricity – and windows. Stop banging your head on the door and take a step back – you can see the windows.

These windows may be represented by networking, volunteering, part time jobs, speaking up asking for what you want, taking your work to the next level. The one thing they all have in common is this: they are there waiting for you to discover them, you just have to get off your rear-end and do it.

Just because you see only one path as a solution to a problem does not mean that is the only path. Too often we get so focused on the problem that we get tunnel vision and do not allow ourselves to see possible solutions. When that one solution seems impossible, we want to throw our hands in the air and declare it is impossible. Done deal, never going to happen; poor me, I have no control or ability to do anything about this.

Several years ago I was a part of an organization and I was at the point of frustration, I just did not feel that I was getting anything out of it. I realized that I was attending, but not participating. So I set a timeline and made a deal with myself. I would go through the window of volunteering on committees and give it a certain amount of time for me to gauge ROI.

I joined three different committees; I was a little go getter. My logical mind thought that the ROI would be more business. Boy was I wrong. The ROI I received was expanding my network to befriend some amazing women. Today these women are my friends, mentors, cohorts and inspirations.

If I had not gone through that window my business would not be what it is today, nor would I as a person.

I also met many women and was able to lead by example and assist them in becoming more active in the organization, which provided value to them and their businesses.

The other benefit of going through a window is you can get inside then open the door for someone else; remember, the best way to get is giving to others.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

4 Steps To Create Engagement In Any Conversation

a conversationCommunication is important in business, communication is vital. It is not enough to introduce yourself while networking, tell your clients what you do and take orders from your boss. You have to exchange information and build alliances.

It is called engagement and there are four steps to creating engagement in any conversation:

1. Ask a Question

Soliciting information from another person opens the door for them to share information and insight with you. In turn, based upon their response, you can then help guide the conversation.

2. Keep Quiet and Pay Attention

Once you ask a question, give the recipient all your attention, do not talk over them and do not be distracted by anything else in the room. Give them your undivided attention in order that you can hear what they say and relay their importance to you.

3. Listen

This goes beyond hearing their words or preparing a response before they are finished giving their response. Listen, really listen to what they say, what they do not and their body language. The total message is comprised of all three.

4. Follow Up

If you were paying attention and listening to what they said, you will be able to formulate either a follow up question for further clarification, deeper understanding or to be able to provide comprehension of what they said. It is validation to the other person that you were listening, what they said was important and you are engaged with them.

Using these four steps, you can build rapport with anyone at any time in an easy manner allowing them to provide all the information and clues to guide the conversation and find a common ground, allegiance, prospective opportunities and collaboration.

The Help You Get is Not Always the Help You Need

Luke paintBedrooms were painted this weekend at my house, it was an event in which the whole family participated – which means the humans painted and the dogs got paint all over them.

Bless my little puppies, they really did think they were helping. They wanted to be a part of the process, to not miss a moment of the fun and to share the experience. I highly recommend the color Wicker for a room, just not for a dog; although I do believe Luke wears it well.

Sometimes people think they are helping and they really are just getting your paint everywhere and getting hair stuck to the walls.

There are plenty of articles that will tout that up to 80% of jobs are secured through networking, the numbers vary but this is a pretty common and accepted percentage.

Networking is critical not just in finding the right job, but also in building a connection of influencers, prospects, allies and accountability partners. I am all about networking. I love it, I teach it and I am a great networking wing-man.

As great as networking is and allows for an abundance of opportunities, there are downsides.

Some people do not know how to help you.
Some people do not want to help you, only themselves.

Painting Helper Luke – Do Not Know How

The ones that do not know how to help you have the best of intentions, they really do. They may hear that you are looking for job so they give you a couple of names of hiring managers. Unfortunately, the jobs they are hiring for are just not right for you. The job could require a lot more certification or experience than you have, in an entirely different field than what you do (and you have no desire to change industries) or in a whole other state (one in which you do not care to relocate).

These are the Lukes – very excitable and anxious to help, but not really having a clue what you need. Luke thought he was helping this weekend by being close, he would sit right next to us as we painted and that meant sitting his butt right up against the wall. Luke lacks focus.

How to focus the Lukes – give them details that they can relate to and remember. If you are in purchasing then you need to explain this in a way that resonates with them. Explain what you do in a way that you would to someone that is not in the industry or use an example of how you would do what you do for them or their company. They need to understand to be able to help, and this means they need a little bit of clarity.

Painting Helper Lexi – Do Not Want To

Those that only want to help themselves normally are trying to make themselves look good or they are just going through the networking motions because they see it as a necessary evil. These are the Lexis. She wasn’t so much of a helper as a hindrance. More than once we had to gently ask her to move because she would position herself right where we needed to paint.

I have encountered the “I’m such a connector – I’m awesome, even though it has no value to you” and the “here’s a name just so I can look like I’m contributing although it is not a good contact for you”.

How to eliminate the blocks set up by Lexis – ask why. When someone says you need to call so-and-so ask them why. It is not rude, so do not worry about that. It can simply be asked as, “Thank you for the contact, so why do you think we would be a good connection?”

And it is okay to do follow up questions. If they respond, “Well, she knows everyone!” That sounds good, but no one knows everyone. So a good follow up question would be, “Great! Does she know a lot of people in the XYZ industry/hiring managers/purchasing department etc.?”

Gain as much clarification before you make that call and waste your time and theirs. This happened to me. I once called a woman – just because the person I knew from networking was so enthusiastic that she was wonderful and a great connection for me. When I did call her, bless her, she asked me why I was calling.

I told her I was referred by this guy and she said, “Okay, but why?” I was stumped! I was honest and told her “I have no earthly idea, but thank you so much for taking my call and I apologize for being unprepared and taking up your time.”

Turns out she and I met up again months later at another event and we hit it off. She is now one of my closest friends and a mentor.

It is wonderful and exciting to get leads through networking, just do a little more homework before and after getting the lead to make sure it is a good one and that is worth your time and theirs.

One last word – be sure to reciprocate. Now that you know how to handle the Lukes and Lexis – do not be one. Listen to what people are saying, ask questions to clarify and offer assistance when you can. To give, one must give.

The Power of the Pause

mouth taped shutWe live in a reactionary world. Immediate responses may improve speed, yet they can damage quality, content and opportunities.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a leader, employee, service provider, parent, partner and family member is the power of the pause. One of my greatest teachers was my father.

My dad rarely reacted, only in danger situations. While teaching or listening, he always paused before responding. He took a split second to not only listen to what we said, but to measure and monitor his response. It was a very powerful tool. It also gave us the time to reflect on what we just said – normally realizing that it was probably something we should have re-framed.

Taking a pause before answering a question allows you to do the same – think. It also conveys to your audience that you are listening to their questions with respect to them and your answer.

The dictionary defines respond as to say something in reply; it defines react as to respond or behave in a particular way in response to something.

I have different definitions.

React – to act without thinking, impulse
Respond – to act with thought or purpose

We become conditioned to react, we learn to respond.

One of the problems with reacting is that we condition our audiences on what to expect. It can be a dangerous precedent in reacting. There is normally that one person in an organization that people avoid because they react – immediately and normally in a non-positive way to news. Temper tantrums, flying objects, colorful language, fits – you name it, it is not pleasant. It creates a communication and career barrier.

My son is a react kind of guy. If it pops in his head it comes out of his mouth. He has helped me become a responder. I know how he is, therefore I have learned to modify my responses to him in order to lesson his reaction.

Oh, I am understanding, I am patient, I am kind and it gets old. That is when he started the journey of going from reaction to responding. We are not there yet, but it is a choice and a continual effort. I stopped understanding, being patient and kind and told him that I was not going to hear of it. His reaction impacted me too negatively for me to continue to be the understanding doormat.  Others are doormats for those who react. Things were more difficult for a period until we made the boundaries of respect.

When you respond you respect your audience; when you react you disrespect them.

Another challenge with reacting is that it damages your credibility, accountability and those around you. Lash out in a reaction and saying you are sorry does not take away the event. It lessons it, it is workable, but you have to do much more work to get back to where you were prior to the reaction.

A bit of bad news would send my son in a tizzy. Any future plans were immediately scrapped and the world was ending – right then and there. After calming down, the world was actually the same right place that it always was and a simple sorry was thought to be the magic ticket to erasing the tizzy.

It does not work that way. Reactionary tizzies implode the worlds of everyone involved. They have to take time out of their day to accommodate the tizzy, putting all their priorities aside to make it through the storm. How can your team count on you or believe that you are going to hold it together if you cannot handle a bump in the road?

The client wants to add this aspect to the program – the world is not over, it is called adaption. Figure it out that is what they come to you for – your expertise. Having a complete meltdown and then apologizing a half hour later is not going to instill confidence in your team. It will actually diminish their respect and level of confidence in you.

I am not throwing stones, where do you think my son learned to react? I used to react, and sometimes it just felt good. But I realized the damage it was creating to me, my family, my colleagues and my career. I learned to stop, think, listen and respond. Sometimes a very minimal response is the key to waiting for the reactionary impulse to subside.

When hearing unpleasant news, being confronted or facing a challenge, take a breath. A small count of three to five can be the difference between imploding your career and moving into the next level; between building a bridge and burning that sucker down or allowing the small, unexpected whims of misery change the course of your future.

The Lost Art of Listening

listeningOne of the most vital and under-utilized skills of business leaders is the ability to listen. This skill is imperative to those in a position of leadership to those providing service to clients. It is the foundation of engagement.

Yesterday I had to call my cell phone provider, my phone and I have a love-hate relationship. It loves to do funky things like not show calls coming through or registering voicemails and I hate it. Just to preface this, I am not a highly functioning technical phone person. When I got my phone, I handed it to my son so he could explain it to me.

I talked to a very nice technician who was extremely knowledgeable about the phone and systems but I wanted to pull my hair out during the entire conversation. Each time she would ask me a question I would begin to answer and she would cut me off midstream.

There were several times that I had to repeat myself because she assumed she knew how I was going and would take it in a different direction. When she asked me for my phone number for the fifth time, I knew the problem: she might have heard me to a point, but she was not listening.

I used to drive my son crazy, in so many ways, but on this topic frequently. If I asked him to do something the follow up conversation would sound something like this:

Me: “That’s not what I asked”
Son: “Yes it is”
Me: “No, did you listen to what I said?”
Son: (with exasperation) “Yes, Mom, I heard you”
Me: “I know you heard me, but I need you to listen to me”
Son: “It’s the same thing, Mom, I listened to you”
Me: “Then what did I say?”
Son: (eye roll)

There is a difference in hearing and listening. Too often we “listen” only to respond, not to engage or learn. In the middle of a response there is something that triggers our brain to prepare a response and we stop listening.

One way that I have found to improve my listening skills is to ask questions, with a twist.

Sometimes asking questions can be taken as being challenging by the other person. Therefore, I add a clarifier and modify it depending upon the audience.

Working in partnership with someone or gathering more information when providing service, starting the question with, “I want to make sure I understand…” can demonstrate your interest in the person and what they are saying and build upon the communication.

When talking to your boss or an alpha, you do not want to come across as though you are not challenging their authority or being submissive. Sometimes it is best to state flat out, “I am not challenging, I am clarifying because I can see this from a couple of different perspectives…” This also demonstrates that you are not only listening, you are thinking on a deeper level about what they said.

In networking it is normally a more relaxed environment and therefore with an understanding of a shorter engagement period, saying, “What does that mean…” in a nice tone can encourage the other person to elaborate and demonstrate interest.

In a personal or casual conversation the simple words, “Tell me more” can demonstrate to the other person that you are not hearing to respond, but care enough to let them have the floor.

One phrase that I think is a conversation and engagement killer is, “I hear what you are saying.” For one thing I anticipate the word “but” after that statement which totally invalidates the listening aspect and for another, it reminds me of Stuart Smalley.

I would also caution against the phrase, “Could you repeat that” as a standalone phrase. It can imply that you were not listening when in fact you perhaps could not hear or understand the person or you did not understand. Simply stating that you did not hear them and then ask them to repeat what they said will not disengage or disrupt the flow of conversation.

The lessons, most of the time, had paid off in our house. My son and I have gotten to the point that we acknowledge when we only hear and will say something like, “I heard you but I have no idea what you just said.” I do not recommend saying that to your boss, staff or clients.

One last suggestion: pause before answering. When someone response as soon as you finish that last word it is a trigger that they were preparing their answer instead of listening to you.

Listening is a skill. It needs to be practiced, repeatedly, to hone it. Keep practicing because it can always be improved upon. This morning I was talking to a client and I caught myself immediately responding. Once I recognized what I was doing I immediately shifted focus to asking questions rather than responding. It resulted in a much more rich conversation.

What are some ways that you have found that improve your listening skills? I would love to hear them, I’m listening….

LinkedIn – Taking a Connection to a Relationship

business high fiveLast week I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the Indianapolis chapter of Human Resource Professional Development Association about LinkedIn and utilizing it to build a personal brand internally and externally. There was one question that I think can be asked in many different ways but boils down to four words:

How do I connect?

Not in a sense of click on the connect button or accept, but how do I really connect with someone after we become connections.

I think one challenge or misconception about LinkedIn is that there is no true communication or connection. It is simple to click a button, request or accept a connection; however it leaves us feeling flat. A simple button does not open the door to communication.

The problem is not with LinkedIn – it is with the user.

The tool is only as good as the way in which you use it.

I have a small tiller. It sat in my garage for a few years all bright and shiny but useless. I also had an area in my back and side yard that was perfect for a garden. I used to be frustrated that I didn’t have a garden and how much work it would be to create that space.

Last spring I used the bright shiny tiller and created my garden. It made quick work of it and by the summer I had a wonderful garden full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, herbs, cantaloupe, watermelon and asparagus.

I could complain about not having a garden or I could use the tools I had to create what I wanted.

It is the same concept with LinkedIn.

Requesting or accepting is step one, but there is more to be done to start conversations and build relationships. It begins with a few simple steps:

Say Thank You
When someone accepts or sends you a request, thank them for the connection. It is a simple thing to do and opens the door for the other person to respond.

Be Selective if You Choose
Although some users will not allow you to send them an invitation unless you actually know them, some do not accept connections unless they see a business reason to do so.

Key word there: business reason.

You can address this either in the invitation or in the follow up. In either one, instead of using the template that LinkedIn provides for a connection request, simply put a statement such as, “I noticed that you are connected to Bob Inbox, who I worked with at DCB company…”

Follow Up Without Demanding
You have sent/accepted a connection and sent a thank you, now is time for a conversation, not a request for a coffee meeting.

Send them an inbox message and begin with – again – a business conversation or topic. It could be something about their company or position or that you appreciated a comment that they left on an article. From there you can let them know that you would like to know more about what they do, about their company or their insight on a certain matter.

Do not assume that just because someone connected with you on a business social platform that they are willing to take a couple hours out of their day to meet with you in person. Everyone’s time is valuable.

If someone immediately suggests a coffee time I ask for what purpose. I am trying to eliminate time wasting activities in order to devote my time to my clients. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately go up when I get an instant coffee message. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you want, you want me to give you at least two hours of my time and more than likely you are going to try to sell me on something.

Instant coffee meetings do not equal instant business relationships.

With a few extra minutes, consideration and thought you can start conversations that build relationships. LinkedIn provides a platform, you have to provide the effort. As LinkedIn says: “A healthy professional life starts with healthy relationships.”

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