The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!

The Conquest of LinkedIn - Meeting Offline
linkedin logo (Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo)

Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.

But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?

Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.

Not by a long shot.

Traditional vs. New-Style Networking

Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.

Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at followup, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.

LinkedIn Changes That

With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,

  1. You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
  2. And you ask them to link to you.
  3. You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.

More

  1. Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
  2. Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
  3. So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.

Yet More!

  1. Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
  2. Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
  3. Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.

Meeting Specifics

As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.

So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.

So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.

This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.

There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?

Next: Your Profile Page.

The Top 10 Pet Peeves About Job Seeking

The Top 10 Pet Peeves About Job Seeking

Pet Peeves? I got ’em.

Pet Peeves
Frustration

Adventures in Career Changing means, well, a lot of job applications. Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And they come as a bit of their own special Dantean circle.

#10 – Keeping the Company’s Identity a Secret

I get that there are legitimate reasons for keeping quiet about company identities. They might not want to tip off competitors that there’s an opening. Or maybe they don’t want the person currently in the job to know that they are being replaced. I recognize this. I get it. But it’s also a bit of serious unevenness. You know who I am. And you get to look up all sorts of stuff on me. Yet I don’t get to do anything even remotely like that where you’re concerned. Where’s the fairness in that?

#9 – Multiple Job Postings, While at the Same Time Penalizing Job Seekers for Multiple Submissions

This goes along with the previous one. When you don’t tell me who you are, and you post the same job on, say, Monster and Dice, how, exactly, am I supposed to prevent a possible double submission? What happens when you also distribute this opening to a half a dozen recruiters? Yep – I end up with multiple submissions. And guess who gets blamed for that? Hint – it’s not the prospective employer.

#8 – You Make Me Fill Out a Form Even As I Give You My Resume

I know that you have laid off your entire clerical staff, and you likely did so in 2003 or earlier. I am also well aware that you are looking to get my resume into a pigeonhole pattern so that it can be readily compared to others that are in the same pigeonhole pattern. Because taking 25 seconds to scan my resume with your eyes is just too much time.

Okay, perhaps that wasn’t very nice, but every career counselor I have ever known has said to spend hours and hours and make it a mondo-perfect document. But the reality is that resumes are barely glanced at. Hence, rather than creating exciting visual presentations (unless you’re in the arts), the focus is on keywords. And I’m fine with larding my resume up with keywords (unfortunately, BTW, this also means adding misspelled keywords).

I also get how badly you want uniformity. But – surprise! There’s software that will do this! So, instead of making me jump through this particular hoop, could you invest in a system such as that? The beauty of your software doing that, rather than me doing it manually, is that you can also do some filtering. Buy yourself a good system, and you’ll get a lot more done.

#7 – S…l…o…w Sites

I know, I know. The server is down. No one’s been able to fix it since Employee X left three months ago. Whatevs. But in the meantime, I am supposed to be putting my best foot forward (and all the time, I might add. I’ve had employment counselors who’ve essentially told me to look sharp every time I leave the house, as I never know if I’ll be seeing a potential employer. Evidently this includes grocery shopping and running 5K races. Silliness). But you aren’t. You want me to apply and not get frustrated while doing so? Then fix your site.

#6 – Ignoring the Fact that I Will Not Relocate

If it’s available, I always (always!) check the box that says that I will not relocate. And I will not. There is no coaxing me. There are no perks to sending me to Minneapolis (or wherever). I ain’t goin’. And it is all over all of my applications, profiles, etc. This is one of my really annoying pet peeves.

Yet I am still called by recruiters who tell me about some awesome, kick-bun opportunity and everything sounds wonderful and then, oh by the way, where is it? And it’s in Plano, Texas. I live in Boston. That’s a helluva commute, don’t you think? This is so basic, it should be like a standard production of Romeo & Juliet. Shouldn’t the only people who audition for the role of Juliet (in a traditional production) be, I dunno, female?

I recognize that your job is to get a person into an opening at some company. And I further understand some people who will change their minds with enough incentives. I also know that there are folks who rent apartments briefly. But really – at the very least – be up front, immediately – with the location, and stop wasting both of our times.

#5 – Vagueness

Oh, man. You can’t be bothered to say anything about the position? Then how the hell can you honestly expect to get the right people in? I know that, a lot of the time, HR is the one writing the job description. But, truly (and this goes quadruple for large organizations), the job description should be a part of the company’s overall records. And so when HR (or whoever) writes up the job description, they should pull the basic framework of it from their records. And said records should be updated, perhaps every year, with things like new software versions and anything else that’s fairly major that might have changed.

Case in point. I used to work in data analysis. And this should have a basic description, which should include the system(s) being used, the version(s) of software and the general day-to-day activities. So is the opening more report creating, or report running? Will I train people in how to read it? Will I perform analysis in order to help senior management interpret it? Or am I supposed to just churn out whatever the system spits out? Of course, the upside to all of this is, I get to have ready-made questions in the event of an interview.

#4 – Requiring Salary Expectations Way Too Early in the Process

I have seen, on several occasions, vague job descriptions requiring some form of salary expectation mentioned up front. So I get that you want to weed people out early, and waste less time. I get that, and I do appreciate it. However, this is so early, it’s not funny. Plus, if I don’t know who you are, I have few ways of figuring out whether my # is anywhere near jibing with yours. And I change my expectations, depending upon what, exactly, you want me to do. The application stage is a lousy time to ask about money – on both ends.

#3 – Requiring Me to Waste Time Updating Preexisting Information Manually

A rather large employer in my area (Boston) uses a resume management system with both a resume piece and a manual piece. I filled out the manual piece in – no lie – 2008. It remains that way, even as I provide an updated resume. What to do? Do I erase the entire shebang, and just send in the resume? Or do I update? Something else? It provides a distorted picture of where I’ve been. Make up your mind – resume or manual entry. Or, better yet, just take my resume. I suppose this is the corollary to #8.

#2 – No LinkedIn Functionality

While I suppose this is not strictly necessary, it’s awfully nice to have. And, in particular, if you’re advertising the job itself on LinkedIn, why can’t I just apply by connecting you to my profile there?

#1 – Security to Beat Fort Knox

Of course, I want to maintain my own security. I certainly don’t want anyone else to be able to mess with my profile. But why, oh why, do you need me to change my password every other month, to some wacky combo of letters, numbers, special characters and, I dunno, cuneiform?

I swear, the security on some of these apps ends up more complicated and Byzantine than I have for my bank account!

Huh, maybe I should just change banks. Harvey’s Money-o-Rama might no longer cut it.

Two Dishonorable Mentions

A – Seemingly Endless Questions

And the pet peeves continue! Because apparently, you do not trust me enough to self-select out of the running because I don’t know Software version infinity plus one or whatever. But, really, folks! Save something for the interview! Because I guarantee you, you will not get every single thing answered beforehand.

B – Interviewing Too Many People

Screen on the phone. Then screen with your resume software. Screen with your keyword searches. And then screen with your well-written job description. Screen with your HR people calling. Screen with your published salary range. Finally, screen with a little social media investigating. And then your interview process can be for 1 – 5 people who can do the job. And decide amongst them based upon the intangibles.

Yet I have been in interview situations where there were a good twenty people up for one position! Sheesh! You are wasting everybody’s time. And, frankly, behavior like this makes me wonder about you as a company, and about you as a manager. Do you always hem and haw like this? Do you know naught of efficiency?

Don’t worry, I’ve got good things to say about the job search process. And I’ll post them. But for right now, these are the real stinkers. Got any pet peeves you’d like to share?

Employer Access to Employee Passwords

Employer Access to Employee Passwords

Employee Passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.

So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So before you reflexively say no, the truth is, unless the is expressly forbids it, companies can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees and demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. As a result, a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.

Massachusetts

First of all, here in the Bay State, a bill was introduced in May of 2014 which would block employer access to social media passwords. Because The Boston Globe reported on this. And according to State Senator Cynthia Creem, a Democrat from Newton, who originally filed the Password Protection Act, demanding passwords as a condition of employment, “doesn’t seem acceptable.”

Louisiana

In addition, House Bill 340

“Creates the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act; prohibits employers and educational institutions from requesting or requiring individuals to disclose information that allows access to or observation of personal online accounts; prohibits employers and educational institutions from taking certain actions for failure to disclose information that allows access to personal online accounts; limits liability for failure to search or monitor the activity of personal online accounts.”

And this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Hampshire

Furthermore, House Bill 414, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,

“Relates to privacy in the workplace and legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements; prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose his or her social media or electronic mail passwords; provides that violations by employers subjects them to a civil penalty; provides that the cost items of every collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state shall be approved by the Fiscal Committee of the General Court before each takes effect.”

Oklahoma

In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s House Bill 2372 says,

“Relates to labor; prohibits employer from requesting or requiring access to social media account of certain employees; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to social media account; authorizes civil actions for violations; provides for recovery of attorney fees and court costs; defines terms; provides for codification; provides an effective date.”

And this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rhode Island

Furthermore, House Bill 5255, per the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Establishes a social media privacy policy for students and employees.”

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
English: Great seal of the state of Rhode Island Français : Sceau du Rhode Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tennessee

In addition, Tennessee’s Senate Bill 1808, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,

“Creates the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014 which prevents an employer from requiring an employee to disclose the username and password for the employee’s personal internet account except under certain circumstances.”

Wisconsin

And then in Wisconsin, State Bill 223, per the National Conference of State Legislatures,

“Relates to employer access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of employees and applicants for employment; [and] relates to educational institution access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of students and prospective students;
and “relates to landlord access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of tenants and prospective tenants; provides a penalty.”.

Other States

In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country. However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states have these laws. Except for Massachusetts, which pended at the first writing of this blog post. Otherwise, all were enacted in 2014. Furthermore, these laws prohibit employers from gaining access to employees’ social media account passwords. I list them by the year the protection was enacted:

  • 2012 – California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey
  • 2013 – Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont (provides for a study only) and Washington

Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.

Facebooker, beware.

When NOT to Post on Social Media Platforms

When NOT to Post on Social Media Platforms

When NOT to Post on Social Media Platforms? Timing, as you might expect, is everything when it comes to posting on social media platforms. After all, if you, say, tweet when your audience is sleeping, they won’t see your tweet. It’ll be lost in the mountain of missed social media communications.

Social Media Landscape - Social Media Platforms
Social Media Landscape (Photo credit: fredcavazza)

We all have such a mountain of missed communications and connections. Social media just moves way too quickly for us to see, comment on, share, and experience everything. We’re only human, and of course that’s fine. Your mission, though, is to post when your audience will be around, not when they’ll be offline, or busy with work, or settled into bed for the night.

Zzzz AKA La La La I Can’t Hear You!

According to Kate Rinsema of AllTop (Guy Kawasaki‘s great site), the following are the most godawful worst times to post.

  • Facebook – midnight to 8 AM
  • Google+ – 6 PM to 8 AM
  • Instagram – midnight to 8 AM
  • LinkedIn – 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Pinterest – 1 to 7 AM and 5 – 7 PM
  • Tumblr – 12 AM to 12 PM
  • Twitter – 8 PM – 8 AM

But pay attention to your audience. Maybe their night owls. Maybe they live on the other side of the planet.

I’m Here and I’m Listening

These are reportedly the best times to post on social media platforms:

  • Facebook – 1 to 4 PM
  • Google+ – 9 AM to 11 AM
  • Instagram – 5 PM to 6 PM
  • LinkedIn – 5 PM to 6 PM
  • Pinterest – 8 PM to 11 PM
  • Tumblr – 7 PM to 10 PM
  • Twitter – 1 PM to 3 PM

What About Different Time Zones?

Articles like this often vex me, because there usually isn’t any consideration taken when it comes to customers, readers, and audience crossing time zones.

My suggestion is to take these times as your own, for your own time zone, unless your audience is on the other side of the Earth. Try for some wiggle room, e. g. if you’re on the East Coast of the United States, like I am, you might want to time things for later during the window if you’re aiming for an audience pretty much only in America. But for a European audience, you should aim for earlier in the window but recognize that, with a minimal five-hour difference, you might not hit the window perfectly.

Or, you could set at least your tweets to run more than once. If you do this, though, I suggest spreading them apart by a day, say, posting post #1 on Monday at the start of the window, and post #2 at the end, and then switching them on Wednesday or the like.  But repeating other postings is probably going to be overkill for your audience. Try using the #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) tag when repeating your posts.

Caveat marketer.

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

"Book

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a bit too cleverly named, but the premise is an interesting one. Essentially, what Gary Vaynerchuk is saying is, little bits of content and engagement which reach your potential customers are the setup for the big finish (which is not really a finish, actually) of a call to action and an attempt to make a sale.

The other major premise of the book is that all platforms have their own native quirks and idiosyncrasies. Therefore what is reliable on Pinterest, might fall flat on Facebook. What is killer on Tumblr might get a shrug on Instagram. And what is awesome on Twitter might bring the meh elsewhere.

Breaking Down What Went Wrong, and What Went Right

The most powerful part of this work was in the analysis and dissection of various real-life pieces of content on the various platforms. Why did something not work? Maybe the image was too generic or too small or too blurry. Or maybe the call to action was too generic and wishy-washy, or the link did not take the user directly to the page with the sales information or coupon. Or maybe there was no link or no logo, and the user was confused or annoyed.

While this book was assigned for my Community Management class, the truth is, I can also see it as applying to the User-Centered Design course at Quinnipiac. After all, a big part of good user-centric design is to not confuse or annoy the user. Vaynerchuk is looking to take that a step further, and surprise and delight the consumer.

Give people value. So give them what they want and need, or that at least makes them smile or informs them. In the meantime, show your humanity and your concern.

And work your tail off.

A terrific read. Everyone in this field should read this book.

Rating

5/5 Stars

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

Your Network is important. So you’ve decided to join LinkedIn. And you’ve even posted your resume. That’s great! Now what? What do you do about your network?

This is icon for social networking website. Th... Your Network
This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have already received an invitation or two to connect. Or you may be starting to realize that having a resume out there isn’t enough. You’re right. You need to forge bonds with others.

So, who should you link to?

The short answer is: everyone.

The long answer is also: everyone.

Two Schools of Thought

Now, there are people who will disagree with me, and such is their prerogative. However, the truth is, when you’re looking for a job, you tend to need all the networking help you can get. Your dentist. And your former college roommate. Your brother-in-law. Because a traditional network goes beyond just former colleagues and classmates. It branches out and eventually begins to include people who are friends of friends. The same is true online.

Finding Connections Among People You Know

So one thing you can do is, open up your address book to LinkedIn and allow them to send a networking invitation to the people in it. Your present and former colleagues are probably either already on LinkedIn or are contemplating joining. Most will be receptive to your invitation. And as for your family, they will probably also be fairly receptive to linking. Even if your cousin is geographically remote and in a very different industry from yours, that does not mean that the connection is a complete waste of time. As for the other names in your book (your babysitter, perhaps), use your own judgment. Personally, I think you should ask everyone, but I can see where someone might balk at asking everyone they’ve ever known to link to them.

And that’s all right, but you may have unnecessarily cut yourself off from potential opportunities. So, what’s next?

Growing Your Connections List

Beyond the people you know, there are not only the people they know, but also people who you want to link but you don’t know them yet.

What? You don’t want to meet new people?

Then, with all due respect, why are you on a networking website to begin with?

I don’t mean to sound flip. But the concept behind networking is to, well, network. So that means you need to meet people you don’t know, and go outside your comfort zone a little bit.

Objections?

But, you say, they’ll know my name and address. Your name, yes. As for your address – no, not unless you’ve got it in your online resume. And you shouldn’t have it there, although at least your general location can most likely be inferred, given where much of your network lives. Yet to that I say, so what? Your address is on your mailbox, and in the telephone directory. It can be found in tax records and vote registration rolls.

It is not hard to find. And you are neither hiding it nor better preserving your identity or your privacy in any way by not opening yourself up to this kind of linking.

So, link. Indiscriminately? Not exactly. Avoid known spammers. And, if someone you’ve linked to turns out to be a spammer, drop and report them. You don’t need to be tarred by that.

LIONs

And, how do you attract people? Should you be just messaging people, willy nilly? No. Instead join any LinkedIn LION group.

What’s a LION? It’s a LinkedIn Open Networker. This will signal to people that you are open to networking with anyone but a spammer. Too many invitations? Just leave whichever LION group you’d joined. You can always rejoin later.

Targeting Connections at Target Companies

Who else? Try connecting with people working at companies you’re targeting. And, if it’s a very large company, try narrowing your connection requests to just people in the departments, and/or with the job titles or descriptions, that you are directly targeting.

The Art of Asking for a Connection

How do you ask for a connection? There is a ready-made note that LinkedIn pops up for you. It’s fine, but you should modify it. First, call the person by name! I don’t want to positively respond to a generic note – do you? So, call me by name! What else? Make sure you thank the person.

Anything else? One last thing – tell the person why you want to link with them. It can be brief, just one sentence is fine. You want to link to me because of my work at a particular company? Then say something like, I’m interested in linking to you because of your work at ___ company. Want to link to me because of a job I’ve had? Then write something like, I’d like to link to you because I’m looking to become a ___, which I see you’ve already done. Understandably, these notes are not too terribly exciting, but they are short and to the point and they get the job done.

Downsides

Be aware that, if you are dinged enough times by people who say they don’t know you, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to link later. So, proactively go out to link with the following people:

  • Friends and family
  • Current and former colleagues
  • Known LIONs and
  • People in companies you want to get into, but only if you send them personal notes and do so sparingly.

Who should you allow to link to you? That’s easy – anyone but a known spammer.

Grow your network. Here’s an area where size really does matter. Quality matters, of course, but quantity is going to open a lot of doors as well. Like it or not, an impression is made by a large network. So go plant those seeds!

Next: Offline Meetings.

The Karmic Wheel Turns

Social Media Karma

What is the Karmic Wheel?

I was once contacted by a friend, Phil Butler, to write an article for the Examiner.

Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma... Karmic Wheel
Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma. Illustration from Hinduism Today, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, Phil and I had known each other for a few years. We met through LinkedIn.

We have never actually seen each other, in person. He’s not even on the same continent as I am. Yet I wrote the article all the same. It’s on Food Addictions and Treatments.

Now, did I expect fame and fortune from all this?

Well, I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice. But do I honestly think that empires will rise and fall based upon my one little article?

Of course not.

Karmic Wheel Spinning

But I think it illustrates the point I have made about collaboration. That is, sometimes you just up and do something for someone. And you do it because you just, well, want to do something for someone.

So that ends up a reward unto itself, is it not?

And by the way, I hope you do read the article. Because I think it’s the kind of thing that’s got to be written about. And it continues to shock me that other writers wouldn’t touch the subject matter with a ten-foot pole, as if it would give them cooties to talk about addiction. As if being at all sympathetic with people who are ill would, somehow, mean they were condoning those lifestyle choices or admitting that they, too, were imperfect.

Hey, I will shout it from the rooftops – I’m imperfect!

And if I’m not mistaken, the sky did not just come crashing down.

Go forth, and I hope you’ll collaborate, and do things for others. And the karmic wheel will turn for you, too.

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.

And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way of supporting indie authors even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book. Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).

The Sum and Substance of Your Review

What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.

Negative Reviews

What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). However, if the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
  3. Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term interesting works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.

Really going negative

  1. Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Yet is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). However, if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.

Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, or Tumblr rebloggings. Plus it’s clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content goes to more people and you are supporting indie authors. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies with larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.

You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). And you can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends. However if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?

If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling?

You can also act as a beta reader when you’re supporting indie authors. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? Or the protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). Instead, this is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.

As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.

Final Thoughts on Supporting Indie Authors

The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. Or you get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Resume

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Resume

LinkedIn is almost a corporate version of Facebook, a serious social networking site amidst all the chatter. If you are looking for a job, you need to be on LinkedIn. In case you might be looking for work again some time in your lifetime, you need to be on LinkedIn. If you might ever be called upon to professionally recommend someone, or professionally network together people from disparate times of your life (such as a college classmate and a person you know from your last job), you need to be on LinkedIn. And if you ever need to showcase your credentials to a mass audience, for any reason whatsoever, you need to be on LinkedIn. And the cornerstone of it all is your resume.

Who Should Be on LinkedIn?

Your Resume
This UML diagram describes the domain of LinkedIn social networking system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if there’s anyone else over the age of eighteen left in the United States, or potentially on the planet, chances are pretty good that they need to be on LinkedIn as well.

Why?

All of the aforementioned are perfectly good reasons to be on LinkedIn, but there’s one more. It puts together all of your professional data into one safe, trusted and uniform online package. Hence LinkedIn, like your resume itself, gives Hiring Managers a well-presented collection of information about you as a worker.

But that is if you take the time to make a complete, compelling and well thought out profile. If not, well, then LinkedIn can become a fast ticket to oblivion.

Hence, you need to put together a cogent profile, and the first place to start is with your resume. It will be similar, but not identical, to the resume you provide directly to Hiring Managers.

Improving Your LinkedIn Resume

So here are some tips for making your LinkedIn resume as good as it can be:

  • List all of your major jobs, no matter how long ago you did them, so long as the company (or a successor) is still in business. This is counter to what is normally put into a regular resume. On LinkedIn, you don’t really have a length issue. Plus, you want to list as many companies as possible in order to make linking easier with a greater number of people
  • Place key words and phrases in your job descriptions. People hunting through LinkedIn are most likely to be using the search feature, so you need to have words and phrases listed that people will be using to search for someone like you. E. g. if you’re looking for work as a Business Analyst, don’t just include the title – also include the fact that you did (assuming this is accurate) requirements gathering, which is a main Business Analyst task across multiple disciplines

More Tips

  • List the different types of software you’ve used, with versions. This is, again, to make your profile come up in searches. E. g. if you used Excel 2003 and Excel 2007, make sure they are listed that way.
  • Just like with a standard resume, use action words and well-defined metrics to show what you did in your career. “Worked on the Smith project” is nowhere near as impressive as “Performed quantitative analysis; these recommendations saved the company 20% of the estimated costs on the Smith project”. Numbers are impressive. Use them.
  • Make sure your company listings jibe with what’s already on LinkedIn. That is, let the software give you choices (if any) for the company name. If you worked for a very large company (say, Fidelity Investments), the company name is already on LinkedIn. Don’t type it in yourself. This will automatically make it easier for you to link to everyone else who has listed Fidelity Investments as a current or past employer, and
  • Feel free to add more than one current employer, including any volunteer work you may be doing. Again, this will add to the ease with which you can link to others.

Next, we’ll look at why all of this linking is so important.

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Profile Page

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Profile Page

What’s with your Profile Page?

You’re doing it. And you’ve got your resume up. You’re answering questions. And you’re joining groups. You’re even meeting people offline. But you aren’t getting an enormous number of invitations to connect.

LinkedIn Profile Page
LinkedIn (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Or, perhaps, you’re blogging and tweeting. But you’re not getting a lot of readers in either medium. And you’d love to get some of your LinkedIn buddies to read some of your stuff. Maybe you want to use your writing and social media skills as a part of your overall job search strategy.

So the most obvious place to look, and to fix, is your Profile page.

Just like with a resume, a news story, or even if you were trying to sell your home, it pays to spruce up the first thing people see. Hence special care should be taken, as this is your first (and it may very well be your only) chance to make an impression. There are any number of things you can do to assure that this impression is a positive one.

Driving Traffic

And, you can even use it to help you drive a little traffic to your own website and/or blog. Here’s how:

  • Make sure that you make use of all available fields, and customize these as you are able.
  • Next, list your blog.
  • and I also recommend adding Twitter.

So assuming that your resume has been integrated in its entirety, your next task should be to update the summary and specialties sections in your profile page. First of all, the specialties section is essentially just for keywords, so load them up. However, the summary section should be more grammatical. So don’t make it an old-fashioned and generic personal statement. Instead, highlight your main differences here.

Finally, with a little polish, your front door (profile page) can look mighty inviting to all.

Next: Groups and Answers.