Archive for the 'Social Media' Category

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How to devalue your LinkedIn Recommendations

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Over the past month, I have received two endorsement requests from connections in LinkedIn. One from a high school classmate I have not seen in over 15 years, and another from a friend who I know from non-work activities. My question is, why do they think I can endorse them? Is this their fault, or my fault? My fault for accepting them as connections in the first place, or their fault for thinking a recommendation from me is what is going to make their profile stronger?

The first I ignored completely. I have not seen the guy for years, and have no idea if he is a good employee. I think he was student body president at some point, but can I judge his performance accurately after all these years? He had, and has, great hair. Ok, good hair. All hair is good hair at my age. I did not bother letting him know why I could not endorse him, I actually figured he sent requests to every connection, hoping to bulk his profile, so I did not consider this something we needed to discuss.

The second, as is usually the case, is more complicated. This is someone I see about four times a year, so I can’t really just ignore. Thankfully, I also feel really comfortable telling him I can’t endorse him based on our lack of a professional relationship. I’m ok with that, and I suspect he will be as well. Thankfully, neither is a former co-worker who just does bad work. Those are the awkward conversations that we all need to brave enough to have, but you’re on your own there!

As an employer, would you rather read through three awesome recommendations, or see a person has 20+ recommendations and assume they are great? I guess, based on feedback on how long HR spends on résumés (10-20 seconds), maybe the numbers game is the best bet. However, what if the HR person decides to look at those recommendations? Of course, they will never read them all, but they might see a few. Maybe they only see the generic ones from your high school buddies, and they don’t see the one from the VP of your company that details how you saved the company $500,000? Probably not what you were shooting for when bulking your profile.

If you ever meet with a career counselor, they will advise you to remove anything from your résumé that does not say something important about you. Something that adds value. I think we should approach recommendations with this in mind. Average is not worth it.

Thoughts? Do you believe in quality over quantity?

Bonus Tip: If someone writes you a disappointing recommendation, ask them to fix it. If you are not comfortable with that, then just use settings to make it invisible in your LinkedIn profile.

Note: Between drafting and publishing this post, I heard from one of the guys who contacted me for a recommendation. It turns out he is being laid off this month. I still can’t write that recommendation, but I can see why he might be seeking the extra boost to his profile, and will try to help in other ways.

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LinkedIn and Porn: Like chocolate and peanut butter?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I had no intention of writing a follow-up piece about LinkedIn this month. No intention at all until yesterday, when I stumbled upon Charly Barry.

A few days ago, I noticed a contact on LinkedIn was part of the Fidelity Investments Alumni group. Although there are several groups with variations on this name, I figured it couldn’t hurt to join. I submitted my request to join, and a few days later, was accepted. Nothing weird so far.

Usually, when I join a new group, I check out the “members” page to see who I might know in the first few pages. LinkedIn’s default “sort” is by how you are connected, so your 1st level connections come up first, followed by 2nd level, and so on. It turns out this is a smallish group of under 400 people, and I only have a few 1st level connections in the group. I then notice an intriguing member who is a 2nd connection to me. Charly Barry. Current position: Sperm Bank Donor at 4 Your Skin. This was either a masterful piece of personal branding, or there was something wrong with this account.

I click into his account, and sure enough, he lists Fidelity Investments as his only employer for 22 years, as Vice President of Architecture no less! Ok, interesting.

Oh, he went to Bates College, good school…got his Masters…Yeah, you probably see where this is going by now.

Although I did not click through, I see the website in his profile links you to pornhub(dot)com. I am assuming that is exactly what it sounds like.

At this point, I am laughing out loud. And then it hits me: How is this guy a 2nd level connection? Doesn’t that mean that someone I am connected to is connected to him directly? How can that be? I look on the right side of the screen, and I see that three of my connections are linked to this guy!!!!! Three! And none of them are pure LIONs either (Open Networkers who connect to anyone).

Yikes

Yikes

Even weirder, he seems to have written two recommendations!!!

So, as follow up to my last post, please please please think before you accept every single connection on LinkedIn. This is the best example I have ever seen to support a measured approach. In addition, if you are like me and allow fellow group members to send you messages, you might find yourself receiving unwanted solicitations, although I have never heard of this happening. Finally, if you start a Group on LinkedIn, try to keep an eye out for the spammers! It won’t reflect well on you in the end.

I have deliberately not included a link to his profile, and I will be reporting the account to LinkedIn and the group owner for removal, but I have included screen prints below for your amusement.

Note: I can’t help but think the name of this post might make this end up in a lot of spam folders!

(Click below for full size images)

Charly Page 1

Charly Page 2

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The Weakest Link(edIn)

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I can no longer deny what has become obvious to me.  I have failed to use LinkedIn appropriately for too long, and it’s starting to make me rethink my approach.  Maybe you can learn from my mistake!

LinkedIn suggests: Accept invitations only from those who you know and trust.

This past week, I finally realized how low I’ve let my requirements drop.  I have long accepted connections from mere acquaintances.  However, this time I accepted an invitation to connect from a former co-worker who I know for a fact is NOT a good worker.  He was a nice guy, but we worked on a project together, and he exhibited some of my least favorite qualities.  He complained when asked to do work.  He would kiss up to the project leader, and then disregard her when she was gone.  He consistently did the bare minimum that was required, or even less.  This person was an awful teammate.  I kept hoping he would drop out of the project, but he never did.  Is this someone you want working for you?  Me neither.  Would I ever consider recommending this person, or offering to connect them to another contact?  No.  So why did I accept his request?

It’s an easy answer actually.  I was laid off a year ago.  Like most people in that situation, I started networking like crazy.  I met a lot of people, and many of them elected to connect with me via LinkedIn despite our lack of real connection.  I should note that I rarely reached out myself unless we had broached the topic of connecting during our own conversation.  Here I am, one year later, with 176 connections, and 3 invitations in my inbox.  How many of these are quality connections?

My connections:

Category # Description
Work – Good 61 These are people who I can legitimately recommend based on their work.
Work – Casual 40 We worked in the same company, but I can’t really tell you much about the quality of their work. To varying degrees, I can likely tell you if they are a nice person.
Networking 49 People I met at networking groups, or professional groups (Java User Groups, Agile Bazaar)
Family and Friends 13 I know these people well enough to tell you they are good people, and I might be able to judge how they might be at work.
Old School 8 People I went to school with, and may not have seen in 15-20 years. I can’t say too much about these folks, but I can vouch that they were good people then.
LION 4 These are those annoying but necessary people who with Link with anyone. They can possibly be useful since most are recruiters. We are mutually predatory, so it’s ok.
Work – Bad 1 The inspiration for this post. People I can verify are BAD to work with.

The good news: My largest segment is the “Work – Good” category. Bad news, it’s only about 32% of my overall network. I think I can add some of my friends and family section, but still low. Yikes.

Although LinkedIn doesn’t offer one, I think I’ll start using the following rating system for my contacts:

5 stars: You can ask me for a LinkedIn recommendation, and I will connect you with my other contacts.
4 stars: I can connect you with my contacts, but it’s been a while since we actually worked together, so I can’t write a recommendation. (I can recommend you generally, not specifically)
3 stars: I can likely connect you with my contacts, but only for information, not for information interviewing.
2 stars: I can provide you with information about a company I have worked for, but will not share contacts with you.
1 star: I can’t remember what you look like, and will likely deflect requests in a manner to suggest I can’t help.

Next step:  I am going to do the right thing, and drop the Weakest link.  In fact, I’ll do it before I post this!  How about everyone else?  I think I will leave them for now.  However, I will look at future connections with a more discerning eye.  If we are already linked via a Group, we do not need to be connected directly.  If you are a recruiter, I may connect since you are unlikely to ask me for a connection anyway, and may be able to help me out some day.  If I met you once, and we started building a relationship, well maybe LinkedIn will help us get to the next level.  I’m quite torn, as it’s hard to flat out reject connections, because this is an accepted way to network.

What are the alternatives?  Well, I will relay one experience.  I met a guy named Larry at a networking meeting last summer.  We had a great conversation, and I wanted to continue the conversation.  As he had no business card, I looked him up in LinkedIn and invited him to connect.  He wrote a great message back explaining why he was not comfortable with that, based on LinkedIn’s own standards, and that started a great dialogue.  We have continued that dialogue since then, and I can honestly say I know a lot more about him than about many of my contacts.  I still don’t know if he is great at his job, but I know he’s one smart dude.  My point here is that there are other ways to connect if one chooses to truly build a relationship, versus just adding another notch to your LinkedIn bedpost.  Hmmm, that got weird.

Although I do enjoy the email correspondence, it seems much more personal than LinkedIn messaging.  Email is in my personal space, whereas LinkedIn offers that extra layer of separation that many people appreciate, myself included.  Even more personal would be talking on the phone, which I honestly hate, and would consider a total intrusion.

In the end, it should be about Quality, but it’s so much easier to expand your network by Quantity instead.  It takes patience over time to truly build a strong network.  I recently started a new job.  I hope, in about 12 months, I will have proved my value and will be able to connect with many of my co-workers.  Because I work remotely with only one other person right now, that might only turn into a few connections.  However, they will be quality, the types that can be of value, so they will be worth the wait!

Some might say, “Hey, are you sure you want to put this out where your LinkedIn connections can see it?”  I say yes, because only my good connections will make the extra effort to support me by reading my blog posts.  Those weaker connections aren’t likely to see this at all.

I invite you all to analyze your own results and post them in the comments below, I’d love to see them and hear how you do your analysis.  Of course, I can’t help but wonder if my connection count will fall after this post!

Now, what to do with those three invites in my inbox?

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Two months in: Learnings from my blog

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I officially started this blog on April 1st.  As May ends, I am reflecting on what I have learned over these two months.

Stuff I’ve learned:

It is hard to break out from your core “audience” by magic.  Although I have increased readership from seven for my first post, to 50 for my more recent posts, it is hard to break on through to a larger audience.  My core “audience” of course consists of people I already know, who I contact via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

I really enjoy writing.  I always have, but it’s rewarding to get positive feedback.  It’s also a lot of work.

Don’t be afraid to scrap a post if it is junk.  I have about five of these so far, so about 25% of what I write gets dumped. Most are only a paragraph or two, as it’s easy to see when you have failed.  More importantly, I posted some that were just not good.

On that same topic…Don’t force it.  Pick good topics.

Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.  I haven’t blogged in over a week, because I didn’t have a topic.  That said, the list of people who start a blog and abandon it shortly thereafter is a long one, so don’t be one of them!  According to Technorati, of 133 million blogs worldwide, only 7.4 million have been updated in the past 120 days (2008 data).  I have four blogs, and only one has been updated in the past 120 days. That said, one is a placeholder, one was for a short-term event, and one is linked to my Java project rollouts, and has been idle as I work on projects for others.  (Game time: Try to find my other three blogs. Credit in my next post for anyone who can find all three)

I comment on other peoples’ blogs more often now.  This leads to more readers, plus I recognize the value of feedback.  Every comment on my own blog is a coup, indicating that I engaged the reader with my topic.

People like pictures.

Two months, by the numbers:
Posts: 15
Page Views: Over 750
Average Views: 45 per post (excluding the “About” page)
Comments from people I don’t know: 1 (this is a huge achievement)

Most popular post so far:
I’m not a doctor, but I write like one beats out the Beard branding post by 1 view.

I have a few ideas rattling around my head right now, but haven’t pinned down the best topic.  The fact is, I started this blog as a self-promotional tool, and it has rather failed so far in that respect.  In reality, it’s more fun to write about other things.  Yes, I want to promote my skills and desire for full-time employment, but I can’t deny that those posts might be less interesting.  Maybe I’ll test that out later this week with something designed purely with my own self-interests in mind!

Thanks again for reading, feel free to send in topic ideas to keep my creative juices flowing!

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Becoming an email spammer

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

If you are like me, you hate spam emails.  If you are like you, you might even hate getting my updates from the blog.  I need some feedback on that topic.

As you know, I am trying to get this blog out to as many people as possible.  In the beginning, I started just sending the link out via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  This would come across as a Status update on each, and that was that.  No follow-up, and no additional push.  Can you tell I’m not in sales?  Anyway, that worked pretty well.  Then, I realized that I have a fair number of contacts with whom I only communicate via email.  Perhaps we are not connected via social media for some reason.  This would include my parents, former co-workers not yet on LinkedIn, etc.  In fact, it really began with my family.  This led to another revelation:  Having a Facebook account doesn’t mean you check it every day.  In fact, this seems even more prevalent in LinkedIn from my own observations.

For example, most people I meet who are in the job hunt are on LinkedIn every day.  They might be adding contacts, researching companies, or otherwise interacting with their profile data and groups.  They are active users, engaged in the tools, and most likely to see your status update.  Most people I meet who are not looking for a job, excluding recruitors, are not using LinkedIn every day.  They have an account that they set up at some point, but they aren’t checking regularly, nor updating regularly.  Although they may get a daily or weekly update via email, are they opening that email at all?  If so, are they clicking the link on my status update?

Issues with using Twitter to propagate your message:  Although it was born out of txting and designed for cell phone updates, many people primarily use Twitter via a desktop application (Twhirl, Tweetdeck, etc.) or the Twitter site.  In addition, unless you are organizing your incoming messages using one of the tools available, you are likely to get more messages than you can keep up with.  I get a lot of messages each day, and mostly skim through them to see it there is anything worth reading.  Yes, I am more likely to read a message from someone I know, but this leads to my point.  If you don’t know me, will you click my link without a compelling reason?  Not to mention that many people follow you just so you will follow them, but they probably never read your tweets.

Facebook?  The average user has 120 friends, per this study in February 2009, and I have slightly more than this.  The way Facebook is set up, you basically see a stream of updates from your friends.  I usually run through it once or twice a day.  However, if I cut that down to once per day, or every other day, I might not see people’s updates at all.  I can also “hide” updates from certain users, so not all of those contacts are seeing my updates regardless.

How do I better communicate with the social media networks?  I admit, I have no ideas for Facebook or Twitter.  I could send messages to groups of people in Facebook, but that seems abusive.  For LinkedIn, however, I have the option to export the contact information, and add them to my email listing.  In this manner, they would basically receive the blog post link directly to their inbox.  We have an established relationship, so I don’t feel this is a violation of our understanding.  I am debating this as an option.

To my final group of contacts:  People who have given me their card at a networking event.  Some of these people I had long conversations with, some I met in passing.  Most I have only seen once or twice.  In almost all cases, they are unemployed, due to the types of meetings I am attending lately.  Some of these people have become LinkedIn contacts already.  By giving me their card, does that imply that I could add them to an e-mailing list?  I am thinking of compiling the addresses from the cards received, and using them to expand the reach of the blog.  I would include an option to “unsubscribe”, although this would involve sending an email to me directly, which would make most people feel like jerks.  I could do some additional research and possible create an automated unsubscribe link.  Either way, they could just tag me as spam and have their email eliminate me automatically, with me none-the-wiser.  Thoughts on this?  They gave me a their card in an effort to network, as did I.  Part of my networking effort is this blog.  Ergo, emailing them my blog should be ok, right?

I am a big “do unto others” guy, ignoring any religious implications therein.  My personal feeling is that sending out a blanket email is not really a violation of the LinkedIn connection, nor of the business card exchange.  I do receive some blanket emails from contacts I have made via these methods.  If it is someone I have a connection to, I usually read the email.  If it is someone I am not, I only read it if the subject seems compelling.  I am ok with this same approach from the people I contact.  I am not selling product, nor calling door-to-door.  I just want to get out my message, and find a good job.  I think most people are happy to help if you tell them how.

I welcome your opinions, and really would like the feedback.  Sometimes, we are too close to a situation to see clearly.  Please comment below, or email me at WillWorkForFree@gmail.com.

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Privacy Concerns in Social Media

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

This is the second post inspired by a networking training I attended last week.  An attendee pulled the instructor aside pre-class and said that she hated networking, and was only in attendance due to her career consultant’s insistence.  It was a classic:  “I hate you, you hate me, stay out of my face.”  I found this immediately gripping and engaging.  Who isn’t interested in watching someone take on one of her greatest fears? (see reality tv…Fear Factor, Biggest Loser, etc.)

As the session moved along, the instructor asked this attendee if she was using LinkedIn.  She said she was not.  Why not?  She had reason to believe that a former co-worker was using it for gossip.  She mentioned this as if it made sense.  I don’t know where to start here, except to say that this is CRAZY!  Unless you are retired, a fetus, or otherwise not in the job pool, you should be on LinkedIn.  In fact, I would argue that retirees should also be out there “just in case” they wish to get back into part-time work, not unheard of these days as retirement account balances plummet.  Nearly everyone I know signed up for LinkedIn very soon after being laid off, if not before.  I encourage everyone I know to get out there regardless, job seeking or not, and to continually expand their networks!  I have been out there for a while, since pre-layoff, and it has certainly helped me in my search.  More importantly, it will help me in my next search.

Back to this person in my training session:  I am a big believer in “live and let live.”  How you chose to live is none of my business if it doesn’t impact me personally.  However, even I could not hold my tongue on this one.  I believe I let slip, “I’d rather be gossiped about, than be unemployed for the next two years.”  I felt bad for pointing out what should be obvious, but this was really necessary.  Clearly, her career consultant has been unable to effectively communicate the dire job market of today.  She needs to understand that we are all doing things that are not in our comfort zone.  During break, I did speak with her about personal privacy, and this reminded me that I wanted to comment about my own privacy concerns.

I am an incredibly private person.  My former co-workers likely know little about my personal life.  They may not know what town I live in, nor where I went to school, etc.  They certainly don’t know details about my medical history, relationships, or basically anything that is considered my beeswax.  I generally like to keep my personal life personal, so I can relate to this person’s concerns over privacy.  As you can imagine, writing a very public blog about a sensitive topic (job loss, and job search), is not always easy for me.  I also have my resume online, my LinkedIn profile entirely public, and generally my life wide open across many sites.  It’s weird to be so open about my needs, and it’s hard to ask for help.  And yes, it is possible that someone will read this and gossip about it.  In fact, I’m counting on that.  Gossip away, tell your friends, tell your cats.  Just remember to forward them my resume, ok?  If it gets me closer to landing the perfect job, then gossip as much as you want.

On the practical side, privacy settings exist for a reason in most social media sites.  I set them appropriately, and so should you.  If you don’t want to be open to the world, you don’t have to be.  Be smart about it, protect your contact information when you can.  But don’t hide from the world, this is not going to help you land a job.

Hey, Joe Rogan, I signed up on LinkedIn, did I win the $50k?  Fear was not a factor…

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