5 Tips for Professional Networking on LinkedIn

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Because of the rapid growth of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, many people are unsure of how they should draw the line between professional and personal communications. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but if you follow a few rules of thumb, you’ll do a better job of managing your professional brand.

First off, if you aren’t yet familiar with it yet, LinkedIn has become the hot destination for professional networking. It’s the ultimate social and professional mixer that helps people connect through career experiences.

Essentially, you go to LinkedIn to create a living resume. It may help you get discovered by HR recruiters or former co-workers. So it is essential for you to market yourself properly. Here are five easy tips for making the most of LinkedIn.

1. Be professional.
It’s strange to even say this, but you need to treat LinkedIn as you would any other workplace. Consider LinkedIn just another extension of your career, because for now, it kind of is. There are enough working professionals on LinkedIn that you must assume that everything you write is going to be seen and interpreted by some of your co-workers.

Separate your personal online life (e.g., Facebook) with your professional online life (i.e., LinkedIn). There is the “work you” and the “home you.” LinkedIn is the place for the work version of yourself. Continue reading

How to Help Young Marketers Gain Career Experience

Last week, I was on vacation in sunny Florida, and boy did I work. Well, I didn’t work for the agency, but I worked my marketing brain a bunch. And then I had an idea. (Hang with me, it takes a few paragraphs to get there.)

Y’see, after the kids all went to bed, some of the adults would stand outside and chat about the days events. Inevitably, the conversation always turns to “so, what do you do?” Like many of you, I work in emarketing, which includes advertising, branding, strategy, and all that good stuff.

One of the guys on vacation was a small business owner struggling with his company’s place in the competitive landscape. He had built a successful business, but was losing market share in key battlegrounds. The specific details aren’t important, but suffice to say, I put on my marketing hat and we talked for hours about his challenges. In my mind, his next steps included (but weren’t limited to) a SWOT analysis and a repositioning of his brand identity.

Marketing Experience
It all seems to be going well, but at a certain point, I realize I can’t help this guy any further. He needs an agency that’s geared up for his specific marketing needs.

Unfortunately, he’s already struggling, so hiring a marketing agency — even an agency with reasonable rates — may not be feasible. He’s just trying to keep the lights on and his staff employed.

But what if there was a database of young, hungry marketers who were willing to help out a small client in exchange for something they could add to their portfolio? Maybe barter some services, if that’s an option. Continue reading

Free…Me

A true Brand-You story.

Back when I’d graduated college, the job market was pretty tight. Not as tight as now, but jobs were scarce for communications majors.

I was working as an editor and writer, but I really wanted to get a job in public relations. Unfortunately, I had nothing on resume that showed PR experience, so I wasn’t getting called for interviews.

A friend told about a PR event she ran for a hospital. It sounded good, so I asked if I could borrow the idea.

I visited my local town rec center and offered to plan a “Summer Cycle Safety” event for kids in town. Something to teach the kiddies the rules of the road and encourage them to wear helmets ‘n’ stuff. I wasn’t looking for any money; just a volunteer project for experience.

They liked the idea (and my fee), and agreed to let me organize the event. Got a local bike shop to donate a helmet. Found a local sports-medicine physician to talk about bike injuries. Involved the police department, who brought safety literature. Some refreshments, a few signs, and we had an event.

With the Summer Cycle Safety event, I wrote a press release, which ran in the town paper. And I braced myself for the hundreds of people who would come streaming to the event. (Actually 25 people showed up, but who’s counting?)

Fortunately one reporter/photographer showed up, took a few shots, and we got a small article and photo in the town paper. But that was all I needed. I finally had something for my resume!

The very next PR job I applied for included my freshly updated portfolio. They called me. And I got the job.

I gave a little of me — for free — and it paid off.

Help Wanted: Search Specialist

As we increasingly move to an Internet-centric society, we’re seeing all kinds of new and interesting careers spring up. Soon, we’ll see some interesting career opportunities for smart, adaptable workers.

A few years ago, we saw the rise of professional bloggers and search engine marketing specialists. Right now, we’re seeing professionals developing mobile applications and social media widgets.

In 2009, we’ll see the evolution of the Search Specialist. Now, these people are already out there in niche jobs (and they’ll probably be able to find this blog posting). But coming soon, we’ll probably see headhunters and HR departments looking for knowledge workers who can quickly and effectively mine the Net for super-specific information.

It would be natural to expect this to go to someone with a library sciences degree, but I think Search Specialists will evolve from people who work within specific industries.

I’ll give you an example. I worked as an editor at a small e-marketing agency specializing in pharmaceutical communications directed at healthcare professionals. On my team, I had an editor who was a wizard at uncovering information on the web.

Sure, she was good at Google, but that’s a given. She also knew how to dig deeper and get information in other search engines, like Yahoo, Ask, and MSN (all of which give different results). She also knew how to search blogs, message boards, and news articles to dig up more information.

This is going back a few years before the big YouTube and Twitter explosion. But a Search Specialist will be the kind of person who can quickly and effectively dig up, organize, and present highly focused data sources.

In our case, this editor could dig up information, sort the gems from the junk, and generate an informed position on just about any topic you can imagine. Going forward, and it’s going to be important to access all kinds of information on the public Net, even the stuff that isn’t well tagged and indexed by Google.

Blogs, videos, Flash interfaces, games, e-books, Twitters posts, social networks (including Facebook & MySpace), manuals, databases, closed communities, news archives, software, all contain valuable information. Some of this information is indexed, but most of it is not.

Several industries already leverage search specialists, including patent and other legal businesses. In the future, other industries will seek people out who can mine and measure information from Net sources.

Search Specialists will be needle-in-a-haystack researchers who defy traditional job roles. Some of them will be research specialists or editors or scientists or journalists or work from home entrepreneurs.

In the beginning, they will be underpaid and under appreciated. But one day they will be valued and coveted knowledge workers who can extract stubborn data from nearly any source. In the right organization, they will be highly paid and highly promotable, especially as they research corporate strategies.

If you like to search, discover, and organize, it’s probably a good time to start positioning yourself as a Search Specialist in your current career. Eventually, as the career landscape shifts, you’ll be prepared for a new career as a Search Specialist.