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Energize Your LinkedIn Profile for 2017

When I first began my business, I would often ask successful individuals “what is the secret to your success?” The answer I most frequently received was “networking Roz, you have to build a strong network.”

In fact one super successful entrepreneur passionately proclaimed that “your network is your net worth!”

Needless to say, I realized pretty quickly that without a network of sponsors, cold calling was never going to help my business get off the ground. This need to build a network is probably why the techniques from Harvey Mackay’s bestselling book, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, remain etched in my mind forever.

In today’s virtual world, networking has taken on a whole new meaning and level of importance.

With job security being a thing of the past, coupled with a business environment that is in a state of constant change, your ability to make meaningful connections as opposed to simple contacts, is not only essential, it is mandatory.

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Of course, building your own strong network will require your discipline, concentrated attention and an intentional plan of action.

That is the goal of this month’s eLetter . . . to help you turn your contacts into connections, so that you will create even greater opportunities to advance your career and realize your bigger future.

The Look, Tell, Participate Approach

Having a contact, and making a connection are two very different things.

A contact is merely a name that used to be in your Rolodex, but is now a memory bit on your screen. Its value is not based on its mere existence, but on how you develop a contact into a true connection and ultimately, a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.

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The great disadvantage of a LinkedIn profile is that you are not physically present. You are not there to shake the other person’s hand, ask them questions or have an opportunity to expand their perception of who you are and what you can do. You are limited by first virtual impressions.

Based on my Look, Tell, Participate approach, I will provide you with the key tips that will energize your LinkedIn profile and expand your reputation.

1. “Look” – A Picture’s Worth

Ask yourself…

1.      Am I proud of my profile photo?

2.      Am I making my best first impression?

3.      How would viewers describe me? Successful? Polished? Professional? Engaging?

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Here are a few important tips for putting your best face forward with your picture impression:

  • Make certain that your picture is current, not older than two years. Out-dated photos create a credibility gap.
  • Your headshot is your calling card. Ditch the selfie, and invest in a professional photographer.
  • Go for a close up and clear headshot in which you are the focal point.
  • Face forward or to the left (looking into your profile content).
  • Dress to impress. Your clothing must reflect the true image you want to portray relative to what you do.
  • Own your power. You are the ambassador to your Linked in profile. Be the central theme by avoiding family photos, vacation photos or photos with your pets.
  • Smile. Use your eyes and mouth to project warmth and excitement.
  • Be consistent. If you post more than one photo throughout your profile, make sure they all look like you at your best.

2. Tell – What’s Your Story?

More than likely, you are being checked out on LinkedIn by prospective recruiters, potential employers and curious customers. In this context, LinkedIn is actually a credibility yardstick that can showcase either the best or worst of who you are.

Beyond the first impressions of your picture, it is ultimately your content that will make or break your profile.

linkedin-pic-11Given its influence and importance, you need to do more than list previous job experiences. You need to tell a compelling story that clearly and effectively demonstrates not only what you do but where your passions lie.

Here are a few suggestions for telling a compelling story about you:

  • You are more than your job title. Rather than simply putting your title or position under your name, let people know what you do in a succinct yet captivating way.
  • What’s your LinkedIn summary? Your goal is to intrigue and differentiate from others. Make it about your unique abilities, not about your company’s achievements.
  • Set the tone by opening with a quote that defines your values, or use a testimonial from a client.
  • When you summarize your accomplishments, be concise from the standpoint of the benefits that others have derived from your expertise.
  • Include images, links or supporting material (PowerPoint, Slideshare, videos, white paper, articles or any other media to expand on your story).
  • Be current. Replace older material with more up-to-date information.

3. Participate – Get In The Game!

Not that long ago, I read an article by Randall Craig, a cherished friend and an expert who speaks on Social Media Strategy, Social Media Risks and Networking. The article titled Eyeballs and Friends: A Social Media Crash?, was about his “anyone-in strategy” for LinkedIn.

Randall believes that people on LinkedIn should be open to accepting more invitations to connect than they currently do. His reasoning is that the larger your network, the closer you are to meaningful introductions.

While it is certainly important to be discerning about accepting invitations to connect, the underlying message is that you have to be an active participant in the development of your social circle or network.

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The following tips will help you to step up both your game and presence:

  • Join targeted LinkedIn groups and then get involved in group discussions. Groups provide an ideal way to interact on a one-to-many basis. Another advantage of group participation is that it enables you to bypass the need to be a first degree connection in order to message someone.
  • Utilize LinkedIn’s blogging platform to post articles and then share far and wide both within the network itself, as well as on other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Here is the link to one of my articles How To Build A Winning Relationship With Your Boss, which was read by more than 281,000 people on LinkedIn Pulse.
  • Like and share relevant updates of your contacts, as well as comment on them. In more cases than not, they will reciprocate by liking and sharing your updates.
  • Personalize all contact requests by explaining why you want to connect.
  • Increase your contacts to over 500 as this indicates you are well connected.
  • Avoid massive LinkedIn mailings such as holiday greeting cards or generic messaging as they can be both intrusive and annoying. The more personal the connection, the deeper the connection becomes.
  • Create a LinkedIn group of your own based on a relevant industry related topic. This will help you to use this group to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, and build a larger community of supporters.

It’s What You Put In

LinkedIn is an ideal professional network through which you will find new clients and new career opportunities.

However, and like everything in life, what you get out of any activity is ultimately “linked” to what you put into it. The key is to make certain that what you are putting in is going to have a positive impact and lasting outcome.

Looking forward to your LinkedIn invitation and wishing you a great start to 2017,

Joyful holidays!

Roz

How to build a smart network (Part 1 of 2)

A recent article in Forbes that has been making the rounds in a variety of publications is titled “The Six People You Need in Your Corner” by Jessica Hagy.

It is an interesting article in that it highlights the importance of forming “a web of connections” that can collectively help you to achieve your career goals.

With my new book “How to Bullet Proof Your Brand” (which will be released later this year), I spend a good deal of time focusing on the importance of networking in both the virtual and physical realms.  But what I have also done is taken the concept of networking or building a web of connections one step further.  Specifically, I not only talk about the why and the how, but also the “who.”

One of the greatest benefits of social networks is the ability to connect with a vast number of people from around the world in a relatively short period of time.  Unfortunately far too many people have become a collector of names rather than a builder of relationships.  They focus solely on the numbers, believing that a sizable network is the ultimate goal.

You should instead focus on building a strategic network.  After all what benefit is a sizable network if the people with whom you are connected have little in common with you or an interest in the benefits of your expertise.  Interestingly enough, past studies have indicated that generally speaking, people interact with only a very small percentage of their entire network on a regular basis.

Given the above, this means that if you are going to invest time in establishing a network of contacts in a LinkedIn or Facebook, then you better make certain that there is a shared or mutual benefit with those individuals with whom you chose to connect.  The same goes for your network in the face-to-face world.

So who do you need in your network?

There are of course many “lists” such as the one referenced in the Hagy article which indicates that your network requires an Instigator, Cheerleader, Doubter, Taskmaster, Connector, and Example person.

Of course, and like so many, I have always liked Gladwell’s Tipping Point list of special people which includes a Salesperson, Connector and Maven.

But to me, it has not been about the titles or designations as much as it has been about roles and accessibility in terms of being able to practically build a network that includes individuals with these important attributes.  Or to put it another way, who are the cornerstone people of your network’s foundation?

In this context, it is imperative to create a solid foundation of expertise starting with establishing a connection with a Coach and a Mentor.  And there is a distinct difference between the two in which each ironically aligns with the attributes from both the Hagy and Gladwell lists.

A Mentor is first and foremost an Example person in that they have the experience and expertise to help you to avoid mistakes in critical career areas.  In short, they have been there, done that people!

A Coach is someone who’s main purpose is to support you and insure that you are accountable to what you dream of creating.  You know what you need to do but your coach will serve as your support anchor and challenge you to keep moving forward.  In this way they possess the attributes highlighted by Hagy.

Once they show you the way, their role then switches to one of Instigator, Taskmaster and to a certain degree scrutinizing Cheerleader.  As you begin to make progress they then assume the Doubter’s role in that they will challenge you to maintain a certain level of performance.

Can a Coach also be a Connector?  Perhaps but once again, their primary role is to get you game ready.

Your Mentor on the other hand is someone whose attributes reflect those referenced in Gladwell’s Tipping Point.

A Mentor is someone who is a Maven, Salesperson and Connector.  A Mentor understands the relational elements of building a smart network.  Their expertise as a Maven enables you to identify and then properly align your unique expertise with market demand.  They then assume the role of Salesperson by providing you with the tools to properly promote your brand while simultaneously working behind the scenes to “Connect” you with the right people at the right time.

While Hagy and Gladwell’s respective lists suggest that each of the needed attributes is the domain of separate individuals, I believe that effective Coaches and Mentors possess multiple capabilities.

The next question is how do you identify and engage those individuals who will make a great Coach and a great Mentor?

In Part 2 of this series I will share with you the process by which you can identify and develop a rapport with these success influencers.

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Picture Perfect . . . Make a Lasting Impression with Your Profile Photo

You have undoubtedly heard the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Nowhere is this statement truer than it is when it comes to your social network profile picture.

Unfortunately far too many people make avoidable mistakes that can send out the wrong message, especially if you haven’t effectively separated your business profile from your personal one.  As I have often suggested, it is a good idea to use Facebook to connect with family members, close friends and acquaintances such as old school chums.  Alternatively, you should use LinkedIn for your business profile.

One UK business associate followed this rule to a tee.  Whenever he received a request to connect on Facebook from someone with who he worked, he politely declined their request with the note that he only used the site for close family and friends with whom he could be fun and a little cheeky.

Limiting your network connections to personal relationships, you can be more relaxed in terms of the kind of pictures you can use for your profile.

However and whether personal or professional, the following six tips will help you hit a home run with your social network profile photos:

1.  Have one. The nice people at LinkedIn say that profiles with photographs are seven times as likely to be viewed as those without. Think about it. Why would a potential employer read your profile if your picture is missing in action when they can click on your competent competitor who has a high-energy picture, complete with a scintillating smile? By the way, cartoonish avatar images don’t count as a profile picture.

2.  Full face forward. Look full-faced into the camera and take the shot. Show us your spark, your integrity and your warmth. Think about someone or something you like as the shutter clicks, and let the pleasure and energy of life fill you up; relax and breathe. Please don’t, as I’ve seen many do, commit the following head-shot sins in your profile picture.

Wear sunglasses,

Turn your head to the side (it’s LinkedIn, not a coin)

Gaze off into the distance like Galileo contemplating the wonders of the cosmos

Have another person in the shot with you or, part of a person in the shot with you – such as a hand

Remember, we do business with people we like and trust. Seeing your face and making direct eye contact with you – even in a photograph – builds ease and confidence.

3.  This isn’t Match.com. Save the cleavage, come-hither stares and full-body shots for times when you’re looking to connect over cocktails – not in a corporate setting. Showing too much skin or flashing a facial expression that says I want you can cause you to lose credibility. While you might get asked out on a date, you probably won’t get the contract.

4.  Be current. As much as you may like the way you looked in that snazzy photo taken a decade ago, it’s probably out of date. To minimize the shock and awe when you show up in person, keep your profile photos relatively current and minimize the airbrushing. When you do connect with clients in meet space, surprise, confusion and embarrassment won’t be the first emotions you inspire.

5.  Beware of body language. The small body language details of your profile photo speak volumes. For example: Don’t tilt your head unless you want visitors to think, quizzical dog. Don’t cross your arms across your body unless you’re meaning to give off a feeling that says, stay away. And please don’t cup your face in your hands or prop your chin on your fist. That is so over; trust me.

6.  Skip the dogs and babies. As much as we love dogs, babies and the supersize salmon you caught on vacation, they don’t belong in your profile picture. This is a chance for people to get a sense of you – just glorious you. Stand tall, stand proud and stand alone.

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As Elmer Fudd likes to say “BE VE-W-W-WY, VE-W-W-WY CAREFUL” when making social networking connections

Seriously, think carefully about who you invite to connect with you, who you link with, and who you recommend.

There are serial network users who simply collect as many connections and links as they can. They are at worst internet joiners and name hoarders, not networkers; still not as harmful as those who lurk around and ask every incoming connection to recommend them.

You should not be connecting with anyone without having a professional or personal relationship with them.

Do not recommend anyone unless you are familiar with their work. Too many people are gaming the system by exchanging recommendations for each other without really knowing very much about that person.

We are in the age of instant communication. Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and multiple other social networking sites out there, your name and reputation can suffer instant damage simply because you associated yourself with a person you didn’t really know.

While you are at it, be careful what you post. Poor postings, questionable subject matter, risky opinions, and bad grammar and spelling all reflect poorly on your professionalism, your reputation, your image, your name and thus your brand.

Maintain decorum and don’t be too familiar with people unless you get comfort clues from them. This stuff never goes away! Even if deleted, Google and The Wayback Machine can find it.

So, between Elmer Fudd and Hill Street Blues, Lets be careful out there people.

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