Last month, I participated in the fifth annual Career Thought Leaders Global Career Brainstorming Day. This fascinating event brought together more than 150 career professionals — recruiters, career coaches, resumé writers and others — to discuss “the new and the next.”
I attended the New York City session, one of 15 brainstorming gatherings held around the world and online. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to hear from my colleagues about their clients’ challenges and triumphs, the changing employment landscape and the evolving role of technology in the job-search process.
You might find the following gleanings and advice from the New York group helpful if you’re looking for work, considering changing fields or just want to hang onto your job:
(MORE: Read This Before You Cut and Paste a Cover Letter)
Getting the Most From LinkedIn
Not surprisingly, given the continued dominance of LinkedIn as the professional networking platform, there was more time devoted to LinkedIn than to any other subject. Here’s how the experts recommended maximizing this tool:
BE SURE YOU’VE REGISTERED FOR LINKEDIN WITH YOUR PERSONAL E-MAIL ADDRESS. If you leave your job and your account is registered with your business e-mail, your LinkedIn profile connections and references could be deleted in an instant. Several coaches shared stories of clients who lost their LinkedIn accounts this way.
Advice: Don’t leave this to chance; double-check your LinkedIn registration address today and make the switch if necessary.
AUDIT YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE FOR CRITICAL KEYWORDS. A profile filled with the right ones — industry buzzwords, in-demand skills and critical credentials — will help you get found for a job, even when you aren’t looking.
Advice: Increase your searchability by incorporating relevant keywords into every section of your LinkedIn profile, not just the summary section. Not sure which keywords to use? Take a look at your colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles and at job descriptions for ideas and helpful terminology.
TURN YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE INTO A 3-D PLATFORM. Not so long ago, LinkedIn was a text-only tool, but not anymore. “LinkedIn gives you massively more room than a resumé to tell your story, said Deb Dib, a branding strategist. “So take advantage of it.”
Advice: Integrate video into your LinkedIn Summary and Experience sections. A well-produced and tightly scripted video will illuminate your personal brand in a way that a paper resumé alone can’t. “Keep it short, like a commercial — no more than 30, 60 or 90 seconds,” advised Loretta Peters, a brand specialist with Competitive Branding.
You might be able to produce one with just a home computer and a webcam, but it often pays to hire a local videographer or use an online service like Videobio.com. An amateurish video is far worse than no video at all.
In addition, try to use other “show and tell” content to enhance your LinkedIn profile — such as whitepapers, radio interviews and SlideShare presentations.
To make your LinkedIn profile stand out, add a customized background. You can now easily upload an image (such as your business logo) for this, reinforcing your brand and adding flair to your page. This option used to be available to only to LinkedIn Premium members, but it’s now available to everyone. Branding expert William Arruda wrote a great Forbes post on customizing a LinkedIn background: “5 Easy Ways to Create a Brilliant Background For Your LinkedIn Profile.”
(MORE: Secrets of an Attention-Getting Resume)
Make Technology Your Ally
Technology continues to play a pivotal role in both job search and career management. Two tips:
GET COMFORTABLE USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN YOUR JOB SEARCH. Employers are increasingly relying on social media tools like Twitter to advertise jobs. “Companies tend to update their social media channels before their websites,” said Linda Van Valkenburgh, an executive career coach with MyExecutiveCareerCoach.com.
Advice: Even if you don’t feel comfortable Tweeting or sharing on Facebook, it’s still important to “lurk” on social media sites to stay informed. “You can get a feel for a company’s language and culture by following them on Twitter,” advised Dib. “That way, by the time you go in for the interview, you can really sound like an insider.” So when you’re job searching, be sure to follow your target companies on Facebook and Twitter.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ONLINE TRAINING. No matter what you do or what industry you work in, you must continually update your skills to remain relevant. “There is not a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by technology,” said Ann Marie Ditta, a New York-based career coach.
Advice: Fortunately, there has never been a better time to upgrade your skills using free or low-cost online training sites like Coursera, Edx, Khan Academy and Lynda.com. Figure out which skills you need and then find the training sites that teach them.
Key Employment Trends
Expect to encounter these three trends:
LONGER HIRING DECISIONS. Despite the improving economy and the need for more workers, employers are continuing to take their time before making job offers. It’s not unusual, I learned, for people to have multiple interviews for the same position — sometimes as many as 10 meetings for higher-level jobs.
Maddening? No question. But this trend won’t let up until the economy dramatically shifts in favor of the job seeker.
Advice: If you’re in job-hunter mode, allocate more time than you expect for the search and don’t stop looking until you have a firm offer in hand.
MORE PROJECT WORK, FEWER PAYCHECK JOBS. The career pros’ clients are increasingly being offered contract or temporary jobs, rather than full-time, salaried positions with benefits. This is an especially challenging trend for older workers who are leery of accepting a project position. “They are hesitant to take it even if they should, because they don’t see it as ‘real’ work,” said Donald Burns, a resumé writer and communications specialist at Executive Promotions.
Advice: You need to broaden your concept of “real” work to thrive in the new economy. As I often advise my clients: “It is far more productive to think in terms of filling a need, not just finding a job.”
SHORTER JOB TENURES AMONG EXECUTIVES. When their executive-level clients get hired, the brainstormers said, they’re often staying in those jobs for less time than in the past, sometimes as little as 18 months to two years. The rapid turnover at the top reflects the competitive nature of the global economy.
Advice: “I advise clients to think of it as a touchdown, not a landing,” said Linsey Levine, a career coach with CareerCounsel.
The Big Takeaway
If all this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. But if there was one big takeaway from Career Brainstorming Day it was this: If you want to remain relevant in today’s economy, you must make career management a priority — even when you’re not in job-search mode.
As Dib said: “You just can’t take the easy way out. Low effort equals low ROI [return on investment]. High effort equals high ROI.”
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