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The Importance of Knowing What You Don’t Know

How do you know what you don’t know? What does that even mean, and why is it important to your business?

For centuries, people have been trying to get other people to hire them or buy their services. That’s what commerce is. In any form of commerce, knowledge is power, and this is doubly or quadruply true today. Whether you work for a department of a large company, a small start-up, or maybe you work for yourself, what you know about your industry, your competitors and your customers is vital. But so, too is the information you don’t currently know, information that you don’t know you need to know, or maybe you don’t want to know.

Let me give you an example to make this clear.

A few years back I was giving a speech at a convention of physicians. We all need doctors of course, but it is a common understanding that part of a physician’s so-called bedside manner, that air of confidence that allows them to communicate with their patients, is based on the fact that they are supposed to know all they need to in order to make an accurate assessment and a successful prescription for recovery. No one wants to see a nervous physician.

At this particular event,  I was about to give a speech on the impact of social media on the physician-patient relationship, when one of my two hosts for the event stopped me and asked if I was planning to mention a certain website, and if so, to please refrain from doing so. The site was a FaceBook page dedicated to healthcare system horror stories in the geographic area I was speaking in.  The page – which no longer exists – clearly stated that it was not in any way a hate page against hard-working physicians, nurses or other healthcare workers, but simply a place to commiserate and share stories about wait times, hallway medicine and other discomforts of the healthcare industry.

The host who asked me to refrain from mentioning this page was keenly interested in not tainting the event with negative stories about the healthcare industry. But the other host disagreed and said we should discuss this story. How else can our audience, comprised of physicians know what they don’t know?

Knowing what you don’t know seems like such an esoteric term. But in this age of data it is both more more important than ever before and also easier. Research no longer requires physical actions like visiting a library or holding focus groups. The data – all of it – is out there, and technologies like AI and machine learning – even simple Google News Alerts help bring it right to your doorstep.

Another healthcare related story helps drive this home. I was once consulting to an association that focuses on the management of hospitals and other health care institutions. They wanted to rebuild their social media presence and asked for me to help with the RFP process for website design. During the course of the needs analysis and market research, we decided to try to find out what the general public wanted to know about their hospital system. In other words, what did the association not know about their customer base? It turned out the most common question people had about the hospitals in their region was not about specialities or even wait times. It was “how much parking cost.” That’s what people really wanted to know, and that really came out of left field for the association. They had no idea.

So how do you find out what you don’t know? And how do you find out what you don’t know you don’t know? A good example might be going to a meeting at a client or customer location. If you don’t know how to get there, you know you don’t know that, so you consult a map or you program their address into your driving GPS app. But what if this customer was also comfortable meeting by video, saving you the trip both there and back? If this is not made clear, then you don’t know the option exists, and you don’t know to ask.

You don’t know to ask. Now that’s a Vital Soft Skill

When people talk about the future of work, one of the predominant must haves is soft skills. As artificial intelligence and other technologies eat into the hard skill sets that have supported any of us over the past few decades, it’s soft skills that will turn out to be vital for a career. For example, a cybersecurity specialist in IT must learn the skills of negotiation and influence in order to be heard at the C-suite table. Employees need to understand critical thinking and prioritization to manage workloads and distinguish real messages from phishing scams. Managers must develop emotional intelligence and active listening skills to better understand a highly mobile workforce that is already attuned to the audience-of-one mindset.

Add to this list, the ability to know what you don’t know. It’s a soft skill. It’s information literacy. It’s almost a sixth sense. But it’s very easy to do. You just have to know what questions to ask.

To understand what I mean by this, think about how people try to find out stuff they don’t know. If you run a business or a store or a department, you might conduct a survey or an interview. But in many cases this type of investigation is framed by the questions you ask. And even if you keep things as open as possible, for example offering people a text box to type in their thoughts or an open, flow of conscsiousness statement, they still know that the source of the question is you, and that is going to frame and skew the outcome.

A new and better source of unknown knowledge, then, is unstructured data that comes from an external source and that is not affiliated with you. The health system horror stories example I shared earlier/above is a case in point. Ostensibly created by someone as a community discussion not aimed at any one healthcare facility in particular and certainly not initiated by one.

Twitter is a great source for this, in my opinion. Once you get past the vitriol, hatred and junk out there, there are still many worthwhile people actively talking about things going on in your industry. This is unstructured data. It’s free-flow commentary that is not guided or influenced by leading questions.

So how do you find it? Keyword searches and Google news alerts seem like the most obvious route, and indeed an ongoing practice of farming the internet for keywords is vital. But this, too, is prone to the subjectivity of the words you choose, which is why a policy of diligent social media surfing is also valuable.

If you follow a specific subject matter expert on Twitter, it’s likely this individual will provide valuable information. But look around. Read the comments made by others. Pay attention to the recommendations of others to follow. Watch the hashtags being used. These all expand your awareness  to other organizations or industries that may seem totally unrelated, but from whom valuable insight can be gained.

Here’s a third healthcare related story that illustrates this. I was once teaching a group of paramedic supervisors about team dynamics. The conversation moved to the topic of the speed of response and safe driving techniques for emergency vehicles. The flow of the conversation led me to remember a tweet I had seen about a pilot project that delivered defibrillators by drone, complete with two-way audio and  video to help someone save another person’s life even before the paramedics arrive. This discovery was something I had stumbled across while doing separate research and then mentally filed away. It was by chance, yes, but I still had the presence of mind to note that this item of news would be important to my ongoing knowledge and value as an expert.

The point is, information is available all around us, but  knowing where and how to find it requires stepping away from the traditional index or table of contents and moving towards intelligent gathering of information.

Here’s a non-healthcare related analogy: some people call it reticular activation, and others simply call it the purple Jeep syndrome.

Imagine you decide to buy a new car and the model you decide upon is a Jeep. But not just any Jeep a purple one. As you entertain that decision, you will start to notice that quite a few people are driving purple Jeeps out there. Where did they come from? Did central casting just send a bunch of people into your personal movie to throw you off your game? No. The answer is those people and those Jeeps have always been there, but now your mind has been turned on to them, you will suddenly start to notice them. That’s reticular activation.

The same goes for information gathering in the great data ocean. You can’t always know what you’re looking for exactly, but a tuned in mind is better able to identify patterns, keywords, relevant ideas and potential jewels than can a stressed and distracted one. This, again is information literacy.

The Johari Window

If you’re looking for a physical tool to help you figure out what you don’t know about your business, your customers or yourself, try using a Johari Window. This is simply a construct of four squares, laid out two by two, with each one focusing on information known or not known to yourself and known or not known to others. The top left square is easiest to fill out: things you know about yourself, and things others know about you. Then close by, you will have squares for things you know about yourself but that others do not know about you, and also things others know about you but you do not know about yourself. Then, in the lower right corner, the ultimate black hole: things you don’t know about yourself AND things that people do not know about you.

If this is confusing, check out this Johari Window that zoologist Barbara G. Evers has created using a story line we are all familiar with.

Image courtesy Barbara G Evers – from her Eclectic Muse blog series. (Click to visit)

The point is knowledge comes from reticular activation pared with passive social media discovery. It stems from a desire to know what we don’t know, and an awareness that such knowledge is out there to be found in unstructured data – paragraphs of text and tweeted commentary

A customer returns desk, the traditional dark corner of a retail store is no longer a place of shame – it becomes a goldmine for the store to learn what they don’t know about the customers who still shop with them. Similarly, scanning a person’s LinkedIn profile before meeting them in person or online, may reveal previously unknown connection points – a person, a university or a job, that gives you something in common – something to connect with.

So, in an age of information, it remains more vital than ever to know that there is more to know, but that finding it truly is more of an art than a science.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled The Importance of Knowing What You Don’t Know. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at stevenprentice.com/podcast.html

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Go Back to Freelancing? I’m not Feeling the Burn

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Go Back To Freelancing? I’m Not Feeling the Burn. It discusses the gig economy and the future of work, of which freelancing will play an even larger role. People who mock it have a surprise coming. It is the future of work, and it’s one of the most secure career paths you can choose.

Let me start with an insult. I remember reading a comment someone made online about – well you know I can’t even remember what the comment was about. But I remember the burn. Some troll disagreed with the writer’s comment and wrote in reply, “go back to freelancing.” I remember being initially confused by this remark. What was wrong with freelancing? What did he mean by that? I have been essentially freelancing my entire career, and I feel I’ve done pretty well. What was the stigma that this troll was trying to push? That freelancing isn’t real work? That you only freelance if you can’t find a proper job?

I questioned the troll’s comments from three perspectives. The first was my own experience: two and a half decades of adventure, meeting new customers, devising new products and solutions, setting my own calendar and career path. Exhilarating and rewarding. Never dull or repetitive. What could be better than that?

Then I thought of the other freelancers I know. They, too, never stop improving their product. They are masters at finding work. They might change customers from month to month, but the work never stops for those who know how to find it. It’s job security anchored by your own talents and motivations, not those of an HR department.

Thirdly, I thought of the people I had met during one of my long-term contracts, where I taught groups of recently fired executives how to cope with the depression of job loss and the resulting loss of their identity. These people were truly at sea, with no compass and no hope. This is what happens when people get buried in their salaried jobs and allow no time for the entrepreneurial networking that is at the heart of freelancing. They don’t know who they are, and they don’t know where to go, because they never built the safety net that every freelancer owns. That’s why I wrote my third book, which is entitled, “Is This the Day I Get Fired?”

Go back to freelancing. Did that comment reveal a deep-seated fear held by the writer, who like most other bullies, projects his insecurities on those he tries to intimidate?

Well, I have news for that bully as well as everyone else, including worried parents, who fear that freelancing is not as secure as a career job or a unionized job. Not only is it more secure, since the power of mobility and self sufficiency rests with the individual rather than their employer, it is also the future of work. I remember a comment that a guest speaker once said at a networking session I was hosting: He said, “the chief difference between a salaried employer and a contractor is that a contractor knows when his or her last day is, and can do something about it.

We are in an age of profound transformation. Technology continues to change jobs and indeed make many of them redundant. It balances this out by creating new jobs in their place, as well as making it possible for networking and freelancing to flourish. But to anyone who grew up watching Dad and/or Mom leave the house every day at 7:00 a.m. and return home at suppertime year in and year out it becomes difficult to envision any other lifestyle, regardless how secure it ultimately is.

The Future of Work: The Gig Economy

Heavy hitters like RBC and McKinsey have publicly declared the following facts, for the benefit of employers and experts who are carefully watching the changing world of work:

McKinsey and Co. has stated:

  • 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of activities that are technically automatable.
  • Automation could affect 50% of the world economy

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) envisions:

  • 4 million Canadian job openings in the next three years, of which
  • 50% will undergo a skills overhaul.

The skills that will be required include soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, empathy and social perceptiveness. The ways in which these will be learned will be more about lifelong learning in place of traditional linear education.

But to take this even further, consider these three rather stunning facts delivered recently at the World Economic Forum.

1.) Less than a decade from now, by 2027, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance.

2.) Artificial Intelligence and robotics will create more jobs, not mass unemployment as long as we responsibly guide innovation.

3.) Cities will compete against each other to attract top talent, as they see economic ecosystems grow and flourish.

Image courtesy of UpWork

These comments were made by Stephane Kasriel, who is CEO of UpWork, one of the largest and most successful freelancing websites around. It would be easy to assume he has a vested interest in saying such things, being the boss of a company directly dependent on the fulfilment of this vision.

But it is important to recognize that freelancing is not a cottage industry. Large multinational companies like Pfizer and Samsung are part of this rising breed of enterprises that have turned online to find freelancers.

And there are others out there, looking for highly specialized talent and paying well for it. One of these is Innocentive, a company that “enables organizations to put their unsolved problems and unmet needs, which are framed as ‘Challenges’, out to the crowd to address.” In other words, it is seeking innovation through crowdsourcing; putting the bounty on a solution. Maybe it’s an industrial challenge, like how to get toothpaste into a differently designed tube, or how to economically prevent oil from freezing when stored in cold climates. You would think large companies would have all the engineering brilliance it needs to solve these problems from the inside, but sometimes they just don’t.

Very often I win writing or project management contracts from companies who have all the right people already in-house. The problem is the backlog. It might take six months to appear on these peoples’ radar, and the client needs something done now.

Similarly, it’s those experts on the outside, the ones who must stay constantly ahead of the knowledge curve, who are the ones who come with the solution, more quickly and more cost effectively.

It’s the As-A-Service Economy

Let me draw a parallel distinction. Companies the world over have, over the past few years, become familiar with cloud, and with it, related technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. What are these innovations doing for them? Far more than simply storing your data. The accessibility and data flow that these technologies have enabled has given rise to the as-a-service industry.  Where once companies shipped boxes of their products to their customers, they now see the value in many cases of actually giving the basic physical product for free, and then monetizing the services needed to support it, along with the data that becomes collectible.

Individual consumers see this daily when they use their computers. Products like Microsoft Office used to arrive in a box and required individual installation from disks. But now, Microsoft, and all other software applications are subscription based.  Sometimes even free. The manufacturers are responsible for testing and upgrading and they do so remotely via your internet connection.

The same principle applies to every other as-a-service enterprise, which is what makes cloud storage and security so attractive and practical in the first place. The supplier stays responsible for the upkeep of quality. It need no longer remain in house, where it might be prone to delays and budget cuts.

So, back to the workforce. I can speak from direct experience, when I teach new topics to a group of employees, they admit that they spend so much time closeted away, working on the internal problems of the moment, they never get the chance to look up and around at what the outside world is doing.

This becomes one of the key value propositions of the as-a-service freelancer. Just like cloud providers and software manufacturers, the freelancer is responsible for maintaining the skills and knowledge that a company needs. And now, with direct and immediate communication and the capacity for working remotely, there is no reason for them to ever physically visit the company’s brick and mortar operations if need be.

None of this is truly new. There have been freelancers for centuries. The very word freelance denotes a mercenary fighter whose weapons, including their lance, were available to whoever wanted to hire them. They weren’t free from a price perspective, but they were free from fealty to any specific lord, king, or country.

Companies have long outsourced work to other countries – call centers and tech support, for example – and even the notion of as-a-service machinery has its roots in leasing and rental programs.

But it’s more now. We have passed a tipping point. As-a-service is more than just leasing. It is about servicing, maintenance and aftermarket opportunities that go well beyond any physical machine. And freelancing is far more than hiring warm bodies to cover peak periods.

Freelancing is a new type of work, fueled by communications and data technologies that help bring customer and supplier together more efficiently. According to a study commissioned by Upwork, half of the millennial generation is already freelancing.

There is an inherent security in the freelancing business, reinforced by the ever-present reminder that you are personally responsible for your future. This might strike many as the opposite of security. After all, how can that compare to the permanence of a salaried position, especially when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage? But ask any salaried employee what their biggest fear is: it’s losing their job. And that is not a healthy way to live.

So, back to the insult that started this monologue. “Go back to freelancing.” Many people reveal their own fears in the insults and swear words they use against others. As I tell my audiences, I have been looking for work for 25 years now. And I keep finding it. It’s always interesting, it always adds something to my skillset, and it always keeps me in demand. It called, colloquially, the gig economy, and it is the future of work.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Go Back to Freelancing? I’m not Feeling the Burn. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at stevenprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

Those Annoying LinkedIn Reminders

A short while back I read a comment on LinkedIn concerning those “annoying” work anniversary reminders. The complaint was about LinkedIn jamming people’s inboxes with needless reminders that “nobody reads or cares about anyway.” The comment had thousands of “likes,” suggesting many other people feel the same way.

But hold on a second. There’s so much reason to read and care about these notifications, if you just take a moment to to consider who they are there for. They are there for you.

These anniversary/achievement announcements provide each of us with a reason to reach out and reconnect with a person in our networks. Don’t forget: your personal network of the people you know, trust and respect, and who feel the same about you, is your greatest career safety net.

Too often the people we meet in the course of business fade away through neglect. We are all too busy to keep in touch, go to events, have lunch with people in a proactive manner. It all seems like a huge waste of time. But it is these people who provide leads, references, guidance, mentorship, and maybe even that next job opportunity for you or someone in your family. Your network is a net. No one should work without a net.

Those Notifications are for You, not Them

When an anniversary notification appears, either on the LinkedIn home screen, in your in-box, this is your chance to say “hi” once again. To keep the memory of you alive in the heart and mind of that individual. By sending them a quick heartfelt message (not just clicking the “Like” button, but an actual message), you are acknowledging that person’s dignity, hard work, and achievement. Even if they themselves have forgotten that it is their “5 year anniversary,” your reminder will touch them on an emotional level and will mean a great deal. As the expression goes, it’s not what you do with people, it is how you make them feel, that counts the most.

If the person whose work anniversary it is, is someone you don’t know, then they either a.) should not be in your collection of contacts; or b.) should be contacted in order that you get to know that person better. It is the Achilles Heel of LinkedIn that you can connect with anybody and everybody, for that is not its purpose.

Your Little Black Book

The value of LinkedIn is in the pedigree of your contacts. Every person you connect to should be someone you know, trust and respect. Someone who you would recognize if you met them on the street. Someone you would gladly shake hands with. LinkedIn is not a phonebook. It should not be a directory of every person you have every encountered or who has asked you to connect. LinkedIn should be your little black book, consisting of those people who are special to you – people with whom you have a great history.

If there are people in your collection that you do not know, then they should be pruned out of there, or improved. Not left as anonymous, meaningless people.

When these people mean something to you, the notifications will no longer be annoyances, clogging your inbox or screen. They will appear as what they should be: opportunity knocking. They represent a chance for you to quickly refine and add value to that most important of career assets: your network.

This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you would like a copy, hop on over to my Books page. If you would like a workshop at your location, or if you would like to attend a live webcast, check out the details at my company, Bristall.com. If you would like me to come and speak to your group, contact details are available on my Speaker page. If you would like to listen to my podcast, check it out here. Either way, you will win back time and money. It’s just practical common sense.

IDG-DELL Article on Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. I was asked by Cloudtweaks clients IDG and DELL  to write a quick blog which will become part of their End-To-End Solutions group on LinkedIn.  My topic is the shift from BYOD to CYOD in the corporate, cloud-based workspace. Here is an excerpt:

This dilemma – how to satisfy and engage employees while still protecting corporate assets is being answered by a new trend – a hybrid in and of itself – between the open market of BYOD and the more rigid, traditional world of company-issued laptops and phones. In this new approach, employers make available a range of devices that vary in terms of brand and functionality, and which have been fully loaded and prepared, in terms of virus/malware protection, network access and secure compatibility with the company’s network and cloud management structure. These devices are offered as a selection from which the employees are allowed to make a selection. This concept is called choose your own device (CYOD), and many industry watchers are confident that this will soon eclipse BYOD as a milestone in smart mobility management.

To read the full article, click here.

 

Getting people back to work one town at a time – for free

Wolf On Wheels graphic

Help us travel the country putting people back to work.

Now that my book Work Like a Wolf is out and on sale, the next thing we have on our agenda is to get in front of people, sharing our knowledge about finding work and keeping work. There are millions of people out there who want to work: students, people who have been recently downsized, people returning to work after an absence, veterans and those just looking for a change. But the skills needed for hunting down opportunity, building a network and finding the time to build a future — these need practice.

To that end we have launched the Wolf On Wheels project. Our goal is to start travelling across the country, speaking to schools, service clubs, legion halls, wherever we’re needed,  and to do this for free.

But we need your help to do this. We are looking to raise $80,000 to buy and fuel an RV for a cross-country tour that can take Steve to the people and the towns that would otherwise not be able to afford him. That’s a lot of money when you look at it as one amount. But there are two really cool ways to make this happen.

  • Buy a book. Every time a copy of Work Like a Wolf is sold, 100% of the revenues after printing costs, ($15.75) goes towards the Wolf On Wheels project. We would need to sell just five thousand copies of the book to make this happen. Just five thousand out of a country of millions.
  • Sponsor us. Alternatively, we would also love to find corporate sponsors. Just eight companies, shelling out $10,000 each for national exposure, their logo on the sides of the RV, on the handout materials and the gratitude of thousands and thousands of consumers.

The Wolf On Wheels project seeks to deliver the skills and ideas found within the book Work Like a Wolf in an interactive town-hall format, where people can ask questions and build an active viable plan for finding meaningful work.

Our trip will also be publicized through social media and regular media, so in the end sponsors and book-buyers will see their investment flourish. What a great way to help rebuild the economy.

Want to buy a book now or find out more? Click here to go to the Wolf On Wheels web page.

21st Century Literacy

A video of dealing with technological change in the Middle ages. Click to view.

A video of dealing with technological change in the Middle ages. Click to view.

There are many words in the English language that hearken back to an age when the ability to read and write was the province of a privileged few, even though the importance of this skill was appreciated by all. An “auditor,” for example was a “receiver and examiner of accounts,” a person who would read aloud written proofs of transactions to the satisfaction of a local population. Once they were heard, they became accepted, or at least debatable. The person who could read was the person who held the power, and thus the ability to read and write became, and remains to this day, essential to survival.

The period that followed, now known as the Renaissance, ushered in the age of almost universal literacy, allowing even common people the power of recognizing the authority of the written word, and from this we developed and enjoyed the fruits of science, technology, commerce and the arts, to name just a few.

Literacy in this 21st Century, however means far more than just being able to read or write. It is about understanding the speed of information, and being able to parse the appropriate amounts from a never-ending onslaught. It is about being comfortable with momentum, interaction and change.

On a more practical basis it is about being able to use Twitter, for example, with the same ease that you currently use a business card.

Although social media technologies are comparatively new, their influence on business is huge. Social media is not a fad; it is a renewed approach to connecting with the people who are important to your profession or business: clients, colleagues, suppliers, other professionals, and the community at large. It is quickly becoming the information avenue of choice for most working people, replacing newspapers, newsletters and even TV. Social media usage is prevalent across all demographics, with younger professionals being most active, but with older professionals adapting easily.

Social media is about engagement and interaction, not merely “copying and pasting” text from a newsletter. Organizations that employ social media must make users want to engage; they must manage their users’ expectations, keep people interested, and above all offer something of value in a bi-directional, conversational manner.

Many people, especially those who grew up in an age before personal computers or the Internet, find it hard to see past their initial perceptions that social media is a time waster and an invitation to trouble. But the truth is these technologies taken as a whole represent a quantum leap forward in the way in which people communicate and interact. It is the “printing press” of our era. Just as the original printing press of the 1500’s made the written word available to the world, so has social media made communication that much more available and useable.

So what does this mean for job-hunting? A few things actually.

  • First, it changes the way you’ll market yourself
  • Second, it changes the way companies look for people
  • Third, it adds extra skills to your professional profile: having and demonstrating comfort with social media technologies will be critical to your potential success as a member of and leader in your next workplace.

Here are five things that eevry professional should have comfort with in order to move forward with their career.

  • The ability to use Twitter as a personal newsfeed
  • An active presence on LinkedIn (this means commenting, not just posting your resume)
  • An understanding of what apps are and how they differ from traditional media
  • An awareness that people are fractionalized – generational, cultural and personality differences mean a “workforce” is no longer a single cohesive mass
  • The willingness to remain open-minded regarding change.

All of these attributes can be developed and mastered at no financial cost, but their importance is immeasurable since they represent literacy in this new age.

(Excerpted and abridged from my book “Work Like a Wolf.” To purchase the book visit www.worklikeawolf.com)

LinkedIn and You: Five Essentials

The great and powerful LinkedIn

The great and powerful LinkedIn

You have probably listened to many breathless enthusiasts (myself included) extolling the virtues of LinkedIn, yet is you are like most people, you remain unconvinced.  To me there are five things you should be doing with LinkedIn, and I have listed them below, so stick with me.

LinkedIn is the modern day equivalent of the great and powerful Oz – everyone talks about all the things it can do, but few have really seen it work, and in the end those characteristics that will make you successful are already within you.

So is it worth your time? Yes. A lot of your time? No. But definitely a little. It is, after all networking for the new era.

  1. Get your profile up there and make sure it’s complete. A profile is not a static thing. The computers at LinkedIn work 24/7 to match you up with people from your past. The more information you have up there, the better the connections can be. These are the people who know about you and can help you find opportunities.
  2. Get endorsements. Ask the people you have worked for in the past (managers, colleagues, customers) for endorsements. Few things beat word of mouth as a generator of new opportunity.
  3. Maintain contact “pedigree” What the heck does that mean? It means make sure everyone on your contact list is someone you actually know and trust. It is tempting to say “yes” to every connect request that comes your way. Many people feel the need to have five hundred or a thousand or more people in their contact collection. But the only people that should be in your collection are people who you trust and respect professionally, who you would recognize in the street, and whose service you could confidently recommend. Everyone else is just an acquaintance. Put them in your email directory or phonebook, but not in LinkedIn.
  4. Announce yourself. Use the status update window on your homepage to announce what you are up to. This is “passive marketing.” It tells people you are still alive and active. People need to hear that so they don’t forget you.
  5. Acknowledge others. When you read about an achievement or promotion that one of your contacts has announced, take a moment to acknowledge it and say congratulations. This, too, is passive marketing and strengthens the ties between you.

Remember. LinkedIn is not a phone book. It’s your little black book. Only the good people need to go in there. Finding work and opportunity is not a science. It is an art and much of it comes from a phrase that is as old as humanity itself. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.