Sunday, June 26, 2005

How sexy are you?

People are bombarded by so many marketing messages today that to stand out and grab their attention, you've got to be SEXY.

Sexy here means that you "obviously have what they desperately want."

Who's "they"?

Headhunters, HR directors, talent scouts, etc.

When these folks read your profile, do they go "Wow, this guy / girl is really hot. I (or my client) could really use his/her services."

Or do they go "Man, this person is doing a terrible job of promoting himself/herself. I can't believe I just lost five minutes reading this boring stuff, five minutes which I will never get back."

I'm being facetious, but the game is really that serious.

Confucius once said that it is impossible to master men without mastering words. Although I'm infinitely less wise that Confucius, I venture to say that without mastering words, you cannot project the right image and, therefore, will not be able to profit from the incredible opportunities unleashed by social software like LinkedIn.

Words can make or break your career

Words are ruthless. They reveal to you and to others exactly who you are and how you think.

Sure, this may be unfair, because some people are better writers than others. But it's life.

Everybody has to sing for their supper, and if your song sounds good, then people will buy from you.

It may be tough to write about yourself, but there's no avoiding it, because staying in the dark without letting people get to know you, is probably a bad economic policy that will lead to relative poverty ("relative" in the sense that others will gain economically at your expense, by connecting to more people whom they trust and who trust them back).

Fortunately, writing is an art that can be learned and actually enjoyed!

I even came across blogs that teach CEOs and high-level executives how to blog.

Bottom line: words can make or break your career, if you don't carefully choose the right words in the right sequence to strategically position yourself as a professional. Indeed, every single word counts, and either contributes to selling you or sinking you.

Here's a simple test: ask all your LinkedIn connections for their feedback on your Profile. Specifically, ask them whether your Profile does a good job of promoting what it is that is unique about you.

Think of your career as a business

In my Business 101 workshops, I constantly remind participants that business is basically just one equation: R = MV (return on equity equals profit margin times velocity; velocity is sales divided by assets).

Basically, in plain English and applied to you as a professional, it basically means that your financial return is determined by your professional value (profit margin) multiplied by HOW FAST you distribute that value.

If you're a consultant who is exposed to several corporate clients, you probably earn a bigger salary than a professional who only has one client (his employer).

Harvard Business Review in fact did a study a while ago, and compared the salary of a manager at a manufacturing plant against the salary of a consultant specialized in manufacturing. They both had more or less the same education and professional experience.

However, the consultant earned about TWICE as much as the manager.

This is not surprising, since consultants usually have greater velocity than their corporate counterparts.

This only highlights the need to network proactively in order to secure as many lucrative employment options as possible. I use the word "option" here in the financial sense, where you actually and legally secure the possibility of exercising a buy or sell transaction.

So for example, if a potential employer (or headhunter) reads your profile, and understands exactly how you would contribute to a company's profitable growth, then he/she could, in the future, call on you (through a common connection or he/she could just Google you and make you a job offer directly -- oh, yes, they are that aggressive and that blunt, which is good).

But if your profile doesn't clearly say exactly how you actually contribute to an employer's profitable growth, then there is no way that an employer or headhunter will call you in the near or far future.

This is why it's so important to carefully strategize BEFORE you post your profile. It doesn't have to be long and excruciatingly detailed, but at the very least, it should clearly state what you are good, really good at.

In the end, your career is like a business, and your profile is nothing but a brochure promoting your services and your "usefulness" (employability) to all the companies out there.

Media power for the people!

I've been working part-time as Feature Editor for a newspaper since 1992, and the paper reaches tens of thousands of people every month, so I intuitively understand media power.

But for most people, media power is not a concept easily understood. Napoleon, for one, truly understood the power of public opinion. He often said that newspapers are more to be feared than cannons.

Social networking software finally gives power to the people, since they can -- at the very least -- publish their profile.

Indeed, every time somebody views your profile, it's like as if you "printed" a newspaper about you, everything you've been doing, all the achievements you've done, etc.

And like any good newspaper, you need to write good, interesting stories that will captivate people. If readers don't get a good first impression, then you might have blown your chances of impressing them.

Your profile is basically a sales tool, since a hiring manager or HR director might come across your skill set, professional experience, specialized expertise, etc. and might decide to contact you.

But being visible is only the first step of self-marketing. In future posts, we'll explore how you can proactively and strategically manage other people's expectations and perceptions.

P.S. Did you know that eConcordia actually gives a course on self-marketing? Costs something like $200, yet it introduces critical marketing concepts that, I believe, would be useful to any professional who is serious about his/her career.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Welcome to market politics!

If you've never been good at office politics, don't worry about it. The new game now is market politics.

In other words, it's how you manage perceptions in the job market and in social circles that will determine your career progress.

In the old economy, with office politics, you had to pay close attention to what was going on in the office, because if you missed a cue or a hint or accidental body language (i.e. things people say through their body language without meaning to, thereby revealing their true intentions or plans), then you might have lost a promotion or failed to get your budget approved or lost subordinated personnel, etc.

In the new economy, as far as careers are concerned, the corporate walls have crumbled. Office politics is replaced by market politics. It's no longer about your "position" but your "mobility."

And the more visibly mobile you are in the market, the more power you will gather at the office.

For example, imagine that you invite your boss to join your LinkedIn network and he sees that you have 300 connections (many of whom come from competitors of the employer organization). Now imagine your boss is also invited by one of your co-workers, who only has 12 connections.

Obviously, you would impress your boss more than your inadequately networked fellow co-worker.

In negotiation parlance, it means your BATNA is greater than your co-worker's, which may put you in a much better position when you ask for more resources, more work schedule flexibility, a higher salary, etc. from your boss. (BATNA means Best alternative to a negotiated agreement -- it basically means "how good are your other choices?" The better they are, the more power you have in a negotiation.)

Tom Peters on talent

The uber-guru has published yet another little book, called Talent.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to survive in today's economy, where any job (especially knowledge-intensive jobs) can be grabbed by smart, hungry and extremely ambitious workers from India.

The old economy was job-centric: after you graduate, what do you do? Look for a job. It was that simple.

Today's economy is talent-centric: no job is permanent and secure. The only source of economic security is your talent (if you have one).

But Tom Peters doesn't mean talent in the Broadway sense or in the Hollywood sense. He means something you do very well, which actually helps companies compete better. In other words, your talent must contribute to the business success of your employer.

This, of course, means you have to understand business and how your employer actually makes money.

More later.

Karl Rove, political strategist

Vanity Fair's current issue talks about Karl Rove, the political brains behind the Bush family.

Whether you agree or not with Dubya, you have to hand it to his family for choosing a brilliant political strategist, who is as mysterious as he is effective at winning political battles.

He was formerly hired as a campaign consultant, but eventually became a permanent political advisor.

I suspect every ambitious professional will similarly need a public image consultant. Wall Street Journal already runs classified ads by ETAs (executive talent agents) who work for executives earning $250,000+ a year. (These ETAs are sort of like Jerry Maguire).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

You have the right to remain silent!

Half the world wants to say something but can't, and the other half has nothing to say but keeps saying it.

- Anonymous

I think that before the Internet, LinkedIn, email, etc. most workers were "trapped" by the corporate employment system since they had no way to promote and market themselves. Companies, on the other hand, continually promote available jobs through newspapers.

However, LinkedIn is just a public highway. You still need a "car" to get to where you want to be. In other words, you still need some kind of promotional vehicle to spread the word about yourself, your services, your expertise, etc.

The challenge is this: How do you get people to read about your profile without harassing them or, worse, spamming them? Simple: give away something valuable for free.

(Notice that free blog is my way of giving away something for free -- whether or not it's useful to people remains to be seen!).

In other words, as a professional, you certainly have the right to remain silent (about your talent, your services, your expertise, your experience, etc.), but it's definitely not profitable in terms of career policy. It's much better to speak up and tell the whole wide world what it is that you know which may be useful for them to know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The world is flat

A good book to read to fully appreciate LinkedIn's power and relevance to one's career, is The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman.

The book contains 475 pages, but essentially, here's the summary:

Anyone anywhere on the planet will be competing for YOUR job, so better strive to get into one of the following four "untouchable" worker categories:
  1. Special. Your skills and talents are so special that you are set for life, economically. Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Barbra Streisand.
  2. Specialized. You're a brain surgeon, a specialized attorney, a high-priced accountant, etc.
  3. Spatialized. Your job cannot be outsourced to foreign countries because of its nature: you're a barber, a hairstylist, a dentist, etc.
  4. Super learners. You learn fast, fast, fast, and adapt to any emerging circumstances by modifying or customizing your skill set and talent.

LinkedIn helps at three levels:

  1. It introduces new concepts and new knowledge, learned from others (for example, you can use the number of connections as a fairly good indicator of career progress)
  2. It facilitates the formation of new connections (prior to registering with LinkedIn, I didn't know whom my friends knew; now, I do).
  3. It helps you to explore opportunities to develop new competencies (for example, you might partner with someone else to exchange special knowledge, skills, resources, etc. -- companies do this all the time, why can't people do it? Pharmaceutical companies, for example, sign knowledge-sharing protocols to exchange research findings)

In other words, LinkedIn can help with concepts, connections and competencies (this framework was first articulated by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Kanter.

The price is write!

This concept is simple to understand, yet difficult to execute: The more people know about you, the more likely they will buy from you.

Information reduces uncertainty, risk and doubts. The more you inform people about your services, products, talent, skills, etc. the more likely they will buy from you (give you a job, a contract, etc.).

The challenge, of course, is that most people have not been trained to package and present their information in a favorable light. Yet, there's a whole discipline devoted to this art of favorable self-representation. It's called POLITICS.

Yet, even politicians need to have their own political advisors. For example, Bush relies on Karl Rove, the mastermind behind the White House.

And all political leaders have their own speech writers.

Bottom line: success has a price, and the price is write!

Monday, June 20, 2005

How to manage your professional image

Your professional image is simply your answer to the question:

(Your name) is the person best known for ________________.

In marketing, it's what they call Positioning. It's super strategic because that's the MAIN and ONLY thing people remember about you.

It's tough to come up with, and may require the help of a marketing consultant. But once you DO have your positioning, it will be much easier to network and promote yourself.

How to sell or trade your intellectual capital

Assuming that after a minimum of 5 years of experience, you have gathered enough intellectual capital trade or sell it, LinkedIn is a perfect place to seek buyers or traders.

Indeed, you can simply create a PKI (professional knowledge index), which is a list of topics and subject areas you are knowledgeable about, and invite people to ask you questions. When you feel that, based on their situation and/or challenge, they could use your knowledge, you propose to sell them your knowledge in the form of a document or conversation (where they get to pick your brain).

Example of a PKI:
  1. Direct marketing
  2. Email marketing
  3. Copywriting
  4. Reseller kit development
  5. Association management

The above Professional Knowledge Index is a simple list of topics that a person might be knowledgeable about. Once posted on the Web, people can then ask that person about his / her knowledge.

Two young entrepreneurs tried to do this before (enable people to make money from their knowledge and expertise). They received millions of dollars in VC money to launch They failed because they were trying to be all things to all people. Now is the right time to sell your professional knowledge and make some money from the hard work that you put in, all these years, to accumulate your valuable knowledge.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Career benefits

The benefits depend on the career stage you are at:
  • You have few skills, and are looking for a job
  • You have many marketable skills, and are looking for a job
  • You have an okay job, but you are looking for a better job
  • You have a horrible job (or boss), and are looking for a better job (or boss)
  • You are an unemployed consultant, and are looking for contracts
  • You are a fully employed consultant, and are looking for extra contracts to develop new skills and knowledge
  • Etc.
The above is only a partial list of the likely career situations of most people. Depending on your career priority at this particular point in your life, your LinkedIn strategy (which determines everything from what you write on your profile to how you invite people to join your network, etc.) will be different.

But regardless of which specific strategy you adopt, the key career benefits are:
  • exposure
  • opportunity to develop and refine your self-marketing skills
  • opportunity to meet people with complementary skills
  • new friendships
  • intelligence on potential employers (and emerging job opportunities)
  • etc.

Romantic benefits

Dating is basically a decision-making process on the woman's part. Indeed, for women -- well, for most women anyways -- jumping into bed with a guy is not a decision they take lightly, because they want to make sure there is a substantial chance of a solid relationship with the man.

Now I'm not saying that the decision to "jump into bed" is the most important decision per se, I'm just saying that it seems to be the female decision that carries the greatest potential for psychological fulfillment -- or damage.

It's also the point of no return. After a woman has given "herself" to a man, well, there's no going back.

So dating is basically an information-intensive process where the woman tries to get as much relevant information as possible from the man, before she makes her irreversible decision.

I know I'm stating the obvious, but sometimes, the obvious is not so obvious, especially in an emotionally charged situation like dating! Perhaps men are nervous when they date, but there doesn't seem to be any good reason for being nervous: it's just a process where the gentleman reveals as much about himself as possible, in a calm and confident manner.

(Of course, it's easier said than done. I'm rarely calm and confident myself when dating! Fortunately, I'm a great poker player so I can hide all my emotions!).

In a way, LinkedIn enables men to divulge as much information as possible, so the woman (who may be separated by only one or two degrees of separation) can "check him out" even before meeting him. (Photos could be a useful feature here).

Assuming that women are most interested in men who are responsible and professionally successful, then LinkedIn could really save a lot of time during the pre-dating phase. (Compare that with Lavalife, where a woman often has no idea what the man is doing or how well he's doing career-wise. Since LinkedIn profiles are publicly viewable, a man is much less likely to lie about his professional achievements).

In future posts, we'll explore how men and women can use LinkedIn to strategically surf cyber seas in search of love. Of course, I'm no expert in this field, but thanks to the Free Speech Act, I'm allowed to legally ramble and offer musings on this exciting topic!

Is LinkedIn for you?

LinkedIn can be useful for anyone, for the simple reason that as individuals, unlike most companies, we don't have any marketing budget to promote ourselves.

But this socializing software won't be useful right away. It takes a certain time to understand how it works and to be able to come up with creative strategies to leverage its hyperarchic power. (Hyperarchy means "network", as opposed to hierarchy).

Sell yourself!

With LinkedIn, people are potentially exposed to hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people who have never heard from them. So the first impression is important.

Yet most people just create a profile without properly thinking about the UNIQUE impression they want to leave in the reader's mind. Some people put too much detail on their professional background , which somehow dilutes the message since it isn't clear what their career is all about.

Others don't put any detail at all on their professional background, which somehow sends the message that they either don't care or don't know self-marketing.

The danger, of course, is to project the impression that you don't have a clear goal in life, and that you just joined LinkedIn because of its novelty (or due to peer pressure from friends, colleagues, the boss, etc.).

In a future post, you can learn about how to create a Brand You (as Tom Peters has talked about).


The adage "It's not how big it is, it's how you use it" can be applied to LinkedIn: this Web-based network of social relationship can be huge, and contain millions of members, yet the value you derive from it depends on how you use it to your own advantage.

This User Manual shows you how.

But first, a word of caution. The ideas posted on this blog are only ideas, and are worth nothing whatsoever, until you actually implement them. Like they say, ideas are worth a dime a dozen, but implemented ideas are priceless.

Also, we don't pretend to have all the answers, but we do submit that only by systematically studying and analyzing the underlying dynamics of the new economy, which relies increasingly more on human capital than financial capital, can we learn to maximize the benefits we get from LinkedIn.

Feel free to post your comments, thanks.

- Peter Nguyen, Editor