Saturday, July 30, 2005

150. Hypothetical (hopefully educational) LinkedIn value ladder

  1. You register on LinkedIn following a friend's / colleague's invitation
  2. You spend 20 minutes entering your previous jobs (only the titles, no job description)
  3. You spend 60 minutes writing a concise summary of your professional status / goal / background
  4. You spend 30 inviting close friends and trusted colleagues
  5. You suddenly realize it might be a good idea to write a description of your responsibilities in previous jobs, so you spend 60 minutes on it
  6. You spend 30 brainstorming about who else to invite to your LinkedIn network
  7. You spend about 10 minutes to write a highly customized invitation letter to each new invitee, spelling out the benefits for them

The above is just a hypothetical sequence of activities a person might engage in, to use LinkedIn to his/her advantage. I call it a Value Ladder because the more you go down the list, the higher the likelihood that you will extract value from being "linked in."

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Island

The Island is an interesting movie (starrring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson).

One fascinating element is that the people controlling the living quarters of the "special population", are constantly reminding the inhabitants that their turn may come soon and they may get to "the island."

It keeps them hoping, and this hope presumably eliminates their frustration with an apparently meaningless existence.

Does this sound familiar? Is our society instilling hope in people (about Freedom55-like rewards) to keep them from revolting against the established order of things?

Career pooling

Career pooling is like car pooling: 3-4 people get together, and use the same vehicle to get to the target destination.

The "vehicle" in career pooling, however, is not a car but a career tool or work method or documented strategy etc. that helps everyone involved to get to their ideal career destination.

For example, if you're a graphic designer, you may want to join a "career pool" team composed of a copywriter, a marketing strategic, an illustrator and a photographer.

LinkedIn makes it easier to find the people who can contribute to your career advancement, while enabling you to contribute to their professional progress.

Career checkmate!

Seasoned chess players know that "checkmate" is not a move but a program. That is, the checkmate program begins the minute the game begins. Depending on how the game evolves, the odds of your checkmating your opponent vs his chechmating you, will shift back and forth.

Strategy, then, is simply a matter of carefully calculating those odds, and making the right moves at the right time.

Bruce Pandolfini wrote a marvelous book titled Every Move Must Have a Purpose, which applies the principles of successful chess playing to business and life. Sample advice from the master:

"Be aggressive, but don't take unnecessary chances. Answer all threats with a counterthreat. When exchanging, always get at least as much as you give up."

Competitiveness alert!

The current issue of Fortune magazine has a detailed article on whether America can compete against emerging economic powers like China and India.

It mentions that many American computer programmers paid an annual salary of $100,000 are being fired because their jobs can be done at one fifth the price by Indians or Chinese.

It also reports the McKinsey Global Institute as saying that 52% of engineering jobs in America are amenable to outsourcing, as are 9.6 million service jobs (in accounting, insurance, call centers, etc.).

Finally, it points to the fact that many offshored jobs are gaining in value, such as bond analyst jobs that could cause a company to make or lose millions of dollars, or next-generation chip design and development jobs at Texas Instruments being offshored to India.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Do you have a career strategy?

A magazine ad for IBM's on-demand innovation services shows a senior executive who says: "Good thinking? We don't even have time for bad thinking!"

This may be the predicament many career people find themselves in. They're so busy "doing" things that they never have time to think about what they're doing.

In fact, if you ask your friends, relatives and acquaintances if they currently have a career strategy, most will answer: "Not really."

A career strategy is a plan to get to the point where you earn more and more while working less and less. More coming soon.

What you know vs who you know

"It's not what you know, it's who you know."

"It's all about connections."

People often say and hear the above statements. I think it's more accurate to say that first, it's WHAT you know. It's only afterwards that WHO you know matters.

A professional may have 10-15 years of experience, yet if he's not sure about WHAT he knows and about how his knowledge confers an advantage to his career allies and acquaintances, then he can meet hundreds of people and it would not have a big impact on his career or life.

Most people he meets would quickly forget about him, because his knowledge is not unique enough or valuable enough or useful enough.

That's why the networking adage goes: "You can only rely on people who can rely on you."

In other words, networking only works if you have something useful to offer, and usually it's your expertise or professional knowledge. (This is why doctors are popular in social circles: everyone could use a doctor's advice!)

The challenge for many professionals then will be to position themselves as being VERY knowledgeable in a particular area, so that they become valuable to people in their LinkedIn network.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Who's working for you?

This question is important because if you have lots of people working for you, chances are, your career (or business) will progress faster.

But it's important, I think, to define "work" properly. A person works for you IF the output of his work serves as input for your own work. (It doesn't matter whether he/she is your subordinate or not).

If you're a consultant, for example, then many management authors actually work for you, since their output (books, magazine articles, analytical frameworks, etc.) serves as input for your own work. That is, you use their methodologies to make money with clients.

Invest in your talent or in others' talent

Every day, whether we know it or not, we invest in our talent or we invest in other people's talent. Since talent determines one's career, investing in a talent basically means investing in a career.

If I buy a music CD costing me $30, then I invested exactly $30 in the talent and career of the singer or the band (not to mention the marketing company or recording label, the retail store selling the CD, etc.).

If I watch CSI for an hour, then I invested an hour of my life in the talent and career of the actors, director, screenplay writers of CSI.

If I buy a movie ticket at $8.00, then I invested $8.00 in the talent and career of the director, actors, production designers, etc. involved in the production of the movie.

On the other hand, if I repress my consumerist urges and invest the above dollars on a notepad, a nice fountain pen, a book on copywriting, etc. then I've invested that much money into my own talent and career as a writer.

Or if, instead of watching TV for two hours, I spend it talking to a person in my network who is highly knowledgeable about my field, then I've gained valuable knowledge that will help me in my career.

The question is, Why aren't people thinking about it that way? If our time and our money are limited, why don't we invest it in our own talent or career?

Why? Why? Why?

I think it's because we have been conditioned to think in terms of "jobs." The news media always talks about job creation, the unemployment rate, etc. They never talk about investing in your talent. Heck, the news anchor doesn't even know you exist.

Thinking about jobs is so ingrained in our culture. For example, what is the first thing that a university graduate thinks about, upon graduating? Finding a job.

(If he doesn't, his parents will remind him soon enough).

He/she is not really thinking about finding his/her talent and developing it to commercial adequacy (that is, to a point where he can make money by using his talent).

(I began working full-time for a consulting firm one day after I graduated. I never had any time to think about my talent -- to be honest, I never even thought I had any talent!).

Yet thinking about jobs without thinking seriously about one's talent, may be very dangerous and risky in today's talent economy.

Indeed, companies exist to capture talented people and make them work for the capitalists who own the company.

Companies do not exist to give people jobs. Getting a job is only a natural consequence of having the talent that companies are looking for.

In other words, the strategic mindset should be to "look for one's talent" and not "look for a job out there."

Talent = cause. Job = effect.

Fortunately, with tools like LinkedIn, people can subtly display their talent and make themselves available to decision-makers and companies that are looking for talent. (Of course, this assumes that you have written your profile after much strategic premeditation).

This being said, it is obvious that some people use LinkedIn to find a job, while others use it more strategically to connect with people who will help them develop their talent.

We'll explore this further in an upcoming posting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My careerist black book

I confess I've always been extremely competitive. I've always wanted to outsmart, outthink, outmaneuver everybody.

Once, in my childhood, someone told me, "Peter, you're very outspoken."

I immediately shot back, "What! By whom?!"

However, over the years, I've calmed down a bit. For example, today, I feel quite charitable, so let me share with you a book that will undoubtedly give my competitors the edge I formerly enjoyed.

(See above pictures)

It's not exactly what Lapham says, because he disguises the operating principles of ruthless careerism very cleverly, in the manner and tradition of a Baltasar Gracian. Rather, it's by studying and understanding the underlying assumptions and insights that you will best learn from him.

Good news and bad news

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that with LinkedIn, you can check up on your competitors and see what they're plotting.

The bad news is, what you see on LinkedIn is just the tip of the iceberg.

You don't see people's secret tactics and devious machinations.

Example: there are guys on LinkedIn who have over 10,000 connections! What I'd like to know is, how the hell can you know so many people AND remember their names?!

I'm being facetious but I guess these people, although they appear to be happily promiscuous, probably know what they're doing. But we will never know what they're doing to be so connected. Perhaps they send a token gift to every person they meet.

Every networker or business person has a set of secret weapons that they use to secure people's goodwill and to distinctively promote themselves. (Yes, yes, I have my secret weapons too, but I'll only whisper it to you if you look really good in a mini-skirt. Sorry, it's my official policy since the age of 7).

At least, I'll give you a hint: read ANY book by Harvey Mackay (especially Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty).

Salma Hayek naked

I was talking to a gentleman who played a Russian scientist in the movie The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Afleck and Morgan Freeman, when he told me something shocking.

He showed me color pictures of a few BMWs and other sports cars, and said: "I find these more sexy than Salma Hayek naked."

Now I like the guy and I respect him, but between you and me, he's totally crazy! How can anything man-made be more sexy than Salma Hayek without her clothes on?!

I think that's the main problem in our society: we've become so enamored with technology that we forget what true beauty really is.

Speaking of Salma Hayek, I remember a quote she said: "I'm still waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do!"

(I'm not kidding, she really said that.)

Style, beauty, pizzazz. What a chick!

This reminds me, check out this blog where I compile the best and not-so-good practices on LinkedIn:

Friday, July 22, 2005

The real Da Vinci Code

There's a lot of talk about the Da Vinci Code, and I think the movie is coming out soon.

To tell you the truth, I think I might be among the very few lucky who knows the REAL Da Vinci Code: the code by which Leonardo Da Vinci lived by, his whole life.


Somebody who belongs to the same secret society I belong to, once gave me a sheep-skin parchment on which, apparently, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote something.

At the time, I asked her why she gave me such an important document. As she stood up and walked away from my bed, she mysteriously said: "Because you amaze me."

In any case, in that parchment, Leonardo recounted the story of how somebody once asked him what his greatest achievement was. He thought about it for a while, then said:

"Leonardo Da Vinci."

And that, my friends, is the REAL story about Leonardo Da Vinci!

There's no mystery after all about Da Vinci's life, because that single reply he once uttered, says it all!

Leonard Da Vinci was a great man, perhaps the only true Renaissance Man of his time and of all time, simply because he considered HIMSELF to be his ultimate work of art.

Given his gentle nature and compassionate disposition, he did not say this in an arrogant way or to raise himself above other men.

He simply meant that to work on improving oneself, like as if one were mere clay in the hands of God, is probably the best way to spend one's life.

Indeed, during his entire life, he worked tirelessly to improve the way his brain worked, the way his senses captured physical reality, and the way to facilitate the blossoming of his genius in art, science and engineering.

Note: the reader has guessed by now, no doubt, that I inject autographical fiction into my writing for literary effect. My life is, alas, not that exciting!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

It's not who you know, it's what you know

The adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is mostly false.

Let's look at the facts: who are the richest people?

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, J.K. Rowling. Did it matter WHO they knew? No.

It's WHAT they knew!

The fact is, the smarter you are, the more people will do anything to meet you and connect with you. If you have to network, then you have not yet reached a point in your career where you truly shine.

Does this mean networking is not necessary or that who you know doesn't matter? Of course not.

My point is only that most people just assume that WHO they know is more important than WHAT they know, when it's clear that we live in a "knowledge" economy, not a "connections" economy.

In fact, now that the Internet and social networking software is so ubiquitous, it is more important than ever to focus on developing one's brainpower. That, in my opinion, is the hard part. Networking is easy. (It's just a click away).

Analyzing the quality of your connections

This diagram shows the usual connections "normal" people have. Most people don't have executive or headhunter connections, or are not connected to HR directors.

Yet these are the people who have the power, influence and connections to help most with anyone's career.

This is a major challenge we will address in an upcoming posting.

Career intelligence

You gotta love the guy! He helps so many people.

I confess I'm a big fan of Dr. Phil. Before watching the show at 5 PM, I would just lie down on the couch and... "All right, Doc, give it to me straight!"

His slogan (above) could actually be good advice for anyone who's serious about competing, career-wise, in the new economy.

Notice the sequence: You can't get smart unless you first get real, that is, until you know the facts about yourself and the real needs and requirements of companies and/or clients.

But I wonder how many LinkedIn users are actually using it to gather career intelligence (intelligence is information that enables you to make a better decision; the information that you get from the TV news or newspaper is NOT intelligence since it does NOT enable you to make better decisions).

Peter Drucker actually wrote that we need to become more information literate. In other words, we need to know WHAT it is that we need to know. If we don't know what we're looking for, we will never find it.

It's like looking for a needle in a stack of... needles!

Now, if you really knew WHAT kind of career intelligence you absolutely need to have to make better career decisions, would you describe it on your LinkedIn profile so your connections can forward the intelligence to you if they come across it?

For example, in my case, as a KM consultant, I could put on my LinkedIn profile: "I would appreciate any information on what companies are currently doing in terms of managing their organizational knowledge. In exchange, I'm most willing to share everything I know about KM."

LinkedIn users currently do not, I believe, have this knowledge-sharing reflex. It may take a while, but I think it will make LinkedIn much more useful than if we only use it for discrete transactions like finding a job or candidate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Can you give a workshop on your career or expertise?

Ideally, a person who has achieved a certain professional status should be able to give a seminar like this.

LinkedIn then would be extremely useful in inviting friends, and asking them to invite their friends (i.e. your second-degree connections).

That way, you don't have to spend anything on marketing your seminar.

If you count the rows and columns in the picture, it's about 10 X 15 = 150.

At $20 a pop, you should be able to make $3,000 in one afternoon.

Seminar topics could be:

  1. Project management basics
  2. Knowledge management for dummies
  3. Marketing 101
  4. Business 101
  5. New product process development
  6. Software engineering - Trends, Tools and Technologies

My point is this: it doesn't matter how much knowledge you have, or how much you are able to charge for it. Some people may only be able to charge $5 per head, while others may charge $100.

Either way is fine, as long as you are able to use LinkedIn to get people to come to your workshop or seminar.

From personal experience, I can say that it is really fun and rewarding to share your knowledge with people, be respected by them, and get paid for it!

Idea brokerage services

Social / professional networking is just the tip of the iceberg.

The real potential, I believe, will be when people can sell or trade ideas, such as described in the ad above.

It will pay big time in the near future if you start to build your network now.

If you're a creative who can create and sell ideas, you will have a network of connections that can help you place your ideas in front of the right buyer.

If you're NOT a creative person, you can later use your network to reach and tap people who DO have creative ideas.

B2B or brain-to-brain connections

The above picture appears on Tom Peters' website ( I believe that is the future of socioprofessional networking software like LinkedIn, Ryze, etc.

That is, people will connect in order to tap into one another's cognitive resources. This is not a new idea, by the way.

Former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said: "I use all the brains I have and all I can borrow."

Like all great leaders, he knew how to tap into the brainpower of collaborators and associates.

Right now, tapping into the brainpower of your LinkedIn connections is not possible, unless you sit down one-on-one and talk to them.

Even then, you might not know what it is that they know, so you wouldn't even ask them questions about it.

For example, if you don't know that I've read and have assimilated all the ideas that Dr. Edward de Bono wrote since 1970, then you normally would NOT ask me anything about creativity. Even my friends and family have never asked me anything about creativity techniques, even though I've been mastering a couple of them over the last 10 years.

Bottom line: LinkedIn currently enables people to make their social connections KNOWN to their first-degree connections.

I predict there will be software soon to enable people to make their valuable knowledge KNOWN to their first-degree (or even second-degree) connections.

HR directors: do you have a response?

Dear HR directors:

I was just wondering if you knew that LinkedIn exists, and that it currently has 3.2 million users. Plus, it has only received positive reviews from the trade and general media. It seems LinkedIn is here to stay.

I was wondering because it seems that LinkedIn is growing really fast, and is somehow changing the career game. It has effectively given more power to talented professionals, which could mean many things:
  1. Professionals may become more mobile (this obviously has implications which are most severe for companies with substandard talent retention measures)
  2. Professionals can link more easily with other professionals from other companies (for example, a VP Marketing can easily communicate with other marketing executives from other companies, in order to share knowledge; in doing so, they may also compare notes on how the employer is treating them)
  3. Professionals may become less tolerant of corporate culture or policies that do not help them advance in their career, and may now have the means and motivation to jump ship

I'm sure you're a very busy HR executive and don't have time for what-if scenarios. Yet what if top management asked for your opinion on LinkedIn? How would you respond? Would you have a clear and feasible plan to "deal" with this new Web-based professional networking software? (Currently used by 3.2 million people)

I understand these are tough questions, which is why I'm sharing them with you now so you have time to brainstorm and analyze the relevant issues appropriately.

If you need to talk to someone about these important issues, please feel free to contact me at It'll be a pleasure to be of service.

A letter to a higher-rank person should be personalized, I think

The Support Economy

I read professor Zuboff's book cover to cover, and it seems she and her husband have brilliantly captured the framework within which we will all live and work.

Their main idea is that that world will no longer be company-centric, but people-centric.

In such a people-centric world, networks of "deep" support will spring up and provide people with the support they need to live better, work more productively and, of course, retain their sanity in this crazy world.

HP cuts 14,500 jobs

This happened yesterday.

I think there's no better evidence that savvy professionals should get busy networking.

It's not that companies don't care about you. Corporations are machines, they CANNOT care for you. Only your relatives, friends, acquaintances, etc. care about you.

In the end, this kind of headline news doesn't have to depress us. It may be the wake-up call that will drive thousands of people to decide to take charge of their economic destiny.

LinkedIn is a dance floor!

The LinkedIn environment, believe it or not, is like a huge dance floor.

First, somebody thought about you and invited you to a dance. Next thing you know, everybody is joining you guys and dancing to the music!

Ladies and gentlemen, the party has officially started!

You really don't want to be sitting alone, in the dark, watching all these people have fun. You want to have fun, too! So put on your dancing shoes and show what ya got!

BUT you have to be careful not to make any weird dance moves! (See the movie A Night at the Roxbury, it's hilarious!).

If you can dance like John Travolta, hey, by all means, go ahead and teach the admiring crowd a thing or two! If your dancing style is more like Austin Powers, that's okay too, just make sure you "behave"!

Bottom line: LinkedIn is your party, you invite who you want to invite. Yes, be dignified and look presentable, but also make sure you have fun!

Why not share your passion?

LinkedIn users who have access to a lot of employment opportunities (headhunters, for example) have more to trade than mere mortals like you and me.

They are highly "liquid" connections.

So how can normal working professionals like us make LinkedIn work for us? What do we offer to our connections? We can't offer jobs, most of us can't offer reference letters, and we can't offer career intelligence (for example, a counselor working at a placement agency might have intelligence on key corporate employers, such as which departments are growing and might need new personnel, etc.).

Yet, I think most professionals have something that they underestimate: their valuable knowledge.

This knowledge can be work-related, or it can be hobby-related.

For example, I have 20 years of experience in calligraphy, as an artist and instructor. Yet nowhere on my profile does it say that I am ABLE and (most) WILLING to share my calligraphy expertise with people who would like to learn.

(Which is why I created a blog to promote calligraphy, at

I know many people who are talented and possess valuable knowledge related to a hobby or a non-work-related activity. Yet their LinkedIn profile does not mention it at all.

Of course, the reason is that LinkedIn is (correctly, I believe) positioned as a professional networking webware.

So one solution, I think, would be for talented people to create a blog to share their hobby-related expertise, and to promote the blog's URL on their LinkedIn profile.

After all, hiring managers are not just looking for a cold brain and a skill set devoid of humanity. They want to hire people who have passion and who pursue their own dream in their personal lives. Such passionate people usually make the workplace more fun, so they serve as a positive element to increase team morale and make the working lives of others more fun and more relaxed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Are you reliable and useful to friends?

This blunt question is essentially the one question people may have to ask themselves.

Indeed, generally speaking, you are reliable and useful to friends if:
  1. you have a decent number of connections (say, 30 or more)
  2. your profile shows clearly your career objective (this will inspire your friends to strive to achieve a similar degree of control over their professional affairs)
  3. you have endorsements (this will reassure your friends that you can help them in a professional manner)
  4. your profile shows specifically the employers you worked for and in what capacity (this will help them determine whether you can answer certain technical questions or employer-related questions)

Can a person NOT use LinkedIn and still try to be useful to his/her friends?

It's possible. You can support your friends emotionally, for example, when they go through a tough period.

But to support them socially (introduce them to friends or acquaintances) and economically (help them find a more rewarding or higher-salary job), LinkedIn is the best.

(Oh, I tried Ryze, but it's a bit messy and they keep sending me stats which, unfortunately, have nothing to do with my networking goals! But I'm sure the people behind Ryze are good and smart people, perhaps they can learn a bit from LinkedIn's business-like approach and simple interface. Just my two cents!).

(Disclosure: I am not on the payroll of LinkedIn, nor do I receive any commissions based on new user registrations. I just love this new tool!)

Spiderman advice

"No matter what life holds in store for me, I will always remember these words: With small power still comes the great responsibility of developing that power."

That's basically my adaptation of Peter Parker's words, applied to normal people like us.

Indeed, unlike Spidey, we can't spin steel-strong spider silk, we can't fight super villains, we can't spend the entire day foiling the plans of organized crime -- we have a job to do at the office every day and a paycheck to pick up every week!

But I dare submit that with webware like LinkedIn (wait a minute... "webware"... spiders... hmm), we can turn whatever small talent we have into some sort of super power!

I know, you're probably thinking that I've had one coffee too many, but I'm serious!

I'm not the first one to come up with that idea. In his book The Next 20 Years of Your Life, futurist Richard Worzel talked about The Partnership Network (TPN), a constellation of highly credible, reliable and competent professionals who work together to support one another. TPN would have a professional for each specialty, and everyone in the network would go to that person if a need arose that would require his/her services.

For example, if you were a marketing consultant specialized in helping small businesses, then you were THE expert that all the other members would recommend or hire if your services were needed.

In other words, after you join TPN, the entire network continually promotes YOU. TPN becomes your marketing machine and works for you, even while you're sleeping.

The only problem with TPN is that... it doesn't exist!

Worzel used it only as a fictitious model to illustrate the potential for such worker alliance.

I first read about it while on a trip to Toronto, in 1997. But the concept stayed with me all these years.

With webware like LinkedIn, I think there is the strong possibility of a virtual organization like TPN to emerge and be useful to people.

All it takes is for LinkedIn users to become aware of their true talent (what they do better than anybody else), and to offer their talent and services to all their LinkedIn connections.

This way, they can help a lot of other people while developing their talent fully (for personal fulfillment, financial gain, social prestige, etc.).

Monday, July 18, 2005

SCORE: LinkedIn: 0, Al Qaeda: 3

One of the key strengths of Al Qaeda is the principle of covert agency: it operates in total secrecy. It specializes in darkness beyond darkness.

One of the key strengths of LinkedIn is the principle of voluntary transparency: it works by encouraging people to voluntarily disclose social connections and professional history.

Now I read George Friedman's book, America's Secret War, and I'm beginning to understand why Osama Bin Laden did what he did. I mean, here's a chap who graduated in economics and public administration from a Saudi university, and managed to accumulate a personal fortune of 300 million dollars from family businesses. Why the heck would he leave everything and risk everything by challenging the world's preeminent superpower?

I don't know.

What I do know is that the only way to stop terrorism in the long term, is for us to make sure that our system (democracy, capitalism, institutions, etc.) actually works and is inclusive and fair and upholds principles and practices of transparency.

I've read many profiles of the most connected people on LinkedIn, and often, I felt a sense of pride in belonging to a community like LinkedIn. I mean, I see all these men and women who voluntarily display their profile, their professional achievements, their endorsements, etc. and I can't help but think that this is the right way to work and live: by being transparent and honest and, most importantly, by being there for other people.

LinkedIn might very well open the doors to a sort of reformed capitalism, where we go beyond the self-interest imperative that Adam Smith talked about, to reach a kind of communal and collaborative econonomic environment where the more you help other people, the more you help yourself.

This is more than the baker selling a loaf of bread, because that would merely be the self-interested behavior Adam Smith wrote about.

Rather, it's one person displaying his/her skills, professional achievements and social connections in order to be useful to friends and colleagues, and help them be successful.

In conclusion, I would say that the game has only begun, and although the official score puts Al Qaeda in the lead, I have every hope that if we use LinkedIn carefully and conscientiously, it might very well turn out to be an unexpected blessing that will save capitalism by mixing self-interested behavior with selfless collaboration and sharing.

It pays to know people

A group of market research consultants came to me: they made $40,000
A Web development firm came to me: they made $20,000.00
A marketing student came to me: she made $250
Two marketing/IS students came to me: they made $3,000
A graphic designer came to me: he made $12,000
A bookbinder came to me: he made $3,000
An IT consulting firm came to me: they made $27,000
A Web designer came to me: he made $3,000
A training firm came to me: they made $100,000

An IT professional came to me: she made $40,000

The only person who's not making much money is me!

I'm just kidding. In most of the cases above (partial list), I made a bit of money via the finder's fee (yay!). But my record, honestly, is quite insignificant, especially compared to the professional headhunters out there! And what about the real estate people? These folks make an obscene amount of money!

There should be a law against that kind of..!

Peter, calm down, calm down!

Sorry. My point is, it really pays to know people and build trust-based relationships.

Am I saying that by multiplying your connections on LinkedIn, you can make extra money too? Am I saying that you could make enough money to eventually retire on your private islands bought from Vladi Islands?

Well, it depends on many factors, the main one being: Do you have something of value that you can easily distribute to others via email or the Web?

Do you have a product or service that enjoys near-universal appeal and that you can easily promote via the Internet?

More on these exciting topics tomorrow. I'm going out now, I need to have some fun!

Tiger story

An American businessman and a Japanese businessman were having a meeting in a jungle when, suddenly, they see a tiger coming out of a bush.

The tiger looked extremely hungry.

The Japanese businessman immediately opens his suitcase and pulls out a pair of running shoes, and puts them on.

The American businessman looks at him with incredulity and says: "Are you crazy?! You can't run faster than the tiger!"

The Japanese businessman replies: "No, but I can run faster than you!"

The new economy is moving so fast, and eliminating so many jobs (or sending them overseas) that it is like a tiger: it's thirsty for blood, and will attack the slowest people.

There are people who use LinkedIn strategically, and seem to be making all the right moves. Then there are people who join LinkedIn but have no idea how to use it.

They just stand there and stratch their head, not knowing that somewhere, in the shadows, a hungry tiger is watching them and is about to pounce.

The tragedy is that it is the hard-working people (who deserve to succeed more than anybody else) who seem to be missing the boat. As a result, they will likely find themselves unable to compete one day against the new crop of career warriors who have been busy skilling and reskilling themselves while multiplying connections on LinkedIn at the speed of email.

Star Wars!

If talent matters most to businesses, and business competition essentially becomes a war between the talented people of Company ABC against the talented people of Company XYZ, then I submit our economy will be characterized by "star wars."

That is, the competition (or war) will be waged between talents (or stars).

Corporations (the physical offices where you find computer equipment, phone lines, conference tables, etc.) will only serve as temporary meeting or working spaces for the talents to hang around, should they choose to.

The real business battle, the real work, will be done intellectually, in the mind. Winston Churchil once said, "The empires of the future will be empires of the mind." Now this quote has been used often, but I have no idea what it means exactly. But perhaps it means the brain will become the ultimate weapon to be used by companies in today's global economy.

In fact, on September 11, 2001 the whole world could clearly see the horrific yet effective use of brainpower to deliver a blow that could simply not have been delivered otherwise.

My point is that the stars of the new economy will be those who are experts at using imagination and mental powers to have an impact (for good or evil).

Watch out! Cannon balls coming through!

The career game is rapidly becoming overt naval warfare, where an ambitious careerist has to "fight it out in the open" against other equally able career competitors.

This overt warfare happens, I think, because more and more information about one's career is being made public via LinkedIn (assuming you are a LinkedIn user).

This dramatic increase in career information transparency, especially within a group of friends or co-workers, is not a bad thing.

For example, it somehow provides a definite incentive to being honest and truthful about one's professional experiences, current status, and career objective.

(You can't really lie or stretch the truth about your previous professional employment, because everyone only has one profile, which is publicly accessible to all people, including previous employers! You also can't decide to have two "tactical" resume versions, depending on which position you apply for.)

To use an old adage, "What you see is what you get." There's no place to hide.

You have the right to remain silent (or vague), except that the less you reveal, the more people might perhaps conclude (rightly?) that you have something to hide.

You might create doubt in people's mind, which may not be good, because LinkedIn is, after all, a trust-based network!

So since most career information will be out there, the only way to successfully manage one's career is to proactively and aggressively engage the enemy. By this, I mean to properly do one's research and analyses of the competition.

For example, if you were a KM consultant like me, you would search for all LinkedIn users who currently have the words "KM" in their title.

I'm not saying all these other KM consultants suddenly become my enemies; in fact, I'm rather friendly by nature, so I suspect I would gladly collaborate with them perhaps on joint projects.

What I'm saying is that your competitors will check you out, so it is wise for you to perhaps take the lead and check THEM out. At least, you know what you're up against.

I strongly suspect the career game will become naval warfare. It may not be as violent (I don't think anybody will shoot cannon balls at you), but the consequences will be as radical and decisive.

This is so because the number of jobs is limited. If your career competitor gets the job you wanted, then you simply cannot have it. What if it were your dream job? What if it were the job that would have truly launched your career? Well, I guess we'll never know.

Given all this, people who are serious about their career will have no choice but to learn war strategy skills in order to successfully wage wars on cyber seas.

Do you know how fast you were going?

With LinkedIn, you can precisely know how fast your career is going.

For example, you can use these indicators to have an idea of your career's progress so far:

  1. Number of first-degree connections
  2. Number of second-degree connections
  3. Number of endorsements
  4. Clarity of your career objective (if you have one, in your Profile)
  5. Consistency of employment
You can even compare yourself to your friends or co-workers. Maybe you can help them in some areas, maybe they can help you in other areas.

If you search for your company's name, and see your co-workers, then you can see how many connections and endorsements they have. (It never hurts to know what the competition is up to!)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Your private career army

If you were CEO of a corporation, perhaps this picture could reflect your power and, indeed, command over troops neatly organized into battalions.

But as a user of LinkedIn, even if you have 100+ connections, this picture would not accurately reflect your network.

First and most obviously, you don't hold any power over your connections, although you may wield a certain influence. Also, your connections cannot be organized as neatly as orderly troops.

However, I think there is a way to organize ALL your connections without actually having formal authority over them.

It all starts with having a clear positioning, a marketing term that refers to "owning a unique place in the customer's mind."

In the case of a careerist, a positioning refers to what he/she does best.

So if you wanted all your connections to think about you IN THE SAME WAY, then a good idea would be to clearly state your positioning.

This way, all your connections will talk about you and act uniformly to help you advance in your career.

Without a clear positioning, some of your connections may think of you, say, as "a good software engineer" while others might think of you as "a solid, well-educated software programmer."

Perhaps more than anything else, a positioning should be original. Perhaps in my case, I could say that "I think like an MBA, I type like a secretary." This creatively constructed positioning could be used endlessly to remind my friends and connections that I think strategically while also being able to capture knowledge fast.

Strategic planning in 5 steps

I was giving a short and sweet seminar on strategic planning at McGill University when one of the participants, a highly capable freelance writer, asked if she could get a copy of my audiotape (I often tape myself for improvement purposes).

She said her teenage daughter was about to graduate from high school, and could use the Strategic Planning process I was describing.

At the time, I admit I was surprised by her request but now that I think about it, it's never too early to plan one's life strategically.

And it's never too late, either.

We seem to live in a society where there is a "profusion of means, but a confusion of ends," to paraphrase Albert Eistein.

The strategic planning process, I suspect, can help many people to clarify their goals, and plan carefully to gather resources, expertise and means to achieve their goals.

Here are the steps:
  1. Where are you now? (A clear and objectively verifiable assessment of one's current situation is essential since it is the foundation for all future actions)
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. How are you going to get there? (Here, a person identifies all the means, resources, techniques, methods, etc. enabling him/her to get to the destination)
  4. Who has to do what? (Here, you identify all the people who are directly or indirectly involved in the planing and execution of your strategic plan)
  5. How are you doing so far? (This question should be asked at regular intervals, such as monthly or even weekly)

Cordial vs Cardinal Relationships

Cardinal: Of foremost importance; paramount: a cardinal rule; cardinal sins.
Cordial: Warm and sincere; friendly: a cordial greeting; cordial relations

A relationship with a neighbor may be cordial, friendly, often sincere.

But a relationship with a member of the cultural, media or corporate elite is usually cardinal: it can open doors that can simply not be opened any other way.

Most people are sociable, but very few people are political. This may be the reason why only 5% of LinkedIn users are active users (recruiters, headhunters, entrepreneurs, investment bankers, etc.).

Most people intuitively understand the adage "It's who you know." Yet, the real secret lies in the expression "Who's Who" (which also happens to be a publication listing all the important people in the world).

In other words, it's the quality of your connections, not the quantity.

(A brilliant book to read is The 20/80 Individual, which shows how you can focus on the 20% of activities that will lead to 80% of desired results.)

This being said, is it possible that only through quantity can you get to quality?

In other words, there may be a lot of quality connections who could open doors for you, but they are second-degree connections that you can only access through your first-degree connections.

Which shows that perhaps the best strategy for getting high-quality connections is to multiply all kinds of connections, regardless of pre-conceived notions about which connections are high or low quality.

(Note: I use the expression "high-quality connection" here strictly in the sense of how useful a person can be to the advancement of another person's career, and not at all to assign any moral value or discriminate against any person, since I believe all humans are equal).

How to evaluate leaders

In The Daily Drucker, a very good and concise book offering wisdom from the famed guru, there is the following great advice: In evaluating managers and leaders, ask yourself: "Would you want one of your sons or daughters to work under that person?"

If that is a good question to ask in reviewing the profile of a manager on LinkedIn, I'm afraid many managers are mistaken and, therefore, should rewrite their profile.

Indeed, after reviewing hundreds of "executive" profiles, I find that very few people mention anything about how they take care of their people and team, or how they coach or mentor junior team members.

Lord Vader at IBM

I was lucky to work for IBM during their spectacular turnaround in the mid 90's.

I was only working as a lowly desktop publishing specialist, but I could feel the amazing "imperial" atmosphere created by Lord Vader, I mean, CEO Lou Gertsner.

For the first time in IBM's history, Gertsner had the power to fire anybody. In a conference with big clients, he would publicly ask a client what his big problem was, and who was the IBM executive handling his account.

Then, on the spot, he would promise the client that his problem will be resolved that very afternoon by the publicly named IBM executive.

Sure, it's ruthless, but I believe there was no other way for Gertsner to signal his resolve to make Big Blue work once more as a great company.

I remember the key line of the new IBM culture: "Committed to each other and committed to win."

This seems like a good tagline for anyone who joins LinkedIn and is serious about helping their connections while also serious about tapping opportunities through their connections.

LinkedIn will destroy useless information

LinkedIn connects people who trust one another and who, presumably, will watch after one another's interests.

Logically, this means LinkedIn will destroy a lot of useless and irrelevant information that is continually "thrown" at people from all kinds of "free" media.

(I say "free" because no newspaper or publication is ever free, since they require that you spend your valuable time reading it! For example, if you spend 24 minutes reading a free newspaper, then that's 24 minutes that you will never get back.)

But to benefit from your LinkedIn connections as a way to channel useful and relevant information to you, there is a price: you have to let your connections know, clearly and unequivocally:

  1. what your goals are.
  2. what kinds of information you are interested in.
  3. what information you received in the past which really helped you. is a nice tool to post your goals so everyone in your network knows what you're trying to achieve.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Objection, your Honour!

"You can't manage what you don't measure."

Management consultants have been saying this for years, yet most people still think they're "managing" their career.

I'm the first to admit I'm guilty of believing I was managing my career before.

Indeed, before the advent of LinkedIn, it was hard to measure one's career progress. How would you do that? Which numbers would reveal your career status? Some numbers could have been:
  1. Your annual salary or hourly wage
  2. How many career-related books you read per month
  3. How many career-related magazines you subscribe to or read per month
  4. etc.

Now, LinkedIn enables you to track additional (critical?) career metrics:

  1. Number of first-degree connections
  2. Number of endorsements
  3. Number of second-degree connections

(All this first-degree and second-degree terminology sounds like a criminal trial: "Mister Witness, you were connected to the victim in the first degree, were you not?"

"Objection, your Honour! The witness joined LinkedIn to manage his career and mind his own business. He's not related to the victim in any way, shape or form.")

Actually, your LinkedIn profile in particular, and the career game in general, is slowly but surely becoming a trial.

That's right! Just as skilled lawyers master the "art of evidence" in order to show to the members of the jury ONLY what will support, prove, corroborate their case, smart career people must also ONLY show information that will unequivocally support their case (or their Unique Value Proposition).

"I have nothing to add, your Honour."

"The witness may step down."

New challengers

At first, when you join LinkedIn, it seems exciting, because you invite your friends, and they in turn invite their friends and colleagues, etc.

But eventually, everybody realizes that in this world, there's no free lunch.

The good stuff always goes to the most deserving people (although sometimes, cosmic justice doesn't always work according to our timetables).

Yes, there will be many more opportunities to network than before, but there will also be many new challengers who will compete against you for the best jobs and contracts.

New battles will have to be planned for and fought.

"Career management" will become "career combat," and will require fighting skills that most professionals may not have.

The most ambitious people will have to go out there, meet important people and send the right messages.

It will require premeditated planning, but also real-time, spontaneous cunning. Many careerists will try to seduce, cajole, bribe.

In a word, the career game is no longer what it used to be. It has become much more intensified, and will likely demand that careerists fully understand the political and strategic implications of everything they do, say or even think.

BATNA to the rescue!

No, BATNA is not the female cousin of BATMAN.

It's a negotiation term, it means "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement."

It means "the less you care about the outcome of a negotiation, the more likely you will win during said negotiation."

Let's take a real example.

I was talking on the phone the other day with Julia, a sales rep from a placement agency, who was offering me a job. The salary was $XX,000.00. (Unfortunately, I haven't yet reached six-figure nirvana. Don't worry, I'll get there some day. Thanks for your concern).

I told her, "You know, that number doesn't excite me too much. You want to excite me, don't you? So I can do a good job, right?!"

She said, in a monotonous voice: "Yes, Peter, I want to excite you... What do you want?"

"I need $3,000 more."

"I don't know if the client..."

"Well Julia, I love you and everything, but listen, I just spoke to another agency, and that's what they're offering me to work for a downtown firm. I would rather go with you, though, because we have a long history and you understand my male need for excitement."

"Okay, okay, let me talk to the client and I'll call you in five. You're very tough, Peter."

"And you're very sweet!"

My BATNA was the second firm (I was not bluffing, I really had a second job offer). If I didn't have that "best alternative" I would not have been in a good bargaining position.

I would have had no choice but to accept the original offer from Julia.

LinkedIn basically multiplies opportunities for you to create BATNAs, whether or not you currently hold a full-time position.

In concrete HR terms, it means that if an employee has 200 connections, many of whom are executive contacts at competitor firms, then he/she is more likely to jump ship. Therefore, he/she should be WELL TREATED, because it costs a LOT to replace such a valuable employee.

The question now is, what if you're well connected via LinkedIn, but your boss somehow doesn't know that you are well connected? Should you or shouldn't you alert your boss to the fact that you are using LinkedIn?

More later, I gotta go eat something.

Play it cool!

A picture is worth a thousand pieces of advice.

Ideally, your LinkedIn profile should show the same kind of aloof coolness that characterizes the James Bond brand, especially when played by Sean Connery.

Don't get mad. Get even!

It can be very frustrating when someone else gets the job, because he/she knew somebody inside the company, although you may be more qualified.

Well, don't get mad. Get even!

Use LinkedIn to multiply your connections and build your own network of career allies with whom you share career intelligence about opportunities, employers and salary data.

Dick Cheney's rolodex

LinkedIn is all about connections, so here's an interesting fact:

In 1995, Dick Cheney was appointed as CEO of Halliburton. Yet he didn't have any business experience, much less as CEO of a global Fortune 500 company like Halliburton.

So why was he hired for the top position?

Answer: he was not hired per se. What Halliburton "hired" or acquired, in fact, was his Rolodex. As Secretary of Defense, he had an extensive network of contacts. Indeed, as is well known in those circles, if you wanted to do anything important in the oil business of the Middle East, Cheney was the man to see.

As it turned out, hiring him was a good decision by Halliburton. In subsequent years, the company did business in the Middle East worth billions of dollars!

In the beginning was the Word

A picture may be worth a thousand words.

But there's NO WAY you could have expressed that idea without using words!

Words come first, numbers and pictures come later.

Same with your LinkedIn strategy. It's fairly useless to keep increasing your number of connections, if you did not properly use words to capture your professional identity and capabilities in a way that will seduce the decision-makers you are targeting.

As a copywriter, I often tell my clients: "The easiest part of copywriting is writing the copy."

What I mean is, the hard part is research and analysis, to find out exactly WHAT you want to say, to WHOM you want to say it, and then WHEN, WHERE and HOW.

In other words, LinkedIn is just a radio broadcast station. What matters most is your song. If your song is good, then ANY radio station will want to broadcast it.

But if your song (your profile) is bad, then after people hear it once, they don't want to hear it again -- ever.

Given the fact that the most important people in your life will most likely check out your profile, it's worth the effort to sit down and carefully strategize about what to put in your profile, and how to write it to achieve maximum impact in the targeted reader's mind.

Case study: Chateau IT professional

I once helped an IT professional at Le Chateau (the retail chain store) to rewrite a letter in which he wanted to ask for a higher salary.

When he gave me his original letter, I felt it was very disorganized and poorly argued. That's okay, because most people are not professional writers.

But what shocked me was that the content of his letter did not show any awareness of the business reality or the business objectives of the company.

Yet he wanted his letter to convince his boss that he's worth more to the company and, therefore, deserves a higher salary.

Then, recently, I read a column by Harvard Business professor Shoshana Zuboff, in which she wrote that according to a recent Conference Board survey, 65% of employees do not identify with the business objectives of their employer.

Trying to advance in your career without a proper understanding of business, is like trying to seduce a woman without knowing how women think.

In both cases, technique is required. Even if you met a woman that you believe were your soul mate, you still need to have a certain "technique" to properly seduce her.

You can't just walk up to her and say:

"I have the unmistakable feeling that you are my soul mate. Would you care to jump into bed with me tonight?"

Conclusion: many highly qualified and experienced professional don't advance in their career because they fail to understand how business works. If you want an employer to give you everything you want (opportunities, higher salary, more resources, flexible schedule, etc.), you have to be able and willing to give them what they want.

American interdependence

Liberty and independence are values very much linked to the American ethos.

A quick look at history convinces us that the Americans truly believe in liberty and independence. I forgot the date and the place, but once, in a decisive battle, there were only 4,000 remaining American soldiers, who kept fighting the then powerful British army, in order to secure independence from Britain.

LinkedIn seems to usher in a new era, focusing on: Interdependence.

Indeed, while many people throughout the world are criticizing the Americans for their foreign policy (which is determined by Washington, not necessarily approved by the American population at large), I prefer to look at what American pioneers have actually done to help the world.

There's the incredibly inspiring Open Courseware Project from MIT ( Now, there's LinkedIn.

Sure, the entrepreneurs and investors behind LinkedIn may be more motivated by the prospects of financial gain than the opportunity to create an interdependent world. And who could blame them? They have the right to well deserved wealth, just like any other entrepreneur or innovator who has a good idea and the guts/ability to execute it.

But it doesn't change the fact that the powerful IDEA of interdependence is now out there. Using LinkedIn, people can actually help one another, by introducing friends or relatives to the right person with the authority to make things happen.

Why network?

I have certain exotic talents and connections, so I usually have no trouble connecting with any member of the cultural, media or corporate elite. But I'm not special or smarter than anyone else. It just so happens that I was lucky to find my strengths and what makes me unique.

I think everybody is unique in some way, although many people are not aware of that. They are LUCKY in at least one way, but they DO NOT leverage that luckiness.

This is why it's so important to network and meet new people. As I found out myself, what happens is that you rapidly realize how unique you are, by seeing other people's weaknesses and challenges. (On the other hand, you also realize your own weaknesses, by witnessing other people's natural strengths.)

In other words, the more you network, the more you begin to discover how unique you are.

This, eventually, enables you to find your unique place in the world.

I believe there is a unique place in the world for each human being, but it can only be reached after courageous and fearless exploration. You simply CAN'T get to that special place by sitting on the couch and watching TV.

You've got to go out there and meet people and do things. You've got to give life a chance to have an impact on you.

Where are you in your career?

Most careers have 4 phases:
  1. Apprentice
  2. Independent professional
  3. Middle manager
  4. Executive

When you're an apprentice, you're basically in LEARNING mode. You try to learn as much as possible from everything going on around you, and from people working around you. Usually, the best strategy is to pick a leader that you admire, and try to learn from him or ask him/her to mentor you.

After you master certain skills and work methods, you become an independent professional, and you have your own work cut out for you. Oftentimes, you work in a team setting, exchanging and collaborating with other professionals. This is where you begin to learn to play politics, and where you realize there are actually 3 kinds of meetings: the staff meeting, the get-something-done meeting and the combat meeting, where ultimately, someone will come out winning and someone else will come out "bleeding."

(more on these types of meetings in a later posting).

Eventually, you may graduate to become a middle manager. In this position, you should be able to coach other junior professionals and be able to act as a team leader. A middle manager is responsible for other people's team performance, so he/she must be very good with interpersonal skills, motivation, psychology, etc.

Ultimately, a few people, chosen from the middle manager group, become executives, who are responsible for ORGANIZATIONAL performance. Executives are often well connected to other players OUTSIDE their organizations (they usually have a lot of connections on LinkedIn). They are visionaries, fearless and strategic. They think long-term.

If you search for executive profiles on LinkedIn, you can learn a great deal about what it takes to become an executive.

For now, it seems enough to just understand these four different career phases, so that you can begin to strategize your approach with LinkedIn in order to maximize your career viability and opportunities.

You're an engineer at Nortel, Ericsson, Lucent, etc.

How can LinkedIn help you?
  1. Headhunters. Would headhunters help you more if they see that you have over 50 connections. Probably. That's because they see more word-of-mouth potential. (If they help you, you might tell your 50 connections about them).
  2. Potential employers. Should you let potential employers know about your LinkedIn profile? Difficult to answer. Yes, if you want to show them that you have only one resume version, and it is viewable on LinkedIn. Indeed, many people use different resume versions to make them fit the job they're applying for, and that might turn off employers, who view it as a lack of professional integrity. Also, the fact that you show your resume on LinkedIn means you have nothing to hide and that all your information (job titles, dates, etc.) are accurate (nobody would dare to lie on LinkedIn, since one's connections can see one's resume).
  3. Your profile. LinkedIn forces you to clarify your Unique Professional Value (UPV) as well as your career objective. It's not enough to put down "engineering position" as a career objective. It should be more passionate, focused and unique. Your UPV also should be unique, and be supported by all your previous professional experiences.