The Benefits Of Having Had Many Jobs

I see a lot of resumes; it comes with the job as have as an Employment Counsellor. In addition to the resumes I’m privileged to see, I listen to more people as they talk about their work history. Some have long careers working for a single employer while others have an abundance of shorter term jobs, seemingly changing from one to another every couple of years.

It’s of interest to me that most of the time, those who have spent much of their life in a job, two at the most – tend to be proud of their long tenures. I can hear it in their voice when they talk about their work, and that pride increases if the reason they are no longer working for a company was beyond both their control and the control of people around them such as their boss. If they lost their employment because of a decision far up the chain of command to down-size or relocate, the now unemployed person still feels good about their longevity and all it implies about their work ethic.

On the other hand, those who have worked in many jobs where each was for a relatively short duration don’t come across as confident and proud. Most often, when they talk about their work history, they apologize flat-out for having such a seemingly bad-looking resume. Their resume they fear looks like they can’t hold down a job as they move quickly from one to another. In short, they get defensive.

If your own resume has quite a few jobs on it and they are for only a few years at most and many much less than that, let me give you some positive ways to look at it. Why? Simple really. How you perceive your work history will be communicated to those you talk with it about, and if some of those you talk to are potential employers, you want to come across in a positive way, not presenting yourself as a short-term liability, hired only to be replaced in short order.

The most obvious benefit of having held many jobs is that numerous employers have had the confidence to hire you. Never forget this. This fact should confirm in your mind that you perform well enough in those interviews to sell your abilities and potential value to more than just a few employers. Where some job seekers would love for just a single employer to hire them, you’ve got the evidence that several employer’s see benefits in bringing you onboard.

The best thing about having worked in many jobs, especially when those jobs have been in different lines of work altogether, is the fact that you have diversified experience. In other words, it is exactly because your work history crosses many fields that you’ve got both the experience and an appreciation for what it’s like to work in those various employment sectors. This isn’t a liability but rather a strength. Of course, if you believe it to be a bad thing, you’ll send this message to everyone you talk to and they’ll be inclined to see it the way you see it. Ah but the opposite is also true! See this history of various jobs in different sectors as your strength and those you tell will consider this perspective and believe it the more you sell it.

Suppose you’ve worked in the fast-food industry as a Cook for a couple of years. From there, you moved to being a Sales Associate in a mall, then after chatting over time with the Security Guard, you went and got your licence and did that job for two years. To increase your earnings, you quit and took on a job in a food warehouse and just shy of a year you left the job to work as a Landscaper with a friend.  So you’ve held 5 positions over 6 or 7 years. How do you view that? Can’t keep a job? Lack of direction? Not likely to stay in any job? Drifting and a poor bet to hang around long if/when hired again? See it that way, you’ll sell it that way.

But what if as I say we spun that around? You’ve worked as a Cook in the Hospitality Sector, Sales Representative in Retail, a Guard in Security, Labourer in a Warehouse and Landscaper in the Property Beautification sector. Suppose you pitched this summary as having gone out with the goal of gaining experiences; intentionally working in various sectors to gain an appreciation for various lines of work; discovering not only what the jobs entailed, but discovering more about yourself as you determined your preferences and things you wished to avoid. This accumulated work history has provided you with a way to connect with people in various lines of work, and having acquired this skill, now you’re focused on making a commitment to a longer-term position. One where your well-developed people skills and accumulated experiences working in teams, and of course your resiliency and ability to reinvent yourself will contribute to your success.

Read that paragraph again; maybe twice more. When you turn how you see your work history into a strength, you suddenly feel a confidence in defending your career journey. It can then translate into a benefit for a potential employer as they size you up.

Many jobs have one thing in common; interacting with people. Your diverse experience is suddenly an asset.

What Your Resume SHOULD Do

Let’s put the question of whether you have a good resume aside for the moment. Rather, let’s talk about what your résumé should be doing.

For starters, your résumé is a marketing document. It should lay out clearly what you offer and entice the person reading it sufficiently to meet you face-to-face. The best resumes are custom-made for the jobs they are submitted for; one unique resume made specifically for that single job. As the reader looks it over, they should be struck with how what you offer aligns with or meets their own needs. The more effective you are at making this potential match clear and the benefit they’ll receive in having a conversation with you, the more likely that is to happen.

Now let’s look at this idea of your specific resume being a marketing document. At this point, it would be an excellent idea if you pulled out your résumé so you can look it over as you read on.

Looking at your résumé, does it communicate how the organization you are applying to will benefit from bringing you on board, or does it focus more on how you want to benefit from working at a company? In reality, a good fit will ultimately benefit both you and the organization you ultimately work for, but on paper you put what you’ll bring to the company ahead of your own interests.

This is where many fail. So often I pick up a résumé and/or an accompanying cover letter and all I read is how the person hopes to grow or advance with the company, learn more skills or use the skills they picked up in earlier work places.  “Seeking a full-time job where I can grow with the company and develop my customer service skills” is such an example; and a bad one too.

You see, this sentence in the previous paragraph is all about what the person wants and says nothing about what they’ll contribute or add. Companies aren’t in the business of charitably developing people’s talents as their primary business. Organizations are looking for skilled workers who fill an immediate or emerging need. Rather than what can we do for you, they read your résumé asking themselves the question, “What can this person do for us?” Fail to clearly communicate this key information and your résumé will fall by the wayside.

Now, even though you’d like to think otherwise, you don’t have their full attention very long. If they look at your résumé for 8 – 20 seconds on first glance, you’re getting the typical once-over. So how do you make sure that the hour you pour into making this résumé and cover letter are going to get more than 20 seconds of their time? Better Marketing.

Think of any ad you see on television, hear on the radio or read in print. Take a car commercial as an example. Depending on the product, the company will pitch the lifestyle that goes with the car. Whether it’s being environmentally responsible by consuming less gas and emitting fewer emissions, being surrounded by laughing, happy friends or getting away from it all on open, curvy roads where yours is the only car on a scenic roadway, they pitch much more than the metal and steel you buy. Buy the car and you’ll live the experience.

This is a very different approach than asking you to buy their cars so they can stay in business and make more profit selling more cars. That pitch would fall on deaf ears. Why should you buy a car to help a big company make more money? But this is exactly what many people do on their own resumes; maybe even you. The pitch on paper is … hire me so I can develop and grow while you pay me. Again, no sale.

Your résumé, cover letter, thank you letter, emails and interview(s) should all communicate the same thing; hire me and here’s how YOU benefit. If you’re unclear after re-reading your own resume how a company would benefit from hiring you, it’s a safe bet they won’t figure it out either.

Okay still with me? So now you may be wondering how you can guarantee that what you offer will be what they want even when you do make it clear. Good question! The answer is in the job posting itself and in what you uncover from a little research. Sometimes a company will even say, “Here’s what you bring:”, or they list qualifications required and, “What you’ll do”.

One of the very BEST things you can do when preparing to send your résumé is something that very few applicants bother with, because it actually takes some initiative. What is it? Have a conversation with an employee who is doing the job you are interested in. Find out:

  • What personal characteristics are most desirable to succeed?
  • What are the challenges in the job?
  • What qualities do people have that excel in the job?

Research takes some initiative and it separates the go-getters who want to stand out from those who aren’t really all that motivated. If you’re looking for an edge, there are few things you could do better than reach out to an employee and ask to sit down with them and hear about what they do, what they like, the job challenges etc.

A line in your cover letter could start with, “Having done extensive research before applying, including meeting with __________,”

We’ve Got To Be Invested!

Ever been asked to describe yourself in a few words? Okay sure you have to think about this when you’re put on the spot in a job interview, but outside of that situation, how often do you think about the qualities you have; the things you strive for, the kind of person you are? How would you describe yourself in a few sentences, and would you articulate the things that best describe you? Most people I find can’t do this in a way that they are entirely happy with. A lot of the time they later say, “I wish I’d said ______ instead. Why didn’t I think of that?”

I think about these things a lot of the time, but I suppose I do so because my career brings me into daily contact with people whom in great part, I’m supporting and guiding to discover themselves. Discover themselves? While I admit they know themselves better and more intimately than I ever will, it’s typical that people have difficulty in voicing who they are in quick order.

The thing is, given enough time, any one of us could likely write a great number of qualities we possess. You might make a list with words such as: hard-working, dependable, friendly, honest etc. just to name a few. While these words might indeed be representative of who you are, surely there’s more to you that do sets you apart from everyone else. You are after all, unique. Maybe you do see yourself as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, not special in any particular way, with no outstanding achievements; nothing of note that distinguishes your life from those of the people you work and play with. This might indeed be upon reflection what you’re comfortable with; an ordinary Joe.

In some situations, such as interviewing for a new career or job, it can work for us or against us to be just so. The employer might be looking for someone to come in and do the job as it’s always been done, to assimilate into their existing workforce with no fanfare, not so much as even making a ripple in the transition onto a team. If that’s the case and you’re that kind of interchangeable person they are looking for, then you’ll be a good fit.

On the other hand, some job postings will say that the employer is looking for someone who stands out, has drive and passion, is a trend-setter not a follower. If in an interview you can show that you’re invested, enthusiastic, resilient, driven etc. you might hit upon impressing the interviewer with how well you know yourself and how you are distinguishable from the other candidates in some way they find attractive. In so doing, you might just stand out and be the right person they are looking for.

Knowing what employers are looking for is not only half the battle, it’s the key. So the goal leading up to the interview becomes identifying what exactly the needs of the employer are; and not just in terms of what they put on the job posting. Sometimes an advanced call to the right person can yield this information. You may actually find that what you learn turns you off or takes your excitement about landing the job to a whole new level.

Now I’m sure your shaking your head, ready to tell me and any other readers that employers these days won’t talk to you in advance of the interview; that often you can’t even identify the organization posting the very job itself if it goes through a temporary service agency. Sure that might be the case. However, don’t let that deter you from trying and I mean REALLY trying to get that information. For when you do succeed in establishing contact and having a pre-emptive conversation with the employer, they can and do become extremely interested in this candidate who is demonstrating their tenacity and thoroughness. I know because I’ve done this myself and it works.

Returning to a key point I mentioned earlier, know yourself. How would you define yourself using the skill-based language that is typically evident in your profession? Are you an empathetic and responsive Personal Support Worker? How about a driven and results-oriented commissioned Salesperson? These extra adjectives are far more appealing and descriptive than simply being a PSW or Salesperson alone. The words fit the profession – that is of course if the organizations themselves place high values on the empathy and responsiveness of their PSW’s and the sales force is expected to be driven in that commissioned environment.

Now me, I’ve laid myself out as an Enthusiastic and Empowering Employment Counsellor. Look at my LinkedIn profile and it’s there in my title; it’s my brand. All the posts I pen are designed to aid and empower others in fact. More so, I can back up these claims with concrete examples that demonstrate and prove I’ve got the skills and characteristics I claim.

Now what of you? How do you define yourself succinctly and accurately? Who are you? When you voice your answer do you sound confident, unsure, doubtful or do you speak with conviction? Are you ordinary or extraordinary? There’s a place for everyone no matter who you are in the workforce, and while one employer wants extraordinary, others want ordinary. The key is to get the right fit. Knowing yourself is half the equation.

Think What Your Email Address Says About You

When applying for jobs, many people take great care to hide their age on their resumes, and for good reason. They’ll go out of their way to omit jobs pre-2000, decline to add the year they graduated from high school, College or even University if it’s going to make it easier for an employer to figure out how old they are by doing some simple addition. All that effort is lost however if their email addresses contain the year they were born.

I see this time and time again in my position as an Employment Counsellor. Just yesterday, I spoke at the tail-end of a workshop on interview skills about this. When I asked what her email address was, she told me her first and last name plus the number 60. “Are you 57 years old by any chance?” I asked her. To this she looked at me somewhat surprised and confirmed I was correct. “How did you guess that?” she asked. “You told me yourself by including your birth year in your email”, I replied, and then the light of realization switched on.

The thing is a lot of people include their age in their emails. They’ll either put the year of their birth or their actual age. Having several times watched people attempt to create their email using their name only, I know that computers will often suggest various email addresses which are available, and they almost always include a number. Don’t allow a computer to randomly suggest an email address for you that you’re then going to let represent you! That kind of random generation might be okay for your phone number, but not your email.

Unfortunately giving your age away isn’t the only problem I find in emails. There’s the inappropriate sexy ones, the childish ones, the nonsense ones, and downright insulting ones. None of these I’ll give examples of, so just use your imagination. It never ceases to make me wonder how serious a person is about their job search when they preface telling me what their email is with the statement, “I know it’s not very professional; I should change it probably, but I’ve had it for a long time.”

Okay so enough with making the case for what not to have, here’s suggestions for what it could or should be.

My first suggestion is to begin with either the word, “contact” or “call” followed by your first name and last. In my case it would be, contactkellymitchell@ or callkellymitchell@. If your full name is too long or is already taken, try a period between your first and last name, or your first initial and last name such as callkelly.mitchell@ or contactk.mitchell@

As the person at the receiving end silently reads your email address at the top of the résumé, they cannot help read the words, “contact” or “call”, and aren’t these the very actions you want them to take? You want to be called or contacted by the employer with the offer of an interview. Your suggesting the action to them just by reading your email address alone. Not too many have caught on to this strategy yet so get yours while the getting is good.

Another strategy I suggest is reserved exclusively for those people who are committed to looking for one career. So take me for example. I want to brand myself on those I meet as Kelly Mitchell Employment Counsellor. So my email address is Yes it’s a little long, but easily remembered. The email address includes my job title and my name; the two are now linked together creating the lasting connection.

If a PSW, you could opt for PSWjillwhyte@ or j.whyteyourpsw@ Get the idea? The only drawback with this email address comes if you should then start applying for jobs that are similar in nature but use different titles. A Personal Support Worker might apply for jobs as a Health Care Aide, Personal Care Provider etc. and the like, and while having PSW in the email wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate, there are cases where you might want to switch things up entirely and look outside your typical field and your email wouldn’t work. So a PSW now applying for a job as an Office Receptionist might hurt rather than help her chances by using PSW as part of an email address.

The first suggestion I made, using the words, “contact” or “call” don’t present this problem. You could use these indefinitely and for a variety of employment applications across any sectors. So my overall suggestion is when applying for employment, turn exclusively to using an email that either prompts action on the part of the receiver or brands yourself with your occupation.

Continue to use your existing emails for friends and family; your social address. Create and use a professional email reserved only for employment applications, running your business, or professional networking. By keeping the two mutually exclusive and not using your job hunting email for anything but looking for work, you’ll also avoid cluttering up your inbox with spam and junk mail. This means you’ll likely never miss seeing some important reply from an employer and mistaking it for your horoscope, dating website or those large sums of money just waiting for you to claim from some lawyer representing a person in another country!


What Does Your Email Address Communicate?

One of the most fundamental things you’re going to do when looking for work is create an email address. One day in the future the email address will become antiquated and out of fashion; replaced by something more effective. Today however, it’s still highly used by many employer’s as a way to receive applications and communicate with applicants. Many online applications and websites demand you have one to apply for jobs and without one, you can’t.

So with respect to your email, what does yours say about you? Consider that this is going to appear at the top of your résumé; it’s going to be on a cover letter, and it’s certainly going to be what someone in the organization you hope to work for clicks on or manually enters digit by digit when they contact you. So are they going to think about what it is and what it says to them? You’d best believe it.

One of the worst things you can do is choose to use an email that has your age in it; be it your age when you created it or the year of your birth. Yet time and time again when I’m asked to give my opinion on someone’s resume, there it is. I’ll often ask someone if they think it’s a good idea to put their age on a résumé and typically the answer most of the time is a confident, “no”. I’ll reply then, “So why did you tell them you’re 47? This usually startles the person and they ask me, “Where did I put that?” and I’ll point out their email which says, “billsmith47@…”

Also a poor idea is to include a number which could be your birthday or age even though it isn’t. Anyone reading it won’t know what that number means to you but they’ll certainly be entitled to make that assumption. So 47 might be Bill’s house number or he was born on the 7th of April, but that’s not what most people are going to infer.

Very common too are the emails suggested by the computer software when you try to use an email already claimed by another person. You’ve seen I’m sure the ones where some random numbers follow some combination of your name or what you were trying to use. Why anyone would choose to allow a random email generating program to choose their personal email is beyond me. Well, that’s not true really; I know people use them out of frustration, or they simply don’t know better. Still, this is a bad choice my friend.

Finally, stay away – please! – from the cute or sexy email names. Do you want to be thought of as juvenile, over sexed, or just plain inappropriate? My all-time favourite for ridiculous was someone with the email that began, “fluffybunnykins@…” Fluffy bunnykins? That apparently was the email created for a woman by her mom when the woman was 12 years old. While cute, it didn’t fit the professional image this grown woman was going for. In the same vein, avoid things like, “sexyxoxo@”, spankme@”, “loveme69@”. I didn’t invent these, and they’re taken already. Sometimes I just shake my head.”

Alright already, enough with what NOT to do! Let’s move on to one of two different strategies that I would recommend.

The first strategy is good if you know exactly what it is your after job or career-wise. I’ll use myself here as an example. I’m an Employment Counsellor by profession. Aside from my day job where my employer dictates my email address, I also provide employment counselling services and job search help in my personal time. So the email I have is, “” This email address BRANDS me by profession and now the email serves a dual purpose. Sure it’s how people get in contact with me but it also brands me and what I do. So if you’re a committed PSW you could be, “pswbriansmith@…” or “brianpswsmith@…”. Some version of the name and the job title embedded together is what you’re after.

The second strategy I use more and more isn’t so much about branding yourself by profession. This then is good for the kind of person who is looking for work in more than one line of work. It would be hard to brand yourself as a Personal Support Worker like the above when you’re also open to a job as an Office Administrative professional. That, “pswbriansmith@…” would only work for one of the jobs you’re after and send the wrong message for any other types.

So what to do? Consider what you want the employer to do when they receive your résumé. What you’re after of course is a call or contact in some way from the person arranging interviews to set one up. So why not say what you want right in your email? Consider, “callbriansmith@…” or “contactbrianqsmith@…” Adding the words, “call” or “contact” to your email has the effect of making the reader actually say to themselves a version of “I should call Brian Smith”. This is exactly what you’re hoping for in submitting your résumé.

Now while there’s nothing wrong with some version of your name only, as in “brian.q.smith@…” it’s pretty plain and straight forward. Nothing wrong as I say, but it’s not really DOING anything for you is it?

Your email might be something you’ve just taken for granted and never really thought much about. Think about it now!

How To Make An Elevator Pitch

Your pitch is that brief introduction you give to someone when time is of the essence but you want to communicate nonetheless who you are and what you’re after. Some call this an elevator pitch; bringing to mind the 30 or so seconds you have someone to yourself who you wish to introduce yourself to.

For starters you have to know yourself. That sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? Don’t think I’m being flippant; if you don’t know yourself intimately you can hardly expect someone else to get you. Hmmm….know myself….seems downright easy. But is it? More on this later.

Secondly, once you know yourself, you have to be able to take all the things you know and prioritize which of your many characteristics and skills you want to highlight in this pitch you’re forming. What you choose to include and by exclusion omit might even vary from situation to situation, from person to person depending on who you meet. So it’s not just having a single pitch all nice and neat but perhaps more than one.

It all sounds rather complicated! It’s stressful! What do I include? What do I leave out? What if I mix up my words and go blank half way through my pitch?

Relax….breathe….let’s not make this complicated at all.

It helps if you have a clear goal in mind with respect to your employment goal; be that a job or a career. How about I use myself as an example for the purpose of this piece? You can take what I share and modify the content but adhere to the process if that helps you out.

Okay so I’m an Employment Counsellor. Now while that’s what it says on my business card, I’m so much more than that. I want to differentiate myself from others immediately. So I’m not, “an” Employment Counsellor, I’m “your” Employment Counsellor. I’m in your service; more on that to come.  I said the first thing to start with is knowing yourself. So some things I know about myself are the following: I believe in…

  • the power of enthusiasm
  • empowering others
  • humour and fun as integral parts of learning and sharing
  • trust
  • demonstrating Servant Leadership principles

Now that’s obviously not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get going. Next up I want to look at those items and choose what is most important to me as I introduce myself to others. What do I want them to know about me? What would be most advantageous not only to me, but to the other person to know about me? Why? Because it’s likely that if they are in a position to employ my services in some capacity, it would be in my own interests to come across as having something valuable to them.

Whether or not this person hires me or refers me to someone they know could use my services, this first 30 seconds or so is critical to creating that first impression; and I’ve got the advantage in having time now to craft this pitch so it comes across exactly as I want rather than winging it later and then saying to myself, “Why did I say that!” Ah, I blew it! Dumb, dumb, dumb…”

To my list then. Enthusiasm and empowering others are extremely important to me. I also make a large assumption that anyone I’m speaking with is going to similarly value engaging with someone they find enthusiastic as they go about their work. As I believe in empowering others, I’d think people would like to learn and be able to do things for themselves instead of being reliant on others. So I definitely want enthusiasm and empowerment in my pitch.

The service to others I mentioned earlier? Serving others is something that defines me and I’d like that to be one trait others come to see in me through my actions. As this is a first meeting with someone I’m prepping for, they can’t be expected to know this or have seen me in action, so it’s up to me to communicate this and if the person asks, provide examples that demonstrate my service to others.

So, I’ve got a beginning: “I’m your enthusiastic and empowering Employment Counsellor. I find great joy and satisfaction being of service to others; building and nurturing relationships founded on trust and mutual respect. I have a positive infectious attitude and deliver my services with passion and humour.”

The thing about a pitch is that you want it to roll off your tongue in such a way that your tone of voice, your facial expression and your body language support the words you choose to use. In my case, the pitch would be delivered with a smile (for warmth and friendliness suggesting the fun). The words enthusiastic, infectious and passion are all similar in meaning and reinforce what I want to be known as.

So what do you think? I’m not asking what you think of my pitch as much as I’m asking if you think you could take what I’ve shared and then apply it to your own situation? That after all, is of importance to you, my reader.

If I may make a suggestion, pass this piece on to others. Who couldn’t benefit from being able to articulate who they are, what they offer and how they deliver it in a brief 30 seconds or less?

So what’s your own pitch sound like?

Unemployed With A Confusing Social Media Profile

yourst yesterday I was sitting down having a chat with an unemployed young woman. We were talking about several things she could do to enhance her online presence, and together were discussing some of the things she could do offline as well. It was altogether a good discussion.

What I noticed however was a huge problem in her self-branding and the message that she was communicating to anyone who came across her LinkedIn profile. If by chance this same situation applies in your own case, I’d suggest you get on it and fix things right away lest you miss some opportunities too.

So here’s the situation. At the present time, to supplement her income, she has taken on a job over the last couple of years as an independent Sales Consultant for a company that sells fragrant candles. She has therefore listed this activity as her most recent and current job on her LinkedIn profile. In making her profile, she claims the program defaulted this job as her Job Title on her profile. The problem is that she is seeking employment in the field of Legal Administration.

So imagine you were selling beauty products, greeting cards, perfumes and fragrances or any other products to supplement your own income. It is income at the moment but is really meant to be a secondary income to your eventual job in the field of your education and training.

The catch-22 is, do you put this on your profile to explain what would otherwise be a gap, or do you omit it so the reader doesn’t get confused with what your employment priorities are? Furthermore, if you do put this on and it’s showing up as a first read on your profile, shouldn’t you nonetheless have a different Job Title at the very top of the profile to attract the right kind of attention. The answer to that last one is yes!

Surely you’ve come across suggestions of people you might want to connect with. You’ve seen photos of the people with their job title (self-branding) attached for you to connect with or pass over. How would someone know she’s in Legal Administration if under her photo it says, ‘Sales Consultant for (and the name of the candle company)? Good free promotion for the candle company, but hurting her chances of attracting the right attention.

You should have a job title that’s going to get you noticed, and noticed for the right job you are after, or the business you are in. I’ve browsed photos of people on LinkedIn that pop up after connecting with someone. Some have what they think are cute pictures of their animals to represent them. I’m reminded of that now all too famous internet phrase, “You’re doing it wrong!”

If your picture is a blank silhouette, I have no emotional connection to you and can’t surmise any information that would motivate me to connect. If your photo is your dog or cat, a tree, your pool or your car, I’m not interested either because apparently you don’t take connecting as seriously as the rest of us do, and I’m suspicious of letting you know who I am if you intentionally don’t want to reveal yourself to me. Most people like to know who they are dealing with.

This was a second problem my unemployed client was facing. While she has a nice smile and can be photogenic, her picture looks far too serious; almost to the point of looking like a police mug shot where you want to smile but are told you can’t. The background is a solid white wall, and the overall impression is that she looks strained, under pressure and her skin tone washed out against the background. Changing her photo now while she is just getting going is highly recommended before her profile gets too much exposure.

Back to her content. One thing I noted was the lack of a summary section. A summary section is a good place to put your desired message out there. What do you want people who visit your profile to know about you RELATED TO YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER OR CAPABILITIES? What’s your philosophy of service if you are in the customer service profession? Beliefs? Work ethics? How do you get your buzz? (satisfaction from a job well done, not drug-induced!)

The key to a good profile is to ensure that whomever reads it is left with the impression of you that you intended your readers to have. So if you are seeking a job in the field of Legal Administration, the information on your profile should send that consistent message. If your photo is a good headshot, possibly even you seated at a desk in an office setting, visitors can picture you in THEIR work environment, and just that photo alone can help them imagine you fitting in chemistry-wise – or not – in their workplace.

The title you use need not be what appears on your business cards. This is your profile, not yours via your employer. Walk that line between self-promoting yourself as you would like to be viewed, while at the same time not offending or misrepresenting your current job (if you have one).

In my own case by way of example, my business cards say I’m an Employment Counsellor. My LinkedIn profile however, says, I’m an Enthusiastic and Empowering Employment Counsellor.

Hope that helps people.




More On That LinkedIn Photo

I was sitting down yesterday with a client in what was in truth a one hour LinkedIn introduction. Like so many other people, she had set up a LinkedIn profile quite some time ago with the barest of information and after an initial set up, just walked away. So there it was, for all the world to see; a half-hearted, weak profile telling anyone who looked at her page that this was the best she could do.

The problem with setting up any profile online and after putting in a mediocre effort, is that all the people who view your page are left with only scant information upon that first viewing to form an impression, and that first may be your last.

The picture on her page was a nice head shot, but because she had cropped others out of the photo at some baby shower, the picture was smaller than it would be otherwise, and therefore harder to really get a good look. The background of the picture was odd too, and hard to make out the setting in which it was taken. She plans to work in an office setting doing administrative tasks, and so I suggested she get a picture of her sitting in an office, with just enough in the background of the picture so that it appears she is sitting at her workstation. In other words, it is easy for an employer to visualize this person working for them when they can see her seated in that environment.

This is a good tip for you if you choose to use it, and are struggling with what photo to include. Now in this women’s case, I offered to take the picture for her, but first suggested she return another day in order to prepare for it. How you ask? Well, change into a blouse that she might wear to work, put on a little foundation to smooth out the skin tones, and do her hair. In other words, the way she’d dress at work should be reflected in the photo.

One of the things the two of us did was to look at a variety of LinkedIn photos people are currently using on their profile pages. I started with the non-photo outline of a body picture and asked her what she thought. Thankfully, like me, she said she didn’t feel anything as there was nothing to go on, to which I agreed. Without some physical image to forge a connection, there is no emotional attachment or engagement and therefore no prompt to connect or look into.

We then looked at a picture which was a woman standing on a street in Paris, with its famous landmark tower in the background. In order to get the tower and the woman in the picture, the photographer had zoomed so far out, the person had diminished in size so much they were almost indistinguishable. A great photo to prove you were there and share with family who recognize you perhaps, but as a profile picture marketing the person, extremely poor choice.

Looking at some further profile pictures, she remarked that the ones that she liked best were essentially clear images of people’s faces. It appeared that pictures from the bust or chest up to the top of the head were the dominant ones that we both preferred, and the images needed to be well-lit and in focus. We did find some really good shots we both liked of people seated where the entire person was visible and easily recognizable.

Some photos people included had broad smiles, and that seemed to make the person come across as warm, inviting, personable, and the overall impression was that they seemed nice. The photo had not only depicted the person well, but now suggested all kinds of traits, personality and attitude. Choosing the right setting, thinking about the facial gesture (smile, neutral, frown, laugh, etc.) could elicit a reaction by those viewing it. And by thinking ahead of time about the message you want to convey, you can influence or perhaps control the viewers response to your image.

Branding and marketing are what the above process is really about. Any product when being introduced to the public, should have thought put into this entire process so the ‘packaging’ attracts the right audience, and communicates the message the originator wants to send. The same is true for the individual who designs a profile of which a picture plays such an important role.

Now we spent just over an hour not only looking at the photo, but talking about the various sections LinkedIn offers as choices to its members to complete. With every word you choose to use, every section you complete, you market and brand yourself to anyone viewing your profile. Use bullets rather than sentences and your profile might resemble a cut-and-paste resume, which LinkedIn is definitely not designed for.

If I were introducing LinkedIn to students, I’d repeat the process I did with this young lady for the entire class before ever picking up a camera to take a photo, or scouring past photos. Think about the impression you want to create first and why. Think about how the background can add to or detract from the message you are trying to send and who you hope your target audience is.

How Can I Help You?

The blog today begins with a simple question composed of five words ranging in length from one to four letters each, and may just be the most significant and important right combination of words you could use to get ahead in your career.

What I find of great interest, is that if you invert the word, “You” to a possessive, “Me”, and you switch the word, “I” to its opposite, “You”, the question turns to what most people do in real life, which is to ask, “How can you help me?” Where the first question posed is an offer to lend aid to another, the second is a question asked to receive help while offering none. The great irony of course is that in the giving of help we often receive help ourselves in the future, but our self-image improves in the here-and-now via the act of helping.

Look at each of the five words for a minute. “How” implies that either there are multiple ways of providing assistance, or the single way is not immediately aware to the person extending the offer. Sometimes it is clearly evident how one can help, as in the case of someone’s car spinning their wheels in deep snow. What they need is a push, so you push. When you ask, “How?” it gives the other person a chance to respond with whatever they would most benefit from at a given moment. Seeing someone struggle with a project is a good example of where it may not be immediately clear what stage they are at, where help would be most welcomed, or what barrier they need help to overcome, so ask rather than assume.

The word, “can” is a positive indicating you have some ability or abilities, and it is this offer of aid you are extending. You have the capacity to do something helpful, and are making yourself available. The middle word, “I” shows ownership. You are making the offer on behalf of you; not your department, not some less-than-motivated fellow employee, just you. So the offer of assistance is made by you and you alone like a promise to take some of the responsibility for the outcome. Think of offering to help put some papers together before quitting time with someone else. Make the offer to help and you’re really taking on some of the responsibility to meet someone else’s deadline.

Lastly is the word, “help”. The word alone became a movie and extremely successful song for the Beatles. John’s use of the word however was a plea for someone to help him. In arranging the words as they are in the heading for this blog, “help” is actually extended rather than requested. And there is the crux of the entire sentence. Said in another way, “How can I help you?” becomes, “In what way or ways, am I personally able to provide assistance to you with something of importance you are working on?” Good thing we don’t talk like this everyday! Whew that’s a lot of words!

A simple five word sentence puts the concept of servant leadership into practice with regular, sincere use. You might find that if you go about your daily routines and look for opportunities to help others, rather than looking for ways they could help you, that you build your brand or reputation as one who is always quick to offer help in the workplace. An absolute must however, is your willingness and commitment to actually providing the help that is then in turn requested of you. So if you really aren’t willing to help somebody else, and you’re really hoping they just say, “No thanks, I’m good”; well, you might be surprised. If you walk away and don’t actually help in any way, your brand and reputation will also be reinforced, but in a negative way.

One thing you can do for others is make known to them the skill set you have, the talents you possess, or the contacts you know. Knowing what you have to offer may in turn make it easier for someone else to then pick out the way in which you can help them, and clarify for both of you what is offered, and what is requested. This in turn, makes it beneficial to both you and whomever you are extending an offer of aid to, for they can identify where help is needed, and you’ve offered a service, product or skill that you are making readily available.

One final thought here, is that if you offer help to someone else, they truly may not take you up on it, but at the same time really appreciate your willingness to lend a hand. Recognize that this is not always a sense of pride or arrogance, but perhaps that person is gauging their own ability to accomplish something, and best then to let your offer of help be known should they want it in the future. And should you get involved, please do make sure that you are very clear about the desired end result. You don’t want to assume you know what you are working towards only to find out that the biggest help you could provide is to just walk away.

Consider lending a hand, extending an offer of help, and build your reputation as one who is always quick to lend a hand around the workplace. You’ll feel good inside when things get done and who knows, it may actually work to advance your own career as a side benefit.

Your Name Is Part Of Your Brand

My daily commute is an hour to work and by default an hour home. During those two hours I’m often listening to news and conversation on the radio, and every so often it is punctuated with some music from some emerging artist across a wide spectrum of genre’s. I admit to having a reaction every time someone is introduced by some pseudonym.

It’s a good thing in my humble opinion that these names people give themselves don’t translate to the real world of interviewing and daily work life. Can you imagine being taken seriously as you wait in the hall with other applicants and an interviewer pops her head out the door and asks, “Fat boy? I’m looking for Fat boy?” Or how about working away on the plant floor when you hear a building-wide page that goes, “Wannabee Risen”, or “Ritalin”. That last one is the actual name of a man who reads his poetry once a week on the radio.

Now many people in the music industry have gone with name changes: Ringo Starr is Richard Starkey, Bob Dylan is Robert Allen Zimmerman and Sting is Steve Borden. Now if Sting decided that Steve was just too plain for the stage, why would Robert opt for plain old Bob? Individual choice. Some of us go by our middle names, some by our first names, some by initials or a combination of the bunch. Some of us use nicknames too; just look at all the, “Junior’s”, “Chucky’s”, and “Bubba’s” out there.

And when you get married, in many cultures one of the two people may decide to take the name of the other, most often in North America and other locales where the woman takes the surname of the man she marries. Of course a trend in the last couple of decades or so has been to hyphenate the two last names for some women, which begs the question of what to do if and when a woman should marry two or three men over her lifetime. “Hello I’m Janice Smith-Davidson-Thompson.” You’ll need a bigger business card or smaller font!

Your name is your brand. Some women opt to retain their maiden name because they have established professional contacts, their name is the name of their business when self-employed, or their partner’s last name doesn’t flow well with their first name. Just imagine if a woman named Kelly White married Franklin Kelly. Is she to be Kelly Kelly? It might sound more like a stuttering problem.

Of course in our modern societies, we should also recognize that this practice of taking on a partner’s name no longer only applies to the female sex. Gay and lesbian marriages do exist quite legally in some jurisdictions, and in those situations, one of the two partners may change their name to take on that of their partner.

In deciding what to do in the case of your surname when you enter into a relationship, the choice is very much a personal one. For that reason, the subject isn’t one where I personally prescribe any standard advice because it does depend on so many factors as outlined above. However, consider that whatever name you opt for, it does not necessarily mean you are subservient to your partner, but perhaps a sign of your traditional values or your signal to your partner that you are giving yourself over to them. Hopefully you and your partner give yourselves over to each other on a daily basis and the relationship thrives.

Of course if things don’t work out, there is the issue of retaining an ex-spouses name, or reverting back to your maiden name or birth name. Will this confuse your clients, or is this your way of announcing you are unattached again without having to discuss the breakup with every person you talk to?

When applying for jobs, it is still a safe bet to give your first and last name on an application or resume. It’s not advisable to hand in a resume with names like, “James D.” or “R.I. Patterson” although a middle initial, as in the case of “Craig. A. Fairbanks” is very formal but acceptable. Consider how you want to be identified and called. There are exceptions to every suggestion and I recognize that, but if you walk in with a resume you’ve previously submitted as, “Craig A. Fairbanks”, and you say, “but you can call me “Slim Pickens”, your chances of making a strong positive first impression just might be.

Employer’s again and again say they want to see the genuine candidate emerge in an interview. For that reason, they ask probing questions that get at your attitude, your behaviour, your past experience and they are trying to visualize you as part of their workforce. They want to see the real you in other words. For this reason above all others, sticking with your given name limiting yourself to commonly accepted variations only, as in the case of “William” to “Bill”, or “Elizabeth” to “Beth” or “Liz” is good advice indeed.