Tag Archives: Tools

LinkedIn: Worth More than 17 Minutes Per Week

linkedin_logo_11I recently read that the average time spent on LinkedIn is 17 minutes per week and saw on someone’s Facebook status that a friend of a friend hasn’t been on LinkedIn for ages.  If this is you, you are missing out on some great stuff.

 

Things to do on LinkedIn, for starters:

  • Read all the free and great content from the LinkedIn Influencers – on all types of topics.
  • Discover information about your industry, like info about competitors
  • See the skills of your peers by searching others with your title
  • Keep up with useful contacts, and build a relationship with others
  • Participate in groups – learn tips on how others handle similar issues that you have in your department/business/work life

 

I know that you are busy and your free moments are at a premium.  Do you have a set time allotted for social media?  How much of it is spent whiling away hours reading memes on Facebook or Pinterest and how much of that time relates to your work life?  LinkedIn has value which could help you get that promotion, new job, new business, what have you that you mention periodically to your friends is a priority.   This site really got it right when it comes to one stop for the professional, or as we termed it recently – those with a business comportment mindset.

 

Want to polish your personal brand?  See all the useful information on LinkedIn.  Want to figure out what the heck a personal brand is – LinkedIn.

 

Once I was a LinkedIn quasi-user, glancing at the email enticements telling me about updates from contacts and the like, deleting the nuisance emails about group activities that I was missing.  So I understand the hesitation, but then I started to poke around on the site and check out the features.  Now I plan to allocate time to curate information and cultivate relationships on LinkedIn regularly.

 

What benefits have you found on this site?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Tracking Your Progress

Every year at performance review time do you sit and stare blankly at the cube wall while you try to remember what you have done in the preceding months that is noteworthy?  How about your resume or LinkedIn profile, when was the last time that you updated either one with your latest achievements?

tracking

“The past actually happened.  History is what someone took the time to write down.”

~A. Whitney Brown

 

I know, I know, it’s just that one more detail that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back if you found a means to document these things at the time, or shortly after the time.  Ok, but you are only hurting yourself by not making the time.  If it isn’t up to you to remember and document, then who?

 

Trust me, it is easier shortly afterward than months or even years afterward.  Details only get murkier with time, but even just a quick couple of sentences into a notebook or on a sticky note sketching out the scenario will be well worth it at review time or when it is time to really polish up your work history.

 

The idea of something going into our permanent record was threatening back in school because it was associated with some misstep or peccadillo.  Wipe that association from your mind and get a mantra that your permanent record is the progression of all of your work achievements; therefore worthy of regular maintenance.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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What’s in Your Closet? Casual Friday, the Office Dress Code

Want to have a frothy conversation at the office, but keep it away from the hot buttons of politics and religion – start talking about the dress code.  This works better if your office has a mix of ages and business backgrounds.  An office full of 20 something designers or 40 something CPAs probably won’t lead to a lively talk.

 

What does business casual really mean?  Wear hose, don’t wear hose.  Capris, shorts, jeans in the office?  To tuck or not to tuck – and if men must tuck, why don’t the women have to?  T-shirts with logos, oh my.  And flip-flops, duck if you bring these up.

 

I grew up in the age when one still dressed up for church, celebrations of any kind, really any notable occasion.  (And I loved the authoritative click that my first dress shoes with a little bit of a heel made on tile!)  Putting some effort into getting dressed meant that something special was about to happen.  Both of my parents had sections in their closets for professional clothing – and I understood that to be taken seriously at work I should dress for the role that I wanted.

 

Now I am not stylish at all and I gravitate toward simple, comfortable clothing; and I like color as people who tend to too much black will tell you.  I don’t read style magazines, but I have studied how certain people seem to be nicely put together – it seems to come down to coordinating items and accessories; which I hope to master one day.

 

dressLeft to my own devices, I will dress neatly for work in my own uniform of sorts – a colorful top and a pair of Docker-like pants.  A blouse or unconstructed jacket will take it up a notch for client meetings.  I’ll wear jeans on casual Friday to show unity, but I’m not fond of jeans and office chairs – I prefer to wear my jeans when I can put my feet up.

 

Recently there was a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups (Linked N Chicago-LiNC) that carried on for almost a full month having been started with the question Dress code at the office: Has it become TOO relaxed?.  Here is a quote that I think sums up the discussion succinctly:

 

“How you dress is a marketing decision. You should make that decision yourself and not be bound by a rule.”

~David M Patt CAE

See the full LinkedIn discussion here.

 

We each must figure out how to balance personal expression with the needs/wants of the groups to which we belong.  If you decide to get your office mates going on this topic, let me know the outcome.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Making a Personal Plea for LinkedIn Profile Pictures

I know, I know that you’ve heard all the reasons why you should have a profile picture – people don’t want to hire ghosts, blah-blah-blah.  Please keep reading, this isn’t about that at all, I promise.  And let me just add that while I am an avid recorder of life in pictures, you will infrequently find one of me in my own archives because I’m not fond of my own image.

 

profile pleaBut look me up, I have a profile picture.  It took a month of nearly daily photo sessions to get one that I liked (and that was on a haircut day, so I didn’t do my own hair), but there is an acceptable picture of me out there attached to my social media persona.  (By the way, I use the same picture for all social media – which helps me to show that if you find someone out there doing something untoward and that person has my name but not my image it is not me.)

 

I have been busy meeting many new and interesting people in the last few months and I have connected to quite a few of them on LinkedIn, even some that I have yet to meet in person.  I love expanding my circle and I’m pretty good at remembering faces.  I’m working on being better at associating the faces to the names.  (It’s a work in progress, we won’t count how long this has been an active project.)

 

About 2/3 of my current connections on LinkedIn have pictures and I thank you sincerely.  It helps me with my name to face association project.  If I know that I am going to see someone that I haven’t seen in a little while, I go to LinkedIn to refresh the association.  And I am occasionally disappointed when I get that ghost staring back at me.

 

Also, if I am to meet someone new, someone that I’ve only spoken to via email or phone, I do the same.  I was recently in a coffee shop waiting to meet a new contact in person and looking forlorn, I’m sure, because she was a ghost on LinkedIn.  Luckily it wasn’t a busy time of day or I would have had to approach every woman who walked in.

 

So for me, and all those potential new and useful contacts you might make out there, please add a clear picture of yourself to your profile.  My name to face association project thanks you.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Assiduously Applied

I’ve mentioned before that I love words, and would love to see a broader use of words.  So today I bring up this sinuously sounding offering:

as·sid·u·ous

[uhsij-oo-uhs]

adjective

1. constant; unremitting: assiduous reading.

2.constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task;persevering; industrious; attentive:

an assiduous student.

assiduous 

Repetitive tasks become assiduous application of diligence – I bet you never before felt so smart sorting through your emails and answering the same question from different customers!

 

But seriously, every career could use a little assiduous application of mental elbow grease to keep our value up.  No one wants to get a reputation for being inconstant or lazy, unless you have an endless alternative source of income.

 

Used in a sentence:

  • Assiduous blogging gains a writer a larger following.
  • Monitoring trade journals assiduously for appropriate articles, and sharing them with the team leader, got the intern a permanent full time position.
  • Jane worked assiduously to upgrade her excel skills, and was able to help her team improve their quarterly reports as a result.

 

Perhaps you already have a list of tasks where you have persevered, possibly now is the time to bring these to the attention of your supervisor, using this unsung word.  Diligence is a good strong word, but it has had its day and needs a rest to become less trite and stale.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Mise en Place, Not Just for the Kitchen

I’m getting ready to make a presentation to a fairly large group, one that I had offered to make some weeks ago and have been refining since.  (I want to use a theater phrase in my intro that simply won’t come to the forefront of my mind, but that is a story for another time.)  I enjoy presenting (remind me I said that just minutes before I go on, would you?), and like to be prepared – shooting for that sweet spot where it can be interesting and clear without seeming practiced.

 

Anyway, I wanted to go into Chicago to the Lit Fest to watch other presenters and got my son interested by showing him the list of activities in the Good Eating tent.  I have cooked since my pre-teens and occasionally managed to do it well, but I have learned much more about the art of cooking since he became interested a few years ago.  It is his interest that brought me to DSC03390the French phrase in the title, which literally means everything in its place, relating to completing all prep work before actually starting on a recipe.  (You know when the chef just easily pours this little bowlful or that into the big bowl and tells the audience what is in the bowl.)

 

Put in terms for the rest of us:

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

~A.A. Milne

 

The carpenter who takes care of his tools and puts each one carefully back into a dedicated section of his tool box after wiping it clean from each use spends more time on the actual carpentry, purportedly the part of his (or her) work that is most enjoyable.  The same for the cook, and the office worker.

 

Not liking to do the clerical filing type tasks of keeping templates, manuals, etc. in the proper place means spending more time thinking about them and searching for them, in the meantime possibly losing the stream of the project or idea that is your actual task.

 

Our skill at managing these thankless mise en place tasks deeply affects our effectiveness at the tasks we were really hired to complete.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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The Data Paradox (Or Why Professionals Benefit from a Successful LinkedIn, While Using the Freemium Option)

Few of us are fond of being boiled down to just a set of statistics and yet our interest in something is often sparked by the statistics that are offered (read Charles Seife’s Proofiness) by a company, in an article, etc.  Business is driven by data – what data to collect, how to collect it, how to best utilize it and on and on.  We humans are fascinated by quantification, but skeptical of being lumped into the underlying statistics.

LinkedIn

Marketing companies that design successful rewards cards or programs have found a way into our data paradox sweet spot – offer something that we want or need, don’t sell the resulting data directly tied to our personal info and we will be more likely to sign up and give the company access to our volume of purchase data.  Don’t make our direct benefit clear, or make your data needs too obvious and death to your marketing effort.

 

Being someone who is fascinated by process, I often like to pull back the covers to see if I can figure out how something is a sustainable business – look at how Facebook is making various money grabs now that they have gone public.  (I used to wonder how they could afford all the employees and sweet digs…)  Unlike many, I don’t resent a company’s ability to make money from their interactions with me, as long as my benefit is equal or greater than the one I perceive they are receiving.  Someday I might be able to reverse that dynamic and gain some business advantage of my own from the relationship.

 

I think that it is this perceived benefit that is at the bottom of the social media opinion that many people hold.  It is their skepticism of the benefit they will receive versus their sketchy understanding of the value of their appearance on social media.  In my opinion, there is plenty of benefit to professionals to put moderate effort into creating and maintaining a profile on the LinkedIn site.  But the reactions of folks I talk to range from strong agreement to vitriolic dislike of the pull of social media in general and LinkedIn particularly.

 

These people in the strong dislike category usually object based on their skepticism of putting their personal information online.  When I have the opportunity to delve further with them I like to find out if they have other social media presence, if they hold a credit card or any participate in any rewards programs, do online banking.  More often than not they do many of these other things, but have not associated these activities with the data mining that occurs in these arenas as well.  Hmmm.

 

I was first introduced to LinkedIn in 2009 by a co-worker.  I wasn’t on any social media site at that point and I am not an early adopter of anything.  So I thought about it and she mentioned it a couple more times and then sent an invitation through LinkedIn to join.  A forum for professionals, interesting – so I created a basic profile and mostly left it to its own devises and accepted invitations to connect from folks.

 

It has only been in the last few months that I have become a proponent of the site and the benefits.  In my opinion, LinkedIn offers solid benefits in exchange for data mining my business information for their own purposes.  Where do you stand?

 

Related Data Filled Article:

LinkedIn Connection-Obsession on http://knogimmicks.com

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Orienteering, Office Politics & Blind Trust

Some of us plan, others meander, and still others outright stumble along through our work life.  Depending on the stage of life we find ourselves, or the task we are engaged in, we may do some combination of these three things.  I decided that I just had to see if I could connect the dots between this story, 8 Drivers Blindly Followed GPS into Disaster and my blog theme.  Particularly since I just posted something about trust.

 

Certainly we can’t be expected to be expert at everything required to be successful in this complex modern life, so we must rely upon others to guide us at times.  The basic assumption should still be that we must stay clued in to whether the aid we have chosen is providing useful assistance; we must keep our own common sense engaged.

 

No device has yet been marketed that will provide step by step guidance through a work day in the office.  (I’m sure someone out there is working to create one.)  Therefore we must rely upon orienteering, dead-reckoning, the kindness of others – whatever local signposts seem to offer the best clues in negotiating our tasks, our co-workers, bosses, clients, etc.  Pick the wrong one and follow it too far past when common sense starts humming, then screaming warning and we end up in some lake or bog – or up a cherry tree.

 

orienteeringOrienteering relies upon a compass, a map and your own abilities to interpret all the signs.  What does the map translate into in your office – hopefully thoughtfully and clearly written protocols on best practices for your tasks?  (Check the date of the last update, or the creation date – well written but obsolete maps make for interesting gift wrap but not much more.  No date, well…)  And the compass would be the direction that you are given by the person passing out your tasks.  Then it is all yours to put it together and make something useful and sensible.

 

Everyone can get stuck pondering the validity of staying the course or bailing.  Think about these hapless folks the next time you find yourself wondering whether to question the prevailing direction or to follow it.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Call to Action

Whether we are natural list makers or not, the length of our to-dos requires some type of tracking or we are lost.  The have-tos are simply relentless.  But let’s flip the coin to the other side – when we need something from others or want others to do something in response to us.  Do they clearly know it?

 

Some people are very good at getting others to do things and the rest of us muddle through it.  Can you recall a time or two when you were pretty sure that someone was asking you for something but they were so vague you either had to ask or pretended that you didn’t catch their real meaning?  They didn’t come right out with their call to action perhaps counting on our good graces to step in and offer.

action

When my kids were in their early teens they would say things like, I need this list of supplies for a project and I would take it from there and ask questions like when is it due, how many, what color and the like.  When they got into their mid-teens I would respond with ‘that’s nice’ and wait.  (Of course I explained the first time that I was turning more of the responsibility over to them to actually ask me to get the stuff.)  There were a couple of times when they didn’t get what they needed, but they figured out that they had to turn the statement into a question and be the responsible party to get the action completed.

 

We think that adults don’t need that same process explanation, but sometimes they do.  Send me an email and tell me a nice story, thanks.  Oh, you wanted me to do something, I didn’t see that spelled out.  There wasn’t a call to action on my part.  You were passing on the thing, but I read that you were telling me about it.  Because you didn’t say, ‘I would like for you to do xyz, please’.

 

Sometimes I truly didn’t catch the intent, and sometimes I used the vagueness to avoid stepping in.

 

Spend time on your hook – why should I help you, what’s in it for me – but don’t forget to set the hook before you end the contact, by spelling out your call to action.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Parent or Friend?

parent or friendWhen my older son was about 12 we had a conversation that started because he said, “mom, you are my friend”.  At that stage in my own development, I had already had the opportunity to have a fulfilling friendship with my own mother that certainly turned back into a parent-child dynamic at any point that she felt was necessary.  (The best car turning radiuses have nothing on mothers who need to make a point, let me tell you.)   But my friendship with my mother, which we both cherished and I felt was a great example of her abilities, did not start until I was well into my 20s for good reason.

 

I explained to my son that while it was very much a goal of mine to become his friend, along with being his mom, our relationship was not at that stage yet.  He persisted in telling me that I was his friend and I persisted in telling him that wasn’t appropriate at that stage of his development.  I don’t recall how the conversation ended, but it probably drifted on to other topics as most parent child conversations tend to do.  I know that we had a lot going on in our lives at that point, so the fact that we had this conversation while at home and not on the way to somewhere is rather remarkable.

 

Looking back now, I still agree with my stance that friendship had to wait, but I would like to nudge my younger self to ask him why he started the conversation in the first place along with sticking to my guns.  I know that my brain was running a mile a minute; sifting through to-do lists and rating priorities and just working to keep up with all the facets of the working parent’s life, so I will forgive myself as a look back.  But I missed a chance for a deeper connection, a look behind the curtain into the inner workings of my son’s mind.  (We have made enough of these connections over the course of his life that now we are friends and enjoy many interesting discussions on a broad range of topics – but it is the mother’s curse to be pricked by the regrets at times.)

 

I just called my son and clearly this was just a passing kid thought for him since he only has recollection that I’ve brought up this incident in other conversations.  We cycled through a few interesting topics and then rang off.  I think that we are both pleased that I met my goal to ultimately develop a friendship with him.  I am also confident that I made the right decision back in those earlier days to put being a parent first.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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