Posted on June 14th, 2008 No comments
Last week at a NoCoNet meeting I gave a tip on using RSS feeds. I have been using RSS for several years to keep track of websites without having to go out and visit them on a regular basis. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It works a little bit like a newsclipping service where you can direct a website’s updates into a common ‘aggregator’ so you can have awareness of what’s new without having to go out and visit the website every day. If you haven’t used RSS yet, you should give it a try. I recommend Google Reader for getting started. I’ve tried several other RSS aggregators such as Yahoo, Bloglines, and Newsgator, but Google Reader works the best for me.
I’ve found that RSS works best to keep up with blogs that are only updated periodically, possibly just once a week or less. It would be time consuming to visit a site like that each day because I’d usually find no new information. After doing that a few times, it’s easy to get out of the habit of visiting the site, which results in me losing touch with the website.
Just about all blogs have RSS feeds. You can recognize it when you see this blog’s RSS feed. Generally speaking, the URL for the feed has to be pasted into your aggregator’s list of feeds for it to work. Otherwise, you’ll just get a page of XML code which will just confuse you.or this symbol which has become sort of a standard for indicating that the site has an RSS feed. If you scroll down the list over on the right of this page, you can find
There are some uses for RSS feeds that do not work well for me. I have not found RSS useful to keep track of a high volume blog by subscribing to its feed. These blogs are all about volume, not necessarily quality or trying to provide unique content. In order to monetize blogging activity these days, it’s necessary to get people to keep visiting the site it all day long, and to do that, they serve up hourly content that appeals to society’s collective Attention Deficit Disorder. It seems that the topics of gadgets and gossip are a veritable cornucopia of fresh content assurance. Those topics seem to really create a lot of traffic on the web for some reason. Gadgets and gossip are the primary fodder for uberblogs like Engadget, Gizmodo, Boing-Boing, TMZ, and Valleywag. I’ve tried reading a few of those sites on RSS but gave up after a while because the content was so non-stop that it was life crushing. And that crushing feeling was not just because of the sheer volume of postings, but also because of some of the vitriolic writing style on a few of those sites and its effect on one’s psyche. Controversy sells. If you fail to read the RSS feed for any of those sites for a few days, it takes too long to catch up. It’s better to just tune out that noise. The same is true with political blogs. They just have too much noise and foment, and not enough useful information.
Recently I noticed that LinkedIn has an RSS feed for the Network Updates. These network updates appear on your LinkedIn Home page. As your LinkedIn network grows, network updates tend to increase in volume, so much so that it can sometimes look like chatter. Sometimes you really have to click a lot of links to get to the substance. And if you didn’t get around to it that week, it ages off of the home page, gone forever. I occasionally ran across some very interesting information on this page, such as a member of my network starting a new position, but much of the traffic was just hypernetworkers acquiring another 20 or so contacts that day. I wondered if the RSS feed might be a better way to wade through this torrent of activity. After experimenting with it for a few weeks, I’m happy to say that it is a great way to keep up with one’s LinkedIn network. I’ve found that funneling LinkedIn Network Updates RSS feed into my Google Reader makes short work of finding out about who’s uploaded a new photo, joined a new group, made a recommendation, or made a new connection. Best of all, LinkedIn had the good sense to filter out the hyperactive connectors from the feed, which I think most people will appreciate.
Another benefit is that if I don’t get to my RSS aggregator for a few days, the updates don’t age off the system like they do on the home page of LinkedIn, but will queue up for me until I’ve had a chance to read them. If you haven’t checked out the Network Updates RSS feed on LinkedIn, it’s time to give it a try. There’s not much point in having a network if you don’t keep track of it. By monitoring your network’s RSS feed, you’ll continually be aware of what’s happening in your network.
After finding the LinkedIn RSS feed so useful, I began to wonder if craigslist’s RSS feed would work equally well. Since job hunters can spend a lot of time on the Internet visiting the same websites each day looking for new postings, I thought that NoCoNet members might use the RSS feed on Craigslist jobs to achieve some time savings. I’ve been impressed with the number of people I know who have found jobs through Craigslist and so funneling job listings into an RSS reader seemed more efficient than visiting the site daily. After a week of experimenting with that feature, I’ve found it works very well in notifiying me about what’s available on a regular basis without having to make a special trip to Craigslist to find out. You can limit it to just a particular geography and job category since each category has its own feed.
RSS feeds are an effective way to set up a ‘virtual software agent’ to sort the Internet’s wheat from the chaff. Sure, RSS feeds can be misused by overwhelming the reader with too much information, but feeds are very easy to turn off when you find that the information source is no longer useful to you and so they have an advantage over email subscriptions where remembering the secret code to disable them can sometimes be a challenge.
Posted on May 7th, 2008 1 comment
I am the LinkedIn committee chairman for a local Northern Colorado professional networking group called NoCoNet. Each week I present a tip about using the on-line networking website called LinkedIn. Sometimes I will write up the these tips and post them to my blog so that when I invite new members to the NoCoNet-LinkedIn group, they can read through previous LinkedIn tips. It saves me from having to repeat myself and allows me to expand a little on the single slide that I present at the meeting. I volunteered for this position because I wanted to get better at networking and using LinkedIn and found that there’s no better way to learn something than to offer to teach it. As a result of this role, I pay closer attention to information about using LinkedIn. One of the best sources of information I’ve found on LinkedIn is a podcast called The Connections Show by Stan Relihan. Stan is an executive recruiter based in Australia. I credit Stan’s podcast with helping me better understand the needs of the talent search specialists who use LinkedIn.
I am contacted by recruiters as a result of them finding my LinkedIn profile. I used to get solicited frequently for my interest in various positions that would have required a relocation. It slowed down when I mentioned in my profile that I’m interested in staying in Northern Colorado. Whenever recruiters contact me, I always try be helpful, promptly returning their calls and offering to publicize the position if they think that would be of help.
One of the topics Stan regularly discusses in his podcasts is that of the ‘passive candidate’. Simply stated, a passive candidate is someone who is not actively looking for a new position. When I first heard the term ‘passive candidate’, it made me think of the term ‘poaching’ which means to steal people from one employer and place them at another, not infrequently with a competitor. It seemed a bit devious to me. Focusing on passive candidates at the expense of those actively seeking employment also seemed a bit unfair, almost as if the latter category didn’t deserve the same consideration as the former.
It’s not uncommon to hear people who are seeking marriage partners to lament that ‘all the good ones are already taken’ and I couldn’t help feel that chasing after passive candidates while overlooking active candidates followed a similar sentiment. I suppose part of the logic could be that if a person is unemployed, he may be unemployed for good reason. If he is looking for a job while employed, then he may appear to be disgruntled or disloyal. So active candidates automatically have a few negative stereotypes working against them that passive candidates do not.
After listening to Stan’s podcasts for a while, a new view of the passive candidate began to emerge. As Stan is quick to point out, an executive recruiter is hired to find people for jobs, not jobs for people. The distinction is subtle but important. It may explain why when you talk to a recruiter about a position that turns out not to be a great fit for you, he won’t automatically start looking for positions that are a better fit for you. A recruiter’s value is in finding potential candidates for employers who are exact matches for the positions they are trying to fill. Sometimes the best way to do this is by searching for candidates who may not be looking for a job and thus don’t realize they are exact matches. When an unemployed candidate is seeking a new position, there’s a chance that he may be so desperate to find work that virtually any job looks appealing and appears to be an exact match for his skills and talents. He may even modify his resume to better match the position, which is a job tip you’ll often hear given by career consultants. The last thing that a recruiter wants to do is to place a candidate who takes a position simply because he is desperate to have any job. Recruiters want to place people who are the best candidates they can find and who will be a success in that position and reflect well on the recruiter’s skills. A person who desperately needs to make a house payment is probably not going to be an impartial judge about whether or not he is an exact fit for a job. After he lands the job and a catches up on house payments he may begin to think rationally again and decide the position doesn’t look so appealing anymore. Placing the wrong candidate in a job can be a recruiter’s worst nightmare. If you do that one too many times, you may not get called upon to help fill a client’s future openings.
A passive candidate is someone who may be interested in changing careers but hasn’t got the time or inclination to launch a formal job search. As such, he needs to be sought out and actively recruited. There are plenty of reasons that people would be in this category. A full time job usually leaves little time to be searching for greener pastures, and some may feel disloyal to be out searching for their next job, particularly if it may involve moving to a competitor. You can’t easily recruit a candidate away who is being well compensated and is satisfied with his current employer. But if a person feels underpaid, underemployed, or is worried about his future with his current employer, then he’d most certainly qualify as a passive candidate. Passive candidates are actually a much larger category than those who are actively seeking employment. They’re just harder to find. Passive candidates are less likely to have just taken a new position, which is a problem when your list of candidates only includes active job seekers. Resumes from active job seekers get stale in a hurry and it’s not unusual to call someone whose resume is a few weeks old only to find that he has just taken a new position. Someone who has just taken a position usually doesn’t want to burn bridges by jumping ship too quickly, no matter how attractive a position you might present to him. Also, if a candidate is actively seeking a position, he may be considering several offers and that can make him too expensive for the recruiter’s client. So these are yet a few more downsides of being an active candidate as viewed from the perspective of a recruiter.
So, how can a job seeker have the desirable characteristics of a passive candidate even though he may be actively seeking a new position? The best way I can think of is to never be desperate for a job, even if you are unemployed. Also, make sure to do some evaluation to assess your career goals, strengths, and talents so you’ll be able to better recognize a job that fits you when you see it. Knowing your strengths will make you a much better judge of whether a position and a prospective employer will be a good fit for you, rather than depending on someone divining it from a keyword search. A good book for this kind of self-evaluation is “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. The book includes an on-line test that will help you to identify your top 5 strengths from a list of 34 areas. Be aware that used copies of this book will likely have an expired password, so if you want to take the test, make sure to purchase a new copy. The test would likely help you better decide whether a position is a match for you. If a position doesn’t play to your strengths, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful at it.
You should also be cognizant of a recruiter’s needs. When you establish a relationship with a recruiter, you should think of it more like planting a seed rather than trying to harvest a job. Don’t come across as needy. The best recruiters keep track of thousands of potential candidates, and you should plan to be among them if you’d like
to be considered when an opportunity arises.
To make sure you are never desperate for a job, try to live within your means so that loss of a job won’t require you to get another one right away. If you have a working spouse, try to adjust your expenses to live on one salary. If you can arrange part time or temporary work to help pay the bills, that may be an option too because it will leave some time to search for a job and won’t give an employer the mistaken impression that you intend to stick around for the long term. Employers have temporary needs too, so this can be a win-win for both of you. If the temporary job is a good a match, it may even evolve into a full-time position.
With some temporary source of income, you won’t fall prey to the feeling that every job that comes along looks like it’s an exact match for you. Best of all, it will help give you the aura of a highly desirable passive candidate.
Posted on April 6th, 2008 No comments
LinkedIn allows you to add a single image to your profile. It is only 80 x 80 pixels in size and so you don’t really have many options as to what you can put there. My recommendation is that it should be a headshot so that a person who may have never met you can pick you out of a crowd.
There is a strong temptation to put in a picture of yourself engaged in an activity you love, possibly one that defines you, such as being engaged in your favorite hobby or perhaps posing with your pet. But I’d say that if you do that, you’ll find that it won’t meet the objective I mention above, i.e., letting someone who has never met you to pick you out of a crowd. Anything else in an 80 x 80 pixel image will make your face smaller and thus harder to recognize. Take, for example, the 3 images above. You probably won’t be able to figure out who the first two people are, but you’d have no trouble recognizing me from my mugshot. The image doesn’t have to be captured by a professional photographer; you can do it yourself, or even extract it from an image with other people in it as I’ll explain later.
You shouldn’t feel that putting a photo on your profile is narcissitic or egotistical. For many of us, it may be just the opposite. It’s there as a convenience to others. It may help during a LinkedIn search by a long lost colleague if your name brings up 10 people with the same name. Your image may be the thing that identifies you as the person they are looking for.
There may be a good reason why you don’t want to put a photo on your profile. I have a friend who doesn’t want his photo on his profile because he’s concerned about age discrimination. He’s 24 but only looks like he’s 19 and and he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s just a kid. But that’s not a problem for most people on LinkedIn.
If you uploaded a photo when this feature first became available, you may have had trouble with it cropping the image incorrectly, but LinkedIn has improved the upload feature and allows you to center the cropping box anywhere in the photo. This means you can upload a photo with several people in it (in case you don’t have a digital image of just yourself) and may be able to crop it to have just your face in it. So if you tried this feature when it first became available last year and didn’t get a good result, you can give it another try and see if it works better now.
Posted on March 20th, 2008 No comments
I first found out about LinkedIn from my friend Jack Krupansky a few years ago at the EntConnect conference. At the time, we didn’t know what LinkedIn would become, but both Jack and I are curious individuals and so I decided to join him on LinkedIn. For several months, Jack was my only connection. Over time, I got a few more invitations from people who I didn’t know but who had many connections already. These were people who sought to become ‘super-connected’ individuals. They had impressive credentials and I was happy to connect with them. But after a few years, I still only had a handful of connections because I had never invited anyone to join my network. From what I understand, this is fairly typical behavior of most new initiates to LinkedIn. About a year ago, I decided to be more proactive about connecting to people on LinkedIn and subsequently did much more investigation of it by taking a class from Integrated Alliances and reading the books, ‘I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?‘ by Jason Alba and ‘The Virtual Handshake‘ by Scott Allen and David Teten. After joining NoCoNet, a local career networking group, I found that I had many more opportunities to meet and connect with people. I later became the chairman of NoCoNet’s LinkedIn committee and so I’m much more proficient with using it and helping others to use it.
About a month ago, Peter Olins, our NoCoNet president, asked me to prepare a ‘LinkedIn Tip of the Week’ for our members and so I have started doing that and will be sharing them in the blog for everyone’s benefit after I’ve presented them. I posted one earlier about using the ‘Groups and Affiliations‘.
This week’s tip is on how to avoid having multiple LinkedIn accounts. Everyone seems to have more than one email address these days, and if a LinkedIn member were to invite you to connect using an email address that LinkedIn does not know about, it’s possible to end up with an extra LinkedIn account. This may happen when someone uploads his Outlook contacts list and then uses a feature of LinkedIn that allows him to invite everyone in that list. You may find yourself getting multiple invitations, possibly from someone to whom you’re already connected. If LinkedIn thinks you’re an entirely new person based on an email address it does not recognize, it will set up a separate account and if you click on the link to respond, you may find it asking for your name and to fill in your profile again. I’ve seen this happen when people use email forwarders. For example, say you have an address that is for your college’s alumni association looks like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or something similar that simply forwards mail to a Yahoo email account. It’s possible you’ve given out both addresses to people over the years and you may appear twice in their Outlook contacts lists. If you don’t have both your “email@example.com” AND your Yahoo email address in LinkedIn’s database, you might get multiple invitations to connect to a person and if you respond to the invitation sent to the address that LinkedIn does not know about, you can end up with two separate accounts.
If you didn’t know about this little feature, you may end up with an extra LinkedIn account. The only way to delete a duplicate account is to send an email to LinkedIn’s customer support (firstname.lastname@example.org). Make sure to let them know which account you want deleted.
To avoid this situation, you should put all your email addresses in your profile. LinkedIn will only use the one you designate as a primary address to send you email. However, it will know that if someone sends an invitation to any of your email addresses, it will recognize it as an existing account and not try to set up a new account for you.
The way to do that is to go the upper right hand corner of a LinkedIn screen and select Account and Settings. Then, from the menu that appears, under Personal Settings select Email Addresses. Add every email address that you use. If you’re about to leave an employer, make sure to do this before you leave, because you do have to verify the address by responding to a link that LinkedIn will send to that address.