How I Use Linked-In to Enhance My Professional Life

This is a work in progress. I have been a Linked-In member for several years, but have only recently paid any attention to the possibilities. As with most of these posts, I write them as I stumble down the learning curve because it helps me figure something out. Occasionally, someone is nice enough to write and tell me where I have erred.

I am not much of a fan of social networks, but I do recognize that they have become a big thing. I have been forced to become a student of these tools and a user. I don’t have a Facebook page yet, but that day may not be far away.

Right now, the only network I use is Linked-In. It seems to have reached critical mass. I don’t know if there is something else that would meet my needs better, but like any tool, there is a fair amount of work involved in learning to use Linked-In, and there is a fair amount of work in making it work for you. And for me, if it’s work, I can’t help but look at it like a process, and every process needs to be written down and every process has to start with a purpose.

Purpose: To define a professional profile that accurately and attractively presents the detailed professional image that you are trying to achieve.

Your Linked-In profile is a lot like a resume. In fact, I can see a day when your Linked-In profile will be the first thing that employers look at. Resumes may already be obsolete.

Even if you are not looking for work, you are always looking for work or help with work on Linked-In. You should put those things into your profile that you would be comfortable sharing with a new employer or your present employer, and little else. If you like your current job, make sure your Linked-In profile reflects well on your current employer. In general, your linked-In profile should reflect well on everyone and everything you mention. Linked-in is not an arena for fighting battles.

I hope I never have to look for a job again, but that will only continue as long as my current and future enterprises bring in sufficient income. If I use my Linked-In profile properly with my other tools, I may avoid that fate. (Don’t get me wrong. I have loved most of my jobs, but I hate looking for work and I hate commuting. I really love my current job, and it involves no commuting.)

I maintain a Linked-In membership because I want to make more money doing exactly the things that I want to do. I’m not using Linked-In to promote my social consciousness or to keep up with my social network. I might use another networking site for those (with a great deal of caution), but Linked-In is all about what I want to do for work. I need to carefully and constantly define that, and Linked-In is a good place to keep that definition. I don’t want to do that in a way that closes any doors, but I strongly believe that you do need to project a vision.

Moreover, you need to project a vision with substance. If you want to get a certain type of work, you need to convince people that you are likely to be good at it. This is usually a lot easier if you have been living at least part of your vision, and have colleagues, employers, partners, and experience that attests to that skill. This should not be too hard if you are good at what you do and want to continue in that work and there are people that need that work. The more radically you want to change what you are doing, the more difficult it will be to provide substance for your vision.

Above all, keep your Linked-In profile accurate and credible. Remember, people can check out a lot about armed with nothing more than Google, especially if you have ever really done anything. You leave trails everywhere you go in the electronic world we live in.

Company Profile

I did not even know that Linked-In had a company profile capability until a very short time ago, but if you are a manager of a company and want to tell people what you company does, the Linked-In profile is a simple and free way to do that. If you work for a company, you should make sure your company’s profile is online and updated.

Connections

One of the things I like about Linked-In is that no one abuses their connections, or if they do, I have been lucky enough to avoid that. I get no unrequested solicitations. I don’t get that many of the kind of solicitations I am eagerly looking for, but I get some. That’s pretty good, and I actually think it is going to last because the unspoken part of Linked-Ins connection capability is the ease of disconnecting. People will be very unlikely to abuse their connections even on a small level because the risk is far greater than the reward.

I am pretty broad-minded about who I connect to. I can afford to do that because people only tend to come to me for stuff they will pay me for doing. Warren Buffett probably has to be more careful because he faces a real danger of getting excessively pestered. However, even for me I want to avoid connections that do not have a significant purpose.

I want to keep up with what friends and colleagues are up to, and Linked-In provides a quick way to do that if they keep up their profiles. If they don’t, I am no more ignorant for making the connection. The connection also gives me an persistent email link to the person. I would say past colleagues are your best connections because they already know your work. Hopefully, they appreciated and would like to have you on their side in a future endeavor.

I can’t think of any negatives letting these same people know what I am up to, but I control that by what I put into my profile. I wouldn’t want thousand of connections like some people have because I would suffer from information overload. I have enough connections already so that it would be a mess if they all used the broadcast power of Linked-In, but they don’t. With rare exceptions, most of the Linked-In updates have to do with new connections to my connections.

I should pay some attention to who my connections are connected to, but that’s a lot of work and kind of invasive. In all cases, I really want to speak to my direct connections because that’s where I think I have the most credibility. I’d have to go and look at every profile unless I recognized the names.

Linked-In tells me that I am connected to millions of people, but I think they only list thirty that have a live direct connection. There is an implied power in the secondary and tertiary connections, but that is hard to exploit. The only way you can really exploit anything beyond your immediate network is to do something so interesting that your connections have to tell their connections, and their connections have to tell their connections. I don’t know if you would need Linked-In if you came up with something that interesting, but I think sometimes the right message can work its way down a connection chain until it gets to the person who needs to hear it.

To their credit, I think Linked-In is working to help you achieve getting your message out virally if you can, while maintaining a culture of consideration and respect. It’s a tough road to walk, but so far, so good.

My belief is that the best way to exploit those connections is to be very clear about what you or your business can do for people. You want to talk to people who are interested in what you have to offer, and those people can only find you if you tell them what you can deliver.

Groups

If you don’t get enough email every day, join a couple of Linked-In groups. I join groups because I am joining with other people who share my agenda, or at least are my competition. The best things about groups is that they have job postings and discussions. The job postings are interesting even if you are not looking for a job because they tell you a lot about what people in that group are spending their money on.

Linked-In Discussions

Although my impression so far is that Linked-In Discussions would be more accurately called soliloquies, they are interesting and useful. For best results, start or participate in discussions on areas where you are doing work currently. We have gained valuable insights from private comments to our discussions even though we have yet to attract a single public comment. As with every other aspect of Linked-In, proceed with discretion. Anything you put out there becomes part of the value matrix that you are creating for potential customers and employers. Make sure that each contribution to a discussion enhances that picture of value.

Linked-In Answers

I still haven’t used this feature, but I have been thinking about it. My initial impression is that the best way to use it is very similar to discussion. That is, ask or answer questions only if your interest and knowledge is valid and current.

Blogs Linked to Your Linked-In Profile

Again, use discretion. Even if no one is reading your blog right now, someone will when you are trying to get a job or make a sale. Make sure that anything you write in your linked blog in mindful of this fact. Therefore, you shouldn’t link your golf blog unless you are in the golf business, and even then, the blog needs to exclusively support your business purposes. Avoid religion and politics because they won’t get you any new business, but could well cost you some. If you write a blog with significant religious or political content, people may find it anyway, but don’t push it in their face by making it part of your on-line profile.

Feedback

I’d love to hear from people who are having success promoting their business with Linked-In.

Advertisements

Adding an RSS Feed to Outlook

This blog uses RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to deliver new posts and comments to subscribers. Unfortunately, many people don’t seem to know how to take advantage of RSS.

Why do we use RSS?

The previous solution to maintain a subscriber list was to have people provide me with their emails, I would keep a list, and every time I wrote a new article, I would send a copy to everyone on the list. This was a lot of work for me, and ultimately it dragged down the whole writing process. There were more people who wanted to read what I had to say than there were people who wanted to give me their email address, and it was a pain every time someone changed their mind. It was far better than having to print everything out and mail it, but it still was a system with drawbacks for everyone. RSS eliminates the need for you to give your email address to anyone, and it removes the whole process of maintaining a subscriber list.

For a publisher using a tool like WordPress.com, the process is really simple. They ask me if I want to add an RSS feed, and I say Yes. I’m not sure what is going on behind the scenes, and I don’t really care as long as it solves the problem.

Once that is done, anyone can subscribe to my RSS feed using any RSS reader. If you want to be a subscriber, RSS is really simple but not quite intuitive. Let’s go through the process in Microsoft Outlook.

An RSS feed is treated by Outlook much like an email account. Select View Accounts from the Tools menu, and go to the RSS tab. Click on New, and enter the feed URL. Note that the URL for this blog is https://abcorwin.wordpress.com/, but the RSS feed URL is https://abcorwin.wordpress.com/feed/ .

Shortly after you do this, you should see a new folder in Outlook’s Personal Folders\RSS Feeds\ called Rust Never Sleeps.  If you open it, it will contain the entries from this blog, and new entries will appear shortly after they are published.

If you get tired of my drivel, all you have to do to stop this is to delete the RSS feed entry that you created above.  The entries will stop coming immediately.

Note the structural difference.  With RSS, you have a tool that goes out and gets what you want to read.  With an email list, you get whatever the sender (or anyone else that gets the list) decides to send you.  RSS puts you in control.

Technology and Taxes

The New York Times reported this morning that the federal government spends seventy billion dollars a year on technology.  I’m never quite sure what these numbers mean, but I’ve also notice that most states now employ more programmers than bureaucrats.  Our collective governments are investing massive amounts of money apply technology for everything.  Are the governments getting what they want?  Are we, the taxpayer, getting what we want?

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely believe that the government needs to spend money on technology for a whole variety of different reasons, and I clearly receive tangible benefits from that investment all of the time.

I love being able to renew my car tabs on-line, for example.  I don’t have to drive to an office and wait in line.  Same for my driver’s license every other renewal.  Our state, Washington, has done a great job of putting a whole host of registrations on line.  I just have to wonder why it is isn’t making government cheaper.

Look at the DMV example closely from the point of the state.  The DMV can’t possibly need all of the people that they formerly required.   Sure they need a technical staff to maintain the web site, but the whole theory of automating this says that most of the work will now be done by the computer.  Theoretically, you don’t need as many people to take in the license applications and checks, review them, send them back if they are wrong, file them if they are right, and to respond in a timely manner to legimate requests for this information.  And if you don’t need all of those people, you don’t need facilities (office space, computers, parking spaces, etc.) for those people.

Furthermore, most state agencies should be able to obtain the same benefits from technology.  These savings should be at least tens of millions of dollars for the motor vehicle department alone, and other departments should see simlar savings.

Is any of this happening?  You would think so as broke as most state governments claim to be, but I don’t see my state taxes going down.  I also don’t see the state bragging about how much money the new systems are saving.  If they were saving us money, you know there would be a hundred politicians trying to take credit for it.  I don’t hear that story from any of them so far.

I tend to suspect that the problem we see is the same thing that happens in business only worse.  The entrenched protect their turf, and we end up paying for both the technology AND the labor the technology is supposed to eliminate.  Eventually, a business has to look at these costs and make appropriate adjustments, but government can get away with ignoring this as long as they can raise taxes.

So why isn’t this happening?  It seems like the obvious question.  You would think at the very least some politician would try to further his career by making this part of his brand.  The theme could be “Getting more out the Resources We Have”.  That seems far more attractive than the brands I see most politicians establish.

As quickly as these guys are to schedule a hearing about anything, you would expect hearings on this subject to go on all of the time.

Here’s a little starter list for the aspiring politician:

What is the goal of each technology investment?  That is, are we  investing to save money or to provide more services?

Are there measurements in place to see if progress is being made towards that goal?

What kind of follow-up system is in place?

The government is giving us more, but we should be getting more for less.  We keep paying more.  These investments are never going to pay off if someone isn’t at least checking out the results and following through.  It’s time for someone to stand up and pretend that they care.