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HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

 With more than 85 million members in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn is a professional social network worth using, understanding and optimizing.
After you’ve covered the basics of setting up your LinkedIn presence, features including recommendations, applications, LinkedIn Answers, and the Resume Builder can add value to your profile. Many of these highly useful features, though, are often overlooked or underused by newcomers.
We spoke with four LinkedIn aficionados to get their top advice on making the best use of these tools. Read on for their thoughts and let us know which tips you’d add for optimizing LinkedIn profiles in the comments below.

Cover the Basics


The first step to spiffing up your LinkedIn (LinkedIn) profile is to fill in as much information about your work experience as possible. It’s your online resume; pay as much attention to it as you would your cover letter or paper resume.
Sharlyn Lauby, president of Internal Talent Management, HR blogger and guest contributor for Mashable (Mashable), believes that a person’s LinkedIn profile should, at minimum, reflect his or her current situation. That includes an up-to-date headline along with information about his or her most recent position. A recent photo and contact information are also musts.
If you’ve covered those bases, our experts recommend focusing on making connections, joining groups, getting recommendations and posting status updates. Once again, the focus should be on quality additions in each of these areas.
“[A status update] is a great place to share an article of interest or something new you’ve been working on. People do comment on status updates, so it’s a nice way to start a conversation,” says Lauby.
If all else fails, just follow LinkedIn’s built-in status bar for recommendations on how to complete your profile. When you hit the 100% mark, though, don’t think you’re finished; there’s plenty more to be done.

Ask for Meaningful Recommendations


Astute recruiters aren’t going to take your word for granted when you describe your top-notch abilities. Instead, just as in offline recruiting, they will want to hear from those who have worked with you and have a grasp on your working style, personality and skills. That’s where recommendations come in.
Lauby notes that gathering recommendations is all about quality over quantity. “If someone has dozens of recommendations that are generic in nature, it’s not as valuable as a handful that are specific about a person’s experience and contribution.”
Focus on asking for meaningful recommendations from your supervisors and colleagues who work closest to you. Before sending out a request on LinkedIn, approach each contact in person to explain the importance of his or her recommendation. Adding a personal touch to your request will probably result in a better response rate, as impersonal, default requests can sometimes fall on deaf ears.
Be sure to thank each of your colleagues who recommend you on LinkedIn, and consider returning the favor with a follow-up recommendation.

Use Value-Added Applications


One of the hidden jewels on LinkedIn is its ability to incorporate applications. Check out its Application Directory for a taste of apps that can spice up your profile.
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
  • SlideShare Presentations: If you’re a public speaker or publish lots of reports, SlideShare is a useful tool for getting the word out about your work. If you don’t have a SlideShare account, get one. If you do, this app is a great way to showcase your most recent reports or presentations on your LinkedIn profile.
  • WordPress (WordPress): Add personal flair to your LinkedIn profile by importing your latest WordPress blog posts onto your profile. You can choose to display all posts or only those tagged “linkedin.”
  • Tweets: If you’re a huge LinkedIn buff with a passion for Twitter (Twitter), Tweets is a great Twitter client for accessing the microblogging service right from LinkedIn. Plus, you can choose to display your most recent tweets on your profile.
  • My Travel: Powered by TripIt (TripIt), this app enables you to see where your professional network is traveling and post your upcoming trips. It then shows you who in your network will be close to you on your travels.
These apps give visitors to your profile a better idea of who you are as a person and job candidate. Lauby also recommends checking out the Events app, which enables you to discover professional events and indicate which ones you’re attending, giving you more opportunities to connect with fellow attendees.

Become an Expert With LinkedIn Answers


LinkedIn Answers is a Q&A platform that enables members to demonstrate their business acumen by answering questions from other members. When questioners choose another user’s answer as best, that user gains points of expertise. These points rank members on the Answers leaderboard, called “This Week’s Top Experts.”
We asked three of this week’s top experts about their best practices on using the product. Each of these experts spend a few hours per day answering up to 50 questions daily, which is the maximum for 24 hours.
Cristina Falcão, lawyer and pharmaceutical manager at Farmácia F. in Portugal, says that the biggest reason for using Answers is networking. “‘Expertise’ [points] is given by the person who asks and categorizes a question. Networking is about meeting people, sharing knowledge, and helping each other,” she said. “I enjoy learning from other professionals and the input from other users’ real life experiences is priceless.” For Falcão, Answers is a platform for demonstrating expertise, as well as a platform for getting answers to her own pressing questions.
“I consider it my daily marketing investment,” said Christine Hueber, a social media and search marketing strategist, referring to her activity on LinkedIn Answers. She said she usually answers questions until she reaches the daily maximum. Her dedication has paid off thus far, as she now sources most of her clients from LinkedIn. She explained:

“Since I started focusing on Answers about a year ago, all of my new clients I’ve gained either directly or indirectly through Answers, since my ranking and demonstrated expertise is very impressive to them. Plus, it’s brought other opportunities my way, like giving presentations on LinkedIn, being featured in YouTube videos, being interviewed by people like you, etc.”

Hueber isn’t alone in having benefited from being an active Answers user. Dinesh Rãmkrishna, NeST technologies business development manager, agreed that his input has been rewarded in the form of “connections, friends, well wishers, business queries and job offers.”
All three experts recommend answering questions in areas that you are well-experienced in — they also get lots of great feedback for answering questions about how to use LinkedIn, in general.

Use LinkedIn’s Resume Builder Tool


Remember when crafting the perfect resume entailed sitting at your computer for hours, using the perfect action verbs and nitpicking the formatting? Sadly, much of that process has remained unchanged for decades, but formatting is getting a bit easier, with tools like LinkedIn’s Resume Builder.
The tool enables LinkedIn users to craft resumes by simply choosing a template and customizing the content. Lauby commented on Resume Builder’s usability:

“It’s incredibly easy to use, and I was very impressed with the number of different resume formats available. Keep in mind, the quality of the resume is directly attributed to the quality of information on your profile. If people want to take full advantage of this feature, they will need to keep their profiles updated regularly with the information they ultimately want on their resumes.”

If updating your resume in Microsoft Word, again and again, is one of the monotonous tasks you’d like to shake, check out Resume Builder the next time an update is needed.
These recommendations will help LinkedIn users utilize their profiles as much as possible. Which tips would you add? Let us know in the comments.
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30+ Websites to Visit When You’re Laid Off

The worst time to panic is when you are laid off and lose your main source of income. We live in a new and powerful era of communication, one where we can find support, gather news, and network without ever leaving our computers. The following collection of websites has been put together as a comprehensive resource for anybody who has lost their job and is looking to get back on their feet again. Our hope is that this post will be a hub for finding support and financial resources.
Have an important site to add? Please help us out by adding it in the comments.

Step 1: Find Support and Recover


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1. eHow: eHow has a massive collection of articles that can help you learn everything from how to support a laid off spouse to how to claim unemployment benefits. It’s tough to find the quality articles, so here is a good starter pack:
2. About.com: Job Searching: About has a similar set of articles, but focuses more on tasks such as acquiring unemployment benefits and how to file for them.
3. LaidOffCamp: LaidOffCamp is a movement to bring anyone who has lost their job or is self-employed together to discuss topics that are important to the laid off – living on tight budgets, becoming a freelancer, and more. The first LaidOffCamp is in San Francisco on March 3rd.
4. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration: The DOL’s first resource for those laid off, it outlines ways to get benefits, provides fact sheets, and gives you contact information for your state. It’s a good resource.
5. I’m in like with you: Seriously, relieve the stress by playing games for a few hours and indulging in the fun.
6 & 7. PlentyofFish and Okcupid: You need to get your mind off of losing your job and get out of the house and meet people. If you’re single, there is no better way than dating. PlentyofFish and Okcupid are both free dating services, making it cheap to find a date. Just make sure to pick an affordable date; I suggest a trip to the zoo.
8. Diddit: Now is the best time to pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. diddit is a relatively new social network for finding people who are doing the things you want to do. Use it to learn more or just find partners to go skydiving with.

Step 2: Manage Your Money and Stay Afloat


9. Careeronestop Unemployment Benefits Map: This map will link you to unemployment benefit information for your state.
10. Department of Labor Health and Retirement Benefits Toolkit: Another U.S. government website, this is the DoL’s job loss toolkit. It has fact sheets and publications on COBRA, pensions, and more.
11. Mint: Mint is a free budget management and finance tracking service. After connecting it with your online bank accounts and credit cards, you can see all of your financial activity and set budgets based on categories of spending. When you lose your income source, you need to be sure you are keeping on budget. Mint will even send an SMS if you go over your budget or have unusual charges.
12. Wesabe: Wesabe is similar to Mint in that it can track your finances by linking to your online finance accounts, but it also leverages its community to make recommendations and tips that can help save you money. Users can also share advice with the rest of the community by commenting on items.
13. Employment at SmartMoney.com: SmartMoney is a great resource for investing and managing your money. The Employment section specifically has videos, columns, and articles on starting your own business or surviving a layoff. It’s from the Wall Street Journal – it’s quality information.
14. Slickdeals: The popular deals website allows you to find discounts and freebies on a random assortment of items. When you’re in a crunch, every penny matters.

Step 3: Earn Short-term Cash


15. Craigslist: Even if you’re receiving unemployment checks and have a few months of savings to rely on, earning a couple of extra dollars can mean the difference between making rent and being in hot water. The #1 place to look is the world’s largest classified section, Craigslist.
16. Workstir: A newer website, Workstir allows you to find contract jobs near you. Everything from painting to web design can be requested, searched for, and accepted as work. Its Facebook Connect integration helps you search for gigs geographically.
17. HotGigs: HotGigs is a hub for freelance consultants and staffing firms. You can join, connect with contract firms, and even see information on average market rates for consultants in your industry.
18. Freelance Writing Jobs: Blog and write for some extra cash and get some added exposure as a bonus.

Step 4: Network, Network, Network!


19. LinkedIn: Start at the world’s largest professional network and start contacting everyone who might owe you a favor, be in debt to you, or fear your wrath. It’s time to let the world know that you’re looking.
20. Plaxo: One thing Plaxo does very well is contact management – it’s quick and simple to organize all of your business cards and contacts. Take the time to type them in and categorize them. Then email every contact you’ve got.
21. GarysGuide: Although most of us techies do our work from a computer, networking doesn’t always work that way. GarysGuide lists out tech events and gatherings in metropolitan areas. Start a system of attending at least two of these a week and shake hands with as many people as possible. You’re not going to find your next opportunity sleeping in late.
22. AllConferences: The same deal as GarysGuide; find conferences in your industry and attend them. If you’re low on cash to attend them, talk to the organizers and tell them about your situation, get yourself in as a speaker, or strike a deal to blog about the event with a news blog – you’d be surprised how easy it can be to get free conference passes if you put in some effort.
23. MeetUp: Even more networking homework for you, MeetUp is extraordinarily comprehensive in its listing of events and includes events for non-metropolitan areas.
24. Twitter: Oh yes, our favorite social media darling can also become your favorite networking darling in dire times. Primarily using Twitter, Bostoners were able to quickly organize a pink slip party. Use it to tell your followers you’re looking for a new opportunity, ask them to retweet, and then search twitter for relevant job keywords.

Step 5: Time to Hunt For a Job


25. Mashable’s Career Toolbox: One of my absolute favorite posts on Mashable is the Career Toolbox, a comprehensive listing and description of websites that can help you find a job and then land it. Start here when you’re looking for a job.
26 & 27. LinkUp and SimplyHired: Unlike most job sites, LinkUp and SimplyHired are aggregate search engines that search company and job websites for job postings and openings. This will give you an idea of openings in your industry and the general feel of what companies are looking for.
28, 29, & 30.USAJOBS, DirectGov (UK), and Australian JobSearch: There are a lot of government websites that can help you directly search for a job, I’ve only listed three of the best examples here. With multi-billion dollar stimulus packages flying everywhere, there’s bound to be some government jobs.
31. Mashable’s Job Board: No list would be complete without the Mashable Job Board. If you’re an avid reader of our blog, you’re probably going to find a job that suits you here. You can tell them that I sent you. If only that would actually help you land a job…

Don’t Lose Hope


When you are directly affected by the economic crisis, the most important thing to remember is don’t lose hope! There are jobs out there for hard-working, talented, clever individuals, but you’re going to have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and talk to every person you possibly can. I hope this post helps you or someone close to you get through this crisis. We’re all in this together.
If you have some other websites you think will help those who are laid off, make sure to leave them in the comments.
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Google Movie: Producers Seek Writer To Rival ‘Social Network’ Success

 Following the huge critical and box-office success of ‘The Social Network’ on its opening weekend, the team behind the planned big-screen adaptation of a movie about Google is hunting for the perfect writer to turn the story of dot-com billionaires Sergey Brin and Larry Page into a blockbuster.
A spokesperson for production company Groundswell told Forbes that the search is on for a writer to adapt Ken Auletta’s bestseller Googled: The End of the World as We Know It into a screenplay, as Aaron Sorkin successfully did for Ben Mezrich’s tale of Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook. The spokesperson said the team expects to announce its chosen writer in coming weeks.
In August, Groundswell’s Michael London announced his company had acquired the movie rights to New Yorker writer Auletta’s book, which chronicles Google’s rise from dot-com upstart to preeminent search engine.
At the time of the announcement, it was unclear when the film would make it to the screen, if ever; plans were at a very early stage, with the only names attached to the project that of London and co-producer John Morris.
Now, with the success of ‘The Social Network’, a release date for the big-screen adaptation of Googled has been set for 2012, according to Groundswell’s spokesperson. The Los Angeles-based production house is responsible for such critically-acclaimed movies as the Harvey Milk biopic ‘Milk’ and Matt Damon vehicle ‘The Informant’.
Watch this space for news on the film, its writer, and its yet-to-be-announced cast. Ideas for who should play Brin and Page are welcome in the Comments section.
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Slime-free Career Networking

Networking got a bad name because too many people saw it as transactional: I’m going to use you/you’re going to use me/let’s hope I can get a better deal on this trade than you do. That approach can have kind of a “meat” market, last-call-at-a-singles-bar flavor, and fear of getting caught in that flavor is one reason many women work late at their computers instead of going to an event where they might actually meet someone who would be good to know. On the other hand, if you meet someone you might want to do business with and don’t acknowledge that’s what you want, even to yourself, you close off any possibility that something good could happen.

What to do? When you meet someone at a business function, whether it be an industry group or women’s conference, that person is a prospect, and it’s okay to think of him or her that way . . . it’s even expected. If you meet the person somewhere else and you’re not sure if he or she would like to be seen as a prospect, you can do a quick qualifier and see how the response. If you say, for example, “Oh, I sell beauty products” to someone who owns a beauty salon, and she says, “What do you think of these appetizers?” you know that she might want to be your friend but not on your call list.

Be purposeful with your best prospects
At the other end of the spectrum are great prospects with whom it is clear from the start that you have something in mind. You have to be clear with them about what you want, too.

Just after I moved from Texas to Washington, D.C., I had lunch at the Jockey Club with a man named True Davis, a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden and high-level pharmaceutical industry executive. True was a mover and a shaker, and it was a real coup that he was meeting with me. I didn’t have a job, needed one desperately, and my mother, who had gone to high school with True, had suggested I call him for help. I did, and he graciously said yes. So I ended up going to lunch at the ritziest place at which I’d ever eaten, with True, who at the time was by far the richest and most powerful man I’d ever met, a man with tons of connections. I hadn’t done any homework on True, so all I really knew was that he was an important friend of Mommy’s. And I hadn’t thought through what I wanted, so I didn’t ask him for anything.

What I got from this encounter was an excellent lunch.

What else could I have gotten? At the very least, I could have procured a few introductions and interviews that would have greatly advanced my job search. I could have said to True, “I’m interested in working on the Hill for Congressman So-and-So, whom I know you know. Would you be willing to give his office a call on my behalf?” Or, “I’d love to get an administrative position in one of those prestigious Dupont Circle associations that I know you belong to. How do you think I should approach them?” At the very most, who knows what more a specific request might have yielded? But I blew it because I hadn’t done my homework, thought through what I wanted, and developed a powerful pitch around it. Which, by the way, he would have expected me to do and respected me for trying.

Even as recently as a few years ago, I still hadn’t completely learned my lesson. Flying back to New York from a speaking engagement in Detroit, I noticed Ram Charan, legendary advisor to senior executives and boards of directors and business writer extraordinaire, sitting in the plane’s first-class cabin. I was very familiar with his work, which I find amazing; to be perfectly frank, I had a big business crush on Ram, he was, at the time, my idea of who I wanted to be professionally when I grew up.

Since I believed then, as I do now, that you should try to meet people who do things you admire, I worked up my courage and seized the moment when I saw him standing alone by the luggage carousel after the plane landed. I forced myself to make an introduction, gushed like a schoolgirl over his work, and asked for a meeting. Tomy amazement, he agreed.

So when I got back to my office, I called his assistant, Cynthia, a lovely woman recognized my neediness and, despite her boss’s very tight schedule, managed a 15-minute meeting wedged in between Ram’s consulting sessions in New York. I arrived at the meeting, immediately offered my credentials (because by this time, at least I’d learned I have to credential myself with blues), and realized I had to make some kind of pitch. So I suggested we find some way to work together in the women’s market. Ram looked vaguely alarmed, told me that wasn’t really his sort of thing, and confessed that he had only agreed to see me because he thought I was someone else — some business muckety-muck’s daughter. A gentleman through and through, Ram then graciously declined my idea. That was it. He did, however, send me a standard issue, unsigned Christmas card that year and has continued to do so every year since, which jazzes up my office.

As much as I appreciate the holiday card, if I’d taken the time to develop a more precise pitch, I might have had a shot at working with new and powerful clients. Maybe if I’d said, for example, “I do a lot of training around relationship management, which would be an excellent fit with the work you’re doing on superior execution, and I think we could do X, Y, and Z together,” I could have at least gotten a second conversation. Instead, I essentially burned a very high-value prospect.

The moral of these stories: Save pitching your best prospects until you have a specific purpose or goal in mind that you can clearly articulate, and until you have thoroughly done your homework, which includes thinking through the benefit of what working with you or otherwise supporting you would do for them. Keep reading I’ll show you how.

Not the usual suspects

At this point, your goal should be to cultivate a diverse group of potential prospects rather than being bogged down by narrow definitions of who can help. So, your prospects might include not just your boss, but your boss’s boss, his counterpart in the next department, and his executive assistant. Not just your colleagues, but your competitors as well. The speaker you admire at a conference and the senior manager you meet at a wedding or party. Anyone with shared interests is a possible prospect, even if you do not share the same immediate goals.

Consider this scenario: You’re up for a plum assignment, along with several candidates in your company, and various decision-makers meet in the corner conference room to choose who gets the nod. Your boss is in the room and you know you can count on his support. But there are several others there, too, who don’t have any reason to support you; in fact, they have reason to argue against you because they want their own person to get the job.

Those people are prospects, too.

So you need to start thinking about indirect ways to cultivate those relationships. At the most basic, you might simply engage them in an occasional conversation. Or perhaps you could provide a useful piece of intelligence now and again “Hey, Tony, I thought you might like to know . . .” Tony still may not actively help you once he gets to that conference room, but he’ll be far less inclined to actively argue against you, and he may be more easily swayed to accept you over the person he’d originally thought would be the better choice.

As for your competitors, think of it this way: If you are competing with someone, you both have the same goal, which implies you have a similar vision. If you view this person as a prospect, thinking about a way to carve out the territory so you can support him or her in his or her piece and he or she can support you in yours, you have turned a competitive relationship into a functional, value-producing one. Politics really do make strange bedfellows.

This is an area where men often have an edge because they do not take competition as personally as we do, nor do they retreat from conflict as often. After a big ball game, men have no problem going out for drinks with players from the other team. We, on the other hand, just want those girls from the other team to go away — they’re bad girls and we don’t want to play with them anymore. We see the relationship context; men see the competition. We see girls who wanted to beat us; win or lose, guys see other guys who like baseball the way they like baseball and that’s what’s most important.

If you can make the mental shift that allows you to see your competitors as both competitors and potential prospects, you put yourself in the right mindset to win.
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by Ronna Lichtenberg,

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Blue Collar Job Search

A lot of what I’ve written about in the past has been for professionals and executives, but I had an experience recently that made me think about a blue collar job search, and what the differences are. This is pretty interesting because most of the job search blogs I follow seem to be written for a white collar professional.

I don’t want to draw any lines and declare that blue collar is better, or worse, than white collar. I simply want to talk about some of the nuances of a blue collar job search, compared to a white collar job search.

Here’s how this came about. I have a friend I was chatting with recently. He has been in a stable job for more than 15 years, but the time came for him to look for another gig. He’s a hard worker, very talented, and a really nice guy. He’s looking for a job where he can build and/or maintain stuff, working with his hands not at a computer all day, cooped up in an office (like me). At first I thought many of the job search tactics he would employ would be the same as what I recommend to others; but after we chatted last I realized the advice he needed was different than the advice I normally give. I began to brainstorm the differences, and here’s what I came with:

Identifying the type of job you want

Before I could help my friend I realized I had to understand what kind of job he would like to have. He didn’t communicate his wants or needs to me very well, so I had to draw them out. The kinds of questions we needed answers to included:

  • What kind of hours do you want to work?
  • Are you OK with night or swing shift?
  • Do you want to work weekends?
  • Do you want salary or opportunity for overtime?
  • Do you want management responsibilities?
  • Etc.
The key here is to figure out the type of responsibilities, expectations and the ideal work environment. I came up with at least a dozen questions to help him think through this.

Networking
You can’t get away from networking, no matter what kind of job you are seeking. We identified some networking events that are perfect for him not where his peers are but hiring managers are. Once you start networking you open up a can of worms: what to wear, how to talk in a networking event, how to approach people, and all of the rest of the networking strategies and tactics you can read about in a good networking book.

Branding

One of the distinct issues I found with my buddy was that he didn’t know how to communicate his brand, or value proposition, to others. Just a simple guy who can do regular stuff. There are many issues with his inability to appropriately brand himself; here are two: First, he completely depreciates his value. What might be normal to him is magic to me I’m about us unhandy as it gets, whereas he can build or fix just about anything. He takes his skills for granted, but he should really be able to communicate what he can do. Second, if he simply passes over his skills, experience and ability, he might make people think that he really isn’t that good.

Finding job opportunities

There is a lot of talk about where to find jobs. Some think you go just to job boards, others think job boards don’t work at all. I think it depends on your level, industry, and the type of job you are looking for. I found job boards to be quite valuable in my friend’s process for a number of reasons. He was able to find new target companies he hadn’t heard of before. He was able to list new “job titles” he was interested in new titles to talk about or search for. He was able to get a feel for skills that are valued, and keywords a company is looking for, to help hone his resume and prepare answers for interview questions or responses in a networking situation. Job boards get beat up a bit but they shouldn’t be discounted. To find a job board by industry check out Peter Weddle’s list of associations. Look for one appropriate for you, and see if they have a job board.

Social networking

I am not pushing social networking, even LinkedIn, very much with my buddy. I think white collar professionals have to be on LinkedIn so they can be found, but I’m not sure how many people are doing searches for facility maintenance, construction or other trade employees on LinkedIn. However, my friend can certainly spend valuable time each day looking for hiring managers and company contacts to network with. It’s a different use than what I’ve generally recommended.

Communicating to others

Once you understand your brand and value proposition, it’s critical that you can concisely communicate that to anyone you talk with. You should be able to tell them how your job search is going (or, more importantly, how they can help you in your job search), what kind of company or role you are looking for, and what your value proposition or personal brand is. People don’t want too much information, but you have a chance to ask for help or make an impression, and you should prepare for that chance.

Isn’t it amazing that what we really want to do (the work) is easy compared to doing all the stuff above? In today’s world, however, we need to think about those ideas so that when we transition again and we will transition again we are prepared to have a smooth transition.

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By Jason Alba for AOL.COM
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Top 10 reasons employers want to hire you

When you apply for a job, you know exactly what you’re looking for. You want a company you love, great co-workers, a decent salary, a culture where you fit in and, most importantly, you want to love what you’ll be doing.

But do you ever consider what the employer is looking for in its employees?

These days, competition is steep among job seekers; it’s important to know what employers want in an employee before going into an interview so candidates can sell how they would be an asset to the company.

“If the candidate doesn’t know what the employer is looking for, [he or she] can’t properly communicate why they are the most qualified candidate for the position,” said Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com. “Understanding what the employer is looking for ahead of the interview is so that the candidate can be sure to communicate all of the information that is likely to be most relevant to the employer.”

In a 2009 survey from CareerBuilder and Robert Half International, employers said that aside from having the basic job qualifications, multitasking (36 percent), initiative (31 percent) and creative thinking (21 percent) are the most important characteristics in a job applicant.

We asked six workplace experts to address 10 of the most common reasons employers hire employees, in no particular order. Hopefully, they can help you prepare to land your next job.

1. Long-term potential
Why it’s important:
Employees want to see their future within a company so they are motivated and excited about their career path, the company’s future and their role in it, says Celia Santana, president of Personal Risk Management Solutions.

From the employer perspective, you want people in your organization to work their way up. It is best to have someone who is multidimensional and can grow with the company.

Tip:
“Give a real-life example or ask questions that demonstrate that you have thought about this,” Santana says. “For example, you can ask a question like, ‘What type of career movement do you envision for the most successful candidate in this role? Are there any current examples within your company?'”

2. Ability to work well with others
Why it’s important:
“We spend a lot of time at work; there is nothing worse than someone who cannot get along with others,” Santana says. “[It’s] so important and involves being helpful, understanding the unwritten rules, being respectful, reliable and competent.”

Tip:
“Tell a story,” Santana suggests. For example, “I was interviewing someone for a job and asked about a situation where he had experienced a challenging situation at work. He told me about a situation where the company had a major deadline and needed all hands on deck. He was able to pause what he was working on and pitch in, working late hours to help the team meet the deadline.”

3. Ability to make money
Why it’s important:
Hiring managers want people who can prove that they will increase the organization’s revenues or decrease its costs, Rothberg says.

“During a recession, revenues are difficult for organizations to generate and employers have typically already cut their costs about as much as they can. Their emphasis is on increasing their revenues.”

Tip: “Employers love metrics. The more you can quantify your work, the better,” Rothberg said. Some positions are easier to quantify than others, but it can be done. “If you’re a filing clerk, estimate how many minutes a day your work has saved your previous employers by looking at how much faster it is for people to access the information they need,” he said.

4. Impressive résumé
Why it’s important:
“A résumé is a person’s billboard; a reflection of the applicant in the eyes of the reader,” said Jay Meschke, president of EFL Associates. “First impressions are lasting ones and a résumé is often the vehicle to either make a good impression or a poor one.”

Tip: “Make sure several people review the résumé for content, style and accuracy. Use a co-worker that might have a dose of skepticism in their gene pool to receive the most constructive criticism. If a person has no comments, try another, and another, to obtain the collective wisdom of peers,” Meschke said.

5. Relevant work experience
Why it’s important:
“Experience levels generally allow a person to hit the ground running without a lot of hand-holding,” Meschke said. “Managers do not have time to mentor and train people as in the past.”

Tip: “Be prepared to offer up quality references to substantiate your background and experience. Many times, references are the critical key to landing a job when the hiring decision is a close horse race,” he said.

6. Creative problem-solving skills
Why it’s important:
“Employers know that in business, the chessboard changes daily. As soon as we think all is fine, the economy changes or the competition makes a surprise move and the company’s own strategy must change,” said Mark Stevens, author of “Your Marketing Sucks” and CEO of MSCO, a global marketing firm. “A person who gets locked into a set way of doing things finds it difficult or impossible to adjust. They are a drag on the business as opposed to an asset for it.”

Tip: “Know how to tackle challenges and opportunities in a way no one will find in a textbook. Einstein used to approach his theories by thinking of childlike fantasies and working backwards to reality. Talk about how an approach like this is built into your DNA. You will be marketing yourself as a one-of-a-kind,” Stevens said.

7. Strong online presence
Why it’s important:
“Social networking has become the primary way that people communicate. But it is a double-edged sword. Employers have access to your personal life, likes and dislikes, political views, good and bad behavior. Because of that exposure and the speed at which information is distributed, it is important that you be digitally dirt-free, especially when job hunting,” said Chris Laggini, vice president of human resources for DLT Solutions.

Tip: “Social networking doesn’t have to be negative in your job hunt; you can use it to your advantage. Old-fashioned reference checks through past employers are passé; use your [social networking] pages to accumulate references and positive praise from professional peers and college professors. Find people within the company whom you know that could put a good word in for you,” Laggini said.

8. Multitaskers who thrive on variety of projects
Why it’s important:
“Business today moves at supersonic speed, and effectively managing a variety of different projects simultaneously is essential,” said Susan Stern, founder and president of Stern + Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency. “If an individual demonstrates a passion for learning new things and enjoys a variety of work, chances are she is also ambitious and inquisitive — two qualities that are critical to success and advancement.”

Tip: “Don’t be shy about asking for additional assignments and offering to handle other aspects of a project than you might usually handle. Make it clear to your manager that you have a passion for learning new things and volunteer to take on extra work, even if it means putting in additional hours,” Stern said.

9. Enthusiasm and initiative
Why it’s important:
“If you show consistent enthusiasm and take initiative on the job, you can count on being noticed and rewarded. Every business looks to put their most enthusiastic people forward with important clients and customers,” Stern said.

“By taking initiative, you convey a true team spirit and illustrate that you are not someone who simply meets the criteria of a job description, but who goes above and beyond what is required to help the business succeed.”

Tip: “Don’t forget to say, ‘Good morning’ with a lilt in your voice; when you pass someone in the hall, smile and say, ‘Hello,'” Stern reminded. “It’s easy to clam up around top management when you are new to the business world, but showing confidence and a comfort level with people more senior to you will lead to your being considered for more challenging work.”

10. Good cultural fit
Why it’s important: Recruiters are pressured to find the right match for a company; applicants are under pressure to creatively differentiate themselves and demonstrate a desire to succeed, said Jenny Floren, founder and CEO of Experience Inc., an online recruiting community. “Hiring managers are particularly interested in how a candidate is going to adapt to their unique organizational culture.”

Tip: “Look for different ways, a personal blog or Twitter, to deliver your message about what makes you a great cultural fit. Find ways to incorporate specific examples that illustrate the cultural competencies they are looking for, like flexibility, leadership or teamwork, as this will help employers understand you’re serious and excited about the position,” Floren said.
 

By Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com

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Seven Smart Career Networking Moves Guaranteed To Make You More Memorable

It’s a fact: employers prefer to hire people they know over “mystery” candidates. That’s why networking accounts for how 64 percent of people find jobs, while only 11 percent find work through advertisements (New York Times survey). Conferences, trade shows, meetings, and small-group gatherings are excellent venues for being visible, getting connected, and becoming known to the people who have the power to hire. Here are seven “Cs” for making the most of networking events.

1. Catalog your strengths, value, and vision. Know who you are and what you want. What are your greatest strengths? Convert those strengths into value. Think in terms of return-on-investment (ROI) how would you describe your ROI were an employer to ask, “What can you do for us?” Finally, envision. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” What opportunities are you targeting? What skills do you want to use that would tap into your tingle factor?

2. Create your marketing theme. Using three key strengths from No. 1 above, compose a short verbal business card. Here’s an example: “As a sales rep for hotel properties, I specialize in the 3 R’s: Research, Relationships, and Revenue Growth. My research skills helped unearth a list of 40 qualified prospects. My relationship skills opened the doors to meet decision-makers and match the benefits of our property with their needs. The result is that revenue grew more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, at a time when most properties’ revenues were stagnant or declining.”

3. Chart your course. Literally. If you’re attending a large convention or trade show, do some logistical planning to cover all the ground efficiently. Review the list of attendees to identify whom you want to meet and when and where you might call on them. Ask colleagues their recommendations for whom you should consider meeting. If time permits, do a quick Google.com search on your target contacts so you’ll have some personalized dialogue once you’ve completed the perfunctory pleasantries. In some cases, it may be appropriate to email or phone your contacts in advance of the event. Mention that you’ll be attending and, at the suggestion of so-and-so (e.g., a known and trusted colleague of the contact), are looking forward to saying a brief hello.

4. Connect with people. Measure your networking success by the number of meaningful conversations you’ve had, not by the number of business cards you’ve handed out or collected. The fastest way to have a meaningful conversation is to put aside your personal agenda for finding a job and focus on the other person. How? Smile, look people in the eye, and care about them by asking questions, such as “What’s the most interesting exhibit (or, seminar, idea, project] you’ve seen here?” Or, “Who would you like to meet here?” (you may know someone who could help make the connection). Or, “What do you hope to accomplish at this event?”

5. Clarify needs. Clarify your contact’s needs so you can understand how you can be of value. Arm yourself with intelligent questions: “What important projects are gathering dust in your in-box? What interesting projects are you working on now and where might you need help? What changes or challenges do you see in the next 6-12 months at your company, and what will those changes bring? What resources or ideas are you looking for at this meeting/event?” Notice that you’re not asking whether there are any job openings available!

6. Collaborate on needs. Position yourself as the answer to those needs. For instance, “In my most recent position, we had a similar problem. What have you tried so far? We found that XYZ system worked well in our situation.” Or, “are you aware of such-and-such a resource?”

7. Continue the connection. Look for appropriate opportunities to ask for a business card or gain permission to make contact again soon. For instance, if your contact is checking her watch or looking distracted, you might say, “I don’t want to take up too much of your time just now. Perhaps we can continue our conversation after the conference/meeting. When would it be convenient to touch base with you again?” Or, “I recently read a fascinating article about that subject. I’d be happy to email you the link if you’ve got a business card handy.” Or, “I know someone who may be a good connection for you. I can email you their contact info.” Or, “Who else should we include in our next conversation?” Or, “Who else would you recommend I speak with about that?” As a creative way of following up with contacts, one bright job-seeker carried a camera with her, took photos of her target company’s exhibit booth (with their permission) and offered to email a digital photo later.

Carve out some post-meeting/conference time on your calendar for follow-up with personalized emails or phone calls. Commit to keeping these new relationships alive in the months ahead. When the right opportunity opens up at your dream company, you’ll find yourself on the short-list, head and shoulders above the mystery candidates!
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by Susan Britton Whitcomb

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