Posted on

How to Tell Your Story on LinkedIn

Executive Summary

Your LinkedIn page is often the centerpiece of your online career persona yet most of us serve up a motley buffet of achievements, experiences, identities, missions, and passions. Or we go the other way and set a sparse table with only the four basic food groups: name, current job, past experience, and education. Either approach leaves the reader — employer, investor, client, or ally — overwhelmed by or starved for information and less likely to connect. The opportunity is lost and we all go hungry.  To fix this, make your LinkedIn page tell a cohesive and concise story that connects to the audience you want to reach most and get them to reach out to you. To curate your LinkedIn page for storytelling success, figure out your end goal, narrow down your audience, look for inspiration, and get to work.

HBR Staff

Your LinkedIn page is often the centerpiece of your online career persona, yet most of us barely consider what we’re offering there. We serve up a motley buffet of achievements, experiences, identities, missions, and passions for readers to shovel through. Or we go the other way and set a sparse table with only the four basic food groups: name, current job, past experience, and education. The first approach overwhelms the reader — employer, investor, client, or ally — and the second leaves them starved for information and less likely to connect. The opportunity is lost and we all go hungry.

No matter how great you are in a role, if you can’t articulate your value, it’s that much harder to gain the sponsorship you need to move into the leadership positions you seek. With your LinkedIn page, telling the story of your professional progression, leading your audience to its happy ending, and framing it in terms they care about is the difference between casting a wide net to catch Arctic Char in the Caribbean and chartering a harpoon boat in the Norwegian Sea. The result: you get the meetings, leads, and interviews that you actually want.

In my work as a career coach, I help mid-career women get hired, promoted, and buy in for the impact they want to make. To a one, that means establishing a compelling leadership brand identity the best, stickiest, and most effective way possible: by telling a cohesive and concise story that connects to the audience you want to reach most and getting them to reach out to you. To curate your LinkedIn page for storytelling success, follow these steps.

Write Your Own Happy Ending

Where is all your hard work leading? Are you the innovative CEO of a fast-growing company bent on bringing solar technology to every home along the Eastern Seaboard and then the world? Or the female Diversity and Inclusion evangelist who won’t rest until half the CEOs of all Fortune 500 companies are women?

Knowing your professional story’s bright, bold, happy ending anchors the narrative and helps you understand which pieces of your experiences, achievements, and results are relevant to your story.

Take Nichelle. For several years she’d been glued to her laptop, working 13-hour days, jumping every time her manager named a new height, all in the hopes of making director at one of the biggest social media platforms. But no luck.

All her efforts, words, thoughts, and writings were directed at that goal until we unpacked the true happy ending to her brand story: to become a content producer, writer, and speaker on matters of race. Because the skills and experiences of a writer or producer are vastly different from those of a marketing director, she needed to evaluate every line in her resume, going over each skill she’d mastered, and boldly rewrite her internal dialogue and external communications to only include the parts that were relevant to her future as a speaker, writer, and maker concentrated on the experience of people of color.

Know Your Audience and Connect the Dots for Them

When you know your ending, you get a better sense of what your LinkedIn is for. Are you here to generate leads? Get the attention of recruiters? Make professional connections in your industry to move forward your vision? It’s common to think that your LinkedIn should be about you. But as any brand strategist will inform you, every message is about positioning the product to meet the needs of its consumer. On your LinkedIn page, your mission is to present yourself so your partners, employers, sponsors, investors or clients think “this person has the answers I need!”

First step to doing that: narrow who you’re talking to and identify their needs.

Lila, who excelled in negotiations and business development, was a rising star at a tech company when she realized she wanted to pivot to working with content creators. After identifying that she wanted to work at a large, international firm with established premium content, we pulled out the similarities between her experience in selling premium consumer brands to millions of consumers and translated it to meet the needs of established content creators looking to sell premium shows to millions of viewers.

Two seemingly unrelated business focuses now flow from one to the other and create a seamless transition that any recruiter can understand immediately, and that Lila can reinforce in job interviews.

Look for Inspiration

With your future clear and your audience set, we can now move onto style. Despite what the Internet might suggest, there is no one perfect template. Creating your leadership narrative on LinkedIn is a creative endeavor so make like all great artists and steal, steal, steal.

Choose a LinkedIn profile or two that speak to you and break down what’s working and not working about yours as you see it, and what you love about these other people’s profiles. Frankenstein the exact pieces of their profile you love into your own draft to get a sense of the right type of phrasing and order you might want.

This worked for my client Kiko when she moved from an operator to investor in a venture fund she started. When it came time to advertise her new role on LinkedIn to companies she might invest in, and investors she’d need to write her checks, she knew she needed to demonstrate strength, competency, and success in investing and operating, with hard data to back her claims.

By sending me a few LinkedIn profiles and articulating what she liked about each — the formatting of portfolio companies successes, the tone, how people blended personal details into their professional summary — we crafted a hybrid profile that hit the right style while meeting her audience’s needs and sealing her credibility.

Get to Work

With all the pieces in front of you, it’s time to make this story your own. Keep what you love about your profile and ape the other people’s style, line by line if you want. If you love how someone tells a transformational story in their summary paragraph, go through each sentence of theirs and see how you could tell a similarly impactful story by swapping their details for yours. If you love how boldly someone describes their mission, try out your own. Even if it isn’t perfectly worded, it’s a start and definitely clearer than nothing, or what you had before. Remember, you can rewrite your LinkedIn.

You can have great dreams and the best experience to achieve them, but at some point, you’re going to need help from others. If you can’t communicate what you want and instill confidence in others that you’re the right person for that job, you’re fighting an uphill battle with one arm tied behind your back and an eye patch. Developing a story around your leadership to suit your audience’s needs is the first chapter of your gripping personal brand story. Spoiler alert: learn how to use your LinkedIn to tell a great story and you’ll reach your vision faster.

Read More

Posted on

Make Your Side Hustle Work

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

With the rise of platform technologies and increased use of freelancers, contractors, and “gig” workers by companies, it has never been easier to start a side hustle to generates income on the side of a full-time job. Nearly 44 million U.S. workers are currently running a …

Read More

Posted on

Making Mentorship a Team Effort

Executive Summary
The traditional mentor/mentee model needs an update; while one-on-one mentoring remains critical, mentees also need mentoring teams that evolve over time. To that end, mentees need three different types of teams which come into play at various career stages: the launch team, cruise team, and boost team. …

Read More

Posted on

Give It Time Before Deciding You Hate Your New Job

Executive Summary
It’s normal to feel a bit of disappointment after starting a new job. After all, you’ve likely pinned a lot of hopes on this new opportunity. But before you decide whether to stick it out or start sending out resumes again, consider a few things. Just …

Read More

Posted on

What Job Crafting Looks Like

Executive Summary
Twenty years ago, the authors started studying job crafting — the act of altering your job to make it more meaningful. Since then, they’ve identified different forms this concept can take. They include: task crafting, which involves changing the type, scope, sequence, and number of tasks that make …

Read More

Posted on

Build a Network — Even When You Don’t Think You Need One

Executive Summary

Many smart, successful “lone wolves” pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and lack of a network — at the same time as they long for one. Intellectually, they recognize the benefits of networking, and know they should do it. But they’ve achieved their current status on the strength of solo (or near solo) efforts, and adjusting their mindset and behaviors can be challenging. If you’ve avoided networking in the past because of lone-wolf tendencies, the author offers four strategies you can use to reframe the process and turn it into something you actually enjoy doing.

Pulse/Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons professionals don’t network enough. We’re all busy. Some have stressful family obligations. Others are introverts who don’t take to the process naturally. Of course, you can find time-efficient ways to connect with others and learn new techniques that will make you more comfortable — if there’s sufficient will to change.

But in my work coaching high-level executives, I’ve come to realize that many of the professionals who have the hardest time building a network are those who view themselves as “lone wolves” who have succeeded on their own merits and don’t rely on others. Intellectually, they recognize the benefits of networking, and know they should do it. But they’ve achieved their current status on the strength of solo (or near solo) efforts, and adjusting their mindset and behaviors can be challenging.

If you’ve avoided networking in the past because of lone-wolf tendencies, here are four strategies you can use to reframe the process and turn it into something you actually enjoy doing.

Understand what networking is — and isn’t.

Many of my “lone wolf” clients are highly intelligent and pride themselves on their ability to observe and stand outside of social conventions. Yet, they’ve let themselves fall into the trap of creating a “straw man” around the concept of networking, disdaining the process because they equate it to a slimy, classless transaction. As Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has shown, many professionals find that kind of networking dirty — and rightly so. But that’s only one, highly caricatured variety of networking. When we reframe the activity as a way of making interesting friends for the long-term — a goal most intelligent lone wolves would prize — it becomes far more appealing.

Identify people you truly respect.

In addition to qualms about the process of networking, many lone wolves — whether they’d admit this openly or not — have concerns about the people involved. They may have attended “networking events” in the past filled with low-level aspirants eager to swap business cards, and assume that’s the “kind of person” who networks (while failing to recognize that cattle call, cocktail party mixers are only one variety of networking — and an ineffective one, at that). Certainly, there are other professionals that lone wolves respect, but they’re few and far between.

That’s why I have my lone wolf clients create a “wish list” of people they’d like to connect with, even if it’s unclear how to do so. Clarifying who these people are — a respected author, a senior executive colleague, a thought leader in one’s field — help illuminate possibilities (a shared LinkedIn connection, or the fact that you’re both attending an upcoming conference). Most importantly, it helps demonstrate to the lone wolves that there’s reason to be excited about networking, because the payoff is meeting interesting people — not fending off the grasping hordes.

Recognize how a lack of networking may be holding you back.

Lone wolves know that networking is supposed to be useful in general, but are often unclear on how it could help them, since they’ve been successful heretofore without exerting any effort in that area. But at a certain point, this lack of attention begins to hinder their professional progress. I advise my clients to take a short self-assessment to gauge the strength of their network, and see where they may need to focus their efforts.

For instance, one of my clients had built impressive credentials, but wasn’t able to become a member of an elite professional group because she needed peer recommendations to join — and she didn’t know anyone in the group. We developed a thoughtful strategy to build these relationships over time and she eventually gained entry, but it took much longer than it would have if she had been connecting with her professional colleagues in small ways over the years.

Identify your vehicle for networking.

If you live in a large city, the opportunities may be obvious — hosting networking dinners or simply inviting colleagues to coffee when they come through town. But even if you’re based in an out-of-the-way location, there are strategies you can use to meet the interesting people you’ve identified above. One of my executive coaching clients — to his great surprise — landed a video interview with a Nobel Prize winner who agreed to be interviewed for a publication my client wrote for.

But even if you don’t write for a media outlet or industry publication, you can often connect with prominent and fascinating people by interviewing them for your own blog or podcast. Or if you share a commonality like being part of an alumni group or professional association, you can sometimes simply suggest a “getting to know you” call as colleagues. You might also identify one or two key conferences per year and concentrate your networking meetings aggressively during that period.

Many smart, successful lone wolves pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and lack of a network — at the same time as they long for one. By applying these strategies, which remind them why building connections is desirable and shows them how to do so in a way that doesn’t feel phony, even the most committed soloist can start to build a meaningful network.

Source: HBR.org

Posted on

Build a Network — Even When You Don’t Think You Need One

Executive Summary

Many smart, successful “lone wolves” pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and lack of a network — at the same time as they long for one. Intellectually, they recognize the benefits of networking, and know they should do it. But they’ve achieved their current status on the strength of solo (or near solo) efforts, and adjusting their mindset and behaviors can be challenging. If you’ve avoided networking in the past because of lone-wolf tendencies, the author offers four strategies you can use to reframe the process and turn it into something you actually enjoy doing.

Pulse/Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons professionals don’t network enough. We’re all busy. Some have stressful family obligations. Others are introverts who don’t take to the process naturally. Of course, you can find time-efficient ways to connect with others and learn new techniques that will make you more comfortable — if there’s sufficient will to change.

But in my work coaching high-level executives, I’ve come to realize that many of the professionals who have the hardest time building a network are those who view themselves as “lone wolves” who have succeeded on their own merits and don’t rely on others. Intellectually, they recognize the benefits of networking, and know they should do it. But they’ve achieved their current status on the strength of solo (or near solo) efforts, and adjusting their mindset and behaviors can be challenging.

If you’ve avoided networking in the past because of lone-wolf tendencies, here are four strategies you can use to reframe the process and turn it into something you actually enjoy doing.

Understand what networking is — and isn’t.

Many of my “lone wolf” clients are highly intelligent and pride themselves on their ability to observe and stand outside of social conventions. Yet, they’ve let themselves fall into the trap of creating a “straw man” around the concept of networking, disdaining the process because they equate it to a slimy, classless transaction. As Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has shown, many professionals find that kind of networking dirty — and rightly so. But that’s only one, highly caricatured variety of networking. When we reframe the activity as a way of making interesting friends for the long-term — a goal most intelligent lone wolves would prize — it becomes far more appealing.

Identify people you truly respect.

In addition to qualms about the process of networking, many lone wolves — whether they’d admit this openly or not — have concerns about the people involved. They may have attended “networking events” in the past filled with low-level aspirants eager to swap business cards, and assume that’s the “kind of person” who networks (while failing to recognize that cattle call, cocktail party mixers are only one variety of networking — and an ineffective one, at that). Certainly, there are other professionals that lone wolves respect, but they’re few and far between.

That’s why I have my lone wolf clients create a “wish list” of people they’d like to connect with, even if it’s unclear how to do so. Clarifying who these people are — a respected author, a senior executive colleague, a thought leader in one’s field — help illuminate possibilities (a shared LinkedIn connection, or the fact that you’re both attending an upcoming conference). Most importantly, it helps demonstrate to the lone wolves that there’s reason to be excited about networking, because the payoff is meeting interesting people — not fending off the grasping hordes.

Recognize how a lack of networking may be holding you back.

Lone wolves know that networking is supposed to be useful in general, but are often unclear on how it could help them, since they’ve been successful heretofore without exerting any effort in that area. But at a certain point, this lack of attention begins to hinder their professional progress. I advise my clients to take a short self-assessment to gauge the strength of their network, and see where they may need to focus their efforts.

For instance, one of my clients had built impressive credentials, but wasn’t able to become a member of an elite professional group because she needed peer recommendations to join — and she didn’t know anyone in the group. We developed a thoughtful strategy to build these relationships over time and she eventually gained entry, but it took much longer than it would have if she had been connecting with her professional colleagues in small ways over the years.

Identify your vehicle for networking.

If you live in a large city, the opportunities may be obvious — hosting networking dinners or simply inviting colleagues to coffee when they come through town. But even if you’re based in an out-of-the-way location, there are strategies you can use to meet the interesting people you’ve identified above. One of my executive coaching clients — to his great surprise — landed a video interview with a Nobel Prize winner who agreed to be interviewed for a publication my client wrote for.

But even if you don’t write for a media outlet or industry publication, you can often connect with prominent and fascinating people by interviewing them for your own blog or podcast. Or if you share a commonality like being part of an alumni group or professional association, you can sometimes simply suggest a “getting to know you” call as colleagues. You might also identify one or two key conferences per year and concentrate your networking meetings aggressively during that period.

Many smart, successful lone wolves pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and lack of a network — at the same time as they long for one. By applying these strategies, which remind them why building connections is desirable and shows them how to do so in a way that doesn’t feel phony, even the most committed soloist can start to build a meaningful network.

Source: HBR.org

Posted on

Don’t Quit Your Job Before Asking Yourself These Questions

Executive Summary

If you’re thinking about quitting your job, first do a quick analysis. Is the organization you work for the source of your concern? Then, you might look for a similar job with another employer. Is the job the problem? Then, you should consider making a move within your company before you decide to leave. And, finally, are you prepared to make your next move? Build your personal career assets to position your career for the future.

Joseph Van Os/Getty Images

Is it time to quit my job? This is a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another. Most people wait until they feel they must leave their job or organization, and that puts them at a disadvantage. They might end up choosing an “exit job” rather than the right next career step.

Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, be proactive and take the opportunity, at least once a year, to evaluate your organization and your position in it, along with your personal career assets. The three questions below should help you assess where you stand.

Are you working for the right organization?

Make sure you don’t passively ride downhill with an organization in trouble. Here are seven signs that should concern you:

  • A merger, acquisition, or change of control has taken place, and you are not a part of the new changes.
  • Management is criticized again and again in the business press.
  • The organization does not invest in new products or services and chooses to focus on old ways of doing things.
  • People you respect are leaving the company.
  • Profits are down, or if it’s a nonprofit, contributions are down.
  • Outsiders are hired into management positions and begin to bring their own friends.
  • Cost-cutting measures are implemented with little notice or rationale.

If four or five of these signs are true for your organization, take a critical look at it. Talk to the people you know who have left the company. Look it up in the business press. Is it an organization in trouble? There are times when you might want to choose to work for an organization in trouble, but only if there is a career advantage — like being part of the turnaround team or learning an important new skill.

Are you in the right position?

It might have been a great job for you last year, but is it still? A great job is one that helps you grow and learn. It’s one in which the people recognize you for the job you are doing, and a lot of what you’re working on is exciting and rewarding. As soon as you start thinking that the political part of your job is more important than the work you are doing, take a closer look at your position. The following seven signs will help you see the risks:

  • Your bonuses or raises are no longer above average.
  • Your boss circumvents you and deals directly with your subordinates or peers.
  • You are no longer invited to important meetings or to go out to lunch with colleagues.
  • You are doing things you disagree with, or you believe you have to conceal what you really think.
  • You’re making dumb mistakes all the time and can’t figure out why they are happening.
  • Your mentors have left the organization or fallen into disfavor.
  • You can no longer predict promotions or who will be seen as a top performer.

If your organization is a great one, and your job isn’t working for you, look to find another position in another part of your company. The people who can help you most are those who have recently moved within the organization or those whose positions span more than one business area — like auditing or human resources. Otherwise, time to tune up your resume. Don’t get hung up on whose “fault” it is; if it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave.

How are you positioned for your future career?

Unlike the first two questions that focus on the possible risks or liabilities in your current employer and job, this last question gives you a chance to see your situation from the other side of the balance sheet. Review your personal career assets. Are these statements true for you?

  • You have a good reputation both inside your organization and outside in your profession.
  • People call you for help and advice, and you try to help them.
  • You know what you want to learn next and have spent your own money to enhance your career or expand your knowledge in the last year.
  • You know what the hot topics are in your field.
  • You know what the next technical challenge will be in your field.
  • You have a set of professional contacts you can call on for help or support.
  • You volunteer your time in a number of ways.

If you can say “yes” to five or six of the seven statements above, you don’t have to worry. You are well positioned to manage your career. Your personal assets will help balance the liabilities of your current job or employer. If you didn’t score well on this list, you can easily change things. Just begin doing what’s described in the seven statements. Start by contributing to your colleagues, community, and profession, and your professional network — and reputation — will expand with it.

So, if you’re thinking about quitting your job, do a quick analysis. Is the organization you work for the source of your concern? Then, you might look for a similar job with another employer. Is the job the problem? Then, you should consider making a move within your company before you decide to leave. And, finally, are you prepared to make your next move? Build your personal career assets to position your career for the future.

Source: HBR.org

Posted on

What to Do If You Think Your Job Is at Risk

Executive Summary

Unwanted job changes are a fact of life, albeit a difficult one. Staying attuned to the warning signs — and planning what-if scenarios in case you’re let go — will enable you to remain more flexible, resilient, and in control of your career destiny. The author recommends four steps to take if you think your job might be at risk: 1) Cultivate a broad network. When you take the time to make and maintain relationships before you’re in a career crisis, you have the opportunity to show people how passionate you are about what you do and reveal your capabilities from a place of job stability. 2) Seek advice. Assemble a personal board of directors who can help you evaluate your career options. 3) Conduct a financial wellness check. This will give you a clear understanding of how much money you will need to support yourself through a transition period. 4) Update your branding by revamping your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Goldfinch4ever/Getty Images

Your job may be in jeopardy for a variety of reasons — some under your control, others not. Regardless, it’s critical to recognize the signs that things are going wrong before it’s too late. Being aware of the key red flags will ensure you aren’t caught off guard and give you the chance to both navigate the situation and be prepared if the worst does happen.

The indignity of being let go is, of course, difficult. However, when I talk to executive coaching clients who have been recently laid off, I find that what hits them harder than anything else is the lack of control they feel over this critical career decision. If your organization is downsizing or you sense your job may be at risk, the sooner you can claim agency over some part of the process, the better you’ll feel and the faster you’ll be able to transition to a new company. The question is: If you do find yourself in this situation, will you be able to take the proactive steps needed to engage in an effective job search despite the stress and challenges inherent in being laid off or fired?

Here are the suggestions I made to a client — let’s call her Jillian — when she learned that her position was being eliminated due to a merger.

Cultivate a broad network

The single biggest mistake my laid-off clients have made is failing to cultivate their network while they still employed. As a result, they have had to painstakingly reinvigorate those connections while under pressure to find new jobs — suboptimal timing, to say the least. Fortunately for Jillian, she had maintained a strong network, finding time in her schedule to reconnect with people she hadn’t seen in a while, rather than letting those relationships languish.

To understand what skills will be required three, four, and five years from now in your industry, it’s imperative to build a network both inside and outside your organization, which will help you gain visibility into areas to which you might otherwise not be exposed. Tap professional organizations, mentoring circles, and conferences, all of which offer the opportunity to meet new people and stretch your thinking. Marketing strategist Dorie Clark explains that because traditional linear career paths have become much less common, it’s important “to take a detective-like approach, investigating and vetting opportunities.”

When you build your network before you’re in crisis, you can show people how passionate you are about what you do and reveal your capabilities from a place of job stability. You might also learn about skills you will eventually need to future-proof your career. If you make a good impression and nurture those relationships, you’ll be top of mind when your connections (or others they know) need your service.

Seek advice

When you’re in a vulnerable position, with your job at risk, clear thinking tends to go out the window. What you need more than ever is the support of people who can provide solid, trustworthy advice about your career options. This is where that broad network you cultivated can come in handy. From it, you can assemble a smaller personal board of directors to advise you. Ask yourself what your professional goals are now and what information and help you’ll need to reach those goals.

For example, Jillian was hoping to leverage her 20 years of experience in biopharmaceutical sales and marketing — as well as her expertise in launch planning, product strategy, and commercial leadership — to springboard into a chief commercial officer role, preferably in the field of gene therapy. I advised her to talk to her contacts before applying for open positions, so that she could broaden her understanding of the critical business issues facing startup biotechs, identify potential gaps in her skill set, and boost her brand before the official job search began. She identified people who could tell her about becoming a chief commercial officer and offer insights on the unique challenges of gene therapy. She also found someone who could provide emotional support to counter those inevitable moments of self-doubt or decreased motivation during her potentially lengthy job search.

Conduct a financial wellness check

If you think you’re getting laid off, it’s wise to safeguard some cash in an emergency fund, ideally a money market account. You should have enough to cover more than six months of expenses because it can take that long to find a new job, especially at the executive level. If you are married, find out how to get health coverage under your spouse’s plan in the event that your company doesn’t cover the costs of COBRA payments.

Next, determine your baseline budget — the minimum amount of money you need to cover your basic costs, such as food, housing, utilities, and debt payments. You can also check the website of your state unemployment insurance agency to get an idea of what your weekly benefits will be and apply for them as soon as possible. When Jillian did this, she discovered that it helped her figure out how much more money she would need from other sources, such as savings, for necessities and how many nonessential costs she would need to cut until she landed a new position.

You might also consider meeting with a financial adviser to map out how you will support yourself through a transition period.

Update your branding

Last but not least, if you expect to be out of a job soon, you should immediately revamp your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect your latest roles, responsibilities, achievements, and new career ambitions. I advise all my clients to keep a weekly list of accomplishments, and Jillian had followed through, so she was able to easily update her social media presence and avoid scrambling when a recruiter or hiring manager requested her resume.

Unwanted job changes are a fact of life, albeit a difficult one. Staying attuned to the warning signs — and planning what-if scenarios in case you’re let go — will enable you to remain more flexible, resilient, and in control of your career destiny.

Source: HBR.org