Monthly Archives: May 2016

12 Mistakes to Avoid on LinkedIn

Article by Belinda Fuller

12 Mistakes to Avoid on LinkedInWith over 7 million registered users in Australia, and more than 92 million across the Asia Pacific region, LinkedIn is definitely the number one online tool for professional networking. Whether you’re searching for a new role, seeking to make the most of the one you have, or building your professional network to identify business development or partnership opportunities, there are certain mistakes you need to avoid while using LinkedIn.

Despite the fact that LinkedIn has been around now since 2002, and is used so prolifically, there is still a lot of confusion around how to get the best out of your profile. As consultants, we are often asked why we are making certain recommendations, but the mistakes we see time and time again are all too common. LinkedIn is different from other social networks, and you can’t use the same techniques that you use elsewhere. Here are 12 things you want to avoid doing on LinkedIn.

MISTAKE # 1 – Not having a photo: LinkedIn now states that profiles with a photo are 14 times more likely to get viewed that those without. In addition, recruiters are more likely to skip over a profile in their search results if it doesn’t include a photo. So it pays to have one. It doesn’t have to be a professional shot, although it’s great if you can manage it. A simple photo of your head and shoulders taken against a white or plain background is fine. And don’t forget to smile – it’s not for a passport.

MISTAKE # 2 – Having an inappropriate photo: Just as bad as not having a photo, is having an inappropriate photo. I once had a client tell me that their photo wasn’t the best representation of them because he “was at a wedding at the time and had probably had a bit too much to drink” – really? That is not portraying your professional best. We recommend a nice shot of head and shoulders in professional attire – for some that might be a suit, for others it will be a work t-shirt.

MISTAKE # 3 – Using it Like Facebook or Twitter: LinkedIn is a professional medium. It’s meant for professional communication. Don’t post ‘what’s on your mind’ unless it relates specifically to your career goals, and don’t vent about ANYTHING on LinkedIn! Keep your posts specific and positive. Posting a link to an article that adds value to your industry is also a great idea.

MISTAKE # 4 – Lying: about anything – it’s a public forum so if you didn’t do it, don’t say you did. If you helped do something – say so. Lying on your Resume is bad, but lying on LinkedIn is even worse. It is likely you will get found out and the consequences probably just won’t be worth it.

MISTAKE # 5 – Having an incomplete profile: Having a complete profile not only helps you get found more often by recruiters, it also sends a great message about your professionalism to the people that do end up viewing your profile. If you don’t complete your profile, you’re indicating that you’re just not that serious about your career.

MISTAKE # 6 – Waiting till you need it to pay any attention: Try to use LinkedIn to connect with others when you’re comfortable in a role. Waiting until you need it (i.e. you’ve just lost your job, or had a huge argument with a superior and need to get out quick) will put pressure on the situation. If you have to connect with someone and ask for something straight away – it can be difficult. Instead, by gradually building up your contacts, learning from them and providing them with opportunities to learn from you – the relationships that you develop over time can then be more easily leveraged once you actually need them. 

MISTAKE # 7 – Having a static profile: Once you establish your LinkedIn profile, don’t forget about it! Make the effort to regularly review the content, make updates where appropriate, and share status updates and other information with your network. While you don’t have to feel pressured to provide constant updates like other social networking platforms, you do need to make some regular effort.

MISTAKE # 8 – Not including supporting information: make sure you link to blogs, websites, presentations, and projects etc. where people can learn more about you and the professional successes you’ve achieved. Anything that supports your career can be included.

MISTAKE # 9 – Not making it easy for people to contact you: inviting people to connect, contact you for advice and including information like volunteer and charity work will all help you engage with like-minded people. Make sure you provide details on how people can connect and offer to help or provide advice where you can.

MISTAKE # 10 – Not responding: As a LinkedIn user, you will receive emails and connection requests from others. Not responding in a timely manner is bad business. Likewise, making judgements about people’s motives could be a mistake. Try to treat the enquiry in the same way you would if they contacted your business through the usual channels. Don’t waste time obviously, but try not to ignore people that you initially perceive as not being able to add value.

MISTAKE # 11 – Trying to connect with random people: While you don’t have to restrict your networking efforts to people you’ve done business with, you do need to provide context if you’re sending a connection request to someone new. We recommend personalising all connection requests, so do this by providing a personal message explaining your reason for the connection request. Don’t be tempted to send out random connection requests because if too many of those people click “I don’t know this person”, LinkedIn could suspend your account.

MISTAKE # 12 – Forgetting to customise your LinkedIn URL – the automated personal URL created when you set up your profile usually includes a combination of your name with lots of letters and numbers at the end. Take advantage of the vanity URL and customise it to reflect the best version of your first and last names or your business name.

LinkedIn is a valuable professional networking tool that has a raft of features and benefits that you need to be taking advantage of in order to achieve the best results. If you’re making any of these mistakes, they’re very easy to fix – go ahead and make some changes today.

Do you have trouble networking? Are you lacking a good quality LinkedIn profile to help you find and connect with like-minded industry experts or maximise your job search? If you would like assistance writing a professional, keyword optimised LinkedIn profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please click here for our LinkedIn Profile Writing service.

Alternative Pathways to Achieving Your Dream Career

Article by Belinda Fuller

Alternative Pathways to Achieving Your Dream CareerIf you’re someone who’s always known what you want to be when you grow up – think yourself lucky! Not many people have a childhood passion that leads them directly to their dream career. For most people, figuring out what to do can be a confusing and frustrating process. There are endless options and countless considerations. However, these days the path to that dream career isn’t necessarily straightforward.

Figuring out what to do for the rest of our lives can be daunting. It can be especially so for new school leavers focused on their final year and thinking about what to do when they leave. The options are endless – but what should you consider? Should you choose a practical job that provides stability, a good career path and great pay prospects? Or should you follow your passions and choose a career based on something you love?

Following your passions can mean amazing success, but can also come at a cost – it usually involves some level of risk, overcoming fears and judgement by others (often parents), and maybe planning for some kind of fall-back position. As an alternative, many people are happy to indulge their passions on a part-time or ‘leisure only’ basis, while working in a steadier job that earns them their living. This can be just as hard a path to take – with the ‘safe’ option often leading to unhappiness or discontent down the track. If you’re still trying to figure out your dream career, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What activities do I enjoy?
  2. What are my interests?
  3. What am I good at, what are my strengths?
  4. What do I value the most – creativity or stability?
  5. How do I define success – happy, rich, working hard, etc.?

Then brainstorm related jobs. Now could be a great time to enlist the help of a career consultant who can provide an independent perspective in achieving your dream career potential. Career consultants often use formal assessment tools to better understand where your interests, values and personality traits lie in order to identify the careers, industries and work environments that best suit you. Once you have a list of potential careers, do some research to find out more – what qualifications are required, how competitive is the job market, what shape is the industry in, what salary could you earn, what is the potential progression, is it stable, what are the normal work hours, where are roles located and will you need to travel etc.

So what’s next? If you need to go to university but didn’t achieve the required ATAR, alternate pathways are becoming more popular – allowing you to work while studying, take time off after you leave school before starting university, or even combine local and overseas study. Most qualifications can also be pursued at any time throughout your life with just about any course available via part-time, full-time, online, distance or on campus options, or in varying combinations of them all. The three most common alternative pathways to university study are:

  1. Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) – this test assesses students’ knowledge in various areas considered to be important in tertiary study. Unlike Year 12 qualifications, STAT questions are not purely academic, so if you’re keen on a specific course but didn’t do well in Year 12, you could still have a good chance at gaining entry.
  1. Registered Training Organisations (RTO) – including TAFE and other private RTOs which provide different levels of flexibility and/or course content.
  1. Indigenous Australian Uni-Entry Programs – offered by many Australian universities, and designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who missed out on their university course by only a few ATAR scores. Each university has their own set of requirements and unique programs (with differing names) for eligibility so make contact directly to enquire.

In addition to achieving your dream career through study, you may just need experience that you simply don’t have without actually getting the job! We have several suggestions to get around this situation including:

  • Volunteering: or completing an internship (paid or unpaid) could be especially important if your career area is very competitive. Even if you have to work for free, dedicating this time can pay off – many companies employ interns that show promise at the end of their term, but even if you don’t receive a job offer, you will gain some experience that you can add to your resume.
  • Networking: with people you’d like to work for, and at local community, or relevant industry events. You may not land your dream job because of your networking, but it could help you get an interview or introduction that you may not have otherwise.
  • Identifying transferrable skills and achievements: it can be a challenge when you don’t have the ‘listed experience required’ but here’s where you need to think creatively. Identify your transferrable skills and demonstrate why they matter. Show the employer how valuable you are by listing previous achievements. Read our other article this month on How to Identify Your Most Important Employability Factors for tips.
  • Showcasing your work: if it’s a creative field you’re trying to break into, a portfolio is a particularly good idea. But it can also apply to other sectors as well. For example, as a writer – start a blog or write some sample articles or content. As a graphic designer – create some designs to show potential employers. As a service provider – volunteer your services for free for family or friends and document the process and outcomes to build your portfolio.

There are many ways to achieve your dream career which don’t necessarily follow the traditional path. It’s important to be open and flexible when selecting your path to success. Don’t be afraid of change or taking an alternative route to achieve the success you desire.

Would you like assistance finding your ideal career so you can enjoy every day? Our Career Counsellors and Career Advisors can provide you with Career Guidance and Career Coaching Services to help you find your dream career.

How to Identify Your Most Important Employability Factors

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Identify Your Most Important Employability FactorsFor most of us today, a career for life is simply not an option. We usually have several different jobs, with a variety of different employers, in various different industries or sectors throughout our working lives. This means we need to be flexible when identifying the factors that make us employable – those skills that help us acquire, retain and achieve success in a job.

So what exactly are ‘Employability Factors’? Basically they are the set of achievements, skills, expertise, and personal attributes that help you achieve success in your chosen career. Most employers seek candidates that have other abilities beyond just the required qualifications and experience. These are a more comprehensive or balanced mix of experience, soft skills, and value that you add in your day to day work.

I’ve written before about how soft skills can help advance your career so this is a great place to start. The most important soft skills for your chosen career don’t necessarily align closely with the technical knowledge or hard skill sets required. They relate to the way in which you interact with and treat others, make decisions, or react to different situations. They include:

  1. Communication: employers mostly seek candidates who can clearly and concisely articulate ideas and needs (both verbally and in writing) with a wide variety of people.
  1. Interpersonal: being able to develop working relationships is seen as one of the most important skills for any employee. It means you can empathise with others and build important relationships – with colleagues, superiors, clients, suppliers, and other employees.
  1. Creative Thinking & Innovation: competition is fierce across most industries today, so doing things the way they’ve always been done isn’t ideal. Having the ability to think outside the box to solve problems and make decisions can offer new perspectives or approaches and is a huge asset to any employer.
  1. Collaboration: the ability to work well with others and appreciate input from different team members is essential, and will result in higher levels of efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately success for any organisation.
  1. Presentation Skills: being able to present ideas and information effectively is vital. This isn’t just about making formal presentations, but also includes speaking at informal meetings and preparing written reports, business or project plans, or more detailed strategy documents.
  1. Leadership: having the confidence and ability to influence other people’s decisions and outcomes is important. Leadership isn’t just for ‘leaders’ or managers, but is important for all employees to progress and succeed.
  1. IT Skills: most people need some IT skills to do their job. As a minimum, you should understand the basics of IT such as using the internet, sending and receiving emails, and using word processing and/or spreadsheet applications.

In addition to these soft skills, you should be able to identify the value you add. A great way to do this is to talk about your achievements because new employers don’t know your history – they need to understand the value you can add in the role, and  this can be achieved by explaining past achievements.

Achievements don’t always have to be money or number focused (although it is great if they are). This is where many candidates get bogged down – they don’t have a revenue generating role so they think they don’t have ‘achievements’. However, there are many different areas we can look to for achievements. Think about things that you do in your day to day work that benefits your business, customers, and/or colleagues. Sit down with a pen and paper and think about anything you did:

  • where you received positive feedback or praise from a colleague, superior or client;
  • that made you feel proud;
  • that solved an ongoing issue or problem in the business;
  • that involved working in a team – say a larger project that was completed collaboratively;
  • that provided a new way of doing something;
  • that reduced the time taken or cost required; and
  • that improved service or support, or the quality of the outcome.

Once you’ve identified these soft skills and past achievements, you have the basis of your most important employability factors – the reasons why an employer would choose you over someone else. It’s also important to have a good attitude towards personal development because employers want ‘lifelong learners’ – people who are willing to adapt, change, and constantly learn in order to do things better for their organisation.

Would you like help identifying and articulating your most important employability factors so your next job application has a better chance of standing out? If so, please see our Career Advice and Resume Writing Services.

Facebook or LinkedIn? Which One for Career Development?

Article by Belinda Fuller

Facebook or LinkedIn Which One for Career DevelopmentBoth popular social networking sites designed to connect individuals online, the two represent different types of connections with different goals and objectives. LinkedIn is focused on professional networking, and is currently the highest used tool for professional networking, whereas Facebook is considered more social with a focus on personal use.

The fact is that LinkedIn was designed specifically for the global business community – to enable members to establish networks of people they know and trust professionally. Your LinkedIn page emphasises employment history, education, professional memberships and other associations. So which one should you be using for career development purposes?

Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. While LinkedIn definitely remains the global standard for professional networking online, both sites may have a place in your career development process – particularly if you are a consultant, freelancer or run a small business. There are certainly advantages to LinkedIn that could never be as easily achieved with Facebook – the fact that LinkedIn was designed specifically for business networking makes it very easy to connect with past and present colleagues, build relationships with potential partners, find a new job, discover prospective sales leads, influence your customers, and find viable candidates for roles within your organisation. However, Facebook can also provide an ideal way to share content and build your brand, reputation, and community of interested potential customers.

In addition, it’s important to remember the reach of Facebook is far greater with an estimated global active monthly user base of 1.59 billion, compared to LinkedIn’s 100 million. That means Facebook may be more relevant in business than many people believe. Some of the ways you can tap into the professional community on Facebook include:

  • Establishing a business page to share content and drive traffic to your website or LinkedIn profile (to sell products, educate your target market, or influence buying decisions);
  • Establishing a Facebook group focused on your business and regularly sharing content;
  • Participating in existing relevant Facebook groups to connect, discuss, share content, and network with others in order to grow your professional network; and
  • Using Facebook advertising as a way to reach new customers.

Although some people have debated which one is better, we believe a LinkedIn profile carries more weight professionally than Facebook for the majority of people – however as mentioned above there is certainly a place for Facebook. Your LinkedIn profile content is focused on professional experience and qualifications with a clean, structured and organised presentation and appearance. In many situations, this makes it easier for people to quickly identify whether or not they should be working with you.

If you are seeking a new job, it’s important to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch – according to LinkedIn, “users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.” Likewise, if you’re seeking to network with colleagues and potential business partners, LinkedIn is probably your best bet. However, if it is new customers or improved business branding you’re after, then Facebook might be the way to go.

Do you have trouble networking? Are you lacking a good quality online profile to help you find and connect with like-minded industry experts? If you would like assistance writing a professional, keyword optimised LinkedIn profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing service.

 

5 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career

Article by Belinda Fuller

5 Steps to Creating a Portfolio CareerMore than just a bunch of part-time jobs, portfolio careers are becoming more and more common as people seek to improve their work-life balance and increase overall career and job satisfaction. Many people are finding that juggling two, three or even four jobs can be much more fulfilling and rewarding than holding down one traditional full-time role.

Amongst my group of friends and acquaintances, I’ve noticed the rise in people building their career doing a variety of jobs for a range of different clients or companies. While a portfolio career is similar to freelancing, it’s not quite the same. Whereas freelance work revolves around doing the same, or a similar thing for different clients on an ongoing basis, a portfolio career usually involves a mix of longer term part-time roles that might include some freelance or contract work. It can suit many different types of people, for example, those looking for opportunities post-redundancy, people wanting to become self-employed but with some stability from one or two part-time roles, people looking to pursue something creative that may not pay well initially, people transitioning into retirement, or those looking to start an entirely new career.

It can also suit different industries, for example, you could be a Human Resources Manager with a part-time job working for a small business, a casual teaching or lecturing role at University or TAFE, and a writer for an industry publication.

Some of the benefits of having a portfolio career include:

  • Flexibility – to utilise your unique skills and develop different areas of interest. It might also provide opportunities to explore new avenues far easier than if you are holding down a full time job, as well as being able to pursue self-employment opportunities without the risk of going it alone completely.
  • Independence – to create your own career on your terms, managing your time with family needs or other personal interests.
  • Freedom – to pursue your passions and choose to work doing what you want to do, rather than what the job requires.
  • Variety – and less monotony in your day to day work.
  • Opportunity – in tight job markets, the availability of full-time jobs might fall in certain sectors, with some companies embracing part-time or contract roles as a viable solution. A multitude of part-time jobs might provide the answer.

So how can you create a portfolio career?

STEP # 1: learn about the pros and cons by talking to others or doing some research. While a portfolio career can sound inviting with all that variety and flexibility, for many people, it may just create more stress as a result of having to manage different roles, time involvements, and income sources.

STEP # 2: understand your financial situation and work out how much money you need to feel secure. Try to give yourself a financial buffer for times when income drops. Remember that part-time workers’ hours can often change with little notice, and if you’re freelancing or consulting you need to be constantly identifying new projects and income sources.

STEP # 3: identify your unique skills and attributes. Ask yourself what you have to offer, how will you deliver it, and who will want it – but more importantly who will pay for it and will you be happy doing it?

STEP # 4: once you’ve embarked on your new career, manage your time effectively to ensure you’re not working harder – just smarter. Juggling multiple jobs can be tricky if you’re not organised, so create efficient systems and rules around time spent on each vocation.

STEP # 5: learn some sales and networking strategies, especially if part of your income needs to come from consulting or freelance opportunities. If you don’t have permanent part-time roles, don’t underestimate the time you need to spend on business development activities which are usually ‘non-earning’.

Most people have different sides to them and a portfolio career could be just the approach you need to ensure you gain more fulfilment and satisfaction from your career, while addressing other areas such as freedom, flexibility and independence.

Are you interested in pursuing a portfolio career? Not sure where to start or what skills you need to develop? Our Career Counsellors and Career Advisors can help! Please see our Career Coaching and Career Guidance Services for more information.

 

5 Benefits of Having a Career Mentor

Article by Belinda Fuller

5 Benefits of Having a Career MentorWhile often thought of as mostly valuable at the start of your career or when deciding what you want to do with your career, a career mentor can add significant value right throughout your career. A career mentor can guide and support you to achieve your career goals – whether you’re just starting out or further down the track.

At the beginning of your career, it’s certainly a great idea to find a mentor to help you navigate through these formative years. In addition, the stress of changing careers later on, or the complacency that some people feel after being in the same role for several years, can also be a great time to engage a career mentor.

Learning from someone who has been successful in your field of interest helps improve your confidence and will often provide you with some great strategies to deal with the challenges you might face along the way. So what are the primary benefits?

1. Learning from Real Life Experience: A career mentor will provide you with valuable advice and insight into their own personal journey in the field that you have chosen. They can help you identify skills and expertise you need to develop further – and either teach you or advise you on how best to gain what you need. Mentors can also provide a good perspective on what they may have done differently given the chance. They will share tips on how they overcame any obstacles or challenges they faced along their road to success.

2. Connections: In addition to insight from your mentor’s personal experiences, you could also benefit from their vast network of connections. If your mentor doesn’t have experience with a particular problem you are facing, they will most likely be able to talk with someone who has. In addition, contacts introduced to you by your mentor could provide an opportunity to build your own network. These connections could also help you in the future – by providing a potential business partner opportunity or even a future job lead.

3. Sounding Board: A mentor provides a great ‘safe’ place to bounce off ideas and help you decide which way to go in certain situations. They can also make suggestions that could help you to refine your ideas and provide more efficient or effective ways of achieving desired business outcomes – mentors can often save you from ‘reinventing the wheel’ unnecessarily.

4. Increase Energy & Interest: One surprising benefit of a mentor is to increase your drive to achieve in your current organisation and excite you to pursue your chosen career. Mentors can help you overcome boredom or complacency to explore new and exciting ways to contribute to your current organisation’s success and thus increase your interest in your day to day work. They may also suggest ways to increase your involvement in activities outside of your organisation that will contribute to your career success in the future.

5. Advance Your Career: A mentor helps you stay focused on your career and improve your skills, networks, self-confidence, and ultimate success along the path in developing your career. They help you to learn about yourself and work out how and where you should be headed to achieve an optimum outcome.

Mentoring will teach you what education, books and websites cannot. A mentor will help you identify areas for improvement, establish connections, and create opportunities. It’s up to you as to how hard you want to push yourself, but the insights you can gain about yourself and your chosen field from a passionate and experienced mentor can give you an unprecedented edge over others in developing your career.

Would you like help deciding whether you would benefit from a Career Mentor? Not sure where to go to identify one? If so, our Career Advice and Career Counselling Services can help! Please see our Career Coaching page for more information.