We’re excited to start blogging about the latest education topics for those who are considering going back to school. We want to keep you informed and encourage conversation. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
The great thing about starting a new year is that you can resolve to change all sorts of bad behaviors – you know, things like downing four glazed donuts every morning or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey every Friday night, spending way too much money on that online gambling site, or waiting until the last minute to get started on your course assignments.
Right. We all know that probably most of those resolutions will be toast by, oh, mid-February at the latest. However, there is one resolution you need to make – and can probably keep – right now. It will not only make this year better for you, but in terms of your career future, it will likely keep potential employers from deciding you don’t quite have the professional maturity they were looking for.
What resolution is that? Simple: you resolve not to ever again say negative, whiny, snarky things about anyone in any online venue. Being critical of others in an online setting (think LinkedIn, Twitter, facebook, a school social media site) is guaranteed to do more damage to you and your professional reputation than it will do to the person you’re criticizing. It makes everyone who reads your comments doubt your professional judgment (remember, as a student, you’re laying the foundation for your career), it leaves the impression that you’re a critical, negative person (who no one will want to work with), and in case those two damage factors aren’t bad enough, your comments never go away.
Since one of your goals when creating your career options is to build a strong, positive professional reputation (your professional “brand’), you want to make sure that you’re not demonstrating the exact opposite through your online comments. It’s long been a management best practice that you praise in public and criticize (if necessary) in private. It’s exactly the same with your online communications: social media sites are public environments, and you want to be sure to treat them as such. One, it’s the right thing to do, and two, this will keep potential hiring managers from seeing any sarcastic, snide, or otherwise embarrassing comments you might have otherwise made in the heat of the moment.
Here are some basic online etiquette resolutions to make right now:
When in doubt about an online post you’re about to make, ask yourself this question: Will this comment demonstrate to others how mature, professional, and smart I am (for years to come)? If not, you probably want to back away from that keyboard.
About the Author
Acclaimed Career Coach, Kim Dority is a frequent presenter for Bryant & Stratton College Online. Dority is an information specialist, consultant, career coach, published author and adjunct professor at the University of Denver in Colorado. She has written extensively on career development for students and new graduates and is a frequent presenter, lecturer and panelist on career-related topics. Kim’s areas of expertise include professional branding, career transitions and career sustainability.
Two of the most powerful strategies for building your professional presence on LinkedIn are linking to others on the site and having people recommend your work and/or your skills. But how you reach out to people for linking and recommendation requests can either help you establish a great professional relationship with them or give the impression of carelessness and laziness.
Requesting Links and Recommendation
Links are connections you establish with others on LinkedIn that enable you to share information, contacts, and updates in your careers and/or job status. Generally, you send link requests to people you know or have met or have something in common with.
Recommendations, on the other hand, show up on your profile next to the job entry they’re related to – in other words, if your supervisor at your previous employer writes a glowing recommendation for you, it will show up next to that company’s entry in your job history.
Don’t Default to the Defaults
LinkedIn has automatic defaults for both of these request types to make it easier for you to reach out and touch someone, but the smart move is to ignore the default requests and instead tailor your requests to each individual and his or her place in your life or career. So, for example, if requesting that someone “link” with you, you have this default message:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn
Instead, you want to send a request that notes what you have in common and why you’d like to connect and stay in touch, such as:
Note that you’re addressing the person by his or her name, which makes it clear that you’ve taken the time to personalize the message, and you’re not just blasting everyone in your Outlook address book with a mass invitation to link. It’s human nature: people appreciate feeling special. And you want the person you’re reaching out to to feel that your connection is important enough to you to make an extra effort.
Recommendations work the same way. Here’s the LinkedIn default message:
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Instead, address the person by name, and always format your requests for a favor as a reciprocal relationship – this is what makes it okay to ask for a favor. Also, be specific, if you can, about what strengths you’d like them to mention (and when you do a recommendation for them, be equally specific).
Some possible language:
Your goal with the recommendations you’re requesting is to continue to position yourself as a professional others would want to work with, and to provide evidence of why you should be hired.
Reach Out and Touch Someone
Not sure who to link to or request recommendations from? For links, think as broadly as possible: former colleagues, friends, people who you know through volunteer work, members you’ve gotten to know through professional associations, classmates, former classmates, teachers, administrators who you’ve gotten to know in college, and others whose paths you’ve crossed and liked enough to want to stay connected with.
For recommendations, you’ll want to be a bit more selective – a positive recommendation from a co-worker is always great to have, but a glowing recommendation from a boss or company executive tends to carry the most weight with prospective employers. Best case: you’ll have at least one or two positive recommendations from someone who can speak highly of your skills and/or expertise for each job listed in your LinkedIn profile.
Although it takes a bit more time to personalize your request for a link or recommendation, the payoff in terms of professional impression is well worth the effort.
| | Filed in: Social Media
Everybody has lapses in judgment now and then – usually in the company of friends, loud music, and a multitude of alcoholic beverages. But not until the advent of social media sites did those momentary lapses in judgment have the possibility of wreaking long-lasting damage on your job prospects and career. So now’s the time to make sure you’re avoiding any of these career-busting social media “bad ideas”:
Bad Idea #1: Focusing more on personal than professional information. Social media used to be primarily for sharing personal interests, information, and connections, so that’s what most people did. Now, however, social media sites and tools have gone mainstream as a way to build your professional brand and visibility among potential colleagues and employers. So make sure you’re not posting so much personal information on key sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter that it displaces the career-focused info you’d like hiring managers to know about you (or consider separate profiles or privacy filters).
Bad Idea #2: Sharing too much information of a very personal nature…and especially if includes a photograph! Generally speaking, resist the urge to regale the world with how many jello shots you had Friday night at Bob’s bar, stories from your bachelor/bachelorette party, or descriptions of how you dressed your pets up for Halloween – especially if any of them are accompanied by photos. Sure, these can be fun things to share, but you don’t want them to cross over into the same space where your professional persona lives (or come back to haunt you later). Consider it TMI!
Bad Idea #3: Discussing any behaviors or activities that would give a potential employer a reason not to trust your judgment. And here we are, back at Bob’s bar and the jello shots…. The thing to keep in mind is that you’re trying to convince someone to trust your professional maturity (and pay you a grown-up salary) – so yep, don’t give them any reason not to trust your judgment (at least that they can find online).
Bad Idea #4: Making negative, whiny, racist, or otherwise obnoxious comments in general, but especially about a person or employer. When you start building your professional brand, you’re establishing what you want to be known for (your skills) as well as whom you want to be known as (your personality and character). Making negative or obnoxious comments online pegs you as a toxic personality, and besides poisoning the discussion in any online community of which you’re a part, it will also turn off potential employers, who generally are looking to recruit people who play well with others.
Bad Idea #5: Engaging in confrontational behaviors (flaming, having to have the last word, etc.). This is the younger snarky sibling of Bad Idea #4. Word gets around fast, and people who might have been willing to be good career connections for you (letting you know about job openings, recommending you, sharing their connections, mentoring, etc.) will instead avoid being associated with you. Play nice – career karma really does work, and if you are good to others, it will come back to you in all sorts of good ways (read: job opportunities).
Bad Idea #6: Disclosing information about your employer (unless it’s part of your job). What’s inappropriate versus an okay disclosure will depend on your company, but generally speaking, assume a post about what a fabulous place it is to work, or the great management style they have, or what a great learning environment it provides would be good to go. Comments about massive layoffs, your psychotic boss, or the top-secret product about to be launched? Avoid at all costs – besides possibly getting you fired, you’ll scare off any potential employers who see this.
Bad Idea #7: Lying about your background, skills, experience, or expertise. Okay, we know, it’s mostly just Congressmen and CEOs of major companies that try to get away with this, but if you happen to be contemplating, ah, enhancing your professional assets, don’t! Aside from the ethical issues involved, it’s just way too easy to get found out – and it’s bound to happen at the worst possible point in your career.
Bad Idea #8: Spending too much time on Twitter during work hours. Here’s the thing: everybody you work with (including your boss) can see how much time you’re spending tweeting – rather than working. It’s tough for you to make a case for overtime hours, or increased pay, or a decreased workload, when someone can refer to a twitter feed that shows 25 tweets a day. Especially bad form if they’re about sex, beer, or your boss….
Bad Idea #9: Having abandoned social media accounts or out-of-date profiles. These tend to reflect poorly on your ability to commit to something and then follow through, plus it’s really pathetic when people try to connect with or follow you, only to be met with a resounding silence. So 1) think seriously about which social media tools you want to use to establish your professional presence and how you will consistently maintain that presence before you commit, and 2) don’t use your company e-mail as the contact e-mail. It’s way too easy to lose access to that e-mail, and then you’ll have to go through unbelievable brain damage to regain access to your site account.
Worst Idea #10: Not having any online presence. It’s now pretty much common knowledge that nearly every potential employer is going to Google you and check out your LinkedIn profile before they contact you for an interview. If you aren’t “findable” online, two things happen. First, people wonder why you’re not online (do you live in a cave? on the run from the law? in witness protection?). Second, prospective employers will move on to another candidate they can find information about.
Remember, your goal is to use social media tools to make it easy for hiring managers to find information about you that makes you seem like the perfect candidate for their job, without making them have to work to find that information.
| | Filed in: Social Media
Being an Online student doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on being a part of a campus community. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allow us to stay connected now more than ever before. Getting involved with your college’s online social circle allows you to interact and get to know your classmates in a similar manner to how you would if you attended a physical campus and had time to talk in the hallway between classes. Social networking gives students a place to connect with others and find out a little bit more about each other, share photos of important things in their lives, share career goals, or even just to vent about a hard exam for a course! We want to build a large online community for our students, graduates and even potential students to be heard and interacted with. Please visit our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages today to see what your classmates are up to and join the conversation.