The Power of Hope

April 5th, 2016

7steps_mckenzie Last night I went to bed reading 7 Steps to a Pain-free Life. Here’s what struck me:

This book has a lot of steps you can follow to have less pain (or, be pain-free). It’s very feature-rich.  But the reason I’m reading it, and the reason people bought it, is not for the features.  I started reading this book because of the BENEFIT.

Sure, I want to understand the dynamics of my neck and back, and how they all work. Sure, I want to learn some exercises that will be beneficial, but neither of those are the reasons I’m reading this book.

I’m reading this book because I want to be pain-free.  There is hope, according to the title, and the introduction, that the pain I experience can actually go away, forever.

My first exposure to the McKenzie Method was around 15 years ago, when a doctor referred me to a physical therapist who was a McKenzie Method guy. To be honest, this was the most intriguing and honest medical consultation I’ve ever had.  Without going into our first meeting, and the next few weeks, I’ll just say that the results were amazing. What I learned about my back, and one specific problem (pain), was enough to help me go through the rest of my life to avoid or fix that pain.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing a different pain in a different place, and it’s time to dive deeper into some other exercises, and knowledge about the root issues of my pain.  This is all about HOPE.

Sometimes, I am hopeless that I’ll live a pain-free life.  But this book promises me hope.

Switching gears to YOU, I wonder what you promise your future company.  Is it that you can do A faster, B better, and C cleaner than anyone else?  Is it that you are smart and have high integrity? Those are all great, and important, things.  But in reality, you bring HOPE to the employer. Hope that they will make more money, or save more money, or that Headache A or Wildest Dream B will actually come true.

When I hired my last developer, I did it because I want to make serious and major progress in JibberJobber. Not because I want more lines of code written, but because I want to offer more value to my users, and help people get onboarded with JibberJobber better (that’s been one of my headaches for years). She will help with that. I don’t know how many lines of code she’ll add (or remove), but I do know she’ll help us get closer to achieving our goals of delighting people who sign up and get started with JibberJobber.

She has given me an added measure of HOPE.  And that is one of the most powerful things she can give me.

What HOPE are you communicating in your value proposition?  

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LinkedIn Summary vs. LinkedIn Experience Sections

March 29th, 2016

I got this question from Derek, who saw my LinkedIn Optimization course on Pluralsight (which you can get access to for free… read below):

“I just completed the course on LinkedIn Profile Optimization and feel that I have a strong above the fold profile which the video was mainly focused on.

The video didn’t focus on the experience section and what to write based off what you did at the company. You touched on writing mini stories for the summary and experience sections, I am not sure writing only mini stories will give the best overall picture in the experience section. Do you have another video on pluralsight that helps enhance the content for the experience section?”

This is a great question. After doing group trainings and one-on-one consultations for years, I feel like my “best answer” is jelling pretty good. Of course, there are exceptions, but in 99% of the one-on-one consultations I do, and the Profile critiques I’ve done, the answer below will be appropriate.

It’s critical to think about the LinkedIn Profile as one single marketing document.  If you break up the sections of the Profile, and think about them as a critical reader (recruiter, hiring manager, prospective funder, partner, prospect, customer, etc.) might, you could probably guess that some parts are more important than others.  For example, your Professional Headline is not only at the top, but it’s a part of your “mini profile,” and seen in other places on LinkedIn (other than your Profile page). On the other hand, the best way to contact me, or the seeking sections, are largely ignored (by design, because they are so far down the Profile).

If we think about the Profile as a single marketing document, the question is, what is the single message of the document?  I am now counseling my consultation customers to have that single message communicated in a concise and clean way in the Professional Headline.  This is what I call your “main claim,” or your primary claim.  Then, your Summary has five to seven secondary claims, ALL OF THEM SUPPORTING THE MAIN CLAIM.  These can be communicated in various ways, my favorite of which is the mini-stories.

You can see all of this in action in my LinkedIn Profile Optimization course on Pluralsight for free.  How?  JibberJobber users get a free 30 day pass to Pluralsight, which means you can watch this, and dozens of my other courses (including the LinkedIn Proactive Strategies course), during your 30 day window.  Click here to see how you can have access within a 60 seconds – no credit card required.

Okay, so in the Pluralsight course, it’s clear how to position the secondary claims and make your Summary much better than the status quo.  Derek gets that, but wonders what to do in the Experience section, which some people call the job description – the parts in each of the jobs you list in your Profile. This really isn’t a job description, although some people treat it that way. I suggest you make this more about YOU and less about the job.

How do you do that?

I think the best way is to use the exact same strategy as what you used in the Summary section. That is, secondary claims (that all support the primary claim in the Professional Headline), with mini-stories that (a) present the claim, (b) give a “for example,” and (c) quantify the results.

Mini-stories are SO powerful. When you align them with your primary claim, you give further evidence and support that your primary claim is valid, and that you are focused and understand your value.

What I normally see is resume-like statements that are super concise, and super dry and boring. Worse, they look cliche. They look like what anyone else would write that has your same job history, and is making the same claims, and is looking for the same job you are looking for.

Okay, you think, maybe that’s not so bad.  To be honest with you, having resume-speak on your Profile is better than the weak, non-information that I see on too many Profiles. So kudos for having anything that helps me understand you more.

But what I’d rather see you have in your “experience” sections are mini-stories that each (a) make a claim, (b) give me a meaty for-example, and (c) tell me why it matters (ie, the quantification)… this is what we accomplish with mini-stories, and (d) support the primary claim. This last part is important so the reader doesn’t get sidetracked by irrelevant information.

That’s my recommendation… from the summary all the way down through the Experience section… claims, quantification, and alignment.

Do you have a different idea? Leave a comment and let us know!

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The Power of the Brand (Case Study: “The Establishment”)

March 7th, 2016

Let’s talk about branding.  Everyone reading this post has been branded in at least one bucket… millennial (whiners), boomers (old-dog-new-trick), Gen X (not sure what the brand is for us), MBA, privileged, etc.

Still not convinced the brand is powerful?  How’s this: Cruz and Rubio (and Kosich) lost on Super Tuesday to Trump because they are branded as “part of THE ESTABLISHMENT.”  The Establishment (which is a brand,with stereotypes) is all I’m hearing about on the news… “they are part of The Establishment!!” They even use it against each other.

Without going into the political rabbit hole, think about how a brand helps a candidate (aka, job seeker) win or lose.  What are things that your brand is telling people?  Whether they are true or not, if associated with a brand, they are loud and clear.

You might think your brand is speaking for itself, saying good things… and then you find a decision-maker or influencer who uses what you thought was a positive brand and essentially disqualify you.

So the big question is, how can YOU get out from under a brand that is really misbranding you?

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Reducing Friction (In Your Job Search, and in JibberJobber)

November 19th, 2015

A couple of years ago I started to think about the little things that “rub people the wrong way.” The “friction” in the JibberJobber user experience.

Very quickly I started to think about friction in my own relationships… what did I do that seemed abrasive to others?

And that led me to think about JibberJobber users, who every day have opportunities to communicate with others. Have you introduced friction in your communication? For example, type-os or lack of clarity in your resumes, or saying weird things in networking situations or job interviews? Is their friction because of what you wear, or how you say things?

Friction can be good, of course.  If it weren’t for friction, cars wouldn’t stop (or go, the way they are currently designed). But in our relationships and experiences with others, I wonder when friction is good.  And if it is good, it’s probably the exception, not the rule.

Let me give you a concrete example of friction that we found in JibberJobber. It didn’t take to much effort to find this friction… we even had help from users who emailed us things like “uuuuugh!” and “yuuuuuuck!” and “heeeeelp!”  I’m specifically talking about the experience you have when you click on the Import/Export link, under Contacts.  Most of the time people click this link to import their contacts from LinkedIn (or Outlook, or wherever). This is what they say, after clicking the link:

jibberjobber_friction_import_export_old_UI

Can you tell what you are supposed to do? The main problem I see when I put on my UI/UX goggles is that there are too many things to choose from.  You have the main menu (10 or 11 options), gray tabs (11 options), the link on the right, the icons on the bottom…  you have  LOT to look at.  Some people ignore all that and find the Choose File button, and go from there. Honestly, it’s not that hard to do… but there is too much FRICTION.  Too many choices.  Distractions.

Just like our communication, when we are unclear.  We give people too many choices (when we want them to do only one thing, like call us, or go to lunch with us), and we insert too many distractions.  It seems like it’s human nature to distract the person we’re trying to communicate with.  STOP DOING THIS.

Okay, back to JibberJobber… we’ve been working on redoing the import experience… and here is the new page (which you should see in the next few days):

jibberjobber_friction_import_export_new_UI

Of course we still have the main menu (blue bar), but most of the superfluous stuff was moved to a collapsible box on the right.  Note the little arrow icon on the top-right of that box – click that and the box collapses, reducing all that noise.

It’s clear where you are at in the process… you are on step 1.  It’s also clear what Step 2 is all about, and what Step 3 is all about. The friction has been reduced.

This seemingly simply project took hours of design time (to analyze, come up with alternative ideas,  weigh pros and cons of ideas, and prepare communication to the dev team, and then many more hours (weeks, really) for the dev team to clean things up, reengineer the process, etc.

Don’t think that a very, very clean web design (or any design) is the result of a whimsical thought and a few minutes of effort and work.  Of course, sometimes that can happen.  But think about the difference between Yahoo’s homepage and Google’s homepage.  I remember sitting in a computer lab in college, and going to the page I always started with: Yahoo.  It was THE de facto landing page. It had news, weather… all kinds of things that you should want when you fire up the internet.  Then, someone said “you should start at Google.com.”  Goo-what?  What is that?  So I went there. And all I saw was one search box and one button.

How could one search box and one button replace the ultra-useful information that Yahoo offered?  Who came up with this too-simple idea?  Apparently it was Marissa Mayer… she was the brains behind the simple page at google.  What did she do?  She identified why people came (to find something) and reduced EVERYTHING ELSE.  No friction. The page was fast to load, and delivered exactly what you wanted: the ability to type something in and get results.  No distractions. No noise.  Simple, and delivering exactly what the inherent promise was.  (It’s funny to note that she was responsible for that brilliant move away from what Yahoo had set up, defining what our internet experience should be… and now she is the CEO of Yahoo :p).

By now you probably get the idea of simplifying, reducing noise and friction.  You are bought in.  The thing I want you to realize is that the process of getting to a good, clean place is not as simple as you might think.  Put thought and effort into it.  When you come up with a simplified message, you can help many more people understand you, and how to help you.  And that effort is worth it.

mark_twainLet’s end with some quotes attributed to Mark Twain:

“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.” (reference)

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” (reference)

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”(reference)

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Simple Example of Branding: Ethics & Enron

October 19th, 2015

I’m doing a little research on business ethics, and I type “understanding business ethics” into Google.  Look at the unfortunate results:

enron_ethics

Isn’t that sad?  We all know that Enron is not the example of good or positive ethics.  It’s THE example of ethics-gone-wrong.

Enron will forever be the posterchild of bad ethics.  How to ruin tens of thousands of lives, careers, retirements, families, etc.

This is called branding, and it’s very powerful.

I guarantee that YOU have a brand.  The people you’ve worked with have brands.  You might have even contributed to their branding!

Is your brand positive?  Is it neutral?  Is it negative?

Instead of just having a brand applied to you, you can strategically work on your branding!  Personal branding is not a fad.  It was even around before the phrase was (think: reputation, or reputation management).  It’s not going anywhere.  How others perceive us can play a huge role in our career success.

What are you doing to have the brand you want, so you don’t end up being associated with something horrible (or even something not as positive as you want), like the example above?

If you are interested in this, check out the Developing a Killer Personal Brand course on Pluralsight, which you can access for free (here’s how).

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How to Get Your Next Promotion (or job): New Pluralsight Course

September 22nd, 2015

My newest Pluralsight course is live, and you can get access to it for free (if you watch it, you’ll get another week of JibberJobber premium added to your account – see the video at the bottom of this post to learn how to get free access).

How to Get Your Next Promotion is designed to help individuals be more proactive about their careers. As a hiring manager, and a manager of developers, I would love for my employees to take this course.  Why?  Because this course encourages them to be more serious about improving themselves so they are promotable. That self-improvement will only help my team be more successful.

Obviously, this course is totally applicable for job seekers as well as those who are currently employed.

Here’s the link: http://www.pluralsight.com/courses/your-next-promotion

Description and modules: This course is designed to help you whether you are interviewing for your next promotion this week, or you are planning on a promotion in the next year or two. The modules are:

  • Your Career: Where You Are and Where You Want to Go (31 mins)
  • The Plan: How to Get There (28 mins)
  • Soft Skills: How to Prepare for Your Next Role (28 mins)
  • Hard Skills: How to Prepare for Your Next Role (20 mins)
  • Where Do We Go from Here? (17 mins)

Want access to this, and my 20 other courses?  Want to get a week of JibberJobber premium every time you watch any of my courses?  Check this video out:

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“Vets are not qualified for anything…” (from a recruiter)

September 1st, 2015

I love straight talk from recruiters.  Here’s a snippet from a conversation last year:

“Vets are not qualified for anything…  and that is why they aren’t finding jobs.”

He said “there is a lot of prejudice.”

Now, before you get all mad at me, or the recruiter who said this, realize that this is the impression that a gatekeeper to your next job has of veterans.  It’s the general prejudice, bias, and stereotyping that happens to everyone: millenials, religous people, etc.  It is likely happening to YOU right now.

The answer is not to hate on the guy who said this.  The answer is to change the perception.

How are you going to do that?

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Job Seekers MUST Understand the Difference Between Status and Brand

June 24th, 2015

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in the last nine years since I’ve lost my job and communicated with thousands of job seekers is a misunderstanding of who they are.  Too often people think “I’m unemployed,” and that label needs to be their brand.  For example, when I had a job, my introduction was:

“I’m Jason Alba, the General Manager of this company.”

Then, when I lost my job, it changed to:

“I’m Jason Alba, and I’m…. uh… uh… In transition?  Unemployed?”

However you say that new thing, let me suggest that it is said WRONG!!!  I know we are used to having a title, and a professional identity, but this new thing is not our title and it is not our professional identity!

Here’s a simple analogy to show you why: Let’s say your neighbor is a master carpenter. You’ve seen his work, and he is amazing.  You can say: “My neighbor is a carpenter.”

But, what if your neighbor has all of his tools stolen, and he can’t work until he buys new tools?  Is he still a carpenter?

Or, what if your neighbor gets chicken pox or cooties, and can’t work for at least a week.  Is he still a carpenter?

YES, he is still a carpenter!!!

His status is “not working,” for the moment.  I actually call this his temporary status.  But “not working” is not his brand**.

Some people think that when they are in transition they are unemployed.  They don’t understand that is a temporary status, and they begin to believe the lie that they are “professionally unemployed.”

Please realize the difference between your brand (including skills, competencies, etc.) and your temporary status.

With this information, you should network differently.  Are you an out of work product manager?  Break that down to status (out of work) and brand (product manager).  You don’t have to wear the out of work like it’s a badge of honor or a badge of shame.  It’s simply a temporary status.

Now, go out and communicate better, and more accurately, with your network!

** I use the word brand loosely here, since I don’t think a job title is a good way to brand… but for the purpose of this article, it’s good enough.

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GenY and Millennials: Illusion vs. Reality of How Cool You Are

June 15th, 2015

Last week I reposted Gen Y Sounds Like a Bunch of Entitled Whiners (well, not so much anymore). I’m not trying to kick a hornet’s nest but I saw this image on Facebook right after it posted (original link):

beyond_millennials

So understand that this is a survey… and who knows how honest the people were in the survey. Let’s assume with over 6,000 people responding, it’s fairly accurate.

What does this mean?

Millennials think they are good with people… but HR pros (not an authority by any means, they just happen to be in a role where they might kind of see Millennials (or have read an article about them), think that they stink with people skills.

Millennials think they are okay with technology, and HR Pros assume they are excellent at technology.  As an IT person, my position has been this (and the 35% from Millennials kind of agrees): “Being good at multi-tasking video games, netflix, and a smartphone, doesn’t mean you are a technologist.”  I think Millennials understand, better than HR, that being tech-savvy might be more about system and database design, programming, etc. than buying the latest iphone.

Millennials say they are extremely loyal to their employers (I’ll say 82% is extreme, in today’s world!), while HR says NO WAY, no one is loyal. I’m surprised that Millennials think they are so loyal.  I’m not surprised that HR doesn’t think so, because that’s what they hear at every conference, and read in every article.

Millennials think they are not very fun-loving… while HR think they are at least twice as much as Millennials think.  I think Millennials are hard on themselves here… but maybe I’m too old to know :p

Another major discrepancy… Millennials think they are really hard workers.  HR says that is laughable.  Like, guffaw laughable.

I think there are problems on both sides… but if you are a Millennial and want to break out of the brand that is not hard working and not loyal, you better work on your personal brand!

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Getting a Better LinkedIn Profile Image

June 4th, 2015

You might have seen this post that was all over Facebook a week or two ago: New Research Study Breaks Down “The Perfect Profile Photo”

I thought it was going to be fluffy, but it’s really, really good.  I agree with almost everything, except I think you should zoom in more on the head, rather than have a belly-button-and-up shot.  That’s just my gut reaction… they are the ones with the data.  I’ll still recommend zoom in, though. I think their examples of “zoomed in (face only) is perhaps TOO zoomed in.

Anyway, great article, very informative, and it proves you can have an effective Profile image without paying big bucks … although I will say that a professional photographer with experience in profile images can do wonders.

I like how the breakdown in this post is trying to determine how different characteristics of a photo will impact how the viewer perceives your competency, how likable you are, and how influential you are.

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