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Job Search Question: How to start a blog, and what to write?

May 13th, 2015

I got this question from Laura:

Do you have suggestions on how to start a blog… and what to blog about?

Two very short questions that can have very long answers!

I’ve written a bunch on blogging, back in the olden days (2006, 2007, 2008).  I think that blogging is a terrific tool to help people understand your personal brand.  And, there are many ways to do this – there’s not necessarily a “right” way, and what might be right today could change tomorrow.

For example, some people might get value out of blogging regularly, like I do (almost daily).  Other people might be able to throw up a few pages, and a few blog posts (note: posts and pages have different purposes, theoretically), and be good.  Some people want a lot of readers, other people will be fine if NO ONE reads their blog (except a hiring manager!).

Here are a few thoughts, although this is not a complete response.  That could take pages and pages or hours of discussion.

First, how do you start a blog?  

Well, you just start blogging :)  I would get a free account on a site like wordpress.com.  There are a bunch of wordpress competitors… and many are fine. I recommend wordpress because I know and trust the company enough, and apparently, so do a bunch of people on the internet.

If you want to look a lost more sophisticated, you could spend a nominal amount of money and (1) get your own domain name (usually your own name, like JaneDoe.com), and (2) have that domain point to your blog.  This could be your wordpress blog, or you could get a bluehost account and have your own virtual server.. and with a few clicks turn on a more robust version of wordpress.  If you know what I’m talking about, consider that.  If you don’t, just go to wordpress.com.

Once you get your blog up, you have the “honor” of writing your first blog post.  It’s a weird one, for sure.  It might be an introduction to who you are, or your good intentions and plans for the blog… or it might not be introductory at all, it might get right into the meat of your content.  But write the first post.  And the second post… and keep going.  In about two years your writing will have improved to a point where it’s actually pretty good.  I thought I was a good writer back in 2006, but I look back at those posts and realize just how poor my writing skills were (or, to be more positive about it, how much I’ve improved in the last nine years!).

Second, what do I blog about?

This is a great question.  Better than that, this is the right question to ask.

You can blog about anything… but you shouldn’t blog about anything.  I would suggest that you blog about things that will help people understand your professional breadth and depth.  The blog is a unique environment where, unlike a resume, you can expand and expand again on your breadth (for example, different skillsets) and your depth (for example, experiences with those skillsets that will exemplify how expert you are at a particular thing, or in a particular field).

Think about how you want others to perceive you.  Let’s say you are a senior level product manager.  You should brainstorm what the breadth is for a senior level project manager, which might include:

  • working with highly technical people who are expert in their area (engineers, developers, etc.)
  • working with business/CEO/board level people
  • working with contractors
  • marketing considerations (sales, pricing, competitive analysis, etc.)
  • product launch
  • negotiating
  • working with vendors
  • working with channel distribution partners
  • etc., etc., etc.

Those are a few of the things that might be your breadth, and these might be the categories of your blog!

Essentially, you have a kind of an outline that you can now work from.  Can you write three posts about one of those topics (like negotiating)?

I recommend you brainstorm stories and examples, words of wisdom and things you’ve learned over the years, about any of those areas… and just start writing.  You don’t have to do things in groupings, or in order. You can have series of related posts, of course, but you can intersperse non-related posts in-between.

I have other advice, like don’t write very long posts (this is getting long).  Instead, break it into two posts.  And, I personally think it’s more important to write consistently (1 to 3 to 5 times a week) than to write a really long post once every six months.

But that should be enough to get you started.

Does that help?

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Nothing Says “Welcome to the Real World” Like an Influx of New Graduates (congrats anyways)

May 4th, 2015

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but when I saw this headline this weekend my first thought wasn’t “congratulations!!!!”  If one school graduates almost 6k people in May… how many new grads are getting dumped into our economy?

2015_new_graduates

To the almost 6,000 new graduates (from undergrad to PhD)… welcome to the “real world.”  This is the real world your professors and adjuncts talked about for years… you see, there was this illusion that you were not in the real world while in school.

At least that is what I was told: “when you enter the real world…”

What a load of bull.

Here’s the deal: you’ve been in the real world for a long time.  And you made a business decision.  For many of you, the degree will be instrumental in helping you get your first or next job.  For many of you, it will settle in sometime in the next year that the degree was not helpful at all.  Looking at the years to pay off your student loans, you’ll wonder if the decision you made was a good one.  Yes, going to college was a decision… it was a business decision.  The college sold you a package, you paid for it (mostly likely financing it, like a business might). Now is not the time to have buyer’s remorse!

So don’t get discouraged that over 2 million people will earn degrees this year (1.8M undergrads alone, according to NACE).  Don’t be discouraged that there will many many hundreds of thousands of people who will get laid off, otherwise lose their jobs (companies dissolving), change companies, etc. Don’t become disheartened because many jobs have bounced out of your country to other, cheaper countries (and sometimes bounced back).  It’s not that you aren’t more talented or qualified for a career-level job, it’s just that, well, I guess, this is the real world.

Here’s something I learned, after having gotten a degree in CIS and an MBA, and having had job titles including manager and general manager: your education is about to begin.

Most of the facts and stuff you learned at school can be filed into the trivial pursuit box in your brain.  You won’t use much of it.

What you will use is the collection of skills that helped you get that degree.  Hopefully you worked hard, and pushed yourself beyond what you thought you could achieve.  Hopefully you learned about negotiation and persuasion, two key skills when working with others.  Did you learn anything about time management, while you juggled classes and work and social responsibilities? Did you learn about leadership, and how to be a follower, and team-player? Did you learn how to communicate effectively, whether that is written, verbal, etc.?  I hope you learned how to research, learn new things, find practical applications, and just dig in and study.

Those are the skills that you’ll need to tap into now.

You see, once you land your job, no one really cares where or what you studied.  They want to know what you can do, and if you’ll carry your weight.  That’s about it.  The other stuff is fun, but trivial.

Maybe your degree will matter for a little while, but the romance of it all will wear off.  If you are a crappy worker, no one will care (but they will think that your alma mater puts out crappy people – so now you have the burden of not tarnishing the brand of the school that you paid so much money to).  If you are an exceptional worker, people won’t care where you went to school, or what your GPA was.

I know, there are certain companies and industries that do care.  But those companies and industries probably don’t offer much more “job security” than any other company. If you can’t do the job, are distracting, inflict their culture with garbage and pompousness, then you’ll find yourself polishing up your resume.

I don’t mean for this to be a discouraging letter.  I just want to welcome you to the real world.  This is a world where what you can do, and how you communicate your brand, and how you nurture personal and professional relationships, is the new job security.  Or as I like to call it, the new career management.

And of the 2,000,000+ people who will graduate like you did this year, I guarantee that most will not get it.  I’ve seen this for years… they’ll take years, or decades, to figure out personal branding and networking.  If you want to have an easier career path, it’s time to transition into taking personal responsibility for your career, and get serious about your future.

The great thing about this is, if you start now, you won’t have to get student loans for this next phase of your education.

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New Course: Resumes and Self-marketing (for Software Developers)

April 14th, 2015

Last week my newest Pluralsight course went live: Resumes and Self-marketing for Software Developers

This is a course on what to do with your resume… how to use it to self-market, and basic understanding of the resume as a marketing tool.

Remember, for any Jason Alba course you watch on Pluralsight, and as many times as you watch it, you can get an additional 7 days of JibberJobber Premium… no limit! Follow these steps (or scroll down and watch the new video below the image to see exactly how to watch this for free, and get additional Premium on JibberJobber!).

Here’s Pluralsight’s announcement on Facebook:

 

pluralsight_course_resume_facebook

 

Not sure if I’ve had anything on Facebook associated to me with that many likes!

Here’s the video on exactly how to do this:

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New On The Job? How To Announce Yourself To Customers

April 13th, 2015

I got this email from a sales professional last week:

“I manage a large territory for my company and I am fairly new here and have a lot of customers.

I have probably only met or talked with 20% of them which are the ones that purchase regularly. The other 80% have purchased in the past and it is very possible they could purchase more or have upcoming projects but they don’t know me or forgot about our company.

Should I send an email blast introducing myself?

This is different than a marketing blast, rather, it is a way for me to reach out to a lot of people but it takes away the personal touch.

Do I do that or take the time to address each one in a separate email with a generic this is who I am and what my company offers and contact me if you have questions, need help, etc.

My initial response was, YES, definitely do this.

I’ve been marketing myself, as a job seeker, and then my business, for 9+ years.  What I’ve learned is that if you do not put yourself in front of people, they forget about you.  You are responsible for getting and staying in front of your audience.

I’ve also learned that the initial contact is just barely breaking the ice.  They key is to get in front of them regularly, as appropriate.  That is one reason why you have CRM systems.  If your company doesn’t provide a CRM system to you, then use JibberJobber.  If your company does provide a CRM to you, but you are making great friendships and professional contacts that you want to take to your next job, then use JibberJobber :)

Here are my specific thoughts and reactions to this person’s questions:

Is this going to be okay with your company/boss?  I can’t imagine a sales professional getting into trouble for sending this type of email, but you might want to check with your boss.  They might know something about a customer they fired (that you shouldn’t get in touch with), or they might point you to some tools or queries to make what you want to do easier.

Should it be one bulk email (BCC, of course!) or multiple individual emails? Pros and cons of both.  I would say it depends on a few things… where are you sending it from?  If you send from a Gmail or Verizon or a personal account (which I wouldn’t recommend), they have daily sending limits.  Going over those limits might get you in trouble (ie, getting locked out of sending email for 24 hours). If you bulk send from your work account, and your email server is on blacklists, count on maybe 5% of your emails getting through (I don’t know the percentage, but just assume hardly any get through).  The idea of doing one bulk email is nice because it’s faster, but I’m not convinced it’s that reliable.

Sending individual emails is more reliable, I think, and you might do 20 – 50 each day. This will even help you manage the responses, over days, instead of all in the first day or two.  But it will obviously take more time. The real question is how many emails are you sending?  If it’s 10,000, do bulk and go from there.  If it’s just a few hundred, send a few dozen each day until you finish.

About the “personal touch,” you can easily do that with individual emails… but you can also do it in bulk.  There are programs you can use (like mailchimp, and even outlook) that can merge names with a general body of text…

What information should the email have?  The number one purpose of this email is to introduce yourself.  In doing that, you’ll reinforce the branding of your company (in other words, remind the customer that your company exists and has stuff for them). You should give them contact information… work and cell # (that’s how salespeople roll, right?).  Keep the email short… don’t go into new products, etc.  I would let them know I’m the new rep, I’m excited to be there, and I’m easy to reach (and I’m responsive).  I want them to know that I’m their partner and want to help their projects be successful.   I will include a one-liner about my company, like “we manufacture the best widgets for the _______.” so people can remember where I fit into their life.  And, as overwhelming as this might sound, I invite them to call me in the next week (or two) and tell me what projects they are working on, what they have coming up, any issues from past projects with our stuff, etc.

I want this email to start the relationship, and invite them to let us take it to the next level.  That might be a emails, it might be a phone call, it might be a face-to-face… but let me introduce you to me and let’s start a relationship.

How often should I follow-up?  What should the follow-up have?  Make sure this first email is not the last email.  As a customer I know I need multiple communications before I trust you, and I need you to hit me at or around the right time (or, when I’m in the market to buy your stuff).  I suggest doing a blast, en bulk, each month.  This can be short, it can talk about new products, or it can talk about case studies where your products/services helped other customers.  The last thing would be the most interesting read for me.  It keeps me engaged (because it’s fun to read), and shows me that you understand that my success is important to me, and it’s also important to you.  I’m not just a customer to help you meet your quota, but you really care. The key?  MONTHLY.

How do I justify future follow-ups?  What if I have nothing new to say or report?  Then create something.  Talk to your customers and ask them if they could share some of their wins with your list.  If you don’t get those stories, then create information that will help others… suggestions, tips, best practices, industry news, etc.  Don’t write too much – we all suffer from information overload, and you don’t want to be that email that I’m sure to delete.

Is that it?  Will I be successful with this strategy?  I don’t think so. I think you need to have an integrated sales/marketing approach… that is, pick up the phone. Meet customers in person.  Don’t just rely on email.  But you already knew that.

Now, get your email constructed, proof it for type-os and grammar, and make sure the messaging is exactly what your customers should understand, and then send it.  

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Even Experts Have a Hard Time With Personal Branding

March 23rd, 2015

I saw this post from my Arizona friend Pamela Slim (Escape from Cubicle Nation):

pamela_slim_facebook_post

 

You have to understand, Pamela Slim is a rockstar.  She has authored multiple books on careers… she lists her customers as Google, Dell, Harvard, etc. and she is a TED speaker.  On Pam’s speaking page there is a section at the bottom titled Crafting the Story of Your Personal Brand.  In that section she has these two bullet points:

  • Creating a full-color, full-contact communication plan
  • Sharing your story with the world in a way that gets results

Why am I sharing this with you?  Because there is a fact that is often-times overlooked: developing your personal brand message is HARD.  Even experts, people who live and breath this stuff, find it hard!

Did you know that for 2 years I could not give you a one-liner about JibberJobber?  It probably took another year before I could give you a one-liner about myself!

Why?

The same reason it is hard for you:

You don’t want to mess this up.

What if you say too much?  What if you say too little?  We are so complex, how could we possibly put all of our awesomeness in one line??

Sometimes we come up with something really cute, clever, or catchy. That usually has cliche or jargon, which does nothing more than confuse our brand.

Sometimes we get into analysis paralysis, and don’t come up with anything (which is another way to mess up our brand).

As important, you need to understand that our brand statements can and should be FLUID.  I’m sure that Pam has half a dozen taglines that she has used over the years…. but “bumbling through” this conference, with this type of audience, at this stage in her company and career, made her rethink each of those taglines she has used.

It’s okay to change your tagline.  It’s okay to let your tagline grow with you.

If it’s hard, that means you are thinking about it. Keep thinking… keep trying. If someone like Pamela Slim needs to rework her personal branding statements, and she gets stuck and confused, then please know that this is hard stuff.

Keep working on it, and come up with something that is true to you, and easy for others to understand and communicate!

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When Is The “Right Time” To Network?

March 6th, 2015

A few weeks ago I asked my daughter to take the car she drives all over town to get the tires rotated.  This is a simple procedure, and helpful to lengthen the life of tires… and I’m now bought into the idea that we need to do this.  I’m also bought into the idea that she should do it, and learn about vehicle maintenance by doing it.

So, she comes back to me and says that the tire tech said the two front tires needed to be changed, and that they they were running thin… I was kind of ticked (not at her) because these are less than a year old.  Even though they have a warranty that should cover them for years, I’m sure the tire people would say “well, sorry, but the alignment is off, and you haven’t rotated them lately… so it’s really all on you.”

I was not excited about spending a couple hundred dollars to get new tires. I was not excited about the time it would take to do this (I didn’t trust the salespeople with my daughter, who has never bought tires before). And frankly, I just wasn’t finding the time to get this task done.  The car doesn’t spend much time in the garage, and I have been very busy lately.

Last week my wife called me from school, where she was mentoring a class, and my daughter had come for a class… she said that the front tire was leaking air pretty bad.  I knew the time had finally come, and I had to table what I was doing and get the front tires replaced.

The thing is, this was admittedly stupid.

I should have taken care of this before… my daughter drives on the highway every evening to go to stuff, and if she had problems on the highway, it would have likely been a blow-out.  My mechanic told me that too many accidents are a result of bald tires that blow-out.  And the anguish and cost could be much worse than $200.

Long story short, I left work, took care of the tires while they were in school, and we’re all good.

Driving home I was thinking about how I didn’t make the time to fix the tires… there really was just not a good time to do it for me.  Just like when we have a job, and we put of career management stuff because we are too busy working, or resting from our work.  We neglect it.  The timing just doesn’t seem good enough.

And then, if you are like me, you are told that there is no more job, and all you have is time.  And then you wish that you would have addressed it earlier… but you were “too busy.”

Let me invite you to rethink what job security is.  It might have been a degree and a work ethic back in the 1990’s, but today it is the strength of your network (which is not how big your LinkedIn network is), and what people understand about you.

You can work on that, right now.  Today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.  A little bit every day, whether you are in transition or not.

We were lucky to have avoided a blow-out on the highway.  Work on your network and brand, and you might avoid a blow-out in your career.

 

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Bogus: LinkedIn search limits

February 13th, 2015

From the Office of Face Palms at LinkedIn comes another ridiculous move to make you upgrade.  Have you heard about this?  You will only be able to search a certain amount of times, or see a certain number of search results, and then you are cut off.  Here’s my message, right in line with the search results of a name:

linkedin_limit

Are you kidding me?  

Here’s what I did: I did a search for a name on Google… and then clicked on the LinkedIn result that would show me all of the people with that first and last name.  I scroll down and bit and see that in fact I have been penalized for clicking on that link.

I do this regularly.

This is seriously dumb.  Unless you are at LinkedIn, and want to force people to upgrade, but with the alternatives that are coming out, and the change in direction and value that LinkedIn has, I think this is one more thing that will drive usage and value down.

I was on a call with some career center directors today from a school that everyone’s heard of and we spent too much time talking about how LinkedIn has decreased in value for people who want to network.

WHAT?

That’s what they were set up for in the first place! To help people network!

Things have changed.  Networking is harder on LinkedIn.  And people have noticed, and they are tired of it.

This limit is one more thing that makes me think “okay, if I can’t find it on LinkedIn, I’m going to go somewhere else.”  Which is exactly what I’ve been hearing from recruiters… they are going somewhere else.

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The Job Search Silver Bullet (Informational Interviews)

February 12th, 2015

Sunday night I did a presentation to a group of people interested in what they could do to manage their own careers.  I talked about a lot of cool ideas, like a mindset that I wish I would have had to network more effectively when I was in my job search.

One thing i didn’t talk about was the silver bullet of the job search.  I’ve written about the silver bullet for job seekers before… I really don’t believe there is one.  I mean, there is not one single thing that you can do right now, and then land your dream job (or, any job).  The job search takes work, and there are many parts of this complex beast to finally land a job.

But if anything comes close, it is the informational interview.  I remember talking to a career professional who said that if her clients did informational interviews all day long, they would likely land within 30 days.

Informational interviews should be fun.  Doing them should be exhilarating, even if you are an introvert.  You should get leads from most interviews you go to.  You should strengthen the relationship with each person you talk to… sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. You should get great practice in saying who you are (the 30 second commercial), to the point where it sounds natural, and you sound confident.

Informational interviews get you away from your computer and in front of real people.  They make you dress up nicer than pajamas.  They put you in professional settings.  They prepare you for real job interviews.  They help you learn more about industries, positions, players in your area, opportunities.  They put you in a position of knowing more about those things than most people.

There are no silver bullets, but if you can implement a good informational interview strategy, your job search might do a 180, and you might find you have a number of solid opportunities that you are chasing (or, that are chasing you!).

What are you waiting for?

Here are some other posts about informational interviews.

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Don’t Hire Hotmail Users… what? #JobSearch

January 14th, 2015

Ruslan Kogan has a LinkedIn Post (article) titled Don’t hire Hotmail users & other tips to save your company culture.  He says that his company created a “good company culture” by doing a number of things, #1 is: DON’T HIRE SOMEONE WITH A HOTMAIL ACCOUNT.

Ouch, says all the hotmail users out there.

He says that they look at the email accounts and use them to “filter the applicants … in a way that ensures someone is the right fit for our organization.”    He says “if you have a @hotmail.com account then you’re out.”

Double OUCH.

Note that the comments are not very positive or supporting… here’s the point.  Whatever you think about hotmail doesn’t matter.  What matters is discrimination and judgement, based on certain variables… and obviously, what tools you use can categorize you as competent or not.

I wrote about this in 2006 here: jason@DontHireMe.com – does it matter?

I also wrote about this last year here: Your Email Address Might Be The Reason You Aren’t Getting Interviews

And here: Email Addresses: The Unintended Personal Branding Message

What email address are YOU using? Is it an email address that is screening you out of your next opportunity?

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Career Management Defined

December 22nd, 2014

Over the last few years I’ve given hundreds of presentations titled Career Management 2.0.  I’ve done webinars which people from around the world have tapped into, to listen to Career Management 2.0.

I’ve thought about this for years.  Career Management replaces “job security.”  I’m sure career experts can give you a five, seven, or even twenty-one point list of what  Career Management means… if I had to, I could come up with long list, too.

But here’s the bottom line: I’ve boiled Career Management down to two things:

  1. Networking, which includes growing your network and nurturing individual relationships, and
  2. Personal Branding, which is simply how others would define you (or, whatever elegant definition you want to give).

I can (and do) talk for hours about this stuff.  I’m passionate about it.  When I lost my job in January of 2006 I still believed in job security.  I didn’t think that a guy like me would have a problem finding a new job. I did “all the right things,” and so somehow, someone owed job security to me.

Of course I was wrong.  And along my journey, I finally realized that the power I was looking for was only that which I would create. Where I needed to start is listed above… and it’s the exact same two things I still focus on today.

As we close the year out, take some time to let this settle in.  What have you done to strengthen your network this year?  What will you do next year?

What have you done to strengthen your brand this year?  What will you do next year?

If this is top-of-mind, you’ll have a fun career.  Transitions will come and go, but they’ll be much less painful, and shorter, if you internalize Career Management.

 

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