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Hi, my name is Scott and I work in HR

If I used this line at a dinner party, networking event or at any other social event, the eye rolling would start and I am almost certain that I would be met with a series of passive, “oh, hi’s.” Bottom line, no one would be all that interested in meeting and speaking with me if that was how I approached them. Funny thing, in our everyday jobs in HR, we as HR Pros do this all the time. Perhaps not quite as blatant and awkward as this, but we still use this approach when trying to work with our internal clients. Quite often we are the awkward kid at school who is trying to integrate into social circles.   Instead of identifying ways we can add value to the business, we like to remind our clients what our function is – like it is some sort of security blanket for us. We do this as if HR is some sort of oversight function through which operations must obtain approval before making business decisions…as if. Which begs the question, “Why do we do this?”

Hello

I got inspired to write more about this topic based on the thought provoking blog post that my colleague, Sabrina Baker, wrote last week related to her speaking engagement at the California HR conference. Sabrina wrote about Moving from HR Leader to Business Leader.” You can read her post here and as is her custom, she also supplied her slide deck here. You should check them out and give her a follow. The point(s) of hers that really stuck out to me though were the following where she wrote:

“It isn’t enough these days to be an HR leader, we need to be business leaders. We need to understand the business as well as every other leader. We need to know finance, marketing and sales as well as the individuals running those teams. We need to be able to speak and understand the lingo. We need to know how decisions impact the business and how to create people strategies that help achieve the business strategies.

And we need to do it all without asking for permission.”

As HR Pros, we should all read that last line again. “…we need to do it all without asking for permission.” So here is the thought that I want to piggyback on to Sabrina’s writing. Let’s stop introducing ourselves as the girl or guy who works in HR. No one cares. No one is impressed by that statement. Why don’t we start introducing ourselves as a problem solver? We need to stop thinking of ourselves as an internal department and think of ourselves as internal consultants. If we were consultants, we would HAVE to add value and solve problems; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business. As a department, we tend to get a bit lazy and assume that because we are a department, people HAVE to use us…wrong!

So, as consultants and problem solvers, let’s start introducing ourselves as such. To Sabrina’s point, we have to stop asking for permission to do this and just go ahead and DO IT. How do you think your role will be received at work the next time you try one of these lines: (exaggeration and simplicity done for dramatic impact purposes)

“Hi, my name is Jane/John and I can help solve your resource issues by_____”

“I would like to propose a solution to your succession challenge”

“I have an idea on how to reduce your labour costs by introducing a contingent workforce plan”

“I have identified a low cost solution on how we can easily implement a mentoring program in your department to help with your skills shortage.”

Any one of these is a great opening line at a work party, I mean, as a work conversation. Your internal clients will be much more receptive if they see you as a solutions provider and not some bureaucratic department. Here is the beauty of all this, you don’t need to ask for permission to do this! (Thanks Sabrina!) Be a leader, go forward and just do it! You won’t get in trouble. Really…you won’t. It’s ok. Take the first step. Try introducing yourself differently. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Maialisa/Pixabay.com

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LinkedIn Connection Requests – Don’t be THAT Guy!

I am as big a fan of LinkedIn as the next guy. I have found it to be a valuable tool to build my network, enhance my professional brand and recruit for my company. I would say that for many people, myself included, LinkedIn has been become a virtual extension of their professional persona. In fact, in many ways and depending on who is looking at my profile on LinkedIn, it IS my professional brand – at least at that moment in time.

So, my advice to people who are either on LinkedIn (but not actively managing their account) or are thinking about joining LinkedIn is to make sure that what you (eventually) portray on LinkedIn is in line with the professional brand/image you want to be identified with. In fact, because LinkedIn forms such a vital part of anyone’s professional network and image, I have blogged many times about proper LinkedIn etiquette on a variety of topics that can be found here , here, here, here, here and here.

Linkedin Meme

However, today’s topic is focused on one particular area of etiquette violation that seems to be an increasing trend on LinkedIn and that is the “Connect and Sell” request. For those that have received these types of requests and emails you know exactly what I am talking about. You receive a connection request from someone that you don’t know, in the spirit and intent of LinkedIn you accept the request, only to have this person minutes (maybe hours) later send you a sales pitch to either buy their latest piece of software/technology, use their recruiting services or subscribe to their training services. Sorry to pick on these folks but in my world that is what I experience. Seriously!? Is this how we do business now? There is no way that anyone can tell me that this approach works! I know what I do when I receive those requests…nothing. Yup, nada. In fact, it makes we want to “disconnect” with that person right away.

So, if you are one of the spammy spammers doing this – please stop.   No one appreciates this approach and it reflects poorly on your professional brand and probably your company. You are the source of memes everywhere. Think about it – if you were selling a software package to someone that you NEVER had any contact with before, would you walk up to them on the street and say, “Hi, my name is Joe from ACME Software. We have never met but I would like to meet you. Thank you, would you like to buy my software product?” It truly is as INSANE as it is written there!

Going forward, do yourself a favour. Use LinkedIn to make connections and build relationships. It is NOT there for you to use as a cold calling (cold emailing?) tool. Take some pride in what you do and how you define your professional brand because this approach reflects poorly on you. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Is being Anonymous really “Social?”

Confession, I have a healthy dose of curiosity in my DNA. I like to know what is going on, how things are working, etc. To that extent, LinkedIn is like catnip for my curiosity. Each morning I like to check my news feed, see who has moved on to different positions and what people are sharing across their networks. One of my favourite things to check is to see who has been viewing my profile. From a personal branding and LinkedIn profile perspective, it is interesting to see what my “reach” is. Is my message getting out there? Are prospective employees seeing me? What type of person is “finding” me out there?

Bag on headI have to say though, one my peeves with the “whose viewed your profile” section is when I click on that section and I see that greyed out, silhouette head with this message:

LinkedIn member

This member chose to be shown as anonymous

Aaagghh – Really!? You are on a social media site…be SOCIAL! This is a professional networking site, why would you have your settings set so that other people can’t see who you are? Here is the thing, there must be a reason you checked out my profile? So, hit me up with an InMail. If you want to connect for whatever reason, just send me a request with a quick note as to why. But why, why, why would you be anonymous on social media networking site…I just don’t get it. I once read somewhere (apologies to the author) that being anonymous on a social media site like this is like going to a party with a bag over your head. It makes sense when you think about it. At the very least, it is like going to a networking event and lurking around, listening to conversations, but not introducing yourself (while wearing a bag over your head!)

I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you have this setting on and you don’t know it. There is an easy fix:

Go to the top right corner of your main page and hover your cursor over your profile picture. Then, scroll down to Privacy and Settings – Manage. Click on Manage. Then half way down the middle of the page, under Privacy Controls, click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” Once there, make sure “Your name and headline” is selected. It is that easy. Now you are all set to be more “social” on social media! Who knows, maybe you will connect with even more interesting people this way. At the very least, you give me a reason to now check out your profile and connect!

So please, no more “anonymous user” views – let’s be more social. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn?

Last week I blogged about a pet peeve of mine which is the canned LinkedIn connection request of, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Based on the number of views and comments I have received about this post I must have hit a nerve. I have had comments in full on support of my post and those that provided a differing point of view. I truly appreciated all the viewpoints and took the time to engage with everyone as I am always interested to learn more about user experiences with LinkedIn.

Of note, on the differing point of view side of things, some people raised a couple of valid points as to why the eleven-word canned connection request statement is used so much:

  1. If you are trying to connect with someone that isn’t a 2nd or 3rd degree connection already, it is almost impossible to have a connection request get sent any other way
  2. If you are using LinkedIn on a mobile device that is often the only way to send off a request (i.e. the issue is with LinkedIn and their app making it too ‘easy’ to do this, not the user).

LinkedIn ChocolatesWhile I can accept both those counter arguments, my personal experience with this is a bit jaded. You see, what I (used to) do is when I received invites from people I don’t know, and that contained the “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I would not accept them at first, but would reply back. Yes – you can do that! So, I would hit the reply button and send back a quick note that would state something like, “Thanks for your connection request, I can’t remember if we have met before, if we have, could you please remind me? If we haven’t, in the spirit of connecting, I would like to know how/why you would like to connect with me?”

How often do you think I received a response back to that question? Answer – less than 1% of the time! Of those that did respond back to me, I actually received a great email back from the requestor and happily accepted the connection invitation at that point. I mean, all I was really looking for was to make sure it was a real person looking to connect with me and that they gave it 2 seconds of thought. In other words, I didn’t want to be a baseball card added to someone’s collection because at the end of the day, I value my network I have built up and I don’t feel like giving just anyone access to it…especially a spammer!

So, I guess in all this I remain a bit jaded but I am still open to hear your feedback on this. I am going to need some convincing though. My feeling is that if you send me a connection request and I email you back and you don’t respond, my question to you is, do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn…or are you just trying to collect names and/or get access to my network? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero/Flickr.com

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”

Those have to be the eleven words I hate to see the most when I receive a LinkedIn request. There is absolutely no context or effort involved with these types of requests. It is simply a case of someone clicking on your profile and sending you an invitation while using the standard LinkedIn text. It also gives the impression that you are simply looking to add names to your LinkedIn database collection. Bottom line, you should always take the time to personalize a LinkedIn request.

LinkedIn company name pictureThis is true whether you are a job seeker or looking to make a sales connection. At the very least, a personalized request note is a “softer” request and lead in. Look at it this way, if you were attending an in person networking event, you wouldn’t walk up to someone you never met before and say to them, “I’d like to add you to my professional network can I have your business card?” So why do we do this on LinkedIn?

Here is the thing, you may be committing this faux pas and not even realizing it – so I am here to help! If you are in the “People You May Know” section of LinkedIn (within your account) and you click on “Connect” under the picture of any of the people there, they will automatically get that horrible 11 word request email to connect. Bam – that is it…no opportunity for you to edit the message at all and you probably aren’t even aware of what you have done.

Here is what you should do when you are looking to connect:

Click on the person’s picture/name profile so you can link to their actual profile landing page. Then you can click on the blue connect button where you have an opportunity to personalize a message. The same standard 11 word intro comes up, but NOW you have an opportunity to edit and personalize your request. My advice – take advantage of this opportunity!

So, let’s assume you have followed this advice so far and you are providing yourself an opportunity to customize your connection request. Now it is all up to you This part isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of effort. All you need to do in the request is write a few sentences on why you want to connect with the person. Do this and your LinkedIn life will change forever. For example, in your connection request you could refer to one of the following types of situations:

  • You met them at an event (this is the easiest isn’t one of all)
  • You know of them through someone else and want to connect for business reasons
  • You read an article, blog post, etc. that they wrote, it resonated with you and now you want to connect with them
  • You heard them speak at a conference or event, you enjoyed the content and would like to connect with them
  • You follow them on Twitter (or read something they shared in a LinkedIn group), they share great content, so now you want to connect with them and hopefully you can help them as well.

That’s all there is to it. Personalize the message by providing some context. Most people will accept your invite if there is a bit of a covering note/reason to the request. Hopefully these tips will help you out moving forward, especially if you are a job seeker. I would really like to see that you are doing everything in your power to improve your chances of expanding your network and finding gainful employment. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Shekhar_Sahu/Flickr.com

Find Your Passion & Fuel your Profession

The reality for far too many people in the workforce today is that they feel trapped in their jobs. They want to do something else, they feel their skillsets aren’t being fully utilized, or overall they feel a disconnect with the company they work for. If you read enough career management articles and blog posts, most of them will tell you to find something else, quit your job, make the change, you only live once, etc. The truth for a lot of folks is that they simply can’t do that. They can’t (or maybe won’t) for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The job provides a nice work/life balance
  • Their current commute is very manageable
  • The first two points are important to them as they have parental or elder care responsibilities
  • They enjoy the people they work with (not necessarily for)
  • They have been with the company a long time and don’t want to give up their pension or other accrued retirement benefits
  • The medical plan is great and it supports their current personal situation
  • They are scared of change and “starting over”

FlamesI know that at first glance, some (or all) of these reasons may look like excuses from the outside looking in. The truth is that without fully understanding a person’s circumstance, these may all be very valid reasons to not change jobs and no, that isn’t a cop out. People reach certain major milestones in their lives (student debt paid off, 1st child, sick kids/daycare, 1st child to college, aging parents, etc.) that drive a lot of their career decision making.

Here is the thing, it is my opinion (and it is only that, an opinion) that in most cases, there is no such thing as a perfect job. There is no ultimate job and company were you get to use your full skillset day in and day out AND you have a great boss that gives you autonomy and independence but provides a great level of coaching and guidance AND the company has a super inclusive benefits package AND you have a phenomenal work-life balance AND you have the most awesome co-workers ever AND you are paid top of market wages. Usually one or two of these things are a bit out of alignment or have some imperfections, so we all have to figure what the most important things are to us. The great thing about going through is exercise is that the final outcome or decision might not be that your job sucks or that you have to change, it is that once you realize what is important to you, you may realize that your current situation might not be that bad!

Here is the real beauty of all of this – there are ways to make your current job better and it is something that you can fully control. I am a big believer in aligning yourself with your profession (assuming it is your chosen profession). So, if you find your overall job is not giving you everything you need, it may not be a matter of moving on, but of finding your passion and fueling your profession. What I mean, it that you need to find ways to get more involved with others in your profession. Perhaps it is via professional development lunches, dinners and other networking events. It could also be through chamber of commerce events, via a volunteer board of directors or even start out by connecting via social media. Get out of your comfort zone and your office and look beyond the four walls of current office. There is a great big world out there that you can be a part of that will enrich your overall work experience. Think of all of this as building and enhancing your professional brand.

Other ways to give back to your profession, that you can own and drive, include doing things like speaking and presenting at the aforementioned events as well as at conferences. Do you have something to share? Then speak about it! Give back to your profession. Align with your profession. Fuel your profession by finding your passion! Take all those great ideas you have and things you want to try and speak about them. Position yourself as a person of knowledge and ultimately influence in your profession. Develop your brand and accelerate your exposure through LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Start a blog and write about some of these things. There are many great ways to move beyond the mundane if you are feeling trapped. Take control of your career. Remember, you own your career and your profession – fuel them! As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Photo courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your Professional Network – Make those Deposits!

When you hear the word “network” what comes to mind? Do you think of your close personal friends on Facebook? Is it your LinkedIn connections? Is it all the former co-workers you know? The answer is that it is all those things and more. More importantly, and here is the thing that professionals need to come to grips with very quickly, your professional network is one of the most valuable work related and job search tools that you have at your disposal. Additionally, your network of connections can also be very powerful when you need advice on something, when you are looking for a 2nd opinion on a work matter or even when you are looking for some quick hit resources, your network is a great place to reach out.

Piggy Bank DepositHere is the thing – in order for your network to be effective, you have to treat it like a bank account. You need to make regular deposits/investments into the account. You need to gradually build it up over time through these deposits, while earning interest (goodwill) month over month and year over year.  When the time comes, you will have built up enough of a “savings” account to make a withdrawal from your network when you need to.

Obviously the above reference to a “savings account” and “deposits” is/are a metaphor; however, that is the mindset that you need to have when building your network. Think about it, if you opened a bank account several years ago, and hadn’t deposited anything into it since you opened it, why would you expect there to be any money in there when you go to make a withdrawal? You wouldn’t, because you didn’t put anything into it! The same goes for your network – if you haven’t put anything in to your network, you can’t expect to get anything out of it.

As a professional, you need to be making regular “deposits” into your network. This can take the form of things like:

  • Sharing articles, advice and helpful pieces of information on LinkedIn with your network
  • Participating in group discussions on LinkedIn
  • Offering to help members of your network with anything from their own job search to assistance with something that is impacting their job success
  • Meeting for coffee with former colleagues to catch up and find out what THEY are doing
  • When asked for help from your network, respond in kind without expecting or asking for anything in return
  • Picking up the phone to (re) connect and touch base with individuals in your network
  • Providing work references for them (where practicable and appropriate)
  • Commenting on their blog posts/network updates

Those are but a small sample of how to make deposits, but they should give you an idea of what it means to invest in your network. If you make these small investments over time, you will build up a bank of goodwill with your network. What I can’t stress enough though is that you have to do all these things without expecting anything in return at that time. I have had a great deal of success with my own network with this approach. I am more than happy to assist whenever/wherever I can without reciprocity. The beauty of this is that when I need something from my network they are always willing and able to help. It is a nice symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties without the direct intent of having some sort of quid pro quo relationship.

Speaking (writing) from experience, where this all breaks down for me personally is that, unfortunately, there are people in my network that don’t buy into this approach and here is where I am sharing the lessons learned and advice for you, my readers. Essentially there are a handle of folks that I simply don’t hear from in any capacity month over month, year over year. (These are also the same people that when you reach out to them, you never hear back, they can’t help, etc.) Then, all of a sudden, I hear from them out of the blue. Guess what – they want/need something – advice, a job, etc. I really struggle with this as I have an internal war going on as to how quickly and/or willing I am to go out of my way to help? I usually do what I can, but it isn’t at the same level of commitment say for those in my network with whom we have all made “deposits” with each other and have been communicating/investing with over the same time period. So, you get my point about “investing” in your network.

The beauty of it all is that I have folks that I do hear from on a fairly regular basis – either dropping me a line to say hi or to share something with me that they found on a blog or at a conference, etc. and in turn I have done/and do the same with them. When these folks reach out for something, I am lightening quick to lend a hand because they have made many “deposits” and did so without expecting anything in return at that time. In discussions with peers/colleagues it would appear as though many of us have this same issue of only hearing from some people when they want something.

So, the moral of the story is this, you have to invest in your network. Make regular deposits and when the time comes, you will have built up a bank of goodwill to withdraw from. Your network is not something to be “used” whenever convenient for you. It is very off putting to not hear from people in your network for years and then all of a sudden they reach out to when they need a job or a favour. The message that sends to your network is that they are important enough to you when you are employed (because you don’t need anything). Then, when you are job searching, the people in your network are suddenly important to you!? Don’t think for a minute your network doesn’t know what is going on here! Spend the time up front, invest and then reap the benefits of a properly cultivated network. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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