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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.


The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

Having worked in recruiting and HR for as long as I have, I typically get asked for a lot of advice from people when it comes to all things resumes, job search and careers.   The questions typically range from what to put on a resume to how to find their “perfect” job. I try and do my best to advise and point people in the right direction.

Career Advice Image

The challenge, of course, for most people, is that when they are asking me for advice, it is often because they have either just lost their job and need a new one, or they have just graduated from school and need a job or they have reached a breaking point in their current job and need to make a change – ASAP. The problem is that none of these circumstances are ideal for giving and receiving great career advice. Quite often at this stage people are looking for a magical pill that will enable them to find a great paying job immediately. Believe you me, if I had that kind of pill or capability I would have patented it and became a millionaire by now!

Seriously though, what I wanted to share with you in this blog post was the best career advice I had ever received so that you can then apply this advice in your own personal and professional lives. I try and relay this advice to anyone that cares to ask/listen if they serious about their career development and truly want the best advice they can get. Here is the tricky part though, the best advice I have ever received is very simple in its message, yet very complicated in its application. It goes like his:

Many years ago I was lucky enough to find a great mentor. He was always very generous with his time, advice and coaching. Early on in my career, just shortly after graduating from university, he gave me the best career advice I had ever received. To this day, I have never forgotten his words and I still apply this in my professional life today. What he told me was this: You need to be continuously managing your own career and your personal brand – no one else is going to do that for you.

He was trying to instill in me a sense of career ownership and to not expect a company or manager to do this for me or expect them to “promote” me into a job, just because it was something I was interested in or wanted. As my mentor, I will always be grateful for him driving home the point with me about needing to manage my own brand. To this day, I advise people that they need to make decisions in the best interest of YOUR NAME INC. When you look at potential career opportunities or paths, you need to decide if it is in YOUR best interest to pursue it and will it add to your own personal brand. Each career decision you make is all about building your professional portfolio of knowledge, skills and abilities. The more you invest in this, the greater the value of your professional brand.

Here is the crazy part, the concept of continuously managing one’s career is often a foreign concept for most people. The majority of people that I speak to don’t typically give this any thought until, as mentioned above, they actually need a job. Here is the irony of this – the best time to be managing your career is now, this instant (when you are hopefully employed), as in start doing it now!

What I mean is that you need to be having career discussions with your manager now. You need to take control of this situation and drive the conversation – don’t wait for your manager to come to you and offer you a promotion or even ask you what you want to be when you grow up. Your manager is probably pretty content, and rightly so, to have you continue to do good work in the job you are in now – as that makes their life easier! You need to identify what you want, then ask your manager what it will take to get you there.

At the same time, you also need to take control of your career and invest in your personal brand. Not on LinkedIn…? Better join now – it isn’t some fad that is going away! Join some groups, participate in discussions. Do you have great ideas? Then why not start a blog? Get out and network. Reach out to former colleagues that you haven’t spoken with in some time. You will find they will be more receptive to your phone call (yes, I said phone call) if you aren’t hitting them up with “I need a job.” Volunteer, get involved with a cause you believe in. Invest in your network and you will find there is an ROI when you need it most. The bottom line is this; there is no better time than now to start managing your own career and your personal brand. Remember, if you don’t do it, no one else will. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


In the Weeds

For those of you not familiar with the expression (in a professional office/work environment), “getting into the weeds” on something, here is what it means – simply put, it means that you are too focused on the lower level details of a particular issue and as such, you are not able to deal with the bigger picture (re. more important) stuff. The expression is often used before or after meetings to refer to someone that is not focused on the right issues and /or the right type of information and communication.

WeedsFrom an HR perspective, as we continue to try and deal with our inferiority complex and make sure we are always “adding value”, being in the weeds on an issue is the quickest way to show your operations clients that you are not capable of dealing with higher level issues and by default, not able to add any value.

In fact, nothing drives me crazy more than when I am in a room/meeting with a bunch of HR folks to discuss an important HR issue (something like rolling out a new compensation system) and the focus shifts away from discussing the high level communication strategy and change management approach to how “Sally in accounts payable will hear about this because she only works 3 days a week and is offsite for two of those days.” Seriously, I can’t even begin to count how many HR meetings have degenerated into this type of approach where HR folks get so caught up on the low level details and exception based circumstances, they actually stagnate the purpose of the meeting!

Now, take that same approach and do that in front of your operations clients and you can imagine the results. Imagine for a minute (or maybe you don’t have to) that you are asked to attend a meeting that your organization’s operational leadership is having. The topic of the meeting is to discuss the impact and communication of how your major client is going to be introducing a change in how they assess the quality of your products and services. Once you hear of the details of the change and the way ahead, you begin to focus on why communicating on the company intranet site is not good because the assembly workers don’t have access to email when at work and that you are concerned how we don’t have a new quality review sheet from the client yet and you “know that Bobby in QC will have a meltdown if we don’t have a new sheet ready when we communicate. “

Now, if you don’t think this stuff happens, well, I have a bridge for sale that you might be interested in. This stuff happens all the time and it kills HR credibility. We need to focus on the big picture stuff and the 80% solution. That is, if something works for 80% of the staff/company, etc. than you can figure out a way for the other 20%. Don’t get bogged down in too many of the details; especially as you deal with more senior staff in your organizations. Big picture/80% solution stuff is what will get you recognized and remembered for adding value.

So, next time you are at a meeting and this stuff (types of discussion) starts to happen, make sure you and the team doesn’t get into the weeds. Focus on the problem/issue at hand and try and deliver on an 80% solution – everything else can be localized and dealt with on a case by case basis. Keep in mind, anytime you are starting your sentences with (and repeating this phrase), “yes, but what about “______”, I guarantee that you are in the weeds and you need to GET OUT NOW! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of SweetCrisis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Enough is Enough! HR doesn’t suck!

It seems to be an in vogue thing these days to bash HR. What with the myriad of experts out there that continue to weigh in on how HR should be done differently, or that it is time to change HR or basically how HR sucks. Go ahead, Google, “why HR sucks” and you will get 8.5 million hits! Better yet, if you search on, “making HR better” you will get 296 MILLION hits! Yes, everyone has an opinion on the matter, or so it seems.

Human resources picAs someone who has been in “the biz” for many years, I am a big fan of “good HR.” I believe in the value that HR brings to an organization – whether from a strategic perspective or from a good old fashion making the trains run on time perspective (i.e. making sure people get paid accurately and on time, making sure managers treat their staff right, etc.). Either way, when done right, HR brings tons of value to an organization and is a worthy profession. I blogged about this subject, about 18 months ago, when I referred to it as the HR Identity Crisis. My intent was to get HR folks to change their mindset a bit about how they view themselves and the work that they do.

So let’s start doing ourselves, as a profession, a favour. Let’s stop bashing each other and what we do. There are enough folks out there that will do that for us (see reference above to Google hits). You don’t see accountants and lawyers going around trashing their profession, so why do we have this self-deprecating approach about what we do?

Let’s also acknowledge the fact that doing good HR involves doing things, that for some reason, HR says they don’t want to do anymore. I mean, we have become so fixated on “getting that seat at the table” and being “strategic” all in the name of being taken seriously as a profession. The problem being, all the “real” HR stuff that needs to get done we (as a profession) have been washing our hands from doing. So if we aren’t being good organizational custodians, who is? If we aren’t the voice of reason and good conscience for the companies we represent, than who is doing that? Bottom line, you may be working yourself out of a job!

At the end of the day we are in the people business, hence the term “human” resources. Yes, I get it that it is all about talent and talent management, but wrapped up in all of that is the people that we deal with day in and day out. We have created such a crisis of conscience for our profession it is maddening. I speak with and hear from so many HR Pros that question themselves day in and day out about their chosen profession and they wonder if they are doing “good HR.”

So, what exactly is it we should be focusing on then? Well, if you truly want to be known as a consummate HR professional that does “good” HR, than you are doing some (or all) of the following:

  • Anything that relates to the attraction of people to your organization
  • Anything that relates to the retention of the people you have attracted
  • Anything that gets people communicating and collaborating
  • Helping your employees work through organizational change
  • Making sure your organization conducts itself ethically
  • Ensuring that positive employee relations are maintained – i.e. organizational stewardship
  • Helping your managers become better leaders
  • Ensuring compliance with laws, regulations, etc. Not because you “have” to, but because it makes good business sense.

That’s it. Those are the broad categories. Now think about all that you do as an HR Pro. I bet 90% of it falls under one of those categories, if so, than you are doing “good HR.” You can probably stop doing the other 10%. Now, there is one caveat to all of this and that is, everything will ultimately come down to execution. This, in turn, ties into your internal HR brand. In other words, how well you communicate, get buy in, apply a business lens and sometimes even stand your ground, will define how well you execute in doing “good” HR. This is the difference in being the policy police vs. doing “good” HR.

So, as HR Pros, let’s all agree to start giving ourselves a break. Let’s lighten up on the internal HR bashing. Let’s focus on service delivery excellence and providing value to our customers (managers and employees.)   Make sure that what you are doing has a purpose – whether strategic or tactical. This is especially true for those of you in smaller (do it all) HR shops. Most of all, give yourselves, and each other, a break. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of 89studio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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