Do you aspire to live a stress-free life? You might want to reconsider.

October 27th, 2014
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STRESS.

Just the word brings on a quickening of my heartbeat, a tightening in my chest and upper back, and a narrowing of my brow. These are the signs of stress for me. When my stress level gets really high, I might feel a pulse in my left temple that is alarmingly out of my control.

Stress is not a comforting or comfortable feeling, and when experienced on an ongoing basis can literally kill.

But is stress inherently a bad thing? It turns out it’s not.

Stress raises our levels of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that prepare us for reacting under an imminent threat. This response is useful not just for escaping from a physical attack, but also for handling non-life-threatening challenges that come our way.

For instance, I am historically a high performer on standardized tests. I have pulled scores that surprise me as being significantly higher than my practice test scores. Believe me, I felt plenty of stress when I took the SAT, the LSAT, and the New York Bar Exam. It was stress that made me focus intensely, work fast, and think more clearly than I ever would under everyday conditions.

I feel stress every time I give a presentation or even write a blog article. Stress has helped me in multiple job interviews. Stress somehow got me, as a 13-year-old gymnast, to earn a medal in my “worst” event (vault) at the New Jersey State Championship – and to win the competition in my age group. Stress pushes me to perform.

I never thought I would say this, but… I would not want to give up my stress!

However, since there are inarguably negative health effects to persistent stress, it’s worth looking at how to take a break from stressful episodes. I think this is where things like exercise and meditation come in. If I did not have my daily yoga and swimming practice, I might never get a break from my anxiety-ridden daily life. Hugs help too (they release oxytocin, which helps our heart cells regenerate).

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., in a TED Talk, noted that how we manage stress is key to how harmful or helpful it is. If someone views stress positively, that person is likely “to be less stressed-out, less anxious and more confident.” Stress can help us with solving problems, tackling challenges, and bouncing back from failure.

Not only that, but if someone views stress as helpful, their physical response actually changes! In particular, their blood vessels do not constrict, but instead stayed relaxed. That difference, compounded over time, could easily be the distinguishing factor between an early heart attack and living into old age.

McGonigal recommends that we become aware of our negative thinking, so that we avoid defaulting to drama and jumping to unsupported conclusions. The support of friends, family, and colleagues can be key in this process.

I historically have viewed some of my stress as positive and other as negative. My commitment now is to spin it to positive as frequently as possible so I can live a long and stress-managed (not stress-free) existence.

Do you experience stress as a positive or negative influence in your life? What techniques do you find useful for managing stress? Please share below!

[This article was inspired by John H. Ostdick’s article, “The Upside to Stress,” published in the May 2014 issue of Success Magazine.]

The Upside of Change: No More Automatic Group Member Connections on LinkedIn

October 20th, 2014
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On October 1, 2014, LinkedIn unceremoniously eliminated a widely relied-upon function: the ability to connect with anyone with whom you share a group, without needing to know their email address.

Before October, if you wanted to connect with someone on LinkedIn with whom you shared a group, you would see a dropdown that looked like this:

Now, the dropdown is one item shorter:

While some LinkedIn members are postulating that the loss of automatic group member connections is a technical glitch that will be resolved, I’m assuming for now that it’s a permanent game changer.

LinkedIn experts have recommended for years that you join the maximum number of LinkedIn group (50) so that you can easily expand your network. This reason for group membership seems to have disappeared.

Or has it?

The fact is, the people in your groups are still pre-filtered for shared interests and so you might still want to make the effort to connect with them. Just because you need their email address doesn’t mean you have to give up on building your network! Groups are still a great place to interact with valuable contacts, share information, and ask and answer questions. You can still do all that!

The elimination of the automatic group connection feature might actually have an upside. Let’s say there’s someone in a group you want to connect with. What should you do?

First, look in their Contact Information section or their Summary for their email address. If you find it there, you can easily enter it when prompted. Next, if you know what company they work for, Google them at their company. Or Google anyone at the company and you might be able to model your new contact’s email address on someone else’s. For instance, if you find an address like JaneSmith@Company.com, you can guess that your contact’s email address is JohnBrown@Company.com.

If those options fail, you now must send an actual *message* to the person! It’s free though. There are two ways to do this:

Option #1

From Discussions, click on the member’s photo or name link to see that member’s activity.

You will be taken to that member’s group Activity summary page. Click the “Follow” drop down menu on the right and select “Send message.”

Option #2

Go to the group page and click on the number of members at the top right of the page.

Search for the member you want to message.

Then click the “Send message” link under their title.

Your message might read something like this:

Dear John, I was impressed by your contribution to the discussion in the Job Hunt group about HR practices in pharmaceutical companies. I would love to speak with you further about this topic and would be honored if you would provide me with your email address so I can send you an invitation to join my network! I would be happy to arrange a phone call as a starting point.

Yes my dear social-media-savvy, you might have to interact with another human being before adding them as another number on your connection list.

What I’m suggesting is that LinkedIn may have done us all a favor by forcing us to work a bit to connect with people whom we don’t really know even though we share a group. What do you think about this idea?

Remember again that group membership is valuable for many reasons, not just for ease of connecting with group members. Smaller, more local group in particular provide a forum for you to become a thought leader in your niche.

If you participate enthusiastically enough, it’s likely that other people will do the work of finding *your* contact information and send you requests to connect, rather than the other way around!

What do you see as the impact of the “loss” of this connection feature? I’d love to hear your opinion.

9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

October 13th, 2014
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how-to-poseOn July 10, 2014, Social Media Examiner quoted me in their compilation article 9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips From the Pros. Since I often receive questions about how companies can use LinkedIn for their marketing efforts, I thought it would be valuable to share this post with you. If you are a job seeker, all but the first of these tips apply to you!

Here’s what you’ll learn about strategies to boost your LinkedIn marketing:

  1. Use LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to build credibility and exposure. Use LinkedIn’s analytics to make sure you’re getting sufficient value from your investment. (I have not used this feature but it might be the right strategy for some businesses.)
  2. Add Rich Visual Content to Your LinkedIn Profile to spice up its look and feel!
  3. Implement Influence Networking (Build real, personalized, ongoing relationships) to stand out from your competitors.
  4. Offer Value in Discussion Groups (Provide quality content to prospective buyers) to establish thought leadership and trust.
  5. Optimize Your Personal Profile (How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile is a great start for this!)
  6. Tag Your Connections in Posts using the @ symbol followed by the person’s name.
  7. Focus on Small, Local Discussion Groups to make the biggest impact with your discussion participation (this was my contribution to the article!)
  8. Develop Relationships Instead of Adding Connections, through both your personal and company pages.
  9. Don’t Treat LinkedIn Like an Online Version of Your Resume – instead, be creative with your presentation of what you can do for your customers. Sell yourself based on the problems you can solve. (If you are a job seeker, you might be thinking you need to have an online version of your resume. But you can take a creative approach rather than create a carbon copy on LinkedIn. Consider what will sell you the best to a prospective employer and write your profile that way!)

For expanded information on each one of these points, check out the full article at 9 LinkedIn Marketing Tips From the Pros.

And if you’re a small business looking for ongoing LinkedIn marketing support, please contact us at teesupport@theessayexpert.com. We have experts we can refer you to!

Lessons I Learned from a Suicidal Arsonist

September 29th, 2014
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On Friday, September 26, I set out to travel from New York City back home to Madison. I dutifully arose at 4:00 a.m. to meet a car service, arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Boarding went smoothly and we left the gate. I looked forward to a 10:36 a.m. landing in my hometown after 3 days at a conference in Denver and a week with my family and friends. I had wonderful plans for Friday evening and Saturday.airport-delay

Then the announcement came: There has been a fire in the Chicago air traffic control tower. All flights in and out of Chicago have been delayed.

The guy across the aisle from me began cursing and waving his fists around. I resolved to take the news better than he was taking it. After calling United twice and spending an hour on hold, I managed to get rebooked through Atlanta. But when I landed in Atlanta there were three voice mail messages advising me that my flight to Madison had been cancelled, and one informing me that I had been rebooked on a flight the next day through Washington D.C. I would, if all went as re-planned, arrive in Madison at 9:12 p.m. Saturday night.

The punch line is, I made it home. But there’s more. Throughout this adventure, I learned or was reminded of some valuable life lessons. Here are some of them:

  1. One person can truly make a difference.
    That guy Brian Howard who set a fire in the Chicago air traffic control tower was one single man who managed to paralyze air travel across the country for two days. I’m guessing he also affected security measures at air traffic control towers throughout the world. Yet so many of us sit around thinking we can’t make a difference. What are the extreme positive acts you could take to change something you want to change?
  1. Surrender to what’s so.
    When faced with the prospect of spending the night in Atlanta, I was not thrilled. But since all flights to Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago and pretty much all areas surrounding were cancelled, I decided the best plan was to surrender. I got on a line for customer service, hoping there might be a hotel voucher for me if Atlanta was my only overnight option. An hour later I was at the counter, having had some lovely conversations with other stranded travelers, and discovered that there were no more hotel vouchers remaining, and that my flight to D.C. was that very night. Suddenly I had a new reality before me, and I accepted that one too. It’s amazing how much my stress level went down when I dealt with what was so instead of wishing it were another way!
  1. It’s good to have friends everywhere.
    Through a combination of college connections and my dance community, as well as other life adventures, I have built a network of friends and family in almost every major U.S. city (and some overseas cities as well). Drop me in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Tucson or Tel Aviv, and I will have a friendly place to lay my head. When I discovered I would be in Washington, D.C. for a night, I started calling friends, one of whom, my college buddy Sara, was happy to put me up for the night. I had not seen her in about 10 years, so it was a great treat to spend unexpected time with her. Not only that, but she had kale in her fridge, a blender, and a free pass to her gym which we used to attend a class together Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon we swam together in an outdoor pool, well after any such pool in Madison would ever be open. I also saw a high school football game that was highlighted on Fox 5 Friday night! I was well taken care of. And I got on a deep level that I have led my life well to be able to call on so many people to help. Of course I would do the same for all of them.
  1. Talk to strangers.
    In the customer support line and on various airplanes Friday and Saturday, I met some other waylaid travelers. It was good to connect with humanity. They put my situation in perspective, and helped me out by watching my bag while I went to plug in my phone, whose battery was on its last legs. One woman guided me where I needed to go in D.C. to get to the suburban Metro stop where I met my college friend Sara. I noticed I felt fairly upbeat given the monkey wrench that had been thrown into my life, and on one of my plane rides I identified why: I was talking to strangers!

In an article I read on the plane in Success (which is quickly becoming my favorite magazine), I discovered that a social science study by researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, Michael Norton, Ph.D., showed that “talking with strangers can be at least as important to our daily happiness as talking to our close friends and family.” Norton confirmed this to be true regardless of personality type. I know it is true for me! I always feel more energized when I connect with the people around me than when I retreat into my shell.

On Saturday night my flight departed from D.C. on time and landed in Madison 30 minutes early. My housesitter Mariah picked me up and drove me home, where I arrived fairly exhausted yet grateful. I slept well that night, knowing that I am well-loved, resourceful, connected, and able to handle the challenges that one suicidal arsonist threw in my direction.

Happiness is… : 7 Ways to Increase Your Contentment and Well-Being

September 22nd, 2014
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charlie-brownI have experienced a definite rise in my happiness level over the past year. I attribute it to personal growth work I’ve done, starting with the Transform! Training with Wright in Chicago, which I recommend to everyone. I attribute my increased sense of well-being to a new willingness to express my emotions honestly and with much less drama than I have in the past. I experience having more to talk about and less to be afraid of in relationships. I have more fun.

I had judged my increased contentment as a purely personal phenomenon until I discovered that the entire world is getting happier! Flipping through the September issue of Success Magazine, I read that 71% of the world, according to the 2013 Gallup World Poll, reports experiencing positive emotions such as enjoyment, laughter, smiles, restfulness and respect; this number is up from 69% in 2012.

Many people have written about happiness, and there is even a movie or two about it. Perhaps one of my first lessons in happiness came from the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” in the song “Happiness Is…” (Click here to listen on YouTube). Here are the lyrics (which for some reason skip over “Happiness is a warm puppy” – but we know that one is true too!)

Happiness is finding a pencil. Pizza with sausage. Telling the time.
Happiness is learning to whistle. Tying your shoe for the very first time.
Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band.
And happiness is walking hand in hand.

Happiness is two kinds of ice cream. Knowing a secret. Climbing a tree.
Happiness is five different crayons. Catching a firefly. Setting him free.
Happiness is being alone every now and then.
And happiness is coming home again.

Happiness is morning and evening, Daytime and night time too.
For happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.

Happiness is having a sister. Sharing a sandwich. Getting along.
Happiness is singing together when the day is through,
And happiness is those who sing with you.

Happiness is morning and evening, daytime and nighttime too.
For happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.

[spoken] You’re a good man, Charlie Brown

Although others have sung that happiness is a warm gun, I prefer the child-like sentiment of the Charlie Brown characters. They understand that objects, situations and people can bring us happiness if we choose to have them bring us happiness.

I’m encouraged that more people are enjoying life, and, I imagine, appreciating things both big and small.

Happiness, according to Gallup, is a valuable indicator of social unrest. Syria, for instance, had a 46% happiness rating in 2012 and that number plummeted 10 percentage points in 2013 to reach the bottom of the list. I certainly don’t know what Syrians can do to increase their happiness levels; I imagine it’s a chicken or egg phenomenon, where unhappiness breeds unrest and unrest breeds unhappiness. But for those of us in the United States (78%), especially those of us who lead relatively peaceful lives, it’s worth taking a look at what we can do to make our lives more enjoyable.

Happiness in the world of Charlie Brown is easy to come by. And I think it can be easy to come by for most of us. Here are some things I believe can lead us in the “more happiness” direction:

  1. Responsibly express a full range of emotions.
    When we can recognize our fear, anger, sadness, pain and joy, and share those with others, we become more connected as human beings. Emotions are something we can all understand. We need to take responsibility for our experiences as opposed to being dramatic about our anger, hurt and pain. And if we can find the right balance, our communications can become much more intimate and satisfying.
  1. Take risks.
    Taking risks makes me feel alive. I don’t mean jumping off cliffs or out of airplanes; I mean saying or doing something I would not normally say or do, even though I’m terrified. It can be as simple for me as asking for a discounted admission to a gym when I’m traveling, even though I “know” I won’t get it (I got $5 off a $15 entrance fee). Or asking men to dance with me at a local street festival (I had more fun than I ever did waiting for men to ask me!). These acts of challenge get my heart pumping almost as much as if I were about to jump off an actual cliff.
  1. Break rules.
    As a historical rule-follower, I find that breaking unspoken or sometimes explicit rules can make my life a lot more fun. I have rules like I should not speak until someone else does – but speaking first or interrupting someone often makes a greater contribution to a conversation than waiting silently. I have a “rule” that I should not tell someone something I don’t like about them – but when I tell them, they often explain their behavior to me or even change it on the spot, creating more intimacy and connection. I used to have a “rule” that I should go to every event at a conference, especially the meals. But at my last conference, I went to a yoga class during lunch one day, and I’m glad I did! I’m discovering that there are many opportunities on a daily basis to break rules that are not serving me, and I definitely feel happier doing things differently.
  1. Celebrate your victories.
    Martin Seligman, Ph.D., founder of the positive psychology movement, determined that people who wrote down their positive experiences before bedtime every day for a week, and analyzed why they went well, increased their happiness for six months! Simply taking time to reflect on three good things that happened during your day will help you sleep better and increase your overall sense of well-being.
  1. Trust people.
    Cynicism, defined as the “belief that self-interest is the main motivation for other people’s actions” leads to dementia and higher mortality rates, according to a study in Finland by Anna-Maija Tolppanen, Ph.D. Previous reports have linked cynicism to heart disease. So if you are a cynic, and if you want to be happier and healthier, it’s time to literally change your mind!
  1. Focus on positive meaning.
    Going through life, there are a lot of things to “do.” Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained researcher and author of Before Happiness, says we experience up to three times higher levels of productivity in our business lives when we focus on feelings of accomplishment, helping people, social connection, or the thrill of a sale. I imagine the same goes for our social lives. Focus on the bigger picture and the positive goal, and that “to do” list becomes a happiness generator instead of a drag!
  1. Set yourself up to win.
    If you’re like me, you like to accomplish goals, as opposed to fail at meeting them. One big key to accomplishing more goals is making them achievable in the first place! There’s no reason to go for a big goal and not celebrate until you meet it. There are a LOT of steps along the way to getting there. So rather than setting a goal of clearing out an entire basement, start with a goal like emptying one bin or box a day. That way you get to celebrate every day when you empty that one container, and before you know it you will have a much cleaner basement! You can have multiple wins every day just because you say you’ve won.

This list of ways to increase our happiness is by no means comprehensive, but it sure is a good start. Charlie Brown’s experience of happiness is completely attainable in the non-cartoon world, and I for one want to live in a world where the simple things create more happiness. If more people take steps toward happiness, will Gallup find another uptick in 2014? What makes me happy is to think that the numbers will keep climbing.

Do you remember your 2014 New Year’s resolutions?

September 15th, 2014
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2014 GoalsI honestly had forgotten all but two of mine, and only looked at them today because I knew it was time to write my New Year’s “Ressaylutions” update.

In January I promised to report both my wins and my fails for the year in August. Oops. It’s September. That’s my first fail. I completely forgot about my promise to do an August update! I’m a couple of weeks late, but I’m keeping honest – even though I feel a bit scared to do so since I am not on track to meet some of my goals.

My invitation to you is to do an honest assessment of where you are in achieving your New Year’s goals. The first step is to remember what they were! Then evaluate your progress.

2014 “Ressaylutions” and Current Status:

  • Increase college essay / personal statement portion of my business to 25% of business. I took action on this goal but have not reached the goal (so far this year I’m at 5%; projected 10% by end of year). Actions taken: Gave interviews for an article in the Catholic Herald and another one in The Educated Mom blog. Advertised a summer program for rising high school seniors to work on college essays, but received no inquiries. Will be speaking at the NRWA Conference this week about how to write a standout college essay. I’m letting more resume writers know about my services so they know they can refer clients to me if they do not do personal statement coaching themselves.
  • Roll out a new “responsive” (mobile-friendly) website. This project has been delayed numerous times despite starting work on a new website in December 2013. I just transitioned to a new company and I’m hoping to have a new website by the end of the year!
  • Choose a CRM and project management system. I decided to implement Infusionsoft and I am working with an Infusionsoft expert to do it. We are plugging away and the plan is to launch the new website and the Infusionsoft functionality all at the same time. I look forward to having things run seamlessly by Q1 2015!
  • Serve 250 clients. Last year The Essay Expert worked with 200 clients to find new jobs, get into school, and achieve business results. Total clients this year is 119. I am not on track to reach my goal. I will be looking at my lead generations strategies and expect that my new website and Infusionsoft implementation will support The Essay Expert’s expansion to a wider client base.
  • Generate 214 success stories. I have not met this goal (we’re at 45) and will need to step up my follow-up efforts with clients to increase this number!

As you can see, I am likely not going to fulfill all my Ressaylutions for 2014. However I can still use them to motivate myself to action – and I will! When I make my 2015 resolutions, I will be taking a hard look at both my successes and failures from 2014, as well as my priorities for the coming year. I hope you will too.

What were your New Year’s Resolutions and have you held yourself accountable? Please share!

September is Update Your Resume Month!

September 8th, 2014
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Update Your Resume MonthSeptember is Update Your Resume Month and I am taking this opportunity to encourage YOU to update your resume! You never know when you will need to provide your resume to someone on short notice, so it’s a good idea to keep it as current as possible. Even if your job is secure, you could receive a sudden opportunity to step into a position with more responsibility. Or perhaps your boss will ask you for your resume to include in a contract proposal. I have many clients who end up paying rush fees unnecessarily because they did not prepare for unanticipated resume requests!

Here are my top 10 recommendations to avoid the panic of a last-minute scramble to update your resume:

  1. Check your contact information. Are your address and phone number accurate? Is your LinkedIn Profile URL included on your resume?
  2. Read your Summary statement. Does it reflect your most current capabilities and achievements? If not, update it! Use specifics about yourself rather than overinflated “resume speak.”
  3. Add any skills / core competencies that you have added to your tool kit.
  4. Review the dates of all your employment positions and confirm that they are correct.
  5. List your most current position on your resume! (Perhaps you got a promotion that you haven’t gotten around to listing yet?)
  6. Include a result or impact in every bullet if at all possible. Companies care about what you achieved much more than they do about your job duties! Don’t ignore your duties and skills, but relate them to an achievement.
  7. If you have achieved something notable since you last updated your resume (and if it’s been more than a few months, I hope you have), add it to your current position’s bullets! Keep a running list of your metrics and achievements so that you can easily insert this information into your resume!
  8. Search and strip out any redundant or irrelevant information on your resume. If a past achievement or skill is not relevant to where you’re headed now, there’s no need to include it.
  9. Check your formatting with an eagle eye. Is every bullet consistently formatted? Are the fonts cohesive throughout? Have you printed the document to make sure it looks good on paper? Don’t risk being judged as detail-UNoriented!
  10. Create a version of your resume that meets the requirements of ATS systems (computer systems that read your resume). If you’re not familiar with how to do this, read Tip #43 in How to Write a WINNING Resume.

For more detail on how to accomplish these 10 resume update recommendations, you might want to look at my e-books How to Write a WINNING Resume or How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume.

You can receive a free excerpt of both How to Write a WINNING Resume and How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume by signing up for The Essay Expert’s job search e-list right here.

Do you have other ideas on how to use Update Your Resume Month to its fullest advantage? Please share in the comments!

5 Secrets to Getting Never-Ending Job Offers! – Guest Post by David Mensah

August 25th, 2014
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Last week I wrote about the importance of follow-up and feedback for success in your business or job search. The article, Do These * 2 * Things and Get Amazing Results in Your Business OR Job Search, really was about how to have fruitful conversations and build valuable connections. This week, my good friend and long-time business writing client, David Mensah, shares his wisdom on a very related topic: how to create a stream of job and work offers through the art of talking to people.

Guest post by David Mensah

Imagine this experience: You’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, colleague or new acquaintance, when that person suddenly interrupts the flow of the conversation to offer you some form of employment!

For most of my life, I have had that experience on a regular basis, and I have ultimately built a career as a leadership trainer and executive coach as a result. So when I started to expand my consulting practice to include career coaching, I wanted to see whether I could train people to do what I have done successfully in my own professional life: generate employment opportunities consistently, both in official interviews and everyday conversations, whether or not they are looking for a job.

Here are my top 5 recommendations for creating “the never-ending job offer”:

BE EXCITED:

Choose a career that sparks your passion, and let that passion show! Your excitement is contagious.

I can always tell when others are passionate about their careers. Genuine excitement is interesting and contagious, while feigned excitement is forced and boring. Discover your true calling, even if it doesn’t make sense or scares you (are you an accountant who always wanted to be a dancer?) Your career is as personal as it gets and it’s worth finding out—and sharing—what lights you up.

BE INTERESTED IN OTHERS:

When people are authentically curious about me, I feel lucky and safe and I want to know more about that person in return. That’s the type of interest you want to create in others. When talking about your life, make sure to make time to explore the lives of those around you. You might ask questions about people’s background, work successes and challenges, or families. Explore their values and what’s important to them. Train yourself to find something interesting about everyone, including friends, networking contacts, and yes, even interviewers!

In every conversation I make it my practice to find 10 things I like about the other person in the first 5 minutes. It makes me listen differently.

Keep asking questions until you find an area where the other person is energized, and focus there. You might be surprised at the benefits that come back to you.

IN AN INTERVIEW, ASK QUESTIONS:

Come prepared to every job or informational interview with questions you want to ask. And don’t stop there. Frankly, if you are not interested enough in the middle of an interview to have a few spontaneous questions, you are probably not interested in the job or the company. Questions emerge from a natural desire to know more—to delve deeply into things that matter to you. When you ask people questions, they learn a lot about how you think and feel about them, their company, and, if applicable, the available position. Your questions reveal something about you at the same time as you learn about someone or something else.

BE CONNECTED:

People hire people they feel good about and this feeling arises from a sense of connection. To create affinity with people where it might not exist automatically, consider telling stories about yourself emphasizing your humanity. I have been known to talk about my most recent business failure or how my ego gets in the way of my dreams. Stories about our failures and flaws allow others to connect deeply with us and push people quickly past the surface differences that keep us separate.

While connecting with others comes easily to some, it can be challenging to some people. Do your personal growth work so that you can easily connect to the new people in your life without internal stories about you or them getting in the way.

SPEAK ABOUT YOURSELF USING THEIR LANGUAGE:

As any conversation progresses, I learn more and more about the person I am speaking with. Once you know enough about someone, it is much easier to tell them about yourself, because now you can reference the parts of their life that help them understand yours. When I am talking with someone who values their family over everything, it is natural for me to use my love and appreciation for my puppy to describe how relationships motivate my professional successes and failures. When I talk to people who care primarily about making a difference for others, I describe my interest in coaching as a way to teach skills that they can pass on to everyone they touch.

The more you truly listen to someone, the more you can use the language they use and speak to their values. You will make deep connections with people who feel seen and understood by you, and who will want to find ways to spend more time in your presence—perhaps by offering you a job.

When my clients embrace these practices, not just in interviews but in every interaction with others, they start generating job opportunities. Getting excited about your own career and cultivating an authentic interest in others results in others’ sitting up and taking notice. Your never-ending job opportunity will happen one conversation at a time.

David Mensah, DKBWave

David Mensah is a leadership trainer and executive coach living and working in New York City. Please connect with him on twitter @DKBWAVE or learn more about his work at www.DKBWAVE.com.

Do These * 2 * Things and Get Amazing Results in Your Business OR Job Search

August 18th, 2014
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pretty businesswoman answering telephone in her officeAt the end of January, I received an inquiry from an Executive resume client (I will call him Mark). In a fairly brief sales conversation, Mark expressed his intention to purchase an Executive Resume package. Mark was my ideal client because of his career level and his “time over money” attitude. He was willing to invest in a great product to advance his career.

In response to a follow-up email I sent him on February 1, Mark wrote: “Got it. On the road this weekend. I’ll handle on Monday.”

Monday came and went, as did several more Mondays. I knew Mark was not in a huge rush to start his job search, so I did not think much of it. After all, I have many clients who take months to complete their resumes even after they begin the process. On April 2, I decided it was time to check in. I wanted to know what happened. So I gave Mark a call to see where he stood in his decision-making—and learned that he had chosen another company to write his resume. While this news did not thrill me, I saw it as an opportunity to find out what could have been better about my sales process.

What I found out is that Mark’s son had been involved in the decision-making process. A young IT professional, he’d seen my website and judged that the quality of my site did not project the image he thought a top resume company should project. I was grateful to Mark for giving me this information and I sent him the link to the new site I had already started to create. His son liked that one better (it is still under construction). Two weeks later, Mark decided to hire The Essay Expert to write his LinkedIn profile. He worked with our writer Sandra and was so pleased with the result that in June, less than completely satisfied with the resume he had received from a different company, he hired The Essay Expert to write his resume. Once again, Sandra created a document that impressed Mark thoroughly.

There are two lessons that can be gleaned from this story:

  1. Conduct Follow-Up always.

    I pride myself on my diligent follow-up with clients. I could have just let Mark go, but it was extremely important for me to know what happened. If Mark needed additional information I wanted to provide it. And if he had chosen a different company, I wanted to know why so that I could possibly prevent similar events in the future. My follow-up indicated to Mark that I cared and had my act together as a businesswoman.

  1. Listen to Feedback as a contribution.

    When Mark told me he had chosen another company, I wanted to hear from him what made him change his mind about hiring us. I was not only open to his comments and suggestions, but eager for them. And I was vocally grateful for what he shared. I believe my attitude gave him trust in my company. I cared about Mark even after I knew I was not making a sale, and it made a difference in how he perceived me.

That’s not the end of the story. After Mark’s resume and LinkedIn profile were complete, he wanted to support my company by bringing us more business. He suggested to an Executive Recruiter at Spencer Stuart, a large Executive Recruiting firm in Chicago, that they refer clients to me. Mark is well-known and trusted by that firm and they take his recommendations seriously. The day after Mark informed me that he had passed my name to Spencer Stuart, I got a call from one of their clients who hired me that same day. If the firm continues to recommend my services, it could represent a valuable, lucrative and long-term shift in my business.

All of this happened because I conducted follow-up and requested feedback (and produced a great product of course).

And… guess what I did after I got that referral? I followed up with the recruiter who sent me that client! He was surprised and happy to have me call him personally to thank him. I think he will be more likely to refer more clients to The Essay Expert because he knows the owner is someone who took the extra step to connect with him.

How consistently do you follow up with people who drop out of communication? Do you call prospective clients or customers who don’t hire you to find out why? Do you contact the people who interviewed you for a job to find out why they didn’t choose you for the position? Do you thank the people who referred you to valued contacts? If not, why not? This simple combination of Follow-Up + Feedback is absolutely essential whether you are running a successful job search or a growing business.

If you have stories of how you got unexpected results from follow-up and feedback, please share below!

Harrassed on LinkedIn®? Take these steps to prevent and stop it now.

August 11th, 2014
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There’s no question that social media, including LinkedIn®, can expose you to unwanted attention, whether it be spam messages or actual threats. I’ve received some inappropriate emails myself (thankfully nothing threatening or truly stalker-like). But not everyone is so lucky. I have had many people share with me their fear about posting a photo or profile on LinkedIn® due to the possibility that they might be followed in an unwelcome way.

I am grateful to my colleague Rabbi R. Karpov, Ph.D. for providing tips on how to investigate followers before they become a problem. She credits Robin Schlinger for some of this information as well. Here is some of what she suggests:

Check the person’s photo.

  1. Right click on any profile image and copy the image location.
  2. Next, run that photo through “Google Images” (https://images.google.com/). You can find it by typing “google images” into your browser. Click the camera icon and paste in the image URL. Now you can find some things out.
  3. Look for red flags:
  • Stock photo. That wholesome-looking woman, it turns out, wasn’t really an Apple Computer VP!
  • Stolen photo. The photo is of someone living, such a military-man or Miss World Philippines contestant, or of someone deceased (hey, that’s the late President of Zaire!)

Check out the rest of the general “picture”:

  1. Run the email address you find under the connection’s Contact Info through Google. Did it come up as a known email address associated ONLY with a scammer/spammer?
  2. Run the connection’s name through Google. What turned up?
  3. Run the name AND the email address through Google. Sometimes that is what turns up information that will make you glad you took this extra 5 minutes.

Hopefully this due diligence will prevent some unwanted connections. But sometimes there are bigger issues of LinkedIn® users abusing their connected status to stalk other users. Due to the upswing in complaints regarding this problem, on February 20, 2014, LinkedIn® implemented a member blocking feature.

Blocking a member allows you to completely remove your profile from that connection’s view, and theirs from yours. In addition, says LinkedIn®:

  • You won’t be able to message each other on LinkedIn.
  • If you’re connected, you won’t be connected anymore.
  • We’ll remove any endorsements and recommendations from that member
  • You won’t see each other in your “Who’s Viewed Your Profile”
  • We’ll stop suggesting you to each other in features such as “People You May Know” and “People also Viewed”

How to block a LinkedIn® member

To block someone, visit their profile and hover over the down arrow to the right of the message button and click “Block or report.”

You will then get a popup window with options to block this person or report them or both. If you choose to report them, you will need to provide a reason for doing so. Note that you do not need to disconnect from your contact first; blocking them automatically disconnects you.

Once you have blocked someone, their name will appear on your block list. You can view the list by visiting your Privacy & Settings under “Manage who you’re blocking.” From here you can also unblock members, should you choose to do so.

For more information on how the blocking feature works, including how to block from within a group environment, visit LinkedIn®’s Help Center article, “Member Blocking – Overview.”

Take additional privacy precautions

Of course, ideally we would never want to have to block anyone, so take Rabbi Karpov’s advice to heart! In addition, here are a few more things you can do to protect your privacy:

  1. Only accept connections from people you know. LinkedIn® is a great supporter of this philosophy; however, there is a trade-off between maintaining a small number of reputable connections and broadening your network (and thus increasing your leads) by connecting with people outside of your circle.
  2. Change your settings under Privacy & Settings so that only those who know your email address or are in your imported contacts list can send you invitations (Go to Privacy & Settings, Communications tab, and “Select who can send you invitations”).
  3. Go to Privacy & Settings, Profile tab, and click on “Select who can see your connections” where you will have an option to prevent others from seeing see your network. This will prevent your 1st degree connections from seeing exactly how many connections you have; otherwise they will be able to get past the “500+” and see both your exact number of connections and who those connections are.

None of these alternative actions is a perfect solution and you still may encounter unwanted attention on LinkedIn®. If you do, it is your prerogative to block the offending member. You may also want to report any harassment to the LinkedIn® Corporation; and if necessary, please seek legal counsel.

Have you experienced harassment on LinkedIn®? How did you handle it? What precautions will you take in the future? Please share below!