Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

Lessons I Learned from a Suicidal Arsonist


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 maniac threw in my direction.

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


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?


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!


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!

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


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.


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” ( 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!

Is It Time to Subscribe to LinkedIn® Premium?


You may have noticed some changes in the look and feel of many LinkedIn® profiles lately. Some members have a simple blue background, while others have a true profile background complete with images representing them or their company. Here’s what the blue background looks like:


And here’s a sample of a profile background using one of LinkedIn®’s templates (click on the picture for David’s blog):


And here’s one that the member created:


Is it just me or is LinkedIn® starting to look more and more like Facebook?

One difference is that currently, for anyone with a fancy profile background on LinkedIn®, the word “PREMIUM” appears to the far right of the member’s name. Click on PREMIUM and you will be brought to LinkedIn®’s Premium Services Page. Businesses can subscribe for $23.99/month, $47.99/month or $74.99/month with an annual subscription, while job seekers have options of $19.99/month, $29.99/month and $59.99/month. My unscientific observation is that more and more people are subscribing to LinkedIn® Premium.

As someone whose job it is to be up on the latest and greatest on LinkedIn®, I have been seriously considering whether I need to upgrade myself so that my profile looks as good as all those other Premium profiles. I checked out some other LinkedIn experts’ profiles, however, and discovered that they still have free memberships. So I wasn’t about to bite the monthly premium bullet quite yet.

Then, this week, I found out that non-paying members can still get at least some of the benefits of LinkedIn®’s new profile look. You will be happy to know that LinkedIn® has created a way for non-premium members to request early access to its new design features.

This opportunity is reminiscent of the one offered a few months ago to request early access to LinkedIn for Publishing Long-Form Posts. I applied for that and access was granted. I have now applied for access to the new design features and am hopeful I will have that soon.

Although I still believe a free account will get you most of the value you need, I feel it’s only fair to mention that there are still some advantages to LinkedIn® Premium. With LinkedIn® Premium, you will have keywords suggested to you. Also, when you appear in searches, your current and past positions are visible; this information does not appear for non-premium users. You also get an orange “in” symbol that draws attention to your profile. And you have a greater ability to view other people’s profiles, see who has viewed you, and write to whomever you want on LinkedIn®.

If these features are important to you, you might choose to subscribe to a paid package and see if you get value that equals or exceeds the investment. I’m holding out for now … and starting to think about what to put on my profile background when I get access to this new LinkedIn® toy!

College Summit: The Joys of Surprise and Making a Difference (and Even the Travails of a Norovirus)


2014-07-13 12.34.15-1I recently heard Anthony Robbins say that as long as you have your attention on other people, and as long as you are making a difference for others, there is no way you can possibly be depressed.

He is so right. This past week, despite contracting a norovirus that gave me serious gastrointestinal distress as well as flu-like symptoms, I was in as good a mood as I’ve been in in a long time. Why? I was making a difference for a group of low-income high school students at College Summit, a national program that supports young leaders to create a culture where kids go to college.

I’m like a proud mother when it comes to the small group of four “peer leaders” I worked with in Berkeley. Every one of them surprised me in their own way. Let me kvell just a little (names are changed for confidentiality)!


Keylon wrote his first two “free writing” exercises about topics like his relationships with girls and how he was going to find one that would make him be the man he wants to be. I feared he was bland and would not identify a relevant topic for his college admissions essay. On a break, however, he shared his real story—a story about abuse and how he turned to destructive behaviors and friends to compensate for his pain. It was also the story of how he changed direction, in part through a music program that saved his life.

Keylon’s story surprised me when it came forth, and so did how industrious and focused a student he was. When I gave him questions to answer in writing, he sat down and didn’t stop until he was done. And when it came time to edit his essay, he was able to devise seamless transitions where they had been missing, and to cut out excess words without my even pointing out the spots where he could do so. Keylon says he wants to be a singer, and perhaps he will succeed. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his stride as an editor!

Keylon was also a great sport when we got realistic with him about his college choices. His top choices were out of his reach, and he needed to consider community college options. He adjusted course without protest or external upset. We could all learn a thing or two from this young man about acceptance and adaptation.


Jaquon had a sweetness to him and a clear, passionate life purpose under his non-plussed attitude. On the first day, he slumped down in his chair, hood over head, clearly not 100% enthusiastic about being asked to write … anything. His first free write was not about much, and I had to remind him multiple times over the 10-minute time period to keep writing. Initially he would not volunteer to answer a question and would only participate if I called on him directly (though he always had something great to say when I did).

Jacquon’s second free write was the big surprise. A saxophone player, he hit on the theme of music, and I’m telling you, it was pure poetry. He called music a “20-20 all access path…” and spoke about his purpose in life being to connect with people off all cultures through his gift. This goal was not just a pipe dream; Jacquon has already performed both in concert halls and on the street in the U.S. and abroad.

Jacquon mentioned in his essay that he gets nervous when playing only because he is afraid people won’t connect with his music. When I asked him what it would be like for him if they didn’t connect with his music, his answer popped out: “It would be like I don’t exist.”

An excerpt: “[I] put my all into every breath, note and melodic phrase so that whoever hears that will feel my passion, my struggle, my story, and my dreams.”

That’s a man with a life purpose. A purpose, when not fulfilled, that makes him feel like he doesn’t exist. If only every one of us had one so clear.


Rodrigo was my volleyball captain. He was a meticulous, methodical worker who edited himself as he wrote.

The core story that emerged from Rodrigo’s free writes was about his father, who recently started working as a janitor in Rodrigo’s school. Although Rodrigo had weathered various insults as a volleyball captain for being short and young, he had a thick skin—until the insults started being aimed toward his father. Rodrigo wrote about how his father had taught him to stay positive and not judge others, and how ultimately he used what his father had taught him to rise above his anger toward his insulting classmates.

Another thing that came out of Rodrigo’s writing was that he liked to make up words and had a penchant for metaphor. In one of his last drafts, his creativity emerged in a surprise conclusion: “I’m like a volleyball. You may kick me, push me around, hit me, or abandon me, but in the end I’m still persevering and surviving the ugliest actions against me.”


Eager to participate and answer questions, Talisha was fast out of the gate but as the writing process went on, she somehow found a way to look like she was working when she really was spinning her wheels. I gave her what I thought were clear questions and instructions and she would nod and put her pen to paper, but 10 minutes later she would not have made progress.

In my mind, we finally reached a growth point when Talisha realized that growing up as the middle of two sisters and taking care of both of them gave her management skills that have helped her in her production design projects at school. I’m not sure I’ll ever see the essay she writes on this topic though, since she only saw this connection for herself literally at the last hour.

Really the biggest surprise from Talisha was what she told me at the end of the program: that I helped her learn things about herself that she might never have known—not just on the last day, but from the time we started doing free writing exercises. And all that time I thought she was refusing to let me make a difference for her.


As I mentioned, there was a norovirus that went around and knocked out almost every one of the writing coaches in the program for some period of time. I barely made it through my part of the Saturday night banquet presentations—but it was worth it to hear Rodrigo say in front of the entire program, “Your joyous, encouraging, and gentle nature brought us to fully understand how and what to write … [and] created a bond within our group that will never be forgotten.

I will definitely not forget the experience I had with these motivated leaders from the East Bay. And I will be back next year.

How to Publish Long-Form Posts on LinkedIn


On February 19, 2014, LinkedIn® began rolling out its new publishing method, long-form posts, to all members. According to LinkedIn®‘s Official Blog post, The Definitive Professional Publishing Platform:

“When a member publishes a [long-form] post on LinkedIn®, their original content becomes part of their professional profile, is shared with their trusted network and [can] reach the largest group of professionals ever assembled. Now members have the ability to follow other members that are not in their network and build their own group of followers.”

LinkedIn®‘s total publishing platform includes: 1) sharing updates via your Home page and 2) publishing long-form posts, or articles. Both are accessed from the same place on your Home Page. Perhaps the coolest thing about these long-form posts is that they are searchable outside of LinkedIn®. That means readers don’t even need to have a LinkedIn® account in order to view your work. Think of the reach you can have!

If you don’t yet have access to LinkedIn®‘s new long-form post publishing feature, you can request it by filling out this application for early access. According to the LinkedIn® Help Center, you will be notified by email once you are approved. I did not receive an approval notice; however, if you are active on LinkedIn® (as you should be!) you will quickly become aware of the new icon when it appears.

To create a long-form post once you are given Publishing rights, click the pencil icon in the Share an update field:


You will arrive at the Create a New Post page. To publish an article, simply add your content, along with images and pertinent links.


Be sure to proofread and preview your article before publishing! Once you click Publish, your post is shared. As with status updates, you will also have the option to tweet your long-form post. Here’s what people in your network will see in their inbox when you post an article:


Here is what your post will look like on the Home page of your connections:


Each time someone likes or comments on your post, it is brought to the top of the page again.

Your post will also appear in the Posts section of your profile, just beneath your photo. Visitors to your profile can click through to the post page where they can then follow you and comment on your article, even if they are not currently in your network. Social media statistics and share buttons above your post allow readers to spread your work beyond LinkedIn®!


Published and draft posts are listed in the right sidebar of your Create a New Post page. View and edit published and draft articles and measure their success by clicking on “See your posts and stats.”



When you have your Notifications summary turned on in Settings (Privacy & Settings > Communications > Set the frequency of emails), you will also receive status updates on your posts:


Remember that publishing industry-relevant long-form posts will establish you as a thought-leader in your field. You might also find your post featured in LinkedIn®‘s Pulse. For LinkedIn®‘s tips and best practices for publishing long-form posts, visit LinkedIn®‘s Help Center topic “Long-Form Posts on LinkedIn Overview.”

Have you utilized LinkedIn®‘s new long-form post feature? If so, what benefits have you enjoyed? And if not, what are you waiting for?

Top 7 Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making on LinkedIn®


It’s July 2014! For me, The Essay Expert, this month marks the 2nd full year that How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile has been trending as #1 in Amazon’s Business Writing Category. I continue to be very excited about being a best-selling author—and I’m looking forward to my DreamBank presentation on how I got here, coming up on Thursday July 17!14

Part of what’s contributed to the success of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile is that I keep updating it with new information and tips. In honor of the book’s anniversary as #1, I thought I’d let you in on some of the mistakes that even the most advanced LinkedIn® users might be making. These are not the ones you see in all the Top 10 lists out on the internet!

1) Giving up on connecting with the right people

What do you do when you do an Advanced search for people on LinkedIn®, get the perfect result, and then run into something like this?


With the above contact, I searched on the keyword “venture capital,” however, there was no connect button and no way to send him anything but InMail, and LinkedIn® wanted me to upgrade in order to see his profile. Thankfully, when this happens to you, you have two “top secret” options to view someone’s profile even if LinkedIn® tries to block you.

Option A:

This workaround will allow you to connect with anyone on LinkedIn® as long as you can view their headline.

First, copy the person’s first name, last initial and headline into a Google search box and the result that shows up in Google will include the full name:


Check it out! The LinkedIn® member’s full name shows up and you don’t have to upgrade! Clicked on the link and here’s what appears:

Notice the Connect button? By clicking on Connect, you can write a brief note to the member and start up a conversation with an invitation request. If the person accepts, you will be able to see his or her full profile – without purchasing a premium account.

Option B:

Another “top secret” trick for when all else fails is to share a person’s profile. Here’s how:

  • First, contact a friend or family member and tell them you will be sending them a message via LinkedIn®.
  • Then, select the People option from the search bar drop down menu:
  • You will likely not have access to the individual’s full name, so if you already know who you want to connect with, try typing their first name and job title into the search bar. Or if you just want to connect with several supply chain managers, type in “supply chain manager” and you will return a full list of people with the same identifying information.
  • Then scroll to find your desired connection, hover over the drop down arrow to the right of the “Send InMail” button, and select “Share”:5
  • Send your message, then check your sent messages and you’ll see there is a link to the profile you just shared.

  • Click on the link and you will be able to read the entire profile and contact the person! Yes it’s kind of like magic.

2) Leaving keywords out of your job titles

Pretty much everyone knows that keywords are a must in your LinkedIn® headline. But not everyone realizes the importance of keywords in your job titles. Don’t get limited in your job title fields by entering your actual job title and nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with a job title, but you have 100 characters to use in those fields. So use them! Any keywords you have identified for your headline will benefit you in the job title fields as well; you will get extra mileage by repeating your keywords as much as is appropriate.

Example #1

Before: Vice President Human Resources

After: Vice President Human Resources | Director of Human Resources | HR Generalist

Example #2

Before: Director of Engineering

After: Director of Engineering ½ Technology Development Manager ½Biomedical Engineer

Example #3

Before: Health & Wellness Educator

After: Health & Wellness Educator ? Corporate Wellness Program and Holistic Health Services

Take a look at your job titles. Are yours optimized for LinkedIn® SEO? If not, go add some keywords!

3) “Appending” your Specialties to your Summary when prompted

If you are a long-time LinkedIn® user, you might still have a separate Specialties section. You’ll know you have this section if you go to your Edit Summary page and it looks like this:

If you see the message in blue prompting you to “Append specialties to summary,” DON’T CLICK! If you do, you will lose out on 500 characters’ worth of keywords or have to cut down your Summary section to add them; and once you delete your Specialties section you won’t be able to add it back.

If you do not have a separate Specialties section, not to worry. You can still use your Summary section to include keywords for searchability in LinkedIn®’s Advanced Search function. You can create a “mock” specialties section within the Summary simply by typing the word “Specialties” and following it with a keyword list; or you can integrate your keywords into your Summary paragraphs.

4) Ignoring the Jobs features

LinkedIn® is pretty much THE place to find a job in today’s marketplace. If you are a company, you need to be advertising job openings there. If you are a job seeker, you need to be looking for jobs there DAILY.

The most obvious place way to post and seek jobs is through the Jobs tab.


Just by clicking on Jobs, you’ll be given a list of jobs that match the keywords in your profile. But you’ll probably prefer to use the Advanced Search function to find jobs in the geographic area(s) and with the job title(s) that interest you. Here’s a sample search result:

You can save your searches to make it easy to get the latest postings for the jobs you want. And you can apply right from the LinkedIn® site.

It costs $195 to post a job for 30 days on LinkedIn®, and if you use this feature you are likely to get matched with very desirable candidates. If you don’t have the budget to post a job officially, consider posting it in the Jobs Discussions within LinkedIn® groups. You won’t get the same exposure as you would if you posted to Jobs, but some savvy job seekers do look in the Jobs Discussions for openings. Be sure to post any Jobs Discussions in groups where your target market will be members.

5) Not leveraging the Find Alumni feature

We humans get downright silly when it comes to Alumni connections. Perhaps the only thing we are more loyal to than our college is our sports teams. We just trust and love anyone who went to our own college way more than we do anyone else. Therefore, if you are not using the Find Alumni tool on LinkedIn®, you are missing out on getting some seriously preferential treatment. The feature is located under the Network tab.

Use it to find alumni from your own college or high school, or even from other schools. Then send some messages to these folks. They will want to help you!

For more on how to leverage this great tool, see The Best Way to Network with Alumni on LinkedIn on the LinkedIn® Official Blog.

6) Using symbols and formatting that doesn’t translate

The symbols and formatting accepted by LinkedIn® change every day. Pay attention! When you copy any text into your LinkedIn® profile, check to see if it looks the way you want it to look before making it public!

Hint: If you see a formatting trick or symbol you like in someone else’s profile, you can easily and reliably copy and paste it into yours.

7) Keeping it on line

Too many people think that having a LinkedIn® profile and having online conversations is sufficient to build a network and get results. It’s not. The people I’ve given and gotten the most value through LinkedIn® are the people I’ve spoken with on the phone or met in person.

Next time you make a new connection on LinkedIn®, how about picking up the phone and talking to them? Or, if you’re traveling to any city, see who in your network you can meet for coffee. I have met LinkedIn® connections when traveling to Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and more. These connections that have led to opportunities to make presentations and build my business in various ways.

People like to meet people. Don’t forget that there is a human being behind every LinkedIn® profile … and chances are every one of them has a telephone and goes out for coffee dates. Go meet them!

If you learned something from this article – or have another tip you want to share – please comment below!