Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

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!

When College Has a Negative ROI – Guest Post by David I. Block, EA



My accountant from NYC, David Block, sent this out to his list and I thought it brought up some important issues to consider for anyone considering going to (or sending a child to) an expensive yet low-ranked college. For some, at least on pure economic/financial grounds, it might make sense to go straight from high school into the working world.

Here’s what David has to report:

With graduation season pretty much behind us, there are a slew of high school graduates who are enjoying their last golden summer, before … well, before that time that many consider to be another golden four years.

[I fondly remember those halcyon days before the real world hits! Even in college, I remember thinking: Wow, am I ever BUSY! All of these social events to juggle!!! But alas, “real life” isn’t quite so bubble-wrapped.]

But over the last couple decades, there has been a rising chorus of critics who point to skyrocketing tuitions, and the corresponding skyrocketing debt-loads, and are just wondering: is it ACTUALLY worth it?

Well, for some schools, the answer is a resounding: NO.

TaxMaster Financial’s “Real World” Personal Strategy Note
When College Has a Negative ROI

“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.” – Howard Cosell

As many have claimed (such as the US Census Bureau ), a typical college degree is worth up to a million bucks over a career — but that’s not true for every degree.

What’s becoming more and more apparent is that prospective college students need to do their homework beforehand, because some degrees simply aren’t worth the investment.

Of the 1312 colleges evaluated in the 2014 PayScale College ROI Report (found here: ), graduates from 58 institutions are estimated to be worse off after 20 years compared with those who skipped college and went straight to work. These 58 lackluster institutions make up 4.42% of all the colleges surveyed. The lowest grade goes to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where PayScale estimates that grads will be $121,000 worse off after 20 years for earning a degree.

To calculate this estimate, PayScale uses an opportunity cost measure they call return on investment (ROI). After factoring all the net college costs, the report compares 20 years of estimated income of a college graduate versus 24 years of income from a high school graduate who started working immediately and didn’t have to pay college expenses (or take loans).

Future college students (and their parents) must realize that not all colleges are equal.

The graduates from the lowest ranking schools report earning less income after graduation. The PayScale website is helpful because it allows you to see reported earnings of graduates from over a thousand colleges. I also assume that low-performing schools in this report tend to offer less financial assistance, which leaves their graduates with larger debt burdens.

However, the most highly endowed colleges can reduce their cost of attendance with grants and scholarships. For example, Stanford is one of the most expensive schools based on sticker price, but its financial assistance is typically generous. So the net cost is very competitive, and their ranking is number 4 based on the PayScale study.

The list, unfortunately, is not all inclusive. For example, my alma mater does not seem to be in the list at all. And, of course, there is a question about whether or not college is to be best utilized to create well-rounded, intelligent students, well-versed in liberal arts, or if college is now simply to be considered as vocational school. Nonetheless, the list has some value, as there are differences between schools and majors.Debt burdens are relative. A doctor’s salary can more quickly pay off a high-price education loan than can a teacher’s. A good rule of thumb is to avoid incurring college debts that will be more than half of your expected annual income. Limiting loans to no more than 50% of a future salary allows graduates to pay off their debts after five years, using 10% of their future salary.Some students begin to realize their faulty economics only after they have enrolled. Not surprisingly, those schools with the lowest ROI also have the highest dropout rates in the country. For example, we have Adam’s State, which has a 21% graduation rate and a 20-year net ROI of minus $20,143.

What should be clear from this data is the world of difference between the outcomes of graduates of highly-rated schools, and of those near the bottom of the barrel. Attending a college with a poor ROI is not necessarily a mistake, but the financial aid package had better be sweet. So, treat your college decision like any investment: you also need to do your homework before you commit your time and money to an unknown outcome.

I hope I am helping the college choice discussion for you, rather than hindering!

David  I. Block, EA
For Arnold, Tina and Dianne
TaxMaster Financial Service Corporation
(212) 247-9090

What do you think of David’s analysis of College ROI? Does it change your view of how you will approach the college choice process? Please share below.

What You Can Learn About Life, Communication and Death from Reality TV


conversationI have a confession to make: I am a communication junkie. And it gets worse: I have been following the reality show The Bachelorette (with bachelorette Andi Dorfman), entranced by the ins and outs of communication between the show’s participants. I admit that I am susceptible to getting swept up in the drama of these shows, especially when something happens that strikes a chord in my own life. “Reality” TV, after all, is about real people. Real things happen on the show, as well as to people after they leave. Real communication happens constantly.

This season, about a month after Andi sent one of the men, adventurer Eric Hill, home, he was killed in a paragliding accident. Their last conversation, the one that drove him off the set permanently, was not exactly a positive one. I was frankly shocked by how it went. The following is excerpted from their conversation:

Eric: I feel like you’re not being “the” Andi with me. I’ve seen little glimpses of you. Like the real you… And that’s the Andi I like. When we were building the kite. When we were building the sand castle. When you were just gripping leather when we took off in the helicopter. I came on this to meet a person, not a TV actress.

Andi: You think I’m a TV actress?

Eric: I see two different sides of Andi.

Andi: What do you think you see every day though?

Eric: Poker face.

Andi: Really?

Eric: And I understand. You do need to be fair and diplomatic around the other guys. But this is our one-on-one time. This is where you can show me…

Andi: You’re sitting here looking me in the eye and telling me I have a poker face on.

Eric: Not now.

Andi: But before?

Eric: Yes. When we would talk, I was having such a hard time reading you.

Andi: I’ve asked everybody to be open and this is what this is about and you have every right to be open and I respect you being open, I really do, even though it hurts. But I’m very taken aback by that.

Eric: This is the real Andi I’m talking about… Do you feel like you’ve been comfortable and natural all the time?

Andi: … Not a chance. But do I work my ass off and stay up late so that everyone knows that I’m here for them? Yeah I do. You have no idea what it takes. You have no idea how exhausted I am. You have no clue how it is to look people in the face and send them home. You have no idea. So for you to sit here and tell me I have a poker face is so offensive to me…

Eric: Andi, I’ve seen you smile, and I know that when the cameras aren’t here, there’s been a different side of Andi.

Andi: You’re continuously calling me fake though… Do I not realize that there are cameras everywhere? Do I not realize there are guys there? YES I do. But you’re seriously still insulting me. What if I sat here and was insulting you?

Can I just be honest? This is so far past healthy, this is so far past what needs to be happening. I want you to have come here and have had a good experience… I…

Eric: You’re so upset with me… I’m sorry. I just, I want you to be totally comfortable with me.

Andi: I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to just be okay with that. But I think at this point you and I both know this is not gonna work… I cannot fight for somebody who doesn’t believe in me and I don’t think you do.

Eric: If you don’t think I believe in you it won’t ever work.

Andi: I don’t think you do.

Am I missing something here? Eric gave Andi some genuine feedback on how much he liked her when she was able to relax and be herself. He tried to tell her he wanted more of that. He tried to tell her, while she was expressing her anger and pain, that he was now seeing the true Andi, the one he wanted to see. Yet all she could hear were the negatives and “insults” that, in my opinion, were not even there. She latched on to “poker face” and “actress” and refused to let go.

If I had been Andi, I would have been more, not less, interested in Eric after this conversation. I want a relationship partner who challenges me to show my true self, whether playful or hurt or angry. And I wonder, if Andi had known that Eric would die shortly after their conversation, if perhaps she would have responded with a bit more receptivity. Perhaps she would have appreciated Eric for his honesty. Perhaps she would have taken his coaching. Perhaps she could have seen, instead of a man who was insulting her, a man who was 100% on her side and wanting to be with her most open and genuine self.

Instead, they left it like this:

Eric: I do think you’re reading the way I feel a little bit heavy. And I’m gonna be thinking about how it all ended.

Andi: Me too, me too.

Now the entire reality-TV-watching world is thinking about how it ended. I hope others, like me, are reflecting on what’s important in communication and in life.