By Lily Whiteman
September 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized
As they say, information is power. So here are some information sources to help you increase your power to network, obtain advice, generate potentially pivotal contacts, get into the limelight and make strategic career moves.
Leadership directories. Need intel on a particular fed? Gathering background information on hiring managers before interviews or on new bosses will probably help you to anticipate their emphases and to prepare effective pitches for them. Such background information may also reveal to you shared common ground that will help you establish positive rapport with them.
One way to obtain such information is to download, for a fee, profiles of federal leaders, managers and staffers at www. leadershipdirectories.com. (Also, remember to look for intel on particular feds via Google searches, LinkedIn and Facebook.)
Also available at leadership directories.com are the Congressional Yellow Book and Federal Yellow Book. These directories provide the titles and contact information — including current email addresses — of leaders, managers and staffers at each federal agency and congressional office. This information may be helpful if you want to identify feds you should target for informational interviews, requests for advice, speaking invitations or invitations to join interagency workgroups.
You may be able to access these directories for free through your agency’s public affairs office or through academic libraries.
GovLoop.org. This ever-growing social networking site for government professionals offers various free services, including opportunities to advertise or find job openings, announce events, ask questions to the government community, lead or participate in online trainings and discussions about best practices in particular fields or about general career, management or leadership issues.
GovLoop features a “Rock Your Resume” service that offers free feedback on resumes from professional career experts. “Govloop’s Mentors” program provides training on nurturing mentoring relationships, and matches some users with mentors. Hint: The more you interact with other feds, the better your chances will be of developing key relationships and finding unadvertised openings.
Resources provided by federal career coach Derrick Dortch. These resources include Dortch’s radio show, Fed Access, which airs at noon Friday at 1500 AM in Washington, D.C., and is archived at www.federalnewsradio.com. The show covers a wide range of career topics including successful career maneuvers, security clearances, high-demand jobs, the work of particular agencies, federal hiring trends, special hiring programs, best practices in various federal sectors, and career options in fields of special interest, such as intelligence and espionage.
Dortch also writes on federal careers for The Washington Post. Find these articles by typing his name into the search window at www.washingtonpost.com.
Unions. Some unions email their members the latest news on the ongoing budget battles and the status of legislation addressing federal salaries and benefits.
Websites on agency performance. The Partnership for Public Service provides annual ratings and analyses of employee satisfaction at hundreds of federal organizations at www.bestplaces towork.org. A federal site, www.performance.gov, posts articles and data on agency efforts to improve federal practices in acquisition, financial management, human resources, technology, performance improvement, open government, sustainability and customer service.
These sites may help you identify best practices in your field. And when you are job hunting, these sites may help you identify the achievements of your target agencies — information that you may want to incorporate into your cover letters and job interviews to demonstrate your knowledge of your target agencies.
Tags: career matters
August 22nd, 2011 | Uncategorized
Sooner or later, just about every office is touched by a death in the family of a staff member. My Aug. 8 column provided tips on how to handle this type of sad situation. Here are more tips:
• Express sympathy only if you are certain a colleague has already been informed of his loss. You could, for example, learn of your colleague’s loss before he does if you receive the news via a potentially fast information channel, such as Facebook, rather than a slower and more formal information channel that is carrying the news to him. Deaths that occur overseas and therefore involve varying time zones, geographical distance and potential chain-of-command mix-ups may be particularly prone to such communication problems.
• If one of your colleagues or subordinates becomes overwrought after being informed of a major loss and you know that he is about to go home to an empty house, consider accompanying him, recruiting someone else to do so, or encouraging the bereaved person to arrange for a friend or relative to be with him.
• If you supervise someone who experiences a major loss, encourage him to take care of himself and, if he takes time off from work, tell him not to worry about work while he is gone. Then, when the bereaved person returns to work, go easy on him by putting him on the functional equivalent of “light duty” — don’t nag him about deadlines, guilt-trip him about what he missed during his absence or immediately heap work on him. If you are a friend or close colleague, offer to take some responsibilities off his hands, if possible and appropriate.
• When a newly bereaved person returns to the office after taking time off, don’t treat him like a pariah or show a “deer in the headlights” expression the first time you encounter him. Instead, acknowledge your colleague’s return with sensitivity. If you haven’t expressed sympathy, remember that it is never too late to do so.
If you have expressed sympathy, gently acknowledge your colleague’s return with a hug, if appropriate, and a comment, such as “I am glad you were able to return.” And never greet a returning bereaved person with an excited “welcome back!” as if he had just returned from Disneyland.
• If you have a collegial relationship with a bereaved person who has just returned to the office, offer to take him out to lunch yourself or with a few other colleagues. But when you invite him, assure him that if he is not yet ready for such interaction, he can take a rain check when he is feeling better.
• Don’t discuss with a bereaved person aspects of your life that would emphasize to him the magnitude of his loss. For example, if your colleague lost a child, don’t brandish photographs or screen savers of your children. Also, don’t bring up your children in conversations, including updates on how well or how poorly they are doing, how excited you are about their impending homecoming or what nice thing they recently did or didn’t do for you. How long should you avoid such topics? Maybe forever.
• If appropriate, organize your colleagues to provide practical support to your bereaved colleague. For example, I know a government employee who unexpectedly lost her teenage son in a freak traffic accident. Understandably, the bereaved mother and her family were somewhat emotionally incapacitated for some time after their loss. So the bereaved mother’s workmates — a close-knit group — alternated bringing dinner to the bereaved family for the month following their loss. Alternatively, arrange for food to be delivered or purchase a gift card for take-out from an appealing eatery for the bereaved family.
• Remember that loss is permanent. This means that when your bereaved colleague returns to work and for long after, he may look and act fine without really being fine inside. What’s more, after his initial grieving ends, he probably won’t receive much further attention or sympathy.
So as time passes, try to gauge how your bereaved colleague is doing and whether he seems to want to talk about his loss. If you sense he wants to talk, continue to ask how he and his family are doing.
August 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized
What should you do when one of your colleagues has a death in their family? My personal experiences following my own losses and the experiences of bereaved feds with whom I have worked have taught me much about how to respond sensitively and helpfully to a colleague’s loss.
The first thing to remember is that the period following a loss is usually a pivotal time for a bereaved person; your response to a colleague’s loss during this period may leave a deep, indelible impression on him. One fed put it this way: “A death in the family rearranges your Rolodex. It shows you who your friends are and aren’t.”
Therefore, if you care about your relationship with a bereaved colleague, you would be wise to support them.
Some ways to do so:
- If your colleague must leave the office after being notified at work of a loss, help him get out quickly. Help him pack up work materials to bring with him, notify other colleagues of meetings or deadlines that he will miss or pinch-hit for him in ongoing projects.
If your colleague must suddenly leave town to attend a funeral, help make his travel arrangements. Learn about bereavement airfares.
Also, if your colleague is overwrought by his loss, don’t let him drive himself anywhere from the office. Instead, drive him to his local destination or arrange for a taxi to do so.
Alternatively, if your colleague opts to keep working after being notified of a loss, you may gently remind him of his right to take leave for the death of a family member. But if your colleague decides to keep working anyway, don’t pressure him to do otherwise, and respect his decision to stay — even if you would do differently in his shoes.
- Find the obituary of your colleague’s relative in the newspaper or on the Internet. If the obituary identifies a preferred charity for donations, organize — or delegate another colleague to organize — an officewide donation to the preferred charity, or arrange to send him flowers.
If you have your own established friendship with your colleague, consider going beyond the officewide gesture. For example, you may give your own charity donation, send him your own card or other appropriate gift, such as a relevant book of poetry, or bring food to your colleague’s home.
Remember, speed counts in crises. Whatever gesture you or your office decide to extend to your colleague, extend it quickly. I know, for example, a fed who was notified at work of the shocking, unexpected death of a young member of her family. After seeing her upset, one of her colleagues immediately bought a sympathy card at a nearby store and put it in her mailbox even before she had enough time to pack up and leave the office. She says, “I will never forget my colleague’s kindness.”
- Consider expressing your sympathy to your colleague in person soon after you learn about his loss. People often shy away from such face-to-face conversations for fear that they will be awkward or upset the bereaved person. But the suffering of a bereaved person should always trump other people’s desire to ignore it because of their own comparatively slim discomfort. And remember: Failing to acknowledge another person’s deep loss is the emotional equivalent of stepping over the bloodied body of a fallen colleague without helping him in some way.
What’s more, it is unlikely that a thoughtful expression of sympathy will ever “remind” a bereaved person of their loss because, in most cases, a deeply bereaved person is preoccupied with their loss even without anyone acknowledging it to them. And in the unlikely event that your colleague breaks down after you express sympathy, your colleague will probably still appreciate your thoughtfulness.
If you really don’t want to express sympathy to your bereaved colleague in person, be sure to send him a sympathy card.
July 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized
So you landed a job interview. Congratulations! You probably beat out dozens, or hundreds, of competitors to rank among the best and the brightest. So go ahead and savor your victory, crank up the soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire” and run some victory laps around your cube.
Then, start preparing for your interview. The paradox of practice: The more you prepare and practice for job interviews, the more spontaneous and intelligent you will probably sound.
Anticipate likely questions. Ask trusted advisers to help you do so, and Google “common interview questions.” Also, consider what the likely challenges of the job are, and be prepared to explain why you would be prepared to conquer them.
Craft employer-centric answers to anticipated questions. Your answers should explain what you offer your target employer — not what you want from your target job.
Role-play your interview with as many of your trusted advisers as possible. Each of them will probably give you helpful feedback.
No matter how senior your current position, your list of likely questions should include the common “tell me about yourself” open-ender.
Some tips on acing it:
Don’t waste time on irrelevant aspects of your background, such as where you were born or what your hobbies are. Instead, devote the time to proving that you are qualified for the job and would fit in at your target office. Job interviews are short, so you must milk every minute.
Be concise. Summarize in two minutes or less your most relevant academic and professional credentials.
And remember: Your interviewer might not have read your résumé, and even if he did, he probably will have forgotten it by the time he interviews you. So don’t exclude relevant credentials from your summary merely because they are covered on your résumé.
Start your answer with an attention-grabbing statement. Use one that summarizes who you are and what you offer.
Convey your credentials in reverse chronological order. Your interviewer is probably most interested in your recent achievements. What’s more, your interviewer may interrupt you before you finish your answer, so the sooner you review your most recent credentials, the better.
Convey zest. Mention why the job would be important to you.
End interviews with a parting salvo. State what you have learned about the organization, affirming your enthusiasm and stating that you would accept the job if it is offered. Many hiring managers say that they won’t hire an applicant unless he specifically affirms his interest in the opening.
At the end of the interview, ask your interviewer when he expects to make a decision on the opening. If he doesn’t follow up accordingly, call back about a week after his anticipated deadline and reaffirm your interest in the job. If your interviewer doesn’t answer your call, don’t leave a message — because if you do, you will only continue twisting in the wind, waiting for his return call. Alternatively, just keep calling your interviewer until you reach him.
June 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized
President Obama’s directive to improve federal hiring processes instructs managers to increase their input into the selection of new hires. One way for managers to do so is by improving their ability to interview job applicants. Some tips:
Prepare. In order to design relevant questions that will reveal a job applicant’s strengths, you must understand your job opening, the applicant’s credentials and your selection criteria.
So don’t recycle old, outdated job descriptions for your opening. Instead, take a fresh look at the opening by analyzing the tasks it will require, the credentials needed to fulfill those tasks, how you want the job to be done differently than in the past, and the types of personalities that would jibe with the rest of your team.
Review the interviewee’s application shortly beforehand. I know from personal experience how important this is: During my career, I have been interviewed by many managers who hadn’t read my resume, didn’t remember anything about it or couldn’t find it before our interview. Not helpful.
Also, before the interview, ask the applicant to bring any documents that might help you evaluate him, such as writing samples, relevant Web pages, or relevant maps — as just a few potential examples.
Make interviewees feel comfortable. It is usually more important to evaluate how well an interviewee operates in teams rather than how well he responds to bullying ambushes. You will probably generate more revealing answers from your interviewee by fostering an easygoing atmosphere, rather than by unnerving and intimidating him with “gotcha” questions.
You can increase your interviewee’s comfort level by being friendly and warm, maintaining eye contact, smiling and using humor when appropriate. Also, conduct the interview at a round table rather than across a desk.
Ignore your email, phone and BlackBerry to give the interview your full attention. Don’t fire off questions like a cannon, but instead shape your interview as a give-and-take conversation. Compliment your interviewee on his credentials, tell him why he made it to the interview stage, or give positive feedback to his answers.
Don’t talk too much — a common mistake; many interviewers blather on about their own backgrounds instead of focusing on the potential match between the opening and the interviewee.
Sell the opening. Just as the interviewee will try to sell himself, you should try to sell the opening. Describe the opening’s demands, and identify the advantages of the opening and your organization.
But be honest. Explain if the job will require travel, dealing with difficult personalities, or enduring some type of office transition.
Prepare your interviewee for follow-up interviews. If your interviewee will be invited back for follow-up interviews, tell him who will interview him and what topics will be covered. You will thereby generate grist for evaluating how well your interviewee researches those topics, synthesizes information from other professionals and resources into compelling arguments, prepares a presentation and delivers it.
This is important because — unless you will be hiring a trial attorney or surgeon — those skills will probably be more useful to your new hire than the ability to drum up, un-researched, poorly considered responses under pressure without opportunities to consult other people or resources, as tested by most interview questions.
End the interview informatively. Tell the interviewee about next steps and when he will hear from you again — and then follow through.
June 13th, 2011 | Uncategorized
If you have a mentor, remember that the only payback he receives for helping you is your gratitude and the knowledge that his advice has helped you in some way.
To put it in street language: Nobody owes you nothing. You should effusively thank your mentors whenever they extend themselves for you.
But even though your mentor deserves credit and gratitude for any of your successes that he helped catalyze, he does not deserve blame if any leads or advice he provides fail to pan out.
It is your decision whether and how to follow up on your mentor’s suggestions, so you must take responsibility for how your follow-up turns out — for better or for worse.
What’s more, there are many reasons beyond your mentor’s control that may cause his advice or leads to fail. For example, perhaps his advice was executed improperly; perhaps key contacts are unavailable to help you or fail to produce anticipated assistance; or perhaps time has overtaken the advice.
Whether or not your mentor’s advice works out, he devoted time and thought to provide it to you — efforts that deserve thanks, no matter what their outcome.
So don’t make mistakes commonly made by mentees: to make preliminary comments like, “If X happens from all of this, I’m going to take you out to dinner,” or to only thank mentors when their assistance is fruitful. Rather, if your mentor’s efforts are worthy of a thank-you dinner, he is worthy of that dinner even if his efforts, for whatever reason, fail to meet expectations.
And by all means, if you promise to take your mentor out for thank-you drinks, dinner or anything else, be sure to do it. Otherwise, your mentor will remember, and not appreciate, your broken promise.
Some ways to thank your mentor:
• Report back how his advice helped you. If the advice did not work out, tell your mentor what you learned from the experience.
• Occasionally augment your verbal thanks with creative, intellectual thanks. For example, pass on a relevant article, book or documentary to him.
• Invite your mentor to any celebrations that mark your accomplishments, and publicly give your mentor credit for his help.
• Help your mentor, when appropriate. For example, if you mentor happens to mention, or you notice, an obstacle that you could help him conquer, volunteer to do so.
For example, if your mentor needs help using new media or social networking sites or is not maximizing their effectiveness, offer to help.
• Turn your mentor’s help into a gift that keeps on giving by mentoring another professional who would benefit from your advice. Tell your mentor about the mentoring altruism he helped inspire in you, and how you are passing on his knowledge to other worthy professionals.
• Send a well-thought-out thank-you card. Written thank-yous are more memorable than spoken ones. Also consider giving him a small gift of appreciation, if appropriate. Caution: If you and your mentor are both feds, ask your agency’s ethics officer about constraints on gift-giving.
• Remember that it is never too late to thank a mentor. Even if a teacher, professor, supervisor, colleague, manager or someone else provided you with important guidance years ago — perhaps it was guidance or inspiration that served you well during a pivotal time or throughout your career — contact him now.
There is no expiration date on thank-yous. Even if your mentor doesn’t remember you, or your thank-you is belated, your expression of appreciation will give your mentor a well-deserved thrill.
May 23rd, 2011 | Uncategorized
About one year ago, President Obama ordered improvements to federal recruitment and hiring processes. So how much progress have agencies made?
First, some good news:
• Many agencies have eliminated those odious KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) essay questions from job applications.
• Agencies now hire 42 percent of new employees within the 80-day time limit imposed by Obama.
• Many agencies are posting shorter and clearer job applications.
• A program for increasing the hiring of veterans was created.
Now, some bad news: Much room for improvement remains, say many current job-seekers.
Obama’s May 11, 2010, memo directed hiring managers to become more involved in hiring processes. It would benefit hiring managers, other senior managers and the Office of Personnel Management to address these deficiencies.
What’s more, a bad hire may ultimately cost the hiring agency hundreds of thousands of dollars — in addition to intangibles, like resulting damage to office morale. The better screening processes are, the more likely they are to produce successful hires.
A sample of remaining problems in hiring practices:
Pre-selection. This practice perpetuates the perception that it is useless to apply for federal jobs because hiring decisions are rigged.
Pre-selection could be addressed by:
• Building more promotion potential into jobs. This improvement would enable a manager to promote a worthy employee above his current promotion potential without falsely advertising his current job — as is commonly done solely to satisfy advertising requirements.
• Requiring hiring decisions to be reviewed by independent panels that have no stake in the outcomes of such decisions.
* Requiring OPM to review openings that are pulled before they are filled and then re-advertised, or that specify unnecessary requirements that could only be fulfilled by one or two people.
Inaccurate job descriptions: Many vacancy announcements contain job descriptions that don’t match job responsibilities. Hiring managers should be required to take the time to realistically define the requirements for openings instead of recycling used job descriptions.
Technical glitches: These include the corruption or disappearance of attachments required of applicants after these documents are electronically sent to hiring agencies.
A current job-seeker described to me another common glitch: “After spending three days meticulously rewriting my résumé for USAJobs and then submitting it for an opening, USAJobs threw hot grease in my face. No matter what I did, the system still did not show that I had submitted my résumé — even though I correctly attempted to submit it almost 200 times.”
What’s more, many applications contain contradictory directions about required attachments. For example, a single application may state, in one place, that applicants must submit documents, such as college transcripts, and then elsewhere state that no attachments are required.
Electronic moats that block access to substantive application questions: In many cases, simply to view application questions about credentials demanded by an opening — so that applicants can determine whether it is worthwhile for them to apply for the opening — applicants must answer pages and pages of irrelevant questions, such as their contact information, veterans preference and employment histories.
This could be addressed by requiring hiring managers to fill out applications themselves to eliminate unnecessary obstacles that may discourage qualified professionals from applying.
Unreasonable character limits: Many vacancy announcements require applicants to address dozens of qualifications. But they impose character limits on résumés that are too restrictive to possibly accommodate descriptions of all required credentials.
Faulty contact information: Many announcements exclude reference to a contact person who can answer questions, provide contact information for unreachable people, or provide information phone numbers that are connected to anonymous voice mail systems that are never answered by people and never lead to return calls.
May 9th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Even though federal pay scales will remain frozen at least through the end of next year, you may still climb the federal career ladder or gain the qualifications to do so.
Some strategies for moving up:
• Despite the pay-scale freeze, you are still eligible for step increases that are typically awarded to successful feds every one, two or three years, depending on their current step.
• If you are in good standing, ask your boss for a merit-based quality step increase. If he denies your request, ask him what you would have to do to earn such a promotion. Then try to fulfill those requirements, and ask again. Click here to learn more about within-grade increases.
• If you have been in your current job for at least one year, and your current job has promotion potential, request a grade increase. Alternatively, apply for jobs that would give you a grade increase.
Contrary to popular belief, if you receive a grade increase, you won’t automatically be promoted to Step 1 of the grade immediately above your current grade. Instead, your promotion would probably follow the two-step rule (click here for details).
To find your salary according to the two-step rule, go to the salary tables here.
Go to the step that covers your current job; find your current step and grade on that table; and then find the step that is two steps above your current step at your current grade. Next, at the grade that is immediately above your current grade, find the salary that is equal to, or immediately above, your two-step salary — and that step will be your promotion destination.
So if, for example, you are currently a Grade 13, Step 6, in Washington, you earn $103,872. The salary two steps higher at Grade 13, Step 8, is $109,807. A grade increase would take you to a Grade 14, Step 3, which is $112,224.
• One of the best-kept secrets in government is that agencies in the excepted service tend to pay more than agencies in the competitive service. I know feds who landed pay increases of tens of thousands of dollars without even negotiating, merely by moving from the competitive to the excepted service. For a list of excepted-service agencies, click here.
• If a position is created for you, ask your hiring manager to build promotion potential into it.
• Work to get into the Senior Executive Service. Remember that some SES positions are open to GS-14s in addition to GS-15s. In addition, the Senior Executive Association accepts GS-14s in addition to GS-15s for membership.
Review the criteria for SES membership by clicking here, and discuss those criteria and your background with current senior executives. Then, design a plan for closing your gaps. Also, consider training that helps feds qualify for the SES at the Federal Executive Institute, the Graduate School, Harvard’s Kennedy School, some federal agencies and the Office of Personnel Management.
If you already qualify for the SES, consider applying for SES jobs now. Remember that agencies that have certified SES performance appraisal systems pay higher SES salaries than agencies without such systems.
• If your current job does not offer the kind of experience you need to advance, consider seeking a detail or lateral position that would offer such experience, even if it wouldn’t offer a promotion. In many cases, you may be moved into any equivalent position within your current or another agency without competition. That is, a hiring manager may hire you without considering any other applicants.
• Explore training options by clicking here. Also, your agency’s training budget may cover the tuition of university courses leading to a degree.
April 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Whether or not your boss requests from you a list of your achievements before he prepares your annual evaluation, you should submit one. Without your list, your boss will probably be more likely to accurately and completely remember what he achieved in sixth grade than what you achieved six months ago.
How to convey your achievements in impressive terms:
- Begin with a concise description of your achievements; how your responsibilities increased; how you went the extra mile; obstacles you conquered, and any other overarching themes for the year.
- Use bullets, and start each bullet with an action verb — such as completed, led, organized, created from scratch, advised and coordinated. To find more action verbs to include in your bullets, do a search on the Internet for “action verbs for resumes.”
- Craft your bullet points as results-oriented statements that convey how your achievements benefited or added value for your office. For example, did you help your organization do more with less, speed or improve processes, reach new audiences, eliminate bottlenecks, publish documents or improve your organization’s image?
- Quantify. Support descriptions of your activities and results with statistics, measurements, counts and other metrics. By doing so, you will convey the heft of your achievements and present them as indisputable. To identify appropriate metrics, review metrics included in your organization’s strategic plan, and consider metrics related to time, money, geography and the number of people, organizations or events that benefited from your work. For example, cite the number of work products you produced per week or month; the tight or ever-changing deadlines you met; the time-savings you produced; the number of hits received by a website you produced; the increase in web traffic you helped generate; the number of people affected by a program you managed; the number of people you trained; the number of cases you managed; the number of stakeholder groups you coordinated; the number of media appearances you organized; the size of the cost-savings you produced or waste you eliminated; the budget increase that you helped generate; or the size of your jurisdiction. If you can’t quantify specific numbers, approximate.
- Name-drop. Cite the names and titles of political appointees, stakeholder groups, senior staffers and members of Congress who reviewed, approved or used your work products, attended events you organized, belonged to your target audience or benefited from your work.
- Validate your success. When possible, crown your achievements with objective evidence of your success, such as verbal, written or emailed thank-you notes or praise you received from managers, clients, contractors or stakeholder groups; individual or team awards that you earned; awards or records that you helped your organization earn; special requests for your services issued by managers; favorable press, newsletter or Internet coverage garnered by your projects; positive survey, investigative or audit results that you helped your organization produce; or your record of completing projects on time or on deadline. Don’t assume that your boss remembers praise he heaped on you. Include oral, written or emailed compliments from your boss as well as any time-off awards, cash awards or promotions you received with accompanying written praise.
- Cite classes and your associated high grades, as well as training and conferences you attended, and explain how your participation helped increase your productivity. What if your boss ignores your list or omits your achievements from your written review? Ask him to attach your list to your written review so that it will become part of your formal record. That way, if the application for your next target job requires you to submit your most recent annual evaluation, as is common, you will receive credit during the application process for the contents of your achievements list.
Tags: career matters
March 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized
The time to build your professional network is before you need it. Once you need help, it may be too late to find allies who are ready, willing and able to provide it.
Among the tools that can help you grow your network is LinkedIn. com — a free, searchable database of professionals in virtually every field.
Use LinkedIn to connect with current and former contacts, the contacts of your contacts and so on — just as you may use in-person opportunities to generate such connections. Also, use LinkedIn to initiate contact with strangers with whom you share common ground; find such allies by searching the LinkedIn database by name, keyword, employer or industry.
Once you register on LinkedIn, you can create a profile that includes varied features, such as your professional summary, a list of your educational and professional credentials, your photograph, as well as links to other LinkedIn members, relevant professional organizations, and websites that cover your work. You can also arrange for your LinkedIn profile to showcase written recommendations from your professional associates and a downloadable version of your résumé.
You can link your profile to those of other LinkedIn members who, at your request, give you permission to do so.
Alternatively, at your request, your own contacts or the contacts of your contacts may introduce you to members of their LinkedIn circles.
With these features, LinkedIn can help you:
• Arrange for hiring managers and other professional contacts to instantly access your résumé and professional recommendations online without you even having to e-mail these documents. To promote such access, change the online address of your LinkedIn profile to your own name, and then link to it from your private e-mail signature and your other private online communications.
• Find potential mentors who have held certain positions, gained experience in particular fields, conquered the same types of obstacles you are confronting or done anything else that may qualify them to advise you on your career choices or answer questions about issues in your field.
• Identify potential speakers for conferences, and identify experts to recruit onto work groups, advisory panels, conference panels or professional organizations.
• Gather intelligence on hiring managers before job interviews or informational interviews, or before other types of meetings with professionals.
* Evaluate the “connectivity” of a job applicant to your office, a colleague or other associates — i.e., determine whether such people are connected to movers and shakers in your field or whether they know people who belong to your professional circle.
• Brandish your “connectivity.”
• Research the professional backgrounds of social contacts.
Some tips on using LinkedIn:
• Consider your LinkedIn profile a business card; keep it current, accurate and typo-free.
• Raise the “Google” ranking of your LinkedIn profile by setting it to “Public” and “Full View.”
• Note that professional summaries on LinkedIn are generally written in a more casual, but still professional, tone and feature more human interest information than do traditional cover letters and résumés. With their informal style, these summaries are generally more interesting than traditional professional profiles, so follow suit.
• If a LinkedIn member introduces you to another member, thank your connection for the introduction and tell him how it helped you.