Monday, March 21, 2016

Harnessing Innovation Keynote with Josh Linkner

Today's blog post is a write-up of one of the sessions from the 2016 Young Professionals Summit in Omaha, Nebraska on March 3. Organized by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce's Young Professionals division, the summit is "the premier regional event for Young Professionals to learn, connect, and live a better version of themselves." While I'm not sure I'm a YP anymore (I'm 42), the summit was a great chance to learn, engage, and have fun.

Harnessing Innovation: Fresh Approaches to Growth, Creativity, and Transformation
Opening Keynote with Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner started his career as a jazz guitarist and is currently one of the founding partners of Detroit Ventures, a venture capital firm in Detroit, Michigan. He is the founder and CEO of four technology companies that he sold for a combined $200 million. He's also the author of two New York Times bestsellers, including "The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation."

Linkner started his first company in 1999, and later sold it to a private equity fund. He said that whether you're building a community, a company, or a career, there will be many obstacles in your way. "Your ability to be creative and drive innovation can be the single biggest difference-maker." Linkner added that "it's not about inventing the next tech breakthrough; it's about 'everyday innovation.'"

He gave an example of "everyday innovation" in practice. One of his tech companies, a digital promotions business, was trying to win a contract from ConAgra Foods. ConAgra was going to consolidate their purchases with a single supplier, representing a "massive amount of business," according to Linkner. His company was selected to the round of finalists, but his company was a small supplier compared to some of the other companies in the running, so he knew he would have to set himself apart. The question was: How.

He found himself on an airplane with the ConAgra executive who was responsible for deciding the contract. In fact, his seat, in first class, was right next to the executive. But Linkner had observed the executive and his wife board together, but the wife's seat was in coach, while the husband had a first-class ticket. Linkner knew he would have the executive's ear if he sat next to him, but he decided to take an unconventional approach.

"When your instincts are telling you something, pause," Linkner said. "Can you do the uncharted move instead of the typical move?"

Linkner approached the executive and offered his first-class ticket to him so his wife could join him in first class, saying that he had work to do. Linkner took her spot in coach.

When the plane landed, Linkner said he called his office to check in and was told that they had been awarded the contract. He got the contract by giving up his seat.

Linkner gave several examples of companies that "failed to adapt, innovate, or change." Companies like Sears, Palm, Compaq, Blockbuster, Borders, and Circuit City were all market leaders at one time, but are either struggling or out of business now.

Disruption is possible, even in consumer products, where "category killers" are prevalent. Linkner gave the example of, and how they got started with a single viral video four years ago. The video cost $4,000 to produce, and almost half the budget went to renting a warehouse to shoot the video. In the first week, 3 million people watched the video. (More than 19 million more have watched it since then.)

The company had 17,000 paying customers in its first week. "They launched their business in a mature industry in a commodity field with a dominant market leader (Gillette) with no product innovation," Linkner noted. "You don't have to be on either coast to soar; embrace the entrepreneurial approach."

"No matter how good our technical skills may be, human creativity has become the currency of success," Linkner added. "It's a skill we can develop. All of us are creative as human beings. It allows us to leapfrog the competition and seize our full potential."

It all comes back to "everyday innovation," he noted. "We all need an additional job title of disruptor, innovator, and business artist." The most successful companies embrace innovation, creativity, and disruption, he notes.

Linkner outlined the "Five Obsessions of Innovators."

1. Get Curious. When your instinct is pushing you to make a decision, stop and ask yourself some questions: Why? What if? Why Not? "This forces you to explore what 'can be' instead of 'what is.'"

He showed this Louis C.K. clip (warning: language)

An interesting note about Louis C.K. that Linkner shared: "Every year, Louis C.K. throws away all of his old material. By starting with a blank page, it forces him to become relevant and creative again." It's the concept of "planned obsolesence." No one can disrupt you, if you're disrupting yourself. Linkner advised attendees to "Embrance the same blank page approach with our companies, our careers, and our community."

"Someday, someone is going to come along and put us out of business. It might as well be us."

2. Crave "What's Next." Have a "forward orientation" -- imagine what can be. Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ("Coach K") has trained his team to look forward. "Let go of the last quarter." Instead, look at "what's next?"

Linkner is fron Detroit. "Detroit is rising from the ashes with the 'What's next?' approach," he said. "Detroit used to be Silicon Valley. The 'Paris of the Midwest,' but it became complacent. They built bureaucracies. They stopped innovating and winning."

But Detroit is reinventing itself. "We're not trying to build the old Detroit. We're taking an uncharted approach and building the new Detroit." Linkner launched a tech venture capital firm to invest and create social change. "To try and make a difference. To create jobs, urban density, and hope." The venture firm invests in mobile apps, ecommerce, and social media instead of manufacturing.

Detroit Venture Partners has raised more than $60 million and invested in young tech companies, giving them not only money, but coaching, support, and mentoring. Linkner took over a building that had been vacant for 15 years in downtown Detroit. At the time, there were no tech companies in downtown Detroit. Today, within one square block of their building, there are 70 companies with over 1,000 tech workers — "breathing new life into downtown Detroit."

Having a "What's next?" approach can lead to real outcomes, Linkner said, "even in complex situations."

3. Defy Tradition. "When you see a tradition, ask yourself, 'Is there a way to defy it?' Is there a better, more appropriate approach, in the context of today?"

For example, take the common glazed doughnot. A glazed doughnut is a commodity at 50 cents. Chef Dominique Ansel invented the cronut: "A marriage of the doughnut and a croissant." They sell for $5 each. "The costs didn't go up 10-fold, but a little layer of innovation on top of a commodity" allows him to sell it for ten times more than a doughnut.

He asked the audience to "put your left hand in the air, as high as it can go."

He paused. "Now go an inch higher."

Linkner said, "Don't worry about going the extra mile ... go the extra inch."

"When you're facing an opportunity or a threat or a problem, can you 'judo flip it'? Can you flip it in order to create a better result?" he asked.

"Every airline experience is pretty much the same -- you can only change the customer experience." He gave the example of Kulula airlines in South Africa, which uses its sense of humor to provide a better customer experience. "They are having more fun and making more money," Linkner noted. "Use customer experience as a battleground for competitive differentiation. If your hands are tied regarding the product itself, look to the experience for internal/external customers for opportunities for growth."

Another example is the Children's Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh. They wanted to create a better experience for their "customers," the children who were patients. Their window washers are superhero characters that entertain the customers while they work.

Tweet: "Instead of throwing money or time or other resources at a task, throw creativity at it." -- @JoshLinkner

 "There's zero cost, no productivity drop, but the kids love it," Linkner said. "It takes attention away from the medical care while better serving their community. It's a win for the window washers -- they were doing a mundane task and now have purpose and meaning for their task."

4. Get Scrappy. "Be MacGyver. Instead of whining about the resource he lacked, MacGyver got creative. He was solving complex problems in unorthodox ways with limited resources," Linkner noted.

The starting point for a Super Bowl ad is $5 million. What if you don't have a $5 million budget? TNT took a "scrappy approach" to their ad.

While only 100 people saw the stunts live, the viral video has racked up more than 200,000 views.

Linkner talked about "creativity hacks" -- for example, a Dad who decided to make his kids' lunch box meals more exciting and it turned into a blog and a business: The founder, Beau, puts his recipes out there and shares them with the world. He reached 100 million blog readers, and major brands came calling, saying they wanted to sponsor him. He left his day job and is doing this full-time now. "It all started by him being scrappy and creative: All tools within the grasp of us all."

5. Adapt Fast. "Take the weight of the world off your shoulders; change doesn't have to be a massive change," Linkner says. "Big breakthroughs don't happen with a big lightning bolt. It's about a series of small innovations."

Linkner gave the example of the "Billboard Wars of Los Angeles: BMW vs. Audi" as outlined in this blog post.

Linkner also gave the example of Tom Lix, a serial entrepreneur. He had started a company, Bulldozer Camp, raised some money, but the business completely failed. "His personal wealth was gone; his investors' money, gone. He was going to take a soul-less desk job and go hide," Linkner said. Instead, he invented a new way to create whiskey.

Traditionally, whiskey has to be aged for years (usually 10). Lix didn't have the luxury of time. "The traditional approach wouldn't cut it," Linkner said. He had to adapt fast. He did a "judo flip" -- "Instead of putting whiskey in barrels, what if I put barrels in the whiskey?" Lix put pieces of barrel in with the whiskey in a tank and applied pressure. The liquid is soaked up in the wood. When the pressure is released, the liquid comes out, inflused with the wood flavor. "It's aged one week whiskey," Linkner said. "People in non-traditional markets can create giant progress and breakthroughs." And it creativity can sell for a premium price. Lix sells Cleveland Whiskey for a 30 percent premium over other whiskeys, making it among the most expensive whiskey available.

Linkner ended by issuing an "Innovation Challenge" to participants:
Now that you have all these fresh, creative ideas swirling, how do we take it back to our professions and the community? See if you can identify a single idea for creative disruption. It can be a big thing or a little thing. Ideas are contagious: One idea becomes six ideas becomes 11 ideas. The creative vibe starts to spill over to those around us.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"I'm not sure what to do with my LinkedIn profile..."

I was going to call this blog post, "I'm on LinkedIn, Now What?" but that's actually the name of an excellent book by my colleague Jason Alba. (You should definitely check it out too!)

I get a LOT of questions from jobseekers about LinkedIn. 

The most common one is: 
“I’m not sure what to do with my LinkedIn profile.”

So here's a short guide with some practical tips!

It starts with "Profile Completeness" -- you want to make sure you have a fully populated LinkedIn profile. Profiles that are considered "complete" by LinkedIn's standards receive 40 times more "opportunities" (contacts from prospective hiring managers and recruiters) than incomplete profiles, according to LinkedIn's own research.

Filling in your profile improves your chances of being found by people searching for you specifically, or someone with your qualifications, credentials, and background. And that's true even when using sites like Google and Bing. As LinkedIn's own materials say, "LinkedIn profiles typically appear among the top search results when people search by name."

LinkedIn has its own criteria for “profile completeness,” which has changed somewhat over time. 

As of April 2015, to be considered “complete” by LinkedIn’s standards, you need these items in your LinkedIn profile:
• Your industry and location
• An up-to-date current position (with a description)
• Two past positions
•  Your education
• At least three skills
• A profile photo
• At least 50 connections

To maximize your success in using LinkedIn in your job search, you should also complete these activities:
• Customize your LinkedIn profile URL (
• Create an attention-getting LinkedIn Headline 
• Use the LinkedIn Summary section to tell your STORY! Who are you, what do you want to do, what sets you apart?
• If you’re including a link to your website or blog, customize the text link (rename it so it doesn’t just say “Personal Website” or “Company Website”).
• Include your contact information. LinkedIn allows you to add your phone number (designated as home, work, or mobile), Instant Messenger contact information (AIM, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, GTalk, QQ, and WeChat), and multiple email addresses (in addition to your primary/sign-in email). You can also provide your Twitter handle.
• Add languages that you speak.
• Fill in key projects you’ve worked on (this is a separate section within the profile). Showcase your work!
• Add a list of courses you’ve taken. (This helps with keyword searches.)
• In the “Settings,” change the “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile” to “Your name and headline (recommended).”

Most important:
• Proofread your profile carefully. Check grammar and spelling!
• Update your profile regularly! Not only will your connections be notified when you update information on your profile (bringing your profile additional visibility), but you’ll also be confident that someone searching for you will have access to the most current information!

Okay, now that you've completed those steps, what's next?

1. Grow Your Connections. There are two schools of thought when it comes to LinkedIn connections. You can choose to connect selectively, accepting invitations only from those you know and trust, or you can use LinkedIn to grow the network of people you know. You can connect with people you meet through Groups and get introduced to people you don’t yet know offline.

POWER TIP: The power of networking lies in “friends of friends,” so the larger your network, the easier it will be to connect with someone you don’t know (yet). Remember the principal of “six degrees of separation.”

2. Give To Get. Authentic, genuine Recommendations can make or break a LinkedIn profile (just like references can for a job candidate). Instead of sending out those presumptuous LinkedIn “Can You Endorse Me?” emails, select a handful of people in your network and write Recommendations for them, without asking for one in return. You will be surprised at how many people will reciprocate.

POWER TIP: Make sure your Recommendations are specific and detailed. When reading the Recommendation, you should be able to tell exactly who it was written about. Quantify accomplishments (with percentages, numbers, and dollar amounts) as much as possible.

3. Get Involved. Join some LinkedIn Groups. Groups are the “water cooler” of the social site. You can find Groups for school and university alumni, your former and current employers, trade groups, industry associations, and more.

POWER TIP: One way to establish yourself as an expert on LinkedIn is to start your own Group. For example, you might consider starting an online job club centered around your industry or geographic proximity.

Finally, don't make these mistakes on LinkedIn:
  • Don’t Dismiss LinkedIn as Something Only for People Who Are Looking For a New Job. The best time to build your LinkedIn profile, connect with people, and participate on LinkedIn is now, before you need it. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed and decide that now is the time to start using LinkedIn, you’re going to be playing catch up. Instead, take time to “dig your well before you’re thirsty,” as author Harvey Mackay says.
  • Don’t “Set it and Forget It.” Your LinkedIn profile is an evolving snapshot of you. You should be updating it regularly with new connections, status updates, and activity (especially within LinkedIn Groups) 
  • Don’t Ignore It. Check in on LinkedIn regularly; at least every other day if you are in active job search mode; at least once a week for passive jobseekers. Plan on adding one new status update each time you log in.
  • Don’t Be A Wallflower. LinkedIn is most effective when you engage with it. Seek out opportunities to connect with thought leaders in your industry. Join 3-5 Groups and participate in conversations.
  • Don’t Be Selfish. You will get more out of LinkedIn if you focus on how you can help others, not how they can help you. The phrase “give to get” is very powerful on LinkedIn. You can earn the respect of your peers and people of influence if you “help enough other people get what they want,” in the words of Zig Ziglar.
  • Don’t Wait For Others To Find You. Use the LinkedIn People Search function to look for people you know and invite them to connect with you. You should aim to add 2-5 new connections each week if you are a passive job seeker, and 6-10 connections a week if you are actively searching for a new job.
  • Don’t Forget to Explore the People Your Connections Know. One of the most powerful functions of LinkedIn is the ability to connect you with people who are connections of the people you know. Follow LinkedIn’s guidelines on connecting with these folks, however (using InMail or requesting connections through your mutual friend), so that your account is not flagged for spam.
  • Don’t Indiscriminately Try to Connect With People. One of the strengths of LinkedIn is the connections you make, but it’s not a race to get to 500 connections. Have a reason for each of the people you connect with — either it’s someone you already know or are related to, or someone it would be beneficial to connect with. If you don’t know someone, get to know them a bit before sending a personalized connection request. (You can do so by seeing who you have in common — or who they are connected to, checking out their LinkedIn summary and work history, visiting their website or blog, and seeing what Groups they belong to). 

If you're just getting started on LinkedIn, check out my 8-part course, "Leveraging LinkedIn For Your Job Search." Each day, you'll get a new lesson that will help you develop and enhance your LinkedIn profile. It's just $15. Order it here:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Content Is So Important to Attracting Resume Clients

From cave paintings to John Deer and even Jell-O, content marketing has been around for literally thousands of years. Anytime someone wanted to get the information out about anything, they could turn to content for the answers. Cookbooks are a great example of content marketing before the Internet. It was a list of products to buy. When combined in a particular way, it was delicious.

You could say the same is true for content marketing even today.

These days, content marketing is extra important because it's how you will get people to visit your website. It's also how you'll teach people about the issues that are important to them as a jobseeker, and hopefully turn them into a client.

  • Digital Search Content. All content is fodder for search engine traffic. Search engines use the information on your blogs, websites, and social media to send your customers your way. They do this with the terms used in the content or in the "alt" descriptions.
  • Social Media Content. Everything you put on social media is content. It doesn't matter if it's a meme, an image, words, a video, or something else; it is considered content. When you realize all that content encompasses, you quickly realize that yes, it is very important. It's not just a blog post or text; it is everything.

Content marketing can take on many shapes and forms. Some of these include:

  • Blogs. These need to go out on a regular basis to help your visitors find your website. You can also write original guest blog posts sometimes to bring other audiences to you.
  • Newsletters. These can be sent via email on a regular basis to keep your subscribers engaged and active.
  • Magazines. Today, you can create an online magazine to help with marketing and informing your audience. Or seek out digital or print magazines that reach your target client.
  • Podcasts. This is another way to put out information without having to type it. Instead you can record your thoughts and upload them to be listened to later. There are only a few podcasts on career topics, which is very surprising to me. There should be more. The breakthrough one will be the person who creates a call-in Q&A-type show like Dave Ramsey has for personal finance.
  • Videos. YouTube is a great example of the power of video to get the word out about anything and teach others something that requires visuals.
  • White Papers. These are long research documents that often compare and contrast the solutions to a problem discussed in depth. They are great for educating a wide audience without overtly advertising your solution. There's not enough independent research about career issues. Maybe you can be the person to change that.
  • Ebooks. Using books to build your expertise is a great way to teach an audience about something that requires a lot of information. Today, publishing on Kindle is simple and free.
  • Online Presentations. You can post PowerPoint slides on and other presentation sharing sites as another way to keep your audience informed. Repurpose content by creating a short online presentation with its key points.
  • Webinars. Growing in popularity due to their live nature and the way the audience can interact with the hosts, webinars are a very effective form of content. (Teleseminars are also still growing, due in large part because they don't require the user to understand technology. All they need is a phone.)
  • Infographics. Often used on social media, infographics are a great way to help your audience picture important data visually.
  • Games. If you can create an online game that teaches or markets some aspect of the job search to your audience, then you will have some really awesome content that gets results. (Let me know when you create this. I would love to promote it!)
  • Branded Tools. Whether it's a job search app, a WordPress plugin or something else, creating a tool that your audience can use daily (even if ití' an old-fashioned planner) provides the type of content that will remind them that you're there.

As you see, content encompasses almost everything you do to market your resume writing business, inform people about your career services, and interact with people. That's why content is king. Content is the most important asset you own when it comes to digital marketing.