Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Resume Writers: Should You Start Your Own LinkedIn Group

Recently, some folks on the NRWA E-List have been complaining about the volume of email messages. (The surge corresponds with my return to the organization. Coincidence?)

One list member suggested switching from the current YahooGroups format to a LinkedIn Group. If you're not familiar with LinkedIn Groups, let's chat a bit about LinkedIn Groups and why you should join them -- and maybe even start your own.

I still find a lot of resume writers are confused about LinkedIn and how it can help their business. One important function of LinkedIn is to connect you to other resume writers. I've heard from a couple of resume writers that they're reluctant to get "LinkedIn" with other resume writers. I say, "WHY NOT?" Resume writers can be a source of referrals, ideas, and inspiration.

LinkedIn takes the guesswork and legwork out of networking with others in your field. This site allows you to search for, connect with and get needed advice from professionals with a few clicks. There are no face-to-face meetings unless you want them. Even so, you can get to know people through their profiles and interacting in groups and discussions.

LinkedIn Groups: Increase Your Visibility and Expert Status

This brings us to LinkedIn Groups. What are they? These groups are like small gatherings of professionals with similar business niches or interests. The entire site is available to you, but concentrated groups help you to target those professionals with whom you need to network.

Groups help you do many things:

* Discover other professionals to meet quickly
* Actively participate in discussions relevant to your interests and needs
* Zero in on the most influential people on LinkedIn within your professional sphere
* Know which profiles to view and which people to "follow" in discussions
* Begin your own discussions to help establish yourself as a leader in your field

These are also excellent reasons to begin your own LinkedIn Group. Before you do, though, get a feel for the process by joining a group or two. You can search for relevant groups using different parameters.

For Resume Writers, I recommend these groups (Note: Some groups require pre-approval or membership in the associated organization in order to join):
Career Directors International
Career Management Best Practices
Career Professionals Network
Career Professionals of Canada
Career Rocketeer
Career Thought Leaders Consortium
JibberJobber Career Management
Resume Experts
Resume Writers & Career Coaches
Strategic Resumes LinkGroup

Once you find one that you like, introduce yourself. Do this by posting a new discussion question and then leaving a comment. Let people get to know you.

LinkedIn Groups can also increase your visibility and popularity on the site. While you are leading discussions, don't forget to leave meaningful comments on other discussion topics. It will look pretty suspicious if you only post questions and never join in the discussions of others.

Build up a presence and a following. When you are ready, create your own group. If you specialize in a particular industry or niche in your resume writing business (and you should!), you can check out the existing groups that serve these markets, and perhaps create one that focuses on jobseekers in that niche.

Ask your existing clients to join your LinkedIn group. Don't forget business contacts on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Invite LinkedIn members with similar interests as a way of connecting with new faces.

You should definitely be involved in a couple groups on LinkedIn .... and consider starting your own to increase your visibility, ranking, popularity, network and credibility among clients and prospects.

Got any other suggestions for career-related LinkedIn groups? Post them in the comments below.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Viral Marketing and Your Resume Writing Business

You probably know what a viral video is -- like the YouTube video of the skateboarding dog. Infographics are also something that often go viral -- most often on Facebook. This infographic from Hubze, ironically, is on how to get your content to go viral.

Viral marketing tactics can be effective in spreading the word about your business, your product, and your service without offending others or being self-serving.

But, viral marketing is inherently self-serving, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. To be truly effective, viral marketing must include a give-and-take approach. You must engage others, take part in conversation, and give as much as you get. In other words, don’t expect your message to spread itself. Viral marketing takes time, careful planning and well-thought out execution.

It has, for lack of a better word, an incurable need for attention.

While viral marketing can be applied in a number of ways, there are 3 main approaches:

#1 – To Share. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are in fact products of viral marketing themselves. While they’re sole purpose is to allow (and encourage) users to share information, they too must share their service via their users. It’s simple, really. Their users believe in them and enjoy their websites so much, that they share those websites with others. Knowing this and trusting this would take place, these social media powerhouses have become multi-million, some billion dollar businesses thanks to, you guessed it, viral marketing.

#2 – To Add Value. Adding value is not a characteristic unique to viral marketing. It is a common marketing approach across the board. For hundreds of years, business owners have understood the importance of offering their customers “more.” For instance, buy this product and receive this additional product for free. You get the picture. So, this notion of adding value applies to your viral marketing in the same way. However, rather than simply applying added value to your products and services, make value-added offers to those who share your message. For instance, send this message to an additional 10 people, and receive a free product. Incentivize and you will see results!

#3 – To create buzz. Similar to sharing, creating buzz is can be extremely effective. How is it different? While sharing refers to others literally sharing information with friends (i.e. Like my Facebook page? Sign-up for your own Facebook page today and see more of what I’m up to, including photos, favorites and more!) creating buzz is more about spreading the word. Consider how gossip spreads, or the way in which gossip magazines create stories based on hearsay. The idea is to get people “talking” about you and your business in a positive way so that they begin to encourage others to become customers, sign-up or carry on the conversation on their own.

As you can see, viral marketing is about more than inundating your audience with your message. Its about strategic planning and taking an approach that puts your business in a positive light while enticing others to not only become customers, but to spread the word as well. 

Want to learn more about Viral Marketing? Check out the Viral Marketing Stampede special report, available now in the "Paid Member Resources" section of (Bronze member benefit.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Pro Bono Work Can Set the Wrong Expectations: Part 2

This is part 2 in a series of blog posts to discuss some things that have been on my mind recently related to the careers industry. Yesterday's post is "We Are All Ambassadors," and you can read it here. I talked about how we need to be remember that we are representing our entire profession of resume writers when we comment or provide advice on careers-related topics online.

Today's post has to do with pro bono work. It relates to yesterday's topic, because I talked about some not-so-nice discussions going on in certain LinkedIn groups ... and one of them had to do with pro bono work. It was a discussion that garnered almost 50 comments -- it stayed pretty civil -- well, until the last few comments. Apparently, an earlier discussion was equally lively, and led to a post on the "Look Before You Leap" blog. I hadn't looked at that article when I started writing my post, but the author points out a lot of good things to think about.

I personally write up to a handful of pro bono resumes each month. They can be for family members, or friends, or even friends of friends, if they're someone in need. Usually, someone asks me to take a look at their existing resume -- very few of them are starting completely from scratch.

But yesterday's Facebook exchange with the "friend" of my friend who was looking for cover letter help underscored an important problem when providing pro bono services. Sometimes the recipient doesn't understand the value of the service you've provided. That can be either a monetary value (i.e., someone who hasn't been on the receiving end of seeing their professional career transformed into a working document that speaks to their personal value as an employee doesn't "get" why a resume can cost an average of $400) or even something like questioning the document when it's completed (this would be akin to "looking the (proverbial) gift horse in the mouth." If they haven't paid for the resume, are they more likely to question your resume strategy? Are they more likely to question how valuable a "free" resume can be for helping them?

I had another similar situation arise last week. As I mentioned yesterday, being friends on Facebook can lead to folks asking for career advice. My younger brother's former kindergarten teacher (and the wife of a former neighbor's son -- I told you, Facebook makes for some strange friendships!) contacted me through a Facebook message to inquire about help for her daughter, who had recently graduated from college, but wasn't confident in her resume. I asked her mom to have her send me the resume so I could see what she had to work with. Her mom wrote back, "She has a resume (so she says) but she is worried that it is soooo weak. She needs to visit with someone -- other than her mother -- for advice, at least that is what I think -- HA! I haven't seen her resume -- and she had some college help. I think some professional advice would be so beneficial." So, once again, I asked her to have her daughter send me her resume. The next day, I received this message: "I'm going to work with (daughter) on her resumes -- she has one for Art and one for Business applications. They are both extremely 'light' on information. Can you refer us to a book or website with some solid info to model, as we build these resumes?" Mind you, there was no discussion of fees or work process or anything at that point. I had simply asked to see the resume. (Going back to yesterday's theme of "We Are All Ambassadors," I didn't (couldn't!) respond to her request for a "book or website ... to model" without my head exploding. So I didn't respond at all.) When someone is asking for help on behalf of someone else, will the "end recipient" value your work? (Early on in my resume writing career, I stopped accepting projects set up by wives for their husbands. I should add rejecting requests from moms for their kids to that list!)

As Miranda points out on the "Look Before You Leap" blog, providing discounted services may also lead to referrals from folks expecting the same cheap/discounted/free service. I mean, it's tough to say in an email, "Hey, here's the resume I wrote for you for free that I would normally charge $400 for ..." Do you link them to your "Prices" page on your website, so they can see what you'd normally charge? Do you mock up a dummy invoice and put the $400 discount on there, so the end line item is $0? That question addresses the issue of whether you provide free or discounted services as a way to build your portfolio or business, instead of as a way to "give back."

Another issue I hadn't considered until yesterday... if I write someone's resume for free, and they choose to give me a gift for doing so, does it devalue my services? If they get a $50,000 job, and send me a $100 gift card in appreciation, I'm thrilled to get it. (After all, I wasn't expecting anything -- I wrote the resume as a favor.) But do they think, then, that the resume is only worth $100? (Again, they may be unfamiliar with your "normal fees" -- and I'm not speaking specifically here about folks who you help because they are unable to afford your services ... I'm talking about friends and family.)

I also consider: "How will I feel about providing help?" I like to give back. (I often say that resume writers have a little bit of "social worker" in us. I sure do.) I once helped a down-on-his-luck friend who had been unemployed for several months by writing his resume. Then, he came back to me asking for a federal resume. (I generally don't write federal resumes or military transition resumes.) Then he showed up at my door unannounced occasionally over the next month, usually because he wanted to tweak the resume (and/or cover letter) for a job posting. Fortunately, he landed a job before I resented him too much. But often when we say "Yes" initially, it doesn't mean "Yes...forever." Having standards for who -- and when -- you will help folks is important. So is setting boundaries so you don't feel taken advantage of. (I have trouble setting boundaries.)

So here's my takeaways: DO continue to volunteer your services when you feel it's appropriate. DON'T expect anything in return. DO establish guidelines for yourself on who you will help, and under what circumstances. DON'T be surprised if you don't get the response you expect from the people you're helping. DO continue helping others anyway. (DON'T throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

I don't have all the answers. (Like I said earlier, the inspiration for this topic just struck me yesterday.) But I'd be interested in your feedback -- either on here (in the comments below), or on the Resume Writers' Digest Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We Are All Ambassadors: Part I

The first blog post of the new year is always a tough one for me. (Last year, it took me until Jan. 26 to come up with something worthy -- but it ended up being one of my most popular blog posts ever. Check out "I Got Distracted" if you want to know more.)

The first blog post is important. You want to strike the right chord -- set the right tone -- for the year. But you don't want it to be trite. (Or about New Year's Resolutions, if you can help it!) So I debated Sunday (New Year's) about writing one, and made it through all of yesterday (Monday) without coming up with anything profound ... but lying in bed last night, the pieces finally came together.

It all started early Monday evening. I was trolling Facebook (instead of writing the resume I was supposed to be working on, or doing anything else on my lengthy-at-the-moment to-do list). I saw a status update from a casual friend of mine, "Anyone out there can help me with a cover letter? I'm applying for a job at {Company Name}."

I commented, "Are you talking to me?" because I had written a resume for her a few months back, as a favor. I didn't hear back from her, but one of her friends commented a few minutes later, "check Microsoft Word templates :)" ... to which I (somewhat snarkily) responded back, "...only if you want to have your cover letter look like every other one." My friend's friend, came back with, "Well, she can use it as a guideline so she can know what to include in it."

Ugh. At that point, instead of responding back with something even more snarky, like ... "I'd take the Gallery of Best Cover Letters over what Microsoft's engineers thinks passes as an effective resume," or, "I'm thinking of reading WebMD in hopes of being able to assist the surgeon the next time I have a procedure" -- I realized that 1) I was wasting my breath and 2) I wouldn't be representing the careers industry very well by escalating the conversation. So I went back and deleted my two comments... and managed to restrain myself from using the "block user" function on my friend's profile. (It's not her fault her friends don't understand how to job search effectively, right? See, I almost said, "It's not her fault that her friend is an idiot" ... but I didn't.  -->  :) -- right?

The message here, however, is that many of us as resume writers use Facebook to generate new business -- through use of Fan pages, events, Facebook ads, and even status updates on our personal profiles -- but it's a double-edged sword. We Are All Ambassadors for the professional resume writing community.  When we're sharing posts we've written on our careers industry blog, or mentions in the Career section of the local newspaper, or giving general job search tips to coincide with key dates (i.e., in September for "Update Your Resume Month"), we are increasing the visibility of professional resume writers. (Tell me you don't get requests for service or referrals from what you post about careers topics on your personal Facebook profile.)

But we're also representing the industry when we get snippy with one another in LinkedIn Groups. (Guys, these groups are public, and job seekers can see them too. One of the hardest things about resume writing is that there are very few "hard-and-fast" rules, so politely disagreeing is fine, but some of the threads really get out of hand. Or on Twitter. Don't have a fight with another resume writer on Twitter. The whole world is watching.)

Unless the reputation (and personal brand) you want to cultivate for yourself is that of a jerk, be careful about your tone when posting on social media. "Animal" on Twitter has solidified the reputation of many headhunters as "jerks" by some of the comments he posts -- he's well aware of that. (His tagline on Twitter says, "SENSITIVE? DON'T FOLLOW ME -- Feel free to criticize me in public.")

But this approach can (and does!) turn people off. (And paint a negative stroke on the whole industry ... a topic I'll get into later this week.)

We're all ambassadors. Including me. And remember, digital dirt persists.
So think before you post, and post carefully.


I'm going to take up this theme -- "We Are All Ambassadors" --  as a multi-part series for the week.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Why Pro-Bono Work Can Set the Wrong Expectations.

And I'd love your comments.