Having a profile on LinkedIn is a great start. But it’s just that – a start. Now that you have that, what do you do now? I’ve coached a lot of individuals on this very thing, and they’re usually surprised at how much they can do on LinkedIn beyond the basics. The first step of course is to make sure your profile is complete and current (including a photo in business professional dress). Also, don’t overlook the Summary section: this is a great opportunity to highlight in a concise manner your most relevant work experience, education, skills and accomplishments. Keep in mind that potential employers often view your profile as a basis for hiring decisions.

Building-RelationshipsOK, moving on. What next, now that you have an awesome profile? Ask for a few recommendations from former supervisors and co-workers, as well as past and present professors, for example – really anyone who can attest to your skills, qualifications, work style, etc. is a potential recommendation for you. But as in other networking situations, it’s important to be willing to reciprocate and offer to write a recommendation for those same individuals (assuming it makes sense to do so).

You’re making progress: got your profile up, with a couple recommendations. What now? Get active. Join some of the groups related to your target industry, or perhaps your school’s alumni group. for starters. And now that you’ve joined, what’s the next step? See who the group members are with whom you can potentially connect. Participate in the discussion forums by posting relevant articles and commenting on other members’ posts. This is a great way to get better known by group members.

What else? LinkedIn can be a valuable tool when it comes to informational interviews. How does this work? Do a search on an organization you’re interested in, and Linked will show you which of your connections have some sort of association with that organization. Requesting informational interviews from 1st degree connections is usually relatively straightforward, but with 2nd degree connections, try to get an introduction from one of your mutual contacts if possible.

So this is just a small taste of what you can do with LinkedIn, but hopefully this will get you moving in the right direction if you’ve been wondering about some of the next steps to take with your networking strategy. Final thought: LinkedIn is a very effective way to network, but don’t forget about all the other great ways. Use a combination of strategies that works best for you.

Oh, and what if you’re not on LinkedIn at all? Well there’s no time like the present to start!


Perfectly Imperfect

I don’t like to let six months go by without doing a blog post, but with moving to a new house, getting married, my high school reunion, Thanksgiving travel, and every day life on top of all that, things got a little hectic. With life beginning to settle down a bit and 2014 coming to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year.

eraserOne of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned this year, or rather reminded of, is that perfectionism is an just an illusion, an ever-unattainable goal. I’ve read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, which instead of being a one-time read, is a reference book that I keep within easy reach on my book shelf. A lot of us get caught up on the perfectionism hamster wheel, always trying to look perfect, do perfect, be perfect, perhaps in an attempt to escape judgment from others. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown puts into perspective: “Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?”

In my work as a career coach, I help undergrads with their resumes, where understandably the goal is to have a perfect resume. But even here we consider it a “living document” and a work in progress that is constantly evolving and improving.

According to the idea of perfectionism, it’s not good enough that we’re only human and (hopefully) trying to do our best on a daily basis. And actually, it’s when we trip up and fall a little short that help create opportunities for learning and growth. To me, healthy striving and doing my best is perfection! And even though it won’t likely happen, if another six months go by without writing another blog post, I’ll try to be ok with it.



I can safely say that public speaking is pretty far down on my list of favorite activities and definitely out of my comfort zone. For me, it’s been a matter of just getting through it and trying not to look foolish. In most (not all) cases, I’ve been successful given this low bar I set for myself. Even so, I’ve usually experienced to some degree the common physical symptoms of shaky voice, racing heart and cotton mouth.

But about seven years ago I had a breakthrough which seemed to be a turning point. I delivered one of the eulogies at my sister’s funeral, one of the most important speeches I would ever make, and in front of many people. But the nerves never kicked in. The words came out in a presenter_094calm, articulate and expressive manner. What accounted for this unexpected state of calm?  No idea. Can’t explain it. All I can say is that since then, whenever I have had to do any public speaking, there’s anxiety, but it sort of stays in the background without adversely affecting the task at hand. About a week ago, I co-presented a scholarship award in my sister’s honor with much of the same positive results: good eye contact, inflection in voice, steady and calm delivery, and recited from memory to boot (bonus!)

Interesting story, hopefully. Practical information, not so much. So here are some concrete ways to make our public speaking experiences more effective:

1. Be sure to move your eyes around the room and maintain consistent eye contact to keep people engaged.

2. Depending on the topic, telling a story whenever possible (vs. just reciting facts) is another way to draw in the audience.

3. Don’t forget to breathe (in through the nose, out through the mouth). Doing some quick breathing exercises just before speaking can make a big difference.

4. Keep in mind that many people have short attention spans, and some suffer from A.D.D., or may be incapable of sustaining eye contact . If your audience appears uninterested, it very well may have nothing to do with you or your topic.

5. Try to speak with inflection and don’t forget to smile or even inject humor if appropriate. This will help maintain interest from the audience, even those with short attention spans!

Different things work for different people. For example, I’ve heard that groups such as Toastmasters have been of help to some. What is probably universally true, however, is that good preparation is key. And if you can practice in front of others, even better!

Just finished reading Brene´ Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection“, a great book by the way. One thing that really resonated with me came near the end when she talks about being cool and always in control. This has been a theme in my life, and having lived in DC for the past 10 years hasn’t helped to change that. This town is generally about being on guard, conforming, and keeping your silly side under wraps. No freak flags are flown here, at least none that I’ve seen.

article-2287524-18686F27000005DC-646_634x436Being cool, in the context of the book, is not particularly a good thing. We’re too cool when we’re afraid of looking silly in front of others by doing things like laughing too loudly, singing off-key, or dancing around like a fool.  On the other hand, we’re uncool when we can fully embrace our vulnerability in situations like these, and let our authentic selves come out – and in the process, not caring what others may think.

Brown tells a funny story about how she and her daughter were dancing in the shoe department at Nordstrom’s to a catchy song that was playing in the background. Even though other shoppers were shooting them judgmental looks, that didn’t stop them from freely expressing themselves. She writes, “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.”

Like anything else, being uncool is a process…and for me, a really “cool” place to get to!

What About Me?

One of the first things I look for in my personal or professional interactions with others is some level of interest in who I am, what makes me tick, or even how I make a living. I am so tuned into this, and when I sense the opposite happening, I retreat.

I recently attended a virtual networking event, which in itself is a great idea…if everyone has at least some networking know-how. I was building relationshipsdisappointed that at least half of those I spoke with had their own agenda: to tell me who they were, what kind of job they were looking for, and to ask me if I could help them.  Mind you, this was in no way balanced by any interest in, or curiosity about me. I couldn’t wait to end the conversations. Maybe it was just a bad day because I don’t usually encounter, fortunately, such a slew of weak networking skills all in one event. I’m more than happy to help my fellow networkers however I can – when it’s a 2-way street. After all, that’s what networking is all about: building professional relationships and helping others whenever possible.

Good karma is alive and well when it comes to effective networking! It requires a certain mindset as well. We would do ourselves a favor by going into any networking situation, not with the idea of finding our next job, but with the goal of making meaningful connections and supporting others in their career pursuits.

A few weeks ago, I presented my new webinar called “The Introvert’s Guide to Career Happiness & Productivity.” I was pretty sure it would generate interest, but it was still a little surprising to see just how many people attended.  The webinar discussed some of the challenges introverts face in the workplace, as well as strategies to make it a more positive experience.

One of these challenges deals with being talked over or drowned out by extroverts in a group meeting. Been there. I also tend to lose in “face-offs” with extroverts when we both begin speaking at the same time, allowing my colleague to have the floor. This challenge actually played out in my own job just a few days ago. We were having a small-group meeting to debrief on a recent work event and offer ideas on how to improve it for next year. Despite having several ideas to contribute, I found myself in the old familiar pattern of starting to talk, only to be talked over by one of my extroverted co-workers. I then fell into my usual stance that I would just remain quiet for the rest of the meeting. My colleagues are all lovely people, but I figured, what’s the point?

fishoutofwaterAs discussed in the webinar, introverts like to observe, take in information, maybe make some notes, think through a few ideas alone, and then present them to the group. This can often yield the same, or even better results in terms of viable ideas and solutions. But in this particular meeting, I knew that if I wanted to contribute ideas, it had to be right then and there. I also knew that saying nothing can be perceived as being a non-contributor. So I quickly changed my mindset and decided to keep trying, keep speaking up to get my ideas voiced. And by the end of the meeting, I did manage to get a couple thoughts out there to the group, which were well received, and I considered it a personal victory.

Introverts often have to walk a fine line. On the one hand, it’s important to stay true to who we are, recognize our strengths, and avoid putting on an extroverted facade just to fit in. On the other hand, it’s important to sometimes come out of our comfort zones despite feeling like a fish out of water, to see how far we can stretch ourselves! On this particular day, it paid off for me. But on any day, it’s a good strategy to follow for anyone!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to honor our values when deciding on a job offer. I also encourage job seekers to look beyond salary, which is too often the only factor considered. I’m not suggesting at all that salary be ignored. That would be foolish and impractical. I recommend that salary instead be one of many factors considered. But at the same time, I realize that everyone is different, with varying priorities. So it’s important to create a list of professional values and prioritize them. Just like house hunting where it’s difficult to satisfy every want and need in one house, it’s equally challenging to fulfill every want and need in a new job.

checklist (1)With that said, if we can separate those things we can compromise on, from those we aren’t willing to compromise on, this will help make the decision-making process a bit easier. For example, are we willing to compromise on salary if the job meets our “uncompromisable” values of advancement potential, a comprehensive benefits package and professional development opportunities? Or maybe we can compromise on having a short commute if the job meets our uncompromisable values, say perhaps a compatible boss, flexible work schedule and autonomy to implement ideas. It’s also a good idea to periodically revisit our values list as our lives often change and cause shifts in priorities. In the end, staying true to our “must-haves” will help set us up for career success and fulfillment.