Tuesday, August 7, 2012
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Linking Up With LinkedIn
QUESTION: What's the single most important trait to be successful in business today?
Whether you're looking for personal career growth, seeking employment, growing the company you're present working for or launching a small business, the key to success is adaptability.
Education, skill, motivation and responsibility are undoubtedly still important. Yet there are 8.3 percent of Americans currently unemployed who possess those traits. On average, another 150,000 monthly equally skilled that have given up hope of ever finding a job.
The business climate is ever-changing. This has always held true, whether it be the shift from agriculture to industry to technology or from goods to services. Those prepared to shift whichever way prevailing trends may lead will be successful.
Right now, that trend is LinkedIn. The career networking site boasted of 161 million members worldwide at the end of first quarter 2012. Professionals are signing up at an average rate of two per second.
Sure, potential employers will visit your Facebook or Twitter page to learn a little more before offering you a job. Consider them as a personal reference on your behalf, one you create yourself. What image do you want to project? Thoughtful, compassionate posts will land a job quicker than pictures of you in a guzzling contest at a beer bash.
But LinkedIn is so much more than a job-seeking site. In fact, one of the most common mistakes users commit is developing your page only when you're unemployed.
LinkedIn is a career networking tool. And used properly, you'll have connections in place to make you stand out above your peers. Both on the job and when you're out looking for a new one.
Tracking firm ComScore ranks LinkedIn as the 31st most-visited website in the world with 9.4 billion page views in first quarter 2012 alone. Its content consistently shows up high in search results. Your presence will be noticed.
LinkedIn spokeswoman Krista Canfield was interviewed for a recent Investor's Business Daily article. She revealed three key things to make you stand out on the website.
First is a professional photo. Some contacts may remember your face better than your name. Appearance counts. Studies show that users with a photo are seven times more likely to get contacted about a new opportunity.
Don't skimp on your work history. Something you did in a prior position may blend well with a current skill to make you a better match for a particular project. Members with more than one position listed on their profile page are 12 times more likely to be noticed.
The 50-contact level is pivotal. That's when you start getting second- or third-degree connection requests. Personalize connection requests. Don't network blindly. "Joe Green spoke highly of your work. May I add you to my network?," lets the potential contact know you're not merely collecting names like merit badges. LinkedIn serves a purpose for its members, it isn't just another social gathering spot.
Be descriptive in your profile headline. Don't put something generic like "Consultant" or "Owner." It doesn't tell people what you have to offer. Only Eric Clapton, who wrote "Legend" in the occupation field on his passport application, can get away with something like that. The rest of us have to tell the world who we are and what we have to offer.
Don't lie. You may gain instant accolades by claiming you invented the Internet. But it's too easy to uncover the truth today. You lose all credibility when you post something that can't be backed up by fact.
Be an active part of the community. Share articles of relevance on the home page. All the better if it's from your personal blog.
Join groups that are a good fit. There are more than a million shared-interest groups on LinkedIn. At the very least, join your Alumni group as well as those industry-related. Join a group in an area that sparks your interest and you just may find yourself on a career path you never thought possible!
The Job Scene
Every couple of months we run an article on the changing job scene. Positions that were in high demand a couple of years ago have been virtually eliminated. In their place are options you may have never considered.
More than 100 occupations boast of an unemployment rate below five percent. They include budget analysts, computer network architects, police detectives, several healthcare professions and engineering specialties.
Other occupations may be gone for good. Telemarketers have been outsourced. Tax preparers are dwindling with software making the chore simple to do at home. The same with travel agents, who have seen their job disappear when websites such as Orbitz and Travelocity put planning in the hands of the traveler.
Construction is all but halted as the economy struggles. It may take a decade before we see a recovery in this field.
But there is good news. The truth is that there are thousands of jobs available just waiting to be filled. Companies report having a hard time finding qualified, motivated candidates.
The open road beckons those with a spirit of adventure. If your necktie is constricting or you feel imprisoned in a cubicle, venture out into the great outdoors. Slip behind the wheel of a big rig and see Americana up close as a truck driver.
The Truckload Carriers Association lists as many as 200,000 job openings nationwide for long haul truckers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to add another 330,000 jobs by 2020.
The problem lies with how hard it is to get certified. The training course to get a commercial driver's license takes eight weeks to complete at a cost of about $6,000. With the risk involved, intense scrutiny is given to potential drivers. You can't put just anybody behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound truck.
Manufacturing may be gone, but it isn't dead. A recent Manufacturing Institute report showed 600,000 vacancies nationwide. But nobody to fill them.
It's an image problem. Factory workers are portrayed as unskilled labor. As jobs shifted overseas, schools ended vocational classes. Young people chose college over a trade.
A skilled machinist can earn upwards of $80,000. CNC programmers are in high demand. A whopping 53 percent of recent college graduates remain unemployed.
Social media has created new career opportunities. Effective social media advertising is pivotal in the marketing plan for any company. No campaign is complete without it.
Employers also need someone to monitor their social reputation. What's being said about you in a blog? Share or retweet any positive comments. Be quick to resolve any negative. There's an art to managing an online identity, and companies are willing to pay to have it done properly.
Expect a surge in home health and personal care aides. Our aging population has more tools designed for keeping them independent and at home longer than previous generations. And with family scattered across the country, the need for someone to assure their health and safety is urgent.
In fact, nearly half of the 30 occupations listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the fastest growing by 2020 are in the healthcare industry because of aging baby boomers.
Those occupations they predict will decline the quickest include postal workers, farmers, sports reporters, data entry clerks and those in the textile industries.
Granted, someone earning a six-digit salary will find it hard to land another position in the same range if they're handed a pink slip. It's hard to make ends meet when you have to settle for less than what you're accustomed to simply survive.
A decade ago, we would never have imagined a time where one generation would earn less than the previous. Throughout American history, we have always bettered ourselves. Until now.
But we must adapt to the conditions we face today rather than mourn the loss of what was. Life offers us no choice but to move forward.
This week the markets have applauded the European Central Bank's pledge to "do more" to stem the continent's burgeoning debt crisis and boost the sagging world economy. The fact that it takes such news to rally the markets is a sad testament to the actual state of economic affairs. Europe has forced itself into bankruptcy by spending unsustainable amounts on an ever more dependent welfare state. It is open to question whether or not the European situation is beyond the point of no return, or more importantly, whether the United States will learn from the example.
Based on the sad state of world economic affairs, it is worth a moment to pause and recognize the birthday of a man who saw vividly, perhaps like no one else, the ruinous effect government can have on an economy. Milton Friedman would have been 100 years old last week, and although he passed away in 2006, his works remain a dominant, if not THE dominant force in market economics.
The Nobel Laureate Economist was the antidote to the conventional Keynesian economic theory that encouraged government intervention into the private market. Friedman bluntly rejected such an approach, and challenged his critics to provide empirical evidence where such tactics actually worked. Few succeeded.
Friedman drew heavily on the works of 18th century Scottish Philosopher Adam Smith, whom he believed nailed it in his brilliant work "The Wealth of Nations." Smith is most famous for his identification of "the invisible hand," a force that invariably guides economic resources to their most efficient use when private parties transact. Friedman, who taught most of his career at the prestigious University of Chicago, applied Smith's principles to modern day economic problems - with stunning accuracy.
Friedman believed John Maynard Keynes to be "a great man." However, he candidly pointed out that the Keynesian postulate of active government involvement in the private economy was simply dead wrong. And he would provide countless examples to prove his point. It wasn't that Friedman believed that government intervention couldn't make a difference, only that, over the long term, such actions caused more harm than good. Only when private individuals, each acting in their own best self interest, can wealth be created.
This was the essence of Friedman's thesis. Sometimes accused of being an anarchist (he was not, although he once quipped that "he wished them luck"), Friedman believed in very limited government, comprised of strong institutions whereby private individuals could transact with recourse. It may surprise some that Friedman was a strong believer in the government's role in regulating the money supply, which after all, is a public good.
Mild mannered and good natured, Milton Friedman is perhaps best known for his many, often pithy quotes:
"There is no such thing as a free lunch."
Late in his life, Friedman predicted that government intervention into the housing market via government sponsored agencies, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, although well intentioned, would trigger a housing bubble that would be followed by a disastrous correction. Perhaps setting the economy back as much as a decade. Sound familiar?
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