4 Considerations for Your Holiday Job Search

Since it’s the holiday season and everyone is short on time, I will keep this post brief.   Many people looking for work decide to take a rest during the holidays. There is a myth that no one hires during this time frame.  While I agree it’s harder to schedule interviews around the holidays, it DOES happen and people do get jobs this time of year!  I’ve seen it many times. 

Here are some tips to make the most of your job search during this holiday season:

1) Play the odds – Since many people do believe this myth, you will have less competition right now. Why not use that to your benefit? If you knew your target company received a substantially lower amount of resumes in a certain month, wouldn’t it be a good idea to make contact in that month?

2) Tis the season to connect – There are a multitude of social events that only happen this time of year. You should take advantage of these opportunities to reconnect with people you don’t normally see and meet new folks outside of your regular social circles. Most contacts leading to a job are not from your most inner circle, but from the wider spectrum of connections you develop by following leads.  Holiday events can be a great way to make those connections in person.

3) Slower or faster? Or both? – In terms of timing, the pace of the hiring process may be slower than normal because of the challenge of trying to coordinate interviews around staff vacations. However, in some cases it may be faster than normal, so be prepared for that possibility too. Often companies are eager to fill a position ASAP to maintain productivity. Some positions must be filled by the end of the year or the department will have to forgo the funding for it. And of course for certain industries, like retail or shipping, this time of year often creates a need for jobs that only exist right now (proving yourself in these seasonal jobs can sometimes lead to something else).  In all of these cases, the holiday season will not hinder the company’s need to fill the position. Present yourself as the solution to that need.

4) Giving hearts or stressed out minds? – Most articles say that people are more friendly and willing to help at this time of year. I would agree that is true in many cases. However, some people are very overwhelmed and busy during the holidays and therefore returning a call from you may (understandably) not be their number one priority. Even with good intentions, they may lose your information or just honestly forget to return your call. If this happens, try at least once more after January 1st. Leave a second message wishing them a happy new year and of course provide your contact information one more time. This might be just the reminder they need.

So what’s stopping you?  Go ahead. Make that call you have been putting off. Contact that supervisor you haven’t talked to in years. Wish that long lost friend a happy holiday season. For the next few weeks, you have a great excuse to make these connections, so make the most of it. Good luck connecting and happy holidays!

LinkedIn: How to improve your profile in 5 minutes


It is a fast and easy way to customize your social media presence with LinkedIn.  Personalizing your LinkedIn URL is similar to the idea of getting a vanity license plate; it makes your name and brand much more memorable.  Aren’t you more likely to notice and remember driving by a car with the plate “DAY-DRMR” or “IMGR8” versus a randomly assigned plate like J3R9S6?  


Two big reasons: clarity and branding.  First, LinkedIn assigns everyone a messy URL initially, which is why you should change it.  Additionally, a Vanity URL helps in your branding and marketing efforts, shows you are somewhat savvy in using LinkedIn and improves your SEO rankings on Google and LinkedIn.  Once it’s in place, share your customized URL so people can easily find you.  Place it on your résumé, business cards and electronic signatures.  This is important for people concerned with managing their careers effectively no matter what their current status is:  employed, unemployed or underemployed. 


Once logged into your LinkedIn account, click on the Profile tab located at the top left of the page.  Then slide your curser to the drop down choice of Edit Profile.  Next, click on the gear icon, just to the right of your currently assigned URL (see picture below).  After clicking on that icon, you should see somewhere in the upper right-hand side of your screen the words Enhance your personal brand by creating a custom URL for your LinkedIn public profile.  In that area, click on the blue pencil icon next to your current URL.  Then, pop up box will appear with the URL started as http://www.linkedin.com/in/, plus a blank box at the end that will allow you to type in the customized URL you would like.  Please note that LinkedIn often changes things up and various people can see different views, so I can’t promise that these will be/look exactly the same when you try this. 

Screen_shot_LI_URL _01


Start by typing in your full name and see if it’s available (no spaces are allowed and it will all show in lowercase no matter how you type it).  The system will let you know if it’s not available, otherwise you can assume it is and click on Save.  Keep trying until you get one you like that is available. If your name is taken, look to add other letters that have meaning for you or your profession. So, if the extension of joesmith is taken and he is in the field of sales, he could try joesmithsalesexpert.  You could also include a middle name, middle initial or a maiden name.

screen shot LI URL (2)


Like everyone else, when I first got on LinkedIn, I was assigned an unmemorable URL.  Now you’ll see that my Public Profile (URL) on LinkedIn ends in paulabrandcareers.  When I initially attempted to obtain a vanity URL, I typed in my name and “paulabrand” was taken, so I added the four letters of one of my certifications related to résumés.  Later on I changed it to a keyword related to my brand and what I do for a living (because I am not a traditional résumé writer).  You can change your URL as many times as you want, but try to find the right one sooner than later and stick with it to help in your branding efforts.  If you customize it multiple times, the old one(s) won’t work (and will go up for grabs for someone else to take) but your originally assigned URL should always work.


Now you know how to do it, so make use of this feature!  It really is easy and takes only a few minutes.  Of course, you need to invest more time than this one effort, but this is a good start.  Please share this tip with people you know.


Amazing LinkedIn Profile Infographic

Check out this cool infographic created by Mark Wallace of AkkenCloud in partnership with Ghergich & Co. It shares very useful information to help your LinkedIn profile shine.  I agree with all of his advice.  Thanks to Mark and his team for letting me share this. 



Click To Enlarge

Breaking Down the Anatomy of a Successful LinkedIn Profile

Via AkkenCloud

Career certifications: Why they are important to career professionals


Continuous learning is important in any field, but especially so in the career industry.  We are the folks who need to “walk the talk” about growing professionally by developing ourselves too. 

Gaining certifications adds to your knowledge base and your credibility as an expert.  It also keeps you current and cutting edge.  With today’s technology explosion, it is more important than ever to know how social media sites can affect your clients but even the foundational certification areas can be useful (such as coaching, résumé writing, etc.).   

Finding certification programs can be overwhelming right from the start.  Besides the fact that so many certifications exist in the broad area of career management (such as career coaching, employee development, and branding) and job search assistance (such as interviewing, résumé writing and using social media), there are also a variety of training providers of varied size and reputation.   

I’m happy to start the conversation but this topic is bigger than one can fit in a blog post, so here are some ways to learn more about career certifications:

  • Attend the 45th Annual Middle Atlantic Career Counseling Association conference on December 2-4, 2015 (learn more here) and visit my breakout session, Making Change Happen by Growing Yourself Professionally on Thursday, December 3rd from 3:15-4:15pm   
  • To learn more about the ins and outs of earning certifications in our industry, please visit this article on the site of the National Career Development Association (NCDA): Grow Professionally by Earning Career Certifications by Paula Brand originally appeared in NCDA’s web magazine, Career Convergence at www.ncda.org.  Copyright ©March 2015.  


The Truth about LinkedIn’s Recruiter Corporate:  Tips and Tricks for being found on LinkedIn using the FAVAR Method

In my last blog post, I introduced you to the FAVAR™ Method of LinkedIn Profile Creation, outlined the main thrust of it and shared a few tips for using it effectively.   As a refresher, the FAVAR Method is used to create LinkedIn profiles that will be easily found using Recruiter Corporate (a paid version of LinkedIn that recruiters often use to evaluate candidates).  In this post, I will share more insights and tips about FAVAR and Recruiter Corporate.  Apply this knowledge to be sought out by recruiters. The most surprising things I learned about Recruiter Corporate:

  • Recruiters can’t see everyone’s profile! I figured that paying about $8,000 a year for this product would provide access to anyone’s profile.  Not so.  If you are not connected to the recruiter in some way, they may not be able to see your full profile.  Recruiters are provided “unlocks” which allow them to see a full “out of network” profile.  However, they only get a small number of these each month and use them sparingly.  This is why it’s best to have as large a network as possible.  With a larger network, you are more likely to be connected in some way to the recruiter.
  • Recruiters can’t see all content within profiles (even when they are connected to the person). Many sections are not displayed in Recruiter Corporate (such as images, videos, projects, GPA, endorsements, honors and awards).  Because of this limitation, recruiters often log into the basic version of LinkedIn to see full details about a potential candidate.  It is important to note that even though the recruiter may not be able to see every section, the data in those fields still affects search results.  For both of these reasons, it is still best to complete your profile as much as possible!
  • In Recruiter Corporate, your network relationship to the recruiter appears to have no relevance on advanced search results. The outcomes are based on how close the profile matches the search criteria, not how closely you are connected to the person running the search. 
  • In the snapshot profile, your degree information does not appear in Recruiter Corporate, only the school name is displayed. Therefore, consider adding college information, even if you didn’t finish your degree.   


New tricks I learned from the FAVAR Method:

  • The zip code trick: If you do not live within your target area, add a zip code to your profile that is in between your town and the target location.  For example, if I live in Annapolis but I am open to opportunities in Washington DC, I should enter a zip code of a town in between the two locations.  This would help my profile to be included in a recruiter’s search of both areas.
  • With some major metropolitan areas, you are able to select the geographic area that is displayed on your profile. If given an option, always display the major market (Washington, DC vs. Annapolis) to come up in more searches.  
  • Do you have a first name that can be spelled in different ways (Jon vs. John) or a last name that is often misspelled? Help recruiters find you by adding alternations of your name in the summary.   Branding expert William Arruda’s LinkedIn profile (linkedin.com/in/williamarruda) provides an example of this.  Near the bottom of his summary it says “AKA/Common misspellings:  Bill Arruda, William Aruda.”  This allows him to be found in keyword searches by name, even when someone might not have the correct spelling.   You can also add the alternate spelling in the first name field, to cover your bases. 
  • The first 50-100 characters in your summary section are essential because they are displayed to the recruiter as a snippet under your profile snapshot. Give serious thought to those first few words.  It’s a good idea to use job functions/titles that are likely to be used in a keyword search (such as Career Counselor or Career Coach) by a recruiter.   Also, consider adding your name and contact information here because the recruiter does not see your name in the snapshot if they are not connected to you and only first degree connections can easily see your contact information.

Final words about the summary section:

The summary section is critical to your profile and it’s the only section that can affect all five steps of the FAVAR Method (Findability, Attractability, Viewability, Applicability and Reachability).   Don’t skip this section!  It can be useful in many ways and it’s one of the few that gives you flexibility to write anything you want (within the space limit of 2000 characters).   

I hope you put this information to good use to make your profile more easily found for the right opportunities!  For more information about the FAVAR Method and other useful LinkedIn resources, go to http://www.maxoutli.com/.

Note:  This is a modified version of a similar article I wrote.  It originally appeared in Volume 37 Number 3, May-June (2015) edition of the Career Planning & Adult Development Newsletter.

Introducing The FAVAR Method and how it can help your clients

    Have you heard of The FAVAR Method™?  It is a systematic way to build your profile on LinkedIn for maximum effectiveness.   According to its creator, “The FAVAR Method of LinkedIn Profile Creation is a strategic and tactical approach to writing LinkedIn Profiles so that the Profile is found for appropriate opportunities; then able to be viewed and evaluated, resulting in the individual being easily contacted.”

I recently learned about Dan Stiffler of MaxOutLI and his FAVAR Method through the Career Thought Leaders, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.  I spend a lot of time learning about LinkedIn but his webinar series caught my eye because it is from a recruiter’s perspective and it gives a unique view from someone who uses LinkedIn every day to find candidates.  As a recruiter, he seriously uses a paid version of LinkedIn through their “app” called Recruiter Corporate and much of his information comes from knowing the ins and outs of this app.  However, like most recruiters, he is also forced to use the basic version due to limitations of the paid version, so the concepts he shares are useful for multiple LinkedIn platforms. 

The mission of MaxoutLI is to help people be successful in advancing their careers by using LinkedIn wisely.  Dan was motivated to create this method because he saw a lot of information being shared about LinkedIn but none of it seemed to address the key issue of getting a profile through the many steps of the selection process.  He decided to provide a central resource to share his heavily researched method.  The main website (www.maxoutli.com) offers many resources (free and paid) to assist in this effort.

As Dan points out, the job seeker doesn’t have to come up as the number one result in a search, they just have to stay in the game at each step of elimination.  In Recruiter Corporate, search results display the top 1000 people and it doesn’t really matter if you show up as 2nd or 10th. Your client’s real goal is to end up in the final group to be contacted.  Using the FAVAR Method ensures that they will “survive and advance” to the next round in each phase of the selection process.

The premise of everything in the FAVAR Method lies in its name.  FAVAR (pronounced like favor) is an acronym for the five steps in the search process that are native to all LinkedIn account types.   Below gives a description of each letter and a few tips to maximize your use of LinkedIn.  As with many aspects of career advising, this advice may need to be tailored to the person’s situation.  Not every piece of advice will be appropriate for every circumstance. 

FINDABILITY – Relates to being found by recruiters on LinkedIn.  The five most important aspects are:  location, title, company and industry, along with keywords to add relevance.

  • Research the appropriate keywords for your industry and profession and naturally weave them into your profile. Repeating keywords in various sections is good but don’t just pack them in without any context. 
  • The more places you use the right key words, the more likely you will be found for them.
  • Complete your profile! Searches rely on the data you provide.  There are no penalties by LinkedIn for including too much information.  That said; make sure the material shared is relevant and not too overwhelming. 

ATTRACTABILITY – Does the Snapshot (top of your profile) generate interest for the right opportunities?  Does it encourage the recruiter to read your full profile?  The snapshot is going to create the first impression of you and the recruiter will make a quick decision whether or not to keep reading. 

  • Give serious thought to the words in your headline (think keywords). In most cases, using your current title and employer name is not going to provide the best branding for your client.
  • Use an attractive headshot that is appropriate for your industry. Dan recommends hiring a professional.  I don’t think you have to pay someone but it must be a good photo (not a selfie, not from your beach vacation, etc.).
  • Dan says that not having a profile picture won’t eliminate you from an opportunity if there is enough other information but we both agree that a profile with a picture is more compelling than one without.
  • Geographically speaking, always display the major market (i.e. Washington DC or Baltimore, vs. Annapolis) to attract more opportunities.

VIEWABILITY –   How many people can see your full profile easily?  What can you do to make your profile viewable by the most people? 

  • The larger your network, the more easily you can be found and your profile viewed!
  • Even with the paid subscription to Recruiter Corporate, a recruiter cannot see every profile in LinkedIn. If you are out of network with the recruiter, it will be harder for them to view your profile and contact you.
  • Make a real effort to increase the number of first degree connections to maximize the full potential of LinkedIn. Set a goal of gaining a certain number of contacts each week/month. 

APPLICABILITY – Is the information in your profile compelling enough to be contacted for the types of employment you seek?  Focusing on this area will help you attract “appropriate” opportunities.

  • Utilize the right keywords to be found. If you use the wrong words, you will attract the wrong opportunities.
  • Use the summary to showcase your personality as well as your skills. The recruiter will read this to see if you are a good fit for the work culture. 
  • Use first person in your summary to make it warm and friendly.
  • Graphic images such as videos and presentations are not visible on Recruiter Corporate but they are still valuable for visual appeal on your profile when viewed in the basic version.

REACHABILITY – Is your contact information easy to find?  How difficult would it be to contact you outside of LinkedIn?

  • Provide more than one way to make contact. Add your phone number along with your e-mail. 
  • Do not put your contact information in the field for your name or headline. This is against LinkedIn policy.
  • Remember that in the basic version, your contact e-mail will only be displayed to your first degree connections.
  • To make it easier for everyone to contact you, include your contact information in multiple places in your profile. Besides the required field for e-mail, also include it in the beginning of your summary and in the section titled “Advice for contacting you.”

It’s helpful to think of the FAVAR method as a funnel, starting at the top with Findability and ending with Reachability.  At each level, you have the power to keep the attention of the recruiter with the goal of having them reach out to you as the final step.   Use this method to help your client make the cut.  If you are interested in learning more about the FAVAR Method, go to http://www.maxoutli.com/.

Note:  This is a modified version of a similar article I wrote.  It originally appeared in Volume 37 Number 2, March-April (2015) edition of the Career Planning & Adult Development Newsletter.

US DOL awards nearly $170 Million in Ready to Work Grants

Exciting things are taking place to help the long term unemployed (LTU) in our country.  The momentum has continued since my last blog post.  On Oct. 15, the US Department of Labor (DOL) awarded almost 170 million dollars to 20 states and Puerto Rico to help long term job seekers.  These Ready to Work grants are a culmination of efforts that started in January when President Obama made a pledge to help Americans get back to work and those efforts have been strengthened by actions from DOL.  To see a list of the award recipients, click here.

There are three key features of the winning programs.  First, they provide employer engagement and paths to high demand occupations.  Second, the services are tailored to the LTU.  Third, some of the programs incorporate occupational training and on-the-job training.

Employer involvement is important aspect of this campaign to help the LTU.  Starting in January, leading corporations joined this movement and later shared their best practices for hiring long term unemployed job seekers.  To date, 80 employers have signed onto this effort including 20 members of the Fortune 50.  Even the OPM is getting involved to implement better hiring practices of the LTU within the federal government. On January 31, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to enhance safeguards to ensure federal hiring is treating people who have become unemployed, due to no fault of their own, fairly when applying for federal jobs.

Along with this progress, the lapsed legislation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was finally addressed after many years of neglect, when the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed by President Obama on July 22, 2014.

Many of these actions above have already helped lower the unemployment rate for the LTU.  The Ready to Work grants are one more way to lower this number.  Congratulations to all of the awarded programs.   Make them count, spend the money wisely and create national models to help our country get back to work!

P.S.  If you want to read more about this topic, here is a Fact Sheet on efforts to help the LTU – http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/15/fact-sheet-getting-long-term-unemployed-americans-back-work.

P.P.S.  This initiative has produced some resources to help employers and job seekers.  To see them, click on the Resources tab above on the main menu bar.

Working together to create “Opportunity for All” one step at a time

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

It is an exciting time to be in the arena of workforce development.  Our field is expanding, more people are realizing its importance and the federal government is taking action affecting our industry and those we serve.   For 2014, the White House and the Department of Labor (DOL) have announced an ambitious but much needed focus on improving our economy by helping the long-term unemployed, improving workforce training programs, and raising the minimum wage.

It was especially energizing for me to be a small part of this movement to help the long-term unemployed.   At the beginning of 2014, I was asked to attend a meeting held by the DOL Secretary Thomas Perez along with Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Officials Eric Selznow, Acting Assistant Secretary and Ben Seigel, Senior Policy Advisor.  The invited guests were a few dedicated job club leaders and a group of long-term job seekers.  The purpose:  to start a dialogue discussing the challenges and potential solutions for the long-term unemployed.

Walking through the long and tall corridors of DOL and waiting for the meeting to start were somewhat intimidating but once it began, the warmth felt by the administration was heartfelt and I was impressed with the genuine concern and sincerity from DOL Secretary Perez.   Hearing the personal stories and struggles of each talented and motivated job seeker was very emotional.  One man who was diagnosed and battled cancer while being long-term unemployed said that by far, being unemployed had more negative impact on his life than the cancer.  While I was saddened to hear this, I was not shocked.  As a career advisor I have seen the effects of unemployment.  Not only does it attack your self-confidence and cause financial strain but the process of finding decent employment in this job market can really take a toll on your soul.   Thanks to these folks for telling their compelling stories.  I know it was hard to share with a room full of strangers but the impact was huge and led to positive action.

As a career and workforce professional, I must take a brief moment to challenge the opinions out there that the long-term unemployed are unmotivated and happy to be receiving unemployment insurance.  There are many honest and hard-working job seekers and there are a variety reasons why it might take someone a long time to become re-employed.  Sometimes people need to change careers, which is a much longer process than just finding a job.  Sometimes the health of the person or a close family member takes necessary but critical time away from the job search.  Below are a couple of posts emphasizing the point that the long term unemployed are not lazy and expecting a handout.  They want to contribute to our economy; they just need to be given a chance.   Eric’s Selnzow’s blog post about our January 8th meeting shared that it is often not a lack of motivation and effort creating the length of unemployment.   Also, John Fugazzie wrote a moving article about the recent efforts from DOL and the White House while continuing to dispel the myths surrounding this group of job seekers.

Then, on January 31, only a few weeks after our DOL visit, President Obama stood in the East Room of the White House and announced new partnerships with companies to improve hiring practices that are singling out people in this “long term unemployed” category.  For more information, here is a fact sheet on this effort Here is a list of best practices and the names of companies already on board.  If you run a company and want to sign on, click here to do so.

Building upon this momentum, in February the Department of Labor announced a Ready to Work Partnership initiative to competitively award around $150 million (in revenues from the H-B1 visa program) to high performing workforce organizations for providing a variety of training and services to get people back to work.

Activities surrounding this topic are continuing.  On May 6th, many of the same group headed to Boston for a conference at MIT addressing long term unemployment and solutions.  And just last week some former colleagues of mine went to the White House to speak with DOL Secretary Perez, Eric Selnzow, Ben Seigel and others to continue this conversation.  Thanks to DOL and the White House for keeping this conversation going and taking action steps to help the long-term unemployed.

There are two lesser known champions who have made great efforts to help job seekers behind the scenes, Ben Seigel and John Fuggazie.  Kudos to Ben Seigel for his efforts for organizing the January 8th meeting that started the ball rolling.  In recent years, he has been dedicated to bringing this issue to the forefront at the highest levels of our government.   Also, many thanks to John Fugazzie, an inspirational leader for job seekers who tirelessly promoted the case for extending unemployment benefits.   John created Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA, Inc. a free, volunteer-led job search support and networking group targeted to adults who are actively looking for work. He writes a regular column for AOL.  Click here  to see his article about the January 8th meeting with DOL Secretary Perez.  Thanks to everyone who is helping in this effort.   It is an important one!

Related posts:

White House Blog post on helping the long-term unemployed:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/10/helping-long-term-unemployed-get-back-work

National Economic Council Report addressing the negative effects of long-term unemployment:


DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

Dear LinkedIn, Help Us Help You!

I speak for many: I am one of many Career Professionals who promote LinkedIn every day to job seekers, career changers and anyone interested in taking a proactive role in managing their career. I will use the term “we” from this point on and will go out on a limb and speak for all career professionals because I have not found one yet who disagrees with me on this (and I know hundreds of them).

The jury is in: Based on many blog posts, comments in LinkedIn groups and in-person collegial discussions, it’s clear that many of us are frustrated with continually being caught off guard by sudden changes to the site. While it is understandable that LinkedIn must make smart business decisions that cause changes to the site, being more transparent and proactive in sharing information regarding the changes would benefit us, LinkedIn and its members.

Must changes be so surprising? Believe me, with the many changes in the world of work, our industry knows very well that the only constant in life is change. We are not saying don’t change, we’re just saying, please consistently warn us when it is about to happen or at least make it easy for us to know when it has taken place. We have been able to adapt to LinkedIn changes but it can be challenging, depending on the scale of the change. Some changes are small (like changing how to remove a contact) but many are big (like removing entire sections such as the pages providing details on specific Skills & Expertise or Signal). In some cases these changes are announced publicly (usually on the LinkedIn blog) but in other cases, it is done without much notification, if any at all. Sometimes the changes are so abrupt that the LinkedIn Help Center hasn’t event caught up and shows incorrect and old instructions. In other cases, we are in the middle of a live presentation using LinkedIn when we find out a major feature has totally disappeared without warning (this happened to me). I know people who have been prepared with PowerPoint slides for an early morning presentation only to have had the prepared screen shots become outdated overnight. In many cases, the only way to find out about a change is from online posts and verbal dialogues by angered LinkedIn members and trainers.

Let’s try to make it better: Is there a way to involve career professionals with LinkedIn changes in a more meaningful way? I am aware that in past years, LinkedIn created special training and support for journalists and I wonder if it has considered doing something similar for career practitioners. In both cases, these groups provide extended publicity for LinkedIn. That publicity can be good or bad, depending on how these groups interact with and experience LinkedIn. Why not take a preemptive approach with career professionals to help LinkedIn garner more positive marketing and improve LinkedIn members’ experience? If this would be of interest to LinkedIn, I would happy to help in that effort.

This could be a win-win! I truly believe we have valuable insights that would make LinkedIn a better product and that you are missing out on utilizing our expertise. Here are some ways we could be useful to LinkedIn. First, as avid users, we often notice glitches before anyone else. If we had a more effective way to share these with your company, you might be able to catch unintended consequences faster. I’m sure if asked, many of us would even be willing to preview, test and provide feedback on new features. Second, as teachers and evangelizers of LinkedIn, we interact with members and potential users every day. We hear feedback that you never will. We can provide front line opinions on features that people find useful, valuable or annoying. This could help LinkedIn avoid trouble by discarding or adding features that devalue members’ experience with LinkedIn. Finally, we can help others feel less intimidated about using LinkedIn. When we are in the middle of a presentation and jarred by a new change, it reinforces to the audience that it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes. This discourages people from being interested in using the site more often and perpetuates the argument that it’s too much to keep up with so why bother joining or using LinkedIn at all.

Call to act: If you are a career professional who agrees with this point of view, please share this post with others, especially anyone at LinkedIn who might be open to this idea and feel free to reach out to me. If you work for LinkedIn, I would be happy to continue this conversation. Please contact me to discuss ways that we can help LinkedIn succeed.

LinkedIn: Should a job seeker pay for an upgraded version?

My spring was filled with many LinkedIn activities that kept me too busy to blog until now. It started with a LinkedIn workshop with my colleague Shahrzad Arasteh (We do this every few months in Annapolis. The next LinkedIn workshop is on the morning of Saturday, July 13 and we will definitely be sharing information on the recent changes to LinkedIn). In April, I was honored to speak at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for their 7th Annual Fellow’s Retreat for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID). And finally, I was asked to write a journal article about LinkedIn for the summer issue of a career counseling journal.



Paula Brand speaking at NIAID’s 7th Annual Fellow’s Retreat

Of the many times I teach about LinkedIn, there is one question that comes up the most. This post is devoted to that question: Should I pay to upgrade my LinkedIn Account? The answer depends on your purpose, but for the most part I would say no. If you are a recruiter: yes it’s worth every penny. If you are a business owner marketing your products: this can be a great way to reach potential customers. If you are a job seeker, I say save your money and read on.

Anyone can open a basic account for free. All of the techniques and features I share in workshops are based on the free account. There are benefits of upgrading but for most of us, they are unnecessary. The main advantages of upgrading are the ability to send InMails (InMails allow you to send a message to anyone in the LinkedIn community, regardless of having any other connection to them) and more powerful search options to find people. There are other smaller benefits but those are the big ones.

You could wait to be offered a free trial of the upgrade. I regularly get solicited for a free month of the various upgrade services packages. At times, I have been tempted to test these out. However, the deal is that you must agree to be automatically billed, and then you will be given the discount after the fact. Also, you will have to go through the task of cancelling if you don’t want to continue. I don’t like those types of arrangements so I have begged off for now.

The bottom line is that if you are in job search, there are plenty of things you can do on LinkedIn that cost you nothing and there are probably more urgent needs for your hard earned money. For free, you can:

1) Create a keyword rich profile that will attract recruiters and HR professionals.
2) Join and interact in groups to position yourself as a subject matter expert.
3) Connect with people in your field to network into the hidden job market.
4) Search for jobs posted only on LinkedIn.
5) Research your target companies on LinkedIn to gain insights, to prepare for an interview and to learn more about the culture of an organization.

Most job seekers need to spend their money on more pressing needs. So before you decide to shell out the money to upgrade thinking that this will be the silver bullet to get yourself hired (by the way there is no silver bullet for landing a job – it takes hard work and a lot of networking!) ask yourself how much you are taking advantage of all of the free features you can use today without breaking your bank account.