Standing out in a crowded job market

Job hunting isn’t always an easy road. It can be hard to be noticed if you’re an immigrant or a mum returning to work, if you’re looking for your first job, making a career change, or many other situations that make your search more of a challenge.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of success. By learning how to stand out in a crowded market, you can build more meaningful relationships and get noticed.

Here are some tips.

1) Build great relationships with recruiters

You often have to impress a recruiter before you get noticed by a potential employer. Try to build positive relationships with recruiters so they put you forward for great jobs.

Recruiters are busy people and may take some time to get back to you. Don’t be afraid to follow up, but take care not to irritate them; be friendly and polite whether communicating via phone, email, or in person.

2) Apply for jobs that match your skills

When you’re keen to get noticed, it can be tempting to send out hundreds of CVs every month and apply for every job in your industry but this approach can overwhelm recruiters and be a waste of your and their time.

Instead, be selective. Apply for jobs where your skills and strengths can shine. You’re more likely to stand out if you’re a good fit for the role advertised.

3) Reflect and improve

Take a fresh look at your CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Make sure these documents have evolved with your job search and experience.

For more tips on improving your CV, check out my article ‘What does your CV say about you?’

4) Be specific about what you want

Figure out what type of job you want and tell everyone in your network: “I’m looking for X position with X type of company”. The more specific you are, the easier people will find it to help you (including recruiters).

5) Leverage your LinkedIn profile

Are you using your LinkedIn profile to your full advantage? Review your profile to ensure it gives just enough information to pique interest without being overwhelming.

You can also use LinkedIn to share blog posts and articles, interact with former colleagues, and grow your network.

Many employers post jobs on LinkedIn – just make sure you follow their instructions if you want to apply. Never comment with “check my profile” and leave it at that; it’s likely that the recruiter or employer is much too busy to check out individual profiles. It’s much better if you make contact in the way they’ve asked, or submit a tailored application.

For more advice for upping your LinkedIn game, check out my post “Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your awesomeness?”

6) Take care of your best asset: you!

It’s demoralising when you get rejected or don’t even hear back from employers. Persevere, but also take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you’re building resilience and that you’ve done hard things before and you can do them again. And when you’re feeling blue, check in with someone who will be your champion and keep you clear-headed and motivated.

7) Seek career advice

People come to me for career advice when a traditional job search isn’t working for them, when they don’t quite “fit”. My clients include new immigrants, mothers returning to work, people changing career direction, and graduates looking for their first role. They all say how tough it is to be rejected or ignored over and over again.

I’m inspired by how they keep trying, how they adapt and work at it, and how they don’t give up hope. And then there’s the moment when they tell me how they have an offer – that someone has finally seen their value and wants to hire them. It’s the best. Remember the Fresh Prince and how Carlton does the happy dance? That’s how I feel when one of my clients gets a nice role!

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Carlton doing the happy dance 🙂

Talking about your value at work

Talking about yourself at work isn’t easy, especially if you’re from a culture where this might be perceived as boasting, arrogant or self-involved. I’m looking at you, New Zealand!

Long ago, I heard the comedian Oscar Kightley tell a joke that perfectly captures New Zealand’s “tall poppy” culture. Apologies to Oscar if I mess up his joke but here goes…

“A distinguished professor is at a ceremony to accept an award for creating a pill that cures not only the common cold but all major diseases. In his speech he talks about his long career and the hard work he put in and he says how proud he is to have made so many people healthy and happy. The audience erupts in applause. A Kiwi turns to the guy next to him and says, ‘He’s a bit up himself, ay!'”

We laugh at the exaggerated story because it pokes fun at our tendency to expect people to be humble even when it’s perfectly justified for them to talk about their achievements. And we know that we don’t want to be the person seen as boastful or with an inflated sense of self-importance. It feels uncomfortable talking about our achievements and avoid it so that we don’t feel the sting of other people’s judgement.

But should this stop you from speaking up? You might think that if someone wants to know about you, they’ll ask. In reality, most people are probably too busy worrying about themselves to notice if you have done something amazing!

It’s up to you to share your story.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to promote and sell yourself, to grow and progress, to make your contribution.

You have value to offer your team, your employers, and your wider community. 

Stop for a second and think of your value – your talents and skills and contribution.

The gremlins that want you to stop you speaking up are strong, but you can outwit them. Here are a few ways to identify and celebrate your value:

  • Reflect on past achievements – big and small
  • Re-read references, testimonials and positive feedback
  • Make a list of everything you do that helps others
  • Think of the technical skills you’ve learnt, and the personal attributes and experience you bring to your team, your employer and the wider community

Your value is your currency. It buys you trust, respect, and confidence.

Being shy about your value won’t help you land that new opportunity, dream job or exciting promotion. If you want to be trusted with new responsibilities, you need to be able to share your strengths.

If you don’t speak up, someone else might. They might get that promotion or opportunity – simply because they were willing to speak about themselves. Let people know that you’re keen and willing, or you could risk being overlooked.

Tips for talking about yourself with clarity and confidence

  • If you’re anxious about appearing conceited or arrogant, this is a good sign that you’re not. The fact you don’t want to be seen as selfish shows you’re considering other people’s feelings and contribution.
  • Before speaking, ask yourself: “What’s my intent?” If you intend to make other people feel inferior or envious, then you are being arrogant.
  • Get evidence. Find someone who will be honest with you and ask them if you’re coming across as conceited. And also ask if they think you’re doing enough to let people know what you have to offer.
  • Check your facts. Don’t speak from opinion; be specific. Use facts and figures to draw attention to ways you’ve made a tangible difference.
  • If you don’t say something, people may not know. Talking about yourself is like advertising. If you have a wonderful product but people can only find out about it by chance, you won’t make many sales.
  • Be clear. Give other people the right words to use to advocate for you.
  • Be honest. You know what it’s like to listen to someone downplay their achievements. False modesty is irritating so own your worth.
  • Acknowledge other people in your team. Does this achievement only belong to you or were there people who helped you along the way?
  • Share your journey. Say why you’re proud. Most things that make us feel valued have required hard work. So talk about the challenges you overcame to get to where you are today. It’s the difference between: “I said I would win top salesperson and I did,” and “Getting to this point has been a goal of mine and even though it’s taken a lot of time and hard work I’m proud that I persevered.”
  • Describe your accomplishments in your boss’s words. Saying “the Delivery Manager said my suggestions made a big improvement,” comes across better than “I always come up with the best ideas”.
  • Boast! Sometimes we don’t know how something feels unless we actually do it, so try a full on bragging session – to someone you know, or to yourself. Say everything out loud, in the most arrogant way you can. Then reflect. How did that make you feel and how was it different to clearly and honestly stating your achievements? Taking an extreme view can help you find the right balance.

As with everything, talking about your value gets easier with practice. Over time, the voice in your head that says “what might people think of me?” will be replaced with “what do people need to know about me?”.

Don’t leave it to chance. If you have skills and strengths to offer, then you owe it to yourself (and others!) to share your story.

How and why to publish articles on LinkedIn

posts

About 18 months ago, I published my first article on LinkedIn. It’s called ‘Something is better than anything’. Since that day I’ve published 17 LinkedIn articles. Some have generated a great response, others have only reached a handful of people. But that’s not what matters – what matters is that I pushed Publish each one of those times.

Every time I click Publish, I put myself out there and share my thoughts and perspective. And I think you could benefit from doing the same.

Blogging helps you develop your ‘voice’ – who you are, what you stand for, what you’re interested in. It helps people get to know your viewpoint. It’s a perfect platform for introverts – we can do plenty of research, write at home in peace and quiet, and press Publish when we’re ready.

I want you to post on LinkedIn because I want to hear what you have to say. I want to get to know your ‘voice’, and I want a diverse array of content to read.

Blogging is such an easy way to communicate your ideas, and if you’re on LinkedIn, it’s available to you right now!

“But…”

I hear people say they want to blog but… English is their second language. But they can’t write. But they have nothing to say. But maybe no one will like it.

None of these reasons should be good enough to stop you. Every blogger I read has improved over time. We all have to start somewhere.

So let’s get started.

Choose a topic

Draw on your own experience in the workplace to pick an interesting topic. You don’t need to be an expert. Think about the things you can’t help but talk about with your colleagues, the things you get excited about. Or you could describe something you’ve tried at work – a new technique, something you’ve done differently.

People learn a lot from other people’s experiments, successes, and failures. In fact, hearing about other people’s challenges is often the best way to get the courage to try something for ourselves. Your journey could have a profound impact on someone’s life, but you will never know unless you share.

Do some research

If you’re thinking about writing, you probably enjoy reading blogs. Look at a few blogs that you like and see what stands out about their structure, tone, and content. Do you enjoy a list of tips, a personal story, a set of learnings, or something else? Perhaps you could use the same “framework”.

Here’s a simple framework you could follow:

  1. Intro – describe why you’re writing about your chosen topic.
  2. Detail – give some context for your story.
  3. Learnings – provide three takeaway tips for your readers (bullet points work well).
  4. Conclusion – refer to your introduction and summarise your key points.

When in doubt, just write

There are hundreds and thousands of articles online with tips on how to be a better writer, but if you’re starting out the best thing you can do is just write. No matter how many articles you read, you’re only going to learn once you start to write.

Set aside some time in a quiet space and write what comes to mind. Remember, a first draft is just that – a first draft. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; it just has to be a beginning. It’s also a good idea to set a time limit for your first draft (maybe a couple of hours), then leave it for a day and read it with fresh eyes. Don’t spend too long reviewing and editing before you hit publish. Some bloggers I know publish as soon as they hit their time limit, no matter what they’ve written. They say this gives them a sense of urgency and they’ve found that that there are no major consequences if what they’ve written isn’t ‘perfect’.

Practical steps to writing on LinkedIn Pulse

Now that you know why blogging is important, here’s the nuts and bolts for publishing on LinkedIn.

  1. Click the ‘Write an Article’ link (under your profile details on the homepage).
  2. Write your article (I usually leave the headline until the end – see below).
  3. Use the pre-set formatting to break up your story. You can insert images, links, and videos, and also embed podcasts, tweets, and other media.
  4. Choose a short and specific title that will set the tone for your article. People who follow you and your connections will only see the title in their notifications so try for someting clear and catchy.
  5. Upload an image at the top of the post (700 x 400 pixels). You can create free images on sites like Canva or Pexels. Remember to only use images you’re entitled to.
  6. Do a final read through to check spelling, grammar, and flow.
  7. Click the Publish button. LinkedIn asks you to enter some hashtags to help with searching. Hit Publish again. Once this is done, your post will be live and available to read. This is usually the point I realise I missed a spelling mistake or want to change something! From the homepage click ‘Write an Article’, then top right click ‘More > Articles’. Select Edit, make changes, and click Publish again.

You’ll get LinkedIn notifications each time someone responds to your post. To view stats and interactions, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Go to your profile page by clicking on your photo/name on the LinkedIn homepage.
  2. Scroll down to the Posts section. Click View Stats. Clicking on each post shows you the number of views, likes, comments, and shares for that post. Comments are shown at the end of the post and you might need to click ‘Show More’ to see all of them. Here, you can like, reply to, flag, and hide comments.

And that’s it!

Now all you need to do is write your first post. Let me know when it’s published so I can read it 🙂

 

 

 

What to do while you’re waiting

Sometimes you need to wait for what you really want. Here are some tips to help you get through those times.

rainSpring in New Zealand is beautiful. Buds on the trees and blossoms everywhere, tiny lambs and cute ducklings. And rain. This spring has arrived with more than the usual amount of rain.

It got me thinking about life’s ‘seasons’, the sunny and rainy times. The dull, grey times. The moments of calm and excitement.

Yet, unlike the seasons, in life it’s hard to predict whether sunshine or rain is around the corner. (To be fair, Auckland weather is pretty hard to predict too.)

Sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck in a season you’d rather escape. When this happens, it’s natural to long for sunnier times. You can spend weeks, months, or even years, waiting for change.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes it feels like you’re wading through mud – that life isn’t changing fast enough. That your dreams and aspirations keep eluding you. That you’re not getting the new job, the raise, the changes you want – no matter how hard you try.

You’re not alone. We all get stuck from time to time – it’s inevitable. So, the question should not be ‘how do I avoid the rainy season?’, but ‘how can I cope while I’m waiting for sunshine?’

I want to share several techniques I’ve learned over the years. Some require small shifts in perspective. Others require patience and time. Here is what I know.

Remember that “this too shall pass”

There is much wisdom in this old adage. Tough times won’t last forever – your situation will change. Try to cultivate patience and acceptance of the seasons of your life, while at the same time keeping your heart open to a brighter future.

Good times won’t last forever, either. Enjoy them while you have them. Relish in the special moments that will keep your spirits up when times are hard.

Use tough times as momentum for change

There is no personal growth without challenge. They go hand-in-hand. Use tough times as an opportunity to reflect, take stock, and regroup.

Tough times often help us make tough decisions. When life is mostly good, we sometimes overlook the small things that are niggling us, the quiet voice that says “something’s not right”.

When frustration or sadness is the more dominant emotion – when you can no longer say that “things are mostly okay” – it’s easier to take a clear, hard look at what’s not working in your life. Identify the things that demotivate or drain you, and use this clarity as momentum to try something different.

Do what you can with what you have

To (fully!) embrace this seasons cliché, sometimes you have to learn to dance in the rain’. If you can’t change your circumstance, then change your attitude. Sometimes your attitude is the only thing you can control.

All situations offer a chance to learn about yourself or others, to practice patience, to build resilience, and to try different paths. Often it is these very challenges that make the sunnier times so sweet.

Be ready

My last tip is to be ready for change – to create space for it in your life, so when the time comes, you will be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but you can start to prepare for future opportunities. For example, if you want to move into a different role, you could start researching it online, enrol in a course, or speak to others in the field. Immerse yourself in learning.

I’ve found that when you are learning about something new, it’s very hard to feel stuck – with knowledge comes momentum, no matter how slow.

And remember – it (whatever ‘it’ is for you), will be worth the wait.

How to succeed at feedback

Feedback can be hard to ask for or to receive, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

feedbackFeedback. Does this word make you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps just the thought fills you with dread?

Asking for feedback can be awkward – for both the asker and the askee. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

At the recent Gather Unconference I went to Genny Stevens’ session on giving and receiving feedback. It was great to hear what she had to say. It reinforced some things I knew but I also learned a lot.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the session.

Giving feedback
Genny shared a new technique for giving feedback called the Feedback Wrap Model.

Forget about the awful feedback sandwich – you know, when you sneak feedback in between two pieces of praise?

“You’re fun to work with, but here’s how you suck, and you’re always on time to meetings!”

The feedback sandwich feels awkward and inauthentic. The feedback wrap, on the other hand, follows an intentional five-step process. Instead of ‘sandwiching’ the feedback between two insincere comments, it ‘wraps’ the feedback with context, observations, and suggestions. The result? Clear and sincere communication that’s honest without being blunt or inconsiderate.

Giving feedback is actually a good thing; it shows people you’re paying attention and that you care about their progress. Noticing and helping others is a great way for them to notice and help you. Feedback is a two-way street.

Asking for feedback
I believe that it’s even more important to ask for feedback than it is to give it to others. Why? Because we have blindspots about ourselves. We need feedback to know what we’re doing well and what we could improve.

Asking for feedback shows that you’re taking ownership of your work. And the more you practice asking others for their feedback, the easier it will be to cope with unsolicited feedback when it arises.

The main things to remember when asking for feedback are to be specific and to give people ‘permission’ to be honest with you. Instead of asking “Am I doing okay?”, relate your question to a real situation such as “I don’t think I managed that last meeting very well. What do you think I could improve for next time?”. If you want more general feedback you could ask something like “I am keen to develop my skills so I can do better at work. I value your opinion – could you give me a couple of suggestions on what I could do to improve?”

Some good questions to ask in relation to specific situations include:

“Am I on the right track?”
“What can I do to prepare?”
“Which skills would be valuable for me to grow?”

If asking feels uncomfortable, start by actively listening to what others say about or around you. They may be already telling you a lot without directly talking to you.

Coping with feedback

Asking for feedback is one thing; coping with it is something else altogether. It’s hard to receive feedback that’s not entirely positive, especially if the person giving it isn’t sensitive to your feelings. But remember – you don’t need to take on board everything that they say.

I believe a simple ‘thanks’ is enough. That’s it. You don’t need to justify yourself or explain further. Give yourself time to mull over their suggestions, decide if any are useful and then any further actions you’d like to take.

Receiving and responding to feedback is, after all, a personal journey. You get to decide how it shapes your future.

How to deal with FOMO

all the thingsYou’ve got what feels like 50 tabs open in your browser. 23 unread notifications demand your attention on Twitter. Another ‘must-watch’ video pops up in your news feed. Do you watch it now, save it for later or risk missing out? Your list of articles to read is growing longer by the day, and you feel as though you can’t keep up.

Does this sound familiar?

You might be experiencing information overload.

I love social media, but last year I started getting too much of a good thing. My phone was constantly buzzing with notifications from emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Not only was this distracting, but it made me feel as though I was constantly behind. No matter how often I checked, there was still more to read, more to watch.

It soon got to the point where social media felt like a chore, something else on my to-do list, until I had a wave of realisation: Wait, I told myself, I don’t need to read everything!

It was a simple yet profound realisation. In my scramble to ‘keep up’, I had forgotten that I could be selective about what I chose to give my time and attention to. Social media has this way of making it seem like everything is important – news, comments, blogs, updates, politics, television, big and small events … all are treated with the same urgency. I knew I had to draw the line. So I decided to make a change.

Slowly, I implemented a few strategies to take back control over what I read, watch and listen to each day. Below are the things that helped me manage the constant flow of content. Maybe they will help you too?

Be selective
What I said to myself was true: you really don’t need to read everything. You don’t even need to read as much as you think. Choose to limit the content you regularly consume and restrict it to that which adds the most value – whether that value relates to your current role, your career, or your life in general. All the other content can wait or even be completely ignored.

It’s better to follow one or two fantastic blogs than 10 mediocre ones. Don’t be afraid to cull things that are average or unhelpful or time wasters. If you don’t ever get to that article you saved back in 2009 then so what? Stop feeling bad every time you see it waiting for you. Delete it. If you aren’t sure where the good content is ask people you admire for their top recommendations.

Limit your notifications
I’ve written previously about a simple technique that truly changed my life. I changed the settings on my smartphone so that the only notifications I receive are phone calls and text messages. Everything else – email, social media and other apps – needs to wait until I have time to give them attention. Limiting notifications means I’m not constantly being interrupted, and I can focus on tasks that are important to me. I know the updates will all be waiting for me when I log in – there’s no need to have notifications popping up on my phone every 5 minutes.

JOMO is the new FOMO
Next time you suffer from a ‘fear of missing out’, flip this concept on its head and look for the ‘joy of missing out’ instead. For example, you might miss out on watching the 6pm news so you can go for a walk with your family. Or miss out on reading everything that’s filled up your Twitter feed since you last checked, and instead read your favourite blog. Choose to miss out on things that leave you feeling bored, drained, uninspired, aimless. Use your time and energy on the activities that make you feel connected, educated, inspired.  

So, remember:

  1. You really don’t have to read, watch or catch up with everything.
  2. You get to choose what things can interrupt you.
  3. Celebrate being able to miss out on some things. No more FOMO!

I’m interested to hear from you. What you do to manage the volume of content you’d like to get to? Do you have any tips for limiting interruptions? What will you choose to miss out on and what exciting things are you going to do instead?

Ask for what you want

YesssIt’s often said that ‘good things come to those who wait’. Unfortunately, patience isn’t always a virtue in a corporate environment. Sometimes, to get the promotion, project, opportunity or work conditions you want, you have to ask for it.

I understand this is easier said than done. Asking for what you want often means stepping outside of what feels comfortable – especially if you’ve never voiced your ambitions or wishes before.

The good news is, this is a skill that can be learned. With the right preparation, you can find your voice.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Be kind to yourself
Don’t be your own enemy. Remind yourself that you have just as much right as others to state your preferences and desires. You may not always get the outcome you want but you are fully entitled to ask.

2. Draw strength from past success
Think of a time when you did something you were proud of. It’s likely that your achievement was a result of taking action even when you weren’t sure of the outcome. Just because you’re doubting yourself now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Who knows what might happen?

3. Be specific in your requests
Make it easy for the person you’re asking to understand what it is you want. Other people can’t read your mind, so aim to make your request clear and specific. A good way to test this is to practice your request on a friend. Also, practising in a safe environment means you’ll be more relaxed when the real time comes.

4. Be prepared
Be prepared for the kind of questions that might be asked in reply to your request. What supporting details or outcomes might they want to know? And think of how you will respond if you get a “Yes” or a “No”. It’s always good to keep this simple, for example ‘I appreciate you giving me this chance’ or ‘Thank you for considering it’ . Sometimes it will work out, sometimes it won’t – but that’s okay. No one gets a yes every single time.

5. Feel the fear and do it anyway
No matter how carefully you prepare, you might still feel nervous. This is normal! Trust in your preparation, then go ahead and ask. Don’t wait and hope. Take action and give yourself a chance to get more of what you want.

What if …

SunriseI love the start of the year because it’s a time to take stock and look ahead. A new year feels so fresh and shiny and untainted. It’s the perfect time to let our imaginations soar with dreams about the future.

Yet too often what should be a special time of reflection and aspiration turns into a time to feel anxious about what we haven’t yet achieved. As a result, many of us end up setting goals that involve sacrifice and self-control. These goals come from a place of restriction, not a place of possibility.

We might start going to the gym five times a week, or decide to cut out sugar, or start hunting for a new job. While our intentions are good, we often cannot live up to our own rigid expectations. This leads to disappointment, frustration and self-loathing. You see it as a failure. You think, ‘if only I’d tried harder, or put better plans in place… then I could have succeeded.’

What if I told you that’s not true? That your success is not measured by how many times you go to the gym each week or whether or not you eat your greens every day?

By imagining a brighter future, you are already on your journey towards success. Imagining new possibilities means that you are looking forward. By entertaining these thoughts, you are projecting yourself into a picture of a future that is better, brighter and more fulfilled. A future that holds possibility. This in itself shows your positive intent. It’s a sure sign that you are on the right track – so why derail your efforts by setting unrealistic goals?

Instead of approaching the new year as a time to set firm, non-negotiable goals that you feel you have to stick to, I encourage you to try something different.

Ask yourself: what if?

Daydream about possibilities. Ask yourself: what if I set aside time to do regular exercise? How would this make me feel? Would it make my life better? What would I need to change to make this happen? Is this something I really want?

Asking yourself ‘what if’ takes away feelings of obligation and what I call ‘pre-guilt’ – that feeling when you make a plan that you know you won’t stick to. It invites you to explore the possibility of making a change. It’s a chance to have an open, non-judgmental conversation with yourself about what you really want to add to your life.

Think of your own example. Replace ‘this year I will…’ with ‘what if in 2016 I…?’ Doesn’t that feel more relaxed and authentic?

Focus on how your goals will add value to your life, rather than what they threaten to take away, and making a change will feel less like a burden and more like an opportunity.

If the thought of writing a list of goals doesn’t appeal, you could try setting a theme for the new year instead. I first heard about this idea from Gretchen Rubin. She encourages everyone to identify one idea, “summarised in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year”.

I’ve been doing this for a few years and it has really helped me take more meaningful actions. One year my theme was ‘strength’. I had become frustrated that I kept limiting myself by thinking of reasons why I couldn’t do things. I was tired of thinking of my weaknesses. For that year, when things came up that were challenging or new, I tried to draw on my strengths. I didn’t always succeed but remembering to focus on what I could do gave me courage and helped me to do things I might not have otherwise.

The last thing I want to say about New Year’s Resolutions is to remember that there isn’t something magic about a new year which means this is the only time we can make plans. We have a brand new, fresh and shiny chance to make or change plans every day!

The start of the year is a great time to set a theme for the months ahead and come up with some worthy goals. But if life gets in the way and you need to adjust your plans, then March or July or some other month will be a perfect time to do that too.

Just remember to ask yourself… what if?

Switching on to real life

SwitchingOnThe holiday season is a great opportunity to take a ‘digital detox’ and enjoy some time away from screens, smartphones and social media.

I love being ‘digital’. I love that my phone gives me email, social media, communications and a camera all in one small device. But technology often consumes many of the valuable hours I have left after I’m done with work, chores and other must-dos.

I find I am more content when I make a conscious effort to unplug every now and then. Over the holidays I try to make it a daily practice to minimise digital distractions. This helps me feel rested, recharged and ready to get back to work when the time comes.

And the best part? Embarking on a digital detox isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to help you switch off this summer.

  • Do more of what fills you up. Try not to think of a digital detox as a sacrifice, but instead as a way of creating more space for the things you love. Read a book. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Listen to music or podcasts. Spend a few hours on your hobbies. Be lazy. Daydream.
  • Teach people you aren’t on call. It’s okay not to reply to emails, texts or calls immediately. You’ll be able to give people the full attention they deserve if you’ve taken some time to rest and focus on what makes you happy.
  • Turn off notifications for all your apps. The sound of a new Facebook message or tweet can be incredibly distracting. A good way to focus on the present moment is to switch off all notifications. Everything will still be there the next time you choose to log in – what’s the worst that could happen? Turn off your notifications for just 1 week and see how it goes. If it’s made things harder for you just turn them on again!
  • Avoid screen time before bed. Do your best not to look at your phone, laptop, television or any other screen within an hour of your bed time. The light on phones and tablets tells your brain it’s time to wake up and can  affect your sleeping patterns.
  • Take back control of your time. Checking your phone every five minutes is often an unconscious – not to mention distracting – habit. The good news is, like all habits, it can be undone. Take some time to switch off the things that chew up your time and switch on to everything else.
  • Be present. Look up and look out from screens. Notice the world around. Interact with people you love. Be present with your family and friends – listen to them, laugh and build great memories. These are the moments that will give you the energy you need to be successful and happy.

When I’m old and grey, I won’t remember all the Twitter likes, but I will remember that time my brother and I were laughing so hard that we both ended up collapsed on the floor, trying to breathe. I’ll remember time with family, hanging out with friends, having fun, being absorbed in hobbies, or just time off relaxing or enjoying nature.

Invite more of these moments into your life by taking the time to switch off. Even an hour a day can make a huge difference. All of the notifications, emails and funny memes will still be there when you’re ready to reconnect.  But you’ll be reconnecting on your terms.

Have a wonderful, restful holiday season.

What does your LinkedIn profile say about you?

Image - LinkedIn superheroYour LinkedIn profile is more than just a copy of your CV. Your LinkedIn profile is a networking and marketing tool. It can help you get a new job or emphasise an aspect of your skills or improve your work image.

  • It allows you to keep contact with past and current colleagues.
  • It lets you connect and keep in touch with other people in your industry.
  • It’s a way for employers to find you, or to research more about you.
  • It can help to improve your profile within your industry and within your company.

There are many articles online with suggestions on creating a good LinkedIn profile. Here’s one by entrepreneur Aaron Clayton-Dunn, and here’s another with excellent tips from the marvellous Liz Ryan.

The mistakes I see:

  1. Not supplying contact details.
    • If you’re looking for work or thinking of changing jobs then make it easy for people to contact you.
  2. Too many words.
    • Keep things short and punchy. You want the key details to stand out.
  3. A bad summary.
    • Write the summary in ‘CV style’ (brief, with bullet points) and be clear about your value and what you are looking for.
  4. An unprofessional photo (or no photo).
    • You don’t need a professional photographer, but you do need to choose a photo that looks professional.
    • If you’re not sure if your photo sets the right tone, ask yourself what impression it would give the CEO at your dream company.
  5. No recommendations, or too many.
    • There doesn’t seem to be consensus on a suitable number of recommendations but I’d say around 3 recommendations in total is a good number.
    • I don’t think colleague recommendations are especially useful. Try to get ones from people you reported to or from seniors at your company or on your project.
    • If you don’t have any recommendations, ask people, but help them by specifying the kinds of things you’d like to emphasise when describing their experience of working with you.
  6. If you are going to send someone a LinkedIn request, don’t use the generic message. Tailor it. The only generic requests that I accept are from people I already know.

Suggestions

Aside from the content on your own profile, there are other useful ways to use LinkedIn.

  1. Read Pulse articles (Pulse is LinkedIn’s ‘blog’ platform) and give people feedback by commenting on their Pulse articles, but always be thoughtful and respectful, especially if you disagree.
  2. Post links to work-related articles and/or add your comments to the post.
  3. Write posts on Pulse. This is an excellent way to put your thoughts out there so people can get an idea of what you care about.
  4. Did you know you can follow someone on LinkedIn? You don’t need to connect if all you really want to do is read their posts or see their LinkedIn activity.

Next Steps

  1. Set aside some time to assess your LinkedIn profile. [30-minute activity]
    • Look at the profiles of people with your role, or the one you’re hoping to get. Compare your profile to theirs. What do you like/dislike about their profile? And yours?
  2. Make changes to your profile. [30-minute activity]
    • If you don’t want people (such as your current employer) to know you’re making changes then set “Notify your network” to No. You’ll find that setting on the bottom right of the profile editing page.
  3. Find a Pulse article you like. Comment on it. [10-minute activity]
  4. Write a Pulse article. Search online for tips on how to write a blog or LinkedIn post. [2-hour activity]

I hope these tips have helped you create a LinkedIn profile that you are proud of and that accurately reflects your awesomeness!

(Check out this blog for CV tips).