Social media engagement: A gift?

I recently scaled back my business after contemplating and praying about aligning myself with a nonprofit organization. I wanted to give back. I accepted a position in development with a nonprofit organization I have known and loved for years, the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. The Ranches provide a place to call home for about 60 children, ages 6-17, per year in family-style foster care facilities, housed on a huge ranch near the White River. I couldn’t be more excited about contributing to fulfilling the Ranches’ mission.

Fulfilling your mission: Brand awareness via social media management

One way I help fulfill that mission is by building brand awareness via social media. I’m no newbie to social media management; I have used it to communicate with students, clients, and donors since joining Facebook and LinkedIn almost 15 years ago.

adult-casual-coffee-1437541What’s different about managing social media for a nonprofit organization? Typically, a nonprofit’s organization’s target audience is more varied. It includes potential and existing donors, employees, volunteers, clients/customers, board members, and community members. Creating and managing content for a varied audience can prove challenging but isn’t impossible. Focusing tightly on the organization’s mission, and highlighting examples of mission fulfillment, appeals to all audience members.

But the biggest difference? Social media engagement is a gift.

Social media management: A gift?

As a nonprofit organization, you rely heavily on donations and in-kind gifts to fulfill your mission, to serve clients, and to operate as an organization. Thus, each click, follow, like, comment, and share on social media platforms aids in fulfilling your mission, increasing brand awareness, and encouraging financial giving.

Are you optimizing your organization’s use of social media? Do you understand that a 20 year-old college student who repeatedly likes and shares your content may eventually choose to volunteer to tutor your students, to host a fundraiser online, or to pledge a monthly gift? Keeping the big picture in mind when managing social media is crucial for successful nonprofit social media management.

Contact me to schedule an executive coaching session or keynote presentation on mindful social media management.

Before an informational interview

You might need to learn more about a career field to determine your degree path in college. Maybe you want an “in” with a particular company. Or perhaps you’re considering changing careers or seeking a promotion into a career zone that’s unfamiliar. Whatever your reasons, requesting an informational interview can feel pretty intimidating. Here are some tips to ease your nerves and help you prepare.


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  1. Ask the right person for the right reasons. Do you know how many people randomly ask professionals to meet with them for 30 minutes for an informational interview yet don’t give adequate thought to why they’re asking? Many—and this is why some mentors and seasoned professionals are a bit aloof when you ask for an informational interview.If you’re going to ask someone for 10 minutes of talk time, be sure you’re asking the right person first. Do you want advice about starting a consulting business? Ask an entrepreneur who’s started her own consulting business. Are you considering leaving teaching as a career? Ask someone for advice who’s already been there, done it, and is happy with the outcome (and ask someone who wishes he’d never left, too, because balance in perspective is crucial when making career decisions).
  2. After you’ve identified a great person to interview, nail down your purpose for the interview. Notice “purpose” is singular—don’t ask more than 3-5 questions unless you’re sending questions via email. And even then, respect your interviewee’s time by sticking to a clear, concise plan. Don’t forget to clearly communicate your purpose when requesting the interview. Most people don’t want to agree to spend 30 minutes with a pseudo-stranger unless there’s a stated purpose/plan or perceived benefit.
  3. As much as you need to be clear and concise, you also need to be flexible. If your interviewee offers you a tour of her company’s manufacturing facilities, by all means, say yes! Does that mean you’ll spend an hour and a half there instead of the 30 minutes you expected? Yes, and that’s fabulous! Leave your schedule open for at least a 2-hour block of time when you schedule an informational interview; however, try to watch the clock and wrap up your line of questioning in 30 minutes unless your interviewee is obviously enjoying herself and rambling. Let her go on and on if she likes. She’s the expert/mentor, so sit back, listen, and absorb her experience and knowledge.
  4. While we’re on the subject of time management, remember to arrive on time. There’s simply no way to make a worst first impression than to arrive terribly late. If you get lost or stuck in traffic, call ahead to let your interviewee know what’s happening. If you’ll be more than a few minutes late, ask if he would rather reschedule or continue with the interview. Be prepared for him to request to reschedule.
  5. Prepare your list of questions (3-5, ideally) and bring a hard copy with you. It’s very distracting to talk to someone while she’s clicking or scrolling on an electronic device. Put your phone down, leave the laptop at home, and break out a pen and paper for informational interviews. This allows you to make better eye contact and display your soft skills, including active listening and mindfulness.
  6. Be prepared to tell your interviewee a bit about yourself, too. Create an elevator pitch and practice in advance to avoid stumbling over your words when he asks you to tell him about your own career background and goals.
  7. If you plan to share information learned during the interview in an essay, an article, or a post on social media, get permission from your interviewee first. And good grief, NEVER record someone without his permission either.
  8. Dress appropriately yet comfortably. If you’re meeting on-site at a company or office, dress professionally (business casual). If you’re meeting for coffee or lunch on the weekend or in the evening, tone it down slightly. But remember, just as when dressing for job interviews, you’re not trying to show off your assets during an informational interview. This meeting is not about you. Don’t try to make it about you by selecting flashy or provocative clothing.Dress comfortably, not just appropriately, because sometimes we can’t predict how far we’ll walk from the parking lot to the building or whether we will climb three flights of stairs. An informational interview isn’t the time to wear new shoes or a tight, straight skirt.
  9. Follow up and express gratitude. This should always be your last step. Don’t walk away from an informational interview, shake hands, and forget to send an email or thank you card (I prefer thank you cards). Connect on social media, too. This makes it easy for you to regularly touch base with your new contact, mentor, and friend.

An informational interview can be a great strategy in your career development or job search process. But knowing when to ask, who to ask, how to ask, and how to pull it off can be tricky. Contact me if you might benefit from networking coaching or an interview prep session.

Think before you post

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s disappointing to hear, but it’s the truth. You’re not a celebrity.

When Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon arrived at an Oscars party in a Prius instead of a limousine, people (at least some people) noticed. And people cared. On the contrary, if you purchase a hybrid vehicle and drive around your neighborhood or post status updates and Tweet about saving the environment, no one will snap a photograph (except perhaps your wife).

We’re not celebrities. The problem is social media has given us all a false sense of power, authority, and entitlement. We believe we can actually change the world (or at least our friends’ minds) by posting, sharing, and liking. We think we’re little celebrities, saving the world one Tweet at a time. It’s insane.

This would simply be a societal phenomenon (an amusing one, albeit) if it weren’t for the impact it has on our personal branding and networking efforts, which heavily impacts our careers. If you spew negativity around social media for two years, and all of your 2,391 connections see each of your negative, over-the-top, whiny, offensive, and heavily opinionated posts, you have effectively branded yourself as negative, whiny, offensive, and heavily opinionated.

You may currently feel so strongly about your opinions, beliefs, and values that you don’t think this matters. Or perhaps you have a sinking feeling in your gut while reading this. You know it matters, but you feel so strongly about your opinions, beliefs, and values that you are going to Joan of Arc it to the death in the name of X cause all over social media. However, as a career coach who has managed social media accounts for several organizations and assisted many clients with branding and networking efforts, I implore you to reconsider this frenetic online behavior.

If you have any intention of searching for jobs, networking professionally with people who do not share your beliefs and values (that’s probably half the world’s population), seeking a promotion, or switching career paths at any point, please pause before posting content which is emotionally loaded, politically slanted, or in any way gives off the “us versus them” vibe. Even if people don’t tell you they find your posts offensive, whiny, arrogant, negative, heavily opinionated, or inappropriate, they may.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

We are always branding ourselves, whether we intend to or not. By the same token, we’re always either tightening or loosening our connections with our network because people we’re connected to see our actions (including posts, shares, and likes). These create an impression of who we are. If we’re not mindfully working to ensure our connections see the best version of ourselves, they won’t.

This requires that we gain some objectivity and stop reacting to every single political news article which comes across our news feed. We must practice dignity and ask ourselves, ‘How important is it?’ before commenting on others’ posts (which are often immature and asinine). Unless our connections are all purely personal, we’re digging ourselves into a deep branding hole. It’s hard to recreate your brand once you’ve labeled yourself–over a long period of time–as whiny, negative, highly volatile, heavily opinionated, intolerant of others’ opinions, and prone to snap.

If you’re in a branding hole or want to find a way to express yourself honestly while maintaining a positive brand (and great relationships with your contacts), reach out to me for help. 

 

5 ways to connect with alumni at networking events

If you’re a college student or recent graduate, and you’re not connecting with alumni from your college or university (or alma mater) at networking events, you’re skipping over one of the most valuable networking resources available to you.

Alumni care about helping you. You already share something in common so you’ll find it easy to strike up conversation. And most of the time, your college or university hosts networking events on campus, in the community, or even virtual networking groups/chats online. There’s no reason to sit back and observe any longer. Here are five ways to start connecting with alumni.


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Don’t be intimidated by alumni.

Alumni often have earned impressive job titles, have years of experience under their belts, and have polished their soft skills. Don’t let those things intimidate you (or at least pretend you’re not intimidated when networking with alumni). Believe in your gut that alumni want the best for you. They do. Sure, they attend alumni events to network with other alumni. They also attend alumni networking events to network with college students and to give back, to share their experience, and to mentor others.

Spend more time talking to alumni than to your fellow students.

It’s easier to chat with other college students than to launch into your elevator pitch seven times while shaking hands with alumni. It’s also probably less lucrative in terms of ROI. You’ll invest the same amount of time at the networking event talking to other students as you will talking to alumni. Why not invest that time talking to professionals who may add long-term significant value to your current or future job search?

Connect with alumni online immediately following networking events.

During your job search, if you don’t apply for job openings within 72 hours after positions are posted, your chances of being considered drop considerably. The same goes for following up after networking events. Reach out to new connections within 24 hours after networking events if possible. Send an email or invitation to connect on social media. Personalize your greeting whenever possible because at networking events, alumni meet multiple people and may not remember every college student’s name or face.

Consider asking alumni for advice or to serve as mentors.

If you meet someone and make an immediate, genuine, strong connection, don’t be afraid to invite that person for coffee and visit about the possibility of mentorship. Finding a mentor is key in the early stages of your career, and workplace mentors are not the same as career mentors. How great would it be if you could identify a career mentor while still in college? Even if you’re not sure you want to ask someone to serve as your mentor, there’s no harm in asking someone for an informational interview or running a few questions by a person who has great bits of advice to share. Be sure to meet in neutral, public locations and to arrive on time, respecting the other person’s work schedule and/or personal time.

Follow up and say thank you.

No matter what, follow up and say thank you. There’s no act of kindness too small that you should ever brush it off. Always say thank you. The same goes for following up. If you’re timely, gracious, and grateful when networking, you will rarely fail to make and maintain genuine relationships.

If you need help building your networking skills, preparing an elevator pitch, or understanding the ins and outs of mentoring or informational interviews, reach out to me for a free consultation.

3 ways to do a branding check before a networking event

It’s the time of year when everyone’s searching for jobs, or at least it seems that way. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, and you have that unsettled, disgruntled feeling, or you’re a college student searching for your very first professional job or internship, you’re going to be attending career fairs, job fairs, or other networking events. You’ll be schmoozing with recruiters, hiring managers, colleagues, faculty members, and professionals in your chosen career field who may be able to hook you up with great job leads.

Don’t forget to properly prepare for these events. How can you do that? One important way is to perform a branding check.


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1. Check your online brand.
Don’t wait until after the event to Google yourself and start scrambling to remove undesirable links, photos, or documents. It may be too late at that point; your new professional friends may have beat you to the punch.

Don’t just remove undesirable content. Work to brand yourself in a positive light, too. You should do this regularly, and I won’t lie to you; it takes time and effort. It often takes days or weeks to tidy up your social media pages/profiles and to connect with great people online. Don’t wait until the day of a networking event to log in to your profiles and expect to drastically transform your online image.
2. Prepare a personal branding statement and elevator pitch.
Within 20-30 seconds, confidently and concisely describe who you are and where you’re heading in life. Don’t waste your new professional contacts’ time by rambling, hemming, and hawing during the networking event. You’re all there for the same reason–to build relationships and make connections. Be considerate of others’ times by preparing your spiel in advance. Prepare and practice your personal branding statement and elevator pitch by working with a career services expert if you’re a college student or with a career coach like me if you’ve already graduated from college.
3. Show your work; don’t just talk about it.
Do you have samples of your writing, artwork, graphic design projects, or research results? Don’t just blab about it at the networking event (although certainly brag about yourself and toot your own horn). Mention that you have links available to samples of your work on your LinkedIn profile, electronic portfolio, or blog site. Then follow up after the networking event and remember to send samples of your work to your new professional contacts.

It’s great to speak well of your accomplishments. It’s better to back up your claims with proof. This really brands you by creating a firm impression of who you are professionally in the minds of those who view your work.

blonde-1503202_1280Branding and networking are lifelong processes. If you need help getting started or improving your brand, reach out to me for help.

6 reference tips for your job search

It’s a new year, and you’ve probably already set goals, counted calories, or reevaluated your priorities. Whether you’re applying for graduate school or scholarships, considering making a major career move, or applying for job openings, take time to check out these six tips related to asking people to serve as job search references, creating your reference page, and maintaining positive relationships with your references.

  1. Ask before listing people as references.

The cardinal rule of reference letters and listing people as references on job applications is to ask for permission. This sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many people simply list a few contacts on their job applications, assuming they’ll be glad to receive automated emails from companies and colleges. This is a major no-no and a great way to burn a bridge with someone who might otherwise be glad to serve as a reference.

Try to ask people to serve as references face-to-face. This gives you the chance to read their body language, observe facial expressions, and listen to their tone of voice. If you observe any hesitancy or negativity, don’t list the person as a reference. Ever.

2. Keep your references updated.

When you begin a job search, notify people who’ve agreed to serve as references. When you are up for a promotion, notify your references. Periodically ask your references for updates on their own job changes, too. Keep in touch with people who are helping you along in your career!

3. As much as it depends on you, remain on good terms with everyone.

The best way to ensure you receive glowing references from anyone a potential employer might call? Stay on good terms with everyone, including your supervisors and coworkers. Maintaining positive relationships is part of good networking–and strong networking skills will benefit you in your job search.

4. Remember that Google matters.

Did you know that about 94% of employers admit to searching for candidates online before inviting them in for face-to-face interviews? Let that haunt you while posting online late at night.

5. Brand yourself well online.

There’s more to branding on social media than locking down your scantily clad photos. Are you interacting with potential employers? Are you participating in Twitter chats related to your field of study? Have you joined groups for job seekers on LinkedIn? Do you follow companies of interest and pay attention to job openings? Do you make thoughtful comments in a timely manner? If it’s searchable, it may be found by potential employers. Be mindful of your interactions online at all times and be proactive in putting your best foot forward.

6. Create a strong reference list.

Maybe you didn’t have a great relationship with your last supervisor. Compensate on your reference list by listing other notable contacts. List supervisors in other departments who worked closely with you or cross-trained with you. List your boss’s boss if you had better rapport with him. Consider listing coworkers who have since been promoted. Understand that your former supervisor may still be contacted, and there is little you can do to control that. However, you can always do your part to create a strong impression by creating a strong reference list, a killer resume, and an impressive cover letter.

And when your future boss interviews you, you’ll nail it.

Need help managing your job search? Reach out to me for help.