How to Tackle Your LinkedIn Summary

Not many people enjoy writing summaries. Or bragging about themselves online.

It’s no surprise that the idea of creating a LinkedIn summary is terrifying to a lot of people, but if you want to establish a professional online presence, that’s a fear you’re going to have to face. And we’re here to help.

What is it?

Your LinkedIn summary is a short description of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

When properly written, it provides valuable insight into your motivation, your area of expertise, and what it’s like to work with you. These are the kinds of things people are looking for when searching for new business connections, partners and talent.

Having no LinkedIn summary in your profile is like having toast with no jam. Crackers with no cheese. Cake with no frosting. You may have the basics covered, but you’re not giving anyone much to get excited about. And you’re seriously lacking in flavor.

What are the key ingredients?

Your inspiration. Your skills. Your experience. Your personality. And guess what? You only get 250 – 500 words to convey all of this information. It may sound impossible, but it’s really not. You just need to be concise and to the point.

If you feel those nerves kicking up, don’t worry. We’ll break these things down one by one.

Your Inspiration

What’s the best part about your job? That one thing that keeps you going, even on your worst day. For a lot of us, it’s helping people. But helping people do what?

  • Helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life
  • Helping businesses take care of their employees
  • Helping people discover their true passions

But don’t get stuck on the word helping. There are plenty of other words you can use to explain your why.

  • Delivering life-saving medicine
  • Creating beautiful spaces that bring peace
  • Empowering collaboration through fun and play

They key here is not to tell your life story. Let people know what inspires you about your work but do it in a way that is short and concise.

A third-generation physician, I grew up in hospitals and scrubs. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Being able to help a family during a medical crisis is an incredible gift, and one that I take very seriously. 

Look at that. 38 words. And you kind of want this person to be your doctor, don’t you? Now you just have to come up with one to three short sentences on what motivates you. Deep down. Where it counts.

Your Skills

We’re not talking about your entire resume here. What you want to do is pick two or three things that really define your strengths. Are you super organized? A data whiz? Do you have a way with words? People? Processes?

Choosing your skills can be difficult. Often, people think the things that are easy for them must be easy for everyone. This is not the case! If something is easy for you, it’s because you’re really good at it. Think about your personal superpowers– the things people always ask you to do. Not because they don’t want to, but because you’re just so darn good at them! Those are the kinds of things you want to include here.

An organizational fanatic, I can make your garage sale look like a meticulously stocked convenience store, your kitchen function like a five-star restaurant, or your sales department run as smoothly as a new Ferrari.

Is this a bit of an exaggeration? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it gets the point across. Want someone who is detail-oriented and loves processes? Need systems that work more efficiently? Work with this person.

Your Experience

When it comes to experience, no one is looking for a laundry list in your summary. That would not only be boring, it would be redundant. If you’ve filled out your profile correctly, your full work history will already be listed.

What you can do, however, is include some additional information about the kinds of experiences you’ve had.

My experience as a business owner, board member, and part of a fledgling start-up team has given me a wide-ranging perspective on both business and employee lifecycles. This allows me to evaluate the employment relationship from all sides and find that perfect employer-employee match. 

Rather than reiterating what you’ve done, summarize how your past work has made you better at what you do today, and well-equipped to take on more in the future. 

Your Personality

In the great scheme of things, this may seem like the least important factor on the list but remember— we’re talking about social media here. It’s all about bringing your authentic self to the party. Make sure your summary section looks, sounds, and feels like you. If it doesn’t, you’re setting everyone up for disappointment.

Think about the sample LinkedIn snippets above. Did you feel like you knew some of these people? Like you wanted to hear more? Like they might make good connections or coworkers?

This is the jam on your toast. The brie on your cracker. The raspberry buttercream frosting on your cake.

Make sure your personal flavor is shining through, and you’ll attract people who are interested in what you have to offer.

Are we there yet? (a helpful checklist)

Not sure if you’re finished? Here’s a quick checklist for you:

  • Is your summary between 250 and 500 words?
  • Does it include your personal motivation and why?
  • Did you pinpoint one or two skills that set you apart?
  • Have you demonstrated how your experience has made you better, stronger, and more capable?
  • Does your summary sound like you wrote it? Does it fit your personality? Is it consistent with your personal brand?

Great! You’re just about done!

The last step is to have at least one other person read through it and provide feedback. Not only will this save you from having typos in your LinkedIn profile (always a bad idea), it will also help you determine if you’ve let your personal strengths and personality shine through.

Happy writing!

 

Photo by inbj

Is Your Need for Speed Holding You Back?

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels super productive, and super validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

The myth of productivity

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss a lot of things along the way.

I once worked with an intern who was a very stellar person. I liked her immensely. But she was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would speed through those processes as well, she was often asked to do or fix things multiple times. 

At this point, staff members would often get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • explain the assignments over and over
  • issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most of us stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to simply keep doing those things ourselves. I discovered I could take her for coffee instead of giving her work— and still save time in the long run!

As a result, she became the queen of mundane tasks: envelope stuffing, mail runs, office storage organization. She completed these things quickly, and with a great attitude. But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure everyone would have liked to see her to get more out of her internship experience.

Unfortunately, her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience. And it kept us from using her to her full potential. 

Slow down to improve results

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things as once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can actually cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

Start single-tasking

There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multi-tasking.

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Ask questions

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day on email interruptions alone— not including phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Quick vs. Quality

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly? Or do you want it to go well?

There’s a big difference here. And I think we can all agree which one sounds more appealing. 

 

Photo by Earl Walker  

About that cover letter…

It used to be that job search was all about a good resume and cover letter.

When it came to evaluating applicants, the resume was the meat and potatoes. The main course, if you will. And the cover letter, well, that was more like the fancy appetizer. That special little something that not only looked impressive, but whet the hiring manger’s appetite and made them hungry for more.

Job seekers spent hours crafting their resume and cover letter templates, understanding how both pieces worked together to give potential employers the full meal deal.

But today’s recruiters aren’t as interested in cover letters. Forget the puff pastry bites! They’re going straight for the meatloaf.

Has the cover letter become irrelevant?

Today’s talent search begins online. Candidates are asked to fill out forms and applications and submit information electronically, and cover letters are often optional. Resumes are put through applicant tracking systems (ATS), scanned for key words and skills, then sorted by relevance.

After all that, the average resume only gets about 6 seconds of eyeball time before being tossed into one pile or another other. If recruiters are barely glancing at resumes, why on earth would they take the time to read a cover letter?

Good question

Many of them won’t. According to one study, the vast majority of recruiters don’t think cover letters matter much. And yet 26% of recruiters said they considered them to be an important factor in their hiring decisions.

So while the importance of cover letters is dwindling, they haven’t completely disappeared.  Are they a prerequisite? Not usually. Can they still be helpful in some circumstances? Most definitely.

If you use them correctly.

Fair warning

Your cover letter isn’t simply a recap of your resume. If this is what you’ve created, you might as well toss it aside because it won’t add any value to the process.

A well designed cover letter should provide something new. Something extra. More personal than a resume, it should be a summary of why you’re a good fit for the position and how you plan to bring value to the organization.

There’s a fine line here, and you need to be careful not to cross it.

Cover letters aren’t about why you want the job or what you want out of it. They’re about what you have to offer the organization, and why you’re the best fit for their needs. 

An employer doesn’t need to know how they can help you. They need to know what you can do for them. And this is where a great cover letter can make that extra bit of difference.

Dos and Don’ts

Even though the majority of recruiters readily admit they don’t read cover letters, there are times when it is appropriate to provide one.

When to include it:

  • The job listing rob requires or requests it
  • If someone has referred you for the company/position
  • You have additional information about why you’re a good fit

When to leave it out:

  • If job posting forbids (or politely requests) no cover letters
  • If your cover letter is generic, poorly written, or redundant

Tips for job seekers:

When cover letters are optional, many applicants will breathe a sigh of relief and happily skip it. In fact, 47% of job seekers did not submit a cover letter with their most recent job application. Including a well written cover letter with your resume can help you stand out in these situations.

That said, a bad cover letter can also make you stand out. But not in a good way.

A poorly written cover letter can actually be worse than no cover letter. If you’re going to write one, make sure it sends the right message— how you can help the business achieve its goals.

Tips for employers:

Forbidding cover letters may seem like a recruiting time saver, but it can also prevent you from having an additional way to differentiate between candidates, with little to no effort on your end.

You’re not required to read every cover letter, but if you’re down to the wire on a few candidates, cover letters can be a helpful decision making tool.

Take it or leave it

You may think cover letters have gone the way of VCRsroller disco, and Pepsi Light. And you may be right. But sometimes a little nostalgia hits the spot.

Should you or shouldn’t you incorporate cover letters in your job or talent search process? There’s really no wrong answer here.

Use your judgement based on the position, the candidate pool, the hiring manager, the job listing, and any other relevant factors. Then make the decision that seems best for you.

 

Photo Credit  stokkete

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How to Get Stuff Done

How many to do lists do you have going? If you’re like most people, you probably have more than one. But be honest. Are these things actually getting done?

Setting goals and creating a list of the tasks necessary to achieve them are two critical steps toward productivity. But the best intentions don’t always yield the best results.

You’ve got to commit

Making goals and plans and lists feels great. Sometimes, it feels so great that you forget to follow through and actually make it happen. If your plan only involves yourself, you might be able to let it slide. So you didn’t read War and Peace. No big deal.

But if you’re a business leader, your plans probably involve lots of other people. Your plan and your tasks are all part of a much bigger system. And when you don’t come through, it’s a much bigger problem.

In this case, what you need some good old accountability. But not the old kind, where you get rapped on the knuckles when you do something wrong. If that worked, we’d all have nothing but sore fingers and checked off boxes. What you want to do is collaborate with other people who are working on the same plan, and find ways to support each other in getting things done.

Check in regularly

Weekly check-ins can be an extremely helpful tool for accomplishing this. Call it your weekly meet-up, your team check-in, or your accountability planning session. Whatever works! The key is to have a partner you work closely with such as a coworker, colleague, manager, supervisor, or leader, and get together to talk about the week’s activities and results.

Go over your must-do projects together on Monday so everyone is on the same page for the week. But you can’t just stop there. You will also want to talk about how you can support each other in achieving your goals, and then report your results to each other at the end of the week.

This may seem a bit intrusive and daunting at first, but the results are fantastic— and addictive. The amount of productive work that gets accomplished when you know you’re going to be supported during the week and held accountable at the end of the week is amazing. You can move so far so quickly when you are able to focus on the projects and activities that generate results, rather than just filing your day with unstructured tasks, to do lists, and busy work.

Accountability brings focus

Making lists is easy. Making progress is much harder. Implementing a quick, efficient, and standardized accountability system will help you do both.

When everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing during the week, your team will be more efficient, more productive, and less stressed. Finishing one thing no longer requires stopping to figure out what comes next. All you have to do is work down the weekly list.

How should you maintain this list? There are many options. Adopt a system that works for you and your team. Whether it’s an old school notepad or planner, or a fancy project management platform doesn’t really matter, as long as it helps you accomplish your goals and track your results. At the end of the day, the best planning tool is the one you will use. Just make sure you it’s a reliable method so your planning is easy and consistent.

The real value doesn’t lie in the sophistication of the document or the tracking system, but in taking the time to think about your business, and what critical tasks need to be completed by the end of each week to keep you moving forward toward your goals.

 

Photo by langstrup 

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Why You Need to Invest in Professional Development

You know you it’s important. You know you should do it. But it can be expensive. And time consuming. Plus, you’re just so busy! And you’ve got a business to run. All of these things may be true, but so is this simple fact:

If you don’t take the time to improve and grow, your business won’t either.

And while you may be able to survive a serious development drought on a personal level, your organization can’t. If it doesn’t wither and die, it will quickly become overshadowed and hidden by the growth happening all around it.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. No industry, market, or sector stands still. Laws, regulations, technology, consumer needs and expectations are constantly changing, with or without you. You can choose to keep up, stay stagnant, or fall behind. You can also choose to get ahead and be looked to as someone who is leading the change instead of fearing or ignoring it.

Sounds good, right?

You’re darn right it does. Because the difficulties that come with change are nothing compared to the stress of being left behind.

When you’re leading the charge, you get to determine what it looks like and how it gets executed. You also get to collaborate with other like-minded leaders who are trying to accomplish the same things, which increases your confidence, your influence, and your effectiveness exponentially.

But you have to be strategic

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of professional development opportunities out there. A quick scroll through your in-box will easily prove this to be true. Everyone’s got an angle. Everyone wants you to sign up for their service, adopt their platform, or attend their seminar. Unfortunately, many of these so-called opportunities are, in fact, a waste of time and money.

There are four ways to approach these opportunities:

1.) Be a whale

It can be tempting to want to take in everything that comes your way. If a little personal development is good, then a lot must be even better, right? Not so much. Whales have a very efficient filtering system that allows them to keep what is useful and discard the rest— before they spend a bunch of time trying to digest it. Unless you’ve got a fleet of people with lots of time on their hands, you don’t have that luxury. Biting off more than you can chew will only give you indigestion.

2.) Be an ostrich

You know these folks. The ones who are always putting their heads in the sand. To be fair to our real, live ostrich friends, they actually have good reason for doing this. They’re nesting. But you’re a business person, not a giant bird. Putting your head in the sand will only keep you in the dark. And focusing too much on your cozy little nest will only ensure that you stay squarely in your comfort zone. Which isn’t going to move you forward.

3.) Be a deer

You want to improve yourself, your business, and your chances of success, but you’re overwhelmed by the fear, the circumstances, and the sheer number of options. Instead of propelling yourself forward, you stay frozen and immobile, unable to make a decision. “Deer are crepuscular,” says David C. Yancy, a deer biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. When a headlight beam strikes eyes that are fully dilated to capture as much light as possible, deer cannot see at all, and they freeze until the eyes can adjust. “They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.” We all know how this story ends.

4.) Be a falcon

“The Peregrine falcon is not your average avian predator. When hunting, this remarkable bird will fly to great heights, then dive bomb its prey abruptly at speeds of up to 242 mph,” says the Smithsonian Channel. Um. Yeah. This bird is your new idol. First, he finds a solid perch where he can take a good look at the bigger picture. What’s happening in the landscape before him? What opportunities does he see? What obstacles are in his way? What exactly does he want to go after? Then, once he sets his sights on his goal, he’s 100% focus. We’re talking all in. At 242 miles per hour, he can’t afford to be distracted, or go after things he doesn’t need.

Which one do you want to be?

The falcon, right? (Please say it’s the falcon).

If you’re a whale, at least there’s hope. But if you’re an ostrich or a deer, you need to change your ways. Like, yesterday.

Take a look at where you currently are, and where you want to be. What kinds of skills and tools do you need to get from point A to point B? Evaluate your business, your clients, and your market. What strategies are working for you? What strategies are falling flat? Where do your strengths lie? Where do you struggle?

Once you’ve uncovered areas for improvement, don’t jump onboard with the first thing (or everything!) that comes your way.

Do your research. Look into different groups, events, and options. Seek out industry people and companies you admire and look at the kinds of things they’re doing. See what organizations and associations they belong to, what events they’re attending, who they’re connected with, and what books they’re reading. Ask around, get advice, and choose carefully. Your time and resources are a precious commodity, and you need to make them count.

It’s like your mom used to say, “You are who you hang out with.” Make sure you’re seeking professional development from organizations and colleagues you admire, respect, and trust.

Once you’ve figured out what you need and how you want to go about getting it, you can begin to shift your mindset and start thinking about professional development as a critical investment you can’t afford NOT to make.

After all, if you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

 

Photo by  Radachynskyi Serhii

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