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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Start-up of You: Say good-bye to conventional career planning, hello to permanent beta


Reid Hoffman, cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn, has not only co-created the world’s biggest social-media platform for professional networking.  He has also defined a new paradigm for professional development and success which he articulates in the 2012 book he co-authored with Ben Casnocha called “The Start-up of You” (Crown Business).

The book explains that, with unemployment rampant, job competition fierce, the career escalator jammed at every level, and creative disruption shaking every industry, traditional job security is a thing of the past.  Instead, the tasks of job hunting and career development-whether for seasoned professionals or for recent graduates--have become perpetual works in progress, requiring an agile mental state and skills fostering a state of permanent beta or continuous personal growth.

Chapter 3 of The Start-Up Of You explains why the bestselling career book of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, is asking the wrong question for today:

“When it comes to charting a career plan, what you should be asking yourself is whether your parachute can keep you aloft in changing conditions.  The unfortunate truth is that in today’s career landscape, your parachute—no matter its color—may be shredded and tattered.  And if it isn’t that way already, it could get that way at any time.”

Additionally, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha point out that:

“In his first chapter, Parachute author Richard Bolles writes, ‘It is important, before you enter the job hunt, to decide exactly what you are looking for—whether you call it your passion, or your purpose in life, or your mission.  …  Passion first, job-hunt later.’  After four decades in print, this is still the accepted wisdom today.  You see similar advice all over.  Habit number two of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is, ‘Begin with the end in mind’:  you should produce a personal mission statement that puts your goals in focus.'”

“The primary message of these books (of which there are more than 50 million copies in circulation) and countless others is to listen to your heart and follow your passion.  Find your true north by filling out worksheets or engaging in deep, thoughtful introspection.  Once you’ve got a mission in mind, these books urge, you’re supposed to develop a long-term plan for fulfilling it.  You’re supposed to craft detailed, specific goals.  You’re urged to figure out who you are and where you want to be in ten years, and then work backward to develop a roadmap for getting there.”

While Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha concede that for various reasons it’s important to have worthy aspirations, to be passionate about something, and to invest for the long term, their criticism of Mr. Bolles’s, Dr. Covey’s, and similar approaches is that they presume the world is static, whereas in today’s job market exactly the opposite is true: 

“Conventional career planning can work under conditions of relative stability, but in times of uncertainty and rapid change, it is severely limiting, if not dangerous,” they warn.  “You will change.  The environment around you will change.  Your allies and competitors will change.”

Especially in an environment of such shifting uncertainty, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Casnocha doubt the feasibility of the type of fixed, accurate self-knowledge that Mr. Bolles and Dr. Covey promote:  “It’s unwise, no matter your stage of life, to try to pinpoint a single dream around which your existence revolves.” 

Additionally, the co-authors point out the harsh reality that “just because your heart comes alive at a calling doesn’t mean someone will pay you to do it.  If you can’t find someone who wants to employ you to pursue your dream job, or if you can’t financially sustain yourself—that is, earn a salary that allows you to live the lifestyle you prefer—then trying to turn your passion into a career doesn’t really get you very far.”

Their book not only represents a significant shift in conventional thinking.  It also goes on to describe the alternative practical strategies they believe are necessary for success in today’s job market, using Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as role models.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

For a winning press release the proverbial 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why) aren’t enough


Because I couldn’t quickly locate my files from when I taught Dealing with the Media at Niagara College’s Post-Graduate Public Relations Program, I am recording this blog post instead to answer a question that arose on LinkedIn yesterday and could conceivably arise again.

The context is that Deborah Corn of Print Media Centr posted information written by Marion Williams-Bennett on "Using PR to Grow Your Business--Start with a Press Release", which included the advice: 

When writing the release, you want to answer the questions – who, what, where, when and why. The most important of these questions is the why. Why should someone care about this news?

"For example, if you have acquired a new customer, your announcement can say:

"Acme Print and Marketing Services is pleased to announce that The Big Bank has chosen Acme to handle all of their print production and direct marketing communication needs.  The Big Bank is another example of Acme's expanding role as a leader in providing print and marketing to organizations in the financial services industry.

"The news is that The Big Bank has become a client; the story is that Acme is now becoming a go-to resource for the financial services industry."

My quick response to the above was:  "Caution: Besides the proverbial 5 Ws of journalism that Marion mentions (who, what, where, when & why), you also need to include how and how much? Otherwise, you risk omitting essential context that editors need in order to recognize why your release rates preferential treatment over all the others they reject."

Katherine Tattersfield, Online Marketing Director at PrintFirm.com, replied:  Victoria Gaitskell not exactly sure what you mean? Can you share a specific example? I write press releases regularly, and I'm always looking for ways to improve the copy. We're getting good results, but we can always do better.”
So here’s my expanded response, Katherine: 
To use a really quick, crude example, you might write in your release that (WHO) your company is (WHAT) holding a fundraising event (WHERE) at the Palazzo Hotel in Timbuktu (WHEN) on June 30, 2013 at 7 p.m. (WHY) to raise money to help a vulnerable group of people in your community, thus spotlighting your company as a superior corporate citizen.

But unless you add at least a few more qualifying HOW / HOW MUCH details—such as HOW you'll draw a crowd of donors with the unique and irresistible form of entertainment you’re offering at the event, or the specifics of HOW MUCH more the funds you raise will help the beneficiaries in contrast to the work of other charities, or HOW MUCH larger your fundraising target is than last year because of escalating need in your community--then how do you expect editors to figure out whether or not your news will actually be of use and interest to their readers?

Speaking personally, at least for myself and most of the other editors I know at printing trade publications, both editors and their readers have had it up to here with daily barrages of short, vague, routine, self-serving marketing spiels issued by corporate marketing departments. So while just following the 5 Ws might help you to produce a formally correct press release, it isn’t enough to help you create one that’s dynamic enough to earn you the media coverage you crave. 

Odds are that only experienced professional writers know how to cram as much information as I’m suggesting into a release that will still be interesting, newsworthy, and short enough to grab an editor’s attention--because length seriously matters as much as content, angle, and style.  (Unfortunately lack of time and space prevents me from discussing these other considerations here.)

Generally speaking, to obtain the best results, the task of writing effective press releases should probably be left to experts, because when it comes to media production, no one on either end of a press release can afford the time to futz around.

That's also why it's not just commendable but also a really practical idea to hone your press-release-writing skills as much as you can.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Second thoughts on LinkedIn Endorsements + 7 ways to get more of them


Further to my post of 4 January 2013 http://vicg8hr.blogspot.ca/2013/01/on-thorny-dilemma-of-linkedin-skill.html, my sole reason for seriously rethinking the viability of LinkedIn Endorsements at this stage of the game comes from career coach Carol Ross, who points out that their special utility lies in enabling you to conduct your own market research about  your personal brand . 

From her astute observation it also follows that:
  • The skills and expertise you list on your profile should not necessarily reflect the things you’re competent at but rather the things you want to do more of.
  • You should not accept or hide endorsements that aren’t for skills and expertise you are interested in developing in your next job.
  • If people aren’t endorsing you for the skills and expertise you want to be known for, you need to do a better job of promoting these abilities via work interactions and social media.
  • You should consider tweaking your profile so your favourite, most endorsed skills appear prominently in wording that resonates with your target audience. 

Ms. Ross also notes three further positive applications worth trying:
  1. Using endorsements as a basis for rekindling former relationships or improving current ones by giving you a pretext to communicate with contacts after the fact.
  2. Being prompted by endorsements to request or provide more helpful, meaningful personalized recommendations instead.
  3. Capitalizing on LinkedIn’s referrals to discussion groups, job openings, and employers in your field of interest, as well as top professionals, whose skill sets can help you adjust your own profile to be more competitive.  http://www.linkedin.com/skills/
All these positives have given me sufficient inducement to start dabbling cautiously with making endorsements--but only in selected cases where I feel qualified by first-hand experience to do so—although I’m encountering all the same reservations as many of the system’s other critics; e.g.:
  • It encourages people to give endorsements too freely without cause.
  • It imposes auto-generated skills on users who don’t add them themselves.
  • It only proposes a limited number of your connections for you to endorse at the expense of other members of your network.
  • It encourages you to endorse multiple skills at once, but not necessarily the ones you want to endorse.

Even Web recruiter Tony Restell, whose cynicism is based on the belief that LinkedIn has designed its endorsement system in an incompetent and self-serving way, admits it has the potential to impact your professional life and job search quite extensively.  For him, the problem largely boils down to the fact that it’s so easy for LinkedIn members to attract a disproportionate number of endorsements from their network using the following measures.  (But those who think it’s fun to accumulate as many of these notches in their belts as possible might consider trying any of these tactics that they’ve previously overlooked):  

 Seven ways to attract more LinkedIn Recommendations 
  1. Move your Skills & Expertise section closer to the top of your profile where it’s more visible.
  2. Endorse others whenever you can.
  3. List skills that are not too specialized and easy for others to endorse.
  4. Before you start to accumulate endorsements, list skills in descending order of importance to you.  (The system will subsequently list your skills with the most endorsements first, followed by skills without endorsements in the order in which you added them.)
  5. Suggest skills your connections ought to be endorsed for that aren’t currently on their profile.
  6. Promote your goodwill and visibility (and consequently drive more traffic to your profile) by:  becoming more active and helpful in LinkedIn groups, optimizing your profile, and posting regular status and profile updates.
  7. Increase your number of contacts by allowing LinkedIn to search your e-mail contact list(s).
http://www.social-hire.com/career--interview-advice/1203/linkedin-endorsements-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is it sexual harassment to make employees work on sexually explicit projects that make them uncomfortable?


In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, Barbara Miller, a self-employed Special Markets Rep in the Greater Boston Area, posed the following two questions:

1.  Is it sexual harassment if an employee has to work on a printed piece that is sexually explicit, even if it's a utilitarian/non-fiction book or publication--and handling the job makes the employee uncomfortable?

2.  What should an employer do if an employee has moral issues with a piece s/he is working on (which tends to be an even greater issue if the content is heavy on graphics, but could also happen with text only)?  

Barbara thought some employers make accommodation for employees in these cases, and some find ways to avoid it.

My reply was:  Interesting points. When I was working as a recruiter, I vividly remember meeting a candidate who worked for a company that produced dvds and who attended church regularly. The fact that the company had started reproducing a lot of porn was what motivated her to look for a new job.”

We would be interested to hear related anecdotes or your analysis of these or similar situations.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Google+, anyone?


I used to wonder whether I was operating at a disadvantage because my blogs are hosted by Blogger instead of WordPress--that is, until Google+ made it a cinch to install their buttons on my blogs much more easily than by following the normal procedure required to install various widgets. 

Now that I and my blogs are connected to Google+, I’m happy to report that I’m experiencing a number of technical improvements (for example, better search-engine ranking and practically instantaneous blog feeds to Google+.)

But here’s the down side:  it’s downright spooky to find myself rattling around Google+, where I feel relatively alone because so many of my literally thousands of social-media contacts seem to be absent.  The system has managed to help me track down and contact only a disappointingly small number of you.  If you are already a member of Google+ but I’ve been unable to locate and contact you, please reach out to me there. 

My initial thought in joining Google+ was that it would provide an interesting new frontier for social-media experiments.  But I believe the experiments would be much more enjoyable and productive if more of my existing social-media contacts would come out and play.  So please give some thought to joining me on the platform. 

These are really my ideas.  Google+ didn’t hire me to say this.

But at the same time, if I’m overlooking any good reasons for not migrating to Google+, please let me know what they are.

https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=oz&passive=1209600&continue=https://plus.google.com/?hl%3Den%26gpsrc%3Dgplp0%26partnerid%3Dgplp0&followup=https://plus.google.com/?hl%3Den%26gpsrc%3Dgplp0%26partnerid%3Dgplp0&hl=en

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Canadian government unveils revamped guide and Internet settlement tool for new immigrants


Yesterday Canada’s federal government unveiled “Welcome to Canada”, a revised 146-page guide for new immigrants.  
Compiled from academic research and consultation with immigration experts and new immigrants, the booklet is aimed at helping newcomers integrate and succeed in the Canadian economy and society as soon as possible.  It provides basic  practical information on such topics as Canada’s education system, justice system, laws, and labour market.  The new guide is available on line (either via download or as an e-book) and through settlement service providers (who often greet immigrants on arrival at the airport.)
Changes since the last guide (released in 2011) include descriptions of marriage fraud (marrying Canadian citizens or permanent residents only to gain entry into Canada) and human smuggling as criminal activities (against both of which crimes the federal government has recently launched crackdowns.)   Like the previous guide, the current guide also condemns such usually misogynistic practices as polygamy, spousal abuse, forced marriage, honour killings, and genital mutilation.

In addition, Minister Kenney announced the “Living in Canada Tool”, a new interactive Internet application that lets recently arrived newcomers produce a semi-customized settlement plan with tips, next steps, and links based on user responses to an initial questionnaire. Users can also locate immigrant services on a map and then supposedly bring along their settlement plan when they visit to receive additional, personalized support.

The “Living in Canada Tool” is the federal government’s second Internet immigration application.  The first was a tool for on-line assessment and application, called “Come to Canada Wizard”.

These latest initiatives have been launched under Canada’s current Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, whose other achievements have included:  eliminating a backlog of 280,000 applicants, decreasing health-care coverage for refugee claimants, freezing applications from grandparents and parents seeking to join children in Canada, cracking down on immigration consultants, tightening language requirements for newcomers, introducing harsh penalties for people who lie on immigration forms, and revamping citizenship documents to increase emphasis on Canadian culture and expectations.  Minister Kenney’s supporters credit him with changing Canada’s international status from a country with wide-open doors that asks few questions to a country that welcomes newcomers but has also raised its entry requirements and views citizenship as a privilege to be earned.
““To help newcomers integrate, the Government has tripled settlement funding since 2005-06 and remains committed to ensuring the distribution of settlement funding is fair, that immigrants receive the same level of service, regardless of where they choose to settle,”” said Minister Kenney in Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s official news release

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Global Experience Ontario Access Centre helps skilled international professionals get licensed to work in Ontario


I just found out about the Global Experience Ontario Access Centre (GEO), a department of Ontario’s provincial government that helps skilled newcomers obtain certification to work in Ontario in14 regulated professions. 

GEO’s services include:
·      Information about licensing, standards, and registration processes
·      Referrals to academic credential assessment agencies and language testing (for English and French)
·      Referral to the appropriate Ontario regulatory body for your profession
·      Links to language training programs nearest your home (in English and French)
·      On-site reference materials and resources, including “career maps” for each regulated profession and some trades
·      Information and referrals for retraining and bridge training programs
·      Information about alternative professional avenues where appropriate
·      Referrals to internships and mentoring programs
·      Computer terminals for clients’ use
·      Webinars for internationally trained individuals who have not yet moved to Canada but who wish to learn about the certification process in advance
·      Referral to relevant employment services.

The 14 regulated professions GEO handles are:
1.             Architects
2.             Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists
3.             Certified General Accountants
4.             Certified Management Accountants
5.             Chartered Accountants
6.             Early Childhood Educators
7.             Foresters
8.             Land Surveyors
9.             Lawyers and Paralegals
10.          Professional Engineers
11.          Professional Geoscientists
12.          Social Workers and Social Service Workers
13.          Teachers
14.          Veterinarians

For more information on GEO, click on:
A comparable service for internationally educated health professionals, called HealthForceOntario, is found at:
http://www.healthforceontario.ca/en/Home
Today’s post is intended as additional constructive commentary on my posts in the recent past about Canada’s urgent need to strengthen its skilled workforce through immigration at: