5 key ingredients to a successful LinkedIn recommendation request

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Recommendations for your past work are one of the most powerful inclusions to have on your LinkedIn profile. But it's not enough to do great work and wait for the recommendations and endorsements to flow in. Typically, you are going to need to ask for them. But just making a general request for a recommendation using the LinkedIn boilerplate copy is not enough. What you ask, and how you ask it, will determine how likely you are to get a reply -- and a useful recommendation for your profile.

5 steps to follow when asking for LinkedIn recommendations

Step 1: Decide on one project or role to target

Although it may be tempting to send out dozens of requests, covering every position listed on your LinkedIn profile, resist that temptation! You'll get better recommendations if you keep focused. Start with the role or project that you are most proud of, and that exemplifies the kind of work you'd like to do more of. Now, break down that role into the core competencies you demonstrated, and your key accomplishments. WIth this list in hand, you're ready for the next step.

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How to identify and assess your core competencies

When starting out in your portfolio career, it's tempting to take every opportunity that comes your way, just to ensure a steady income stream. But is that really the best use of your time and efforts? Chances are, if you take on every project that comes your way, you'll inevitably end up taking on  projects that don't make the most of your skills and interests. Given that your most recent projects are what is most likely to lead to your next opportunity, it's important to ensure you keep focused on work that makes the most of your key competencies.

By defining your core competencies and actively going after projects and roles that make the most of them, you will:

  • develop expertise in the areas that matter the most to your customers. 
  • have a path for developing your skills in support of reaching your business goals

Identifying your core competencies

Core_CompetenciesWhat are core competencies?

Lets start by defining what a core competency is in a business setting. A core competency is a specific factor that is central to the way a company and its employees work. It must fulfill three key criteria:

  1. It is difficult for competitors to imitate.
  2. It can be applied widely across many products and markets.
  3. It contributes to the end consumer's experienced benefits. 

Taking this into a real life example, if you are a social media consultant, your core competencies might look like the above illustration. You'll note that these competencies fall into three buckets: functional (which includes unique technical expertise), personal (the areas in which you excel), and leadership (how your competencies interact with managing others.)

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How to use a portfolio career as an asset when applying for jobs

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One of the small complications of being a portfolio careerist is figuring out how to present your overlapping permanent positions and short-term projects on your resume, and then talking them through in an interview situation. 

Chances are, if you are applying for a position at an established, large organization, your recruiter is likely to start asking questions to the effect of "Are you going to use your time on the clock for us and our resources to pursue outside unrelated projects?" Which is why you need to head off that line of questioning at the pass by incorporating your portfolio career as part of the pitch for why you're the right hire for the position. Having been through this conversation a number of times over the course of my career, I've found the key factors for navigating this topic successfully are:

  • being transparent about your overlapping projects
  • reinforcing what you learned from the projects
  • clarifying what overlapping projects, if any, you have at the moment
  • ensuring you gain understanding from the recruiter and the hiring manager on the organization's policies about concurrent projects

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Evolving your CV into a results-oriented resume

CV example with markupAre you still using a curriculum vitae (CV) to apply for corporate positions in the U.S.? If so, you may be selling yourself short.

Although the factual, comprehensive CV is still alive and well in academia and in other parts of the world, it typically doesn't do a good enough job of selling an employer in the U.S. on why you -- and not the hundred other applicants for the position -- should be called up for an interview. But the good news is, your CV provides a great base from which to construct a results-oriented resume.

Overcoming the hurdles

That said, I've seen two recurring hurdles when working with professionals in transitioning from a CV to a results-oriented resume: 1)  getting over feeling uncomfortable about self-promotion and 2) finding the right results and accomplishments to focus on. So lets start by focusing on overcoming those hurdles.

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How much social media is too much of a distraction from your career mission?

the conversation prism
2012 visualization of the many social media conversation channels by Brian Solis and Jess3 via http://www.theconversationprism.com/.

Take a few minutes to look at the above visualization of the many social media channels in the Conversation Prism above, grouped by type. If you're active on social, you probably see a few missing, which makes sense, as the illustration is over a year old. Now, take a moment to think about the social networks you use the most. For me, that would be LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Sure there are others I have logins for, but they're not places I visit daily as part of my personal and professional social media use.

You could spend all of your spare time trying to keep up on reading and interacting with all the  social networks relevant to your personal and career interests. Which is why you need to budget your time and set up a plan for making the most of your time. But before you dive in to that part, first you need to define your objectives and identify the best channels to reach your audience.

Step 1: Identify your social media goals and objectives

Are you using social media to build your personal brand in your career field? Or are you more directly using it to market your professional services or small business? If you are trying to chase after more than 1 goal in any one social media channel, chances are you're not going to be able to use it effectively-- and you may burn yourself out in the process.

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Finding Your Voice: How to Stay True to Yourself While Maintaining a Polished Professional Persona

Unlocking_your_voiceOne of the more difficult tasks as a solopreneur -- or anyone who works in a corporate setting for that matter-- is identifying the appropriate "voice" for your written communications and online interactions. You may be tempted to try to keep your work life and private life separate when it comes to voice, but inevitably, especially thanks to social media's proliferation, those outside of work comments and photos and activities become part of your professional brand -- whether you like it or not.

On the one hand, you don't want to try to maintain an artificially inflated version of yourself that won't hold up under pressure but you also want to craft a polished, professional public persona that will help you meet your career goals. So how do you balance it out?

I've definitely struggled with this balancing act throughout my portfolio career. The answer for me was to be transparent and consistent across my disparate activities. For example, I was a regular arts and entertainment writer, covering all sorts of special events and concerts for a fairly hip and irreverent online publication, while working in communications for a large publicly traded corporation. rather than keeping my dual life a secret, I made sure to incorporate the cultural events journalist into my corporate persona. And I was always aware that anything I wrote in my off work time could possibly be read by my colleagues or even my boss. So I made sure not to step over any cultural lines, or make any comments that could be construed as not being supportive of my workplace.

How did that play out in real life? It meant I didn't write copy that slammed big business, or that made fun of my industry, or that would be offensive to my company's clients. That didn't mean selling out or writing blandly either. It just meant keeping my copy positive, and resisting the urge to snark. Which at the end of the day probably improved my writing-- and my personal brand.

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One Change to Make to Your LinkedIn Profile Today: Improve Your Professional Headline

Does your LInkedIn headline reflect what you do, not just your current role?

When I was poking around on LinkedIn today, I noticed something -- many of my former colleagues are still using their current job title, i.e. Marketing Director or Senior Manager, as their LinkedIn headline. While it's better than not having a headline, it's a missed opportunity. Especially if you've got a portfolio career in the making.

So if you only have time to do one 10 minute task this week to focus on your professional development, make that task be to take a hard look at your LinkedIn headline, and give it an edit to better reflect the unique and marketable skills you want to apply in your work life.

3 Steps to a Better LinkedIn Headline

1.) Take a look at the skills for which others have endorsed you.
Are these skills you want to put to use in future positions, even if you aren't using them now? Do they lend themselves to a unique and specific title, such as Editor, Coach, Illustrator, etc.? If so, make sure to include that as one part of your headline. This is especially helpful for those who are pursuing portfolio careers.

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How to Recognize Your Portfolio Career in the Making

Where_will_your_portfolio_career_take_you

It took a recent Forbes article and an email exchange with a self-employed friend to realize that I've been a longstanding portfolio careerist without knowing it. If you're not familiar with the term, a portfolio career is defined loosely as a variety of eclectic and frequently concurrent employment activities.

By that definition, I've been a portfolio careerist pretty much from the moment I graduated with my journalism degree and somehow ended up holding down a full-time job for a magazine, a part-time job for an alternative weekly newspaper posting content to their on-line community, and writing freelance articles on pop culture and arts topics. This pattern of having a full-time employer plus a 10-hour per week regular gig, or a significant amount of freelancing on the side has continued throughout most of my career. Why? Because it's the best way I know how to keep all of my marketing and communications skills sharp while ensuring I'm learning new things and conquering new challenges.

My self-employed friend is also a portfolio careerist. Her pattern looks a little different from mine, as she is typically juggling a part-time position with a small handful of short-term contracts or freelance assignments. But what we both have in common is having significant passion around multiple skills and interest areas, and a desire to apply them to meaningful work.

So, how do you recognize that you have a portfolio career in the making? You'll identify with or closely resemble the majority of these statements:

  • You have multiple jobs not due to financial necessity only, but rather because it allows you to pursue your varied interests
  • You feel invigorated by your many projects and extracurricular gigs
  • When employed full time, even while very busy and engaged with your work, you're researching other passions and daydreaming about how to incorporate them into your job
  • Has a primary motivator for having changed jobs in the past been that you were getting bored with the repetition of the day-to-day work?

If you closely resemble the above, then actively committing to a portfolio career might be the right career next step for you. But before you make the leap, check out this great free portfolio career assessment tool to see how you score.

I score high on the assessment, but having tried out full-time self-employment in the past, I realize my version of a portfolio career needs to have at least a part time on-site gig as one component. I need the mental stimulation and camaraderie of having a team with whom to brainstorm and collaborate.

What about you? What does your flavor of a portfolio career look like? And when did you first recognize yourself as a portfolio careerist?


Welcome to the Blog

I've been interested in career development ever since my first job out of journalism school -- writing about career success stories and career development issues for a small magazine. Over the years, I've coached countless colleagues and acquaintances on improving their personal brand and helped them define their career goals. My own career has navigated an interesting and fulfilling path from journalism to non profit communications, then Fortune 500 MarComm and now on to technology startup content marketing. Yet for whatever reason, I've never blogged about those topics. But that's about to change.

Add me to your blog roll or RSS reader of choice to hear my POV on:

  • maximizing your personal brand to lead to the career opportunities you want
  • defining your ideal career path
  • finding and making the most of professional development opportunities
  • managing and leadership coaching
  • cool productivity apps and tools
  • and because I'm a marketer, some marketing-specific professional development
I'm looking forward to the conversation.