Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The expert trick to hone your skills section on LinkedIn!

The expert trick to hone your skills section on LinkedIn

LinkedIn recently released its list of most hireable skills in 2014 — and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all of the top 10 are for techies.
If you're employed (or hoping to soon be employed) in a tech-related field, this list is helpful. But what if you’re not a techie, hacker or self-proclaimed data geek? What about the plethora of salespeople, marketers, executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and writers also using the platform?
The skills you display on your profile matter — and in case you missed the update, LinkedIn recently tweaked its search engine so that you can filter by the skills on a user's profile (i.e., your LinkedIn Skills affect your search rankings). So instead of simply guessing what to list or waiting for a colleague to endorse you randomly, try following the below steps to get more eyeballs — and more importantly, the right eyeballs — on your profile.
Below is an expert trick I've learned as a professional LinkedIn profile writer.

1. Find the schools with graduates in the companies and functions you are targeting

Using LinkedIn’s little-known University Finder tool, choose the filters that you are targeting, such as companies you want to focus on, locations where you want to work or roles you want to take on.

For example, I might pick Google as the target company and my function might be marketing — I would get a list of schools including Stanford, U Penn, UC Berkeley and Harvard. Write these schools down to reference in step two.

2. Find the skills students graduate with in those universities

Now, pick any of those top schools from step one and visit their University Page, and click on the 'Explore Careers' link. A search interface should come up similar to the one in step one — but this time you can see a list of skills graduates have on their profile.

In a spreadsheet, create a column A labeled "Skills," and list the top 10 skills shown under the column labeled "What they're skilled at" for each school. Don’t worry about repeating the same skills; just write them all down in one long list.
Using the example above, I would pick the target company, Google, and my function, marketing. What appears is a list of the top skills that alumni who are working in marketing at Google have on their profile. Write the top 10 of these skills in the spreadsheet, then move on to the next University Page, filter by company and function, and record the skills until there are at least 50 in your list.

3. Pick the skills with the most frequency

Go through five to 10 schools for each target company and function, recording the top 10 skills that pop up for each school. This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. The output of your research will be a long list of 50 to 100 skills in column A in a spreadsheet.
Now, look at the frequency of these Skills using the pivot table function. Create a pivot table with the entire range of column A:
  • Step 1. Add a row grouped by skills
  • Step 2. Add values, summarized by COUNTA
  • Step 3. Rank your skills based on frequency. The pivot table will tell you which skills appeared more frequently. Use those in your LinkedIn profile.
Note: You'll want to ensure that these skills are actually in your skill set before listing them on your profile — be sure that you can speak to them in an interview setting and have proof to back up your claims if called upon to do so by a potential employer!

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Friday, February 13, 2015

The FIX!!!

4 common productivity tips that are actually the worst

You've heard the same "tried and true" advice from productivity experts for years. And I'll admit it — I've given and taken this advice myself. But the truth is: A lot of it is a lie. Most of the "best" productivity advice doesn't work. Here's why — and what to do instead.

1. "Don't check email first thing in the morning"

I understand why this sounds like a good tip: Reading and responding to email could derail your entire morning and set you back (you know, when your 15 minutes of reviewing emails turns into 45 — and suddenly, you're late for work). But, in so many industries, it can be difficult to ignore what has been going on overnight — even for a few hours. Translation: This tip just isn't realistic in your fast-paced life. In fact, it might actually cause additional anxiety before you even get into the office.

The fix

Check email first thing in the morning, but don't respond unless it will take you less than a minute. Something that requires a quick "yes" or "no" or that can be forwarded to someone who can take care of it for you is fine. But anything that requires research or a longer response is off-limits. Mark that email "unread," and go back to it later when you have more time. Better yet, add it to your to-do list so you'll be sure to check on it later.
Scrolling through and skimming emails first thing in the morning is a good use of time even when you can't respond right away. Letting them marinate before firing off a response can be invaluable.

2. "Do the hardest task first"

Sure, this sounds like a reasonable strategy. But the problem is that, sometimes, your hardest to-do can really set you back time-wise. It can be easy to get off track if you don't plan ahead and set aside all of the time, resources, and energy you need for this task. This strategy might end up actually deflating your hopes for a productive day.

The fix

Instead of tackling your most difficult (i.e., draining) task first, boost your confidence and get your momentum going by starting with smaller, easier steps. They will ease you into a productive mode and ensure you'll keep plugging along.
Bonus: Consider cutting that difficult project into smaller bite-sized to-dos that you can tackle individually. For instance, "write a book" is too daunting. So, break that big task up into smaller ones like, "research ideas," "make chapter outlines," and "contact agents."

3. "Make a master to-do list"

This makes my head hurt.
OK, I do think it's a good idea to get everything out of your head and down on paper. But having just one go-to list for all the things you need to get done is a big mistake. It ends up being really difficult to focus and pick tasks off a never-ending list.

The fix

Once you do a mind dump and get everything out of your head, rewrite your list into specific, actionable tasks. Then, go a step further and break your lists up into a work list, home list, side project list, and so on.
This way, your mind will be clear when you look at that particular list, and you won't have to wade through other noise like "pick up birthday gift for Grandma" when you're trying to finalize a press release at work. You'll get to Grandma's gift — when you're ready to tackle your home and life to-dos. Keeping your lists separate will help you stay laser-focused on what really needs to get done first.

4. "Stop multitasking"

Yes, I'm guilty of giving this advice quite often — but it's not completely accurate. I've met plenty of people who tell me they are master multitaskers and can juggle many projects at once. I get it: I'm one of them.
In fact, stress can actually push you to become more productive. For example, have you ever noticed how if you know you need to get a certain amount of stuff done in a short time, you'll figure out a way to do it? Even if that means doing two things at once!

The fix

Be selective. For instance, commuting is a great time to catch up on your favorite podcast. I like to walk and simultaneously learn how to become a better entrepreneur, figure out who really did kill Hae Min Lee (hello, Serial!), or hear how to network like a superstar.
Sure, this is technically doing two tasks at once, but I don't need the same resources to do both. Meaning, walking and listening is a productive way to multitask because these two tasks complement each other. Alternatively, something like talking on the phone and writing emails isn't a great multitasking pair because it's just too hard to split your brain across those two things.
Remember, just because something is touted as "the best advice around" doesn't mean it's the best advice for you. So, feel free to flout these productivity best practices, and try the alternatives above.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

11 tips to make your video interview run smoothly

11 tips to make your video interview run smoothly

You've landed the interview of your dreams. It's for a remote job that pays more than you ever thought you could make working part-time (or maybe it's for that international gig you've been daydreaming of). In short, you are over the moon!
But the interview is over Skype and you are petrified. Of course, you'll try to look natural and you'll rehearse what you should say. But what if there is a terrible echo? Is it okay to join the interview sitting in bed in your room? (Where else will you find a background that hides your messy apartment!?)
You've got this. Read on for a list of absolutely everything to do, from your tech setup to "designing your set," to making sure you look and sound fantastic on your video interview.

1. Get headphones

If you do nothing else to prepare for a video chat, do this one thing: use headphones. An echo ruins a video chat, fast. And lags in connection and internet blips can easily create an echo, delay, or other sound disruption that can be lessened with headphones. People will forgive your video quality, but they won't forgive your sound. If the person on the other end can't understand what you are saying, you're in trouble!
So, dig up those headphones that came with your first iPhone, or buy a pair of cheap headphones with a mic. (For example, Skullcandy makes a pair for $20.) Your sound will be crisper, the risk of echo will be reduced drastically, and those sirens and dogs barking in the background won't get in the way of the great impression you're making on screen!
Note: even if you don't have headphones with a mic, regular old headphones will work to reduce the echo as well. A sketchy set of headphones is better than no set of headphones.

2. Download the necessary tech

Most video chat systems require time to download either an application or a plugin. Do a quick search of the technology that your video interview is using, and see what you need to prepare.
Two common (and free!) platforms to use are Google Hangout and Skype. There is a quick plugin for Google Hangout that requires a browser restart (download here), and an easy application download for Skype (find your version here). There are hundreds of other video platforms that you could use, such as Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting, so setting aside 15 minutes before your interview to make sure you have the right tech downloaded will ensure you are prepared!

3. Test your Internet

Being on a video chat requires solid, fast internet speed. Starbucks Free WiFi just isn't gunna cut it. Test the internet speed at the location where you are going to be joining the video interview by running a free test at Google recommends an upload and download speed of at least 4 Mbps for a solid video connection.
Also, wireless internet signal can fade in and out. If you have an ethernet cable handy (they usually come free with your internet router or you can purchase one on Amazon for less than $10), plug it in to ensure you have a steady connection.

4. Check your sound inputs and outputs

Do a quick check of your sound settings to make sure everything is set correctly. Every video chat system has slightly different settings, but most will default to "built-in audio," which means the speakers and microphone on your computer. If you are using headphones and there is an option to set to your headphone audio (and microphone) instead, click it!
On Skype, you can try speaking and watch the audio bar rise and fall with your volume.
If you are using Google Hangout, try playing a test sound to make sure you can hear in your headphones.

5. Plug in your charger

Video drains your battery more than nearly any other program you can run on your computer. If you are taking your video interview using a laptop or tablet, charging it to 100% is a great idea. An even better idea is to have your laptop plugged in! Sort through your closets and find an extension cord if you need it so that you can be in the best position and not run out of juice in the middle of your call.

6. Design your "set"

Actively think about setting up what is behind you in the shot for your video interview. As executive recruiter Jennifer Johnson shared, being in a big room and having too much depth behind you can be distracting. It's best to position yourself a few feet from a wall, and have one or two tasteful decor components in the background. For example, a painting, a plant, or an organized bookshelf. Imagine meeting with the CEO of a huge company, and think about what how their desk is positioned: try to create the same setup for yourself. A white wall absolutely works, but if you have the time to "design" your set, it can certainly boost the impression you make!

7. Bring your camera to eye level

"It looks like I have a double chin!" That was Laura Belgray's reaction when we started to set her up for her fantastic Skillcrush webinar. You know what she's talking about: you look down at your laptop, while your chair has you perched up high, and the camera hits you at possibly the least-flattering angle of your neck you've ever seen.
Prop your laptop up so that you are looking at the camera at eye level, instead of down. Use a few textbooks, a pile of magazines, or even a rectangular tissue box to set your laptop up a few inches on your desk. It makes you look relaxed and composed, is a more flattering angle, and saves you from neck cramps.

8. Light from the front

A cardinal mistake of newbies on video interviews is to have light shining from the background. If you have a big window with a view, why not show it off?
Doh! You want the (spot)light on your face, not on the background! Think about getting your school pictures taken (I know, I know, terrible memories of braces. But bear with me on the analogy...). Where did that huge, blinding flash come from? Directly in front of you! So when you setup your video interview or chat, think about your school pictures and place your lighting in the front.
Natural lighting is best, so face towards a window if you can. If you are in a darker room, or you are getting on video chat in the evening, find a lamp that you can plugin and place about a foot in front of your laptop to give you some good lighting. (Just relying on the lighting from your laptop might give an eerily creepy glow.) If you have the time, take the extra step and take away, turn down, or turn off the lights behind you, as well.
To show you just how important light can be for the professionalism of your set, I took a few screenshots so you can see how Google Hangout responds to light. Which one do you like best?
Too dark

With my window directly behind me, you get to see my great NYC view! But, my face? Not so much ...
Interview too light

With the focus adjusted, you can see me on camera, but I'm a little fuzzy (almost ethereal!?) because of the light behind.
Video interview good lighting

Aha! The light coming from the window in front of me makes for a crisp, clear, and professional video chat image.

9. Check yourself out

Before you go live, make sure to check that your video camera works and that you look great on screen! The easiest way to test how you look is the audio settings in Skype. Once you open up Skype, click "Preferences" from the menu and open up the Audio/Video tab. Your camera will turn on and you will see yourself!
If you don't have access to Skype, there's a great workaround for testing out how you look on Google Hangout. Pop into Google Calendar and open up a meeting invite. There is an option to join by Video Call (see the bottom field in the screenshot below). Click that, and you'll open up a Hangout with yourself.

10. Do a test chat

The best way to know that everything will work correctly is to do a test run! Try out the technology you are using in a test call before your interview or chat starts. Setup everything as close to the way you will do it on interview day to make sure you have all variables under control.
Quick tip: haven't talked to your roommate from college in a while? Instead of giving her a call by phone, see if she's up for jumping on a video chat! You get to test your sound and audio so you feel confident that it works, and catch up with a great friend while you're at it.


11. Think solid + bright

Bright colors look amazing on video. Avoid wearing stripes, paisley, and the like, as the detail can come across as fuzzy and distracting on video. (Ever notice how the best dressed at Hollywood awards shows are usually the solid, bold colored dresses, and the outfits that crash and burn are often patterns?). Particularly outstanding colors for camera include scarlet red, emerald green, and royal blue. Pick your favorite!

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