Learn to Manage Uncertainty

You’re a leader.

And you’re standing warily in front of an amusement park entrance, your spouse and two children in tow.

Or you could be at work, standing there with your direct reports, collaborative teams, departments, divisions or entire executive management team in tow.

Or you could be standing there with your entire company in tow.

What to do?  The park is deceiving because you think it’s something you know well, something that’s unchanging, stable.  You’ve been coming here since you were a child.  But the fact is, the park changes every year:  new rides are launched, old ones dismantled, shows come and go, food courts evolve, the park expands, the parking area moves, etc.

When most people go to the park, they cut to the right, the dominant direction of travel.  They’ll make their way around the park with everyone else, bumping elbows, getting cut off by rogue children and teenagers, and sweating it out in the lines with screaming children and change-resistant spouses.  Or screaming employees and change-resistant colleagues.

Regardless, it all starts with yourself, the personal leadership of you and your ability to manage and thrive in ambiguity.

That’s the world we live in today – one of constant change and uncertainty.  Of course the amusement park is only a metaphor, albeit a useful one: you either jump in line to ride the crazy rides or you don’t. Have you ever cut to the left?

The latest issue of Chief Learning Officer includes an article titled Ambiguity Leadership: It’s OK to Be Uncertain, which I highly recommend.  The article outlines Three Tenets of Mastering the Unknown.

Mastering uncertainty is learned over time, and the skills to do it should be included in the curriculum of leadership development initiatives. Here are three simple coaching suggestions.

  1. Learn to make a decision with incomplete information. Take a decision you would normally agonize over and, instead, make this decision based only on what you know now. Write it down and seal it in an envelope. Then, go through the normal cycle time of decision-making. After the normal decision-making process is complete, get out the sealed decision and compare and contrast. Would you have made the same decision? Could you have made the decision yourself at the earlier stage and saved energy, time and money?
  2. Read up. Train your mind to be fluid and attuned to faint signals of impending change. Uncertainty is the ocean on which we sail. Studying up is a way of understanding that ocean and coming to terms with the inevitability of ambiguity.
  3. Examine five ideas or trends that you know nothing about, but that will affect the business in three to five years. Consider how they may or may not affect your products, services and jobs. Discuss how you can prepare for them.

I still get excited when I go to an amusement park.  Do you?  Prior to going I read up on the latest rides and attractions, and I’m as giddy as a schoolboy, ready to run ragged into the unknown and help guide family and firm along the way.

Learn to manage uncertainty; be giddy and cut to the left.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Help Us Help You; Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Helping people is in my personal core purpose, and assisting people seeking employment provides a source of fulfillment.  In recent years, I’ve presented someone for a VP position at a well-known telecom brand, referred a friend for her first independent project within hours of learning she’d left her job, and recommended another colleague for his initial speaking gig at a national conference.

Each of these people was actually adept at taking advantage of the help. Unfortunately, they have been the exceptions.

Based on numerous other interactions, many experienced people, including marketers, are ill equipped to network for opportunities. Given how job prospects have been in this economy, that’s scary.  From mistakes I’ve most frequently witnessed, here are seven pieces of advice on demonstrating personal marketing skills and improving your networking prospects:

Be Ready to Talk – I may call initially based on someone else’s description of what you’re seeking. After taking the initiative to call, introduce myself, and state that so-and-so asked me to contact you, it would be nice if you were prepared to say “thank you,” exchange a pleasantry, and share your call objective. Too many individuals act as if they’re being disturbed or don’t understand why I’m on the phone. It’s taken three attempts on some occasions to turn it into a two-way conversation. Work with me, people!

Know Your Interests – Have an elevator speech – describe your background, aspirations, and goals in two paragraphs. With someone I know, I can easily probe and get more clarity about options. With a stranger, that’s more difficult. It would be nice if you’ve done it in advance.

Conduct Yourself As If It’s a Job Interview – It’s amazing how casual people are on the phone with total strangers.  A woman once recounted her intense interest in transportation, the industry in which I was working. To make her point, she said a fully loaded rail car was like “pornography” to her. Huh? Instantly, she went from a potential referral to a curiosity; I wondered what other inappropriate things she might say.  Even if I’m not hiring, you want an introduction to someone who might be. That means it’s an interview. Act like it!

Offer Something – I go into calls expecting to offer information, ideas, or referrals that might be of assistance. It would be great if you shared that attitude. Even if you think your near-term need for opportunities is greater, I also appreciate information, ideas, and suggestions for people to meet. A two-way exchange will earn you follow-up conversations.

Do Some Work Yourself – I received an email from someone unknown to me seeking senior marketing candidates. I then forwarded the email to a candidate whom I’d met for a networking lunch. Clarence (not his real name) responded in a stern tone that the employer’s email address was wrong, asking me to get the right one. All this, even though I had to use the same resources available to him (ever heard of Google?) to track it down. Clarence has also asked me to send him direct phone numbers for other people rather than calling himself to get them. Remind me – who is looking for work here?

Make It Easy to Help – An unsolicited email arrived from someone (call him “Clarence #2”) who had been referred by a business acquaintance I hardly know. The email included two separate Word documents. Having to open both (shortening review time), I quickly closed them since a mild virus was attached (eliminating all review time).  When Clarence #2 called, he presumed I’d fully read the resume and asked what questions I had about him, followed by silence (precluding meaningful dialogue).  Important tip – presume I haven’t given a complete stranger’s resume a lot of time; help refresh me.  When later referring him to associates, I created a single PDF of his documents (he couldn’t create PDFs) to spare them the virus (robbing time from pre-selling him).  Clarence #2 could have gotten more valuable help if he’d saved me all this wasted time.

Follow-up – Maybe there’s a reason you’re looking for a job since follow-up is also typically spotty. Remember:

  • If I send information or make referrals, let me know if they’re beneficial.
  • If we set an appointment, do everything to keep it. When you cancel multiple times, don’t expect much future energy from me on getting together.
  • If I invite you into LinkedIn and offer to make connections, include a message for the ultimate target that explains why you want to network. Don’t expect me to compose a message explaining why they should spend time with you.

These are basics any senior person (especially marketers) should know, but invariably, people trip on several of them. If you’re intent on shooting yourself in the foot while networking, I’ll try to help stop you, but don’t expect me to take a bullet for you while trying to wrestle your own gun from your hands

HR at the Kids' Table

Ask any HR professional what concerns them the most, and “Becoming a  relevant and important part of the corporate team” will be in the top five. “What can I do to make myself more credible to my leaders?” is the question typically asked.

Like most things, the right answers are simple yet complicated. Direct yet nuanced. “Understand how your role fits into the goals of  the company.”  Check.  “Help recruit fantastic talent for your  organization.”  Yep.  Learn what not to do.  What?

Story time:. A manager calls me for some advice.  He is an acquaintance of mine and knows I am fairly adept at talking managers off the ledge.  In short, he’s pissed.

He had asked his group managers to make a list of everyone’s birthdays, anniversary days and home telephone numbers.  He is building a great culture, and he wanted to acknowledge these important dates. He also wanted his team leaders to do the same. The phone numbers were for emergencies.  He even added that if any team member has an issue with making these lists, it is not a requirement.  Simple, direct, and, I think, effective.

HR saw it differently.  They asked him for a special meeting.  They told him one person complained, but just “wanted him to know.”

All well and good.

Now he is in a slow burn.  And therefore less effective.

I wish HR people would realize that their reputations can be made by not only what they do, but what they do not do.  What do you think this HR person should have done

Culture Fit + Models of Interaction + Pragmatism / Idealism = Progress

Culture has always fascinated me. In the TalentCulture community we like to think of it in two ways (thanks to www.Dictionary.com): first, as the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent; and second, as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. Clearly culture has many complex dimensions (why it interests me so much), particularly organizational culture, as Chris Jones, our community member who is interested in complexity and change, points out in his interesting series of posts that begin here.

I help companies build a strong culture through the people they hire, which is a pragmatic approach to building a community of culture that encompasses people, values and ideals. People in our community also discuss culture as a personal topic, investigating ways to align personality and corporate culture to create the ‘fit’ necessary for a positive career experience. And we look at it as a social construct, because I believe strongly in the principles of social entrepreneurship, which combine the sometimes opposing forces of pragmatism and idealism.

When cultures fit, an organization can transcend problems, innovate and flourish. Without culture fit, an organization and its members will fail to thrive and will always be vulnerable in the face of innovative challengers.

Building a corporate and community culture requires several kinds of interaction: transactional, transformational, and tacit. I adopted this model from McKinsey & Company and SandHill.com, which reported on it way back in their Software 2006 Industry Report.

Transactional interactions are repeatable and rules-based. People receive reward and achieve success through these interactions because they have relatively equal and predictable value for the participants. From a culture standpoint this is table stakes: you need to have a level playing field where the rules are well understood for all participants to benefit.

Transformational interactions are also an essential component of business culture. Something is transformed from one state into another; in the McKinsey model this may be one thing being transformed into something else, but from a culture point of view I see it as an interaction where one participant benefits from and is transformed as a result of the interaction. It may not be an equal exchange, but there is value to both parties. As an example, the relationship between a career strategist and a job seeker should be transformational.

Tacit interactions are a bit more difficult to define – Ross Mayfield describes them as “judgment or insight applied to complex communications or problem solving”. Applied to the issue of culture, I view this as a shared trust that enables a deep and more valuable interaction – a sustainable competitive advantage – what I hope to help our participants develop through the efforts of the TalentCulture community.

I have no doubt that creating a social community requires interactions that encompass idealism and pragmatism: idealism because the intent is to do good things socially through the community; pragmatism because there must be some return on investment to the community’s participants or they won’t be engaged in the community. And of course this requires culture.

The TalentCulture business and community model is focused on culture: how it’s developed and how participants in our community benefit. In the TC community we create valuable interactions that can help job seekers find the right company, give career experts a place to discuss workplace and hiring issues, and provide an environment with the resources and depth of thought to add to the many facets an organization’s culture and growth quotient.

A positive culture translates into progress for employer and employee, and it turns out progress is what we crave most. We want to know we completed a task, created a winning strategy, and satisfied a difficult customer. We want to keep moving forward. In the TalentCulture community we will explore culture in both a corporate and social community context. We will give hiring managers the tools and insight to align their company’s cultures, building strong communities of culture between management and employees. We will talk about culture and communication and progress – always progress.

Help us make this a better and useful place. Tell us what progress and culture mean to you. How do you define your culture? What does progress mean to you?

Give Your Facebook Brand a Facelift

With so much great advice out there about how to build one’s personal brand through blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks, it’s important not to forget how all of it applies to one’s Facebook activity.

Here are some top personal branding tips on how to enhance your Facebook presence:

Plug your personal brand. Before you do anything else, physically plug your personal brand and supporting pitch or statement right into your Facebook profile.  You can do this in the About Me box below your profile picture, the About Me section under your profile’s Info tab as well as in a profile Note.  This will not only help you communicate and reinforce your brand to your current friends, but also to new friends, potential partners or prospective employers. – Chris Perry, CareerRocketeer.com

Claim your domain. The first step in Facebook personal branding is to obtain your own domain name on Facebook if available (i.e. http://www.facebook.com/derrickhayes). Having your own Facebook URL makes it easier for people to find you and can be a great marketing tool that you can add to all your social networks, business cards and in your email signatures.  – Derrick Hayes, DerrickHayes.com

Optimize your keywords. Ask someone (in your industry) to proof your LinkedIn profile.  I used to recommend doing this with a paper resume, but even easier if you have a friend in the industry.  Just ask them to peruse to see if you missed any key words, etc.  – Diane K. Danielson, DowntownWomensClub.com

Be a resource. Don’t just use the updates.  Share resources (articles, websites, book reviews etc.) to show that you not only have an expertise but you generously share your skills/knowledge. – Drew McLellan, The McLellan Group

Initiate conversation. Seek comments on your wall and start a dialogue with your Facebook friends. This will galvanize your friends to share and link back to your content, thus increasing your reach. Join or create relevant groups and fan pages, and actively participate in them. Posting your promotions blindly across the site will simply be viewed as spam, so two-way communication is key. – David Mathison, BetheMedia.com

Create a Facebook fan page. This page is separate from your personal profile and should include a clear attractive photo (modest attire), basic personal information i.e. postal address, valid professional email etc. and at least 3 notes, written by you.

The first note describes your educational and professional accomplishments. Consider this an elaboration of your resume. The second note describes the type of company you would like to work for. Use this to describe in detail your “perfect” company and ideal working conditions.  Finally, your third note is your personal advocate note. Hypothetically describe a problem that a company faces and how you would solve it.  – Charlene Nora, WorldUnboundNow.com

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this wealth of personal branding insight!

Chris Perry, MBA is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, a career search and personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, Launchpad, Blogaristo and more.

Social ROI: Intuition, Metrics, and Social Network Analysis

Today’s post is by our guest blogger, and friend, Jeff Wilfong.  Jeff has assisted with web 2.0 and business strategy for a number of large-scale organizations like Conoco-Phillips, the City of Sacramento and a multinational conglomerate based in India.  Jeff is currently earning his PhD in Organization Development with emphasis in Web 2.0 management. Learn more by visiting his site, E2.0 Pros.

I have been pondering lately about how we can measure, quantify, or understand whether we are getting value from a social technology. If we are going to move organizations into networked structures with all the latest and greatest tools (such as Web 2.0, E2.0, SCRM, and much more), then we better know what we are heading into. In my view, business ROI metrics that arise from a linear, cash-oriented productivity model are going to increasingly fade away as the analysis becomes much more sophisticated. Too many business analysts state that ROI is just too hard to measure and often horribly inaccurate.

So, how is ROI currently being measured in the new networked model?

One stream of thought is that you intuitively know when you find value. For instance, when I start meeting many different individuals on Twitter and find their thoughts interesting and creative, I then link up with them on LinkedIn and perhaps schedule an hour-long phone call to get the human-to-human connection going. That tells me that the technology was valuable. By the way, I have had numerous of these happening lately as I have developed my weak-link network. The weak-link network theory, aka “Brokerage and Closure” (see Ronald S. Burt’s book), states that social capital exists in structural holes. People become brokers between the links to get access to new knowledge and spread ideas. However, too much closure creates too much similarity in thinking (aka “group think”).

The tools I like to use for my informal network creation are TweetDeck, Skype, LinkedIn and of course my trusty iPhone.

Another stream of thought about Social ROI is more quantitative: it states that we need to analyze metrics, the mathematical properties of the social networks, and user behavior.

Regarding metrics, we examine:

  • the time spent on the site,
  • the the click rate (which links are clicked on and which are not,
  • the quality of postings on a subjective scale (perhaps through user voting),
  • the length of postings, and
  • the various words used (i.e., tags).

We analyze the social network itself by looking at:

  • the number of connections,
  • the density of connections,
  • the number of weak links and the number of cliques (or strongly connected groupings),
  • and the dispersion, the average length of paths, the hubs or connectors, and the outliers (to name a few).

Photo by Wikicommons

With respect to user behavior, we look at which social tools are used most and examine the long-tail effect of user participation, the fact that a majority of behavior comes from a small few. Typically, this ratio is 20/80 where 80% of the behavior is accomplished by 20% of the population, and this exponentially tapers off (see Barabasi). Wikipedia follows this as do most other communities. Is the community an 80/20, or are more people engaged than this?

We can compare these metrics to established norms from other studies and cases, and determine how well we are doing. Still, the human in us tells us that we can do more with the networks. For example, we can design a better user-interface (a more human-centered design if you will) and psychologically fit the group to the tool. This is all cutting edge stuff, and we will see more in the immediate future.

We need to start examining a model of ROI in the new, networked organizations. This will get us closer to Org 2.0.

Interesting books:

Wasserman and Faust (1994) Social Network analysis

Clay Shirky (2009) Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations

Leave Nothing But Footprints, Take Nothing But Pictures

Written by Kirsten Taggart

Watch out, world!  Ecotourism is a rising trend in travel as tourists are eager to preserve beautiful sites all over the globe.  Environmentally conscious individuals are doing their part in maintaining nature by participating in eco-friendly tourism programs in various countries.  However, there’s more that can be done!  Use the following tips to make your vacation as green as it can be.

Booking your trip

  • Many hotels are going green! When researching, look for ones that are environmentally conscious.  Here are some questions you may want to ask:
    • Does the hotel actively recycle?
    • In what ways does the hotel reduce consumption (i.e. energy-efficient lighting, eco-friendly power sources, water reducing appliances)?
  • Public transportation is always better than taking your car, but the best ways to travel are by bus or train.  If you do travel by plane, choose a direct flight to cut emissions.
  • Purchase tickets online to avoid delivery charges and fees if the tickets are lost.

Before you leave:

  • Unplug appliances – even if they are off, they can leak 40 watts per hour.
  • Shut down your PCs – don’t keep them on “sleep” mode!
  • Pack an environmental friendly water bottle in your carry-on to avoid buying multiple plastic bottles.  You can purchase reusable bottles from companies like Sigg and Klean Kanteen.
  • Pack your own snacks so you don’t have to resort to unhealthy, overpriced food at rest stops, airports, etc.  I usually buy organic, prepackaged burritos to make just before I leave as a meal on the go.  Other slow-burning snacks include granola, trail mix, nuts.

At the hotel

  • Instead of throwing your towel on the floor after one shower, use it multiple times during your stay and inform management that you won’t need a daily towel change.  The same goes for changing sheets.  This will help cut water use.
  • If you’re staying in a warm place, turn off the AC and open the windows.
  • Switch off the lights on your way out.
  • Recycle.
  • Some hotels allow you to review your bill on the hotel television.  Use this option (if available) to save paper.

Traveling and Sightseeing

  • Rent a hybrid car when you go sightseeing! You’ll save money on gas and cut emissions.
  • If you’re traveling from place to place, take a train instead of a plane.
  • Exploring one area?  Skip the tour bus and opt for a walking tour (remember to bring your sneakers!).  You’ll also get a greater chance to interact with the locals and experience the culture if you’re on foot.
  • Purchase local products, but be sure that they are animal and environmentally friendly.
  • As always, wait until you find a garbage can before you dispose of your trash
  • Don’t forget to bring your reusable bottle and digital camera!

Top 10 Cities for Fresh College Graduates

After some careful research on job growth, happiness, opportunity, and nightlife, I’ve pinned down the top 10 cities for fresh college graduates to live, work and play.

Check out my video and the list, below…

#10 Houston, TX

  • Ranked #3 in the country for job growth
  • Opportunities for graduates with science and technical degrees
  • Lively nightlife

#9 Boston, MA

  • Lots of public transportation means no need for a car
  • Up-and-coming job market
  • Long, cold winters

#8 San Francisco, CA

  • Affordable housing
  • Growing job market
  • Nightlife and rich culture

#7 Austin, TX

  • 25% of the population is in their 20s.
  • Ranked one of the best upcoming areas in the country

#6 Atlanta, GA

  • Home to over 24 major corporation headquarters
  • Average starting salary of $40,000
  • Happiest suburbs in America

#5 Denver, CO

  • Affordable housing
  • Home to the happiest single professionals in the country
  • Ranked #4 in the U.S. for job growth

#4 Chicago, IL

  • Lots of entry-level jobs
  • Affordable housing
  • Great deep dish pizza

#3 Washington, D.C.

  • Great social scene
  • Highest concentration of college graduates in the country
  • Lots of government and university jobs

#2 Seattle, WA

  • Greenest, most sustainable city in America
  • High job growth and starting salaries
  • Lots of new college graduates

#1 New York, NY

  • Great nightlife
  • Lots of entry-level jobs
  • Possible commuting


Best cities for college grads and young single professionals

Top 20 Cities for Entry-Level Job Seekers

America’s Favorite Cities

Best Cities For Young Professionals

The Best Cities to Live and Work In

The heart of hiring is a human one. Let’s keep it healthy.

In all my previous jobs, including my current one running an HR marketing firm, I’ve hired dozens and dozens of employees – from higher education to high-tech to the HR marketplace, marketing and PR. I’ve played recruiter, hiring manager and human resources, although I’ve never officially held the title of any with the exception of sourcer.  When I first entered the HR marketplace over a decade ago, I went to work as a sourcing account manager for a company called Tapestry.net prior to taking over the marketing communications function and internal sales team.

Let’s take a ride in the Way Back Internet Time Machine, shall we?

Our pitch was this:

Tapestry.net sources Interested, Qualified Applicants for software developer, IT, and Asian-language bilingual positions. You pay only for those candidates who you decide meet your specifications and who have agreed to an interview. You’re in control.

Sophisticated artificial intelligence quickly predicts the likelihood of a match between interested applicants and a particular position.

It was cool.  It was ahead of its time.  And it became a dot.com demise before the end of 2001.

Time and again we pushed our artificial intelligence proprietary matching system. I’ve worked with hundreds of HR suppliers, many who claim their technology will help companies identify and screen the right applicant for the right position quickly and effectively.  And there’s truth to that; there are many quality products and services that accelerate sourcing, recruiting and hiring.

To a point. It is practically impossible to completely remove the human subjectivity of hiring. No wonder some of our clients would repeatedly question the validity of our results

In a recent article on matching technology from John Sumser’s HRExaminer, he states:

Lots of forecasts for the future of Recruiting and HR focus on phenomenal breakthroughs in technology’s ability to personalize and match environments. That’s probably not really going to happen in the foreseeable future. The triple disciplines of sourcing, attraction and selection will continue to require human intervention at the decision making point.


This is true in every size organization; the final decision is a human one.

And the good news, based on the recent Intuit Small Business Employment Index, is that employment has increased since mid-2009, with nearly 150,000 new jobs for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, which comprise 87 percent of the total U.S. private employer base.

And what helps make the final human decision be the right one?

Cross-functional cultural interviewing.  Allowing others in the company, regardless of position, to meet with and interview applicants in a relaxed, informal setting, maybe even offsite is very important.  Cultural fit is critical is small spaces.

Scenario-based tests. If you’re hiring an Internet researcher, then have them do some Internet research.  If you’re hiring a developer, then have them complete a coding test.  If you’re hiring a marketing person, then have them put together a brief plan that would generate more publicity, traffic and leads.

Going beyond the ceremonial reference check. Ask for 5 or more references, not just the standard 2.  Make sure they include previous employers, co-workers and vendors they’ve worked with when appropriate.  Engage and question them beyond name, rank and salary number.

Social media participation. I’m all about transparency and personal responsibility, so although no one should be required to participate in social media, if applicants are already doing so, then you can follow up. What services are they using, and how effective and appropriate are their social media communication skills?  If you’re squelching participation within your company, you’re losing a competitive edge and quality applicants.

Google. Yeah, you heard me.  See above.  But do be careful not to make your final hiring decisions on what you find online with one exception.  See below.

Background screening. Workplace violence and fraud are always a concern, and conducting regular background checks on all final applicants can help ensure a safe and legitimate environment.  Though this requires using an outside service, you can’t “go with the gut” on these things.

Offering flexible work schedules. The way we work continues to change and the personal and professional so intertwined.  Be open to offering telecommuting, flexible irregular schedules, dialing up and down workload based on company/personal needs, giving time off for volunteering, community and social-based causes, etc.

The heart of hiring is a human one.  Let’s keep it healthy.

WWDD: What Would Don Do?

Meet Mad Man Don Draper at his finest: the pressed suit, the neat hair, the confident gaze. He’s about to pitch an idea to a client. Draper works for an advertising firm; he is the main character in AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning original series “Mad Men.” In this video clip, he’s at the top of his game recognizing the consumer’s innate needs and finding a way to fill them.

Everyone wants to be Don Draper. Maybe you don’t drive a Cadillac or spark fire in the hearts of married women with your dashing, princely looks… No, you can’t be Don Draper, but you can be like him. Except you don’t run an ad firm. You run your life and your career. Draper’s pitches are like job interviews on behalf of the firm. He wants the client to hire his team. When you apply for a job, you’re essentially pitching yourself. You want employers to hire you.

Notice Draper’s strategy. He finds the benefit in a product that people want or need and then packages that benefit into a message people can understand. You can do the same! Find what qualities you possess that employers need or want. Don’t look at your skills or your experience. Look at your benefits. Package those benefits into your resume, cover letter, interview and thank you notes.

You may not be sending grown men out of the room in tears like Draper does. But if you can identify and articulate why potential employers need you, you can convince them that they do need you. Your career will continue seamlessly round and round just like Draper’s Carousel.


Photo: Agence Olloweb

6 Fundamentals of Effective Collaboration

In my last post, I framed a definition of collaboration, but it left many questions unanswered. For example, what would effective collaboration look like?

Here are my secret sauce ingredients. I see these as key factors for driving effective collaboration:

Engagement. To me, it starts with listening, being in the moment. Active listening and engagement is necessary to establish rapport and trust.

Keeping it Real (being Authentic). We must always expect authenticity across collaboration efforts. We have to be who we say we are and not “role play” to expectations or false projections.

A Bias for Learning & Discovery. I’m curious, so I model that behavior in groups. I ask “why” pretty often. Personally I seek to resolve ambiguity, but I’ve learned (via blog comments) that I can also use conflicting semantics to surface new perspectives and to expand horizons. Later: more on cultures of learning.

Respect for Community Members. To collaborate, I seek out others with similar interests and (preferably) greater knowledge than my own.  Most are busy. They don’t have to be there. So I respect the value of member contributions and their time.  It’s important to feel as if you need to earn a seat at the table; that changes your point of view.

Driving a Positive Vibe. We all want an upbeat work dynamic. It’s more fun to have fun, after all. Though culture is often hard to define, I find that it is a key factor in the way people behave. Leaders are called upon to model desired behaviors, so they play a key role in creating an environment conductive to collaboration. Incentives can help, but with collaborative teams, sometimes the only incentive is the value of insights or friendships gained by being there.

Focus on Results. I like to champion real outcomes. I’m the guy who says, “ok fine, so what are we going to DO about it?” I annoy people with that, but it’s important. Where can we take the group’s insights? How can we apply them?

Do these aspects resonate with you? Share a story. I’d like to know your perspectives.

I’ve been grappling with collaboration for a couple decades now, usually in the context of IT projects in corporate silos that seems designed to shut down cross-functional collaboration.  The hardest part was watching talented people lose motivation in the midst of their best efforts to overcome resistance.

I think it’s going to be different now.  In the new 2.0 world, social technology amplifies the collaborative trend, accelerates its impact and expands its reach. We need to understand and embrace the steps above if we hope to survive, let alone compete, in the Knowledge Economy. Hold on tight. In a world of exponential growth trends, 2010 should rock WAY more than 2009.

So it’s back to the rodeo, I suppose.

A quick thank you to my friends at #SMCHAT who have been instrumental in helping me learn and frame many of these collaboration concepts in a 2.0 context.  It’s been a  journey of discovery.  In a sense, it’s a journey that’s led me to TalentCulture. I participate in many communities besides TalentCulture, including #SMCHAT and #ECOSYS. My motivation?  I’ve learned that if you hang around smart people long enough, eventually, something will rub off.

Here’s hoping. Rest assured, I’ve been taking copious notes.

Originally posted by Chris Jones, a TalentCulture contributing writer. He is an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, with a passion for driving new levels of engagement and learning in the modern organization. His research areas include the dynamics of organization culture, and more recently, the importance and implications of critical thinking. Check out his blog, Driving Innovation in a Complex World, for more.

Job Satisfaction – What's Up With That?

The press has been lamenting recent dismal numbers on job satisfaction. Early this year, the Conference Board – which regularly pumps out interesting data on employment, the economy and business trends – issued a report that indicates job satisfaction is at its lowest level in two decades. This fact seems stunning in an economy where one in 10 of us is searching for a job – after all, if you have a job, shouldn’t you be satisfied, by definition? Or should you?

A number of red flags stand out in the report:

  • Only 45 percent of those surveyed are happy with their jobs.
  • Gen Y – the under-25 crowd – is unhappiest in their work.
  • Twenty-two percent of the 5,000 surveyed don’t expect to be in their current jobs in a year.
  • The drop in satisfaction extends across four ‘drivers of employee engagement’: job design, organizational health, managerial quality and extrinsic rewards.
  • The survey results point to a risk that knowledge transfer will be lost.

Job satisfaction and engagement with your employer’s goals are tightly linked. When your employer doesn’t – or can’t – give you meaningful, fulfilling work, your satisfaction with that job will drop. But with one in 10 unemployed and perhaps another seven or ten percent who have given up or are underemployed, looking for another job is a terrifying prospect.

But there are choices you can make, even in this environment.  Here are just a few: prepare yourself for a new career, take action to make your job more rewarding, or stay dissatisfied and blame it on external factors.

Gen Y may find it easiest to prepare for a new career. They have less invested, are often fresh out of school and are less likely to be encumbered by mortgages and families. You’d think they had the least to lose, but I would argue they have a lot to lose: their faith in the job market, their trust in their employers, and even their belief that careers are worthwhile. Hey, why not be a waiter or a ski bum when a corporate job looks so unrewarding?

Gen X, struggling with mortgages and families, may feel trapped. And baby boomers, aghast at what the markets and the government have made of their retirement prospects, may feel betrayed on all sides and emotionally unable to invest in their jobs. Yet for Gen X and baby boomers the key to satisfaction is action. But what action?

The TalentCulture ‘action’ prescription is culture. If you’re dissatisfied with work, it’s time to look for workplace culture, personality-culture fit, and a culture of work-life balance.

My colleague Mike Ramer argues that culture is the superglue that bonds people to a mission. A smart employer understands this and creates a workplace culture of purpose, shared goals, engagement, and reward.

A smart employee invests his or her energy in a corporation with a culture of success, teamwork, accountability and excellence.

Satisfaction in a job is a shared responsibility, requiring the employer to create a culture of success and engagement, ensure organizational health, demand the best from its managers, and provide extrinsic and intrinsic rewards to committed employees. Career seekers: your responsibilities are to understand what drives you, seek the right culture fit with an employer, and continually invest in skills. Create a balance in the work/life equation by exploring personal interests and maintaining physical and emotional wellness.

Job satisfaction is a shared responsibility, especially in difficult times. We think that with the right mix of attitude, culture and collaboration it’s possible to be satisfied with a job, even to renew satisfaction in a stale job. What do you think?

5 Gadget Trends in 2010

Written by Kirsten Taggart

Number 5: Eco-friendly home energy systems

Number 4: Clean energy charging systems for handheld gadgets

  • Solar chargers for handheld devices are available from Solar Power and SolarStyle.
  • Hydrofill by Horizon uses hydrogen to recharge handheld gadgets and Horizon AA batteries set for release late in 2010.
  • Number 3: Large Touch Screens

Number 2: Ereaders

Number 1: 3D Television

  • 3DTV is opening a new chapter in television history with and without the silly glasses. Look out for releases from Magnetic, Panasonic, Sony, and many more in the next two years.

The Brand Building Bird Named Twitter

Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite, offered a really insightful Twitter job search tip about Twitter, stating, “It’s not the individual Tweet that attracts the employer, but your cumulative presence on Twitter.”  He went on to say that Twitter is not just a broadcast tool for self-promotion and short-term job searching, but also an opportunity for long-lasting brand building and development through conversation and community engagement.

There are many things that you can do to begin building a truly meaningful presence on Twitter so not only to enhance your brand for your job search, but also for the rest of your career.  Here are just some of the top ones to get you started:

Use a memorable name. Make your “Twitter Handle” your full name or company name.  People will come to associate your Twitter handle with YOU and your work, make it count. – T.C. Coleman, @UpwardAction

Don’t forget your profile. Precisely fill out your information so potential employers know who you are and what you’re looking for.  For more depth into your background, be sure to include links to your LinkedIn, blog or other professional networking sites on your Twitter.  – Heather Huhman, @ComeRecommended

Craft a Twitter background. Complete your brand identity with a background that resembles the colors, format and logo from your personal website, if you have one.  If not, choose colors and graphics (if relevant) that support the brand you seek to create.  Then, add in additional information that isn’t covered in your Twitter profile, but is relevant to your expertise and job search, such as pointers to more websites or contact information. – Betsy Richards, @erichards24

Share relevant, applicable and interesting content. “Listeners” are interested in following individuals from whom they can learn, grow and share. – Justin Honaman, @jhonaman

Show your expertise. You can differentiate yourself by showing your expertise – HOW you are different. Many if not most of your tweets if you are just starting up should be links to news articles in your field. Use #hashtags to help people find them. – Maryanne Conlin, @mcmilker

Twitter works best when used conversationally. Many people get on Twitter and just promote themselves, and wonder why they don’t have any responses.  If Twitter is a party, than Tweeting only about you is like standing in the middle of the room shouting your ideas.  Find people and retweet what they’re saying or reply if they post something you find interesting.  The more you get involved in conversations, the more fun the party is. – Jennifer Turner, @Talagy

Create value. Beyond simply linking your followers to others’ content, begin thinking about how you can create content to help your community or industry.  Start a blog and tweet your advice, tips or insights.  Use Twitter’s list feature to create a group of the industry’s top experts and thought leaders and share that with your community.  This will undoubtedly build your brand and help you as you pursue opportunities throughout your career. – Chris Perry, @CareerRocketeer

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this wealth of personal branding insight!

Chris Perry, MBA is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, a career search and personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, Launchpad, Blogaristo and more.

Tweet This Intervention

Not many would disagree with the fact that effective communication increases employee engagement and retention.  However, with social media, participation and business value are often at odds because of disparity between effective and ineffective communicators.

Let’s face it:  the social in social media can make or break a firm’s brand and customer relationships.  Those who are ineffective communicators are most likely the first ones to say social media is a waste of time – and the first ones to damage your brand.

According to a recent Towers Watson 2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report: Capitalizing on Effective Communication:

Despite the increased use of social media, companies are still struggling to measure the return on their investment in these tools. Highly effective communicators are more likely than the least effective communicators to report their social media tools are cost-effective (37 percent vs. 14 percent).

Now, there have been many a social media folk who emphasize the organic benefits of social media – including me.  In fact, according to our own recent social media survey of HR suppliers, of which 93% say they participate, the top five social media activities in which companies engage are:

  • Sharing other’s content and news
  • Sharing original content and news
  • Networking
  • Relationship building
  • Listening and learning

Marketing and selling products and services were further down on the list.  Given these activities, companies need to ask themselves who can best represent them online. Do they let anyone and everyone who volunteer become front-line evangelists for the company when it comes to social media marketing.

The reality is no.  However, I’m not suggesting that you squelch participation online – goodness no.  Everyone who wants to participate can and should.  However, there are plenty of social media guidelines available today to share with your employees (just search for “social media guidelines” and you’ll see).

For example:

Personal responsibility is number one – participants who engage in social media are not just representing themselves; they are now the face of the company.  Facilitating quality communication is key, and that responsibility rests with the leadership of the company.

Speaking of leadership taking the lead, another look at our survey reveals the following breakdown by role of who participates:

  • CEO/President/Business Owner – 56%
  • VP/Director/Manager – 60%
  • Human Resources – 19%
  • Recruiters – 16%
  • Marketing – 74%
  • PR – 38%
  • Sales – 49%
  • Customer Service – 14%
  • Other (everybody else) – 10%

It makes sense to me that the majority of the participants include:

a)     Leaders,

b)     Those focused on growing the company (management, marketing, PR, sales), and

c)      (More than likely) those who are good communicators.

Of the 7% of HR suppliers who told us they did not participate in social media (remember, 93% said they did), over half of those said because they saw no business value.

Really?  No business value in communicating and relationship building with customers, prospects and influencers?


If your company isn’t investing and participating in social media, then it’s doing more harm to itself than good.  Facilitating better internal and external communication within your organization and without is the core tenant of social media and the new millennia of customer service.

I think it’s time for a social media communication intervention.  Gather around my comrades, we’ve got relationships to build and businesses to grow.

Creating Org 2.0: get the most from social tools

Today’s post is by our guest blogger, and friend, Jeff Wilfong.  Jeff has assisted with web 2.0 and business strategy for a number of large-scale organizations like Conoco-Phillips, the City of Sacramento and a multinational conglomerate based in India.  Jeff is currently earning his PhD in Organization Development with emphasis in Web 2.0 management. Learn more by visiting his site, E2.0 Pros.

The old adage: “If you build it, they will come,” does not seem to work as a strategy for the roll-out of social media tools in organizations. A vast majority of users will simply go about working the same way they always have. Case studies exist describing successful implementations which lead with technology (see Bill Ives’s consulting engagement with Booz Allen), most data shows that many technology-led efforts are in vain. Simply put, many managers complain that employees do not use the tools once they are designed.

One study indicates that worldwide, IT projects consistently fail, and a record $6.2 trillion dollars were wasted on them, various other studies show only about 40-50% of projects succeeding. This data on IT failure rates is not new, and McKinsey consultants have found this rate to be consistent over the last decade or two. Many reasons are given for the large failure in technology. For this article I wish to focus on two reasons of the failure of enterprise solutions, the lack of a collaborative culture and ignoring the end-user.

Designing a wiki, requires that people will want to work in collaborative ways. People will not collaboratively work together if the culture does not reward them to. In the book, Collaboration 2.0, David Coleman and Stewart Levine, successfully argue that any collaborative culture will need to balance 1) technology, 2) people, and 3) process. Many times, IT designs a tool and does not communicate successfully with the business user. Often, the business user ends up not using the tool or side-stepping by using a product from another vendor. In a collaborative culture, IT would work hand-in-hand with the business user, gathering all the necessary data, designing the tools with the end-user in mind. This is working with the people. Next, a process would need to be designed by change management to focus on encouraging users to adopt and use the tool. One method would be to work with champions, encouraging the important people within the organization to work collaboratively together. This may start with them simply using the tools and adding content to the wiki or blog. Another method would be for managers to change their reward structures and begin to examine ways of assessing collaborative work for employee performance reviews. This is focusing on the process.

The people and process are often neglected. It is my belief, that unless companies move towards designing, encouraging and rewarding collaborative cultures, that social media tools will be limited. Either employees will not use them or they will not be used to their fullest potential. The power of 2.0 technology, social media being one of them, is in the social network effects. We learn more when we reach out to others, we can build great things when we work together. After all, the reason why we create organizations is that the power that comes from ‘many’ is much greater than the power of ‘one.’

Simply proving new tools does not mean people will

  1. want to use the tools
  2. have the time to use the tools
  3. know how to use the tools
  4. develop any expertise or find new knowledge from the tools if the culture is not collaborative

In my future posts, I will write on ‘Org 2.0,’ the new evolving cultures of participation, collaboration, and innovation that is potential when leadership, structure, culture, and processes are aligned with technology and the core knowledge that exists within the organization. We are in a new era of business thought and I would like to explore this area.

Collaboration is everywhere. Maybe we should define it?

Originally posted by Chris Jones, a TalentCulture contributing writer. He is an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, with a passion for driving new levels of engagement and learning in the modern organization. His research areas include the dynamics of organization culture, and more recently, the importance and implications of critical thinking. Check out his blog, Driving Innovation in a Complex World, for more.

Web 2.0 is the wild west of the 21st century.

I guess it’s no surprise that 2009 felt like a bull ride at the rodeo.

But there’s been some goodness, too.  Amidst all the changes brought in with social technologies, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the talent I’ve met, both here at TalentCulture and elsewhere online. I’ve met more talented people on Twitter in the last 5 months than I’ve met anywhere else in the last 10 years.

That tells me something powerful is going on. Or that I need to get out more.

Point made. But I think Twitter and Social Media represent a paradigm shift.  It’s about connecting people around the world who have similar interests .. people who, until recently, had been isolated.  To get at what’s happening in practical terms, let’s unpack that word up at the top, collaboration. I run into it every day in my roles as part-time community leader and full-time consultant.

Collaboration is the interactive dynamic of engaged people, who, when electing to work together, adopt shared behaviors and goals through conversation … with an objective of driving new, emergent, innovative insights and outcomes.

Some big words in there. I’d be happy to discuss substitutions.  In fact, if we can make the definition better. we’d have something to hang on the wall, and will have “lived the vision” by collaborating.

Let’s try it out. What would you change?

Meantime, you may be wondering: Where can we go with TalentCulture?

I’m hoping we can start to tackle the problem of corporate culture, for one. It remains a barrier to collaboration in many ways. I’m working on that theme on my blog, as we speak.  I also have considerable energy on unlocking core trends in the changing workforce, aka workforce transformation.  Beyond that, who knows? I know Meghan has some thoughts (and its a good thing: she’ll get the credit or blame, depending.)

But it’s good to leave some slack.  Communities don’t always have a master plan when they gather …

Just as I didn’t know precisely where this blog would go when I started typing.  Well ok, not true.  I was pretty sure it would go on the internet.

A big thanks to Meghan for the concept of TalentCulture, and for inviting me to contribute.

See you around. Don’t be a stranger.

Treat Your Job Search Like A PR Campaign

Finding a job is a job. But what kind of job is it? When you think about it, the job search is actually a public relations job.

On the job hunt, you’re advocating for yourself. If you want to finally land that dream position, you’ve got to practice good personal PR. So treat your job search the same way a public relations practitioner would treat a PR campaign.

In PR, we love catchy acronyms. If you jobhunt long enough, you’ll come to love this one: RPIE. It’s pronounced “R-Pie”…okay, maybe not so catchy. It stands for Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation.


This first stage of a campaign is too often overlooked by PR folks and jobseekers alike. Solid knowledge of yourself and your future employer will be the foundation for your job search. Here’s how to begin:

1. Start with a brainstorm. What are your skills? What tools do you possess? What makes you a valuable asset to employers?

2. Then hit the web. Where do those skills and tools fit? What companies are looking for a valuable asset like you? Where will you be a good match?

3. Make a list of places you will apply, and read everything you can about those places.


Here is where you craft your strategy. Make a plan for how you will write cover letters that boldly declare, “I know your company, and I know you need me!” Use that research to find the keywords your potential employers are looking for, and thread those keywords into your resume. Draft a step-by-step task list of how you will handle each follow-up letter, each phone call and each interview. Remember that research? It’s still your foundation.


You’ve got your game plan, now hit the ground like a wound up matchbox car. Build that personal brand. Send your letters and resumes; follow them up to show you’re eager; interview with confidence, backed by the knowledge you’ve gained in Research and Planning.


When it’s all over, review what happened. What did you do right that you will repeat next time? What potholes will you avoid on your next journey? How can you improve your job searching skills? Get ready to wash, rinse, and repeat.

The job search is a PR campaign, and like a PR pro, you bill by the hour. The more you put in, the more you get out. Campaigns don’t last a few days; they’re ongoing. The job search is a full-time job…until you find a full-time job.

Welcome to TalentCulture

Welcome to TalentCulture, one voice of our eclectic community. My team of contributors will launch conversations about the issues of career, culture (workplace, digital lifestyle, trends, popular, alternative, arts) talent acquisition, branding, sustainability, social causes, motivation and innovation. I hope you will join us as we explore these topics through the lens of new media, with reference to the social and geopolitical pressures that will affect our careers and lives in the near and long-term.

Job seekers and hiring leaders– from Gen Y to Gen X and baby boomers – are concerned about a broad range of issues, and deeply passionate about finding a career path that will allow them to grow, develop a personal brand that will sustain them through the inevitable flux of a career, and engage – through new media channels – with others at every step of the adventure.

Why choose TalentCulture.com as a resource? I like to think it’s because we can make critical, big topics like career, culture, innovation, green and digital media not only interesting, but actionable. We won’t just tell you what we think; we’ll provide you with tools (guidelines, pointers, lists and links to other thought-leaders and innovators) to help you reach your own conclusions about the things that most affect your career. We’ve lived the life, are living life, done the work and are still discovering meaning everyday. We won’t just talk, we’ll invite you into the discussion to generate meaningful dialog about how to build a sustainable life – career, brand, entrepreneurship, personal exploration and innovation – and the culture fit that is so important to maintaining progress.

My motivation for this comes out of my background as a career, branding, and workplace expert, a fascination and love of people, and a passion for the various forms and meanings of culture. I have a tendency to analyze and discover the meaning of something before acting, balanced by my early background in the performing arts, where stage presentation and technical skill must be matched with creativity, passion and energy. After many years of successfully strategizing with job seekers and corporate leaders as a member of both larger organizations and start-ups and in academia working on research teams studying human subjects and behavior, my true calling is an entrepreneur’s path to keep innovating and stay relevant for my clients and friends. But an entrepreneur can’t succeed alone – it takes a community. In this case, it’s a group of strategic partners, contributors and most importantly…you!

This blog is a place where we can share experiences with people interested in a mix of topics. Our goal is to give you, the reader, the best and most current thinking on branding, digital, culture, green, career strategy, self-awareness, innovation and the tools of self-assessment necessary to plot a sustainable career path – using new media to interact and observe, participate and share. At TalentCulture we will interact with you through your blog comments, via pointers to other sites and links to our Twitter feeds, and even with the occasional survey to develop our thinking on the importance of these topics. Through this, we hope to help each of you discover and build on your personal value as a careerist and a person.

We hope to start conversations about a broad range of topics. We range from Gen Y to baby-boomer here on the blog, so expect to see lots about generational differences and what they mean for careers and the larger world around us. We’ll talk about using new media to build your personal and/or corporate brand. We’ll ask questions and use your comments and responses to help us plot an evolving storyline of topics that will inform, engage and empower you. It’s a journey, and this is the first step.

The second step is to ask you to join with us and participate with comments, by following our tweets, and by answering the occasional question. So think about career, workplace, culture fit, innovation, digital media, the arts, personal and corporate branding and sustainability, and tell us what you’d like to discuss. Let’s have some fun.

Taken Out of Context

For a long time, a large corporation provided the context for my career.  Even amid dramatic change and outright chaos, relationships between me and just about everything in the big company – work variety, pace, people, meetings, surroundings, interpersonal interaction, moral support, etc. – remained very familiar. Now though, having ventured out to build my own business, I find that I’ve taken myself almost completely out of that familiar (and thus, comfortable) context.

I’m sure I felt similarly when I moved from a two-person research company to the Fortune 500 world many years ago, yet I don’t recall the changes being quite so stark. Now, instead of coming in and adapting to circumstances created by others, I am responsible for shaping the new environment.

It’s an unfamiliar and uneasy situation at times, leading me to develop and share my top ten list of unanticipated insights about working from home:

10. Not every phone number begins with a 9!

9. It’s possible, with a new address, to go hours without receiving any work-related emails.

8. Creative diversions while in a corporate job (such as blog writing) now induce guilt since they get in the way of 24/7 business development.

7. There are no conference rooms in which to hide meet.

6. Taking a nap during the day isn’t frowned upon.

5. Even though I’m in what looks like an office, it functions like a cube, because my wife listens and critiques my phone conversations.

4. There’s much less talk of downsizing.

3. It’s difficult to tell a “vacation” day or the weekend since I’m still at “work,” no matter what.

2. My work posture must not suggest “working” since doing a household chore is expected to receive immediate top priority.

1. After more than 9 weeks, we’ve yet to have a Monday morning staff meeting!

Despite trying to anticipate and plan for everything, all these things surprised me!

I don’t view being taken out of context as being bad though. It’s simply an interesting wrinkle and a cool opportunity: I can determine – with my wife’s input, of course – a totally new context!

Birth of a Brand

When I started the career search process during the second year of my MBA program, I encountered a serious challenge.  Having multiple talents, strengths and potential career paths, I was faced with the daunting task of having to identify and communicate my value in a single word.

It was thanks to a class visit by Frank Lane, Brand Entrepreneur and Author of Killer Brands, that I learned how  to formally brand myself.  At the end of his talk, he asked us to participate in an exercise that he thought might help us in our ongoing job search efforts.  The exercise involved writing down our top 3 to 5 strengths and then identifying a word or phrase that tied them together and could become our personal brand.  I listed my strengths as energy, creativity, problem-solving and relationship-building.  The only word that I could think of that could tie them all together was “generator,” for I generate lots of energy, I generate creative ideas and solutions, and I generate strong relationships so to build durable, cohesive and productive teams.  Thus, my personal brand was born.

I quickly and consistently incorporated my personal brand in all of my career search outputs, including my resume, my cover letter, my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, my emails and anything else that I thought might meet the eyes of a potential employer or career stakeholder.

Furthermore, I reached out through my professional network and through LinkedIn for informational interviews and shared my personal brand and supporting pitch with them in our conversations.  One such conversation led to an onsite interview where I also shared my personal brand as the answer to the question, “Why should we pick you over all of these other top candidates?” My personal brand gave the interviewer something that he clearly remembered as he mentioned it to me later that day.  While there are many factors that may have contributed to my resulting offer, I believe it was my ability to consistently communicate my value in one memorable brand that assisted me in successfully achieving my current employment.

It was also through my own personal brand-building and development efforts that I discovered how much I enjoy helping others create and communicate their own personal brands, both in their job searches and beyond.

I cannot tell you what an honor it is to have been asked to become a strategic partner and contributing member of the TalentCulture community.  In alignment with my personal brand, one of my objectives with Career Rocketeer has been to generate relationships with the industry’s top experts and bring them together into one common forum where we can all share our experiences, advice and insight with others.  It is exciting to see that TalentCulture is another community with a similar mission.  I look forward to serving this community in any way that I can.

Chris Perry, MBA is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, a career search and personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, Launchpad, Blogaristo and more.

Social Media

Photo: dole777

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Although a few months have passed since the tragic death of @Military_Mom’s son, the controversy it caused still resonates.  Friends came to her defense, yet others were outraged claiming if she had paid more attention to her son instead of Twitter, he could still be alive.  On a broader scale, it got everyone thinking: how dependent are we on social media and when do we say, “Enough is enough?”

Nowadays, social media is a major factor in how we interact with one another.  More often than not, exchanging telephone numbers with a new acquaintance is substituted by a promise to friend on Facebook or follow on Twitter.  The ways in which we interact with others, receive our information, and promote ourselves have become a public affair; instead of a one-on-one bond, we find ourselves fostering one large open relationship.

Growing up in the age of technology, it’s hard to imagine my life without email, AIM, Facebook, etc.  Even so, I wince at how many hours a day I spend checking social updates and my inbox.  And it is harder than ever to disengage: as technology advances, it’s becoming easier to access the web from anywhere at any time.

So when does the use of social media become excessive? Should we start limiting our hours devoted to online interaction?  Lifehacker recently suggested people try the “Slow Media Diet” consisting of minimized computer use outside of work purposes.  Yet, I find that many of us today are expected to stay connected 24/7 with the latest media outlet, smart phone, etc.  This said, as the web becomes increasingly easier to access, the amount of real face-to-face socializing decreases.  Is it time for us to focus on minimizing social media dependency?

I often wonder the extent to which future generations will rely on media to pass the time.  Will reliance on technology help or harm them?  For now, I cringe when I see kids texting or playing video games during a family outing or at the dinner table.  In those instances I wonder, are we failing to teach this generation the art of good conversation and debate?  Perhaps, but who’s to say Gen Y is heading in the “wrong” direction?

This question isn’t limited to the youngest generation, however.  People of all ages are finding their online niche.  Social media has influenced the masses, for we all realize the beauty in reaching anyone at anytime.  Regardless of the tech frenzy, my goal is to limit the unnecessary hours I spend online and interact with real people instead.  This may entail cutting down the time I waste aimlessly checking Facebook or Twitter; I’d rather meet someone for a cup of coffee than send an @reply telling them how good it is.

The Internet has provided us with unbelievable outlets for communication and news.  It’s an astounding resource for all and pages of information are only a few clicks away at all times.  The way I see it, social media is a luxury that opens many windows of opportunity: job offers, networking, friendships.  At the same time, online addictions and overuse of social media are becoming prevalent in today’s society.  So, what do you think?  Have we crossed the line into social media excess?

Free Agency a Growing Occupation

This post is by guest blogger Cathy Y. Taylor

When the 2009-2010 NBA season ends, super star LeBron James will be a free agent. King James, as he is affectionately called, has been a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers since he jumped from high school to the pros six years ago. He has brought a lot of excitement to the city of Cleveland, including leading the Cavs to the Eastern Conference Finals last year against the Orlando Magic. Fans of the NBA are curious about what will happen when LeBron becomes a free agent. Given his performance, I can’t imagine any team in the league turning down a chance to add LeBron James to their roster.

While free agency is a nice concept for professional athletes, how does it apply to other professionals? What does it mean to be a free agent when your employer tells you that your job is being eliminated? Unfortunately, most people don’t have an agent at their disposal to line up their next opportunity. Most people are pretty much left on their own to navigate the tedious process of filing for unemployment, signing up for COBRA plans, if they can afford it, and sifting through savings to see how long they can pay the bills.

Think about what’s next

If there is ever a time to consider how to advance your talents and skills as a free agent, now is the time. One of the most effective ways to do this is to develop and manage your own online reputation. It’s sort of like your ESPN highlight reel — an online profile that clearly represents the success you’ve had in the past and gives potential managers a snapshot of how you can add value to a new organization.

According to a survey done by Michigan-based Kelly Services, 25% of the total population consider themselves self-employed, aka ‘free agents.’  90% of those say they voluntarily sought to become self-employed. These are the people who recognize that waiting for job creation to begin may mean having to create their next job opportunity.

So what to do if you are forced into free agency?

1. Don’t panic. What may seem like an impossible situation is actually a great opportunity. Look deep inside the networks you’ve developed and you will be amazed at the amount of ‘social capital’ you have available to you. Consider doing pro bono work to expand your network, but be sure to do it sincerely without any expectations of repayment. You can’t build trust if you do it for the wrong reasons.

2. Develop and/or improve your social media skills. We are in an incredibly viral and technological age, and it is one that can be used to your benefit. If you have a profile on LinkedIn, make sure it’s updated and clearly reflects your talents and abilities. Start a Twitter account, think about what you have to offer that is of value to people, then figure out how to say it in 140 characters or less. It will help build followers who share your interests.

3. Find bloggers who are in your space and follow their posts. You can create a list in Google Reader to track your favorite blogs. Whenever the blog is  about subjects that involve your expertise, make comments. You will be surprised at the number of people who will value what you have to share. Use your Twitter handle in your comments. It’s a great way to pick up like-minded followers or people who may want to seek your advice.

4. Get out of the house and mingle with other people. Don’t hide behind your laptop sending out tweets all day or updating your Facebook status. Check out co-working places in your community and think about becoming a member for a few days. Collaborating workspaces are a wonderful way to create opportunities.

Becoming a free agent can be one of the scariest moments in your life, but it can also be the most exciting time of your life. I am often reminded of something that NBA great Michael Jordan once said, ‘You gotta let the game come to you.’ This is true for free agents, whether you’re a professional athlete or a sales and marketing professional. Opportunities will present themselves if you place yourself in the right place with the right frame of mind.

StartUp Cultures

I start companies.  About every seven years or so, I get another one started.  Truth: I have not had a ‘win’ the scale of a Facebook, but I have not had a loser yet, either.  Two went public and initial investors have always made money, how much depended on when they exited.

Over the last 25 years or so, I have learned some painful and expensive lessons.  Now that I have gray hair and some experience, I see more clearly now why many VC firms like to have an experienced venture leader inside the company.

It is not so much that I now have all the answers, far, far from it.  It is more that now, I have a realistic view of what is happening and what the market and each stakeholder is telling you. In other words, I can recognize when the new company is in the minefield. That is the first step in solving any business problem.  Knowing that one exists.

There is one thing completely in my control, and that is the reason why I am excited about TalentCulture.  It’s all about the people on your team and the culture you create.  What I mean is this: while I believe I have greatly influenced the cultures in my previous companies, it turns out that it is more about the people inside than about me making some sort of blanket statement about what the culture should be.

That is what makes it so interesting to reflect on culture.  What are those things that the CEO and his team do that makes the culture either good or bad?  And who defines it?  Is it because everyone is singing Kumbaya at lunch, or is it because people love working at the company?

What I hope to accomplish with TalentCulture is simply to explore these and more cultural questions.  Maybe my experiences will create some more conversations here about this topic.

Blogging Along TalentCulture’s Highway

As a Master Resume Writer, my passion lies in the value of a muscular resume that lifts careers to new heights.

Moreover, the fast-moving and intricately laced digital highway is quickly becoming clogged with an assortment of career messaging vehicles, only some of which provide value. Ensuring a stronger voice on behalf of quality, focused resume and career messaging content streams is vital to maintain communications integrity.

To help kick-off my blogging relationship with TalentCulture, I’d like to introduce thoughts on two topics: Clear Resume Messaging and Resume Length:

  1. Clear Resume Messaging is the result of a complex process of career introspection (unearthing your nuggets of career gold / value) in conjunction with a process of extrospection (researching and absorbing your target audience’s needs). As such, the results you ferret out from your introspective process should be clearly tied to the needs of the audience that you discovered through extrospection.

By doing so, you produce a compelling and ‘them-focused resume message.’ In creating a crisp, yet meaty message, you ease the hiring decision-maker’s mind by selling them on YOU as the solution to what ails them.

  1. Resume Length: Often perceived as a black/white issue with no shades of gray, the answer to the resume length question truly is customized on a ‘case by case scenario.’ As a general rule of thumb, early career resumes, including resumes for recent graduates and those with five or fewer years’ experience may consider a one-page format; however, that rule of thumb easily is amended when the experience showcased is replete with meaty, relevant achievements stories (in the case of new grads, this often means stories acquired via internships and/or on-campus leadership roles).

Meaningful stories that illustrate the problem-solving and influence skills that led to the results and which address the pressing needs of the buyer (hiring manager) = strong, relevant and engaging resume content.

As one’s career advances to 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and beyond, the resume generally expands to two, and even three pages. My rule of thumb is three pages maximum (and an occasional four pager for senior-level executives). Additional information that may require a deeper-dive story can be fleshed out in additional, addenda documents, as needed.

Simply put, when I think of TalentCulture, I think of my client job seekers (Talent) and the business environs within which they seek to apply their talent (Culture).

Initially, I envision two goals for my participation:

  1. Extend mine (Career Trend’s) and the TalentCulture’s reach, pragmatically, yet inspiringly articulating the value of how a targeted and compelling marketing / communications campaign (i.e., resume and beyond) fuels a stimulating and forward-moving career.
  2. Join forces with and extend the communication messages from other partners and contributors who focus on diverse topics that my readership and customers are interested in, yet which don’t comprise my career niche; e.g., employer branding, general workplace/HR, employee engagement, green jobs, sustainability, digital media… and more.