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Managerial Magnets: Becoming A Leader Others Want To Follow

Written by Roberta Matuson

Are you a manager who’s ready for a professional breakthrough? Then it’s time to become the kind leader people will do anything to work for. The kind of leader who draws others to you. It’s time to become a magnetic leader.

Contrary to popular belief, great leaders aren’t born that way. Most are developed, coached and mentored throughout their careers. But why wait for someone else to guide you? Magnetic role models are all around us. So, no matter what your title or level of experience, you can observe more closely and strengthen your own skill set anytime.

Here are 5 best practices to help you get started:

1) Put Your Team First

When in doubt, put the interests of your employees ahead of your own. For example, it’s tempting to volunteer your department to organize this year’s charity event. After all, it would be great PR for you and the rest of your team. But everyone has been working on weekends to complete a critical project on time and within budget. They’re already burned out.

This is a good time to take a pass. Your team needs a break. Let them recharge. There will always be other volunteer opportunities.

2) Go to Bat for Your Employees

Let’s say you’ve been discussing a potential reorganization with your superiors. However, upon reflection, you believe the timing isn’t right for your organization to make that move. You feel uncomfortable asking your manager to reconsider the current plan.

Be bold. Let your boss know you’ve had a change of heart. Explain your rationale, and be prepared to offer alternative solutions. Regardless of the outcome, your employees will eventually figure out that you had the courage to push back when others would have retreated. Those who walk through the fire with you will stick by your side through thick or thin.

3) Learn to “Manage Up”

In my book, Suddenly in Charge, I explain that managing up isn’t about brown-nosing. It’s about developing strong relationships with those above you and throughout the organization, so you can get your people the resources they need to perform well.

In every company, there are people who are somehow able to get what they need while everyone else waits on the sidelines. These people have taken the time to build strong relationships up and down the organization. You can bet these resourceful leaders have no problem keeping top talent on their team. Observe how they work — and if an opportunity presents itself, ask for some tips.

4) Make Yourself Visible and Accessible

Magnetic leaders are visible both inside and outside their organization. Get involved in a professional association. Whenever possible, step up and volunteer to take a leadership position. You’ll be seen as a leader in your field, based on that affiliation. Don’t be surprised if others come to you seeking advice or a position on your team.

5) Treat People the Way You’d Like to be Treated

I bet you’ve heard this one before, right? It seems so obvious — but when is the last time you saw someone in a managerial role who consistently follows this creed?

In my book, Talent Magnetism, I tell the story of magnetic leader, Chris Patterson, CEO of Interchanges, who took it upon himself to help an employee who was in crisis. Patterson made it his personal mission to provide his employee with the best care possible during a life-threatening illness. He did so with compassion and conviction. This is a guy who is magnetic in every way.

Magnetic leaders are highly valued by their organizations — and are compensated accordingly. But it’s not just a reward for their effort and contributions to corporate objectives. Their employers know that leaders who display these characteristics are highly attractive to competitive organizations.

Do you know role models who demonstrate the value of magnetic leadership? What do they do that makes them so attractive to others in their professional sphere? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments area.

Roberta-Matuson-Photo(About the Author: Roberta Matuson, The Talent Maximizer®, is the President of Matuson Consulting, a firm that helps organizations achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. Her new book, Talent Magnetism, is available for download or purchase at Amazon.com. Connect with Roberta on Twitter or on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Rebecca Krebs via Flickr

HR Generalists: Tricks of the Trade #TChat Recap

Recruiting and hiring.
Compensation and benefits.
Organizational design and development.
Compliance and employee relations.
Training and performance management.
Change management and internal communications.
The list goes on…

In today’s world of work, the areas of expertise that define HR are varied and complex. Yet, most companies are too small to employ a dedicated staff of specialists. It forces the question:

In an era of increasing specialization, how can one person successfully run an entire human resource department?

Of course, this isn’t just an academic exercise. For many HR professionals, nonstop multitasking now seems to be a way of life. Recent research by The Society For Human Resource Management suggests that there’s a widespread need to support small HR shops. According to SHRM, a majority of its 275,000 members represent HR departments of 1-5 people. They know what it means to juggle many demands on a daily basis. But how can they perform effectively?

That’s the issue our talent-minded community tackled this week at #TChat Events, where two  “in-the-trenches” HR veterans led the discussion:

Dave Ryan, SPHR, Director of Human Resources at Mel-O-Cream Donuts, and
Donna Rogers,
SPHR, owner of Rogers HR Consulting, and management instructor at University of Illinois Springfield.

(Note: For details, see the highlights slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

Context: How Essential Is HR, Itself?

Recently, a debate has been brewing about the value of HR departments, overall. Bernard Marr questioned the need for an HR function, while Josh Bersin championed its role. Bersin emphasizes the fact that, despite a tremendous need to reskill and transform the HR function, human resources professionals help solve some of today’s most fundamental business problems. Top executives recognize the strategic role that talent plays in organizational success, and HR professionals are best equipped to define, shape and implement those strategies.

But how does that apply to solo HR managers, who may be living in a perpetually reactive zone? Ben Eubanks describes the best one-person HR departments as leaders with entrepreneurial traits:

We don’t pick up the phone and call our corporate HR team. We ARE the corporate HR team.
We are comfortable with research and making judgment calls.
We constantly seek out opportunities for professional development — if you’re not growing you’re dying.

Comments From the TalentCulture Crowd

Because many #TChat-ters understand the challenges that multi-tasking HR generalists face each day, the vast majority of Twitter chat participants sang the praises of one-person shops. In addition, many offered thoughtful advice. For example:

As the #TChat discussion demonstrates, solo managers don’t need to wait for industry events to connect with smart advice. Social tools make it easy to create a network of virtual resources to assist when you need it. Do you have a question about an unfamiliar subject? Tweet it with a relevant hashtag. (Try #TChat!) Post it to a LinkedIn HR discussion group. I guarantee you’ll get responses, faster than you expect.

Social tools also are useful for communication within your organization. Intranets are a great way to enable collaboration and communication at a relatively low cost. Cloud-based tools are available for internal discussions, project management, and reporting. Hiring systems and performance management solutions also offer social integration without steep IT costs. The possibilities are limited only by the time and interest HR managers invest in professional networking and research.

Above All: Aim for Agility

It seems that, of all skills needed for one-person HR superheroes, the most important is agility. Put aside the notion that you can execute perfectly, across-the-board. Prioritize carefully. Then, with the time and budget available to you, apply tools and resources as efficiently as your able, while making it all seem effortless.

Scared? Don’t be. If you’re reading this, you know that a worldwide community of like-minded people is right here to support you. We’ve got your back!

#TChat Week-In-Review: HR Departments of One

Donna Rogers and Dave Ryan

Watch the hangouts in the #TChat Preview

SAT 11/30:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed this week’s topic in a  post featuring #TChat hangout videos with guests Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers. Read: “HR: How to Succeed at Flying Solo.”

SUN 12/1:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro looked at 7 ways leaders can foster a high-octane social workplace culture. Read: “Top 5 Reasons HR Is On The Move.”

MON 12/2:

Related Post: Guest Donna Rogers shared wisdom from her experiences. Read “Survival Tips for HR Departments of One.

WED 12/4:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio recording

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with guests Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers, about the challenges and rewards of operating as a one-person HR department. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Dave and Donna joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as I moderated an open conversation that centered on 5 related questions. For highlights, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: HR Departments of One

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/the-hr-department-of-one.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Dave Ryan and Donna Rogers for sharing your perspectives on HR management. We value your time and expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how HR professionals can operate “lean”? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, #TChat looks at the latest Candidate Experience trends and best practices with guest experts, Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin! Look for more details this weekend.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream,  our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and we look forward to hearing from you.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

HR: How to Succeed at Flying Solo #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a full recap of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “HR Generalists: Tricks of the Trade.“)

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
–Stephen Covey

Are you an “HR department of one”? If so, you’re not alone.

Statistics suggest that there’s a legion of U.S. small company practitioners who function as all-in-one HR virtuosos.

The Bureau of National Affairs says that the median HR-to-employee ratio remains fairly stable, at 1.1 HR practitioners for every 100 workers. And according to the SBA, more than 98% of firms employ less than 150 employees. No wonder the Society of Human Resources Management  (SHRM) reports that most of its 275,000 members are from departments of 1-5.

Making It Work

With so many solo HR managers in today’s world of work, it’s important to understand how successful practitioners serve their organizations across all specialties. What practices promote effectiveness and efficiency, despite limited bandwidth? How should you prioritize your efforts? That’s the topic we’ll explore this week with two experts who know how to make it work:

Dave Ryan, SPHR, Director of Human Resources at Mel-O-Cream Donuts, and
Donna Rogers,
SPHR, instructor of management at University of Illinois Springfield, and owner of Rogers HR Consulting.

Dave helped set the stage by briefly explaining what it means to wear many HR hats:

And Donna offered her perspective as an experienced HR consultant and teacher:

What’s your advice for HR colleagues who need to do more with less? This is a topic that affects all of us, directly or indirectly. So bring your tips, questions and opinions — and join this week’s #TChat conversation!

#TChat Events: The HR Department of One

#TChat Radio — Wed, Dec 4 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Donna Rogers and Dave Ryan about how to ensure that HR remains effective, even in small company environments. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Dec 4 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, our discussion moves to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will moderate an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: What’s the first thing a one-person HR shop should do and why?
Q2: How should an HR pro organize and scale for all talent activities?
Q3: How should HR pros and business owners partner in small companies?
Q4: What other resources should one-person HR shops consider utilizing?
Q5: What technologies help keep one-person HR shops productive?

We look forward to hearing gathering helpful wisdom from the crowd — so bring your best HR management advice, and let’s talk!

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.
We’ll see you on the stream!

Survival Tips for HR Departments of One

Written by Donna Rogers, SPHR

My HR career began in corporate training more than 22 years ago. Our department included three trainers and a coordinator. We reported to an HR director with responsibility for multiple functions — payroll, employment, compensation, policies & procedures, and more. It was definitely not an HR department of one.

However, after several years there and at another large corporation, I downsized dramatically into exactly that — an HR department of one. Me, myself, and I. “We” worked for the greater good of two small family-run companies; the first had 130 employees, and several years later I moved to an organization with 150 employees. Both were in the manufacturing sector, although my corporate experience had been in financial services.

Boy, were those positions different from my big-company background! However, my corporate experience helped me bring professionalism and thoughtfully designed programs to those smaller organizations. And not surprisingly, I continued to learn, even as I found ways to implement HR best practices without the luxury of an HR staff.

Are you looking for guidance as a one-person HR department? Here are 4 key lessons from my past:

4 Tips For HR Departments of One

1) Assess The Territory
It’s essential to get to know the management team and staff as deeply and quickly as possible. My first step was to schedule meetings with each division head and anyone else involved in the process of hiring, firing, and performance management. I created an agenda for each meeting, and I focused not just on gathering situational intelligence, but also on sharing my expectations and asking for ideas about how I could help meet organizational goals. These sessions don’t need to be formal; however, they should reveal enough insights for you to prepare a mini HR needs assessment.

2) Create A Roadmap
Your needs assessment can be your guide, as you write a project plan that prioritizes everything you need to accomplish — including ideas gleaned from the management team. Once I had this plan in place, I had the ability to gain management buy-in — and then there was no stopping me from moving forward to reach my goals. Until, of course, reality struck when I discovered just how limited the budget would be.

3) Think Resourcefully
Financial constraints can put a tremendous crimp in your ability to implement effective HR programs. In my second position, I faced a double whammy. We were cash-strapped, and existing vendors were reluctant to extend credit because the company had a D- rating from Dun & Bradstreet and Standard and Poor’s. It was the first time I had to pay COD (cash on delivery) for anything in business. With a lack of financial resources, I tapped into my professional network instead. My industry connections were a huge asset, as I called upon them for advice and suggestions to overcome budget obstacles. And in those days “a call” was literally that – a “phone” call — almost unheard of these days with email, social media, and professional online groups available at our fingertips. However, even now, I believe that a quick call can be the fastest, most effective way to get things done.

4) Make Technology Your Friend
Of course, technology doesn’t stop with telephones. And the most important thing you can do as an HR Department of One is to rely upon technology to help you work more efficiently. Implementing a solid HRIS (Human Resources Information System) can save hours — sometimes days — when generating management reports, tracking compliance, developing HR plans and conducting program analysis. Also, if cost is an issue (or even when it’s not) you can easily leverage social media for multiple purposes. For example, low-cost social survey tools help you instantly gather feedback from employees about job satisfaction. Social channels also offer a wide variety of career-related destinations and communities where you can drive recruitment that positions your organization as a talent acquisition leader.

These days, I’m one of the resources that HR departments of one rely upon for advice and assistance, when they don’t have the time or expertise to perform those services, themselves. I’m here to help fill essential gaps — whether it’s providing an objective opinion about staffing issues, mapping out a new program, or providing regulatory guidance as an alternative to costly attorneys or full-service consulting firms. For example, I’ve worked side-by-side with Dave Ryan to help him accomplish HR goals at Mel-O-Cream Donuts.

It’s rewarding to work in this capacity. Having operated in my clients’ role previously, I understand what they are going through. I can suggest solutions that I know will make their job easier. I can recommend no-cost/low-cost resources. And I can show them a better way to help HR support business objectives. It advances their company’s mission, and at the same time, it advances the practice of HR.

What do you think about the future of HR departments? Are companies likely to rely more heavily on these decentralized models? Is that a smart trend for business? And what does it mean for those of us who are HR professionals? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

DonnaRogers(About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR, instructor of management at University of Illinois Springfield, and owner of Rogers HR Consulting. She has a Masters in Human Resources Development from UIUC, a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from ISU. Her firm is an HRCI Pre-Approved Provider and Small Business of the Year award winner. She earned the HR Professional of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award from CIC-SHRM. She regularly delivers numerous presentations among professional groups, previously taught at Robert Morris College and has guest lectured at Benedictine University. She also serves her HR professional peers as a North Central Region – Membership Advisory Committee Representative, and is the Past Director for the Illinois State Council of SHRM. Connect with Donna on Twitter or LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, and anytime at our ongoing Twitter conversation. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Who's On Your List? Advice For Rising Stars From Yum! CEO

Written by Bob Burg

In his excellent book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen,” iconic Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO, David Novak explains the importance of getting inside the heads of those we wish to influence. In other words, it’s not enough for us to want or desire a goal — we must know what motivates and drives the people we wish to take along with us.

It starts with genuine interest and caring about their needs, wants, goals and desires. But even that is not enough! Why? Because the following error can render our ideas nearly useless. According to Mr. Novak:

“One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not thinking through all the people they have to lead to get where they want to go.”

He recommends that we ask ourselves who we need to affect, influence or take with us in order to be successful. As a former marketing executive, he compares this to a marketer trying to identify potential customers. And he believes that this list is absolutely essential.

When suggesting likely candidates, he casts a broad net: “your boss, your coworkers, people on your team, people from other departments whose help you’ll need — even people from outside your organization, such as shareholders, vendors, customers or business partners.”

Implications for Intrapreneurs

What does this mean for those among us who operate as “intrapreneurs” — those who work in an entrepreneurial way as employees of larger organizations? If you’re determined to make things happen as a leader (whether you have a formal title or not), but you don’t take Mr. Novak’s advice to heart, be prepared for a sudden halt in your progress.

His advice reminds me of a leadership failure or two from my past. In those situations, I’m fairly sure I persuaded those I targeted. However, my list was too short. I left out key “needed people,” and never even tried to obtain their buy-in. This wasn’t intentional; it was more a matter of not thinking things through and considering all the people whose commitment I would need. And inevitably I paid the price.

Network Relations: Connecting The Dots

Those were painful lessons, but I needed to experience them in order to grow. Or perhaps I could have avoided the pain, if Mr. Novak’s book had been available at the time. I’m not sure I would have understood without my first-hand experience as a reference point. But if there’s one thing better than learning from our own painful experience, it’s learning from someone else’s wisdom (which, most likely, was based on their own painful experience).

So, in that spirit, I encourage anyone who is on a path to intrapreneurial success to be sure and dot the I’s and cross the T’s — not just in terms of selling your vision, but in selling it to everyone who needs to be sold.

BobBurgHRHeadshotLearn More! Listen now to Bob’s 1-on-1 chat with David Novak, “Taking People With You,” where he shares numerous hard-hitting, valuable ideas from his book.

(Author Profile: Corporate speaker, Bob Burg, is coauthor of the International bestseller, “The Go-Giver.” His newest book, “Adversaries Into Allies” is scheduled for a late October release. Bob was a featured guest on #TChat events in early September, where he helped our community focus on ways that intrapreneurs can create business value within organizations. To learn more about Bob and connect with him on Social Media, visit www.burg.com.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Who’s On Your List? Advice For Rising Stars From Yum! CEO

Written by Bob Burg

In his excellent book, Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen,” iconic Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO, David Novak explains the importance of getting inside the heads of those we wish to influence. In other words, it’s not enough for us to want or desire a goal — we must know what motivates and drives the people we wish to take along with us.

It starts with genuine interest and caring about their needs, wants, goals and desires. But even that is not enough! Why? Because the following error can render our ideas nearly useless. According to Mr. Novak:

“One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not thinking through all the people they have to lead to get where they want to go.”

He recommends that we ask ourselves who we need to affect, influence or take with us in order to be successful. As a former marketing executive, he compares this to a marketer trying to identify potential customers. And he believes that this list is absolutely essential.

When suggesting likely candidates, he casts a broad net: “your boss, your coworkers, people on your team, people from other departments whose help you’ll need — even people from outside your organization, such as shareholders, vendors, customers or business partners.”

Implications for Intrapreneurs

What does this mean for those among us who operate as “intrapreneurs” — those who work in an entrepreneurial way as employees of larger organizations? If you’re determined to make things happen as a leader (whether you have a formal title or not), but you don’t take Mr. Novak’s advice to heart, be prepared for a sudden halt in your progress.

His advice reminds me of a leadership failure or two from my past. In those situations, I’m fairly sure I persuaded those I targeted. However, my list was too short. I left out key “needed people,” and never even tried to obtain their buy-in. This wasn’t intentional; it was more a matter of not thinking things through and considering all the people whose commitment I would need. And inevitably I paid the price.

Network Relations: Connecting The Dots

Those were painful lessons, but I needed to experience them in order to grow. Or perhaps I could have avoided the pain, if Mr. Novak’s book had been available at the time. I’m not sure I would have understood without my first-hand experience as a reference point. But if there’s one thing better than learning from our own painful experience, it’s learning from someone else’s wisdom (which, most likely, was based on their own painful experience).

So, in that spirit, I encourage anyone who is on a path to intrapreneurial success to be sure and dot the I’s and cross the T’s — not just in terms of selling your vision, but in selling it to everyone who needs to be sold.

BobBurgHRHeadshotLearn More! Listen now to Bob’s 1-on-1 chat with David Novak, “Taking People With You,” where he shares numerous hard-hitting, valuable ideas from his book.

(Author Profile: Corporate speaker, Bob Burg, is coauthor of the International bestseller, “The Go-Giver.” His newest book, “Adversaries Into Allies” is scheduled for a late October release. Bob was a featured guest on #TChat events in early September, where he helped our community focus on ways that intrapreneurs can create business value within organizations. To learn more about Bob and connect with him on Social Media, visit www.burg.com.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Why You're Always the Interviewee and Never Hired

I just finished interviewing potential hires for two open positions at my company, and I was reminded why I founded Come Recommended in the first place.

Back in 2009 when Come Recommended launched, it was a professional networking site for internship and entry-level job candidates and employers. But in order to gain access to the community, all members (including employers) had to “come recommended.”

Our technology allowed potential members to send recommendation invites, which brought recommenders to a page that first asked for their relationship to the candidate or employer and then provided a specific set of questions depending on that relationship. Unlike LinkedIn, Come Recommended members couldn’t choose whether or not to show these recommendations…they immediately appeared on the member’s profile after the recommender hit Submit. Once a member had three recommendations (good or bad), they were granted full access to Come Recommended’s online community.

Why all the trouble just to get into a networking site? Because I was fed up with the exact reason I’m writing this post today: Candidates often look great on paper, only to disappoint majorly at some point during the hiring process. Even though Come Recommended is now a content marketing and digital PR consultancy (I know, complete change of direction), I still find myself butting heads with this issue.

I am convinced — as I have been for a long time — that many more people would be employed if they just took a closer look at what they might be doing “wrong” during their job search.

Instead, they get angry and blame employers and hiring managers for their troubles. Don’t get me wrong, there are way too many companies out there looking for the “perfect” candidate they will never find. But you need to take control of your job search — your career — if you ever hope to be happily employed. And that might even mean paying someone (oh, the horror!) to help you perfect your application materials and hone your job searching skills. Believe it or not, career coaches and resume writers exist to help you — and have valuable skills worth paying for.

I wish I was wrong, I really do. I wish candidates that truly weren’t a good fit for my position looked just as bad on paper as they do during the interview process. Trust me, it would save me a lot of valuable time. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And that’s not to say these folks aren’t a great fit for some other position out there — they very likely are — but not mine, which is my primary concern.

For one of the two positions I had open, I interviewed approximately 25 people — and had zero problem narrowing the list down to three after interviewing everyone. By their experience on paper (or in this case, their LinkedIn profiles), all 25 should have made excellent hires for this particular position. Why didn’t they? Here are just a few examples:

  • Nervous laughing: I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it nervous laughing, although one candidate was laughing so hard during the entire interview that I thought I was being punked on a radio show.
  • Going for a world “you know” record: How many times can someone say “you know” in the same sentence? Six, apparently. In. The. Same. Sentence!
  • Disliking a virtual working environment: One of the questions I ask candidates is what they liked most and what they liked least about their previous positions. One candidate told me she disliked working in a virtual (sometimes called remote or telecommute) environment…which Come Recommended happens to be. (This is made clear in all our job ads.)
  • Calling from a rave: Not one, but two candidates I interviewed had loud music and conversations going on in the background of their interviews. While I can’t confirm they were clubbing, it sure sounded like it.
  • Putting me on hold: Yes, that’s right, one candidate put me on hold for a while to confer with someone else in the room before answering a question.
  • Telling me your life story: The first question I ask candidates is the ol’ “tell me about yourself.” Your answer to this question should be anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Two candidates took 30 minutes (yes, minutes) to respond.
  • Never leaving your script: I have a feeling one candidate got a hold of my full list of interview questions from another candidate…because she stopped me at one point and told me I “missed one” that she really wanted to answer. She proceeded to tell me what the question was and clearly read her answer to it from a piece of paper.
  • Not truly wanting to work for my company: Nothing gets my attention more than a candidate who tells me she’d rather be in grad school or working at a law firm than my company. (Sarcasm.)

Unfortunately, this list could go on…and on. Some of you reading this might not even believe these stories because they seem too (trying not to write “stupid”)…unbelievable. I would never do something like that, you’re thinking. Really, are you sure? What I find unbelievable is that people would purposely tank job interviews. Perhaps it’s time you evaluate what you could be doing wrong in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters…and do something about it.

Top 20 Venues for Thought Leaders

While there are many ways you can establish your personal brand online and offline and inevitably stand out from others in your industry, functional area or even job candidate pool, one of the most powerful ways is demonstrating your unique value contribution through thought leadership.

A thought leader is by definition someone who is recognized for his or her innovative ideas, opinions, and/or perspective. However, if you want to be recognized as such, you must actually share your ideas, opinions and/or perspective with others.

Here are the top 20 venues for new and veteran thought leaders to share their value, expand their audience and grow their reputation and personal brand.

  • LinkedIn Answers: LinkedIn Answers is a unique Q&A forum that allows LinkedIn users to post questions and contribute answers to others’ questions. Getting involved in asking questions, answering questions and sharing insights and ideas related to your chosen industry is an effective way to establish your personal brand in an area of expertise.
  • Quora: Quora has combined the power of Q&A and Wikipedia into one platform where each question and answer become a living document that users can continuously discuss and update. Quora can be a great way to establish credibility and visibility. It also can be a comprehensive resource for networking and gathering information for future work and content, entrepreneurial ventures and/or personal efforts.
  • Your Own Blog: Blogging and contributing value-added content to better serve your industry can be an outstanding way to increase your visibility and demonstrate your unique value to potential employers and career stakeholders. Blogs are very easy to get started. There are both free and self-hosted platforms to choose from, including WordPress, Blogger and Typepad.
  • Guest Posting: If you’re not ready to commit to starting your own blog, consider writing content to contribute to other industry blogs. To find candidate blogs for your posts, do a quick Google search, check out the blogrolls of leading blogs in your area and check Alltop, an online magazine rack that provides a list of all the top blogs by industry or topic category.
  • Commenting: In addition to writing your own content, don’t forget to respond to the content that others publish on their blogs, as that can help you network your brand with other thought leaders and demonstrates your involvement. Again, use Google, blogrolls and Alltop to identify relevant blogs on which to become active.
  • LinkedIn Groups: There are thousands of LinkedIn Groups for you to join, including alumni groups, industry-specific groups, special interest groups and more. Start being active and contributing value from Day 1. Share interesting news with your groups, post links to intriguing articles and join in group discussions to show your investment in your industry or area of interest.
  • Facebook: While Facebook is intended to be more social than professional, this doesn’t mean it isn’t a venue for you to brand yourself. Share your activities and contributions or valuable resources in moderation with your friends, family and connections. They may already know you and your brand, but this will continue to reinforce it.
  • Twitter: Micro-blogging with Twitter is another way you can network with others, engage people in conversation and contribute value from your own blog, other industry blogs and websites and other thought leaders online.
  • HARO: HARO is a free personal branding service that connects professionals and students with writers, bloggers and journalists seeking sources for their articles, books, blog posts, etc. This can be a great way to get quoted in industry publications and increase your credibility and visibility among your peers.
  • Reviews: Writing a thoughtful review demonstrates your opinion of and take on someone else’s ideas and contributions. Leverage sites like Amazon to share your responses to others’ work.
  • HubPages: HubPages is an online platform where you can share your advice, reviews, useful tips, opinions and insights with hundreds of other authors and visitors without having to host, manage and market your own site or blog.
  • Squidoo: Squidoo is another platform for creating single webpages on your interests and recommendations, inevitably enhancing your online presence, search engine rankings and personal brand.
  • Google Knol: Google Knol is another platform where you can create, collaborate on, and publish credible web content without managing and driving traffic to your own website or blog.
  • SlideShare: Whether you have a presentation you have given before that you want to post, want to create a new presentation for others to view or have a portfolio of work to show off, SlideShare is a great tool that allows you to feature your presentations and documents and demonstrate your expertise and ideas in your chosen field.
  • Self-Publishing: If you interested in authoring longer works for your industry, consider self-publishing a book through CreateSpace or Lulu. You can also self-publish e-books in pdf format and share them via your blog, Scribd, SlideShare and across your networks.
  • Publishing: While there is no shame in self-publishing, getting published by a publishing house or publication does carry some prestige and credibility. You may know of publications and/or publishers in your industry to which you may want to send your content, but do check out the Writers Market series, as they provide invaluable resources and directories for writers.
  • Speaking & Teaching: Getting in front of an audience and sharing your expertise and ideas with them is an effective way to brand yourself as an expert. Identify something on which you can speak or present or even teach to a group of people and offer to contribute to an upcoming industry event or event put on by any associations you have joined. This will obviously take practice and may require you working your way up to bigger venues. You can also host your own events and market them to your local community and network. Promote your events online through LinkedIn, Facebook and Eventbrite. Remember, if you don’t have a physical space, you can also offer teleseminars and webinars which may attract larger audiences from around the country and world.
  • Video: More and more professionals are leveraging the power of video to market themselves, their expertise and/or their offerings. Sites like YouTube are popular platforms for featuring and marketing your thought leadership through video.
  • BusinessWeek Business Exchange: BWBX is a networking platform where you can both connect with fellow professionals in your industry and areas of interest, but also where you can share online articles and resources, including your own.
  • Networking: General career and business networking both online and offline will enhance your personal brand presence and connect you with other thought leaders, career stakeholders and potential followers. Attend in-person events in your industry, join local trade associations and make a point to network with at least one new person every week. Compliment your offline efforts by networking with other professionals online, using tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Networking Roulette by Brazen Careerist, BeKnown by Monster and any other tools or forums within your area of interest.

What are some other top venues where you share your ideas, opinions and personal brand?

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.

Finding Career Success Without A Job or Internship

Written by Kirsten Taggart

I’m currently in Australia taking some classes and learning what life is like in the southern hemisphere.  Even more, I’m learning some important lessons and tricks on how to advance my career away from home without a job or an internship. Whether you’re also abroad, a recent graduate, or simply want to plan ahead, it’s always beneficial to know how to be productive on your own time.

We’re facing an unemployment rate of 9.1% (underemployment is at 19.2%). There are approximately 21 applicants per job position.  Intimidating? I certainly think so. But you can have a major advantage over your competition simply by making yourself known and getting your name out there from wherever you may be.

Being away from home, I’ve found the best way to do so is to stay connected. Email previous employers/professors and tell them what you’re up to, what you’re planning on doing in the near future, etc. Maybe they know someone you can contact.

Use LinkedIn wisely.

Be vocal on Twitter – when I say vocal I don’t mean telling the world that you broke up with your boy/girlfriend via a sappy song lyric. Twitter is a branding source so use it the way you would want your employers to view you. What are you interested in? What relevant articles have you read lately? Who are (or aren’t) you following?  Twitter is great for making connections in your industry and finding open positions.

At the same time, go out and meet people. My goal here has been to meet the locals and find out what they do, what working in Sydney is like, workplace dynamics, etc.  Who knows, you might find someone in your field that can help you out.

Here’s a recent example of how networking can help you anywhere in the world. TalentCulture recently took on a few new talented bloggers.  I tweeted them a small community welcome, which led to a conversation with William. Before I knew it, he was sending me the contact information of his friend in Australia.  Now I have a local connection and an opportunity to expand my network.

In the past few weeks there have been numerous articles on the best and worst advice for college students, but the most valuable tip I’ve heard so far is not to limit yourself. Put yourself out there on social media – in the end you’ll be available to a much broader job market.

If you would like to read more on the world of work for new grads, check out Tuesday’s #TChat recap.

The World of Work for New Grads: #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Charles Purdy, one of #TChat’s moderators, on Monster Thinking Blog

It’s not just that many recent grads are new to the world of work — it’s also that the world of work has changed quite a lot in recent years. The tumultuous economy, fast-changing technologies, and the social-media revolution (just to name a few factors) have made the workplace 2011′s grads are entering a very different place from the one 2oo1′s experienced.

Of course, many of the questions new grads face — such as “Should I follow my passions or work on finding a stable career?” “What mistakes should I beware of?” and even “Was my four-year degree really necessary?” — aren’t questions that only young people ask. We’re all dealing with these questions to some extent.

If you’re a new or recent grad looking for answers, a job seeker with questions about the new world of work, or anyone who has career wisdom to share, join #TChat tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Pacific). This is sure to be a lively discussion!

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading (06.07.11)

Here are tonight’s questions, along with some posts on emerging workforce issues we think are worth checking out.  This background reading isn’t mandatory to get in on tonight’s #TChat action, but we suggest checking out these articles by top career-advice and talent-management thought leaders before the chat (or if you missed it):

Q1: Should 2011’s new grads follow their passions, or focus on finding a stable career?

Read: How to Find Your Calling: Lessons from Larry Crowne by Monster College

Q2: What rookie mistakes are new grads in danger of making in the workplace?

Read: The Worst Career Advice Continually Given to College Seniors by Emily Bennington

Q3: What are some tactics a new grad needs to employ in a troubled employment market?

Read: Job Search Tips for New Grads: Standing Out From the Growd by Charles Purdy

Q4: Do you think a four-year degree (at least) is necessary for career security?

Read: Should You Go Back To School? by Jacob Milner

Q5: What makes this generation of young workers different from those of 20 years ago?

Read: Workplace Entitlement? C’mon, Mom Told Us All We Were Special by Kevin Grossman

Q6: How do you think this decade’s crop of new grads will transform the workplace?

Read: The Non-Generational Talent of American Workers by Peter Weddle

Q7: What’s the best piece of career advice new grads need to hear right now?

Read: Recession Job-Search Tips for New Grads by Margot Carmichael Lester

Monster’s social media team supports #TChat’s mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate — the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation every Tuesday night as co-hosts with Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman from 8-9 p.m. (Eastern) via @MonsterCareers and @Monster_Works.

When to Walk Away From a Job Offer: 7 Red Flags

If you’ve been job-hunting for a while now, you may want to jump at any job offer you can get. However, it’s important to evaluate the offer before making any rash decisions. Consider any red flags that may have come up during the process to determine whether the job is right for you. Here are a few to watch out for:

It’s a big step down. In today’s economy, you might think that taking a job that you’re overqualified for isn’t so bad. But it can make employers think that you’re not resourceful enough to find an appropriate job for your experience and qualifications. You might have to be flexible in your salary requests, but don’t accept a title well beneath your qualifications. Know your worth and determine your bottom line before heading into an interview.

The company offers you the job—immediately. This may be an indication that the organization has experienced a lot of turnover in the position and desperately wants someone to fill the spot. While waiting for the right job offer can be frustrating and costly, it’s often worth the time to be at a company that’s the right fit for you.

The hiring manager seems to be concealing information. If you’ve asked questions about your daily responsibilities or your supervisor and have received the run-around, the hiring manager might not be telling you everything you need to know about the opening. Some employers might do this in fear that you’ll find the position unattractive—so be sure all of your questions are answered before signing a job offer.

You can’t see yourself working in the environment. If you can’t see yourself working in a particular company’s culture, it might not be the best fit for you. You’ll be spending much of your time at the office and you need to feel comfortable in order to put your best foot forward.

Something inside of you says it’s not a good idea. Your gut feeling is often the best indicator of when something is right for you. If you’re feeling uneasy about any step of the process, step back and re-evaluate the offer before putting anything in writing. Do this by asking more questions of the employer, doing some additional research or talking with former and current employees if possible.

There aren’t any available growth opportunities. No room to move up at the organization? You might want to continue looking if the employer says that promotions are atypical. Ask questions about how the hiring manager moved up in the firm and how promotions are typically handed out to determine the company policy.

You don’t think you would get along with your potential colleagues. Conflicting personalities and work styles can make for an unpleasant workplace to say the least. Observe the culture of the company when you head in for an interview and evaluate how well you get along with the hiring manager initially. If you feel that you might be uncomfortable or unhappy in this work environment, it’s probably best to look for a better opportunity.

What else should job seekers watch out for before accepting a job offer?

IMAGE VIA Flickr

5 Steps: Staying Balanced When Career Calls on Your Off-Time

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

I had this sinking feeling of work life chaos while getting a facial this weekend. My phone was on “ring mode” instead of on “silent.” Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C rang once, twice and finally a third time. My hands slathered in lotion and nuzzled in heated mits, I had to wait a bit before checking my phone. When I did,  it was evident that the tv newsroom – where I spend a good portion of my week, was calling me on my day off.

But no matter the profession, many of us get those urgent  (or no so urgent calls) looking for an instant response. And when we respond, giving into “instant gratification”, we play into that idea of “perceived availability” which I wrote about in a recent post: Taking Work Life Balance by the Horns.

Whether Sleet, Snow, Day or Night

I used to answer these calls no matter the time of day or night out of concern that breaking news might require me to drop everything, and run into work. (Like the time when a Chinese tanker ran aground filled with refugees off the south coast of Long Island) But that’s changed.

After putting some personal guidelines into place and openly communicating with colleagues who might need to reach me in an emergency, I created a system to navigate those sudden calls and respond to them in a timely and appropriate manner. Having a plan or system is a life saver if you frequently get such calls.

Technological Inter-ruptus!

Technological interruptions on your off-time from work can really put a dent into your downtime. And according to a new survey published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior,  they could actually be bad for your health. University of Toronto researchers asked a group of American workers  “how often they were contacted outside the workplace by phone, e-mail, or text about work-related matters by clients, managers, and supervisors.”

The study found that women, more so than men, reported higher levels of psychological distress from work-related contact outside of normal working hours. Apparently women were more distressed because they would feel guilty about dealing with work issues at home. Seems that men and women have different expectations when it comes to setting boundaries around their work and family lives.

No matter your gender, there are many variables to consider when handling those at-home interruptions from the office. The type of job you have, will determine whether those sudden interruptions are warranted. And if they are, the best way to handle them.

5 keys to staying balanced when that calls comes in from work

  1. Assess your job and responsibilities: If you’re a manager, your responsibilities might differ vastly from the workers in your company. Does your position require you be available on your off-time? If so, only you know what is within reason as far as being contacted. Decide what is appropriate for you while adhering to your job guidelines.
  2. Determine the “crisis mode” level: Things go wrong sometimes. The trick is to diffuse the situation in an optimal amount of time with the least amount of collateral damage. That’s why you should set up a “rising scale of tension.” When plans go awry a lot of finger pointing goes on. What is the tipping point where your assistance is needed? Determine what events warrant communication or a phone call on off-time hours.
  3. Communicate with your employees or employer: If you determine that you need to be available during off-hours, let your co-workers or employees know when it’s ok to reach out on a weekend. You might be ok with being contacted on Saturdays 9-5 but not on Sundays for example. Ultimately it’s up to you to gently inform those with whom you work or do business with, what your boundaries are.
  4. Set your answering boundaries: Instead of answering every call that comes in, along with every e-mail, decide what works for you. You might prefer to pickup right away if you know it’s a client. In my case of being a news reporter – if I know the newsroom is calling – I will be sure to listen to the message immediately. The nature of the message determines my response.
  5. Checks and balances system: There are certain people at work who know how to get a hold of me in the case of an emergency. I also have a list of people who can fill-in for me at the last minute if need be. Determine which people will be able to pitch hit for you if you cannot respond to work in the appropriate manner or time frame.

What are your tips for dealing with the technological interruptions at home – from the workplace?

The Power of Headlines: Captivate to Enhance Career Search

You may know about Newser.com. This is the news aggregation site that summarizes the news item in a catchy two paragraph lead in, and then gives you the deeper links so you can see the original article. The site wins because of clever editing, headline writing and artwork selection. Try it for a few days and see if you are more addicted to the news.

How does this apply to your job search?

There are a couple of learnings here. First, it really demonstrates that we are a nation of fast skimmers and headline readers. So, next time you slave over the wording on page three of your resume, forget it. Most hiring managers people may even get that far. They give your resume 20 seconds. Next, it also shows the importance of having a voice in your communication efforts, resume or cover letter.

Let your personality shine through.  This is one area that is almost never discussed in the career arena. It’s almost like we all become professionalized and non-personal. Newser’s editor have a bit of an attitude, certainly a voice that comes through on each news item. Does your cover letter show something important? Anything valuable?

Your career is filled with Newser-style artwork and headlines. We know this. How would you create a Newser style resume using artwork and short headlines? It might give you some new ideas on how to present yourself to get noticed.

I realize that certain people are going to cringe at these ideas. Still, for some of you, your resumes are BORING. It occurs to me that one needs to stand out and be a bit different. So why not try?

First place to start would be your headlines, those phrases that break up all those accomplishments and objectives. Those are what the hiring managers, recruiters and HR profesionals read, don’t forget. So, take a tip from Newser, and spend more time on them.

To get started, here are 20 tips from How To Write Headlines by Leo Babauta:

Catchy  The first job of a headline is to grab the reader’s attention. It should do so appropriately and honestly, of course, but the headline is the way that you draw a reader into a story. If it doesn’t grab attention, it doesn’t matter what else the headline does. However, do not overdo it — if your reader is drawn to the story, and the headline oversold it, the reader will feel cheated and swindled. That’s not exactly the emotion you want to incite in your readers, I would guess. My note: There is a difference between catchy, clever and just weird.  Find the balance.

Be useful  The best headline will tell the reader what he will get out of reading this story. Will it teach you something you’ve always wanted to learn? Will it help you become smarter, stronger, better looking, better in bed? Will it help you become more informed? Will it give you the juicy gossip you’ve been craving? Whatever the story will do, it should have some use to the reader. The more useful, the better. My Note:  If the job description is clear on what they want, work that into the headline.

The main point  The headline should summarize the main point of an article. This is another of the headline’s biggest jobs (some would argue the biggest job). So to write the headline, you need to read over the article (or re-read it, if you wrote it) and figure out what the main point of the article is — and if it’s well written, that shouldn’t be too hard. If you don’t get the main point, or think that there’s 3 or 4 main points, the article hasn’t done its job. It should be rewritten. But at any rate, find that main point and summarize it in the headline. My note:  what is the ONE thing you are most proud of.  Announce that.

Curiosity  The best headlines will summarize a story, but leave you curious to find out more. “Why You Should Care About Technorati” or “The Secret to Making the Perfect Snowball” will leave some readers wanting more (maybe not all of you). My note: or why should they give you an interview, to find out MORE…

Succinct  Wordy headlines will lose a lot of readers. Sure, people should be able to read 15 little words, but they expect to get their info quickly. Don’t ask me why. Shorten a headline down to 5-10 words, eliminating all that’s unnecessary.

Controversy  There’s no better guarantee of catching a reader’s attention than to stir up a little controversy. Be bold, dare to incite a little indignation, or get the pulse racing just a bit. Don’t be moronic about it though. You don’t need to incite a riot. My note:  Here is where you can think about solving a problem they might have.

Specifics  Specific headlines are better than vague ones. Throw in a detail or two that will catch a reader’s interest — but don’t throw in the kitchen sink. This is why numbers in headlines work, no matter how many people hate them. You’re not going to give me “A bunch of tips” but instead “10 tips”. My note: key in any sales situation “Specificity sells.”

Magazines  If you want to get inspiration, look at the cover of magazines. Half the time they get them wrong, but sometimes you’ll find a great headline. I hate it when they oversell a story, but those magazine editors sure know how to write sexy headlines. Skip the Enquirer — they oversell. But magazines know the secret of headlines: it’s the headlines (and the sexy model) that sell the magazine. Same thing with your blog headlines.

Blogs  This should go without saying, but I’ll say it nonetheless — read good blogs. The successful blogs got where they are because they provide awesome content with headlines to match. And blogs that have been successful for some time have usually perfected the craft. Use them for inspiration.

The How To  There is probably no type of headline more likely to do well than the How To headline. Start a headline with those two words, and follow them with a skill that many people would like to learn, and you’ve got a winner. Well, most of the time. Don’t overdo it.  My note:  how to solve your problem in customer service will be better than 95% of the resumes that company gets today.

Lists, with numbers  Yes, they’re overdone, but that’s because they work. Look at a list of the most popular articles on delicious or Digg, and you’ll find list headlines — at least a few. I overdo them, actually, because just about every post I write has a list. It’s just the way I think. And if my post has a list, my headline will likely have a list as well. I had to resist suggesting a list headline for this post. “20 Tips for Writing Great Headlines”

Write several versions  Challenge yourself to write the best headline possible. Don’t just go with your first attempt. Write that down, then do 3 or 4 more tries. Test each headline by saying it out loud. Look over these guidelines and see if any of them will help the headline. Say it out loud to your spouse or best friend or your mom. Which one catches their attention? Sometimes a clever headline will sound confusing to others.My note:  you should have a new resume for every job you want, done after you have done the research.

Question headline  Sometimes the best headline poses a question. It makes the reader want to find the answer. Or it alerts the reader to an interesting debate. Give the question headline a try — it might work for your article. My note: or resume.

Write a command headline  Tell the reader what to do. Sometimes a command headline can be too bossy — but other times, it’s just the advice the reader was looking for.

Be detached  In print journalism, a detached editor writes the headline. The writer is too close to the story, and is biased. She thinks every word is important, every point is the main point. And no headline is good enough. If you’re writing your own blog headlines, you should become detached. Write a headline, leave it for awhile, come back to it. Try to see it as an outsider would see it — someone who hasn’t read your article yet.  My note: friends, spouses and even HR people are great add-on readers. Just ask.

Find balance  You need to find the middle line between being boring and being crazy. It’s not always easy. “20 Ways to Write a Great Headline” is better than “Headline Writing” but not as strong as “Write a Perfect Headline or Your Blog Will Fail and So Will You”.

Key verb  Try this exercise: find a strong verb that best fits the story. Then find other words in the story to go around the verb to form a sentence that summarizes the story. Then shorten that sentence to make a great headline.  My note: this takes work and should include a dictionary, at least.

Short, active words  Prefer short words to long ones, and active words to passive ones. Avoid jargon and acronyms. And feel free to be creative and break any of these rules if it works.

Double check  Before you go to print with your article (or press “Publish”), check over your headline again. Read it for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, punctuation mistakes, factual mistakes (the headline is the worst place to make these mistakes). Make sure it makes sense, and that it does its job.

Write it first  Don’t save the headline for last. It’s too important, and when you’re done with a post you just want to write the darn headline and be done with it. Write the headline first — this allows you to know your main point before you even start writing. Then rewrite the headline later, and give it some time to get right.

5 Marketing Lessons from Crack Dealers

Disclaimer: I have never used illegal drugs and I do not advocate the use of illegal drugs or controlled substances illegally. Drugs and the repercussions of their use, do irreparable harm to the user, their families, their coworkers and the community at large. Stay clean, stay sober or stay home.

One of the things I love about teaching Sanera Camp is I get to hear the awesome ideas the recruits come up with. This was one of them.

Earlier in class this week, we talked about building relationships versus push marketing and how technology has helped us do that better than ever because the new tools allow us to share information across wider audiences. We also talked about the shift in mindset from protecting our information to sharing our information so more people can get to know us, our level of expertise and what it would be like to work with us.

Then this conversation broke out:

Person 1: Alicia, I was thinking that drug dealers are a great example of this.

Everyone else: A combination of silence, belly laughs and dropped jaws.

Me: How?

Person 1: Well, they’ve given out samples for years and years and it works. Their prospects know what it tastes like, what it feels like and the quality of the product.

Person 2: You’re right! I never thought about it before.

Person 1: Look at it. It’s a successful, multi-billion dollar industry that has world wide distribution. The use of illegal drugs has increased, not decreased even though it’s against the law. Their clients know where to find them, know how much the product costs and they tell everyone else about it. It’s perfect word of mouth advertising.

Person 3: But what we’re selling isn’t addicting.

Person 2: But can’t we make it addicting? If we give out some of what we have to offer, won’t people want more?

They are right. It’s hard to find a better example of how giving things away can drive revenue. But Person 3’s observation is pivotal – certainly one advantage the drug dealers have over us is that their product is physiologically and sometimes immediately addicting. So what can we do to drive our revenue without breaking the law and harming others?

How To Market Like a Crack Dealer

1. Know your target customer

Who wants your product/service? Better yet, who craves it? Who needs it so badly that the moment they get it, they will have an insatiable desire for more of it?

2. Analyze your market

Where does your target market hang out? What kinds of activities are they doing?  Is it in a certain zip code, metaphorical “corner,” in an industry meeting or somewhere online?

3. Make distribution easy

Ensure your target customer knows who you are and where to find your products/services. Make the purchasing process as simple and seamless as possible. You will jeopardize your chance of closing a sale if you make them:

  • Talk to lots of people
  • Click too many times online
  • Give too much personal information
  • Look at too many options

4. Give away the right samples

Here are some examples of things you shouldn’t give away:

  • Cheesy tchotchkies that people are going to throw away. If you’re going to give away promotional items, make sure they are things your prospects will use and value.
  • Proprietary information. Enough said.
  • Low quality products. I know this sounds obvious, but come on. How many of you have received a sample and discovered that it was someone’s attempt to get rid of their non-selling inventory? It’s happened to all of us. You will be associated with your samples. What do you want people to say about you?

Some things you should give away:

  • Consumables – when they run out, they will want more from you.
  • Useful, actionable information. This is not limited to service industries. If you are in retail or a product-driven environment, you have valuable information to share about your store, your products, care of your products, upcoming sales, etc. Err on the side of education & information vs. “selling.”
  • A piece of what you want them to purchase. Giving “everything” away eliminates the incentive for your prospects to want more.

5. Give them to the right people

If you give everything away, you won’t make money. Be selective. Find the influencers, the people who will spread the word and give to them.

It’s pretty unconventional, but think about it. Any lessons here you can apply to your own business?

Click HERE to view more posts by me.

Special thanks to Nora FrostDenise Sample and Rob Hatton for their creative ideas and discussion. Keep the conversations going!