Monday, March 19, 2012

Bad times to have LinkedIn profile....

...or any other professional social network profile.

To start with, I like professional social networks like LinkedIn. I am now 33 and I do not really remember if I have ever applied for a job off-line. Many times, the initial contact for a successful job application or freelancer contract was through my LinkedIn or Monster profiles. I remember when I joined LinkedIn for first time they had to add my country of origin, Bulgaria, to their country list.

Having said that, there were some really bad times when I wished my Internet footprint was smaller.

1. The cat chases its tail? Not so easy to overcome as it used to be. Or?

Let us face it: everybody has experienced 'the cat chases its tail' phenomenon when applying for jobs. It is when you come upon a position which seems like an excellent fit for your ambitions. You say to yourself this is exactly where you want to go. The problem is, the potential employer requires that you already have several years of relevant experience to get the position. In fact, all potential employers offering something in the area have this same requirement. So, in order to get experience, you need experience. The cat chases its tail.

A good old-fashioned method to overcome this obstacle was CV boosting. You just need to take your real experience and rephrase it to make it sound relevant for the specific position you are applying.  Remember, the first scan of your CV will be done by somebody form HR who does not really have an idea about what the job is. So, the purpose of your CV is to pass this scanning.

For example, years ago I wanted to apply for a position in the area of financial risk management software implementation at an insurance company. My work experience was however at implementing accounting and inventory management software for small-size, mostly consumer goods trade companies. I have worked however occasionally for a client that was an insurance company; they were managing their office supplies with our software. So I wrote something like

Company ABC: software provider (3 years)
-- implemented the software solution of ABC, focusing in particular on the financial and data management modules
-- trained the employees at one of the top-4 insurance companies in my country to use efficiently the solution
-- minimized project risk by applying......

There was no lying, but strictly speaking what I wrote could be easily misinterpreted. Normally a well-boosted CV is enough to pass the basic screening of a busy HR person. Unluckily, directly after the basic screening they will google your name and check your LinkedIn profile. Hopefully you have updated the profile there to reflect your goals. If not then your CV-boosting was unnecessary waste of time, and the cat can keep on chasing its tail.

Here are some solutions:

A: Limit your on-line profile to a few key facts. Advantage: it will not show an obvious problem by comparison with the boosted version of your CV. Disadvantage: you reduce the chances to appear in search and to get found by a headhunter. Your profile contains little valuable information and therefore you cannot promote it through your blog or other social networking tools.

B: Focus your on-line profile to the position you want to get to. Advantage: it will fit your boosted CV. You increase your chances to be found by a relevant headhunter. Disadvantage: most of the time people are not really sure where they want to go. Among several options, how to choose the one towards which I should boost my profile? Finally, focusing your profile on a new direction could actually harm your career chances, especially if the focus you have chosen turns out to be wrong.

C: Be strictly true and compensate by networking. While LinkedIn and other social networks limit your chances to go ahead by simple CV-boosting, they give you also invaluable opportunities to network and connect. Most people appreciate when somebody asks them for a personal career advice. Participating in groups and discussions increases both your knowledge on a specific area of interest and opens up new possibilities to connect. The list goes on; and the net effect of networking is significantly higher than the effect of passing a first scan towards a dream job with a boosted CV. 

Next time, we will look at the zombie profile problem.

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