In less than a decade, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in how people find jobs, create careers and establish personal and professional relationships. The next generation (the “net” generation?) has known technology from childhood. They thrive in a world of instant messaging, blogs, social networking, online collaboration and more. They think differently; they work differently; and they use information differently. The job seeker’s world has changed. Traditional approaches to sending out resumes and networking have lost their impact. The “net” generation develops relationships, shares information and creates experiences online. They build professional profiles on social networks such as LinkedIn that go beyond documenting knowledge, skills and experience to provide insight into personality, preferences and perspectives.
People new to social networking often create a profile using their resume as their only resource. They see the profile simply as one more way to submit work qualifications. They fail to understand that a resume details expertise and commitment to doing a job well – it’s a sales tool to get interviews. A professional profile on, the other hand, has an entirely different purpose. A profile creates opportunities for the exchange of ideas and knowledge on social networks. It is not a “sales flyer” but a “marketing brochure.” A well constructed profile creates an impression that you are a person of value – someone with whom I would seek to network and build a professional relationship. Sales is closing the deal, getting the interview. Marketing is persuading people that you’re a valuable contact. Each requires a different approach to be successful.
Marketing like most endeavors needs a purpose and a process – knowing what you want to achieve and the process for getting there. Imagine that you’ve just discovered a fabulous website where you can connect with people from all over the world. You grab your resume, click to create an account and away you go. With no planning or purpose, you wait for opportunity to find you.
Now imagine an entirely different approach. You have assessed your career goals and created a vision of your future. Before creating a profile, you outline your contributions: skills, knowledge, talents, interests, education, credentials and experience. This accurately reflects the value that you bring to a professional relationship. It puts you in the proactive position of finding opportunity rather than the reactive position of waiting for it to find you. Pursuing this more purposeful approach begins by asking yourself several questions:
- What is the purpose of my profile?
- Who should see my profile?
- What is my message?
- What is my communication style?
Throughout this article, I’ll use two individuals: Alice and Scott. They will take very different approaches to achieving their goals to share information and learn from others. We’ll gather information from Alice and Scott and use it to determine what profiling approach works best for each of them.
Alice is a data modeler who wants to become a data architect. She feels that she has proven herself as a data modeler and is growing weary of explaining what the stick figure is at the end of the lines. She is happy with her current employment but wants to take on more responsibility and has set her sights on becoming an enterprise data architect. Unfortunately, there are no enterprise architects in her company or positions of that kind. She really doesn’t want to seek another job because she likes the flexible hours and enjoys the team environment.
Scott is a young hot shot programmer always looking for opportunities to work with the newest technology; he’s ambitious and wants to move up and earn more. Scott is outgoing and boisterous, and he’ll discuss gaming with anyone who’ll listen. He’s more interested in opportunity and earnings than job loyalty to a single company.
What is the Purpose of My Profile?
Purpose describes your motivation – the reasons to create a profile. It’s the reward you expect for the time and effort that you’ll spend to create and maintain your profile. The process of defining your purpose clarifies the results that you expect.
Alice wants to learn what it takes to become an exceptional enterprise data architect. She seeks the expertise of others to learn how to become an architect and to figure out how to make the case to create a position within her current company.
Scott wants to stay on top of technology trends and he also wants to have a place to turn when the technology gets the best of him.
Who Should See My Profile?
Experience has shown that connecting to everyone and his brother diminishes the value of your social networking experience. Connecting to too many will confuse activity with progress. You want to connect with people who match your purpose because they are the individuals who can provide insight and perspective into your areas of interest.
Alice wants to network with data architects and the people who depend on them.
Scott’s wants to connect with likeminded hot shots.
What is My Message?
Your message is for public consumption so it needs to be in first person, not third person or non-person. Your message is what you want people to know about you. If you don’t understand your message, then neither will your reader.
Alice: I’m a data modeler, and I’m good at what I do. But I’ve come to realize that there is more to being a data architect than building good data models. I’m seeking to connect with others who work with data architects to share what I know and what I’m good at, and to learn from you and what you’re good at.
Scott: Isn’t it cool to do what you love? You never get bored because there is always new stuff. There are a million opportunities out there. I can’t see them all and neither can you. But collectively, we’ll see more than each of us can individually.
What is My Communication Style?
There are many aspects to communication style. Some of the more significant are listed below. Consider two questions for each of these criteria: (1) What style shows the “real” you? (2) What style is most appropriate to the professional group with whom you seek to connect?
- Formal versus casual. Should I write full sentences or use abbreviations and slang?
- Factual versus anecdotal. Should I just list the facts or tell a story?
- Linear vs. Structured. How should I organize my message? Should I take a sequential approach such as organizing my work history and experience chronologically? Or should I communicate in a more topic-oriented fashion, organizing the message around subjects of interest such as skills, talents and experience?
- Concise versus robust. Should I use a bullet list or write paragraphs?
- Clear versus interesting. Should I write short clear sentences that are not ambiguous or write complex sentences that are more engaging?
Alice is an introvert. She is quiet and maybe even a little bit shy. She’ll tend to be more low key in her communications and use a formal style. Part of what makes her a good data modeler is that she likes to get hold of the facts and represent the world clearly and concisely. Data modeling doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity.
Scott’s communication is energetic and sometimes impulsive. He doesn’t always separate work from non-work. The difference between computers as business tools and gaming devices is blurry in his mind. His communications are often not planned and organized and take the form of storytelling as he interweaves his personal interests into his conversation.
What Makes Me Interesting?
People use social networks to build relationships. They want to know what makes you interesting, intriguing and unique. They want to know what motivates you and why you’re good at what you do. They’ll share their personal perspectives and passions with you and expect an equal exchange.
Your resume is a starting point, but it’s only part of who you are. You’ll need to gather lots of raw material – your resume, your bio if you’re a writer or speaker, personal and professional references and recommendations, and whatever else provides some insight into you. You might even consider brief discussions with friends and colleagues as a way to gain some personal insights.
Alice sees data as a lens through which you can view the business. She sees the relationships as a tool to collect, clarify and verify business rules. She has a talent for taking complex things apart and making them simple. She is good at explaining data models to business users but is enough of a data modeling geek to understand Boyce-Codd normal form.
Scott knows something about all the cutting-edge technology, and he’s always up for learning more. His enthusiasm is contagious. Scott is full of ideas. Though not always practical, they are thought-provoking.
Now we have some insight into what makes Alice and Scott tick. They are two very different individuals with their own interests and personalities. They’ll approach social networking differently; but since they’re both clear on their contributions and expectations, they’ll connect the right way with the right audiences.
We have enough information to write the profiles for Alice and Scott, but we’ll leave this exercise for another article. Here are some thoughts I’d like to leave with you:
- The purpose of a resume is to get interviews; the purpose of a profile is to exchange ideas, experiences and knowledge. They require two very different approaches.
- Networking creates new relationships and opportunities to learn.
- When you join a social network, do it with purpose. If you don’t know your purpose, neither will anyone else.