Why You Should Act Now

7 09 2009

I have written before on the topic of early action. In Soon-to-be Grads: What are you doing now that will help you later? I suggested updating CV, building online presence or broadening your network as priorities on the final-year student task list. The reasoning behind such suggestions usually lies in the general framework of “it will help later”. But how exactly?

Why should you really act now instead of putting it off for later? Are the advantages of early action that much higher? What is the principle that makes putting in the early effort worth it?

LEVERAGE

The principle of leverage easily justifies early action. Just like you would use a lever to move a large and heavy object (instead of simply lifting it using your body strength…and failing), you should use a lever to take big steps in your life. We all have those – applying for a new job, moving to a new city, publishing a book. We all have dreams that simply seem too big and dauting to even start at. When you’re using the principle of leverage, you are building up skills and knowledge in the present that will not only make things easier in the future but also open up new opportunities. Why not do it the easy way?  Using leverage in your life will result in less stressful days and more open doors.

The main reason why using leverage is worth the early effort is that the overall effort you need to put into any project decreases by a large margin. You “do more with less”. The need to act early, however, is essential. As Brian Kim stresses in his article How to Develop Leverage In Your Life:

Like all things worth of value, leverage can’t be created instantaneously. It must be developed. It must be built. It must be cultivated. And it will take time to do. Just like everything else worth doing. But once leverage is built, it proves to be one of the best catalysts of creating the momentum you want in any area of your life.

How to use leverage:

Develop your skills, knowledge and experiences before you need them. Read, network or build up your social skills as Brian Kim suggests. It will pay off in the end.

Early effort brings more results than late action. Let’s take the example of online presence:

Online presence can be useful in job search or career advancement, it can bring new networking opportunities or widen the range of interactions you have on a daily basis. It represents who you are on the Internet and in this 2.0 world often provides the first contact anyone encounters when they look for you (and “google” your name). When you start building up your online identity, nothing much happens. Your LinkedIn profile does not appear in many searches and noone contacts you to offer you a job. Your blog doesn’t get much readership and it may seem like you’re just writing for yourself. You mostly follow others on Twitter and your posts do not get retweeted much. At the beginning, it is just effort. You need to put in hours, you need to update your blog, you need to build up everything from scratch. Yet this may change after some time. And you find that you wouldn’t get that networking opportunity if you hadn’t been on LinkedIn or wouldn’t have connected with an important person in your field.

Like many things in life, building online presence takes time. You can’t reap the rewards straight-away. You need to put in the early effort. Yet as you build up your leverage, future endeavours get easier and easier. So go and act now.

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Online Presence as the First Step

3 09 2009

In my recent post on how to use social media in marketing I focused on the potential that new social networking sites and channels offer both to individuals and companies in marketing their personal and professional brand in this Internet age. Many people, however, only turn to new channels as a last-resort solution when everything else fails. Keeping the current job, managing customers that you currently have or working on getting your desired book deal often simply take precedence even though a different approach with focus on online image may yield better results. This article outlines why building your online presence first may make your life easier in the long run.

UNDER30CEO recently published an interview with Christina Katz, author of Get Known Before the Book Deal. What Christina argues in her book is that aspiring authors who want to get published should work on building their “platform” first and foremost rather than sending manuscripts blindly to hundreds of publishers. In the interview, she describes platform:

Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

This can be easily adopted to any profession or expertise. Once you “establish your name” online and build your online presence, you have a tangible piece of portfolio-like content that proves your abilities and (hopefully) already has readership and followers. In this way you can connect with people who are interested in what you have to say and pitch your ideas better. Furthermore, an outsider who has no experience working with you or your company can get a feel for what your brand stands for simply by looking at your online platform and the way you interact with your industry.

You can use your online presence as leverage when presenting yourself in all, not only Internet settings. It “gets you in the door” and can open up many possibilities.

Are you working on your online presence now? Or are you still procrastinating?

For more thoughts on how to go about it, check out another UNDER30CEO article “How to Create a Rockstar Online Presence”.






Learn To Use New Social Media in Marketing

27 08 2009

I’m currently in the process of writing a “How to use social media” guide for students which will appear on this blog as soon as it’s finished. The reason for this? Despite the recent surge in discussions and commentaries on the advantages of new social media channels, the actual implementation rates can often be very low. This is true even for the Generation Y talents and my classmates who are graduating from university and letting some of the best opportunities slip either through mismanagement or ignorance of professional uses of social networks. And they’re not the only ones.

Who should be using new social media for marketing?

  • soon-to-be  and recent grads: market yourself in a professional way in the daunting job search
  • professionals: Are you maintaining your personal brand? Are you considered an expert in your field?
  • businesses: Do your customers know what you’re doing? Are you open about your business strategies? Are you attracting new customers?
  • nonprofits: Is your charity getting enough publicity? Do people know about you? They can’t help if they don’t know you exist.

How can you use social media for marketing?

If you’re an individual, make sure your profile is complete and puts the best reflection on your professional credentials. LinkedIn is extremely useful if you’re currently job hunting – use the search options to get yourself a referral at the company or find out who the hiring manager is so you can contact them directly. Make sure your profile is in line with the personal brand you’re trying to portray (for a great article with more information see Dan Schawbel’s “How To Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn” at Mashable).

For companies and nonprofit organizations, LinkedIn can be a great source of professional publicity. Do you appear in the “Company Search”? Are your employees on LinkedIn and saying good things about their job? Use LinkedIn to manage your professional network and maybe attract new talents.

  • start a blog

Blogging is a great way to establish expertise. Are you following the news in your industry? What happens if you do a “vanity search” and put your name (or your organization’s name) into Google? Do you like what comes up? Do you have a strong online presence? Writing a blog allows you to control the content that appears online and is a great way to present yourself to potential employers or your customers. Blog about what your business is doing. Blog about the cause that your nonprofit is supporting. Blog about your knowledge of the industry and the skills that you’re developing. Then put your blog url on a business card and make use of this wonderful channel of marketing.

Tweeting about your company can provide you with great feedback. Use the search engines to find out who (if anybody) is talking about you. Individuals should tweet too. You can use Twitter to promote your blog posts. You can use Twitter to share interesting articles that pertain to your field and which your followers and customers could find valuable. Build your social network and strike up conversations. Make sure the content you post is useful and engage with others. Present news about your organization. Mention the seminar you’re attending to advance your career. Work on your personal or business brand in the vibrant Twitter community.

This is especially useful for businesses and other organizations. Set up a Facebook Page and post information about new products or innovations, about events and workshops that you’re holding. Allow people to connect with you and seek feedback. Gain new supporters on one of the largest social networks.

How are YOU using social media to market yourself or your organization?





Soon-to-be Grads: What are you doing now that will help you later?

26 08 2009

I’m about to enter my final year of university. This is both an exciting and uncertain time as I don’t know what the future will hold after I leave the relative safety of university environment behind me. I have had two amazing years at Cambridge and enjoyed every second of it. And I’m eager to make the most of my final year as well. The workload will be high but also rewarding and I’m keen to take on everything that comes. At the same time, however, it is hightime for thoughts about my future direction after Cambridge. The “scary” job search is getting nearer and nearer. And whilst the possibilities of gaining internships and summer work experiences are mostly aimed at first and second-years, soon-to-be grads are left with great tools that can help in the future job search.

The best time to implement these, of course, is before you get into the swing of your senior year and schoolwork occupies most of your time. The summer before your final year at university should therefore be used not only to get some needed last-minute experience but also to prepare for what lies ahead and make your future job search a bit easier.

So what can you do now that will help you later?

  • update your CV and learn how to write cover letters and market yourself to potential employers

Put in the effort, do your homework, and make your CV stand out. Think about all your activities, skills and experiences that could show what you’ve achieved so far. Use the Situation-Activity-Result process to identify how your achievements can be presented on your CV. Research cover letter requirements and make sure you show yourself in the best light.

  • build your online presence

Almost 1 in 2 companies will now check your online identity before they make you an offer. That means almost a 50% chance that you’ll be “googled” before you even get an interview. Go now and perform a “vanity search” – putting your name into Google. What do the results tell you? Is your online presence strong? Is there something that you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see? Check for unflattering information and then work on building up your positive online image. Social media can help you a lot and I suggest starting and maintaining a LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed and a blog. This way you can influence your personal brand on the web and prove your expertise and commitment.

  • build your knowledge of the field

School is not the only place to gain knowledge. Read blogs that talk about your industry. Follow experts on Twitter. Watch inspiring talks or listen to podcasts. There are many ways in which you can gain new expertise and thus enhance your job prospects.

  • devise a plan of attack

When and where will you start with your job search? Is there anything you need to do beforehand? Who will you ask for help? How will you balance school and job hunting? Sit down and make a plan of action. Figuring all of this out in advance will save you precious time later.

  • broaden your network

Networking is still one of the most important strategies in any job search. Do you know any people who could help you? Have you been in touch with old connections, classmates or peers? Start building and broadening your network by realizing who you already know and then building up on it. Attend events, get involved in Alumni groups and social networks. Work on your network now and offer value and help to others before you need help yourself.

What are YOU doing now that will help you later? Any other strategies that you would recommend?





Are You Using the Right Motivation Strategies?

24 08 2009

What is the most effective way to motivate people? Does it depend on the task and situation? Do motivation strategies change from person to person? Dan Pink asks these and other questions in a very inspiring TEDTalk on the surprising science of motivation.

The main point?

Incentives DO NOT WORK!

Dan argues that unless you have a clear-cut task with a set of pre-determined steps and rules, giving someone an incentive to win or be faster (e.g. a monetary reward) will usually not only be unhelpful but often also harmful. Carrots and Sticks do not work anymore. People working only for a reward will often produce worse results than when not presented with any incentive.

Using psychological research to back up his claims, Dan Pink suggests a better alternative may be an open-minded search for solutions, whether in a group or with an individual, concentrating on intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations, as the name suggests, come from within the individual. They put the employee or the team member in the centre of the work process by letting them decide how they’re going to tackle the problem. The three key components, Dan argues, are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

How is this useful?

Whilst Dan focuses on the premise of businesses not utilizing the scientific evidence and being stuck in the traditional management phase, I believe that Dan’s discussion pertains to the individual in a great measure as well. You, as an individual, should use his ideas.

How?

Do not limit your scope of focus. Let go of prejudices you may have about the range of solutions for a certain task and be open-minded. We’re talking about the often-mentioned thinking outside the box. Anybody can provide a fresh perspective and the fact that you’re not an expert does not disqualify you from coming up with the best solution. This is especially important for the younger generation just entering the workforce. True, we may not have the same expertise and experience. But if we try hard and make use of all our knowledge, we may produce more innovative solutions than someone who works solely for the reward. We are, afterall, highly motivated from within to prove that we are worth the hype about Generation Y.





Are You a Purple Cow? – marketing in the new world

23 08 2009
it’s safer to
be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things.
Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but
down, it becomes even more imperative to create things
worth talking about.

I’ve just been reading Seth Godin‘s marketing masterpiece Purple Cow. The style of the book, with short and to-the-point chapters and case studies, provides a very readable, crisp and thought-provoking account. Below are some assorted notes and favourite parts.

Seth talks about BEING REMARKABLE as the biggest, and only, marketing strategy in the modern world. Simply advertising your product is not effective anymore as your potential clients and customers have learned to ignore the majority of marketing efforts. What you need is a unique and remarkable idea.

On the easiness of this task, Seth argues:

I don’t think there’s a shortage of remarkable ideas. I think your business has plenty of great opportunities to do great things. Nope, what’s missing isn’t the ideas. It’s the will to execute them.

What Seth talks about here is the idea economy. Ideas – new and fresh – are what separates you from the competition. Only with the ideas can you market your product effectively. That’s why companies seek creative people – employees that can provide the necessary edge and “remarkable” new perspective. Thinking is important.

He continues:

It’s safer to be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.

———————————–

Seth also concentrates on who your audience are when you come up with remarkable ideas. He stresses the “early adopters,”

who can actually benefit from using a new product and who are eager to maintain their edge over the rest of the population by seeking out new products and services.

These people are your most important group. Firstly, they may be the buyers or users of your new product. Secondly, they are the idea-leaders of the rest of the population. The majority of people are followers. They wait out the first rush and only after they’ve heard recommendations from the early adopters will they choose to engage with the new thing.

This point is especially important when you take into account the sudden sky-rocket spread of social media in recent months. If you own a business or are launching a product, you want to be able to use these. The modern word-of-mouth recommendations appear on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Sure, face-to-face contacts are still the most powerful but imagine the reach a recommendation on Twitter can have if the individual has thousands of followers who believe his taste and credentials. And then add Re-Tweeting to the equation. The results are amazing.

——————————

How do you break into the market? Specialize!

The way you break through to the mainstream is to target a niche instead of a huge market. With a niche, you can segment off a chunk of the mainstream, and create an ideavirus so focused that it overwhelms that small slice of the market that really and truly will respond to you.

You still need your great idea. But at least you’re not trying to eat the whole elephant at once.

—————————–

How can you apply this strategy to a job-seeking individual?

The secret doesn’t lie in the job-seeking technique. It has to do with what these people do when they’re not looking for a job. These Purple Cows do an outrageous job. They work on high-profile projects. These people take risks, often resulting in big failures. These failures rarely lead to a dead end, though. They’re not really risks, after all. Instead, they just increase the chances that these people will get an even better project next time.

So go out and try and be unique. Build your remarkable badge. This is Seth’s advice which is still very timely. Network your way to better opportunities, get the most out of each one of them, take on extra tasks. Build your personal brand and become the Purple Cow yourself. Can you do it?

For some pointers watch Seth give a TEDTalk about standing out.





What If You Had 15 Extra Hours Every Month?

22 08 2009

Andy Robinson who writes about career success at his blog recently published a post about Getting 15 Extra Hours Every Month for Personal Transformation. He writes:

“What would you do if you were “given” 15 extra hours each month? We’re talking about more than four weeks of extra PERSONAL time each year! What would be the highest and best use of that time?”


How do you get this time?

Andy suggests that you set your alarm clock to wake you up 30 minutes earlier than normal tomorrow. And then continue this habit day after day.

In this way you’re cutting down on your sleep (although you may go to bed early and thus balance your sleeping time).

Other ways of gaining 30 minutes a day may include:

  • cutting down on time spent watching TV (or at least recording your favourite programmes and shows and then watching them without commercials)
  • committing to actually GET UP when your alarm clock rings instead of lying in and then rushing
  • getting organised
  • using your commute time to do productive things
  • getting ready for your day the night before
  • not procrastinating

What to do with your 15 hours a month?

Andy suggests you use your 30 minutes a day for highly personal time (journaling, meditation, inspirational reading or planning your day).

But I believe that your extra 15 hours a month could be used in hundreds of ways, depending on what your priorities are. Use them to:

  • learn a new skill and advance your career
  • learn or improve your knowledge of a foreign language (daily practice is your best bet)
  • read for pleasure
  • read to keep up with your and other fields
  • watch interesting talks from outstanding people (try TEDTalks or Fora.TV)
  • get some exercise
  • find a blog in your field and read it
  • do anything that your normal day doesn’t allow

If the only thing stopping you from doing something is your (perceived) lack of time, give serious thought to these strategies and start changing your life today.