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LinkedIn Strategies Panel
with Gail Sussman-Miller and Lauren Milligan

LinkedIn may seem like a strange, new world with its own culture and etiquette, but at the October 17 CWIP LinkedIn Strategies Panel, Gail Sussman-Miller and Lauren Milligan demystified it and offered some reassuring, yet challenging, advice: just be yourself.

Lauren Milligan and Gail Sussman-Miller

Gail Sussman-Miller, a coach and Chief Obstacle Buster at Inspired Choice, started the evening by redefining networking as “simply connecting with like-minded people for the greater good.” Gail stressed that it's important to bring your offline personality online.

“How many of you would actually go to a networking event, shake someone's hand, and say, ‘Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network'?” she queried. Likewise, she said, when connecting with people on LinkedIn, it's important not to send generic LinkedIn invitations and emails but rather set yourself apart by being genuine. “The more personable you are, the more memorable you are, thus the more likeable, the more referable, and the more linkable,” Gail emphasized.

Gail also coached CWIP members through the process of getting a LinkedIn introduction. Nearly all of the more than thirty attendees raised their hands to confess their discomfort in asking for introductions. Gail reframed the daunting endeavor by directing the focus from asking for yourself to asking for the sake of others. “Why are you on this planet? Who are you here to help? All of those others—that's why you're asking for help,” she said.

Jen, Kim, Cwipper, Lauren

The conversation, which remained lively throughout the evening, veered at one point toward the etiquette of reciprocity. If someone does you a favor on LinkedIn, such as endorse your skills, introduce you to a connection, or write a recommendation, should you feel obligated to immediately return the favor? Both panelists stressed that you should not feel pressure to respond in kind right away. Instead, Lauren said, a good way to express your appreciation is to say, “I can't wait to return the favor.” This signals your openness to help in the future while easing the sense of being self-serving.

Lauren Milligan, a job search coach and owner of ResuMayDay, hammered the importance of being personable as she discussed LinkedIn profiles. “Pepper your profile with personality peeks!” she alliterated. On her profile, Lauren shares three little-known facts about herself in the summary, which always serve as conversation starters when people contact her through LinkedIn.

What's the difference between a LinkedIn profile and a resume? Lauren shared that while a resume contains your best work in a quick snapshot, a LinkedIn profile is the place to elaborate. “On a LinkedIn profile, people want to linger, engage with it, and get to know you on a deeper level,” she said. Lauren suggested including a book list, survey, or other application on your profile to pique interest.

You should never cut and paste your resume onto your LinkedIn profile, Lauren said. If you want to make your resume available, use the LinkedIn application box.net. Use your profile as a place to showcase your accomplishments in a more dynamic way.

Gail Sussman-Miller and Lauren Milligan

Both presenters touched on the importance of using human language instead of “corporate speak.” “Get rid of hackneyed phrases such as ‘on time and under budget' and tell more of your story,” Lauren urged. Gail advised CWIPers to show, not tell. A writer might say, “Ever since I was seven I've been playing with the magnet words on my mom's fridge,” for example.

Many other helpful LinkedIn strategies surfaced throughout the evening:

  • Include key industry phrases in your LinkedIn profile. This will help your profile appear higher up in searches.
  • The title section of your profile under your name is the most important piece of real estate you own. Use it as a tag line to build your personal brand, rather than just to specify your job title and company.
  • If your LinkedIn profile is 100 percent complete or if you have more recommendations, you will show up higher on search results. However, if you don't have a complete profile, LinkedIn will occasionally send an email to your connections telling them to remind you to update your profile. This keeps your name at the forefront of their minds.
  • Join LinkedIn groups for your industry peers and groups for your target market.
  • Members of the same LinkedIn groups have direct access to each other. If you don't have another way to connect with someone, you can see what LinkedIn groups they are part of on their profile, join one of the groups, and then you will be able to connect directly.
  • Personalize your LinkedIn profile URL so that your profile is more accessible. To do this, edit your LinkedIn profile—there is a section to edit the URL. Take out all the numbers behind your name and use a straightforward version of your name (and title, if necessary) instead.
  • Promote your LinkedIn profile by including a hyperlink to it on your resume. Another option is to include this line at the end of the summary paragraph on your resume, “Please see professional endorsements and more accomplishments on my LinkedIn profile,” and include a link. You can also include a link to your profile on your email signature.
  • Put your email address and phone number on your LinkedIn profile summary to make it easier for people to contact you.
  • Both your resume and LinkedIn profile should only include experiences going back 12 to 15 years.
  • If you want a LinkedIn recommendation from someone, consider giving one to them first. Use the same language and tone that you'd like them to use to recommend you.

Cwippers

Beyond their incisive advice, Gail's and Lauren's own stories are themselves inspiring. Gail calls herself a recovering perfectionist and a “mid-life bloomer,” having married for the first time at age 46 and started her coaching career around the same period. She founded Inspired Choice to help people live up to their potential by choice, not out of obligation. “Very often we do what's expected of us and try to please others, and there's nothing wrong with that in moderation,” Gail said in a later phone conversation. “But choices that we make out of obligation are often—if not always—made out of fear. Fear of being honest or saying no.”

Perfectionism, Gail said, also stems from the fear of not doing it right or good enough. We will never lose those perfectionist orientations, she said, as evidenced, for example, by times when she obsesses over whether the chart in her Word document is sized and centered correctly. While part of obsession is perfectionism, part, she confesses, is distraction from the younger, frightened parts of ourselves that are afraid of dreaming big.

“Much like little kids, they grab our pants leg, saying ‘Don't try that, don't risk that, don't do that.'” Gail encourages people to get their gifts out there, striving for “completion, not perfection.” Gail continues to dream big and plans next to create some way to help people who can't afford any kind of career services.

Meg and Maurine

Lauren started ResuMayDay in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, which derailed her vacation plans. Instead of flying to a resort in California with her husband, she explained later over the phone, they ended up driving to Wisconsin Dells, where, after some soul-searching, Lauren realized that “Life is short. You never know what's around the corner.” She decided to leave a job that was not her life's ambition and to pursue what she really loved.

Three years into ResuMayDay, Lauren realized she either had to take on fewer clients or hire people to write for her. Today, her company has grown to provide a full range of job and outplacement services with a team of more than seven resume experts. Speaking to those who have also caught the entrepreneurial bug and want to start something of their own, she said, “Do it. There's never a perfect time. If you're waiting for the perfect time, there will always be an excuse.”

Lauren, who has shared her expertise with CWIP members in resume workshops and panels in the past, conveyed her deep appreciation for this group. “Out of all the organizations I talk to, this is one of my favorite. The members respect language as much as I do,” she said. Program committee members plan to bring Lauren back to share her resume-building expertise with CWIP members in the future.

As the evening closed, Gail offered attendees additional resources—a How To Create Your Elevator Speech worksheet and an article on How to Love Networking. She ended with a CWIP first—a live musical performance, which she later recorded for those who couldn't attend and posted here. The song, by Jana Stanfield, challenges listeners, “What Step Would I Take Today If I Were Brave?” CWIP members courageously joined in to sing the final chorus.

Liuan Huska helps social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations promote human flourishing, one story at a time. She works as a part-time researcher for the Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project while also writing and editing for her own company, Inscript, Ink. She can be reached at info@inscriptink.com.

Kat Strever is a new transplant to the Chicago area from Orlando, FL. She is a sales rep for TSI Graphics, a textbook content development company. Kat can be reached at kstrever@tsigraphics.com.

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