Secrets of a killer Linkedin profile for business owners

By Neil Patrick

Business owners and entrepreneurs need a different style of LinkedIn profile to employees.

Here’s how to master this art without falling into the traps of bragging and exaggeration, which turn people off before they even read your profile.

Anton Volney explains here how he does LinkedIn profile makeovers and provides examples of things that work and things that don’t.

He adopts a well proven approach which marketers call AIDA.

It’s highly effective and I’ve used it for decades to design and implement hundreds of effective marketing campaigns.

What does it mean?

Simple. We must take the reader through four stages to achieve engagement:

1. Create Awareness - the first thing is to make it clear who and what we are all about

2. Generate Interest - to do this, we must offer something which matches what our audience wants

3. Ignite Desire - we have to present a proposition which no-one in their right mind would wish to turn down

4. Initiate Action - the final step is to make it fast and easy for your audience to take up your offer

There’s a wealth of tips and insights here for any business owner who is wondering just how they can get their personal profile on Linkedin working harder for them.

Thanks again to Anton Volney for sharing these tips.

How to assess the risk and rewards of joining a start-up

By Neil Patrick

In my career, I have been a member of three start-up teams. Two were highly successful. One was not. How can you tell which is which before you join?

Last week I had an interesting meeting. I had a coffee with a new Linkedin friend. It was one of those getting to know you type of conversations.

It turned out that he’d been a casualty of a failed business start-up. He’d invested a lot of his time, energy, skills and money into a business which the management team had convinced themselves would make them all millionaires.

But due to a variety of reasons outside his control, the business foundered. He ended up with no job. Nothing. Not even a redundancy cheque.

His story got me thinking about how we decide to join a start-up. I’ve done it three times in my own career. And I learned something different each time.

Often we don’t take the necessary steps to actively control our careers. We just react to the opportunities as they come along and they flow over us in a somewhat unplanned fashion. And if we are not totally happy in our present role, the prospects of a start-up can be highly attractive. You’ll get out of an organisation you don’t like very much and have the opportunity to shape a new one that’s much more to your liking.

But when we leave a ‘safe’ job for a shiny new start-up, many people do it because it offers the prospect of a big pay-off in the future.

That’s a problem; we get dazzled by the prospect of that big payoff, rather than being focused on what has to be achieved hit the jackpot.

And realistically what are the prospects of surviving a start-up, let alone making the big time? That’s the really important thing you must understand before you jump ship. 

But to get back to my new connection’s story. I could see several aspects of it which have relevance to almost everyone:

If a start-up offer materializes when we are job hunting, it’s tempting to just grab it.

The events which led up to the eventual meltdown in this story were not the result a great business plan gone wrong, but rather a series of events which created the illusion of an opportunity. He had lost his job recently so was on the hunt for his next paycheck.

Then the opportunity with the start-up came along. My friend had seized it with enthusiasm, but did he do the necessary due diligence? I don’t know, but if he did, it was clearly insufficiently rigorous. I think it just happened to come along when he needed a job and it was the most accessible offer around.

We can get blinded by the temptations of massive payoffs so easily

The excitement of the prospect of a huge pay-off is an extra tempting proposition for most of us. But the job offer isn't the same thing at all. You should view it as the offer of a job which may evaporate faster than any you've had before. And leave you with nothing.

So you must be clear you are comfortable with this reality. Ask yourself questions, like ‘Will this improve my job satisfaction and my skills?’ Will it get me closer to where I really want to be five years from now? I say five years because that’s the typical horizon at which you should anticipate an exit from a start-up.

Start-up plans are always full of faulty assumptions

One thing I have learned is that unless the business plan is based on completely known assumptions from an identical business elsewhere, they will be wrong. Sometimes a little bit wrong, sometimes a million miles from anything even remotely accurate.

And the more innovative i.e. untried the business model is, the less reliable the business plan assumptions will be. So whilst I love start-ups, if you are joining one, my advice would be to make sure that you know how reliable the planning assumptions are.

It’s your future that is in jeopardy if someone else got these even a little bit wrong. One thing is for sure, no business plan survives its first real world contact without alteration.

Without the right people, a start-off is seriously disadvantaged from the off

You must pay close attention to the start-up team. If they have done it before, you can take some confidence that they know what they are doing. If not, you need to really decide whether they can be relied upon to achieve what’s required.

Often start-ups struggle to attract the best talent. They are forced to settle for who they can get. This is simply because since they have no track record, they are obliged to pick from the minority who are willing to take the risk. And unless the leadership team has a stellar record of success, these are rarely the best possible candidates.

If we are not true to ourselves, we can never do our best work

I know, I know. It’s that ‘p’ word again. Passion.

It’s become a cliché. We get asked it at interviews. What’s your passion? And we feel obliged to say something ridiculous, like, ‘My real passion is building SQL databases’. Really? 

Our true passion is what we feel compelled to do. It’s what we’d do even if no-one paid us to do it…ever.

In hindsight, only one of the three start-ups I took on really matched my passion at the time. The other two I took on because they appeared to be the best option available at the time. In hindsight therefore, two were a bad choice for me.

In the case of my friend, I am pretty certain that he wasn’t truly following his passion either.

Joining a start-up isn’t a guaranteed ticket to fabulous riches

There’s a difference to being a founder (and therefore owning a large slice of the equity) and an early joiner, in which case you will possibly be offered stock if you stick around long enough AND if the business flourishes. This isn’t to be sniffed at, but it probably won't get you into the millionaires club either.

Plus you should expect that the next five years of your life will be consumed by the business. Its needs will take precedence over you own. This is fine if it’s a commitment you are willing to make and you believe totally in the company mission and business plan and playing your part fully in ensuring it becomes a reality.

If not, you really shouldn't be there.

So how should you decide whether you should join a start-up?

This depends on you. What do you find most important? If you are looking to strike it really rich, you probably have a better shot at doing so by being a moderately successful co-founder (eg 30% of a £10m exit is £3m). As an early joiner, even with a bigger exit value, your payout will be much less (eg 0.5% of a £25m exit is £125k).

On the other hand, if you are merely looking to accelerate your career, then there’s much to be gained by finding a superstar team and joining it at the earliest possible opportunity. Whatever happens to the business in the coming years, you’ll learn lessons of huge value to your future career.

At the end of the day, the key is to know what is most important to you, have a clear appraisal of the business plan and team and be completely clear about why you are joining.

Now can I try that again please?

How to grow your LinkedIn network without going to jail

By Neil Patrick

Building your network on social media and especially LinkedIn is a great way to increase your career opportunities as I described here. But if you send out invitations to connect without enough care, you’ll not see much return on the investment. In fact, if you are really careless, you could even end up in LinkedIn jail!

The ever insightful Stacy Donovan Zapar has provided some very helpful pointers here into the various types of LinkedIn jail and how to get out.

But I am sure you’d much rather never go to jail in the first place, so here are my tips on one key aspect.

How can you make new connections without risking the dreaded IDK (I don’t know this person) response?

The current assessment is that gaining just 5 IDK responses to your invitations to connect will result in your LinkedIn account being ‘restricted’, meaning that for all future invitations you send, you’ll have to include the person’s email address.

So here are my thoughts on how to send invitations to connect safely.

I get an increasing number of invitations to connect. That’s great, but there are a few that I pass over. I never hit the IDK button, but not everyone can be trusted to do that.

Like anyone would, when I receive an invitation to connect from someone I don’t already know, I make judgements about them based on what I can see on their LinkedIn profile.

Reading various other posts about how to set up a great LinkedIn profile, in practice I apply some different criteria to who I connect with.

Here’re the things I don’t worry about:

Some profiles are so packed with information that it would take me too long to read it all. But that’s not a reason to decline an invitation in my view. It just means I simply skim read it. And too much info is better than too little. Once we get more engaged, this stuff will all be dealt with as needed.

Some don’t have a personal photograph - just the bubble head or a company logo. Not best practice agreed but neither is it a reason to decline. I have quite a few great contacts who usually through shyness don’t include a personal photo.

Some people are at an early stage in their careers. So they don’t have a lot of accomplishments yet and I understand that. So that’s not a reason to decline them either. In fact, I interpret this as a great opportunity to be of help to that person and build our relationship.

So what are the reasons I do decline invitations to connect?

There’s never a single reason, but almost always, it’s a combination of some or all of the following:

No recommendations

I don’t care if you’ve got 20,000 Linkedin connections. I care what they think about you. And if only one or two people think enough of you to provide a recommendation, I only have what you say about yourself to go on when I make that judgement. And some people are let’s say extremely “creative” with the descriptions they apply to themselves.

More often than not, such connections immediately bombard me with spammy updates which just fill my homepage with junk. No thanks.

In my view, someone who boasts about thousands of connections, but has no recommendations, is just collecting connections at a frantic pace in the belief that this will give them status and kudos on LinkedIn. If they are not engaged with the community, neither are they likely to engage with me.

On the other hand, if a dozen or more people who are clearly professionals say some good things about you, I will take you much more seriously. 

You say you are a LION

In case you’re not yet familiar with this acronym, it stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. This is a tricky one. I consider myself an open networker. In other words, I am happy to connect with MOST people even if I’ve never met them before.

And this includes LIONS.

But even so, I still apply some filtering. If someone's headline shouts, “I’m a LION and I’ve got 50,000 connections”, I am likely to look much more closely at them before deciding whether to accept or move on. Especially if they have very little on their profile to suggest why they deserve and are engaged with so many connections.
They don’t include a personal message as to why they wish to connect with me

This doesn’t have to be much. Just including my name in the message and an explanation as to how you found me would suffice. But still at least half the invitations I receive show no such courtesy or interest. How can I be expected to think you are someone who is likely to engage with me or anyone else if you can’t even invest the effort to write a single sentence? 

We have no shared interests at all

I apply very generous criteria to this. I think one of the great things about LinkedIn is how it can broaden our network beyond our normal sphere of influence. So if someone has a different industry background, that’s great. If they are at a different career stage, no problem.

On the other hand, if we appear to have nothing in common and no shared interests, then I wonder why the invitation was sent? Especially if any of points 1,2 or 3 above also apply.

So these are the criteria I apply in accepting or declining invitations to connect on Linkedin with people I’ve never met or engaged with on other social media platforms.

And I am sure that I’m not alone in applying such criteria. If that is the case, then it is really very simple to build a great network with new connections on LinkedIn.

Just avoid the traps above.


Make sure you've got some recommendations on your profile

These don’t have to be amazing or long. Just someone else’s positive comments about you. And you’ll find most people you already know will be happy to provide you with a recommendation if you help them out by providing a draft of the sort of thing you’d like them to say. This makes it easy and quick for them to just do any editing they’d like and post it. So a big task is reduced to a couple of minutes. 

Don’ t assume that someone will choose to connect with you just because lots of others have

I think if the most interesting thing about you is how many connections you’ve got, then something’s adrift somewhere.

I also have a feeling that as the number of LIONS grows and we all get bit tired of the game, the folk who just build huge numbers of connections and do nothing else will become more and more sidelined. We'll see...

Show everyone you invite to connect the courtesy of telling them why you’d like to connect

It doesn’t have to be anything world changing. Just be open and honest about why you'd like to connect, show that you know a little about them and compliment them a bit. Flattery works wonders with most of us! 

Especially if the person has a different area of professional interests to yourself, then the reason for the invitation really does need some justification. So this point is especially important in such cases. 

Finally avoid overt self promotion on LinkedIn

Networking and marketing are not the same thing and in an understandable drive to control spamming, the Linkedin police are getting more and more sensitive to promotional posts. So save your marketing and promotional efforts for discussions one to one with your contacts not on LinkedIn.

Do you agree with my criteria? Or do you apply different ones? I’d love to hear what criteria you apply and will be happy to post them here. Please share your thoughts below!

How to “Wow” today’s recruiters

By Neil Patrick

Late last year, Vivian Giang wrote a post on Business Insider here where she reported the views of senior recruiters on how job seekers can really impress them.

Career community Glassdoor recently published its annual list of top recruiters. These hiring managers have seen a lot of talent, but they can still be impressed. And Glassdoor asked them to provide specific examples.

One thing really struck me about these replies. In almost every case, what is mentioned is how candidates that use social media effectively are the ones who “wow” the recruiters. And since Glassdoor’s list of top recruiters contains big companies that hire a lot of people, they are used to seeing a vast number of candidates month in, month out. So their replies deserve close attention.

The survey set out to discover exactly how candidates can impress these industry leaders. It asked them following critical question: "Was there a candidate that totally wowed you, and if yes, how did they do it?"

These are the answers that were given. If you think social media is irrelevant to your career prospects, (in spite of me banging on about it endlessly!), I think this might just change your mind.

Personal branding makes a difference

"I’m wowed when I see candidates take the same approach to branding themselves as I take to branding our business. Job seekers with cohesive messages about strengths, goals or overall work style show me they are thinking not about how to get hired or say the right thing, but about how to showcase a cohesive message and tell me something meaningful about themselves."

Carrie Corbin, associate director of Talent Attraction at AT&T

You CAN use Twitter to make valuable career contacts

"I met a very interesting executive search professional via social media. She reached out to me via Twitter to learn more about Sodexo. We set up a time to talk, and she asked questions about what it was like to work in a corporate environment. We talked about the differences between the search firm environment vs. the corporate recruiting environment. Over the next several months we had several conversations on various topics, and I was able to see her depth of knowledge and diversity of thought, and her genuine love of the profession. About a year later, when we had an opening in our Talent Acquisition Group, I immediately thought of her."

Arie Ball, vice president of Talent Acquisition at Sodexo

Getting attention is so much easier if you go multi-media

"Candidates are getting more and more creative with getting attention. I've been impressed with several candidates recently who have built infographics, videos and even full-blown websites to convey their experience! I'm a sucker for creative people with an awesome design sense. But, this is not required to get the job. Not everybody has these skills, and we always go for the best person for the job."

Steve Fogarty, senior manager of Employer Branding & Digital Recruiting at Adidas Group

Networking and doing your homework really counts

"The last few candidates to really impress me did so because they had cared for the basics so well. They had connected with our organization on Twitter, taken advantage of the information available on our company website with regards to PepsiCo's history, done their homework regarding our culture and reputation on Glassdoor and introduced themselves to other team members via LinkedIn. It wasn't about doing amazing and out-of-the-box things to get our attention as an employer, it was about doing the right things really well."

Chris Hoyt, global talent engagement and marketing leader at PepsiCo

Getting in touch directly with your ideal boss pays off

"She DM'd me on Twitter and is now my intern!"

Jeremy Langhans, manager of Global Talent Acquisition at Expedia

Helping the people you want to influence creates goodwill that eventually rewards you

"I found a candidate on LinkedIn over a year ago and unfortunately after interviewing, the position did not pan out. We stayed connected on LinkedIn and throughout this past year, this candidate reached out to me periodically as well as commented and, or, liked my LinkedIn status updates. During this time, I thought, 'Wow … this person is really engaging and really wants to work for Philips.' This past month, I had a position that became available, and I knew that this candidate was a perfect match. I shared the candidate’s information with the hiring manager as well as mentioned the level of passion this person has for Philips, and long story short, we made an offer."

Chrystal Moore, senior recruiter at Philips Healthcare

Finding shared or common ground is the basis of valuable relationships

"I think sometimes candidates think being 'wowed' needs to be flashy or complicated, but it doesn’t. One of my recent successes comes from a candidate we recently hired for a senior analyst role. He actually found me through my posts about Cleveland and our analyst opportunities at Progressive. He was relocating to Cleveland as a trailing spouse and when he found me realized we had both moved from Wisconsin to Cleveland. I scheduled a brief call to learn a bit more about him, and we hit it off from the beginning. He’d been following my posts so he asked great questions about the city, my company and then got to asking about specific positions he’d seen me post. I think the thing that wowed me was that he did his homework and was prepared to engage and ask questions. He starts with us in just a few weeks."

Melissa Smith, candidate developer at Progressive Insurance

Social media allows you to get so much more creative

"At my last company we had a candidate take our specific cloud-based presentation software and create a presentation-style resume for us. She tweeted this presentation to our company, and I noticed. After I shared this internally, the CEO tweeted back to her suggesting they talk further. Needless to say, she got the job and came in as a rock star because folks knew her unique story and were impressed by her creativity in taking our own product, using it to get noticed, and showcasing relevant skills for her position. You can read more about that story here."

Will Staney, director of recruiting at SuccessFactors

So there it is. It cannot be co-incidence that all these recruiters have described how the candidates that ‘wowed’ them used social media intelligently to find them, research them, build relationships with them and demonstrate their creativity and expertise.

And in every case that strategy paid off. And I’ll wager that many of them didn’t even have to go through ‘normal’ recruitment procedure channels.

Still fiddling around with your resume?

Read more:

What no-one tells you about the true power of networking

By Neil Patrick

How and why personal networks actually work has not been widely discussed outside of academic theories. Much of the available research is also too old to reflect the critical impact of social media.

So this weekend I have been reviewing the research evidence to try and produce some insights which I hope are helpful.

Most of the material I found talks about the benefits and tactics of effective networking, but very few writers discuss exactly HOW and WHY it works from the perspective of growing our career opportunities.

Many of my own professional contacts misunderstand the value because they don’t grasp the mathematical and social forces that they can unleash. Yes that’s right, I said mathematical.

If you understand this aspect, I guarantee your thinking about networking will be transformed.

Networking is largely misunderstood

Most people think of networking as a heavy investment of their time and energy. And since we have too little of both usually, it gets deprioritised as a task. This is a mistake and it reflects a misunderstanding of what networking is, what is involved and how it creates value.

The critical thing to understand is the power and value of weak ties

A strong tie (or link) is someone who knows a lot about you and who you are in frequent contact with (say at least once a month). A weak tie is someone who doesn’t know you that well, but knows a little about you and has an interaction with you say every 6 months or so.

Most people think that only strong ties can be of value to them in their careers. After all, if someone is only vaguely aware of you, how much value can that relationship really have?

Big mistake.

Now the math bit

This is where it gets interesting. No-one can have a very large number of strong ties. Around 200-250 or so is probably the maximum. There are just not enough hours in the day to manage much more than that.

Weak ties however are a different matter. You can quite easily maintain thousands of these. And social media is a powerful tool that helps you do exactly that.

So unlike strong ties, with weak ties and social media, you can easily grow your network to many thousands.

Now of course, only a small fraction of these might be of benefit to you.

But because you are just one person and with a little effort, your weak ties can be grown steadily, the number of potential opportunities available to you expands in proportion with the growth of your network of weak ties.

And of course the most valuable of your weak ties may well mature into strong ties over time.

But that’s not all

I like to think of what I call the “snowball analogy” when I think about weak ties. Imagine you are standing at the top of snow covered hill. You pick up a handful of snow. This is your current network. The rest of the snow on the ground is all those people you are not yet connected with.

You compact the snow into a ball and place it on the ground. Now you start to push it down the slope. At first not much happens. The ball slowly gets a bit larger and as it does so, its circumference increases. This increased circumference means that with each full turn, the ball picks up much more snow.

Once the ball gets to a certain size and depending on the degree of the slope, it reaches a critical mass. At this point, the ball’s own weight propels it down the hill faster and faster with you doing absolutely nothing at all.

Now with each rotation, the ball is picking up many times more snow than the original handful you held in your hands.

Exactly the same thing happens with social media networks

Most of us have a core of strong ties that we rely upon for our professional network. But this is a huge error.

Strong ties might seem instinctively to be more valuable than weak ties. In some ways they are. But they have limitations too:

  • Typically, they are a subset of the people you have encountered in your day to day life. This means they tend to be restricted to your own social and professional areas of activity. And that means they are not only limited, they also will have significant duplications of knowledge and contacts with yourself and each other.

  • They carry a degree of obligation which can be counterproductive. For example, if your employer is looking to fill a new more senior position, would they attach much weight to a colleague’s opinion about you that they knew you had a friendship with?

  • But most of all, they are finite as mentioned at the start of this post. There’s not too much space left in your life to add many more strong ties, unless they are really valuable to you.

And that’s the magic of understanding network mathematics.

If you devote a proportion of your networking efforts to continually expanding your number of weak ties, your network will grow increasingly quickly. And you'll need to invest much less time.

And whilst these may be weak ties that individually only deliver a small return for you, that return is more or less constant, whether your number of weak ties is 100 or 10,000.

So 1% of a hundred weak ties will not deliver many opportunities for you. But 1% of 10,000? Now that’s a very different matter…

Job Security: Two Key Factors You Can Control


Unemployed jobseekers routinely tell me that they have two concerns about their future. The first is about job security. The second is the fear of being stuck in a job they dislike.

About 30% of the people I work with are currently employed and are looking to change jobs. Their number one concern is job security. More often than not, they don’t like their current job and want to change to something they can enjoy.

RecruitGroup reported that the 2006 data indicated that people would change jobs 5 to 7 times in their lifetime. So if a person begins their career at age 22 and works until they are 65, they would change jobs every 6 to 8 years.

In 2010, researchers conducted a study showing that respondents between the ages of 18 and 42 had held 10.8 jobs. That’s a new job every 2.2 years. It does seem reasonable that a person in their early career might change jobs more often.

These studies are siting career changes and freely admit that they have a difficult time identifying what exactly a career change is. This article sites the Department of Labor:

Career change statistics suggest that the average person will be making a career change approximately 5-7 times during their working life.

[However] with an ever increasing number of different career choices on offer, about 1/3 of the total workforce will now change jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42 you will probably already have had about ten jobs. [DOL]

If one third of the total workforce changes jobs every 12 months, then 3 years is the average time in a job.

What can you control as you manage your future?

I started asking questions:

  • What can we rely on to manage this many transitions in our career? 
  • What can be done now to make these transitions as smooth as possible? 
  • What are the factors that will allow a person to ride the waves of change and prepare for their future? 

What are the qualifying factors?

We qualify for jobs with our skills, experience and education. For example let’s say that a job posting requires a Bachelor of Science, 10+ years of industry-specific experience and other skills such as contract negotiation, supervision, and perhaps a specific software.

If you have these qualifications, then you apply for the job …along with everyone else that has similar skills, experience, and education.

Do you think that your 12 years of experience will be that much more impressive than the person with 10 years of experience…probably not.

So these qualifications leveled the playing field. You aren’t unique, you aren’t different and so far there is no reason for this company to look at you rather than the other candidates. You haven’t differentiated yourself.

The key qualifications are important, but they simply qualify you for the position. They don’t differentiate you in the least. There has to be more. There has to be something else.

What are the two differentiating factors?

Assuming you made it through the Applicant Tracking System (we get through about 80% of the time), and someone determined that you truly qualify for the job, you become part of an ocean of applicants that all look alike.

I wanted to know what caused hiring professionals to move people from the qualified pile to the phone-call pile. So I went around and asked them that question.

Factor number one:

Believe it or not the primary differentiating factor is your innate work attributes and how you use them to benefit the organization. It’s a combination of who you are and how you work that is then focused on achieving the mission of the company by promoting their values and driving business results.

This information, presented clearly and succinctly on your cover letter and résumé will help you get a job. It will separate you from the ocean of applicants. It will identify you as a person who will consistently deliver value as companies manage change. It’s about who you are and your understanding of the company and their key drivers.

This is the information that answers the question, “Tell me about yourself.” It is how you should respond to, “Why do you think this job is a good fit for you.”

Factor number two:

You can control the people you engage with as you build your network. They need to understand your value. They need to know who you are and how you bring value to an organization that is beyond your skills, experience, and education.

When anyone in your network promotes or champions you, it should be about your value rather than your qualifications. Again, this differentiates you from others. It’s why you don’t have to talk about your skills, experience, or education. Those things have to be there but the critical factor is about “who you are.”

Do you really understand your value?

Some people call this your Unique Value Statement or UVS. That’s fine. Do you know what your value is—from an employment perspective? Do you know how to apply it to a company mission statement? Can you demonstrate this value on your résumé and during a 30-minute phone interview?

If not, consider the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop. We offer it as a webinar and in person, in groups, and privately. We call it The Differentiator!

Called a Creative Thinker, Career Futurist, and a person of unusual solution, Marcia LaReau founded Forward Motion, LLC in 2007. Since that time, she has become a recognized leader in the employment industry, and Forward Motion has spread across the United States and abroad to help jobseekers find jobs that fit.


How to find career opportunities

By Neil Patrick

My Dad was a caveman.

Not literally of course, but he thought like one. I’m not saying that he was stupid. Just that he had extreme risk aversion. And this characteristic dominated his outlook on everything.

It meant that he avoided almost anything that involved taking any personal risk. And over time, this escalated from simple risk aversion to chronic indecisiveness and procrastination.

His career only survived because for his generation, the world changed slowly AND he was in a very secure type of work (he was a college teacher). So he kept his job for decades and even prospered a little without having to take many real risks at all.

Why our brains trick us about risk

Over the weekend, I read a post on Tim Ferris’ blog, by Ben Casnocha an award-winning author and serial company-builder and Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of LinkedIn. Their piece was about how our brains react to the perception of risk and the effect this has on our career decisions.

Almost everything has changed since my father retired in the 1980’s. From big things like communications and the geo-political power map, to everyday things like how we buy things and how we network.

But for a moment, let’s roll the clock back to 15,000 years ago

You are out hunting for your lunch. There’s a rustling in the undergrowth around you. If it’s a hungry bear, you’re quite possibly going to die. If you retreat to avoid the risk, you’re almost certainly not going to starve.

You’ll probably find food easily elsewhere without the need to risk being eaten yourself.

This redundant logic is hard-wired into our brains: It’s more dangerous to miss the sign of a threat than to miss the sign of an opportunity.

The world has transformed massively since then, but our brains have not

The human brain has been shaped by millions of years of evolution to achieve a simple goal: stay alive long enough to reproduce and raise offspring. Consequently, we react more strongly to threats and unpleasantness than to opportunities and pleasures.

We all have a red alert buzzer in our brain for bad things, but no green alert for good things. Sticks get our attention and carrots do not, because dodging the sticks was what used to be critical to staying alive.

Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist explains this “negativity bias” thus:

“To keep our ancestors alive, we evolved a brain that routinely tricks us into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources.”

So being highly alert to risks is a good strategy for surviving dangerous environments, but not for thriving in today’s workplace. When risks aren’t life-threatening, you have to resist your brain’s predisposition to run from what are usually survivable dangers.

In fact, if you are not actively seeking and creating new opportunities you are actually exposing yourself to greater risks in the long term.

What are good risks for you to take?

Risk is highly personal. So what might be risky to someone else might not be risky for you. It’s also situational - what may be risky in one situation may not be if the circumstances are slightly different. But for almost everyone, a risk is worth taking when the possible upside outweighs the possible downside i.e. when the potential reward justifies the risk.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.” - Machiavelli

So the key to success is being able to accurately assess risk and reward, not seeking to avoid risk altogether.

Here are some career choices which are often unduly rejected as being too risky and the associated opportunities:

Jobs that may not pay well but offer great learning potential

People are inclined to focus on easily quantifiable elements - like how much they’re getting paid. Or the hours of work involved each week. But other “soft” assets -knowledge, connections, and experience are of increasing value in this digitally connected age.

The world is changing at faster rate than ever before and skills which were relevant and valuable ten or even five years ago can quickly become much less so, sometimes almost overnight. To compensate for this, we all have to recognise that we need to continually invest in the growth of our personal networks, skills and knowledge.

You may be young, or you may be making a change of direction. Either way, the opportunity to learn new skills can be more valuable in the long run than the opportunity to earn the most you can right now. Work with great learning but less remuneration involved may be too quickly dismissed as risky.

So do not under-value opportunities such as:

- Internships and Apprenticeships
- Sideways transfers or assignments
- High-level assistantships

Part-time work vs. full-time jobs

Some people dismiss part-time and contract work as being a poor substitute for full-time jobs. But in reality, doing contract work is a powerful way to grow the skills and relationships that can help you find and move into your next opportunity.

And there’s a rising use of contractors as firms seek to keep their investment in expensive full time staff to a minimum.

Typical areas where such work is plentiful include:

- Design work
- Writing
- Programming

Not understanding the ‘conversion funnel’

Success requires persistence. Just because someone doesn’t like what you have to offer, doesn’t mean no-one will. You just have to keep refining your proposition, building your network and knocking on more doors. Sales people and actors have learned through experience to appreciate this instinctively. Sometimes for them, 1 hit out of 100 attempts equates to a runaway success.

For those of us used to a more stable and secure working environment, a single rejection or negative comment can cause us to drop a good idea far too readily.

So be careful about:

- Assuming that a few rejections means your idea or offering is no good
- Building a plan which requires too high a ‘hit rate’ to be successful
- Interpreting a negative reaction as reason to abandon what you are planning instead of refining it

Choosing to work with someone with less experience but high commitment

Fast learners can easily compensate for their inexperience with enthusiasm and commitment. The flip side of inexperience is often hustle, energy, and a willingness to learn. For example:

- Taking a chance on a smart and enthusiastic person just out of college
- Partnering with someone mid-flight in a career who’s moving into a new industry and feeling re-energized by the challenges
- Recognising that a person with a different background can bring fresh and novel perspectives

Opportunities where dangers have been in the news

The more we hear about the downsides to something, the more likely we are to overestimate the probability that it will occur (this is why people tend to become more afraid of flying after news of a plane crash is splashed across the headlines).

If the media, or people in your industry, talk a lot about the riskiness of a certain job or career path, our brains absorb this information and use it to bias our judgements, sometimes unduly negatively.

Examples of this include:

- Starting a company
- Working in a high tech industry
- Joining a start-up business

Overseas opportunities

International career opportunities are sometimes rejected out of hand as too difficult or uncertain. Spending time in other countries feels risky in part because when you’re not a native, at first you may find it hard to feel comfortable with a different culture around you.

But the world is getting smaller every day. Your skills and experience may be abundant in your native land. And other countries are often crying out for the skills that you have yet to find a buyer for at home.

Don’t let unfamiliarity trick you into overestimating the risk. In the words of Tim Ferris, “Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.” Turn this fact to your advantage, by rising above the unreasonable fears of your competition.


- Foreign assignments within your company
- Attending a conference or seminar in another country
- Volunteering overseas

In all these opportunities, the worst case scenario tends to be survivable. When the worst case of a given risk means possibly getting fired, losing some time or money, experiencing a little discomfort, it’s a risk you should not reject out of hand.

By contrast, if the worst-case scenario may lead to serious damage to your reputation, loss of all your personal assets, or something otherwise career-ending, don’t countenance that risk.

Ask yourself whether you can tolerate the worst case scenario? If the answer is yes, you know what to do next.

How to clean up your social media footprint for a job search

By David Hunt, PE

In this day and age where “social media” dominates our lives, the conventional wisdom in the job search world is that candidates will be searched for – on Google, Bing, and any other search engine that the hiring manager or human resources person fancies. They will also check people out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Given the costs and consequences of a “bad hire” one certainly cannot fault them for doing so. And in most of these places, the information is public and intentionally uploaded. That picture of you chugging a beer funnel? The snapshot of you in a isty-bitsy bikini? The embarrassing story from a week ago you just had to share? All are put there by the job seeker… maybe. With photo tags, a person’s name can be attached to an embarrassing picture without their consent.

Hiring managers and human resources people search the internet for indications about a candidate’s personality, character, and human failings – and then are shocked and horrified to discover candidates have personalities, characters, and human failings. And re-reading this, I’ll add that candidates that don’t have any social media trail are often considered equally suspect.

This judgment assumes that they've found the right person! As a part of my own job search I have taken to searching for myself on google and bing using different permutations of my name, location, and title. There are quite a few David Hunts, even just locally. I just found a rather charged political comment by another “David Hunt” also from Nashua. Whether or not I agree with it is immaterial – someone searching for me would likely assume they've got the right guy, with a 50-50 shot (Democrat / Republican) of taking offense at what was said… by the wrong guy.

What you see isn't what others may find

Thanks to a TED talk by Eli Pariser some time ago, I learned that what I search for is customized by filters; what I see is not necessarily what someone else will see. Thus, I enlisted several trusted friends to also do searches for me on these permutations and any others that came to mind. This way I could better find possibly embarrassing things that might be “out there”.

A little help from your friends is all you need...

This is a critical thing for job seekers. Don’t just rely on your own efforts to scan and clean your internet footprint. Get others to help. A suggested course of action: For anything related to you that you don’t want, have your friend click on the next five innocuous items to raise them in the ranks. Lather, rinse, repeat on a daily basis.

Only by clicking on innocuous and irrelevant items can anything potentially damaging be driven downward in rankings by raising those items not damaging to you.

The rule of thumb is that if you can get that item down a few pages in the search results, it’ll be in the weeds and likely unseen – it’ll never be truly gone, of course.

Don't worry about being who you really are

Of course this isn’t permission to be stupid. Exercise some judgment. If you post pictures, consider the viewpoint of a potential employer – is this something they really should see?

If you blog, or comment on LinkedIn and elsewhere (and I do both), are you commenting intelligently – or ranting? Now everyone’s definition of a rant will be different… I consider cynicism and sarcasm as just one more service I offer, and that is part of who I am – but even these are tools in my service to make a point, differ with someone else, etc. But insults are right out, and doubly-so for anything smacking of bigotry, harassment of any type, etc. And actual threats are, naturally, even beyond that. 

For some mischievous satisfaction, Google your interviewer

But back to the use of such searching as a part of vetting a candidate. How many hiring managers and human resources persons could withstand such scrutiny? Remember the adage: the internet is forever. People do stupid things, and many people put their stupid things out there for people to see. A letter to the editor. A comment on a website. A dubious picture of any number of possible flavors? Do those persons who are judging candidates live such sterile, hyper-controlled lives that their internet trail is unassailable?

My bet is no. My bet is that most hiring managers and human resources people could not meet the standards to which they hold others.

In this case, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire looking for his "next opportunity" that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is:; he blogs at and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

The secret benefit of posting status updates on LinkedIn

By Neil Patrick

Yesterday I was grumbling about how some people spoil the LinkedIn experience for the rest of us.

So to restore some balance, today I thought I’d post about a positive practice on LinkedIn which seems to be overlooked by many normal users.

It’s the status update. And I’ll share a secret with you about why this is so powerful if you stick with me.

Linkedin updates are important for several reasons whether you are job searching or not. Career management is a lot like marketing. It’s just that the product we are selling is ourselves.

And which products get the biggest sales in any sector? Of course it’s the ones which are most well recognised and seen as offering the greatest value.

That’s why big brands spend billions every year on advertising. And with social media like Linkedin, we have the opportunity to advertise ourselves virtually for free.

These are the basic benefits of status updates:

Stay top of mind

Think of posting on LinkedIn like this. No-one has enough hours in the day to touch base with everyone they’d like to. I often have an intention to contact people I’ve neglected, but if it’s not on my top priorities and/or scheduled, the phone call or email doesn’t happen, sometimes for weeks.

I may not have anything specific I wish to discuss with them, I’d just like to keep in contact and stay on their radar.

Posting to Linkedin isn’t a perfect remedy for our lack of time, but it is an easy way to stay visible to your network, so that they are more likely to think of you when they discover something they think you’d like to know about.

If you don’t have time to post a link or blog update, then at least comment on someone else’s. Life happens in between emails and phone calls, and your commentary reminds your connections you are still around - especially those you don’t see or talk to often. Stay in front of them, and you’ll be the first person they think of when opportunities arise.

Your network is an asset – so manage it as such

Even if some people still prefer other communication channels, LinkedIn continues to grow - there are now over 270 million registered users. Your network is your personal microcosm of that audience – and it’s your gateway to hundreds and thousands of others.

Don’t worry too much about annoying people

Many of us have a reservation about making too big a noise. But provided you are following the simple mantra of always trying to add real value, your inputs however frequent, will be appreciated by people.

Things only get annoying when you are frequently posting content of low value.

It’s either you or the competition

Make a choice - be part of the conversation or get forgotten about.

Everyone is busy these days, so you have to be more visible and more memorable (for good reasons) than your competition. Even if you don’t yet know who they are, this is an opportunity to come to the attention of people who want what you have to offer.

Build credibility and trust

People do business with people they know, like and trust. The more inputs you provide, the greater will be your exposure. The better the content, the more trust you will build. Just remember that it’s not about you - post things that your network will be genuinely interested in.

Create goodwill and valuable new connections

Give people more opportunity to interact with you - liking, commenting upon and sharing content increases people’s recognition of you and your reputation will grow across the platform. So, don’t be selfish - share things. This has a hidden benefit too which is that the original poster will appreciate your help in them getting their content out to more people. So this is an investment in the goodwill that others have towards you.

If it's routine, it's easier

It may seem like a challenge to post regularly to Linkedin, especially considering all of your other priorities. But once you see it as a regular part of your routine and an investment rather than a chore, it gets a great deal easier to make the commitment. And you are investing in your number one personal asset – yourself and your future.

Finally, the secret benefit is…

I promised to let you in on a secret at the start of this post. And here it is. And it might just be the thing that persuades you more than any of the other reasons I’ve cited above that posting updates is a good idea.

Over the last few months, I have been closely tracking my search ranking on LinkedIn. At the same time I have been posting updates twice a week and making a couple of comments on LinkedIn Groups I am a member of. Total time investment – about 30 minutes – roughly the same as one brief work meeting or phone call.

What I have observed is that my search ranking has risen steadily as I have done this. I do not (and outside the LinkedIn organisation, no-one else) knows the exact workings of the LinkedIn search algorithm. But I strongly suspect that somewhere within the algorithm is a component which improves the search rankings of those who are more active on the platform.

So I have now reached the top of page one of LinkedIn search for many of the key search terms I wish to be found under. And this is often placing me top of many thousands of matches.

I’d say that’s a pretty fantastic return on the investment of half an hour a week.

What’s the worst thing you can do on Linkedin?

By Neil Patrick

Today I have been reading gripes about LinkedIn from people complaining that they get endless approaches from recruiters…nice problem.

Some even go so far as to say that this is so annoying it makes them want to take down their profile.

I do not know what these people do that makes them so attractive to recruiters but, I suspect they are not high flying professionals; much more likely they are workers in high turnover jobs like bar work, call centers and sales.

In other words they are getting a lot of recruiters contacting them not because they are so awesomely talented, but because there are always lots of vacancies to fill in their field, and their jobs have a high turnover.

If I am right, then it is ironic that the people who could do with some career progression more than most are also the ones who are hating LinkedIn.

Anyway, all this whinging got me thinking about the things people do on LinkedIn that I really do not like.

In no particular order here they are:

Posting Junk

You know, all those brain teaser tests, pictures of lions (promoting LinkedIn Open Networking) and ‘inspirational’ quotes. I’m happy with these on Twitter, but not LinkedIn please!

Invitations to join groups that are irrelevant to me

I like LinkedIn Groups – I’m a member of about 30. But when LinkedIn has such a rich data content of who every member is and what they do, and I get an invitation to join a Group which is completely irrelevant to me, it tells me that the group owners are just blasting out invitations to everyone. Not a Group I want to be a member of thank you. It‘s just sloppy work all round.

Invitations to share my email address

If you wish to email me, my address is on my contact details. Why would I want to add it to a giant spam list? No thanks.

Invitations to connect with no words of introduction

I am an in fact an open networker. Unless you are clearly a spammer or other undesirable, I accept all invitations to connect. But probably 80-90% of the invitations I receive just have the default ‘I’d like to add you to my network on Linkedin’ message. I don’t mind what you say by way of introduction, but it’s rude and disrespectful in my view when someone cannot be bothered to show a little courtesy and write just a sentence or two addressed to us personally.

The reciprocal of this is that I try and send a personal message back to everyone who invites me to connect. I reach my own conclusions if they choose to ignore this message.

Anyway, these are my pet hates. I’m sure you have your own too, so do please share them in the comments below and help make LinkedIn a better place for us all.

How to protect yourself from employers' bad recruitment practices


Unconscionable treatment of job candidates this week has made me angry and determined.

Note: The names and places have been changed.

Client One: Tony

After numerous Skype and lengthy phone interviews, Tony was invited out for an interview. Salary requirements and other contract expectations had been discussed. The reputable regional organization (with a national reputation) informed Tony, a city planner, that he would need to pay his way for the interview. After finding out that there were only two finalists, Tony decided to go. The organization offered to pay for half of the plane fare.

The interview went famously. Tony integrated extremely well with the teams. He reviewed reports, attended planning meetings with the community, and advised members of the organization on handling current concerns. It turned out that the other candidate was internal to the organization and he and Tony hit it off as well.

He spent over $2,000 for the five-day interview. He lost a week of wages and time off from his current job, and was told after he returned home that they realized early on that they were not able to hire from outside. They knew this prior to the interview.

Client Two: Keri

Keri had several initial phone interviews with a recruiter. She had wanted to get into this specific company for several years. The first round of interviews went very well and the recruiter called to talk through salary figures for the second time.

Then Keri was scheduled to meet with several executives with the company. That went well and the final round was scheduled. When it was over Keri saw the Director in the parking lot who said, “I told them to just hire you…you were the best candidate, and I usually get what I want here.”

A few days later at midnight, Keri received an email from the recruiter indicating that they had selected another candidate!

Client Three: Geoff

Geoff received an offer from an organization in Los Angeles. It was a fair offer, however another organization had indicated they were interested and the position was higher in the organization.

So Geoff emailed them and said, “You’ve mentioned interest in me however, I have an offer. I understand that you are at the beginning stages of interviewing and if a decision is going to take two to three weeks, let’s save each other the trouble.”

The organization emails him back and asks if he can fly down three days later to interview. So Geoff talks to the L.A. office and they graciously extend time for Geoff to go to the interview.

Two days later the interview is pushed later in the week. It goes well and Geoff is told that they are speeding up the interview process. After Geoff flies home, he gets a call indicating that the decision will probably take two or three weeks.

How can jobseekers protect themselves?

Obviously, companies have been duped by jobseekers who have lied on their resume. This article indicates that 53% of resumes and job applications contain falsifications and 78% of resumes are misleading. So I can understand why hiring entities are on the lookout. But does that justify the mistreatment and misleading of jobseekers during the hiring process?

Here are some thoughts and actions that jobseekers can take to try to protect themselves.

First and foremost, it is critical that jobseekers know their fair market value for the position (and location) that they are applying for. This allows them to confidently give a fair salary range when asked. Consider to learn this information. 

Jobseekers should remember that if the hiring entity isn’t spending any money to bring them to the interview, there is only marginal investment on their part. 

1. Ask specific questions before deciding to self-fund an interview: 
  • How many candidates are being interviewed? 
  • Is the company/business/agency able to meet the salary that we’ve discussed? 
  • Are there and hiring restrictions that might hinder my being hired if I am selected as the most qualified candidate? 
2. Carefully vet the company: 
  • The website www.glassdoor brings enormous value to jobseekers. There is salary information by company as well as information about company interview practices. 
  • Search for the company at the Better Business Bureau website. Even if they are not a member, customer complaints are published as well as the company’s ranking from F to A+. 
  • On LinkedIn, check out the company profile and also search for former employees that worked for the company. Request a 30 minute conversation with them. 
3. Get all points of the contract agreement in writing.

4. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right… 

5.Give people the benefit of the doubt. 

What if the company doesn’t meet their part of the agreement?

Jobseekers are finding that once they are employed, the terms change. Perhaps they were promised a company vehicle because their job requires a lot of travel and hauling of product. Perhaps it was a raise after six months. Whatever the agreement, if the company doesn’t follow through, then the employee is free to look for other employment.

And the response is: What if they ask, “Why are you leaving after six months?” Answer: “We had agreements in place based on hopes of higher profit margins. But they didn’t happen and the company simply hasn’t been able to meet our agreement.”

You’re unemployed and can’t be picky…

This is a clear concern, especially when there is reason to believe that the company is taking advantage of the current economic situation and tries to hire under the market value.

If a jobseeker accepts the position, then my advice is to do that job as if the pay were excellent, build references and credibility, and if the company doesn’t rectify the situation, then move on.


I am determined to do what I can to help. I will reach out to Human Resource professionals this week and begin a search for information that will lead to better practices. I ask ALL jobseekers and hiring professionals to re-establish the credibility of our business practices.

These are very difficult times. I encourage jobseekers and hiring entities to diligently and intentionally establish a foundation for trust. I challenge every employed person to do their job, to the best of their ability, to help create more jobs and get our nation back on track.

Do you need help finding a job? Forward Motion helps U.S. jobseekers worldwide. Call for a free consultation: (860) 833-4072.

Called a Creative Thinker, Career Futurist, and a person of unusual solution, Marcia LaReau founded Forward Motion, LLC in 2007. Since that time, she has become a recognized leader in the employment industry, and Forward Motion has spread across the United States and abroad to help jobseekers find jobs that fit.