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I thought I had no time for LinkedIn or Facebook -- let alone Twitter! Boy was I wrong.

February 27, 2009

My 17 year old son Kevin's life seems to revolve around Facebook. I’ve dipped my toe in the Facebook and LinkedIn waters, but figured I just didn’t have time to dig deeper into what all the excitement was about. 

Until now.  I just attended an excellent seminar led by Nicole Ellison, Assistant Professor of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University.  She’s been studying the explosion of online social networking for several years.  By the time she finished, I realized that I've been missing the boat by not utilizing these 21st Century business tools.  

What's so great about them? We all know having an excellent network is important.  But you have to stay in touch with people and keep connections fresh.  How do you do that and still get "real work" done?  LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to start. 

 The real power of social networking sites is their ability to dramatically expand two things:   1) Your personal and professional networks of people and 2) Your sources of fresh and valuable information.  Why is that important?  Here's what I learned: 

About LinkedIn (you need to be a member to access my profile)   

  • Research has shown that we are more likely to get job opportunities, make new career connections and discover new things from people outside our normal circles.  So, the wider our circles of connections, the better.  
  • LinkedIn is quickly becoming the new professional resume.  One executive recruiter said she won’t even look at a candidate unless she or he has a LinkedIn site.  How come?
  • Because what you claim about yourself on Linked In is out there publicly – sort of like Wikapedia for others to confirm.  People have been exaggerating on resumes for years.  But when your professional track record is publicly posted on LinkedIn – and you have recommendations from others confirming that you’ve done what you’ve claimed -- that's credible.  
  • It's also a tremendous way to minimize the number of degrees of separation between you and people you would like to meet.  Once you are a member of LinkedIn, you begin building your network.  Once someone allows you to add them to your network, you can see whose in their network -- and can contact those people directly, asking if they will allow you to connect with them. 
  • Can you begin to imagine the possibilities?    

So what's the insight? If you’re already on LinkedIn, take another look at your profile.  Treat it as a living resume that really reflects everything you’re interested in doing now and your track record.  If your not on LinkedIn -- and having an excellent professional network is important to you -- you're missing a powerful tool.  Plus, it's free.  

How about Facebook? (You have to be a member to access my profile)

  • It's much more personal. 
  • Mark Zuckerberg, who founded it when he was a student at Harvard is now 23 years old and worth $1.5 BILLION. 
  • I'm not sure why anyone is interested in reading the What I’m Doing Right Now posts from all their friends. But it’s not just for kids anymore.  People over 40 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook which now claims to have over 175 million subscribers. 
  • It’s fast becoming a very acceptable way to build a more personal relationship with people who might otherwise simply be acquaintances you rarely see.
  • In 2006, My Space was the #1 online social network, with over 100 M users.  Facebook passed it in 2008 and hasn't looked back.

What’s the downside?  That the line can be very fine indeed between social networking and career disaster.  It’s not just high school or college students who make the critical error of forgetting that everything posted on the internet has the potential of somehow becoming viral.  

And how about Twitter?  It’s for sharing very short bits of information – no more than 140 characters.  That’s it.  Just enough to send the URL to a website you just discovered or put out a headline on breaking news. 

  • You can select whose tweets you want to follow, such as people who are doing work or research you’re interested in.  For example, I’m working on a book on women’s leadership.  So, if  Ann Dunwoody, the first woman named Four Star General, were twittering, I might follow her for awhile. 
  • Same goes for comedienne Tina Fey.  I’d love to hear her running commentary on national news or check out some of her favorite websites.  
  • For great tips to get you started tweeting like a pro click here.   

  I'm not on Twitter yet.  But I'm start to think of it as the 21st Century version of having scouts on the trail up ahead.  If you select your scouts well, chances are they'll be sending back valuable information on trails (cool websites) you might want to follow and great vistas still beyond your line of sight.  


Midwest Voice: Advice for College Seniors On Cracking That First Job

February 24, 2009

  Michigan State University's Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing held an "Inspiration Day" last week for students facing a discouraging job market.   I'm  an "adopted" MSU Spartan and was invited to join 20 other executive alums to give students our best inspirational "shot in the arm."  

  Department head Rick Cole, the Inspiration Man behind "Inspiration Day,"  kept us busy, rotating teams of 3 executives through classrooms like "speed dating" sessions.  By the end of the day, we'd talked to nearly 500 students, most of them juniors and seniors.  I learned as much listening to the other executives in my team as, I hope, I passed along to the students.  Some of the tips were motivational, others pure fundamentals.   

  Each Tuesday morning, Michigan Talk Network radio host Michael Patrick Shiels invites me to talk with him about leadership, in the context of the news of the day, whether it's politics, sports, the auto industry or the economic times that have rocked us all.  This morning, the topic was "standing out in a crowd," whether you are a student or a seasoned pro facing a job transition.  Click here to listen.    

Anne Stevens, Carpenter Technology CEO, Tells It Like It Is

February 18, 2009

Anne Stevens, one of the few auto industry executives ever named to Fortune Magazine's prestigious "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list, took time to talk with an old friend (me!) recently about one of our shared passions:  women and leadership.

Now CEO of Carpenter Technology, a manufacturer of specialized alloys for manufacturing, Anne is as discouraged as I am about the growing evidence that women achievers are not only idling in place, but slipping.  If you don't believe it, start with Catalyst's latest reports. American women, for all of our progress are under-achievers when it comes to seats at the heads of decision-making tables.  In ten major work sectors, including politics, business, journalism, law, entertainment, women average no more than 18% representation in leadership positions. 

The question I put to Anne is:  When women are 51% of the population, earning six out of ten college, law and medical degrees, and -- as of February -- outnumber men in the U.S. workforce, why are they so under-represented at "The Top"?  

 Anne always had a "tell it like it is" style when she and I worked together at Ford Motor Company.  She hasn't changed a bit. Click here to listen.  

More Women Than Men Now Primary Breadwinner

February 13, 2009

The economic downward spiral that we are all struggling with has brought women to another historic milestone:  for the first time, there are now more women than men employed in the U.S. workforce.  As of November, American women were 49.1% of the workforce.  With the latest round of job losses -- 80% of which have impacted men, primarily in manufacturing and construction work -- there are now more women carrying the responsibilities of "primary breadwinner" than men.  This isn't about women's progress.  It's about men's slippage.  It's also leading to new conversations -- in millions of homes across the country -- about the "second shift" work related to home and children, of which women are still doing the lion's share.  Here's more perspective from Boston Globe syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman writing on what she calls, "The Curse of an Equal Workforce."

Terrific New Books on Working, Marketing and Engaging in the World as Women

February 5, 2009

Several terrific books have crossed my desk recently that each relate to an aspect of women's leadership.  Four are new and one is a classic.  I'm lucky enough to know all of the authors personally, except for Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who is a legend in the business world. I hope to meet Dr. Kanter one day, and that at least one of these books is just what you're looking for:

  • The 85% Niche:  The Power of Women of All Colors, Miriam Muley.  Former General Motors marketing executive Muley has written a fascinating guide to understanding differences in marketing to Latina, Black and Asian women.  Women of color account for nearly $1 Trillion in consumer spending and another $23 Billion as entreprenuers.  Yet most companies continue to market to women as one -- primarily white -- monolithic group.
  • Sipping from the Nile . . . My Exodus from Egypt, Jean Naggar. Literary agent Naggar knows how to tell a story.  This one is her own, a lush memoir of growing up in Cairo at the time of the Suez Canal crisis that triggered dramatic historical events that changed her life and that part of the world forever.
  • Jobs 2.0 the New World of Work, Patty DeDominic. This is the second edition of timeless advice on successfully navigating the career highway, as valuable for seasoned professionals as it is for new grads. DeDominic knows of what she speaks.  Her expertise is based on the experiencing of placing thousands of job seekers through her work as founder of PDQ Personnel Services, Inc, which she sold to Select Staff and is now the largest privately-held staffing firm in the U.S.  
  • The Power of the Purse ...How Smart Companies are Adapting to the World's Most Important Consumers: Women, Fara Warner.  Globally, women's economic power is changing business forever.  Fast Company contributing editor and former Wall Street Journal reporter Fara Warner has written a book that caught the attention of Tom Peters who wrote about it, "Finally, the book about marketing to women that moves beyond theory and offers meaty case studies that should wake up any sane persson -- including males (!) -- to the world's #1, largely untapped marketplace." 
  • A Tale of O . .. On Being Different in an Organization, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Perhaps the preeminent experts on gender dynamics in the workplace, Kanter has written many best-selling books.  I'd never heard of this one until a friend told me it was - - hands down -- the best book she had ever read on what happens when someone different tries to join and make a difference in a majority group. It uses x's and o's and minimal text, but the insights are as profound as they are practical. It's out of print but you can still buy copies online.  

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