No one has a crystal ball that can predict the future but it’s certainly human nature to try! The end of one year and the beginning of the next prompts a flurry of such reflection. Fortunately, since we don’t have a crystal ball, most prognosticators rely on information – data, surveys, study results, economic facts and figures, etc. – to make educated guesses. Often enough, the predictions are correct and it behooves us to pay attention; why?
If you’re a business owner, understanding the latest trends and predictions can provide insight into how to run your company, from opportunities to expand to developing innovative new products. If you’re an IT professional, looking at where the industry is going can help you understand how to keep your skills relevant and your career rewarding. Finally, following the trends and predictions is important so we can know which jobs and skill sets are or will be in demand. That will show where salaries will likely be rising, where longer hiring cycles can be expected, and where it will be more difficult to fill positions. All of this information can lead to better workforce planning and smarter hiring decisions at the business level, and can help individuals make wiser choices about short and long term career plans.
For the last few months my inbox has been full of various articles looking ahead to 2014 and what it will bring in terms of the IT industry. Here’s my summarization of the 5 things people are talking the most about.
- BIG DATA – It’s been a hot topic for several years now but this may be the year we start to see real application and significant growth in use. A study by International Data Group (IDG) reports that 70% of enterprise organizations have either deployed big data projects already or are planning to. Companies, mostly large organizations as opposed to small and midsize businesses, are expected to spend $8M on average for big data initiatives and programs. 19% plan on hiring in the next year and half, good news for data programmers, business analysts, data analysts, engineers and data architects. As people really understand what the term big data means and how it can be used, growth will continue.
- MOBILE – There’s no hype involved here – mobile is scorching hot. It has been for the past several years and it shows no sign of letting up. Everyone has a mobile strategy or should. Gartner listed Mobile Devices and Management and Mobile Apps and Applications as 2 of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends. They also predict that worldwide PC, Tablet, Ultramobile and Mobile Phone shipments will grow 7.6 % and that the Android OS is “on pace to surpass one billion users across all devices in 2014.” The demand for professionals with mobile experience is almost frenetic. There is tremendous opportunity with this kind of expected growth.
- THE CLOUD – Cloud adoption seems to be moving at a faster pace than expected. There’s been recent big news about the CIA engaging Amazon for cloud services. Expect big growth in all areas related to cloud computing. This matters from a business (how will you harness the cloud’s power to improve your business), a strategic (is this a new market you should be in?), and an employment standpoint (what skills are needed to take advantage of the career opportunities?). 3 of Gartner’s Top 10 are cloud related: Hybrid Cloud and IT as Service Broker, Cloud/Client Architecture, and The Era of the Personal Cloud. It’s hard to decide where the most growth potential lies, but as people increase their use of mobile devices and life becomes more and more connected, personal cloud services will need to keep pace.
- TALENT – The competition for the top talent is fierce and growing fiercer. Companies are struggling to fill positions, particularly in hot job categories and skill sets. Everyone seems to be doing something to address the lack of enough qualified STEM professionals to fill open positions today, and in the future. From investing in training for their current workforce to targeting top performers before they graduate, to offering salaries, benefits, and referral bonuses that are as high as they’ve been in years, companies are having to get creative to fill the void. Expect this to continue unabated in 2014. Conversations about immigration reform, H1-b Visas and other options to close the gap will again be important topics for our business and political leaders.
- SECURITY – One only needs to think about the recent breaches at Target, SnapChat, Michael’s, Neiman Marcus and, who knows, maybe someone else by the time this is published, to understand why this is a growth sector. The BYOD trend also raises concerns for businesses as their workforce increasingly is connected 24/7 but often working on their own device. Security concerns are top of mind now and that’s not likely to change in the near future. The growing interconnectedness of our devices and the incredible growth in usage guarantee that privacy and security will be hot areas, offering business and employment opportunities in 2014.
As you probably already know, there are seemingly countless articles on what 2014 will bring and numerous other ideas and trends that smart people are talking about. These 5 just seemed like the most prevalent that many, including myself, seem to agree will be important. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. What do you think the big trends for this year will be?
President and CEO
Maybe you’ve heard about LinkedIn’s new feature, the Volunteer Marketplace. It launched on January 14th to a fair amount of fanfare and generally positive press and reviews. I’m a big supporter of volunteer efforts and understand their importance to many civic and charitable institutions in our community. In some cases they are the very lifeblood. Like so many of you, I know personally how satisfying it is to give back, whether it’s doing something completely new and different or perhaps putting your professional skills to work. Volunteering in and of itself is reward enough but did you know that it can help you professionally?
As a company, ATR International supports various causes and organizations in a variety of ways and supports the individual efforts of our employees as well, so I am always interested in championing other efforts to promote volunteerism. Anything that makes it easier to connect a need with a solution is a good idea. Some may grumble about nefarious hidden purposes on the part of LinkedIn but I prefer to take a positive view of it. LinkedIn reports that the addition and growth of the volunteer/non-profit space came in response to user feedback. According to LinkedIn for Good’s (their charitable arm) Meg Garlinghouse,
“Two years ago, we added volunteer work and causes to LinkedIn profiles, because we heard a lot of member feedback that they want to include their social impact as part of their professional identity.”
In 2012, the company introduced Board Member Connect, designed to put non-profits in need of board members in touch with those willing and qualified to serve. This past summer, LinkedIn began piloting the Volunteer Marketplace before formally launching it this year. LinkedIn reports 3,000,000 users have added volunteer information to their profiles since 2011, and 600,000 have identified themselves as interested in volunteer opportunities since last August – willing to be contacted and presumably searching opportunities now that the capability exists. The listings are somewhat modest to start but expected to increase. Some have noted a few blips with the ease of accessing the site and a few other functionality issues but these will likely be addressed soon.
So how can this help you get a new job? Well first off, hiring managers consider volunteer work as valuable as paid work experience. That’s really important! LinkedIn’s survey reports that 41% of hiring managers feel this and a recent Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey showed that:
When evaluating a job candidate, experience gained through skilled volunteering would be taken into account (81 percent)
Skilled volunteer experience makes a job candidate more desirable (76 percent)
Skilled volunteer experience makes a college graduate more desirable (81 percent)
These are impressive numbers and underscore the real value volunteer work can bring to your job search. It’s a potential way to stand out and differentiate yourself from other candidates. Volunteering can be a way to keep yourself up to date during a period of un- or underemployment, a way to learn new skills to supplement your existing experience, and an opportunity to network with both those running the organization and other volunteers. With all those chances to shine, how can anyone doubt the power of volunteering to help you in your career?
LinkedIn isn’t the only company linking volunteers with opportunities. Taproot Foundation of San Francisco brokers partnerships and pro bono projects between companies and nonprofits. Catchafire is a New York group that helps people design projects for charity. Both have worked with LinkedIn as it researched and designed its marketplace and both are listing jobs on the site. As I said, anything that facilitates volunteering is good in my book. Check them all out!
Trying to find top talent is especially challenging these days in the IT industry. Many of the top performers, those with the most desirable skills and experience, are already employed. Those that are actively looking are heavily wooed, have their pick of the opportunities, and don’t last on the market long. Every interaction you have with a potential candidate influences their opinion of your company. Every facet of the experience is a potential to win them over or to turn them off.
In an interesting article on ere.net, Segment Your Recruiting Messaging, contributing author and HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan discusses the importance of carefully crafted messaging in attracting top performers. From job descriptions, to websites, to social media, whether or not you’re including the right information can make a big difference in who you attract. Highly skilled, very qualified, specialized professionals are motivated by more than just a good salary and benefits; those are important but almost a given for these hard to fill positions and hard to find people.
Dr. Sullivan provides a list of “excitement factors” that matter to innovative performers and technology professionals. He also suggests interviewing your own top people to find out what they like about the company and their work, what keeps them motivated and happy. I absolutely recommend doing that but I also think that his list is pretty good based on my experience. The list is in descending order of importance.
Excitement factors for top performers, techies, and innovators:
- Doing the best work of my life
- Doing work that has an impact on the customers and the world
- Having a great manager
- An opportunity to innovate and take risks
- An opportunity to learn rapidly and be challenged
- The opportunity to implement their ideas
- A choice of projects and assignments
- A chance to work with the latest technologies and tools
- Input into their schedule/ location
- An opportunity to work with top co-workers
- The opportunity to make decisions and for fast approvals
- Working in a performance-driven meritocracy where rewards are based on performance
- A transparent environment where the needed information and access is readily available
- Sufficient budget and resources to reach their goals
We’ve mentioned many of the points on this list repeatedly in various columns on attracting and retaining the best talent, so it’s not surprising I agree with him. I also like his practical advice on incorporating these excitement factors into the recruiting materials you are using to attract candidates. He’s right.
We tell both candidates and clients that every interaction reflects on you and makes an impression on the other party. As Dr. Sullivan points out, too much of the standard corporate recruiting materials are just that – standard and too generic. They are not going to draw in the kind of person you are looking for. Whether they first hear about the job through a friend or recruiter, eventually they are going to read the job description and other related materials. You want to make sure that everything, from small touch points to more involved contact, reinforces the right message, tailored for this specific audience – high-achieving, top performers. His first two pieces of advice:
- Start with the job posting – it’s short but try and include one or two key words that convey some of the points on the list. It’s you’re first chance to attract.
- The job description is your best opportunity to communicate excitement – make sure you detail as much as possible how the position and responsibilities fulfill things on the list above. Don’t be boring!
I encourage you to read the full article to benefit from all his suggestions but I sure like the first two! The importance of the job description is not something you have to convince any recruiter of – we’re always looking for as much detailed information as possible. When you are trying to fill a mission critical position for which you must find an elite performer, it makes sense to do everything you can to up your odds. If your position offers what they are looking for, for heaven’s sake make sure that comes across in everything!
As recruiters one of our tasks is to make sure candidates appreciate what top positions and companies have to offer and to connect the right people with the right opportunities. If a company’s recruiting materials strongly supported that, it certainly helps. Tailoring your message to your target audience seems like a pretty cost effective idea that might help land you that impossible to find software developer. In today’s recruiting environment, every little bit helps! Good luck!
President and CEO
We’re probably all familiar with word clouds at this point; even if you’ve only seen them. Have you ever tried to make one? It can be a little time consuming depending on how much text you’re putting in but the results are interesting. Our word cloud comes from columns written in 2013. Mostly, we’re not surprised by what we see – Information Technology, people, work, industry, staffing – all are prominent as we would expect. STEM, career, employee, consultant, business – none of these are surprises either. What is interesting is how the words end up near each other. Look at the top where “experience,” “talent,” “workers,” and “understanding” are all grouped. Or how “hire,” “looking,” and “want” are on the middle right, while “hiring,” “give,” and “success” are on the left middle; different connotations to each grouping. “People,” “potential,” and “opportunity” are together at the top of the diagram, while “opportunities,” “company,” “business,” “employees” and “consultants” are grouped at the bottom. The size of the words is determined by the count of each in the overall text entry but the position of the words in the cloud is random. However, these random placements end up providing unexpected insights.
All in all it’s a pretty good picture of what ATR is about and what we cover in the “pages” of Staffing 360. We try to cover topics that interest our clients and our consultants. We try to provide stimulating, thoughtful and sometimes fun content that helps you better understand the world of staffing, whatever your role in that world is. Below you’ll find links to our most popular posts. Enjoy, whether you’re rereading it or perusing it for the first time. Thanks for your interest throughout 2013 and here’s to an even more inspiring 2014!
Most Popular Posts from 2013
- The Importance of Proper Grammar in the Workplace
- The Future of Temporary Staffing
- Corporate Spotlight: Supplier Diversity at The Walt Disney Company
- The Best the Staffing Industry has to Offer
- The Best Career Advice I Ever Got
Posts from the Past that People Still Enjoy:
- Can My Past Employer Give Me a Bad Reference
- 12 Keys to Being a Great Co-worker
- Hiring Requires Optimism
- Do Tenure Policies Really Help Manage Contingent Workforce Risk
- The Job Interview: Why Didn’t They Call You Back and What to Do
Do you like your job? Do you wonder if there’s something better out there? Something you’d enjoy more or maybe just make more money or have more opportunities? Most of us daydream at some point about our “perfect job.” Some are just that, dreams. It would be nice to play first base in Major League Baseball or first chair violin in the symphony, but most of us don’t have those kind of skills and talent. But dreaming about a new career path, a different position, can also be the beginning of real change too. How do you make your dreams a reality? Hard work, tenacity, planning, a little luck, and more hard work!
Seriously though, every journey, every change, starts with a first step. Before you have to do all that hard stuff, we found a cool little website with a Career Apptitude Test from Rasmussen College that can help you explore what jobs you might be suited for based on your skills and experience. You can filter the results by salary, expected growth, and other factors. It’s obviously not an in depth analysis of your personality or your skills but it’s fun and thought provoking! For those of us at Staffing 360 that tried it, it delivered some accurate results in terms of current positions (turns out we’re qualified for the job we have!) and some interesting options we wouldn’t have thought of on our own.
It’s quick and easy and the results just might get you thinking, and then perhaps moving. Enjoy!
Recently, I attended the Western Region Minority Supplier Development Council’s (MSDC) Annual Holiday Luncheon for a very special reason: I was there to see our Corporate Diversity Manager, Angelique Solorio, receive their Volunteer of the Year award. I may be biased, but it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person!
I know how diligent and dedicated Angelique is because I work with her every day, so it was a treat to see that others recognize her talent and hard work as well. ATR International celebrated 25 years in business this past September, so I consider us somewhat of a “senior” company in the MBE community. We’ve benefitted from the advice and assistance of other MBE’s and corporate diversity professionals, especially as a fledgling enterprise. It’s important to me that we give back and provide the same so it was especially nice to hear at the luncheon that Angelique “constantly enriches the lives of both our MBEs and Corporate Sponsors.” Sharing knowledge by facilitating communication and discussion is part of Angelique’s mission, her actual job description at ATR, so it was gratifying to see that she is accomplishing that not just within the parameters of our company but in the broader community as well. I can also tell you that it was no surprise to hear her described as “resourceful,” “giving,” and “the kind of person who takes initiative and doesn’t mind working or getting her hands dirty.” I see it all the time!
ATR has a strong commitment to supporting volunteer efforts in our communities. It’s an important responsibility that we all share on both an individual and professional level. We have a program in place that offersour employees 5 days a year (or the hourly equivalent) to take off in order to volunteer; go for a week to build a house with Habitat for Humanity or read to children at your local library once a week, whatever is important to you. There are also opportunities like our support of the NMSDC and its regional councils where the “volunteering” is part of the job, acting as a representative of ATR within the business community.
Angelique is just one example of the people of ATR and the tremendous enthusiasm and skill that they bring – whether it is volunteering for their favorite charity or through their everyday responsibilities at the company. I want to recognize and congratulate her on this award because she deserves it but I also want to remind everyone of the importance of volunteering on all levels and in all areas. Without the efforts of people like Angelique many worthy civic, business and charitable organizations simply wouldn’t be able to operate. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than by saying thank you to Angelique and all the other “volunteers” in the world for making it a better place for us all!
Happy New Year everyone!
President and CEO
Last week we debuted part 1 of our list. This week we finish up things with the second half of The Must Watch Movies About Work.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”
“The four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.” Silly, silly, silly, but so touching.
3. Holiday Inn
Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, singing and dancing, AND it’s the movie that first gave us the song “White Christmas.”
4. Miracle on 34th Street
The court proves Santa is real.
5. A Christmas Carol
If you need it, a reminder that there is more to life than work and money!
1. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
The title should be recommendation enough!
2. The Pajama Game
Disgruntled factory workers looking for a raise sounds more like it should be in the union category but this is a delightful romantic comedy set to music.
3. The King and I
Deborah Kerr is a royal governess to Yul Brynner’s King of Siam but it’s the songs that steal the show.
4. The Producers
Before it was a hit Broadway show, it was a movie! Check out this uproarious original version with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
5. The Sound of Music
Another governess! This time the songs and the Austrian Alps compete for top billing.
1. The Temp
Lara Flynn Boyle as an assistant who is too good to be true.
Your new assistant’s previous experience was in a mental hospital, as a patient?
3. Friday the 13th
Camp counselor, it’s a job. Stay in school kids so you can get a better one.
Babysitter, it’s a job. Jamie Lee Curtis has a better one now pitching Activia.
Hannibal Lechter as a ventriloquist.
1. The Godfather Series
Simply a masterpiece. A few words can’t possibly capture the brilliance and importance of these films, particularly the first one, in American cinema and culture alike.
Robert De Niro really should have known that getting involved with Sharon Stone was a mistake.
3. Good Fellas
“Do I amuse you?” Within the gangster genre, Joe Pesci shows what it is to have a really crazy co-worker.
4. Pulp Fiction
Hitman is a job, right? “Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead.” Blockbuster cast and Quentin Tarantino made this one of the most memorable and influential films of the 90’s.
5. Donnie Brasco
Torn between two jobs, his real one as an FBI agent and undercover informant, and his fake one in the mafia, Johnny Depp finds his loyalties tested.
What a great time of year this is! Each day seems to bring another holiday treat to tempt us or party to attend. Lights twinkle and decorations brighten the scene everywhere. For most of us the season is filled with opportunities for fun with family and friends, and amidst all the festivities, it is a time for celebration and reflection. It is a time to count our blessings and to remember those less fortunate than us. This year for the first time, ATR worked with Toys for Tots. Founded by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, the organization collects unwrapped gifts during October, November and December and distributes them to children in the community.
Since its inception, Toys for Tots has distributed over 460 million toys! We served as a drop off center for our area this year, which means not only did we collect toys from our employees but other companies brought their donations too. Thanks Vander-Bend Manufacturing for the 5 boxes of toys! Because of the warm hearts of so many, there are toys on their way to deserving girls and boys!
There are many worthy charities that work to ensure that everyone, particularly every child, has a happy holiday with enough food to eat and presents to open. There are also organizations that work to meet many needs year round. Though things are better than they were several years ago economically, there are always many who struggle and who need our help. Giving to others ends up being a gift that you give yourself. I encourage everyone to contribute their time and/or money to their favorite organization, or, if you are looking for a charity to donate to, may I suggest Toys for Tots! Click here for a drop off location near you. Happy holidays everyone!
The ATR Team
Work. It is such an integral part of our lives it is no surprise that it is a dominant theme across the arts and entertainment world and has been, arguably, for centuries. Today, Staffing 360 offers our readers movies about work, the workplace, co-workers, and so on. We’ve listed comedies, dramas, and since it’s that time of year, included a few holiday films as well. Some are Oscar winners, some cult favorites and others just beloved classics. To a certain degree almost any movie can be said to be about work in a way, so any list is arbitrary. Some you may already know or have seen but hopefully others will be new to you. These are simply representative of the broad spectrum and tremendous choices available for our viewing pleasure!
All art reflects our human condition and offers the chance for us to learn about ourselves, our world and perhaps how to make it better for everyone. These films, each in their own way, give us insight into the best and the worst that the working world offers. They may be inspiring, infuriating, humorous, thought provoking, or ridiculous, but they all give us a different viewpoint on this thing we call work. Enjoy these and let us know what your favorites are!
Quirky, independent, day-in-the-life film that won numerous awards despite a budget of $27,000.
2. Office Space
We all appreciate our staplers a little bit more after this one.
3. Horrible Bosses
Three friends plot to kill their horrible bosses, and one of them is Jennifer Aniston. Really?
4. Empire Records
An independent record store fights being bought up by a chain; record stores – remember them? No? Watch the movie.
5. Up in the Air
A timely movie from 2009 about corporate downsizing, and it has George Clooney!
Comedy (Before 1990)
1. 9 to 5
“...what a way to make a living.”
2. Trading Places
Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd in their prime. A classic work related comedy.
3. Working Girl
Han Solo goes corporate.
4. Broadcast News
This “behind-the-curtain” look at how news is made garnered 7 Academy Award nominations.
5. The Front Page
Also a hit Broadway production, this comedy stars Jack Lemon, Walter Matthau, and a budding Carol Burnett.
1. Norma Rae
Based on a true story, Sally Field won her first Oscar portraying a determined mill worker.
2. Chicken Run
Chickens organize and rebel against evil farm owners - a serious theme explored in an animated children’s movie.
3. Bread and Roses
Follows the unionization efforts of cleaners in a downtown office building but the relationship between the two Latino sisters is what makes the film special.
4. Made in Dagenham
Based on the real 1969 strike at a Ford plant in England, workers walk in protest of sexual discrimination in pay and promotions.
5. The Help
Good book, good movie. There is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a pretentious snob get what's coming to her.
Meryl Streep and Cher, both Oscar nominated, in the true story of whistleblower Karen Silkwood, possibly murdered for her efforts on worker’s safety. It has a shower scene that you won’t soon forget.
2. Wall Street
Gordon Gekko charms his way into the hearts and minds of every corrupt power broker on Wall Street. "Greed is good."
3. Glengarry Glen Ross
The powerhouse cast includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, and of course, Alec Baldwin. "Coffee's for closers only."
4. Boiler Room
A dream job at an investment firm may not be as legitimate as it seems as Giovanni Ribisi finds out.
5. Roger and Me
The film that made Michael Moore; whatever you think about that, this one’s worth watching.
1. Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp struggles to adjust to life in an industrial society, a timeless theme that resonates as strongly today.
2. How Green was My Valley
Director John Ford gives us a poignant tale of the Morgan family living in a Welsh mining town at the turn of the 20th century. Watch for the scene on the bridge – a classic within a classic.
3. The Apartment
Genius Billy Wilder hilariously skewers corporate behavior in this tale of a young executive who loans his apartment to senior management for their illicit trysts.
4. The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit
Corporate jobs as soul crushing isn’t a recent idea as this 1956 Gregory Peck vehicle shows us.
5. His Girl Friday
A Howard Hawks romantic comedy about a newspaper editor and his reporter ex-wife, Cary Grant alone is reason enough to watch.
(watch for part 2 coming out 12/20)
They sometimes say that in the business world “your network is your net worth.” There’s a lot of truth in that idea and it’s been that way since, well, probably since commerce was invented centuries ago. What is different now is how we network and the countless ways that we connect. Technology has changed everything: access to your network isn’t a stack of business cards or in a rolodex. (Remember them?) It’s on line. Connecting with the right people is a business imperative for every professional but for those of us in the diversity business community it’s especially so. Companies are always interested in promoting their Supplier Diversity Programs and finding qualified MBEs to work with, and MBE owners are always trying to raise their profile and find opportunities to serve new clients. Social media has expanded the choices for how we network. It’s made it both easier, and occasionally more difficult, to connect with people.
LinkedIn has quickly become the go to online resource for business networking, giving us access to people at our fingertips and the possibility of an introduction or connection with someone we want to know. Its growth is phenomenal and its potential power is impressive but how do you tap into it? How do you make quality connections and begin to develop trusted business relationships? How do you promote yourself and your program in a way that increases your visibility and helps you develop new diversity supplier relationships? It starts very simply with how you decide who to connect with; who you send invitations to and who you will hit the accept button on.
Let’s talk about the bad stuff first. All those requests to connect! Do I know this person? From a conference or was it school or did I used to work with them? Are they just going to immediately bombard me with requests to start using their product or services? (People, this is a LinkedIn NO, NO! Build a relationship before you ever consider a business request.) Oh, it’s an industry colleague or an MBE in our area, maybe they could be useful for me to get to know. Maybe I should accept. How can I tell?
Seriously though, this is what goes through our minds when we see those requests. Yes, there are the negatives but there’s also that recognition of the potential. Luckily there are those that we recognize immediately. However, I am sure many of you have also received that disconnected-connection request for you to accept, the one which includes no message, no introduction, no information on how or if you know them or why you should connect. There are the times you connect with someone only to find irrelevant information sent to you. There are also the instances where someone endorses you without really knowing you, or worse, asks you to endorse them. (People, this is another LinkedIn NO, NO! Only endorse those you really know well and for skills you can judge. I know that’s the kind of endorsement I want!)
All this kind of stuff makes us want to purge our connections now and then and perhaps never hit accept again!
Why Do I Want to Connect With People I Don’t Know
So who do we want to connect with and whose invitations should we accept?
There are those who are very selective and mainly connect only with their immediate colleagues and people they know well and there are those who connect with everyone and anyone. In my role, and I’ll bet in yours as a corporate professional, neither of those is the best option. You want to take advantage of LinkedIn to network with people you don’t know precisely so you can get to know them better and potentially discover a great new MBE supplier. You can also learn from your contacts, sharing and receiving valuable advice and knowledge. A very select contact list isn’t the answer, but you also don’t want to be overwhelmed and connected to hundreds of people who have little to do with your business and are unlikely to ever be hired by your company.
If you don’t personally know the person, ask yourself some questions.
- Are you in the same industry, business or have other commonalities?
- Can you improve your understanding of your business through them?
- Can you learn from them?
- Is their company a supplier of something you need and buy often?
- Might you recommend them to someone else in the future?
These are all good reasons to connect with someone you don’t know but you still want to be discriminating in doing so. You don’t want the possible pitfalls to prevent you from connecting with those who may be valuable to know. How do you determine who is worth connecting with?
How to Evaluate a Potential Connection
First, you can use that initial invitation as a point of screening. If it’s generic, that’s your first clue that this person may not be the professional that you want to connect with. By all means bypass the generic invitation to connect from strangers or those you barely know. If the invitation contains a proper message, that’s a great first indicator. Hopefully they’ve included something that indicates a good reason to connect.
The invitation messages have to be brief though, so you can only learn so much from that. No matter how forthcoming the writer wants to be. There are other clues that will let you know whether this is a person who may be an influential connection and committed to developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Reading their profile carefully is the first step in evaluating a request to connect. First, is their profile complete? An incomplete or sparse profile tells a certain story. Also ask yourself these questions as you review it:
- Is their profile picture professional and business friendly? (Selfies are a NO NO!)
- What are their skills and experience?
- Who are they connected to?
- Do they seem to be selective of who they connect with?
- Are any of their connections professionals in your industry?
- What are they endorsed for and by what type of professionals?
- What professional groups are they a part of?
- What groups on LinkedIn do they belong to?
- Any of the same ones you do?
- What type of community outreach are they involved in?
The answers will help you to determine if you have enough commonalities to make it worthwhile to connect. Remember, this advice is primarily for evaluating people that you don’t know well or at all. Obviously if you know someone, that alone is a reason to accept regardless of meeting any of these criteria. But if you don’t know someone, the primary reason to connect with them is the possibility of mutually benefitting in a business related way. If they aren’t in the same business or industry as you are there is probably not a good reason to connect. Be selective but be informed.
I think that appropriately sharing information with your contacts and professional groups that you belong to is a good thing, a LinkedIn best practice. Learning from industry colleagues is one of the benefits of being on LinkedIn. Ask yourself these questions, both before you accept a request and as a way to evaluate your contacts if you periodically review and cull your contact list:
- Does this person share good information on their company?
- Does this person share educational business or industry content?
- What types of events are they attending? Are they sharing the event opportunities with their community?
- Are they following your business? Are they making an effort to educate themselves on your company culture and involvement?
- Are they providing feedback on your posts if you ask for input? Are they providing meaningful answers? Are they sharing your posts to assist you in getting answers if that would be appropriate?
These are all great ways to evaluate whether someone is seriously committed to developing a “virtual” relationship and wants to understand your business and possibly move that relationship forward, or if they are simply on LinkedIn because everyone else is and want to connect for the sake of it or to try and make a quick sale. We’re an MBE staffing firm specializing in placing technical professionals, so we know what it’s like to get many requests from people we don’t really know. Anytime you connect with someone, it is a reflection of you and your company. No one wants to needlessly risk their reputation nor do we want to waste time with unproductive relationships. It just makes sense to carefully evaluate people to ensure that you are getting the most out of LinkedIn and using your professional network to the utmost advantage.
One of the great benefits to LinkedIn is that you can expand your network without going to a conference or cocktail reception. You can meet other diversity professionals, MBE owners and entrepreneurs, and industry leaders who can help you regardless of where they live and work. It’s really amazing when you think about. It shouldn’t be the only way that you meet people and build your network but it should have an important place in your repertoire.
So, resist the urge to immediately decline those pesky requests, or to see them as pesky at all; evaluate them first. The gems you find will be worth your while! I hope that this information is of value and helps you to better assess your next request to connect. Please share your LinkedIn tips and what you value about your network with me!
Corporate Outreach Manager