IT pros of all ranks: Your job search needs a resume plus search results

How do you represent yourself on a few 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper?

Very carefully, and then still not very well.

We want to see your work history, the litany of technical jibber jabber you’ve got expertise in, and a sense of your project accomplishments. We want to know the names of the companies you’ve worked for, what industries they are in, and their geographic locations. Your formal training and education, awards, and other interests outside of work also give us a little broader sense of “who you are.”

But this is a boring, boilerplate, standardized view of you. And it’s not fair. This can’t possibly fully represent you — your unique abilities, your personal style, your hopes and dreams.  It can’t tell us anything about how you’d fit into the team, the environment, or the culture. It’s simply a method used to navigate the limitations of our processes to quickly understand and evaluate the most basic qualifications of a candidate. It’s effective in the most limited sense, but it’s not enough to really put across who you are, how you think, and what you can do.

So don’t stop at a stellar resume. That’s only the starting point.

Show Results

We’ve known for many years that standard practice in recruiting and evaluating candidates is the Google search. Once your resume has you past initial filtering for qualifications, we type in your name and sort through the results.

Why wouldn’t you try to influence these results?

Sure, if you’ve published articles, been the subject of interviews, or been profiled in case studies or “about us” pages of your companies, good stuff will show up. But that’s someone else’s take on you. Why not create your own stuff to be found. There are so many simple things you can do to ensure things you’d like to highlight show up in the results. All you have to do is create them.

LinkedIn

In 2013, to be a candidate for employment and not have a LinkedIn profile is just plain silly. This is the simplest method to provide a little more insight into who you are beyond your resume. It’s simple to setup because it is in the resume format, but it has more flexibility and can display so much more.

Put up a professional looking photo, sell yourself in the “Summary” section, and display your connections to other professionals. Go further and show some thoughtful updates, contributions to industry groups, and recommendations by peers, clients, and bosses. It takes time to build up, so start now. But rest assured, it’s worthwhile. LinkedIn shows at the top of the search results — just be sure to make your profile page public and to customize the url to match your first and last name (e.g., http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomcatalini).

A Web Page

A really simple way to do more is to setup a simple web page. There are tons of services that make this very easy.

With a simple web page, you can highlight your skills, experience, capabilities, and aspirations more easily. Don’t repeat what’s on your resume, that’s an awfully boring web page. Instead, share highlights, include a professional photo or two, and use the space to give some insight into your personal style, professional interests, and how you think. Include a list of your favorite business books, links to professional associations that you’re active in, or write a few paragraphs on some topics that you’re passionate about. Keep it professional, but show some personality.

Grab a domain name that includes your first and last name and point it to this web page. This will help ensure that it shows up near the top of the results when your name is searched.

Social Media

Beyond the web page, you could setup some social media profiles. Use your first and last name as a handle on all of them so that a search on your name shows these results near the top. Take some care to build out each profile with a good photo and an appropriate summary, following the decorum of each platform.

Create posts and comments that represent you well. Reshare and favorite interesting and useful posts by others. Show us what you’re thinking and how you interact with others.

For bonus points, setup a blog. This is the ultimate platform to show us more about how you think, to share with us your analysis of matters of interest, and to reveal your opinions.

Personal brand

All of this is to help build your personal brand, an extension of your resume that can show us things your resume never will. All of the things that fill the gaping void between resume review and interview.

Of course, doing this means you’ll have to spend some time and energy coming to understand yourself better. You’ll have to think about how you’d like to be perceived. You’ll have to think about what sorts of companies you’d like to work for – and what sorts of companies you’d like to avoid.

This level of analysis can be tricky. It requires a bit of soul searching and a bit of fessing up to what choices you’d make before you have all the information on “what’s out there.” But that’s exactly the point. Set the filters now and set them yourself. Don’t be defined by the market.

Knowing what you’re good at eliminates possible paths that you’re not good at, which helps you focus. Knowing the kind of environments where you’d fit in well saves you time from exploring the kinds of environments where you won’t.

Focus can be a bit scary, because it eliminates options. But it also frees up time and energy for the things that are likely to be a better fit.

And determining fit is part of why your name is being searched. If you’re truly not a good fit, then that’s fine. You’ll be eliminated more speedily from those opportunities. When someone else searches and it does show you as being a better fit, that hiring process will be accelerated for you too.

 

The ‘secret sauce’ of social networks

Here’s a video testimonial I did a while back for one of my favorite social networks, Boston SIM – an amazing group of CIOs and IT executives with a strong face-to-face based network that also works very well online.

 

Website 101: Keeping WordPress Up To Date, Part 2

This is post #17 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Now that we have a WordPress website installed and the WordPress software up to date, we have to make sure all the other components stay up to date too.

Yes, even though we updated WordPress, we still have updates to perform. Why? Well, the power of WordPress comes from the vast array of little software add-ons that are available from programmers all over the world. Many of them are free or cheap, very easy to use, and very powerful. In order to take advantage of these add-ons, we need to do a little maintenance work.

Plugins

Plugins add a wide variety of features and functionality to WordPress. Things like adding a Facebook “like” button to your posts, adding the ability to track statistics on the number of visitors to your site and what content they like most, and automatically posting your content to Twitter are just some of the features than can be added via plugins with literally just a few clicks on your part.

So, all of these little addon programs, provided by different programmers, need to be kept up to date. The procedure is quite simple, and can even be done in bulk.

You may not always want to do this in bulk, but let’s go through the process this time to get a feel for it. This is pretty safe since the site has just been setup and is not yet “live.”

Click on the Updates menu option on the dashboard.

You’ll see a section on Plugins.

Click on “Select All” and then “Update Plugins.”

You’ll see a status screen like the following:

Themes

We looked at themes a while back. As you may recall, themes basically control the look, feel, and layout of your site. If your theme needs to be updated, you’ll see that on the dashboard too. And in the themes section:

The procedure is essentially the same, with one big exception. Themes control a lot, and often end up getting customized as your site evolves over time. As that happens, there may be certain settings and files that need to be backed up before updating a theme and then re-applied after the new theme is in place. That’s beyond the scope of this series – you’ll need to review the specific procedures for the theme you select.

Stay up to date

As you can see, the procedures to keep WordPress are very simple and straight-forward. Keep everything up to date to ensure that your site remains runs smoothly and remains secure.

This is post #17 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: Keeping WordPress Up To Date

This is post #16 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

As you work in WordPress, sooner or later you’ll notice a yellow notice bar appear across the top of the screen. WordPress is always checking to see if a newer version is available for you. If there is, this yellow bar is how it lets you know about it.

Updating WordPress is very simple. It’s totally automated and the update runs very reliably. And keeping up to date is important – many of the updates protect you from newly discovered security issues, fix other problems, or add new features.

On the dashboard screen below you’ll notice the yellow bar notice across the top, and also another tally of updates over on the left.

Click on the “Please update now” link. You’ll see the following screen.

The warning about backups is important, but we’ll cover that in a future post. Also, since we’ve just got a test environment running and the update process is known to run smoothly, let’s just go ahead and click the “Update Automatically” button. That’s the one you’ll use all the time. There’s not really a need to download the update first, so we might as well just have it installed automatically.

After you click the “Update Automatically” button, you’ll see a status screen like the following. The whole process takes just a minute, so you’ll see this pop up pretty quickly.

That’s it! You’re done. WordPress is now up to date and you can click on the “Go to Dashboard” link to bring you back to the dashboard.

When you get there, you’ll notice the “updates” count over on the left has been decremented by 1. Why isn’t is zero? Because there are other components to WordPress that get updated – third party plugins. We’ll cover updating these in a future post.

 

This is post #16 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: WordPress Menus

This is post #15 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Previously we setup some Pages to contain static content on our website. These were automatically added to the sites menu system, making navigation easy. That’s nice, but there isn’t a lot of control over the menu layout in this default mode. So, let’s take a look at the Menus option in WordPress.

WordPress Menus

WordPress menus allow great flexibility over your site’s menu system. Working in concert with your selected theme, the menus feature allows you to customize a lot of little details. And that’s important. Making your site navigation easy and intuitive is critical to a good design.

A simple example will start to make the power of the menu system, and WordPress, clear. The beauty of this bloggy sort of website platform is flexibility, a lot of which can be leveraged via the Categories and Tags feature we looked at previously. As we saw then, Categories and Tags are convenient ways to organize your site content. In addition to tag clouds and category lists, this flexibility can be surfaced directly on the menu system.

Setting up a menu

Let’s say the pet shop website we’ve been working on as an example wants to feature a How To section as an option off of the main menu navigation. By activating the Menus feature, we can accomplish this seamlessly.

To get started, click on Menus on the navigation pane of the WordPress Dashboard. Give your menu a name and click “Create Menu.”

Then, select that menu as your primary navigation.

Now, your automatically generated menu based on the Pages you created are gone. So let’s put them back.

Click on all the pages in the Pages box and click “Add to Menu.”

Notice that the items on your new menu can easily be re-arranged by dragging and dropping. Let’s change the order around a bit to make it flow more logically.

Now for the fun part. Let’s add the How To category as a menu item. Simply select it from the Categories list and click “Add to Menu.”

Once again, we can arrange the menu system by dragging and dropping. Let’s put the new How To option as the second to last choice.

After saving all those changes, we can see that the layout on the live website is just as we set it. Clicking on a menu items that point to a page brings up that page. Clicking on the How To menu selection brings up all posts that are in the How To category. This makes your content automatically appear where it is supposed to on the menu system simply by categorizing it properly.

Keep ‘em separated

Separating content from format is an important premise in making your website work well. As we saw previously with themes, the design, layout, and look and feel of your website can easily be modified without impacting the content. With menus, the navigation of your site (when planned out thoughtfully) can be automatically maintained – even for posts that fall into multiple categories. The possibilities are extensive.

This is post #15 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: WordPress themes

This is post #13 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Look and feel

So far we’ve been building content, and that’s the most important part of your site. Now we want to make sure that it’s presented nicely and in a style consistent with your brand.

Changing the look and feel, the style of your website, is easy with WordPress. WordPress supports themes, which are a nifty little tool to separate the layout, font selections, colors, and more from the content of your site as well as from the all the mechanics of basic website operations.

What does this mean? It means that you can completely upgrade your website’s look and feel in a few minutes, without doing any programming or design work. There are limitations to this approach, of course. Someday you’ll likely need to hire professional help to get things finely tuned to your needs. But for now, you can do an amazing amount on your own. For free and in just a few minutes.

Exploring themes

Click on Themes under the Appearance menu and you’ll see information on your current theme. The Twenty Ten theme is installed by default. It’s a nice looking theme and might be the right choice for your site. But let’s look around first.

To explore themes, click on the Install Themes tab. Here you get a few options to help sort through the overwhelming selection available – most for free – from the large and active community of WordPress developers.

I suggest browsing through Featured and Newest to get a sense of what the various themes look like. Once you’re more familiar with what a theme is and what differentiates one from another, the search function will be more useful.

Checking out a theme

When a theme catches your eye, click on Details to see more information. Here you can see how many times it’s been downloaded and what the average user rating for the theme is.

More interestingly, you can click the Preview link to get a sense of what a theme will look like once it’s installed. You’ll see samples of all sorts of things like different title styles and how it handles different types of lists.

Once you find a theme that looks interesting, install it. (Don’t worry, you can easily switch back to your original theme at any time.) Click on Install and then the Install Now button. You’ll see a status screen like this:

Here the Preview link takes on new meaning. A preview now will show you your site with your data in the preview. This can be handy once your site is live and you want to look at different themes. Since you haven’t launched this new site yet, you can simply Activate your new theme.

Options, options

Depending on the theme you selected, you may see some – or many – new theme-specific options displayed (or added to the WordPress menu bar on the left).

The variety of fine tuning available varies widely from theme to theme. You’ll notice that the differences allow greater control over things like the image displayed in the header of your site, the ability to control how many columns are displayed, and how customizable your menus can be.

This can get a little daunting, so I suggest that you try out several different themes. Get a sense of what a theme is. Explore the variety of design styles. Look at the different types of controls that are offerred. Put some time in, but don’t get stuck here either – remember, a theme can easily be changed any time.

A good approach is to sketch out what you’d like your site to look like. Where does your logo go? What other images do you want to display? How do you want your menus to work? What kinds of things do you want to put in your sidebar? Think through and sketch out as much as you can, and then try to make that vision work with different themes. You’ll find that some things are hard or can’t be done with certain themes, and you’ll find some that seem to fit more “naturally” with your vision for your site. Experiment.

This is post #13 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: Your first page

This is post #12 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

We’ve spent a lot of time on Posts, and that’s where you’ll spend a lot of time on your site. But pages are important too, especially in the beginning.

Pages are designed to change less frequently, and they have some nice automatic hooks into the menu system. For instance, in our sample site you may have noticed that WordPress installed a page by default, the About page. Clicking on About in the menu and it will bring up that page.

About

What’s it all about?

An About page is a great place to start working on the Pages of your site. You can edit it by clicking on the Pages link, and then on the Edit link underneath the page title (you can also just click on the page title).

Whatever your website is about – here’s the place to tell the tale. Be brief and to the point, provide bullet points on the highlights, and include testimonials if appropriate. It’s also good to add a picture on your About page. If this is a personal site, make it a nice photo of yourself. If it’s a business, include a photo of the physical location or something else relevant. When you’re done, click the Update button (this button will read Publish when you’re creating a new page from scratch).

Static Cling

Use the same procedure to create additional pages. Any portion of content you want to present where the information doesn’t change all that often (static content) is a good candidate. These are the anchor areas of your site. For our Dorothy’s Pet Shop example, we might create a page about procedures for handling emergencies outside of normal business hours, a staff profile page, and maybe even a frequently asked questions page.

No Comment

Although you have the option to accept comments on Pages, a lot of times this may not make sense (do you really want people commenting on your staff page?). WordPress gives you the option to turn this off. Scroll down to the Discussion section of the Add New Page screen and uncheck the boxes for Allow Comments and Allow Trackbacks and Pingbacks On This Page as shown here:

Cornerstones

Take your time to organize the main pages for your site. This is the content will remain steady and act as the cornerstone of your site. It will set the tone and probably be the basis for how new visitors form first impressions of you, your business and your site.  Craft them carefully.

This is post #12 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: How to write in that bloggy style

This is post #11 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

We’ve been working through all the mechanics of getting a post published, with some context about what makes for good content, a captivating title, and hooks into powerful search engines like Google. Let’s take a moment and talk about style.

You’ve no doubt noticed that most websites (blogs in particular) and many other forms of online communication, such as email newsletters, have a distinctive style. Good ones are clear, punchy, interesting and quick to read. Mimicking the key attributes that make that sort of writing work can help you garner attention and deliver value in this age of information overload and social media. Here are six attributes that I think work well.

Six ways to embrace that bloggy style

1. Don’t bury the lead. Don’t build your point slowly. Don’t work out a surprise ending to your story. Nobody will be there to read it. Get to the point quickly, then flesh it out with details and supporting facts.

2. Use a conversational tone. The world (the online world, at least) has come to embrace the fact that, in the end, we are all people talking to other people. Stodgy corporate-speak does not work well on the web. Write like you speak. It’s as simple as that. (Ok, leave out swear words and edit your work before publishing, but you get the point.)

3. Be brief. Brevity rules on the web. A good range is about 300 to 500  words. Unless you’re writing something instructional or something meant to be a reference piece, just make your point and let the reader move on.

4. Break things up visually. Use a photo or subtitles to separate your piece into easily digestible chunks. Put blank lines between your paragraphs. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff to say about something, try using a numbered list or bullet points.

5. Vary sentence length. Use a mix of long and short sentences to give your writing a natural conversational tone. It works. See? Mixing up sentence lengths makes your post more readable, and short sentences can help to emphasize a point.

6. Loosen up the grammar grip. Starting sentences with “and” and ending with prepositions is ok. Loosening the grip will help your writing sound more like a conversation. And, ignoring some grammar rules can help you be more concise.

You already have style

You speak to people every day. Listen to yourself the next time you’re in a conversation with someone. Take notice of how you speak, your natural voice. Incorporate that into your writing with the 6 rules above in mind and you’ll be in fine shape.

This is post #11 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: Saving drafts and scheduling posts

This is post #10 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Sometimes you won’t finish a post in one sitting. In those instances, you can simply save a draft of your post. To save your work for later, simply click on the Save Draft button in the upper right hand corner of the Add New Post screen.

Save DraftOf course, you can also save a draft even if your post is finished, but you don’t want it up on your website just yet. Maybe your trying to control the timing of an announcement, or perhaps you’re writing some posts in advance. Saving a draft will work well for these scenarios, but WordPress goes one step further and allows you to schedule your post for publication at a later date. This way you can “set it and forget it” rather than having to remember to come back and hit the Publish button. You can even set the exact time you want your post to be published.

In the Publish box, simply click the Edit link right next to where it says Publish Immediately and type in the date and time you’d like your post to “go live.”

Scheduling a postAfter you hit the Ok button, you’ll notice that the Publish button changes to read Schedule.

the Schedule buttonClick the Schedule button and your post will be published at the date and time you set.

Saving for a rainy day

Stockpiling posts is a great strategy for managing the workload for your website. Trying to keep up with a writing schedule can be difficult to juggle along with all your other tasks. Taking the time to write a bunch of posts at once and then dole them out over time can help to alleviate a lot of the stress of publishing. Regular updates will still require discipline, but having a few posts in the bank can really help keep things manageable.

Why are regular updates important?

Search engines learn your patterns and adjust their visits to your website accordingly. Training the search engine to come back on a regular basis will help ensure that your new content is quickly indexed and available for search results.

Users will also visit your site more frequently (or better yet subscribe – more on this later) if the content is updated regularly. There can be a better sense of the value proposition for your readers (“Hey look, at this site I get an interesting article about dog grooming every Friday!”), and a better sense that there are real humans behind the curtain.

This is post #10 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101. Subscribe now so you don’t miss future posts.

Website 101: Post categories and tags

In our last installment of this series, you created your first website post. We covered the basic mechanics, and also talked about the importance of structuring your title properly and of creating good content for your post. Let’s go back to that sample post you created now and review a couple more mechanics.

Go back to Posts and edit your sample post. Notice the two boxes on the right labeled “Categories” and “Post Tags.” These are both ways to add a little more information to your post (or more accurately, a little more information about your post). Information that can be used in pretty powerful ways.

Categories and Post Tags

Categories

Categories are a way to file your posts. As your website grows, you’ll be writing about a variety of topics. Placing posts into categories will help you keep organized, just like filing folders in a filing cabinet. Unlike files in a file cabining, however, your posts can be listed in multiple categories if needed. For instance, that last post about “How To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy” could be listed in a “how to” category and also a “dog food” category.

Since your site is new, you probably haven’t yet thought through exactly how you might want to categorize your content. Still, I think it’s important that you work on this as you create your posts. A good rule of thumb with categories is to keep both the number of categories as small as possible and the number of categories a post is filed under small too. For instance, it’s easy to see that a lot of what we might write about for the sample site could be “how to” information, but it seems less clear that there will be a bunch of posts in the “dog food” category – or that we’d extend that sort of categorization model (e.g., cat food, hamster food, fish food, etc.).

So, as you write your posts, establish a small number of simple and broad categories, knowing that you can change and adjust them later pretty easily. This will help you to think about an organization scheme as you go, which is easier than trying to go back through a bunch of uncategorized information later and developing a system “from scratch.”

Post Tags

You can be much more fluid with Post Tags. Post Tags are like keywords for your posts. You’ll likely have a few (or several) for each post, and a much larger set of Post Tags than Categories. That’s ok. A primary application of Post Tags will be to put a tag cloud on your site. This can be a good way to give a visitor a quick impression about the content being offered on your site. A tag cloud is like a display of the keywords from all your posts, visually enhanced to show which keywords are used most frequently (bigger words mean they’re used more frequently).

Here’s a snapshot of the current tag cloud from my site. At a quick glance you can see that project management and website101 are prominent tags, followed by social media, leadership and customer service. This not only gives you a good sense of what the content of this site is about, it’s also a convenient way to browse topics by tags. Clicking on any one will link to all the posts that have that particular tag. Go ahead, try it out (the real one is over on the left sidebar).

tag cloud

Tag Cloud from tomcatalini.com

One category, a few tags

Select one category for each post (if you need to create a new category, just click “Add New Category”), and add tags for 3 to 5 keywords for each post. Don’t worry too much about your overall organization scheme right now, just get in the habit of categorizing and tagging to start to develop some thoughts about organizing your posts as you go.

Update your sample post with a category and some tags, then click the Update button. Notice that your website now shows this information right under your post. Each of those references to a category or tag are hyperlinks to all of your posts with the corresponding category or tag. This can be a handy way for visitors to your website to find other content on your site related to the particular post they are reading.

Sample post with category and tags

This is post #9 in my Website 101 series; all posts in this series are tagged website101.