Category Archives: job search advice

How Many LinkedIn Connections One Needs?

How Many LinkedIn Connections One Needs

The more the merrier

Many people ask me how many LinkedIn connections one needs.  I’m a huge proponent of increasing the number of connections on LinkedIn. I voice that strong opinion every time I make a public presentation on a relevant subject or speak with anyone looking for advice on finding a job. At times, I find opponents to the concept, but mostly only up until I give them the logic behind my reasoning. Admittedly, I can’t convert everyone. Some people are very emotional about the subject, and perhaps that’s their only reason; my own argument is logical.

In LinkedIn lingo, we talk about first-, second-, and third-level connections. Sociologists have been wrestling with the subject of such connections, or ties, as they call it, many years before the LinkedIn era. They differentiate between strong ties and weak ties. For our purpose, first-level connections are considered strong ties; the rest are weak ties. Sociologists such as Mark Granovetter of Stanford University, Ofer Sharone of MIT, and Sandra Smith of the University of California, Berkeley have done work in this area. Through their extensive research, they’ve proved that a weak tie is more prone to be of assistance to someone looking for work than a strong tie is. The logical explanation is that if you recommend someone who ultimately doesn’t get the job, it reflects badly on you as the person making the recommendation. By making a recommendation, you’re spending your own reputational capital in the form of social and, at times, political currency. This does not hold true—or at least not to the same extent—if the connection is a weak tie. In addition, if you know someone well—that is, via a strong tie—it is very likely that you’re also familiar with the person’s weaknesses and you might feel bad about not being 100 percent honest if you recommend the person. And two more valid arguments surfaced from the sociologists’ research: (1) that the strong-tie connections mingle in the same social and work circles and all of them are exposed to similar information, whereas (2) the weak-tie connections mingle in different circles.

I hope I’ve clarified my point for the need to increase the number of your first-level connections on LinkedIn. Why? Because you cannot get to second- and third-level connections—which might be the connections you really want (based on these studies)—unless you have sufficient first-level connections. Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers, which are people who accept all invitations) on LinkedIn? One reason is that those LIONs understand the need for weak connections; another reason is that people by nature are competitive and want to outdo others, or who knows why? Do you? Please share your opinion.

The Job Offer Negotiation: Do You Understand It?

Money does not grow on trees.  You negotiate it.

It takes three steps to get a great job. First, you need a good enough résumé and LinkedIn profile to be fished out from an ocean of candidates. Otherwise, you are invisible and irrelevant! Second, you need to beat your competition in the contest called interviewing. After all, there’s only one job, and applicants not chosen for interviews are losers. And third, you have to maximize what you get from this deal. The company is getting you, the best; at least, that’s the organization’s impression by going through this lengthy selection process. But do you understand what’s going on during the job offer negotiation process? And are you good at it? If so, then you know that such negotiation is the most rewarding part—both emotionally and financially—of this otherwise grueling and arduous process. I’m sure you know by now that a job offer negotiation is not one size fits all. A junior system analyst’s negotiation of a job offer is different from that of a director or a vice president and very different from that of a big-company CEO. Typically, a CEO candidate doesn’t even negotiate at all, because that’s done for the candidate by the candidate’s team of advisers with the compensation committee, a part of the organization’s board of directors. But what is common to all job candidates is that they have to be liked and wanted by the organization, because if not, the negotiation will break down fast.

Job offer negotiation is by definition a candidate’s desire to improve on what’s been initially put on the table—primarily because the candidate considers himself deserving of more. If that is indeed the case, then the candidate must articulate the reason(s). Greed—or negotiation simply for the sake of gaining experience in negotiating—is hardly justified and often ends in disappointment.

Good job-offer-candidate negotiators clearly understand the art of negotiating; they study the person they’re negotiating with to the extent they can; and they try to learn the constraints the employer has. Some things can be negotiated; others cannot. Also, be ready for pushback in the form of difficult questions. Like a chess game, sometimes you attack, and at other times, you retreat.

Don’t start job offer negotiation unless you are fully prepared and have practiced it. When you took your driver’s license road test, for instance, you probably took several driving lessons prior to it. This is no different. It’s another test for which you must prepare. Part of that preparation involves your clearly understanding your own needs and priorities, because when asking for more, you cannot act like Colombo by saying, “Oh, yes, just one more thing I have to ask you.” Put all of your requests on the table at once, with the hope that you’ll get most of them.

Remember that negotiations in general are give-and-take. An ultimatum presented by either side can end the negotiation instantly. Sometimes a job offer negotiation can be lengthy, and as the candidate, you must have patience because what you want is to get the right job as part of your career path and not just to win in the game of negotiation. Practice makes perfect.

The Benefits of Working with a Career Coach

The Benefits of Working with a Career Coach

Use a professional to advance your career

Coach or counselor

I received a phone call from someone asking me about the benefits of working with a career coach and whether I’m a career coach or a career counselor. I reversed the question to see whether the caller knows the distinction between the two terms. As expected, the caller did not. But that caller was not in the minority, because almost everyone uses the two terms interchangeably. In fact, there are even more such terms: career consultant, facilitator, mentor, and even manager-as-coach.

Marcia Bench in her book Career Coaching: An Insider’s Guide describes in detail the nuances of each term. However, for practical purposes and for the majority of people, the only question that counts is whether any of those people who hold the various titles can help clients get jobs or assist them with career changes. Of course there are also many other issues that any one of these professionals can help with.

What do clients want?

Clients look at a coach and expect the person to be someone who is confident and responsive. The coach needs to demonstrate knowledge of how to maneuver between the myriad job search strategies that are out there, and the coach must be current with rapidly changing platforms in, say, social media, for example. In terms of expectations about what clients can get from a coach, many clients come with certain preconceived ideas, and so a coach must stay open-minded and often call on intuition and experience in order to produce optimal results for a client.

An experienced coach develops an eye for clients’ strengths, innate talents, and skills but at the same time has to help clients face—and overcome—weaknesses. Everyone has perceived weaknesses; some don’t see them objectively and thus can’t deal with them effectively. Here’s where a good career coach can be potentially crucial. Working with a career coach definitely reduces job search time—occasionally, quite significantly. Above all, a good career coach has to be an excellent listener and know to ask probing questions.

What is a session with a coach like?

Similar to other professionals, each coach has an individual style with which the coach feels confident and effective with clients. Many coaches are generalists, meaning that they help clients with a wide variety of topics such as résumé creation, networking, social media, LinkedIn profiles, written and verbal communications, interview preparation, and salary negotiation. As an example, my subspecialties are interview preparation and salary negotiation, which is of course not to say I don’t help clients with all the other subjects involved in career coaching as well!

While doing interview preparation, we conduct extensive mock interviews. I videotape clients for a few minutes, and then we analyze the tape together. I also provide feedback on a client’s image and make suggestions for improvement.

What is the cost?

Career coaches’ fees vary widely. Most career coaches have Web sites, but not all of them list their fees there. Why? Sessions can last anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours. Some coaches charge by session; others charge a global fee in the thousands of dollars.

My suggestion is caveat emptor: let the buyer beware—and do a thorough evaluation with due diligence. Interview a coach before handing over your money, and above all, if there’s no chemistry between the two of you, run away and find someone else regardless of the cost.