Daniel Hall

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Navigating LinkedIn

LinkedIn used to be a platform for soulless copy and paste leads that felt more like spam than opportunities. My inbox used to be filled with generated messages from recruiters seeking talent in industries I had no interests in. However, the platform is evolving (or maybe the users) into being more social than professional. Now that’s not to imply one should bring the same energy as they would on Instagram or Facebook, but if you do, make sure you play to the laws of the land; meaning, in LinkedIn land, if you’re promoting your mixtape, let the tone be more about market analysis, converting leads into fans, booking shows, etc.

Moving past tone, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people in industries you’re interested in. You can search the job title and the city to find professionals in your community that you could reach out to. An example is searching for public relations with location settings set to Charlotte, N.C. and finding a list of people who are actively in the profession in your city. Reach out by DM’ing them about how you’re curious about their experiences and see if they’d be willing to talk by phone, or even better…meet for coffee. I may write a piece on formatting a LinkedIn DM.

Most people respond well to those that are genuinely curious about them, but keep in mind, it is a numbers game; some people may be too busy to respond, some people might just not want to talk at all, and that’s fine. Put yourself out there and see what happens. My response rate is about 70% for about every 10 people I reach out to. And some may view my profile and still not connect. But the important thing is I put myself out there and have connected with amazing people who were generous enough to meet with me and share their experiences.

You can join groups where industry-specific content is posted allowing for additional insights and the ability to engage professionals in discussions focused on niche topics. This is a great way to not only learn, but build community. Groups can be specific to the city, state, region, national or international. You may find professionals you like or even learn about the ones you want to ensure distance with.  

And if it isn’t obvious, LinkedIn is a great opportunity to brand yourself. I’ve been noticing that people are straying away from formatting their professional experiences as a résumé. Instead, I see people posting entertaining narratives about their professional experiences in the form of a short paragraph rather than a bulleted list. I’m paying attention to this trend and seeing if its specific to creative industries or if it transcends into traditionally conservative industries as well. With that being said, brand yourself according to the type of employer/partner you’d like to work with. Have a nice picture in great lighting, post about your professional interests/curiosities, share links that you find valuable and have fun doing it.  

The University’s Career Center assists students with developing LinkedIn profiles along with providing professional headshots (with nice cameras and great lighting). Set an appointment with a career advisor to develop your LinkedIn profile to increase your chances of grabbing coffee with a potential mentor, employer or even business partner.  

Things to Remember:

-LinkedIn is a professional site, so discuss your interests/hobbies/business/career in a professional tone. Being personable is best; from describing the logistics of your hiking trip or financing an independent music tour.

-Reach out to professionals for conversations and coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, grab tea, lunch, something…

-Have fun with it.

Networking genuinely

Networking can appear as stiff, cliché interactions where bland business cards are exchanged along with disingenuous smiles. Small talk can drain all parties involved when topics of conversation don’t impact worthy reactions. Fake chuckles after awkward statements can exhaust anyone’s emotional resources for potentially having a good time. And worst of all, in my opinion, when someone is performing how they believe a professional should perform, they intentionally restrict themselves from genuine expression. I’ve done it, I feel when it’s being done to me and I don’t like it.

However, networking is extremely fun when the focus is on finding communities where you can contribute your gifts, talents and skills while also being supported for who you are. Actively seeking people/organizations/institutions that are aligned with your values is empowering because it allows you to enter into networks that assist in your professional (and even personal) development by offering insights, inspiration and eventually…experience.

By seeking out these communities, I’ve developed confidence in my professional (and even personal) pursuits. I’ve been able to grab coffees, drinks and lunch with people that I’m genuinely interested in and I’ve found that people can feel when you express genuine interests, allowing them to be more willing to take time out of their day for a conversation.

The point I really want to drive here is GENUINE INTEREST. In the past, I have pursued companies, organizations and individuals who were deemed as fancy and high status which would arbitrarily validate my professionalism. However, I wasn’t as interested in their missions/pursuits as much as I was trying to impress them, falsely prove something to myself and get paid. Long story short, those relationships would fizzle out immediately (probably because they sensed the disingenuousness of my interests) and left me broke, bored and riddled with self-doubt. “Maybe I didn’t do this right, maybe I didn’t do that right…” would perpetually loop in my mind after not getting my desired result. After completely exhausting myself, I began to seek conversations with people who I just thought were doing cool things while I wasn’t expecting anything more than a conversation.

And that is exactly what I got: great conversations with great people. No, these conversations didn’t immediately lead to jobs, but neither did the fake ones. I began engaging with a network of people that were generous enough to share their time and insights with me which allowed me to further cultivate confidence in my professional journey. Eventually, some job offers came about, but it wasn’t the time and place for me to accept; however, my relationships with these individuals and organizations weren’t impacted by if they offered me the job or not; these people contributed to my confidence as a professional and that is way more valuable than money (that will come)!

Not to be cliché, but be yourself. That might mean going to a career fair with 100 employers but only seeking that one person/company/organization that is aligned with your desired mission. If you’re genuinely interested, research won’t feel like research and you can demonstrate your interests by asking questions about the nuanced details of their experience. Nardwuar is my biggest inspiration when demonstrating his enthusiasm for his interviewees by bringing them nuanced gifts specific to their individuality that not many people may know. The best gift sometimes can be a genuine question about a detail that required some research and that kick starts a great conversation where both parties leave satisfied and willing to reconnect.

Suggestions:

  • If you’re genuinely interested, do your research and bring interesting questions (not impressive questions, but something you’re genuinely interested in).
  • It’s not a popularity contest. Find the few that genuinely interest you. Before you know it, you’ll be spending way too much money on coffee and wasting both parties’ time.
  • Don’t be outcome dependent. The conversations should be rewarding enough. It may not lead to a job, but that’s not what it’s about. Focus on connecting with a community and cultivating confidence in your professionalism.

The Linear Path Myth

It appears that a linear process promises to be easier.  We’ve been exposed to the idea that life’s process consists of going to school to get a job, to get a house, to work for a long time (hopefully get promoted), to retire, then to fade away.  This linear process is then further applied to each of the ideas I just mentioned, especially the idea of “get a job.” We often don’t think of getting a job, but getting THE job. The one job/industry that you’ll stay in for decades until you get a cheaply decorated retirement cake. Some degrees/industries have a linear career trajectory, such as medicine, engineering and a few others…and that still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll stay in that industry. For instance, the famous TV therapist Iyanla Fix My Life has a law degree. On a more local level, Three Spirits Brewery in Charlotte was started by an Emergency Medical Physician — no lie, look it up. However, your current interests will open doors for new interests that open doors for newer interests, so on and so forth. I’ll go as far as to argue that one who expects a linear career path in an ever-changing job market (let alone life) is insane. More realistically, that person may not be aware of the idea of transferable skills which allows them the ability to transcend industries, job roles, etc. A non-linear career path can catapult one into ideal possibilities beyond their awareness as long as they’re willing to extract valuable skills from their experiences.

Photo by Pxhere

Transferable skills don’t just serve you after you’ve collected career developed skills, but before you even enter the industry you’re interested in.  It’s about flipping a narrative about flipping burgers into your favor. Experiences working in retail, coffee shops, volunteering, etc. can produce skills your future employers will value, and your major doesn’t limit your career path as much as you think either. Make sure to enjoy your major while seeking professional development opportunities.

Key Ideas:

  1. Create your own professional narratives: Flip that narrative in your favor. You’ve gained something from your past experiences that employers are looking for. Don’t minimize your experiences, find the gold in it. For example, working in retail requires attention to detail, customer service support, demonstrated product knowledge, assessed customer needs, etc.
  2. Build a Smart Supportive Network: Go to the University Career Center. They can guide you to resources for your disposal that you may not even be aware about, allowing your process to be more efficient.
  3. Know Yourself: When you know yourself, you realize that you’re more than your major, understanding that your major is just an aspect of you. Being introspective may not come as natural to some people, but that’s why personality tests exist. Jobzology is a great assessment that costs money, but the University has already covered that cost for students. Take the test while it’s free as it provides insights to your personality, values and industry-related cultures that may be a great match for you. Once again, it’s free.

 

The Plague of Perfectionism

Perfectionism plagues most people on a daily basis.  For example, a lot of us place a heavy emphasis on making the “right” decision to avoid being wrong.  Making that “right” decision even appears in the mundane moments of our daily lives, be it selecting that right photo of the million identical photos in our library before posting it, finding that right movie on Netflix, checking online reviews for that right restaurant, etc.  And what’s funny is we invest so much time in making that right decision that we may not ever end up posting that picture, watching that movie or visiting that restaurant due to feeling frustrated, exhausted or just postponing it for another day. And collecting information on a topic is great, I’m all here for it, but I’m addressing the issue of continually researching and analyzing due to fear of making the “wrong” choice.  In other words, paralysis by analysis.

Photo by Pixabay.

You can view your choices as having consequences or opportunities.  And yes, all choices have consequences, but I use the word opportunity to create a contrast for the negative connotations associated with the word consequence.  In this case, I use the word opportunity in the sense that it is a positive consequence. Most importantly, how you view an outcome is completely up to you. What if there is more than one “right” answer, or dare I say, what if there is no “right” answer?  Life is not this linear equation that exists within the binary of right or wrong. We as people change, careers change, situations change — and there is nothing wrong about that. We may hesitate on a decision due to gathering more information to avoid making a mistake — such as ending up in a major or industry that we absolutely hate — but if you hate it you can change it, meaning you can redirect yourself toward a new goal, view it as a lesson and do better next time, and however else you can twist a “mistake” into something positive.  There may be a lot of pressure on you to get it right, but trust that you will as long as you keep trying while giving yourself time. Keep gathering information, but at some point we all have to be willing to learn from taking action instead of always being right. One of my favorite quotes is: “Successful people don’t make the right decisions, they make their decisions right.” So alleviate yourself of making the right decision, take action today and focus more on making the best of your decisions.

 

Ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Get over yourself.  Being right all the time feels good to the ego, but doesn’t represent a mindset that is strong or mature enough to grow.  Be brave enough to be challenged and come back even stronger.
  2. No shame.  Alternatively, being wrong or making a mistake hurts the ego and some people may try to make it worse by shaming you.  You cannot let the opinions of others have that much of an influence over how you view yourself and your journey. Learn to self-affirm. People that usually shame others are weak and need to create emotional hierarchy in order to position themselves as above to aid their insecurities.  And some people just suck. You don’t have to be like them, live your life.
  3. Ask for help.  You don’t have to know all of the answers at once.  Asking for help can be scary, but you miss every shot you don’t take.
  4. Learn stress management.  Meditate, do yoga, learn kickboxing, journal, run, make art, do something that relaxes/comforts you.  If you’re open to guidance in this area, then UNC Charlotte’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services offers a variety of workshops on stress management. Failing (though I prefer to say learning) takes a lot of emotional stability, and you can’t flake out after a few losses (or lessons).  Get knocked down and get back up.

 

Definitely give the University Career Center a visit for assistance in effectively gathering information and resources related to your current interests.  The career center offers a variety of assessments that aid in self-awareness which helps finding majors/careers that are best suited for you. And if you already consider yourself highly self-aware, then great, the UCC will assist you in understanding the process of actualizing your goals.  Schedule a few appointments with an advisor to assist you in taking effective action.