Are traditional Alumni Associations passé?

A few months ago, a representative from my alma mater called to confirm my personal and professional listing information for a book they were putting together–an alumni directory. It was free to be included, but (of course) I could purchase a copy for myself for the low, low price of $65.

Book

We’ve seen or heard of these books before. They’re right up there with those “Who’s Who” books that are completely bogus collections of folks who paid to be included. In fact, I think my parents paid for me to be in the Who’s Who of American High School Students publication back in 1995. Yes I was a great student, top 5 percent of my class, but it was at one of the worst high schools in the nation so I really doubt that I was spectacular enough to be included in such a prestigious (looking) national publication. Nonetheless, there’s now a book with my name in it on a shelf in my parents house.

I understand why a college would want to put these books together (of course it’s to make money) and I love to support my undergrad college and their fundraising efforts, but I just couldn’t get past this one question: How is this book better than LinkedIn? The caller was getting annoyed with me for asking it again and again. But, think about it: This book will be outdated the day it’s printed. This book cannot possibly include the number of alumni I can find via LinkedIn using a simple university search. This book is heavy and expensive to produce, print, and ship.

This book, however, is an example of the “olden days” of alumni relations and fundraising tactics that are (unfortunately) still alive today, probably due to those old people at colleges and universities across the United States failing to realize that new technology is making these types of programs and approaches obsolete.

Case in point: With last week’s official launch of LinkedIn University Pages, colleges and universities now have easy access to thousands of graduates who have “claimed” them in their online profiles; whether they’ve official joined the college’s on-campus Alumni Association or not is a totally separate matter. This is powerful stuff. For example, a college may boast an “official” Alumni Association of a couple hundred, but through LinkedIn University Pages, the “virtual alumni association”–a bi-product of the tool’s creation–could be in the thousands.

Read about the establishment of LinkedIn’s University Pages

College’s and Universities should be looking at this tool and examining ways to cultivate the contacts connected with them in a social media capacity in order to convert it to a more meaningful, offline connection. This tool opens up doors for planning and announcing alumni events and fundraising campaigns…your pool and your “mailing list” of potential attendees and donors has now grown exponentially!

For marketing and PR professionals like myself, we can tap into the tool’s “notable alumni” feature to highlight how former students are using their training and degree today. We can ask to highlight them in our marketing materials, or solicit them as guest speakers for campus or community events. These “notable alumni” are also ones that the college Foundation will want to court, since LinkedIn merges both education and career metrics to showcase the college’s most successful grads. They are the CEOs, VPs, business owners, and trailblazers who have the capacity to give, and–with their already established connection to you–the higher-likelihood to give.

With the successful rise and obvious popularity of LinkedIn, the LinkedIn University Pages, and Facebook, will traditional, campus-controlled Alumni Associations survive? If so, what will they be able to offer (besides a book) that I cannot already get online? How will colleges and universities motivate and engage their online de facto alumni associations? This is a new challenge, and it’s an exciting one.

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LinkedIn needs a “liar” button

In Their Dreams LinkedIn liars

Today on LinkedIn, one of their recommended stories was “How Job Candidates Lie, and the Best Lies They Always Seem to Tell.” It’s somewhat ironic that such a post is featured on a professional networking site that’s packed full of lies (or liars, depending on how you want to look at it). I often come across over-stated titles, inflated skills lists, and requests to endorse connections for abilities they completely lack. When I do, I long for a big, red, flashing “LIAR” button.

Experience

It seems strange that people would pad their online resume and then anxiously connect with past and present co-workers that would instantly recognize their overstatements and omissions.

“Wow, you’ve been a Vice President for ten years at the same company? Impressive! But wait, what about those seven years you spent as the assistant there prior to your promotion?”*

“Oh hello former assistant. Glad to see you’re in the job market again. Wow, you worked for me until June of this year? That’s strange, I remember firing you in October…of 2005!”*

*Titles and situations have been altered to protect the guilty.

In the article I mentioned above, author Tim Sackett believes that “candidates continue to lie because Talent/HR Pros don’t call them out on it,” and I believe that the same is true on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn would provide a way for users to anonymously report suspected “errors,” just the existence of such a feature might cause users to think twice when creating their own profile.

 

5 inherent disadvantages of a Skype interview and how candidates can compensate

Old people and new technology truly collide in the form of Skype interviews. Gone are the days when companies would interview non-local candidates with a phone call followed by (if you were lucky) expensive travel arrangements.

Recruiters are sold on Skype too, and rely on them heavily. “We love Skype here and it makes our job so much easier as well as allows us access to candidates that live out of the area,” said Allison*, a corporate recruiter in San Francisco, California. Allison also mentioned that Skype is superior to a simple phone interview in that it allows the hiring manager or recruiter to put a face to the name. “Recently, we interviewed one girl who sounded 100 on the phone and it was only via Skype we discovered she looks like Kim Kardashian!”

Several discussions within the LinkedIn group “The Recruiter Network”–which boasts more than 454,000 members–echo Allison’s remarks. In reply to a discussion on the use of Skype as a corporate interview tool, group member Miriam* posted, “We frequently use it for candidates who live abroad for the first interview to get a first impression. It works out really well. However, when we decide to [proceed] with the candidate, the next step is always a personal face to face interview.”

Another great post in The Recruiter Network was from Management and Employment Consultant Julie*. “If they have it [Skype] already – it says a lot…If they don’t have it and then have to ask a bunch of questions (“Where do I buy a camera?”) – says volumes.” Lesson here: Get a Skype account long before you are required to use it.

If you have never used Skype or engaged in an interview via Skype, there are hundreds of articles and blogs out there to help you prepare. Some are listed below in “Related Content.” This particular post, however, compares a Skype interview with the traditional face-to-face process, examines the differences and potential implications of these differences on the overall experience, and offers suggestions for how to compensate for this less-personal, highly-technical experience.

Here are 5 inherent disadvantages of a Skype interview and how candidates can compensate:

  1. The playing field is not level
    While a company may agree to interview you via Skype, they may be meeting with other candidates in person. These candidates have the opportunity to collect those “good impression” bonus points that are not available to Skype interview candidates, including showing up 15 minutes early, greeting the receptionist with a smile, and offering a good, strong handshake upon introductions.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Set up your Skype account long before you need to use it and establish a professional Skype user name. Exchange Skype contact information in advance with the hiring manager or recruiter, and pre-program your Skype phone book. Be ready and waiting for their call, and dress appropriately for your on-camera experience (see below).
  2. There is a higher potential for interruption
    In a live interview, you’re ushered into a quiet office or conference room where there will be no interruptions. A receptionist or a sign taped to the door with “Do not disturb. Interview in progress.” is the typical deterrent. At home, you risk having the UPS man ring the doorbell right in the middle of your follow-up questions.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Put a sign on your front door telling people not to knock or ring the bell. Put the dog outside, or make arrangements for the dog to be at the groomer or at a kennel during the time of your interview. Take the kids to daycare, school, or a babysitter. Silence your cell phone completely (do not leave it on vibrate), but don’t turn it off (the company you’re interviewing with may want to reach you if there are technical issues).
  3. Your wardrobe options are more limited
    Candidates planning for a face-to-face interview can certainly choose to rock a striped tie or herringbone handkerchief, but those planning for a Skype interview need to abide by wardrobe rules similar to those set for on-camera actors. After all, you will be on camera.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: You want them to focus on your face, not your clothes. Dress in simple, solid colors (pastel solids look best on camera). No all black or all white ensembles, no checks, no stripes or small intricate designs, no highly-saturated colors (like red), avoid anything that shines or reflects, and (for the ladies) brush on a little extra make-up and powder.
  4. Your voice will have the energy sucked right out of it
    That little microphone in your computer just won’t do you justice when it comes to conveying your energy or excitement for the position or project.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: To avoid sounding flat and monotone, speak a little louder and with more energy than usual.
  5. You don’t get the tour
    Candidates who interview face-to-face are sometimes offered a tour of their potential office space, department, or even the entire company. This tour not only introduces the candidate to other employees (who the hiring manager can consult with later when making their decision), but it also gives the candidate the chance to evaluate the overall office environment to see if it would be a fit for them.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Research the company online prior to the Skype interview. Review their website, Yelp listings (including the comments section), company news (using the Google “news” search), and company images (using the Google “image” search). Also, utilize LinkedIn to see if there is anyone in your network who currently works for the company and, if so, try to connect with them in advance to discuss the company culture.

 

 

*Last names have been omitted for confidentiality.

5 simple rules every LinkedIn user should follow.

In my first blog post, I told you what a fan I was of LinkedIn. For professionals who depend on finding even the most minute connections and enterprising upon those connections–job seekers, PR professionals, fundraising guys and gals–LinkedIn is ideal.

However, I’ve found that the majority of users of LinkedIn are amateur users. So, if you’ve signed up for LinkedIn and are now wondering what to do next, I implore you to keep in mind these 5 tips:

1) Get a professional headshot
If you are old enough to use LinkedIn, you are old enough to invest in a professional headshot. I am so surprised by how many “professionals” touting so much work and life experience upload a quick selfie of themselves posed at their desk. This is your RESUME. Would you attach that same photo if you were mailing out a resume to a potential employer? Refer to this when considering a photo for LinkedIn: LinkedIn Profile Pictures Gone Wrong.

2) Do not link your company’s Twitter account to your personal LinkedIn account.
LinkedIn gives you all kinds of options to add links. Of those, the Twitter link is the one most often misused. Your connections are your personal business connections. Your announcements need to cater to their interests. So, if you work at a college and you’re linking your college’s Twitter account to your personal LinkedIn profile, your contacts (from companies past and present) are hearing about free ice cream in the quad, parking lot issues, campus crime, etc. Unless your contacts are all students, THEY DON’T CARE about these tweets. If you must link a Twitter account, link your personal Twitter account where you post personal achievements that potential references and employers will want to hear about. Or, just simply log into LinkedIn and post a direct update as necessary.

3) Add as many contacts as possible, but make sure they are legit contacts.
Whenever I get a connection request on LinkedIn, I ask myself “Do I know this person well enough to feel comfortable introducing them, or even referring them, to one of my contacts?” If the answer is no, I do not add them. Your contact list can be filled with colleagues from past and present positions, connections you’ve met while conducting business, friends, classmates, etc. It’s nice to have a large number of connections–but remember, these connections are not really for your use, they are for the use of others. It’s quite possible that you will be asked to virtually introduce one contact to another, so be comfortable with your contacts and don’t add people you don’t really know. Conversely, don’t be one of those LinkedIn users that sends out connection requests to everyone you meet at a mixer, conference, casually on the street, or to those you “hope to do business with someday.” That’s a big no no. I get dozens after I attend business meetings and rarely do I accept. Nothing personal, I just don’t know you well enough.

4) If you don’t have any/enough contacts, you are of no use to me.
You and I may be good friends, but in the world of LinkedIn, you are of little use to me if you have no contacts of your own. LinkedIn is a two-way-street: I give you access to my contact list for access to yours. So, make sure you’re consistently updating and adding contacts (legit contacts) so that I can make use of them in the future. My husband and I aren’t even connected on LinkedIn and, until his profile and contact list is robust, it will stay that way.

5) Don’t use LinkedIn to do your cold calling.
Every so often, I get a random connection request from someone who has also sent me an e-mail solicitation at my company e-mail address. This is sometimes followed by a direct message via the LinkedIn message tool, or even to my personal e-mail address associated with my LinkedIn account. Ugh. I hate this and will delete, delete, delete each time. If you are one of these, I understand you are trying to make a sale, but you are going about it the wrong way. Alternatively, use LinkedIn groups to find groups of people who are within your target audience, join those groups or ask group organizers if there are any opportunities for promotional or even endorsed messages. Also, use the “search” function to seek out people you want to connect with through people you already know. Maybe you are ALREADY connected to me in some way (through a 2nd or 3rd degree connection) and can asked to be introduced to me via the LinkedIn Introduction tool, in which I would be much more likely to respond.

Final thought: Remember that your LinkedIn profile is all about you specifically, not your company (past or present)—use LinkedIn to market yourself for the benefit of your current projects and current company.

My LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/pub/michelle-sutliff-ma/5/97b/8b4/

Who’s an old person? Me.

Welcome to “Old people. New technology.” Many wouldn’t consider 36 to be old, but for the sake of this blog, I’ll illustrate why I feel qualified to be blogging as such:

  1. I remember making popcorn sans microwave, with this:Photo of old Jiffy Pop popcorn
  2. I laid out my high school yearbook and college newspaper like this:PasteUp
  3. And my first “cell phone” was this:Pager

However, I am also someone who learned how to type, very fast, using the first version of AOL Instant Messenger.

When MySpace launched, I embraced it to flaunt my college life, boast my achievements, post my best airbrushed pics, and stalk my ex-boyfriends (and sometimes my current boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends).

I moved on to Facebook when I realized how much time I would save in my week if I no longer had to agonize over choosing between “floral,” “logo” or “photographic” MySpace profile backgrounds. I was initially bummed though when I found out Facebook couldn’t accommodate a “theme song” for my profile like MySpace could. I quickly got over that, realizing that choosing an appropriate theme song to reflect my mood only took up additional hours. And apparently, Facebook is also for stalkers, so I’m still covered there. Whew.

When my professional life got impressive enough, I dove into LinkedIn. I’m so glad that I got on that bandwagon early. I started with a basic resume and a few jobs and contacts, and LinkedIn was simpler at its inception. But, for someone starting a new LinkedIn profile today, there are so many options and fields it’s comparable to an eHarmony screening that can last hours if not days (don’t ask how I know that). However, of all social media, I find this one to be the most valuable for business and I look forward to writing about LinkedIn and how to use it for your own personal benefit and growth, as well as for the benefit of your present company, on this blog.

And then there’s Twitter. As the PR and Marketing Director for a college, I manage our social media sites, including Twitter. I’ve established our presence and am working to grow our followers and engagement every day. I’ve used it to publicize events. I’ve “hashtag planted.” I’ve tweeted to celebrities and had them re-tweet my posts to hundreds of thousands of followers. I’ve taught local Chamber of Commerce members how to use Twitter for business and college faculty how to integrate Twitter into their courses. However, I have never had a personal Twitter account… until recently.

A member of my statewide professional group for PR leaders asked, “the queen of social media doesn’t have her own Twitter account?” He was (sarcastically, I’m sure) shocked.

“Ok, ok, I’ll set one up,” I agreed. I’ll set one up, I thought, but it cannot suck. My whole “queen of social media” image depended on it! What was I going to tweet about that was profound, life-changing, Gandhi-like? I decided that spurting out 140-character random statements just wouldn’t be enough. I needed room for some meat to go along with those potatoes. This blog is the meat. My tweets are the potatoes. Together, I hope they make a nice (and fatty) mid-western American meal.

Now  for the technical: My intention with this blog “Old people. New Technology.” is to reflect on real-world uses and users of technology, including social media and apps. Much of my “research” (and I use that word loosely) is done through observation and use. I am a user–an old user. I observe what my “old” colleagues and friends do (both good and bad). I report back. I also use my husband’s high school students (he is a teacher) as focus groups. Those responses are always entertaining. I’ve always wished I had somewhere to share them. Now, I do. For example, I gave a class of 17 year old students a list of popular Apps and Social Media sites and asked them to give me their honest, one-line opinion/description of them. What I got back goes something like this:

  1. Facebook: Lame, Don’t use it, Stupid
  2. Snapchat: 10 seconds of heaven
  3. LinkedIn: What’s that?

More on that highly scientific survey later…along with other posts that you, as an old person, can relate to.