Monday, February 07, 2011

It's Not So Much The What As It Is The How

217,000,000 was the approximate number of "hits" that I got when I typed in "online profiles." When I "refined" the search to "online user profiles" it went up to about 461,000,000. So much for narrowing things down.

The whole thing kind of made we wonder if "profiles" would be in the running for one of the most used words these days. If not in the world, then certainly in the U.S.

I don't know about you, but to me it feels like every time you turn on anything electronic, someone wants your profile and given the hype around segmented and "personal" marketing efforts, it's little wonder.  It would not surprise me that as the technology continues to advance, pretty soon they'll want DNA samples!

Given the degree to which ExecuNet is part of the business and career networking space, we are certainly interested in profiles as well and talk about this with our members frequently as the member email below demonstrates: :

How do you "truly distinguish" yourself from the thousands of other executives competing for the same VP or C level position? All of which have strong LinkedIn and ExecuNet profiles\networks.
When all is said and done, doesn't it come down to a personal recommendation from a contact\friend\colleague who's in a position to stick their neck out for you?
As I thought about his question I also thought I was hearing that there was a fair amount of frustration built into it, meaning that while he recognized that "profile" was the buzz word of the week, he was really wondering why really put the effort into it if as he said "...when all is said and done" it almost always comes down to a personal referral.

Well, for sure that's true, at least in my experience both on a personal level as well as the data we have gathered in survey after survey. Upwards of 70% of the time, the change comes about as the result of networking aka referrals.

In trying to formulate a response that I hoped would make some sense and be helpful, what I tried to do was separate things into two separate but very much related issues.

What follows was my response:

It isn’t so much the “what” you can do that makes you stand out as much as “how” you make people aware of what you do and “how” it is going to help them solve problems that they need fixed. Most of which comes down to research that is focused on organizations you have targeted because you have a genuine interest in what they make and/or the services they provide.

Your research (much of which can and will be helped by expanding your personal and professional network) will help you to be really well informed as to what the key business issues are that they face. Once known, you can then market the “what” that you will bring to them as you network your way into decision makers in the company.

When it comes to the "what", a profile is certainly one example of a what. Other "whats" can be things like: a resume, a blog you’ve written, an online portfolio, your active participation in events and organizations, etc. They are simply a framework.
The "how" is the style and tone (visual and written) that helps someone to get a more complete picture of you as not just someone with technical expertise, but as a person as well.
To answer the obvious question of why this is so important, it's because when someone is hired and something goes south, 9 times out of 10 (maybe more) it isn't because the technical skills weren't there, it was because the "chemistry" wasn't what both parties thought it was going in, and "chemistry" is about the person! (As if we didn't know!)

Another way to think about this is to think back at how you have made changes in the past. Organizations hired you because you “stood out” from other candidates. Whatever those traits/skill sets that attracted them to you are still there. You need to find vehicles that will put those on display.

Your challenge in today's world is to utilize the "framework" alternatives available to you to so others can see who's really there, and when it comes to profiles, you can do that by going beyond the name, rank and serial number approach of here's where I worked, for how long and for what I was "responsible."
What they want to know is "how" you made things happen!
If someone had asked this question of you, how would you have explained it to them?

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