Time to leave high school or college this summer? Time to get Linkedin!

linkedin_logo_11 (2)If you are a student leaving high school and most definitely if you are leaving college, it is time to get a Linkedin profile.  You might already have Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram or Deviantart, but Linkedin means business.  There are already 225 million members from every corner of the world – and the fastest growth is in student / college leavers so it is definitely the place to be seen now for Generation Y.

It’s really simple (and free!) to create a Profile – but I want to offer a few top tips to get you looking your best.  Start by making sure you have your sensible, grown-up, purposeful head on when filling in the profile. This works as an on-line resumé so you want it to be as timely, accurate and clear as any CV.  Linkedin uses text based searches so getting your language / jargon  spot-on is important: for example “Quite good at using the writing bits of Windows” probably won’t ever come up in a search compared to “Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite particularly Microsoft Word”. (Of course you can go back and correct and edit so don’t panic yourself into inertia).

You can, and should, join Linkedin Groups depending on your interests. Lots of schools and colleges have alumni groups and it makes sense to join them from the beginning. Groups can be a key way of keeping up with areas you are interested in and, by contributing to the discussions, you can begin to have your own input.  Presence: that’s what you can create and drive on LinkedIn.

Connections, however, are probably the most important feature of Linkedin. As the old adage has it, it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters. And Linkedin is a perfect forum for showing who you know – and for finding who knows someone that you’d like to know.

My super top-tip as term ends and people head off, is to commit to linking with your peers. Peer to peer links created now will begin by being cheering – you’re not Norman-no-mates, you have connections. As time passes and people’s working lives develop, the insights and opportunities those links offer will become invaluable. You won’t lose track of each other and amongst your generation are the next captains of industry, movers, shakers and money makers. Second super top-tip is to ask to connect to “grown-ups” who know about you and your career ambitions.

Finally, on the top-tip theme, do make sure you include a photo of yourself looking friendly, clean and employable. The photo helps people identify you – there are over 56,000 John Smiths already on Linkedin and you wouldn’t want to get the wrong one!

To start any youngster off: if you read my Blog, like the Real Life Skills Facebook page and send me a short email telling me your job and career plans, I’ll connect with you because I know that you have any eye on the future

Tattoos and recruitment

vector tattoo Bulldog head Sun has been seen and, certainly in East Anglia, layers of clothing are being discarded to reveal bodies like interesting life forms grown in the dark: pale, white, mottled blue. Also revealed  are tattoos of every shape, size, colour and image. There are cheeky ones and sad ones; affiliations to teams and gangs; evidence of time spent in prison or Thailand; memories of lost love and mementoes of drunken excess.

Rather unexpectedly a young dad at the school gate shewed me (as they say in Norfolk) the tattoo he had acquired the day before, “Look, look”, he said, “the design goes right down from my neck to….” He hoisted his collar to show me, but I had to move his top back to see properly (– strangely intimate but would have been rude not to). A celtic/goth motif with a triangle and orb was stretched across the nape of his neck. “My mum will be livid when she finds out” he muttered “but I reckon I only have one life, I’m 38 now and I want a whole dragon down my back too”.

While some tattoos are useful for identifying shared interests (sailors originally had tattoos so their bodies could be identified in the event of them drowning) having a tat per se isn’t necessarily enough to create a bond. A friend of mine rants about the number of people that leer up to her saying “You’ve got a tattoo – look I’ve got a tattoo as well, do you want to see the rest of mine….” She’s quite vocal in telling people where they can take their tattoo.

Many people feel very private about the reasons they get tattooed in the first place. The images can have deep meaning like a dolphin which may represent duality, combining life in the water and a need for air. They may also come from a cultural context like Maori ‘Ta Moko’ where each tattoo is unique and the intricate designs give information about the person’s rank and status. The image may have no special meaning beyond being cool.  One aristocrat I knew had a tattoo of a penguin on his calf. Born in an era when gentlemen seldom wore shorts and even then with long socks, very few people knew about his penguin.  And this takes me to the visibility of tattoos in the work place.

Most employers will say that they are keen to encourage diversity and not discriminate against people in any way so, as the Metropolitan’s tattoo policy says, as long as the tattoo is “nothing provocative” they will consider each candidate without prejudice.  Once past the recruitment hurdle and in a job, some tattoos can have a negative impact.  For example a student teacher at our local primary school last year revealed images of several circles of Dante’s inferno in full colour when wearing a wee t-shirt. She looked like she had been scribbled on.  The children didn’t seem to show her as much respect as they did to the other similarly aged student who didn’t have any tattoos (or none that could be seen).

I would want to raise a note of caution: having visible tattoos can create a reason for prejudice that makes it harder for a job applicant to get their real personality across. It’s hard enough to get a job without giving prospective employers a reason not to talk to you in the first place.  So my advice is (1) if you really want a tattoo, make sure it doesn’t show when you’re dressed (2) make sure you go to a reputable tattooist with experience of your type of design – at the very least make sure they use a new, clean needle and (3) make sure the spelling and grammar are correct.


“Career Advice for Ambitious Women” from Mrs Moneypenny

Just finished reading “Careers Advice for Ambitious Women” by Mrs Moneypenny, aka Heather McGregor. Gosh, I am left feeling invigorated by her enormous energy and enthusiasm – and a little in awe of the single minded approach she advocates.  Mrs Moneypenny gives some essential career advice in a really accessible style, illustrated with loads of examples and anecdotes.  It is all about focus, connecting, getting help when you need it and discarding, or side-lining, those things you don’t need.  She is quite tough on this – discarding guilt; out-sourcing child care and some parenting; embracing the virtues of the shop-bought cake.

Much of the advice is not gender specific at all and fabulously practical for anyone with a clear vision of where they want to go. She feels very strongly about becoming as financially literate as possible* – as she points out, the people that know where the money is coming from and going to really have an inside track compared to the rest. She reckons one sure fire way to get to the top of an organisation is through managing the money – her advice: if possible become an accountant.

The two other non-gender specific items of advice are to do with “What you know…” and “Who you know…”. Mrs M reckons you should go as high up the academic tree as possible (she has an MBA and a PhD and a pilots licence). Her reasoning here is that qualifications give you confidence, as well as knowledge. While I completely agree with that, I think that university qualifications are only one, quite narrow, type of recognition.  There are currently over 10 applications for each apprenticeship.  For many young people the most basic qualification of all: a driving licence, is the one which has initially opened the most doors.

“Who you know…” is about your network and connections.  As she says “The truth is, if you want to achieve your goals in life, you need to be both good at what you do and good at building relationships with people who matter”.  The key advice here is to work at building relationships – these are the people with whom you share information and experiences. Mrs Moneypenny is interested in volume and has several ideas of how to meet and connect people. I think numbers are quite important, but so is quality. The network is best when it is made up of the people whom you would go the extra mile for and who would do the same for you.

The advice specifically for women is about how to resolve the conundrum of how to “have it all” while remaining a sane, lovely mother/wife/daughter/friend. Her answer is that “having it all” is not possible, Superwoman does not exist and so you need to prioritise what’s most important to you. She also recommends you get help so that you are not trying to do alone all the things that are expected of you as mother/wife/daughter/friend. Affording help can be a problem if your chosen career isn’t well paid – the book is quite City centred where things may be different. And some things are not the same outsourced. Last week at the National Schools Rowing Regatta I spotted a healthy, muscular adolescent being congratulated on winning a medal, he looked quite pleased – and then his whole face lit up as he saw his father appear through the crowd “Look, my Daddy’s here…”

This is a robust book with some good ideas and I would recommend it to women wanting a no-nonsense, and speedy, read. After some thought I have concluded that the areas that I take issue with are related to parenting (Mrs Moneypenny has three sons: Cost Centres 1, 2 and 3) – and, as she says herself, this isn’t a parenting book. So, I’m off to try some of the homework exercises that come after each chapter – as Mrs Moneypenny writes “It’s never too late to move forward, whatever your ambition. You can do it!”

“Mrs Moneypenny’s Career Advice for Ambitious Women”, Heather McGregor, published by Penguin, 2012

* For women historically this was an area of particular weakness – I know women of a certain age who still don’t understand their own house-hold finances because their husbands “do” all that stuff.  And as Mrs Moneypenny points out, women need more money than men because they live longer, on average earn less and are more likely to end up as single parents raising a family on a limited income. That’s a pretty grim thought.