Make Some Noise: Why You Must Use Social Media to Reach Your Goals

What is it that makes you an excellent candidate for that dream job? Deep inside you are certain that this is the fit for you. But does the interviewer sitting across the table know it too?

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This situation feels very familiar to me, having been on the job market several times. During my undergraduate studies, I hoped for internships each summer (4 times). While completing my BS, MS, PhD, and Post Doc I investigated full-time positions at each break. During every interview the same question arises:

Interviewer: “What interests you about this industry?”
Me: “Things, so many things. I can’t list just one!”

These experiences taught me that while we are in school, we should spend time thinking about our place in the world. We should be building our place in the world.

Success, Today

People succeed when they possess industry-specific technical talent and form genuine human connections. Every student should create a genuine online presence.

Seth Godin points out (correctly) that the Industrial Economy has given way to the Connection Economy. You don’t have to look far to see it. The automotive industry’s big new feature this year isn’t gas mileage, power, or capacity. Its built-in LTE wifi.

In a Connected Economy, people who follow directions are easily replaced by someone just as effective, but cheaper. On the other hand, irreplaceable people create human connections that cause someone to change their mind.

“Depth of knowledge is rarely sufficient, all by itself, to turn someone into an [indispensable artist]… Art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind… The more people you change, the more you change them, the more effective your art is.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin, assembled quotations

This imperative crosses all industries: authors, engineers, and cashiers all must demonstrate an ability to move beyond technical work and perform emotional work as well. The only way to demonstrate that you are capable of creating these human connections is to do it.

”You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

The days of isolated interviews in which you rattle off answers to HR-approved questions are gone. With the enormous number of students graduating college each year, companies have their pick of talented individuals. Now they seek (in addition to technical talent):

  1. “Notes of recommendation from three people I know and respect
  2. A past project I can review
  3. Media buzz about what that person has already done
  4. Leadership of a group on a social networking site
  5. A regular blog that is compelling and engaging
  6. A high EQ (Emotional Quotient) vs a high IQ
    Don’t have these things? Then why would someone see you as an outstanding candidate?” – Dan Miller, 48 Days to the Work You Love

I’ll give you a hint: you won’t find these items in a lecture, homework assignment, or test. You must connect. Your dream job is being offered to someone who did.

Its Time, Right Now to Build Your Place On the Web

This three step plan will get you connected to the community in your industry of choice.

  1. Create a blog. This is your digital home on the web, if someone wants to know more about you, this is where they land.
  2. Create social media profiles. Several popular/effective platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. On each platform, join/create groups that center on topics that matter to you.
  3. Contribute regularly, with substance. Create new content (blog posts, digital portfolio of projects). Share your new content (via social profiles, let your people know you’re contributing). Share other’s content (via social profiles, recognize great ideas and help your followers access resources you found useful). React to others’ content (comment on blogs, respond to social posts).

Its never too soon to start, but it can be too late.

Your goal is to demonstrate a track record of engagement with important topics and people who are actually working on them. Think: Digital Portfolio. The conversation is happening, participate! You will interact with the movers and shakers of your industry. And as a bonus, you’ll have a chance to frame genuine answers to the question, “How are you interested in [insert field here]?” Remember,

“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.” – Dawson Trotman

What can you do today to start building your community? How are these uses for social media different from the ways you use social media now? Leave a comment below.

5 Painful Mistakes New Bloggers Make

Blogging can feel like a chore. Writing is heavy mental labor, and we want to see a reward for our efforts. Unfortunately, most new bloggers begin with the same five engagement-limiting mistakes.

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I’m a long blogger. My friends are long bloggers. My older posts were l-o-n-g. 2,579 words. A 4-part series with each post at least 1,500 words. As a result I wrote a measly 17 posts over 3 years.

I had a hard time getting started, as I pictured the gargantuan task of finishing. My posts were highly irregular and so was my number of readers. The problem with writing this way is that it leads to monologues instead of conversations. Monologues that are few and far between.

We’ve all read a long post. There is so much content that it makes it hard to respond. I’ve been drafting a follow up to a friend’s long post for 6 months! Almost every new blogger makes 5 mistakes that add work and cause lower engagement from their readers. Bloggers should eliminate these mistakes immediately.

Mistake 1: Writing posts that are too long. Solution: aim for 500-700 words.

Long posts are interesting because they can deeply explore a topic. But they are harder to read. They include so much material that readers can’t figure out which nugget they want to respond to. Think firehose.

We tend to feel the need to cover every aspect of our thinking about a topic in a single post. The fear of leaving something out can cause people to never publish. Instead, write small posts with one central idea that people can discuss easier. Then publish more frequently. You’ll find more people reading more of your ideas.

Things like blogging have an interesting property: the more regularly you post the more traffic you see. A short post several days each week is better than one long post every few weeks. Don’t believe me? Check out Seth Godin.

Now for the fun part for you “long bloggers”: write one long post and break it into several stand alone pieces that link to each other. Then, instead of publishing right away, use a service like WordPress to schedule your posts to release on a regular basis. You can publish one every day, or every other day, with no extra input on your part. You’ll see more people engage.

Mistake 2: Too much text. Solution: Make your posts more scannable.

Everyone is turned off by a wall of text. Use short paragraphs, simple sentences, bullet points and lists. Think white space. The more the better.

Mistake 3: No invitation for the reader to participate. Solution: End your posts with an italicized question inviting comments.

Something open-ended that grabs people and makes them want to share.

Mistake 4: No invitation for the reader to share. Solution: Add social media share buttons.

Not in an obnoxious place, but certainly prominent.

Mistake 5: Not sharing your own posts. Solution: Advertise a little.

People shrink away from this one. We feel egotistical when we self-promote. Here’s an attitude shift that may help: Write things that you truly believe matter to someone. If you’re producing content that is meaningful or helpful, then the selfish thing would be NOT to share it.

Share links to new posts with a snippet or picture on social media. Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and such. Even if only your family reads it, a liked link invites the network effect to begin. Who knows what friend of a friend works at your dream company and clicks to read.

The Bottom Line

The large majority of bloggers give up after a few months. The main reason is that they make it too much work and they reap little reward in the form of engagement. I know you’re excited about that idea that leads to a 2000-word post. But hold some back. Most of your initial posts will probably become entire categories of posts in the future.

What blogging habits have you unintentionally picked up that are sabotaging your ability to consistently produce quality content? Share in a comment below.

Success Tactic: Finding Freedom In Routines

In my last post, I commented on a strategy that highly successful people use to free up mental energy for the things that matter. This post continues on that theme, offering up specific tactics that have worked for me.

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As a full-time academic, my schedule can be quite hectic. And I only control certain parts of it. The timetable of my courses each semester are assigned, not chosen. I end up with gaps and complexity in my day that I can’t renegotiate. In addition, I value being available to my students. This means keeping as much of my day open to “invited interruptions” that otherwise hamstring my creativity.

Find Freedom in Routines

Routines offer a simple way to save mental energy and accomplish the tasks that mean the most to us. You should establish at least three routines, and a set of life-simplifying habits to support them.

An Evening Routine: set yourself up for a productive day tomorrow.

Make low-value decisions at the end of the day, while you’re too tired to add significant value anyhow. Many of the decisions that people put off for the morning can be made in about 5 minutes each evening.

Select your outfit for the next day. Match your clothes hang them in a separate part of the closet. I could dress myself in complete darkness each morning!

Other key decisions to make at night include:
*Choosing and making your lunch
*Selecting the to-do items that you intend on completing tomorrow and ranking them in order of priority.
*Closing all programs on your laptop except for those you need open for your first task of the day (which I intentionally choose as the most important one).

The clarity this gives in the morning is incredible!

A Morning Routine: set yourself up each day to make productivity default.

According to Dan Miller, 44% of high income earners wake up at least 3 hours before work each day. Compare that to the 3% of low income earners who do the same. Its no accident. Waking up early is key to engaging your brain for the day’s work.

What are they doing with that time? Investing in themselves. Jon Acuff says in Start.

Be selfish at 5:00 am.

Take your mornings to focus on five key areas of personal development.

  1. Wake up, water, and quiet time. I start each morning at 5:00 am by drinking a large glass of cool water while reading and meditating about spiritual growth for 30 minutes.

  2. Coffee and non-fiction reading. Next, I spend 30 minutes reading a non-fiction book while drinking a cup of coffee. Just imagine if you read a book each month on a single topic that is important to you. In 2 years you will undoubtedly be an expert: how many people do you know who have read 24 books on any single topic?

  3. Platform development. I spend 30 minutes each morning reading blog posts, sharing thoughts on social media, engaging with my tribe. We live in a time when anyone can speak to a large audience. But it takes daily effort. In social media, Inconsistent is Invisible.

  4. Exercise. In our busy world, it is way too easy to put this off. Spend a half hour maintaining your body, or risk finding yourself in the hospital wishing you had.

  5. Wash, eat and dress. I spend the last half hour of my morning routine washing, eating, and dressing. This flows like clockwork: I take the same toiletries out of the same travel bag, and put them back. That way, when I travel I feel at home standing in front of a hotel mirror. I eat a bowl of cereal (selected from just two options in my pantry) and a cup of greek yogurt (selected at random from the few flavors I enjoy). Lastly, I put on the outfit that I chose last night in about 3 minutes.

When I get to my office, my goal is to have made no new decisions this morning. I sit down, open my computer, and dive in to the first task which is already keyed up from last night.

As a final note here, I can’t overemphasize the importance of starting each morning by completing your most important task. This is the best chance you have of making meaningful progress before something (or someone) completely derails your day.

A Weekly Routine: Keep it all running.

Unfortunately, everything falls off the rails if certain things don’t happen each week. We need groceries. We need clean clothes. I have a weekly routine to decide what I’ll eat for breakfast and lunch (again once, rather than 5 times), wash my clothes, and lay out the outfits I’ll wear to work. Lastly, I perform my weekly review.

A weekly review is so important that I’ll save the details for another post. For now, I’ll just say that its crucial once a week to spend 30 minutes:

(adopted from David Allen’s Getting Things Done)

  • Collecting loose papers and materials
  • Emptying your head
  • Emptying all inboxes
  • Reviewing action lists
  • Reviewing previous and future calendar data
  • Reviewing your “waiting for” lists
  • Reviewing your project lists
  • Reviewing your goals

Life-Simplifying Habits

This is simple, but crucial. I always put my credit cards in the same place in my wallet. Always. I always put my wallet, keys, work badge in the same place in the house. Always. I spend zero energy looking for my things each day, because they have a place and its just as easy to put them there as anywhere.

Make a habit out of things like this. Don’t set yourself up for frantic searching as you’re trying to leave the house. If there is something you have to do every day (such as feeding the dog), you shouldn’t have to figure out every day how and when you’re going to do it.

Freedom in Routines?

It may sound drab, but I have never felt more free. Every day I wake up at the same time, do the same things, in the same order. The only thing that’s different: what I am thinking about.

When you have no routine, everything is different. You wake up at different times, do different things, in a different order. The only thing that’s the same: what you’re thinking about.

You’re thinking about what you should eat, what you should wear, what time you should leave, if you have time to do this or that before catching the train. Rather than spend time engaging with something meaningful you’re stuck on the merry go round: making the same decisions again and again, day after day.

Are you burning mental energy each day on low-value repetitive decisions? What could you use that energy for if you didn’t have to make those decisions every day? Leave a comment below.

A Key Success Strategy: Establishing a Routine

Have you ever felt out of control? How many small things did you forget yesterday? Do you find yourself slumping into your chair at the start of the workday, already beat from a morning of mayhem? I’ve been there, and it is exhausting!

A Clear Path

Frantic. I have a train to catch in 20 minutes and its an 18-minute drive to the station. “What should I eat!?” I dig through the pantry and find an old snack-sized bag of chips. “Sure could use some coffee.” I skip it, not enough time. I rush upstairs, and stare at my closet. “Where is my brown belt?” I try to piece together an outfit. “Where are my navy pants?” Wrinkled. On the floor. I rush for the door, grabbing my briefcase while leaving the bag of chips forgotten on the table. “Where are my keys!?”

This story is a little too familiar for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be. You can free yourself from making the same hectic decisions day in and day out. By establishing a few key routines, you can free your psyche to focus on important value-added thinking.

Decide. Now!

Every day, we are inundated with requests to make decisions. There are a number of less obvious places where we have installed too many options in our lives. The result is that we exhaust ourselves with decision fatigue without even realizing what we are doing.

Open your pantry and look around. You are bombarded with marketing from the moment you wake up and try to decide which cereal to eat. Marketing that is asking you to make a decision. These requests for decisions continue throughout the day, only ending when we close our eyes at night.

Decisions take effort.

The problem is that each of these decisions costs a bit of mental energy. We spend enormous amounts of energy making the same decisions over and over again. Every day we decide what to wear, what to eat, when to leave the house, and so on. Unfortunately, we (1) give ourselves too many options and (2) force ourselves to make these decisions at the wrong times of the day.

Why spend your time making the same old decisions when you could be developing and shipping ideas that will change your future for the better? Save your mental energy for the good stuff.

  1. Too Many Options! A result of marketing and our consumer culture is that we often fill our lives with more choices than we really need. How many lunch options do you need each week? How many boxes of cereal do you need to choose from each morning?

  2. Timing the Decision We wake up with a finite amount of will power. Every time you exert that will you burn some fuel that won’t return until tomorrow.

Have you ever found yourself in a group trying to decide where to go out for lunch? Nobody has an opinion. It takes a bit of cajoling, laughing at ourselves, and spontaneous leadership before the group agrees on where to go.

Low-value decisions, such as what to wear and what to eat should be made when the tank is already empty. You can always last 5 more minutes to pick out your clothes. You can’t always force yourself to have a great idea when you need to.

In [Essentialism](http://gregmckeown.com/essentialism-the-disciplined-pursuit-of-less/ “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”), Greg McKeown suggests that we clear the way for productivity by making single decisions that actually make thousands of future decisions. Establishing routines in our lives is one of the simplest ways of doing just that.

Routines give freedom.

A few simple routines can clarify your world, helping you to begin each day with a clear sense of purpose and flow. The opening story gives perfect example of the power that routines can give: when something goes wrong with a haphazard morning, you spend the rest of the day feeling the need to catch up!

Why is the image above so peaceful to look at? There is a single path. There is clarity of focus, we know where we are going.

When we distract ourselves with small decisions all day, we loose that clarity. We never get a chance to look at (or decide on) the big direction in which we are headed.

Make the decision. Create a morning, evening, and weekly routine. Be intentional not only about how you use your time, but also when you use your time.

What you could accomplish if you replaced the trivial barriers throughout your day with extended times of mental clarity?