How to Optimize your LinkedIn Account

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With more than 380 million members, LinkedIn has become one of the fastest growing social media platforms for professionals and career like-minded individuals. The potential it has allows both young professionals and season veterans to network and connect with top-level talent and big business firms all around the world. With that being said, the one question comes to mind when you are using your LinkedIn account: Are you using LinkedIn to its fullest potential?

For many people, the answer is no. It is not because they do not understand how the site works. Instead, they underutilize their profiles that can later be an extremely powerful tool when leveraging that new career for your work trajectory. First and foremost, you need to know the basics.

What is LinkedIn and how is it used?

LinkedIn is simply a Web2.0 social media network that allows daily visitors to professionally brand themselves in the most efficient and effective way. Think of this concept like the other popular social media properties out there such as Facebook or Twitter. The only difference is that LinkedIn is primarily focused on careers and professional development. That type of style and theme enables users to connect, share, and search for informative information that can help bolster their professional image for jobs or career advancement.

While the site itself provides users with a user-friendly platform, LinkedIn does provide other features to help brand your professional image in the best possible way. Below, I have provided five vital tips that you should implement into your LinkedIn profile. This will allow you to gain more traction with your profile and structure your social media presence for visitors and potential employers.

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1. Customize your Public Profile URL

To make your LinkedIn profile look more professional, customize your public profile URL domain with your name or key phrase. Usually when you create a LinkedIn profile, the URL will be associated with a combination of numbers and letters at the end of the site’s URL. To change this, go to the settings page and customize your URL to something more simplified. To learn more, please follow the directions here.

2. Create a Bio

The best way to shape your profile is by adding a 500 to 1000-word bio on your educational and professional experience in the summary section of LinkedIn. This is usually the first thing future employer and visitors see when they visit your profile. Make sure to stick with the theme of professionalism. Be informative and highlight various accomplishments in quick short sentences. Try not to dive too deep on any personal information. Leave that for Facebook.

3. Expand on your Work Experience

To help optimize your profile on LinkedIn, try to dive deeper and provide a strong and informative synopsis of your educational background and work experience for each section. Highlight various accomplishments and try and stay quantitative. Think of this section as your resume. The more ‘numbers’ driven your profile is, the strong it will be to read. In addition, try and set a theme for the career trajectory you are trying to portray. For example, if you are going into a field of finance, it does not make any sense to add information about you working at a summer camp five to ten years ago.

4. Show Work Samples

Whether it is an article to showcase your writing or a video or presentation that highlights high profile projects, try and add a variety of media (images, documents, links, and presentations) that visitors and future employers can see. This type of content can enhance those successes you are trying to persuade in your summary and experience descriptions.

5. Create Skills and Get Endorsed

In the early 2012s, LinkedIn launched a feature called ‘endorsements,’ which enables users to endorse their skills through various connections. Start off by expanding on your skills. Use key words that are relatable to your previous jobs and projects. Then try and engage with other LinkedIn accounts so that those specific individuals can return the favor back. To get this started, try reaching out to coworkers and friends. Then build upon your shared networks.

How to Find a Mentor at the Workplace

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Whether you are starting a new career or transitioning into a new position, it pays to have a helping hand guiding you through the process. While some people may think that you need to do it all on your own, the reality is that it is just easier with a little bit of direction. That is why it is absolutely vital that you try and find a mentor at the workplace.

Think of the greats. Michael Jordan didn’t become an NBA legend without looking up to someone who walked that same path. Steve Jobs did not find the inspiration without his predecessors laying down the brickwork. When it comes down to it, a mentor can provide a fresh new perspective and an institutional knowledge about your employer, your industry, and your future. These individuals allow you to benefit from their own personal experience so that you can anticipate various obstacles that you can eventually leverage in your favor. By having this helping hand, many individuals, including myself, have benefited personally and professionally throughout their lives.

So with a mentor, what type of qualities should you look for in an ideal advisor? What about them personally and professionally should catch your eye?

When it comes down to your search, you want to find someone that you can respect. Oftentimes, people pick mentors based on their age or their title. While this may be beneficial, especially if your company values rankings within that way, it does not represent holistically the myriad of characteristics that represent you. Make sure that you can find an individual with the beliefs and opinions that you can respect. Beyond respect, you also want to find someone who is supportive. Just having an individual with all the best qualities is not enough. When push comes to shove, you want to make sure that the person who is guiding you is also willing to support you in every which way. If you find that they are too busy or uncooperative, you may have to look for a new mentor. If, however, they are willing to spend the time to help you reflect on your decisions or your future, then you are in good hands. Last but not least, you want to make sure that your mentor is willing to offer constructive criticism. Just because you have done all the right things does not necessarily define you as perfect. At the workplace, you will always find room to grow. The minute that growth stops is the minute you should reconsider your position. For a mentor, that type of advice and criticism is something that will push you further than before.

With that being said, how can I find a mentor at the workplace?

When finding a mentor, you want to make sure that this person fills out the various requirements discussed above. Start off by asking yourself what you want in a mentor. This can be someone who can advise you professionally or this can be someone who can aid you personally. Whatever is the reason, make sure your goals are aligned. Once you have figured out what you want in a mentor, check to see if your human resource department has a mentorship program. For big firms, they usually try and pair off their employees with certain veterans, especially those groomed for management. If your job does not have this as an option, try and look for an individual at your workplace with both the academic background and work experience that fits your ideal status. This will allow you to hone in on specific individuals who have already made positive examples of them at the office. Last but not least, if you cannot find that individual, look outside of your workplace. Mentorship does not have to be a business relationship. You can find mentors outside of the workplace from associations you belong to, activities you are involved in, and even friends or relatives that can help shape your professional future.

The Importance of Communication at the Workplace

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No matter what industry you are in, efficient, effective, and consistent verbal and nonverbal communication skill are incredibly valuable in the workplace. Some companies even go as far to invest a large portion of their time and money to help train and aid their employees on effective communication. Why? The simple reason is that good communication can take you beyond the conversation to something more impactful for your business and your customers.

By understanding these benefits of effective, effective, and consistent communication, you will be able to help your company focus on building a strong and conducive work culture that will be vital for your business’s future success.

So what do we need to know about strong communication?

First and foremost, you need to understand how it can help on a diverse and holistic aspect. With effective workplace communication, the most important way for this to work is how it facilitates across a variety of departments. Oftentimes, bad communication can result in various misunderstandings that can be harmful for your company’s overarching goals and visions. To reduce this negative, try and see how you can train your employees to communicate across different departments. Think of this in a various situations such as mangers to employees or departments to department. Fine-tuning messages across these groups will allow you to avoid cultural confusion and miscommunication. See what your managers and leaders in your business can do to simplify the information in strong, informative, laymen terms. In addition, see what errors there were beforehand and how you can improve operations to run even smoother.

As for team building, try and see how you can create a strong and more effective line of communication in the workplace that helps employees and managers perform at their fullest. One of the biggest problems you can find in the office is that employees have a timid distrust for upper level management. To alleviate this pressure, try and create a role of integrity and responsibility between the two individuals. Show that the communication itself is meant to support rather than to criticize. Last but not least, try and produce a positive line of communication with recognition and positive reinforcement. Many employees can underperform because they feel that their work is not valued at the office. To avoid that hostile work environment, create positive incentives such as rewards or shout outs that can boost the overall morale of your company.

Last but not least, make sure the line of communication is easily streamlined to the customer itself. Regardless of your company’s field or product, make sure the customer knows the shift and changes your product will see in the future. Apple was able to streamline their new products through various showcases and presentations that tapped new markets and new audiences. While, we cannot all be Apple, it does not mean you cannot rationalize your company’s changes in simple explanations through your employees or through various marketing strategies.

Review a New Marketing Plan

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As an entrepreneur, change is inevitable. It is an ever-evolving entity that will shape the overall success and direction of your company. While some of us may not like it and may even go as far as to adhere to the, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it,” policy, we need to understand that it is a requirement and necessity for the growth of a business. That being said, one of the biggest hurdles many entrepreneurs face is overcoming trends. When this happens, each individual, no matter what their title, needs to be adaptive and welcoming to the change in all fronts. Things that worked five-months or even five-weeks ago may not be working today. If you are finding that you are having this similar problem, especially on a sales level, maybe it is time for you to review your overall marketing plan.

Below, I have compiled four key areas that you should analyze when creating a new marketing strategy. These areas focus on internalizing your product and understanding the costumer.

1. Review Your Product

How many times have you signed into Facebook and lamented to the world about the layout? How many car commercial do you hear each and every day that is selling x, y, and z model? The main reason this happens is because businesses and companies want to adapt their products and services in the best possible way. What you were doing six-months ago may not be the best practice for the individual buyer. To gain a deeper and more internal understanding of the market, make sure you review you’re product or service. This will allow you to critique and improve the product that is more efficient and effective for the customer.

2. Think about Possible Expansion

When Apple started off, they were just another tech company looking to make a name against Bill Gates. Today, they are one of the biggest tech corporations that have hit the tech, music, and entertainment market in every possible way. Similar to Apple, try and see if your product or services can expand into a new direction. Look for various solutions within your niche and try and leverage any problems or complications to your advantage.

3. Evaluate Your Competitors

No matter what industry you are in, there will always be someone to compete with. Even if you were the only one, give it time. Within a matter of months, you will see various replicas of your business trying to go after your market. To help expand your marketing plan, some of the best possible strategies come from the competitors themselves. The only question to consider is: How are you going to do it better?

4. Listen to Your Customers:

There is no better feedback than the actual customer providing that feedback. Time after time, customers look to see how a device or a service can improve each and every day. If possible, try and compile a survey or a marketing research campaign to hear the thoughts of the fans. This in turn will give you the insight of what you can do to improve your company for the better.

How to be a Successful Leader

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There are myriad interpretations of leadership. For instance, a leader might motivate others through official power and authority. However, just as often exceptional leaders guide through personal connections, persuasion, and inspiration. So what is leadership? It actuality, is the ability to lead and consciously produce a result that otherwise would not have occurred. It’s not only the creation of events that constitutes good leadership. Good leaders deliberately design challenging outcomes by engaging the help of others.

Successful Entrepreneurial Leadership Approaches

Successful entrepreneurship can transform a declining business into a Fortune 500 corporation by changing corporate cultures. Good leadership is an integrated solution for organizational success. The most successful entrepreneurial leadership approaches include:

  • Transformational. Transformational leaders motivate teams and influence coworkers to grow and develop. This is one of the most powerful leadership styles because it shapes work efficiencies, social culture, and mindsets.
  • Charismatic. Charismatic leaders are the driving strength that motivates teams to exceed expectations. These leaders frequently employ personal charm to inspire and lead and tend to be globally admired and respected. Charismatic managers are well known for their talent to assemble a large amount of followers.
  • Participative. Using participative leadership, entrepreneurs request advice and input from all team members involved in the business plan. This leadership approach values each team members’ opinion as significant. Employees become part of the decision-making process quickly, making everyone involved feel highly motivated and appreciated.
  • Situational. Similar to transformational, the situational leadership style is one of the most successful entrepreneurial leadership approaches. This type of leader focuses easily on situational adaptation and adjustment to personal capabilities, circumstances, and abilities of teams.

A successful entrepreneur will focus their career on combining these successful leadership styles. Whatever leadership styles you choose to emulate, it is essential to remember that not all of them work for the every organization or individual. Do what’s best and concentrate on what improves your chances of success.

Are People Born as Entrepreneurs?

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The latest question creating separation in the business industry surrounds whether or not entrepreneurs are a unique class, born with a drive and demand to succeed that the rest of humanity lacks. While many subscribe to this theory, others believe that entrepreneurship can be created through mentoring, experience, and education.

Multiple studies over the last decade have hinted at the existence of an entrepreneur gene, or at a minimum that people with distinct personality traits and genetic tendencies are more inclined to be successful entrepreneurs than others. Some studies suggest that genes influence whether a person will start a business and can even determine an individual’s earning potential. It’s a divisive thought, particularly for Americans raised with the notion that education and drive can enable success in any area they choose.

Exploring a Genetic Predisposition to Entrepreneurship

The dilemma surrounds whether entrepreneurs pursue a path because of a genetic predisposition or educational experiences. Most of us have met many successful entrepreneurs in our careers and would agree that they include diverse personality types and individuals, including a mix of extroverts and introverts, inherent risk-takers, and those with a higher, more circumspect outlook. There isn’t a unique representation of an entrepreneur, just as there isn’t one particular sort of business opportunity. However, the talents of many entrepreneurs converge in the following abilities:

  • Exhibit personal strengths in entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Align their skills and passions with potential opportunities
  • Develop the skills and attributes they need to maximize those opportunities

In short, a career based on entrepreneurial attributes and skills can be learned and is something that should be a component of the educational experience of all young people. That means that entrepreneurs can be created and also may be born with traits that predispose them to exceed. As mentors, we can all perform a role in supporting the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Ever-Evolving Concept of Leadership in the Workplace

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Like any other field, leadership goes through various trends and changes. Because of this, it is imperative that we understand these inclinations in order to be successful.

When we think about leadership, we can argue that there are only a few things that are more important than this skillful governance. The reason why is simple. Efficient and effective leadership helps nations through times of peril. It solidifies success within various businesses. And most importantly, it enables organizations to develop and grow each and every day. Any absence of leadership is equally dramatic in its effect. These negative ramifications can force organizations to move slowly, stagnate, or worse case scenario, lose their way.

With our ever-evolving world, we as business leaders need to internalize the beliefs and ideals of our times in order to move forward in a more positive and lucrative manner. To understand leadership, we first need to be able to separate historical thought from current practice. In today’s world, leaders must be able to provide inspiration, motivation, and direction to their team. Ten-fifteen years ago, this idea did not exist. Instead, leadership was defined by experience and age.  While that still holds some weight, today, leadership requires authenticity and transparency within a person’s tactics. To be inspirational and transformative, a leader’s employees need to understand the vision, goals, and beliefs of a person and their organization. Any type of cover-ups or dishonesty can compromise the overall trust your employees have for you. This in turn can even negatively impact their work.

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In addition to honesty, a true and impactful leader needs to have a positive brand. Think of your brand as your reputation. It is used to be that when people talked about your reputation, they focused on your public character and your past. Today, your personal brand is your reputation. Your actions, your work, and most importantly your attitude truly define who you are as an individual. If you are able to show a more positive gung-ho approach with your employees, fantastic! Keep in put! If not, try and figure out various ways in which you can build those foundational blocks with your team. Remember, if you are not social, you are missing the boat. As a leader, you need to be able to communicate at a certain level. Don’t hide behind a closed boardroom door. Instead, approach your team and ask how they are doing. This will boost morale in two ways: 1. Gives you various updates of daily task and 2. Gives support to those who really need it.

One of the most beneficial things you can do as a leader is build leadership from within. By creating a mentorship within your team, you are building a strong foundation for success. When mentoring, two things can happen. First and foremost, you will find your employees rise beyond their expectations when given a chance.  This goes back to trust. By entrusting these individuals to step up and assume a leadership role, you are giving them an opportunity to show them their worth. Most case scenarios, you will see individuals rise to the occasion by taking ownership in completing and perfecting this task. Secondly, you will find that mentoring teaches you as much as it teaches the mentee. That is because when you give away the knowledge and skillsets to perform at a higher caliber, it becomes a living and breathing entity. It takes a physical form that passes from one person to the next. From there you learn the impact of your work as well as the impact other individuals can have on the rest of the group.

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One of the last things is that you need to be honest to yourself.  There is a famous saying that, “if you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” This is true in the business world. Comprehend and internalize your own inconsistencies and failures. Only by understanding these weaknesses can you truly develop in becoming a better leader. This can be done by asking yourself various questions. Ask yourself if the previous year or month went exactly as planned. If not, ask what you could have done to change it. By developing that sense of honesty with your own shortcomings, you will be able to grow and develop as a more impactful leader. At the end of the day, true leaders do not just rely on their strengths. Rather they leverage their weaknesses to move towards their goals.

Entrepreneurship: Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting your Own Business

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Why am I starting my own business?

Before formally becoming an entrepreneur and starting any sort of independent enterprise, it’s important to truly understand why you are choosing to go this route. Do you like the flexibility and independence running your own business entails? Maybe you hope to generate a consistent and lucrative flow of cash? Do you want to address some sort of need in a niche market you are interested in? There are an endless array of answers you could use in response to this question. The important thing to keep in mind is whether those answers outweigh the negative possibilities that can arise when running your own business.

What are my goals for the business?

This question is very much in line with the previous question, except that it delves a bit deeper into the general business plan you hope to implement. Every business needs a business plan and a strategy for it to succeed. “Making money” is simply not good enough of an answer to this question. It’s important for any entrepreneur to have structured goals to reach during his/her business’s infancy years.

What capital do I have access to?

It takes money to make money. You must carefully assess the amount of money you are willing to invest into the business, as well as develop a realistic expectation on how much money you CAN collect through loans and other investors. The type and amount of capital you have will determine what kind of business opportunities are really available to you. Through crowdfunding platforms and other modern day investing mechanisms available today, coming upon some initial capital should not be impossible.

What do I know how to do ? What are my strengths?

Are you a great promoter? Do you write really well? Are you inventive and innovative? Are you organized and meticulous in your spending? Maybe you can sell the shirt off another man’s back. Regardless of what your strengths are, it’s important to incorporate some of your own natural abilities into the business you are hoping to develop. Running a business incorporates a wide range of skills. If you are lacking in a particular skill-set, partner up with someone who may be a bit stronger where you lack.

Who is my competition? What separates me from similar businesses?

Unless your idea is one of a kind, or completely new and innovative in today’s consumer market, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Eventually even the newest idea will have copycats and competitors, so it’s important to always stay ahead of the curb and develop new strategies to set yourself apart from your competitors. Use your strengths as discussed earlier to distinguish yourself from like-businesses.

Who is my customer/client base?

Who is your target audience? Who are the products and services intended for? Know the people you are servicing and appeal to their interests. If it’s a niche product or service you are trying to sell, try not to stray away from their interests entirely. Even established businesses can have trouble expanding their general audience and market, I would suggest to stay within your known perimeters until you are comfortable with your company’s current position.

Am I prepared to dedicate a great deal of time and money to this business?

For many, starting a business can be a life project years in the making. Building a business takes hours of time and dedication, not to mention thousands of dollars – if not more. It’s important to be ready for the commitment that starting and running your own business entails. If you are not ready to commit hours of your life to this venture, then you need to reconsider your venture.

If this fails, would you regret it?

Being an entrepreneur involves creating your own journey. The first step was deciding that you would not be content with living a life that was already prescribed unto you by someone else. The second step was breaking away from the formal path, and deciding to become an entrepreneur. If you failed, you should not regret the journey you have embarked on. It is a unique path that few are brave enough to undertake.

Life of an Entrepreneur: the Five Dark Truths

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Since the early 90s, many people have taken the plunge to become an entrepreneur expecting the journey to be like what they read in the papers or on television. However, like many of the veterans will say, starting a business is like diving head first into the deep end without known how to swim. Many people are often mistaken because of the fantasies of being your own boss and creating your own hours is exciting. While at times it can be exhilarating, overnight success is incredibly rare within the field. For those business leaders thinking about getting things started, start off by understanding the overall risk you will be taking the minute you become your own boss. Once you do that, you can begin preparing your next steps of the business.

While all of the dark truths portray a negative perspective of the life of an entrepreneur, this should not deter you from trying. This article is meant to educate and prepare you for the unknown and uncertainties to come.

So what are the dark truths? Below, you will see five of the biggest misconceptions people will face when entering the field of entrepreneurship. Use this knowledge to educate and prepare you rather than scare you from the field. Think about it, for those successful business leaders like Elon Musk or Mark Cuban, success didn’t come immediately. Rather it was a growing process where everyday was a battle.

1. Money that Comes in will Immediately Come out

When starting a business, you need to be aware that you will not make money right away. Starting off, raising capital for your business can be a difficult obstacle. However, the process serves as a financial eye-opener of what needs to be financially achieved in order for your business to grown and thrive each and every day. In addition, for most businesses, the first few years will be spent on foundational and operational cost. While the revenue may be growing, the personal financial gain cannot be the same.

2. You Can’t Do Everything by Yourself

While in the beginning stages of your business you may find yourself holding various titles, an entrepreneur and business leader needs to shed the weight of responsibilities and trust their employees to be accountable for their own obligations. Yes, you know the marketing, sales, employees, and management tactics needed to run a business. But in order for you to grow as a boss, you need to trust your employees with the work. Doing so is a strong sign that your business is thriving. Just because you are holding less responsibilities does not mean you are doing less. Rather you can use that time to optimize and improve yourself as an administrator and CEO.

3. The Organized Chaos

While you may have started off with a clean and efficient business plan, the reality after the first few years of your company may shift dramatically. At the end of the day, it is often hard to predict the overall outcome of where your business it heading. There will be various speed bumps and this will seem to go off course. When this happens, accept it. See how these changes can align with your vision so that you can reflect and transform your company to the best possible position. Remember, adapt or die. Those who live in the old world stay in the old world. For your business, accept change and welcome it as a good thing.

4. Your Decisions will Keep You Up at Night

As a business leader and face for your company, you will oftentimes be the primary decision-maker for those hard-to-make stress-inducing decisions. Yes, some will decisions will haunt you, but at the end of the day, you want to be confident. To make the most logical and sound decision, look at what will benefit your company in the long run Compare and contrast how these decisions will change the work culture and your relationships with those around you. By asking yourself these big heavy hitting questions, you will be preparing yourself for greater things. Just know that whatever decision you make, believe that you are right.

5. Failure will always be an Option

Whether they are massive or minor, failure is undoubtedly inevitable. It is the essential part of being an entrepreneurship. While it is uneasy to accept, you need to understand that you will not have control of everything. Rather than look at these failures as a negative, see them as a window of opportunity. Reflect why this came to be and how you can prevent it down the line.