Social Media Contrarian

I love being a contrarian. Some might see my contrarian positions as more akin to ignorant, stubborn, or even laughable … but the rebel in me to do things differently, stand out from the crowd, or trail blaze just won’t be quelled.

At times I’m quite skeptical of the career advice put out by Harvard Review. I hold a -contrarian- view about some of the advice targeted to the corporate world issued by those immersed in academia. But occasionally, they surprise me. The post by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, “Five Tips for Smarter Social Networking” was one of those surprises!

What I love about branding is that it frees a person to be who they really are. No masks, no facade, no pretending and yes, you can even choose to be contrarian. Rather than being a “yes man” who blends in with the majority – whether that is reflective of your view or not – branding allows you to take a bold, principled stand based on your values, passions, and beliefs. And you can choose to broadcast that branded positioning via social media. Will you offend some people? Of course you will. Will you attract like-minded people and companies? Absolutely. Can that be scary? No question!

Two quick stories. No surprise to those who know me that I love politics … and I am not shy about stating my views. The result of taking a bold, vocal stand is that many of the clients I attract share my values and positions. Can I work with people who don’t share those views? Of course. But do I attract my ideal clients? Almost always!

One of my CFO clients from a few years ago came back to me, deciding to do branding work this time in anticipation of using his very strong, personal brand to secure his next opportunity. Part of his communication plan includes social media. What’s utterly delightful for him is that since embracing and living his brand, his interviews are with companies that are a perfect fit for who he is. He hasn’t accepted a new opportunity yet … he is employed and has the luxury of choosing the “right” next move, not “just” the next move. But his strong, branded digital footprint will no doubt deliver that … and relatively soon.

Resumes vs. Social Networking Sites

It’s not a competition. And, job seekers, even “future” job seekers … including Senior Finance Executives … need both!

What I’ve heard from my clients over the past 45 days, which includes the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, is that recruiter contacts were, and presently are, up significantly – 2 to 3 per week – and ALL of those contacts were coming through their Linked In profiles. When you do get contacted, you need to follow up with a resume that contains an equally compelling value proposition. did a great job in its article, “Do Social Networks Trump Resumes?”. Here are my thoughts on importance of having both: an executive resume that conveys ROI and a strong solid digital footprint.

Why you still need a resume

Resumes, particularly at the CFO level, aren’t going away, but they have changed dramatically from as little as 5 years ago. Smartphones, Twitter, and even the Internet are driving messaging today, which means communication is short, sweet, and to the point. That works well for those of us who are a high D in the DISC and prefer to get “just the facts, please”!

Not to be lost in that succinct communication is value. You didn’t get to the CFO chair by being good at responsibilities. You got there by impacting and contributing, taking away a company’s pain or resolving it’s problems, and getting the organization unstuck so it could move to the next level. That is the essence of a compelling resume and marketing message! And it must transcend your resume and flow right into your digital footprint.

Why you must have a digital footprint

Visibility. Credibility. Positioning. You can be the greatest finance executive in the history of the world, but if no one knows about the impacts you’ve made OUTSIDE your company, does it matter? In all likelihood, not to your career!

There is no question that recruiters, good recruiters anyway, can find you even if you aren’t making it easy for them to do so. But they can also find your talented and accomplished competitors, and much quicker.

CFOs are notoriously bad networkers. Either they don’t enjoy networking or simply don’t have time to engage in networking. A mere 15 minutes a day of proactive social networking can make a huge difference in gaining visibility among your target audience.

That visibility is backed by credibility – you are who you say you are – and can lead to high-value subject matter positioning. With a strong, visible presence, you can stand out from everyone else, rather than blending in with everyone else. Think “Purple Cow.”

An up-to-date resume and a solid digital footprint are both foundational for savvy career management.

The one thing the article didn’t cover was the benefit of proactive reputation management, which is a huge benefit of social networking. I’ll touch on that in my next blog post.

It’s Okay if You Think I’m a Social Media Snob

I prefer to think I’m selective and strategic, though, because here are a few things I just don’t do …

— Accept canned invitations to connect on Linked In (except when they come from CFOs which is my target audience)

— Auto-follow on Twitter

— Send auto DMs when someone follows me on Twitter

— Respond to Facebook requests when I can’t discern any information about the requester because of his privacy settings … and … there’s no personal note attached

And there are a few things that I try always to do …

— Send personal invitations to connect on Linked In and Facebook

— Respond with a personal note on Linked In when I accept an invitation

— Write a personal DM to an outstanding tweep when he/she follows me

— Discern whether it makes sense to “my” network and brand to follow someone on Twitter, connect on Linked In, friend on Facebook … which eliminates anyone with a foul mouth

— Disconnect with someone who sends me an automated “sales” DM after I’ve followed him

It just seems to me that something “professional” has been lost in social networking. I’ve written about this before. The bottom line is that anything you would NOT do in face-to-face networking should NOT be done online. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

Perhaps some of the things I’ve listed contribute to a Chief Financial Officer being reticent to jump into the social networking waters. I’d encourage you to come on in … just choose to be a snob about it.

The Last Bastion of Invisible People

Last week was a busy week. I did two interviews with two different writers at and I’ll post those links as soon as the stories go live. And, I had a great conversation with a finance recruiter. The topic, in each case, was social networking and CFOs.

Chief Financial Officers and Senior Finance Executives … the last bastion of invisible people. The holdouts from exposure, risk, penetrability. Put that way, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

These are the finance leaders who spend their days keeping their companies from risk. In fact, many of them might actually be wired on the high side of risk adverse. It’s what they’re used to. It’s what they know.

Along comes the Internet, personal transparency, and a whole lot of talking, engaging, and networking. Sounds like the makings of a finance leader’s worst nightmare. You want me to be visible AND chit chat with people?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, I do want you to be known. You’re talented and accomplished and those passive finance candidates are in demand. You might love what you’re doing today, but what about in 3 months or a year from now? The more time you have to establish visibility and credibility, the more likely your transition will be easy and relatively painless.

No, I don’t want you to be “chit chatty” or even feel like you need to have useless conversations with 10,000 followers on Twitter. But, it is in your best interests to be networking, to be seen by your target audience, and to establish yourself as a subject matter expert among that target audience. It’s impossible to do that if you refuse to get engaged.

There are several ways you can practice your social networking skills within a private environment and away from the public eye of Google. If you’re on Linked In, I run a CFO Careers group. Additionally, I recommend MyCFONetwork and/or Proformative as two places where you can also network with peers.

Just remember, in this case, network is a verb.

The Executive Job Search Challenge

I was honored to join two of my fellow Career Thought LeadersWendy Enelow and Jan Melnik, on a blog radio show hosted by Deborah Shane last week. My area of specialty … reputation management. Of the many interesting questions Deborah asked me, here’s one that I consider very important. 

What common liabilities are you seeing in executive job seekers that is making it harder for them?

Since I play in the senior finance executive space, my response was from that perspective …

— Many of my clients, at least initially, express an unwillingness or reticence to embrace technology and make it work for them. For better or worse, this is the new normal. It’s a new game with new rules, and executives have to play to win.

— Finance executives tend to be numbers people rather than people people. Networking doesn’t come easily to most of them. And, Web 2.0 technology is about “social networking.” The time investment for networking can also be a huge detriment to the average CFO who is so busy working in his job that he doesn’t have time to invest in his career.

— Because they put long hours in on their job to the exclusion of working on their careers, they may not realize that financial acumen aside … the moment they leave with a big severance package in their pocket, their marketability takes a hit because they now have the black mark of unemployment on their record. Some recruiters would say these candidates are tainted. That’s a cold, harsh assessment that makes finding employment that much more difficult once an executive is UNemployed.

— And of course, competition is stiff for fewer opportunities. A clear and compelling value proposition has never been more important. Sadly, many executives can get tripped up and trapped in the responsibility conversation. Differentiation happens when they turn the conversation to what they have that a company is willing to pay to get … which is all about the candidate’s ability to solve a company’s pain/need/challenge/issue.

If you’re interested in listening to the entire show, you’ll find it here

Executives, Careers, & Social Networking

Yesterday on Twitter I mentioned that I was reading a very interesting book on social networking entitled “33 Million People in the Room” by Juliette Powell. I’m not all the way through the book, but I will be in a few more days. It’s that interesting.

It’s no surprise where I stand on the importance of having a strong online presence. I’ve mentioned that CFOs seem to be missing the boat on social media … much more so than CEOs. The curious, or maybe not, fact is that operational CFOs seem to “get” it more than the traditional finance leaders do. 

In any event, this paragraph jumped out at me last night and it’s definitely worth your consideration …

Researchers Nguyen and Dang "discovered that not only are socially well-connected CEOs more likely to make more money, they are also far less likely to be fired for poor performance, and, amazingly, they were more likely than their unconnected peers to find new and solid employment when they were shown the door.” 

Now I know the author says “CEOs” but there is no question in my mind that it applies equally to Chief Financial Officers and other Senior Finance Executives.

The author of the book also says, as I’ve said, to ignore the power of social networking is to put yourself on the path to extinction.

If you are a finance leader and want more career-related information, you can get it by following my Facebook Business Page. You DO have a Facebook account, right?

There is a Difference!

Most Connected vs. Well Connected

Have you noticed these types of monikers attached to members on Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter? The “most connected” statement always makes me think Rolodex. Is it really possible to have a relationship with 16,000+ people on Linked In? Perhaps I’m a little old-fashioned but it seems to me that building relationships is about quality not quantity. Unless you are building a cold call contact list (like a recruiter), being well-connected to, and engaged with, a few will serve you better than merely collecting a lot of names.

Networking vs. Showing Up

These are very different. Many of my finance executives struggle with the networking concept. And I understand. For many CFOs, their jobs are demanding. Who needs one more thing to take time away from family and other priorities. 

However, networking today is defined as raising your visibility among those who need to know about you. That means engaging people. Just having a place holder on the various social networking sites with no picture, no interesting bio, and no conversation is merely showing up. Being a wallflower doesn’t raise visibility, it merely takes up oxygen.

Job Searching vs. Searching Posted Positions

A well-balanced job search strategy includes a variety of activities with searching posted positions as one of the “least” effective. And, the posted position game becomes even more ineffective the more senior your position. 

The best of all worlds is to do the things you need to do before you need to do them (managing your career) rather than being forced to give up power and do them because you have to do them (searching for a job). But, if you do fall into the latter category, move away from the job boards and diversify your search strategy.

And while we are speaking of job boards, the CFO recruiter who joined me on the Proformative Insight and Strategies for Seasoned Executives in Transition webinar told me he rarely, if ever, posts positions on public job boards. He’s not alone.

Branding vs. Marketing

This came up on the Proformative discussion boards following the Insights and Strategies webinar. There is an important distinction between authentic branding and marketing. Marketing is the pitch, persona, and perhaps even spin used in selling yourself. Branding, on the other hand, is leveraging the combination of your unique strengths, passions, and values that others … regardless of how they know you … all see in you and which attract “likeness”. This naturally pulls the kinds of opportunities that are a good fit with who you are. 

Branding occurs at the intersection of how others see you as it aligns with how you see yourself.  It requires honest feedback from people who know you and is why a person just can’t say I’m going to have this brand and then put it out for the world. If it isn’t who you really are, the world won’t buy it, at least not for long. 

Think of it this way. If you believe yourself to be a strategic finance leader but when asked, your team and the CEO and Board members all say they view you as a micro-managing bean counter … who are you really?

Certified Social Sourcing Recruiter (CSSR)

Did you know such a certification existed?  I didn’t …. but I’m not surprised. I’ve been saying for years that social networking is a career management strategy that is not only here, but critical to overall career success.

Here are a couple of quotes from an article I just read on Fistful of Talent that you might find interesting:

— … how can I use it [social networking] to effectively bring myself to people?

The old definition of networking is “who do I know.” Today, it has been redefined to “who knows about me” … or … “who needs to know about me.” Social networking ensures those people who need to know about you, do know about you.

–Not only did I learn how I can, indeed, use Twitter to actively source candidates, but we also played around in some tools that help you search.  

Twitter. To source candidates. Are you still avoiding Twitter?

–Also…have you ever considered X-raying Facebook

Now, I don’t know what “x-raying Facebook” is … and Jason Pankow doesn’t explain it, but I do know that being on Facebook expands your digital footprint so you can be found by those who are looking [the new definition of networking].

Great class for people serious about social recruiting.

Finance executives who aren’t using social media to build a visible online presence risk extinction. Yes, it is that important!

Linked In – Open or Closed?

One more question from my presentation at the AFP conference in LA last week.

Should my Linked In contacts be open or closed?

Since the purpose of sites like Linked In are for business and social networking, keeping your contacts private is not conducive to getting people enthused about joining your network. My recommendation is a public profile and open contacts.

That said, I believe it is important to protect network integrity. Canned invitations from open networkers who are simply trying to add to their already huge numbers of contacts isn’t really networking, it’s rolodexing. Consider your target audience and then be discriminating in accepting and issuing personally–written invitations.

Execunet Market Intelligence Report

Execunet has posted its annual Market Intelligence Report for executive job seekers. It’s always great information and you can download your *free copy at their site.

I found the following information interesting … and validating.  

–Job search stats: 41-50 years of age – 9 months; 51-60 years of age – 11.9 months

The search process is still a long one. Continually positioning yourself as a passive candidate will minimize, and can even eliminate, the “unemployed” stigma that can negatively impact marketability.

–The unpublished job market is not a myth with 86% of corporate recruiters and 61% of third party recruiters saying they do not routinely post $200,000+ positions

The “best-of-the-best” candidates do not spend the majority of their time on job boards and recruiters recognize that fact.

–Networking, including social networking, still accounts for 70% of executive opportunities

If you aren’t on Linked In, Facebook, Zoom Info, Ziggs, and Naymz, for starters, you won’t be found by the people who have the opportunities you want to know about. You can’t play the game if you aren’t in the game!

If your network is dead when you don’t need anything from them, it probably won’t be very productive when you do need their help.

— 86% of executive recruiters routinely scour online sources for candidate information … beyond the resume, with 7 out of 10 recruiters saying candidates’ prospects improve when positive information is found

A positive, visible online presence is a critical piece of proactively managing your career. The more consistent the available information, the more credibility you have and the more desirable you become.