A Year-End Checklist for Building Your Career through Social Media

In the business world, there are many year-end activities you can apply to your social media strategy for building your career.

What are they? Completing the year’s priorities. Assessing performance for you and your team. Closing the books. Celebrating the season. Connecting with people. Assessing upcoming trends. Setting new strategies and goals.

Here’s a checklist to consider for your own year-end plans as you build your career through social media.

FINISH PRIORITIES AND ASSESS PERFORMANCE

Reflect on how you did on this year’s social media goals. If you set a game plan for the year, see where you did well and what you want to do better in the future.

My plan was to:

(1) amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle

(2) give corporate professionals a roadmap to build their career through social media with this blog (note: opinions are my own)

(3) share appropriate highlights of my work in social media

(4) learn how social media is evolving by experimenting with platforms and listening to podcasts, and

(5) help people in my network by sharing and commenting on their content.

Overall, I made progress in every area, even if I didn’t reach every numerical goal. I didn’t share many highlights of my work in social media, because some of it wasn’t content that should be posted in a public forum.

One exciting exception was sharing the news that my employer was named to Fortune’s 2017 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. As part of a cross-functional team dedicated to making the company a great place to work for all,   I was thrilled to see this recognition and shared it in social media.

Apply your social media activity to your performance assessment. If you’ve been using social media to document your professional life, your feeds become another valuable input to summarize your performance.

You can sift through your posts and articles as reminders of the highlights of the year’s accomplishments. If some of the posts performed particularly well with audience engagement or business impact, you could incorporate those numbers into your performance assessment.

Once your self assessment is done, you have a valuable document to use to update your LinkedIn profile with accomplishments, projects, organizations, awards, and so on. Decide if you want to make tweaks to your profiles in other social platforms, to keep them aligned.

If you have visuals suitable for sharing in public, upload them to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your best work. Consider videos, photos, podcasts, slide decks, news releases and other visual representations. Err on the conservative side if you’re not sure if you should share information. When in doubt, don’t post.

CONNECT WITH YOUR NETWORK AND CELEBRATE THE SEASON

Make the most of social media for holiday networking events. Consider the social media aspect of the event, which I covered in another post.

Stephanie Vozza has a great piece in December’s issue of Fast Company with ideas about how to prepare.

“See who’s going,” says Dorie Clark author of Stand Out Networking. “The event organizer will often publish the names and bios of the people who’ll be there. Get a head start by identifying who you want to meet.”

Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector suggests offering to volunteer. “This will allow you access to key leaders who can make key introductions.”

She also advises doing “an internet and social media search of people you want to meet, so you have something meaningful to talk about or ask.” She suggests reaching out in advance via social media.

Reconnect with people. As you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, make an extra effort to post comments for people you want to strengthen and refresh your connections with. A comment or a share means so much more to your network than a like.

SHARE HOLIDAY GREETINGS

Create your holiday greeting posts for your social networks. How will you wish your networks a happy holiday season? Are there inspiring leadership quotes you want to share? Valuable and timely articles you want to post? A fun holiday photo or video with your team to wish your business partners all the best?

To spark your creativity, look at how others are posting about the season. What resonates with you? What would you do differently?

Check out #holiday hashtags for business. Think about what hashtags you’ll use for your holiday posts to make your content more discoverable. Here’s a hashtag calendar resource for the whole year, to help with the holidays and your planning for the new year.

Take a inclusive approach to your hashtags, keeping in mind that a variety of holidays are celebrated at the end of the year.

ASSESS TRENDS AND ACCELERATE LEARNING

Check out trends for the new year. In an upcoming post, I’ll summarize the big trends ahead for building your career through social media. It will build on the format from last year with my post on how social media will change for professionals in the coming year.

Pick one new thing you want to learn. Based on the trends, what do you most want to learn? What are you most interested in? Although my social media trends post is still be researched and written, a big area of focus for me will be video. How can I incorporate more video into my social strategy? How can I tell stories with short videos?

Find a new podcast to learn from while you commute. The ones I’ve been enjoying are:

The Science of Social Media with Brian Peters and Hailley Griffis

Social Pros with Jay Baer and Adam Brown, and

Why I Social with Christopher Barrows.

These turn my commute time into learning time, making it easier to stay up to date and pick up new ideas.

Identify an experiment to conduct. In each of the last two years, I’ve done a 30-day experiment. This year it was seeing what would happen when I posted to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. Last year it was blogging every day for a month.

In the year ahead I’m contemplating primary research on how corporate professionals are building their careers through social media.

PLAN FOR THE NEW YEAR

Pick a theme for the year. A theme for your year gives you a rallying cry that focuses your efforts. It helps you prioritize what to focus on and what to ignore. Here’s how author Gretchen Rubin picks a one-word theme. For the last sever years I’ve had an annual theme, and I’ll cover this in an upcoming post.

Set your #socialmediagoals for the new year. What did you learn from this year’s social media activity? What are the trends for the new year? What do you want to learn? These are all questions to ask yourself as you create a fresh set of goals.

Clear the decks. Just as you clean up your physical and digital workspace by deleting old files, updating contacts, and so on, do the same for your social media accounts.

Clear out the message cache for each platform. You don’t have to respond to everything. Go through pending connection requests on LinkedIn. Here’s a strategy for which invitations to accept. Start the new year fresh.

What’s on your year-end social media checklist?

The Secret to Fitting Social Media into Your Professional Life

Why doesn’t everyone have a social media strategy for their career?

There are two main reasons: not seeing the value and not having the time.

The value proposition has a simple answer. Our professional reputation increasingly influences how we get jobs, advance in our careers and navigate transitions.

The time equation is more difficult. We each have 24 hours in days that seem to get busier by the second. How can we make the most of our limited time to build our careers through social media?

Start by thinking about what you’ve done professionally over the last month.

Have you –

  1. Spoken at an event
  2. Attended a conference
  3. Taken a course, online or in person
  4. Traveled for a work meeting or event
  5. Joined a professional or trade group and attended a meeting
  6. Received an award for your work
  7. Completed a key project that can be shared in public
  8. Participated in a company-sponsored charitable event
  9. Seen an engaging video about your company or industry
  10. Found a valuable article about your company or industry
  11. Read a thought-provoking book about business or your industry
  12. Come across an interesting post by a colleague or your company

Why consider these activities?

VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk identified a simple and powerful strategy in his post, “Document, don’t create: creating content that builds your personal brand.”

Documenting is creating content, he says. It’s simply sharing your career journey and what you’re doing every day. And it’s easy to do because you’re “just being yourself.”

To look into the future of this documenting trend, check out the New York Times article Keeping Up, on Camera, Is No Longer Just for the Kardashians.

In everything you do professionally today, start by asking yourself if it can be shared publicly in social media. Make sure to never, ever share non-public and/or competitively sensitive information in social media.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t share. Even if you think something is okay to share in public, check that official company sources have shared the information publicly, or ask your supervisor for confirmation.

Career blogger Penelope Trunk said it well in her online course Reach Your Goals by Blogging. “Just don’t write anything near where your ‘security clearance’ goes,” she advised. While most people don’t have security clearances, this is an apt analogy to keep confidential information confidential. Don’t share it.

Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, then focus on what you’re doing, what’s interesting about it and why it could be valuable to your network.

What specifically in the course of your day, your week and your month could you share that builds the career brand you want to be known for?

Some of my colleagues do this really well. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Here are just a few.

TeNita Ballard. TeNita is an enthusiastic champion of diversity and inclusion. She shares the events she attends, the people she meets and what she learns through posts in Instagram, Facebook and more.

John Starkweather. John is a big advocate for business customers. He shared his experience at the company’s recent tech conference The Summit in LinkedIn and Twitter. His posts make you feel like you were there.

Jennifer Van Buskirk. Jennifer leads the east region of the company. She shares leadership lessons she’s learned in her career in LinkedIn, along with the events she attends and speaks at in the course of her work.

Sarah Stoesser Groves. Sarah is a digital marketer who shares news and information her network can use. At The Summit she posted insightful video clips and sound bites from many of the speakers in LinkedIn and Twitter.

L. Michelle Smith. Michelle is a multi-cultural marketer. She’s a great source for the latest research and thought leadership on inclusion marketing through her posts in LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reflecting on the last month, here are some of the professional activities I’ve shared in LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It only required taking a few photos and videos of the events and sharing key messages in my social networks.

They tended to be squeezed into the nooks and crannies of busy days as well as evenings and sometimes weekends, forming the public side of work-related activities that can be shared in social media.

Attended The Summit in Dallas as a marketing leader and participated on a team of social influencers to amplify the event’s messaging and reach, thanks to Sarah Groves.

Joined the Women’s Sports Foundation‘s annual salute gala in New York, thanks to Fiona Carter who is a member of the group’s board. It was inspiring to see so many strong female role models and spend time with colleagues.

Spoke at #WeGatherLA, the second-annual women’s leadership experience spearheaded by Otter Media President Sarah Harden, thanks to an invitation from Jennifer Cho and Katelynn Duffel. It was an amazing experience interviewing Helie Lee about her project Macho Like Me, when she lived life as a man for six months. Truly incredible!

Talked with visiting students from Howard University and North Carolina A&T University about how to build a career through social media, thanks to Grant Reid, along with John Willis and Kaleb Pask.

Participated in events at USC as a member of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board, thanks to Leticia Lozoya and Ashley Cooper.

Beyond building your career through social media, there are other benefits to documenting your professional life in social. You’re helping to build the brands of your company and your colleagues.

Employees are a trusted and credible source of information about their companies, according to Shel Holtz. Take that responsibility seriously and be sure you’re communicating in alignment with your company’s values, brand and social media policy.

And as we approach the end of the year and you summarize your key accomplishments, your social media feeds are a powerful input. They document many of your key accomplishments. You can add to quantifying their impact by the reach and the engagement of your posts.

As you head into a new week, what are you doing, experiencing and learning this week that you can share in social media?

A Top 2018 PR Trend: Growth in Employee Advocacy

What’s ahead in 2018?

How will you continue to build your career through social media in the coming year? As a corporate professional, how can you best tell your story through social media – and promote your employer’s brand and your colleagues at the same time?

A top trend is the continuing growth in employee advocacy programs. Through them, companies empower their employees to be brand ambassadors.

Employees can share official news and information about the company and its brand through personal social media channels.

Some research I did this week got me thinking about this topic (opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

I reviewed recent literature and studies to identify the trends and challenges in marketing, branding and public relations for the coming year.

6 PR trends to check out in 2018 pointed to the expansion of personal branding and thought leadership beyond a company’s leaders.

“The more people on your team who are building their brands and, by extension, your company’s brand,” says the article’s author John Hall, “the more opportunities you have to distribute content and connect with your audience.”

This dovetails with the observation by IABC Fellow Shel Holtz that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It also aligns with the “media fragmentation and loss of trust” that Robert Wynne covers in The biggest and most important media and PR trends for 2018.

In it, Bob Gold also speaks to the burgeoning challenge of getting noticed in growing media among the “ever-expanding communications channels.”

Another study full of interesting stats is the 2017 State of Employee Advocacy Survey. Conducted by JEM Consulting, it includes responses from 155 mostly U.S.-based companies:

  • Employee advocacy adoption grew by more than 25% over the last year.
  • In 2018, the top goal is to increase the number of employees participating as advocates.
  • Growth occurred for use of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Surprisingly, LinkedIn declined after being the top channel last year.
  • The most popular channels are Facebook (76% of respondents’ employees use it for advocacy), Instagram (62%) and Twitter (56%).
  • Twitter’s popularity went down 29% over the last year.
  • YouTube grew dramatically (35%) in its use year over year – to 43% in 2017, up from 8% in 2016.

“We attribute this shift to the increased variety of industries and type of organizations adopting employee advocacy, as well as the expansion of business objectives for these programs,” says Jen McClure, CEO of JEM Consulting.

“We’re seeing that all types of organizations are using visual media effectively,” McClure also says, “especially online video, which was one of our key recommendations from last year’s study.”

This is good insight for companies and individuals alike in planning for the coming year.

Personally, I’m looking at shifting my employee advocacy more toward Instagram and Facebook. This will be an interesting evolution, since I currently use those channels to connect with my personal networks (although the proportion of professional contacts is growing on those platforms).

And while advocacy seems to be declining in LinkedIn and Twitter, I’ll still focus on LinkedIn. The 500 million people on LinkedIn make it an ideal place to connect with other professionals. And the recent addition of video capability will be fun to explore.

With these data points, how will you create your social media strategy for 2018? What will you you continue? What will you change?

Be Bold in Growing Your LinkedIn Network

“In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated,” personal branding expert William Arruda wrote recently in Forbes about how to cultivate a powerful LinkedIn network.

First, begin with why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to accomplish? How can growing your network help you do that?

Second, ask yourself this question: Who did you meet this week, who will you be meeting soon and who do you want to meet?

Third, take a few minutes every week to add to your LinkedIn network. Always send a personalized invitation, explaining how you know each other and why you’d like to connect.

As you build your network, make sure your profile presents you in the best light. Here are great profile tips from LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum. They spoke this winter at the MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership.

Who did you meet this week? Did you start working with any new colleagues? How about vendors? Invite them to join your network.

What professional, civic and charitable organizations are you involved with? Invite key people from those groups to be part of your network.

Look at your email contact list, your Facebook friend list, your Twitter followers and so on. Identify the ones you want to invite to your LinkedIn network. The “grow your network” feature on LinkedIn will see who you already know based on your email address book.

At the airport recently, I ran into someone I met a few years ago at an event at my son’s school. We struck up a conversation and caught up on what was going on at our respective employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own). To keep the connection going, I followed up with a LinkedIn invitation.

One of my professional associations, a roundtable for senior communicators, also had its quarterly meeting this week. At the end of each day, I sent personalized invitations to people I’d met. An even better strategy – one colleague sent invitations in real time during our roundtable discussion of timely issues.

Who will you be meeting soon? What’s on your calendar for the coming week or month? Will you be meeting new people? Send them an invitation in advance of the event.

When you meet in person, you’ll already be acquainted with each other’s LinkedIn profiles and you may find a great conversation starter. For example, maybe you know interesting people in common or your new connection is working on a project you want to learn more about.

Who would you like to meet? Are you working in a new area and want to learn from the luminaries in the field? Are there companies of interest you want to know more about? Are there second-level contacts you’d like to add to your network?

This is where the personalized invitation is especially important. Explain in a compelling and brief way why you’d like to connect.

Take advantage of the “people you may know” algorithm in LinkedIn. Is there anyone you’ve missed connecting with? Invite them to your network.

Lucas Buck recommends looking at alumni groups and people who have similar college degrees. He’s an area sales manager at Farmers Insurance who uses LinkedIn highly successfully to achieve his business objectives.

He spoke last fall at a networking group affiliated with my son’s school. What did I do the same day as the event? I sent personalized LinkedIn invitations to the people I met at the event, along with Lucas.

Here’s a sidenote about conference speakers. Introduce yourself and chat with the speaker briefly before they speak, if they aren’t too busy with final presentation preparation. Fewer people line up to talk with them before their presentation, as opposed to the larger group that tends to gather after the talk.

Back to LinkedIn, what strategies do you use to grow your network?

Be Bold in Your LinkedIn Profile

What’s one action you can take today to kick-start your career?

Tell a bold story in your LinkedIn profile.

Here are powerful strategies from this month’s MAKERS Conference. LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum led a standing-room-only session on managing your personal brand.

What is a personal brand? The presenters cited Jeff Bezos, who says “your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”

To define your brand they asked a key question: what do people want you in the room for? Put another way: what is the best of you?

How you answer these questions will shape the story you tell about yourself in social media and in real life. (And if you’re looking to reinvent your brand, there are great ideas from bestselling author Dorie Clark.)

While a brand – for a corporation, a product or a professional – is built over time, here are actions you can take today for a bolder LinkedIn profile.

They’re from the LinkedIn tip sheet above, along with how I’ve made them work for me. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

  • Include a professional photo. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. Here’s how to take a great headshot. If you don’t have a high-quality recent headshot, get one done this month.
  • Personalize your headline. Don’t use the default of your current job title. Show what you do and what makes you unique. Look at a variety of headlines for inspiration to see what catches your eye.
  • Add visuals. There are 20 million pieces of content on member profiles. Is your content among those? Post videos and pictures of your best work. Upload relevant presentations that can be shared with the public.
  • Post a compelling summary. Make it 40 words or more. Include keywords for your industry. Read others’ summaries to see what appeals to you. Writing in first person is stronger and bolder than third person.
  • Cover your past work experience. Your profile is 12 times more likely to be viewed if you list more than one position. If you’ve been working for several years, though, you can omit earlier positions that don’t add to your story.
  • Include volunteer experience and causes. This information increases profile views 6 times. If you’re looking for areas to engage, get involved with your company’s philanthropic causes and volunteer opportunities.
  • Check out LinkedIn Learning. We all get to be lifelong learners, and this feature offers hundreds of online courses. It’s a great reason to become a premium subscriber, which I did a few years ago for the analytics.
  • Share your contact information. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Include your email address, your blog, your Twitter handle and your company’s website. However, consider omitting your cellphone number.
  • Customize your public URL. Here are easy instructions. For consistent branding, use your name in the URL the same way you use it in other social profiles. Put it on your resume, business card and email signature.
  • Add skills and get endorsements. Be deliberate about skills you list. Your top 3 skill endorsements display in mobile search, so reorder them to show the ones that best tell your story. Give back to your network by endorsing others’ skills.

One of my goals for the MAKERS conference was to meet new people in every session. At the end of each day, I looked them up in LinkedIn. If I only had a first name and a company, I was able to search with that and find the right profile.

Then I sent personalized invitations (don’t send the default invitation!). Now we’re connected and can easily keep in touch as we build on the conference learnings.

How have you been bold in your LinkedIn profile?

The Social Media Side of a Networking Event

It’s the holiday season. That means year-end networking events.

They always seem like a good idea when the invitation arrives, don’t they?

Yet when the appointed hour comes, I often regret my affirmative RSVP.

Except I didn’t this month when I dragged myself away from a compelling work project at 6:30 one evening and made myself go to the event I said I would attend.

It was a professional networking event of my son’s high school, for alums and parents to get to know each other and share ideas.

To honor my commitment, I intended to stay for 30 minutes. But happily and unexpectedly, that extended into a fun-filled 90 minutes.

Why? As I reflected on it, there are a few ways to make the most of a networking event.

In particular, think about the social savvy aspect, or social media element, of the people you meet and the conversations you have.

  • Have a goal or two. Why are you attending? What do you want to accomplish? For me, I wanted to meet local professionals related to my son’s school to feel more connected to the school and the local community. I wanted to meet interesting people and hear what they were doing.

In part, I was inspired by marketing strategist Dorie Clark‘s advice in Harvard Business Review about networking with people outside your industry. She makes a compelling case for deliberately exposing yourself to diverse points of view.

And just like social media is about sharing and giving, the same is true for a networking event. Approach it from the perspective of how you can help others.

How do you do that? Here are a few ideas.

  • Scan the attendee list. Look up a few people in social media to see who you might want to meet. What have they posted about recently? How can that be a conversation starter?
  • Scan the latest news. Know what’s happening in the world that day. See what’s trending on Twitter. You’ll be better able to engage in conversations and ask people for their thoughts.
  • Wear something that makes a statement. Pick something that you feel great in. A bright color, an interesting tie or a fabulous pin can help you connect with people. And you’ll stand out in photos that are posted in social media.
  • Stand in the doorway for a moment when you arrive. This helps anchor you and lets you scan the room to see who you might want to meet.
  • Put your name tag on your right side. This was something I learned in grad school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. When you shake hands, your name tag becomes more prominent and easier to read.
  • Grab a beverage. Stick to one drink and sip it slowly. Hold it in your left hand, so your right hand is ready for shaking hands.
  • Have a question or two ready. This will depend on the group. For mine, I asked about how people were connected to the school.
  • Introduce people to each other. Make a point of connecting people you know to each other. Say something great about each person that provides a conversation starter.
  • Look for small groups. It’s easier to start conversations with one or two people. You can start with a comment on the food or the venue or something interesting they’re wearing.
  • Post about the event. Take an interesting photo, add a caption about something new you learned and share the spirit of the event.
  • Share content about the event. If the event has a hashtag, search it and share relevant and appropriate content.

How do you make the most of a networking event?

Don’t Ditch Social Media

Four friends checking their mobile phones at the same time.

Social media got a bad rap during this year’s election process.

Fake news, Twitter trolls and cyber bullying came under fire.

Among American social media users, the Pew Research Center reported that 65% expressed “resignation and frustration about online political conversations.”

It’s enough to make anyone want to quit social media for good.

But don’t do that.

Why?

Because of your 100-year life.

What’s that about, you ask?

Well, more than half of babies born in developed nations in the 2000s can expect live to 100 or beyond, according to the medical journal The Lancet. And if you were born before then, your life will likely be a lot longer than you think.

A new book called The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity got me thinking about this.

Authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott are from the London Business School. They look at how anyone at any age can and should plan for their greater life expectancy, turning the extra time into “a gift and not a curse.”

When lives were shorter, people lived a three-stage life – education, work and retirement. These stages were compartments that didn’t overlap.

As early as 1978, Richard Bolles wrote about them in The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Work/Life Planning. He advanced the idea that you needed to incorporate all three stages across your entire life.

He also wrote What Color is Your Parachute? It was chosen as one of the 100 All-TIME best and most influential non-fiction books published since 1923.

With how quickly the world is changing, Bolles’ advice was and is spot on.

  • We need to embrace lifelong learning, actively developing new skills as technology and globalization accelerate.
  • We need productive work to provide purpose, meaning and economic sustenance throughout our lives.
  • And we need leisure time to enjoy our lives and the people in them, and to refresh and renew ourselves.

Gratton and Scott explore this concept in writing about the interplay between tangible and intangible assets. They define an asset as “something that can provide a flow of benefits over several periods of time.”

Tangible assets “have a physical existence” and include things like housing, cash and investments. Intangible assets are things like “a supportive family, great friends, strong skills and knowledge, and good physical and mental health.”

The authors say that intangible assets are “key to a long and productive life – both as an end in themselves and also as in input into tangible assets.” They divide them into three categories of assets – productive, vitality and transformational.

One of these intangibles – a productive asset along with skills, knowledge and peers – is your reputation. “When a company has a positive brand, or a person has a good reputation, it is much easier for others to interact with them,” the authors say.

“A good reputation can be enormously important as it enables your valuable stocks of skills and knowledge to be really utilized in a productive way,” they continue. “It can also have a profound impact on your professional social capital.”

Why? “A good reputation will be one of the assets that enable you to expand your horizons,” the authors say. “It is the combination of portable skills and knowledge and a good reputation that will help bridge into new fields.”

They go on to write that “over the coming decades, it is likely that reputation will be based on a broader range of inputs. As future careers embrace more stages and more transitions, then inevitably this will create a broader range of information.”

Enter social media.

“Social media will increasingly broadcast your image and values to others and allow others to track and monitor performance,” they say. “So it is inevitable that you will need to curate a brand and reputation that covers far more than just your professional behavior.”

Everyone will need to signal their skills, their capabilities and their values during a longer life that potentially has multiple transitions. And transitions can take many forms – from one functional area to another, from one company to another and from one type of work to another.

Social media makes it easy to do this.

Over time, you can share your skills and abilities through many platforms – a Twitter feed, a YouTube channel, an Instagram stream, a LinkedIn portfolio, a Snapchat story or a personal blog. And these platforms will continue to change and evolve, with new ones emerging over time.

If you want to make your life’s transitions easier and more fulfilling, then social media is a must. And this doesn’t mean being on a few platforms to share photos with family and friends. A deliberate strategy and a plan for your personal brand in social media is imperative.

But where do you begin? Which social media platforms should you use? How do you curate and create content without it taking over your whole life?

Those will be the subjects of several upcoming posts.

Is Everyone Faking It?

Business People Meeting Growth Success Target Economic Concept

Yes, everyone is making it up as they go along.

And that means you can, too, as you work toward your biggest goals.

I’ll tell you why in my post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

I’m a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this year, sharing all the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

Some of my fellow ambassadors, pictured below, were featured alums at the Annenberg NETworks event this fall with students and recent grads.

What a fun evening it was, full of interesting people and fascinating conversations.

#FightOn!

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Binge Watch Your Way To New Skills

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Who doesn’t love binge watching a favorite show?

Whether it’s Game of Thrones or Billions, watching multiple episodes in a single sitting makes the experience more intense, rewarding and fun.

That’s a fun part of working for at the company that provides DIRECTV. Whether it’s the DIRECTV app or a programmer app with the subscription, it’s easy to stream great content on a mobile device.

It got me thinking about how binge watching might apply to online learning. Could it make learning more effective? More efficient? How about more fun?

And why was I pondering this question?

A Fortune 10 CEO was recently quoted in the New York Times on reskilling people for the future. “There is a need to retool yourself,” he said, “and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend 5 to 10 hours a week in online learning will obsolete themselves with the technology.”

(Full disclosure: I work for this great company. Opinions in this blog are my own.)

While it’s true that small steps add up to big changes, it’s possible to accelerate learning by binge viewing great online courses.

As an example, for professional certifications that require ongoing education, binge viewing online courses is highly effective.

Why?

  • It eliminates the inefficiencies of starting and stopping courses.
  • It amplifies learning by increasing the ability to see patterns and make connections between seemingly disparate concepts and information.
  • And a significant amount of learning can be completed in a relatively short time, fueling more motivation to seek out further coursework.

As I rectify my accreditations in public relations and human resources every 3 years, this strategy has made ongoing learning more efficient and more fun.

And it’s worked well for a series of marketing essentials courses I co-created with colleagues in my new career role. And for several weeks my action-item list has included “complete this series of online courses.” But somehow it didn’t happen. Until today. And here’s why.

Schedule time. The 5 online courses I need to complete are 90 minutes each, totaling 7.5 hours. Have you ever found a full day without meetings that you could commit to online learning?

Earlier this week I looked at my schedule and saw I had a few open late afternoon hours on a Friday. So I booked it for 2 online courses. Which then became 3, as I was pulled into the reward of completing course after course.

It was much easier to click into that next course as long as I was already online, in a comfortable place, and with a few hours of time I’d blocked out.

Make yourself comfortable. Maybe there’s a comfortable chair in your workspace. Or a standing desk. Or even a treadmill desk. What would make the environment even better? Your favorite coffee beverage? A healthy snack?

Focus on the course. Find a quiet place. Close your door if you have one. Turn off email and text notifications and other sounds on mobile devices.

Enjoy the experience of focusing intently on only one thing. Research shows that humans can’t multitask anyway, as much as we delude ourselves into thinking that we can.

Write notes on key points. Listen for 3 key takeaways. There’s magic in the number 3. It focuses your thought processes and forces you to prioritize what you heard and saw.

Taking notes on those key points helps to solidify the learning, especially if you hand write them. And you have something you can quickly refer to when you want to refresh your learning.

Take one immediate action. Of those 3 key points, what’s one thing you can put into action right away?

As part of my PR recertification, I listened to an IABC webinar on the art of social media by Guy Kawasaki. That’s how I discovered Canva. It makes anyone, including me, into a graphic designer. Many of the images in this blog are from Canva.

Given the need for all of us to prepare for our next career, why not binge watch your way to a new skill?

Do You Have to Be Bad at Something Before You Can Be Good?

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When you’re learning something new, there’s often an expectation that you’ll pick it up easily. That it will be smooth sailing. That you won’t skip a beat.

After all, the world moves faster every day. The competitive landscape is more intense than ever. Time is in short supply. It’s one sprint after another to learn what you need to know. Learning curves can feel like vertical climbs.

But when in your life have you learned something new and performed it perfectly right from the start?

As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the book Outliers: The Story of Success, it takes about 10,000 hours to master a skill.

The hard part is the feeling of incompetence that comes along with learning. Two things happened this week that made me think more about being bad at something new.

First was reading the work of Erika Andersen in an HBR post, which was the subject of my blog post yesterday. She wrote about how to identify the next skills you should learn.

In that was an angle on having to be bad at something before you can be good. The important thing, Andersen says, is to continue on through the bad phase so you can get to the good.

In fact, it’s the subject of her new book coming out this winter called Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future. Sign me up. The pre-ordered book will download on my Kindle app on March 8.

In a Forbes post that may have inspired the book, she gives great strategies for How to Get Good at Things By Being Bad First. One of them is managing your self talk and being deliberately encouraging in how you speak to yourself.

That brings me to the second thing that happened this week. I’ve been trying different yoga classes, looking for 2 to do consistently each week. In addition to the serenity, stretching and balance benefits, I’m training to do paddle board yoga in the spring and summer.

And I’m moving through being bad into being good. One of my yoga instructors gave me a little smile this week when I at last managed to transition into Warrior II with the correct arm in front.

And my first experience with stand up paddle boarding last fall left me with a patch of broken skin on my thumb from holding the paddle the wrong way. The skin healed, and I figured out a better way to paddle.

Something the teacher in yesterday’s yoga class said made a big impression on me. He advised us not to condemn, judge or demand. If we let go of these mindsets and expectations, we will be calmer and happier.

These could apply to others. They could also apply to ourselves. By letting go of judging ourselves and demanding perfection, we are more free to experiment and learn.

That’s what Andersen is saying too. Most everyone will be bad at something when they first start. But by having faith in your ability to persevere and learn what you need to know, you can get good.

Another great book, What To Do When You’re New by Keith Rollag gives strategies for you to perform new things in front of people who aren’t familiar to you. Focusing on learning and getting better, rather than being good right away, is a great tip.

And his HBR article on being new gives good guidance on asking questions: consider what you want and why, determine whom to ask and if the time is right, ask short to-the-point questions and express thanks.

It’s humbling to recognize what you don’t know and what you need to learn. To try to ask the right questions, even when you don’t know what you don’t know. To take a crack at doing the new task. To learn from and recover from the inevitable mistakes. To start building competence.

This is what I’m doing in my new career role in marketing. This is how I navigate new community leadership roles. And this is how I approach my exercise classes. It’s not easy, but I keep moving forward.

As I learned from my yoga teacher, don’t judge yourself or demand perfection. Be kind to yourself and let yourself experiment. You’ll achieve much more, much faster and much better than you ever thought you could.