Tag Archives: LinkedIn

Susan Mernit on Social Media

25 Mar

Recently I had the chance to talk with Susan Mernit about the role of social media in journalism. Susan is a long time blogger and reporter who started the site OaklandLocal. In her words OaklandLocal is:

[A news site] centered on issues including environmental justice, food distribution,transportation, development & housing, and gender & identity, OaklandLocal aggregates information and news  from local non-profits and community organizations working on these topics within a range of Oakland neighborhoods. We are committed to diverse voices, reader engagement, deep issue coverage and local commentary.

Any reader that spends time on OaklandLocal will get a good taste of the diversity in stories that make up Oakland. The site does a great job of covering news from various neighborhoods and across a number of topics. When asked about the role that social media has had in finding stories, Susan explained that social networking like twitter and facebook have made it much easier to locate the stories that don’t get covered in the mainstream and national media. This approach to story finding means that OaklandLocal  provides a truly fresh and new perspective to the news, rather than just repeating the same stories as other news sources.

Another aspect discussed in detail with Susan was the separation of the personal and public aspects of social media. An avid user of twitter, facebook and scribe, Susan shared that she only uses a single account for both professional and personal interactions on each service. Susan mentioned that there are downsides to this approach and that frequently she has to be overly aware of her wording when reading an interesting article or posting about it because its easy for a simple post to appear as an endorsement from her and subsequently an endorsement from the site – when in actuality it was just an interesting article. The extra hassle isn’t a deterrent however; Susan, continues to post as herself and be honest about her opinions on a frequent basis via social media.

When asked about how much of an asset social media is to the reporting process, especially for a web based news site, I was surprised by her answer. Susan explained that she had been writing online since the early days of blogging and in the beginning there wasn’t the convenience of social media to find stories or develop community around them. She explained that in those early days her goals were still the same, find often over-looked stories and share them with the community, but she did so by talking to people and networking in real life. I followed up on this idea by asking if the types of input she received had changed since moving to more social media and online networking. Susan’s impression was that while there are more people available at any given point with social media, the total number of opinions and viewpoints seemed to be pretty similar as to when all of her information gathering happened outside the internet.

Honesty was really the backbone of the message Susan had to share. The principles and idea that journalists are people first and as people they can’t help but have opinions. She shared that in her own writing she doesn’t strive to be without any personal stance on an issue but rather to just present all possible sides to every story – allowing news to be more about openness, transparency and dialog rather than simply marketing itself as unbiased. This approach is what makes OaklandLocal a unique asset to the hyperlocal news community. The ability to come to seek out stories, share them with the community and then allow for open discussion to commence from there.


Boasting Vs. Branding

18 Mar

The idea and importance of the self-brand is such an accepted thing today that almost every online persona is ready to promote the personal self at any opportunity. The idea of self-promotion has always been a  thorn in my side. Whether its the way I was raised or just an element of my personality, in any given situation there are a million other things I’d prefer to talk about than myself and how great I am. This week I decided to overcome this hatred of self branding and finally define for myself the line between branding and bragging. This task called for some external assistance a little more powerful than a simple google search; in steps LinkedIn Answers to the rescue.

What suggestions are there have for overcoming the dislike of writing about oneself? Whether it be cover letters, resumes or bios, it always feels arrogant to write about my accomplishments, skills and assets.

I posted the above question fully expecting to get the same canned answers that I’ve read a million times before, be data driven, record your voice saying it and then transcribe that. These are great suggestions… for someone who doesn’t have any trouble talking about themselves – but in my case the two kinda go hand-in-hand. I was thrilled that with in a couple of days I had received 15 very thoughtful answers about the topic from others on LinkedIn who were just trying to help for the sake of altruism. while some of the answers did conform to the standard advice you would find anywhere – others provided a totally new and very interesting perspective on the task.

Some hi-lights:

The important thing to remember is that you are helping someone who is in desparate need of your skills and accomplishments. – Sharon Bailly

Get more, not less personal. And tell success stories about how you’ve helped your clients – Sally Strackbein

What could I say about you that would really p___ you off? Your designs are utterly unoriginal! You can’t make deadlines! You can’t spell! You can’t take criticism! – William Bell

As a developer, maybe you could think about it more like writing a specification as you would for a computer program. – Taylor Winship

When writing a cover letter or a bio, I find it best to simply sit down and tell a story…your story. People tend to get caught up on how to brag about who they are, describe their accomplished, and highlight their unique skills. – Jon Fernandez

Some of the above items may seem simple enough once you read them but none of theme have every been on my radar when writing up a bio. Some are slightly contradictory to one another, such as being less personal vs being more personal, but I like both for different occasions. Last year I did an experiment with sending out overly arrogant cover letters, the idea was in response to the number of incredibly overconfident but under-qualified I had recently encounted in working relationships. The results of this were infact surprising. There could be very large holes in the skills defined by my resume but with enough boasting in the cover letter I would still get considerably more return calls than when using my usual writing style in cover letters. Small tests like this have given me insight into a couple of key things; people actually do read cover letter, and people care more about your personality then your background and list of skills.

And so with many new ideas I go forth to do many a bio revision. Tip: check back soon for a proper author bio on this blog too.

For More Than Just Tech

17 Mar

Based on the high use within the tech industry many have come to see LinkedIn as a social network of professionals and business people but mostly as a place for business people to find and network with technical job seekers. The article LinkedIn for Journalists shows that this just isn’t so.

Its easy to envision how LinkedIn can be used by recruiters and even by prospective employers but not so much for journalists. Recruiters see LinkedIn as a great tool because they can find anyone, in almost any industry and select for specific experiences and skills, without ever having to make a phone call or ask for a resume. Employers see it as an asset because it takes care of the problem of asking for references and vetting the histories and connections of possible employees. As it turns out these LinkedIn functions are the same that are used by journalists.

LinkedIn for journalists come down to two main topics, transparency and research.


With the rise of the internet as a source of data, one of the biggest issues in journalism is ensuring that you’re information is real. While LinkedIn is still venerable to falsification of information the incentive to provide factual information for business reasons is high. The connection to other professionals (not necessarily friends) is also measure towards ensuring info can be backed up and verified by largely reliable third parties.


What could be better for researching issues and how they relate to people than a large, searchable database of people related to industries and how the work that they did (all filled with keywords)? For a journalist trying to track down leads for a story this LinkedIn is an invaluable resource. Facebook may have a patent on social searching but LinkedIn is the original social search engine for business professionals.

Its true that nothing can replace the hard work of gathering information and looking at it in new ways until all the pieces fit together but LinkedIn does a pretty nice job of making all of that easier. Now if it had a tool to mind-map all of the data you want to save… that would be great.

Can LinkedIn Top the News Paper Pile?

16 Mar

I suppose that for most of us news no longer comes in paper form; however, I still envision my virtual news in a similar fashion to the rustled piles of papers that used to sit atop the breakfast table. On a lazy Sunday every item would be carefully read and discussed over breakfast but with hustle and bustle of the week invariably one paper always hit the top of the stack while the others were often left unread. The same is true with the way news is read online – only the most effective news source gets daily attention.

For the past few months my news viewing has been dominated by feedsquares, the pretty little UI that organizes google’s rss reader. I’ve enjoyed this because it allows me to select the news sources I enjoy and place all of them in a single spot. On those days that I have an extra few minutes and want to learn a little more about the goings on in the world today I also frequent twitter, paper.li and sometimes even good ol’ yahoo.

The prospect of LinkedIn introducing a news style article aggregate gave me an excited hope for a news venue that may be even more relevant than my current approach. The past week I’ve made a conscious effort to use both news aggregates equally in an effort for fair comparison.

I love the customization that LinkedIn Today offers, from the first get-go most of the content was already interesting to be because it was based on my profile and usage (I know privacy hounds dislike this but I personally love it), then I was able to add interests and customize further. The end result was an easy to read and highly relevant news page. In many ways this was a triumph over a rss reader because content was centered around industries rather than just sources. This resulted in considerably fewer articles to glance over in order to  find the ones that I really wanted to read.

If my only concern regarding news was business and industry on a global level then LinkedIn Today would definitely win. Unfortunately there is a big component currently missing from the news aggregate… the ability to add local content. As a small business owner I’m as concerned with my local news and politics as I am with global industry news. Global news may have implications on my big picture and strategies but local news is what matters most to my daily operations and the lives of those I serve. The other tiny downside to LinkedIn Today is the absence of browser extensions. Its not a deal breaker but it is a very helpful thing to have a toolbar shortcut or better yet a preview of news prior to searching for your bookmark or heaven forbid actually typing in an url.

All in all I think LinkedIn Today shows great promise at providing targeted and relevant news. Yes, there are some improvements that would be nice but as a first release they did a fine job. As for me, I’ll probably check in when I’m on LinkedIn for other purposes but I’ll give them a few more months and a couple of iterations before I make a switch from my current primary news aggregates.

LinkedIn and Cute Black Pumps

9 Mar

At 18 I was managing a small coffee shop and enjoying many many aspects of it. I loved the interactions with customers and having a limitless supply of coffee drinks was very nice too. Aside from the very low pay, the thing I disliked the most about my coffee shop gig was the dress. Sure its nice to be able to roll out of bed 7min before work starts but its also nice to wear cute clothes an open-toed shoes. This was the mindset that prompted my first real job search, I was very open to any number of job options, the only thing I was really set on was that I wanted to be able to wear cute black pumps to work.

And so, at 18 years old I sat down and started revising my resume. To my credit, I did have a number of nice jobs during high-school but it was still the resume of someone that had only been supporting themselves all of 3 months. I worked tediously to express fully the asset I had been at each of my working and volunteer experiences. When all was said and done I had a very nicely formatted page that contained almost no information which would be helpful in attaining the type of job I was searching for. But with great amounts of optimism I started applying to job after job.

After not too long I found a temp agency that placed me in a couple of admin jobs – this was great, it payed well (compared to what I was used to) and I loved the change to a corporate environment. The problem was that the positions were temporary, I stayed anywhere from 2 days to 9 months but no matter how long I was a temp the rules made it very hard for the company to hire me outright. Little did I realize at the time it was this series of small opportunities that would ultimately give me the resources I needed to get the job I was looking for.

Almost a full year after starting my job search I finally landed a position as an office admin in a medical clinic. The dress code included cute black pumps and the atmosphere was just geeky enough that I really thrived and loved going to work. The funny thing was that I didn’t search for this job at all, it was just presented to me. In all honestly I haven’t really searched for a job since that first time at 18. Sure, I’ve had times when I’ve wanted more employment and times when I’ve wanted to adjust the criteria of what I do but its been the better part of a decade since I’ve dealt with truly hitting the pavement for a job.

So how does this happen? How is it that someone can have very little experience but still land a job they want? To be truthful I’ve wondered this myself and spent many a time thankful for my luck. But upon examining things I think there are two factors that likely have a significant influence on my easy job transitions: connections and a positive attitude.

Aside from the temp agency, every job I’ve ever had was acquired because of a recommendation. This is one of if not the most crucial thing that LinkedIn provides as a service. By connecting people to other people they work with and providing a way to see the degrees of separation between the person you know and the person you want to know LinkedIn creates meaningful interactions around networking. Not that facebook and twitter aren’t meaningful, I just wrote last week about the role they can play in job searching, but the networking provided isn’t nearly as powerful as the recommendation from a mutual colleague can be.

LinkedIn connections should be thought about carefully, you may love your goofy cousin but are they someone you’d bring along with you to an interview? If the answer is no, then I’d recommend leaving that relationship for facebook. Another asset of LinkedIn is that you can ask for written recommendations and they are available for viewing by prospective employers as well as all of your connections. I’m not overly active on LinkedIn but I still get contacted once a month or so about a possible gig, and until recently I wasn’t actually searching. This alone makes me really appreciate LinkedIn.

The other key thing I attribute to my past job hunting luck has to do with those black pumps. Indeed my priorities when vetting potential jobs have changed, from simply the most interesting attire experience to things more centered around security and growth, but the approach I take is the same. Searching for work is not about finding the ultimate most perfect job ever – that doesn’t exist. Successful employment is about focusing on the benefits that a job provides (new experiences, connections or even enjoyable tasks) and then moving on in a mutually beneficial way if all of these positive things don’t outweigh the negatives that a job may have. Simply being a happy worker will improve the relationships you have with coworkers and employers while you’re working with them and ensure you many great recommendations once you have departed.

The moral of the story… go visit LinkedIn, and always remember to enjoy nice pair of little black pumps.