Which One Would You Hire?

mugshotsI’ll save you the suspense. The answer is None of the Above.

Although none of these guys will likely be hired, every year, roughly one quarter of all people who post profiles on Lrngo and other search and hire sites don’t seem to get the memo. Let’s look at the reasons why, and then find what they all have in common.

A. The “mugshot.” Ok, we get that you’re not the smiley type. We even get that you might live in a rough area, so you don’t want to look like “food.” Unfortunately though, people don’t usually do business with anyone they’re not comfortable with. You’re selling your services and abilities, but you’re not showing the face of a salesman. You’re showing the face of someone who makes people feel like they have to keep their eye on you. Would you feel relaxed letting this guy into your office? How about your house? The point is, letting people see that you at least have the capacity to be friendly makes them feel like they want to work with you. Otherwise, they will have the impression that you’re not a team player, or worse that they have to worry about your intentions.

B. The “goofball.” This is the other extreme.  Sure a sense of humor is good, but not if it affects performance or becomes a distraction. You might be fun to be around and even be a team player, but is this the face of someone who I can count on to reach a goal or to tell me the truth? Does this picture tell me you’re funny? No, it tells me you’re not taking this seriously. Unfortunately for you though, I am, and I’m not going to hire you.

C. The “nothing.” Before I get into this, I’m going to make a disclaimer here. There may be legitimate reasons if you are female to not have a picture, for instance, in situations or countries where it may be dangerous to do so. However, for 90% of all you males, you better put up a picture if you want to compete. The reasons why are simple. First, psychologically, people want to feel assured that your profile is real and you are an actual person with good intentions. While you won’t really know how accurate the picture is as a representation until a visual meeting, a picture is the first reference upon which a path to that perceived reality is based. Second, the unknown is always scarier than the known. (It’s probably fine, but what if he has hair down to his knees and molars the size of the Pyramids?) Finally, people like to feel that they are on equal ground. This is why statistics from basically every site with profiles show consistently that profiles without pictures are contacted less often (generally 5x to 50x). Let me explain it another way. If I took this seriously enough to put up a picture and you didn’t, the bottom line is, I’m not talking to you.

D. The “incognito.” Congratulations. You are so clever, the way you beat the system with your cool sunglasses. You managed to get a picture of your face on your profile even though no one can really see what you look like. Unfortunately for you, that’s the whole point of a picture. The “incognito” might as well be the “nothing.” (Are you wanted in ten states, or only five?) They say eyes are the windows to the soul, but apparently your soul is tinted.

At the end of the day, what all of these examples have in common is that they project a visual lack of trust. Of course, one could argue that until you actually see the real person, you don’t know whether you can trust the authenticity of a picture anyway (which is why the other worst thing you can do is put up a picture that doesn’t actually look like you). However, psychologically, the right picture induces the perception of an actual person who can be trusted, and all people are looking to hire someone they can trust to help further their cause so that the outcome will be a job well done.

It is well known in business that people also naturally want to work with people they like. A smile goes a long way in this regard. It’s not a beauty contest, it’s an “I think this person can help me get this done” contest, and “I will achieve my goal if I hire him/her.” By the way, it’s no different with barter transactions. You still want to know that you can trust them with your goals, and psychologically at least, a picture of their face is an indicator–not just of who you are working with, but also that they are not afraid to be themselves, and that they are taking the opportunity seriously.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, a thousand random words are meaningless, so don’t put up a random picture. Make sure it says exactly what you want it to say about you.

We Are ALL In the Education Business

In the late 90′s, I finally got my first cellphone. I fought it for years.
Learn to Swim from Peers

Photo Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

The idea that I would be on the phone during my quiet time or drive time talking (and probably working) did not appeal to me in the least. Sure there were social benefits, but I wanted time to recharge, unplug, meditate, and collect my thoughts.  In short, I wanted down time.  Fast forward to 2014.

Now, it would be almost impossible to live without this device.  Why is that? (Long live down time, rest in peace.)

Ask yourself: have you ever gone a day without your smartphone or mobile device?  If you unplugged from the net and social media, how long would you last–two days perhaps, a week?

Let’s make this a multiple choice question.

With no mobile device, would you feel:

A. Isolated
B. Uninformed
C. Vulnerable
D. All of the above

For many, the answer is D.

In the end, I needed a cellphone because I couldn’t wait to know things any more.  I needed to reach people wherever I was, at times to keep in touch for social reasons, but more often to get things done or grab a quick update from someone to assess and learn what needed to be done next.

As I write this blog, I’m finding it interesting that there are some keywords I just can’t avoid.  This is not for SEO purposes (sorry Google), but rather because I can only describe what I’m saying by using these words and they keep popping up.  Do you see a pattern yet?

The fact is, I can’t talk about connecting with other people without using the words “know” and “learn.” (Well whaddaya know?)  If you think about it (“think”–there’s another one), it’s engrained in our social language.

In fact, I hate to admit it, but it’s no longer just me on the continuous learning bandwagon.  How many times have you seen the word “webinar” in your email box lately?  There sure seem to be a lot of free classes these days.  And how many seminars have you gone to this year?  It seems like a lot of expense to put those on, doesn’t it?

I went to a couple of free business strategy meetings and M&A seminars earlier this year, and I learned a lot.  I’m not being facitious, I really did.  It was a valuable experience, and I couldn’t help being struck by how much they had to educate me in order for me to become their future customer.  And that’s when it hit me:

We are all in the education business now.  Every one of us.

Whether you’re educating your future customers, current customers, peers, co-workers, employees, investors, the press, the general public, or friends and family; if you want to stay relevant, people need to understand what you’re doing, how it works, and why it’s important.  Things are moving too fast for people to pay attention to anything if they don’t understand its value.

I also equate this idea with the reason we received so many questions recently at Lrngo from users wanting to know how to promote their expertise and themselves as speakers; which became the subject of two Lrngo blogs earlier this year.  So many people with expertise wanted to gain speaking experience and promote themselves by giving presentations, webinars and classes on their topics, that we had to dig in and come up with the information.

This trend isn’t as much about 15 minutes of fame as it is about survival of the fittest.  The consultant, service provider or company that doesn’t stay ahead of the curve by educating their target market on why they are needed and what makes them different won’t be around very long.

As we shift to the reputation economy and social media shines the spotlight on the expertise of individuals, the move toward constantly educating and re-educating each other is not likely to subside any time soon.  In the words of Denis Waitley, “<you can> never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.”  You have to stay ahead of the curve.

In late 2014, I finally joined Twitter. I fought it for years. It’s amazing how much you can learn from one sentence.

Follow me on Twitter @davidcbrake

Why Thinking Globally Is Required Thinking

Global Knowledge Economy

In 1964, a group of top Hollywood film executives piled into a room to screen their latest investment.  It was a departure from the normal films of that day, because even though it was filmed in English, the story didn’t take place in the U.S. and the accents sounded unintelligible.  The executives were very concerned about making it a commercial Hollywood release, because it seemed so, well…“foreign.”

At the end of the screening, there was total silence. No applause, nothing.  No one knew what to make of it. Finally one executive broke the silence and said he didn’t understand a word of it. “I don’t know what any of that movie was about,” he said.  Then he added, “but…I think we’re going to make a lot of money.”

The movie was called “A Hard Day’s Night,” and it was about a new musical group called The Beatles.  As we all know today, the executive was right, they were about to make a lot of money.  What he didn’t realize at the time, was the extent to which that movie would be a catalyst for everything that was about to change.

The technology of radio, television and film was about to come together at a particular point in history, and enable a phenomenon that arguably would change the world by connecting everyone simultaneously in a shared cultural experience that made the world seem a little bit smaller.

I doubt that Hollywood and the entertainment industry were the only entities in the U.S. at that time to see a new emerging world of possibilities out there for advertising and revenue, and realize that the benefits don’t always require this country to appear at the center.

Fast-forward to the Facebook/social media phenomenon, and the mobile chat phenomenon taking place today.  One could argue that people in communities were basically already connected, but now local communities are also connected with the outside world in a way that was previously impossible.  Does that change anything?  I would argue that it changes everything.

Professors with MOOCs & highly paid tutors are finding fame and fortune that was previously impossible locally, now that technology can be leveraged to connect them with millions of people.  Millionaire tutors in Asia with over 50,000 fans (ie: students) online are living like rock stars and advertising on the sides of billboards and buses.

There are eSports heroes (yes professional video gaming is now a sport) more famous in some countries than athletes in traditional sports could ever dream of, and influencers of millions whose opinions are sought after and even paid for, simply because they “own” an audience.

These “personal brands” are the results of a new knowledge economy, an economy where the entire world is connected and people promote themselves and participate together in a project-based workforce; based on skill sets and performance, reputation, and proven history rather than credentials.

Are you connected yet?  Is your company?  How about your competitors?

Did you know that according to data collected by the US Department of Labor in 2005, one third of our economy here in the U.S is made up of freelancers?  (Freelancers are defined as self-employed people, or people who work for themselves on the side in addition to their regular job.)

That figure was published BEFORE the recession.  Anyone want to take a guess as to what that number is now?  I don’t claim to have the answer, but I would be willing to bet it’s significantly higher.

Is there a downside to the acceleration of technology and connecting the entire world?  Sure, in fact I’ll be talking about that topic specifically and how it relates to learning and education this week at SXSWedu in a presentation called Survival in the New Knowledge Economy.

As my co-presenter of that event Federico Pistono eloquently explains in his book “Robots Will Steal Your Job”, there are many challenges alongside the possibilities, and we are already seeing casualties.

At the end of the day though, let’s face it: we still don’t know what connecting everyone is going to look like, and the truth is we’re still getting used to the idea.  I think many of us as individuals are internally conflicted, much like the entities that are threatened and want to hold on to power, yet are torn because they see the benefits.

Perhaps we are all a bit like China, throwing down the gauntlet that no Facebook is allowed and sticking to the old rules, while at the same time being curious enough to break down borders sending our students in droves to study in the U.S.  (It’s bound to have an effect you know; as they say, information wants to be free.)  In any case, it’s a challenging yet exciting time for education, learning, and entrepreneurship.

As I’m writing this, I’m in the middle of managing 45 people from around the world on a company project.  I’m able to see their faces, track and vet their work, communicate with them as needed, and offer them incentives based on performance.  Sounds like an expensive platform I’m using, doesn’t it?  It isn’t, it’s free. Sounds like I’m working for a good size company, right?  It’s a pre-revenue startup with a two person management team, and I funded it myself.

Tell me that’s not a game changer.  It changes everything.