Avoid These LinkedIn Skills Management Mistakes

As I’ve been updating my Linkedin profile, I’ve been thinking about how to best use the skills section. In the new skills people can endorse you for having skills. Here’s some mistakes I’d made, and my thoughts on how best to manage the skills area going forward.

  1. Listing every skill I had, instead of those that really define the value I bring.At first I listed every skill I had – why not? It’s all about SEO and search terms, right? The problem is that the result looked like a dog’s breakfast. It was distracting and didn’t paint a clear picture of the value I offer. I cut out the skills that weren’t core to who I am, and left those that were most relevant.
  2. Listing the skills based on experience instead of value.I’ve always had great computer skills, and listing those was easy and comfortable. They don’t, however, represent the higher value I can bring. So I’ve removed them and added the higher value skills I offer – like analysis, management, etc.
  3. Leaving in the skills others entered for me.One of the annoying features of Linkedin’s skills area is that a visitor can endorse you for a new skill that you haven’t decided to list. This can result in erroneous and off-brand skills being listed. While having someone else give an endorsement is always nice, the result when many do it can bring back the disorganization and dilute the message. Of course, if everyone is endorsing me for a skill I haven’t listed, I should reconsider.

LinkedIn continues to change and evolve, and each time it changes how the site is used and what techniques make it most effective.

LinkedIn Profile Review by Jason Alba: Best Money Spent in a Long Time

I took Jason up on his recent offer of a webinar on the new LinkedIn profiles, along with a profile critique, and it’s been the best money I’ve spent in a long time.

A lot of really smart people have written many times that one should not hesitate to get help when it’s necessary, and to pay for expert knowledge when it make sense. By nature, however, I am a loner, do-it-myself guy. This year I decided that I should change that, and hiring Jason was the first step.

I’ve used Linked in since late 2004. I was a member of the MyLinkedinPowerForum back when it existed under that name, and was one of the early members of LinkedinMilwaukee, back when it was called that. I was one of the firs to speak and be published on the subject of using LinkedIn for competitive intelligence. So I know a few things about LinkedIn. Unfortunately things change quickly, and in my current position my skills started to lag.

It was hard to pull the trigger and spend the money, but I learned things I never would have found on my own (partly due to my own blind spots) and also got a dose of motivation. It’s funny, because when I go to a seminar on the job I expect that in exchange for $500 to $3,000 I will spend most of my time bored except for the few really choice nuggets, and they’re worth it. If they’re worth it on the job, why not in my professional life?

Looking for a piano teacher in the Milwaukee area?

Last June my oldest daughter finally brought her requests for piano lessons to a crescendo, and I relented and started looking for a teacher. Finding the right combination of price, location, and availability was a bit tricky. I didn’t really want to driver her out to one of the larger music stores for lessons (that could get very expensive me, with my shopping tendencies) so I focused on finding someone working out of their home.

I found Phyllis Stopp, a substitute teacher, nurse, and piano teacher. Old enough to be wise, young enough to deal with young children (my daughter is 7) and disciplined in her approach. We’ve been going since June, and we’ve been very happy with her.

Her rates are very reasonable (less than half of some places) and she’s located in Oak Creek. You can reach her at 414-764-2166 (h) or 414-721-6032 (c).

Tracking personal stats on iPhone, with analysis

About the only way I can track any kind of diet or exercise regimen is if I track the stats as well. As long as there is some kind of visible progress, I can keep my motivation up. The trick is in finding a way to do this that doesn’t get in the way, and allows maximum flexibility for playing with the data later.

I always write it first in a notebook, out of habit and paranoia. I used to use a spreadsheet until it having a smart phone and an iPad meant I never had the latest version with me.

I looked around at other apps out there, and frankly, they’re all toys. Weightloss is an emotional topic, and unfortunately the associated software is designed to appeal to emotions. I want facts, and the ability to twist those facts into something I can call good news. I don’t need candy-colored fancy graphs and whatnot. I also want to calculate the lbs of fat and lean mass from percentages my scale gives me, and heartbeats per mile on my runs.

Turns out there’s a DataGlass app for iOS that talks to my database server (if you have a blog, you probably have one) and lets me enter and view data. I made a few views to do totals and weekly averages. The app even does basic graphs. Sweet!

Getting Rails Running

I haven’t posted much here lately (if we consider lately the last year or so 😉 because I’ve been focusing more effort on my two other sites, www.recordingthoughts.com and www.numberquotes.com. The latter is one that I actually have to write software for, and I’m developing the site in Ruby on Rails.

I originally wrote it in Rails 2, but after a while it was clear I would have to get it up to Rails 3. Between that, and the fact that the server that’s supporting all these sites is still on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (LTS means long term support, and the current version is 12.04 LTS) I figured I should start moving everything to the newer version of Ubuntu.

Yow! Installing Ruby, Rails, and the other various moving parts was no simple task. After trying several different methods and running into mysterious dependencies that wouldn’t resolve I ran across RailsReady.

Oh. My. God. After spending about 8 hours on the problem, to have it solved in just a few command lines is both extremely satisfying and frustrating. Why isn’t this technique more widely known?

If you’re trying to get Rails ( and ruby, RVM, Passenger, Git, etc.) running on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, use RailsReady.

Is there a book in your blog? Convert WordPress to Scrivener

I found this great post from Liz Strauss with a great idea: Look through the archives of your blog and see if there is a book in there. She suggests that if you have 200 posts, there’s probably a book. I have over 400 – maybe even two! But seriously, it’s a good idea.

I’ve just started using Scrivener, and that would be an awesome tool to pull this together. It has great features for managing chunks of text, including a corkboard for arranging them. But how to get the posts into Scrivener?

It was an interesting problem to solve and I figured it out. It brought the posts in just the way I wanted them: Separate files, with images intact.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use the wp2epub plugin to get the posts out as an .htm file. This is a subtle feature, but the htm file comes in the .zip file that is created with the epub file.
  2. Edit the htm file to replace the <h1 class=”main”> tag at the start of each post with the same tag but with ### on its own line in front of it.
  3. Import the .htm file into Scrivener. It will come in as a web archive, and images should be intact.
  4. Use Documents->Convert->Web Archive to Text to convert the file to text within Scrivener.
  5. Export the newly created text file as RFTD, rich text in Apple’s format.
  6. Import the newly exported file, but use the Import and Split function, entering ### as the split string.
  7. You now have your posts in Scrivener, each as a separate file with images intact.

A new cutting board

Like a lot of kitchens, we have a pull out cutting board underneath one of our counters. Our house is a 1960’s ranch, with a kitchen that is mostly original, as you can see from the counter top. Certainly the cutting board was. It was unusable as anything but a shelf when we moved in. It was made out of fir plywood, and the outer plys were all chopped away. It was nasty.

So I made a new one. I had large chunk of maple left over from another project, and after resawing it into planks I glued them up and breadboarded the ends. I finished it with mineral oil, and it’s a huge improvement over what we had. It’s smooth, and clean, and I can actually put food on it. At first I hesitated, since we have a poly cutting board that would fit, but there’s ample evidence that a wood board is no less sanitary, and possibly more sanitary than a plastic one.

DSC_0216.jpg

I was in the process of making a dress up island to hold the girls’ dress up clothes, but realized I’d gotten pretty rusty in the shop so I decided to do the cutting board to refresh my skills. I’m glad I did. The board was a bit of a comedy of clumsiness but it absorbed a few mistakes easily. It would have really stunk to have ruined the other project.

I always underestimate how much of fine woodworking is a skill that has to be kept in practice. I also always underestimate how cathartic it is to make something useful.

The value of the persistant reminder

They say a visual reminder of a goal will help you acheive it. My experience is that placards with my desired weight taped here and there in my house have done nothing to reduce my weight, but perhaps the visual reminder needs to be more actionable.

We all have things we want to get done but resist our efforts. These are usually (hopefully) things that we should do but can live without doing. They sit there, wanting to be done, but undone. Sometimes it’s that the item isn’t really actionable – like a number taped to my mirror – but often times it’s all too actionable, there’s just some barrier. The strongest barrier is that the price to be paid for not doing it is simply not very high.

As I adopted David Allen’s Getting Things Done system for my personal life, I’ve found the value of the persistent reminder in dealing with these items. Even the most intractable item will eventually be conquered, if I just have a persistent reminder of it. Rather than if, it becomes a matter of when.

For example, I need to fix the oil cooler on my wife’s minivan. The van is famous for leaking oil at the oil cooler, and while it’s not a serious leak it’s enough to spot the driveway and it needs to be fixed but it’s the kind of thing one can live with fairly easily. It’s been on my todo list for ages.

Today it finally succumbed as I was going through my projects, got to that one, and asked myself “Am I really going to write this one on another next action list? Or, should I just get off my ass and do it?”

So a few dollars later and I have my new oil cooler seal.

This isn’t the first such item I’ve been able to deal with this way, and it took me a while to realize that it is really just a matter of there being a persistent reminder. David’s system certainly provides it, but it could be done in other ways. Regardless, if I see that item every day it will become an imperative to do it.

Getting Things Done – My Approach

There are so many ways people have implemented David Allen’s Getting Things Done I avoided blogging about mine for ages. Then I realized, after three years of using it, that it’s pretty effective. It’s also pretty simple and that’s part of the appeal. Last but not least, it’s paper and pen based, which makes it portable and immune to the peculiarities of IT departments.

The system is simple and has the following elements:

  1. A list of all projects started. A project is, as written in GTD, anything that takes more than one step. I keep a handwritten list, each project in a numbered list.
  2. A stack of active projects, in a folder marked Projects. One sheet of paper for each project. Number in the upper right hand corner, title in the upper left hand corner. The sheet is a simple log of next actions, and sometimes a few additional thoughts. The lowest item is always what needs to be done next in simple, visible terms.
  3. A next action list. This also holds everything else that I need to do that is not a project. Date in the upper right hand corner, and a list of items. Sometimes I fold the sheet in half, and use the four pages for contexts (i.e. Home, Work, etc.) often I don’t. This list may get folded up and carried in a pocket, or it might sit in the Projects folder. This sheet also serves as a sort of inbox – a good place to jot new things to be processed. Because any new next action list involves copying items from the old one, the new items will be processed.
  4. Another folder labeled ‘Inactive’. This is where old next action lists, and full or finished, project sheets go. This can probably stay in the desk.
  5. Another folder is labeled ‘Someday/Maybe’
  6. A stack of blank paper for making new projects, or new project sheets for older ones.

The workflow is also pretty simple:

  1. Add projects to the project list.
  2. For each project, write a project sheet. At the top it sometimes helps to write a clear statement of the expected outcome. Write the next thing you need to do for that project.
  3. Add that next action to the next action list.
  4. When you’re done, start working on the next action list and all the other stuff life brings to our doors.
  5. At least once a week, or when the next action list has accumulated a fair number of check marks, review the project sheets.
  6. For each sheet update the status – what’s happened or been accomplished. Change the next action if necessary. If nothing was done, simply go to the next project.
  7. Record each next action on the next action list as you look at each project.
  8. If nothing has been done on a project in a long time, I ask myself if if this is really an active project or not. Many ideas get turned into projects, that then turn out to be either not as useful as thought or they simple become irrelevant. If it happens that a month or so goes by with no action I will usually make an entry that says something like “Hibernating until I have more ideas.” Sometimes a project will go directly to Someday/Maybe.

I’ve tried a variety of software on my desktop computer, my laptop, my iPhone, and web based. All had some neat features and some of those feature could have been addicting but for one thing. While I would rather do this stuff in software, in every one of these systems I found myself updating them after the fact instead of using them in the process of planning work. They were good record keeping systems, but they didn’t add anything to the process except work. This pretty much destroys the value of the Getting Things Done system, which is derived from the planning that comes out of the project review process.
I also tried a number of different combinations of paper, but in the end simple blank sheets and file folders work the best.

Planning to write a book? Attend our workshop!

Last December Kira Henschel invited me to present on blogging at her publishing workshop. Kira runs HenschelHAUS Publishing, and offers workshops to help people get moving on their book ideas. She asked me to speak on blogging and social media from a how-to perspective.

It was a lot of fun, and quite successful too — one of the attendees has already finished her book and begun the process of marketing it. Jill Baake’s got an I Love Me Mom blog, and I Love Me Mom available at Amazon.

Writing a book is surely a difficult thing to do, but marketing seems to be the hidden valley of challenges for many authors. I know I always thought that being author went something like:

  1. Write really great book.
  2. Sign deal with grateful publisher.
  3. Wait for phone calls announcing each successive step up the best seller list.
  4. Enjoy being rich.

Seriously, I think most folks believe that the writing is the hard part. Actually, it’s editing the book into its most productive form and then marketing it effectively.

What’s also interesting is that while it used to be there weren’t too many publishers that was the only way to get a book in print aside from paying to have the book printed directly. Between changes in printing technologies, publishing technologies, and all the rest of the technologies there are now a lot of new options and many hybrids.

Kira’s invited me again for her next workshop on July 23rd. If you’ve got a book in you that needs to get out, this is a great way to develop a plan to make it happen. From Brainchild to Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Birthing and Publishing Your Book will untangle the mess for you, and leave you with a clear path to follow to your book.