In Support of Conformity on Social Media

I had an interesting exchange with an acquaintance on LinkedIn. Basically, I asked him why he acted one way on LinkedIn and differently on Facebook. He explained that his persona, and these are my words, not his, consists of his professional self and his personal self. He also stated that he follows the rules of the various social media sites. I assume this means that what he does on one site may not be acceptable on another. He also mentioned that he has a significantly larger number of followers on LinkedIn than first-degree connections, stating that his followers like to read his posts, etc. (He did not mention the number of “friends” and followers he has on Facebook.)

I do not subscribe to the school of thought that you should act one way on one social media site and differently on another. All are public and everything you do on them is in the public domain. My rule is simple: If you wouldn’t do it on Main Street, don’t do it on the Internet.

Our personas have many components. There are things we do in public and things we do in private. Some we would do in both. Discussing a book. Watching a movie. Eating. But there are things we do not share in public which are best kept private. Political views immediately come to mind, not to mention family issues. True, millions of people post their political thoughts (it’s their right) proving them to be liberal loons or crazy conservatives. But why be like them?

If you act like a consummate professional on, let’s say, LinkedIn, and go nuts on, let’s say, Twitter, what does that tell an employer or potential collaborator about you?

I’ll use myself as an example. My articles on LinkedIn have been read, as of the beginning of this year, over 425,000 times. I must be doing something right! They are all, basically, business related. Or, just something I wrote for fun. (Silly has always been part of my persona.) I have never written anything purely political. The one possible exception resulted in only praise, public and private, mostly private. And all of my articles/updates are identical on all my social media platforms. The only time there is a difference is when I am responding to someone else’s posts which, obviously, cannot be shared on other platforms. But the style is the same. I have the nasty habit of asking people to share the sources on which they have based their views! I’m a “Prove it!” of “Show me the beef!” type of guy. And I am also known for providing links to facts disproving claims, which result, more often than not, in the original post, to which I was responding, disappearing.

Look at it this way: The way you act on LinkedIn is likely the way you will act at work. That’s what most employers will think! The way you act on Facebook, Twitter, and the rest, will be the way you act outside of work. Again, that’s how most employers will think! But there is no “outside of work.” A woman was fired, for example, because of the way she acted at a bar. She was seen by a client. The client called her boss, reported the behavior, and said that she did not want to work with her any longer. She was fired. How do I know? She called me for career counseling. Sure enough, her LinkedIn profile was professional; not so much her pages on Facebook and Twitter. And this was far from the only time I saw this. It’s more common than you may think.

For sake of argument, let’s say that LinkedIn, and I believe this to be so, is the gold standard for behavior on social media. (We have all seen the “LinkedIn is not Facebook” posts!) Well, what does it say about you if you lower your standards on your other social media platforms? And why would an employer want to take a risk and hire you. Who are they going to get, the professional on LinkedIn or the raving lunatic on Facebook? Why take the risk? And it’s not just employers. The same thing is true for someone trying to sell you their products, good or services. No one wants to work with someone who reflects poorly on them. “I know he’s an idiot, but he pays his bills on time,” is not the reputation you want to have.

Social media platforms should not set the standards for your behavior. You should! On-line and off-line. That’s what I do and maybe that’s why I have over 46,000 followers across all of my social media networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Parler and my blogs.

The Physics of Getting a Job

F + t + T = J

First, a word of warning: Don’t rely upon me for physics or algebra.

That having been said, if I am not mistaken, I now have to say the following:

Where F is force; t equals time; T is thought; and J is a job or, to be more precise, a job offer.

It seems to me, someone who knows very little about physics and understands even less, that there is a relationship between force, time and thought. I also believe that if you properly combine all three, you may get a job offer. Let me try to explain with the goal of helping you and not making a complete fool out of me!

Let’s start with “F.” Everything we do involves force. When we take a step, we put force on the ground using our feet. When we sit, we put force on the chair using our derrière. When we type, we put force on the keys using our fingers. If the thing with which we are coming into contact can resist with greater force than the force we are expending, nothing bad happens. If, however, we use greater force against an object than that object can withstand, the object will change. Like clay in the hands of a sculptor, it may change for the better. But a sledge hammer meeting a wall…not so good for the wall.

The point is, force is something we do all the time. Constantly. Even in our sleep. Just ask your pillow and mattress! So force is not a negative. Force is a positive we need for our survival. So don’t be afraid of using force for anything. You just have to use it correctly.

I am not suggesting that you be rude, violent or offensive in a job interview. (In a world where pharmaceutical companies, advertising a product on television, have to include a warning not to use their medicine if the person is allergic to the medicine, I thought it wise to include that statement!) What I am saying is that you have to have force behind your views. When asked your opinion, you cannot waver. You need to display confidence. Put differently, you have to have the courage of your convictions. That’s the type of force I am referencing. It is not physical force, but mental force. (Anyone thinking Star Wars and “May the force be with you,” does not get dessert with their next dinner!)

Next comes time. Time is truly the only non-renewable, finite thing we have. And we don’t know how much of it we have. We don’t know when it will end. Yet it is one of the most wasted resources. How much time have you wasted trying to save a relationship which you knew was doomed to end, and end poorly? Think of the mantra: “Hire slow; fire fast!”

But to continue, how much time have you wasted on a project that had little if any chance for success when you could have been working on something you knew you could complete and would be successful? And how much time have you wasted talking and saying nothing? That’s the time with which I am concerned.

I cannot tell you how many employers have told me that candidates have talked themselves out of job offers. They simply talked too much. “I could not get a word in edgewise” is a common refrain.

Just as you can do more with less, you can say more with fewer words. The greatest speech ever written in the United States took less than two minutes to deliver. It is nine sentences in length. At Gettysburg, Lincoln said more in 275 words than most “men,” to quote from the speech, have said in their lifetimes.

In most interviews, you will not even have two minutes to answer a question, so you have to choose your words carefully and then deliver them, in the least amount of time, with the force of a person who believes in what they say.

Which brings us to the capital “T,” thought. You have to think before you speak. You should always do that but it is even more important in a job interview. So, when asked a question, take two-three seconds to come up with an answer. Even if you already know what you want to say because you have prepared well for the interview, take the time. The silence will work in your favor. It will have an impact. (Isn’t “impact” related to “force?”) The interviewers will hopefully say to themselves, “That’s a person who thinks before they speak.” Who would not want an employee with that characteristic?

And with that characteristic, you just might get the job offer.

Overcoming Shyness

Congratulations! You got the interview. Now you have to get the offer. And that comes down to your perspective. It’s all about your attitude. To coin a phrase, It’s attitude, stupid.

You have to be able to see the big picture. What does the employer need? Can you provide it? What does the employer want? Do you have it to give? As with everything else in life, needs are more important than wants. But you have to be able to see the big picture, understand the needs AND appreciate the wants.

This means listening. This means asking the right questions. But it also means taking possession of the room. Showing that you can take charge.

But beware: That will intimidate some people. They will see you as competition. On the other hand, it will make others happy because they don’t like taking or having responsibility. How do you know? Body language. It’s called “reading the room.” You proverbially take out your binoculars and look at the interviewers. Are they smiling, frowning, or not reacting to you. You need the binoculars because some reactions are very slight, very important, but very slight. And you can’t even proverbially (or is it “metaphorically?”) bring a telescope into an interview. Are they moving in their seats to get comfortable because you have made them feel uncomfortable? Are they leaning forward to listen? Or, are they leaning back to contemplate what you are saying? Or, are they leaning back to take a nap because they have already decided against you?

The truth of the matter is, you can never know for certain. As long as you are not rude, lie or make claims which you cannot support, you can only do your best. One person can lean back because you fascinate them, and another can lean back because you bore them. Who knows?

So you can spend all of your time second-guessing yourself, in which case I can almost guarantee that you will not get the job offer, or you can bring with you the secret sauce of successful interviewing. It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.

The secret sauce is confidence. It is not over-confidence, which is arrogance. It’s confidence. Pre-COVID, you could establish confidence with a firm handshake. You can’t anymore. So now you have to do it with your body language. You have to look the interviewers straight in the eye (camera). You have to speak with a firm tone of voice, friendly, but firm.

Some people, perhaps many, are shy. They do not enjoy public speaking. For them, a job interview is public speaking. There is a trick I was taught about overcoming shyness. Pick an actor or actress whom you respect. Whose performance resonates with you. In my case it could be a Humphrey Bogart. A Cary Grant. A John Wayne. This does not mean that I touch the corners of my mouth like Bogie. It does not mean that I employ Grant’s voice modulations. And it certainly does not mean that I imitate Wayne’s walk, tone or mannerism. What it means, or actually because I no longer need this tool, what it meant was that I said to myself that I should pretend that Bogart, Grant, Wayne, whomever, was in a movie playing me. And then I would play them playing me. It sounds crazy but it worked.

Don’t Overthink in a Job Interview

Years ago I had a candidate for a senior sales/business development position. While he was a candidate, and not a career counseling client, I naturally gave him some advice. It may have been a mistake.

What are they really asking? That’s a question a lot of career counselors or coaches pose to their clients. They tell them that employers ask one question but really have something else in mind.

For example, What are your strengths? Do they really want to know what you are good at? Don’t they already know from your resume? So what are they really asking? They are trying to figure out whether or not you will stay on the job if offered to you. Will you be bored? Will they be able to utilize all that you have to offer? Or will you feel that you are being underutilized, not being allowed to contribute to your full potential, and leave? All of which are quite true.

Now the reverse question: What are your weaknesses? Yes, they want to know. But they really want to know that you are self-aware and that you do something to overcome your weaknesses. “I have a problem with X. To deal with it I do A, B and C.” They also really want to know if they are going to have to provide you with training to overcome your weakness. All quite true.

But the problem is, sometimes, (I think) to paraphrase Freud, a question is just a question. There is no hidden agenda. But, if your mindset is that there is something sinister behind every question, you may overthink things. That is what happened to my candidate.

Both he and the employer, my client, gave identical reports on what had happened at the interview, so I know this is accurate:

Everything was going fine. The owner of the company was asking questions focused on the job description. The candidate was able to answer each question, giving examples of work he had done. And then it happened. The employer ask a question right out of left field. “What was the last movie you saw?” The candidate’s brain went into overdrive. What does he really want to know? What will he think if he knows I like stupid comedies? What will he think if I admit that my girlfriend dragged me to a “chick flick?” Will he think I am weak? Will he think that I’m the type of person who can be manipulated?

It took him what appeared like a lifetime to respond. According to the employer, it was only about 10 seconds. And he finally said, “I honestly don’t remember,” which could have been a perfectly good answer if it were not for the fact that the employer thought he was lying, which he was. He had been dragged to the “chick flick.”

Of course, it is always best to simply tell the truth. If he had said, “My girlfriend dragged me to this God-awful movie. I don’t remember the name of it and it will be two hours of my life I will never get back,” he probably would have gotten the job. But he lied. And he knew it. The owner of the company knew it. And the candidate, immediately regretting the lie, was thrown for a loop and, from that point on, performed poorly.

The employer’s motive in asking the question was simply to see if the candidate was any good at small talk. He failed that test, miserably.

The moral of this story: Don’t overthink an interviewer’s motivations. And, most importantly, never lie!