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Achieving Success with LinkedIn Workshop Tomorrow, Extra Resources

Our Achieving Success with LinkedIn workshop is tomorrow at 7PM at one of our favorite places, McAnns, at 3 West 46th Street at 7PM. We’ll have the upstairs lounge to ourselves. Appetizers and networking included.

Hundreds of people received new professional opportunities today via LinkedIn. If you were not one of them, you should be attending this workshop.

Please RSVP in advance on Eventbrite. Friends of The Opportunities Project can use discount code oppsfriend to get 25% off the ticket price and attend for $15.

Here are also three recent articles and blog posts on using LinkedIn that I liked.

1. 4 Essentials for Reaching Out to Strangers on LinkedIn on Careerealism. In the last week, I’ve had conversations with three clients on this very topic. I think this article makes something abstract seem specific and easy and is a great read for that reason.

2. LinkedIn is Changing. Are You Keeping Up? on the Recruiting Unblog. As I’ve blogged before, I get nutty when articles don’t frame LinkedIn as a database and focus on it as a personal marketing tool. This blog post does a great job reinforcing that the point of using LinkedIn is to be found. If you’re not doing what you need to do that, fix it or get off.

3. Creating a Striking Social Media Profile in The Creative Group eZine featuring LinkedIn Trainer and expert Tracy Brisson… OK, this is a complete shameless plug for my interview for this publication. :) It has great advice if I do say so myself.

I also critiqued a job seeker’s LinkedIn profile on the Recruiting Animal’s Blog Talk Radio Show. The job seeker didn’t like my advice- or the feedback from the other recruiters who were agreeing with me. That is the topic for another blog post.

See you on Tuesday!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Cocktails and Careers Event and Networking 101

We’re bringing our popular Cocktails and Careers Networking Events back! We’re having our first event Wednesday, February 23 at 7PM at The Copper Door Tavern at 272 Third Avenue between 21st and 22nd Street. All are welcome- job seekers, people who want to meet new and interesting people, and those who are open to giving some career advice. As of now we have three recruiters tentatively lined up, too.

The event is free, but we ask that you order at least one drink and tip well to thank The Copper Door Tavern for graciously hosting us. We’ll also pool a few dollars together for appetizers. Please RSVP for the event via Eventbrite. The event is sponsored by TweetMyJobs and I’ll have information on them at the event.

On the Brazen Careerist Networking Roulette event this week, many people revealed that they are nervous about networking because they feel that they have little to offer, especially when they are in job seeking mode. Every one of you has something to offer and don’t forget that!

So to get prepared for the event on Wednesday, here is some Networking 101 Advice.

1. Bring business cards.

Job seekers often ask if they should have business cards printed and my answer is “Absolutely!” How do you expect people to know how to contact you in the future? When you’re going to a networking event, your goal is to meet people who are going to become part of your network for a long time so you should always prepare  with that in mind.

We’ve been talking the Teach for America 20 Year Anniversary Summit this week on the blog, and I found attendees to be unskilled at networking, especially with business cards. Be prepared!

2. Get your elevator pitch ready.

Read my blog post on developing great elevator pitches. Don’t be afraid to have a call to action and be strong about it. Everyone has asked for help from other people and they remember. Some will also be excited to pay it forward to you.

3. Make a list of what you have to offer.

In addition the skills you have to offer to potential employers, you also have other things to offer every other person at the event, too. One is your ability to connect them to other people who would be interesting for either business or maybe even personal reasons. Spend some time this weekend reviewing your LinkedIn Connections and what they’re up to these days. If you don’t have a large network, you can also share information. People LOVE information that makes them step back and think, or new tips and tools that they can use in their lives to be more effective or efficient. What are cool, interesting, and helpful things that you read in the last month or so? What are some interesting magazines, articles, or blogs that you could read this weekend?

With the right preparation and attitude, everyone can be a great networker.

See you on Wednesday!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Join our Career Management Webinar on Thursday

Our busy week for The Opportunities Project starts NOW!

In addition to helping people find their passion and manage a results-driven job search, I also coach and consult with clients who want to manage their current careers more effectively. For example, I’m working with a client who is very happy in his job, but has a long-term (2-3 years) goal to become an entrepreneur. We are assessing his strengths, as well as gaps, and are building a plan that will attract more success when he is ready to make the jump. You may be in the same place- wondering if you really know what your next steps are for getting what you desire in your career now and in the future.

It’s about 45 days into the new year and many of your career resolutions may have been put on hold or are going slower than expected. Let me help you speed things up. I am hosting a FREE webinar this Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 7PM on 12 Career Assessment Steps for 2011. During the webinar, I am going to review DIY tips for anyone who is in the job search mode or thinking about how they can position themselves for success for a future change or promotion. The content is aimed at people at all levels in their career, from college students and entry-level workers to experienced professionals. Among the topics we’ll discuss on the webinar are

– the importance of setting process goals vs. outcome goals
– specific steps you can take to make yourself a better professional
– tips on how to improve your online and offline networking
– how to make a career management plan that’s doable

You can register for the webinar here.

In the meantime, watch this awesome 48 second inspiring video from Box of Crayons on 11 Powerful Words to Live By in 2011 to get you motivated to recommit to any resolutions you made this year. Box of Crayons is led by Michael Bungay Steiner, author of Do More Good Work, a book I recommend on my website. In addition, here is a blog post he wrote on strategies you can use to assess and plan for 2011. We’ll touch upon related ideas in the webinar, especially how you can introduce regular reflection into your goal setting for your career.

See you on Thursday at 7PM!

If you can’t come to this event, don’t forget to check out our News and Events page for more upcoming opportunities to learn and connect!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Marketing Case Study of Catfish: Job Seeker Lessons

The 2011 Oscar nominations came out today! I am a movie person, so that excites me. I have waited to see most of the nominated movies because I discovered that AMC hosts two Saturday Manhattan Oscar showcases where they show all the movies (five each day). I did one showcase last year and it was so much fun, I hope to do it again, though with pillows.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been impressed by the Oscar nominated movies I’ve seen so far. I thought The Social Network was on the boring side (Jesse Eisenberg plays the same character in every movie and Andy Samberg’s Mark Zuckerberg is much better), Inception would have been good if the acting hadn’t been so bad (Ellen Page is generally overrated), and Toy Story III wasn’t as good as the others. The Kids Are Alright was just plain annoying. I thought about the 2010 movie I liked the most this morning and I’ve decided it was Catfish.

(Spoiler alert going forward if you haven’t seen Catfish…)

Catfish is a “documentary” (some believe the movie was staged) made by a trio of young New York City filmmakers who became Facebook friends with a family in rural Michigan. One of them, Nev, begins a long-distance flirtation with a daughter named Megan who’s the same age. After some time, the guys begin to believe something is amiss and travel unannounced to Michigan so they can meet the family. They find that most of what they experienced on Facebook, including Megan, was imagined by a woman named Angela who is a lonely mom with a difficult family situation. People had very strong reactions to Catfish. If you didn’t like it, you hated it because you thought it was staged or because these young, arrogant New Yorkers took advantage of old, simple Angela. 
(Yes, I know I am generalizing here.)

Catfish I am not suggesting that Catfish was worthy of an Oscar nomination, but it was definitely the movie I most enjoyed last year. I questioned whether parts were contrived, but I didn’t feel that they exploited Angela. For me, a good movie is one that touches me emotionally and hopefully makes me both laugh and cry and Catfish achieved both. I laughed at the silliness of the main character and I cried at Angela’s humanity. In the photos she stole and chose for her online persona, or in her self-portraits that she painted, you could see reflections of her true self, but with longing and regret. I think we can all relate to feeling stuck, but hoping for “more” at some point in our lives.

Some people would say Catfish was successful for a first-time documentary, but it initially had more potential. When the movie came out in September, there was internet chatter that this movie could be called the “real Facebook movie” over The Social Network. Obviously that didn’t happen, and that’s partly because the studio and filmmakers made constant mistakes in the marketing, mistakes that are easy to make in job seeking, too. Here are some lessons from Catfish I’ve been reflecting on and how they relate to careers.

One: Make sure you’re marketing yourself authentically.

The studio marketing of Catfish was a textbook case of what NOT to do. I decided to see Catfish based on a small paragraph I’d read in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly and hadn’t seen the trailer. The trailer markets the movie as a thriller- what will these young men find in Angela’s house in the boondocks of Michigan, which they first approach in the dark? Scary, but 5 minutes of the entire move. I am assuming that the studio thought that kind of movie would appeal to young moviegoers, but no one wants to feel cheated about what they’ve paid to see. I wouldn’t have gone to the movie if I’d first seen the trailer, which would have been a loss, based how much I enjoyed the movie.

It’s always best to market yourself authentically when you’re searching for a job, too, so you can find your right audience. If you’re marketing yourself as someone you’re not in your online and written documents, people will find out once they meet you at the interview, anyway. So please disregard bad career articles that tell you to focus on flirting over substance or to botox your resume (anyone notice these articles are always written for women by women? Ugh. That’s a dissertation, not a blog post).

Second, there are implications for your happiness. Say you even fool the hiring manager (unlikely), are you prepared to keep pretending you’re someone you’re not every day once you have the job? Why would you want to keep that up? Even if you’re not job searching because it was your choice, don’t you want something better for your next gig where you’re comfortable, happy, and successful? It’s hard to build success on lies and misrepresentations, just like Catfish, and for that fact, Angela.

Two: Emphasize your likeability.

We’ve talked about the importance of being likeable because above all else, people want to do business with people they like. I read lots of articles about how the filmmakers came off as punks in press tours and interviews. I am sure they felt attacked by the exploitation accusations, but they came off as likeable in the movie and had the opportunity to be that way with the press. No one wants to see a movie with people who seem like jerks and no one wants to hire someone who seems sketchy.

Three: Understand that everyone has preconceived biases and sometimes you can’t change them.

There were lots of people who didn’t like Catfish because they have predetermined notions about social networking and who uses it, as well as people like Angela. Some people were going to believe that Angela was exploited no matter what they saw in the movie. When I read the New York Times review of the movie, I wondered if the critic had seen the same movie. If you read his review, and others, you see opinions about the usefulness of Facebook creeping in and realize that it’s impossible to see a movie like this through an impartial lens. I wasn’t impartial, either. I have first hand experience with people who NEED to use social networking, who are unable to develop in-person relationships due to real phobias and related issues. Without the internet, they’d be unable to relate to anyone because of chemical reasons. While I would never advocate that people lie about their persona like Angela did, or believe her behavior was acceptable, I understand where the overwhelming desire to connect with strangers via the internet comes from for people who are stuck in their worlds. Of course I was going to cry at her story.

As a jobseeker, you have to realize that you only have limited control over people’s opinions on your candidacy because some of it is developed before you step in the room. Sometimes, the hiring manager will not give you a fair chance based on what s/he believes about people of your generation (young and old) or employees who worked for your previous company. Listening for those biases and addressing them is important, but it’s also essential to understand that you don’t have ultimate control over other people’s decision-making process. Your only responsibility is to do your best and accepting that lack of control is powerful. Perhaps the Catfish team could have done more to educate the general public about the different sides of social networking, but it’s likely that people would have brought their own Facebook experiences to the movie anyway.

As a wrap-up, yesterday was my book list and today’s my movie list. Here are my evaluations for the 2011 nominees pre-AMC Oscar Showcase. I am also including my 2010 ratings for reference if you’re trying to figure out my taste.

2011 Nominations




Didn’t See

Toy Story III
The Social Network
The Kids Are Alright (hated) Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
True Grit
Winter’s Bone
127 Hours

2010 Nominations




Didn’t See

The Hurt Locker
The Blind Side
An Education
District 9
A Serious Man
Avatar (probably better in 3D)
Up In The Air (hated)
Inglorious Basterds (been on my DVR forever)

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

3 Steps to a Great Elevator Pitch: Hi, My Name is Tracy!

Elevator pitches have come up several times in the last two weeks, including in Twitter chats, an email exchange with a potential client, and in my career management workshop for Teach for America corps members. For the uninitiated, an elevator pitch is the 15 to 30 second pitch you would give to someone you met on a short elevator ride. The pitch covers how and why this person can help you, whether it’s for your career, business, or something else.

In reality, it’s unlikely that you’ll have such a short time to talk with someone when you’re at a networking event, the most common place an elevator pitch is used. It’s more important that when you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re prepared to start strong and then continue an engaging conversation about what you have to offer.

Here are my three tips on how to make your elevator pitch as strong as it possible for networking events.

1. Know the answers to these six elevator pitch prompts.

Great elevator pitches finish these statements in a compelling way.

1. I am a… (professional role)
2. I currently…. (seek employment, seek clients, happily employed)
3. I specialize in (how I solve problems)…
4. I am the best (what are my results)…
5. I do it because…
6. I want you to and I will in return…

Review the prompts above and write one-sentence answers to each one, getting very specific and short (think of them like tweets).  Pay attention to prompts 3 through 5 because they are what will always make you unique. In particular, think about why you do what you do- this is the most personal of all the prompts. We’ve talked about the importance of knowing why you do things a few times on this blog.

In case it still seems abstract, here are some ways that I would answer these prompts as Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project.

3. Specialize: I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search.

4. Results: I’ve helped my clients clarify their goals, get jobs quickly and confidently, and learn new skills they will use throughout their careers.

5. Why: I started my company after working in K-12 education reform for 13 years and seeing that my work was meaningless because our higher education system is broken. Most young people graduate from college unprepared for careers and adulthood and I wanted to do something about it. (Yes, I know this is over 140 characters, but it’s important!)

2. Try out combinations of the prompts that work for you and the events you attend.

Even if you kept your answers to 140 characters or less for each prompt, that’s a long introduction. You want to put together short combinations of the prompts for elevator pitches that can be used in different situations. You can then incorporate the other prompts in your ongoing conversation as they become relevant.

For example, if I was attending a business networking event with small business owners from various industries who “know the drill,” I’d get right to the point and start with a Prompt 1, 2, 6 combo.

– “Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting services, focusing on young professionals. I am always looking for new clients and interesting projects. If you know anyone who needs help getting closer to achieving their career goals, I appreciate referrals. Tell me about your company and what you’re looking for from this event?”

However, if I was attending an event with people who were interested in social change and educational inequities, I’d do a Prompt 1, 3, 5 punch.

-“Hi! My name is Tracy Brisson. I am the Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, and I provide career coaching and recruitment consulting. I specialize in helping young professionals build their soft skills and use social media to accelerate their job search. I left my job in recruitment and K-12 education because I felt my work was meaningless when I realized large numbers of our students were graduating from college without the skills they need to participate in today’s economy.”

As powerful as the second pitch may read, it would likely not go over well at every event. Some people may feel like I was preaching to them to about education when they just want to create a relationship because we both own a local business. If they are not regularly tuned into education issues, they may spend so much time thinking about my “why” that they don’t think about my “what.” As a business owner seeking new clients and relationships, that would be a loss for me. However, as the conversation went on, someone may ask what I did before I startedmy own business and I could include my “why” in that context, still making me memorable. I could also include stories that reflect my results.

What combinations might work for you?

3. Practice, practice, practice.

How you say your elevator pitch will matter as much or even more than what you say. Practice your combinations until you feel confident and comfortable introducing yourself with them. You will find out what words and inflections come natural to you. If you don’t have to think about the specific words, you will sound more enthusiastic and be able to listen and be present with the people you are connecting to at the event. This will increase the odds that you’ll make new, productive relationship, which is your goal.

Questions? Feedback? Leave them in the comments. Happy networking!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Soft Skills Workshop Recap and Resumes Part 3

Where did the week go? It’s nice to be busy with lots of things. At the same time I am running The Opportunities Project and meeting with clients, I am participating in a program called FastTrac NewVenture, which is an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg’s sponsored by the New York City Business Solutions Center, the SUNY Levin Institute, and the Kauffman Foundation. Twenty-nine fellow entrepreneurs and I meet twice a week to fine-tune and revise our business models and plans. It’s a great program and among other things, has me thinking about how some of my rates will change when my first price guarantee comes to an end on October 1. Please keep that in mind if you are considering buying coaching sessions from me!

Also, this week, we hosted our first workshop (woo hoo!) on Building Soft Skills for career and interview success. We started the event with some pre-workshop music from Glee (anyone else excited about Britney vs Brittany?), New Edition, and Eddie Money (?), and then transitioned into discussion and real-life interview practice and coaching. The surveys came back great and I even got an unsolicited testimonial. The Prezi is online for everyone to check out, and we may even have some video coming soon, courtesy of Eve Hyman. I plan on repeating the event in October with a new and exciting partner so more of you can experience it. Thanks to my summer interns who taught me the wonder of Prezi.

More Resume Tips and Wrapping up the First Cocktails and Careers Tour

What a great week! I attended six events where I got the opportunity to meet and help almost 100 job seekers. It was rewarding and refreshing to talk to people who are optimistic in a difficult environment. One of the best events was the Syracuse University Success in the City event (pictured). Every recent graduate I met was well spoken and prepared- kudos to them and the career center. I also had the pleasure of giving a free coaching package to Dave Bell, a 2010 grad with entrepreneurship in his future. I look forward to helping him with those goals.

At almost every event, resumes were a hot topic. So as promised, here is my second tip on resume development. You may think of your resume as just a list of bullet points and accomplishments, but it really should tell a story about you and your career. If it’s just a multi-page document with a lot of buzzwords, you are not going to get very far in your job search process.

We have become overloaded with blog posts and articles about online application systems that search your resume for keywords and throw out the ones that don’t have enough. First, that is an exaggeration. Second, only a small percentage of people ever get hired through a job posting like that so that is NOT where you should focus your efforts. Instead, commit to creating a clear and concise product that you are proud to email to a personal contact you met at a networking event. Third and finally, if your resume does get through an initial automatic review, an interview is not going to be scheduled without a human evaluation for quality, anyway.

If you’re not sure if your resume tells a story, ask a friend or colleague to look at the most current version and ask what stories they would tell about your career based solely what is on paper. Do they sense that you stood out from other people at your level or in your title? Do they get a sense of the career decisions you made up to this point? If not, what could you do to make your resume tell a better story?

Now that our first Cocktail and Careers tour is complete, we are focusing on our Cupcakes and Careers workshop series. Our first one is tonight at the SLC Conference Centers at 352 Seventh Avenue at 7:00PM. We will be talking about how you can build the soft skills that make people successful in the interview and job search process. Hope to see you there!

Sorry, Your Resume Does Matter: Tips from a Recruiter

The universe is telling me that it’s time to get out of my entrepreneur/new small business owner haze for a bit and write a quick blog post on resumes. Three things awakened me to this realization this week.

(1) Everyday I see at least one tweet scroll by or an article in my Google reader that talks about how resumes aren’t all that important because jobs are obtained through networking. I saw one last night that left me both tired and boiling mad at the same time.

Resumes and Networking are not opposite concepts or tools. Hot is to Cold is not the same as Networking is to Having a Great Resume.  When networking, you may meet the best contact ever, but if  he has no job openings, he will want to pass on your resume to someone in his network. His contact will likely put great stock in the personal recommendation, but your candidacy has to stand on its own and that has to be reflected, at least in part, on paper.

(2) Resumes were a hot topic on Monday night’s Twitter #jobhuntchat. Recruiters and HR folks were telling jobseekers that most of them actually don’t know how to do a resume, and the jobseekers were telling the recruiters they have great resumes. What was interesting is that the recruiters were all tweeting the same advice on resumes, but in most cases, the jobseekers  still weren’t convinced to follow it.

BTW- what’s a Twitter chat you might ask? It’s when a bunch of people (sometimes over 100) get together for an hour to chat on a topic that interests them. A host throws out 5-6 questions and you share your thoughts, reply to other’s thoughts, and retweet things you like to your followers. Everything you do, you include the hashtag in the Tweet. Yes, just writing some of these terms makes me feel like a teenager. But participating in the #jobhuntchat and the #genychat have been some of the best hours I have spent in the last week in making connections, challenging my thoughts, and becoming a better career coach.

(3) We had an awesome first stop on the Cocktails and Careers Tour last night at The Village Pourhouse. People brought their resumes and I did some free reviews over a Guinness. Everyone who came was great and super-focused and I have no doubts with some tweaks to their approach and how they express their brand, they’ll be hired soon. But when I was reviewing one resume, the person kept bringing up advice that she had received at a workshop offered by the public library. For example, she was told ALWAYS use an objective, while I was telling her it was taking up valuable real estate on her resume. If all of your experience is in one area and you’re applying for a job in that same area, I know your objective. I also told her to ditch her AOL email address and she was skeptical, again, because this was in conflict with information she had heard at this workshop.  I am not criticizing her- she was legitimately confused.

So I have three resume tips to share this week. The first tip is now obvious, but it’s to defer to advice being given by real people who hire and recruit. They see resumes all day long and can tell you what stands out to them based on evidence. If you’re a college student or alum using the career office, you should absolutely question where counselors are getting their ideas and if they are requesting and incorporating feedback from employers into their advice to you. What they are telling you could be taken from a book published in 1999.  Likewise, other jobseekers or moms and dads may have great feedback, but if it’s different than what an expert is telling you, you should defer to the expert.

I am becoming more and more convinced that jobseeking is like teaching. Everyone experiences it in some form or other (in the case of teaching, as a student), so they think they know how to do it and love to advise others. But hard data shows that only a small percentage actually succeed at either.

And on that note, if you are in New York City and want your resume reviewed by an expert recruiter, come join me on the Cocktails and Careers Tour. Our next two stops (September 15 and 18) are at The Copper Door Tavern. They are excited to have us and have offered us $12 bottomless glasses of wine tonight. Wine makes resume reviews so much easier.