Gain An Edge With A Personal Website

Deciding to Go Mobile

Companies with an established web presence must consider a mobile presence; this means having mobile apps that interact with its’ primary services. All major social media services have invested significantly to boost mobile accessibility. It was forced on them. Their monthly active users already consume services on mobile devices on par with computers; in the future, mobile usage dwarfs computer usage. Just consider, IBM recently made a whopping four billion dollar investment in cloud and mobile computing.

Going Mobile

Going Mobile

The question in balancing a web presence and mobile presence should be based on processes. Breakdown how consumers use your services in tasks, then answer the following questions:

  • How much time does it take to complete the task? Does it require focused attention? With Twitter, it is easier to view Tweets and respond to others from the app; in fact, for many, it is a requirement to be active on Twitter all day long. When you are running campaigns and researching what you are going to broadcast on a given day, it is easier to use web services.
  • Who is consuming the service? Are they likely using a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or computer? When are they accessing the content – before, during, or after work? Where are they – in the car, at their desk, or at home? Facebook – popularized by the younger generation – is an important communication platform. For the older generation, it is a source of recent news. Users access Facebook via their smartphone whenever there is a break in the day.
  • What content is used? Is it memory intensive? Does it require a lot of processing? What is the optimal screen size to view the content? LinkedIn comes to mind. Conducting advanced searches and reviewing many profiles in a sitting is easier to accomplish through its web service, but it is easier to send quick messages, make connections, and check updates on its app.

There are three strategies to establish a mobile presence. First, create your own set of apps that run on the three main platforms – Mac IOS, Windows 8, and Google Android. Second, provide API access, so third-party developers create mobile apps based on your service. Third, make your website mobile friendly – having it responsive or delivering content in a different way; all mobile devices have browsers.

There is always a place for a standard computer. Much of the content we consume requires a larger screen, better processing power, and faster memory access. There are tasks like programming, writing, editing videos or graphics, playing graphic intensive games, and analyzing or modeling statistics that you do predominately on a computer.

An advantage with using a browser as opposed to an app is it has a standard protocol: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With HTML, the structure, tagging, and functioning of websites are supported universally by a worldwide consortium. This ensures there is a security apparatus in place. It is easy to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript quickly, (to see the underlying code of any website, simply view the source code from within any browser). It is also easier to develop websites. You can code a website in a text editor then upload it to a server, altogether taking you five minutes. With apps on mobile devices, there are far less rules and it is more challenging to learn all of the intricacies. For example, with Android, you download an editor, install Java, and use an emulator (of how an app works on various devices); moreover, there is a clear learning curve with programming in Java.

Apps are becoming a staple of future generations. (People label Generation Y as digital natives, I label Generation Z as mobile natives.) Apps probably become more prevalent than websites in many things, though websites will always have its place. In going mobile, companies need to breakdown things down into tasking – when, where, and how content is consumed.

Original Image © Depositphoto/ cienpies #9857738

What’s the Rush in Putting up a Personal Website?

One clear signal I get from students and professionals is that they want to build a personal website fast. So companies offering these services advertise how quickly you can have it up and running. Let’s say the average time is to have one up in five minutes. My issue with convenience and haste is the cost it might have on your reputation. A personal website significantly impacts your online personal brand (aura and identity in particular), so I advise getting everything right before publishing it. However, I acknowledge most professionals do not want to waste any time.

According to a survey I conducted in early 2014, seventy-one percent of Millennials are ‘not sure a personal website is worth the expense’ (time and money).[i] Considering there are many free services out there, time becomes the big factor.

My business education is tugging at me saying you must meet your customer needs, and my IT designer experience- Steve Jobs inspired – is tugging at me saying you can tell the customer what they need. Believe me, I know you must have a solid relationship with your customer base and listen to their requests.

Developing Strategies

Developing Strategies

Nevertheless, I think the best way to think about building a personal website is to consider when taking shortcuts are appropriate. Here are some of the ways to companies speed up the process in starting a personal website:

Importing information from a LinkedIn profile. This feature is necessary because it not only saves time, but also reduces errors. As you retype information in a website interface, there is a natural tendency for typos.

Use of stock images for style and layout. It is easy retrieve stock images (where you pay to use an image someone else created without any direct input from you). This is fast and easy. However, using images you or a you-guided photographer creates is more meaningful. Perhaps use stock images to get your website up, but get your own images in the long-run.

Uploading content. A big component of a personal website is getting your content on the server; this includes photo galleries, documents, presentations, videos, etc. It is helpful if the uploading process is quick and painless. A great feature is to directly link to online storage drives such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Microsoft One Drive.

Using AI to generate style and aesthetics for you. One company has developed AI that automatically generates the style and layout of your website for you – no templates. Albeit an interesting concept, this has dangerous implications. Should you rely on AI to tell your story for you? Should you rely on AI to peg your personal brand? Perhaps this is an added convenience customers want, but personally, I would rather decide how to represent myself and not depend on an algorithm. I compare it to a representation in the physical world – dressing up everyday. Do you want a computer telling you what to wear? (Perhaps?!!)

Integrated with social media. Much of your online presence already exists on your social media accounts, so you want widgets that display related content. Bringing in social media feeds quickly adds substance to your personal website.

To conclude, think about a company building its website. Does it want to put something up as fast as it can? Is it not concerned how every graphic and wording is crafted as a portrayal of the company brand? To some extent, a professional should have similar expectations and care with his or her website. A personal website is the cornerstone of an effective online personal brand.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity. (July 2014).

Original Image © Depositphoto/  fotoskat #2990674 and  bevangoldswain  #14778925

Reflection on Personal Website Concepts

Often times I think in functional ways, so get tunneled vision on sharing key concepts and forget to include personal reflection. So, in this blog, I thought I would share some of the stories behind the concepts.

The story behind a mainstream personal website service starts around Christmas time in 2010. I pulled my brother’s tag from a hat for our family grab-bag and I had to give him a gift. He has traveled extensively around the world, so I was going to build him a website to share his travel experiences with stories and images. However, he preferred having his own personal website to help promote his work for non-profits. Of course, I tried taking a short-cut by using a platform from an existing web service. I could not find one – there was not a web service with the functionality we needed. This is when my brother and I knew we had an opportunity to be innovative by designing a personal professional website service.

We learned two important characteristics about a personal website from this experience. First, it establishes an online identity. A person wants it to appear first in a Google search about them, therefore it must deliver a deep, meaningful impression. Second, there are both personal and professional themes on the website. Part of an effective personal website is presenting and validating skills, but another equally important part is communicating an aura – something that requires media, style, and aesthetics.

I took an interest in academics at the start of senior year of my undergraduate education, before then I was more into a social experience. I was in a fraternity and made some great, lifelong friends (would not change that). But my goal was to get a degree, not actual learning. For that year and in my graduate education, I performed well academically. It was simply a switch- balance social and academic experiences. All it takes is accountability, dedication, and tricking yourself that learning is enjoyable. I want to help others to turn on the switch earlier in their lives.

In creating the Skills-Based Approach methodology, one of my primary objectives is to get college students and young professionals on the right career track. I feel so many young adults lack maturity, so do not go through the necessary self-reflection to find career fulfillment. Personally, I think it is a generational thing. In their two books Academically Adrift and Aspiring Adults Adrift, the authors provide a compelling case that this problem of career preparedness affects a majority. In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I suggest four career planning strategies: craftsman’s mindset, self-awareness, product to market, and passion theory. My goal is to get the average person thinking about higher education and a career much earlier, take responsibility for their own learning, and grow personally and professionally – be happy.

I root for the underdog. A person who has fresh insights should be successful, regardless of their status and how many connections they have, in my opinion. Things I fear about personal branding approaches laden in self-promotion is that it becomes a ‘popularity contest’ in social media and credentialism takes over. This is why I am an advocate of using the power of demonstration. Get your ideas and content out there.

With online personal branding, one of my goals is to remove the stigma of self-promotion. I acknowledge varying doses of self-promotion are required in personal branding because professionals compete against each other, whether it be for a position, clients, or eyeballs on content. I cringe when forced to self-promote. I am more or less an introvert who prefers writing and sharing content, then sitting back and hoping it gets read based on the content itself (and not what I say about myself). So I came up with a model of online personal branding where self-promotion is not a focal point. Instead I suggest assessing your skill set, aura, and identity and then projecting it onto a network. No one likes too much self-promotion on a personal level, why do we accept so much of it on a professional level.

Adopting a ‘Company Culture’

As the idea of a “company culture” evolves, we are starting to define it based on the behaviors of workers. Previously, trendy companies came up with catchy mission statements that were meant to capture the meaning of their existence. Just ask a baby boomer. They will tell you “company culture” is something puppet-mastered by the CEO of the company and most of the workers don’t buy into it. But now, “company culture” connotes something deeper. It is a reflection of the purpose, values, behaviors, and strategies of an entire organization.

In The Culture Engine, S. Chris Edmonds suggests that leadership creates a standing constitution defining each of these elements in relation to the company’s trajectory. Everyone is expected to follow it as the law of the company.[i] And this is only the beginning, in the near future, we dig much, much deeper. Everything we do will be measured. As we work, our micro-behaviors – eye movements, twitches, etc. – are monitored by productivity technologies (some of which already exist).[ii] Leaders will have access to our inner-most emotions. Personally, I think these futuristic applications are excessive (but then again, perhaps I am like a baby-boomer making sense of where we are now).

Constitution

(The graphic is meant to illustrate concepts in the blog. Though it represents my values, it does not necessarily represent the values of TheProfessionalWebsite.)

I created a constitution according to Edmonds’ suggested approach. I found it to be worthwhile. There are some generalities. For example, I bet most companies value teamwork and describe some similar behavior expectations. Another example, all technology companies value innovativeness. But it really comes down to defining the behaviors; this involves addressing subtleties and working through the fine-print definitions with an inner circle. Once the constitution is ready, the benefit comes in getting an entire company living and breathing every word of it. Throughout the book, Edmonds provides ample evidence adopting a company culture pays off. Here is one stat:

His clients have experienced a ’35-40 percent engagement gains in 12 to 18 months’ (page 30). (Higher engagement increases creativity and productivity.)

Gregg Lederman is an expert on organizational branding. Love the story about how he rebranded an iconic ice cream parlor in Rochester. Buckman’s was seemingly on its last legs when Gregg and his partner took it over. They decided to take control of their customers’ experience: “Think summer, baseball, dirt, grass, ice cream!” Their plan involved breaking things down into behaviors and expectations (similar to a constitution):

We made the company mindset meaningful to employees by translating it into fifteen nonnegotiable behaviors that every employee could and should do.[iii]

Altogether, getting a company to adopt a culture based on behaviors and expectations is a strong step forward. It is something most companies did not think of twenty years ago. You cannot control your workers’ attitudes and perceptions, but you can control how they behave (point made by Edmonds). Moreover, new technologies are making all of these desired workers’ behaviors measurable and accessible to management. For example, every sales pitch a person makes can be caught on video, phone records, and online communications and then be dissected by someone in management. In the future, it will be interesting to see how “micro-analysis” of behaviors impacts the relationship between workers and their leaders. No one likes to be micro-managed, yet it is worth getting a company culture right. Edmonds makes clear that once the constitution is ratified, those who do not follow it should be asked to leave the company!

My tidbit… Regarding company culture, everyone should have similar internal and external behaviors. In other words, practice what you preach to customers. Workers should use the services your company offers and practice the underlying methodologies.

[i] S. Chris Edmonds. The Culture Engine. (Wiley, 2014).

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-people-analytics-youre-not-a-human-youre-a-data-point-1424133771

[iii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-practices-drive-results-gregg-lederman

Intelligences

This summarizes the main concepts drawn from the series of blogs on intelligences.

Using Intelligence Competencies to Identify Skills

Generally speaking, you can map skills to various intelligences: cognitive, emotional, creative and contextual (and in the diagram below I also include skills related to using artificial intelligence). I say generally because there is some overlap where skills require multiple intelligences. Understanding intelligent competencies and then mapping them to skills is useful for the planning and building stages of a Skill-Based Approach.

During the planning stage, you derive a list of skills you will need to pursue your career aspirations. This is no different than any other type of career planning, although once you decide what you want to do, you translate what you have into skills.[i]

Intelligence To Skills

Intelligence To Skills

Here are some examples:

  • The results of an IQ test determines powerhouse skills – something you concentrate on building throughout your career.
  • The results of an EQ test might indicate what ‘soft skills’ you must work on to be successful. If you have a high EQ, find ways to apply your emotional intelligence –  perhaps in leadership or human resources.
  • If you are creative, build skills that draw on your talents.
  • Understanding intelligences also helps you understand how you might learn best, so you can create a personalized plan to build your desired skills.

In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I discuss how to translate the results of a personality, interests, and strengths test into a career development plan based on building and validating a skill set; here, I suggest how to use the results of intelligence tests.

There is value in translating your career development into skill sets; it defines your career plan in a universal language everyone understands. Educators and employers know skills, so talking in skills effectively bridges your education and employment experiences. Skill sets are also being used in most of the social media profiles, job board profiles, and personal websites. Finally, most professionals must commit to lifelong learning and validate their skills in some way. I suggest adopting the Skills-Based Approach methodology. It is a progression in four stages: planning, building, presenting, and validating. Each stage has proposed ways to achieve its objectives. The beauty of a skills-based approach is its simplicity and flexibility.

I loosely use three intelligences – analytical (which I call cognitive), creative, and contextual – from Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. I added artificial and emotional intelligence because both are receiving considerable attention nowadays and I think are distinguishable from the others.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career. (Trafford, 2013).

It’s Not All About How Smart You Are…

Individual intelligence is commonly associated with cognitive intelligence, though emotional intelligence is also getting a lot of attention nowadays (especially among leadership gurus). Going forward, a collective intelligence – the combined intelligence of systems and a network/team – becomes more important than individual intelligence. It makes more sense to compare collective intelligences, because teams and their intelligent systems are the actors of future competition.

Intelligences

Intelligences

Here are the definitions of some of various intelligences I have come across:

Cognitive Intelligence (IQ, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) – “the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and computation, problem solving and decision-making, comprehension and production of language, etc.”[i] People with a high cognitive intelligence often brandish the results of related tests on college and employment applications, some even put it on their LinkedIn profile; it is a status symbol in our society. Stereotype of someone with a high IQ: a brainy genius who you ask to solve a problem.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”[ii] In Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves break emotional intelligence into four areas – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management – and provide strategies to improve your EQ. A distinction they make frequently is you can improve your EQ, but cannot improve your IQ. Many of the leadership and personal branding experts assert that a high EQ is more valuable than a high IQ in most professions. Stereotype of someone with a high EQ: a social magnet who you ask to coordinate gatherings.

Creative Intelligence (CQ, curiosity quotient) – capable of ‘generating original ideas’, open to new experiences, and inquisitive. People with a high CQ ‘stir the pot’ by challenging the status quo. Their ideas are not necessarily rooted in complex thinking (requiring a high IQ), but rather tweaking or thinking out of the box. In a HBR article Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence, the author concludes: “CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems”. Stereotype of someone with a high CQ: an edgy designer who you ask to create concepts.

Contextual Intelligence – “the ability to understand boundaries of knowledge and adapt to other environments.”[iii] Understanding the nuances of different cultures and their social norms is critical as we become increasingly interconnected. Understanding variations in seemingly similar applications is important as the competition between new technologies stiffens. Stereotype of someone with a high contextual intelligence: a street-smart diplomat who you ask to understand a culture.

Artificial Intelligence (Turing Test) - the intelligence of machines or software. Artificial intelligence is becoming a reality, some current applications include: feeding content in social media, asking IBM Watson questions through Verse (an email collaboration platform), and nudging by personal assistants on cell phones (Siri, Cortana, Google Now, etc.). It is a commonly accepted notion that AI becomes pervasive in our everyday lives. Though many outspoken leaders, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk, have recently voiced concerns about the dangers of future intelligent systems.

Collective Intelligence (a variation of IQ to accommodate teams) – this is the combined intelligence of a team and/or intelligent systems. With advances in technology and communication practices, leaders need to think in terms of a collective intelligence as they build teams and introduce technologies. A collective intelligence can be predicted. It is strongly correlated with “the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and proportions of females in the group” – not strongly correlated with the individual intelligence of its members.[iv] It is also worth noting that online communication (driven by technology) has similar correlations to collective intelligence as face-to-face communication.[v]

There are various forms of intelligence: cognitive, emotional, creative, and contextual. Fortunately, it is not just about how smart you are – personality, ingenuity, and street smarts are as valuable. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a reality. Leaders should optimize the collective intelligence of their teams.

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence

[iii] https://hbr.org/2014/09/contextual-intelligence

[iv] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6004/686.full

[v] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4267836/

Benefactors of Free Community College or Technical Training

Providing universal access to higher education is a step in the right direction – whether or not the tab is picked up by federal and state governments. (Theoretically, non-profits, employers, and educational institutions could also chip in to make this happen.) President Obama recently proposed America’s College Promise where the government provides two years of community college for free. According to some early estimates, this proposal has a $60 billion price-tag.

If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.[i]

Free Community College

Free Community College

Of course, there are many benefactors of this proposal: low-income families, less mature teenagers, veterans looking to validate skills, and ‘middle-skill’ professionals.

It is difficult for low-income families to put a student through college. Sure there are currently loans and grants offered for the families in need, but cutting the ‘red tape’ and telling these families everything is free is inspiring. If the proposal is accepted, more low-income students will go to community college.

Many teenagers are just not ready to enter a traditional four-year, on campus college program. They are not ready to take full accountability for their learning – attending class, doing homework, and balancing a social life. America’s College Program stipulates each student gets a mentor and must maintain a C+ average to stay in the program. A majority of community college students stay at home.

A proponent of America’s College Promise says it would benefit our veterans. They will be able to build upon their ‘technical skill and management expertise’ from serving and earn a degree – making them better job candidates. [ii]

Sixty percent of graduating high school students attend a two or four year degree education. It’s expected that as many as 25 million of all new job openings in the next decade will be for middle-skills jobs. In a 2014 survey, Accenture found that 69 percent of about 800 human resources executives said that middle-skill talent shortages “regularly affect their performance.”[iii]Clearly, this program would affect a large segment of the American population. It sets a new bar for education achievement of Americans.

Some other thoughts on the proposal:

  • Akin to another public initiative of adding one to two more years to high school. Both programs are designed to get students college credits and prepare for the final two years of a bachelor’s degree. It is not only about saving on tuition, but also giving students more time to mature for a higher order learning experience.
  • In a circuitous way, we are already paying for a large chunk of unpaid student loans. The federal government takes the burden of reparations for students who default on their loans, so our tax dollars are being used already.
  • Many community colleges face challenges to keep their doors open. One example is San Francisco Community College that almost collapsed without outside stimulus. A federal funding plan guarantees a revenue source, which makes it easier for community colleges to build a healthy foundation.
  • Skills gap due to a lack in technical skills. The program should increase the number of skilled workers. Community colleges offer accelerated programs to build these much-needed skills – engineering, programming, etc.
  • Puts pressure on the traditional four-year programs to reduce their tuition. Students have the option to take two years free at a community college, then transfer their credits and finish the last two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Provides resources to improve graduation rates by assigning a mentor. Community college dropout rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.[iv]

Thinking in term of a Skills-Based Approach, there are alternative ways to build and validate the same technical skills; some of them include online training, certifications, apprenticeships, internships, coding camps, etc. Perhaps the program should cover two years of community college and other equivalent ways to build necessary technical skills. (Put a cap on the total expense and limit all programs to two years.) The president has also proposed the American Technical Training Fund, which is meant to expand beyond community colleges to other training institutions.

America’s College Promise guarantees everyone has access to higher education and training, so it increases the chances Americans find gainful employment and enjoy fulfilling lives. Moreover, it gives lower-income families a chance. For this reason, the essence of the program, I hope universal access to higher education becomes a reality – regardless if the president’s proposal gets approved (which is unlikely).

[i] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/09/fact-sheet-white-house-unveils-america-s-college-promise-proposal-tuitio

[ii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/obamas-college-plan-the-most-important-since-gi-bill-dan-smolen

[iii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/free-community-college-answer-shortage-middle-skill-workers-selingo

[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/opinion/david-brooks-support-our-students.html

Skills-Based Approach: Slide Show

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