LinkedIn Answers Shut Down. Now What?

LinkedIn Answers shut its doors on January 31st, 2013.
R.I.P., LinkedIn Answers.

LinkedIn Answers closed its doors yesterday, without much fanfare or forewarning (they made an announcement earlier this month, which managed to slip by me unnoticed). I was first confused–then a little bummed–when I paid it a visit this morning and found it a wasteland, save for the curt notice you see above.

Why am I going to miss it? Because it was a personal branding godsend. LinkedIn Answers was one of the best places on the Internet to establish a reputation for thought leadership within your industry. Any advice you published was connected to your real name, which in turn invited curious visitors to investigate your work history and areas of expertise.

It was a great 1-2 punch: your profile answers the question, “has s/he worked in this capacity before?”, while your contribution to Answers proves whether you are knowledgeable enough to perform the functions of the job. We place so much importance on writing a perfect resume (because it’s a tangible document and all), but when you think about it, demonstrating skills relevant to the given position is about 10 times more important. It became the norm, not a rarity, for top LinkedIn Answers contributors to receive unsolicited job offers in their field.

Now that the feature has ridden off into the sunset, what’s next? Let’s take a look at the alternatives to LinkedIn Answers that will satiate your thirst for thought leadership.

Quora

With its popularity already on the rise, Quora will welcome the LinkedIn Answers exodus with open arms. It’s already more fully featured as a dedicated Q&A exchange site, with greater moderation controls and more flexible ways to follow thought leaders directly (which is huge where personal branding is concerned). Now that an industry giant has stepped out of the space, Quora can shine.

Ironically, people have been suggesting LinkedIn acquire Quora for a couple years, and LIA suddenly going MIA sends very curious signals. If a merger is in the works, you just might migrate from LinkedIn Answers to…the next LinkedIn Answers.

Stack Exchange

98 smaller Q&A sites make up the Stack Exchange empire, which leans heavily on the technology niche but covers some recreational topics as well. The organization of small communities into one central hub is a great system. It affords each site the ability to focus on a niche, which in turn attracts passionate experts and influencers within a narrow field. As a result, even though the community is huge, answer quality remains high, because the site structure funnels people toward their passions. Any corner of Stack Exchange could be your next information goldmine.

Metafilter

What Metafilter lacks in size (just 12,000 active users), it makes up for in strength of community. The $5 barrier to account creation (a one-time fee) is chump change, but it weeds out the would-be trolls and inactive accounts, replacing them with people eager to share and absorb information. Plus, it was founded in a year that started with a 1*, so it’s as old as dirt by internet standards, and it feels like it’s not going anywhere.

1999, if you’re counting.

Google+ Communities

Google just launched Communities in December, which are hub pages built around a common interest. They are essentially Facebook groups, in the same way that Google+ is essentially Facebook: less populated and more techy/insular, but pretty much the same product from a practical standpoint. Because Google+ has a higher concentration of professional activity, its communities leave plenty of room for discussion and guidance. And because content on Google+ is given preferential treatment in Google’s search rankings, the wisdom you share in Communities will receive a natural visibility boost.

Forums

Forums are alive! I sort of avoid them when I’m casually browsing the internet, mostly because video game forums ate up a valuable chunk of my childhood, and that’s time I’d probably spend elsewhere if I had a do-over. Despite my lukewarm associations with the format, forums are like the Lost Temple of Knowledge on the internet.

It’s true: authority sites (think Mashable) have taken over the web landscape, mainly because their articles follow coherent keyword campaigns in a well-defined topic. That level of laser-focused SEO knocks sites with more scattered discussions off the map, which might explain why forums aren’t the most obvious source of knowledge in 2013.

But if you go looking for them, it turns out they’re still thriving. Just Google “(industry) forum” or “(discipline) forum” and make an effort to return to whatever you find. There is a greater sense of community in forums than in most other online destinations, and that community will feed you advice you won’t get anywhere else.

LinkedIn Groups

If you don’t want to leave the familiarity and comfort of home, shift your attention to LinkedIn Groups. They have been the most durable gathering place for peers to exchange information and connect with people walking the same professional path. Not to mention that group members essentially function as free 2nd connections within your industry, which will open up more opportunities with the added visibility.

There are, of course, a bunch of similar sites out there that didn’t make the cut. The other big players (Yahoo Answers, eHow) generally don’t foster the depth of discussion to make them a desirable destination for thought exchange.

All in all, your interests will probably dictate which resource provides the most value. A bike shop mechanic will be happier with Stack Exchange’s bike enthusiasts niche community, while marketers – plentiful as we are – will relocate discussion threads to any of the flourishing marketing groups on LinkedIn.

Now That LinkedIn Answers Is Gone…

Back to the question posed in the title: now what?

  • Have you used LinkedIn for personal branding?
  • If so (or if not), where will you shift your attention with the disappearance of Answers?
  • Which communities have we missed? (By the way, you have my full blessing to wave your own flag here if you represent an awesome community you believe in.)

Let us know us on Twitter or here in the comments.

My Secret Job Search Weapon: Reddit

Reddit's "For Hire" Job Board

Reddit and “productive” are two words that don’t often nuzzle up against each other in a sentence. The social news site, where anyone can share funny videos, bizarre GIFs, and (if you look hard enough) illuminating articles and discussion, has quickly become the internet’s foremost authority on vanishing my free time into thin air.

For the uninitiated: Reddit’s core feature is the ability for any user to establish a community around any topic they desire. These communities (or “subreddits” in Reddit parlance) are as diverse and unpredictably distributed as Reddit’s millions of inhabitants. Generally, if someone spends time thinking about it in real life, there’s a home for it on the site.

Which is why, after obsessing over my job search strategies in the midst of my move from San Francisco to Boston last August, the lightbulb flipped on with such intensity that I heard shards of glass explode in my brain. Reddit for my job search! Of course!

As it turns out, there are tons of job search resources and employment opportunities on Reddit – if you know where to look. Some are strategic hubs for refining your application materials, while other are direct lines of contact to real positions in your industry, location and even experience levels.

But before you dive in, take note of three things that make your Reddit job search unique:

  • Demographics: Reddit is skewed toward a young, tech-inclined, male audience. That last part won’t matter, but the first two should give you a sense of what types of positions to expect in your search. Expect a heavy cross-section of IT positions at startups with young, tech-savvy company cultures.
  • The Double-Edged Numbers Sword: The subscriber count on a specific subreddit will tell you know how active that community is. As it happens, these aren’t the most active job boards in the world (by a longshot), with just 2-3 posts turning over per day. That’s virtually nonexistent compared to the huge job boards – but on the other hand, so is your competition. Sparsely populated job boards can clear up noise in the application channel, giving your resume extra bandwidth to attract the screener’s attention.
  • Reddit Solidarity: Generally, redditors really like other redditors. Despite its billions (!) of monthly pageviews, the Reddit of yesteryear felt like an exclusive club, back when it was the scrappy underdog lurking in Digg’s shadow. Some of us still hold on to that dynamic, even though everyone’s caught on to our “shave and a haircut” knock to get into the club by now. Demonstrating interest within a Reddit comment, or mentioning the Reddit listing in your introductory letter, might actually give you a small “solidarity bump” if the hiring manager on the other end is a lurker themselves. It’s less powerful than an internal reference, but might place your resume above blind applications from other job boards..

With that in mind, we’ve organized the best job search subreddits below. The number in parentheses is the subscriber counts for each subreddit – a general benchmark of its activity.

Job Search Advice

  • jobs (27,700) – Job search discussion and advice.
  • freelance (7700) – Discuss freelance work.
  • Resumes (6400) – Post your resume for critique.
  • GetEmployed (4100) – Motivation, advice and encouragement to take initiative. No job listings.
  • freelanceWriters (2600) – Discuss freelance writing. No listings / resumes.
  • work (2400) – Discuss life in the workplace.

Or join all these discussions in one handy link. (Just connect subreddit names in the URL with a + sign to read them all at once.)

Post Your Resume / See Job Listings

  • Forhire (23,300) – For job listings and shared resumes, despite the name.
  • Jobbit (2700) – Find job listings and post your resume for consideration.
  • Jobopenings (1700) – Job listings only – no resume sharing.
  • YoungJobs (1600) – Resumes from / listings for college kids and 20-somethings.
  • internships (1000) – Post or find an unpaid internship.
  • jobnetworking (800) – Connect with people in your industry to connect with opportunities through internal referrals.

Or, browse all listings. (Again, you can delete anything between + signs in the URL that doesn’t apply to you, e.g. “internships” if you need a paid position.)

Job Listings By Location

Testimonial

So does it work? As it turns out, I am my own testimonial. Smarterer hired me out of a Reddit post last August, and in turn, I’ve posted everything from internships up to full-time developer roles in the sections listed above. We come to the site because it’s where the techies dwell – and if you make it your home, soon enough it’ll find a way to feed you, too.

How to Set Career Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Smack in the middleWhat do you want to get out of your career? Do you even know? As simple as the question sounds, many people cannot come up with an easy answer off the top of their head. It’s easy to go with the flow from job to job and take opportunities as they open up, but it’s also very important to set career goals for yourself to meet to keep yourself on track to achieving what you want.

In fact, setting career goals go a long way in reaching satisfaction and productivity in one’s job. “People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine, says Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and author. So what can you do to set your own career goals and maximize your workflow? We’ve got some tips below.

It’s Time to Get S.M.A.R.T.

It’s great to set goals, but you won’t get very far in achieving them if they aren’t realistic and specific. Thankfully, George T. Doran, a professor of management, created a simple and memorable framework to set all of one’s goals by called the S.M.A.R.T. framework. (We here at Smarterer are a fan of the name!) Let’s break it down:

Specific – The more defined and specific a goal is, the more likelihood you’ll have a good idea of the progress you’re making. Ask yourself the six W Questions: Who, What, Where, When, Which, and Why? Instead of setting the goal of learning how to cook, which is too vague, turn it into something like “I want to learn how to cook Spanish food.”

Measurable – You can’t manage something unless you can manage it. There has to be a measurable element to each goal one sets in order to track the progress towards this goal. Instead of saying, “I want to learn how to cook Spanish food,” change it to “I want to learn how to cook five Spanish recipes.”

Attainable - Is it safe to assume that you can actually attain the end result you’re looking for? Sure, it’s easy to learn five recipes, but it would be much less realistic to assume you’ll learn fifty and remember them.

Realistic – It is important to ask yourself the question of whether or not you are willing and able to achieve this goal. Set a goal that will force you to reach and draws upon more motivational power than an easy goal.

Timely – Give yourself a reasonable deadline to stay on track. Improve your original goal by setting a date by which you want to complete it. “I want to learn how to cook five Spanish recipes by February 15.”

Don’t Let Your Goals Backfire

While the importance of setting goals has become very apparent in the workplace, don’t take them too far. According to Susan Adams of Forbes, pursuing these ambitious career goals “can encourage both excessive risk-taking and unethical behavior.” Sure, if you’re managing an account for a client, you may want to double their revenue in two years, but don’t compromise on your values or the values of your company by doing something shady or illegal.

How can one avoid making this mistake? As Adams notes in her article, “A few ideas: Create… ‘locks’ for ethical behavior. For instance, employees could sign an honor code of conduct. Another idea: Bosses should define and demonstrate ethical behavior and the boundaries of risk-taking.”

So, I’ll ask again: What do you want to get out of your career? Do you now have a better idea after being armed with this framework? Let us know what your S.M.A.R.T. goals are in the comments below.

Graph Search: Your Job Search, Facebook Style

graph-searchThe internet is aflutter with reactions to the new Facebook Graph Search, rolled out this month at Facebook headquarters (if you haven’t yet, get in line for a Graph Search beta invite). Graph Search takes all the information Facebook users have supplied to their public profile, and allows you to filter by interest, work history, location and so on. You can set up some pretty hyper-targeted queries – “friends of my friends who like surfing and road trips in Oregon” – and while that makes the feature tremendously powerful, it also opens the door for some scary privacy implications. (Entrenched citizens of Facebook, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.)

It’s a nifty, versatile tool that leverages Facebook’s uniquely massive database of user information to unearth new connections. While there’s lots of talk that Graph Search will disrupt the online dating industry (with good reason), we think it will make similar waves in the job search space.

Let’s look at it from both sides – how it will help companies source new candidates, and how it can expedite your job search. We’ll also help you tweak your privacy settings to broadcast your employment credentials while hiding sensitive information.

How Recruiters Will Source Candidates With Graph Search

Graph Search opened up a rabbit hole for candidate sourcing that is as deep as recruiters are clever.  Currently, LinkedIn is every recruiter’s stomping grounds: it hosts the work history of 200 million professionals, and the advanced search capabilities to pick through them with ease. Facebook doesn’t have the professional focus, but it does have a whopping 1 billion users. Recruiters will be forced to add Graph Search to the arsenal (at least the smart ones will), because they won’t find those candidates anywhere else.

Here’s how a recruiter might use Graph Search to hunt down local graphic designer candidates.

Using Graph Search to source Graphic Designers in Boston.

Let’s look at a more targeted example. Say we need a developer, and we want the cream of the crop. We’ll tell Facebook to search for “friends of Google employees” – because that demographic probably hangs out with other talented, motivated, like-minded people. We include two more filters: the keyword “developer,” and the employment year 2008 (to set a 5 year experience threshold). Here we go:

Graph Search for developers with 5+ yrs. experience who knows Google employees

If you’re a recruiter looking for candidates, you see the value in mining these results. If you’re a jobseeker looking for work, you probably see the value of showing up in these results. On the other hand, most recruiters already screen candidates through Google and LinkedIn, and you can bet the same critical eye will turn toward Graph Search results.

What this all means: it’s time for another pass on your privacy settings, to publicly broadcast your employment history, while protecting sensitive information. We’ll walk you through the necessary changes.

Optimize Your Facebook Profile for Graph Search

Facebook allows you to fill out your Work History, but it’s a little bit buried with the recent design changes. Click “Update Info” just underneath your cover photo on the right side of the page. Your work history may be outdated, or maybe it’s blank:

An empty Work and Education section.

To remedy that, visit your LinkedIn profile. (Don’t have one? We’ve got a fantastic guide to get you set up.)

To prepare for Graph Search, copy experience from your LinkedIn profile to Facebook.

Copy there. Paste here:

Fill out the Work History section on Facebook.

Assuming your LinkedIn profile is keyword-optimized to show up in search results, you should receive similar benefits in Graph Search. Tinker with your descriptions all you like, but there are two insanely important things you need to do or else all the previous work is for naught.

1. Make sure your Work and Education section is public. Graph Search respects privacy settings, and if your entire profile is friends-only due to previous privacy scares (which mine was), you won’t show up in search results until you make this section public. So go ahead and click that world icon and choose “Public.”

Graph Search Privacy Settings

2. Click “Done Editing.” (Before you do, marvel at my amazing MS Paint arrow.)

Make sure you choose "Done Editing" before you leave the page.

Great! Now anyone can search your work credentials through Graph Search. The last step is to make sure they don’t find anything else you want them to find.

The Extra Mile

Now that you’ve copied your resume over to Facebook, it’s time to strip your profile of potentially incriminating material, so you don’t lose an offer before it ever graces your inbox. We recommend reading up on the red flags recruiters look for on your profiles. (Total shock to me, by the way: poor spelling and grammar is more damning than your infamous college drinking pics. Who knew?)

Then, click the gear icon under your cover photo and select “View As…”

Double check your privacy settings.

…and make sure you’re viewing your profile as Public, so you can review which information you’re making available to Graph Search. From here, go over all your information with a fine-toothed comb, and pull down anything (pictures, NSFW status updates, embarassing old Likes) you don’t want leaking into your professional life. In addition, you can supplement your profile with extra skills or qualities that might give you a leg up – list foreign languages you know, or declare an interest in the field you want to break into.

Once again, when you have everything sorted out, make sure you click “Done Editing.” As soon as you do, you’re totally Graph Search optimized – your work history and special talents are broadcast for all to see, while your private interactions are on lockdown.

From here, just leave it to work its magic while you focus your job search efforts elsewhere. Once recruiters find Facebook Graph Search, they’ll start finding you as well.