Freelance Writer Files: Are you developing your self?

A person who certainly was himself.

A person who certainly was himself.

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.”
-Oscar Wilde

To realize one’s nature perfectly. What does that mean, really?

If you are active in the business world, you may wonder at times (or many times) whether this is really “you,” or who you had hoped you would be, sitting in the meeting playing Boardroom Bingo to pass the time. Or hanging out with people you really don’t like very much.

What is self-development? Is it achieved by winning awards, climbing the ladder to higher echelons in your company? Coming in first in your Corporate Challenge event? Climbing Mount Everest? Getting a tummy-tuck? Knowing the right people? Driving the cool car?

In my opinion, none of those things is going to help you develop your true self. To me, finding one’s true nature is an inside job. How could it not be?

If you are focused outward, looking for symbols of success or things to make you happy in the world, it seems to me you never will be happy. Isn’t it true that once you get that shiny new thing you had been after, thinking it would make you happy, it quickly loses its luster, and you have to think of something else to go after?

I heard an author the other day say, “The more things you have, the more things you have to take care of, and the more tension it causes.” Having had a house full of stuff for 12 years, which I then pared down to move into an apartment, I can tell you it’s true. The stuff accumulates, and it becomes a burden. This author said, “The things you own, own you.” True, true.

But self-knowledge is something that never piles up and becomes a burden. Instead, it makes you feel lighter and lighter. Because you can let go of all the stuff that really doesn’t serve you and really doesn’t matter.

Why should you devote yourself to doing the real work of self-development? Let me ask you this: Do you think you know yourself? Or are you too busy to notice who you are?

That seems like a strange question, I imagine. A lot of us are extremely busy because we have jobs, families, hobbies, friends, and whatever other things we’re required to spend time on. Who has time for self-development?? But even in an extremely harried life, I contend that if you can’t take five minutes to simply BE, you are short-changing yourself by neglecting to at least form a friendly acquaintance with yourself.



Years ago, I took the Silva Method of Meditation, which is a terrific course. In fact, I took it twice. Once you’ve taken it, as long as you keep your card proving you are a graduate, you can take it as many times as you like. The course teaches you how to enter the alpha state of awareness, then to go one rung deeper, to a place where you find the answers your inner self has to the questions you ask.

In the Silva course, our instructor (a Franciscan monk who was a hoot) reminded us to practice for at least a few minutes daily. “Five minutes is good; ten minutes is very good; fifteen minutes is excellent.” And then, “Once a day is good, twice a day is very good, and three times is excellent.”

I’m afraid I’ve let myself slip a bit since I first took the course. But when things get hairy, or when I’m experiencing negative emotions like worry, anger, or depression, nothing helps calm me like meditating the way I was taught.

You don’t have to take the Silva course to know how to meditate. There are a lot of books out there, and a lot of classes, on how to do it. But you don’t need any of those. All you need is five minutes and a quiet place with dim lighting. Get comfortable, preferably sitting (so you don’t doze off), keep your hands open and relaxed, close your eyes, and either focus on the breath coming in and exiting your nose or focus on a word, like “peace.” Just keep breathing in and out and try to maintain your focus. Your monkey-mind will be jumping all over the place, and when you notice you’re thinking about dinner or a book you’re reading, or an itch on your neck, you gently bring your mind back to your breathing or your word.

Five minutes at work is doable, isn’t it? At home, you may find more time. And for something that’s free and easy, it eventually yields great results: calmness, less being caught up in the crisis of the moment, more insight into who you truly are, and more compassion for others in your world. Honest!

I don’t know if Oscar Wilde meditated, but it’s clear he understood there is a real self we all have, and when we learn who we are and live as we truly are, instead of living up to someone else’s idea of who or what we should be, then we can be truly free.

Try five minutes of simple meditation, and even if it’s hard to keep focused at first, you’ll get better at it, and then you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll know who you are. And you’ll probably like you!

Tips on Becoming a Copywriter

A young woman who’s about to graduate with a degree in English writes to me: “Do you think it would help my chances of getting a job if I took a class in graphic design?” My answer: “YES!”

Quizzical proto-writer

Should an aspiring copywriter study graphic design?

These days, with company budgets being what they are (small and getting smaller), creatives are expected to do the jobs of two or three people. I saw an ad for a Creative Director that required the applicant to be able to write, do graphic design, create websites, manage a department budget, and interact with clients.

In the old days (as little as five years ago), those would have been the jobs of at least five people. Today, it could be the job of one employee, depending on the size of the creative department and the agency or company. Oh, and did I mention that Creative Director-of-all-Trades job was paying $30,000 per year?

Jobs for copywriters at companies are all but non-existent, which makes it a bull market for freelancers. But though I hate to disillusion this young woman about the value of an English degree, in my experience, with only that degree, your competition is everyone who can type on a computer. Everyone thinks s/he can write. But everyone knows they need a graphic designer to make Web or printed materials look good.

So I will reply to this budding copywriter that yes, she probably should take a class in Graphic Design, if not two or three, so that she can meet the current need for multi-skilled creatives in a company or agency.

Annie Oakley, Little Sure-Shot

Loaded for bear

The more you can do, the better your chances of getting one of the few available jobs for college grads. Write? Great. Write and create designs? Better. Write, create designs, and build websites? Better still. Write, create designs, build websites and know SEO? BEST! Then, if you have Emotional Intelligence to go with all that know-how, you may have it made. It’s a lot to ask, but most companies don’t train employees anymore. They expect you to come in the door loaded for bear, with all the talents they need already in place. So go get loaded. I mean, for bear, creatively. Of course! 😉

LinkedIn Tips from Guy Kawasaki – Part 3

This is the final installment recapping some tips from Web guru Guy Kawasaki about how to get the most out of LinkedIn. The original info is a few years old, but the tips are still valid. Let’s wrap up the last four (or five).

• Make your interview go more smoothly.

You went to MU, too? Great! You’re about to interview for a job or project. You don’t know the person you’re going to see, but your prep work should include a LinkedIn search for that person. You’re looking for ways to establish some kind of tie with him or her. Whoa! Look at this: the person graduated from the same university you did! And they know several people you know, too. Right off the bat, you have something to say besides, “Hello, nice to meet you.” Relationships begin with common threads.

• Gauge the health of a company.

By visiting a company’s website, you can see what they want the world to see. But you need inside information. By performing an advanced search for the company’s name, you can find out how much turnover they have, and whether some key people have recently left. To get a good idea about how the company is doing, talk to former employees. They’ll usually give it to you straight. You don’t want to work for a company that’s on the skids.

• Gauge the health of an industry.

What if you’re thinking of investing in, pitching or working for a company in an industry you don’t know very well? You can use LinkedIn to find people who worked for competitors—or even better, companies who went out of business. For example, suppose you wanted to build a new concept brick-and-mortar electronics store. You could learn a lot from speaking with former Circuit City employees.

• Track startups.

I’m not looking to invest in startup companies, especially in this economy (though a down period might be the best time to do it, anticipating a surge when business suddenly takes off). But if you are a venture capitalist like Guy, you may want to find out who in your LinkedIn network is starting a company. All it takes is an advanced search for a range of keywords such as “stealth” or “new startup.” To see the people closest to you in the network first, apply the “Sort By” filter to “Degrees away from you.”

• Ask for advice.

Here’s a LinkedIn function I just started using. LinkedIn Answers lets you send your business-oriented questions to your network and the greater LinkedIn network. Many heads are often better than one. You’ll have a better chance of making a good decision with lots of ideas on the table. You can also offer advice and get ranked as a subject expert.


If you have used LinkedIn to help you get business or find the answers to questions or in some other unique way, please post a comment here. I’d love to hear about your LinkedIn tricks. Or dog tricks.

LinkedIn Tips from Guy Kawasaki – Part 2

If you are simply “on LinkedIn,” is that enough? Well, no.

There’s a lot more functionality to LinkedIn than you may be using, and there are a few LinkedIn tricks that could help you get a job or a project or make an important connection. Here are three more.

• Enhance your search engine results.

Did you know your LinkedIn profile lets you publicize websites? You have “My Website” and My Company,” and if you chose “Other,” you can change the name of the link. To publicize your personal blog, search-engine-optimize the link by putting your name or keywords into the link. Be sure your public profile setting is set to “Full View.”

• Perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.

You know, of course, that companies check your references and any other info they can find on you before hiring you. How about using LinkedIn to check the info of the person who might become your boss?

Also, wouldn’t you like to know why the person who previously held the position you’re interviewing for left the company? You can use LinkedIn to find that out, too. Search for the job title and company. Be sure “Current titles only” is unchecked. You can contact people who used to hold the position and find out about the job, manager and growth potential, sez Guy. You might avoid a sweatshop, a crazy boss, or a company on the skids by doing a little checking.

• Increase the relevancy of your job search.

With LinkedIn’s advanced search, you can find out where people with your education and work experience work. Use search keywords that pertain to your skills. For example, if I’m a Web content creator, I would search that term and variations of it, plus “writer,” Web writer,” “copywriter,” and so on, to find out which companies employ people with my skills. Then I can check their websites for “Careers” or contact their HR person to inquire about openings.

Part 3, the final four tips, will be here tomorrow. Tune in.

LinkedIn Tips From Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki in the flesh is somewhat smaller than his reputation.

Although he was a main brain at Apple in the early days and today is not only a venture capitalist but a Web guru, he looks like anybody you might see anywhere. Well, any Hawaiian guy you might see. I guess I thought he would radiate visible genius rays. So it surprised me how human and casual he was when I saw him speak at a MAMTC (Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center) conference last spring. He’s funny, full of vital info delivered in an off-the-cuff, irreverent and always entertaining manner. Not that he’s a showman, he just has a quirky personality he’s not afraid to share with you.

It’s hard to follow Guy on Twitter, ’cause he tweets incessantly. Maybe he’s ADHD. But also, he is one guy who knows whereof he speaks in regard to Web 2.0. So it’s in total humility that I offer a couple of his tips on productive ways you can use LinkedIn here.

1. Increase your visibility

Makes perfect sense. The more connections you have, the more likely people searching for someone to hire or do business with will see your name at the top of their search results. Guy says there are 67,000 product managers on Linkedin, so if you can connect with some of them, and you need a job they might hire or recommend you for (“Recommend” is another great feature of LinkedIn.), that’s good.

2. Increase your connectability.

If you put only your current employer in your LinkedIn profile, you limit your ability to connect with more people. Guy recommends filling out your profile “like it’s an executive bio… include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities.”


Think of each place you worked and each activity you’ve done or club you’ve joined as a storehouse full of connections, each of whom is connected to at least 10 other people you’d like to know. Look up your connections’ connections. If you find someone you want to link with, ask your connection for an introduction to that person. Maybe the new person you link with will go wild over your new idea, hire you for a project or job, or introduce you to someone else who needs what you have to offer. You never know.

3. Improve your Google PageRank.

Getting to the top of a Google search page isn’t everything, but it sure gives you a leg up on the competition. How many pages do you search looking for an answer or a professional to handle a job? Bet you only look at the first one, and maybe only the top half of the first one. So Google PageRank is quite important in getting you seen.

LinkedIn makes your profile info available for search engines to index. LinkedIn profiles receive a pretty high PageRank in Google, especially if you select “Full View” as the option for your public profile. Guy also recommends customizing your public profile URL by making it your actual name. And to get more attention from search engines, use your customized URL in various places on the Web. Finally, he recommends that when you comment in a blog, you include a link to your profile in your signature.

Right now, I’m going to make sure I’m doing these three things myself. More later. And if you have a LinkedIn tip that’s worked for you, please comment below.

LinkedIn Job Tips

Thanks to Doug Richards, Social Business Evangelist, for these ideas.

Here’s a conundrum for job-seekers: Employers are looking for employees who stand out from the crowd, yet also fit in to their crowd very nicely. So how do you stand out AND fit in? Your LInkedIn profile can help. Because LinkedIn is where employers, HR people and recruiters look for new employees.

Are you just one of thousands of faceless souls tramping the well-worn paths to certain companies in search of a job? You need to stand out to get employers’ and recruiters’ attention. And you need to have the skills most employers are looking for these days.

Pick me! Pick me!

So what skills are those employers looking for? Yes, some technical proficiency may be on the list, such as familiarity with Excel, Word and other programs. But the skills most sought-after don’t have to do with hardware, they’re “you-ware” skills. In your LinkedIn profile, highlight experiences that illustrate these:

Tech trainability – Ability to learn new things. You may have to learn a new database management system or company routine. Are you flexible and teachable?

Ability to multitask – Just common sense. When companies downsize, one person may have to juggle two or three different jobs. Are you the kind of person who can keep all of those balls in the air?

Lifelong learner – Once you’re out of college for a few years, the type of degree you have doesn’t matter much, unless it’s specifically aimed toward the job you’re seeking. But professional certifications in a relevant field can separate you from the herd. Like Microsoft certification, for instance, for an IT job.

Low maintenance – No manager wants to babysit employees. In your LinkedIn profile, indicate that you do your job without excessive hand-holding. Demonstrate how you figured out how to solve problems on your own and were able to implement the solution.

Are you a good fit?

Cultural fit – Know what’s more important than knowing how to do the specific job you’re looking for? Cultural fit. The ability to play and work nicely with other employees in the company. Do you share their values, speak their language, match their energy level? If you do, employers will train you. Address your values and style of interaction in your profile to let recruiters and HR people know who you are, so they can imagine how you would fit.

More info for job-seekers to come. Stay tuned.

LinkedIn Tips for Job-Seekers

You know that among all the social media platforms, LinkedIn is the most business-oriented, right? You put your professional info into your profile, gather more connections, ask for introductions to people you’d like to know, and so on. You can do a lot with LinkedIn. But as I look at job-seekers’ profiles, I’m betting many are using it only 10% effectively to get recruiters and employers interested in them.

Got one?

What are you saying in your LI profile that will catch the right people’s attention? Unless you know, you’re likely to waste lots of words and get nowhere with your job search. Here are some of the mistakes I see on LinkedIn profiles:

• Too much (irrelevant) information
It’s nice that you like doggies and kitties. But unless you’re looking for a vet tech job, that’s irrelevant. And posting irrelevant content makes you seem clueless or unfocused.

• Too little (relevant) information
Some LinkedIn profiles show no photo and only the barest outlines of educational and professional accomplishments. If you’re just getting started on LI, okay, you can always fill in more later. But be sure to do it. Give employers enough info to see if you are a fit for a position they’re looking to fill.

• Too much information altogether
One person’s LI profile listed every job she’d had since high school, with a five-line paragraph after each job title. And the verbiage simply told what her duties had been at each job. If your duties don’t relate to a position you’re looking for now, either try to make them relate or forget all the exposition. If I have to scroll twice to see all of your employment history, you’ve got three times too much content.

Summary: Keep it brief and relevant to the job you’re seeking.

More tips to come…

Job-Seeking No-No: IWM

Any number of things may nix your chances of getting hired for a job that’s right up your alley. Here are seven of them. But of course, you wouldn’t be dumb enough to pull any of these stunts, would you? Hmm. Better read them.

But no matter how well you behave when interviewing, there’s one thing your qualifications and experience cannot trump: age.

Judging from the number of highly qualified “mature people” (i.e., people over age 35) I know who are seeking and not finding jobs, I think there’s a devilish something at play called “IWM,” or “Interviewing While Mature.” And unless you have a total body and face lift and start ending all your sentences with, like, a question mark?, IWM may be a factor.

During those years you were acquiring priceless knowledge, practicing what you’d learned, and racking up glowing reviews from co-workers, clients and bosses, the aging process was proceeding apace, indifferent to your desire to stop it at age 26. So ironically, as you became more qualified to be a “hit-the-ground-running” employee with a good work ethic, you became less desirable to employers who think it’s scary to hire mature workers. What is the fear?

Just guessing here, but they may have some weird ideas about “mature people,” like:

• They might be old dogs who can’t (or won’t) learn new tricks?

What, in your ignorance, do you hope to prove by this childish exercise?

• They probably want too much money?
• Their Depends might leak on the plush conference room chairs?
• They might not respect their twenty-something co-workers — or bosses?
• They might actually know something and make others look bad?
• They might raise the cost of group health insurance?
• They might not enjoy carousing with the gang after work and playing beer pong?
• They might enjoy carousing with the gang after work?
• They might start reminiscing about how cool it was seeing Abba in concert?

I oughta scrub yer mouth out with lye soap!

• They might purse their lips like a prissy school-marm and rebuke a “young person” for using coarse language? (Get real. Most “mature people” could win a cussin’ contest wrinkly hands down.)
• They might be grumpy? (You would be, too, if your Depends started leaking during an important team meeting!)

Sure, new graduates are having a hard time finding jobs, too, but they can live with their parents and work at Mickey D’s until things loosen up. A mature person usually can’t do that. Mom’s nursing home room is way too small, and sooner or later, the staff will notice you in the closet and ask you to leave.

If you are a mature job-seeker, you can’t do anything about your age. But you don’t have to blurt it right out, either. Potential employers (or HR people) are not, by law, allowed to ask you your age. But they have some sneaky ways of worming it out of you, so I recommend reading this article, “Five Ways to Avoid Disclosing Your Age in an Interview.”

Or, as I mentioned, there’s the total body and face lift option…