How Strong Are Your LinkedIn Contacts?

3 Cool Career Tips

I am an entrepreneur.  I am a thought leader on social media marketing and job search tactics.  I make keynote speeches, conduct seminars, and write blogs, articles and books. I coach corporate leaders, produce content, market and sell my services for a living.  I travel a lot, meet a lot great people and at this stage of the game make a fraction of my corporate salary. However, I have never been challenged as much, I have never used my brain more and I have never been happier.

While I will never say that I won’t go back to the corporate life.  I do know that I have learned at least 3 cool things that will hold me in great stead in whatever I do.  I present them to you with the hope they will enhance your career.

 1. Never Stop Learning

In order to be (and stay) competitive in your industry, you need to develop expertise. You need to enhance and expand your knowledge base, and you need to update it regularly. Armed with that knowledge, you can show your stakeholders—your investors, your board, or your clients—that they’re getting the best.

So, on an ongoing basis, take an honest look at your skill set and ensure that it reflects the latest trends and developments in your field. Read a lot. Make a regular effort to scan blogs and news articles, attend lectures and seminars, enroll in online or local classes, and find training opportunities in your market.  Yes, this demands an investment of time and resources, but the payoff will come in the form of your new, competitive skills.

2. Nurture Your Relationships

Anyone who runs his or her own business knows that good relationships can mean the difference between success and failure. Surrounding yourself with people who are smart, capable, connected, and interested in helping others gives you access to a wide range of resources—plus, the opportunity to learn from those who’ve “been there.”

Joining professional groups and being active on social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, are easy ways to start. Comment on the blogs of people you respect—they will notice. (Your comments to this blog are welcomed!!!) You can also create a “Mastermind Group,” a small group of like-minded professionals that meets regularly to share expertise, discuss challenges, and hold each other accountable to goals.

3. Take Risks

Very few successful people got to where they are by playing it safe. So, whether you plan to start your own business or not, consider developing the frame of mind of a risk-taker.

The greatest opportunities involve some measure of risk. And yes, you need to prepare yourself for that course. But, you also need to believe in yourself. You need to know that you have the strength to weather potential failures. And then, ultimately, you just need to go for it.

The Bottom Line

Over the years, I’ve met many successful business owners, corporate chieftains, and faith leaders. In working with these people, I’ve found that the most prolific of them all embrace the same foundational strategies for success: they rely on others, but they know that their very best resources lie within themselves.

So the real cool career tip is this:Each one of us is our own best investment. Devoting time, energy, and resources to bettering ourselves is the most effective way to reach our full potential and ensure success for the future.  ….. Live long and prosper!!!

 

10 Money Saving Tips for Savvy Travers

I travel a lot and as a small business owner I am always looking for ways  to save money while providing a level of conform that will allow me to arrive at my destination refreshed and ready to do my best.   Over the years I have met some really savvy travelers who have devised some brilliant and innovative ways to stretch a buck.   You don’t have to be a frequent flyer to save money, all you have to be is a traveler with a desire to get the best for less.  If you are that kind of traveler here are 10 money saving tips from my savvy traveling friends.

Food

Sure saving money on airfare is great but how often is saving money on food as we travel is  overlooked. Our first 3 tips can help stretch your dollars while having a tasty dining experience. 

1. Book Accommodations That Serve Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and one you shouldn’t skip to save money. Before booking your accommodation, make sure they include breakfast in the rate. That way, you can fill up on free food and eat lighter later in the day.

2. Plan Your Meals – Figure out where you will be and eat before you actually go out. This is not just good for your wallet, but your stomach too since you will probably find economical restaurants that tastes great.

3. Stay At Accommodations With Kitchens
Grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is not only healthy, but also budget-friendly. It’s also fun to discover new grocery items you don’t have at home. Even if you don’t want to cook every meal, incorporating it into your eating itinerary will save you a lot of money.

4.Pack Your Own Food For The Airport & The Flight
Let’s face it airports have mastered the food business, the selections even in the small regional airports are rather good as the major fast food players, Subway, McDonald’s and alike are now feeding travelers. However, the prices for that Big Mac or foot long sub are typically 10-20% higher than their off-airport locations.   The TSA will allow passengers to bring sealed packages of store bought and homemade food.  Clearly your selection will be better and you will save a ton of money.  Save big money on water by bringing your own TSA approved empty bottles and simply filling them at airport water fountains.

Transportation    

We all know about Expedia, Priceline and other online booking sites for travel.  Here are 4 tips that can save money as we go beyond the box of air travel.

5. Night Train and Flights – If the transportation is going to be long, consider traveling at night to save money on accommodation and many hours of time. Many people have a tough time sleeping on these, but it’s all mental. Once you get used to it, you will be able to have a good night’s rest.

6. Take the Slower Transportation – If flying is too short for you to take advantage of sleeping while traveling, take a bus ride. When you are sleeping, you won’t mind that the bus ride is 7 hours.

7. Car Rental Coverage – Some insurance and many credit cards have car rental coverage so take advantage of those when you rent a car. All you have to do is pay with the credit card that will cover you. (Just make sure you decline the coverage from the rental company when they ask)

8. Gas Up The Rental Car – If you are renting a car and need fuel, just fill her up with regular gas since that’s what the car rental company uses anyway. Also, decline those services that fills the gas tank up for you. Even though it seems like the advertised price is cheap, they charge you for a full tank of gas regardless of how much is left in there when you bring the car back.

Discounts

The world of travel discounts are there for the taking.  Tips 9 and 10 are about finding and taking those discounts.

9. Reward Points – Even if you aren’t a frequent traveler, sign up for those reward programs since you might qualify eventually. It’s all free anyway and if you finally get enough points, you can get always get something free.

10. Age, Student and Membership Discounts – Many attractions like theme parks, museums and others have discounts for senior, children or students. If you are traveling, remember to take your ID and membership cards (e.g. AAA card) with you that might qualify you for these.

Bonus Tip: Ask

You will be amazed by the upgrades, discounts and freebies that can be obtained by simply asking.  However, be aware that the key to asking… and then receiving is to be nice.  I urge you to be nice to the front desk clerk, the person behind the rental car counter and always the airline employee.   These folks have a difficult job and they deal daily with a fair share of gruff.   A smiling, pleasant and understanding attitude from you will go a long way toward the savings you deserve.     

The Bottom Line

I have always viewed travel even business travel as a wonderful adventure; however the adventure can be so much more fun when you are saving money.  Save travels and have fun saving.

P.S. I am always looking for ways to save money during my travels and to pass those money saving tips to others.  Join the fun send me your tips to me at marben@marbenbland.conm .  I will pass them along in my next travel tip blog.   

When not traveling Marben Bland is the CEO of The Marben Bland Group a consulting firm focused on high-performance leadership, career coaching and business innovation.  Send your comments to marben@marbenbland.com

 

How to live to be a 100 and beyond – A Top 5 List

This weekend I had the honor of attending birthday parties for two wonderful women. The first party was for a youthful 87 year old, the second was for a remarkable 100 year old woman.   At both parties I had the great pleasure of enjoying the company of my 86 year old mother and her friends, all between the ages of 85-90 years old.

There is no denying that longer life expectancy is swelling the number of seniors — people over age 65 — in our population. My mother and her friends belong to the fastest-growing subset of that superannuated group. They prove the most interesting for researchers — those over age 85 and in particular the centenarians born in the second decade of the 20th century.  Think of the change and progress these people have lived through: the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights and women’s rights movement the moon landings, the social media revolution and the election of the nation’s first African-American President.

In the most recent census, health officials predicted that by 2050, more than 800,000 Americans would be pushing into their second century of life.  By all accounts, these new centenarians are far from the frail, ailing, housebound people you might expect. In contrast, the majority of them are mentally alert and relatively free of disability.  They remain active members of their communities. In fact they may simply represent a new model of aging, one that health experts are hoping more of us can emulate.  Both to make our lives fuller and to ease the inevitable health care burden that our longer-lived population will impose in coming decades.

While there is no one secret formula for long life, there are some specific behaviors to grow the soul to live longer.  We recognize that longevity depends on genes, your life style and being blessed in staying free from chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia.  In speaking with my mother and her 85 year old plus friends I discovered some timeless truths to not only longevity but to success in life.   Clearly these truths are not new, however what is new is the exceptional take these extraordinary women provide.   I offer you these truths in as a top five list of how to live to be a 100 and beyond.

5. Be Resilient

My mother and her friends have lived wondrous lives and they truly embody the American dream.  Not affluent, they were born into the Jim Crow south where their horizons were legally limited by race and culturally narrowed by gender.  These barriers never stopped them as they used education, the great equalizer in our society, to take full advantage of the gains of the civil rights movement to become leaders in the new south achieving economic power. With their husbands, they raised strong healthy families that have continued a legacy of success.  When I asked how they made these remarkable accomplishments despite all the odds, they answered simply we were “resilient”.   For these ladies being resilient meant putting their dreams in action by setting goals and not being deterred when setbacks happened.  They knew that in the end hard work, determination and above all faith would see them through.

4. Laugh … a lot

The ladies there saw their lives as one big situation comedy where everything, raising children, office politics, illness and even the death of a spouse were fair game for the comedic gist.  During our time together laughter was a constant, from good natured ribbing to heartfelt stories about long departed love ones.   These ladies were having the time of their lives.  As one of the ladies with a smile put it,” laughter truly helps us in placing our lives into clearer focus, we really don’t take ourselves too seriously – because you know the funny thing about life is none of us are going to get out of it alive so we might as well laugh it up.”

3. Blaze your own trail

My mother and her friends advised that consistently following the masses will get you in trouble.   While obedience and adherence to rules are necessary, it is awfully important to forge your own way with confidence and independence.  The lives of each of the ladies I had the pleasure of being with over the weekend were testaments to the trails that they had blazed in business, education, and the arts.  And they did it “their way”.

2. Smell that rose now

“Son you have to always stop and smell that rose now….because when you come back to that rose the bloom could be gone” is the sage advice of my mother.  During a trip to Hawaii a few years ago she and her friends devised a campaign to urge their “busy” children not to slow down but to cherish the “roses” in our lives.  From the mundane to the spectacular and everything else in between we should live to find the “roses”.

1. It is all about faith

“God gets all the credit for my long life.  Without Him I am nothing” is what one lady speaking for all said about their relationships with God.  They each describe a deep, long lasting and abiding faith that sustains, conforms and guides them in all walks of life.    Their advice about faith is; a small amount of faith will go a long way as evidenced in Matthew 17:20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

In the daily exercise of their faith these women said they were in constant prayer and communication with God.  They read scripture daily and followed these simple guidelines for making decisions in a Godly manner: 1. Does it line up with the Word of God?  2. Does it edify God and/or His people?  3. Does it significantly impact your life in a positive way? 4. Does it lead you to Jesus and deepen your relationship with Him? 5. Do you have God’s peace about the situation?

The Bottom Line

My mother and her friends are the best examples that I know of living a life that is well lived. While I may not have uncovered the singular secrete that will allow me to live to 100 and beyond, I know that this weekend I found no better guiding truths for making the attempt.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________________________________________________________________________

3 Golden Truths We Can Learn From The U.S. Women Olympic Team

An Impressive Success!!!

Without question the women of the U.S. Olympic team turned in a specular performance at the 2012 London Olympics.   Their feats were even more remarkable when considering what they were able to collectively accomplish.

  • Of the 5 world records established by the U.S. Olympians during the games all were set by female athletes.  Highlighted by Rebecca Soni who broke her own world record in the 200 meter breaststroke.
  • Female athletes contributed 55% of America’s total medals and 66% of the gold metals. Without women pulling more than their fair share, America would probably have finished a distant second behind China in the medal count.
  • So dominant were the U.S. women that had they seceded to from the men and formed their own team, they would have been third in the medal count.

An impressive success indeed!!!

Our women did more than just kicked butt and took names in London; their extraordinary show of excellence provides three golden truths about gender equality.  These golden truths show the power that gender equality has not only in sports but in every walk of life and what is possible when our nation lives up to the creed; “That all “men and women” are created equal”.

Golden Truth Number One: Leveling the Playing Field Works

There are many reasons why the U.S. women were dominant, but one very clear one is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year: Title IX.   Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, mandating equality in college athletic and team sports for women.

Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, gave the legislation full marks in moving America toward dominance in women’s athletics.  “Title IX has fundamentally altered the landscape of what it means to be female and an athlete,” said Kane. “In one generation, we’ve gone from girls hoping there is a team to girls hoping they make the team.”

Golden Truth Number Two: The Distinctive Advantage Women Provide the U.S. Economy  

The United States Olympic Committee sent a total of 539 athletes 261 men 278 women to the Olympics in London to compete in 25 sports.  For the first time in its history, the U.S. was represented by more female than male athletes at an Olympic event.  208 of our athletes won at least one medal and as documented earlier 66% of those metal winners were women

Women comprise 50.9% of the U.S. population.  While countries we compete against like China have a higher number of females in their population the equal access to the tools of economic growth, education, jobs, and capital that the U.S. provides gives our nation a distinctive economic advantage.  Because like our Olympic team when we fully engage our half our population –women, the entire country benefits.   Data from the 2010 census provides strong evidence of the growing power of females in our economy

  • 38% of women 25 and older now hold a bachelor’s degrees a full 10% higher than the corresponding number for men.
  • 28% of all business are owned by women up from 10% from the 2000 census.
  •  7.5 million people are employed by women owned businesses.

 

Golden Truth Number Three: There is More Work to be Done

Despite the splendid performance of the U.S. Women Olympians every athlete knows that there is much more work to do.  Our women will be stiffly challenged in 2014 during the Sochi, Russia Winter Olympic Games.  Nations envious of our female achievements will be gunning for the Americans in 2016 as the games will be staged in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There is also more work to be done on the economic stage along with the economic gains by woman sighted in the 2010 census we find these nagging realities:

  • Women earn 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by men
  • Women currently hold 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions
  • The unemployment rate for men dropped more than 1 percent between 2009 and 2011, while women’s unemployment rate rose about half a percent during that same time.

The Bottom Line

While there’s no question that women’s sports lag behind men’s in attendance and funding, the performance of our woman’s Olympic team proves that Title IX has helped transform the landscape of women’s athletics. In the two generations after its passage, it’s no longer considered unusual for a girl to play sports growing up; indeed, it’s become more unusual for girls not to play a sport. With more girls starting sports, more girls have the opportunity to learn that they like them, and the more girls who play sports as kids, the more women who excel at sports as adults.

However, the torch must be passed from success on playing field to equality in the pay envelope, achievement in the board room, and reduction of the female unemployment rate.   If we can achieve this, the golden truth of the 2012 U.S. Woman’s Olympic team’s triumph will be a golden legacy of greatness for our country.

___________________________________________________________________________________
The Marben Bland Group houses over 60 professional career consultants, business experts and social media strategies with  20  plus years of collective experience offering a wide range of social media, recruiting and job search services worldwide.

5 Guidelines for creating almost perfect email subject lines

Ah subject lines…

Those less than ten-word phrases that can entice your potential reader to actually chose your email out of the long list of email in the inbox.

Ah subject lines… aren’t they a joy to create?

I wish I could tell you that somewhere out there is the perfect subject line, one that could ensure your emails are opened.  However, I can tell you that creating almost perfect subject lines is possible and it starts with understanding certain guidelines about your readers 5 guidelines to be exact.

1. People do NOT like to have their time wasted

I don’t need to tell you how much people value their time. When it comes to your emails, you have at most, only a few minutes to get your message across. When it comes to your subject line, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention. It’s no surprise then that subject lines with less than 50 characters have open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more, and click-through rates are 75% higher.

2. People won’t act unless told to do so

Before sending your email, stop and ask yourself: What action do I want the recipient to take?

Keep in mind your subject line will be the first impression you’re email has on your reader.   Making the subject it your first call-to-action will improve the likelihood of your email being opened and that action being taken.

3. People respond to numbers

Numbers help quantify any message and put the content people are receiving into terms they understand. Whether it’s a percentage (Learn how to grow your Facebook fan base by 400%) or a list (10 steps to getting more friends on Facebook) or a monetary value (How one business made $5,000 from marketing on Facebook)—numbers can take a complex problem like getting better results on Facebook and present it in a way people will respond to.

4. People are more likely to act when they feel a sense of urgency

Please do not take this as a call to add “ACT NOW!” or “LIMITED TIME OFFER!” to every one of your subject lines. But do take it as a call to consider using urgency to invigorate your customer base. This is especially true if you’re running a promotion, having a sale, or trying to drive attendance to an upcoming event. In these situations, the difference between using a subject line like: “Our annual end of summer sale is next week” or “Only 5 days until our end of summer sale begins” can be huge. One tells people you’re having a sale and the other tells people you’re having a sale and they better start getting ready.

5. People care more about the sender than the message

While the content of your email and the design of your subject line are important—nothing is more important than the relationship the recipient has with the sender (that’s you!). According to a recent Constant Contact study, 64% of people open emails because of the organization it is from; compared with 47% of people opening emails because of what is in the subject line.

Want the best results? Tell people who the email is from in the subject line.

Here are three ways to do that using my fictional business, Pinkham’s Pies:

[Pinkham’s Pies] We’re sharing our secret apple pie recipe

A secret pie recipe from Pinkham’s Pies

Pinkham’s Pies News: Our secret apple pie recipe revealed

The Bottom Line

Your e-mail competes with; other personal e-mails, e-mail marketing communications, work e-mail and those always welcomed joke emails!!!   To be heard above the noise your subject line must set you apart but at the same time you have to establish a connection with your readers that will compel them to open your email just because it is from you.  Ah those subject lines!!!!!

Power Up Your Business Card

I am going to make a grand assumption…

I bet you have a stack of other people’s business cards somewhere around your workspace that you kind-of, sort-of, should really, do something with—if only you knew what/where/when/how and/or had the time to do it.

Am I right?

We all end up with this business card dilemma for two specific reasons.

  1. We don’t have a system in place to deal with incoming cards.
  2. You’ve been given business cards that are uninspiring and have no clear call to action

So, what do you do?

First: Business Cards = Jobs

So here’s the thing—some of those cards could belong to people who would be great connections for your job search.   AND if their cards end up lying around on your desk, YOUR cards might end up lying around on theirs!

Second: Each Business Card Deserves a Follow-Up Message

For every card you receive, you should make an effort to do some sort of follow-up with that person. This can be as simple as sending an email or give them a call. My idea of a good follow-up message goes something like this:

Hi [put their first name in here],

It was great to meet you at [wherever you met them], and I’d love to keep in touch. I’m going to send you a LinkedIn request, and I hope that you will accept.

[If there was something specific you talked about, refer to it here. Maybe send them a link to an article on the subject they might find interesting]

Take care, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

[Your name]

Third: Make Sure Your Business Cards have a Clear Call to Action

If you’re tired of receiving business cards from other people that are uninspiring and give you no reason to follow-up, then learn from their mistakes.

Make sure your business cards provide a clear call to action so the receiver actually wants to follow-up.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when creating your business cards:

ALWAYS use double sided business cards.

On one side of your card, put your contact information—you don’t know how people will want to connect with you— so that means including your email, mobile phone number, and links to your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Page, website, etc.

Now, on the BACK of your card, put your call to action (CTA).  A CTA is simply what you are looking for.  The CTA will provide guidance to your new contact making it easier for them to help you.    You can also create a Quick Response Code (QR) that will create a smart phone readable scan connecting to your online resume, Y-Tube video, blog or other online content that will support your job search.

The Bottom Line: Now … get to it!

Now that you know how to use your business cards (and those you collect from others) to power your job search I urge you to put the information to work go from the business card to the job.