Confidential Job Search 101

Looking for a Job Quietly. Shhh!

Top Secret Stamp by digitalart - freedigitalphotos.netPart 1 of a series

Psst! Are we alone? Anybody looking over your shoulder at the computer screen? Are you using your employer’s computer or phone to read this? No? Good, because we’re talking about stealth job searches today!

Whether you call it a stealth job search, a confidential career search, secret job hunting, a passive job hunt, or prefer the euphemistic “lateral job move,” lots of people are doing silent job searches these days. What? You don’t know anybody doing a confidential job search? That’s because it works!

Basically, a confidential job search is what you do when you don’t want your employer (and the people in your office, particularly your boss) to know you are looking for work elsewhere.

Today, layoffs are common, companies are sold, merged and shuttered, and many employees are considered temporary by their employers. A confidential job search may be what you need to do to prepare for a layoff or to advance your career someplace else.

With the lack of employer loyalty, even the most enthusiastic employee should be keeping his or her eyes open for their next job. Yet, managers still expect full loyalty from their employees, even if they will not offer loyalty back in the form of guaranteed employment or even a reasonable notice of a layoff.

It only takes one sudden layoff, when you are given five minutes to pack up all your personal effects into a cardboard box and then escorted out to the parking lot, to realize why your career objective today is not to hold a permanent job. The job hunt is permanent. It’s employment that is temporary.

One of the frustrating ironies of job search today is that employers prefer to hire somebody who is currently employed over somebody who is unemployed. If you have a job, you are seen as more attractive to hiring managers. This vision rankles if you are laid off and still have all the same skills that you had when you were employed, but you are seen as less valuable by some employers.

Even if your company poaches employees from others, your own boss may get upset when others recruit you. Some managers view your looking for work as a betrayal, no matter how many years you’ve worked for them or how good a job you do.

As a result, some bosses, discovering that you are looking for work elsewhere, will try to help you put your job search front and center by firing you immediately. Unless you have a union or other contract, you might not have any recourse as an “at will” hire.

There are several other reasons to keep your job search confidential:

If your current job gives you access to confidential info, planning, or secret research, your managers might not want to let you continue in that role for fear of what you may reveal to a competitor.

If you might work for a competitor, there might be legal implications involved in the move. You may have already signed nondisclosure, noncompete or other agreements, or be asked to.

Even if your boss appreciates your good work and supports your career goals, if she is directed from above to make staff cuts, the easiest person to lay off is the one she knows will likely be leaving soon, anyway.

Your workmates may also feel betrayed if you say you may leave. Or they may start competing to get your job. Rumors could also start flying about why you want to leave.

When learning that you are looking for work elsewhere, even your trusted office mates likely will find the news to be too juicy a bit of gossip not to share. Others may just want to “rat out” a competitor.

Likewise, if your supervisor, or the head of HR finds evidence online that you are looking for work, that can bring up some awkward questions at the office.

Finally, another good reason to keep a job hunt secret is that you, after looking at other companies and managers, may discover that you actually LIKE your present job and company. If you already announced you are trying to leave, staying might just be a bit more difficult, and the trust you had with others might be harder to regain.

Be Ethical to Your Employer and Your Colleagues

Continue to offer a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. Going out on a high note will help with future references and recommendations. Slacking off from your usual work quality may make your supervisor suspect that you are looking elsewhere.

When you are working 40-50 hours per week (not including commuting time), you will be tempted to use your employer’s computers and equipment during work hours for job hunting. Avoid this temptation, since many employers now track Internet browsing and phone calls, use keystroke capture software, and otherwise monitor employees. If your IT manager notices that you are spending a lot of time browsing job sites, or sending out copies of your resumes to other companies, or they track your actual email or phone communications, a quick note to your supervisor is likely to follow.

Some DON’Ts when doing a confidential search:Shushing Woman by Imagemajestic

  • Do not use your workplace email address or company phone number for your job search and don’t put them on your correspondence or rèsumès.
  • Don’t spend company time working on your rèsumè or your LinkedIn profile.
  • Don’t make copies of your rèsumè on the company copier. Not only is it unethical to use your employer’s resources for personal use, it’s also too easy to leave a copy of the rèsumè behind (or jammed inside the machine), thus letting the cat out of the bag.
  • Avoid using your employer’s Wi-Fi, even if you use your own phone or tablet.
  • Don’t fax from the office’s fax machine for your hunt. It keeps records of where every fax goes and it may store the page image in memory or make an archival copy.
  • Never send a job application using your company email service. Your IT department may be keeping copies of every attachment as well as the message. Many offices also use keystroke capture software to see what you type, and monitor which web sites you visit.
  • If you have a company cell phone or tablet or laptop, they may monitor what you do on that device, too. If they notice you are frequently calling a competitor, that can lead to an uncomfortable meeting, whether you are job hunting or not.
  • Never ask a colleague to lie or cover for you to protect your job hunt. You could both get fired for it.
  • Never bad mouth your current employer if you are looking for work. It could get back to your colleagues and it will never help your job application.

Some DO’s:

  • When away from home, use your own cell phone, tablet or laptop for your job search. (A smart phone or tablet is almost essential for a job search these days.)
  • Create a new job search email address on one of the public email providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo! or Make it professional sounding. (Don’t use a stodgy old service such as AOL, though, which might hurt your search.)
  • Only job hunt during your lunch hour or during breaks. Never phone a potential employer from the office; it’s too easy for others to hear part of the conversation. Nothing will doom a silent search more quickly.
  • Have a professional sounding voice-mail message. Then turn off your personal phone while working. Check for messages a couple of times per day when you can call back.
  • These days it’s not that unusual to go outside to take a personal call, unless of course you work on the 45th floor or you’re employed by a national security organization.
  • Although faxes are not common, they are still used in some workplaces and government offices. Instead of using your business’s fax, see our Frugal Guidance 2 article on fax services.
  • Take precautions to protect your LinkedIn and other personal social media accounts from your employer. See our articles on Frugal Guidance 2.
  • Do come back to Frugal Guidance 2 as we continue our series on Confidential Job Searches.

Next: Run Silent, Run Deep. Keeping Your Confidential Job Search a Secret


Top Secret Stamp image courtesy of “digitalart” and

Shushing Woman image used courtesy of “imagerymajestic” and


From Idea to Blog Post – My Blogging Tools

Blogging Tools - on Frugal Guidance 2

Experimenting with Research, Writing, and Editing Software

In the past couple of years of blogging, I’ve tried a large number of writing, note-taking and organizational tools. Some have been successful experiments, some less so. These have included mind mapping tools, outliners, text processors, other writing tools, office programs, photo and graphic tools, digital notebooks, online storage, and, for the past year and a half, WordPress. My computing platforms are mainly Windows for my laptop, and my iPad – each with its distinctive workflow. Most of these tools are free or low cost. Here’s my experience.

Mind Mapping

My current favorite mind mapping tools are MindMaple Pro on my PC, and iThoughts on my iPad. iThoughts is actually my “go to” app because my iPad can go with me almost anywhere. (I’m still looking for a device that I can use in the shower if inspiration strikes me there, but the iPad is pretty good, otherwise.)


Although I was previously a great user of outlines, my experience is that iOS and Macs always had better outlining tools than PCs. I have experimented with three on my iPad: Outline Pro, OmniOutliner, and Cloud Outliner. Honestly, though, I haven’t used them (or any other outliner) much, lately, using mind maps instead.

Writing Tools

Getting the words down. Here is where I’ve done the most experimentation.

Office Software

I currently have four (!) office suites on my computer. Microsoft’s Office 2007 was once my main tool. Since last summer I’ve been experimenting mostly with LibreOffice. (See my comparisons of the suites here.) I also have SoftMaker Office 2012, a highly polished German brand, which I bought on sale for about $15. I need to experiment with it more. I also keep the latest version of Apache OpenOffice handy, mainly to compare with LibreOffice. (There should be a new version coming out soon.)

Frankly, these are all great tools for long-form writing, creating PDFs, desktop publishing and paper printing. In my opinion, they are a bit of overkill for simple, plain-text web writing, which is what I need for blog posts. Yes, it can be done, but I now prefer other tools. Sometimes simplicity is more important than having every formatting feature in the world. (Some days I feel nostalgic for MacWrite.)

Recently, I downloaded a free trial of Scrivener for Windows and went through the tutorials. I can see how it could be an excellent resource for long form writing: books and scripts, particularly fiction. So far, though, I think it’s too complicated for short-form blog posts and it does have a bit of a learning curve. (It took me about five hours to get through the “two-hour” tutorial.)

Text Processors

I’ve used plain text processors for more years than I’ve used PCs. They are good for blog writing, as well as programming. (No, I’m not a programmer.)

Many years ago, when Macintoshes were still so new and all, I liked BBEdit Lite for the Mac. On Windows, I use WordPad and Notepad++. On my iPad, my definite favorite tool for writing with the screen keyboard is Textastic, because the application’s keyboard is vastly superior to most other iPad text processors. (Apple’s design for its on-screen keyboards is a major flaw in iOS design, in my opinion — but that’s a post for another time.) Textastic also nicely implements Markdown (see below).

Zen Writing Software

I’ve blogged about Zenware tools for writers, here and here, and two I’ve come back to use again are WriteMonkey and FocusWriter, both on my PC. I like WriteMonkey’s access to internet reference tools, and FocusWriter’s ability to customize with my own photos and its disappearing menus.

Surprisingly, in the past couple of weeks I’ve found that the new, free version of OneNote also works as a distraction-free writing resource. With two clicks I can expand the window to full-screen and hide the menus for a large, blank writing space. Yet I can easily access dictionaries, a thesaurus, and formatting tools from within the program if I need them.

Markdown Resources

Instead of writing and coding in HTML, I’ve been using the simpler, easier to read, Markdown while drafting my posts. It allows me to add formatting in a text-only processor, and is easier to proofread before translating it to full HTML code. With Markdown, I can concentrating on the writing, not the coding. Any features I cannot do in Markdown, I do with my WordPress editor.

To learn about Markdown, see the Daring Fireball website, where it all began.

Curiously, the iPad has many more tools for writing Markdown and translating it into HTML markup than Windows computers. Again, Textastic (mentioned above) is my favorite iPad resource for writing, viewing the text as it would format on my blog, and then translate it into HTML to paste directly into my iPad WordPress app.

From my laptop, however, I’ve not found a single markdown tool that I like or that wasn’t buggy. So I use online tools to edit, proof, and translate to code. Here are four I like:’s Online Markdown Editor, Markable, Daring Fireball’s own Markdown Dingus, and Dillinger.


Blogging Tools on Frugal Guidance 2 I tend to do a lot of web research for many of my posts. My favorite tools:

  1. Evernote is my all-time favorite data collection and archiving tool. I use it on my Windows laptop, on my iPad, my Android phone, and online. My biggest gripe is that each version has its own interface peculiarities. It still has better reading and clipping tools than its competitors, and you can organize it to the end of time. I do have too many notebooks and should concentrate on using tags better to find things, but I would be a lesser person without Evernote.
  2. Paper Notebooks – I keep a pocket-sized, Moleskine-style notebook with me at almost all times. It’s great for sudden inspiration and quick drafts of ideas, making quick lists, and meeting notes. I don’t have to wait for a program to boot up, and it takes a variety of input media (pens and pencils – all colors). Some days I just prefer the feel of putting pen to paper. I could photograph the pages and import them to Evernote, but I generally type a second draft or notes directly in another app.
  3. OneNote – Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve returned to OneNote, but less as a research notebook and more as a writing and reference tool. Now I use OneNote just for blog writing. I keep blogging ideas in one tab, drafts in another, and selected research in a couple of others. Why OneNote? It has a cleaner interface than Evernote, it has easier-to-use writing tools, I can block out all the menus and concentrate on writing or editing, I can add formatting easily when I need to, and now it’s free.

So far, my plans are to use OneNote for writing, and Evernote for everything else I’d use a notebook application for. Years ago I tried using both for research, but it was too easy to forget which app I used to store a specific clipping and, consequently, wasted time trying to find things. (See my recent comparison of the two apps.)

File Sharing and Reading Apps

Dropbox is so well integrated into iOS that it was always the best choice for sharing text files, photos, graphics, and other notes between my iPad and my PC. I also use Evernote to share clippings.

Box handles larger files easily. I’ve started using it to exchanging Word and PDF files for my proofreading business. I’ve had an account for years, but I’m just starting to use it more.

I also have used Google Drive, Zoho Docs, Microsoft’s OneDrive, SugarSync (until they stopped their free access), and other accounts. I’ve probably forgotten a few of them.

I should also mention using Pocket, a web reading app. If I see an article online I want to read later, I clip it to Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later). I started using Pocket a couple of months ago and it’s wonderful. Now, if I could find an app to control galactic-universal-time-flow speeds, I could make more time to actually read the articles.

I also use Feedly for checking RSS feeds, which allows me to follow about 500 blogs and news sites from a single application. (Feedly allows me to clip articles to Pocket, too.)

Photos and Graphics

Because I’m producing this blog on a shoestring budget, I’ve used a variety of free photo-editing tools to work with photos, scans, screenshots, and design. These include:

  1. Irfanview is now my principal photo and graphic viewing app. I use plug-ins for editing (particularly nine Topaz plug-ins, of which I use Topaz Adjust 5 and Topaz Black and White 2 the most). I like Irfanview’s printing tools and JPEG creation tool, too. See my article on using plugins with Irfanview.
  2. GIMP 2 and are two terrific, free, full-featured photo editing tools. Each has its strengths and it’s quirks.
  3. Photoshop free – I recently learned that an older version of Photoshop, from Adobe’s Creative Suite 2, is available for a free download from Adobe. Back when I used Macs, I had Photoshop. So, when I learned there was an older, free version for Windows, I grabbed it. Although, this version is missing many newer tools, including a healing brush and tools for HDR photo production, it does have adjustment layers (which GIMP does not). I don’t know how long this version will still work with Windows upgrades, but so far it feels like an old friend.

I also do my own photography, mostly as a hobby, but also to help build up some clip art for blogging and publishing. In the past few weeks I’ve been scanning lots of old film into digital files using an Epson flatbed scanner with Digital ICE.

Last But Not Least – WordPress

None of this would make much sense without WordPress. This entire workflow is designed for uploading text files or HTML code, adding artwork, and fine-tuning it all in WordPress. WordPress was designed for bringing web publishing to the people. It does that very well. Yes, I use plugins, but that’s an entire other post.

Free vs. Paying

There’s nothing wrong with paying for software and other tools. I’m not bragging about these tools because they cost little. However, if you do need to economize (say, when you are laid off, unemployed, or simply need to scrimp to pay a bill or reach a goal), it’s good to know that you can get a lot done with available free software and services. Having the gold-plated office or graphics suite doesn’t automatically make you a better writer or photographer or job hunter. That’s part of what Frugal Guidance 2 is about.

Thanks to all the programmers and organizations that make the above (mostly free) tools available and keep them up-to-date. You really are successfully helping to change the world.


Tool board photography by the author, Andrew Brandt, texturized, desaturated and toned with Topaz Adjust 5 and Topaz Black and White 2.

Frugal Guidance 2 -

Microsoft Announces Free OneNote for Macs & Windows

OneNote screenshot2 - http://andybrandt531.comMicrosoft is Clearly Challenging Evernote. Let’s compare.

On Monday, March 17th, Microsoft announced the release of a new version of OneNote for the Macintosh, ending a decade-long wait for the program to come to Mac users.

Microsoft also announced that all versions of OneNote are now free, even if you don’t own Microsoft Office. (Previously, the only way for a Windows user to get OneNote was to buy one of the Office suites or use the weak tablet-style version on Widows 8.) One caveat, though, is that if you want SharePoint support, Outlook integration, password protection, or to use OneNote for business, you need the Office suite or an upgrade of some sort.

Microsoft is also opening up the OneNote online service to work with third-party programmers. That makes it possible to email notes to OneNote and to use a OneNote clipper in browsers: Microsoft Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

OneNote vs. Evernote, on Frugal Guidance 2Putting OneNote and Evernote Head to Head

With these announcements, Microsoft is throwing down the gauntlet to compete, head-to-head with Evernote in the digital notebook field. Both services include cloud access and collaboration tools.

There are other notebook applications, too, such as SpringPad, Zoho Notebook, and Ubernote (and others for Android and iOS exclusively). Most of these are limited in which platforms they serve or only exist as online tools.

Today, Evernote and OneNote are the only ones which offer ubiquitous clipping tools, email submission, and include Web, Windows, Windows phone, Mac, iOS and Android versions. (Evernote also supports Blackberry and hp WebOS, which Microsoft doesn’t, yet.) Neither has native support for Linux.

Both applications also support a variety of third-party tools for integrated document scanning, sharing tools, phone apps, including phone photo clipping with automatic text translation (only on Windows phones for OneNote).

Evernote has an advantage with a set of integrated apps from their own labs, including Evernote Food, Clearly (a browser tool for focused reading of web pages with clipping support), Skitch (a graphic / photo manipulation tool), and Penultimate (an iPad note-taking and hand-writing recognition tool). The company also offers Evernote Business with office-wide integration and collaboration and document sharing for small businesses. Evernote’s recent collaboration with Moleskine resulted in scannable paper notebooks. Evernote also has a new Atlas map tool. It’s list of third-party tools on its App Center is also impressive.

OneNote, of course, offers full Microsoft Office and SharePoint integration, which is nothing to sneeze at. When comparing OneNote with Evernote, you could consider Microsoft Office as an impressive, if very expensive, OneNote add-on.

Just announced is OneNote integration with the RSS reader, Feedly, IFTTT (If This, Then That), News 360 (a news reading app), Weave (an Intuit-made iOS app for To Do’s, projects and money tracking), JotNot (an iOS photo-scanning app) and Genius Scan (an iOS camera to PDF scanning tool). Brother and Epson scanners can work with OneNote on some devices (they also work with Evernote and other online tools). The smartpen maker, Livescribe, supports both OneNote and Evernote, as does the Doxie scanner.

Microsoft won’t tell you that Evernote already has Feedly, IFTTT, News 360 and Jotnot at the Evernote App Center, plus many more apps.

Hands On With OneNote

Trying out OneNote for a couple of days, the Microsoft application has some impressive features. An important feature for OneNote is that it is more flexible in how you arrange text boxes and graphics on the page, allowing you to move them around in what Microsoft calls “containers.” (Evernote is more Wordpad-like, although you can also add graphics, sound files, PDF’s, and videos there, too.)

OneNote Screen Shot - http://andybrandt531.comWriting in OneNote

I do like the writing environment in OneNote better then Evernote. For bloggers and other writers, OneNote offers a cleaner, uncluttered interface, all the standard Microsoft Office formatting choices, and the ability to hide the menus and ribbons. You get Microsoft spelling and grammar checking, too. There is a style sheet function, but unlike Word, there’s no way to adjust the style formats that I can see. You can also access many formatting options which pop up whenever you select text or right-click, even if you are hiding the menus and ribbon.

If you like a minimalist, distraction-free, zenware-like writing experience, you should try the new OneNote with the menus all rolled up, or click the diagonal arrow on the top right of the note to enlarge it to full screen. (I think this is the only Microsoft application that allows you to hide all the distracting menus, ribbons, sidebars, windows and navigation tools in order to concentrate on your work.)

From the Review ribbon, you can select Research to connect to selected dictionaries, thesauri, and Bing search. You can also translate between a variety of languages using Microsoft’s Translator service. (Vous pouvez également traduire entre plusieurs langues. 您還可以用多種語言之間翻譯 .) These services require an active Internet connection.

You have to hunt a bit for it, but there is a generous supply of templates for various “paper” designs ranging from note-taking forms for classes, business forms, agendas and minutes, and decorative pages, all of which you can print or use to create a PDF. (The PDF export function might not be ready in the Mac version, according to comments I’ve read.) The drawing tools look fairly impressive but are probably more practical with a touch screen or a Wacom tablet than with a mouse.

If you like to tinker with toolbars and the Quick Access menu, you can customize them to your heart’s content.

All these Word-like tools play to Microsoft’s strengths and do make for a flexible writing environment.

Ordering Your Notes

Another nice feature in OneNote is that you can drag and rearrange your tabs and pages.

OneNote has hierarchical notebooks: you can have many notebooks, each notebook can have many tabs, and each tab has pages. If you collect lots of notebooks with lots of tabs, navigating between them can be a challenge. Tags help.

Evernote has notebooks too, which you can group into stacks. Notebooks have pages. Evernote has more ways to browse your pages, with cards, snippets and lists. You can sort pages in more ways, too, but there is no free-arranging the order as with OneNote. You can add shortcuts to the Left navigation panel (at least in the Windows version), so you can switch between selected notes with one click. That way, switching between your notes and a writing page is simpler.

Using Tags

Both programs use “tagging,” but they mean slightly different things. OneNote allows you to tag with pre-defined tags, each with its own icon, or add your own. The tag goes with the specific paragraph of the article, so searching on tags brings you to the specific paragraph. You can have many tags on one page.

Evernote allows you to define your own tags and use them for searching for notes, but the tag is for the entire note, not specific to paragraphs. However, Evernote lets you list them all on the navigation panel (of their Windows app) for easier search.

Linking to Notes

Another difference is the way the programs add links. OneNote allows you to create and copy links to a specific paragraph, which is handy to cross-reference notes back and forth.

Although Evernote doesn’t have that granular level of control, it can create an HTTP link to any note, making it easier to share select pages, even with people who do not have Evernote. You can use the links to publicly publish selected notes, or keep them private for selected readers and users.

Web Clipping

OneNote’s web clipper is less flexible than Evernote’s. Microsoft’s web clipper will only send an entire article or web page to the OneDrive version of OneNote.

Evernote’s tool allows you send highlighted excerpts or entire articles. Also, using Evernote’s Clearly, you can read the online article using your preferred font and margin size, hiding ads and other online distractions, and then send the entire excerpt to Evernote with a single click. Or you can highlight just the portion you want to save. In other words, Evernote’s clipper works better and is more flexible. Clearly is also very useful for reading articles, especially if they use small print.

Full Disclosure

I was a OneNote user long before I tried Evernote, using the Office 2003 and 2007 versions. However, when I eschewed upgrading to Office 2010, my 2007 version was no longer compatible with OneNote online. In effect, Microsoft forced me to choose which one to use: the desktop or the online versions. I chose Evernote instead. I’ve been a big fan of Evernote since, using it on my PC, my iPad and my Android phone.

Who Should Try OneNote?

Microsoft Office Users

Obviously, if you have one of the recent Microsoft Office suites (except on Macs), you already had OneNote. Add the free web browser clipping tools, if nothing else, to extend what you can do with the program. If you have Outlook, check out the new Outlook to OneNote tools, too.

If you have an older, pre-2010 Office suite, you can now use the latest version of OneNote along with its online version.

Mac Users

Mac users should look at OneNote if they’re new to notebooking. If you already plan on upgrading to Microsoft Office 2014 for Macs, consider this a partial preview. Soon after Microsoft announced the free program, OneNote was the top download from the iTunes store, so there’s some pent up demand.


OneNote was originally designed for students and note-taking. It still excels at that and makes a pretty decent writing tool, too, but you probably want alternate tools for publishing. (If you only use free software, you could use OneNote to create a draft and cut and paste your work into LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice or your favorite online apps.)


Writers, bloggers and researchers who write drafts in Evernote should probably try OneNote to see if its writing, formatting, spell checking, dictionary,  thesaurus, and research tools match your work flow.

Happy With Evernote? Stay Put.

If you use Evernote for Business, or do a lot of web clipping and research, or if you are just a data hog, don’t give up on Evernote. If you are comfortable, there’s no real advantage to changing. Evernote is still as awesome as ever.

Who Wins? The Users!

Although Microsoft revolutionized the idea of a notebook application with OneNote, they ignored Macs and mobile platforms for so many years that Evernote now feels like the more mature cross-platform application. This is an unusual position for Microsoft, but they seem to be trying to catch up.

In short, we have nothing but good choices here. If you can’t decide, use both. Be aware that if you do, and you use both to collect web clippings and research, you may find yourself hopping between programs trying to find that critical note, cursing the fact that you can’t remember which program you used to save it. (I know that problem, curses and all, from when I first switched from OneNote to Evernote.)

Hopefully, with competition between the two programs heating up, we will see more features and choices than ever. A good thing.

Frugal Guidance 2 has featured a number of posts on using actual paper notebooks as well as note-taking and data collection programs. In particular, we’ve posted a number of articles on using Evernote:

Use Evernote to Remember Anything Frugally

Evernote for List Makers

Using Evernote for Travel

Where to Download

Macintosh users can get their free copy of OneNote from iTunes.

OneNote for Windows is available for free from the OneNote website.

Evernote, free and Premium, plus all the Evernote apps (Evernote Food, Clearly, Skitch, Penultimate, Evernote Business), are available from the Evernote website.
Partnered apps are at the Evernote App Center. The Evernote Market features mostly non-digital add-ons, including over-priced leather goods, backpacks, and even socks. (Why socks?)

Frugal Guidance 2 -

Job Hunter’s Guide to SWOT Charts & Analysis

Sailing Ship New York Harbor - Copyright 2013 by Andrew BrandtUsing a Common Business Analysis Tool to Help Your Job Search

First, what in the world is a SWOT Chart?

A SWOT chart is a flexible decision and analysis tool to compare:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

SWOT analysis is especially good for looking at both internal factors (those in your control – your strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (those outside your control – your opportunities and threats). A SWOT chart is a good decision-making tool when there is no straightforward “Yes / No” decision to be made.

It can be done by yourself or with the help of others. A SWOT analysis can be done for personal decision making, for a group or a corporation.

Chances are that, if you are laid off unexpectedly, you don’t have a carefully thought out career or job search plan. A SWOT analysis can help you get you set your priorities and get your job search organized. Of course, you can do a career analysis before you are laid off, too.

The SWOT chart is normally drawn in a four-square matrix. It can be done on paper, in a word processing table, a spreadsheet, a drawing or charting tool, or a mind mapping or other graphic analysis tool. (Mind mapping is also useful for this and other types of analysis and brainstorming. To learn more about using mind maps, see our earlier Frugal Guidance 2 posts Why Mind Mapping is for You and Creating Your First (or a Better) Mind Map..)

The example below was made in the new free version of OneNote and cleaned up a bit in Microsoft Word. The bullet points are meant to help with your analysis. You can add more and ignore some if they aren’t relevant to your situation.

SWOT Chart for Job SeekersHere is a mind map expansion of basically the same SWOT chart. (You may need to enlarge or download it to view all of it.)

Mind Map SWOT chart for job seekersHow do I use a SWOT chart?

A SWOT chart is not difficult, but it does take time and thought. The important thing is to be honest and objective.

If you are considering a new career, a SWOT analysis can help you examine what you know about your new field (strengths) and what you need to learn (weaknesses). You also examine the pros and cons (the opportunities and threats) of the new career field’s status in the job market and the world.

What questions should I ask to help create my chart?

In addition to the cues in the charts above, here are some questions to get the thought process flowing:

What are your values and how to they fit your career? (Strengths and Weaknesses)

What is your personality? Engaging or Loner? Cooperative or Competitive? Team player or rugged individualist? (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Who is your competition? Either generalized or individually. (Threats)

Could there be an opportunity to join with a competitor to create a team? Can you create a mutual self-help job search group? (Change Threats to Opportunities)

Do you have a good network of friends, colleagues, clients, business partners, and other people in your field? Or do you lack a professional network? (Strengths and Weaknesses)

What social media are you active on? Are you familiar with how others use them in their job hunt? Do you have followers? (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Do you have a blog or other online presence?

Do you have a LinkedIn account? Is your profile complete? Do you have recommendations? Skills and endorsements? Are you following your target (and potential target) businesses? Are you active in groups?

Do you have (or can you get) recommendations from recent supervisors and / or colleagues? (Was your separation amicable or contentious?)

Evaluating your results

Many personal weaknesses should be viewed as opportunities for improvement. These are personal attributes, so they are under your sphere of control. As with all weaknesses, you need to prioritize and develop a plan to work on as many as you can, but not all at once. Be open to unexpected new opportunities to deal with weaknesses and improve your strengths.

Some threats may be existential, meaning there is no way to change them. They just are. If so, there’s no need to spend time dwelling on them. Your time is better used elsewhere.

A competitor threat may be a person, a group or a business. You might want to do a SWOT analysis on your competition to analyze their strengths and weaknesses. You might be surprised to find that you have competitive advantages. Is there an opportunity here, too? Can you work together as a team or create a support network for all of you?

Beware focusing too much on threats. It can become psychologically draining and doesn’t, necessarily, help you develop a plan for your job search or career planning. Better to concentrate on your strengths and advantages.

Can I use my SWOT chart as a jumping off point for other analyses?

Definitely. In fact, if you use a mind mapping program, you can easily explore each of the points in your SWOT chart and break them down into more ideas.

Simply listing skills on your résumé is no longer a good strategy. Instead, for each strength in your chart, you can create stories on how you used that skill with each employer. Take those stories and create a one-line problem-analysis-result (PAR) statement for your résumé. Those bullet points then become cues for telling stories about your successes in a job interview.

Examine your past and present weaknesses. You may be able to create a great story about how you took a former weakness and got the training to turn it into a strength.

When you visit a job search or career coach, take your SWOT analysis to show where you currently stand in your analysis.

What do I do after my SWOT Analysis?

There’s no point in doing all this work if you’re not going to follow up with planning. Use your new insights to:

  1. Set your personal goals
  2. Set your career goals
  3. Focus on job hunting activities that your analysis shows may have a higher likelihood of success
  4. Make the important decisions based on the above goals
  5. Develop your action steps.
  6. Do other SWOT analyses to help your job search.

After you complete your personal, job hunting SWOT analysis, it might be useful to do a SWOT analysis of your industry or career niche. Do this to learn more about the changes happening in your field. See how others may or may not be developing strategies to deal with these changes. Then use this analysis to show others that you are knowledgeable in your field and can suggest options for your company or employer-to-be.

You can also do a SWOT analysis for a particular target company. Match their weaknesses and threats with your strengths and use that to create a “Pain Letter” as a cover for your application. (A pain letter is a type of marketing or cover letter that analyzes a company’s weaknesses and shows how you can use your strengths to address a specific problem.)

Then Review, Revise and Reinvent your chart. It’s a good idea to review your career and your goals at least once a year, especially once you’ve settled into your new job.



Personal SWOT Analysis, Making the Most of Your Talents and Opportunities on the MindTools website.

Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Job Plan

Analyze Your Career with a Personal SWOT by Ian Christie, on

Title photo, “Sailing Ships in New York Harbor” is by the author,
Copyright © 2013 by Andrew Brandt.

The standard and mind map versions of the sample SWOT Analysis are by the author, Andrew Brandt.

Frugal Guidance 2 -

Job Hunting in an Age of Anxiety

Yelling Man on Job Advice

Huffy Responses to a Huffington Post Post

The writer reads a job hunting article and reviews the commenters

Susan P. Joyce has been writing about job hunting for many years. She has her own, job-search group on LinkedIn and she is Editor and chief technology writer of She and I share many similar ideas on job hunting and we’ve  exchanged enough messages that I consider her an online friend.

A few days ago, Susan posted an article on The Huffington Post, “What 80% Of Employers Do Before Inviting You For An Interview.” (See the link below.) In brief, she wrote that job hunters should be aware that a vast majority of HR managers, when looking at a good résumé, will try to confirm the facts on the résumé with a Google search. If what they find is agreeable, they might invite them in for an interview. So, it’s a good idea to have a LinkedIn profile and other online landing sites for your job hunt. You should also Google yourself and see what turns up.

This is good, basic, job hunting advice. Nothing extreme or revolutionary. Heck, this was standard advice five years ago. Yet, judging from the reader comments after the article, you’d think that she had advocated the overthrow of the U.S. Government and sending all white people back to Europe where they belong. (Let’s ignore the facts that today’s Congress actually makes that sound attractive, and I like Europe — but that’s a post for another day.)

The comments riveted me more than the article. (Sorry, Susan. The article did make a lot of sense.) The surprise was that so many people took offense at her ideas. I divided up the responses this way:

I’m proud of the fact that nobody can find anything about me with a Google search.

Well, there may be some comfort these days in anonymity. Some people have obviously not embraced social media. Or even civilization. But, if you don’t show up in a Google search, there are other online tools that will find info about you.

But, really, if you have aspirations of being a leader (or at least, of being competent) in your field and you are looking for a job, anonymity is NOT your friend! If I’m a hiring manager faced with a choice between somebody who is publicly active in the field and Ms. Anonymous, who do you think I’ll hire?

I was an HR Director / Hiring Manager and I would never use Google (or the Internet) to spy on people.

Well, welcome to the 21st century. Let’s say you’re a thoroughly modern HR Director. You’ve narrowed the search down to 10 great looking résumés and you know that many people lie on their résumés. Wouldn’t your employer expect you to use easy tools to confirm the info in those applications?

You can call references, but managers in business are afraid to give more than “Yes they worked here on those dates. Yes, I paid them.” So, check online. Checking Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook is just due diligence these days. It also gives you some ideas on what to talk about on their interview.

I used my intuition and conversation to determine that somebody would be a good candidate.

I thought this was an amazing statement by a hiring manager. These days, when a bad hire costs thousands and lots of unproductive time, you hire on intuition? You never check facts? Well, good for you. Hope you find a job after you’re fired for a bad hire.

Privacy is a right. How dare they invade mine.

Several of the commenters appear to think that privacy once was common and is a right. I’m not sure that was ever really true. But, even if there once was a golden age of privacy, we’ve blithely given it away. We share online. We give our private information to corporations and advertisers. If I find an interesting ebook, I gladly give my email address for a free copy. Target gives me a 5% discount to track my purchases. I allow my grocer to track my eating habits for another discount. I blog, tweet, post and announce. I’d be frustrated if nobody noticed.

Ironically, a few of the privacy advocates apparently gave their real names when commenting on the article, thus making them more Google-able.

I don’t care. I have a common name and nobody can find me on Google, anyway.

If you want to be anonymous, there is some small comfort in knowing you won’t be found in the first six pages of a Google search of your name. But, remember, we’re talking job search. You just gave HR a résumé with your address, phone number, email address, your former employers, where you used to live, and possibly your social security number. If you don’t show up in Google, that’s just a challenge to search some more.

Most people have no idea how much info is available online. I can go to a “detective” site, pay about $15, and find out what kind of neighborhood you live in, what your house looks like, how many homes on your street have been burgled, if you’re a sex offender, who your neighbors are, what they do for a living, how much you paid for your home, your arrest record, your tax assessment, the names of your spouse and children, whether you’ve been divorced or married, if you’re behind in your alimony, if you’ve been sued, whether you ever showed up in the news, and much, much more. It’s scary. Really scary.

And you’re worried that an HR person is Googling you? Better to give them something to find quickly.

I’ll just create a fake LinkedIn profile. -or- I just lie to get my job, then do my best. They’re lucky to have me.

Aside from the basic immorality here, don’t you believe that people get fired for lying on their job applications or their résumé? If I’m your manager and learn that you lied to get your job, why should I trust what you are telling me now?

A Better Plan for Job Hunting

Rather than wishing for anonymity, a better plan is self-marketing (and “Defensive Googling” as Susan suggests). Promote yourself with a LinkedIn profile, a Google+ bio, an online résumé, a blog, a public Twitter account, and other ideas she mentions in her article. Develop the content you would be proud to have found on a Google search.

And don’t be stupid online. Anything you do there can, and probably will, eventually be found. So, maybe it’s not a great idea to be using the F-bomb on your social media posts and videos all the time, or to have photos and videos of you doing stupid (or illegal) stuff on your Facebook page. If you’re so insecure that you need to rail against your favorite hated minority on Facebook, at the very least check your privacy settings so we don’t have to read it.

What are these people thinking?

I come to a few conclusions after reading the comments on Susan’s post. (And, please, I’m not suggesting that Susan’s writing attracts only these kinds of readers. Nor am I suggesting that this blog’s readers are like them!)

  1. Many people are afraid of change when they remember they were better off before all that change happened.
  2. A lot of people still don’t understand social media, both the good and the bad. Nor do they understand privacy.
  3. Job hunting has changed fundamentally in the 21st century. Not all the changes are good, but if you don’t change the way you look for work, you are doomed to failure.
  4. There really are idiots out there. (Who’s an idiot? Somebody who hears good advice and not only ignores it, but criticizes it. I should know, I’ve been an idiot. But that’s a blog post for another day. Or not.)
  5. Post truth online and you may get spammed. Or not. (See comments below to see what happens.)


Susan P. Joyce, “What 80% Of Employers Do Before Inviting You For An Interview“,
on The Huffington Post, March 1, 2014.

Shouting Businessman photo by “imagerymajestic” and Altered for drama with Topaz Adjust 5 by the author.

Frugal Guidance 2 -

LinkedIn Connections: What’s Your Style? Part 3

Ducks in a Row - from PhotobucketMore on LinkedIn Networking for Creatives, Working Joes, Movers, Boomers, and you!

This post is the third part in a series on examining your LinkedIn connecting style. If you haven’t read the previous post, LinkedIn Connections: What’s Your Style? Part 2, you probably should. You might also want to read our debate on Quality vs. Quantity (in part 1). To remind, here’s one take on the networking continuum on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Engagement Scale 2Now, we continue our look at different types of LinkedIn people and possible networking strategies:

Content Providers and Other Talented People

If you are a writer, blogger, videographer, photographer, artist, dancer, musician, actor or media pro, you want to build and support an audience / reader base. If you freelance or consult, you want to connect not only to pros in your own field, but to potential purchasers. My recommendation is to gradually move towards the direction of open networkers, step by step.

A few of you may just want to build a fan base, but what works on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t work on LinkedIn. Although you want a more professional network here, consumers can still pay a big role. So can promotion. You definitely want to be active in sharing your content with your network and groups. It’s also important to have links to work samples available on your profile.

If this is your gig, however, you should be involved in a wider variety of social media in order to market your own services or product. For arts professionals, media, and labor activists, LinkedIn might be useful, but it should not be your primary social media. (For example, Google+’s photographic community is far more active and a lot more fun than LinkedIn’s.) Once you choose among LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, you will probably also find it useful to use some of the social add-on tools for sharing content between media.

If you are in a creative field, you should also seriously consider blogging to establish your social cred and to create a social media home base. If you are not a writer, consider video blogging, podcasting, a photography blog, or whatever you love. At least create an online portfolio to share with potential employers.

If you are older (and wiser), you know that clippings files or boxes of Polaroids and slides, or videotapes don’t cut it these days. But digitizing them could help build your new portfolio.

The Working Class

If you are currently employed, but not in areas that involve growing an audience or a consumer base, you might want to be towards the center of our networking scale — depending on your own personality. Concentrate on building a network of peers in your industry and follow interesting thought leaders. Also join professional groups (on LinkedIn and off).

Keep in mind that jobs are rarely permanent these days, so investing in slow-and-steady activity to build your network now will be invaluable on the day you actually WILL be looking for a job. You will then be able to jump into online job hunting from day one — while others are just joining LinkedIn after their layoff.

If you are employed, but looking forward towards owning your own business, then you probably want to expand your contacts and prospects a bit more aggressively.

Movers, if not Shakers

If you are thinking of relocating to another city (or country), you need to connect with people or groups associated with your home-to-be. Most people in Minneapolis, for example, have few connections in Shreveport, Nashville, Colorado Springs, or Princeton. However, with the magic of social media, it’s now possible to begin networking with locals before you move there.

Ten years ago, this was a difficult task. Today, you can find regional and city groups, nonprofits, career centers, Chambers of Commerce, church groups, and men’s and women’s groups like Rotary, Lions (the pre-LinkedIn type), and so forth, all of which may have groups on LinkedIn as well as websites.

Likewise, if you want to move up in your career, you should look online for trainers, educators, and thought leaders in your career-to-be.

Retirees and Baby Boomers

Are you retired? Congratulations. Are you dead? No? Well, you’ve been part of one of the most successful generations in history. Are you planning on just sitting around for a few decades or are you going to go out and do something else?

Retirement offers opportunities and potential. LinkedIn and other social media are great tools for learning and creating second (or third, or fourth) careers and other opportunities.

Maybe you need or want a part-time or an encore career? There is a lot of potential for doing what you love. Be sure to check out and Marc Miller’s Career Pivot blog and book.

There are also lots of volunteer opportunities. LinkedIn just started a new volunteer matching service a few weeks ago. It’s in its infant stages now, but take a look. If LinkedIn doesn’t try to monetize it, it could grow into something useful. Also search for nonprofit Company pages and Groups on LinkedIn.

Also, and Catchafire feature volunteer opportunities. You can also research the business side of almost any U.S. nonprofit on Guidestar. Every state (in the U.S.) has a nonprofit info site, see the list on the National Council of Nonprofits site. Once you find a nonprofit you want to volunteer for, do a search for other volunteers and staff on LinkedIn.

If you want to start your own nonprofit, the IRS has a lot of info you need to know, as well as lists of every registered nonprofit in the U.S.

Instead of pursuing a new career and interests, you might want to advise younger business people on or off of LinkedIn.

Also check out the University pages on LinkedIn for your local education resources. Although LinkedIn is emphasizing using university pages for recruiting of high school students, you can ask about Continuing Ed courses, too. Or get a new degree. If you are a business expert, perhaps you could offer a lecture or a teach a class.

Even if you find your mobility isn’t what it used to be, online groups are a great way to stay active. Check out the nascent Boomer groups on LinkedIn (not to be confused with the submarine “boomer” vets group).

Having said all that, unless you are marketing a new business, you probably don’t need to be that aggressive in expanding your connections. You have the luxury of concentrating on Quality connections.

Every day you wake up on the green side of the sod is a good day. Seize it and learn something. On LinkedIn, connect with your old colleagues and collect and give some recommendations. Check for corporate “alumni” groups. See if your school alumni are active on LinkedIn as well as check their University pages. If you’re a veteran, see if there are any relevant vet groups on LinkedIn and elsewhere. You have a lifetime of connections behind you. If you haven’t been nurturing them, you can still start. If you have, helping others on their own career path is not a bad thing to do.

Finally, Use Those Open Networkers

You don’t have to be an open networker to benefit from one. Strategically invite open networkers as connections. If you join a LinkedIn Group, find the open networkers in the group. (The group’s moderator is usually a good bet.) Invite one or two well-connected people in that group to your network, and you will find that most of the other people are now second degree connections. You can then send many of your peers invitations without going through introductions and you will also have something in common when you do write them an invitation to connect.

Remember, It’s Not Just About the Size of Your Network

In the chart above, note that the scale from left to right mainly reflects the size of one’s network. Just as important as your network’s size is your involvement. If you communicate more with your connections, and generally spend more time on LinkedIn sharing info and offering comments, even a small network becomes more valuable. Size is not the only factor — involvement, time and networking activity (listening and helping people in your network and groups) is also important. THIS is where LinkedIn is on target when they say to concentrate on Quality.

Where do you sit on the LinkedIn networking scale? What ideas or questions do you have about LinkedIn networking? Share with us in the comments below.

Also, sign up for our newsletter.


Ducks in a Row photo is from Photobucket. Artist not listed.

Featured image (used in Part 2), “Social Network,” is courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and

Frugal Guidance 2 -

LinkedIn Connections: What’s Your Style? Part 2

Social Networking

Finding your LinkedIn Style of Networking

In our last post, we engaged in the Quality vs. Quantity debate between connecting with LinkedIn members you already know and trust (Quality) and the advantages of having a large, diverse, new network (Quantity). In brief, just understand that there is no one way to network on LinkedIn, and for most people, a combination of close connections and a larger number of looser connections may be best.

Today, we’re going to look at networking in a slightly different way. Instead of the binary choices of Quantity and Quality, think of a horizontal line. On the far left side we have a few non-networkers, then as we travel to the right, we pass Novice Networkers, Intermediate or “Normal” Networkers, and then we finally hit the right side with Open or Power Networkers. There are no dividing lines, it’s a gradual progression from left to right. You can even chart where you are right now and where you would like to be in six months or a year.

LinkedIn Engagement Scale 2Another way to think of it as a scale moving from Quiet or Timid on the left to gregarious and attention-seeking on the right. Nothing is inherently wrong with either, but your changing goals may suggest moving from one towards another.

By thinking of a continuum instead of a binary choice (Quality / Quantity), you can connect your Networking Style with your Networking Goals and use that to guide your LinkedIn activity.

So, what part of this continuum are you in? Below and in the next post we’ll be sharing ideas on different types of LinkedIn users and advice for each.

Novice Networkers

If you are a novice LinkedIn member, you probably should concentrate on finding people you already know on LinkedIn and invite them to connect. Friends, family and colleagues are more likely to connect with you, even if you haven’t fully filled out your profile. (But do personalize your invitations: see how to write Incredible, Irresistible LinkedIn Invitations.) As they offer advice, introduce you to other people, write Recommendations and start building your Endorsements, they also start making your profile more attractive to those you might want to invite later as you branch out.

At a bare-bones minimum, you need to look like a real person on LinkedIn, not one of those fake accounts with minimal information. And, beware! The fake accounts are getting better at looking like real ones, too. Make sure your profile doesn’t look like it was set up by a ‘bot.

Power Networkers

On the other end of the spectrum, the people who are open networkers have completely different goals. Sometimes they call themselves LIONs (for LinkedIn Open Networker), but some belong to internet-wide networking groups that extend way beyond LinkedIn itself. Usually, an open networker is more experienced, uses their network professionally, and finds that a large network aids in search and finding prospects.

You might consider being an open networker if you are in a field which can prosper with a much larger audience, such as sales, speaking, consulting, politics, fund-raising, recruiting and entrepreneurial business-building, to name a few. Your primary goal might not be to network in the traditional sense, but to build a potential client base. In other words, you want to maximize those things a professional business network can provide.

Or you may decide it’s wise to stop somewhere short of being a open networker.

There are also some open networkers who just like helping others. They offer advice and introductions, but they also build their network with an eye towards making it easier for their colleagues to use LinkedIn’s search tools and to find each other. If you love helping others and your main talent is simply connecting with people, go for it.

The challenge for open networkers is to keep it from being only a numbers competition. If all you’re doing is collecting contacts with no defining purpose, altruistic or profitable, you’ve lost perspective and you may need to take a break and evaluate your goals. The rise of fake accounts on LinkedIn, for various illicit purposes, also makes being an open networker a bit more risky. Spammers are another nuisance. It is possible to draw back from open connecting after redefining your LinkedIn goals.

Job Seekers

If you are looking for a job, you probably can benefit by having a larger network, but not necessarily an open network. Definitely build more connections in your professional area of expertise and your industry, plus recruiters and HR pros. You should also follow pros who write and teach about job search. There are a number of excellent writers and advisors on job search who have their own LinkedIn groups, too.

When you are targeting companies, a larger network makes easier it is to find and connect with people in those companies.

You can look past LinkedIn, too. There are also networking and job search opportunities on other social media. Twitter is good for quickly announcing job postings. Facebook is huge and you might find connections and company pages there who are not active anywhere else. Google+ and Pinterest and other social sites have their strengths, too.

Stealthy Job Seekers

Stealth job hunters (those who are currently working and quietly looking to advance on to another job), want a less obvious approach so they don’t attract the attention of bosses and colleagues who might not support their search for another job. (Some bosses take this very personally and some colleagues may be tattle tales.) If you need to explain your LinkedIn activity, tell your boss that you’re involved in competitive intelligence and / or networking in your field. You don’t need to advertise that you are also reaching out to others to promote your own career.

Generally, though, avoid LinkedIn’s job search groups or, at least, don’t show their icons on your profile page. Ask yourself, if your HR Director searches through a LinkedIn jobs group and finds you looking for a new job, would that lead to an awkward conversation the next day?

If you upgrade to a LinkedIn Job Seeker’s account, don’t show the briefcase icon on your profile. In fact, you need to read our post on privacy settings for stealth job hunters and others.

If being stealthy on LinkedIn, also avoid promoting your job search on other social media, at least publicly. There are no statistics that I know of, but a growing number of people have been fired for a single tweet or Facebook post. Be careful of what you post anywhere. The HR saying is that LinkedIn gets you hired and Facebook and Twitter get you fired — sometimes in the same day.

There’s More!!!

See our next post, LinkedIn Connections: What’s Your Style? Part 3, to continue our recommendations for Content Providers, Talent, Movers, Working Joes, and Retiress and Boomers, plus more networking strategies for all.

Also see our index to Learning LinkedIn on Frugal Guidance 2.


Title photo, “Social Network,” is courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and

Frugal Guidance 2 -

LinkedIn Connections – What’s Your Style?

Part 1 – Into the Fray – Quantity vs. Quality

Quantity vs. Quality - the Debate on Frugal Guidance 2

LinkedIn is a bit odd in its connections policy, especially compared to other social media. On Twitter, Facebook and Google+, there’s nobody instructing you to be careful in your following or connecting – and nobody ever tells you NOT to connect with people.

LinkedIn, however, forces you to think strategically about your networking, especially if it’s your career that you’re promoting. LinkedIn has rules about whose profile you can see, it promotes both second and third-party introductions, and it actively restricts who you can find to connect with.

Officially, LinkedIn encourages its users to only connect with those you already know, but it secretly rewards those who branch out and build lots of connections. As a result, there’s a Yin / Yang struggle for dominance between Quality and Quantity on LinkedIn. But, in reality, it’s not an either / or choice. Nor is one choice right for everybody. Let’s take a look.

The Arguments for Quantity

It’s the Social Media Way

The entire purpose of social media is to expand one’s connections and increase communication, for business or for life. LinkedIn is definitely bucking the trend by arguing otherwise.

IRL Networking

In Real Life (i.e., offline), networking is all about meeting new people and finding ways to help each other. The idea of going to a networking meeting and NOT meeting new people is counterproductive and bizarre. Why should online networking be different?

The Numbers Game on LinkedIn

LinkedIn encourages the numbers game, constantly reminding you how many connections you have. I don’t remember how many connections I have on Twitter, and I can’t even remember how many circles I have on Google+, let alone how many people are in them, but I know exactly how many connections I have on LinkedIn because it tells me every time I log on and then makes suggestions (good and bad) for new connections every day.

Then LinkedIn makes the numbers game more weird by putting a lifetime cap on the number of invitations (which they then break if you ask), and by capping the number of connections you can have. (But they make exceptions for celebrities who don’t seem to follow those rules.)

More Ways to Connect on LinkedIn

There are now at least three ways to connect with other people on LinkedIn. You now have a choice of:

1) Connecting with somebody (via the usual invite-accept-connect minuet),

2) Making them a Contact (either somebody you imported from a list who is not on LinkedIn, or somebody on LinkedIn who you add to your Contact lists). To add a Contact: view somebody’s full profile, click on the tiny arrow next to Send [FirstName] InMail, then select Save to Contacts. No invitation required.

3) In some cases, following those select people who LinkedIn anoints as followable, so you can see their pronouncements on your LinkedIn feed.

There’s also a 4th way to connect through Groups. When you are in a LinkedIn Group, click on the Members tab (just below the group name). Find the person you want to follow. Click on the Follow [FirstName] tab. This ability (there since 2009) is probably unnecessary now that you can make that person a Contact.

You can also follow companies, universities, employers, and possibly some entities I don’t even know about.

The Cold Hard Truth on Search

The cold hard truth on LinkedIn is that if you want to search for people, or you want people to find you, LinkedIn requires you to have a larger network to be effective. The only way to be effective in search (or sales, or services, or talent acquisition or job hunting), with or without upgrading, is to build a larger network.

And LinkedIn tells you the plain math when you view your Home tab. As LinkedIn continues to grow, the percentage of LinkedIn members that you can reach with any number of Connections keeps shrinking. Now that LinkedIn boasts around 275 million members (and ‘bots?), your reach looks puny.

The Worldwide Open Network

Open networkers (those who connect with almost anybody), are not evil people (at least, not the ones I know). Even though their social interactions may be limited, they perform a valuable service by making it easier for us to search and reach out to others. Think of them as a networking central nervous system that helps connect all the disparate parts of the world-wide business network. LinkedIn may not especially like them, but they do help make LinkedIn work better for many.

HandshakeThe Arguments for Quality

On Facebook or Twitter, and just about anywhere else, you can connect with friends and colleagues more easily. But because LinkedIn restricts who you can see and the career stakes are higher, quality is a more important factor.

The Numbers Game Downside

Too many people get caught in the numbers game, send out invitations to more people, but then, when the invitation is accepted, they forget to follow up and engage their new connections.

To follow the earlier analogy with IRL networking groups, it’s like the guy who collects business cards from everybody but never follows up to talk. The real object is not to collect more cards than the next guy, the object is to help each other. Same on LinkedIn.

What Quality People Do

Quality people write invitations and introductions for you. They give advice. They rejoice in your successes (albeit with some prompting from LinkedIn). They offer tips to job hunters, and might even pass on a copy of your résumé to HR. They also comment and debate in Groups.

Could you ask each of your LinkedIn connections to do the same?

(Endorsements don’t count. Everybody gives Endorsements, but nobody knows exactly why they exist.)

Thus Quality begets Quality

You will find that when you add a former co-worker as a Connection, you can more easily find more co-workers. If you connect with alumni you know, you can find more alumni (although the alumni search tool helps, too). As you introduce quality connections to each other, you become a more valuable connection. As you write Recommendations (forget about Endorsements for the moment), you can help others reach their goals and they will help you.

‘Bots Are Bad Networkers

In a time where people create semi-autonomous robotic programs, called ‘bots, (or hire low-wage workers) to create fake new profiles on LinkedIn, accepting every invitation you receive on LinkedIn becomes an even bigger risk. Do you mind if somebody scrapes all your data from your profile to put into somebody’s database? Careful connections avoid this.

LinkedIn’s Invitation Obstacles Don’t Help

So, to fight against the ‘bots, you decide to only accept personalized invitations. But LinkedIn makes it impossible to send a personal invitation from a mobile app or when you import your contact list. (Plus, the ‘bots may now make some minimally personalized invitations possible.)

These are really LinkedIn’s problems, but by not dealing with them, LinkedIn makes them yours.

The IDK Trap

If you do send lot of invitations to people you don’t know, LinkedIn has the “I Don’t Know” and Spam traps. If five of the people you send invitations to decline and click the I don’t know or Spam links (I don’t know the difference between them, do you?), LinkedIn automatically limits your invitations to those you can supply a current email address.

This and other versions of LinkedIn Jail are pretty much like iron-fisted Medieval justice. You appeal to Customer Service and the usual answer is a bureaucratic “Nothing I can do about it, sorry” response. (That’s a blog post for another day.) Connecting with people you already know avoids the problem.

So it’s Settled: There is No Winner

There are Pros and Cons to Quality and Quantity. If even veteran LinkedIn members can’t decide which connection path is best, it’s no wonder that one of the most frequent discussions for beginners on LinkedIn is how to connect.

The answer is to develop your own networking style that makes sense with what YOU want to accomplish on LinkedIn.

Next Post: LinkedIn Connections – What’s Your Style? Part 2, on creating your own style.

What makes sense for You!

See our index of other LinkedIn posts.

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Sign up for our newsletter on the upper left of this page.


Handshake artwork by “Worker” on

Q vs. Q graphic by the author.

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LinkedIn News Roundup

Cattle TrailOur LinkedIn Cowboys Herd Together Recent Announcements and Changes

Trying to keep up with all of LinkedIn’s changes, especially those that are never announced, is a difficult task. Fortunately, there are various groups of people who generously share their observations, Aha! moments, and new tricks dealing with LinkedIn. There has also been lots of LinkedIn news in the media recently. Here’s a roundup of changes, announced and otherwise, in the past couple of months.

The New “How You’re Connected” Tool

LinkedIn has long had the ability to find mutual connections with others on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is expanding that capability with a “How You’re Connected” tool, which is supposed to help you check which of your connections might be the best for an introduction. It is being gradually rolled out to English-speaking users of LinkedIn, so you may or may not have it yet.

LinkedIn for Nonprofits

LinkedIn announced that it is creating a service to connect LinkedIn users with volunteer opportunities in the nonprofit sector, particularly those nonprofits who have pages on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is partnering with several nonprofit organizations: the Taproot Foundation, Catchafire and BoardSource as they bring out this service.

It should be music to a nonprofit’s ears. The sour note is that LinkedIn is charging for volunteer listings. The prices are unclear, but it sounds like they will be comparable to the price for job listings – which makes it look like LinkedIn is just monetizing something many other sites (such as do for free or at low cost. Frugal Guidance 2 will look at this service more in the future.

No More Slidecast

LinkedIn is shutting down support for Slidecast, software that adds synchronized audio to a presentation stack. The audio-enhanced Slidecasts will stop being supported after April 30th. (You’ll still be able to look, but not listen.)

It’s unknown how many LinkedIn users were using Slidecast, but the blog post notes that Slideshare (which LinkedIn acquired over a year ago) is working on new products for LinkedIn, so the suggestion is that they might have an in-house replacement soon. Or not.

Slideshare stacks and video are still, apparently, supported.

The End of iPhone’s LinkedIn Intro

Another acquisition LinkedIn recently made was of the social media tool for email, Rapportive. Last October, LinkedIn announced its iPhone app, Intro, with fanfare, as the next wave of email / social media / Rapportive / LinkedIn universe. Many LinkedIn users wondered when the project would be ported to other phones, like Android.

However, in practice, there were many privacy concerns with Intro and, according to web reports, not that many people were using the app. Users will need to uninstall their Intro app by March 7th and switch back to their original email accounts, or their email will stop working then.

If you have Intro installed, TechCrunch published a post which included the procedure of uninstalling Intro and reinstalling your basic email service.

Rapportive will still work with Gmail

LinkedIn App for older iOS and Android phones to be Unsupported

On the LinkedIn blog, Deep Nishar also confirmed changes that already affect those who own older iPhones and Android phones. LinkedIn ended support for their apps on iOS versions older than 6.0 and Android versions older than 3.0. He also announced that LinkedIn is ending support for its iPad app on iOS versions older than iOS 6.0.

LinkedIn Acquires Bright

Bright, a professional data startup company which matches jobs and job seekers, has been bought by LinkedIn for $120 million. Bright specializes in using data and creating algorithms to match people and jobs. It creates a “Bright score” to quantify how good a match a candidate has with a job.

Bright’s services complement LinkedIn’s push to improve its Talent Acquisition services. When the deal goes through, some members of Bright’s engineering and products division will join LinkedIn.

The website TNW reports that the $120 million deal is the largest acquisition by LinkedIn, but just beating the $119 million it paid for Slideshare.

Bright was a small but growing competitor to LinkedIn, with over 7 million users, so the acquisition might be as much to get rid of a competitor as well as grab some engineering talent. Apparently, the current Bright jobs site will be shut down at the end of February, according to TechCrunch and

Recent 2013 Quarter 4 Reports Rosy

LinkedIn reported earnings of $437.84 million, and net income of $48.2 million, in the 4th quarter, which was a bit better than projections.

More important to users is that LinkedIn added more than 70 million users in 2013. 70% of those new users (about 49 million, if my math is correct) were from outside the United States.

For 2014, LinkedIn announces that it will be concentrating more on its recruitment services and also trying to build its membership in China.

No More Activity Feeds

In December, LinkedIn, with no announcement, stopped showing a user’s Activity Feeds on their profile. This is a sad loss, because it was a useful feature that allowed a visitor to a profile to see a person’s recent activity on LinkedIn.

At least for the moment, you can still see a LinkedIn member’s Activity Feed from any of LinkedIn’s mobile apps. Whether LinkedIn will change their apps to remove this capability is an unanswered question. It does show that the data is still there waiting to be found, so why is LinkedIn hiding it from anybody using a browser?

The Rumor Mill

What’s a roundup without at least one rumor? There are rumors that LinkedIn will add a blocking feature so users can block specific people from seeing their profile and sending them messages. This has been a long-requested feature to avoid stalkers, spammers and other creeps on LinkedIn. (Rumor also has it that there is a creep or two on LinkedIn.)

And that’s just some of the highlights. Keep reading Frugal Guidance 2 for more reports, analysis and tutorials. For more info, see the references below or check our index of Frugal Guidance 2 LinkedIn posts.

Cowboy Boot and Spur small


Linkedin posts strong Q4, acquires data insights startup Bright By Lauren Hockenson,
Feb. 6, 2014.

LinkedIn Axing Clever But Ill-Advised “Intro” Feature And Slidecast Product by Matthew Panzarino Feb. 7, 2014 on TechCrunch.

LinkedIn makes its biggest acquisition by paying $120m for job matching service Bright by Ken Yeung, Feb. 6, 2014 on TNW (The Next Web).

R.I.P. LinkedIn Intro and Slidecast
By Lauren Hockenson, Feb. 7, 2014, on GigaOm.

LinkedIn Snatches Up Data Savvy Job Search Startup For $120M, In Its Largest Acquisition To Date by Rip Empson, Feb 6, 2014, on TechCrunch. informs its members it has been acquired by LinkedIn on, Feb. 11, 2014.

Welcome Bright to the LinkedIn Family by Parker Barille, February 6, 2014,
The LinkedIn Official Blog.

Seeing Who You Know and How You Know Them Just Got Easier With LinkedIn
by Udi Milo, January 29, 2014, The LinkedIn Official Blog.

The LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace: Connecting Professionals to Nonprofit Volunteer Opportunities by Reid Hoffman, January 15, 2014, The LinkedIn Official Blog.

Title Photo, “Cattle Trail” was taken in the North Dakota range. Original is from a stereoscopic image dating about 1905 from The Ingersoll View Co. No photographer listed. Image found with Google Image Search. Credits via

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Some Reader Love for St. Valentine’s Day


Modern Heart - Reader Thanks

Frugal Guidance 2 Passes a Milestone

Frugal Guidance 2 reached a small milestone this past week, having surpassed 100,000 views on our blog since it was created in late 2012. This is the blog equivalent of watching your car’s odometer pass the 100,000 mile mark. (For a little one-man blog, that’s not too bad.)

We also had our best single day last week with over 900 views in one day.

So, as St. Valentine’s Day approaches, we send some love to all our readers and a promise to keep writing and trying to give our readers some frugal guidance wherever we can.



Modern heart image (also named “Colorful Heart of the Painting Brush”) is used courtesy of “nirots” and

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