Complicated Past? LinkedIn Can Help. [video]

Let’s say you’re a private equity information specialist. And a dancer. An unlikely pair of professions for one person, yet this is exactly the scenario we addressed recently while giving a talk to dancers about how to develop a wholly representative profile on LinkedIn.

While writing the “headline” on her LinkedIn profile, meaning the space directly under her name, a participant asked if it’s OK to write “Private Equity Information Specialist and Dancer.”

You see, she’s a client of Career Transitions for Dancers, an organization that helps dancers take their first steps toward second careers, because the physical tolls of dancing make it practically impossible to be a lifetime professional dancer.

So how did we respond? We offered that her inquiry really felt like the question “Is it OK to be who I am?” The answer to which would be “Yes, it is. Always.”

A fantastic thing about LinkedIn is the expectation that you’ll have only one profile, because you’re only one person. Also, you’ll synthesize your complicated background into a single headline, and then outline it within the various sections of Summary, Experience, and Education. Creating a profile on the “professional” social network becomes an exercise in identifying the breadth of your achievements and interests, organizing your story, and then revealing yourself in a coherent framework.

Watch how things unfolded, starting at 6:00, below:

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The Whole Wide Work Hall of Fame

We’re loving on Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Inc., because she knows what we know about professional development. And she’s talking about bringing your whole self to work so much, we’re excited to induct her into the Whole Wide Work Hall of Fame as the inaugural member. Hats off to Ms. Sandberg!

Starting today, the Hall of Fame will distinguish prominent figures who promote the ideals of engaging your whole self at work. Think someone should be inducted? Tell us who, and we’ll investigate, with a shout out to you!

So what’s the fuss about Sandberg? We’ve been wanting to write about her since Brad Stone wrote a profile in Businessweek a short while ago. The article referenced the TED Talk from December 2010 in which she spoke about women and leadership, and still somehow we couldn’t find the hook we were seeking to feature her on WWW.

Until now. In the mid-July edition of the New Yorker, Ken Auletta wrote about her in the context of men in Silicon Valley. The way she manages her self as a worker and what she demonstrates about bringing your whole self to work is pretty brilliant. From the story:

David Fischer, Facebook’s vice-president of advertising and global operations, recounts a performance review of a female executive that he and Sandberg conducted. Fischer says that he told the executive numerous times that she wasn’t assertive enough, but he felt that she wasn’t hearing him. “Sheryl jumped in after I finished and said, ‘I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I can imagine what it might be. Let me tell you about when I was younger.’ ” She recounted her own insecurities, and, he says, “I just watched this woman go from sitting there listening to me but just hearing a bunch of business-type words. . . . It just opened up the whole conversation.”

It gets better: Read more

The Goodness of Bad Feelings at Work

During the course of the day, many of us shy away from bad feelings. You know the ones: the day’s coasting when you see, or hear, or remember something and immediately feel embarrassed, or guilty,  or doubt-ridden. “Buck up,” and “soldier on,” you think to yourself, platitudes that fall flat.

Which is why Pooja Nath, founder of, didn’t recite these phrases to herself when she felt bad as a college student studying in the computer lab. Profiled recently in the New York Times, Nath’s story goes like this:

When Pooja Nath was an undergraduate at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, an elite engineering school in India, she felt isolated. She was one of the few women on campus. While her male classmates collaborated on problem sets, Ms. Nath toiled in the computer lab alone.

“Back then, no one owned a laptop, there was no Internet in the dorm rooms. So everyone in my class would be working in the computer lab together,” she said. “But all the guys would be communicating with each other, getting help so fast, and I would be on the sidelines just watching.”

The experience as a young woman in that culture formed the foundation of her start-up in Silicon Valley, Piazza.

About her company, a homework help site:

Students post questions to their course page, which peers and educators can then respond to. Instructors moderate the discussion, endorse the best responses and track the popularity of questions in real time. Responses are also color-coded, so students can easily identify the instructor’s comments.

Although there are rival services, like Blackboard, an education software company, Piazza’s platform is specifically designed to speed response times. The site is supported by a system of notification alerts, and the average question on Piazza will receive an answer in 14 minutes.

You see that? Those crap feelings you sometimes experience on the job can help you find fame and fortune. The task is not to silence your emotions, but rather to tolerate them, and listen to them.

If you can do this, your bad feelings may help you make decisions about your professional path. How great is that?

One last bit that floors us: the average question on Piazza will receive an answer in 14 minutes. What does this mean? Yes, the technological infrastructure of Nath’s business is impressive.

Also, there’s an ever-increasing expectation that we are always in front of a screen. Which makes us feel scared, and anxious as we consider the prospect of being in front of a back-lit screen at all times.

We’ll tolerate these uncomfortable feelings, open to the goodness they may still bring.

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Become an Expert in Your Field

Geneticist Eric Schadt is the quintessential expert. He’s redirecting the practice of biology from a reductionist model to a systems model, which means he knows that finding the cure to a disease is more likely to be done by studying whole systems of genes rather than individual genes. And as if blazing a trail through this new frontier weren’t enough, the way he demonstrates all his expertise is really remarkable.

Dr. Schadt works to make all of his research findings freely accessible to everybody, including profit-seeking drug companies.  He realizes that the information he shares reflects the information he actually knows, which is what comprises his expertise, natch.

To this end, he co-founded Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit biomedical research firm with a mission “to create an open access, integrative bionetwork evolved by contributor scientists working to eliminate human disease.” Not only is he making his own knowledge available, he’s creating a repository for all biologists to make their knowledge accessible, too. Radical!

Just how much intellectual wealth does he share? Alot, all over the Web. Is there a better place to broadcast yourself in 2011? To Schadt, the Chief Scientific Officer of Pacific Biosciences, the answer appears to be “no.” Take a look at:

We glean so much by studying this guru’s example.  Mainly, to be open about the information you have is to show the scope of your expertise. The more information you share, the more expertise you have. So what about you? Read more

Follow Whims, Increase Productivity?

Admit it: at work you sometimes wander over to YouTube to “conduct research.”  And there are times when you’ve played solitaire to distract yourself from a mundane–or especially complex–task.

Well good for you! When you listen to your whims, you often increase your productivity.

James Surowiecki writes in the New Yorker about the benefits of distraction, and cites some interesting studies which conclude that a worker’s impulse to take a break is typically aligned with an organization’s pursuit of higher output. Consider this:

A new study, done at the University of Copenhagen, asked participants to perform a simple task—watch videos of people passing balls and count the number of passes. … One group of participants had a funny video [first] come up on their screens; the rest saw a message telling them that a funny video was available if they clicked a button, but they were told not to watch it. … The curious result was that those who hadn’t watched the comedy video made significantly more mistakes than those who had.

Turns out that following rules can sometimes be more problematic than following personal desire–in this case, to watch a humorous video.

To be sure, we’re not advocating the total disregard of organizational policies in favor of doing whatever you wish. We’re thinking critically about how to match your internal drives with workplace realities, knowing it’s almost always possible to find a fit.

Sometimes, our brain needs a rest to process abundant or complicated data. Time reported on a study about our brains at rest by neuroscientist Lila Davachi at New York University. “Your brain is doing work for you even when you’re resting,” says Davachi. “Taking a rest may actually contribute to your success at work or school,” she adds.

So don’t feel bad about taking a short respite from the daily grind to read Whole Wide Work. Rest assured, you and your place of work will be better off.

What benefits of resting on the job have you experienced?

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Being Critical of a Company Can Get You Hired

Harsh thoughts and negative feelings are among the aspects of our internal life that we often strive to hide at work. Yet Sean Ryan, formerly of News Corp, demonstrates that coming out with your true thoughts, however uncomfortable, can advance your career. For Ryan, being critical of Facebook may have helped him land a plum new role at the social networking giant.

Back in April, Ryan blogged about gaming platforms, writing:

I’d strongly recommend producing a great OpenSocial version of your game and trying to strike deals with a set of SNS not named Facebook – there are lots of them around the world with 10 million or more monthly unique users…

Which was published on the Web and became part of his online footprint. Scary, right? Not at all. His sentiments built upon his breadth of knowledge on the subject, and were grounded in careful analysis. He could thus stand proudly behind his articulate trashing of the social network.

We recall Sun Tzu’s words, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” The hiring managers at Facebook may be guided by this ancient wisdom.

So feel free to speak your thoughtful mind at work. A new job, or perhaps a promotion may be awaiting you.

Have you attracted someone by criticizing them? What ensued?

When is it Cute to Come Out at Work? [video]

Coming out at work can be cute when it’s presented in an animated video! Leeds Animation Workshop (LAW) in the U.K. produced this richly-textured and poignant video about a mechanic who comes out at work. The word “gay” is not once mentioned, yet the message is clear.

LAW produces animated films on social issues such as workplace equal opportunities, bereavement, and environmental issues, and runs introductory courses in animation, too.

Our sense is that the video producers bring their full wherewithal to their projects, because the Workshop’s films are all triple-threat:  elegant, educational and entertaining.

The only problem with the video is Ryan’s mullet. Kidding, we find it totally endearing.

What do you think about the video?