Professionals need to know how to effectively communicate who they are in the digital world. In this episode, Millennial LinkedIn trainer, keynote speaker, and author, Michaela Alexis, talks about how she helps job seekers realize the value of building an impactful personal brand. Michaela emphasizes the need to let go of the old-world mentality of “leaving your personality at the door when you go to work.” She also demonstrates how you can optimize your LinkedIn profile and avoid common mistakes in behavior in this ever-changing platform.
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Building An Impactful Personal Brand With Michaela Alexis
I’m excited about my guest, Michaela Alexis. I found her on LinkedIn and I must have done something right because she responded. I was intrigued with her because she helps Millennials use LinkedIn. I have a Millennial at home who told me that LinkedIn is for old people when he was looking for a job. He has a job but I’m sure he probably could have had a better one if he hadn’t had the old people in his house. In March 2016, Michaela’s first article, How I Landed my Dream Job in Two Weeks on LinkedIn, went viral and it changed her life forever. She realized at that moment that the business world was craving content that is relatable, conversational and most importantly helpful. She was hooked not only on creating content on LinkedIn, but also helping others realize the value of building an impactful personal brand in the digital world.
Since then, she’s not only repeated the same viral success and gained over 100,000 followers, but she’s trained hundreds of professionals on how to effectively communicate who they are in the world, both in the board rooms and on international stages. What’s so impressive about her is that she has influencer marketing, training and workshops. She’s done keynotes, panel discussions and she is one of the people who are on LinkedIn Live. She’s such a great promoter on LinkedIn Live that they’ve actually hired her to help with their platform for Millennials. Welcome, Michaela.
Thank you so much for having me.
I want to jump into this because I’ve seen so much on LinkedIn. I’ve learned a lot and I see so much that’s bad. What are some of the biggest challenges and mistakes that you see on LinkedIn?
I think overall the biggest challenge that people have when it comes to LinkedIn is knowing what is appropriate, what is okay, what’s considered professional. We have this idea that we’re almost like different humans on LinkedIn than other platforms. When I started on LinkedIn back in 2016, I got a lot of criticism because I was very candid about my career experiences. I talked about things that people weren’t talking about like your failure, rejection, losing your job, being laid off, all of these things, but I knew that they were important. I also did a little bit of research and what I found was, I think it was number three on the most popular blog posts on LinkedIn back in 2016, was self-esteem.
As a marketer, I sat back and I’m like, “Everyone’s telling me that there’s a personal professional self and yet the way that we’re consuming it is very different.” I felt like there was a place for that human element in the business world. I’ve worked for it with all generations. I worked with 21-year-olds, people that are still in school to close to retirement. What I’ve found is that the older my client is, the more ingrained this idea that you have to leave your personality at the door when you go to work.We don't have a 9 to 5 anymore because technology has blurred the lines. Click To Tweet
The biggest challenge for most people on LinkedIn is getting past that mindset. The business world has changed dramatically. With the technology blurring the lines, we don’t have a 9 to 5 anymore. We don’t turn off, we’re always on. We’re always being watched. Even if you’re posting on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, your prospects, recruiters, people are checking you out on all of those platforms because they want to know that you are who you say you are. It’s a very different world and it takes a lot to re-adjust to this new reality.
I’m 25 or 30 years older than you. My generation literally behave one way at work and one way at home. We didn’t intermingle. We had to be very professional. I still am a little bit now, but I work for myself so yoga pants are cool. Let’s talk about some of the mistakes because what you talked about is the balance between authenticity and professionalism. Here’s one of the things I see and it drives me crazy. This real estate agent I see on Facebook who constantly talks about her ex-husband, the kids, the drama. I remember several times looking at it on Facebook and thinking, “How would she ever serve me? She doesn’t have enough time between all these dramas.” I started noticing she posts the same thing on LinkedIn.
It comes down to the difference between vulnerability and oversharing. Vulnerability to me is when you are giving energy to your audience. You’re being vulnerable about something that you’re overcoming, you’re in the middle of that you’ve gotten past and you’re sharing the lessons that you learned from that experience. That is giving power to your audience because you’re now teaching them and they have this new found knowledge. Oversharing in my mind is when you are extracting energy from your audience. You probably look at some of your content and you’re like, “I’m exhausted being around this.” You feel uncomfortable, you feel awkward. When you feel those things, that is right there. The line between vulnerability and oversharing. People do get confused sometimes. They think that vulnerability means that you go online and you show up that you’re not wearing any pants at work.
That’s not what it is. It’s about sharing your experience to connect with other people and to connect your community to each other and sharing that human experience. I definitely think that there is certainly a line on LinkedIn. There are people that don’t seem to get it. I don’t even know if it’s a professionalism thing because there’s no place for it. I don’t want to know about your marital issues. I don’t want to be in the middle of it. I don’t want these passive-aggressive, “My friend said about this, you know who you are.” I don’t like seeing those posts. They make me uncomfortable whether I’m on LinkedIn or anywhere online. I think that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes.
A lot of people are jumping off Facebook. They’ve just had it. I don’t do as much over there with the exception of my clients’ groups. What are the differences? I know that LinkedIn is not an every day, every minute, keep it open, respond, scroll through like Facebook is. What are the optimal days that people jump on there?
It’s interesting that you say that because it’s changing pretty dramatically. There used to be where you would go on to LinkedIn maybe during the workdays like a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Now, what they’re finding is that people are checking it on the weekends. It’s a fun platform. It’s become a place where you can share your content and you can learn new things. Some people just like to learn 24/7. I am a self-proclaimed dork. I love to learn on weekends. I am on LinkedIn on Saturday, Sunday. I think that when you start off, probably the most optimal time that you can be on is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. They’re also finding with LinkedIn Live that the best time to share a live session is on Friday mornings. I think that’s interesting, but it makes sense. You’ve worked all week and then on Fridays you just sit back and that’s a great time to host a webinar or a podcast because people are in that mode of, “I want to passively learn. I don’t want to be actively working.”
There’s a lot of reaching out. There are levels on LinkedIn. What prompts you to respond or not respond when somebody reaches out to you? Why did you respond to me?
I get all sorts of messages. At one point, I had 30,000 pending connection requests and then what happens over time is LinkedIn comes in and they actually expire. You lose all those. Now, I’m at 2,000. It goes up and then it gets erased and then I have to start all over again. There are certainly ones that I ignore and then there are ones that I pay attention to. Let’s first talk about the ones that I ignore. The ones I ignore are connection requests that have no messages attached to them. If there’s no context as to why the person is reaching out, I don’t have the time to figure out who you are. I can’t reach out to you directly. I also have thousands of other people that are sitting in my inbox. I don’t know if people know this, but you are capped out at 30,000 connections. I’m always capped out at any given time. I probably have room for like one or two. That’s one or two out of thousands of people that are trying to reach out to me. I’m not going to spend the time to try and figure out who the person is. I need to know right off the bat quickly and easily.
Also as a female on LinkedIn, if I have a male that’s reaching out to me, I don’t want to put myself in a position where I reach out to them and they’re being creepy or something like that, which does happen. That’s probably another don’t do on LinkedIn. Not leaving a message is probably the biggest one. The other thing that I see that people do is they will include their number of connections and that drives me absolutely insane. We’re not baseball cards. We’re people. People have this idea that it’s like a Rolodex and the more people that you have in your network, the better. I think that if you’re serving those people, that’s one thing, but when you’re just using them to find new people to add like it’s some game, I don’t want to connect with a person like that.
Let me back up there. If I reach out to you and I would say, “Michaela, I have 25,000 connections, so you should connect with me.”
I get that all the time.
That’s like the LinkedIn version of, “Mine is bigger than yours.”Asking for a LinkedIn connection and a favor right off the bat is a tad crazy. Click To Tweet
That is definitely a no-no. I do have people that will reach out to me and they ask for a favor right off the bat. That’s another thing that drives me crazy. I offer a lot of free content. I even offer a free LinkedIn. It’s a three-hour course that’s been taken by 2,800 people. I’ll offer it a few times per year and I actually will have people that will take the free course and then send me a connection request and asked me to review their profile. We don’t know each other. I’ve already given you something. Even if I didn’t give you something, we don’t go around in person and just ask people for things. It’s important to be focused on nurturing a relationship. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask people for help, but it’s about making sure that you’re giving before you try to receive. Those are probably the biggest don’ts that I’ve seen. In terms of dos, getting straight to the point and being upfront with what you’re looking for. With your message, you are very curious and you were straight to the point, “What do you do? I want to learn more about what you offer.” That makes sense for me to respond to something like that, but when somebody reaches out and they’re like, “How’s your week going?” I don’t know what to do with that.
There are too many people that are doing that. I can’t go through and respond to everybody. I understand that I have a responsibility because I share such vulnerable content. I’m sharing these very candid stories. I have people that will reach out to me and they share their own candid stories with me. I would absolutely love to take all of the time in the world to respond to each and every person. I don’t have the ability to do that. I’m a solopreneur. I have a very limited time as it is. I can only respond to one or two of those every once in a while. If you want help with something or if you want to speak, one of the best things to do is probably just asked to jump on quick call with me. We can just talk through it rather than me sitting there trying to type or get straight to the point. If you want something from me, if you want to ask a question, ask a question right away. Don’t bury it under paragraphs and paragraphs. Go straight for the point. Even when you’re asking somebody up for coffee, you need to be very specific about what the requirements are. I have people that will say, “I want to meet you for coffee to pick your brain.” To me that sounds like I want to have free consulting. If that’s not the case, then you have to make that very clear.
I teach students and I tell them, “You’re going to reach out to this CEO, but you want to go to them. Don’t say, “Let’s meet for coffee.” Say, “Would it be okay if I can swing by your office sometime next week when you’re available to talk to you for fifteen minutes about how to get into the industry that you’re in?” You want to talk about what the conversation is going to be about, how long it’s going to take and meet the person where they are if you want something from them.” I do it with people that I want to interview or I want to meet up with and making it very clear about what your intentions are is powerful.
One of the things I dislike is when people reach out with a sales pitch or, “I sell insurance, do you need any?” If I did, I’d reach out to you. The financial planners, “Let’s get coffee,” which means, “I’m going to pull out my little thing here and ask you a lot of personal questions about your finances, even though I don’t know you.”
The sales pitches are absolutely horrendous. I have people that will actually put in their profile that if you accept their connection requests, it means that you can automatically be added to their email list. That is not consent. We all know that’s not consent. Let’s not act like we think it is. It absolutely is not. You have to ask for permission for everything. The other thing is too is that there’s an entitlement sometimes with people that you need to be providing something to them. I had one person that reached out to me by email. They were complaining because they had taken my course. They had bought my course and they asked me a question through InMail and I hadn’t responded. This was a very painful email that I had to send for a couple of different reasons.
Number one, I went into the system and realized that they got the course for free. If you’re getting things for free, you are not technically a client. I can’t spend that time with you that you might be looking for. I’m very upfront with that. When I offer my free course, I tell people “I’m not going to be able to provide any tech assistance, but if you want to jump on a call with me, this is how you can do that.” She had reached out to me and that was number one.
Number two, when she had reached out to me, it was when my father had gone into the hospital and he had died two weeks later. I wasn’t available. I don’t think that you should ever be putting people in a position where they need to explain why they haven’t gone back to you. There are lots of people that don’t get back to me. We have to be sensitive and understand that the person that you’re speaking to is a human being, they have their own lives and they have their own challenges. To always be cognizant about it and not come from a place of criticism when it comes to that. That part of that is also a LinkedIn issue because you can’t add in a way message. You can never say, “I’m not here.” Even if you’re on vacation, whatever’s going on. At that point, I had turned off for three months because I was taking care of my dad and I’m grieving, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t have the bandwidth to go on and tell people why I hadn’t gone back to them. That’s also a solopreneur issue.
It’s also awful etiquette. I always say don’t treat anybody on social media like you wouldn’t treat them in person. I would never storm up to you in person and go, “Why haven’t you gotten back to me?”
It’s also the people that haven’t had their connection requests accepted. I’ve got an inbox filled with people that I’ve tried to reach out to that haven’t responded. It’s okay, I’m not owed to anything. That’s important to remember offline and online. I do have people in person because I do a lot of speaking engagements and they will come up to me. Sometimes they’re kind about it. Sometimes they’re not so kind or they say that they’ve tried to reach out to me and added me and I haven’t accepted their connection request. I do my best. We all do our best and keeping that in mind, whether you are using any social media platform and giving people the benefit of the doubt is important.
I have a couple of things I want to cover here. Testimonials, how important is it to get out and get them? For my clients, I don’t even tell them to get them at any place but LinkedIn anymore because I can go on and click, get their picture, their title and what they said about me and use it on all my marketing.
I love that you said that because there are so many people that tend to forget about recommendations. There are so many reasons that they’re important. Number one, from a visual standpoint, the text on the recommendation section on your profile is about 50% larger than the rest of the text. Visually, they get priority. Second, re-purposing. I love that you said that. There are so many ways that you can repurpose that content. I’ve seen people that have put quotes from their clients into their summaries. It’s an amazing way to use social proof to start converting new opportunities.
I myself have taken those quotes and put them into branded photos and then attach them as media to my experience section. That’s another way to do it. I’ve had other people that have clients that have taken those quotes and turn them into a slideshow and then they add that to the bottom of their summary so that people can scroll through what other people are saying about them. You can use them on your website. You can use them as content. There are so many different ways. I have been on both sides. I’ve been a job seeker and I’ve also hired. References are not the gold standard anymore. Many people can ask their best friend that they worked with, “Say that you are my supervisor.” It changes over time.You should never put people in a position where they need to explain why they haven't gone back to you. Click To Tweet
What I love about those recommendations is that you can ask the person, you can see their profile and you can see their relationship with that person. If things change over time, that person can go in and they can edit their recommendations. That can also change. I think it’s more convenient. The last job that I ever applied for before I started working solo, they did all of that work before I had gone in for an interview. They went to my profile, they looked at my recommendations, and they then reached out to those people that had left me a recommendation to see if they could expand on it. By the time I went in for an interview, they were like, “How much money do you want?” which is great. To be already in a position where people have all the information, they have your portfolio and then it’s just about is this the right fit culturally. That’s a great position to be in.
I started sending people over there because I’ve got a marketing gig with a company that had no pictures and it had “Michaela A” next to the testimonials. I asked them, “We need more information here. These look fake.” They said, “They are fake.” I quit that day. I was like, “No, we’re not doing this.” I tell my people to go over to LinkedIn because it’s real people. You can’t fake it there. If people look you up or whatever it is, they know that you’re not making this stuff up. I know it sounds weird that I had a company do that.
That doesn’t surprise me at all. Transparency in this market is absolutely everything. You have to be transparent. What’s interesting about LinkedIn is that people that are reading might think, “This sounds like a lot of work to do.” It isn’t that much work. To me, it’s a lot of fun. The most important part is that this is an investment. Would you rather invest in your LinkedIn presence now? You have a booth at the world’s largest networking event and some people are like, “I don’t think they’ll show up.” That doesn’t make any sense to me. Why are you relying on your website? For me personally, people that are about to hire me, they have all the information that they could possibly want from me. If you look at my company page, if you look at my profile, everything I’ve ever done, all the information is there. By the time I get on a call with a prospect, we’re not talking about, “What do you have to offer me?” It’s about availability and pricing. Who doesn’t want to be in that position? Who wants to spend time on the phone with somebody for an hour and then realizing it’s not a fit? To me, it’s an investment but it also going to save you time, energy, money and resources.
You’re one of the chosen few, Michaela. You’re actually the second chosen one I’ve talked to about LinkedIn Live. What are you seeing? How do you love it? What are you doing?
LinkedIn Live and I have a very complicated relationship. When I started the first time I did it, I was thrilled because I was one of the first people. I went live and within minutes my inbox started filling up with leads. I was like, “This is going to be amazing.” By the second time that I did it, I started to notice that every time I would go live then I would start to lose followers. It wasn’t because of something that I said. It was like before I even talked, I was seeing those followers dwindle. Part of the reason being is that LinkedIn culture has always been very passive.
That’s why people like LinkedIn over something like Facebook or Instagram where you’re inundated with all these ads and all these things in sponsored posts. LinkedIn is different in that way that you can go on and you’re not getting notifications. You’re not getting spammed with all these messages and stuff. All of a sudden, I have LinkedIn Live where they have the notification that’s blinking and people’s faces and all this stuff. People were getting annoyed with the notifications. LinkedIn Live is very much in beta mode. They were essentially using creators to test out the notifications features and the LinkedIn Live feature itself. I didn’t love it at that point because the last time that I had done it, I lost 600 followers which are a lot. The reason being is I wasn’t showing up live. I would leave the app and go back on. People were getting bombarded with notifications. I’ve cooled down on LinkedIn Live for a little bit. I started using again and it looks like they’ve improved a whole bunch of features. People are getting used to seeing the notifications, so they’re not unfollowing.
I’m starting to love it now because I’ve spent so much time creating original content where now I have an opportunity. I’m not allowed to talk about LinkedIn on LinkedIn Live. There are a lot of rules in place when you’re given access. You’re not allowed to pitch and all these things, which has put me in an interesting position because I do that for a living. I teach people how to use LinkedIn. How do I not talk about it? It allowed me to reach out to people that I’ve built relationships with over time and start interviewing them instead of just creating content, which is super fun.
It’s fun to have conversations with people and watch them step into the spotlight. I’ve been reaching out to a few friends of mine. In my last LinkedIn Live, I spoke to Sean Cannell. He’s a YouTube video creator. He’s a video marketing expert. The guy has over a million followers on YouTube. He got on and we did a whole session on how to be on video for people that are awkward on video. It was just so much fun. I’m bringing on a pretty big name. I have a few big names in the works booking out into 2020. It’s been fun for me because I’ve been thinking about doing a podcast, but you probably notice it’s a lot of work.
It’s not actually.
LinkedIn Live has been a great testing ground for me. I casually get into it a little bit more and try to figure out if I like doing it. It’s been a lot of fun. We’re on good terms right now.
That’s good to know. Podcasting, I’d be glad to introduce you to the Hazzards. Their podcasting platform, when we’re done here, I will upload it to Podetize with your bio and your headshot and they do the rest. It’s not only the distribution but your YouTube channel and blog for your website. It’s everything and it’s incredible. Thank you, Tracy. I plugged you right on my show. You have a gift for us.
I do, it’s the discount code that I offer. I do have free offers for anybody that’s interested in learning more about LinkedIn. If you could visit my website at MickAlexis.com, I have a free LinkedIn Profile Checklist for your profile. I have a free LinkedIn Pages Checklist. I also spoke to you earlier about offering a discount code for my new course which is called Profit with Pages. It is an entire course that is based on LinkedIn pages for small to medium size businesses. It’s super fun and very niche. It’s great for anybody that has been thinking about LinkedIn pages but doesn’t know how to set it up, doesn’t know what kind of content to create or how to convert followers into real paying leads. I’ve got all the things and here’s a little secret to you because I just added it. If you visit my profile on LinkedIn and you look at my summary, I have a code on there. It’s “I read your summary,” I think it is the code. If you visit the link in the summary, then you can get my three-hour LinkedIn Profile Optimization Course for free.In reaching out to someone in LinkedIn for an interview or meet up, making your intentions very clear is powerful. Click To Tweet
You can go over and find her profile and grab all of that for free. You also had a course with the 25% discount code for us.
Yes. I’ll send you those details.
Thank you. This was so informative and I appreciate you answering me. I went on a LinkedIn binge a few weeks ago. My whole intent was to connect with new people and find clients. I found a ton of great podcast guests, which will monetize in their own way. It’s cool, the people I’ve met that I’ve had calls with over the last few weeks.
There are 600 million active users on LinkedIn. Anybody that you could possibly want to connect with is hanging out on LinkedIn. What are you waiting for?
Thank you so much, Michaela.
- Michaela Alexis
- How I Landed my Dream Job in Two Weeks on LinkedIn
- Sean Cannell
- LinkedIn Profile Checklist
- LinkedIn Pages Checklist
- Michaela Alexis on LinkedIn
About Michaela Alexis
In March of 2016, my first article, called “How I Landed My Dream Job in Two Weeks on LinkedIn” went viral, and it changed my life forever.
I realized at that moment that the business world was craving content that is relatable, conversational, and most importantly, helpful.
I was hooked, not only on creating content on LinkedIn, but on helping others realize the value of building an impactful personal brand in the digital world.
Since then, I’ve not only repeated that same viral success and gained over 100,000 followers, but I’ve trained hundreds of professionals on how to effectively communicate who they are with the world, both in local boardrooms and on international stages.
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