How to Guarantee That I Will NOT Connect With You

I have a very liberal policy when it comes to connecting with people on LinkedIn. If you give me any indication that we have anything in common, I will connect with you. If you indicate that we have ever spoken or you have read anything I posted or we belong to any of the same groups, I will connect. If I can look you up on LinkedIn and find anything in common (we both went to the same school, worked at the same company, have common interests, worked in the same industry, are in the same line of work…) I will connect with you.

But, if you simply use the standard, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” and do not show me any common interest in your profile, I am only about half inclined to accept your invitation. If it appears that you might benefit me, then I might accept. This is hard to do unless you have some detail in your profile.

If, however, you appear to be a spammer or arrogant or selfish, I am not going to connect with you. I know a lot of people in Asia and am connected with several of them but I find that invitations from China or India from strangers almost always turn out to be spammers who want to sell me their web development services or search engine optimization services. It would be one thing if they sent me a single email but they send me three or four messages a week….that is spam.

If you get caught in that situation, here is how to “unconnect” with them. Simply write down the name of the person you want to unconnect with, then go to your Contacts on LinkedIn and look at the far right hand side (see red arrow in the following image) for the “Remove Connections” option.

Remove Connections

You will need to search through your connections to find that person you want to remove, but this will get them off your LinkedIn account.

One more thing to point out. Occasionally I talk about your LinkedIn profile picture. Many people are reluctant to put an image of themselves on LinkedIn but I encourage you to add a professional, friendly picture of yourself. It does not have to be a “coat and tie picture on blue background” but it needs to make a good impression of you as a professional person. About a year ago, I received an invitation from a total stranger who was promoting himself as an “amazing graphic artist that will rock your boring little world.” His profile picture looked like a gang banger. I understand that you need to show confidence but showing arrogance is never a good idea. I did not accept his invitation.

Good luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development


As we get started networking into target companies, you are going to run into some people who are nearly impossible to reach via LinkedIn. Their LinkedIn profile is almost empty.  They may have worked for small companies and have very few connections. They don’t belong to any groups and give you almost no insight into their history. To reach these people, you are going to have to do some serious use of Google. In the end, they will probably not accept your invitation to connect via LinkedIn. Either they do not use LinkedIn much or they may even have an email address attached to their profile that they do not use any more.

Rather than use up too much time working on reaching these impossible people, go after the low hanging fruit. Reach out to the recruiters.

The easiest path into a company is through the recruiters. They need to know as many people as possible. They make a living out of being able to find great candidates. The more people they know, the better the chances that they will find the right match for the job before anyone else can. Like sales people, they want a lot of connections on LinkedIn. They will almost always accept an invitation to connect with you on LinkedIn. Once you are connected to them, you will be a second degree connection to a bunch of people in that company…and it is easier to connect to second degree connections.

Another useful thing about being connected to recruiters is that they tend to change job frequently. Some change as often as every 6 months. A few stay with the same company for multiple years, but most switch companies often. That recruiter that left Dell to go to work at Bazaarvoice in Austin may seem like a lost opportunity (unless you want to work for Bazaarvoice) but in 9 months they may be working for a company you want to network into.

I would suggest that you go to the “People” search field in the upper right hand corner of LinkedIn and select the “Advanced” option just to the right of the window where you input your search criteria. Most people are afraid to click on anything marked “Advanced”, thinking that they are not smart enough to use the Advanced features. In your mind, substitute the word “Helpful” for “Advanced” and go for it. These are helpful features that you should learn to use.

Once you get to the “Helpful” screen, you will see fields for title and company. Fill in “recruiter” for the job and the name of the company you are interested in and just give it a shot. You will need to scroll past recruiters who no longer work for your target company, but you might want to network with a recruiter at HP or Samsung.

One more suggestion. When you find that recruiter you can connect with (you worked with them before or they belong to the same LinkedIn group as you belong to), do not send them the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. That would be like asking a woman on a date by saying, “I’m not doing anything tonight. Wanna go do something?” That will work with someone who knows you or someone with no standards but it is not an effective way to establish a new relationship with a stranger. Say something along the lines of  “I am very interested in careers at Dell. I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” It is not prose but it is better than the standard message…and it works well enough.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development

College Alumni

I have said from time to time that the best place to start networking via LinkedIn is with the alumni groups for the colleges you attended. Almost every university of any size has a LinkedIn group. If you attended more than one university (whether you received a degree or not) you should join the group. This will increase your ability to connect with people outside your immediate field of experience.

Keep something in mind. LinkedIn wants to prevent spammers. It would ruin LinkedIn if it became nothing more than a resource for every on-line pharmacy or insurance company or ponzi scheme to blast members with endless emails. LinkedIn safeguards this pretty well by making sure that only people who have a common interest can connect with you. Either they worked at the same company you did (as is determined by their LinkedIn profile), went to the same school, belong to the same group or they know your email address.

This is great at keeping you relatively free of spam but it is also a barrier if you are trying build a new network outside your realm of experience. If you are tired of writing test software for missiles and want to write test software for wind turbines, all your contacts at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are not going to be very useful in getting you connected to people at Siemens and GE. That is where memberships in groups will be helpful and college alumni groups are among the most inclined to accept an invitation from a complete stranger.

To a certain extent, having gone to a large university has an advantage by having a larger LinkedIn group, but that is not always the case. Both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University have current student bodies of approximately 50,000 students. The Texas Exes LinkedIn group as 35,000 members but the Texas A&M Association of Former Students has 14,000 members. You will also need to join the Texas A&M University Alumni group with almost 10,000 members. Considering the rabid school spirit of the Aggies, you would just assume that their LinkedIn group would be one of the largest, but it is not.

My other Alma Mater is the University of North Texas in Denton with a current enrollment of 36,000 students. Once again, another big school, however, they have two LinkedIn groups with only 9,000 and 4,000 members. UNT is largely a commuter school with little school spirit. Despite the fact that they have a significant number of distinguished alumni including Don Henley (The Eagles) and Nora Jones (we can skip the fact that Dr. Phil also went there) plus Pat Boone and Roy Orbison (if you are a bit older), people just do not feel a kinship with other UNT grads. Therefore, you would not expect a large LinkedIn group.

On the other hand, tiny Trinity University in San Antonio has around 2,500 students but a LinkedIn group of 3,500.

You may have attended a community college and feel reluctant to highlight that on your LinkedIn profile. I received 6 hours of credit in Photography from Tarrant County College (back when it was called Tarrant County Jr College or TCJC…or Taco Jaco…) but I did not mention it on anything. In reality, TCC is a large school with 38,000 students in enrollment. However,  their LinkedIn Group contains only 231 members.

In this instance, LinkedIn might not be much help. If you do a keyword search on “Tarrant County College,” you will get over 18,000 results. These are people who took some classes there, mentioned it on their LinkedIn profile, even if they did not care to join the group. My guess is, you are not going to get much of a response if you try to get someone to LinkIn with you based on the fact that you both attended Taco Jaco back in the 1970s.

There are plenty of judgment calls to be made here. You have to size up if there is any benefit to reaching out to someone based on having gone to the same school. In some cases, it will help you a lot. You will find that classmate who is involved in wind turbines at GE and will be able to connect with them. In other instance, you are going to just have to dig a little deeper.

We will get into “deeper digging” in my next post.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development, TFX Nonstick!

Building Your LinkedIn Network For The Future


I recently ran the InMaps facility on LinkedIn to see what my network looks like. Not surprisingly, the big blue section is comprised of people associated with job seekers (coaches, recruiters and job seekers). I really started building my LinkedIn connections when I became active in Southlake Focus, a networking group for job seeking professionals. These people tend to have many more LinkedIn contacts and to be more interconnected than the general population. Southlake Focus attendees tend to connect with other Southlake Focus attendees.  With no fewer than 200 people in attendance each week, and as many as 400, the group is fairly large. Therefore, a large, dense blue bubble.

The other major section, the red area on the right, are the people associated with FireWire. I was the industry marketing person for FireWire for 15 years. Those are the people I tended to network with prior to Southlake Focus.

The scattered green section at the bottom are social media contacts, many I met through Southlake Focus but most of them are scattered across multiple companies in the DFW area and some are thought leaders from all over. Makes sense that the group would not be as dense.

And finally, the violet cluster at the top right are my contacts from the 14 years I worked a Texas Instruments. I left TI in June of 2001. LinkedIn was not launched until May of 2003. My TI contacts are not very numerous nor densely connected.

You can see where you have put most of your LinkedIn effort by studying the InMap graphic.

As an entrepreneur, I am using LinkedIn to make contacts which do not fall into any of these categories. That can be a challenge. I first learned how to overcome this challenge as a job seeker. I was a bit shocked to learn that Kimberly-Clark would not consider me for an international marketing job despite my 17 years of global marketing and business development experience.  I had one honest recruiter tell me that I was not in the running because I lacked “CPG” experience. That stands for “Consumer Packaged Goods”.  In layman’s terms, that is all the stuff you see on store shelves. I sold semiconductors, not Klennex. I had zero experience in anything that interested them.

I had to learn to find the “back doors” into companies like Kimberly-Clark through LinkedIn. I have gone on to maximize this knowledge as an entrepreneur. What I have learned should interest job seekers who are trying to leave an industry that is in decline. You are going to have a hard time making that jump. You are going to need to find a buddy inside. There is no silver bullet. You are going to have to work, but a few minutes each day will pay off.

We will cover this over the next few posts.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

The Palantír

For those of you familiar with Lord of the Rings, you will recall the scene where the always feckless Pippin looks into the “seeing stone”, the Palantir, was transfixed and then rescued by Gandalf.

” ‘So this is the thief!’ said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay. ‘But you, Pippin! This is a grievous turn to things!’ He knelt by Pippin’s body; the hobbit was lying on his back, rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky. ‘The devilry! What mischief has he done – to himself, and to all of us?’ The wizard’s face was drawn and haggard.”

A similar scene played out in my life this week concerning malware and my 91 year old mother. OK, it is not the end of the world as we know it, but the ability of malware to infect computers and wreak havoc can feel that way sometimes.

She received a fairly standard piece of suspicious email (the latest one going around….I see it about twice a day) from a “trusted friend” so she clicked on the link. After that, everyone she has ever emailed received the same email from her computer.

She was astonished that I was not fooled. After all, the email came from my own mother and the message said “wow this is crazy you should give it a look.” The fact that “wow this is crazy” does not sound at all like my 91 year old mother was a clue, however, I get so many of these sorts of emails every week, spotting them has become instinctive. It is probably because my email address is all over the place. I am on dozens of job hunter email lists and I exchange emails with bunches of people I barely know.

My mother asked me how I size up an email as being suspicious, so I sent her the following:

1) Does not call me by name. Just has a call to action such as “You really need to see this”

2) Tone is too familiar from someone I do not know. “Hey, I am rolling on the floor laughing at this picture of you on the internet”

3) Tone is too excited or threatening. It appears that it is trying to get me to click on a link instinctively. “Your email account has been hacked. You must verify your account immediately or we will close it in 24 hours”

4) The email is one sentence pointing me to a web page.

5) There is nothing in the subject line

6) The language is awkward like a non-native English speaker wrote it.”Please to verify your order placed that we are to be shipping soon”

7) I have seen the same email before

Essentially, any time someone sends me a link to a web page or sends me a file to open, I am cautious. If they want me to click on anything, they’d better call me by name and give me a little bit of detail. A short note like “Good article” or “You might find this useful” is not enough.

Make sure you give me enough detail that it shows that you know me. “Good article about what recruiters look for in a resume” is only enough information to motivate me to write you back to verify. “James, If you missed this article on LinkedIn, it is worth reading. A lot of it is what Dirk Spencer already told us, but this adds some details on what recruiters look for in a resume.” That is enough information that I will click the link to read the article.

In today’s world, you just can not click links or open files that people email you. There are no trusted people. Viruses get on their computer and they will never know it. Or, viruses will get on Tom’s computer, look up people in his email account, then send the email out with Mary’s name on it. Mary’s computer is not infected. Tom’s computer is infected, but the virus makes the email look like it is coming from Mary’s computer. Or, the virus will infect the Yahoo or Gmail computers. Your computer might be clean, but the virus is sending email from the Yahoo computer and making it look like it is coming from your computer.

With social media, the trickery has been going on for a few years.  On LinkedIn, the worst I have seen is simple spam. Some stranger from Bangalore or Shenzhen wants to LinkIn with me. I accept and they start spamming me with various sales pitches. LinkedIn makes it easy to tag the message as spam and that tends to stop it quickly.

On Twitter, I get messages about the funny picture of me on the internet that has some stranger rolling on the floor laughing. A more interesting Twitter ploy is a mention from someone I am not following and who is not following me. Occasionally I click the “@ connect” button to see who has mentioned one of my tweets. About once a month, I see something like “@JSnid” I check the Twitter account of the person mentioning my Twitter handle only to see that they have zero followers and are following zero people. Strange. Don’t click!

I get invitations to connect on Facebook and Google+ from strangers from foreign lands….not interested. Don’t accept.

Frankly, I am real tired of malware.  Am I wrong here? I would love to see the G7 propose a million dollar bounty for the capture and conviction of people who write and release all forms of spyware, viruses, trojans, worms…all malware in general.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama….are you listening? I think we have a real vote getter here.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

The Fukushima 50

As we approach the one year anniversary of the 4th strongest earthquake in recorded history, I am hearing stories about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. More specifically, the events following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and related series of nuclear accidents last March 2011. In one story, the “Fukushima 50″ was mentioned in passing.  This was a small group of volunteers who stayed behind to do what they could to bring the crisis under control. Actually there were 200 volunteers who worked in shifts of 50 people.  These brave, self-sacrificing people, who largely remained unknown, sparked a flame of curiosity in me, so I did a little research.

The daughter of one of these men stated, “I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and I my eyes are filling up with tears…. At home, he doesn’t seem like someone who could handle big jobs…but today, I was really proud of him. And I pray for his safe return.”

These were highly experienced technicians who understood how the plant worked. They could troubleshoot and resolve a wide range of problems. It was risky, not only for them, but for the future of the power plant. If this small group of highly experienced workers were to die as a result of exposure, the best people for solving the myriad problems facing this nuke would be gone. Consequences would be dire and long-lasting.

Sometimes compared to the fire fighters who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, the Fukushima 50 were lionized by the worldwide press. March 11 (the day of the earthquake and ensuing disaster) is referred to as 3/11 in Japan. These men worked with little food or sleep for days on end to restore the plant to a stable condition and save their country and their loved ones. Most of them had no idea if they had family to go home to or if they’d been washed away by the tsunami. However, they continued to work on, around the clock.

Astonishingly, these men are now caught in terrible predicament, somewhat like the veterans who returned from the Vietnam War. Heroes who were treated badly by those who owed them so much. According to a recent article in Newsweek:

As the nation prepares for the first anniversary of the tsunami, the Japanese are preoccupied with radiation fears, the anti-nuclear debate, and bashing the operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), for its response to the crisis. The workers who risked their lives remain faceless and nameless. Increasingly, they are also voiceless, because they fear being associated with the now-vilified power company if they speak about what went on in the plant. Six workers spoke to Newsweek on the condition that their real names not be used so they could provide a rare firsthand account of the fear and courage of these men…

As is the case with so many stories about heroes, the truth is not so glorious. Some men responded out of a sense of duty, some out of fear of shame, some were pressured or even tricked and others just needed the money. As time went by, more people showed up beyond the initial 200. These men were exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation and are still waiting for the results of the tests run on them to determine how badly they were damaged.

Once the imminent meltdown was controlled, the world lost interest but the clean-up was difficult and protracted. Today, these heroes live in fear. Fear that they will be vilified by their fellow countrymen and fear that their lives will be cut short by cancer, if they live long enough to develop it. In the Chernobyl disaster, some workers died within a matter of hours. In Japan, we do not know the extent to which these workers were exposed.

In closing, I will relate a few comments from an American worker at the Fukushima plant who was within minutes of getting off work when the earthquake hit. He worked on the turbine deck, which I can relate to. Last year, I was on the turbine deck at the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Rochester, NY picking up some extra money. He was the first person to feel the earthquake among his co-workers. The rest did not notice it at first but the earthquake increased in intensity and continued to rumble about 6 minutes. The spinning blades inside the turbines started to give off a “demonic scream” as they lightly touched the inside of the turbine and became increasingly deformed. A turbine deck is an enormous open room so that anything that falls, falls from a great distance. It is one of the worst places to be in an earthquake. The lights went out and they were trapped in total darkness with objects crashing around them.

On LinkedIn this week, I have been involved in a discussion on a crisis of a different sort.  Companies are using Facebook to size up potential candidates, but they are going beyond what they can get from a casual Google search. There are horror stories from MSN about government agencies, colleges and even employers who are insisting that prospective employees or students give them their Facebook password before making the offer. They are snooping into your private life, as chronicled on Facebook, to see if they want your kind around. I had one MIS professor tell me that companies can get into your Facebook account without your password.  “Even a so-so MIS or Computer Science undergrad can hack in in 30 minutes.”

There is an Onion News Network video which pokes fun at this, but what they have to say is disturbingly on target.

Facebook has actually become a treasure trove of information about you when it falls into the hands of a prospective employer. Forbes has carried a couple of articles on employers using Facebook to size you up as a good worker. Supposedly, they have moved beyond just checking for drug references or complaints about your boss. They can tell if you are going to fit in and how hard you are likely to work.

The living victims of the Fukushima disaster are dealing with their crisis by keeping quiet. They are staying as invisible as possible. In your case, as a job seeker, you can not afford to do that. This is not the first time I have alerted people that prospective employers are looking at their Facebook accounts. The reaction is almost always hostile with most people dismissing the warning as rubbish, but the evidence is mounting. The workers on the Fukushima turbine deck could not afford to simply hunker down. To survive, they had to take action. They were guided out by a dim sliver of light coming from under the door which took them out of the cavernous room. Doing nothing is not the answer. You must educate yourself about what employers are looking for when they look at your social media accounts and fill your accounts with the right sort of information.

For the Fukushima 50 interview, I refer you to the Daily Beast:

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

Pinning for a job on Pinterest

Perhaps you have been hearing a lot about Pinterest recently. It has become the fastest growing social media site ever. It grew to 10 million users in just 9 months and is currently enjoying hockey stick growth. Marketers have been scratching their heads to figure out how to use it to market products. Pinterst is pretty blunt about not wanting their site to be overrun with “Billy Mays” pitchmen. They encourage sharing and discourage selling. As a result, the selling is very artistic and subtle.

However, your concern is how to use it to enhance your job search. Before I address this, let me tell you a little bit about Pinterest.

It is like Twitter but it is image focused not word focused. You would follow people because you think they will post images/webpages/videos that you will find interesting. Maybe you love pug dogs and you will follow people who will post things about pugs. They will post cute images of pugs and maybe videos, but mostly they will post links to web pages about pugs.  This is a social bookmarking site where you share interesting links with people who follow you. However, keep in mind that this is image based. You will not attract much attention with text about “This is the best site for treating heartworms in pugs.” You will attract much more attention with an image of a pug in a zebra pattern snuggie. A web site without a show stopper image does not make a good post on Pinterest.

Like Facebook, the content stays there and doesn’t scroll off the screen in 20 seconds as it does with Twitter. Pinterest users can sort content into categories. These are called “boards” and when you post content to one of these boards, it is called “pinning”. It is as if you are pinning really great pictures on a bulletin board for your friends to see. If you are like me, you find that cluttered Facebook format to be annoying. You have to scroll down past all the stuff your friends think is interesting to find those few things posted by people who you care about or who really are interesting. With Pinterest, you can go straight to boards with content which interests you. If someone has a board called “Cats” and you are a dog person, you will skip that and go to “Places to Visit” or “Cakes” or “Bucket List” etc.

A great feature of Pinterest is the ability to follow only the  boards that interest you.  There is a general Pinterest section called “Pinners you follow” which is somewhat like Twitter. You can get a quick glimpse at all the newest stuff to be pinned by the people you follow.  If you are following a person who posts something you find objectionable, you can simply unfollow that board on her Pinterest account. You will still see the other stuff she posts without having to see her “Politics” or “Humor” boards. You do not have to “unfriend/unfollow” her completely as you would with Facebook or Twitter.

You will notice that I used female pronouns. That is because most Pinterest users are 18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland. This did not start out among the techies on the east or west coast. According to TechCrunch:

The Pacific and North East regions contained the most Pinterest users in May, now its strongholds are in the East South Central and West North Central States, such as Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Mississippi.

If you have a product or service which could be interesting to this target market, there is some marketing potential for Pinterest. I have a client who imports cookware from Sweden. His biggest issue right now is lack of awareness. People just don’t know about the product so they walk right past it in stores. With his Pinterest account, I pin incredible recipes and images of crazy impressive cake competitions. As I build followers, I can occasionally slip in information about the product….but will keep it light. I am building brand awareness among his target audience; cooking professionals and hobbyists.

As far as job seekers are concerned, I can not see the usage model unless you are in a field where your work can be demonstrated visually. If you are a photographer, interior designer, architect, baker, wedding planner, jewelry designer, graphic artist, etc. you can use Pinterest as a free web site to show samples of your work. It is a alternative to using a free, basic site like but it does not give you the same option to include a paragraph describing your work. Pinterest is fast to assemble and very visually rich. It will give the viewer a concentrated look at your work. If you have a lot of good stuff, you will blow them away.

If you are in marketing or communications, you need to be aware of this platform. You should create an account and give it a test run. You are going to look pretty bush league if you can not talk intelligently about this social media platform. Smart people are predicting that this will replace Facebook and will have a major impact on the Internet.

If you need an invitation to join Pinterest, drop me an email.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944


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