Secrets of a LinkedIn Expert with Louise Bunyan (3/3)

Welcome to episode 164 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 3 of our interview with Louise Bunyan, sharing Louise’s experience being made redundant, starting her own business (SmartFox), and the decision to work for an employer again after starting a business.

Original Recording Date: 02-10-2022

Louise Bunyan is a Talent Marketing Specialist with VMware. She also owns a side business called SmartFox specializing in LinkedIn training for job seekers and students as well as sales and business development professionals. Check out part 1 of our interview with Louise in Episode 162 and part 2 in Episode 163.

Topics – Being Made Redundant, A Passion for the Candidate, Current State of SmartFox, Great Resignation, Women in STEM and LinkedIn Optimization, Parting Thoughts and Quick Tips

3:05 – Being Made Redundant

  • Louise moved on from the recruitment agency and got a job at a scaling tech startup in Cork as a full time content writer. It was Louise and only a couple of other people when she was hired (very new team).
  • Not long after joining, she got the feeling the startup was not for her.
  • The company was scaling massively, going from 40 employees to about 70 in just a couple of months.
  • Louise and her team won an award for best marketing blog in Ireland in 2016.
  • Louise felt something was coming (a gut feeling). There was a new director from New York who was making sweeping changes.
  • On a particular morning in October, Louise noticed some very senior people would not look her in the eye. They must have known what was coming.
    • At about 3 PM there was a message from the CEO to come to a specific room.
    • When they walked in, they were told the company was outsourcing the blog to a company in New York, and the team was being made redundant (laid off / let go), effective immediately. They had about 20-30 minutes to pack up their desks and say goodbye.
  • Louise was partly relieved. It felt like a get out of jail card. She could start interviewing.
    • She understood that there was nothing she had done to mess up. The jobs of her team were legitimately being outsourced to a company in New York.
    • Louise and a colleague were still in shock at getting the news. But Louise realized her resume was only 8 months old (had been with the startup that long). She added the blogging award and began interviewing.
  • The interview process after this was grueling. It ground her down and burned her out. She interviewed for 5 months, receiving only rejections.
    • She was scratching her head. Job descriptions were not accurate. She would see digital marketing manager as the title but kept getting hammered about being an expert in Facebook ad campaigns.
    • Louise started writing down everything she remembered from interviews and kept it in a spreadsheet. After a couple of months she read back over it and saw Facebook come up again and again.
    • Louise knew she was not going to be able to change companies putting the wrong titles on job postings. She could control closing the gap in skillset, however, and started freelancing.
    • Louise worked with a couple of clients and ran Facebook ads. In her earlier years, another team (consultant, outsourcer) had run the Facebook stuff. She had no direct experience similar to what we discussed with new graduates earlier in the interview.
    • Louise had to go back and take a few courses on Facebook ad campaigns and then get some experience. That’s all it really was keeping her from getting people to say yes to hiring her.
  • Around the time Louise took on this task she got some mentoring too from one of Ireland’s leading experts in eCommerce. That person encouraged her to put down that she was Ireland’s leading expert in LinkedIn training. Her mentor encouraged her to go and own that space (which Louise did).

8:44 – A Passion for the Candidate

  • Louise is quite passionate about the candidate experience in the hiring process and will fight for the candidate. Likely this comes from her horrible experience in interviewing during that 5 month period.
  • Louise wrote a couple of blogs and shared the terrible experiences she had as an interviewee.
    • She started writing about talent personas and became passionate about employer branding.
    • She then started working with some companies on their employer branding.
  • Then Louise saw the job at VMware. While reading the description, for the first time she thought "this is me." It wanted a trainer, a copy writer, a words person, someone passionate about employee branding and the candidate experience, based in Ireland, etc.
    • She got the job, and she’s still with VMware over a year later.
  • John makes the point that so many of the companies Louise had interviewed with left out the critical skill that ruled a candidate in or out from the job description. Those companies were being inefficient in bringing in the wrong candidates. Hopefully employers can learn a lesson in writing better job descriptions by hearing the contrast in Louise’s experiences in interviewing as we’ve detailed in the show.
    • The aggregation of Louise’s experiences are what made her a great candidate for a role in talent marketing.
  • Interestingly enough, the startup that outsourced their marketing and made people redundant eventually switched back to insourcing talent from Cork.
  • Louise felt things changed this time around because she had her own business. The main reason for going back to work for an employer was her mortgage.
    • Banks had given Louise feedback on needing to see consistent income each month. The only way she would hit that goal with her company would be to go international and hire a team of people (which she did not want to do).
    • The role at VMware was a contract position, which was attractive to Louise and allowed her to dip a toe into the water so to speak and get used to being an employee again.
    • In addition to this being a new role within the company, one of the interviews had told Louise they were looking for a startup mindset (which fit her entrepreneurial talents).
    • The job description was written in the new Go Hiring format which emphasizes performance over pedigree.

15:06 – Current State of SmartFox

  • Louise has scaled this back to a mini side gig lately and will do the occasional webinar in the evenings.
  • She remains a well recognized speaker and also has partnerships with some student groups (2 Women in STEM groups in Cork).
    • Louise enjoys demystifying LinkedIn for students and getting them off to a good start. She is excited to see the students grow and change roles over time.
  • Louise has her own online school, which she perhaps does not promote as much as she should. Check out the SmartFox School and its courses.
    • People seem to like the self-paced course format.
  • Keeping her side business acts as a security blanket, especially after the previous experience of being made redundant (and the financial / emotional / spiritual impacts of something like that).

17:37 – Great Resignation

  • John is doing a one person rebrand of the great resignation and is calling it the great upgrade. He feels people are not quitting their jobs and doing nothing but rather realizing there are better jobs out there.
    • Remote work has opened up the market and allowed people to do other things.
    • Employers are realizing people are no longer desperate to work and perhaps spinning it as an unwillingness to work.
  • Louise has heard this called the great revolution.
  • In fact, she put a poll on her LinkedIn page asking if the great resignation was just in the US or applied to Ireland as well.
    • About 70% of recruiters Louise is connected to said the great resignation does apply to Ireland.
    • Louise was speaking to a colleague in India who was unfamiliar with the great resignation.
    • Louise thinks the great resignation may be more of a US phenomenon.
    • John considers writing a blog post on use of the great resignation in English speaking countries.

22:57 – Women in STEM and LinkedIn Optimization

  • Louise started working with two women in STEM groups at University College Cork and Munster Technological University. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
    • The original request came from one of the universities’ societies for women in STEM. They had reached out to her after doing a Google search looking for LinkedIn training.
    • The society was sponsored by a local pharmaceutical company and was able to pay Louise for the work (her normal LinkedIn 50 minute bootcamp).
    • She delivered the training at a lecture hall. After her talk, the society had invited the photography society in to take professional headshots for them.
    • Louise has connected with a number of these ladies and had the opportunity to see them progress. She even ran into a group of them at a restaurant in Cork at one point after doing the class.
    • Louise received such good feedback from the group on her course that she now does this for them every year.
  • As for the second university she started working with, they had organized a one day prepare yourself for an interview workshop with a number of sessions. Louise was invited to come give her talk on LinkedIn for job seekers.
    • She showed the group some LinkedIn headlines. She knew there were some software engineers in the group and wanted to show them creative headline usage. But it took her a while to find examples of folks who had something more than just software engineer.
    • She told the group that the headline was a way to market themselves, even if they put in a few extra words in addition to software engineer it could really get the attention of recruiters and talent acquisition folks. People didn’t know what words to use to make themselves differentiated, so Louise helped them brainstorm ideas. Now she encourages people in her trainings to really think outside the box with their headline.
  • Louise hopes to continue the work with these groups each year for as long as she can.
  • The headline is your elevator pitch (a lesson for all of us). It influences hearts and minds and impacts people while having a huge impact on search engine optimization.
    • For job seekers, it’s ideal to appear on page 1 when someone is searching. This additional data in your headline influences both the LinkedIn search bot and overall Google search.
    • John has seen headlines where people have written a sentence about themselves, but it doesn’t really tell you anything.
    • Louise says there is a big difference between your headline (just below your picture) and your job title (further down the page). Think of the headline like a newspaper headline.
    • Louise mentioned the headline does have a character count. Instead of using the word "and" she uses ampersand (&) instead as well as the pipe symbol (|) to divide keywords.
    • Your headline and your job title are two of the most powerful search engine elements. Louise works with job seekers on these two items often as it can catch the eye of recruiters and talent acquisition specialists.
    • Taking John’s LinkedIn page as an example, his headline (at the time of this recording) is his title (Customer Engineer at Google). Maybe he should change it to Customer Engineer | Pre-Sales Technical Engineer at Google Cloud | Co-host of Nerd Journey Podcast.
  • When Louise started SmartFox, she was a Director and added this to her job title. She also added things like LinkedIn Trainer, LinkedIn Training Specialist, but was not highly ranked in search results.
    • She asked herself "what do the people on page 1 of the search results have that I don’t have?" The people at the top of results had LinkedIn in their headline, job title, the about section, basically everywhere. Adding Director wasn’t the greatest move.
    • Much like Louise had done with her website previously, she totally revamped her LinkedIn page. She was then coming up second in search results for LinkedIn Trainer.
  • Louise loves search engine optimization because it is so easy to influence and manipulate once you have your formula. It’s all about words, and Louise loves words.
  • By doing the optimization, you are putting yourself in the top 1 percent because many others are not putting forth the effort.
    • You probably need to have more quality work that you link to on your LinkedIn page (i.e. blog posts you’ve written) or evidence that a big site referenced your article.
  • It’s one thing to rank highly as a LinkedIn trainer, but in a different space (global airlines, large industries that have search engine optimization specialists) it may be extremely difficult to get to the top of the search results.
    • Maybe we need to get someone who is highly technical and works specifically on search engine optimization on the show? Tweet at us and let us know what you think!

38:01 – Parting Thoughts and Quick Tips

  • We’re trying to reach people who want to upskill and progress in their career. Writing, quality content, understanding what people are looking for, understanding the rule in skill being asked for in a job domain and getting training for it, and seeing the results.
  • For the job seeker / job changer, Louise learned about the power of her network. Don’t underestimate the power of yours!
    • In Cork, certain job referrals and recommendations come through your professional network.
    • When she was made redundant she did not know any other marketers in the area due to being so focused inside her employer.
    • At the time she joined a women in business networking group. It was her first time networking, and she was very nervous.
    • She went to weekly events with the group and met the graphic designer that eventually designed the logo for SmartFox. Louise had no money, so they bartered. Each would spend an hour helping the other (Louise helping in digital marketing and Paula, the graphic designer, helping with design). As Louise got more business, people really loved her branding, and she was able to bring business to Paula as well. They paired up on a number of projects.
  • How do you network in a remote world?
    • Louise suggests attending LinkedIn Live events, asking questions, and maybe connecting with the speaker or the organizer afterward.
    • If you have an interview, you can easily look them up on LinkedIn and possibly connect with them.
  • Find where your tribe hangs out, and go there (networking groups for IT, for engineers, etc.).
  • If you go to a physical event, don’t stand in the corner with your cup of tea or coffee. People are there to talk and engage.
    • Don’t forget some business cards to hand out at physical events, and connect with people on LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn will get you found in searches. Recruiters will reach out to you on LinkedIn. Think of that like the top of the funnel.
    • Next in the process is your cv / resume, and then there is the interview.
    • In Louise’s cases she was not great at interviewing. When she thought about going back to an employer, she had PTSD from her previous experiences. She ended up reaching out to her network and working with a good interviewer / coach for a couple of sessions (invaluable learnings from this).
    • When it came time to interview, Louise interviewed at 3 companies.
      • At the first company, she made it to the final 2 out of 100 applications but did not get the job. She got some valuable feedback from them. The candidate they chose had worked for the company previously and could hit the ground running (really the only reason Louise was not selected).
      • At the second company, there were about 150 applicants again. Louise made it to the last two. After the first interview she knew she did not want the job and knew additional interviews would be tough. Because they were going to be tough, she knew she needed to do the interviews anyway. She was very brazen and bold during the last few interviews, and the company liked that, offering her the job (which she declined, knowing she had a fallback with SmartFox).
      • At the time she was offered the job for company # 2, she was in her second interview with VMware and really felt that was the one for her. In her third and fourth interviews with VMware she told them openly that she wanted the job and felt the spec was written for her.
      • Because Louise had worked for herself, learned to sell, and came up with ideas it helped her stand out. She had confidence to say things like "this is what I can do for you."
  • It’s really tough when you go in for an interview. Sometimes if you’re getting ground down from being told no, try to find an interview coach (if you can).
    • Work your network.
    • Optimize your profile.
    • There are so many things you can do that will add up to a greater shift in your luck.
    • If you need to do some freelancing or take a lower paying job to get out of grinding mode, that’s fine too.
    • If there is something you can do to show an employer how passionate you are about a subject (blog, podcast, or other), it will make you stand out.
      • if you’re going to blog, you don’t need to publish weekly. Make a portfolio site. You need something that gives you that touch of gold dust and sparkle.
  • We look forward to finding some interesting topics to collaborate on with Louise in the future!

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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