My business partner tells me that this idea of ‘platform’ is very hot at the moment although I thought that it was a trend that had come and gone. So what is it? Does a job-hunter need one and if so what should it look/sound/feel like?
I think there is a lot of confusion around what a platform is – in my opinion it is your entire presence – how you present yourself to the world. Of course we have different ‘platforms’ for the varied roles we play in our lives and I think, within reason, this is how it should be. I would also suggest however that when we try to shape the outward expression of our persona artificially to match that what we see as current, hot and in-demand, we risk creating significant internal conflict as well as almost 100% certainty that our phoniness will be detected. Remember that each and every human on the planet is born with very effective b*llshit detectors!
I have seen many articles that use the word platform to describe what I consider to be the tools you use to construct the platform – not the platform itself. So for example an article might say ‘select the platform you want to be on’ meaning decide whether you want to be on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (or all of them).
For the purpose of this article I am going to focus more on some principles for designing, building and maintaining one segment of your entire platform – your online presence – and rather than being formulaic and suggesting that you must use this social media application or follow that rule I’m going to propose some underlying tenets that will help guide you to OPP (optimal platform performance ).
Designing your platform(s)
I think you should start by deciding whether you are going to have one platform that reflects your ‘work’ persona and another that embodies your ‘non-work’ essence. This decision will be guided by what you do for a living and what kind of a person you are. For (an extreme) example, most people employed as secret agents by the CIA would probably want to have a clear separation between their personal and employment platforms. But somebody who worked as a hairdresser or as a barista in a cool new coffee shop might have a single platform.
The Internet abounds with celebrities who seem to have a single platform although perhaps they all have secret, second platforms that only their close friends and families know about. And of course none of us (hopefully) completely believe that the platform of the star of the moment is a comprehensive, honest or realistic reflection of who they truly are – that would just be impossible.
So, once you’ve decided on how many platforms you’re going to have let’s get started on designing your work platform. Notice I say ‘work’ platform but this platform should function just as well for the job-hunter as it does for the employed person looking to showcase their skills and accomplishments. I’m a big fan of acronyms so let’s discuss how you’re going to C.R.A.F.T. your platform.
CONGRUENT – keep your messages and profile congruent within your platform. This doesn’t mean for example that all your blog posts should be on a narrow range of topics but rather that everything you put out there should reflect an aligned position. So you’re not going to post an opinion piece that says eating meat is a cardinal sin and then tweet that you’re meeting friends for a steak later in the day. This is an extreme example but I think incongruence can be very damaging to how your platform is perceived.
REALISTIC – set low goals – i.e. one post of 250 words every two weeks – and then ramp them up if you can. Better to take this approach than to aim high, start strong and then peter out and fall silent when you run out of steam and/or inspiration. Personally I think Chris Guillebeau’s advice to build a backlog of postings and material before you even launch an online presence is very good counsel (that’s from his wonderful free resource 279 Days to Overnight Success). Set and evaluate similar targets for whatever tools you decide to use to create your platform whether its starting a blog, tweeting, Google+, Facebook or whatever.
ACCOUNTABLE and ACTIVE – if after a few weeks you are consistently meeting your goals maybe you should go public with them. Committing publicly will help keep you on track and also build your credibility (but only if you continue to meet your target). As well as hitting the mark on these personal targets consider beginning to branch out and becoming ACTIVE in your community. Seek out others in your field (for example, if you are a barista looking for work check out the local coffeehouse scene), comment on their blogs or respond to their tweets. It’s especially great if you can be of service – making connections between individuals/groups, answering questions and providing helpful advice and resources.
FAIR, FRANK and FRIENDLY – think long and hard before you comment negatively about things online. I firmly believe that you should give people and the companies they work for the benefit of the doubt before going public with complaints. For example, if you have a bad meal at a restaurant on a single visit but say nothing about it to the staff and management of the establishment while you are there I don’t think it’s fair to go home and write a scathing review. Perhaps you hit them on an unusually screwed-up day (staff called in sick, half their food order wasn’t delivered earlier in the day) and if you had gone tomorrow instead you would have been delighted.
But if and when you do write something negative be completely FRANK about the circumstances and try wherever possible to see if there was anything good at all about the experience. Be completely upfront about your position and always FRIENDLY and FAIR in your tone rather than vindictive, spiteful or vitriolic.
TIMELY – this ties in with the REALISTIC section. As much as possible try to be TIMELY with both the proactive and reactive elements of your online platform. What I mean by proactive elements is your postings and tweets – they should not only adhere to any publicly announced schedule but keep them relevant to what is going on in the bigger sphere. In terms of reactive elements, attempt to respond to comments or email queries promptly. For email if someone asks you a complex question that will require some time to answer send an acknowledgement of receipt and let them know you’ll get back to them. When tweeting there’s little point in contributing if it’s not TIMELY since a response to something tweeted more than a few hours ago is usually fairly worthless unless it is information that no one else supplied (in which case a direct message or email might be more appropriate).
In Part II we’ll look at some ideas about what a job-hunter’s platform might consist of and examples currently online – watch for that post next Friday, January 13, 2012