Some might call it freedom

As our car inched along by the Hudson River on Manhattan’s far western edge, a trapeze school came into view, way up high, silhouetted against the sunset. Gridlocked, we watched student after student climb the ladder, grab the swing and … go! Every student took flight, guaranteed. With this kind of exposure, above their gigantic sign, it wasn’t know-how the school was selling. They were selling a feeling, one that all of us with our bumpers up against each other wanted. Some might call it freedom; others happiness or courage. People buy based on feelings. What feeling does the best use of your abilities offer your employer, client, or community? That feeling is the particular value you bring. If you imagine it’s your swing and grab on, there’s no telling where it will take you.

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How do you stand out in a crowd?

An acquaintance recently described to me his method of looking for a new job; he had a system, he said, but no job yet. Then he described a major fundraiser, a medical situation, and an entrepreneurial project; he revealed his frustration that his income does not match his energy output. Do you see the problem? Meanwhile, a client who works with college students talks about their “information overwhelm.” A brilliant organizational theorist describes rapid technological change with which it is nearly impossible for CEOs to keep pace, no matter how hard they try. We are all aware of a cacophony of demands, channeled to us 24/7 through electronic devices, “to-do lists,” and the people in our lives. What’s scarce and needed is attention. For multi-talented businesspeople tired of trying hard and not gaining the hoped-for ground, this means choosing a specialization and clearly stating the mission, then finding helpers to handle the rest. Not only does this enable others to understand what you are about and how you can help, but the clarity is a relief to everyone, eliminating the “static” and all that would get in the way of your call to action. When you concisely describe what you do, who you help and how, you convey a message of capability and competence, something on which to focus amidst the encroaching jungle of demands.

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What’s your headline?

Headlines help the reader decide whether to read or move on. You have a headline all your own if you are on LinkedIn. It’s just below your name, and may appear to be your current or former job title. That’s because the site populates your headline from your job experience section. You can make the most of this prime space and here’s how.

Didn’t know your headline could be edited? On your home page, choose “profile” and “edit profile.” Put the cursor on the words just below your name and single-click. The space turning blue is your cue to type your very own advertisement in the text box that appears to the right. If you edit your headline, the job title that was formerly your headline will appear in smaller letters below it.

Some headlines give a one-word profession: architect, attorney, Batman (just checking!). Assuming you aren’t the only one (like Batman is), try stating what you do and what’s unique about how you work: “Lamp repair and you pay nothing until it shines!”

Other headlines have it all: “applications programmer/senior analyst, radiology department, University of …” Stopped reading yet? I did.

My headline comes in at just under LinkedIn’s limit of 120 characters — check it out and browse your connections to find headlines that you like. LinkedIn will show you some as well if you click on “Show examples” below the text box where you edit your headline.

So how about taking two minutes to do this for yourself, not just the two seconds you usually allot to you and — supposedly — to every stop sign you meet!

If you’d like some free and confidential feedback on your new or prospective headline, send it to me in the comment section below or via LinkedIn’s inmail and I’ll respond. Consider it my Valentine’s Day gift to you.

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