Chuck Gose: Here’s something I want to share straight away. One of the coolest things ever is when you’re at a public event and someone asks military veterans to stand up. And so this is my chance to do that for you. Outside of seeing your LinkedIn profile, I don’t think many people know you’re a military veteran. And I want you to be recognized for your service.
Angee Linsey: Thank you. That’s super nice. I served in the Army and Army National Guard as an enlisted member. My job was a print journalist. And then I got commissioned in the Navy Reserve and became a Public Affairs Officer and retired in 2007. I had a great time doing some really cool work and working with some amazing communications professionals.
"My job was to build an internal communications program for the family members on the small Navy Support Station. "
CG: Is there one experience in particular that stands out?
AL: More than one — but I’ll say one really interesting challenge was right after 9/11/2001. I was recalled to active duty and sent to the Sixth Fleet in Gaeta, Italy. I confess, that did not suck! We weren’t in Afghanistan or Iraq yet. My job was to build an internal communications program for the family members on the small Navy Support Station. (They didn’t have one and so when the ship went out to sea right after the attack, families didn’t have information.) I created a multiple pronged approach to ensure communications got to family members. The program was strong enough we were able to create a full time position for a communications person to come on full time and keep it running.
CG: And thinking back to the early 2000s, technology was somewhat archaic to what we have access to today.
AL: So true. We barely were able to email people back then. No website. Plus the challenge of confidential information.
CG: And then you did what everyone does when they retire from the military. You go and work for Starbucks as a recruiter. How did that happen?
AL: Well, actually, the military was a part time job because I was a reservist. I moved out of being a full time communications pro in the mid 1990s and started recruiting while in graduate school for Career Development. I had this idea that the skills were similar — I ask questions, listen, tell stories. Now I just do it for candidates and companies. The Starbucks gig was an awesome opportunity to move to Seattle and do recruiting operations, but it turned out that it was a job that played to none of my strengths. I’m a “front of the house” person. I like helping hiring managers figure out what they truly need when hiring, and then finding great people who would fit that role. Thus, I left Starbucks and started Linsey Careers.
CG: When I worked at Rolls-Royce, everybody asked if I got a free one. And of course, I didn’t. But did you get free Starbucks drinks?
AL: We got a free pound of coffee every week as an employee. The bummer is I didn’t really drink coffee!
CG: Now that’s funny. I do drink coffee but I go “off menu” when I order at Starbucks. I’m fancy like that.
AL: Of course you do.
"I encourage great candidates to nurture relationships with recruiters in their specialty because it may be tomorrow that we get that 'perfect job', or it may be in six months or even a year down the road."
CG: At Linsey Careers, you’re not recruiting on the side of candidates per se. You’re more on the corporate side helping them find the right candidates. Is that correct?
AL: That’s a really good question because I think candidates often get frustrated because they have a different expectation of recruiters. Recruiting firms are always hired by companies to help them hire for specific roles. We have a great role and will reach out to those candidates we know (or want to know) to find the right match. So we absolutely help candidates when we have roles that are a match. I encourage great candidates to nurture relationships with recruiters in their specialty because it may be tomorrow that we get that 'perfect job', or it may be in six months or even a year down the road. You have a long career ahead of you, and building a long term relationship with someone like me can mean great career moves down the road.
CG: But I’m curious, as a recruiter, do you like to talk with communicators who are actively looking for a new role OR are you better off talking to someone who’s completely happy in their role but perhaps later might be inclined to make a change?
AL: It’s not an either/or for me. I like talking to great communications talent all the time. Like I said, you never know when that ideal match is going to be there. So I always set the expectation that if I’m working on something that is a match in that moment — let’s talk about it! But also, remember that it may not be immediate.
Let me give you two quick examples: I had lunch or coffee with a Vice President level candidate every three or four months for two years. One day, I called him up and he ended up being the new SVP Comms for a great client in California. Another person was referred to me by a former candidate I had worked with. He had a very specialized background and skill set and I really prepared him for the fact that I may not have the ideal role for him. Literally, two days later, I had the ideal role and we put him into the interview process immediately. You never know!
"...often a company comes to us because they are really looking for a very specific communications skill set. So we go out and find it."
CG: How wide of a net do you cast looking for someone?
AL: Typically we pull from some known and some new candidates when starting a search. We also, of course, use LinkedIn to find some new candidates who may be a fit. We also have a large group of people we get referrals from. Word of mouth is very important. However, we don’t always post every job. So often a company comes to us because they are really looking for a very specific communications skill set. So we go out and find it. Which means, we talk to A LOT of people!
CG: Let’s get to LinkedIn. For some reason, it’s a bit of a punching bag for communicators. They love to complain about it. But I think it’s because they’re not putting the effort in to understand it and take advantage of it. What are some mistakes you see communicators making with LinkedIn?
AL: Communications professionals have such an amazing opportunity on LinkedIn. As a recruiter, it’s important for me to stay on top of who is where and the types of career moves people are making. But for other communicators — you have the opportunity to share your work! It’s a platform that is built for marketing the projects you’ve done and sharing great ideas with your network — it’s a fantastic way to be known for the quality of work you produce.
CG: Also, I hate it when LinkedIn profiles are in the third person. It’s your profile - own it.
AL: I totally agree! It’s a place where you can let your personality come through — unlike a resume. And you don’t have to bullet out every single accomplishment. Invite people to get to know you with a bit about the work you’ve done and build from there.
CG: And if people haven’t Googled their own name, they should. The odds are your LinkedIn profile will show up at the top. For me, it’s #1.
AL: Me too. But I’d like to touch on that Google yourself thing. On more than one occasion I have had a client Google a candidate and find information that was a deal breaker. Make sure you know what’s out there about you.
CG: And so what if a communicator/candidate finds out there is something out there that isn’t good. What should they do?
AL: Well, if it’s truth, then share the backstory with the recruiter so that they can mitigate any concern before it comes up. If it’s untrue, then do what you can to get it cleaned up. Trust is so essential in the recruiter/candidate relationship. My goal is to make sure the hiring leader gets all the info they need to make a good hiring decision, but on the flip side, also to make sure the candidate gets all the info needed to make a good career choice.
CG: Earlier you brought up resumes. Simple question. Why are they still a thing?
AL: This is only my theory, so no holding me to this as fact, but old habits die hard. It’s a concise document that gives someone a quick summary of what you’ve done, your education, etc. People need a place to start. But remember, and I recently blogged about this — resumes may only get a six-second glance before a decision is made regarding your candidacy. Make sure you have what is needed and the rest is about how you tell your story.
CG: And what gets looked at in those 6 seconds?
AL: I timed myself and evaluated what I do after reading the 6 second article a couple of years ago. I look at the profile or summary— how are you positioning yourself overall? Then I look at job titles, companies and dates— do you have a solid work history? Are you the right level for the role I’m working on? And I check education — especially if it’s required for the position. If I like what I see, I go back and start reading it further.
CG: I assume this is the exact type of conversation a candidate should have with a recruiter.
AL: I actually do get questions from candidates about how they are coming across in their resume, LinkedIn profile, and our interviews. I have a natural propensity toward giving unsolicited career advice, so I try to give an honest assessment. My theory is that if I treat every candidate with respect, they may be a good candidate for a future search, or they may hire me to help them build their team!
"For people who read [cover letters], they are important. But remember, not everyone will read them."
CG: And what about cover letters? Is this part of the “old habits” system?
AL: For people who read them, they are important. But remember, not everyone will read them.
CG: In addition to helping companies find their next communication superstar, you’re also writing a book. Tell me about it.
AL: I am! It’s super exciting and challenging. Because I am constantly talking to communications leaders, I notice that there are some themes for people in that 10-15+ years of experience who are looking to move into the executive ranks.
Sometimes making the leap from leader to executive can be difficult for reasons that may be self imposed or because of the types of opportunities available. I interviewed 12 prominent communications executives about their career journeys and I’m putting together a book that is geared toward helping comms leaders manage their careers in a way that helps them achieve that goal of moving to the executive level.
CG: You might very likely tell me to read the book, but I’m curious if there are some common themes or threads through the interviews.
"Don’t wait until you’re a director of communications to raise your head up and say, 'Dang — I haven’t really built up a good network because I’ve been too busy doing my job!'"
AL: Several themes came out for sure. First of all, there is not one path! Every executive had a windy road, which I think should be encouraging! Also, the need for really strong business acumen — knowledge of the business, the financials, speaking the language of the business is how you earn trust at the top. And finally, really understanding that it’s not just about your skills.
You need mentors and champions to help you along the way. That’s a huge one! I blog about this all the time. The time to really build those trusted advisors for your own career is early and often. Don’t wait until you’re a director of communications to raise your head up and say, “Dang — I haven’t really built up a good network because I’ve been too busy doing my job!” It may be too late.
CG: What are the qualities communicators should look for in mentors and advisors?
AL: You can find both formally and informally. First, when you encounter people you respect professionally, don’t be afraid to express that in a way that is appropriate and genuine. You can ask for someone to mentor you, but often the relationship evolves and you don’t even have to ask. But you do need to be deliberate! I had one of my interviewees tell a story of how he invited a junior colleague to lunch because he saw great promise in the person’s skills. The junior colleague blew him off THREE TIMES! Clearly, a missed opportunity!
But don’t be afraid to ask for that potential mentor for advice, take them to coffee, share your career vision with them. See if they have any suggestions. And then always say thank you. Respect their time, but don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll be surprised how many people will say yes.
CG: Here’s a misstep I think some communicators make in their search. They only look to senior professionals. Do you think advisors and mentors can be younger?
AL: You have a good point. First, age isn’t the criteria, but how the person manages their own career may be a good place to determine if the person could be a good mentor. And people can teach you things at every level. I know I’m working with someone on how I market my own business and she’s younger because she is a digital native (and I have a lot to learn)!
CG: I think we all do. What did you learn from your 12 interviews?
AL: The first thing I learned was how every leader I reached out to for the book interviews enthusiastically said yes because they are passionate about helping build future leaders. I was thrilled that they all see this as a worthwhile topic and they wanted to participate. So it goes back to the “don’t be afraid to ask” statement.
CG: What’s the timeline for publishing the book?
AL: By answering this, I’m essentially committing! My goal is to be published by early fall.
CG: Holding you to it! We’re going to wrap this up the way I’ve done every Chuck Chat. Describe your thoughts about internal communications... via an emoji.
AL: 🍾 My favorite emoji is also good for internal comms - because it’s all about celebrating employees!
CG: That’s perfect. We should always celebrate. Thanks for the time Angee!
AL: Thank you!