Diversity in the workplace looks incredibly different depending on the industry and certainly location of the company, but if you’re paying any attention to some of loudest niche markets out there, and definitely those supporting entrepreneurs, you’ll see that women are getting more noise than ever.

While browsing for information about women and diversity in the workplace I stumbled across State of Startups; I found the results fascinating. Venture-firm First Round Capital produces an “annual survey where hundreds of venture-backed founders speak frankly about what it’s like running a technology startup today.” A Wired article points out some of the biases in the actual survey conducted as it notes that while they certainly asked a lot about diversity, they never gathered data on the ethnic breakdown of their own respondents. What I found most interesting about the results however was that startup founders believe that true progress when it comes to diversity is still well into the future, 10+ years. When you think of the big tech companies and the startup world, words like innovative, ground breaking, and spearheading come to mind. When it comes to diversity though, these founders overwhelmingly predicted that it will take 10+ years until the tech scene is representative of the general population. If tech and startups are where innovative practices are born, think of the missed opportunities and insight from women’s unique perspectives that could be leading this even stronger. How do we accelerate this?

With so much media focus on women and minority entrepreneurs and in tech, it’s curious to see such low optimism for diversity goals being met in the startup world. I think we’re lucky in Seattle. We’re surrounded by some incredible women-led groups with missions to support gender diversity like the Female Founders Alliance, entrepreneurial and programming-rich spaces like The Riveter, and programs like Companion Coding which introduces low-income minority youth to careers in tech by training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities. All of these Seattle-based companies don’t just have visions to support women and minority entrepreneurs, but are creating resources and spreading awareness about it as well.

At thinkspace we get to see women in tech thrive in their businesses. We see startup co-founders like Cassie Wallender of Invio and software engineers like Erin Fitzhenry of ToSomeone, and we host the Women in Tech Regatta, which gathers to connect wo(men) in tech to mentors, peers, and resources. In talking to Erin Fitzhenry about diversity in tech jobs and startups, she shared an interesting perspective about her experience as a woman in technology–she isn’t a fan of the term. Though she acknowledges her strength in her abilities, her interests lie in tech as a tool for solving problems rather than in the technology itself. That is sometimes in contrast with her male counterparts, especially ones who grew up gaming and got interested in the industry because of it. Erin noted that if schools, clubs, and parents focused on using technology as a tool to solve meaningful problems in the world, this might attract more girls to this concept at a younger age, helping fill the pipeline in the future.

Certainly we’re seeing more women and minorities as CEOs and in tech, but the growth rate according to this data points to the pipeline being underrepresented and unconscious biases during hiring. Entrepreneurs and companies always have room to do more to be inclusive but finding the resources to support that is crucial. Thinkspace partner New Tech NW has an incredible resource guide Diversity and Minorities in Tech which I highly recommend taking a look at if you’re interested in gaining resources or getting involved.

mug“Twenty years ago, you’d go to a company and they’d tell you your [career] route.  Today, it’s on you” (Jody Greenstone Miller, CEO of Business Talent Group).

You are your own boss.

People rarely get promoted because they wait to do what they are told.  No.  People get promoted because they have the “I’m my own boss” mentality.  They know that they can decide their own career path, so they take ownership over their skills.  They are open and adaptable.  They constantly look for ways to improve or change the way they work.  They try new things and think outside the box.  And most of all, they have learned to be agile.

Agility is a job skill that Miller states shows someone that will be successful, and quickly.

If you’re 50 years old or younger, you may already be familiar with agility (by force or choice).  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those 50 years old and younger will not only have 11 different jobs, but 11 different careers.

I guess when you’re your own boss, you know when to stay and when to go.

What do you all think?  How important is agility?

On LinkedIn there are millions of users but not all profiles are created equally. Many are a direct reflection of their resumes, but at a recent pilot event held in Capitol Hill, LinkedIn instructed the crowd  to think of their profile as a “living, breathing” way to get a new job, customer, or even volunteer opportunity. That can be accomplished by adding rich media, from pictures to videos to links of your work.

To help those in attendance achieve those goals LinkedIn brought together a panel of experts to speak about how LinkedIn has helped them grow their brand. It included: Peter Chee, CEO and chief pot stirrer at thinkspace; Carol Vecchio, founder of Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal; and Alexis Baird, Product Manager for Profile at LinkedIn. It’s the first time the San Francisco-based company held an event like this one. They chose Seattle because of the large number of startups here and the diversity of the city.

Personality Prevails – “Talk about what you are passionate about.”

LinkedIn panel

“People do business with people, not businesses,” Peter told the crowd. “Find ways to connect on a personal level.”

That wasn’t the only time the eager group of nearly 200 entrepreneurs, small businesses, and students were encouraged to show their personality especially on a professional website. Alexis explained the importance of sharing what you are passionate about. Adding your hobbies could lead to a professional ice breaker.

When talking about how LinkedIn has worked for him, Peter described what he called his “Alex from Target moment” a few months ago. It began with posting a long form blog on his LinkedIn page late one night titled “Questions To Ask Before Quitting Your Job To Work At A Startup.” It was part of an event promotion aimed at helping those wrestling with the same decision. Several hours later the post had 3,000 views and eventually ballooned to more than 92,000 views worldwide, hundreds of comments on LinkedIn, and it helped sell out the event. Peter said the post “created value” for the event, making it a bigger success than he initially anticipated. It’s the perfect example of using personal experience to connect with your audience.

Actionable Tips

So maybe you’re not an established business owner with an expansive network and more like me. I’m in the midst of changing the course of my career and need help with the transition. Peter provided other actionable tips.

For example, after meeting someone at a networking he suggests including “why you enjoyed the conversation” in your LinkedIn message. And don’t procrastinate.

Experts suggest:

1) Tailor your profile around what you want to be doing. It’s not necessary to list every job you’ve held.

2) Avoid job titles and use statements instead.

3) Show examples of your work whenever possible e.g. pictures, links, and presentations

The LinkedIn team also offered profile makeovers. I found this one-on-one time to be invaluable. Crystal Braswell offered me tailored tips that I utilized as soon as I got home. They included changing my profile picture because she said I looked younger in person. (Yikes!) The changes instantly made my page look better. I’ve already received positive feedback which let me know I was on the right track.

Crystal Braswell gets her makep done

Whether or not you think of yourself as being photogenic the experts say don’t ignore your profile picture. The LinkedIn team converted a small area into a professional photo shoot complete with make-up artist. All night this booth had a continuous line. Your profile picture is one of the first things people see and taking the time to ensure it’s representative of who you are is important.

LinkedIn photoshoot

By the end of the event I felt rejuvenated. Receiving usable tips and being in the company of others who are working on improving their digital footprint helped recharge my career batteries. Change isn’t always easy but events like #RockYourProfile showed me that improvement isn’t an insurmountable task.

Here are more Growth hacking with LinkedIn tips from Peter Chee.

Over the weekend, I blogged about why small business owners should consider hiring an intern. Here are a few more suggestions and resources for developing a successful internship program:

  • Figure out what type of internship you want to create. It’s important to be specific so your internship applicants are clear about what type of opportunity they are applying for. Ask your team what areas they need help with. Is it a marketing internship? Sales internship? Design internship? etc.
  • Decide what skills you are looking for in a potential intern. Remember, you’re recruiting students who have very little workplace experience. Therefore, you need to look for success in specific classes and campus involvement. For example, if you are hiring a marketing intern you may want to look for journalism students with fantastic writing skills. If you’re looking for a sales intern, you might want to look for students who have volunteered time fundraising for a non-profit. It’s important to read between the lines when looking at academic resumes.
  • Reach out to specific departments at your local university for  student recommendations. This is where your network comes in handy. Ask your employees who have graduated more recently for help. If you were involved with a greek organization in college, sending an email to your local chapter’s president or academic chair is a great first step.

[scribd id=56161715 key=key-117b16unrgoqwz71o7ln mode=list]

  • Check out InternMatch‘s slide deck on writing a great internship description:

[slideshare id=4510403&doc=042510pptfinal2251-100615174159-phpapp02]

For those of you who’ve had success hiring an intern for your small business, what resources were valuable to you?


social resume, linkedin, how to make a better linked in, salty waffle, social media, social media classes, linkedin resume, linkedin tips

Upwards of 80% of employers use LinkedIn at some point in their recruiting process and if you are looking for a job or fear you may be soon, you want to be a star on LinkedIn. (And for all you not looking for a job, pay attention, because these tips are good for growing you LinkedIn presence in general. The better social media influence you have, the better you are for promoting yourself or your company.)

Here are 5 steps to quickly push your LinkedIn profile into the limelight. If you take each of these steps and spend some quality time tending to your professional network, your profile is going to start looking a lot better very quickly. Don’t be one of those people with one connection and no picture!

  1. Recommend Someone: One of the underrated and underused features about LinkedIn are the professional recommendations. Even though it nags you constantly to try getting endorsed, most people aren’t. Take a few minutes and recommend someone you have worked with in the past. Once you are done, request that they recommend you. The chances for the request being honored go way up and you are on your way to being one of the very few on LinkedIn with multiple quality recommendations.
  2. Add Products & Services: LinkedIn recently added a new feature for company pages that allows you to post products and services. Simply go in and edit your company page (if you have the power) and populate the forms for products and services. Not only does this increase awareness for your products among your professional network, it makes it extremely easy to get quality reviews of those products and services. It’s still early, so get on it and reap the benefits of being one of a small number of companies taking advantage of this so far.
  3. Join Groups: There is a movement on LinkedIn toward open groups and this is great if you want to meet professionals with similar interests. Find some groups that apply to your industry or that you are interested in and join them. Post in a group one time for the next five days. We’d be really surprised if no one from the group responded or ended up looking at your profile.
  4. Link Twitter: Not totally sure when this happened, but LinkedIn has a little section on the main bio for your Twitter handle. It adds a live link to your Twitter page and makes it easy for someone to find and add you there. Believe it or not, there are many job applications that have ‘Twitter handle’ as a required field.
  5. Add ‘Sections’: Another new LinkedIn feature can be found right under your main bio section and before your summary. Click on the ‘Add Sections’ button to bring up a host of different content you can now easily display on your profile. Anything from patents, to certifications, to languages. It’s a really nice way to make your profile richer and display some of your work alongside the regular resume type information.

Take a few minutes every day to log in to LinkedIn. After you add people you know, look through their contacts and add even more that you probably know as well. Post one thing a day on your profile and one thing in any group you have joined and try out the 5 steps above. Watch your profile views jump and your network start to look really legit. Check out who is viewing your profile and reach out to them to connect further, especially if you’re looking for a job.

It’s still fairly easy to set yourself apart on LinkedIn, while at the same time, there are probably a ton of people you know already on it. The days of boring paper resumes are dying out. The job search is going social and with LinkedIn you can be ready. If you want to learn more about leveraging LinkedIn for personal use or business use, talk to us about one of our social media classes. Have a great week and enjoy some quality time with LinkedIn, it will absolutely pay off one day.

If you are struggling with writing a business plan or executive summary, you are not alone. Writing a business plan is supposed to be hard. But, don’t give up! There are critical reasons why you would want to write a business plan and I’m going to share just three of those critical reasons with you. A complete business plan can be a great tool to help you gain the necessary funding for your idea, complete the actions needed to start your business, and then keep your focus once everything is up and running.

A Sales Tool: You may need to gain outside financing to start your business. If you do, then a business plan is a great tool to help you convince investors to hop on board. A well- written business plan can also serve to sell even friends and family members on your idea and it’s chance for success. It might also serve to help you convince yourself to get going. Creating a business plan requires you to engage in a rigorous process that will help you ensure that your business will be a viable venture.

A Call to Action: A business plan can help propel you to take action, to engage, to participate. Many people think about starting their own business for years but shy away from the idea because the process seems too large or complicated. A business plan helps you break up the large task of starting a business into smaller, more manageable tasks. By solving this sequence of smaller problems, you will eventually solve the big one.

A Compass: Once you have started your business, your business plan can be an invaluable tool to keep you on track. It can be all too easy to get distracted by the  day to day tasks of running your own business. There will always be many matters that need your attention making it very easy to lose sight of your main objections. Your business plan can help keep you focused and remind you as to what your priorities should be.

When you saw the title of this article, what came to mind? That was actually a trick question for anyone other than the soloprenuer. If you are a soloprenuer, your best asset might be a “what.” But, for the rest of us – your best asset is probably a “who.”Earlier this year, Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft would be raising employee salaries as a part of an overall revamp of its employee review and compensation system. This shift is proof of Microsoft’s attempt to protect their best asset – their people. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some of the best known web companies from the Bay Area –  including Zygna, Salesforce, Google and Facebook are opening satellite offices in Seattle in order to tap the region’s pool of software engineering talent. Though companies like Microsoft can offer comparable compensation packages, the news doesn’t bode well for local start ups.

So, I am here to put a little bug in your ear. I’m not telling you to go and give each of your employees a 15% raise, but I am reminding you to keep your best people at the forefront of your mind. Make them a part of a mission that is bigger than themselves and more important than their yearly salary.

Starting your own company can be a daunting task. Thinking about the expenses can be the most overwhelming part. Hiring employees can be one of the most expensive hurdles that you will have to overcome as a new business owner. But, you are in luck! There are alternatives to traditional hiring that can help you get that start up going. The options include outsourcing, internships, compensation plans or any combination of the three.

As a start up, hiring your first employee is a monumental hurdle. Not only is finding the right person a difficult task, but an employee’s salary could be your largest monthly expense. The National Association of Colleges and Employers released its annual summer salary survey this week. The report revealed that the starting salary for recent college grads has gone up by more than $2,300 per year. (Read details in the Puget Sound Business Journal.)

3 Ways Save on Employee Salaries

1. Outsource The Work: Outsourcing has become a very popular way to get things done on the cheap. Sites like O-desk and Elance, have made outsourcing work very simple and easy to monitor. The only work that you have to do is coming up with clear instructions for what you want done and then hiring the applicant that seems the most promising. Both sites take out most of the guess work for you by rating the applicants, monitoring the work being done and handling the payments.
2. Offer Internships: I’ve always been a big fan of win-wins and internships offer just that. Intern programs are a great way to get a lot of work completed in a short amount of time. Interns will need a bit of training on your company culture and products, but it can often be worth the time spent. Most interns will be grateful to be getting some real world experience and many will also receive college credit for the position.
3. Competitive Compensation Plans: If an employee is looking for a higher salary and is at all involved in the sales of the business, offer him or her a better compensation package. This way, you are only paying the employee more if he or she preforms well. Most employees will see this as a fair trade and will work hard to achieve their financial goals.