How I Got Hired

124. Donna Serdula: From Sales to Writing the 'LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies' Guide

December 17, 2023
How I Got Hired
124. Donna Serdula: From Sales to Writing the 'LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies' Guide
Show Notes Transcript

I’ve talked so much about LinkedIn on the show, and have brought quite a few personal branding and LinkedIn experts on here as well. My next guest however, is different. Donna Serdula is a LinkedIn Expert, speaker and author who wrote the Dummies guide… LinkedIn Profile Optimisation for Dummies. In this episode, we are going to learn directly from Donna on her own career and Powerful Positioning tips to Elevate & Accelerate Your Career.

Follow Donna on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/todonna/
Donna's websites:
https://www.linkedin-makeover.com/
https://visionboardmedia.com/
Donna's Book here.
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 Hey there. Welcome to tHe How I Got Hired podcast. I'm your host Sonal Bahl, former HR director and founder of Supercharge. And I've had an insane corporate career that started in India, then moved to South America and then to Europe, often working only in Spanish or French. 

Why do I call my career insane? Because.    📍   While I've had the privilege of working across geographies and industries like consulting, mining, chemicals, food, telecom, without a work visa, without any local network, during big fat recessions, and often while being a new mom, To one of my two kids, I've seen career heartbreak and multiple layoffs as well. 

As a career strategist, I strongly believe that a fulfilling career is a birthright and not a privilege for the lucky few who have access to prestigious education. Capital and networks. I'm now on a mission to democratize access to high value career advice by designing affordable digital courses with my YouTube channel.

And yes, this podcast right here, where we learn together from ordinary people like you and me and how they created extraordinary career success. Now let's get you ready to get supercharged. Let's go. 

Hey, welcome back. I have talked about. LinkedIn. So many times on the show  and I've brought in quite a few personal branding and LinkedIn experts here as well.  My next guest, however, is different. And what do I mean? Dhanar Sirdula is a LinkedIn expert, speaker and author who wrote the original Dummies Guide.

You know, the dummies, engineering for dummies, marketing for dummies. Finance for dummies. She has written LinkedIn profile optimization for dummies.  That is pretty much like the Bible on all things LinkedIn profile. And in this episode, what we're going to do is learn directly from Donna, not just about LinkedIn, but also about her own career,  powerful positioning tips to elevate and accelerate your career.

We are talking about my love language. I am so excited. Donna, very warm. Welcome to the show.  

Oh, thank you so much for having me, Sunil. I appreciate it. This is 

fabulous.  I'm thrilled that we've been able to do this. And without further ado, Donna, let's get into it. I want to talk about your career, essentially in two parts. 

The first part was when you worked in companies and these last 14 odd years, when you started your own company, Vision Board Media, and we'll talk about that in a bit. So talk to us about this sort of first half.  You were at CCC. You learned the ropes. You did so many things. You did sales. You did ops. You did client services.

Let's learn how did you get hired there? You know, that very first time. I know it's, I know it's been a while, but let's talk about that journey, how it started. And then what made you leave? 10 years later, because that is not easy. That can be like a divorce for some people. Right. And, and you don't just leave on a lark.

You, you, you have to put some thought into it after a decade. So yeah, 

let's talk about that. I like to be. Like, as honest as the day is long here. So perfect.  You know, I, I was in, when I was in college, I had visions of working in film,  you know, being somehow involved in moviemaking. That was this vision that I had for myself.

I did not know that very few people know that, but that's, that was something I was very much. I just.  I Was, I actually interned under M. Night Shyamalan and he made one of his very first movies was Wide Awake. And I was an intern on that movie. And it really opened my eyes to what it takes to, to do that.

And it's, it's not easy. It's not easy. So, you know, as I, I got out of school and I'm trying to figure out what I want to do.  It was nepotism. It was pure nepotism that got me into CCC  because my father worked there and he hired me and I worked alongside my dad. And we, I worked with him for about a year.

Gosh, four years, three years. Just, you know, almost like as his assistant, as his you know, I mean, it really went from being next in charge to like basically being his partner. And then in 1999, that was when  you remember this, I'm sure you remember the big Y2K issue. Oh, yes. And they're the software that we were supporting.

We were selling was DOS based.  And we had to get everybody in the country. Did you just say 

MS DOS? That is a blast from the past. Okay. 

Oh my gosh. And we had to get, we had to get all of these, these, all of our users to upgrade to Windows.  And, oh, my gosh, can I just tell you, like, they didn't want it.

They did not want it. I, I was convincing them, like, this is a mouse and it's, it's your friend.  Like this was insane. Oh, my gosh. So,  you know, but once I, you know, became an employee of CCC at that point, then, you know, my father was no longer really a part of it at that point. He, he shortly retired. And then.

You know, it was  just going through those ropes, learning everything about corporate. And you know, it ended with me they put me in charge of a customer care department, like building it up merging these three different departments into one. And, you know, it was in gosh,  2006, I think  that I was laid off.

Okay. Okay. Okay. That was, that was  it wasn't as scary as I thought,  you know, after spending 10 years doing that,  um, it wasn't, it wasn't that scary. I think, I think a lot of people are, are scared of something like that happening, but  When it happens, you start to say, wait, there's something bigger and better out there for me.

Yes. Beautiful, beautiful. I'm going to pause you here because there's a lot that you shared that I think we need to double click on. First of all,  Manoj Nightsharmony, like, so Going from that to a proper company with a proper job and a desk, were you kind of at any point like, Oh,  I wonder what Manoj is doing today?

Like, you know, like, did you miss it? Or did you just kind of go right in?  

No, I went right into it because, you know, to work in film, it's, it's not easy. And it's, it's,  there's no stability to it. And You know, I wasn't,  I didn't want to move to Hollywood. I didn't want to move to New York City. I was very happy in Philadelphia.

So it was one of those things where I, I think I had to make, I had a, I had to recognize, wait, there's, you know, I like to watch movies. Do I want to make movies? Yes. Right. And there's a very big difference there, but oddly enough, a lot of the things that I loved. About that, you know, was, you know, and I, I do it now with podcasting, with creating how to videos with, you know, interviewing people, like so much of what I learned.

I've, I, I moved to what I'm doing now. So even though at that time, it might've felt a little bit like, Ooh, I don't, I can't say that it felt like a failure. It didn't, but it felt like,  wait, did I make a mistake? Like, am I doing the right thing? But the truth was everything along the way led me to where I, where I am now.

But it led me to that point in 2009, where I said to myself,  I know I have something to give. And I know I have, you know, value to provide and I'm going to start my own company to do it in the manner that I want to do it.  

Exactly. Exactly. I love that with the gift of hindsight, you're able to look back with, so, you know, with, with health, like it's a healthy, it's a health, healthy distance and yeah, never say never Donna Serdulla Productions.

It's a different form than what you expected, but it's still there. It's multimedia, vision board, everything. So I love this. And the other thing I wanted to talk about is nepotism. It's, which sounds like a horrible, dirty word, but we have modern words for it today. Employee referral program.  You know, it's completely normal.

Yes. Within the family, if you bring in someone. Why the heck not? I mean, when ultimately it comes down to talent, it comes down to  one little nudge to get your foot in the door. But right after that, you're saying your dad retired and it was all up to you. If you weren't good, you wouldn't be there 10 years, right?

So there are people, including clients of mine who shy away from asking family and close friends for, for referrals. I'm like, if those connections and that quality network is sitting right. in front of your nose.  It's there for a reason. Now, if they say no, that's okay. But there shouldn't be a regret that you didn't ask or you didn't try. 

Oh, I agree totally. And I, I, I say that to a lot of, you know, to everyone, like, who do you know? How can you get the foot in the door? Who can you ask for help? People want to help you. You know, and it's, and as long as you're not lying about your abilities, as long as you're not, you know, just resting on the laurel of, Oh, you know, they brought me in and I don't have to do anything or I don't deserve this, this spot, but Hey, if someone can help you open up that door a little bit, ask 

for that help.

It is. And there is sometimes fake humility involved. No, but I want to get there on my own merit. That's fine. But what is wrong with, with like, literally, it's like using your education. If you have a good name of a brand on your, you know, a company or a college, what's wrong with leveraging that? And the network is exactly the same.

So I'm glad that you did that. So it sounds like, you know, you went in and you kind of went with the flow. You were told, Donna, you're in sales today. Donna, you're in customer service tomorrow. And you were like, Oh, okay. And that's what you did. And you, you, you know, you were shining at every opportunity until, 

but I was not the captain.

I was not the captain. I was not directing my career at that point. 

And I want to,  and I'm so glad you said that. And I want to say this because I always talk about the car as like, you know, the career, the word career has the word car in it. And we say, you're the driver of, are you the driver or the passenger?

I've been the passenger for the first. 10, 15 years. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it. There's a lot of people who  you'd have these motivational Pinterest and YouTube and, you know, courts, and you have to be the driver, you know, in the beginning, it's all right to be a passenger. You, you have a better view, you have less stress.

And life's different. So it's when you don't like where the car is going, then stop complaining and then get in the driver's seat. But what's wrong once in a while with being a passenger? Cause I do hear judgment when people talk about, yeah, I wasn't the CEO of my career. We're not supposed to be at every step of the way.

Cause that's exhausting,  stressful, tiring stuff. Do you know what I mean? 

Absolutely. But I think it's important. I think there's some people who get in that passenger seat and they don't even recognize that they can get out, walk around and, and, and, and drive, drive that career to wherever they want to go.

And, and so, you know, I think when I look back at that period in my life,  No one taught me those things. No, no. You know, I, I, I didn't learn it from, from school. I didn't learn it from my career department at college. You know, my father was in sales and he taught me a lot about, you know, building a, you know, a book of business and, you know, talking to people, you know, that type of thing.

But he never explained to me how to navigate.  You know, promotions and, and pivots and, and that type of thing. Yeah. And, and so for the first 10 years, I just, you know, I did what I thought I was supposed to do, which was, Oh, you have a project for me. Oh, there's a problem to solve. Oh, you need a solution. Let me just jump in and get it done.

I was never at any point going, wait, is this the right next step for my career? I never thought that. I 

understand. And I think going back to that car and, and driver analogy, I think it's important once in a while to. Stop at a gas station, fuel up, and the GPS may be taking you somewhere where you don't want to go.

And you always have the agency to choose direction, right? Which what you're, what you're, what you're sharing is very relatable, Donna. A lot of us have been through this and the awareness is the first step. Right. Being aware of what we talked about. So, and I love that. And the last thing you said was, was the layoff, which honestly, I did not expect you to say, so it's completely out of the blue happens like  plenty of times. 

No, I've been laid off three times and I talk about it openly and I think there is a stigma and the only way to destigmatize this topic is to talk about it because the, the, the primary perception is if you get laid off, something is wrong with you,  um, which isn't the case ever. Ever accept misconduct or, you know, integrity issues.

That's different. But here you get laid off. So what we're talking is this 2006, right?  What is your, where is your head space at, at the time? Is this a shock for you? And what is the next move you 

make?  You know, it was a bit of a shock. I think I saw some of the writing on the wall because  I, I, I almost painted myself into a corner.

There really wasn't any more, any more places for me to go or anything else to do. So I, I now looking back, I can kind of see  It really shouldn't have been the shock that it was. What was shocking to me was after 10 years with that company, because even, you know, when I was working for my dad, we were still working for CCC.

So even though, you know, I wasn't working directly for them. I was still very much. You know, a part of the company at that point in time. So it was a full 10 years. And I remember getting the call from my, my boss.  And she said, she, I I'm like, Oh, Hey, Chris, how's it going? She's like, your job has been eliminated, eliminated.

I'm passing the phone to HR. 

Like that Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. 

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was so cold.  That was, was what was shocking to me. It was like, I gave you 10 years and you, like, that's how you're going to lay me off. That was a huge, that was one of those moments where it was like, wait a minute. 

Hmm.  And, but what I remember the most at that time was I felt, I felt this weird elation.  It wasn't fear. It was, it was almost elation. I felt buoyed. I felt,  wait,  I needed this. I needed this.  Because I would have stayed there forever.  I was very comfortable. I was well paid. I enjoyed what I was doing. I would have stayed there forever.

So when I felt that kick, it actually in my head, I went, this is what I needed. I'm so glad now I can do something else. I can figure out where I want to go and do what I want to do. And it was at that point that I decided to get into sales because I'd been in, you know, everything else, but sales, but it was what my father.

Yeah. Had originally what he was teaching me was  the sales process and how to sell. So I thought, you know what? I'm going to get back into sales.  And  you know, I had, I had, I had started a LinkedIn profile already. It was in  2005 that I joined when they, when that, when they laid me off, I remember going back in and kind of fiddling a little bit with my profile.

Not much. But I went to monster. com and that's, I didn't, I was not using my network. I just put up my resume and I just waited for recruiters to reach out to me. And this company did, and they were like, Hey, you know, you mind cold calling? I was like, no, I can, I can call her. They're like, okay, you're hired. 

Next thing I know, I'm in New York city working in a sales sweat room. One of those sweatshops. Like, 

no, it's not a real sweatshop. What were you, what were you selling? 

We were selling AutoCAD, AutoCAD software to architects and engineers. It was me in this, like, tiny little room with, like, five other guys, and they had spittoons on their desk, and they'd spit their Oh my god!

They're chewing 

tobacco. You could technically have done this job from home, right? If you had the equipment, but they wanted you physically there. It's that mindset.  

Oh, well, you know, the truth is they then built me in a an office in, in Philadelphia. So I worked in New York to sort of cut my teeth and learn the ropes.

And then they, they put me into this, a beautiful office in Philadelphia. And at that point there was like, there was no spittoons. I'm like, no guys, thank you. 

Thank you. That is a visual. That's the New York office. That is the visual. You cannot unsee a New Yorker.  Spitting and a spittoon right next to my lovely podcast guest today.

Oh my God. But you stayed Donna. You didn't quit.  

I did not quit. I stayed. And that was, that was by far probably one of the best learning lessons I ever had because I learned, I learned, you know, how to, how to build that book of business, how to create relationships, how to absolutely like bury myself into the industry.

You know, just, it was, it was amazing. And it was through that period of time that I started to recognize a lot of the keys that I use today. It was, you know, as I was cold calling and trying to forge these relationships, I was always Googling people's names. I was always seeing their LinkedIn profile. 

Then there was that day where I was like, wait, if. I hate all of these profiles that I'm seeing. Nothing is telling me anything about the person. How am I presenting myself? And, and it started, you know, I would, would light bulb  epiphany epiphany went off. And, and I remember even  Talking to people, you know, like making my cold calls and they say, Oh, Don, you know what?

I forgot about you. I, I just ended up Googling and, and, you know, you're the competitor came up in search. So I just went with them.  Like it was like, wait, I wasn't popping. I wasn't calling enough. I wasn't on top. 

That  hurt me. That hurts physically to hear that. Oh God. Oh, it 

was horrible. But all of these things started to, and Oh, the other thing was I was selling the exact same. 

product, the same software as my competitor.  And so when you're selling, when you're a reseller and you're selling the exact same thing as your competitor, how are you going to differentiate yourself? You differentiate yourself through yourself. You know, you're the reason that a person is going to say, you know what?

I want to work with Donna versus so and so. All of these things came together for me and I was able to apply them to all of those years in corporate.  And that's, that was  when I decided, you know what,  I got to do this myself. I got to help people. I got to shine the light and, and help them understand the importance of their brand, the importance of their LinkedIn profile, the importance of taking control over their career, the importance of their network and strategic relationships.

All of those things came together for me. Wow. 

And I want to, this is a, this is such a chunky story. Oh my gosh. I'm going back to the spittoon. You didn't have to,  you didn't have to.  Oh my God. There's lots of calling and I kind of get, I get it. Hygiene factors aside, but what about you? These are all men.

What about you? You didn't have to spit or you didn't have to kind of like, you know, swallow or nothing like that. You were, you were fine. Just, you know, with your lady like speaking ability. 

Yeah. I, I went to a woman's college, so I think having that in my background that, you know,  I didn't like. Yeah. It was not, I, I had my blinders on.

I knew what I wanted to do. Yeah. And, and honestly, those, those, those guys. In that room with me,  two of them are clients of mine. Now they too got out of that, you know, that, that sweatshop environment. They, they were good guys, you know, and they were, they were, they were surviving because when you're dialing for dollars,  that's hard.

It is, it's not 

easy. It takes, it 

is. Yeah. It takes a certain type of person. And Hey, if you know, if showing the tobacco, you know, cause they couldn't smoke, if that helped them.  

Sure. Hey, sure. Sure. Who are we to judge? I, I, I love this. I have had so many, I brought in so many salespeople on the show and everyone, myself included, we've got our teeth with you know, these guests and, and you as well with a cold calling.

And door to door. I used to sell ad sales and I don't talk about it a lot because it was a long time ago and I couldn't, I didn't last in the sense that I didn't enjoy it. If there's two types of people who can survive, it's the door to door you know, sales and, and phone call, right? Which is very similar to door to say, and someone else told me this once  Mormons.  

I wasn't expecting you to say that.

Exactly. I knew I 

was like, They live with no all the time. They live with a door being slammed on their face all the time, and they're completely okay with it. And they keep going because they're so mission driven. I'm like, wow, that's tenacious. That's the sort of resilience, the tenacious and the grit that we need in every. 

Depth in our career because it's so much easier to just give up. So I, I love this story. And 

I, I also feel there's another part to it too, which is just the whole idea of sales. And I think what a lot of people struggle with is when you are going through job search, you're selling yourself. 

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. 

Oh yeah. All the time. Every, every, every touch  is, is, is sales. So I, I completely heard this and we're  This is a great segue for 2009. 2009 is a pivotal moment,  uh, in your career, Donna. And I want to talk about this because it's not just a pivotal moment in your career, but it's also the macro economics, right?

We had the giant financial crisis of 2009. And that is the year you go ahead and decide to start your company.  Vision Board Media, right? And it's recognized as the pioneer of LinkedIn profile optimization.  And this is the agency that executives turn to for professional  And employer branding. So that is amazing. And I want to talk about, so it's been 14 years and if I'm not wrong, you've got 24 writers  on your team  who have direct experience in so many different, so many different spheres, whether it's, you know, architecture, retail, automotive, insurance, media, finance, IT, HR, et cetera, healthcare, pharma. 

So let's talk about  the origin. Let's talk about how it started. Because it started with one idea and one lightbulb moment that Donna had, and then obviously snowballed and culminated into everything it's today. But let's talk about the early months and years and what they were like,  and how did you land  paid clients?

How did you land consistent income? Because that is the oxygen that every single company  needs in order to survive and thrive. So let's talk about that.  Yeah, so 

I, I will say this, you know, I was, I was not married. I didn't have any kids. I was living on my own. And I think that offered. Me a lot of autonomy. 

It would be different now that I'm married and I have kids.  I don't know if I would have been able to  do it once. It's very hard. It's not impossible, but I know that, you know, it, it did give me a level of privilege. When I, when I decided to start out, it really was, you know, I wanted someone to help me with their, with my LinkedIn profile.

And because I saw that.  You know, it's, it's not just a resume and you need to write about yourself. But when I would sit down to write, try to write about myself, you know, everything else seemed much more attractive to me. I mean, I would be scrubbing my kitchen floor because I didn't want to write about myself.

And and so I kept thinking like, wait, if it's hard for me, it's hard for other people. And, and, and, but this is such an important task, you know, they, there's a need for a person to help you. You know, be that sounding board to be that writer to do this, you know, and to draw the right information out, but also  how, how to do it in the right way.

Right. Because LinkedIn wasn't offering any assistance at that time. It was just  throw your resume in there. That'll be good enough,  but it wasn't. So,  you know, I had all of this idea, you know, I, I registered the domain linkedinmakeover. com. I, I luckily. You know, I was always very technical. So for me to, to create a website was easy. 

You know, none of that was very hard for me. It was something that I just always I'd been doing forever. And it was funny because I remember for so long when I was working at CCC, I used to think, I wish I had some marketable tasks. And at the time I was, you know, designing websites and doing all of these things.

I never thought that that would be a need other people would. You know, would have, you know, but it was a strength that I had that I didn't recognize. So at any rate, I  you know, I start the website and I remember  nothing came in, not a single sale came in and I was blogging and, you know, just doing as much as I could.

I was speaking about it. Not a single order came through. 

How long, how long did this go on?  Three 

months.  It was three months 

from when I registered. Three months of silence, three months of silence, and behind the scenes work that you are doing to publicly talk about it. But you're, you're getting crickets in response.

Crickets.  I remember I was at my mother's house and I was scrolling through and I got an email that said $99 was just deposited into your PayPal account.  And I was like,  could that be  ? It didn't even dawn on me that it was my first sale.  Oh, wow.  So that's how it started, you know, it was just, 

they find you randomly, it was 

just through Google.

It was through Google. They found me through Google. They, they paid the 99 bucks and you know, I wrote them a LinkedIn profile. It was very transactional back in the early days, you know, it was one here, one there, and it just, it just was very slow in coming.  But, you know, it was, it just kept building and building and building and I remember it was in 2012 that I brought on my first two writers.

And at that point, that's when I said, you know, it can't be.  transactional. We need to make it much more consultative. And the one writer who she's still with me, she was the one that said, you know, if, if this has any staying power, it's not that it's can't, it has to, it can't be transactional. It has to be transformational.

And we have to absolutely live and die by customer service. Like that is going to be. What we're going to like right in there, we're going to care about our clients. We're going to do everything we can to make them happy. We're going to service them beyond anything they've ever expected. And we're always going to be there for them.

And  I remember saying, gosh, that's, that's a lot of work. That's  going to be hard, 

but without, without hiring additional headcount, you know, like a customer service rep. No, it's, this is part of your job description. You mean? Yes. Yeah. 

This is all us. And it was at the time it was three of us.  Now,  you know, it's 24 plus.

Yeah. And. But it was the right thing to do, you know, because we're dealing with people's brand. Yeah. And their reputation. Yeah. It's public. It has to be right. It has to be authentic. And ultimately what I think for me was a real changing point was  for a long time I really thought, Oh, we're writing LinkedIn profiles.

We're writing resumes. We're writing bios. We're helping people on LinkedIn post, you know, better content. Like, like I was seeing it. That's almost a very transactional way of looking at it. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Working with these people, I started to realize we're actually changing their lives,  changing their lives, because  by helping them articulate their, their story, they started to recognize their value.

They started to see what they bring to the table. They were able to interview much more confidently. They were creating better relationships and they were getting.  You know, positions and, and promotions and, and opportunities that far, far exceeded what they were doing prior. And it made a huge lifestyle change to themselves and to their families. 

And  that's when it was, wait, this really is, this is, this is transformational.  

I love this. And I think that what you just shared right now, firstly, I love the growth  and I, yeah.  Three months to three years, right. Before hiring your first employee, your first partner to sort of help you, because that means you had enough work to share and you had enough revenue coming in that you were like, oh, it's not risky.

There is no way I can't do this myself. I need to bring more hands, more, more, another set of eyes and ears. So that that's. Beautiful, organic, healthy growth, but also those first three months, I don't want to, I don't want to discount that period. Granted, you didn't have a family, you didn't have responsibilities, you were taking care of yourself.

But  those,  that is the time where a lot of us give up. I just released a podcast, no one's listening, no downloads, three months, I'm quitting. Just got a YouTube channel out, no one's watching, no one. I just released a blog, no one's reading. The ones that stick it through, obviously that doesn't mean, you know, you don't get feedback.

If you get feedback, if you can improve step by step, of course, you're going to do that, but you stuck it out and 99 bucks, right? So obviously your charges are no longer the same. Your fees have gone up, your, your value has gone up. But everyone starts this way, whether it's 99 euros, it's humble beginnings and the story of. 

Are we just doing link? You know, are we doing LinkedIn, we doing resume, we doing bios? No. The big picture thinking the BPT so important, right? It's like that story where this guy  is bringing all these bricks together and someone's passing by. Like, what are you doing? He's like, I'm just rolling. You know, I'm just making a pile of these bricks.

There's another guy and somebody passed by. What are you doing? He's like, I'm, I'm adding the cement and I'm putting these, you know, into a, a, a.  A neat pile, but I'm gluing them together with cement and I'm like, okay, the third one comes in. He's like, what are you doing?  He says, I'm building a church so people can come congregate and worship.

So this story of yours reminds me of this, of this parable and this is so beautiful for the listener. What we do today in our workplace or we are self employed, whatever we're doing, what is the end goal? What is the why? Because it's bigger than you realize.  It's not just, I'm making a LinkedIn profile, making a LinkedIn profile.

People see themselves differently. They show up as their best self in interviews. They land amazing jobs that help take care of their family,  their parents, and the next generation. Wow. We're talking about  a massive shift in thinking, and that is very empowering. And going back to career and car and agency. 

You get back in the driver's seat when you realize what I do matters, you know, it's  

so true. It's so true. It's, you know, and I think it's what gets you up in the morning too. 

Yes. Yes. Otherwise it's just a job. Right. And, and  To be more on the career and the calling side of things we want to know who is the person who ends up using these products and services and people think, yeah, but I'm in a B2B space.

I, it's not that evident, but there is an ultimately there is an end consumer, right? And how are we helping them every single day improve their life? It comes down to that for me.  Lovely. I love that you, you, you,  you know, I love that you didn't dilute Donna. You stuck it out in terms of this is what I'm really good at.

I'm going to keep doing this. It's working. It's helping loads of people. So it's not like you went into, let me teach you how to do sales. Let me teach you this. Let me know. You were like, this is what I'm good at. And, and I'm going to stay in my lane.  The dummies guide.  I want to hear how did you land that?

Was it a contract that fell in your lap and how did you write it? Talk to us about the whole process.  

So in. It was in  2009 when I started the business. My father had said to me, he came to me and he's like, Donna,  you're not an expert. You recognize that, right? You are not an expert. And I was like, what are you saying? 

I am an expert. I mean, no one else knows LinkedIn.  Like I do. No one has used it. Like I have, they don't see the value. They didn't see the potential. Like I do.  You know, I'm writing about it, you know, all the debt all the time. I'm talking about like, how, how can you tell me that I'm not. An expert. He says, you don't have a book.

You can't be an expert if you don't have a book.  And  at that moment I was like, Oh my gosh, I've got to write a book. I got to take my methodology and cement it. Like, yes, I hear you. And my father said, why don't you call the, for dummies people, give them a call. And they'll, they'll publish your book.

They'll, they'll, you can do a full four dummies book on this.  And I was thinking so small, 

but was it as simple as that? It wasn't because my, so 

my father tells me to do that. And I'm like, you're out of your fricking mind, dad.  I'm nobody like, they're not going to take my call. They're not going to publish this book.

Like there's no way in heck.  So he said, you're, he said, you're missing a huge opportunity. This, you, this needs to be a For Dummies book.  I, I dismissed him. I dismissed him. Sonal, I dismissed him. I wrote the book,  but I wrote it and I self published it. In fact, you can see it over my shoulder there. It says LinkedIn.

It's not 

your, it's not the official,  

the first one I did was LinkedIn makeover and I self published it, 

self published it. 

And it, I remember when it went, when I, when it went on Amazon, my father saw it and he, he bought it from Amazon himself. He was so proud.  He got it. And he's like, it should have been a for dummies book, Donna.

He opens up the first page and it was dedicated to him. And so he was like, he was, he was like, you're on the right path. Two weeks later, he dropped, he died. He dropped dead. Oh my God. Expecting it. But he, he passed, he, he, you know, it was, it was the worst ever worst thing ever. But I'm so 

happy, can I just say, I'm so happy that dedication and that he saw the dedication.

Yeah. 

He saw the dedication and he said to me, it should have been a for dummies book,  famous 

last words.  

So few years later, I'm thinking it was 2015. I should know these dates by now, but whatever, 2015 I get a call. And the woman says, I'm the acquisitions editor for Wiley. We publish the four dummies books,  and I found you on Twitter.

And I just, you know,  found myself in, in your, on your website, on your profile. I am loving everything that I'm seeing, and I think you should write a For Dummies book on LinkedIn profile optimization.  Just like that?  Just like that. My phone rang and I, I, I remember.  Like, my heart just, like, soared 

your dad must have come in your dreams that night.

Oh, 

my God. I was like, Oh, this is interesting. I'd be interested in discussing this. Of course, in my heart, I'm like doing jumping jacks. 

And so,  so my, so I, I did two editions now of, of the four dummies books and the F and the, the, you know, that first, the first edition, which a lot of the stuff from the LinkedIn makeover, you know, came over, was brought over to it and converted.  You know, that was,  you know, I, I said, you know, if there's anything that I could tell my father, it's I wrote a four dummies book, you know, to me, that's, it's, it's everything he wanted.

He wanted that for me and I was able to do it. So I'm so proud  of the four dummies series there. Every now and then I get someone who likes to, to write me and say, we're not dummies. How dare you insult us calling us dummies? And it's like, no, you're, you're not getting the point  is let's, let's, let's, let's, let's make it as simple and as easy to follow, make it something where you can jump in at any point.

And get value from it. And they're a good company. I'm so happy to be associated. 

Yes. Yes. And it did proved we all relate with it at some point when we start, we are all dummies. So it's okay. It's, it's not, it's not personal.  

It's not personal. And it's, it's just, it's, you know, Hey, let's, let's make, let's simplify it.

And, you know, let's let anybody jump in. Yeah. You know, like, like, let's not have it where you have to, you know,  you know, overstretch. This is for anybody. Yeah, 

exactly. And it builds. It builds. I was just going to say that it's step by step. It's not overwhelming. So you're definitely an expert now, Donna. So I, now that you have the book behind you let's speaking of which 8, 000 

profiles. 

Oh my gosh, 

8, 000. Speaking of this, right.  We, I talk so much about LinkedIn on the show. LinkedIn's changed my life and so many of us, we think we're doing a pretty decent job on LinkedIn. We think we have a pretty decent  profile, about section, all of that stuff.  However, we've brought you on, so we would love some insider tips. 

That can help us to have our LinkedIn profile that stands out, whether we are looking for a job, whether we're happy where we are, we're self employed, whatever it is, no one can afford to take that piece of real estate you know, online real estate for granted. So share with us. Obviously, I highly recommend to the listener to check out the, the, the, the book, I will link it in the show notes, but in the meantime, we would love to get from you like juiciest tips to get us on that path to stand out. 

You know, to me, I think the biggest mistake people make is they say to themselves, there's almost two, it's like a double mistake. They'll say.  I need to optimize my profile. I need to make it look great. I have five minutes. Let me jump in.  So one,  five minutes is not enough time.  And two, you don't want to just jump in.

You don't want to jump in. That's probably the worst thing to do. What you want to do first is say to yourself, okay. Why am I alone? Why am I on LinkedIn? What am I hoping to achieve? What are, what are, what are my goals? Who is my target audience? Who's going to be reading this? Who do I want to cater my content towards? 

If they're looking for me, what would be the keywords that they would be using to find someone like me?  And, and what, how do I want to be perceived? Like, how do I want people to think about me? What are the, I want people to know about me. You have to do that, that up front.  Dump of your thoughts and your ideas and the strategy. 

Most people don't do that. And when they don't do that, they just sort of.  Fill it out however they want to. They're not thinking about anything deeper. And then when their profile doesn't perform, they blame LinkedIn.  Oh, it's useless. It's a 

waste of my time. Exactly.  

But they didn't put their time up front,  getting strategic, getting smart and really understanding how to.

You know, cater the content to their, to their audience. So you need to do that first. Then once you have that, now, now you're going to have direction. Now you're, you know, steering the car. Right.  And so at this point. You just wanna take a look at that profile. The, the top of it is super important. Clearly background graphic.

Find something that illustrates your brand. If you have something that's gray and stripy means you didn't upload anything, you know, make sure you have a great headshot. Nowadays with ai, there's really no excuse. Hmm. I mean, even with the new, you know, the iPhones, you know, someone who is on iPhone, have them take you, take your picture.

These things are amazing in portrait view. Yeah, yeah. You know, so get a great picture. The headline. You know, make sure it follows you. It's everywhere you are on LinkedIn that headlines there. So make sure it's something that's impressive. 

And tell us about, let's stay at headlines for a second, Donna, what is the kind of headline you are most allergic to?

I  think I'm most allergic to those overly salesy ones  where it's like they're making these huge promises and they don't even know me.  I find those to be  just itchy. They make me itch. 

Get 20 leads a month. Get 20 leads a month. DM me. 

Yeah. Yeah. I'm going to  10 times your, your 

business. Oh my gosh. I can't 

stand those.

Yeah. Yeah. I don't, I'm not, I'm not fond of those. I do think you can have a benefit statement. I do think a benefit state statement, a tagline can work, but you know, I want to see, you know, who are you. You know, what do you do? Why does it matter? Like, if you can try to get that in there, you can put some keywords in that always helps you in the search results.

I have a LinkedIn headline generator on my site. So if you need help, there's, I have that there. But you know, do spend time making sure that the tagline is right, you know, from there there's a featured section, you know, Fill that up with, with work samples. Then we have our about section.  Do not copy and paste from your resume.

No. No. Different audience. Yes.  

You know, and, and this is where you want to tell your story. Think of it as a professional manifesto. Think of it as a digital introduction. You know, make this that place where you, you, you, you open up and you tell people, you know, like this is why. You know, I love what I do.

This is why it matters to you. This is, you know, the impact that it makes, like, you know, but, but also bring yourself into it. I think that's the other issue I see a lot of times is oftentimes with entrepreneurs, with business owners even with executives, they just want to talk about the company. But people are reading this because they want to know about you.

So don't, don't get too focused in on just what you do. Let's talk about why you do it, how you do it, you know, and, and, and what makes you, you like, where are your differentiators?  

Yeah, yeah, I think the that's very useful advice. I'm going to link the LinkedIn profile headline generator in the show notes.

I just took a quick look on the website. I love that it's there. And it's free to access, which is a great way to sort of. Test the waters before we decide to work with a LinkedIn profile writer. And  you know, Donna, what would be according to you, let's say someone listening to this is actively looking for their next job.

Right. And  what would be a good benefit statement? You  

know, I think  for someone who's looking for their next position,  I would say, where do you want to go?  You know, what, what is  what are you targeting?  And if that's a hard question to answer, you're going to have a lot of problems on your job search.

So you want to get very clear. You know, I think a lot of times people say,  oh, I can do so much. You know, like  the world's my oyster. You put me wherever you want me, I, you know, wind me up, I can do it. And in, in job search, that type of  mindset doesn't work. You really want to know like where, what, what is your specialty and where do you fit?

What is that perfect place for you? Because no one's going to do that thinking for you. You've got to tell them. And people don't want someone who's like. You know, a Jack of many trades, they want to know the, this, this is your power. This is your strength. And I know that this is, I need that.  So, you know, in terms of the headline, really get clear, know what you're targeting.

You know, I, I don't like the idea of just, just targeting recruiters, you know, job search is much bigger than that. You know, You know, recruiters are certainly a wedge as is your network, as is, you know, applications and job portals. They're all little 

ledger. Future hiring managers who could become potential bosses, right?

Right. 

Right. I mean, there's so many different wedges and I do believe that your, the success in your job search is how big you make certain wedges.  So. You know, think in terms of, you know, a recruiter, the hiring manager, if they're looking for someone like you, what would be those, those keywords,  put those keywords into that headline, use those keywords as you describe yourself, you know, make sure that the, that what you are describing places, you aligns you as that perfect fit. 

And then you're going to change all of it once you get that position, because now you have a totally different goal. Now it's, you know, talking to maybe your clients or talking to your colleagues or talk, you know, so the, the profile shouldn't. Remain a rock, right? It's not written in stone. It needs to be breathing and alive.

And as you change, that profile should be changing with you. 

Love that. Love that. Sort of a long winded answer. No, no, but very useful. Very useful. We, we want to hear all this. There's two things I'm taking away from what you just said. The first is. It's a one size fits all. So it's not a resume, but you can tweak according to the position.

So this one has to work for whoever is reading it. It could be a recruiter. It could be a hiring manager. It could be a friend. They should be able to walk away in two minutes or less and explain to a friend what you do. Right. That's clear to see. And the second, I love this. And I say, I speak about this as well with my clients.

It is a living, breathing account, and it doesn't go to a graveyard the moment you get a job and you don't have to think about it anymore. You're unsubscribed from emails or, you know, LinkedIn RSS feed because now your target is different. It's a moving target. Earlier it was job search, I was landing the role.

Now the target is different, right? It's about getting more clients or whatever it is we do. How do we want to be known internally inside the company? Cause a lot of companies inside will have their own version of,  you know, LinkedIn, but, but ultimately what do people do? Everybody's updating their LinkedIn profile.

Nobody updates their inside database. You know, it gets such like stepchild treatment  when it comes to these things. So I love this. So this is really helpful, Donna. Thank you. And I can't believe we're approaching the end. It's flown by our, our chat today. And I want to ask you, Donna, when you look back on your career. 

All these years, oh my gosh, starting in that period and then the Y2K. I remember when I was in India and Y2K, I was 21 and we used to have theater productions. Like people were doing plays on stage that the world is going to come to an end in the year 2000.  And there were movies. You started your career in that era. 

And here we are in 2023, right? So 2025 years plus, when you look back on this career,  is there one standout defining moment that supercharged your career and helped you move closer to your current success?  You 

know, to me,  what I'm most proud of  is when I said,  I want to help people embrace this technology.

And I want to do it myself. I want to create this business.  And, and, and I  That was a risk. Yes. It was a huge risk. And it continues to be a risk every day. Sure. It's, it's, it's not,  I rely on no one Yeah. But myself, now I have it, my team of course, who's amazing support, but you know when, but it's a 

responsibility, right?

'cause you're, you're, you're taking care of so many people. 

Yeah. It's an added Yeah. It, it's, it's huge. So to me it was that, it was that  day in January.  And saying, you know what,  this is what I want to do. And I'm willing, I'm willing to take on, I'm willing to take it on. And  you know, that to me, that was it was that moment. 

And you know, it's not for everybody, but if you have that desire, if you think to yourself, wait, I want that freedom. I want the autonomy. I, you know, I want the stress,  but I don't mind the stress.  Do it. It's, it's, it really is worth it. It's hard, but it's worth it.  

Yeah, absolutely. Will do. And of course, it goes without saying, I'm going to link your LinkedIn profile in the show notes.

And is there any other way? That the listener can learn more about you.  

I think, you know, visiting certainly my profile, visiting my website, linkedin makeover. com. Those are, that's, everything is there. Everything's there. Everything's 

there. Lots of resources. So definitely check those out. Donna, this has been amazing.

Thank you so much. It has been such a pleasure to listen to you and to learn from you. And I can, you know, we wish you the very best with the Vision Board Media. With your book and everything else you come up with. Thank you so much for your time today. Thank you.