Job Skills For The Future: Vendor Management

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

In a recent meeting, a manager much higher than I said something that blew me away: Vendor Management is a job skill of the future.

First, because I realized she was right and I hadn’t thought of it.

Secondly because I realized that’s an issue I’ve not covered here, and if I’m going to be the geek job guru I need to cover skills we progeeks need for the future. So welcome to my latest series – Job Skills For The Future.

I can’t claim it’s the most original title. But anyway, let’s talk Vendor Management, because we should.

Vendor Management – You’re Going To Need It

What do I mean by Vendor Management? Pretty simple – Vendor Management is working with a company outside of your own to get goods and services.

OK, it’s not simple because it involves negotiation, contracts, communication, money, and of course inevitable complex legal agreements. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and trust me, Vendor Management is a complete skillset of its own. There are people that specialize in it as part of their other job functions, and for some it’s most of their job function.

(which is also a way of saying if you can do it and have done it, put it on your resume, people probably need it.)

But why is this a job skill that’s important for the future? It’s pretty important now, what’s the deal?

It’s important for your future: As you move up in your career, it’s more and more likely that you’ll have to interact with vendors. So for your own sake, look for opportunities to learn it.

People are outsourcing more than ever: Ever feel like a lot of your company’s functions are outsourced? That’s because they are – its’ easier to do than ever and in a complex, more necessary to do (because of the need for specialists). In the future there will be more outsourcing – I used to joke I could make a triple A game with a five person staff by outsourcing, and its not as funny as it was.

By the way outsourcing isn’t just contractors. It’s software or it’s meal services or whatever.

You’re inevitably getting something from a vendor: You company or yourself as a freelancer is going to inevitable interact with a vendor. Sure, it may not be many, but vendors interact with other vendors and so on. You might as well get those vendor management skills together because like it or not, even a few vendor relationships probably spiderweb into fr more tan you realize.0

Vendors change: Right now how many people get important software services on the web via subscription? I recall a time when that seemed odd or impossible. That outsourcing/insoucring strategy that seems good today will change in a few years. Vendor relations and needs and services change – so getting good at Vendor Management gets you ready for transformations.  Even if it’s not your job now . . .

It’s only going to get more complicated from here.

So How Do I Get Good At It?

So how do you get good at Vendor Management? Well most of my experience was a mix of accident and “call Steve he likes to talk to people.” But here’s what I found and what I’ve seen.

  • First, be aware of Vendor relations period. Don’t tune it out, or ignore it, or pray it goes away (not that I haven’t done those things). Listen and learn. As of late just paying attention helped me find out how some Vendors have changed (sadly, for the worst).
  • Second, find an edge for dealing with Vendors – are you good at talking, good at the law, good at analyzing proposals? Find where you’re good, because unless it’s a major part of your job, you should develop the part you need.  (My advantage is persistence and friendliness).
  • Third, go and try it out. One of my major realizations lately is that as my experience is piecemeal, I need more. The people really good at Vendor Management seem to dive into it and learn – so seek it out.
  • Fourth and finally, and though I say this often, pay attention to the news. Knowing what vendors are out there is helpeful. Many’s the time I’ve found some new service and wished I’d known more about it.

As I said, I could be a bit better at this – but I hope my advice helps you.  I’ll share any more insights I have.

If you’re a Freelancer? Then you’re gonna have to deal with a lot of Vendor Management, so get good at it now.

– Steve

Using LinkedIn – Steve’s Take, Part 2


And let’s get back to ways to use LinkedIn.

As noted last time, I treat LinkedIn as a software suite. it’s a series of tools that share data and perform various tasks. We covered the resume-adjacent elements and the way it can be a portal on the web. Now let’s dig deeper . . .

LinkedIn Function #3: The Job Search Tool

Writing about how LinkedIn is a job search tool is like saying water is wet, wrestling is fixed, and the next Star Wars film may get some viewers. It’s known, it’s obvious.

It’s just that until you look at it you don’t see what kind of tool it is.

LinkedIn is not going to have the broadness of some sites like Indeed or the specificity of say, a Dice. But what it provides is a solid job search tool companies use – and I’ve found more and more are using it over time. At this rate any job search not using LinkedIn is probably incomplete, at least for most professionals.

The job search tools also connect to other LinkedIn services. There’s a company profile for most companies seeking employees. You can check out how you’re connected to the recruiter. The job search options tie into everything else on the site.

So here’s how you use it:

FIll Out That Profile – No, really, do. I know I’ve emphasized it, but again, get it right.  You there’s a lot of power in it for recruiters, but also because . .

Many LinkedIn Job Posts Use The Profile – Which is an incredible time-saver. One reason to use LinkedIn is the profile/search synergy just saves time. Take advantage of this (but always send a full resume if possible).

Personal Story – When I was doing a job search, I realized how much time this could save, especially as text-processing job search sites still often make mistakes. I got a lot more done once I realized this.

Make You Profile Searchable – More and more lLinkedIn is used by people to recruit others. You should make sure your profile is up to date because people are looking for you and a good profile makes it easier.

A Research Tool – Got an interview? Look up the person on LinkedIn. You can see if you have any connections to them, learn more about them, and do a better interview.

Personal Story – Several times I’ve been able to carry on better interviews as I got to know the person before I knew the person. It definitely made a difference in my interview – and made it easier on the interviewer.

Post Announcements – Looking for a job? Let people know. Much as you should tell everyone so they an help you, announcing your openness on LinkedIn may get people to rally and help you out, especially if you cultivated a community.

Oh, and on that subject.

Linked In Function #4: The Social Media Tool

LinkedIn is a social media tool used by people for business and career reasons. It has ways to post, to communicate, to link up, and so on. To maximize the benefit of it, you have to remember it is both a social media tool and a business tool.

Here’s what you do.

Network, Network, Network – LinkedIn is, obviously a networking tool. You can bring people into your network, see statuses, have information on them, and so on. Add everyone relevant to your career that you can as that is just more resources for them and you to call on. Like any social media tool, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Recommend, Recommend, Recommend – LinkedIn is a tool to let you leave references for people and receive them. People do pay attention to the recommendations, so ask for them but also give them. Remember these go on your profile – which is used for other purposes.

Personal Story – Several times when I’ve given or gotten a recommendation it’s resulted in a cascade of recommendations for people. If you keep it up, the recommendations pile up.

Join Up – LinkedIn provides any numbers of groups for you to join if you’re so inclined – or you can create your own. Some of these communities get very active, so be sure to take time to visit them and check them out – and when you’re part of a group with others you can send them invitations to your network!

Have A Plan – However as we all know social media can go a bit nuts. Approach these requests and connections and communities with a goal in mind – otherwise you’ll get lost.

LinkedIn Function #5: The Research Tool

LinkedIn has a lot of data, a lot of information, a lot of ways to get it. That means it’s also a research tool for you to use. Think of all that data sitting out there – and you’re given access to it.

The amount of data you can get out of LinkedIn is actually kind of amazing. Depending on what you need you can find all sorts of things. What kinds and what can you do with it?  Glad you asked . . .

Company Research – LinkedIn keeps profiles of a lot of companies, so you can quickly heck them to get some details and do some research. It’s not, say, Glassdoor, but it’s convenient – and tells you about jobs there and connections you may have.

Check Your Stats – LinkedIn gives you a quick blurb on how people found you on the site. So, pay attention to that – and you can get even more at

Download Data – Did you now you can download your connections in various formats? Yep, you just go to your connections and select the right option. This lets you analyze your own connections or get useful data.  Just go to your connections page, click on the “gear” icon, and you’ll have a variety of options – including one to export connections.

Personal Story – I do this regularly, to both back up my contacts, but to also find people I can ask for assistance in my projects.

Sonar Search – LinkedIn’s job search tool is easy, simple, yet surprisingly deep. You can also try doing a job search just to see what the market is like. Since the information in LinkedIn has is all tied together, a single search can reveal a wealth of information.

LinkedIn will probably keep adding new features, so pay attention.

Linked In Function #6: Alert Systems

LinkedIn is also a way to keep on top of various events and happenings So much data flows through linked in, so many people are giving updates, it’s a constant flow of information. Pay attention and you can find out a lot.

What should you look for?

Company Activity – You can actually decide to “watch” a company and get announcements about job postings and the link. So, go do that if you’re stuck on a few particular employers or want to keep up on them.

Personal Activity – When people in your network change jobs, have a work anniversary, etc. you can be alerted. THis lets you follow up, maintain contact, or just be reminded they’re there. It helps me keep up with people.

Personal Story – I use this a lot. It lets me check in on people, be appropriately social, and remember when I need to leave a reference or ask for one.

Check The Pulse – LinkedIn’s experiment in news services, you can keep up with cultivated content from “influencers.” Not my cup of tea, but it may be something you’re interested in -and who knows what’ll come up next.

There’s a lot of data there. Use it!

Use The Tool Wisely

So LinkedIn is a tool and a powerful one. But I want to end with a few bits of advice on using it better – and in manners less likely to cause problems.

We Can See This: Your profile is public and connected to your name. Don’ do anything to embarrass yourself, have a good personal photo, and be thoughtful.

You Get Out Of It What You Put Into It: LinkedIn is not a magical solution, it’s a tool. The more you put into it the more you can get out of it. Maybe you just don’t have time – that’s fine – but be aware.

It Can Be Overwhelming: LinkedIn offers so much it’s almost too much. Use what you need, try other things out, but decide just what you can do and need to do.

Everyone Does It: Yes, everyone does have a LinkedIn profile, so just having a decent one is almost expected. It’s important to be aware of this as it could go from “sort of expected” to “why don’t you have one?” – and I think we’re close.

Using It Is A Skill: YOu have to practice on LinkedIn and keep up on it to use it right. It may be a good idea to set aside a block of time to get good at it.

Forward To Well-Organized Adventure

I wish you well in your use of LinkedIn. Be sure to let me know of any ideas, tips, and advice I can share.


– Steven Savage

Homefinding As A Skill

Viewpoint Telescope

We’re going to have a bit of a break from geek culture and career-specific advice to focus on a life skill that’s kind of high on my list. It all has to do with the rent and living.

I just got my lease renewal – and my yearly rent increase – I had a lot to think about. Where I was living. Where I might live. Potential roommates. How the hell high was the rent going to get in Silicon Valley?*

I think about this a lot as I’m sort of an accidental expert in living in Silicon Valley. I went through a phase where various current and potential roommates kept changing, and every change meant I had to research another place to live. I ended up learning a lot about locations and economics.

Then people just kept asking me advice due to that knowledge, so now it’s kind of “my thing.”

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