Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Competency #16 I Can Join Social Networking Sites and Build my Personal Brand

Recently, I challenged a client to develop a 140-character brand statement.  She accepted the challenge and created a concise, impressive entry. It was a great exercise. Why did I ask her to attempt it?  There were several reasons:  an executive with extensive and impressive skill sets, she needed to synthesize her qualifications in a compact and effective way; and it was the beginning of her journey into the world of Twitter.

While we might not be active Twitter users, limiting yourself to 140 characters can often be a helpful activity.  After all, you need to create a short, concise personal brand statement, even if you don’t want to worry about the number of characters.

Joining social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumbler, or others can vastly increase your presence on the Internet.  They are all free, so there’s no excuse not to join, especially if you are a serious about finding employment.  LinkedIn wants you to provide a summary of your background, and a tagline under your photo.  This requires you to synthesize your work history, skills, accomplishments, among other sections, and is a thought-provoking, and somewhat daunting task. Additionally, your resume will be more impactful if you provide a career summary at the top – a kind of brand statement. 

So, build, or improve upon your LinkedIn site.  If you want to catch a recruiter’s attention, you must figure out, as Tom Peters in 1997 said, “A Brand Called You.” Many experts believe personal branding is the number one tool for job seekers.

As William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson suggest in their fabulous book, Career Distinction, building a brand is a three step process: Extract YOU (know yourself, define your brand community, tell your brand story), Express YOU (create your own marketing tools, assess your online identity, build your brand in bits and bytes), and Exude YOU (be on-brand in all that you do, get a visual identify).

Get started by asking yourself three key questions:
  1. What are the adjectives (keywords) people use to describe you?  (An easy and relatively painless way is to find at least 5-10 of your friends/colleagues/relatives and ask them!)
  2. How would you describe you?
  3. How well do these answers compare?

Once you identified strengths, and defined your brand “community” (all the people who know you and should know you), the next step is to determine what makes you different from your competitors, and identifying and focusing on your target audience.

Lastly, you’ll need to communicate your brand to your target audience. Understand the Three C’s of Brand Communication:
1.    Clarity- who you are and who you aren’t
2.    Consistency- send the same message regardless of the communication vehicle
3.    Constancy –always visible to your target audience

Competency #15: I Can Write Effective Resumes and Cover/Thank You Letters

If you’ve been active on the Internet, chances are employers can find information about you even if you don’t have a formal resume. The resume’s traditional purpose was to get invited in for an interview. That is still true, but there’s also a new purpose, too: to summarize in one specific place what you most want potential employers to see about you. Lots of people believe their resume should simply be a complete list of every job they’ve ever done, with dates included. An effective resume is one that gets you noticed, and concisely presents you as extremely qualified for each position.  Employers can always look you up on social media to get a more complete picture of you.

This competency should simply be written: I can write effectively- the focus on the words “write”, and “effective”. What does this mean? Do you consider yourself a good writer?  If so, that’s great- it’s easy to learn formats. If not, that’s OK--someone other than you can do the writing.  The most important part of this competency is this:  do you know yourself well enough to tell me how effective you are- what makes you stand out– in other words, your value proposition?

Therefore, separate the writing from your value for each position, because you’re going to need to have a resume customized to fit each of them. That’s putting the effective in this skill set. With application software at every employer’s fingertips, you’ll need to have keywords from the posting in your resume, or it will be overlooked.

You must discipline yourself to think (hard!) about your motivated skills and abilities (the ones you enjoy using with demonstrated competency), your personality style, your work values, and the jobs you are seeking before you (or someone else) shape this information into a resume, executive profile, cover letter, e-note, brand statement, thank you message. The rest is not difficult, especially if you’re a good writer(research formats, styles, tips on the Internet) or can seek out a professional career counselor/coach/resume writer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Competency #14 I Can Conduct Research on Different Occupations, Employers and Organizations

Most people possess the research skills to check out jobs, job openings, job information, and information about organizations.  However, you may be like many people who ask, “Do I want to? Do I need to? Will it be worth my time?”

The answer is a resounding YES. It has never been easier to conduct your own research in the comfort of your own home/library/or other Internet connected venues.  There are huge benefits, and some important pitfalls:

First, the benefits: There are many sites to investigate.  Chief among them are my favorites:

Both websites are part of the US Department of Labor’s huge database system. Virtually every piece of information you might need is contained on one or both of these sites.  In addition to specific occupational information (nature of the work, tools, education needed, tasks/skills necessary, salary and outlook information) did you know you can find employers in your locale, number of employees, contact information, state wage data, average annual openings, growing/declining occupations, and much more using these sites?

Whew!  You can easily get lost in the database(s).  Don’t spend too much time here, though!
The BEST source of information, once you’ve researched the above sites thoroughly, is to start conducting “field research”(or as it has also been called, informational interviews). They will generate realistic advice on your options and give you confidence to move forward.  Your three main goals should be: learn core information about the nature of the career field, develop key job hunting strategies for the field, and learn how best to sell your background.

Here are some sample open-ended questions that will lead to a healthy and productive discussion:

Nature of the Profession:
How did you choose this career field?
What skills and talents are required for success in this job and field?
What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Nature of the Organization:
How would you describe your work environment?

Selling Your Background
Given my background, which position would I be best suited?
What would be the most appropriate way to pursue these positions?

Job Search Strategies
What kind of job-hunting strategies would you suggest?
What should I avoid doing?
Do you have any career advice?

I love http://www.glassdoor.com for up-to-date information on companies, salaries, and, best of all, employee feedback.  It can’t be beat.
The value of information must be underscored- You need to arm yourself with information in order to navigate the career/job search waters!

Now for the Pitfalls:
Beware of job boards (Indeed.com; Careerbuilder.com, etc.)  These are great tools for job searching, but the addiction to spend hours and hours and hours searching and applying actually yields very low results.  Better to use your time wisely and stick with an established network of contacts and then connect these people to current job information.