Personal Branding

6 Job Search Strategies that Provide Lifetime Career Insurance

Extra-terrestrials looking down on Earth might study our job search process and be baffled. They would notice a disconnect: Jobs are required for survival, yet we lack a humane, transparent structure for actually obtaining a job.

“Huh!” they’d say. “It’s as if swimming is required for survival on their planet, yet they don’t teach them to swim. How bizarre!”

The traditional job search process is inhumane, shrouded in mystery, and rigged in favor of the employer: Apply to a job board along with hundreds of others, and wait. You follow up, with little or no response. It’s frustrating and mysterious with no human contact. All aspects of it feel beyond the job seeker’s control, demeaning, and rarely yield a job.

There’s another way.

Is it easy? No. Will you get frustrated? Sometimes. Is it faster than using job boards? YES.

Here are the payoffs:

  • You control most aspects of it while maintaining your dignity
  • You create and grow lasting relationships (for your next job search. And there WILL be a next job search).
  • You evolve professionally because you’re having live conversations with people at companies that interest you, learning what you like and don’t like.
  • It’s career insurance, because it’s a sustainable process. It hinges on relationship building, on the fundamental principle that people want to hire people they know . . . not people who applied to job boards. (See Hannah Morgan’s excellent article here).

Here are some examples of how to apply sustainable job search strategies:

Demonstrate how you stand out from your peers

As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “To be successful you must be remarkable – a purple cow in a field of monochromatic Holsteins.” If standing out is hard for you to do, please enlist help from a career professional. “Purple cows” get found, and establish their credibility faster. Your LinkedIn profile and your resume should skillfully convey your uniqueness and how you will solve an employer’s problems. Whether you like the idea of personal branding or not, it is necessary these days.

Nurture old and new professional relationships

This morning I heard from my LinkedIn client Eric Dudley,* whose profile I completed early December 2015.

Here was our conversation:

Eric: Hey Julie! Just wanted you to know I landed a job this week

Julie: What great news! Congratulations! I’m curious, how did you land the job?

Eric: I sent out a letter to old friends and co-workers last fall, announcing I was available.  One of them needed an operations guy. It’s a great fit.

Eric understands a fundamental job search basic: Maintaining close professional ties with colleagues while you’re employed translates to job insurance when you’re not.

Take a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach

Don’t let anxiousness propel your job search. Instead, first define what you really want to do next, by clarifying your best strengths and accomplishments. It will save you time.

“Keeping your options open” will slow your search. I know a job seeker who sent an email to his entire network saying, “If you know of a job I might like, please let me know.” Make it easy for your network to help you by being specific.  Provide a job title you’re aiming for, an industry, and companies you’re targeting. Read this fantastic article by Lisa Rangel on how to build your list of targeted companies.

Structure your job search

Be sure you go to bed each night with a plan about what you will accomplish tomorrow. Waking up with an empty calendar is depressing and overwhelming. I spoke to a job seeker recently who refuses to set goals so he won’t be disappointed in himself if he doesn’t accomplish them. “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself.” Not surprisingly, he hasn’t had an interview in weeks.

Next to a job offer, your primary objective is landing an interview. During my own job search, I set the goal of landing 3-5 interviews a week. Was that hard? Yes! However I learned that the more new people I met, the higher likelihood of an interview. My days revolved around increasing the number of “productive conversations” (what some refer to as informational interviews).

Solicit and engage in productive conversations

Invaluable, these will make all the difference in your job search. Here’s a success story: I worked with a client last fall who wanted to land a job fast. She knew she had one superpower: Transforming chaos into order. She had lots ofaccomplishment stories to show for it too.

She targeted 5 specific companies she wanted to work at, and introduced herself to people who worked there, either over the phone or met them for coffee, asking for advice and gaining insights about what it was like to work there. Within 5 weeks she had a job offer.

What is a “productive conversation?” An introductory conversation based on like-mindedness, which you initiate with someone who works at a company you’re targeting, who can give you career advice.  It’s an information exchange.

Productive conversations increase the value of the relationship both ways. You are valuable to them because many companies offer referral incentives today. To learn more about the art of productive conversations, read these excellent suggestions by career expert Lilly Zhang.

Join a job search community

I’ve written about that here. According to career expert Orville Pierson, you will shorten your search by 20% by joining a community. You’ll receive feedback from other job seekers, as well as referrals, and an ongoing support system of people in the trenches along with you. You will lift each other up, and learn clever tricks even your job coach may not have thought of.

To recap: Make your brand clear. Build relationships. Talk to people. Connect with fellow job seekers. By doing so, you learn to swim, not sink, in the job market – cultivating a skill that will last you a lifetime.

*Eric cheerfully gave permission for me to use his name.

Image:Depositphotos@kwest

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

Is Your LinkedIn Summary Loaded for Bear?

Does your LinkedIn Summary capture how you’re extraordinary?

I know, it’s really hard to do, isn’t it? Those who get stuck call me to optimize their LinkedIn profile. The irony is, after I actually write their Summary and Headline, and offer back a first draft, I sometimes catch flak. They say:

“Oh my – I can’t say all that. It’s embarrassing!”

I get it. It’s blinding to be shown your best side.

We are wired for negativity. It’s built into our culture. We’re rigged to see flaws, both others’ and our own. That’s why when we attempt to describe ourselves in our best light, it feels like we’re underrepresenting ourselves – or worse, lying.

A little test: Do you scoff when someone sings your praises?

Potential hiring managers or clients, however, don’t want to see your blemishes in your LinkedIn Summary. They just want to see your grace. They want to be dazzled, intrigued, WOWED. They want to be convinced you’re the one to call to solve their pain.

But because we swim in our insufficiencies, most of us struggle to write an effective LinkedIn Summary. Instead, we write something safe and bland, chock-full of keywords because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” and cross our fingers we’ll get found for that next dream gig.

Unfortunately, blandness is the most effective camouflage on LinkedIn.Frog in camouflage_Is This You on LinkedIn1

Here’s are 3 strategies I use for writing a more impactful LinkedIn Summary:

Write an irresistible opening line.

While there is no one way to write a great opening, here are 2 effective approaches that will pull your reader in:

  • Begin with a question

By beginning with a question, you demonstrate confidence, engage your reader and address an employer’s business pain out of the gate.  I use this approach if my client is unemployed and actively job searching, or is an entrepreneur.

(Note: Permission obtained from all clients, identified below).

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Jerry Godwin)

“An executive with 20 years of leadership and management experience.”

This was Jerry’s opening sentence before he hired me. Since there are many executives out there with 20 years of leadership and management experience, his opener doesn’t differentiate him from his competition.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“What’s preventing your Eye Care practice from thriving? I help optometrists and ophthalmologists grow their practices by recapturing unrecognized revenue and opportunity costs.”

Jerry’s new opening sentences accomplishes a lot: It’s specific, orients the reader, and demonstrates how he would resolve a client’s business pain. It’s much more effective

Here’s a second approach to beginning your Summary:

  • Declare your superpower

Be clear and specific about what you do really well, and express it in a surprising way.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Stephen Pearson)

“GOAL ORIENTED and SUCCESS DRIVEN! I am a well-qualified HR professional with expertise in resource allocation, operational planning, and audit reviews.”

While he’s very enthusiastic, and orients the reader out of the gate with his skill set, it doesn’t captivate the reader as it could.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“I solve complex business initiatives regardless of scale, without a map or any precedence.

I enjoy inspiring teams and improving processes so organizations can achieve their most ambitious objectives.”

His new opening is bold and provocative. Don’t you want to know what the rest of his profile says?

Here’s a second strategy to help you stand out:

Share a business lesson that has stuck with you.

I read too many Summaries without a heartbeat. That’s sad, since LinkedIn is a relationship building tool, and provides a wonderful opportunity to share your personality in a way resumes do not. Take advantage of this opportunity to shine!

Early in your career, what did you learn that has stuck with you? This can be interesting and reveal your unique value proposition.

During our interview, Tom Ward told me that at his first job, he realized his customers had a choice about where to spend their money. This insight solidified his commitment to customer service throughout his career.

After he told me that story, I began his Summary with the following:

“Do your customers view your company as the obvious “go to” choice?

Early in my career, I learned that if I fail to care for my customers, a competitor will be happy to step in. As a result, my driving mission became achieving “go to” status with my customers.”

Out of the gate, Tom makes his customer-service focus clear – an asset for any organization.

And finally:

Share 1-2 proudest career accomplishments.

Share the specific impact you’ve had. Follow the writer’s mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Describe your best strengths, and then back it up with a story that demonstrates that strength.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Scott Lowe)

“I am an experienced business development leader with a track record for success in multiple positions.  I am a hands on, outgoing, team player.”

The line above is vague, non-engaging, with overused keywords. Unfortunately, Scott’s superpowers are camouflaged.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“My specialty? Closing the most challenging deals. Give me the “toughest nuts,” and I’ll crack them.

I have a knack for repairing business relationships previously thought lost. At a past sales role, I was told by the owner of a local company, “You’ll never get our business.” After he agreed to spend an hour with me, he changed his mind, resulting in an average monthly increase of $18,000 of profitable sales for our company.”

In contrast, this accomplishment story is energetic, demonstrates his superpower, uses unique language, and is specific. Scott walks the talk.

Keep in mind a viewer/hiring manager is sifting through dozens of profiles, looking for The One who raises her eyebrows. Specific examples light up a reader’s brain.

Who are you at your best? By sharing how you’re extraordinary, you lift yourself out of LinkedIn obscurity, demonstrating to hiring managers YOU are their “go to” choice for the role they need to fill.

Image: Depositphotos@ginton

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

What You Can Stop Doing Now to Build Stronger Relationships

Whenever I hear someone complain, I notice one consistent thing: They are arguing with “what is.” In other words, they are resisting reality, which if you think about this, doesn’t make much sense.

But we all do it. I do it.

Here are some complaints I’ve heard lately:

“My daughter’s room is a mess. She’s so lazy and inconsiderate.”

“My boss completely dismisses me at staff meetings. He’s such a jerk.”

And lately here in the Midwest I’ve been hearing, “It’s so flippin’ cold outside. It’s ridiculous!”connection1

One of the things complaints and complaining all have in common is the Second Arrow effect.  It’s a Buddhist concept where the first event—or first arrow–occurs i.e. the messy room, the dismissive boss. Then we inflict further pain on ourselves by adding a Second Arrow. Do you see the Second Arrows, in the examples above?

“She’s so lazy and inconsiderate . . . He’s such a jerk . . . It’s ridiculous.”

The Second Arrow is when we take something we already perceive as bad or wrong, something we think “shouldn’t be happening,” and then create an additional  judgment about it. In an instant, things go from bad to worse. The Second Arrow is the nail in the coffin of our misery, which we then share with anyone who will listen.

Maybe you’re wondering, But doesn’t complaining help you solve the problem? So what, you’re asking me to be superhuman and perfect?

I’m inviting you to notice. To whom are you complaining, and do you really want to move toward a solution? Most of the time, when we complain, we are calling to be heard. Tara Brach describes fear as “vulnerability that wants attention.” I believe complaining is simply vulnerability that wants attention. We all want to be seen in our social interactions. The problem is, complaining exacts a price from the listener.

I know the axis of social commerce revolves around complaints about weather, our President, gas prices, the Stock Market, but frankly, I’m interested in deeper, more interesting things about you. Elizabeth Gilbert said recently, “Your fear is the most boring thing about you.” I feel the same about complaints.

I wonder if complaining is a way to prevent a real conversation from happening. It’s easier to complain about the 9 degree weather than to express gratitude for down coats and warm gloves, to express joy at the sight of someone’s rosy cheeks, or glee over the fact that your car started without a hiccup. Complaining puts a wedge between  you and me.

There really are a million other ways to train your attention than to argue about what is true, which gets to the very soul of complaining.

I try not to complain. Debbie Ford used to say, When you complain, you are always the victim. That has stuck with me. I notice if I do cave into complaining, that I’ve lost my prowess, my ability to flirt and play, in that moment.  “Poor me, look at what I have to endure!” Most of the time, the complaint is over something small and temporary anyway.

Complaining casts a temporary spell on the listener that you are powerless. Is that really what you want to convey?

Oftentimes those who complain elicit sympathy from us. But when I respond to a complainer with sympathy, I’m giving more than I received. Complaining and sympathy are not equivalent social currency. Complaining comes off as low energy, even negative. Sympathy is higher along the continuum. If you’re like me, you notice people who complain more, and steer clear of them.  That’s reason enough for me to really think before I complain.

I want to be known for my vitality, my ability to contribute, and for my value. Complaining affects the way people perceive you, and whether, and how often they choose to engage with you.

My first rule of engagement when I’m really on my game—and believe me, I’m not always—is, Give more than I get. The minute I complain, I’ve lost the game.

7 Right Things Every College Student Needs to Do During College

In response to a Time article by Martha C. White titled “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired,“ a reader named “younotus” laments: “I had to move back in with my parents [and] . . .  if it weren’t for them, I would have nowhere to go. And I’ve done everything right. I’ve done everything I’ve been told to do, to have a good life. And still, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing again and again and getting nowhere.”Colorful fruits for dessert

It’s a heart-rending statement, part of a much longer one where he reveals his frustrating and underpaid path since graduating from a prestigious college with a liberal arts degree. I bolded his line above “And I’ve done everything right,”

a) because I see that phrase a lot in reader response threads expressing discontent about job prospects and

b) I wonder how he defines “everything right.”

I worry there is a disconnect between what some students believe is “doing everything right,” and actual activities that help make a college graduate ready to make the leap into the corporate world. All of us who are educators in the career development arena want to close this gap.

I discussed this recently with a college career counselor, who expressed the same concern. She said, “I’m anxious about our students who have so much on their plate.” She and “younotus”  beg the question, what are the right things for students to have on their plate during college to pave the way for a respectable starting job? Here are my thoughts on this. Please feel free to weigh in:

1. LinkedIn: 

  • Through their college progression, students need to grow their network on LinkedIn. In fact by graduation, they should have at least 250 connections and aim for 500+ connections early in their career.
  • They need to complete and optimize their LinkedIn profile.
  • They need to learn how to leverage LinkedIn to their advantage, using its features to raise their profile, visibility and appeal. Matt Hames writes that by their senior year, students should rebalance the Facebook/LinkedIn ratio: By senior year they should be on LinkedIn 90% of the time, Facebook 10%. In addition, students need to be taught proper “Netiquette,” which means being strategic, personable and generous when making connections through LinkedIn.  If so, they will be well-served (and poised to serve others).

2. Complete an internship or 3. While completing an internship is obvious to many, I meet many students who admit they “never got around to it.” It belongs on the plate! What other things might they need to say no to, in order to get around to it? With whom can they make a connection at a company, so that they are referred rather than part of a huge gang of applicants?

3.  By graduation, have “at the ready” at least 3-5 accomplishments showing ways students have made an impact, showing quantifiable results. By graduation, resumes need to contain this information. LinkedIn profiles also need to showcase what students do well, and how they enjoy making an impact. Is their branding front and center on their LinkedIn profile?

4. Complete 25 informational interviews before graduation. Informational interviews are the perfect activity for gaining insight on multiple levels: About oneself as a job seeker, about a company, about career preferences, insights into industry trends,  a source for blog ideas, and most important, for discerning pain points that a job seeker may be able to leverage into a job or internship.

5. Volunteer in places that allowing job seekers to gain marketable skills they want to learn. At least by junior year, students can take on more leadership positions in volunteer organizations by taking on officer positions, and offering their talents. For example, if someone has writing or marketing skills, they can offer to create and manage a Facebook page for a non-profit, or a small business owner. Students can seek out opportunities to be of value and make a difference.

6. Learn how to target specific companies they’re interested in. Once they’ve targeted companies, they can then do research, and begin to connect to insiders within those companies, and set up informational interviews.

Many of the readers responding in the TIME thread above discussed how their “spray and pray” job hunt approach yielded nothing. From the lack of response to their resumes, they inferred the job market was dried up, or their major was a waste, rather than infer the approach itself was misguided. By helping arm students with the knowledge of how to target and research companies, they learn an invaluable skill they’ll use throughout their careers.

7. Begin and develop a side-gig that has the potential for monetization, something they enjoy doing in their spare time.  Kimberly Palmer’s The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, makes the case for learning to monetize  hobbies as a way to offset lower paying jobs, perhaps even replacing them. It is responsible stewardship to prepare students to be entrepreneurs. I envision a day, in fact, where an entrepreneurial class is mandatory for every student, every major, with the expectation that they leave college with a proven, independent means to earn money well underway.

Is the disappointment felt by “younotus”  inevitable, even with the “right” things on his plate? Maybe he has a blind spot that prevents him from taking actions that can propel him forward. I can only conjecture. My intention, with the solutions above, is to provide students with a solid foundation for their own career management. No job is permanent. When it’s time to leave a job, the best thing we can do is equip students with the skills and expertise they need to land a better one.

image: © Depositphotos.com /gnohz

 

 

The Number One Way to Jump Start Your Job Search

You’ve had it!  Your boss  hijacked the last two team meetings you assembled, or you’re stuck beneath the glass ceiling with no hope of a  promotion.  Whatever your reasons, you’ve decided to commit to finding a new job.   The next step, you decide, is to update your resume. That’s an option, except . . .

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© Depositphotos.com/agcuesta1

Don’t do it!  At least not quite yet. Resist that urge to focus on skills and accomplishments, and look inward, instead.  The best thing you can do to jump start your job search is to clarify your personal brand first.

The Kelley School of Business so understands the necessity of personal branding that it’s a required class for freshmen. Personal branding requires you to convey the following:  Who you are, what you can uniquely offer and how you provide value.  If you succeed in addressing the who, the what and the how in a way that fits an employer’s needs,  you’ll get hired. Therefore, I suggest developing these three aspects of your personal brand before launching a job search campaign.

1) Craft your “elevator pitch:”

I like this formula for nailing down your elevator pitch:

 verb + your target audience + your unique value + result

Think of your elevator pitch as the beating heart of your professional mission.  It should pack a wallop; it should make people curious to hear more about you; it should be delivered with confidence.  For me, when I’m helping a client with her pitch and it gives me goosebumps, I know we’re onto something!  Here is a sampling of elevator pitches I really like:

  • “I help business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their personal and business goals faster”  (Brian Tracy, LinkedIn)
  • “I help academics with limited practical business knowledge to take their research and get it applied in the private sector” (Andrew Neitlich)
  • “I facilitate growth and healing by making a safe space for people to sing, express, and create.” (Laura Sandage, LinkedIn)

2) What 4 or 5 things can you do remarkably well, that you enjoy doing?

It’s easy to take for granted the things you do well or easily.  Consider this though: Glossing over your unique strengths can stall your career development.  Thriving in your career requires a healthy self-awareness of your strengths.  It’s vital that you can articulate them so decision makers and hiring authorities can see how you fill the gap on their team.

Once you’ve identified 4 or 5 skills, organize them into “Show, don’t tell” stories:  Rather than describe yourself as an organized team-player, describe how you implemented an online tracking program for your team that created so much efficiency you all completed the project a week ahead of schedule.  Here is a formula for compelling stories that demonstrate your value:

Task + Action + Result

When considering the result, consider what positive, quantifiable impact you had. Was there a profit or cost-savings? Were others’ jobs simplified? Were you recognized for what you did? What problems did you solve?

Then, take these stories and practice them. Be concise.  Record them. Listen back. Make adjustments. Each story should have energy and describe your unique talents.

3) What aspects of you absolutely need expression in your next job?

Your job satisfaction depends on a fit between who you are–your work values–and what you do daily.  You may not love every aspect of your next job, but be sure to consider what aspects of you–what you value most–must be expressed in your next job. Another way to discern this is to note what’s missing in your current job.

Is creativity vital to your happiness at work? Getting the chance to mentor others?  Employee development? Make decisions without someone checking over your shoulder? A supportive boss? Be very clear about all the “must haves” at your next job, so that you know what to look for next time, and what opportunities you will rule out.

Logging the time in to gain self-awareness about your branding will energize every  phase of your job search. Because you know who you are, and understand your value and impact, it will give you confidence, clarity and purpose.