START – Toolkit Development
What tools will help you deliver your brand to the outside world and what do you need to have in your own toolkit to drive the success of Brand You? In this post I’m going to start with the basics.
Your Curriculum Vitae – CV
You cannot underestimate the importance of a good CV. This is your first impression and your chance to capture your potential employer’s attention. It does not matter what job you are applying for – whether you want an entry-level position at a sales office, or a more senior position in a large business, you have got to have a good CV, otherwise you are not even going to get your foot in the door.
Its purpose is to list your accomplishments, your skills, and your qualifications, especially as to how they pertain to the job for which you are applying. You have to show your prospective employer that you are right for the job. Not only that, but you have to outline your experiences and your successes – otherwise, how will he or she know that you are truly qualified for the job? Furthermore, the document also serves as an indicator as to how well you can communicate and how good you are at organisation.
Most importantly, remember to keep it short. It should be a maximum of two pages, in total. By all means build up a bigger personal portfolio document where you can capture all the detail from your career that you can draw upon for interviews and more detail should a potential employer need them.
When applying for a specific advertised role, always customize your CV. Follow the word choices that the company uses, focus on the credentials that this particular employer values most. And if you don’t know what those are, ask and find out!
In Part 2 of Brand New, Brand You I talked about the importance of understanding how you can differentiate yourself from others. What are your Unique Selling Points for this position? Show how you can make / save the company money and show how you can resolve the problems that they have.
Don’t lie! Some people think that by putting little or bigger white lies in their job history, lists of successes, courses, training and experience – they will get away with it. You won’t. And that goes for your referees also. Your interviewers will check you out. They will check your qualifications, then referees, then work history, they will check everything. They are used to people lying to them, despite the pleasant smiles you may see. It’s all part of their job to pick the best candidate.
One final point – CHECK IT OVER before you send it out! Check it for spelling, grammar, dates, formatting and against the role profile. Then ask someone you trust to check it again. You would not believe the number of CV’s I see every year with spelling mistakes, unfinished sentences, incorrect dates and horrible grammar. Point made.
There is a difference between a paper CV and an online CV as far as readability is concerned.
Some people make the mistake of just copying and pasting their hard-copy CV’s into an online format. It’s better to consider an online CV as a completely different resource and take advantage of some benefits that it offers.
a. Use bulleted lists – This holds true for paper resumes as well, but large blocks of text are even harder to read online. People tend to scan content online more than they do in hard copy.
b. Break text up with headers – Headers make CV’s easier to scan and make keywords stand out more for the reader.
c. Hyperlink text – If you’ve written articles online, have been published in some way or you’ve developed your own blog, hyperlink the title in your CV to save the reader some trouble of copying and pasting the URL into a browser.
No matter how much you already know, you can always learn more. In Part 2 you went through a process to discover your values, passions, differentiators and your Brand You Vision. You need to think about what you need to learn, and develop a strategy to accomplish that. To enhance Brand You keep learning and reading everything you can to give you an edge in your field.
Use any ‘down-time’ in your day, on your way to and from work or at lunch, to catch up on the latest news from your industry or field of interest. I’ve found a good way to collate useful information quickly is to set up newsfeed dashboards on Google News. This takes a little time initially, but does allow you to dip in and out, throughout the day to keep updated on the latest from your industry. Another great online tool is Alltop. You can select from thousands of categorised newsfeeds and personalise a homepage of all your favourites. This is also available on mobile devices so that you can pick news up on the move.
Your email address is an important part of your personal brand, especially when you’re in any correspondence with potential employers. If you can afford it, and it really isn’t that expensive, try to buy an appropriate domain name. Yourname@yourdomain.com does portray a professional image and if you decide to build a website or blog (See Part 4) you can use the domain for that too.
Gmail is an accepted alternative, but again try to keep your address to email@example.com if you can. Hotgirl435@gmail.com or LoveBieber25@gmail.com really don’t create a professional persona!
If you don’t already have business cards with your current role, or want to build Brand You outside of your day job, then getting business cards printed is important, especially for networking events or job fairs. There are plenty of online resources that you can use that deliver high quality products such as Vistaprint out there. Keep the design simple and professional and limit the number of contact methods you use. Try and make the design fresh and different to make it distinctive.
Build your Profile and Network
Six degrees of separation works – the people you know, know people, who know people. Everyone you encounter has someone in their network with the potential to help you. The best relationships are formed by way of “introductions” or “referrals.” Everyone you meet has someone in their network who may be a potential client, supplier, employee, or employer of yours sometime in the future.
As I’m sure you’ll be aware, LinkedIn is THE business networking resource on the internet with approximately 150 million users worldwide.
It complements your fundamental networking skills in building relationships of value which you would use with people you interact with in person. It offers you a world-wide connection, a way to personally brand yourself, make contacts for jobs, and have a chance to acknowledge good people throughout your past and interact with like-minded business people from you industry or with your interests.
A few steps to get started and make the most of LinkedIn:
1. First of all sign up if you have not already. The basic service is free.
2. Fill out the entire profile – Include as much information in your profile as you can.
a. Add your photograph – Elementary you might say, but do you have a professional picture uploaded or is it a random picture you copied from Facebook? As the photograph space on LinkedIn is small, you want your picture to be a head shot taken in a professional environment with no distractions in the background. Take a good look at your picture today and ask yourself what an employer’s first impression would be.
b. Employment History – A basic field that needs to be filled out properly. Transfer your CV data to LinkedIn and make sure you get all dates correct. Include all jobs you have had, unless it’s more than ten, in which case you only include the most important ones.
c. Summary – This section is often overlooked. In the summary section you want to put your elevator pitch (If you haven’t got one – See Part 3 of Brand New, Brand You! Coming soon.). Write who you are, what your skills are and most importantly what you can do for the reader. Always think how you can add value and structure your skills and experience with bullet points to make it pleasing on the eye.
d. Specialities – Another overlooked section, mainly because nobody knows what it means. The specialities box allows you to throw in all the keywords that reflect your experience and skills. The beauty here is that every keyword is searchable, meaning you increase your chances of being found by recruiters.
e. Recommendations – Endorsements from peers, customers and managers are essential for your job search. Although not a knock out factor in the early stages of a hiring process, it can be a deciding factor at the last stage. If there are two final candidates for a job, the number and quality of LinkedIn recommendations can be the decider. Get two to three recommendations per job you have had if you can. Aim high and ask previous managers and other people with impressive titles as it will look better on your profile.
3. Connect, Connect, Connect – Think about people of value from your past who you might want to link with. Search for their names and invite them to reconnect. Then take the time to write them an endorsement (even a sentence is good). Your name is tied to this so make sure it is authentic and also reflects well on Brand You. If you keep doing this and helping people your own endorsements will grow over time and be well-earned. Endorsements of you initiated by others are obviously best. You really don’t want to ask for an endorsement unless you are clear they would love to give you one and are simply looking for an opportunity.
4. Jobs, Groups, Companies and more – I’ve walked you through the basics, but LinkedIn has much more to offer you. Take some time to explore other areas of the site and get involved. Follow Companies you’re interested in – either your competitors, your customers or prospective employers. Join Groups so that you can LinkIn with other like-minded people and contribute to discussion threads. Lastly, many companies are now using LinkedIn for their main route to source new employees. Use the advanced search function within the jobs section to get the most of your searches.
One tremendous tool to help build and promote your personal brand is to learn how to Network. Make your way to high level networking events. Before you arrive, set a goal to make a few quality connections at the event. Find out what you can do for the people you meet. Great business networking is about helping others and building lasting connections, and you don’t have to contain your networking to just events. When you get home, add your new contacts to Outlook, Facebook and LinkedIn. Help these people connect with business opportunities, employment leads and personal resources. Try to keep in touch with your network. Send them useful information, introduce them to some of your network and make sure you meet up every now and then. Individuals with a strong network of real connections don’t have to interview for future jobs, they get business opportunities and they have a ‘safety net’ if a real need arises.
That concludes the second step in START. Good luck with developing your Brand New, Brand You Toolkit – let me know you get on!
In the next post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the third step in the START process, Articulate. This post will give you some ideas about how you market the Brand New, Brand You.