Your Career Brand: Who Are You? Employers Want to Know.

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The legendary rock back The Who posed the immortal question: “Who are you?” They aren’t the only ones who want to know. Potential employers and network connections will ask you the same thing and you need to be ready with an answer that makes you look good and stand out from the crowd.

Here’s what typically happens at networking events. I was the keynote speaker for a group of financial leaders, primarily Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). Before my presentation, individuals were asked to introduce themselves briefly. The introductions sounded like this:

“Hello, I’m John Smith, and I’ve been a CFO for 25 years…”

“Hello, I’m Mike Miller, and I’ve been a CFO for 17 years…”

“Hello, I’m Fred Jones, and I’ve been a CFO for 22 years…”

While I’ve changed the names and varied years of experience, the introduction phrases are real. If an employer wanted to hire one of them, they’d sure want to know more information.

Sometimes when we’re in a group or working with fellow professionals, colleagues or students, we fall into the “group think” mode: “Well, John said his name, title, and years of experience, that’s what I should do.”

Instead, think about what sets you apart. When all things are nearly equal (like years of experience, education, job duties), it’s your personal brand, who you are, that sets you apart, and those are the reasons an employer will hire you.

As one Staffing Industry CEO told me, “Companies want to know what kind of contribution you can make to their success – not how many years you’ve been working.”

Not only do your achievements with quantifiable results set you apart, soft skills do too. One Labor Relations Director told me she hires for attitude over skill every time. “You can always teach a skill, but never an attitude,” she said. And she is not alone.

Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to help you identify your differentiators:

• What makes me a star? Translation for employers: “Why should I hire you?”

• What are my greatest strengths? If you’re not sure, go on an Attribute Treasure Hunt™. Survey your closest friends, family, and colleagues and ask them what they feel are your greatest strengths. Then ask them what three words come to mind when they think of you. Their feedback will give you a great head start on identifying your brand attributes and differentiators.

• What are my top five greatest achievements of all time? What are the skills, abilities, and values used to achieve them? What’s the common thread running through each?

Answering these and similar questions can help you identify your personal brand. By knowing who you are, what you want, and what makes you unique, you will be able to clearly communicate your goals and unique value to people in your network and to potential employers. (For more questions to help you uncover your brand and other job-getting tips, check out “Rock Your Job Search™”.)

As for my group of finance executives, luckily, my presentation was about how to create an effective sound bite (elevator pitch). Needless to say, attendees took action. I look forward to hearing about the personal branding action you take next and your results. Go get ‘em!

® 2011 Wendy Terwelp | All rights reserved.

Job Action Day: Start Up – How to Network

For this year’s Job Action Day, I’m contributing to “Start Up.” According to Quintessential Careers, “Start Up” refers to the whole mindset of being the CEO of your career; having a portfolio of portable skills, a great network, flexibility, a project-mentality; not sitting at the computer visiting job boards, but getting out there, meeting people, and knocking on doors.

Get ready to take action.

In any economy, good times and bad, it’s important to take control of your career search and not rely on the “spray and pray” method—spraying your resume all over internet job boards, and praying someone calls you. By taking an active role in your career, you land a job by choice, not by chance. Won’t it be nice to control your career destiny?

While there are many methods to search for a job, the No. 1 method is to network. You will see networking tips for “getting out there, meeting people, and knocking on doors” below.

Additionally, you can contact companies directly via their company websites or via direct mail. Send your resume and cover letter to key decision-makers for your job target. Better, of course, is to network your way into the company through your personal contacts.

And finally, job boards. Job boards are the most passive way to search for a job. Per CareerXroads Source of Hire Report, March 2011, 24.9% of candidates are sourced through job boards.

My recommendation when using a job board: Use your professional organization’s job board first, like the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD’s) Job Bank (http://jobs.astd.org/) or the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA’s) Job Center (http://www.prsa.org/jobcenter/). Oftentimes jobs posted in a professional organization’s job bank are not posted elsewhere. If you wish to use the major job boards, I recommend doing a little investigative work. Read the job posting, and then see if you have a connection at the company or a contact whom you’ve identified has a connection (two degrees away). In this way, you will learn more about the organization through your connection and be able to create a warm referral to the appropriate decision maker. Do follow the job postings’ requirements and procedures; just use your connections to take your application to the next step.

Get Personal

Networking is simply the No. 1 way people land new jobs. In fact, according to CareerXroads Source of Hire Report, March 2011, “27.5% of hires are attributed to referrals. Referrals are the No. 1 Source of External Hires.” The study also states that “50.3% of all openings are filled through internal movement.” Internal movement counts as a referral. That means 77.8% of people are hired through people they know—their network.

How to Choose a Networking Group

When deciding upon joining a networking group, ask yourself the following questions: Who needs to know about you to help you reach your goals? Does this networking organization serve your target audience for your career goal? Does it have members who are your audience? If not, it’s probably not the group for you.

What groups should you join? Join at least three types of groups:
1. Peer group for brainstorming, education, commiserating, and more importantly for creating referral or alliance partners;
2. Prospects: a group that is your ideal target market or knows your ideal target market;
3. Professional business group or leads group, including professional associations, such as ASTD, PRSA, ISM, and others. Hiring decision-makers often Google your name before meeting with you. Being associated with a professional organization can boost your online presence.

Now that you’ve chosen your top three groups for in-person networking, make a plan. Take five minutes before each networking event to:
• Rehearse your sound bite
• Identify key players whom you would like to meet
• Make a goal to meet at least three new people

What to Say at Networking Events

Have at least three open-ended questions you can ask any person at the networking event.

Here are open-ended questions that encourage conversation:
1. What brings you to today’s meeting?
2. What one or two things would you like to take away from this event?
3. What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you all week?

Never ask: “Do you know anyone who’s hiring?”

Your goal is to create real and helpful connections, NOT close the deal on a job offer or try to collect the most business cards in the room.

Let us know how this works for you and share your story! Good luck!

Want more help taking your job search to the next level? Check out “Rock Your Job Search™.” This program includes proven strategies including: How to Network Effectively Online; How to Ace the Interview; How to Negotiate the Offer and Get the Salary You Deserve, and much, much more. Includes: workbooks, audio, and extra bonuses. Enjoy!

® 2011 | Wendy Terwelp | Opportunity Knocks™ | All rights reserved.

How to Rebuild Your Network

Have you lost touch with your network? Now’s the time to reconnect. And not by asking for a favor, “Hi Carl, I know it’s been 10 years since we last spoke, but…”

Instead, how might you be of value to this person? Know that value does not have to equal money. Here are some quick tips to get back in touch and provide value at the same time:

1. Send a congratulatory note. You’re reviewing your LinkedIn updates and saw your friend got a new gig. Your congratulatory note will likely result in a quick phone call or email back to you. You can then set up a quick meeting to reconnect.

2. Send a link. You just read a terrific blog post you know will benefit your network. Share it via social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) or via email if it’s especially beneficial to a key member of your network.

3. Volunteer. If you’re not working, you’ve got a little time on your hands. Volunteering not only helps others, but also helps you make new connections and stay positive. And if you’re working a lot, which is the reason you haven’t had time to stay in touch with your network, volunteer for a cause that coincides with your work or business goals. Perhaps you can be the United Way ambassador or spearhead the American Cancer relay for your company. You’ll meet new people this way and also build bridges inside your own organization.

4. Serve on a board. Boards need great people with expertise and ideas. Sound like you? What nonprofit board can you serve on? Boards can be a great way to connect with community leaders, while doing something positive for a cause you believe in.

5. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. What can you do for them? One of my clients (who had an MBA in Information Systems) volunteered to revamp her chamber’s website. This led to meeting top guns from local businesses who were chamber members. One of those businesses hired her.

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.” This makes networking much easier because you’re not asking for a job, you’re helping your friends.

Next step, stay connected by touching base regularly. This helps you fuel your network to fire it up. Your network will be there for you when you need it, because you never lost touch. Good luck!

© 2011 – 2017 ● Wendy Terwelp ● All rights reserved.