Careers, Job Search, Personal Branding, job seekers, linkedin, personal brand management

Your Job Search Secret Weapon – Your Personal Brand

Mary Rosenbaum | November 21st, 2016

When you think of popular brands you automatically remember the specific value that manufacturers focus on when talking about their products. Whether it’s Volvo and safety, BMW and performance, or Tesla and innovation – the focus is on the differentiating qualities and the value those qualities provide. And yes, they all get you where you want to go but that’s not what all the noise about. It’s about HOW they do it and the value they provide and that’s what distinguishes them from each other and from the competition.

The same holds true for you as a professional. Your personal brand is like a fingerprint – no two people bring the exact same qualities to completing the task at hand. How you do what you do – whether it’s the specific experience you bring to the table, the innovation you are known for, the ability to engage others to work with you – is very important in distinguishing you from your competition.

Here are some important lessons to be learned from those people who are masters of creating solid well-known brands;

1. Never present yourself as a jack of all trades – because you will be mistaken for a master of none. Generalists are not memorable and therefore not easily remembered. Identify those skills/talents/experiences that enable you to provide the unique value a prospective employee needs to be successful in the position for which they are recruiting. And then find the stories that back up the claim. If you can’t claim value that distinguishes you from the competition you will be thought of as a commodity – and pricing rather than value will be the differentiating feature.

In the example I used above, the cars I mentioned would never be considered commodities – although pricing may be a deterrent for some, their target audience makes the purchase based on perceived value, not on pricing. You’re not JUST buying a car; you’re buying a specific brand known for the qualities you want.

2. Know what your selling points are and make sure all your collateral materials (resume, LinkedIn, bio, etc.) reflect and validate these points. For example, a common mistake is to make your resume a comprehensive listing of every responsibility and task you ever completed throughout your career.

Companies with strong brands keep hammering home the points they want you to remember, to connect with, and use as part of your purchase decision. They don’t give all the details of their product because that would dilute the message they were trying to convey and make it harder for you to remember what they deem to be the strongest selling points.

A resume that has too much information is as bad as one that has not enough. A resume filled with more than what’s needed is asking the reader to pick and choose what he/she deems important. Instead a resume that highlights the skills and talents you want them to see puts you in charge of how you are viewed. The focus should be on the job you want, not the one you had 5 or 10 years ago. So take control of what they think, point them in the direction you want to go, and the odds of being singled out increase.

3. Never underestimate the value of a cover letter. A cover letter is another opportunity for you to hammer that message home – that you have the skills they need and want.

A cover letter is your opportunity to link your skills, experiences, successes, and abilities directly to the job for which you are applying. It’s not a rehash of what’s on your resume – it’s a time for you to show personality, showcase your writing capabilities, illustrate the knowledge you have of the industry and of them, and tell them something that would be relevant to the job but not fully fleshed out on the resume. This is an opportunity to let your differentiating qualities come through and let your personal brand be more visible.

In my days as a recruiter I always read the cover letter and if it was one that would be able to connect the dots for my clients – show them how this candidate might fit well with their needs – I always forwarded both the resume and the cover letter. After all, the candidate was making my job that much easier.

So don’t bury your personal brand in favor of being all things to all people. Instead highlight your secret weapon and use the resources that are in your control to spotlight the differences.

Whether you are in a job or looking for one, strengthening your personal brand is vital to your success. Need help?  Contact me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigital Photos.net


Success: Is it all about WHO you know?

Mary Rosenbaum | October 19th, 2015


Is it all about WHO you know and not WHAT you know? The answer is yes and no. WHO you know can help get you in the running for that promotion, that job, that piece of new business. WHAT you know will help you turn possibilities into reality.

Studies over the past couple of years have proven that larger, diversified networks have a significant impact on your career and your earning capability. The relationship between network size, quality and expected wages is positive. The results of studies over the past 20 years reinforce the fact that wage rates of the most well connected are 15% to 25% higher than those with few connections.

The importance of growing your network cannot be overstated. But the value of your network lies not solely in the numbers. The quality of its members is a vital component. Two of my past posts focused on growing your network and building your tribeBut what about the quality of your network?

Your network consists of two categories of members: those with whom you have close ties and those with weak ties.

Close ties are those relationships where people know you well and understand what you do. You already know many of their contacts and the type of information they can provide. Generally, you travel in the same circles, belong to many of the same social groups, and may even work in the same company or industry.

Weak ties are the opposite. You know them but are not close. You don’t travel in all the same circles therefore you are not familiar with their networks. Because they are not in your immediate circle, they have information and contacts that may prove to be valuable for you, your career and your business. In fact, it’s through weak ties that the majority of leads are disseminated regarding employment and business opportunities. In short, weak ties enable you to reach populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

Not to confuse things but “followers” on social media networks do not generally fall into the category of weak ties. Although the broad definition of weak ties may fit, you still have to have some form of relationship built on trust, contact, or experience in order for there to be any form of information and contact sharing that extends beyond the superficial. Unless you build a relationship beyond 140 characters your followers cannot be considered weak ties.

What can you do to increase your network in a purposeful way?

First and foremost, ensure that you continue to deepen your close relationships so that you can each act as brand ambassadors for the other. Although they may have more limited resources to share it’s always valuable to have people who are “in your corner.” Their role as advisors, supporters, and cheerleaders is vital to maintaining your confidence and continued professional growth.

To grow your network of weak ties, seek out opportunities where you can meet people from different backgrounds:

- join organizations not related to what you do

volunteer at nonprofits outside your immediate community

keep in touch with former colleagues since their network will be different once they leave

strengthen relationships with “followers” and LinkedIn connectionsso there can be more meaningful reciprocity in sharing information and contacts

attend events that interest you and are outside your immediate sphere of influence

take new classes and expand your horizons

Grow WHO you know with purpose so you can showcase WHAT you know.

What other ways do you grow your network?

Want to discuss this in person? Contact me.


Personal Branding on Steroids: Networking That Works FOR You

Mary Rosenbaum | February 24th, 2015

Networking is at the root of a lot of the work I do with clients, whether they are looking for a job, seeking career advancement, or want to increase their client list. Effective networking is Personal Branding on steroids. The more people know what you do and how you do it, the more you become known for your areas of expertise.

What I have found is that most of us disregard an entire group of people when we think about spreading our personal brand – our family and friends. Many of us tend to regard our family and friends differently than we do our “professional network.” Yet this is the group that has the potential to be our best brand ambassadors.

What do I mean by that? This example should help clear this up:

I was visiting with friends some time ago and inquired about someone they had known for years who had recently gone into consulting. It took them many attempts to try to identify what specialty their friend provided. They finally gave up and admitted that they really didn’t know. What if I was someone who could use this person’s services or be able to refer him to someone I knew that might need what he provides. But that will never happen.

Are your family and friends good ambassadors for letting others know what you do professionally, what your goals are, or what you are trying to achieve? Our expanded network includes not only the people we know but extends to those known to our immediate network. Just look at your LinkedIn numbers and you’ll see the scope of how your potential professional network exceeds your immediate contacts.

And with family and friends, we often overlook what I call “low hanging fruit” because we put them into different categories than we do our professional contacts.

It is important to communicate and define your brand to those you are close to in addition to those you know professionally. An integral part of personal branding is communicating what you want others to know about you and to brand those ideas and words in the minds of others so when they describe you to people they know, those are the words that will come to mind.

In providing your friends and family with information, it would be beneficial to:

  • Give them a detailed description of the type of work you do, the skills you employ in your work, the companies or industries you have worked for or the type of projects you have completed. Tell those stories that “show” your skills and that’s what they will remember.
  • Provide them with an understanding of what you need – if it’s a job or a role you want to play within an organization, be specific as to what you want to do (not only the title you want), if it’s clients you want then what type of clients would be suitable.
  • Let them know what your qualifications are so they have a clear picture of who you are, and consequently, they can more easily convey your expertise to others.

You need to let them know what you are good at, what makes you good at it (your validation), who you work with or for, and what you want or need. Don’t overlook the value of this type of “word of mouth” advertising. So go ahead, ask your friends if they can describe you in a way that conveys your expertise as well as your needs and wants. If not, get to work and spread the word.


Personal Branding: What You Do Is Only A Small Part of Your Story

Mary Rosenbaum | February 6th, 2015

An important part of your personal brand is your story. The most difficult part of defining your personal brand is unearthing and then communicating what makes you good at your job, why you stand out, and what propels you to do what you do.

Each of us has a unique story – one that helps us stand out.

Some time ago I worked with a young woman, a daughter of a friend of mine, who was a senior at a high-ranking university. She was able to get great first interviews during on-campus interview season. Her problem was she rarely made it to a second interview and couldn’t figure out why.

Compared to her fellow students who were getting those call backs, she had similar grades and had taken the same courses as they did. She thought that her lack of professional experience during her college summers held her back. She had chosen to travel extensively each summer rather than “pay her dues” and work as a summer intern in the financial industry (her preferred career choice).

That wasn’t her problem.

What we identified as an issue was her inability to create a cohesive story that would encourage an interviewer to want to know more about who she was and what she had to offer. There was nothing about her story that made her memorable- and standing out was critical given the sheer number of interviews companies scheduled each day they were on campus. Her story, or lack of story, made her forgettable.

Through our work together she realized that she was more than just the courses she took and the grades she earned. That even someone without work experience has experiences that build and exemplify initiative, creativity, leadership, flexibility, resilience, and intuitiveness – each of which are highly valued by prospective employers.

Once we delved deeper into her life and her experiences, we were able to add some color to how she represented herself. Some of the experiences we drew from included:
-  She was President of her sorority.

-  As President, she initiated and executed on a variety of fund raising programs for local charities.

-  She ran the sorority’s finance committee.

- Through her summer travels she learned how to navigate the world, deal with some adverse situations, communicate with people of different cultures, and come to understand that people of other cultures respond to a variety of behaviors in very different ways.

We took these experiences and fleshed them out into stories that highlighted the soft skills that so many employers want. These stories coupled with her strong academic credentials provided interviewers with a more interesting candidate. She gave them enough information so they had greater insight into who she was, what she might have to offer, and how she stood out from her competitors. Her story of growing up in NYC leading up to her desire to work in finance was cohesive, informative and differentiating.

As a professional, you have many experiences to draw from but never forget that your story is comprised of all your experiences and serves as a differentiating factor in how and why you do what you do. Your story should provide us with a glimpse of your character –your passions, your motivators, your values – and how these impact your professional life.

STAND OUT and BE MEMORABLE!

Need help standing out, contact me.


Resumes That Work

Mary Rosenbaum | September 16th, 2014

Do you believe that having a strong resume is important in landing a job or an interview? If you answered yes, then it’s time to rework your resume.

Although this post is geared toward job seekers, I believe that everyone would benefit from a resume redo once a year. Whether you are looking for a job or are content in your current position, it’s always a good idea to go through the exercise of writing your resume. Why? Because it’s important to you have a clear understanding of what you have to offer, what your expertise is, what successes need to be highlighted, and how to best represent yourself to others.

In reworking your resume think of yourself as the Product. And if that’s the case then your resume, along with your collateral materials, have to reflect your product’s personal brand. Gone are the days when your resume used words such as:

  • responsible for
  • managed
  • handled
  • led

Instead, your resume should be much more focused on your major accomplishments and the value you add for your employer. It should be skills focused and success oriented with quantitative results used whenever possible that demonstrate your impact on revenue generation, cost reduction, team building, problem solving, and relationship building.

Hard skills (years of experience, education) are what get you in the game. It’s the soft skills (accomplishments, how you work) that provide the differentiating factors when decisions are made between who to bring in for an interview and which resumes to delete.

Think of how you can “show” rather than “tell” your story. For example, if you led a team through a particular project, rather than state that you led a team on Project A, start with the result, the impact, and the benefit to your company.

A strong resume speaks to an employer’s needs and demonstrates how you can help them.

When putting together your branded resume, try to answer the following questions:

  • What are my assets? Hard and soft skills, job and life experiences, education, extra-curriculars.
  • What are my greatest successes? Quantitative examples should be used here to validate.
  • How am I different/better than my competitors? For example: language skills, international experience, awards, promotions, education.
  • What do I bring to the job/company that is unique? Brainstorm with others: co-workers, coach, managers, mentors.
  • What are the prospective employer’s greatest needs and how does what I offer help them? This is a great place to “show” by using examples.
  • What weaknesses or shortcomings do I have that might prevent me from getting the interview/job? How can I ameliorate them?

Your resume should be geared to the particular job for which you are applying. The more tailored your resume, the more time you spend customizing it, the better your chances at getting that call you’re waiting for.

Have any questions? Contact me.