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

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

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.

Job Change – When Is It Right?

Mary Rosenbaum | March 17th, 2014

How do you know when it’s time to change jobs?

When I was an executive recruiter I remember working with a particular candidate who was reluctant to make a job change. He had been in his position for over 5 years, had friends at work, felt he knew what was expected of him, knew the lay of the land, and didn’t want to “create any waves” in his life. He wanted to stay put even though the opportunity I presented would be more challenging, career enhancing, and to top it off, would pay more than what he was earning.

His reluctance to move stemmed from a normal fear of the unknown that blinded him to all the reasons why he should move.

Changing jobs is one of the top ten stress-inducing life events, right up there with death, illness, marriage, divorce, having children, and going to jail.

So it’s easy to understand anyone’s reluctance to change jobs willingly when there appears to be no real need.

Yet, there are often signs that go unnoticed just so we can maintain the status quo and not cause any ripples in our lives. And those signs, if they exist, often lead to a more stressful life situation as work becomes less rewarding – personally, professionally, and financially.

I am not advocating job change and in fact often counsel clients that changing their situation at work should be the first step in improving and taking control of their careers. If that doesn’t work, then a job change might be in order.

Reasons for considering a job change fall into two basic categories: Improving an already positive situation and extricating yourself from a limiting situation.

Improving an already positive situation:

As with my example above, you can be in a job and a company that seems to working just fine. But then along comes an opportunity that could shake things up. What do you do?

If you are successful where you are and have been able to hone your skills and talents, you may be able to leverage this experience and accelerate your career by moving to another firm or even another industry.  Companies look for talented professionals who can introduce alternative solutions for new and recurring problems. An outsider’s viewpoint can be a great way for companies to enhance their existing talent pool.

And oftentimes, it’s a great way for you to move into a more senior role faster than if you stay where you are.

Another positive reason to make a change would be to gain broader exposure to how other companies and industries operate – it expands your knowledge base and makes you even more marketable in the future. It’s a great way to move away from “we have always done it this way” to having a greater variety of options and skills in your toolbox.

In both of these situations, it goes without saying that this works best if you have specific skills and talents that have been developed over a number of years. Job hopping simply to improve your positioning without the requisite depth of experience will not prove to be a successful career maneuver.

Extricating yourself from a limiting situation:

Although it would be great if we could all decide to change jobs because we want to improve an already good situation rather than because we are unhappy where we are. But the reality so many of us find ourselves in situations that limit our career path and make us miserable at work.

Here are a few that should galvanize you into doing something:

– You have been passed over for promotions, choice projects, and other opportunities that would expand your area of expertise.

– You are no longer being challenged by the work – it’s feels more repetitive, less creative, and consequently you feel less motivated.

– You no longer enjoy the work you do – it doesn’t fit with your values or your interests, you no longer feel engaged and it’s harder to get up in the morning.

– You cannot deepen or broaden your sphere of influence – there is a lack of cross-functional exposure, it’s not a collaborative culture, there’s too much internal competition.

– Management does not provide adequate support for the work that needs to be done – staffing, systems, consultants.

– Management sets artificial deadlines as a way of managing their employees creating stress and an unhealthy departmental attitude.

– There seems to be no clear career path – there’s no budget for professional development, they often recruit from outside, there’s a lack of visibility with senior management.

Any of these situations should cause a red light to go off. Your first step should be to try to work on improving your current situation. If that fails, then it might be time to move on.

As for the candidate I was trying to place with my client – he ultimately took the job we were offering and I’m glad to say, he “lived happily ever after.”

Need help assessing your career? Contact me.

Let us know if you have any other reasons that changing jobs might be the right way to go.

What Do You Want Your Job To Look Like?

Mary Rosenbaum | February 25th, 2014

Are you looking for a new job? Are you deciding whether it’s time to look for a new job? There are important factors to consider to make sure the job you’re in or the one you take positions you for the career goals you set.

There are always tradeoffs but there are also a few non-negotiables you might consider before making any decision. Based on my years of experience as an executive recruiter and a career management coach, here are my thoughts.

1. Reputation. Whether you are a seasoned employee or someone in the early stages of developing your career, there is value to working for a company that is respected and successful in its industry.

What is the company’s reputation? How does it compare with its competitors? What is the company’s track record?

If the company is considered among the top in their group the chances are that they are ahead of the curve in how they do what they do. The learning opportunities are greater. The skills you learn and the knowledge you gain will be leading edge.

If they are at the top of their industry they are respected for their ability to succeed in a competitive environment. Unsurprisingly, a halo effect of that respect trickles down to their employees.

As a former recruiter in the financial services industry, I found that there were a handful of companies whose name on your resume greatly enhanced your chances for future employment. These companies were considered to be the “Harvard” of the financial services world. Their names always helped open doors. And companies like this exist in all industries.

At the same time, working for a company with a dubious reputation has the exact opposite effect. In my experience, it’s not unusual for a company that has problems, internal and/or external, to make offers and promises to potential candidates that are above what they might expect from more successful and well regarded competitors. Careful research into what those problems might be and how they could impact you and your career would be advisable.

2. Risk/Reward trade off. I’m often asked by clients whether they should consider moving to a start-up. Whether you are a seasoned professional looking for an opportunity to stretch your intellectual muscles or a young professional enticed by the new kid on the block, here are some things to consider.

If you are someone just starting to build your career you might be willing to look at opportunities in companies that are just emerging. Start- ups and young companies present excellent opportunities for professionals without a long track record. These companies tend to operate leaner with a more egalitarian approach to advancement based on success and performance rather than years of experience. They offer the ability to increase your knowledge and skills and move up the ranks faster than larger and more established companies.

If this risk doesn’t pay off, a younger professional has more ability to bounce back and secure a position with a more established organization down the road. Their “investment” in the startup could be viewed by a prospective employer as a skill building opportunity without any of the negative overtones.

Conversely, if you are a seasoned professional you would have to evaluate, aside from any financial considerations, how you could benefit from this move as you have a lot more at risk should the effort not pan out as anticipated. And just as important, you might consider what your exit strategy might be should you need one.

3. Impact/Responsibilities/Control. Any position should offer you intrinsic rewards that make you want to come to work each day. The following questions should adequately answer the “What’s in it for me?” question.

What impact will the work you do have on the company and it’s bottom line? Will you be able to expand your knowledge and skill set on the job? Will the company offer opportunities for you to grow professionally? How much control will you have over your day to day responsibilities? Will there be opportunities for professional advancement?

4. Culture. You will be spending most of your time at work and as we all know, work often occupies your mind most of the time regardless of where you are. Make sure you will be spending your time in a place where you feel comfortable and respected.

So ask yourself: What’s the company culture like? Will I fit in? Does my work ethic correspond with those I’ll be working with and for? Will the values I live by be respected? Can I be myself on the job?

4. Compensation. This is always a factor but not one that deserves the top spot. In most situations, compensation is largely determined by industry standards.  As I wrote earlier, an outsized offer is often a red flag that should be carefully evaluated.

If you are new to your career, compensation should play a much smaller role in the decision making process. Opportunity to learn, exposure to the industry, relationship and network building opportunities, and career building responsibilities should be the focus of any new position.

If you are a seasoned professional, the focus of your evaluation should be improved opportunities for advancement into leadership roles, the ability to leverage past experience into new areas of responsibility, increased visibility inside and outside your organization and industry, and increased autonomy and control. If you are the right person for the right job, the compensation will be commensurate with your expectations.

What other factors do you consider when making job and career decisions?

Want to grow your career opportunities and define your next role? Contact me.

Magic Bullets? No. Necessary Steps? Absolutely. Job Search Advice.

Mary Rosenbaum | November 21st, 2013

A job search, even in the best of times can take upwards of 6 months. And depending on the type of job, the job market and the economy, it can take even longer. The reality is, looking for a job IS a job and involves a lot of work.  Taking short cuts can only hurt you as you burn your way through contacts rather than solidifying them and turning them into connections.

Would you go into a meeting or presentation without the right materials, without knowing what has to be emphasized, without a full understanding of the topic you will be addressing? Of course not. Yet, many people go into a job search or into an interview without the right collateral materials, the right pitch, or even without a game plan.

Based on my experience as a coach and as a recruiter, I have listed some basics you have to have in place to run a successful search. These basics are not magic bullets nor is this list comprehensive. But if you can check them off, the search process will run more smoothly, will provide a better foundation for your career moves in the future, and may even shorten the time it takes to find what you’re looking for.

Here goes:

1. A branded resume that focuses on your successes and achievements, one that is written with your desired job in mind. This isn’t about providing a laundry list of each and every responsibility you had in your past jobs. It should be focused on your accomplishments, what you are known for, and how you want to be described.

2. A targeted networking plan. Who needs to know about you? Who can help you get in front of those people? Who can provide you with insight into the industry and the current employment situation? Who is well connected, not only in the industry but in general? Remember that second and third degree contacts are critical to expanding your network.

3. A few sentences that other people can use when describing who you are, what you do, the value you provide and what you are looking for. You have to brand these words into the minds of everyone you meet so they can then repeat them when describing you to others.

4. A great introductory email/bio/letter to send to those people that don’t know you. In as few words as possible, make what you write compelling enough for them to want to respond. I am not advocating sending out cold emails. In fact, I think that’s not a great way to go. This type of communication should be used when someone is lending their name to the introduction – that way, you have a better chance that someone will read it and respond to it.

5. Know what your “ask” is of every meeting, encounter, email. Connect the dots and don’t assume someone will connect them for you.

6. Create a follow up plan for every successful contact you make. This doesn’t mean you should make a pest of yourself but rather that you ensure that potential meaningful relationships don’t fall through the cracks and disappear.

7. Pull together your story of where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go so that it all ties together and lets the listener know that you are in control of your career and that each decision had a purpose.

8. Turn your current style of networking into a more forward thinking approach of building foundations for relationships that last beyond your next job.

If you have anything else you want to add or have some additional job search tips, please let us know.

Need help articulating your value and developing your plan, contact me.

The Weapon of Choice in Your Job Search: Your Personal Brand

Mary Rosenbaum | June 28th, 2010

Your personal brand is a great weapon in today’s economy. If you are looking for a job it helps to distinguish you in a crowded universe. Knowing your strengths, talents, values and passions helps you identify and achieve your goals. When you know where you want to go then you can more easily articulate what you offer and why you would be a great hire. Identifying your specific areas of expertise enable you to more easily promote yourself to your desired target audience.

There are common mistakes people make because they believe that casting a wide net will open up opportunities while specificity will limit their chances of securing a position. Here are some things to avoid when involved in a search:

1. Presenting yourself as a jack of all trades (and therefore master of none). Generalists are not memorable and therefore not easily remembered. Stand for something and identify a speciality or differentiating quality so that you stand out. You are not a commodity so find your unique talents and strengths and shine a spotlight on them.

2. Cover all your bases and make sure your resume includes every responsibility you ever held so that nothing slips through the cracks. 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 15 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. One cover letter will do because most people don’t read them anyway. As a former executive recruiter I can say that I read cover letters and often forwarded the contents to potential employers. A cover letter provides the reader with a reason for meeting you. The letter connects the skills they want, the experience you have and the successes you achieved using those skills. It allows you to show personality and to illustrate the knowledge you have of the industry and of them. This is an opportunity to let your differentiating qualities come through and let you personal brand be more visible.

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

Are there other myths or beliefs that should be dispelled when looking for a job or making a career change? Please share them with us.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru

Brand Your Personal Brand in the Minds of Others

Mary Rosenbaum | April 30th, 2010

If you were to ask three colleagues, three friends, and three family members to describe your attributes, strengths, and abilities do you know what they would say? Would they all say the same things? There has been much written about personal branding, in fact, I have written and spoken a great deal about it as well. But have you thought about what it actually means?

Personal BRANDING is the process by which you determine how you want to be viewed by others and then go about BRANDING the words you want them to use when describing you. You are in effect BRANDING your “reputation” in the minds of others.

How do you do this?

1. Find out what others think of you? Have a conversation and ask them the questions that would bring out how they would describe you to others. If you want more detailed information, a 360 assessment is a great tool to use because it offers anonymity and that ensures a higher degree of honesty and accuracy.

2. Do a Strengths, Weakness, Attribute, and Talents analysis (SWAT) using information they provide and include your own self analysis. Once you have this information determine which skills, talents, abilities, attributes and strengths are ones that will further your career. Those are the ones you want to highlight. If there are weaknesses that might prevent you from attaining your goals, think of ways you can ameliorate them (take courses, connect with those who can help you overcome them, partner with people who can fill in your gaps). If they are not road blockers, just forget them and move on.

3. Do a comparative analysis of the skills and abilities you bring to your work. Try to determine how you are the same and what makes you different than your competitors. What gets you in the game – education, years of experience, similar skill sets – should be the same. What makes you different is a combination of what others think of you, special talents and skills you bring to your work, and the way in which you provide your service or do your job.

4. Develop an elevator pitch or personal branding statement that provides the listener with information on what you do, why you do it, what your differentiating qualities are, and the value you provide. You don’t have to be looking for a job or pitching a client to develop a strong personal branding statement or pitch. The reason you are doing this is so that you can “brand” this description into the minds of all you meet and already know.

5. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. Everyone should understand what you do and the value you provide. And it should be consistent for everyone you meet.

6. Always be on brand. Make sure that the work you do and the way you present yourself, on and off line are always on brand. It takes a great deal of time to build a reputation, to solidify your brand in other peoples’ minds. It takes considerably less time to destroy it.

Are there other ways you have in identifying your unique promise of value, your personal brand? We would love to hear about them.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Personal Branding – Get More Visible at Work

Mary Rosenbaum | April 22nd, 2010

How visible are you? How visible is your personal brand? Having a great personal brand but lacking visibility in your company is much like throwing a great party but failing to send out the invites. How do you get in front of those who need to know about you and your personal brand?

Getting visible sometimes requires you to take a chance and stick your neck out. Remember that keeping your head down and just doing your job is no longer a winning formula for getting visible and getting ahead.

Here are some tips on ways to get greater visibility.

1. Make sure those who have the power know your unique value. Make sure that updates about projects you are proud of working on get sent to those that need to know. It’s hard to cc the big boss on all your emails, but it might be possible for you to volunteer for a project that puts you in closer proximity where she/he can see you in action as well as hear of your successes. Use caution that you don’t overuse the cc and start to look more like spam than like real information.

2. Attend meetings or speaking engagements where the power people congregate and network with them before and after these events. The idea is for them to know your name, what you do, and ultimately what your unique value is to the firm.

3. Start an internal blog with postings that would be of interest to people in your firm, be on brand, and demonstrate your thought leadership. You could discuss articles, white papers, or interesting work that’s being done in your area that would bring to light your knowledge and expertise while gaining much greater visibility.

4. Networking across departments in your company is critical to developing relationships and alliances, gaining a greater understanding of what other areas of your firm are doing, the expertise they have and need, and how your skills and abilities can be utilized and augmented to better manage your career.

5. Don’t wait for new projects to find you. Create new ways for you to contribute to your company’s success/bottom line. By showing your creativity you will be showcasing your unique value, and building your own net worth and social capital (you make your boss look good if you look good).

6. Is there a project you would love to work on in a different department? If it furthers your career goals, is on brand, and would be a great way to highlight your skills and abilities volunteer to get involved. I know that this can sometimes be difficult to accomplish but this is where your exposure to those with influence helps. Try getting permission by focusing your request not only on why you would be a great addition to the project and add value but that the experience and perhaps even the results would benefit your department as well.

Stand out from the crowd by taking a stand.

Are there other ways you know of getting the visibility and recognition? Please share them with us.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Personal Branding – Developing Your Vision Statement

Mary Rosenbaum | April 13th, 2010

I thought this was an interesting read in light of my previous post on the importance of having a vision in developing your brand. Understanding your vision provides you with a direction for your business and your career. This article on how to develop your and your company’s vision statement in 24 words should help in developing your thought process. Let me know what you think.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Do I Need A Personal Brand? If So, How Do I Know It’s Working?

Mary Rosenbaum | March 19th, 2010

An interesting question came up in a conversation I had last night with an HR representative of a major corporation: “Why is it important for people who work in corporations to have their own personal brand? After all, doesn’t the company itself have a brand?”

Corporations have their own brand and you, as a representative of that corporation express this brand wherever you go, whether it’s dealing with internal or external clients.

Yet each of you brings something unique to the table whenever you promote or provide the services your company offers. Your brand, the way you communicate with others, the way you do your work, the way your successes and failures are viewed by those who matter, have tremendous implications on your career. Understanding the underpinnings of your brand, what makes you unique and what helps you stand out enables you to create your career by design.

Consequently, it’s important to understand how you are viewed, both internally as well as by the outside world. These are some questions you should be asking yourself.

1. Is my reputation, what people think of me, equal to how I view myself?

2. How do I really want people to think of me and to respond to me?

3. Have I been able to differentiate myself and what I do in a positive and productive way?

4. Is the way I am viewed going to help me achieve my professional goals?

5. Is my reputation helping or hurting my work and my future?

6. Is my personal brand (my vision, purpose and values) in alignment with that of the company?

Understanding your personal brand is integral to obtaining satisfaction from your job, enjoying the company you work for, and in obtaining the career goals you set for yourself. Having a strong personal brand plays a critical role in your success in managing your career.

So ask yourself these hard questions. If the answers are not what you expect then you have some work to do; it may be difficult but worth it.

How do you measure whether your personal brand is working for or against you? I would love to hear from you.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.