Welcome to Brandsmart 2010!

Attend the Chicago AMA Conference on June 24

Join us here for lively discussion and interaction about brand relevance. Find out what topics and issues will be highlighted at the conference and contribute to the conversation.


Personal Branding and Today's Job Market

With 9.7% unemployment rate in the US, how do you land the right job offer, or any job offer? The average length of time someone is unemployed is 34.4 weeks or 8.5 months. What if it takes you longer? How long can you go without replacing your leaky roof? Frankly, the TV ad for The Ladders portrays the situation perfectly. You are one of a large pack of job hunters running frantically all over the tennis court after the same, dinky little tennis ball. People all around you are pushing and maneuvering around the same target. Deep down inside, you know you need a personal strategy to not only keep you in the game, but to differentiate yourself from the rest of the tennis pack. What choices should you make? Do you spend money and time perfecting your resume? Should you start your own website? Should you beef up your social media efforts? How do you juggle the myriad of choices at your fingertips?

The answer is easy but difficult to execute well. One must build and nurture a strong personal brand in order to stay in the game and win the match. Overtime, a personal brand that is honest, unique and relevant, will edge out your competitors and get you the job you need to survive, and the position you deserve.

To help you effectively manage your time and communicate your personal brand, listen to the inside recommendations from two marketing recruiters, Geri Kleeman from The Kleeman Group, Marilyn Vojta from Vojta & Associates and marketing consultant David Kissel, Partner at Zocalo Group and AMA Brandsmart Conference speaker, June 24th. Here’s how they collectively rated and evaluated the following key components most often used in building a strong personal brand. (Scores from 1-10, 1 Low Importance to 10 Most Important).

(Personal Brand Activity with respective rating and evaluation in order of priority)

1. Job Interview 10+

Of course, an interview is the most important factor in landing a job. There were three simple things our experts wanted to share:

  • Be consistent and portray your personal brand with 5-7 prepared stories that exemplify who you are, what you stand for and what your promise is.
  • Kleeman suggests you should avoid the trend of “panel interviews because they are a huge injustice to the person being interviewed.” Companies are justifying panel interviews because it saves time for the panel members. Regardless, it’s not an effective means to get to know the candidate.
  • Use behavioral techniques, like the STAR technique, to quantify and describe your main points. Make sure you provide clear examples of what you’ve done that can lead to how you can deliver results for this potential employer and be as specific as possible.

2. Resume 9.3

This vehicle, to no surprise, is not going away. Kissel says “it is the common currency that documents oneself in the marketplace in a condensed format. However, it’s vital that you have a well-written resume because recruiters see plenty poorly written resumes (believe it or not). This is the first opportunity for you to communicate and solidify your personal brand. “Make sure you take a stand and speak to who you are, what you stand for, and what your promise is” says Kissel. In order to uncover your personal branding qualities, he recommends that you “think about if people were talking about you, what would you want them to be saying? Somewhere in or around those words is where you should start in defining your personal brand.” Are you known to be passionate, a master with numbers, or someone who knows how to get things done?

3. Phone Interview/Conversation 9.3

Both recruiters felt that the phone was key and pivotal throughout the entire process. Do not underestimate the fundamental power of a two-way, personal conversation. This vehicle can sway someone into either making you a job offer or even convincing them not to hire you. Here are a couple of ideas to help:

  • Whenever you can, get a conversation going and be persuasive about selling your personal brand.
  • Align your conversations or stories around your personal branding qualities and what the truth of your promise is. Always remember that your written key messages should be consistent with your verbal key messages.

4. Linkedin.com 8.7

Eight-percent of employers seek new employees using Linkedin and recruiters rely heavily on this social media channel to seek out new candidates. Therefore, in order to be competitive, you must have a healthy presence on Linkedin. Here are some tips:

  • Quality of links are more believable and important than quantity, 50+ is OK
  • Make sure your personal brand shines through and matches your resume.
  • Take advantage of this channel because it is more dynamic than a resume, says Kissel. All three sources believed that you should join pertinent organizations and engage in conversations for the purposes of widening your network and building trusting relationships with individuals you don’t ever meet face to face.
  • Kissel also explains how Linkedin can be a short cut for trust when used well. For instance, enough of the right recommendations can portray trust. One way to get recommendations is to give them out to others unsolicited and you will automatically get them back in return. However, don’t forget that quality is more important than quantity, where thirty is definitely too many. Lastly, ensure that your recommendations align with your key personal brand messages.

5. Verbal References 8.0

Recruiters use references in two very important ways, one way you may be aware of and the other may be a surprise.

  • Recruiters rely heavily on casual references. Unbeknownst to you, they are calling your former supervisor or someone else in their network that knows you for a quick chat. This is part of their regular due diligence so it’s in your best interest to never burn any bridges, even under the most trying of circumstances like a firing or a lay-off.
  • Once a company is ready to give out an offer, a recruiter calls your “official” references for a longer 15-20 minutes chat. Ensure that your references are aligned with your personal brand messaging because the recruiters are looking for continuity and fit. So, if you claim that you are passionate about your work and none of your references bring this quality up, this weakens your claim.

6. Professional Extracurricular Activities 7.0

Do not be lazy or so busy that you fail to participate in professional associations. . Basically, involvement in organizations is evidence that you are still learning, well connected and on top of your game. These are qualities that are more desirable than someone who is stuck inside their own cocoon.

  • Vojta feels that “being a part of a professional organization shows that you are a global thinker”.
  • Kissel adds some good spin by suggesting you should take these activities and extend them, publicize them into the social media channels in order to extend the reach of your personal brand
  • Don’t become involved in so many organizations that it’s impossible for you to stay involved and keep up.

7. Organic Name Search on Yourself 7.0

There is some variation on how much recruiters and employers search your name organically. Regardless, you should search yourself in case you need to correct anything misleading, differentiate yourself from someone with the same name or improve a lack of meaningful listings. Our sources share that:

* It is more appropriate to search a name for senior level positions.

* You may never get the phone interview if someone is not impressed with your listings or even a little curious.

8. Blogging for yourself or for your company 5.3

According to our two recruiters, blogging for the purpose of expressing your personal brand is not monitored by those who are vetting you for a position. So, they do not advise blogging in order to to get found. However, there are other venerable reasons for blogging such as expressing your opinions as an expert on some subject, for the purpose of being heard, helping others, garnering advertisers and earning an income as a blogger and more . Here’s what the experts had to say:

  • According to Vojta, it’s possible that your opinions could be misconstrued or considered too strong and it could actually work against you.
  • Kissel had a pertinent warning that “if you can’t think and express a unique, meaningful point of view, don’t blog. It’s all about what makes you special, your point of view.”
  • Kleeman would not bother investigating anyone’s blog unless it was a part of the position they were applying for.

9. Facebook 4.0

Presently, the majority of recruiters and most employers don’t seem to be checking Facebook profiles, walls or photos according to our three experts. Facebook has a strong personal social aspect to it and is not as professionally oriented as Linkedin. However, look out!

  • Although Kissel recognized Facebook’s personal utility, he realized that it could negatively impact your professional life. More than half of employers surveyed by Harris Interactive recently reported they did not hire candidates based on provocative photos or references to drugs or alcohol. Needless to say, that is not considered good personal branding.
  • One recruiter predicted that more and more companies may start reviewing Facebook for younger, new hires in order to discover things they cannot ask legally, e.g. gender, race etc. In addition, a company could also use a Facebook presence to judge your integrity and character. Regardless of age, it’s wise not to put anything on Facebook that could malign your professional character or negatively sway a potential employer.

10. Twitter 3.7

Every one of the sources claimed that Twitter is not highly relevant in the job search today. Only one out of three sources Twitters diligently despite the fact that there are 110MM Twitterers. Overall, this new social media channel is still immature and crowded with noise, but, if executed regularly, efficiently and wisely, I believe there may be some opportunities waiting to happen. Some companies recruit directly on Twitter. What successes have you heard about? In the meantime, here are some comments from our sources.

  • Aptly stated by Kissel, “Twitter is a lot of talk and not a lot of meaning.”
  • Kleeman uses it as another channel to stay in touch with candidates and gets the word out with tips, advice and announcements of job openings for her followers. This alone may be good reason for a job hunter to follow recruiters and their Tweets.

11. Personal Branded Website 1.0

All three of our experts saw no value in developing a personal website. It may be a big waste of time and is not the most effective means to communicate your personal brand, especially since there are so many other vehicles that can do the same thing.

Take a deep look inside of yourself to uncover the truest attributes that make you special, differentiated and competitive in the workforce. Take time and effort to consistently communicate these qualities across all methods, verbal and written, and throughout numerous social media channels, in order to extend your brand into new territory.

Like Marilyn Vojta wisely reminded us, “if you can brand and market a widget, you can brand and market yourself”. What successes have you had in some of these channels?

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