When Strategic Insights developed the concept of Vibrant Brand Personality, we did so from the perspective of products and services. But lately, we’ve realized it also applies to individuals as well.
We spend a lot of time marketing others around here, figuring out just what sets them apart from their competitors and trying to convince their customers of the same. Our method is called Vibrant Brand Personality, and it involves ascribing human characteristics to a brand, so people can better relate to it and to make it a more tangible commodity.
However, we musn’t forget that, as humans, we have human characteristics ourselves. No two of us is alike and we all have something to “sell.” In other words, some quality that makes others want to spend time with us or work with us.
My brother recently re-launched his career after the economy took away his job back in January. While it was still fresh in his mind, I asked him what he considered his most effective measures in finding a new job. Keep in mind that he’s very determined, upbeat and a compulsive “list maker.” Those qualities alone served him well in his search, but here are a few things he did that others might find helpful these days:
• Shine your resume until it gleams. Not just in your opinion, but to others, preferably in your industry. If the company you’re leaving offers outplacement, wring every last resource out of it. You might even find someone (someone you trust, of course) who’s willing to help you for free. Make sure it’s formatted professionally and every word in there has a purpose and speaks to your accomplishments, not merely your responsibilities. Employers aren’t hiring you to do you a favor–there needs to be a clear-cut benefit staring them in the face.
• Get LinkedIn working for you. This is tedious but important. Short of meeting you in person, it’s where people can learn the most about you. Upload a good headshot–not something from your last beach trip, but slap on a tie and show people you’re a professional. Complete your profile, giving it as much attention as your resume. Get (at least three) people to write recommendations for you, but be careful that they’re not just people for whom you’ve done the same. Employers give more weight to candidates whose LinkedIn profiles are 90%+ complete. Join relevant groups and generate or participate in some conversations, sharing your knowledge about your industry–you must have learned something doing what you did for all those years.
• Fire up the network. Now is not the time to be shy. Reach out to everyone/anyone you know or knew and, in a positive way, let them know you’re in the market. Don’t ask for work–ask them to be a reference. This shows you think highly of them and their opinion, which should reflect favorably on you. As my brother said, “These days, the last thing people are doing is thinking about you.” Fortunately, thanks to email, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, it’s not nearly as awkward as it used to be to reach out to that colleague from 10 or 15 years ago. As a sidebar, my brother added, “You’ll be surprised by the people you think will help you who don’t and the ones you expect nothing from who go out of their way.”
• Keep a spreadsheet. Keep track of who you’ve contacted and the status of the communication. It will let you know where leads are hot or cold and when it’s permissible to make another contact. Be aggressive, just not pushy.
• Provide value. Beyond your first contact to let people know you’re available for work, you need a reason to keep reaching out. Send a link to a relevant article, tell them you saw something you thought they might find useful in their job. In other words, don’t make it all about you–people are much more likely to think favorably of those who help than those who annoy or beg.
• Identify key recruiters in your industry. Don’t shower any and every recruiter with your resume. Do some research–either through your old company’s outplacement service, your old boss, HR department or on your own. Find out who the companies you want to work for are turning to for their candidates.
• Prepare an assortment of “Soar Stories.” Once you land an interview, what will you say? Be prepared to run through a few “case studies” when asked, identifying a problem you attacked, what your solution was and what the results were.
• Go the extra mile. This one’s completely up to you, but my brother assembled a brief Powerpoint entitled “Why You Should Hire Me,” completely geared toward what was in it for his prospective employer. The guy who hired him said he’d never seen anything like it and was blown away. What can you do to put that much more distance between you and the next candidate?
• Treat your search like a job. Get dressed, stick to a schedule, be vigilant. You will burn out and you will get frustrated, but you’ll feel like you’re making more of an effort if you go about it wholeheartedly and not with bedhead in your boxers.
• Get real with your finances. Reduce your overhead, look at every expense and cut anything you don’t need in the short term. You can always resume your HBO, Starbucks and pedicure ways when things turn around. You’d be surprised how much money you can find when you really dig–and I don’t mean in the sofa.
• Don’t expect miracles. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It took my brother four months, but he was mentally prepared for an 8-12 month grind. The job you’re really counting on may not come through, but the one you thought was a longshot just might.
Here’s hoping you won’t need any of these tips, but if you do, at least you’ll know they worked for someone.