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Substantiate Yourself

December 12th, 2006

Substantiate - from Dictionary.comI don’t know where I picked it up but substantiate is a word I’ve said a little too much these last few months. I usually say “having a blog is a great way to substantiate your breadth and depth”… or “you need to substantiate your personal brand”… this isn’t a post on personal branding per se, but I’ve been thinking about sharing this with you for a while – I hope you find it interesting! More than that, I hope you find it intriguing enough to figure out how to do something similar.

When I began my job search (we’re just about at the 1 year anniversary of getting laid off!) I thought I was hot stuff. I had a degree in CIS, an MBA, cool job titles (IT Manager, CIO, VP, GM), great experience (internet programmer with newer technologies, “increased revenue 500%”, etc.). I had even moved from a small town (population 50,000) to a small metro area so I’d be closer to more job opportunities in case I needed to find a new job. It was “a job seeker’s market” and I was assured by many that I would have a job soon.

So I did what any regular person would do – I spent a week getting my resume ready, making a list of companies that I should target, establishing accounts on pertinent job boards, and even talking to some “players” that were connected in town. Since I was relatively new (I had been here for almost 2 years but spent most of the time working or commuting) it was easy for me to say “I don’t know anyone,” so my networking efforts were pretty whimpy.

I’ll never forget the first 6 weeks. I got one interview invite from a regional hospital chain and one interview invite from a company that I targeted and just sent a resume to “info@company.com”. Both of those led to a second, and at the company, a third interview, but “someone else was chosen.” After six weeks I had nothing, and not much hope of getting much more than that (my succss rate was less than 2%). It was a very, very discouraging process, and completely different than what I thought I was going to experience.

What happened to all those years studying, all those cool job titles, all that great experience? Why did no one want to hire me on the spot? What was going on??

Fast forward a couple of months to May 15th. That is the day when we released JibberJobber. I sent out e-mails to friends, and many of them signed up to check it out. What they found was a very cool, functional application. Sure it was rough around the edges, but it was colorful, functional, and pretty dang cool (if I don’t say so myself ;) ). I never expected what would happen next…

The next time I saw those friends, almost every single one of them, they treated me differently. The common reaction was “hey, I want you to meet my boss (or pres. of the company)” or “hey, you need to meet my friend that works at xyz company” What changed? Not my resume. Not my skillset. I’m sure my demeanor changed (there’s an important post I wrote on not letting others smell blood that definitely came into play)… but the most significant thing was that I had substantiated who I was. Instead of people asking “what do you do” or “what are you looking for” they were able to see the website and guess that I was involved in very cool web applications, leading edge stuff (design, functionality, marketing, etc.).

This was the most significant thing that I did in my job search. How can you substantiate who you are? I know you are busy looking for a job, but if what you are doing isn’t working, can you take some time to substantiate yourself? If you are a web designer or graphics artist do you have a portfolio that is easy for people to see? Take the Seth Godin route and combine this substantiation with service, which will allow you to market your substantiation (subtly) to an elite group of others that would otherwise be impossible to meet with.

If you are a marketing/advertising/PR professional, I’ll make you an offer – contact me at jason at JibberJobber.com and let me know what you can do. I have a bunch of projects but I’m no expert – I’d love to have you help me out – I can’t pay you but I’d be more than happy to provide a reference, blog on your contribution, or otherwise help substantiate your skills.

If you are a graphics artist you know there are some places where JibberJobber could use some polishing. Again, same offer applies.

If you are hung up over doing it for free then go find another opportunity where you can charge for it. Go hustle some work and build your “portfolio.” Or go find a non-profit that needs it.

I don’t know if it will do it for you, but substantiating my skillset was the single most important thing I did in my job search – and it changed the results that I had previously seen.

As a result of my work I’ve been recognized in ways that I never thought possible… here are just some of the more significant results of my substantiation, and I’m honored to be on either of these:

Thom Singer’s Praise Other’s Project – this is a month-long project, I encourage you to subscribe to his blog via e-mail. Anyone that Thom praises is someone that I want to know!

Dave Perry’s 12 days of Christmas – I blogged on this a few days ago and now he’s up to day 6 – where he lists JibberJobber as an essential tool (he says to download, although it is just a website ;) ) – you should check out the other tools he recommends, and definitely follow this series).

I’ve also had mention in articles or blogs by Patricia Kitchen of Newsday, Carl Chapman, Dave Mendoza, Jeff Tokarz and others that are experts in their fields. I’ve made a little wave in the recruiting world, the coaching world, the personal branding world.

I’m certainly not bragging about the results that I’ve seen, that’s why I’ve hesitated to put this post up for so long, but I think its critical that you begin your own substantiation journey – for most its not overnight – and I’d love to hear your results!

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24 Responses to “Substantiate Yourself”

  1. Jeff Tokarz says:

    Active … passive … it matters not whether you’re aggressively searching for a new job or casually exploring suitable career opportunities. Jason’s advice is dead-on. Substantiate your ‘personal value proposition’ to significantly enhance your personal and career aspirations. Great advise.

  2. It is always the way, most people get calls about new opportunities when they are the busiest. One of the advantages of keeping your personal branding tools up-to-date with current projects, it will make you look busy! ;-)

  3. Jason says:

    Thanks Jeff!

    Carl, I agree, and my post got too long to mention it, but for me this was a way to (a) sharpen my saw (learn new things that I hadn’t had time to before) and (b) keep my mind if productive-mode, and not let bad feelings or depression creep in.

  4. Francie says:

    I hear you Jason! Sounds similar to my story, complete with MBA – thought that was the finishing touch. Not these days. I love the “Substantiate Theory” – great post!

    I discovered your Blog a few weeks ago. (no, I haven’t signed up yet). Then one day last week, I found your endorsement of Jeff’s new Job Board. So, as I continued weaving my new Web, I checked out his site, sent him an email, and received a quick reply with an invitation to call him. I called and we chatted briefly. That was it, but I can’t quite explain how the whole process made me feel like I was not only closer in substantiating my current goals, but also moving ahead in becoming electronically validated.

    I’ve started a Leadership Blog and am working on a Web site. As soon as I have some time, I think I’ll take you up on the offer to particpate in some JibberJobber projects. (love that name, too and what you said in another post about someone thinking it might be too silly. You said something like, What about Google and Yahoo? – yeah!!)
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and broadening my network!

  5. Jason says:

    Francie – I’m glad to have you on board :) :) I’m excited to see your leadership blog and other projects – anytime you want to work with me just drop me a line.

  6. Scott Ingram says:

    Jason, there’s also a networking lesson in your substantiation lesson as well. Not only did you demonstrate your abilities in a visible way you also added value. By creating a tool and offering it to others you impacted them first. When you’ve created something of value for someone they’re much more willing to help you since they now have a favor to repay.

    Just calling on people on your network and asking them for help can sometimes be a challenge. By giving them something first your efforts will be MUCH easier.

    Happy Networking!

  7. Steve says:

    Having run recruiting and organizational development at a few companies, let me share the advice I’ve always given to people who work for a living (many have thought this heresy but think about it) – letting a company manage your career is like committing one of the seven deadly sins.

    As a recruiter it is relatively easy for me to discern what is truth and what is rubbish when hearing someone talk about their personal qualities. Resumes are propaganda constructed to put one’s best foot forward. Yet resumes pale in comparison to personal statements that include things that, while they may make some uncomfortable, speak to the individual.

    Brave New World has no place in business.

  8. [...] And just a couple of hours ago Steve Levy left a terrific comment on yesterday’s post on “substantiate yourself“… I was so impressed with the comment I’m including it here: As a recruiter it is relatively easy for me to discern what is truth and what is rubbish when hearing someone talk about their personal qualities. Resumes are propaganda constructed to put one’s best foot forward. Yet resumes pale in comparison to personal statements that include things that, while they may make some uncomfortable, speak to the individual. (there’s more than this, want to read it all?) [...]

  9. [...] The interesting thing is that when we released the first version of JibberJobber my job search started to show results. I’m not sure if it was a function of how long I’d been doing the job search but on May 15, 2006 I started to get calls back. I think that its because I was able to substantiate who I was and what my skills were. I even wrote a post on how job seekers need to substantiate who they are… one of my more popular posts. [...]

  10. [...] The interesting thing is that when we released the first version of JibberJobber my job search started to show results. I’m not sure if it was a function of how long I’d been doing the job search but on May 15, 2006 I started to get calls back. I think that its because I was able to substantiate who I was and what my skills were. I even wrote a post on how job seekers need to substantiate who they are… one of my more popular posts. [...]

  11. [...] 1. Do it–blogging can really open up a lot of opportunities. 2. Decide whether your blog is personal or professional, and as much as possible, keep those separate. 3. If it’s a personal blog, don’t share anything you don’t want everyone (employers, teachers, journalists…friends, parents, children, potential relationship candidates…) knowing. Other than that, it’s your personal blog, so do whatever you want. 4. If it’s your professional blog, take Jason Alba’s advice and use your blog to substantiate yourself. What is it that are really passionate about as a professional? Your blog should reflect this. (I’m still working on mine.) 5. Use WordPress. 6. Do some research and reading on blogging do’s/dont’s so you better understand the culture before jumping in. Bloggers can be on the sensitive side, and stepping on toes even ignorantly can put up some roadblocks before you really get started. 7. Link to other’s sites & comment on blogs in your community/niche/interests, this is how you start to build friendships and get involved in the blogosphere. 8. Respond to comments the day of, if possible. 9. Don’t write too-long posts, and if you do have a long subject, either break it up into a couple posts, or use bold-headers to break up the text. 10. Use pictures, it’s more fun. (But don’t “hotlink“). 11. Don’t talk about yourself so much or be snarky frequently. Why are people reading your blog? Is it to hear about you 100% of the time, or to hear you bash them? Probably not. That said, the occasional self-comment or snark bite isn’t too bad. 12. Provide value. From an economics standpoint, your blog is either a product or a service you are offering to your customer (i.e. blog-reader). Don’t have a consistent readership or comments pouring in? Why not? If your blog provides value, these will come naturally, and that’s the fun of blogging. Posted by olynnduncan Filed in Uncategorized [...]

  12. [...] But it’s not just how you appear and what you tell people, as Jason Alba says, you have to Substantiate Yourself This was the most significant thing that I did in my job search. How can you substantiate who you are? I know you are busy looking for a job, but if what you are doing isn’t working, can you take some time to substantiate yourself? If you are a web designer or graphics artist do you have a portfolio that is easy for people to see? Take the Seth Godin route and combine this substantiation with service, which will allow you to market your substantiation (subtly) to an elite group of others that would otherwise be impossible to meet with. [...]

  13. Thanks Jason, for this powerful story. It makes sense and shows that we must demonstrate faith in ourselves before we can expect it from others.

  14. [...] 5. Do you do volunteer service? You should look for some non-profits that could use your help and go give your services to them, like a consultant. This is an excellent way to meet new people AND show them how competent you are, and they should be able to help you meet others (lots of professionals and execs work with non-profits). [...]

  15. [...] Do you give service regularly? I had a blog carnival where I basically said “Yikes! You just lost your job and your network has been neglected – what do you do now??” Seth Godin replied with “Do service for 6 months!!!” It was an amazing answer, and I think many felt it was unrealistic, but doing service allows you to substantiate yourself, and rub shoulders with other execs, hiring managers and professionals that want to give back – these are excellent network contacts! [...]

  16. [...] there are a few blog posts that jump out as personal favorites – here are six of my favorites: Substantiate Yourself – I loved this post – it talks about how to show others what you can do when you are in a job [...]

  17. [...] job search.  I’m a huge fan of volunteering, especially because volunteering allows you to substantiate yourself (this is one of my favorite posts of all time).  He heard me talk about this post, and [...]

  18. [...] his job search.  I’m a huge fan of volunteering, especially because volunteering allows you to substantiate yourself (this is one of my favorite posts of all time).  He heard me talk about this post, and [...]

  19. Hey Jason, I never read this post before… beginnings… :-) You have such a way of getting to the meat of the pain of job search. You have been blessed since that painful beginning but it shaped you, molded you and made you who you are today. It also gave you heart. Looking forward to the future… :-)

  20. [...] I had three or four job offers after I quit looking (that’s after I substantiated myself). [...]

  21. [...] Substantiate Yourself: Part II July 27th, 2011 One of my favorite concepts was (poorly) captured in my (wordy) blog post Substantiate Yourself. [...]

  22. [...] I had a similar experience, which I blogged about here: Substantiate Yourself. [...]

  23. [...] People could see what I was capable of doing, they could see I was passionate, and they wanted me on their team. One of my favorite posts about this is titled Substantiate Yourself. [...]

  24. [...] this applies to, please share it with them.  There are great reasons to do this, one is so you can substantiate yourself (one of the most important things I learned in my job [...]

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