You have to understand, Pamela Slim is a rockstar. She has authored multiple books on careers… she lists her customers as Google, Dell, Harvard, etc. and she is a TED speaker. On Pam’s speaking page there is a section at the bottom titled Crafting the Story of Your Personal Brand. In that section she has these two bullet points:
Creating a full-color, full-contact communication plan
Sharing your story with the world in a way that gets results
Why am I sharing this with you? Because there is a fact that is often-times overlooked: developing your personal brand message is HARD. Even experts, people who live and breath this stuff, find it hard!
Did you know that for 2 years I could not give you a one-liner about JibberJobber? It probably took another year before I could give you a one-liner about myself!
The same reason it is hard for you:
You don’t want to mess this up.
What if you say too much? What if you say too little? We are so complex, how could we possibly put all of our awesomeness in one line??
Sometimes we come up with something really cute, clever, or catchy. That usually has cliche or jargon, which does nothing more than confuse our brand.
Sometimes we get into analysis paralysis, and don’t come up with anything (which is another way to mess up our brand).
As important, you need to understand that our brand statements can and should be FLUID. I’m sure that Pam has half a dozen taglines that she has used over the years…. but “bumbling through” this conference, with this type of audience, at this stage in her company and career, made her rethink each of those taglines she has used.
It’s okay to change your tagline. It’s okay to let your tagline grow with you.
If it’s hard, that means you are thinking about it. Keep thinking… keep trying. If someone like Pamela Slim needs to rework her personal branding statements, and she gets stuck and confused, then please know that this is hard stuff.
Keep working on it, and come up with something that is true to you, and easy for others to understand and communicate!
A few weeks ago I asked my daughter to take the car she drives all over town to get the tires rotated. This is a simple procedure, and helpful to lengthen the life of tires… and I’m now bought into the idea that we need to do this. I’m also bought into the idea that she should do it, and learn about vehicle maintenance by doing it.
So, she comes back to me and says that the tire tech said the two front tires needed to be changed, and that they they were running thin… I was kind of ticked (not at her) because these are less than a year old. Even though they have a warranty that should cover them for years, I’m sure the tire people would say “well, sorry, but the alignment is off, and you haven’t rotated them lately… so it’s really all on you.”
I was not excited about spending a couple hundred dollars to get new tires. I was not excited about the time it would take to do this (I didn’t trust the salespeople with my daughter, who has never bought tires before). And frankly, I just wasn’t finding the time to get this task done. The car doesn’t spend much time in the garage, and I have been very busy lately.
Last week my wife called me from school, where she was mentoring a class, and my daughter had come for a class… she said that the front tire was leaking air pretty bad. I knew the time had finally come, and I had to table what I was doing and get the front tires replaced.
The thing is, this was admittedly stupid.
I should have taken care of this before… my daughter drives on the highway every evening to go to stuff, and if she had problems on the highway, it would have likely been a blow-out. My mechanic told me that too many accidents are a result of bald tires that blow-out. And the anguish and cost could be much worse than $200.
Long story short, I left work, took care of the tires while they were in school, and we’re all good.
Driving home I was thinking about how I didn’t make the time to fix the tires… there really was just not a good time to do it for me. Just like when we have a job, and we put of career management stuff because we are too busy working, or resting from our work. We neglect it. The timing just doesn’t seem good enough.
And then, if you are like me, you are told that there is no more job, and all you have is time. And then you wish that you would have addressed it earlier… but you were “too busy.”
Let me invite you to rethink what job security is. It might have been a degree and a work ethic back in the 1990′s, but today it is the strength of your network (which is not how big your LinkedIn network is), and what people understand about you.
You can work on that, right now. Today. And tomorrow. And the next day. A little bit every day, whether you are in transition or not.
We were lucky to have avoided a blow-out on the highway. Work on your network and brand, and you might avoid a blow-out in your career.
From the Office of Face Palms at LinkedIn comes another ridiculous move to make you upgrade. Have you heard about this? You will only be able to search a certain amount of times, or see a certain number of search results, and then you are cut off. Here’s my message, right in line with the search results of a name:
Are you kidding me?
Here’s what I did: I did a search for a name on Google… and then clicked on the LinkedIn result that would show me all of the people with that first and last name. I scroll down and bit and see that in fact I have been penalized for clicking on that link.
I do this regularly.
This is seriously dumb. Unless you are at LinkedIn, and want to force people to upgrade, but with the alternatives that are coming out, and the change in direction and value that LinkedIn has, I think this is one more thing that will drive usage and value down.
I was on a call with some career center directors today from a school that everyone’s heard of and we spent too much time talking about how LinkedIn has decreased in value for people who want to network.
That’s what they were set up for in the first place! To help people network!
Things have changed. Networking is harder on LinkedIn. And people have noticed, and they are tired of it.
This limit is one more thing that makes me think “okay, if I can’t find it on LinkedIn, I’m going to go somewhere else.” Which is exactly what I’ve been hearing from recruiters… they are going somewhere else.
Sunday night I did a presentation to a group of people interested in what they could do to manage their own careers. I talked about a lot of cool ideas, like a mindset that I wish I would have had to network more effectively when I was in my job search.
One thing i didn’t talk about was the silver bullet of the job search. I’ve written about the silver bullet for job seekers before… I really don’t believe there is one. I mean, there is not one single thing that you can do right now, and then land your dream job (or, any job). The job search takes work, and there are many parts of this complex beast to finally land a job.
But if anything comes close, it is the informational interview. I remember talking to a career professional who said that if her clients did informational interviews all day long, they would likely land within 30 days.
Informational interviews should be fun. Doing them should be exhilarating, even if you are an introvert. You should get leads from most interviews you go to. You should strengthen the relationship with each person you talk to… sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. You should get great practice in saying who you are (the 30 second commercial), to the point where it sounds natural, and you sound confident.
Informational interviews get you away from your computer and in front of real people. They make you dress up nicer than pajamas. They put you in professional settings. They prepare you for real job interviews. They help you learn more about industries, positions, players in your area, opportunities. They put you in a position of knowing more about those things than most people.
There are no silver bullets, but if you can implement a good informational interview strategy, your job search might do a 180, and you might find you have a number of solid opportunities that you are chasing (or, that are chasing you!).
Ruslan Kogan has a LinkedIn Post (article) titled Don’t hire Hotmail users & other tips to save your company culture. He says that his company created a “good company culture” by doing a number of things, #1 is: DON’T HIRE SOMEONE WITH A HOTMAIL ACCOUNT.
Ouch, says all the hotmail users out there.
He says that they look at the email accounts and use them to “filter the applicants … in a way that ensures someone is the right fit for our organization.” He says “if you have a @hotmail.com account then you’re out.”
Note that the comments are not very positive or supporting… here’s the point. Whatever you think about hotmail doesn’t matter. What matters is discrimination and judgement, based on certain variables… and obviously, what tools you use can categorize you as competent or not.
Over the last few years I’ve given hundreds of presentations titled Career Management 2.0. I’ve done webinars which people from around the world have tapped into, to listen to Career Management 2.0.
I’ve thought about this for years. Career Management replaces “job security.” I’m sure career experts can give you a five, seven, or even twenty-one point list of what Career Management means… if I had to, I could come up with long list, too.
But here’s the bottom line: I’ve boiled Career Management down to two things:
Networking, which includes growing your network and nurturing individual relationships, and
Personal Branding, which is simply how others would define you (or, whatever elegant definition you want to give).
I can (and do) talk for hours about this stuff. I’m passionate about it. When I lost my job in January of 2006 I still believed in job security. I didn’t think that a guy like me would have a problem finding a new job. I did “all the right things,” and so somehow, someone owed job security to me.
Of course I was wrong. And along my journey, I finally realized that the power I was looking for was only that which I would create. Where I needed to start is listed above… and it’s the exact same two things I still focus on today.
As we close the year out, take some time to let this settle in. What have you done to strengthen your network this year? What will you do next year?
What have you done to strengthen your brand this year? What will you do next year?
If this is top-of-mind, you’ll have a fun career. Transitions will come and go, but they’ll be much less painful, and shorter, if you internalize Career Management.
Thom Allen was one of the earliest friends I met when I moved to Utah. I’ve networked with Thom over the years and we’ve consistently had a funny conversation: “Thom, explain to me again exactly what you do?”
Thom would always tell me something cool.. but the more I learned about Thom, the contracts he had, his professional passions, the less I understood about him. I guarantee that some of you, reading this blog post, have the same issues communicating your personal brand. Let’s take Thom’s blog post and talk about some of it:
Speaking of the first person Thom met at a particular networking event, he says: “In the software development world, Alistair is the rock star God of the agile methodology.” I love that Thom writes it that way. He makes it clear that Alistair doesn’t have a branding problem, unless of course Alistair doesn’t want to be known as the “rock star God of the agile method” in the entire software dev world. That’s a powerful statement and observation, and something that some of us want to shoot for: a very high level of clarity and accuracy of how others talk about us.
Thom writes, “At the end [of my conversation with Alistair], he started to ask me what I did. First sign the night was going to be rocky.”
Uh-oh. If you are going to a networking event, and you aren’t prepared to answer the most common question you’ll hear, multiple times, during that meeting, you got a problem. It’s definitely going to be rocky.
Thom says that he shook hands with various guests, “many who I knew,” and Thom writes “Most asked me again, what I did. I wondered where these people had been. Why don’t they remember?”
Thom continues with his networking story, and says he was surprised that he was introduced to a small group of networkers as he was “connected to everyone.” He writes “it feels unnatural when someone says that about me.” He later asked that same friend “why do I have such a hard time getting people to remember what I do?” The friend’s response was awesome:
“Because no one really knows what you do! Most people think you do everything, but no one knows what you do. You’re always vague.”
Thom talks about having an elevator pitch, which is something that he says he told others to do, but he hadn’t taken his own advice.
Look, I think most elevator pitches stink. When I present, I say 99.999% of elevator pitches I hear stink. BUT, not having a pitch allows others to misinterpret who you are. Why didn’t Thom do that? The same reason many of us don’t. He writes:
“I guess my failure to successfully convey what I do stems from years of not wanting to be defined by my work. So I kept it vague. But as a business owner I can’t do that anymore. I need to clearly define what I do. There’s no way I can network without being able to convey what I do. It’s not the part I want to be, but it’s the part that I need to be.”
YOU need to get here! You need to have enough frustration that you choose to finally narrow your brand messaging down so people (including yourself!) understand it, and can even easily communicate it to others. Yes, you can have a breadth of passions and interests. But at some point you also have to help people understand what they should understand about you.
I’m a sucker for a good job search story. Enter a LinkedIn article by Liz Ryan, where she shares an awesome, inspiring letter from one of her job seeker clients, and then her reply. Please read the entire thing – it’s kind of long but if you are in a job search, this will give you a boost that you just can’t get enough of!
Doug’s story is our story… your story, my story. We think that if we do a great job, we’ll have security (“I thought I was going to retire from that job.”). We think that we can send out hundreds of resumes, because it’s a “numbers game,” and eventually someone is going to interview us and hire us. We are absolutely appalled at the resume black hole and the salt-in-the-wound auto-responders. Finally, when something comes along that gives us a semblance of control, we gravitate towards that. We thirst for control, since we feel like we’ve been thrust into this dark fantasy world where we have NO control. Doug talks about “Pain Letters” and a “consulting business card.” It’s a great letter – read it here.
Liz responds with two awesome follow-up assignments that EVERY job seeker should do. The first is to get on LinkedIn, and get a good profile. The second assignment is awesome:
This is such a powerful assignment. I don’t even want to call it a recommendation because I think that devalues it. It’s not a suggestion… this is a must-do assignment.
I have heard from hundreds of coaches and career professionals that they all say something like this: “when you land your next job, you need to continue networking!”
And the job seekers says “Yes, of course, I’ll never let my network get stagnant again!” You feel repentant, you are humbled, and even though you don’t like networking, you swear you won’t fall behind on your relationships again.
BUT YOU DO. You get busy onboarding yourself at your next job. You can take a breather and release the stress of being unemployed. You get to play a bit, and of course you don’t have to go to any networking events. Whatever resolution you had gets swept away in the new routines.
YOu aren’t bad… you just need some ideas on how to network moving forward. And Liz’s assignment, to reach out to every person you met in your job search (and the people you knew before that, who you were in touch with during your job search), is THE TACTIC that you need to pursue.
Awesome stuff. Click the image to read the whole thing:
Let’s dig into the post from yesterday, and dissect some of Louise Kursmark’s advice. It’s a short article, but there’s simple stuff that every job seeker needs to be doing. Lines from her post are in bold, my comments are not bold, and indented.
>> I think that obsession(with gaming the ATS systems) is a distraction from the real work of job search.
Again, you are hiding from the job search. There is no silver bullet. ATS is one tiny aspect of the job search, don’t become obsessed with gaming it.
>> Even if your resume is a perfect match for the job posting, you have a very small chance of being chosen for an interview.
Why? Because statistically, jobs posted online are not real jobs that are begging real people to apply. Some (probably those from big companies) have already been filled with internal candidates, but are posted just to satisfy regulations or policy. Others are, unfortunately, and without integrity, fake jobs that are luring people in just to collect names and numbers. Sometimes they are just feeling out the market, and seeing what’s out there. But for the real ones… have you heard how many people apply to openings? It’s way to many, really. And those that are getting through are not necessarily the right candidates. Many right candidates are getting weeded out through errors in the logic of the automated system. They don’t call it the “resume black hole” for nothing.
>> … it’s easy to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to rise to the top of a very large pool.
Lots and lots of people are playing this losing game. Why throw your hat into a system that is proven to be so ineffective and discouraging, and really, one that doesn’t really work? Especially when there are more effective ways to land a job.
>> My advice: Have a keyword-rich, simply formatted resume that stands a reasonable chance of making it through the ATS.
And here is the simple truth about what you need for a resume. Keyword rich and simple format. That’s it. Do that, then MOVE ON to the next part of your job search strategy!
>> Then, spend less time applying to posted openings and more time getting referrals into the companies you’re interested in.
Get out of the resume black hole and go compete in a different space… the competition is much easier, and nicer, because too many people are afraid to network, or are doing it entirely wrong. Be the person who learns to love it (you don’t have to be an extrovert to love networking), and do it RIGHT! Also, to Louise’s points, do this purposefully and strategically, not haphazardly.
>> Use your network to find a connection, ask for an introduction, and start a dialogue.
This, my friends, is networking. This is more effective than going to network meetings, being nervous or shy, and then going home thinking “I networked!” You may have, but what Louise is suggesting is to do it right, and go deeper, and be relationship-focused.
>> Rather than applying for a job, have a conversation about the company’s needs and how someone with your background might be able to help.
>> Become a real person rather than a piece of paper or collection of keywords.
You do this by focusing on conversations, relationships and real networking, rather than throwing your resume into the black hole…
>> Even if you don’t (get interviews), you’ve built another strand in your web of connections that will ultimately lead you to your next job.
Building these strands, or let’s go further and say this fabric, is what I call career management. It is having strong relationships over time, not just during this hard transition, and it is helping people understand who you are (and how they can help you)… it is long-term. It is the new “job security,” and it’s all in your control. It’s why I say you need to use JibberJobber, forever! (yes, a little fanatical there, but I get to do that on my own blog )
>> And isn’t it more satisfying to have a colleague-to-colleague business discussion than to be judged (and rejected) based on a mysterious set of keyword qualifications?
You know who has control over the keywords? NOT YOU! You have control over, which means influence on, your relationships and communication, but not on the arbitrary keywords that someone chose. And you don’t have control over who else applies, or how their resumes compare to yours in the ATS black box logic. Work on what you can control… !
I love Louise’s no-nonsense advice… thanks again for letting me share it!
The comments are pretty lame, however. It’s sad what people say when they are anonymous. Here’s the first comment, from “anonymousl_66″):
This is a brilliant assumption. I had the same assumption assumption when I was in my job search. If someone “knows me,” then why in the world would I have to tell them who I am, or what I do, or what I’m looking for, or how they can help me?
If they care about me, they’ll definitely know the answers to all of those things, right?
Okay, maybe *some* of your friends will know what you do, but do they really know what that means? If someone is talking to them about a problem they are having, will they know enough to say “oh, my good buddy Dippy_66 does exactly what you are talking about! He says he’s a product manager, but I know he specializes in all the stuff you are talking about!”
I bet less than 5% of your “friends” know enough breadth and depth about you, what you have done, and what direction you want to go, to really help like this.
The other 95%?
They want to help, but they might not know what you do, or what you want to do.
You see, product manager, as well as most other job titles, can be ambiguous and misleading. They might not know that you are a master of getting a product from idea to completion, or taking it to market in a big way. They might not know that you specialize in B2C… or wait, is it B2B? And what do those things really mean, anyway?? You can summarize “product manager” as easily as you can summarize “HR” — they are just too broad.
It’s easy to “assume” that our contacts “know” what we do, but sometimes we don’t even understand the full breadth and depth of what we do!
Further, perhaps someone knows us from five or ten+ years ago. Back when we were an Accounts Payable manager… they don’t know that since then we’ve finished school, got an MBA, and have been working as a finance executive. They might remember that we were really fun to work with. We did a good job, but in the downtime we had fun hanging out, playing pranks at the office, etc. What are they going to tell people – that we were the funnest person in the office? While that might be a cool distinction, it’s not necessarily going to help you in your job search.
Is that what you want them to communicate about you?
Even further, what if they knew us to be that AP manager, and they heard we were going to go to school to pursue a career as a finance executive. What they might not have known is that when we went to school we realized we hated all-things-finance, and went on to work in the non-profit space… they won’t know that we’re looking for opportunities in that field.
Or what if we did have a great career in finance (and they knew that), but now we want to change careers and do something completely different?
Assuming our network knows what we do, or want to do, is a gamble.
When I was in my job search my wife of 11ish years asked “what do you do?”She seriously asked me what I did for a living, and what I was looking for. She was asking because her friends were asking her, and she didn’t know how to communicate it. She needed me to share, in my own words, what I was looking for, so she could empower her friends (aka, contacts) to help us. She had been there during the degrees, the job promotions, etc., and I thought she “knew” me well. She should have known the answer to her own question. But she couldn’t communicate it right, or even well.
Anonymous_66, take that gamble if you want, but I have learned there is a simple fix to not lose everything. That is: communicate effectively, and empower your network to work with and for you! This is one reason I’m SO BIG on recommending that job seekers send a monthly newsletter.
One last story. When I started speaking professionally, I would be asked “how do you want us to introduce you?,” or “do you have a bio we can read?”
I wanted the introduction to be casual, informal, and not read like a robot, so I ignored the professional speakers advice and responded with something like “you know me well enough – I’m sure you’ll do a good introduction. Just don’t make it too long.”
That’s my style – casual, friendly, and let’s get to the main event. But I didn’t realize what people would actually say about me. I wanted them to focus on X, and was pretty sure they would. But no one focused on X… they all focused on A, B, C, or Y, Z… anything but X. It was frustrating listening to these introductions, and I finally broke down and wrote introductions for each presentation.
The same thing is happening with your network. They don’t know about your X… but they might remember A, B, or C. Or they might assume Y or Z.
This is exactly why job seekers need to continually clarify who they are, and what they are looking for… even (especially) to their besties, even (especially) to their spouse, and to anyone who is willing to help them in their job search and networking.