The U.S. economy has taken off. Many private and public sector employees are thinking about new career opportunities or want to move up the leadership ladder in an organization where they currently work. How?
Competition for any position is more competitive than ever before. Inc. Magazine reported in May 2015 that corporations receive an average of 250 job resumes for every opening; only 4 to 6 will be granted an interview and only 1 will be offered the position. The economy has only heated up since 2015, so that number of resumes has likely grown significantly.
Just having a great resume is no longer a guarantee to getting the positions. People thinking about ‘bettering themselves’ externally or internally must now think about their own personal brand. Individuals must regularly invest time to leverage this personal brand to grab the attention of those hiring and job seekers must be able to differentiate themselves from job-seeking competitors.
No matter your education, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and even experience, the job seeker needs to be able to answer these almost universal questions:
What value do I provide?
How am I different than others being considered?
Why would an employer choose me?
Do potential employers know I am available?
How do I get recognized?
First, you need to take action to both find out and enhance your reputation. We all score high marks by “googling” ourselves to see what is being said on the internet. Be nice to everyone you meet. Follow up on commitments you make to others. Always be “on” – with a businesslike attitude. Create ‘leadership type’ content you can publish. Find out something interesting about the person or persons you meet and interact with them professionally. You will quickly see connections and mutual interests. It will start to lead to a strong personal connection, especially if you know something fairly unique about the other person. All of these actions will separate you from other job seekers.
Second, before you look for a job, prepare your personal brand. Here are the 14 steps I advise newbie lawyers and master’s students to take as their professor. It really differentiates who you are and opens opportunities:
- Use LinkedIn as the basis for your personal brand. It is used by professionals to ‘check out’ potential employees (if you are the hiring agent). It’s free and has tremendous tools to amplify you!
- Construct and memorize the “Elevator Speech” which becomes your 30-second resume. If I meet you, I don’t want you to drone on about your life. I want succinct experiences and character qualities. I want to quickly hear what value you bring to our organization.
- Seek opportunities to add new content to your persona. Spend some time every week to add more interesting pictures, stories, blogs or items that demonstrate value to potential employers.
- Develop your own list of “influencers” and keep them updated on your career. It may be 10 executive search firm members. Email them every four to six weeks. Don’t send them junk. You want them to think about you when they receive an email and say, “John or Jane is doing interesting things.”
- Assume every social media item you post impacts your career! Don’t post your lunch selfies or what you are having for dinner. It is less than professional. I have seen job seekers posting their drinking, or worse. No one will want to take a risk with you and hire you after they see your antics!
- Use an appropriate email address. Watch what you send on a current company server (it never leaves). Keep your email address boring – the message should not be about the email. It should be about you. (Example: [email protected] or [email protected] conjures up all sorts of images you will not want your potential employer to see).
- Tweet wisely. It is all the news when famous people have tweet fits and explode with their inner feelings. These types of people do not need to worry about what future employers might think. But we do. Especially don’t tweet when you have a strong emotional reaction to another tweet. It will turn out to be a mistake for you.
- Network with appropriate groups. The old adage, “you are defined by your friends” is real. Don’t connect with controversial organizations that take you off your career path. You want potential employers to say to him or her, “solid groups.” Nothing more, nothing less.
- The same theory that is true for organizations is also true for individual connections. Don’t connect with porn stars, current or former Presidents or individuals who hold public and controversial views. It says something about you that may not be true. Choose your LinkedIn friends carefully. Don’t agree to every request.
- Join professional groups. It is highly likely that the kinds of organizations you want to work for have employees involved in those meetings. Be involved and help make a difference. Your goal is to have others come to admire you because of commitment to the professional group.
- Use good video to differentiate yourself. People love video. It can also really help you establish yourself. But keep it short and interesting.
- Keep your resume flexible. Have a resume that is truthful but can be slightly different, depending on the open position. Your goal is to get in the room for an interview. Don’t let a rigid resume narrow your possibility of getting a face-to-face interview.
- Create a standard introduction when you speak. Try to speak a lot. It tells the crowd you are an expert and professional. It sets the expectations of the audience. You don’t want someone to mispronounce your name, not mention the topic, or not allow you to put your ‘best foot’ forward.
- Thank everyone you meet. It is considered old-fashioned, but politeness is always remembered. Unfortunately, we don’t hear it as much as we should. It will help set you apart from others.
David Rehr is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.
Tons of important things to consider before embarking on a new career search! This works well as a checklist to make sure that you aren’t missing anything before sending off an application.