To Be Findable, Expand Your Digital Footprint

February 1, 2012

Google your name. The search results represent your digital footprint.

Do you like what you see?

Does your online presence help someone understand 1) who you are professionally, 2) who you are personally and 3) how you see the world around you? Does your digital footprint contain enough information for a prospective employer to “know” you before he or she calls you for a first interview?

When you look at your digital footprint, ask yourself how much of it you actually created? How much it was created by others? Do you have control over your personal brand?

You can expand your digital footprint and actually shape your online image by being findable on at least three social media platforms. I recommend LinkedIn, Facebook and a blog as the basics for building your online image. You can then connect your social media platforms by linking them together. For example, you can put a link in your Twitter profile directing people to your blog. Then, in the “About Me” tab of your blog, you can include links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

To be findable in a competitive job market, deliberately look for ways to expand your online presence. You really can create and control the size and shape of your digital footprint, so make it impressive.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Findable, You Must Want to Be Found

January 31, 2012

When looking for a job, the first step in being found is actually wanting to be found.

That sounds simple enough, but too many job seekers have anxiety about what a prospective employer might find when Googling their names, even when they have nothing to hide.

Many well-intentioned (and misguided) individuals try to instill in us a fear that social media is a window where people on the other side are voyeurs. That advice seems to fit with warnings we’ve received since childhood about “stranger danger.”

Consequently, too many job seekers overreact when trying to protect their privacy. Somehow they have been programmed to think that having their personal information “out there on the Internet” is bad. That mindset does not work in today’s competitive job market.

Even if you are inherently shy and guard your privacy, you must recognize that being too secretive will work against your best interests. Being too cautious and private only erodes your efforts to brand yourself and to find your ideal job.

The best job seekers want to be found. They want to be discovered. Therefore, they deliberately leave “bread crumbs” along the pathway that will lead a prospective employer to find them. They create a presence on numerous online platforms, knowing that each platform gives a different perspective of their multifaceted brands.

In a job search, transparency should be your mantra. You cannot simultaneously hide your brand and look for a job. You want to be seen. You want to be findable. You actually want people—even strangers—to Google your name.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


How to be Findable in a Competitive Job Market

January 30, 2012

If you are not findable during a job search, then you do not exist.

If I were hiring, I would not schedule even a first interview with anyone who did not have an impressive digital footprint. My philosophy is pretty straightforward:  If you are a job seeker and you are not findable online, then you are invisible. If you do not have an impressive presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, a blog or other online platforms, then you do not exist!

In today’s crowded, competitive job market, you must always position yourself to be found. You should expect—and even want—for a potential employer to Google your name.

Three ways to make yourself more findable online are:

  1. Want to be found. A first step for many job seekers will be overcoming a misguided mindset about their online information. They mistakenly believe that having their information “out there on the Internet” is inherently a bad thing.
  2. Expand your digital footprint. Be visible online. Create a digital presence on enough social media platforms so that you and your brand are easily findable.
  3. Share your content online. The good news is that you can control much of what your next employer will find from a Google search. Blogging provides an excellent platform to showcase your passions, your commitment and your career potential.

You are destined to make a meaningful impact in the world, but first you must be found. Do everything you can to be findable.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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To Be Differentiated, Blend Personal and Professional

January 26, 2012

Many job seekers—your competitors—have been advised by friends or career counselors to hide the personal dimensions of their personal brands.

Job seekers are admonished to set their Facebook settings high so others cannot look over the wall. Some Twitter newbies protect their tweets so strangers cannot follow them. Too many job seekers have been programmed to fear the unknown evil lurking in the shadows of the Internet.

Here’s your opportunity to differentiate yourself! The more your competitors hide themselves, the greater advantage you have to establish your brand. By being transparent and open, you can stand out from the herd.

For any job opening, you’ll likely compete with dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of people who have work histories, job titles and career accomplishments very similar to yours. From the vantage point of a prospective employer, it looks as if everyone was shaped by the same cookie cutter.

How can you stand out from those who naively believe they can effectively sell themselves in a one-dimensional way? One effective method is to be real. Show others that you are a real, multifaceted person. Show others the splendor of your multidimensional brand.

If you present only your professional persona—as impressive as it might be—you are branding yourself too shallowly. Our 2.0 world requires authenticity and transparency. Being authentic and transparent will definitely help you differentiate yourself and your brand.

People like doing business with people they know, or at least with people who present themselves as real-life human beings. A resume or even a LinkedIn profile is usually a sterile, sanitized description of one facet of your brand. Seldom does a resume portray you as a real, multidimensional person.

You need every available tool—including social media—to differentiate yourself in a crowded job market. Others may be afraid of using social media to reveal who they are personally. Their trepidation can work to your advantage. Their timidity gives you a great branding opportunity.

You can differentiate yourself by presenting yourself as a real person, not just a professional silhouette. You can differentiate yourself by opening up, by being real and by being transparent.

Deliberately look for opportunities to blur the lines that separate the personal and professional compartments of your life.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Differentiated, Create a Unique Elevator Speech

January 25, 2012

Could you effectively sell yourself to a prospective employer if you were alone with him or her for 30 seconds in an elevator?

Can you talk about yourself without using the same, worn clichés used by every other job seeker? Can you say something about your brand that others cannot say about theirs?

An effective elevator pitch should be:

  1. Relevant. Talk about the impact you can have on their success.
  2. Differentiating. Don’t say things about yourself that everyone else can say about themselves.
  3. Conversational. Your message should not sound like some formal, memorized script. With practice, your elevator speech can come from the heart and roll off your tongue in a very conversational manner.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, says this about elevator speeches:

No one ever bought anything in an elevator

The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale.

The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project.

And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb.

No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.

Spend the time necessary to prepare your own elevator speech. It will take time and practice, but you want to be ready when the elevator door closes and you have 30 seconds to say something about your unique, differentiated brand.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Differentiated, Know Your Competition

January 24, 2012

If you’re looking for a job, you face strong competition from others who are also looking for jobs.

To succeed, you must stand out from the rest of the pack. You’ve got to be different. You cannot blend in and look like everyone else.

The first step in differentiating yourself is to know who your competitors are. You’ll want to learn as much as you can about others who are applying for the same jobs you are seeking. You must study your competition.

One way to to do this is look at their profiles on LinkedIn. Take the list of keywords that describe you and then search for others in LinkedIn who use those same words.

Notice which profiles pop up. Pick several individuals and observe how they describe themselves. Study their profiles—their career summaries, specialties, experience and skills. Notice which words and phrases they use to describe themselves.

Pay attention to their writing style. Do they talk in the first or third person? Do they sound conversational? Are they interesting? Look for examples of individuals who have effectively converted their features into benefits?

You can differentiate yourself from others only when you 1) know yourself and 2) know your competition. When you understand who your competitors are and how you are differentiated from them, you are ready to begin selling your brand in a competitive job market.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


How to Differentiate Yourself in a Competitive Job Market

January 23, 2012

In a job search, if you are not differentiated you are not marketable.

A few years ago I was hiring for an open position on my marketing and communications team. Although I was bombarded with 200 applications, I personally considered the merits of every single candidate.

Very quickly, though, my eyes glazed over. Everyone looked alike. They all seemed to be saying the same thing. They even used the same clichés to describe themselves. Everyone claims to be:

  •  Creative.
  •  An excellent communicator.
  •  A problem solver.
  •  Highly motivated.
  •  Results oriented.
  •  Hard working.

Everyone, it seemed, described himself or herself in the exact same way. Had I changed the names at the top of each resume, it wouldn’t have mattered. Quite frankly, I felt as if I’d walked into a Baskin-Robbins store where the only flavor was vanilla. Everyone, it seemed, had bought the same book on writing cover letters and they even selected the same buzz phrases to use.

A prospective employer has no reason to hire you if you can’t differentiate yourself in a job search. Three ways to be different and stand out from the rest of the pack are:

  1. Know your competition. It goes without saying, but you will never differentiate yourself from others unless you know who they are.
  2. Create a unique elevator pitch. In 30 seconds, you must be able to describe yourself to a prospective employer so he or she takes an interest and wants to learn more about you.
  3. Blend your personal and professional lives. An effective brand is never one dimensional. You are a unique and multifaceted person, and your brand is a rich combination of a) who you are professionally, b) who you are personally and c) what you think and how you see the world around you.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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To Be Relevant, Focus on Your Cover Letter

January 20, 2012

A resume is probably the most overrated tool in a job search. Yet it is the thing most people obsess on.

Here’s the harsh reality:  your resume by itself will not get you a job. In fact, it probably will not even land you a job interview.

Think of your resume as a reference manual and your cover letter as a sales brochure. The owner’s manual in the glove box of a new car won’t sell the car. Likewise your resume won’t effectively sell you.

A reference manual contains the features, or the basic facts describing a product. Your resume is your reference manual which contains the facts of your brand—where you have worked, the job titles you’ve held, the education or training you’ve received and other such items.

Your cover letter, on the other hand, is the sales brochure written to capture the interest of a hiring manager. Properly written, your cover letter will make your resume relevant to the specific needs of a prospective employer.

Your cover letter should talk about the benefits you offer, not your features. A one-page letter should paint a picture that helps a potential employer visualize the benefits of having you as part of the team.

You’ve probably obsessed long enough on your resume. It’s time to create a compelling cover letter that will really sell the brand hidden beneath the features listed on your resume.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Relevant, Convert Features into Benefits

January 19, 2012

Good sales people know the difference between features and benefits. Knowing the difference often separates those who make the sale from those who concede defeat to a competitor.

Likewise, effective job seekers know the difference. Sadly, though, most people looking for a job focus only on their features when they should be talking about the benefits they offer.

So what’s the crucial difference?

  1. Features Tell. Features are the plain facts, the list of items on your resume that describe you. Features are bits of basic information about who you are—your previous job titles, the responsibilities you carried and the education or training you received.
  2. Benefits Sell. Benefits are features that have been converted into relevant information. They describe why a feature is important.

To convert a feature into a benefit, begin by asking So what? For each feature, ask: So what? Why is this information important? How is it relevant? Why should anyone care about that?

Converting a feature into a benefit can seem overwhelming, but it’s simply reframing a conversation so you are talking from the perspective of an employer.

Never throw out a feature and then leave it to a prospective employer to make the right assumptions about why it is important. You must describe how the feature will actually benefit him or her. As you’re talking about benefits, you’re actually making promises. In effect, you are telling a prospective employer, “Here what I can do for you.” That gets attention.

Think about how you are selling yourself. Do you consciously convert features into benefits?

While your resume probably focuses more on features, your cover letter provides an opportunity to bring to life the benefits of your personal brand.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Relevant, Know Your Brand

January 18, 2012

Before you sell something, you must thoroughly understand the product you are selling. Likewise, in a job search, you must know your brand (yourself) before you can sell yourself to a prospective employer.

Begin by creating a clear picture of who you are, where you’re going and the impact you can have in the workplace. This requires quiet, thoughtful contemplation, so don’t rush the process.

Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I began my job search by spending quality time in a re-branding process. Though I love everything digital, I deliberately went “analog” for this planning exercise. I took a journal and a fountain pen to a local coffee shop. Journaling is a magical practice for tapping into a deeper creative consciousness.

There in the coffee shop, over several sessions, my brand came into focus as I wrestled with answers to questions that were easy to ask but surprisingly difficult to answer.

Questions I Asked Myself

The foundation for my introspection was laid by a series of questions such as:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What have I done?
  4. Where am I going?
  5. What can I do?
  6. Why would someone hire me?
  7. How am I different than other candidates?

Wresting with these questions proved to be invigorating and I gained the momentum necessary to find an incredible career opportunity.

In your job search, you may be tempted to hurry through the planning stages. If you do, I predict you’ll flounder later.

Keywords Describing My Brand

As part of my planning process, I also brainstormed a list of  keywords that defined my brand. I made a lengthy list of what I perceived my brand to be. I pulled keywords from my resume and cover letter. I also listed the phrases others used when describing me, my performance and my reputation.

Make a list of at least 25 keywords that define your brand. Go for quantity and make the list as lengthy as possible. In a later post I’ll describe how to focus this list so you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. For now, though, be creative without unnecessary editing or critiquing.

In the early phases of a job search, my advice is to become very conversant on the basics of your brand—who you are, where you’re going and what you’re looking for.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH



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