10 Things Networkers Did that Impressed Me

December 19, 2013

During the past five years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of job seekers and others interested in networking. I value these interactions, and will almost always accept a networking request.

As I think back on those interactions, though, some individuals I met with were more memorable. I best remember those who did the following things:

  1. They had a purpose for meeting. Knowing why provided purpose and focus for our conversations. Of course, I never expected anyone to develop a detailed, comprehensive agenda before they requested an appointment. Just hearing them say, “I’m in a job search and want to brainstorm ideas” was a great starting point.
  2. They did not do all the talking. Occasionally, I’ve done all the listening, never having the opportunity to add any value to the conversation. In those rare cases, I just assumed the other person needed moral support as they unloaded their burdens in a stream of consciousness.
  3. They did not expect me to do all the talking. I never do well when the onus is left entirely upon me to do all the talking. I’ll do what I can to make a conversation lively, but let’s not forget that one hand clapping makes no sound. Read the rest of this entry »

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.


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 Relevant in a Competitive Job Market

January 17, 2012

In a job search, if you are not relevant you are obsolete.

Technology, ideas and even workers lose their relevance when they fail to provide value to the end user.

As a job seeker, you become relevant to prospective employers when you remember it’s all about them, not you. You may be proud of your degree, your experience or your community activities. Potential employers, however, will not share your enthusiasm unless they can somehow see how your credentials will make them more successful in their jobs.

Assume that a potential employer is selfish. He or she is not looking to do you a favor by rescuing you from the vast sea of unemployed swimmers. No, your next employer will only be interested in hiring you if you can contribute to his success.

Being relevant means that your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interview answers and all communications focus on what you can do for THEM, not what they can do for you. Like it or not, it’s all about them, not you.

Three ways to be more relevant are:

  1. Know your brand. You must thoroughly understand yourself—the “product” you are trying to sell.
  2. Convert features into benefits. Remember, it’s all about them, so phrase everything in the context of why they should care about the information you share.
  3. Focus on your cover letter. This is your “sales brochure” where you talk to potential employers about their world, their success and how you you can help them win.
Remember, you are relevant to a potential employer only when you focus on what they need, not on what you want.


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



Marketing OR Communications? If You Had to Choose, Which Would You Pick?

August 8, 2011

For years I have been amused when a nonprofit organization would label one of its key departments “Marketing AND Communications.” To me, that always seemed redundant. After all, you never hear a CFO claim responsibility for the Department of Finance, Accounting and Accounts Payable.

A university president once talked with me about leading his marketing and communications team. When I asked if he would consider shortening the title for simplicity, he emphatically declined. For that and other reasons, neither of us seriously considered forming a working partnership.

Later, when I taught marketing at another university, I spent considerable time talking about the relationship between marketing and communications. I never believed the two terms were synonymous or interchangeable, and I drilled into my students the concept that communications comes at the end of the marketing process.

Five years ago I left my position as Vice President of Marketing at United Way. Although communications was part of my portfolio, it always grated on me when my CEO referred to my department as “marketing and communications.” Although I appreciated his thorough description of my team’s role, I also thought he was being unnecessarily redundant.

Read the rest of this entry »

Career Transition, Blog Posts and a Presidential Hug

July 7, 2011

Three months ago I learned that my job at the American Red Cross would likely be eliminated.

Nationally, the Red Cross has been undergoing a massive, top-to-bottom reorganization that will affect every person affiliated with the organization. The restructuring will reduce expenses and increase revenues, all with a focus on keeping the mission relevant in a rapidly-changing environment. To their credit, our national leaders have openly shared the unfolding changes via e-mails, online videos and frequent conference calls.

Anticipating that my position would be among those eliminated by the end of the summer, I shared the discomforting news with my wife and family. Then, with the clock ticking towards the start of a new fiscal year, I launched an under-the-radar job search. I first revised my resume and LinkedIn profile. With the full understanding and support of my boss, I shifted my networking into a higher gear and sent e-mails to a couple dozen strategically-placed contacts. I was encouraged by their immediate offers to help.

Prior to launching the public phase of my job search, I developed personal business cards, a career-highlights brochure and an assortment of collateral materials to use when the appropriate time came. Read the rest of this entry »

What Do You Do (In Seven Words)?

February 3, 2010

A friend of mine, Mark Whitaker, is an experienced market research professional. His official title is Strategic Research Consultant at The Kansas City Star.

That’s an impressive title, but what does it mean? What does he really do? What impact does he actually make?

In seven words on LinkedIn, Mark summarizes his job as “helping you find the information you need.”

I really like that “job description” for three reasons:

  1. It’s simple. I can understand it without having to translate industry jargon.
  2. It’s differentiating. It really describes what he does, not what his company or co-workers do.
  3. It’s outwardly focused. He describes what he does for others. He focuses on the benefits he provides, not the process involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Selling Yourself in a Job Search

December 15, 2009

Good sales people know the difference between features and benefits. Often that makes the difference between making a sale or conceding defeat to a competitor.

Likewise, effective job seekers must also know the difference. That knowledge often determines who gets an interview and ultimately who snags the job offer.

Sadly, most job seekers focus only on features when they should be talking about benefits. So what’s the crucial difference?

Features Tell. Features are facts, the list of items on your resume that describe you. They provide basic information — Who you are. Where you’ve worked. Dates you were there. Job titles. Accomplishments. Education. Community involvement.

Benefits Sell. Benefits convert features into relevant information. Benefits describe the value that a potential employer might find in one of your features. A hiring manager is always asking questions such as — So what? How is this relevant? Why should I care? What can you do for me?

Features and benefits are both important. To be effective, though, you must lead with benefits and then follow up with features. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hidden Value of Job Hunting During the Holidays

December 10, 2009

It’s tough looking for a job in December. I’ve been there, and I know it’s not fun being in a job search during the holidays.

Right now, I personally know at least three dozen people who are between jobs. Though they’ve remained positive during these stressful times, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with fear and negativity. Few employers are hiring in December. The economy is still bad and who knows what the future holds. On top of that, personal finances are likely strained during this season of materialism and consumerism.

On the other side of the coin, though, the holiday season can actually be a deeply meaningful time for job hunting. Done rightly, December can be a time of renewal and rejuvenation as you anticipate all the good things awaiting you in the coming new year.

Here’s my advice to anyone feeling trapped in a holiday job search:

  1. Spend quality time with family and friends. A stressful career transition can refocus you on life’s true priorities—family and friends. Surround yourself with people who truly care about you and your well-being. Let them know how important they are to you.
  2. Reconnect with your existing network. Update your professional contacts on the progress (or lack of) you are making. Remind them what you’re looking for. Suggest simple ways they can help. Look for ways to express gratitude for things they have already done.
  3. Make new friends. The holidays are a good time to network and meet new people at parties, religious services or other social events.
  4. Rethink your strategy. From time to time, we all need to think about what we’re doing and why. For me, nothing works quite like sitting alone in a coffee shop. I can clear the clutter in my mind, filter out distractions and experience a surge of creativity. The change of venue gives me a fresh perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

What Can You Do?

September 24, 2009

—Making promises during a job search

I was once being interviewed for an executive job in Ohio. At the time I had not yet completed my master’s degree, so I asked the company CEO if that would work against me. “I don’t care how much you know,” he replied. “I want to know what you can do.”

During a job interview, the hiring manager is not thinking about you. He’s thinking about himself. He’s not concerned about your success, your knowledge or your experience—except as it relates to him and to his success, his profitability and his ability to look good.

With that realization, you should focus your job search communication on what you can do. Occasionally you may need to mention your degree, your experience or your achievements. But those should always be presented as evidence of what you can do in the future.

Twice I’ve hired candidates who presented me with a list of things they intended to accomplish during their first 90 days on the job. Admittedly the lists needed revision, but I was impressed to know that the applicants were already thinking about the work needing to be done. Both candidates sold me on what they could do, not on what they knew, where they’d come from or what they had done. They demonstrated that they were already engaged and eager to get started. Momentum was already building. I appreciated the thinking that both individuals had shown, and I rewarded them with key leadership opportunities on my already-successful marketing team.

Making “campaign promises” during a job search requires a combination of two important elements—introspection and research.

Introspection. Before you really know what you can do, you have to look inside yourself and become fully aware of what you have already done, where you’ve been successful and what types of work have made you feel most alive and productive. You then have a good idea of what you can do.

Research. To find the ideal match for you, you will also need to research market trends, study the major projects of targeted companies and understand the priorities of the hiring manager. You will be well positioned to achieve exceptional success when there is alignment between a) what you can do and b) what they need.

My advice to anyone in a career transition is to talk about what you can do. In other words, change the sentence, “I’m looking for a job in ______________.” to “I’m looking for an opportunity where I can ______________.”

Many LinkedIn status reports describe the type of job the person is looking for. I was impressed, though, when one of my jobless friends stated that he was “looking for a sales opportunity where I can generate exceptional revenue.” He talked about what he could do. Before long he found a great job and is now doing what he promised he could do—making sales and generating revenue.

So my question of you is:  What can you do?

10 Marketing Tips for an Effective Job Search

September 1, 2009

In these tough economic times, I know too many good people who are between jobs. It’s a noisy, competitive job market and as I observe the chaos, two things become apparent:

  1. Too many people are clamoring for the same few jobs.
  2. Only a small minority of those people are doing a good job of marketing themselves.

Having been in a job search myself, I feel great empathy for job seekers. From my personal experience, I’ve learned more about career transitions than I ever cared to know. Therefore, I’m often asked to network with job seekers to help them brainstorm strategies for a job search.

I’m always willing to share what I’ve learned if it can help someone else along the path. Most of my advice, though, can be summarized in the following 10 items:

  1. Think of yourself as a “product” to be marketed in a noisy, competitive marketplace.
  2. Have a personal marketing plan.
  3. Differentiate yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Be memorable. Be unique.
  4. Be findable. Create a large digital footprint by using sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Profiles.
  5. Know who you are. Develop an effective “elevator speech” or “30-second commercial.”
  6. Know where you are you going. Describe your destination so others can visualize you once you’ve reached your destination.
  7. Let people know how they can help. Be specific. Generalities usually do not generate the desired results.
  8. Use stories to describe your achievements.
  9. Talk about the benefits you offer, not the features described in your resume.
  10. Believe in yourself (or no one else will).

Okay, I’ve shared lessons I learned along the pathway, and I’d like to hear from someone who has navigated a career transition. If you’ve successfully emerged from a job search, what did you learn? What worked for you? What advice would you share?

On the other hand, if you have recently hired someone, what additional wisdom would you share with a job seeker?

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