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Optimize Your Brand

Can you put into one sentence what your brand is?  Most people can’t, but any worthy career counselor will teach you how to optimize your personal brand because finding work comes down to marketing yourself.  Just as Starbucks tries to persuade you that creating an uplifting, personal experience is better than going to Dunkin Donuts or other choices, you have to do the same for yourself.  So what is a personal brand?  It is what defines you and separates you from others. That might be your customer service abilities, deep knowledge about a particular field, killer sales instincts or efficiency.  Reflecting on your experiences and asking others for feedback will help you honestly assess what makes you special.  Try putting it to words–the fewer the better.  Something like “customer service professional with a 95% satisfaction rating whose calm demeanor neutralizes even the most disgruntled callers” is a terrific example of how to optimize your personal brand.  If you were hiring for that position, wouldn’t you want to meet that candidate?

Defining what makes you special will pave the way for your marketing materials (resume, LinkedIn, blog, social media profiles, etc.).  Ensure that your personal brand is weaved into each platform in a consistent manner to reinforce your message and avoid any confusion on the part of the hiring company.

Before getting started on your resume and social media profiles, Google your name to see what potential employers may find. If you find content that worries you, this article details the latest ways to delete things from the web. Another approach is to prioritize certain Google results about you and bury others. Brand Yourself is a tool that can help. Before you move on, be sure to set up a Google Alert of your name so that whenever Google identifies any new information about you on the web, you are aware.

Resume and Cover letter:

Your resume should demonstrate that you have the right background and work experience for the job and, most importantly, that you have been successful in prior positions. “Success” is largely about demonstrating how your previous employer was better off because you were there. Thus, be as specific as possible about things such as sales increases, improved customer satisfaction, higher productivity, on-time job completion rate of 100%, etc. If you are unsure of how to communicate your accomplishments in a resume-friendly format, read up on the types of accomplishments hiring managers look for in several fields. Always keep in mind keywords when you are writing for many companies deploy Automatic Tracking Software to evaluate the substance of resumes before they ever reach a real person’s inbox.  This is a great intro to pinpointing and using keywords in your application process. For another approach, try copying and pasting a job description into TagCrowd. This will give you a visual key as to which words are most often repeated and may be keywords!

Learning Express is a terrific resource that guides you through the application/resume building process, and it is available through local libraries in 17 states. Call your local library and ask if they offer free resume training. If so, you can access this service online using your library card number. Purzue is a terrific multi-media approach, enabling you to give prospective employers a great introduction to YOU!

When you send out a resume, chances are you will be writing a cover letter to go with it. This is a great breakdown of the process that will get you in the door.

Sometimes an outside perspective is key to prepping for the job search process and maintaining a clear direction. The International Coach Federation is the number one trade organization for career coaches and is the governor of the industry standards.


Every job requires at least one interview. Some positions require 20 or 30. This is where you bring the information on your resume or application to life. Because you have successfully jumped the first hurdle, your candidacy has now broadened to include personal appearance, communication skills, likability, poise, etc. The good news is that if you prepare for this as you would a test, you will not be caught off-guard. Invest the time to read material about interviewing techniques, as it is a crucial part of the hiring process. Then, practice, practice, practice!

For those of us who are… well, less than great at interviewing, here are a few ideas for how to answer the inevitable, “So, what questions do YOU have about our company?”

The informational interview (when you request a meeting to learn about a company or an industry) is often a great way to determine whether your skills are a match for a certain job and also a chance to get introductions that might help you find work.

Staying Current:

Knowledge of national news and politics can be important when going through the job-search process and meeting a lot of new people. AllTop is a site that allows you to stay abreast of current news and topics of interest, including headline stories from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN. It is customizable for your life, professional focus, and leisure interests. Try signing up, reading and sharing select articles with others. Sharing articles with employed people in your network, if done selectively, can be an effective way of demonstrating that you are knowledgeable and helpful. Scanning top news stories about a company where you are scheduled for an interview can be an effective way to give you a conversation starter during an interview.

Pulse is a similar resource to Alltop, but for mobile devices (iPhones or Android).

For those who are re-entering the workforce after a timeout, find actionable ideas for things to do in your generalized fields. By taking the time to (re)connect with people in your field you might just find the “right” job lead.

Everyone has uniqueness. If you work for Starbucks, it could be your knack for knowing when the customer needs to hear they are having a good hair day or perhaps you are the phlebotomist who keeps her patients’ laughing while you stick them with a needle. Digging deep to get at this will be the magic to figuring out how to optimize your personal brand.

photo credit: charliecurve via photopin cc