The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 3

Brand ToolkitIn the third part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the second step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You ~ Toolkit Development.

START – Toolkit Development

What tools will help you deliver your brand to the outside world and what do you need to have in your own toolkit to drive the success of Brand You? In this post I’m going to start with the basics.

Your Curriculum Vitae – CV

You cannot underestimate the importance of a good CV. This is your first impression and your chance to capture your potential employer’s attention. It does not matter what job you are applying for – whether you want an entry-level position at a sales office, or a more senior position in a large business, you have got to have a good CV, otherwise you are not even going to get your foot in the door.

Its purpose is to list your accomplishments, your skills, and your qualifications, especially as to how they pertain to the job for which you are applying. You have to show your prospective employer that you are right for the job. Not only that, but you have to outline your experiences and your successes – otherwise, how will he or she know that you are truly qualified for the job? Furthermore, the document also serves as an indicator as to how well you can communicate and how good you are at organisation.

Most importantly, remember to keep it short. It should be a maximum of two pages, in total. By all means build up a bigger personal portfolio document where you can capture all the detail from your career that you can draw upon for interviews and more detail should a potential employer need them.

When applying for a specific advertised role, always customize your CV. Follow the word choices that the company uses, focus on the credentials that this particular employer values most. And if you don’t know what those are, ask and find out!

In Part 2 of Brand New, Brand You I talked about the importance of understanding how you can differentiate yourself from others. What are your Unique Selling Points for this position? Show how you can make / save the company money and show how you can resolve the problems that they have.

Don’t lie! Some people think that by putting little or bigger white lies in their job history, lists of successes, courses, training and experience – they will get away with it. You won’t. And that goes for your referees also. Your interviewers will check you out. They will check your qualifications, then referees, then work history, they will check everything. They are used to people lying to them, despite the pleasant smiles you may see. It’s all part of their job to pick the best candidate.

One final point – CHECK IT OVER before you send it out! Check it for spelling, grammar, dates, formatting and against the role profile. Then ask someone you trust to check it again. You would not believe the number of CV’s I see every year with spelling mistakes, unfinished sentences, incorrect dates and horrible grammar. Point made.

Online CV’s

There is a difference between a paper CV and an online CV as far as readability is concerned.

Some people make the mistake of just copying and pasting their hard-copy CV’s into an online format. It’s better to consider an online CV as a completely different resource and take advantage of some benefits that it offers.

a. Use bulleted lists – This holds true for paper resumes as well, but large blocks of text are even harder to read online. People tend to scan content online more than they do in hard copy.

b. Break text up with headers – Headers make CV’s easier to scan and make keywords stand out more for the reader.

c. Hyperlink text – If you’ve written articles online, have been published in some way or you’ve developed your own blog, hyperlink the title in your CV to save the reader some trouble of copying and pasting the URL into a browser.

Read!

No matter how much you already know, you can always learn more. In Part 2 you went through a process to discover your values, passions, differentiators and your Brand You Vision. You need to think about what you need to learn, and develop a strategy to accomplish that. To enhance Brand You keep learning and reading everything you can to give you an edge in your field.

Use any ‘down-time’ in your day, on your way to and from work or at lunch, to catch up on the latest news from your industry or field of interest. I’ve found a good way to collate useful information quickly is to set up newsfeed dashboards on iGoogle or using Google Reader. This takes a little time initially, but does allow you to dip in and out, throughout the day to keep updated on the latest from your industry. Another great online tool is Alltop. You can select from thousands of categorised newsfeeds and personalise a homepage of all your favourites. This is also available on mobile devices so that you can pick news up on the move.

Email Address

Your email address is an important part of your personal brand, especially when you’re in any correspondence with potential employers. If you can afford it, and it really isn’t that expensive, try to buy an appropriate domain name. Yourname@yourdomain.com does portray a professional image and if you decide to build a website or blog (See Part 4) you can use the domain for that too.

Gmail is an accepted alternative, but again try to keep your address to firstname.lastname@gmail.com if you can. Hotgirl435@gmail.com or LoveBieber25@gmail.com really don’t create a professional persona!

Business Cards

If you don’t already have business cards with your current role, or want to build Brand You outside of your day job, then getting business cards printed is important, especially for networking events or job fairs. There are plenty of online resources that you can use that deliver high quality products such as Vistaprint out there. Keep the design simple and professional and limit the number of contact methods you use. Try and make the design fresh and different to make it distinctive.

Build your Profile and Network

Six degrees of separation works – the people you know, know people, who know people. Everyone you encounter has someone in their network with the potential to help you. The best relationships are formed by way of “introductions” or “referrals.” Everyone you meet has someone in their network who may be a potential client, supplier, employee, or employer of yours sometime in the future.

LinkedInJoin LinkedIn

As I’m sure you’ll be aware, LinkedIn is THE business networking resource on the internet with approximately 150 million users worldwide.

It complements your fundamental networking skills in building relationships of value which you would use with people you interact with in person. It offers you a world-wide connection, a way to personally brand yourself, make contacts for jobs, and have a chance to acknowledge good people throughout your past and interact with like-minded business people from you industry or with your interests.

A few steps to get started and make the most of LinkedIn:

1. First of all sign up if you have not already. The basic service is free.

2. Fill out the entire profile – Include as much information in your profile as you can.

a. Add your photograph – Elementary you might say, but do you have a professional picture uploaded or is it a random picture you copied from Facebook? As the photograph space on LinkedIn is small, you want your picture to be a head shot taken in a professional environment with no distractions in the background. Take a good look at your picture today and ask yourself what an employer’s first impression would be.

b. Employment History – A basic field that needs to be filled out properly. Transfer your CV data to LinkedIn and make sure you get all dates correct. Include all jobs you have had, unless it’s more than ten, in which case you only include the most important ones.

c. Summary – This section is often overlooked. In the summary section you want to put your elevator pitch (If you haven’t got one – See Part 3 of Brand New, Brand You! Coming soon.). Write who you are, what your skills are and most importantly what you can do for the reader. Always think how you can add value and structure your skills and experience with bullet points to make it pleasing on the eye.

d. Specialities – Another overlooked section, mainly because nobody knows what it means. The specialities box allows you to throw in all the keywords that reflect your experience and skills. The beauty here is that every keyword is searchable, meaning you increase your chances of being found by recruiters.

e. Recommendations – Endorsements from peers, customers and managers are essential for your job search. Although not a knock out factor in the early stages of a hiring process, it can be a deciding factor at the last stage. If there are two final candidates for a job, the number and quality of LinkedIn recommendations can be the decider. Get two to three recommendations per job you have had if you can. Aim high and ask previous managers and other people with impressive titles as it will look better on your profile.

3. Connect, Connect, Connect – Think about people of value from your past who you might want to link with. Search for their names and invite them to reconnect. Then take the time to write them an endorsement (even a sentence is good). Your name is tied to this so make sure it is authentic and also reflects well on Brand You. If you keep doing this and helping people your own endorsements will grow over time and be well-earned. Endorsements of you initiated by others are obviously best. You really don’t want to ask for an endorsement unless you are clear they would love to give you one and are simply looking for an opportunity.

4. Jobs, Groups, Companies and more – I’ve walked you through the basics, but LinkedIn has much more to offer you. Take some time to explore other areas of the site and get involved. Follow Companies you’re interested in – either your competitors, your customers or prospective employers. Join Groups so that you can LinkIn with other like-minded people and contribute to discussion threads. Lastly, many companies are now using LinkedIn for their main route to source new employees. Use the advanced search function within the jobs section to get the most of your searches.

NetworkingNetwork the old-fashioned way

One tremendous tool to help build and promote your personal brand is to learn how to Network. Make your way to high level networking events. Before you arrive, set a goal to make a few quality connections at the event. Find out what you can do for the people you meet. Great business networking is about helping others and building lasting connections, and you don’t have to contain your networking to just events. When you get home, add your new contacts to Outlook, Facebook and LinkedIn. Help these people connect with business opportunities, employment leads and personal resources. Try to keep in touch with your network. Send them useful information, introduce them to some of your network and make sure you meet up every now and then. Individuals with a strong network of real connections don’t have to interview for future jobs, they get business opportunities and they have a ‘safety net’ if a real need arises.

That concludes the second step in START. Good luck with developing your Brand New, Brand You Toolkit – let me know you get on!

In the next post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the third step in the START process, Articulate. This post will give you some ideas about how you market the Brand New, Brand You.

If you missed the first two posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1 and Part 2.

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The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 2

Brand New, Brand You - Self-discoveryIn the second part of the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the first step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, namely Self-discovery.

START – Self-discovery

A personal brand is much more than a job title or how you look. This first step in evaluating Brand You is a holistic look at your goals, passions and values and how those figure into, and enhance, what you offer an employer, customer or indeed anyone you interact with. Very often, it’s the individuals who truly know what makes them interesting, compelling, and differentiated who stand out from the crowd. These people capitalise on their differences. Of course, a personal brand is only as good as the reputation you are able to build around its unique promise of value, and what you ultimately deliver. Consequently, authenticity and honesty become the most important building blocks for your personal brand.

First, you need to  start by evaluating yourself and what your current brand is, and compare it to what you’d like it to be. Then identify qualities that make you unique and how they might be valued by an employer. Examining who or what you don’t want your personal brand to be like can reveal what you do want. Just flip these negative qualities around to find the positive.

Self-discovery Questionnaire

Self-discovery is all about asking yourself some soul-searching questions. Be honest with yourself and try to view Brand You from other people’s perspectives.

Take yourself somewhere quiet and write down your answers to the following questions. Take some time to answer them thoroughly. You can download the Brand You Workbook if you prefer to type these up. The action plan has a section per question and also a section for any actions and milestones that need to be delivered to work on any improvements to these areas of your life. At  the end of the action plan is a section for your Brand You Vision Statement. Don’t worry about this for now. We’ll get to that part later. You will see that each question builds upon the last and hopefully as you work through the questions, you’ll start to build up a picture of the current Brand You and hopefully some thoughts as to where you’d like to develop yourself into the Brand New, Brand You. So, let’s get started:

What are your core personal values? Try to keep them to 5 values central to who you really are. I’ve listed some you may want to use in the word cloud below and also in the workbook, but the lists are not exhaustive; feel free to add your own. I found the best way to do this exercise, was to start with a larger list of say 15-20 values, and then work down to a short-list of 5. If you can, try to prioritise the final 5.

Example values for START

What parts of your business life are you passionate about? Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests asking yourself three questions: Do I like doing it? Am I good at it? Does the world need it?

“If you have a passion that you’re good at but the world doesn’t need it, you’ve got a useless passion,” says Covey. “If you’re focusing on what the world needs and sell out your passion, you sell out what is uniquely you. But if you can make a living doing something that you’re really good at and like-what a combination!”

What have I done / am I doing that I am most proud of? Don’t limit your answers to this question just to your business life. Try and come up with at least 5 things from across your personal and business life. Are there any similarities or themes? Do they link in any way to what you are passionate about? (They don’t have to!) Are there any of your personal values involved in making these activities such a success? Are they recent successes or from a few years ago?

What qualities or characteristics make you distinctive from your competitors or your colleagues? Whether it’s your unique style of leadership, the way you present to an audience or the personal energy you bring to a room when you enter, each of us have distinctive qualities that make us stand out. What are yours?

What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? What do you get compliments about most frequently; your perseverance, the quality of your business cases, your ability to mediate difficult conversations, your telephone manner with customers? What would you like it to be?

What benefits does ‘Brand You’ deliver? If you were a product, and indeed you are the product of Brand You, and had to pull a marketing brief together, what would you talk about as the benefits you bring? You’ve already worked up your Brand Values, so that should form part of your benefits story, you’ve already established what you’re passionate about and what makes you distinctive; and you’ve also established your greatest and clearest strength. Pulling all of these together should start to give you a compelling case as to why somebody would buy Brand You as opposed to Brand Them.

What do I want to be famous for? Ok, I’m not talking about going on a reality TV show, or getting 15 minutes of fame for rescuing a cat from a tree. I’m talking about the future of Brand You. What do you want to be known for?

‘He’s the best Project Manager I’ve ever met – you need him on this programme. He won’t be cheap though, he’s really in demand!’

‘She’s amazing! I saw her talking about Leadership at a conference last year. She’s so passionate about organisational change. We could do with her advice on the changes we want to make to our business’

You get the idea! How do you want to be known and talked about in 5 years time?

How am I measuring myself? Lastly, and arguably the one that always gets left behind with any brand launch, is a baseline measurement. How is your brand currently perceived? If you’re going to improve your personal brand, you need to understand where you’re starting from. What do people think of Brand You today?

There are a number of metrics / methods to use to gauge the success of your personal brand and that of the Brand New, Brand You.

The simplest way to test the effectiveness of any brand is to do market research. The same is true here. Ask for structured feedback – talk to your peers, managers, colleagues and customers and gauge their perception of Brand You. This could take the form of a 360 degree questionnaire, a face to face meeting with a focus on strengths and areas that could be improved or a combination of the two. You may wish to focus some questions to test out people’s perceptions to the answers you’ve given to some of the previous questions around Brand You benefits and what differentiates you from the rest.

Brand You Vision Statement

Now, you’ve had chance to work through the answers to these questions, it is useful to create a statement that encapsulates everything you want your brand to be. This will be your Brand New, Brand You Vision.

A strong vision statement should include:

  1. Your ambition for Brand You, describing the ideal future
  2. Encompass some of your core values
  3. Your differentiators and passions

I’ve posted some examples below, just to help you get your creative juices flowing:

‘I will provide the best technical support and customer service to our clients, helping improve their business and lives, striving to solve problems with a positive attitude that spreads to my co-workers’

‘I will be leading a small team of application developers to build market leading mobile tools for children with learning difficulties to make their lives easier and that of their families. That will fulfil my desire to make a difference to people’s lives, provide enough money for myself and my family to enjoy life and hopefully inspire others to take a risk and do something worthwhile.’

‘I am now running the restaurant I’ve worked in for 5 years. Through sheer determination, hard work, and my impeccable skills in dealing with customers of all kinds, I have a great reputation within the industry. I have also earned the respect of my staff, my superiors, and my customers alike.’

‘I have just published my fifth book on leadership and people management. I am now in the envious position of being able to leave my career  and share my time equally doing the things I love – spending time with family and friends, writing, walking, photography and being surrounded by nature’

That concludes the first step in START. Good luck with your Self-Discovery – I’d love to know how you get on!

In the next post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the second step in the START process, Toolkit Development.

If you missed the introductory post of The Brand New, Brand You please click here.

The Brand New, Brand You ~ Part 1

Standout from the crowdI’ve had some feedback recently that people would like some support in finding new roles, building their personal profile and generally improving their employability.

Brand New, Brand You is a series of Think Oak! posts to help you improve your personal brand in the increasingly crowded and competitive job market.

Brands touch every part of our lives, almost every waking minute of every day. We interact with hundreds if not thousands of brands each week, some consciously, some unconsciously.

What is a brand?

A brand can be a product, a service, an idea, a company, a place, or indeed a person. In my own simplistic view, a brand is the emotional and psychological relationship a product, service, company or person has with others. You don’t have to directly interact with a brand to have an opinion about it. Strong brands elicit thoughts, emotions, and sometimes physiological responses from those that interact with them. Don’t believe me? Look at the table of brand identities below think about the brand – How do they make you feel? How would you describe each brand from your perspective?

Example Brands

Depending on your experience of a particular brand, what you’ve heard about that brand from people you trust, what your background is or even where you come from, your opinion will be coloured accordingly. You have a brand whether you’re aware of it or not.

The Brand You

Have you taken any time out recently to think about your personal brand and what you stand for?

Why should you even worry about Brand You?

Look at your personal brand as an investment. Brand You has the potential to last longer than your own lifespan. While the projects you’re working on might finish or you move roles, your personal brand will persist and (hopefully) add value to each new project you’re involved with or role you move to. If you consider yourself to be in your particular career path for the long-haul, whether it’s a private business, the Public Sector, or your own business, a good personal brand is an invaluable investment. People will follow your brand from project to project and role to role if they feel connected to it. When launching new projects, your personal brand has the potential to guarantee you never have to start from scratch again.

Because your personal brand, more often than not, is built from the thoughts and words and reactions of other people, it’s shaped by how you present yourself publicly. This is something that you have control over. You can decide how you would like people to see you and then work on publicly being that image. Consider your goals for the brand. If you want to sell an expensive course in landscape photography you’ll need to be seen as someone with the authority to teach others on the topic. If you want to get work for high-end blue-ship clients you’ll need to be seen as a runaway talent with a professional attitude. Two useful questions to ask yourself are:

What are people saying / thinking / feeling about you when you walk into a room? What would you like them to be thinking and saying?

Your personal brand is composed of your actions and output in three main areas:

•Value Proposition: What do you stand for?

•Differentiation: What makes you stand out?

•Marketability: What makes you compelling?

Well it’s never too late to START creating the Brand New Brand You! Over the course of the next few posts I’ll cover some key areas for you to think about, work on, and evolve in order to improve Brand You, STARTing with Self-discovery.

Brand You START

Brand You – START Process

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