Marketing Yourself

Well, it’s been a while since my last post.  Between family and work, my life has become very busy.  This post will cover a lot of ground and should make sense when you get to the end.

In the last 3 months, the job market has improved in some areas, but not all.  I talk to people and listen to the news and I get the feeling everyone is waiting for that “big bang” in the job market.  You hear about corporations posting record profits, the stock market is over 12,000, so people start to wonder, “All this news about the economy is great, but why isn’t it translating into more jobs?”

The short answer is a lot of companies have learned how to do more with less over the past 2 years and are now rewarding their shareholders.  Why dilute profits with investment [new hires] when you don’t have to, considering you [the company] are being measured against diminished expectations?

This thinking is short-sided.  When things turn around, top talent will “cash out” and walk away.  Some towards retirement, but most will try to fix their work-life balance by striking out on their own.  Using their new-found wealth, they will create another wave of start-ups.  Will it be a repeat of the 1990’s boom and bust?  Not likely, but it does present a dilemma to the companies that ground their people into dust in exchange for short-term profits: who will replace the top talent?  Like-for-like replacement is out of the question; those that would be potential candidates are smart enough to know better.  So that pushes them to one of two outcomes.  Option A is to replace top talent with average talent and suffer a downturn.  Option B is to improve work conditions to entice top talent to stay, or make it worth their while to change jobs.

My guess is most companies will roll the dice on Option A, then move on to Option B where it doesn’t work out.  So where does this leave you, loyal reader?  Not in a good place if you cannot figure out what you are a “top talent” at.  Figure that out and market yourself that way.  If you cannot convince a company that you should be at the top of their short list of talented candidates, then you are not presenting yourself the right way.  Rethink how you market yourself.

If you are struggling with how to market yourself as “top talent”, email me and together we’ll figure it out.

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Getting into the Job Market with Internships

It is a tremendously hard time right now for recent graduates to get into the job market.  With diplomas in hand, young people are finding themselves competing with a large pool of skilled workers just as hungry and desperate as they are.  There is a new web site called Urban Interns which helps young people find local internships, part-time and temporary work.

When I was in college, I was unsure of what I wanted to do after I graduated.  With a little help from the faculty, I had four different internships over my last 3 years of school.  All four were in the same field but none were identical.  The last internship was the most rewarding of the four and it convinced me to go into digital media, a cutting-edge field at the time.  The company liked me so much they created a position for me that built on my internship and college degree.  In my circle of friends I was the only one who had a paying job lined up before graduation.

If you are a recent college grad and are struggling to get your foot in the door, get off the proverbial couch and try interning.  It will not only help familiarize you with the company and the industry, but it will also give you a chance to network with people on the inside.

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How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

There are wonderful online resources like LinkedIn for connecting with people and managing your business network.  Keep in mind that your profile says a lot about you.  An unfinished profile tells people you have a hard time seeing things through to the end, which is a skill most employers try to avoid.  A completed profile with very short or extremely long descriptions tells people you are a bad communicator.

There is a great site called Mashable that I encourage everyone to read when they have the time.  They have a great article chock full of tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile.  These are free resources that you can use to give yourself a leg up in this competitive job market.  Everything from getting great recommendations to showcasing your skills and demonstrating your expertise.

All these things matter to a potential hiring manager.  Showing them everything they need to know about you (you were a great employee or coworker in the past… you are an expert in your field… you can “talk the talk and walk the walk”…) greatly improves the odds that they will reach out to you.  Getting in the door is half the battle, so do everything in your power to make them notice you.

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How To Use Advanced Twitter Search To Find A Job

Great YouTube video from Mashable on how to leverage Twitter to search for jobs.

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Getting a New Job in 2011

There is a great article on Mashable called 19 Resources to Help You Land a Job in 2011.  These are fantastic resources and the general theme that I like is to look at 2011 differently.  If you have any sort of creative bone in your body, this is the time to parlay it into a job.  Will it lead to a career?  Who knows, but at the very least you are off the market, making money, and paying your bills.

A lot of the jobs described in this article involve telecommuting, so don’t limit yourself to looking only in your local area.  Time zones can be a pain, but starting your day means you end early, which is great if you’re a parent with small children.  Also, working from home means your really just roll out of bed and start your day.  Unless it involves video conferencing with the main office, in which case you need to put your best foot forward and dress as if you were going into the office.

Depending on where you live, the pay may even work in your favor.  A low-paying salary in Southern California is about $30,000 per year.  Where you live, $30,000 salaries may be scarce; the labor force may be made up of just minimum wage jobs and upper management.  So, if you live in an area where $30,000 goes a long way (and you have a great broadband connection), telecommuting to a company in Los Angeles, Irvine, or San Diego may be ideal.

What failed in your 2010 job hunting strategy will fail in 2011.  It’s time for a fresh approach.

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Improve your Networking with CardMunch for the iPhone

I am a huge fan of using sites like LinkedIn to network for new jobs.  They have added a new feature that makes adding connections to LinkedIn a breeze for iPhone owners.  Download the CardMunch app  from the iTunes app store and load it on your iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4.  Next time you meet someone, just take a picture of their business card with your iPhone and CardMunch will convert it into a contact in your address book, with one click then sends a LinkedIn invitation to the person.

This couldn’t get any easier!  Now when you leave a party or networking event, you can spend 5 minutes in the car, snapping pics of the business cards you collected and immediately turning them into LinkedIn connections.

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Lessons from Nine Unemployed People

The Los Angeles Times has a micro-site called “America Out of Work“.  Nine people from different walks of life open up about their struggles with unemployment, both financial and emotional.  It is hard to watch these people talk frank and openly and not empathize.  None come off as unemployable.  Just a little desperate, which is understandable.  Take a few minutes to watch their stories and keep a mental tally of the number of times they mention using the internet to find a job, versus the number of times they mention networking to expand their professional circle.

It’s shocking!  All that time wasted staring at a computer screen, hoping for a miracle.  I wish they would read my book and understand how they could be more effective.  It all comes down to people.  People are the key to getting hired.  It’s people who interview you, refer you to other people, or vouch for your qualifications.  Machines don’t hire people (thank God).  It sounds simple enough, but I have some tricks and tips to leverage.

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Holiday Networking

It’s that crazy time of year again.  Visiting friends and family, hosting holiday parties, and shopping for gifts is fun for some people, stressful for others.  Especially if you don’t have much “holiday cheer” in the bank.  Lucky for you, this is also the best time of year to meet new people and expand your network.  Here are my five rules for holiday networking.

First Rule of Holiday Networking: never turn down an invitation.  Go to as many parties as you can, even if it makes you double-booked on some nights.

Second Rule of Holiday Networking: prioritize your attendance. Parties hosted by people you know very well are less valuable than parties where you’re likely only going to know the host.  There’s a very simple reason for this: if you know the host really well, odds are you’ll know all the guests really well, and they are already in your network.  By going to parties where you know the least number of guests, you can expand your network by being friendly and meeting new people.  While reconnecting with old contacts is important, at this time in your life it’s more important to bring new faces into your circle

Third Rule of Holiday Networking: prep the host.  Call the host of the party and tell them you are flattered to be invited and will be happy to attend.  Do not email or text your RSVP to the host as it is too impersonal.  While on the phone, mention that you are still unemployed and would really appreciate it if they could lend a hand with an introduction or two at the party.  Doing this ahead of the party gives the host a chance to think about it. Depending on your relationship with the host, they may even hook you up with some introductions before the party even starts!

Fourth Rule of Holiday Networking: thank the host.  Don’t be an ungracious guest and show up empty-handed.  Bring a small gift to show your gratitude.  A bottle of wine, a Christmas tree ornament, or something else that’s appropriate. Don’t feel like you need to break the bank.  Any host will understand your situation.

Fifth Rule of Holiday Networking: dress for an interview.  Wear what you would wear on a job interview, minus the tie (for men).  Remember that when you are meeting new people you are also making a first impression.

It’s hard to be cheery when things haven’t been going great, but you need to be upbeat and positive when you go to these holiday parties.  Be frank about your situation without going into every little detail.  While you probably won’t get offered a job at the party, you are making a better situation for yourself.  Read my book for more details on networking for a job in a tough economy.

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Dress for Success

Black Friday was the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season.  From now through the end of the year, retailers large and small will be discounting merchandise hoping to get it off the shelves and into your loving arms.  For a lot of people, this time of year is particularly difficult to be unemployed.  You can’t afford to buy what you’d like to for your loved one’s.  However, you can afford to improve the way you are perceived when you are job hunting.

Take a long, hard look in your closet.  Specifically, what you would wear to a job interview.  Take stock of every item: shoes, belt, pants, etc.  Is anything stained, worn down or frayed?  Out of date with current fashion trends or not what would generally be considered a “classic” or “timeless” look?  Ask a friend or loved one for advice on your job interview wardrobe as well.  Now that you understand what are the weak points of your general appearance to a hiring manager, this is the time to take advantage and make improvements!

If you are on a tight budget… $3 will buy you a new can of shoe polish.  $10-$12 will buy you a new tie that used to retail for $60-$80.  Another $10-$15 will buy you a crisp buttoned-down shirt, white or light blue, that used to sell for $40-$60.   You’ve just spent close to $30 and given yourself a whole new look.  If your suit is the culprit, then you will need to spend a little more, but this is the only time of year you can buy suit separates (a matching set of jacket and pants) for under $100.  If you have a little extra to spare, all the better.  This advice goes for women as well.

If you hate shopping, then you are really going to hate this time of year as most stores are packed.  Make it easy on yourself and go shopping mid-week when the crowds are considerably smaller.  Also, be sure to get advice from the sales staff: how does look on you? Is there another color that looks better on you?  Is there another size or label that might fit better?  Can you get free alterations, or at least a discount?  If you get a lot of ‘I-don’t-knows’ then you are probably dealing with seasonal help, so ask to speak to a regular salesperson.  Anybody working in retail fashion for a living will be able to steer you away from a regrettable purchase and into something that looks good on you.

So why does all this matter?  You have one shot to make a first impression with a hiring manager.  Don’t ruin it by dressing like a slob.  Even on a tight budget, there are small things you can do to make sure you dress for success and put your best foot forward.

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The Two-Minute Interview

I heard a fascinating story on the radio (here is a link to the transcription) about a small business owner that has a unique method for screening candidates.  Specifically, candidates are asked to call his office and leave a 2-minute voice mail telling him the position you are applying for and why he should hire you.  As the story played out, differing points-of-view were laid out.  The story ended and left me with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, if the position requires good oral communication skills, a 120 second presentation is great for screening out people who will most likely fail.  If someone’s message catches your ear, you can bring them in for an in-person interview.  The big benefit I saw that wasn’t discussed in the story: a disembodied voice on an answering machine can easily remove racial bias from the screening process.

On the other hand, if the position doesn’t require good oral communication skills, where does that leave the hiring manager?  Does he want to hire the best janitor, or does he want the janitor who is the best conversationalist?

A couple of the people interviewed for the story were offended by the impersonal nature of a 2-minute phone screening.  My observation was: get over it.  If you need to be “face to face” to sell yourself to a hiring manager, then you are trying to sell him or her on style over substance.  Your in-person interview should be the icing on the cake, confirming their belief that you are not only qualified for the job but are also a good fit.

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