No matter what the season or economic stimulus, the unemployed and underemployed worker is struggling to find work. That’s grim news for many people looking for work or a change in careers, especially those jobseekers pitching themselves to employers the same way 15 million other jobseekers are doing it.
Despite these ominous odds, employers are hiring. They are just much more diligent and particular about whom they put on their payroll. That means jobseekers must be equally diligent and resourceful. Therefore it is critical that a candidate present him- or herself in the best light possible, in as many ways as possible, to as many prospective employers as possible. In other words, if you want that next job, it’s time to brand yourself.
Brand yourself? What, exactly, does that mean? Isn’t branding the responsibility of marketing and public relations departments and ad agencies? If that is what you think, it’s time to change your tune…and brand.
For the jobseeker, companies seeking to hire are the customers. The job market is, in fact, a marketplace. In this scenario, job seekers are the products. Branding requires that you package, present and sell yourself in a way that differentiates you from all the other job seekers, just like Apple differentiates itself from Windows and Droid, Pepsi from Coke, Starbucks from Dunkin Donuts. Given the fact that there are so many people looking for so little work, branding yourself must make you the most desirable, valued, “must-have” candidate available.
Here are 5 must-do steps every serious job seeker must follow to brand himself in a way that his resume and first impression stand out in a positive way.
1. Use Social Media. Social media has become a viable and necessary means to a branding end. Surveys indicate that 80% of all companies use or intend to use social media in their recruiting efforts. A 2010 ExecuNet Inc. research study found that 90 percent of search-firm recruiters regularly Google candidates. Whether you use Facebook (800 million users worldwide), LinkedIn (120 million users) or any of the other available platforms, social media gives jobseekers the widest audience possible to explain who they are and what they have to offer.
But just posting your education, experience, honors, and awards isn’t enough anymore, not with millions of people competing for so few jobs. Your resume must become the diamond in the rough that sparkles enough to catch a recruiter’s eye. Branding yourself therefore must begin with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
2. SEO. You might be wondering what SEO has to do with job search or recruiting. SEO is what makes your web-based content (your resume and profile) attractive to search engines. If you don’t include the words and phrases that recruiters type in the search box, your resume won’t show up on their list. When developing your online profile, you must incorporate keywords and phrases that bridge the gap between you and those that you hope find you. Internet marketing is driven by content – text, audio, and video, relevance, and authenticity. In today’s world, everyone must be a marketer and SEO is the language the Internet speaks.
3. Research your competition. Do a search of resumes on the job boards and social networking sites for the jobs you want to apply to. Which resumes come up first? Do a search of a company profile and look for connections who might be new hires? What information did they include in their LinkedIn profile that might have helped them get hired? How did they describe their strengths and experience? What keywords did they use? How does your resume – your brand – compare to your competition? But avoid the temptation to copy. And definitely don’t over-hype yourself. Use your research to learn what works and then re-write your resume and profile in a way that makes you stand out. If the content you use doesn’t appear authentic and doesn’t match up with how recruiters search, you will be ignored, regardless of your credentials.
4. Consistency. Once you have settled on your keywords, work them into your content across all of your social media platforms. Consider the images you use too. Pictures tell a thousand words. Remember, you are building your brand and consistency is critical. What you post on your LinkedIn page the message should be the same as it is on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Employers want to know that the person you purport to be is the person you are. If your LinkedIn page shows you to be a highly skilled, educated worker but your Facebook page displays images of drinking, drugs, or risqué behavior, you may damage your brand. Your online reputation is a measure of your integrity, your credibility, your values. Failing to protect your personal brand will dilute your credibility and may be the trigger that causes the recruiter to put your resume on the maybe or do not call list.
5. What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. Almost everything you or anyone else posts about you on the internet is accessible by someone. Put another way, assume that anything you post online is public and will live in cyberspace forever. Much like the genie who escapes from the bottle, whatever makes it onto the world-wide-web is no longer within your control.
Your brand. It’s the key to your next job. Define it. Nurture it. Protect it.
More Job Search and Recruiting Tips.
Watch This Video Recorded at the Harrisburg University 2011 Social Media Summit.