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Regardless of what you may think about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in terms of its social merits, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn’t think its roll-out was a total fiasco. The various stumbles have made it nearly impossible for the law’s supporters to establish an attractive brand, and now there is a frantic scramble to make up for lost time. You should heed this lesson as you prepare looking for a job. In this post, I’m going to share with you three of the core elements of personal branding that are critical to your job-search roll-out.

1. Write a resume that showcases your personal brand and positions you as the perfect candidate.

I don’t need to tell you that your resume is the foundation of your personal brand. Assuming you’ve done your job-search prep-work described here, you now have a pretty clear idea of the field you want to work in and the types of positions you should target. Just like a seamless web experience was necessary for a successful Obamacare launch, you need a well-crafted resume or your job search will be stuck in the mud.

So what does this mean? Guest posting at Rich DeMatteo’s CornontheJob, author Veronica Park discusses here why aesthetics matter. She’s right, but I’m going to focus on what you should actually put on your resume to demonstrate that you’re the perfect fit.

  • Value proposition. Your value proposition is a summary of your unique identity, personality, values, skills and abilities.  It tells employers who you are, what unique value you can provide that’s different than others, and what key skills and experiences you have that enable you to provide this value. Imagine you’re in an elevator with a hiring manager and you have the time it takes to go up one floor to make him want to hear more. What would you say? What sets you apart?  That’s your value proposition.  You want to make sure what you include on your resume, and how you talk about your experiences communicates what’s unique about you.  Dan Schawbel’s Student Branding Blog is an excellent resource on personal branding.
  • Master resume. You’ll ultimately want to develop tailored resumes to the different types of positions you’re pursuing, but first you want to develop a master resume that houses your skills and every academic, professional, leadership and volunteer experience you’ve ever had.  You’ll never actually send your master resume to anyone, but it will allow you to copy and paste bullets for a number of different tailored resumes.  For instance, if you’re applying to jobs in sales and in marketing, you’ll want a different resume for both.  The requirements for these jobs will likely have some overlap, but also may ask for alternative skillsets and experiences that you likely have.
  • Specific jobs, internships and organizations. You don’t have to list everything you’ve ever done; in fact, you shouldn’t – list the experiences that are most relevant to the job you’re applying to.  In order to determine which experiences should make the cut, find the top five companies you’re interested in that offer the job you want, and read the job description carefully. Let’s say you want to go into online marketing. While the titles of entry-level online marketing positions may differ slightly from company to company, the job descriptions will be reasonably similar. Look for the most commonly mentioned skills, attributes and experiences, and then highlight the experiences on your resume where you’ve demonstrated these same skills and attributes.
  • Keywords. Embedded in all job descriptions are specific keywords and industry buzz phrases that pop up over and over again. You are basically taking a strainer to these job descriptions and catching the words you want to include. Many companies use their own electronic strainers to filter resumes that don’t contain the right words, so you need to be just as smart. You don’t want to regurgitate the bullets, but you want to sprinkle these keywords into your resume while you describe your accomplishments in your own words, using the “situation, action, result” structure for each item.

By looking at job descriptions and working backwards, you’ll have a very good roadmap for your resume content. Every item should have a reason for getting onto your resume. This is your personal brand, and everything you say on your resume should reinforce it. But make sure you’re thinking about this with a 360-degree perspective. If you’ve worked at a fro-yo shop for three years, and the job description lists “strong work ethic,” that experience has a place. If you worked as a movie usher for one month to make money for your semester abroad, not so much.

 

2. A well-written cover letter demonstrates your personal brand and shows you went the extra mile

Despite rumors to the contrary, the cover letter is alive and well. It is a lost art that could become a huge advantage for you. Many recruiters these days are pleasantly surprised to see a thoughtful cover letter. Lea McLeod does a great job describing a good cover letter here. By making this extra bit of effort, you can stand out. Here’s why:

  • You’ve shown that you took the time to research the company and explain in a thoughtful way why you are the right fit.  In crafting the cover letter, focus on how you’ll help the team. This is not the time to talk about how much you’ll learn. That’s college; this is business.
  • You can tell your story. The cover letter’s goal should be to present a logical life progression that illustrates how everything you’ve done has led you to this opportunity. It is through the cover letter’s narrative that you can connect the dots of your story. You should begin with your value proposition, which summarizes who you are and why you’re right for the job. In your intro, you’ll also want to establish your personal connection to the company and why you really want to work for them. (e.g. Did somebody refer you? Why Acme?).
  • Allows you to demonstrate that you are a clear thinker and good writer. Especially in the email era, being able to make a case in writing is a great asset.  The next few paragraphs, following your intro should discuss the themes from your value proposition in greater detail. This is where you present the evidence. And in conclusion you should restate your value proposition, but in slightly different language.

The resume and cover letter are important exercises that have critical functional value, but they also help you refine your brand messaging. Throughout the entire job search process, which will eventually include networking and interviews, you’ll need to stay on message in order to present your brand and ultimately land an offer. These two pieces were once the two poles upon which your banner stood. Now, with social media, you’re building a triangular platform. That brings me to the third pole.

 

3. Use LinkedIn to showcase your personal brand and impress employers

If you’re not on LinkedIn, don’t bother looking for a good job. LinkedIn is a powerful platform that, if used right, can give your job search legitimacy and additional juice. Packaging yourself well here demonstrates that you are well-suited for a 21st century career.

  • Half-assed profiles show a half-assed worker. Maybe that’s not true but perception is reality. Your profile needs to be robust, which means filling in every field. If you show up to a cocktail party in sweats, good luck getting taken seriously.
  • It’s not a resume. You’ll want to list the same jobs, experiences and activities, but this is not the medium to provide excessive commentary. People who look at your profile may use it to check for consistency and relevance. But they won’t spend time reading really long bullets – keep it brief and high-level. LinkedIn is a networking tool, and a good one at that. People are interested in where you’ve worked and your relevant activities. This is your teaser.
  • Recommendations and endorsements. While most people won’t read bullets, they will read the good things your colleagues have to say about you. A few sentences from former bosses, professors and colleagues will leave the right impression. Endorsements can help too, but they should be from people who know how you work and have seen what you can do, not your relatives.
  • Participation. Join discussion groups and share content that professionals in your field may find useful. If they invest five minutes in reading an article, they’ll also remember who curated for them. Twitter, Pinterest and RSS readers are goldmines for content to share. Since not all of your followers follow the same people you do, you can re-post articles and infographics that somebody in your network already shared.
  • Professionalism. You should be careful about any pictures you post anywhere (and maybe consider disallowing people to tag you in their photos), but especially on LinkedIn. It’s the grown-ups’ table. Mind your manners, be relevant and choose a profile picture that projects somebody a boss would want to bring to a new business pitch.

Imagine that you’re looking for a new pair of jeans. A strong brand can get you into the store, but the jeans still need to feel comfortable and fit. Your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile will help you get interviews, but they won’t get you the job. You’ll have to do that through good conversations that demonstrate you know your stuff – and that you’re a pleasant person to have around during the roller coaster that can be office life. Nevertheless, the core elements of a personal brand will anchor a successful job search roll-out. Heck, with a good brand working in your favor, your job search may even turn out to be — gasp — fun!

I’d love to hear from you – how are you utilizing your personal brand to roll-out your job search?