You've certainly heard that using a powerful personal brand message will make your executive resume a compelling read—and help you gain traction in your job search. But how do you go about defining and capturing your brand?
Intensive processes, such as the 360 Reach Personal Branding exercise, can often help pinpoint your brand elements and strengths. However, you can conduct your own research and analysis to create a compelling message suitable for your executive resume. While pinpointing your own personal brand (and writing a compelling executive resume from it) may seem daunting, you can break the process into these manageable steps:
1.Reflect On You Leadership Value-Add
One of the easiest ways to encapsulate your message of ROI is by taking stock of how you solve problems and deal with obstacles at an executive level. If you're having difficulty expressing your value proposition, try creating a list of your top 10 career achievements—the ones that have become your signature accomplishments over the years. (Think of it as your Top 10 hits—the ones you've always thought of as defining your career and its trajectory.) Any of the following can make your Top 10 Hits:
- Turnarounds (at a team, division, or company level)
- New sources of revenue
- Cost-cutting methods
- Additional sales and distribution channels
- New products or markets
- Speed and agility in delivering results
Next, write STAR (Situation or Task, Action, Result) stories for each top achievement, remembering to set the stage for each story by looking at the situation first, then your actions, and lastly, the outcome. While tedious work, you'll benefit from having this collection of powerful anecdotes in your job search.
2.Analyze And Leverage Feedback From Throughout Your Executive Career
Consider your reputation at work, influence on others, and leadership style (all critical components of an effective executive resume). Are you known as the go-to leader who builds consensus when negotiations are at a standstill? Have you become a turnaround leader capable of righting the ship? Chances are that you've carved out a unique niche—and prospective employers need to know this about you! Take the time to gather information from those affected by your work:
- Analyze your impact on subordinates. Do you often mentor your teams into company or industry leaders?
- Look at those you've influenced, such as vendors or colleagues. Have they adopted your methods or commended you on your effectiveness?
- Assess your impact among the executive team and Board. Do you build the business case and buy-in that lead your CEO to issue changes in strategy?
Now, assemble testimonials and feedback from credible sources, such as performance reviews, LinkedIn recommendations, letters of reference, or other kudos (even informal e-mail messages). Create STAR stories from this data, and consider including a snippet or quote in your executive resume for additional reinforcement.
3.Include Tactical Details And Scope
Executive resumes aren't just high-level lists of achievements. To be truly compelling, the scope and reference points from your work need to be included as supporting detail. Consider pulling in specifics from among the following components of each job:
- Size of budgets managed—both department and project-level
- Cost-saving figures that show the result of new processes or negotiations
- Numbers of employees managed, both directly and in matrixed organizations
- Comparisons that show progression (such as year-over-year increases in market share)
What these details will do for your executive resume is help round out your story, showing how your authority and impact has increased at each progressive step of your career.
4.Look To Others For Comparison
You may have started to look at the data for your executive resume with a critical eye. What if it isn't good enough to vault you to the next level in your career? How will employers know you've led significant change if there's minimal cost or profit results to report? One of the best ways to distinguish yourself among competition is to look precisely at them and gauge the difference based on context. Here's how to weigh your competitive differentiators:
- Analyze what would have happened at previous employers if you hadn't worked there. Would the company or division have floundered? Is it possible employees stayed only because of your influence?
- Look at what took place against the backdrop of the economy or industry challenges. For example, did your efforts keep the company afloat—even if they didn't realize the same level of profits—because of actions that counteracted the downturn?
- Take note of what occurred at competing companies. Were you maintaining operations while your competitors went out of business?
These sure signs of effectiveness will help add a twist to your STAR stories—emphasizing your ability to take on and overcome challenges that others failed to achieve.
5.Build Brand And Achievement Statements Use Throughout Your Resume
Now that you've collected all this data, what's the next step? Pulling it together into a cohesive story, of course. Here's where the stories you've built will serve as key components of your brand message, and can be used in various places within your executive resume:
- Ensure your STAR stories are in manageable form, taking up just 3 lines or less for use on your executive resume. If need be, you can create subordinate sentences to be tucked under the same main story (shown in this Regional Vice President of Sales resume).
- Distill your most prominent STAR stories into a simple message. As an example, an EVP of Marketing who launched new products could note "Carving a Profitable New Industry Niche" as a statement of brand value.
- Look at executive resume examples for inspiration, such as this sample CFO resume that uses "Worldwide, Divisional Leadership for Mergers & Post-Integration Process Improvements" as a headline.
Undertaking these steps is, of course, a time-consuming exercise in exploring your achievements and examining your brand. However, it will pay off in a cohesive message of value to employers—and help them see the value in bringing you in for a choice executive role.
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