My students recently turned in their final job search documents, video interviews, and digital portfolios. Unfortunately, none of the documents stood out, grabbed my attention, or compelled me to read and learn more about each person. None had a 'Wow!' factor, or that something extra that makes a person special and unique. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem until I overheard my 14-year-old neighbor tell her dad how awesome she felt while riding her new bike. Her description was, “It gives me swagger!” (Psst! Can’t get hired? Watch this free tutorial.) If you are not familiar with the word "swagger," it is most commonly referred to as a person’s attitude or level of confidence (even arrogance). It's the way a person holds him/herself both inside and out. I consider swagger to be the spark, spirit, and energy that radiates from a person. And it's necessary for your personal brand. So, once again, a teenager has enlightened me. And, as my young neighbor radiates swagger while riding her bike, my students must find their swagger as well. If they don’t, their brand is going to suffer big time - an unacceptable ending to MY semester.
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A few months ago, my 10-year-old son announced that he wanted a new brand of body wash. He had been using Spiderman Berry Bubble for quite a while, so when he requested Axe Body Wash instead, I was a bit surprised. Nonetheless, I agreed, and we came home from the store with a large bottle of Axe Apollo shower gel. A few days later, we added the body spray to his collection. When I asked him why he chose this new brand, his response was “Spiderman is for little kids and, well Mom, it was time.” Related: How To Be The Brand Manager Of YOU Since that day, he has not looked back. He showers daily, smells fabulous, and I’m starting to see sparkle in his eyes and swagger in his walk. He has officially updated his brand from a little boy to a 10-year-old young man. So, if a fifth grader can identify when it is time to update his brand, so can anyone.
Every weekday at 3pm, I head over to the elementary school to pick up my son. Every weekday, the gaggle of children come streaming out of their classrooms and head for the carpool line. And, every weekday, I struggle to identify which kid is actually MY son. Related: 4 Ways To Give Your Brand A Little Swagger Now, before you all vote me worst Mom in the world, I must explain. My son attends a school that requires uniforms. Therefore, all the children are dressed the same, which creates a challenge for even the best of mothers. Let me break things down for you. My son is Caucasian with short brown hair. Of all the children in the elementary school, I can say that about 50% are male. Of this population, about 95% are Caucasian. And, of this population, about 90% have short brown hair. Therefore, it is very challenging to differentiate my son from all the other Caucasian males with short brown hair wearing the same uniform. My best bet is to look for the little, unique things about my son that draw him out from the crowd. For example, he carries a black and red patterned backpack. Check. He walks with a bit of swagger. Check. He is quite social and consistently heads straight for the benches by the gymnasium doors to say goodbye to his buddies. Check. Therefore, every weekday, I follow my checklist and I am usually very successful at locating my son. Why am I telling you this story? Well, after hearing similar stories from other moms, I realized that it’s not uncommon to struggle with differentiation. And, if moms struggle with this, just imagine what recruiters go through when they attempt to differentiate candidates they don’t even know! They must feel overwhelmed when receiving gaggles of resumes all “wearing the same uniform." How do they spot the right candidates? What helps those candidates stand out and attract attention? Most likely, recruiters use checklist, too. And, if you want to make it onto their checklist, here are some strategies to get you there.
Last week my daughter returned home from marching band practice frustrated by the behavior of a fellow color guard member. Apparently this member is notorious for forgetting her water bottle and then asking my daughter for drinks from hers. What’s wrong with this you may ask? Well, we live on the Gulf Coast where it is still hot and humid through October. During band practice, water breaks are short so members are reminded to fill their bottles before practice and keep them close by for quick access during these breaks. Forgetting your water bottle can be quite catastrophic in such heat and requests to share water are highly frowned upon by fellow band members who desperately need to ration their own water. Related: Networking Event Coming Up? Put Your Best Brand Forward My daughter always agrees to share because, “Well, she is my teammate, I want to be supportive, and she might get dehydrated.” She then disclosed that this teammate is notorious for asking to share school lunch items as well. After ruling out possible financial or family issues for this behavior, I concluded that she is simply failing to be responsible and relies too heavily on her teammates to help her out. Unfortunately, she also fails to return these favors, others are beginning to avoid her, and her teammates have branded her as, well, a freeloader. This story is a perfect example of the importance of both giving and taking when building strong, genuine relationships. And, when it comes to building your professional network, relationships are key. So, if you have become “that” person; the one whom everyone is avoiding and no one wants to help out, it’s time to review the following list. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, it’s quite possible that you too, might just be a freeloader.
As the world of work continues to change, the expectations have changed and you, as a solo professional, are in charge of all aspects of your career. You are expected to take the initiative, leave your comfort zone, advertise, market, and brand your unique value to employers. Here are a few tips to help you get started on branding yourself as a business-of-one.
You are about to invest a lot of money for a college education with the expectation that a degree will land you employment after graduation. How will you best assure a return on this investment (ROI)? News flash! In today’s global workplace a degree alone is no longer a direct ticket to a professional job. Students must engage strategically outside the classroom as early as freshman year to become successful in landing employment after graduation. This means leveraging a whole new set of strategies not taught in the traditional college classroom. Related: 3 Ways To Emphasize Your ROI On Your Resume By the year 2020 over 40% of jobs will be contract work (The Intuit 2020 report). As more companies downsize full time employees and replace them with contract employees, the job search process will change considerably. Fewer companies will utilize placement offices at colleges and universities in order to find candidates. Instead, job seekers will rely more and more on social media, professional connections and professional referrals to locate work. Therefore, college students must start building and nurturing strong professional relationships the minute they step foot on campus. And, here are four strategies to get started.
I just finished reading an article in Crane’s New York Business titled Recent College Grads Face a Tough Job Market. The article quotes that 52% of New York City-based company heads will not be hiring fresh graduates at this time. Why? New graduates require more time and costs due to their lack of business experience, their need for training, and expectations that do not align with the reality of work. Related: 7 Tips For Finding A Job After College Additional employment challenges for new graduates include higher unemployment rates due to uncertainties in the economy. When these uncertainties occur, entry level hiring is the first to go. Even more so is a challenge that comes from new graduates’ own peers; those with current internships. The business world is seeing greater numbers of employers relying on employee referrals and internal hiring of current interns over campus recruiting-strategies that significantly cut down on company recruitment and training costs. So, what should college students be doing now to increase their future employability? Get experience! Start as early as freshman year and build on that experience. And, here are ways to do just that.
One of the most dreaded terms in all of job searching has to be networking. Perhaps because it seems so manipulative, intimidating and insincere. If this is how you perceive networking, then you are misunderstanding it completely. True, successful networking is about building genuine professional relationships and nurturing them. Once you grasp this definition and approach networking from this context, your dread will dissipate and you will feel much more positive about utilizing this strategy. Related: 3 Tips For Building Strong Business Relationships Here are eight strategies to help build genuine professional relationships, launch an amazing network, and set in motion an abundance of opportunities for future partnerships, collaborations and alliances.