In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to have a strong personal brand. Today, it's easier to build your brand than ever before. However, it's also easier to ruin it. Related: 4 Ways To Give Your Brand A Little Swagger One of the many things I appreciate about the web is the opportunity to connect with a really interesting and diverse group of people. Typically, we stay in the realm of cyber-networking, but occasionally we transcend the limits of the computer to connect in person. A little while back, I had the chance to talk with one of my favorite bloggers, a finance executive who writes meaty articles on leadership, governance, risk management, staffing, finance – the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be in business. He isn’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, to ask the tough questions, to point out the nakedness of the emperor, and he isn’t afraid to create content that requires readers to exercise their scroll-down finger.
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When you get lazy or frustrated, you can develop some bad habits that can harm your career. When I have a pause in my day, I slump. Literally. I lean forward in my chair, rest my chin in my hand, and ponder what I’m reading and writing about. It’s a posture that feels right to me. It requires no thought or effort. It’s the pose I used for my online picture. You might even call it my comfort zone. As it turns out though, my slump is not working for me, and has actually been doing me some harm. I got my wake up call last week when I went to the chiropractor for a pinched nerve in my neck. By slumping in that particular position, I have managed, over time, to knock my neck, jaw and shoulder out of alignment. So, now, in addition to enduring some sounds-like-gun-shot chiropractic adjustments, I am having to do "sit up straight" exercises so I don’t fall back into my slumping habits. I can tell you, it isn't easy. Our careers can be prone to slumps – professional bad habits that become our comfort zone, but are highly detrimental to our long term career health.
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If you’ve monitored the social network over the past nine months, you may have noticed a litany of complaints from both candidates and recruiters about the challenges of the recruitment process in today’s job market. Recruiters complain that a single advertised opening is attracting hundreds of candidates, many of whom are unsuitable for the role. Job seekers, on the other hand, describe the experience of applying to advertised openings as “tossing my resume into a big, black hole,” and complain about never hearing back from employers. Having reviewed the most common complaints from both sides of the hiring table, I can offer the following suggestions to reduce the tension and disconnect in the recruitment process.
Want to change jobs? Prepare for your transition the best way possible. A little while back, I had lunch with a senior HR Manager who was contemplating leaving her job after more than 20 years with a large corporation. “I’m having trouble living with the disconnect between what the company claims are its core values, and how it is handling staff relations during this recession.” She went on to describe a litany of incidents, from a service agent who was terminated after revealing she had cancer, to an entire team that was being laid off so that the division director could meet his cost-cutting targets for his performance bonus. Employees have seen a drastic attitude change from their managers. This attitude of ‘Well, be happy you have a job’ is wearing thin. There is going to be a tsunami of job searching once the economy picks up, and some of the most active job hoppers are likely to be HR personnel who are disgusted with how companies have chosen to treat their staff. More than a few people, from both HR and non-HR backgrounds, contacted me directly to applaud my answer and reiterate my observations. In one contact’s words, “a huge changeover in staff is coming, and I don’t think management understands exactly how deep into the organization this discontent has spread.” If you are considering making a career change once the economy picks up, be proactive. Don’t wait for a “tipping point” incident. Take control now by mapping out your career plans for the next six months to two years and equipping your job search arsenal. Here are some tips:
If you Google “find your passion” you will get 39,000,000 hits. Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see 50 or more volumes on finding your passion, following your passion, and living your passion. Every other Twitter bio or LinkedIn bio has a reference to “passionate about.” Passion, as they say, is the new black. So, I was hardly surprised when a young friend came to me for career advice, and started the conversation by saying, “My job stinks, I’m bored to tears. I just can’t figure out what my passion is.” She spoke as if somewhere, out there, is a single career-related purpose that, if she could but find it, would lead to eternal fulfillment. This was her fifth “it stinks” job in three years, and it was clear she had fallen for the passion myth.
Some people have a natural ability to network. They can fearlessly enter a room, strike up a conversation with anybody, exude confidence, and walk away with a dozen new friends and business contacts. But for many of us, networking is an acquired art. Sometimes a painfully acquired art. I recently had the opportunity to watch various people practice their networking skills (I’m an inveterate people watcher, in case you didn’t know), and got to meet some genuine networking artists, a few artists-in-training, and one memorable my-kindergartener-could-have-painted-better-than-that. I’ll call him Jack. That’s not his real name, but it’s apt. Halfway through a three-day event, many people were calling him Jack, only with three additional letters attached.
As with many of my blogs, I will begin with a true confession. I’m a Twitter junkie. I enjoy exchanging banter and ideas with industry colleagues around the world. I use Twitter instead of RSS feeds to find interesting articles, blogs, and people. Also, I have lists of hundreds of recruiters and career services professionals that I follow daily. I am also on LinkedIn and I have a Facebook page for my business. As you can see, I love social networking. So, the advice I’m about to give may seem strange coming from me. But here goes. Job seekers, get off the computer already! The media is abuzz with news on social networking, and a day rarely passes when some headline-grabbing article doesn’t tout social media as the next miracle cure for your job search. Don’t drink the kool-aid. As somebody who is old enough to remember, it has the same hyped-up do-it-now-or-die, if-you-aren’t-doing-it-your-out-of-the-loop feel as the late 90’s when financial advisors pushed dot.com companies as must-haves in your investment portfolio. Sure, there are stories of people who social-networked their way to a new job, just as there used to be stories of dot.coms that actually made money. But now, as then, genuine success stories are few and far between. On the job search front, you will find the social-network-to-success stories tend to have a few things in common. The position for which the job seeker was hired had social networking somewhere in the job title, or at a minimum in the first paragraph of the job description. More often, the job seeker actually found the job through connections they cultivated offline, but social networking helped to strengthen their credibility. The real risk of social networking is its capacity to suck up hours of time in a blink of an eye, and at the end of a day spent entirely on the computer, you may be no closer to your job search goal. Does that mean you should abandon your social networking efforts? Absolutely not! Social networking is a useful tool in your job search arsenal. When somebody Googles your name, you need to be findable (and not just in your cousin’s wedding pictures). When a recruiter Boolean searches keywords in your area of expertise, you need to rank high in the search returns. The contributions you make to online conversations, the information you share, the contacts you make can go a long way to cementing your reputation as must-hire candidate. Some of the contacts that you make online can evolve into strong, positive connections in the real-world. But social networking needs to be one arm of a well thought out and executed job search strategy that includes cold calling companies (read Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0 for innovative ideas on how), conducting industry research so that can identify and even create opportunities, attending industry events, lunching with former colleagues and clients, and giving back to the community. My social networking recommendation for job seekers: Schedule time for social networking, and when the time is up, have the self-discipline to push away from the computer. Spend time each day working on the real-world connections that result in job offers. If you don’t, then chances are that while your job search competitor is being on-boarded for his new position, you will be trying to unglue eyelids that have lost the capacity to blink.