Learn how to distinguish yourself from the rest of the “pack”!!
Are you 21, still in school, and wondering why you should be concerned about this now?
Read on to find out why you should take advantage of the opportunity to brand yourself, how to position yourself to get the job or promotion you want, how to avoid the mistakes many of your peers make, and, if you’ve made those mistakes, how to redeem yourself
Unless you’re living in a cave, you’ve heard that recent college graduates (and people just a little older than that) are having a difficult time finding a job in their chosen field
It sounds a lot like the early 1980’s. If you talk to your baby-boomer-age parents (the younger boomers, anyway), you’ll find them telling the same story from when they were your age. From 1980 to 1983, the only college grads who were getting jobs in their chosen field fairly easily were the accountants and teachers. The rest of my classmates, in fact, were either going on to graduate school or medical school, or they got jobs that didn’t require a degree (or that didn’t require the degree they earned). By 1984 or 1985, things started to change and a greater percentage of graduates could find a job in their field within a few months of graduation day.
While we sympathize with you, we understand that it’s a whole new couple decades later and that things are different.
Truly, if you want to be one of the few who can get (and keep) a good job in your chosen field sooner rather than later, you’re going to have to find ways to distinguish yourself from everyone else who wants the same job.
A few of you realize that I’m stating the obvious as you’re thinking, “Really, Sherlock?” (I’m writing the polite version of what you’re really thinking – this is a family publication!)
Meanwhile, for some of you who are still in college, you might wonder why you should care about this now. You’re still in college, for crying out loud! Can’t you put off thinking about this for another year?
Not in this economy, Holmes!
Time is of the essence when it comes to your career, even when you’re 20 or 25. So let’s get crackin’. And you realize the topic will be personal branding, right?
One of the points I tell college students is that they have a problem – it’s a problem their parents didn’t have. It revolves around two things:
1) Many managers and journalists are writing and speaking about those managers’ experiences working with Gen Y folks, and they mostly tell the ugly stories. As in the I-would-never-have-done-that-in-the-workplace-at-their-age stories.
2) With a few clicks of a mouse and a little typing on a keyboard, we can find out so much more about you (including poor decisions you might have made) than our hiring managers could have found out about us in the 1980’s.
So, you’ve got the word going around that people your age are immature, talk on their cell phones too much, don’t dress appropriately for the workplace (ladies!), come in to work late, have a sense of entitlement, and/or are high maintenance.
And, if anything you did (read: bad) was reported in a school or town newspaper, it can be found online. If someone took an unflattering photo of you and posted it on their Facebook album, tagged with your name, it can be found through a search engine. If you typed anything online with your name connected to it, that can be found very easily, too.
In other words, these things are already part of your personal brand.
Now, you may be thinking, “But that isn’t me. That’s other people!”
Okay. That’s a good start. However, the hiring managers out there don’t know that. They don’t know you yet. They’re branding you with the rest of the group.
So…it’s up to you to brand yourself and get your brand message out there to let those hiring managers know that you are different. You are not one of those immature 20-somethings they’ve already experienced.
(Meanwhile, if you have made mistakes that are Google-able, I will address you later. Keep reading!)
Here is the very abbreviated version of how to brand yourself and get your brand message into the minds of the hiring managers:
- Figure out who is in your target market: These are the hiring managers. What do they want from their new hires? What is important to them? What ticks them off?
- Analyze yourself: What do you have going for you? What have you accomplished so far that could help you get a great job? What have you done that could hurt your possibilities of being hired?
- Check out your competitors: These are the people who want the same job or the same promotion as you want. I’ve already told you what the hiring managers think about your competition. They believe many of your competitors are immature in the workplace. How can you differentiate yourself. from the rest of the pack? I can state it in 5 words: Act like a grown up. Really. It starts there. How can you be the mature person from the interview to the actual job? Truly, many of your competitors will continue to act in immature ways, so this one should be easy.
- Tweak your visual presence: Pay attention to how people at the job look and how they dress, especially the co-workers who are between 30 and 35 years old who, you notice, are respected. What can you incorporate into your look?
- Tweak your verbal presence: This includes all written and spoken communications that come from you. I’m talking about your e-mails, IMs, blogs, what you say in meetings, teleconference calls, and informally, etc. If you want your personal brand to be respected, how should your written words read? What should your spoken words sound like?
- Create your own brand messages: After you’ve worked on this for a while, come up with some phrases that describe what you want your personal brand to say about you. What do you want to be known for? Keep these handy and in your mind. Throughout your career, you will make changes to your messages that more effectively describe who you are and what you bring to the table.
- Get visible: Figure out ways to be known. If you’re looking for a job, reconnect with your parents’ friends and neighbors. Tell them what you’re looking for. Present yourself with your personal brand in mind. Remember that many of the hiring managers are over 40 years old. Use the telephone instead of e-mail (or in addition to e-mail). And like your mother used to tell you, look people in the eye!
As a last “tip” about “older people” who don’t necessarily prefer the more modern forms of communication, I ran across a quotation (on the LBN ELert, May 13, 2009) from William Shatner, the actor of Star Trek fame (the TV show, not the movie). He wrote, “I am totally confused by Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Yourspace, outer space – the names go on. To anybody over 20, it’s chaotic. Why the hell don’t you pick up a phone and let them hear the color of your voice?”
There! Spoken by a real “older person.”
Now, back to those of you who have Google-able “things” come up that you are not proud of. The action you take for “damage control” depends on what you did and where it is listed on the Internet.
First, I suggest discussing the issue with a trusted “older person” – your parents, for example. In addition, there might be someone else who can help you, such as a college adviser or, if you are no longer in school, brainstorm a list of people you know who seem to be savvy with their own personal brand and who are resourceful.
If bad news appears about you in a newspaper (especially a school paper), contact the paper and ask that it be removed from their online archives. They may refuse you, but you at least need to try.
If you have written anything online that appears in a blog or social media page that could hurt your chance of getting an interview or a job, remove it. Do a thorough search to find anything you should delete.
If someone else has written something about you on a blog or social media site, or they have a photo of you that you now realize should not be seen, ask them to remove it. If the person refuses, get help from a trusted “older person”.
The moral of this story is to now keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble. Avoid the mistakes your peers have made so that any search of your name on the Internet yields only good news.
The bottom line is – in order to stand out and be noticed (in a good way), you need to present the mature side of you, in order to get the interview you want, the job you want, and the future promotions you want.
I appreciate your thoughts in response.
Glory Borgeson is a business coach, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “Brand Yourself! for College Students”. She also offers a self-paced “Brand Yourself! Coaching Program” available on this website on the "Programs & Products" page.
Glory Borgeson, President
© 2009 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.
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