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Archive | January, 2012

Your Personal Brand is Not Going to Get You a Job

31 Jan

I’m about to make a statement that’s going to ruffle some feathers. It’s not a great revelation; in fact it’s a statement that 10 years ago was a given. But times have changed, the information highway has taken over, and people are hungry for anything that appears to offer sound-bite answers to life’s toughest questions.

There is no such thing as a “personal brand.” That’s right, folks – you heard it here. I’m mounting a one-man campaign to take this term out of the vernacular. Will I be successful? Not on your life. But does that make me wrong? You be the judge.

There’s a debate raging in our Nation’s capital about whether business can be considered people. While this isn’t a political blog by any stretch, I don’t see how that’s even a debate. A business is not a person. And along the same line of thinking, a person is not a brand.

So what exactly is personal branding supposed to be? It’s how you present yourself in real life and online. Some of the basic criteria for what’s considered a “good” personal brand:

  • Real Life:
    • Well dressed
    • Groomed
    • Firm handshake
    • Well spoken
    • Not stinky
  • Online
    • Considerate
    • Giving
    • Engaging/Engaged
    • Intelligent
    • Relevant

Is it just me, or are these attributes nothing but basic protocol for being professional and successful? Depends on who you ask, apparently.

Taking the things we already know to do and wrapping an easy-to-digest-yet-slightly-intimidating term around them is, well, is just good business. If your personal reputation and activities now constitute a “brand” then isn’t it a no-brainer that you need a qualified professional to manage that brand, or at least to tell you how to manage it yourself? The boom of personal branding experts and coaches is a testament to that. It’s capitalism at its best, folks. Create a need; fill the need. What I’m saying is that just because the need has a name doesn’t mean that it’s anything different from what people have been doing since the beginning of time.

Should you be all of these things that make up your “brand?” Of course you should, but to think of it as branding is to already be disingenuous. If you’re branding, you’re not being you. If you’re putting up a false front in the interest of being a better brand, you’ve already lost.  Again, there’s nothing new in this branding concept except a ton of confusion and overwhelmed job seekers. Instead of thinking of your personal brand, think of not being an asshole. That tends to pay dividends.

So if your brand isn’t going to get you hired, what will? The same think that always has and always will. The right qualifications, the right cultural fit, and a bit of luck. Out of these three, you can control all of them. So do what you can to be in the right place at the right time. Apply to the jobs that you’re actually right for. Do your homework on the companies to see which ones you think are the best match for your values and personality. Ask your friends and acquaintances for favors that can help you to get in front of the right people, and offer assistance and favors without being asked.

Because which would you rather have people saying about you (this is the multiple choice part)?

“Marge is really great. Talented, driven, down to earth, giving, and not bad to look at.”

or

“Marge has a really great personal brand.”

I know which one I’d choose.

Do you think personal brands are for the birds? Do you think they’re awesome? Have no idea what I’m talking about? Leave a question or comment below or email me at hr.dave1@gmail.com and we’ll see if we can get it sorted out.

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33,000 Career Experts Can’t Be Wrong(?)

24 Jan

I got an email the other day making the claim that “33,000 recruiters can’t be wrong.” The email wanted me to buy whatever it was that the company was selling (OK, the email didn’t want that. Emails are inanimate objects and don’t actually want anything. But I digress.) The first thought that popped into my head was “just how many recruiters are there, anyway?” As it turns out, I have no idea. I lost interest in the Google results long before I was able to make a real go at finding out. What I did uncover was that according to one person’s research, in 2009, there were over 1,000,000 recruiters registered on Linkedin. To my thinking, if there are one million recruiters slinking about then there must be at least a bajillion so-called career experts out there hawking their wares. The internet and social media have made it increasingly easy for anyone with a domain name and a dream to become an “expert” in his or her respective field. And while there are a lot of really smart people out there giving career advice, there are a definitely some others who, well, let’s just say there are some others.

Throughout the days after I received it, I became increasingly obsessed with the title of that little semi-spammy email. Just because a lot of people think the same thing doesn’t make them right, right? If we always went with the majority viewpoint minorities still wouldn’t have the right to vote, the Earth would still be flat, and the Backstreet Boys would still be together. No, friends, just because lots of people agree on something doesn’t mean it’s right. Especially for your career. With that in mind, here are three pieces of advice that at least 33,000 career experts (please don’t ask me to list them) agree on and that you can feel free to disregard.

  1. You’ll never get a job by traditional methods. This is utter fallacy, and the fact that so many out there are furthering this preposterous idea pains me. Physically. Like the splinter-under-your-fingernail kind of pain. Recruiters would love nothing more than to post a job and have a ton of qualified people apply. Do you know why? It means that they don’t have to spend as much time looking between the couch cushions for good candidates and can spend more time getting to know business needs, screening candidates, developing in-depth, job specific behavioral interview questions and generally adding more value to their organizations. So tomorrow, do a recruiter a favor. Apply online to a job that fits your qualifications.
  2. You need to stand out to get noticed in your job search. In my time as a recruiter and as a hiring manager I’ve gotten resumes on rainbow paper, thank-you card envelopes filled with glitter, a shoe, a magic 8-ball and more gimmicks than I can shake a stick at. Some of them were interesting; some of them were obnoxious (think glitter.) But none of them have gotten anyone a job. Know what gets you a job? The right qualifications, good presentation skills, and timing. Period. If you can articulate the right information in writing and in person, have a little bit of luck, and are actually one of the best qualified people for the job, you have a great chance of landing it.
  3. The resume is dead. Poppycock. Horse feathers. Nonsense. Every day someone new is trying to live out his or her get-rich-quick scheme by telling you that the resume is out-dated and instead you should make a video/social/virtual resume, a visual CV, an infographic, whatever. Well I have news, folks. The resume is alive and well, and won’t be replaced any time soon with any other product. That’s right – you heard it here. That said, in certain cases it makes sense to supplement your resume with other materials – if you’re a marketing pro, you might want to put together a marketing pitch about hiring you. If you’re a video producer, go ahead and put together a sizzle reel. If you’re a designer, make something cool that speaks to your unique awesomeness. But if you’re not in a creative field and you don’t want to be the butt of a long-running joke between the recruiter and hiring manager, don’t get too cute. People in the recruitment process want resumes. Give the people what they want.

Disclaimer #1: Just because these statements don’t hold true for the vast majority of us doesn’t mean that they’re for everyone. If you think you’re in the minority and that these gems don’t apply to you, drop me a line and I’ll tell you if I agree.

Disclaimer #2: I absolutely include myself in the “domain name and a dream” category. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding whether I’m full of it: I’m not a professional career expert or coach, so I don’t have a thing to sell you. I’m just a guy with a pretty good track record in HR, Recruitment and Management who likes to write. Nobody can decide what’s best for you, because in the end you’re the one who’s responsible for the decisions you make, the career you pursue, and the glitter with which you stuff the envelope.

Have you gotten bad career advice? Good advice? Advice that has you at a loss over whether it’s good or it sucks? Leave a comment below or email me at hr.dave1@gmail.com and we’ll see if we can get it sorted out.

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