How to Stand Out in the Crowd in a Tough Job Market
I hate to keep harping on about the same old thing; we all know that unemployment is at an all-time high; and to say that the job market is competitive is quite the understatement. So this makes it extremely important to establish your brand and differentiate yourself from the competition. You want to stand out from the crowd – but in a good way – not the kind of way you did in high school.
Here are my tips to help you outshine the other ‘stars’ during your job search:
Engagement and Accountability: Consider that you are competing for the job against many other applicants. What do you want to portray and convey during the whole process? Your ability to remain engaged and accountable will certainly demonstrate commitment, which will translate (in the mind of the hiring manager) as to how you will behave once in the door. Keep notes about your interview experience; ask questions during the process; follow up in writing (handwritten note); and maintain consistent contact throughout. Your diligence will speak volumes about you.
Project Notes: One of the things I have found when working with clients, and even during my time in human resources is that people are not great at recalling what they did. My best advice? Keep a file of the projects you have completed with the results of your efforts. You will be surprised at the things that you will read about and think ‘Oh, yeah – I forgot about that!’ When it comes time to update your résumé you will be armed with information and results that you can use to sell yourself as you apply for new opportunities. These notes will also allow you to recall the nature of the work, your involvement, and the outcome for your department or company.
Presentation and Appearance: We are an appearance-driven society. Don’t get mad at me for saying so, but image is important. You need to project a tidy and pleasing appearance when conducting your job search. Not only will you appear ready for business, but you will also feel better about yourself. Your own self-perception is important during the search. The better you feel the stronger chance that you will make the impact you want and convey that you are competent and ready to start new.
Feedback and Practice: I always recommend interviewing for opportunities that you are not particularly interested in pursuing. Why? You think this is a waste of time? No way! They say practice makes perfect and this is a prime example of that. Practicing helps build self-confidence and will prepare you for the ‘real’ thing – the positions that you really want. Consider practicing your interview skills with a friend or colleague to improve your game. Find out how you are being perceived from the perspective of another. This will help enhance your personal brand.
Work your Network: I am known for saying that your network is only comprised of the people that you can call upon at 2am. Just because you have 87 billion connections on LinkedIn does not make them your network. You need to cultivate those relationships so they in turn work for you. It is work – hard work to nurture the relationships you have – especially those that are peripheral or extensions from the networks of other people. Naturally you will not be able to work all of them. Establish a plan to reach out to those people where there is mutual interest. I strongly suggest approaching this in a way that will allow you to first help someone else before you can get something in return.
Creating a Personal Brand: If you are like me (and millions of others) you have a presence on various social and business sites. You might use Facebook, LinkeIn, Twitter, Plaxo, and other similar sites to connect and maintain contact with people you know. Beware the posting that can come back to haunt you. There is nothing sacred or secret online. Once you hit send you are committed. The pictures you post and information you share is available for the world to see and read. Remember this – a successful job search can depend on it. Keep it above board and professional at all times. It is fine if you are using these sites to connect with friends. Just make sure your content – all of it is above reproach. This too is an extension of your personal brand. In our modern society you are being judged. During the job search you want only to convey a positive presence – everywhere.
Your bank of knowledge, skills and abilities are a part of the larger picture when searching for work. The perception of your value extends to other things, all of which are under your control. Think about how you want others to think about you. How you communicate online, on the phone and your in person presentation are critical elements to ensure your personal brand remains clean as a whistle – the effect will get you the interviews to land the job!
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Mark Montoya has been working in personal branding for more than a decade for hundreds of online and offline companies, small businesses and individual service professionals. His focus has been toward improving the way jobseekers find employment on the Internet. He has synthesized his expertise by helping job seekers obtain their ideal choice of employment over the Internet on his sites MyOnlineCareerSpace.com and MyOnlineCareerCoach.com, and through his books 101 Tips Every Job Seeker Should Know and The Ultimate Online Job Search eBook.
“It is the responsibility of the individual to reject the prospect of mediocrity and to strive for the betterment of society as a whole” ~ Mark Montoya