Like so many others, I was brought up not to toot my own horn. It was a lesson that I took to with a vengeance. But one thing a job search teaches you is relentlessly re-examine what you do and how you do it. It is crucial that my résumé stand out from the crowd for me to return to the working world—just as it is for every other job seeker. So timidity became something I was obliged to retire, like a bad vice: I just can’t afford it anymore.
You see, the current unemployment figures are grim: at the time of this writing, unemployment is at 9.5%. Nearly one in ten Americans are unable to find work. Consequently, the competition for open positions is fiercer now than it’s been for a very long time. Anecdotally, I keep hearing that for every open position literally hundreds of résumés are being submitted from the dozens of job seekers I see each week.
Those may be long odds but there’s hope. The 9.5% unemployment rate—which doesn’t include consultants, incidentally—means everyone knows someone in transition. Something else my own search process has reinforced time and again is that people want to help job seekers. I had the opportunity to reiterate this point yesterday on Margo Rose’s blog in my very first guest entry. There is tremendous goodwill out there that job seekers can tap.
The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is frequently quoted as saying 70% of jobs are filled through networking, a statement recently researched by Kimberly Beatty on the JobFully blog. This means that 70% of jobs go to those candidates already known to the employer. As known candidates are known qualities to employers, it logically follows that candidates who are unknown to employers are unknown quantities. The implication is clear: the key is to become a known quantity.
And this leads me to personal branding. In the past several months I have ramped up my LinkedIn presence by answering questions, re-started this blog and established a Twitter presence where I re-tweet the great content I see there. In conjunction with a monthly column I write for the PSG of Mercer County called Staying Focused and the volunteer work I do for that, another group and a Twitter movement called #HireFriday, my personal branding campaign has officially been kicked into high gear. Each of these processes serves to increase my visibility.
But notice that the activity I describe isn’t about me broadcasting about myself: it’s about giving to others. This is the most pernicious misconception about personal branding: that it’s selfish. Yes, it certainly can be that but there is a better way. In two words: personal branding is about adding value. Each of those activities is aimed at adding value for someone else. And it accomplishes two things: personal branding, yes, but by giving to others, you re-energize yourself.
There are several parts of the job search process that rob candidates of influence, beginning with “the black hole” process itself—applying to a job through a Web site without ever getting a contact name—to the lack of an acknowledgement that a job seeker has applied for a position. There is of course more, such as the news certain organizations have made in recent weeks by declaring that they simply will not consider professionals in transition.
Giving to others by way of personal branding is the way to reclaim lost influence.
In closing: personal branding is important for job seekers. Not only is it how you can differentiate yourself from other candidates but it’s good for you. It’s win/win!