Building Your Reputation. Stand Out to Get In.

Guest Post by: Jen Dalton for Brand Mirror

What is a personal brand, and why does it even matter? Put simply, your brand is your reputation. It’s the words that people think of to define you. It’s how relevant you are, and what conversations you are a part of. It’s how you stand out from others. If you don’t define your personal brand, others will define it for you, and this is why being in charge of your brand matters.

Brands create an emotional connection. When people think of Volvo, they often don’t just think car, they think safety. Apple is no longer just a fruit, but an innovative technology company. And you can’t think about Nike without thinking sports or speed. What emotional connection do people have when they think about you? There are actionable ways to control that, so let’s go over a few.

Understand Where You Are Today

First, we need to do some foundation building. To define your personal brand, we need to look at the Three D’s: Discover, Design, and Differentiate. Start with doing some self-reflection.

  • Ask yourself questions like: What do I want to do? What is the impact I want to have? What are my skills, strengths, and values? Where am I? Where am I going?
  • Think about 5 words that you think describe you, then go and ask your friends, family, even clients what their words for you would be. Compare the two, and think about how you might align them better.
  • Take a Digital Inventory. Google yourself and see what shows up. Ask a friend to search for yourself on LinkedIn by name, and then by role, and see where you show up. How hard is it for someone to find you?

It’s important to understand where others think you’re at because others’ perception of you is the reality of your personal brand.

What Do You Want People To Say About You When You Are Not in the Room?

Now, onto Design. Here we can look at some actionable steps to take towards designing your own brand. After you’ve figured out how people define you now, think about the ways you WANT people to define you. These are the words that will make up your Brand DNA. Think about how you want to show up, and start to design that brand. Be consistent. Does your work space, the way you dress, how you show up in meetings, and how you interact with others align with your Brand DNA? George Bernard Shaw said, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Look at your LinkedIn page – is it telling a story about your brand, or is it just a copy of your resume?

If you’re having a hard time designing your Brand DNA, make your signature storyboard. Go through your history and find pictures that mean a lot to you emotionally, where you really liked the person you were at that moment. If you’re not visual, think of words or phrases where you really deliver in a powerful way. This can make up your storyboard, and this will help you define your brand promise. A brand is, essentially, a promise, so take time to create your Leadership Promise Statement. What can people expect when they work with you? How can you present this to people in, say, networking scenarios? When you introduce yourself, what do you say? Take this Promise of Value and make sure it’s consistent online. Show evidence of it everywhere. Prove it to everyone who looks.

Own What Makes You Unique and Different

Next, you need to Differentiate yourself from everyone else. What is your position? Look back over your storyboard and your Brand DNA and figure out what you have offered in the past that nobody else could’ve done. Figure out who your audience is. What companies do you want to be a part of that inspire you? What boards do you want to be on in your community? Taylor your brand to be approachable to your audience. Who are your competitors and who do you look up to and why? Spend some time researching them, how they got where they are, what exactly they’re doing. Figure out what their brand is.

Now you can start creating value and opportunities for yourself. Think about what you should be talking about. Should it be company related? Or perhaps about your passions, or your particular set of skills? Does what you have to say matter, and will people care? Is it relevant? Are the right people seeing you? How can you get them to care AND share what you talk about? Who are the leaders and influencers writing in the same space? These are the key elements that make up your Digital Brand. You can also create opportunities for yourself offline. You can join a board or volunteer in an organization. You can interview people in your same space and blog about it. You can network with others, and look for places to share your insights. You can look for speaking opportunities and webinars.

Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan

Remember, timing is everything. Create an editorial or visibility calendar for your brand – where to be, when to write posts and blogs. You want to stay visible. In many cases, out of sight is out of mind. Make sure that your content is easy to share and re-purpose. Write about other people, companies, and organizations. Be sure to tag them when you post your content. This creates opportunities for others to share and help make you more visible. Write about others and help them be visible. Share helpful articles. Give shout outs on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Write recommendations on LinkedIn for people and on Google+, and Facebook for businesses. Send thank you notes, and provide recognition. Be genuine. Don’t expect things in return. Contribute to your brand by giving to others. Above all, be authentic. Authenticity contributes greatly to your personal brand. It’s easy to tell when someone is being disingenuous, and that puts a big hit on their brand or the way we think about them. Although you may plan a lot of your communications, be spur of the moment too and share things real time.

Lastly, monitor yourself, and listen to what others are saying about you. Continue to search yourself on Google and LinkedIn. Ask people to describe your brand periodically to check up on yourself. Do your own self-reflection when you can. Keep control of your brand, the emotional connection people make to you, by monitoring yourself using the steps above. Remember, although you are not a product, you do have a reputation and people will decide to work with you and help you based on your brand.

“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember you how made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Be a noisebreaker, not a noisemaker.

Jen

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More Than Just Salary: Job Benefits to Consider


Negotiating your job offer is about more than just salary.  In order to truly understand your total compensation and bottom line in your bank account here are a few things to consider:

1.  Retirement Benefits
How much does the company contribute and how? Is it a pension or 401k plan?  Do you need to wait to be vested or does it start when you begin employment?

2. Health Care  
What plans are offered and how much is covered by the employer? Are your current doctors included in their plan? You may also want to inquire as to when health care benefits kick in (and when your former employer’s stop). For example, if your former benefits end on the last day of your previous job but your new benefits don’t begin until the 1st of the month after you start the new position this may be something to consider when negotiating start dates.  If you are NOT planning on utilizing the company health care plans because your spouse/partner covers you, you may be able to use this as leverage for a higher starting salary.

3. Flexibility 
In some cases flexibility is just as important as salary. Inquire as to whether the employer offers the opportunity to flex your hours or work from home. Some employers even offer the ability to work 4 10-hour days in lieu of 5, 8-hour days.

5. Transportation Reimbursement
Does the employer cover a portion of your commuting cost –  for example, subway fare or parking? Do they offer the opportunity to purchase these things pre-tax? If they do not cover these costs, what will your commuting expenses be compared to your previous employer?

6. Tuition Remission
Inquire as to whether the employer offers tuition remission and, if so, what the policies are. Things to consider:

  • How much do they cover and for what types of programs?
  • How long do you need to be with the company or organization before you can take advantage of this program?
  • Are there requirements as to low long must you stay once you complete the program?
  • Are there grade requirements?
  • Are you reimbursed for tuition after successful completion of the semester or does the employer pay up front?
  • Are there other options for paid professional development?
  • Are spouses or dependents eligible for tuition remission?

7. Relocation Reimbursement
Some companies will provide a stipend to cover moving costs. Can’t hurt to ask!

8. Vacation and Sick Leave
How much vacation and/or sick leave are you given as a new employee? Does it increase with time? Is it accrued? What are the standard set of company holidays?

9. Technology
Will the company/organization provide you with a lap top, IPhone, and/or IPad or reimburse you for service fees if you use your own? The little things add up!

10. Maternity/Paternity Leave Policies
Even if you aren’t considering a family in the immediate future, if you are considering a family at all this is a worthwhile policy to consider.  FMLA laws in that state will also play a role so look into your state’s policies.

11. Miscellaneous Perks
Depending on the employer they may have other interesting perks. For example, some private schools offer employees free lunch (again, it adds up!) or tuition remission for dependents. Other organizations offer paid time for volunteer activities, company cars, discounted gym memberships, discounted or on-site child care, even bringing your pet to work!

12. Profit Sharing or Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP)
ESOPsprofit sharing plans, and stock bonus plans all differ as vehicles for employee ownership and, depending on the company, this may be a consideration. 

13. Signing Bonus
If the salary is outside your desired range but you would like to consider the offer seriously, see if you can negotiate a one-time signing bonus with the company.  Since that money would not compound, it may be a one time cost that the company is willing to put forth in order to get you on board.   If a signing bonus isn’t an option, consider negotiating for a 6 month review with opportunity for a pay increase at that time.

Image source: www.social-hire.com

Virtual Career Fair How To’s

One downside to virtual career fairs  is the lack of fun company stressballs, pens, and mints.  Fortunately, there’s an upside: you can wear your PJ’s.

Last week we posted that we are hosting a virtual career fair for GU alums interested in connecting with startups and small businesses.  According to Market Research Media, the virtual conference and trade show market more than doubled between 2009 and 2011 (pmi.org).  Virtual events are expected to be a US$18.6 billion industry by 2018 – and many of those will be virtual job fairs.

Getting the most out of a virtual career fair requires more than just logging in so here are some tips:

1.  Check your internet connection.  Nothing like connecting with your dream organization and having your internet crash.

2. Research. Research the companies in advance as you would for any career fair.  Since virtual career fairs provide connections through online chats, you don’t want to waste precious time gathering company information and details that you can find out in advance. Bypass the general and move directly into the meat of the conversation.  Also research the platform and format of the virtual event you will be attending.

3.  Upload your information early.  You want to make sure everything goes smoothly, things are formatted properly, and that your information is available to employers if they take a peek at attendee information before the fair.

4. No hashtags. Since the connections are made through online chatting, it can be tempting, or even habit, to use emoticons or instant messenger lingo – DON’T.  While you may be a wizard at using clever hashtags on Twitter, save those for the twitterverse.  #needajob #loveyourcompany #hireme

5.  Follow Up.  Remember the name of the person you chatted with so you can google them later.  Just like any career fair or job interview,  show your interest, enthusiasm, tenacity, and gratitude by following up with the company/employer/recruiter with a note.  Attach your resume so the recruiter doesn’t have to search for it.

6.  Have an updated and completed LinkedIn profile.  It’s the next logical step in investigating candidates during or after the fair.  Also make sure your overall presence on social media including Facebook and Twitter is appropriate.

Some say that while you can do a Virtual Career Fair in your PJ’s and slippers, you should still dress up in order to bring out your most professional self.  I personally, think I would still opt for the comfort of PJ’s. But that’s just me.

Have you participated in a virtual career fair and have some tips? We want to hear!