The importance of selling yourself
You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Pete Baker explains how to get ready for your next big opportunity.
This year I’ve been approached by at least a dozen industry friends and colleagues who have been displaced in their career or are looking for a change.
Most of them would like to be more prepared but are not sure where to start, or where to find the advice they need for the next chapter.
This may not be a typical article for a tech industry publication but, trust me, countless people in our industry are in the situation described above. I want to share some advice that has helped friends find their next career adventure.
Most people pay very little attention to their professional branding, and really sell themselves short. Some marketing professionals with impressive careers do a terrible job at marketing themselves.
We never know what is around the corner or when a change may be necessary, or when an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ may appear. So why not create the best possible image to present to people in your professional network?
In fact, you can invest very little time and look better than 90% of your industry peers. Start with the following:
1) What do you want to be when you grow up?
A few years ago, I was planning to make a career change and a mentor suggested I think about my assets or signature strengths, and what I liked to do.
I went through the thought process and took it a (slightly nerdy) step further. I created what I call an opportunity matrix.
On the horizontal axis I listed my signature strengths or interests and beneficial elements of a certain job opportunity.
On the vertical axis I listed business opportunities or jobs that I might consider. I then added a numeric value from 0-10 for each element.
In the far-right column a numeric value for that opportunity would be calculated on rating the various elements related to the opportunity. This process was helpful to fully consider and evaluate each opportunity and make a more informed decision.
Don’t be shy about exploring opportunities outside the industry or becoming more adventurous – buying a franchise, starting a new business, joining the circus. If you can make a good income and find joy in that career path, don’t be afraid to explore it.
If you find yourself unemployed, get moving. Start networking and accept that your new full-time job is finding your next job or career opportunity.
My good friend and talented industry colleague Petro Shimonishi was faced with a challenge years ago when she was laid off. She and another industry colleague decided to develop a powerful resource for professionals who where out of work or looking to make a change.
I encourage anyone in this position to visit www.nextphasenetwork.com for some amazing articles, resources, coaching, jobs board, forum, etc.
2) Polish up your image – before you need to
Invest a little time to create an impressive image for your professional career.
The opportunity of a lifetime may happen tomorrow. What if a company or person searches for information about you online, on social media or elsewhere, and asks for some professional branding materials: CV or resumé, professional bio, references, etc? Are you prepared to present your best image?
The following are some professional branding ABCs:
A) Add some life to your CV
I have seen hundreds of CVs in my professional career and could count on one hand the number that jumped out at me and left an impression. Here are some suggestions:
Achievements: People don’t care (generally) where you have worked, they care about what you have accomplished. Focus on what, not where. Identify your achievements and quantify them. Petro offered a great suggestion: update or document your accomplishments monthly.
Professional summary: Instead of an ‘objective’ at the top of your resumé, add a professional summary of who you are and what you have accomplished.
Resumé assistant: Microsoft Word has a cool new ‘resumé assistant’, which leverages the power of LinkedIn. The feature includes examples of suggested skills and work experience summaries matched to your profile, to help polish up the text and key words.
Benefits: Think about why someone would want to hire you. Then communicate the benefits you would offer by highlighting the signature strengths, skills and abilities that make you valuable and interesting to a prospective employer.
Stand out: Add some colour to the CV, or nice paper, to make it emerge from the pack.
Hire a pro: You can invest a few hundred dollars to hire a professional resumé writer to make you look like a million dollars. The investment in professional branding can easily pay for itself by helping you to get the job (and package) you are looking to secure.
A note of caution: there are lots of scammers out there, so get a recommendation from someone you trust or from a trusted resource. Search via LinkedIn or Google and you will find countless resources to explore.
B) Be professionally visible:
Most of us have subjects we are passionate about, so start writing and get the ideas onto paper or online. There are many opportunities for sharing your ideas or advice: you can publish free articles or ‘posts’ on LinkedIn and other media platforms. Contact your favourite trade publication or newspaper and start creating some content to market yourself in your profession or industry.
Act as a volunteer for your organisation, or host a training course on a subject you are passionate about that may be interesting and beneficial to your peers.
Any of these activities can be used to market yourself as a professional in your industry and help to develop your network.
C) Create impressive professional branding tools:
Invest some time polishing up your LinkedIn profile. In many industries LinkedIn is widely used and is a powerful platform for networking and marketing your professional brand. Valuable free articles are available with LinkedIn profile tips. A few basic tips are as follows:
- Sign up for the 30-day LinkedIn Pro free evaluation. This will allow you to edit your background banner and add a custom header that you can keep after the 30-day free trial period is over.
- Add a professional headline and background (see my LinkedIn page and copy the format that I copied from another LinkedIn pro).
- Post an article or two about a subject you are passionate about. It is very easy to do on LinkedIn, and it doesn’t cost anything. This can help position you as an expert in your field. You can check out my articles on LinkedIn, or my website: thebigcorp.com/whats-new
- Add some visual content. Any marketing materials you have created, images of you in action selling, receiving an award, giving a speech, etc, are great selling points.
- Include in the awards section any honours awards or certifications you may have, even if they are more personal than professional. I’ve included scuba diving. This kind of thing shows that you are an achiever.
Create a professional summary or bio to help you stand out from the crowd. This will include a photo and should focus on career highlights, accomplishments and signature strengths.
It can be used in addition to your CV – or instead of it for less formal opportunities or communications. It may be a door opener with a company you admire, or for a consulting project, etc.
The bottom line is that you have only one chance to make a good first impression, and it could be tomorrow. Make sure you are prepared for the next big opportunity!
For any of the free materials described in this article, or if you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org