5 Easy Steps to Building Your Professional Brand and Getting the Job You Want

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You: The Brand

The definition of a brand according to the American Marketing Association is:

“A name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller/group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition[1]

In this case, for all intents and purposes, the brand is you. You are the image, symbol and design you set forth in life and in career to differentiate you from all others. So, whether you are just starting out in your career or considering a re-branding, here are five easy steps to building a successful professional brand.

1) LinkedIn All Star? Nah, be a Rock Star:

When filling out your LinkedIn profile, make sure you fill out all relevant education, awards, and employment information with easy-to-read (no acronyms or buzz words) and factual information (just because you were a judge in a chili cook-off does not give you previous judicial employment experience). Be sure to update your LinkedIn profile often and not just when you are looking for work. This can be as simple as updating your profile picture (only professional headshots here. LinkedIn is professional, Facebook/Instagram is social) or adding new skills that your connections can endorse for you.

LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional tribe. When connecting with people on LinkedIn, think strategically and ethically. Ask yourself what field of work you could see yourself in and reach out to people that are already established in that field. First, send a message to your desired connection and explain who you are and why you wish to connect with them. If you are looking for a mentor in a particular field, ask if they would be interested in meeting for coffee (on you) or just answering a few questions about their job (Think: labour questionnaire). If their response is positive, send the connection request and follow-up about coffee or send your questions via email. Never send or accept a connection request without doing your homework first. People can see if you were looking at their page, so view only with intent.

2) You Better (Net) Work:

Networking is a big step in making your employment dreams a reality but it doesn’t come naturally for most people. The first step to networking is doing an environmental scan of your industry’s associations and social functions. If only there were a place to find these types of events…oh, yeah, there is: Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It is up to you to show some initiative and research your industry. After you locate them, join all associations and memberships in your field. Be sure to stay up-to-date on all events, and put them in your calendar. This is the quickest way to becoming an insider as opposed to an outsider.

Before you attend a networking function, you need to prepare your pitch/elevator pitch/introduction and bring your business cards. Your pitch is basically who you are and what you bring to the table as far as education, experience, and future career goals. It’s not bragging just a brief, pleasant, and impassioned way to let everyone know you are worth getting to know.

Next, you need business cards. Business cards are an investment because they will end up in the hands of people who will open doors of opportunity for you. Vista print (www.vistaprint.com) or Moo Cards (www.moo.com) are user-friendly and have great templates. If you are really on your game, design your own original business card.

Once you are at a networking function, be brave yet relaxed, and speak to people. The trick here is to ask guests questions about themselves. Find out who they are, what they do, and really listen. Listen to how they got their job, why they like their job, what education they have, and what piece of advice they would share with someone just starting out or starting over.

3) Oh, My Blog!

Start a blog about something you are passionate about. Failing that, start a book review blog. Why are blogs so important? It gets your voice out there, showcases your communication skills, and gives valuable experience with social media and content creation. Blogging is a valued skill set in today’s business world, as is social media management. The great news is, young people are very savvy with new technology and quicker to adapt to new forms of communication. So, get out there, teach yourself how to blog, and explore all forms of social media.

4) Keep it Real on Social Media

Everyone is online and so are their issues. Pro Tip: Leave the drama for your mama and never post it on social media. We all have bad days, drunk days, and FML days. It’s important to remember it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. The reasoning here is that employers will creep you on social media to see what kind of person you are and if you will fit their organizational culture. This reality might sting a little, but it helps employers find the right employees. At the end of the day, there are no bad jobs, just bad fit for jobs. It’s okay to find yourself a bad fit for a job, too. It will save you and employers a lot of time and heartaches.

5) Work on Your Skillz

We live in an age where if you don’t know everything about everything, you can Google it and in 0.0003 of a second you will know everything about everything. So, use it! In fields like marketing, there is a big state of flux. There are so many opportunities to learn high-level overviews of all aspects and then go deep with one you are passionate about. Marketing has far broader of a scope with the integration of analytics and social media. It’s true that you can get degrees and diplomas in various segments of marketing, but you can also homeschool yourself on Google Analytics, Google Ad-Sense, web development, and social media tools. Find out what aspects of your desired profession interests you and get to work. Read the latest book on it, research job market trends, and ask questions. Ultimately, success is finding how to get paid for doing something you enjoy doing.

Always remember brands, like people, are designed to leave strong, favorable, and unique impressions that are enduring. Be sure to always be your unique self, be strong, and leave favorable impressions with everyone who crosses your path because only the best brands stand the test of time.

[1] https://www.ama.org

Summertime Book Reviews #2: “If You Need to Cry, Go Outside” By Kelly Cutrone.

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“If You Need to Cry, Go Outside” by Public Relations maven Kelly Cutrone is the tale of sex, drugs and a rockin’ Rolodex. It chronicles her life from her childhood in the suburbs, her fateful move to New York City, her divorces, birth of her daughter, her spiritual enlightenment after battling drug addiction and more career resurrections than a modern day Pucci-wearing Lazarus. In short, I loved this book at biblical proportions.

If Sophia Amoruso’s book #GIRLBOSS failed to examine the personal struggles of building a one-woman brand name and empire, Kelly Cutrone’s book makes up for it in spades. Cutrone does not hold back. There are many windfalls and missteps. However, it is her willingness to examine her inner-self, the path she has chosen and search for spirituality in a 140- characters-or-less world that keeps this novel from being a brag book, too preachy or flaky. Did I mention that at one time she was a pseudo-pop star and read Tarot Cards on the beach for money? ‘Cause, yeah, that happened.

Like any good Public Relation professional, Kelly always has a positive spin on all her personal and professional dealings. From such personal lows like being fired multiple times by clients, being professionally attacked in print, two divorces and being a junkie in Beverly Hills, Cutrone always had the wherewithal to forge ahead and turn the page. Which in Kelly Cutrone’s case, would be to the Fashion & Style section.

I have a profound respect for female entrepreneurs. It takes a lot of guts to strike out on your own. But with gals like Kelly Cutrone willing to mentor young women and share their insights, we are in good company.

Summertime Book Reviews: Part 1 – #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

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With my head stuck in a summer rut and feeling less motivated than usual, I turn to inspirational literature to help me keep my head in the game. Lately, I have been reading books about other women in business. In a effort to learn as many tricks of the trade and gain insight, I selected 3 titles; “#GIRLBOSS” by Sophia Amoruso, “If You Need to Cry Go Outside” by Kelly Cutrone and “I Shouldn’t be Telling You this: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know” by Kate White. Stay tuned for a book review trilogy.

My first summertime read was “#GIRLBOSS” by “Nasty Gal” (clothing) founder Sophia Amoruso. “Nasty Gal” is Sophia’s vintage Ebay shop turned million dollar retail clothing business. Immediately upon starting this book, I learn that any business I may start needs to have a name I won’t deeply regret when I’m forty. But in Sophia’s “Nasty Gal” case, it works and “would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?”. Probably. It was Sophia’s intuitive business sense and keen eye for fashion that carried the business from hobby to industry.

Sophia is not a Harvard School of Business graduate. In fact, she is a photography school drop-out, a former “Freegan” with a penchant for dumpster diving and a converted shoplifter. Needless to say, she is my new idol. She had the recipe for self-destruction but her strong sense of self directed her ambition in a positive way. She had navigated customer engagement on social media through online communities like Ebay and MySpace long before Facebook turned us all in to “Like-Button-Hamsters”.

Amoruso, like all entrepreneurs, had to find what she loved to do as a hobby and sculpt it in a feasible stream of revenue. I know that sounds like finding the Holy Grail, but believe it or not, your passion for a particular hobby or craft will ultimately bring you success beyond your wildest dreams. How you ask? If every day you wake up to a (hobby)job you do not hate and you feel good about working hard at it, success will follow. Hard work pays off ten-fold. Happiness is the key to fulfillment not money. Even Sophia “#GIRLBOSS” Amoruso would agree with me.

I loved reading Sophia’s insights and tough-chick attitude. It really spoke to me. My only critique is that it only scratch the surface and could have gone a little deeper on her fears and self-doubts. No one is free from the negative little voices in their head, not even a #GIRLBOSS. It is the ability to silence or overcome those fears that allows to you embrace your true potential. It is very clear the Sophia’s #GIRLBOSS mentality is strong, well-defined and infectious. It was the perfect summertime read to kick me out of my rut.

…To be Continued