Archive | January, 2013

Personal Branding & The Professional You

28 Jan

By Bethany Stafford

As thousands of resumes come in and go out of our office for resume critiques and improvement, pages and pages of professional experience begin to run together in my mind. Truly, one resume starts to look just like the rest: Objective? Check. Professional skills? Check. Education? Professional experience? Check, check. When it comes to getting noticed on the job search, however, it’s imperative that you and your resume don’t fall into that dangerous stack of “look-a-likes.” Rather, you want to do your best to stand out!personalbranding

If you’ve never considered your personal branding before now, it’s about time you got started. Your personal brand defines you as a professional and is a collection of your professional title, skills, knowledge, personality, values and image. Everything from a handshake to a business card helps define you as a professional and can make or break getting you a second look from an employer. In leaving an impression on a future employer, consider the following components of your personal brand.

Your professional title is the most concise and brief description of who you are as a professional and gives your employer an instant impression of what you are made of. For example, an administrative assistant is made up of a set of skills very different than that of an executive officer which is also very different than that of a graphic designer. Use this title to refer to yourself on your resume, business card, elevator pitch and first introductions to increase your chances of landing that job that is just right for you.

Next, consider your professional packaging on paper, including your personal business cards, cover letter, resume, letter head, etc. All of these items should include one consistent theme in colors, fonts, and wording. However, make sure that in choosing your image, it appropriately reflects the professionalism of your industry. For example, employers in the finance industry prefer black and white or grayscale branding while employers in the fashion industry might find a splash of color a little more interesting. The best way to dash your chances at getting noticed on this front is to use a template from the Microsoft Word library or an online resource. Templates are designed to help you get your information on a page, but they certainly don’t allow for any room to stand out among your peers.

Once you’ve nailed down your professional packaging on paper, it’s time to take a look at your professional packaging on the web. Remember, consistency is the key. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool when used correctly. Conversely, it can be detrimental to your image if not properly integrated into your personal branding. Be sure to fill out your profile completely with working links to your website and portfolio, if applicable. All wording should reflect your professional title, skills, and imagery. Finally, make sure to upload a photo and put a face to that name of yours.

Speaking of your image, this is the final component to your professional branding package. Your professional image consists of your physical presence. Good posture, professional dress, a firm handshake and a warm smile are all key ingredients to your recipe for success. And whether you like it or not, your image is often your first impression on an employer. Make sure this impression matches the professional image your relay both on paper and on the web. Again, it’s all about consistency!

The first step towards enhancing your personal brand is to analyze the information you currently have available for employers to see. Reel in key themes and words and work those into your personal branding, via the avenues discussed above: business cards, resumes, letter heads, personal website, portfolio and your elevator pitch. Colors and fonts should be used as tools but don’t let anything distract from you as a professional. Rather, they should be used for the enhancement of the professional you. Try to not let this be a daunting task. Developing your personal brand should be creative and fun since nobody knows the real you quite like yourself!

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Using RSS Feeds to Stay Current in Your Field

14 Jan

RSSfeedIf you’ve worked in a professional setting, or received any type of post-secondary education, the concept of staying professionally current is something you’re familiar with. However, for many budding professionals, staying current is an abstract concept that few people take the time to define or operationalize. Though there are many ways for you to remain updated on trends and news in your industry, I’ve chosen to focus on one that will bring content directly to your inbox (or favorite app).

One of the best ways to get the latest insight into an industry trend is to read blogs – tons and tons of blogs. It seems as though “experts” and “gurus” are as ubiquitous as the smartphones, tablets, and multimedia devices they use to create their content, leaving no shortage of free information to keep you current. After blog hunting for some time, you will have undoubtedly found so many great sources that you may find yourself jumping from site to site, only to realize that you’ve forfeited valuable time that could have been used getting things done. Thankfully, there is a way to synthesize your favorite blogs into one location without having your inbox flooded with new subscriptions.

RSS feeds, or Really Simple Syndication feeds, allow the content of multiple blogs to be automatically updated and aggregated into a central location. Instead of receiving separate email digests from the seven different blogs that you follow, you can visit your RSS stream to view them all in one place. A quick internet search will yield countless results for RSS readers and ways to keep track of your feeds. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll focus on the tool that I’m most familiar with.

As with seemingly most things around the World Wide Web, Google provides a free and simple solution, already accessible to anyone with a Google account. Simply go to www.google.com/reader to begin searching for and adding blogs to your feed. FingerReaderYou will see new articles automatically begin to populate as you add more blogs, bringing the most up-to-date content in your industry directly to your fingertips. Additionally, there are dozens of free (and paid) RSS reader apps for every smartphone/tablet platform, allowing you to catch up on the latest news on the go. So if you’re using blogs to keep tabs on your field, setting up an RSS feed is definitely worth your time. Your to-do list will thank you for it.

Share some of your favorite blogs with us in the comments section.