Introducing Harlow Creative Co.

First and foremost, I want to thank those who have stuck with me through my career journey these last 7+ years. From HR and recruiting to content strategy to employer branding, it has been extremely rewarding. Since starting this blog in 2012, I’ve connected with many supportive people who I attribute to my quickly growing career. Through these connections, I have learned so much more about the world of human resources and talent acquisition that I might not have had exposure to otherwise.

Since 2013, I’ve transformed my career from a recruiting/HR practitioner to working on the attraction piece through employer branding and recruitment marketing. When I first got my start in this at WilsonHCG, I fell in love with building strategies and content. From there, my passion grew while working as an employer branding program manager for two high-tech organizations in Boston these last five years.

From building employer brands from scratch to working on the front-line as I implemented recruitment marketing tactics, I’ve had my hand in a lot. With the constant changes in candidate trends and technology, this role has always kept me on my toes. Thankfully, my amazing managers have given me the space and trust needed to roll with it and test new things.

And, because of this, I’m rolling with an even newer change. In 2020, I’ll offer employer branding consulting services. It’s both exciting and humbling to embrace this next phase in my career. It was time.

About Harlow Creative Co.

Harlow Creative Co. is an employer branding and cloud technology consulting company that works with recruiting and engineering teams at startups and SMBs. Through strategy development, implementation, and coaching, we support companies during their growth phase so they can hire the best talent, work smarter, and scale quicker.

Services

Employer Branding

This service helps companies establish a new employer brand or redefine their current brand. Through brand immersion and competitive research, we’ll use our findings to establish an EVP, brand lines, voice and personality, and brand guidelines.

Recruitment Marketing

This is great for companies that have an established brand but need help to implement. Through internal and external research, we’ll create a marketing strategy guideline, as well as templates for editorial calendars, social media strategy, and integrated marketing strategy.

À La Carte

For companies that already have their employer brand and recruitment marketing strategies squared away, our à la carte services act as a helping hand to get it all done. These services are customizable. Some examples include blogging, content development, social media, vendor vetting, coaching, and more.

Side note: if any tech teams need help with cloud technology services, my very talented husband will consult on that through Harlow. Check out details here if it applies to you.

Having been the sole person running the employer branding function, I understand the struggles talent acquisition teams face when building and promoting their brand. Through my experience, I’ve learned even the leanest teams can accomplish a lot!

If you or someone you know can benefit from these services, contact me here.

To stay up to date on employer branding tips and advice, check out our blog here.

An Update from Ashley

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the importance of taking a break to recalibrate career and personal goals. After managing this blog and keeping up with social media for years, I needed a mental break so I could find renewed passion for what I was doing in the HR and recruiting industry.

But, apparently, I never came back from that break. Oops.

It’s been nearly four years since I wrote that post. Four years since I stepped away from the hectic life of balancing a personal brand with work and everyday life. Do I regret it? No. That break allowed me to focus on other things that made sense for this stage of my life.

So, what’s been going on with little ol’ me these past few years. I’ll tell you!

Ch-Ch-Changes

  • Bye, Boston: Boston was an amazing experience, and I appreciated the threeish years I lived there. Being surrounded by so many smart people and having the chance to work at big tech organizations helped me fast-track my career. But city life was never for me. In the fall of 2016, my husband and I decided it was time to move on. We scouted out a bunch of new and exciting places, many on the West Coast.
  • Hi, Charleston: Funny enough, we’re back in Charleston. I swore up and down I wouldn’t come back. We moved away for a reason, and if I was going to move again, I wanted it to be somewhere new. However, my husband, a Sr. Site Reliability Engineer (DevOps, Cloud), got a really good job offer in Charleston. It was hard to pass up. Within a week of being back here, I realized it was a good move. Not only is it affordable, but it had all the things we missed while living in Boston.
  • Becoming a Homeowner: In Boston, we were eager to buy our first home. Despite both making a decent wage, the pricing in and around the area was ridiculous. We had high standards for what we wanted in a house–which I’ll blame on being spoiled by the cost of living in Charleston–so it was hard to swallow the prices and what we could get. Within a couple of months of being back in the South, we took the plunge. Not only did we buy our first house, but we built it in a neighborhood we loved the first time we lived here. It was a long and stressful six months but we’re so happy with the end result. This house is 100% ours.
  • Traveling the World: We were lucky enough to have lived by a major airport while in Boston, which kicked off our international travel. Being back in Charleston with its affordable living has allowed us the luxury of continuing this travel regularly. Just in this past year, we’ve traveled to Iceland, Austria, Prague, and multiple places in the United States. I’m always looking for the next adventure.
  • A Focus on Writing: Clearly, we all know I love writing (hence the blog). But this blog was a career move for me. Back in 2012, I had struggled to land a solid job because the economy was still recovering after the recession. I started this blog to show my passion and knowledge of HR/recruiting. It was basically an extension of my resume, and it ultimately landed me a pretty awesome job. However, my true passion is fiction. These past few years, I’ve written five novels and one novella with no plans of slowing down. I secured an agent in April 2019 and currently have manuscripts on submission. My goal is to become a hybrid author, so I’m in the process of self-publishing my first book while I wait to hear from traditional publishers. Thankfully, a lot of the skills I learned about personal branding for my career has helped me a lot with author branding.

Whew. That’s a lot of stuff. But I guess I should give you an update on my career too, huh?

A Career Transformation

In the winter of 2015, I landed my first job as an employer brand strategist. The role was brand new, with zero strategy behind it. I came in and built it from the ground up. It was exciting and a bit scary since it was all on me, but it was a great learning experience. I played around with strategy, built new marketing skills, partnered with other departments to produce content, and worked with vendors.

A year later–almost to the day–I was laid off due to a company acquisition. However, I had already secured a role with my current employer (a cybersecurity company in Boston) because knew it was coming. The new job was the same deal. I was tasked with building the employment branding function from nothing. I guess that’s my thing now. This is the third role I’ve been placed in that didn’t exist before me, which is kind of cool.

Thankfully, I’m still at this job more than three years later, which means I’ve had a lot of time to see how this role could grow and shift with the changes in marketing strategy and candidate markets.

About My Role

I’m the sole person in this role, and I do it 100% remote from my home office in Charleston. This means I not only have to think big picture (strategy), but also perform all the duties needed to keep it going (program management). It’s a lot, but it’s nice to own it. I’m doing everything from:

  • Strategy
  • Content development
  • Social media marketing
  • Events
  • Website & digital presence
  • Advertising
  • Photography & video production
  • Analytics
  • And more… much, much more

Working in an ever-changing role and competitive markets such as tech and cybersecurity has required me to be agile. Looking back on what the program was to what it is today is something that makes me proud. I’ve had to test new things, iterate, adjust, and replicate into new markets. This flexibility has not only allowed me to build skills quickly but gives me the freedom to make our recruiting efforts a success.

That said, I’m writing a ton for my new role. Everything you see on #LifeAtCB is pretty much me. Therefore, I will likely not write on this blog much anymore. However, if you are interested in connecting about all things employment branding/recruitment marketing, I encourage you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

I had so much fun connecting and learning from you all over the years, and I appreciate those who have read this blog!

4 Tips to Stay Relevant Before Searching for Your Next Job

Want to know the best way to be proactive in your job search? Check out my latest VentureFizz post here to learn more.

4 Tips for Becoming a Great Remote Employee

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Curious about taking a remote role? Already working virtually but want to improve your success? Check out my latest blog on VentureFizz for some tips!

Click here to read more.

Finding Your ‘Culture Fit’ During the Job Search

Job fit isn’t the only thing you should focus on during the job search. Even if the job sounds right, knowing a company’s culture can help you determine if an opportunity is truly right for you.

What does culture fit mean and how can you identify it during your application and interview process? Learn more in my recent blog found on VentureFizz. Click here!

Why Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Life

It’s been a little while, I know. After years of consistently blogging, guest blogging, Tweeting, social networking, and so on, I took a step back to assess.

In the beginning, I used blogging as a way to build a personal brand in the pursuit of landing a good job. Once I got that job, I used it to continue thought leadership and develop my career in the direction I wanted it to go. After creating that portfolio, I was able to prove myself and get the promotions I was looking for.

But, now what?

I know that in order to stay relevant and knowledgeable about current trends, it’s important to keep up with your social and blogging persona as much as your IRL one. But being everything to everyone can be a little overwhelming, at least for me. If I wasn’t glued to my laptop, I was glued to my phone. Before I knew it, years passed by and I felt like I had accomplished very little in my personal life. Not good.

Being successful in my career is important. I had a lot to prove to myself and, sure, I still have a lot to prove. However, I don’t want to look back on my life and realized that I missed out on living it. I have goals to move, travel, write books, pick up a hobby, learn a new language, learn how to get better at baking, enjoy the company of my husband and puppy, visit family more, be a better friend, try something extreme, and more. Unfortunately, I’m not the type of person who has an insane amount of energy and can dominate both being professionally “on” 24/7 while still managing progression in my personal affairs. I envy those people and often wonder how they find time to sleep. And if they are running on no sleep, how do they achieve everything so flawlessly?

Every so often, you need to be honest with yourself. Can you truly do everything you want to in a reasonable time frame or do you need to start chipping away at the excess and focus on what matters? For me, it’s time to pull back a little on being proactive in the social and blogging world for my personal brand. Once work’s daily closing bell rings, I decided to turn off the HR/Recruiting/Employment Branding/Whatever-else mentality and focus more on being a well-rounded person… at least for a little while.

I do believe taking a break is a good thing. It helps people recharge and become reengaged in the things they were passionate about. New perspectives are born after taking a step back. This is what I’m hoping for as I pursue this break and focus on personal goals.

So, thank you so much for supporting this blog over the last few years. I truly hope you all learned as much as I’ve learned from many others in the social media and blogging world. This break isn’t forever and I’m looking forward to coming back with renewed passion.

Stay tuned.

Employment Branding: The Social Media Piece

Increase traffic to your website social media icons

I’ve had acquaintances and colleagues reach out to me regarding employment branding over the years, and, in many cases, they simply wanted to brainstorm different ways to build a grassroots brand with little-to-no budget. I had been in similar situations in the past and although it would be nice to have a budget and/or a person completely dedicated to employer branding initiatives, I can see why it’s hard to convince an employer that it’s worth the investment. But fret not, there are still plenty of things you can do if you’re short on bandwidth or money.

Social media is a great option to get the word out about your company culture and jobs, and one many job seekers are now expecting to find if they’re doing research on your organization. If you’re the one trying to initiate the branding piece, consider how much time you have to dedicate it. Also consider your level of marketing skills. Although many people have used social media for personal purposes, it’s important to realize that personal experience and marketing skills are two very different things. Once you identify these things, here are a few suggestions to help you get your branding efforts up and running:

  • Choose your platform: Would it make more sense to separate out your employment brand from your consumer brand, or should you work with your marketing team to incorporate recruitment marketing into their content schedule? If you do decide to create new employment branded-based social media profiles, will you throw a wide net and utilize as many social media platforms as you can or optimize a couple platforms leveraged most by your audience? Figuring out these aspects are the first steps to developing out your social media employment branding strategy. Typically, though, many people put focus on mainstream platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Figure out your content calendar: There are plenty of free tools online to help you develop out a content calendar and schedule. Choose one that will keep you the most on track and stay consistent in your postings. Additionally, determine what you should post and how often. As a general suggestion, start small and assess the results. Do research to find out when the best times to post are and appropriate hashtags to use. For example, Facebook has highest engagement from 1-3pm on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. However, Twitter works best 3-6pm from Thursday through Sunday. Share your postings during that time manually or use tools like Hootsuite to automate postings.
  • Know what to post: Many people make the mistake of using their social media platforms as a way to simply post jobs. Although the point is to reach more candidates and increase your applications, many candidates will lose interest if you only post jobs. To keep people engaged and to continue to expand your network, incorporate content that will add value. For example, make sure you include things that will showcase your culture, like pictures of recent events or the day-to-day at the office. Also make sure you curate content. For instance, if you are a tech company, share content that is industry-focused. Or even share job-seeker tips. You want people to look at your feed and find useful take-aways rather than just a job feed.
  • Take time to communicate: Social media is meant to make it easy for individuals to communicate with each other. So, make sure to create opportunities for two-way communication. Respond to comments/inbox messages in a timely fashion. Comment on posts. Participate in social media chats, such as Twitter chats.
  • Track and adjust: Track results on a weekly basis for a month to three months and identify any patterns. Make adjustments and/or optimize successful results when making a more robust schedule later on. Some things to measure are engagement, hashtag impact, follower/like growth, clicks and hires. Some free tools you can check out are Ritetag and Keyhole. You could also leverage some free reporting via Hootsuite. There are tons of tools out there, so be sure to take the time to find the right one for your needs.

Employment branding can be done on a budget, even if you don’t have someone solely dedicated to the initiative. Little steps like the ones mentioned above can help you incorporate this into a talent acquisition strategy in the most efficient and effective way possible.

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Asking Questions During the Interview Process

Interviewing is never easy no matter how skilled or comfortable you are when it comes to selling yourself.  Preparation prior to the interview can be involved and the amount of interviews within an interview loop can be demanding. The agonizing waiting period between the final interview and offer can be stressful. But, throughout the whole process, many job seekers are more focused on impressing the interviewer and landing that offer, causing them to forget that the interview is mutually beneficial for them, as well. This process is a prime time for a job seeker to investigate the company by asking deep questions to as many interviewers as possible. This can ensure that the company is worth the effort.

When I was in talent acquisition, I’d often ask my candidates if they had any questions at the end of the interview. A good portion of the time, candidates didn’t have any. Or if they did, they were often very basic. The questions typically covered things like pay, expectations, management style and so on. Many of those questions could have been answered by simply reviewing the job description or doing research on the company. In the end, the responses didn’t clearly show a candidate why this is a good employer for them for the long-term. Knowing salary details and day-to-day duties are important, but it doesn’t get to the core regarding what else the candidate would face if they accepted an offer. More importantly, the answers could easily be a canned, elevator-speech that gives no deeper insight. When all is said and done, a candidate may accept a job only to realize that there are a ton of deal breakers that they missed.

Whenever I’m interviewing somewhere, I like to take the time to ask each interviewer unique questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about their experiences and the variations between them, allowing you to get a fuller picture of the company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be job-specific; the questions can have a range between job details, company culture, values, general experiences/examples and so on. The important thing is not to just listen to the responses, but also to take notice of their reactions when answering. Does their face light up? Do they seem cautious and guarded? Is it a genuine answer or does it seem practiced and calculated? These things can help you see which responses are more honest and which ones seem suspiciously reserved.

Some questions might include:

  • What was a defining moment at the company that made you say, “This is why I’m here”?
  • Do you have an example of a situation internally or with a client that resonated with you?
  • What makes you proud to work here?
  • What is the dynamic of the team you work with? How do they function during good times? More importantly, how do they work together during the bad?
  • What makes your experience with this employer different from previous ones? What makes you stay?
  • What is one project that you could work on at the company, whether you believe it would be implemented or not?

Hearing their stories is a great way for a candidate to envision themselves at the company. Even if all of the responses are positive, some of the answers might shed light on things that a candidate does or does not want to face at their workplace. These things should be considered heavily along with the traditional aspects such as compensation, benefits, perks, culture, employee value proposition, job, department, managers and the like.  When an individual spends a significant time at work, it’s best to identify whether it is a right fit or not.