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!

#UCFBizChat: Uncovering Company Culture through Social Media

culturecrush-665x400

A former colleague of mine recently reached out to ask if I would host a Twitter chat for her students at University of Central Florida (UCF). As a career center advisor, she was excited about the prospect of her business students getting exposure to seasoned recruiting professionals and the opportunity for them to get sound advice when it comes to careers after college. Of course, I was honored to contribute to the conversation, especially since the topic focused on investigating the company culture of prospective employers via social media.

Not so long ago I was in their shoes, aggressively looking for work at an employer I could feel excited about and one that seemed to match my personality and values. During my search, I discovered how informative social media was when trying to uncover that culture fit. Even after I finally landed a job, I often tell those who come to me for career advice about how important this research could be in terms of finding an employer that’s right for them. And for both students and experienced professionals, this should be a major part of the job seeking process. Digging deep with multiple resources allows a candidate to get a better sense of what the company is all about and may limit any surprises if they end up landing a job with the company.

As I’ve gotten more involved with things like employer branding, I’ve seen the hard work employers put in to try and provide valuable insight into their organization and jobs. They’ve really incorporated a ton of information about their culture, perks, videos, “a day in the life” campaigns and images of events or daily happenings. Although employers go through great lengths to provide a detailed and positive image for their companies to attract talent, I also know there are external factors that play a big part in the full employer brand, including news resources and employees themselves. Job seekers should incorporate this information too to ensure a more realistic and well-rounded view of the organization.

So, some simple research tips I suggest are as follows:

  • Career sites: Career sites are always a great starting point and may provide more information than just a job board. This is a place where employers can include updated information about the organization, specific roles and locations. Be sure to click around and review things like their videos, blogs, benefits details, corporate social responsibility and so on. Also, see if there are any external links to review, such as their social media sites.
  • Social media: Try to find career-focused social media sites for the company or their main social media sites if they don’t have it segregated. Review their postings, see how they interact with people and even investigate some hashtags they are using. This could help you discover current employees that are also using the hashtag to promote life at the company. It could provide you some more candid insight than what the employer shares on its own. Usually Twitter and Instagram are great for researching these things.
  • Google search: Performing general Google searches or setting Google Alerts can allow you to stay current with what’s going on at the company. Press releases, blogs, new jobs and news about the company keeps you updated with both good and bad. It could also help you get a feel for the direction the company is going in before you decide to apply to jobs. After all, you wouldn’t want to accept a job offer for a company that has been experiencing major lay-offs or is being acquired by a company that has a completely different culture. This can help protect your decisions.
  • Social networking: As I mentioned earlier, social media allows you to discover hashtags and current employees. If you’re really interested in a company, social media could be an easy way for you to connect with employees and get some real feedback about what it’s like to work there. If possible, I would also suggest trying to find an employee that either works in the location you’re looking at and/or an employee who might work in the same role or department. This can give you a direct look into the working conditions and culture of that particular office or role. Just because a company is tooting its horn for having an awesome company culture doesn’t always mean this trickles down to each location, department or role. It’s best to hear it straight from someone who knows.

School might be getting out, but doing your homework during your job search can save you a lot of headaches! Make sure to research on multiple platforms to ensure you’re getting the full story.

For those interested in this discussion, be sure to join #UCFBizChat on Friday, October 24th at 11:30am EDT.

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Use Employment Branding to Impact Your Sourcing Strategy

In my last blog post of 2013, I took the time to reflect on what I learned throughout the year and my intentions of getting more involved in the subject of employment branding. It seems as if though 2014 is starting off on the right foot, as my first blog post of the New Year covers just that.

Due to some of the diverse positions and industries I’ve recruited for in the past, I quickly learned how creativity could impact time-to-fill and quality-of-hire. As I played around with different options to promote my jobs to candidates, I saw that employment branding seemed to add the most value while performing sourcing functions.

SourceCon was kind enough to allow me to contribute some tips from my experience of utilizing employment branding for my sourcing strategy. Check it out here.

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

Lately, I’ve somehow found myself in the position of an informal career coach. I’ve been assisting job seekers who have been off the job market for several years and who were overwhelmed and intimidated by the way this whole process has changed. I was able to guide them through the process, from resume writing, personal branding, researching companies, and developing questions to ask during the interviews. As I went through this journey with them, I was surprised to learn that some of these questions have left recruiters scratching their heads. When I recalled my own experience in recruiting, I remember being in the same boat as these individuals. It wasn’t until later in my recruiting career that I realized how important it was to do deep research about a company to be able to confidently provide the information that these candidates wanted to hear.

To really create a positive and informative candidate experience during the interview process, a recruiter has to think like a candidate thinks. I know when I was a job seeker, the first thing I would do was essentially stalk anything and everything about a company before my interview. If I came across something negative, I wanted it cleared up early in the process so I knew whether or not to move forward. When applying this knowledge to my recruiting career, I noticed a huge difference. Transparency helped me build a trust with my candidates and they felt more confident when it came down to making a decision.

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

  • Talk to people within the company: Even if you work at the company you’re currently recruiting for, it’s important to speak to several people in different roles or departments. Getting an overall idea of employees’ opinions of the company can help you paint a solid picture for your candidate. So rather than saying, “It’s a great place to work,” you’re able to provide several perspectives, making your examples well-rounded.
  • Check out reviews on Glassdoor: Alright, I get it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to this point but it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. I’ve had plenty of job seekers tell me that they completely stumped a recruiter when they referenced specifics from these reviews. Needless to say, the job seekers would drop out of the interview process because they felt like there was a disconnect or that the company was potentially hiding something.
  • Know your employer brand: Employment branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Being on the marketing side of things, I see the amount of effort companies put into their brand to make sure they have various examples of why working for the company is great. The content put out can be a fantastic resource to provide to the candidates and can help keep them engaged throughout the process.
  • Do a deep Google search: What’s your reputation? Employment branding and content pushed out by a company attempts to paint the company in the best light, but what about the stuff that WASN’T put out by the company? What are brand ambassadors, customers, clients and/or competitors saying? Do credible news sources or amateur bloggers have something worthy of sharing? Are your employees bashing or praising the company on social media? Knowing these things beforehand can help you discredit things that aren’t true, give a deeper explanation for things that are, or promote things that are aligned to what the candidate values.

When I started doing this in my own recruiting practices, I was able to really make the most out of my conversations with candidates. If they mentioned something they were interested in, I had the specific details they needed. If they were concerned about something, I was able to ease their mind or give them the hard facts so they could make the call. If I was a job seeker, I would hope that the interviewer would do the same for me. After all, job seeking is hard these days and accepting a job offer can be nerve-wracking.  Essentially, a candidate is making a big decision based on referrals and other people’s opinions. It would make a huge difference if recruiters were able to incorporate these details during the interview loop.

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Employee Value Proposition: Building a Stronger Employer Brand from the Inside Out

Image Reuters

While I was in talent acquisition and HR roles, I was often involved in strategy development for candidate attraction and retention. I would help my team come up with creative ways to attract talent, which could be especially tricky depending on the type of candidates we were aiming for. Once I started in HR and recruitment marketing, I realized that these were also hot topics when it came to developing copy for employer branding initiatives. Regardless of the role I was in, I knew the importance of brand marketing, effective recruiter communications and reputation damage control. Although these are all exceptional ways to help a company become an employer of choice, I believed that companies missed a step in the process. Sure, employer branding is great but you can’t truly make it strong if you have nothing behind it. To be an employer of choice, you must start from the inside and develop your employee value proposition (EVP).

Having an employer brand isn’t going to be nearly as effective if your employee value proposition isn’t robust. Companies need to focus on developing this first before they can brand themselves in good conscious. If your previous or current employees were to give a testimonial, what do you think they would say? What about the candidates that already interviewed with your organization? With technology making it easier for people to find news and reviews about your company or social media allowing candidates to communicate with employees, companies need to realize that they can’t just “fake it until you make it.” People will see right through it.

To build or revamp your current EVP, consider the following:

  • Surveys: Give the people what they want! Getting candid feedback from your employees can help you understand what retains them, what things they value over others and what they’d like to see for future offerings. Also, get additional feedback from candidates. Learn more about what attracted them to your company to begin with and why or why not they decided to move forward with the interview process. Accumulating distinct details about attraction and retention can aid in the development of new offerings and nix the ones that make no impact.
  • Competitors: Look at direct competitors within your industry to see what you’re up against. If a candidate is interviewing at multiple organizations, having this competitor intelligence can make it easier to seal the deal and help make your organization present itself as a stronger choice.
  • Voluntary Turnover/Exit interviews: If an employee is leaving your company voluntarily, it’s in your best interest to find out why. Any information you gather from their exit interviews can be invaluable when it comes to knowing where your company is falling short. For example, did the employee leave because of the long commute? Incorporate telecommunication opportunities. Did they leave because lack of growth potential? Work with HR about career succession. Every exit interview can be an opportunity for improvement.
  • Forecasting and continuous revamping: The world is fast changing, which means the landscape of employment, candidates and offerings will change quickly too. Employers need to focus on correcting or revamping their EVP for the here and now and they also need to stay on the forefront of what employees or candidates could want in the future. Staying ahead of the curve can limit any risk and make your talent acquisition strategy proactive. Revamping the EVP can keep it fresh and engaging.
  • And, of course, branding: Once you get all the details of the EVP squared away, you then have a really strong backing to help with your employer branding initiatives. Your brand can speak to things you’ve already implemented and employees can give their testimonials to confirm that your company practices what it preaches. Showcasing your future initiatives and how you value employee and candidate opinions can make those researching your company more engaged and excited to see what’s to come.

Your brand has to start from the inside. Before you can catch up with the trend of building a brand, social media recruitment, video branding and candidate experience, you have to make your employee value proposition into something worth talking about.

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Employment Branding: Using your Employees as a Megaphone

Recently, I was discussing employment branding topics with one of my colleagues and the many different ways a company can try to promote their brand to prospective candidates. Many companies have done a wonderful job creating different marketing campaigns, job fairs, and conferences to help spread the word of why they should be a candidates’ employer of choice. But there are other methods that employers are forgetting about that can help spread their message, such as using their current employees as a megaphone and cheerleader. This can be a great way to build and promote a brand to large audiences that will know and trust the source.

So, how can you utilize your employees as a resource for branding? Here are some suggestions:

  • Educate your employees: sometimes employees are unaware or unclear of what your employer brand actually is. It’s important to educate your employees on your brand, how they play a part in maintaining the brand, and help them get a deeper understanding of what the brand is attempting to accomplish in terms of obtaining and retaining talent.
  • Present opportunities and attach rewards and recognition to it: tell employees how to promote the brand whether it be at networking events, social media updates, or just a regular conversation with someone. Let them know these options and the recognition or rewards that may be tied with it. This can create an incentive for employees to want to market the brand.
  • Encourage social media marketing: social media is huge when it comes to reaching a large audience of people effectively and efficiently. The message that is sent can even weigh more coming from an individual that the audience trusts on a personal or professional level (i.e. your employee). Help create marketing campaigns that employees can effortlessly post for on their social media channels. Also encourage employees to create their own personal marketing efforts (but be sure to approve them first to ensure that the message is properly and accurately executed).
  • Create a “word of mouth” campaign: what’s a better or more honest way to promote something than to get real-life customer testimonials? The same can go for your employee testimonials. Encourage employees to provide testimonials in which you can put into an employer marketing campaign, social media campaign, video campaign, or even a publication that focuses on your company.
  • Incentive: employer branding focuses on wrangling in some quality talent. A great way to get employees motivated to help the cause is by offering incentives or bonuses based on individuals who are hired that are directly linked to the employee’s efforts.

As I’ve always stated, employees are your greatest assets, but using them this way can even prove that on another level. This can be a cost-effective way to market your brand and most importantly, it can be a source that gives the brand more meaning. Be sure to consider this option when creating your employment brand marketing efforts.

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Company Branding to Attract Talent

Today’s little blog is going to talk about the importance of company branding and marketing. Although any company would give a big huge “duh” about that fact, I’m going to focus more about branding your company to attract talent. I do believe that more companies need to focus on this type of a branding for a few reasons.

1. Savvy job seekers will spend time researching a company before applying– A good portion of job seekers are getting a little crafty in their job searches. Instead of simply going on job boards and submitting an application/resume, job seekers are taking time to do their homework. A good portion of job seekers in this economy probably have dealt with unstable work environments, bad company cultures, or lay-offs. Therefore, to avoid being in a bad situation again, job seekers will take the time to find any and all information on a company to help them get a clear idea of what the company is about.

Some companies, such as GlassDoor, make it easy for employees or candidates to post information, salary, and reviews about their past, current, or future employers. Additionally, companies have taken the extra step to post on highly visible social media sites, write blogs, or even create videos posted on YouTube. For example, some local businesses by me have posted some great videos about their culture: Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter. These two companies give great examples on how to attract future employees. Their videos are engaging, entertaining, and get you really pumped up about working for them.

2. If you brand your company well, your employees will be sure to brag about how great it is– With social media today, it’s easy for people to post about how great or awful their employer is. It’s also extremely easy for people to read these posts. For example, I saw multiple employees of the following tech companies blow up my news feed about how they’re proud to be an employee of one of the 25 best tech companies to work for in 2012. Also, LinkedIn had a video of their HQ that made people completely awestruck over how amazing it is. How did I learn about this video? LinkedIn employees started posting it stating things like, “Reasons why I love working at LinkedIn.” Soon afterwards, I saw non-LinkedIn employees posting the same video with statements like, “Why I want to work at LinkedIn.” (Totally guilty of being one of those people).

Not only will employees talk about the company, but they’re also free advertisements. How many times have you heard of Apple employees talking about how excited they were for the new i(insert product name here) coming out? Not only are they talking about it, but some may even buy the product and show others. Simply put: get your employees engaged in your company/product/service; get free marketing. Not to mention, they’d be the ultimate marketing tool because they can respond to inquiries from their friends, social media acquaintances, and family in detail and in real time.

3. You’ll attract talent and create a workforce that dominates the world– Not sure how much detail I can go into this one: if you brand it, they will come. Eventually, you’ll attract a ton of talent and have a pool of candidates ready to give their left arm to be in your company. Before you know it, you’ll be like Google and be rated a top employer for a bunch of years in a row. You could even get cool enough like them and make your company have a “verb” of itself. How would you like it if your company name became part of everyday vocabulary? I’m sure Google is loving it.

Seasoned companies and start-ups should take note of this. It would be smart for any company to invest time and resources to create a company culture that they would be happy to boast about in their branding. Employees that feel like they are working for a great company will be happy to work hard for them to ensure they stay employed there. Great candidates with exceptional talent will flock to you. The business world will be yours, at last!

Links to look at:

Employee engagement: http://www.business2community.com/strategy/the-importance-of-employee-engagement-for-high-performance-results-0144924

Benefitfocus culture: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

PeopleMatter culture: http://peoplematter.com/company#article-604

25 Best Tech Companies: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-25-best-tech-companies-to-work-at-in-2012-2012-6?op=1

LinkedIn HQ video: http://www.businessinsider.com/linkedin-office-tour-2012-7?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=linkedin

Companies mentioned:

http://www.glassdoor.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.peoplematter.com
http://www.linkedin.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.youtube.com