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!

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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.

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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Branding and Communities: Finding Your Starting Point

blahblahblahLately, I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple projects that deal with employment branding and talent communities. I’ve come across some fantastic examples while performing research on successful and unsuccessful companies. I’ve been able to consult companies on their current state and provide suggestions for a better strategy. I’ve even had the chance to implement a few initiatives for my own company. It’s been a great learning experience from both research and hands-on experience, however, during this time I’ve also come across a lot of misconceptions regarding this. This simple misconceptions are what’s causing many companies to fail when it comes to maximizing their efforts.

In my time, I’ve seen companies with amazing branding, such as Adobe. I’ve also discovered some unique and fun talent communities, such as Zappos, GE and Accenture. I’ve even had the pleasure of demoing technology such as Work4, which has really added something appealing to social media recruitment and social media talent communities. And tech companies like Ascendify work well when it comes to having the functionality to truly make a talent community work in the way that it has been theorized. All of these things are examples that companies should look to when envisioning their strategy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Some companies think that creating an email list to blast out their job agents is a talent community. Some companies think that throwing together a little fluff piece about their company culture or a job is employment branding. Neither are the case and, unfortunately, these scenarios are usually run by the same companies who curse communities and branding months down the line when they’ve gained no traction. To have a robust, valuable and engaging community, you not only need the manpower to run it but you also need the content to share. Content can’t only focus on sharing company news, jobs and employment branding, but also educational or informative pieces regarding the industry or job from other sources.

To have a functional employment brand, you need to go beyond the surface and really dig deep. When investigating this for my clients lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the issues seemed to revolve around the fact that they lacked an engaging or defined employee value proposition (EVP) that helped differentiate them from other companies. There were some companies that really didn’t even have one established at all. In my opinion, this is the first thing companies should focus on before they get to branding content and communities. The EVP is the backbone of all of these activities for so many reasons.

The EVP is a way a company defines itself to its employees and candidates. It’s a way of attracting new talent and a reminder as to why current employees would want to stay there. It also acts as the basis of all branding content. It gives branding a purpose, a focus and helps ensure consistency. It establishes a company’s personality and voice. And it helps branders understand what point they’re trying to make when they create content. This should be the starting point and companies should scale back to work on this before anything else.

To have a strong brand and community, companies need to know what they’re promoting. So many companies fail at this or create confusing messages because they haven’t established the consistent voice and message. Without a defined starting point (the EVP), your community messaging will be empty and provide no value. Starting at this point can also make it tremendously easier when moving forward with other parts of the development.

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Simple Steps to Boost Your Employer Brand

 

 

Love Your Job

As employment branding continues to be a trend in talent acquisition, more organizations are starting to see the positive effects of this, while others are sensing competitive pressures by not having one. As more job seekers become advised about performing their due diligence and researching a company before applying or interviewing, companies need to take stock of what a seeker would see if they did a basic search of the organization. Will the company have a robust presence on social media and enticing career pages, or will their social media pages seem abandoned and will the career page fall flat?

Of course, there are plenty of companies who have an amazing brand, but some of them also have a person or team of people dedicated to managing it. But, what about the companies that don’t have the resources or budget to hire a full time employee or consultant? Do they miss out on the chance of showcasing their culture just because they don’t have the means to do it? The answer is no.

There are plenty of simple things that companies can do to build some traction on their brand, and it doesn’t require a full time person to manage it. It’s simply about optimizing on the things occurring at your organization day in and day out and repurposing it for branding. The person contributing to this effort doesn’t need to be a marketing guru or recruiting genius, but someone who understands the fundamentals of both and who has a little extra time in their work week to keep initiatives consistent.

Below are a few easy things to boost your brand:

  • Social platforms: There’s no denying how useful social media can be when it comes to getting your company’s name out there. Some of the best brands even have dedicated profiles for their jobs or specific job roles. Of course, managing a bunch of profiles can be a huge undertaking. In this case, simply using your established company profiles to include employment branding can be perfect. Ensure you’re regularly scheduling out jobs, events and things showcasing your culture. All it takes is a few minutes a week to schedule out consistent messages through tools like Hootsuite. Just make sure whoever’s managing the profiles also remembers to check and respond to messages in a timely manner.
  • “A Day in the Life” campaigns: When candidates research your company, they’re trying to get the most accurate picture of what it’s like to work there. Including little blogs, short videos or employee Q&A sessions can give them exactly what they’re looking for. Take time to connect with internal recruitment and find out what hot jobs they’re recruiting for and then connect with those currently in the position. Taking time to interview them or get some candid feedback about the aspects of their jobs, why they like it and any interesting facts can help you build that content easily. Keep it authentic—include the good and the mundane aspects. That can allow candidates to get a realistic preview of the job.
  • Employee testimonials: Employee testimonials are considered heavily by candidates, so be sure to consider these in your branding efforts. Creating a Glassdoor campaign to get consistent (and candid) reviews is one suggestion. Also, including employee spotlight features on social media or your career pages can be another simple way to boost the brand. Get a quote or two about why they like working at the company or in the specific job.
  • Sharing events: Your company participates in several events a year and this can be a great way to showcase your culture and happenings. From pot lucks, birthdays, “wins”, conferences, holiday events, social responsibilities and just general good times, this can be opportune for getting visual content. Snap a picture or take short videos. Make sure they’re edited and post away on social media, eblasts or the career sites.
  • Optimizing career pages: I have come across career pages that are so boring, it actually turned me off from the company. Even if they were a reputable company with good opportunities, a bad career page can have adverse effects. This is the time you can hype up a candidate and it’s the homestretch before whether they apply to a job or not. Even if you don’t build out multiple pages to highlight specific things like benefits/perks, corporate social responsibility, and so on, it’s still an opportunity to build out the content on one. What differentiates your company? What can you offer your employees? Why should someone want to work for you? Keep these questions in mind when including key information. Also be sure to include the content you’ve been creating for the branding initiatives, and if possible, feeds to your social sites.

Building a brand doesn’t have to be as involved or as intimidating as some companies might think. It’s just a matter of staying timely, consistent and well-rounded. Dedicating some time to this regularly will build up your content quickly.

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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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