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.

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.

2013 Reflections and 2014 Resolutions

Before I take my brief blogging hiatus during holiday madness, I felt that the last blog of 2013 should focus on reflection and resolutions. January brings us a new year and promises new starts, so it’s important to understand what we’ve accomplished this year in order to properly set ourselves up for a successful future. Of course this can mean a multitude of things to different people, but today I’m going to focus on my career in the human resources and talent acquisition world.

Reflections

2013 has been quite the interesting year for me. I finally settled in with an employer that made me feel like I had control over my own learning and development. Once the year started, I felt like I was beginning to gain momentum in my sourcing/recruiting role. I felt secure enough with the company to get creative in my methods to the point where I was able to be successful in multiple markets and different industries. My searching methods, social media tactics and general sourcing knowledge had helped me hit the ground running every time I changed accounts and I was able to make an immediate impact each time.

My ability to do these things has allowed me to create opportunities for development of the delivery team. During my time on this team, I created a training on social media recruitment methods in which all sourcers and recruiters were able to learn the basics or learn new tricks. In addition to this, taught them the art of personal branding to gain credibility for their current career. This also gave our company opportunities to develop brand ambassadors and SMEs which promoted additional learning and content creation. Most importantly though, I was able to build up a market research spreadsheet for the tech/IT industry which has helped my co-workers ramp up faster in this market (which isn’t easy).

I eventually graduated from the delivery team and found myself on the marketing team around September. I wasn’t sure what to make of this job promotion, mainly because my background had focused solely on HR and recruitment. I was apprehensive about whether or not I could be successful in this and wondered if my education and experience in HR/recruitment would become stale. After four months of being in this role, I soon found that I actually learn MORE about the HR and recruitment industry than I did in previous roles. Also, I was able to surprise myself when I discovered the areas I was naturally good at and the things that seemed to interest me.

Which leads me up to my next point.

Resolutions

Although I’m still developing my role, I am beginning to realize the things that I enjoyed in HR can still be achieved in this marketing role. Of course, priorities change within the company and industry so I’m sure that some of these things might be propelled forward while others are put on hold. But a girl can dream right?

Employment branding is something that inspires me. As the months went on, I felt myself gravitating towards this topic more and more. I’ve even caught myself researching and silently critiquing a company’s employment brand. Lately, I’ve been given opportunities to investigate related things in my current job. I’ve had to research brands, find positive things, identify where brands are falling short and provide insight and suggestions. I love the fact that my research and input can potentially influence how a brand is able to attract candidates and retain current employees.

The other area I’m hoping to get more involved in is on a global scale. As my company expands into Western Europe and eventually Australia, I’m excited about the opportunity to get an inside look at how these companies function. I’ve always enjoyed conversations with HR professionals outside of the US and became intrigued about hiring practices, recruitment initiatives, HR laws and generally how talent acquisition and HR differ between each country. Even just learning about how resumes different from country to country was awesome. I’m looking forward to exploring these topics more.

After this brief break, I’ll be coming back refreshed and renewed with a plan of action to tackle these areas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my career, it’s all about how I position myself. It will be interesting to see how I can evolve this throughout 2014.

Happy holidays!

Photo Source — By the way, I hope I can see the Festival of Lights in person one day!

How I Changed My Failure into a Win

About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.

The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.

My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.

At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.

The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.

Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.

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Branding Yourself: Paving Your Way in the World of Work

We’ve been getting really involved in different forms of branding during #Tchat for the last few weeks. Last week’s #Tchat focused more on personal branding and what it can mean for those in the “world of work.” I really identify with this topic and feel like my efforts to brand myself eventually became a success story, and a continuing success story at that.  I recall a time when I was a job seeker and struggled to be known for my work experience in human resources and my intentions to continue to work hard to move forward in this career path. For months, I applied to job after job and attempted to land interviews. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. At that time, I realized that I clearly was not standing out in the candidate pool and I needed to do things differently.

A resume wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I realized that I had to work harder to get my name out there. I realized I needed people to connect my name with HR. I needed to be transparent: I wanted people to be able to Google “Ashley Lauren Perez” and see that I was progressively moving forward in my career, even if I didn’t currently have an employer. In no time, I was branding myself and I didn’t even realize it. It happened organically.

Some of the things I learned while going through this process were:

  • Go big or go home: if you are going to be branding yourself, you need to not only be transparent about who you are and what you do, but you also need to be consistent about it. Don’t hold back- be bold.
  • Make time to network and collaborate: I think one of the greatest things I gained from branding myself was the networking opportunities that came from it. I made sure I connected with people and would open up my schedule to speak to them very casually about different topics in regard to HR. Before I knew it, I was learning more than I probably did in relevant college classes. Some of these individuals even helped increase opportunities for collaboration, job opportunities, guest blogging, and work partnerships.
  • Be a human: if you’re branding yourself on social media, you need to remember that the point of this technology is to be SOCIAL. Yes, feel free to post links/blogs/etc. and repost, but make sure you actually engage in conversation with people. Comment on their posts or join in chats/discussion groups. Don’t be a “news feed.” You need to humanize it; otherwise, no one’s going to get to really know you.
  • It’s not all about you: don’t be selfish about your brand. The best brands are the one that add value, which means you need to give back in some form. Be open to help others and you will be sure to receive.

Whether you are a job seeker, a college student, a consultant, or a CEO of a major company- you need to brand yourself. We live in a world where collaboration is essential in order to have a competitive edge in whatever you do. Don’t limit your opportunities.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter: Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

Empower the Brand “You”

Mindfully Managing Your Personal Brand

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