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.

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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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Humanize Your Brand

It’s important to humanize your brand, whether you are branding yourself, consumer-based things, your corporation, or your employer brand. In the past, we would market our brands via content that was pushed out to the audience. More often than not, this marketing strategy limited communication to a one-way scenario: from brand to audience. As technology and social media have become more predominate in the world, marketing and branding have taken on a life of their own, and it seems as if though some of the best brands out there are the ones that open up two-way opportunities.

Some companies and individuals have failed to realize that social media shouldn’t just be a way to push out information and content. Yes, it’s a great way to promote those things but it shouldn’t continually post enough to be considered “spam-worthy.” Your brand also needs to have some personal touches to it. It needs to have a personality. It needs to be social. It needs to listen. And most importantly: your brand needs to reflect the way you “live” and vice versa.

I think some of the best companies and people that humanize their brands well are the ones that actually take notice of what their audience is saying. They listen and they try to deliver what they’re audience is asking for. Additionally, they actually communicate back to these individuals. They respond to messages, posts, and tweets. They even go out of the way to be the first ones to engage in conversation with some individuals in the audience. This can take the brand from just being a “thing” to something that people become engaged with and feel connected to.

Humanizing your brand can help audiences identify with the brand. They could feel like they’re a part of how the brand is developing, which can make them invest more and show loyalty. Additionally, it can be an organic way of building brand influencers and ambassadors. Use your key audience or fan members to help build your brand. Show your appreciation and support and they’ll be sure to do the same.

Branding is no longer about pushing things at people and expecting them to care. It’s about being personable and connecting with others. It’s about showing good “customer service” and appreciation. It’s about breathing life into it and making the brand seem approachable. It’s about finding a way to build some form of a relationship. What are you doing to humanize your brand?

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join in the discussion on Twitter: #Tchat – Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Preview: Real Brands Humanize

#Tchat Recap: Face-To-Face with Brand Humanization

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What Your Online Presence Can Do for Your Job Hunt

When I thought about the ideal job hunt, I always had believed that to be the most professional and proactive hunter, it was best to update your resume often and simply upload them to career websites. In addition to this, I was led to believe that the best way to get my resume in front of a recruiter was to apply to jobs online through job boards and applicant tracking systems. After all, these systems were put in place to help our resume be re-routed to the appropriate person, right? That used to work just fine until everyone else started to resort to this option. Now I realize that job seekers need to do something more to really set themselves apart. Over the course of the last few months, it became apparent that creating a personal brand via online can really help you during your job hunt.

I always assumed that doing anything online or on social media was typically considered something personal. I also heard the stories about how companies Google candidates to find these sites to do a quick “background” check before considering them for an interview. When I was in college, many teachers and guidance counselors told us to keep our online presence private or to delete anything that can potentially cause us to lose a job. With all these warnings, I never felt that having an online presence would help me land the job that I wanted. But after months of searching and being unsuccessful, I decided to give it a try.

To play it safe, I decided to keep my personal social media accounts private but then decided to create separate accounts strictly for business and maintaining a professional appearance. Of course, I decided to focus on LinkedIn first because that site is all about networking business professionals. It didn’t really pick up steam, though, until I invested more time into it. Putting up a profile with your experience isn’t enough to catch the attention of recruiters. You really need to participate. Here are some things I did on LinkedIn that helped me get more job interviews:

  • Update profile content and headline. Use keywords relevant to what you’re searching for so recruiters can find you easier.
  • Join groups. Joining groups are great but you must make sure you take time to participate in order to really allow yourself to get exposure. Comment on members’ discussion posts in a way that can show you are knowledgeable about a subject. Even post your own discussion questions on there to welcome interaction.
  • Keep the conversation flowing. In order to network effectively and build relationships, you must invest in time to keep the conversation going. If you comment on something or post a discussion question, make sure you respond to those who are also commenting. This flow of communication can help people get to know you better and open up an opportunity to connect.
  • Post interesting articles. Spark up some further conversation by posting online articles, publications, blogs, etc. This could grasp people’s attention and also display the fact that you keep up with industry trends.
  • Get personal. If you plan on sending a message or an invite, be sure to add something personal in the message. If you’re adding a recruiter, you could even mention that you’ve applied to a specific position at their company and wanted to talk more about it. This could help them pull your resume from the pile of hundreds they get regularly.

After I got LinkedIn up and running, I decided to take it a step further and see what Twitter had to offer. I used to use Twitter sporadically since 2009 and never really thought it could be useful for anything more than personal use. I was SO wrong. After using Twitter in a professional capacity, I ended up receiving more job offers, interviews, and assistance to find a job than I ever did when I used to just apply to online job boards. I couldn’t believe it. Here are some ways I effectively used Twitter during my job hunt:

  • Add people that are relevant to the industry you’re trying to get a job in.
  • Add recruiters that work at the companies you are interested in working at.
  • Write thoughtful responses to their tweets to help open up communication.
  • Tweet links to relevant online articles, publications, blogs, etc.
  • And most IMPORTANTLY, join Twitter chats(this was the easiest way I was able to get interviews.) Twitter chats are amazing. It opens up real-time communication and could help you get exposure to the right people. Some TweetChats I’ve joined that were really great for my job hunt were:
    • #JobHuntChat – Mondays @ 10PM EST
    • #TalentNet – Tuesdays @ 7PM EST
    • #TChat – Wednesday  @ 7PM EST
    • #GenYChat- Wednesday @ 9PM EST
    • #HFChat – Friday @ 12PM EST

These chats are either geared towards connecting job seekers with recruiters or the chats are HR related which means you can easily connect with HR and recruiters. Of course, these are just a few chats of the many that are out there. I would suggest researching chats that are relevant to the industry or job type you are looking for.

After a while, I really started to enjoy the results I was getting from this and decided to take it even another step further. I created a blog that was relevant to the industry I was targeting (Human Resources) and started to write on a regular basis to help extend my online presence even more. I promoted it via LinkedIn and Twitter. This blog has helped recruiters to see my competency, knowledge, and even get to know a little more about me. They were able to see how I could fit in with their company. If you are able to do something virtually that is relevant to the industry you want to work in, give it a try. It could really help you stand out even more and add something extra to your candidate profile.

Having an online presence can really help you if you do it right. Keep it professional but also keep it YOU. Your online presence can help hiring managers, recruiters, and companies really get an idea of who you are and what you could potentially do for them. I was happy to see that investing time in this has paid off. After committing time to this, I was able to get job interviews, internship offers, and guest blog post offers. I felt that I made more progress doing it this way than the months I spent just dedicating time to job boards and online applications. Give it a try, it could make a huge difference.

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How Will Your Career Benefit from Business Networking?

“It’s all about who you know,” I’d often hear people say to me while I was going to college. More seasoned professionals had constantly told me that in order to leverage my position into the working world, it was best if I knew someone. I figured that knowing someone wasn’t as important as getting the education and experience to prove that I was competent enough to do a job. However, I soon found out that the advice of getting to know people was important for my career. Getting knowledge and experience was great but if you didn’t know someone to display that to, then your career hunt could be a bust. Therefore, I’d like to focus today’s post on the benefits of business networking, both internally and externally.

Sometimes people underestimate the importance of networking (I was one of them at one point). As I network more and more, I really do see that there are some fantastic benefits to it. Networking can help your career in the following ways:

Externally:

  • Keep you abreast about industry trends: Networking can help you learn about industry trends, concepts, technology, news, and resources that you may have never easily learned about on your own. Additionally, talking to individuals that know more about this topic can allow you to get a deeper understanding and obtain knowledge that could give you a competitive edge for your job hunt.
  • Keep you in the loop about what companies are hiring: There are a lot of great companies out there that you may not know about. Networking can help you get exposure to companies that fit what you’re looking for but you haven’t discovered yet on your own. Additionally, finding companies that aren’t as well known could help you have less competition for the jobs you are applying to.
  • Allow you to know ASAP about job openings in the companies you are targeting: Companies don’t always post their jobs externally. Networking with people can allow you to know about job openings before others do, which could increase your chances of being selected.
  • Open up communication with other recruiters/hiring managers: Sometimes the people you network with won’t always have an opportunity for you. However, if you build these relationships they’ll be more willing to refer you to other individuals that do have openings and could put in a good word about you. Referrals are highly regarded.

 Internally:

  • Raise your professional profile within a company and/or industry: Networking internally could help you build your reputation in a positive light. You could go from the average employee to the go-to guru. Building clout this way could help you obtain a promotion at your current employer or become a desired employee that companies seek.
  • Get opportunities to work on special projects: Getting to know people can allow them to learn your interests and your abilities. Therefore, they could easily consider you for any upcoming projects in your workplace that are relevant to these. Having the opportunity to work on these special projects could help you gain useful experience and knowledge that will build your resume up nicely.
  • Showcase experience to correct hiring managers when attempting to get a promotion or raise: Your professional profile and contributions to special projects could easily catch the eye of the hiring managers in your workplace. These things can support your resume and could allow managers to confidently consider you for promotions or raises.

There are so many benefits networking can provide. I’ve started networking a lot more and wished that I had done it sooner. I’ve met so many interesting people that have taught me so much about the field I’m interested in and even more. These individuals have been so helpful and were willing to spread the word about my blog. They have also sent my resume out to their connections to help my job hunt. It’s been a joy networking with these people and I hope that I can pay forward the kindness they have shown me. I strongly suggest that you take time to build these relationships because they could be great for your career in the long run.

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Photo Source: Infovark

Determination for a Successful Future

Recently, I was talking to some college students about their expectations for their careers. I was happy to hear that many of them had a bright outlook for their future but became a little distressed when I learned that they didn’t realize the lengths and effort they need to put into it in order to reach their career goals. Many assumed that simply getting a degree and getting a little experience from interning could help them easily land a job. I tried to explain to them that in this economy, the bare minimum just won’t cut it.

That conversation had me thinking about people I knew that were particularly admirable in this capacity. I instantly thought about my friend, Desiree Louca, who I’ve known since kindergarten. She had always impressed me with her drive and self-motivation, even when we were younger. As we grew older, she harnessed these personal traits and worked hard to obtain the future she dreamed of. Her determination allowed her to have a successful future at the ripe age of 21 years old. Her future gave her the financial security and independence to support herself in ways that some adults may never know throughout their lifetime. With that being said, I felt that she was a perfect person to interview for this topic. Here’s the story on how her hard work paid off:

Ashley Perez (AP):   How were you able to pinpoint what career path you wanted to pursue so early in your life?

Desiree Louca (DL): “Growing up, I always had a great feeling inside when I helped out people in need. I was always fascinated with the medical field, probably from watching so many reality shows of the ER in hospitals. This was the first position in the medical field I really had my heart set on. At 14, my mother took me to the local hospital and I signed up to be a junior volunteer. I volunteered for 3 years and it was such an amazing experience.

“However, after only a few months of volunteering, I quickly learned that being a nurse was not for me. I could not handle it emotionally. I always found myself to be extremely emotionally strong, but I could not bare certain situations that I watched. Maybe I was too young to have seen them and would be able to handle them better now, but it is something that will never leave my mind. I simply could not disassociate myself from my emotions on the job. You can’t have a cry break every 30 minutes as a nurse, especially in the ER!

“I still knew the medical field was for me, though, and that there were tons of other jobs in the field. Teeth were another fascination for me. At 16, I began a paid internship at a local dental office. I absolutely loved it! I worked at a multi-specialty practice, so I was fully able to experience every single aspect of dentistry. I was initially working as a dental assistant but I knew I wanted more, so I decided to go to school to become a dental hygienist. While in school I felt a deep sense of comfort, stability, and enjoyment. I knew that this career was meant for me. In conclusion, I was able to pinpoint my career path by basically going and trying out each field of employment that I felt I may want to pursue.”

AP: What course of action did you determine was necessary to get the experience and education needed to be successful?

DL: “Research and resources! We are lucky to have the internet these days but I feel that doing it the old fashioned way is sometimes better. Before receiving the internship at the dental office, I walked in to the office and asked to speak to a dental hygienist. That dental hygienist was very happy to sit and answer the questions I had written out on a notepad. My questions included; job description, schooling, and stability in life.”

AP: Did you have goals and timelines? What were they?

DL: “Absolutely. Procrastination gets nowhere. Everyone at this point in life knows that you will not get anywhere unless you make moves. Right after high school I went right on the path to becoming a dental hygienist while still working at the dental office. This helped me greatly because while learning everything I needed to know about the field, I was experiencing it hands on. My goal was to be done with school in 4 years, that way I would be starting my career at 21 years of age.”

AP: What are the sacrifices you had to make in order to stay focused? Do you regret making them?

DL: “Starting to work in a professional environment at 16 years old forced me to mature much faster than my friends. Going to college to become a health professional from ages 17-21 while all of my friends were partying at college and going out every weekend was very hard for me to deal with at the time. However, being on a career path that I loved was a constant reminder that everything was going to be okay and well worth it in the end. I have no regrets. Even though I hardly went out nearly as much as my friends, I still had the chance to occasionally, and that was all that I really needed. In the midst of my busy life, I sit back and feel very accomplished realizing where I am in life at 24 years old compared to most people my age who live in my area.”

AP: What advice would you give people just starting out?

 DL: “Be a go-getter! Don’t sit back and think something is going to come your way or that the wind will blow one way and magically you will know where you are meant to be. It is a natural instinct to have things that interest you in life. Write them down, research ways you can try them out; such as volunteering, internships, or actual employment. You will not know if it’s right for you in a day or even weeks, so give it at least a few months. As I’m sure most people have heard more than once in their life, ‘Just do it’.”

Desiree provided some great insight and tips on how to pave your way to a successful future. I’ve personally seen her dedicate time and determination throughout the years and can honestly say that it seemed to work. I’m proud of her success and happy to see that it paid off early on in her life. I believe that many college students and early careerists can benefit from these tips and should try to test them out as soon as they can. Desiree is living proof that putting yourself out there can help you secure a place in your career.

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Photo Source: Colourbox

A New Twist on Resumes

Job seekers, are you tired of getting no response to your resume submittal? Recruiters, are you sick of looking at the same resume styles over and over again? Having been in both situations, I can honestly say I am. It’s been quite a dull experience creating my resume or having to review resumes of others. After a while, all resumes seem to blend together and it becomes hard for candidates stand out and differentiate themselves from others. Over the years, it has been beaten into our brains that a professional resume needs to follow a certain format. However, does this still hold true today?

Throughout my research, I have noticed that employers are starting to appreciate people who take a creative approach to their resumes. Candidates are finding ways to customize their resumes to show their industry and job function competency. For example, my friend who is pursuing production in the motion picture industry recently showed me his resume. It was a fun, artistic page that looked like a movie ad. It included his information, education, and links to the projects he had done. In my recruiting days, I had never seen a resume like that. It was actually quite enjoyable.

As I investigated this topic further, I came across the following cases: marketing candidates who created their resume as a brochure; broadcasting candidates who made videos or recordings of “radio hosting” as their resume; and creative writing majors who made their resume into a short story. I found these methods to be imaginative, entertaining, and a good way to display their capabilities. I would have much rather reviewed these resumes than the mundane “chronological” format.

A new extension of people’s “resumes” will be the social media aspect. Recruiters can now review candidates’ “web presence” via social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Candidates: here is another way you can make yourself shine. Make sure your profiles clearly display your experience and education for the job/industry you’re targeting. Post things that are relevant and display your up-to-date knowledge of an industry’s news. However, please note: if you make your profile pages public to employers, make sure you don’t have anything incriminating on there (i.e. embarrassing party photos, unprofessional e-mail addresses, or taboo “interests and activities”). I’m all about individualism but there has to a certain line you shouldn’t cross, especially while actively finding work.

Job Seekers, I’m in the same boat so I know how tiring it can be to keep fighting for opportunity and not find it. I urge you to take a chance and let your personality show. Find a new way to demonstrate who you are and what you can do. For example, I’m interested and experienced in human resources, technology, and writing. Those are the three industries I’m targeting but it was becoming apparent to me that I had to do something more than submit a resume via job postings…so, I did. In fact, you’re reading the version of my resume. This blog was meant to inspire, open minds, and have people consider different perspectives. I also created this to help motivate people stuck in a rut and hopefully give them ideas on a new tactic. However, this is also my personal resume. This blog will display the following to employers:

• My competency in: writing and blogging; human resources; and social media use.
• I’m up-to-date with human resources and technology trends and news.
• I understand information relevant to the industry well enough to create my own ideas from it.

I think what’s most important about creating your own resume is the fact that you can show employers more of who you are. The original formatted resume shows employers that we can do specific job functions but it doesn’t prove that we truly understand it on a deeper level. It doesn’t illustrate our passion. Sure, my resume might say I have successfully performed data entry but does that mean I want to spend 40 hours a week entering data? Additionally, we’ve created our original resumes to have specific keywords and terms that employers were looking for. If we all conform to what we think employers want to see on our resumes, it’s no wonder why our resumes blend in.

Some employers will appreciate your method and some may not. But that’s the point- finding an employer that appreciates you and vice versa. It’s time to test the waters and take that extra step to stand out against the competition. Most importantly, make sure you have fun while you’re doing it!

Links to read (I apologize, hyperlink function does not work!):
No More Resumes, Say Some Firms- WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203750404577173031991814896.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.linkedin.com
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.twitter.com