Rediscovering Your Identity

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Identity is a funny thing. We spend our time trying to distinguish it, both personally and professionally, and then spend our lives trying to build and protect it once we know what it is. Our experiences and surroundings transform it. We go through cycles of trying to fit in, to making sense of who we are. Other times we are trying to stand out and become indispensable. And when we find a place where our identity makes sense, we get comfortable with the easy flow of knowing who we are and where we fit. But what happens when that comfortable place is gone?

It’s been a while since I’ve written last, mainly because I’ve been going through a transition that has tested my feelings towards my identity. In 2012, I developed my personal brand without even realizing it. I started this blog, joined online discussions, participated in Twitter chats, guest blogged, networked and so on. I was sharing my knowledge about HR, talent acquisition and business. And with each conversation, research and experience, my knowledge continued to grow to the point where I was able to provide valuable insight and suggestions. From the people I networked with, to the company I worked for and the clients I supported, I was able to make an impact. I started to work harder, I tied my name and experiences with my professional work and I truly believed I was going to build my career with that one company for at least five years, if not more. I was set… until I wasn’t.

A move to Boston from South Carolina made it difficult to keep up with the cost-of-living increase. I struggled but I tried hard to make it work. After all, I had built a reputation internally and externally. People from all levels, interns to c-level, came to me for brainstorming, mentorship or suggestions. My personal brand had seemed to merge into my company brand.  I excelled because my company was able to give me the things I needed to move forward that I couldn’t get myself. So, naturally, I wanted to be loyal and give back. We were a unit—an equal balance of give and take.

When it came to the point when I had to regretfully move on, I dealt with the loss. I fell silent; on social media, with those I networked with and with blogging. I had become so ingrained in the company and what I was doing there, that I truly believed that without my employment, all the things I’ve done over the last 2+ years was suddenly lost. As if with the end of that employment came the end of my worth and my ability to be impactful and valuable. It had been the first time I had felt so loyal and deeply connected to a company, that I wasn’t sure how to accept that I was now an outsider. I was no longer able to voice suggestions, develop strategies, author something or get recognition for a job well done. I was floating along without a home, without a purpose.

As I stated in my last blog, sometimes you just need time to handle the changes in life. You can be sad, in shock, in disbelief or even happy. Whatever you feel, it’s important you face it head on as soon as possible so you can start to make a plan for your next step. Over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what I did. I dealt with the sense of feeling orphaned and questioned who I was as a professional. Would my opinions matter without the backing of an organization? Or would I just be a random person who’s “faking it until I make it” and in which everyone can see right through?

But then I remembered something.

I built my personal brand before this company found me. My blog, my conversations and my interactions on social media were mine. Even while employed there, my thoughts were still my thoughts. Some of the ideas we implemented came out of my head based on what I knew or researched and my ability to make sense of it. Sure, my work at the company did help me learn more and helped me develop my professional skills because of hands-on experiences. But my capability to absorb that and develop it into something useful was because of what I knew on my own.

My identity is still my identity as long as I’m still breathing and pursuing it. It didn’t come about as some Frankenstein experiment developed by a specific employer. No; it was a compilation of several experiences and the way I processed it. My identity won’t change unless I change it myself, no matter if I’m employed by one employer for the rest of my life, work for myself or become a freelancer. This identity comes with me.

And with that notion, I began to feel better about the change. Maybe I haven’t found my “home” yet, but I no longer feel like I’m a wanderer that doesn’t belong. This is all about growing up and the sooner I get used to it, the better I’ll be at bouncing back without missing a beat.

I know well enough that I’m not the only one who has experienced this situation when going through a transition, voluntary or not. Letting go, moving on and getting used to a new chapter in your life (personally and professionally) is not always easy. An important reminder is to know that no matter what happens; you don’t lose yourself or what you’ve accomplished when something comes to an end. In fact, it’s just another addition to help shape your transformational identity.

 

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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The Benefits of Video Interviewing

Photo Source: Wowzer

Recently, I have come across the company, Wowzer, which specializes in video screening and interviewing. Being a remote recruiter, I was extremely interested in learning more during their recent webinar that took place this January. At first, I assumed it was generally going to tell me about the features of their service but I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that video interviewing can go beyond screening candidates. In addition to this benefit, it can also be utilized for employer branding.

Some interesting take-aways from this webinar:

  • Video recruiting can cut down time: recruiters are overwhelmed with resumes and often need to take time to call these candidates before they determine if they meet the basic requirements. Video interviews with predetermined questions can allow candidates to pre-record their answers and help recruiters cut down phone screen time.
  • Video recruiting can cut down costs: instead of flying out potential employees and paying for hotel rooms, video recruiting can help employers get a better feel for candidates before determining if they can make it to the final interview stage. Essentially, it can even cut out the need to fly out candidates for a face-to-face.
  • It can help everyone be on the same page: having a recorded interview can allow hiring managers, HR, and recruiters to all review the same thing. This can cut down biased opinions, help reduce missed information, and document things accurately. This way, everyone can make more informed decisions based off of the SAME interview, rather than reviewing notes from those who interviewed the candidate. It can help make the interview process fairer for candidates.
  • Candidates can be stronger interviewers: sometimes resumes and phone interviews don’t present candidates the best way possible. Some candidates are superstars during face to face interviews. Video interviewing can help even out the playing field and give these candidates the option to put their best foot forward.
  • It can help brand your company: video doesn’t need to just be used for candidate screening. Companies can pre-record videos or even do live interviews of their company, the culture, and so on. This can help create transparency of the organization, allow companies to personalize their employer brand, and help build engagement efforts to attract candidates.

I’ve always heard of video interviewing but never realized how much more it had evolved over the years. The benefits seem to be increasing by the day and as technology allows recruiters and HR professionals to be more mobile/remote, this can be a fantastic option for them to do their job effectively while cutting down time and costs.

More Links:

Wowzer

Video Tips to Attract and Identify Talent

Video Interviewing Research Report by Sarah White & Associates

Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

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

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

Photo Source