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The importance of clarifying your personal brand rather than relying on your CV when looking to get back to work. In the digital age, we need to think about how we establish a consistent image in the minds of others.
Ditch the CV
I have just recorded a podcast with Lee Lam of the Ditch the CV campaign. Lee says that the problem with the traditional CV is that it no longer attracts the best candidate for the job. Better to move away from a shopping list of keywords and hackneyed job description terms (true, “working in a fast-paced environment” is one of my worst!). A list of position titles and duties simply cannot bring an individual to life.
According to management guru Tom Peters for personal branding you “start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues.” He goes on to say to develop a brand we need to start with the “identifiable and distinguishable benefit for their customer or client. So what is the “feature-benefit model” that the brand called You offers?”
Create a Strong Brand
How do we convey our strengths, unique offering and capabilities? Especially when we’ve had a career break?
Nowadays as a recruiter I say that you need:
- a great elevator pitch for networking purposes,
- a LinkedIn profile with full profile summary and personal recommendations
- a personal profile which comprises a personal statement and a brief work history. (Your traditional CV, but reworked for to have some real heft to project your innate strengths)
Elements to Include
For senior placements I want to see two pages maximum on a personal statement/CV, with a well thought out profile summary and list of achievements.
Giving your profile summary some love is essential… it is prime real estate for your professional brand. It is the one place where you can tell the story you want to tell, free of start dates and titles. It’s where you can put your own spin on your work experience
The profile summary will list achievements that are noteworthy and will make you stand out in that field. Read it aloud to yourself to check that it sounds real and like you.
I don’t want a full traditional resume, I want a paragraph or two on you and what you bring, then a record of dates and your achievements only, illustrating the outcomes of your actions for each role (see below). Once you are in the door and interviewing, a CV is barely used again. Face-to-face is where the magic lies.
The LinkedIn profile should have less detail but be lovingly curated. I want to see evidence of personal recommendations. These are the things that get you picked up on searches; they ‘social proof’ you. The LinkedIn blog mentioned above showcases some useful summaries for you. Speaking of personal branding, you MUST have a photo on LinkedIn as well.
Face to Face
For someone coming back from career break as I’ve said before, I would just avoid job boards and Lee agrees. Your most powerful application is one where you get beyond a .pdf document and into a dialog with a hiring manager as quickly as possible. You need to show you can meet the gaps in the company’s talent. Lee has a great interview question: “Where are the skill gaps in your team that you need [me] to address?”. You then have the perfect opportunity in interview to describe how you would deal with it in your unique way.
Be the Answer to a Problem
A shopping list of responsibilities or ‘tasks performed’ won’t cut it in a competitive market. You need to show you are an over-and-above person whose individual effort takes away problems for the organisation. “A hiring manager in pain has an incentive to tune in when somebody like you shows up with a possible answer to the problem” (Forbes).
Think about everything in your experience in terms of what you did, what was the outcome and what was the benefit?
Here are examples of how your actions could have benefited the company: solved a problem for them, increased profits, reduced costs, sold more, improved efficiency, raised quality, generated ideas that led to a launch, enhanced customer satisfaction measurably.
If the employer can see that the salary they will be paying you will be more than offset by your contribution to organisational efficiency and profits, then it makes the hiring decision easier for them. These need to be things that happened because of your individual effort rather than that of your team.
Give Detailed Examples
Be prepared to talk about these achievements in detail at an interview. You could add one or two of these to your elevator pitch and then you could give yourself a real lift as you reflect on the difference you have made.
Don’t forget, what you think is mundane is actually really impressive to someone else, especially a hiring manager who is overworked and exhausted.