Get Ready! It’s the Newest and Biggest Generation in the Workplace, Primed to Make a Difference You Can’t (and Don’t Want To) Ignore. This series offers career advice for the Biggest Generation since The Baby Boom, by The Millennial Mentor.
By Robyn Tingley
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from people beginning a job search is: “How do I market myself to potential employers?” When embarking on your career journey, recognize that you are already sitting in the corner office of your own life. You are your own Chief Reputation Officer. This job is 24/7, requires constant care, and is full of pitfalls if you’re not proactive – especially in today’s world of social media where your reputation is vulnerable every second. But the process need not be daunting. Cultivating your personal brand starts with three easy steps:
1) Manage Your Image Before The Job Interview
Take time to think about the way you want others to perceive you. Are you reliable? Funny? Hard Working? Well educated? High energy? Choose five to seven characteristics that most align with your brand. Be crisp and selective, then clean up anything that erodes your image on your social media accounts, LinkedIn profile, and resume.
References matter. Employers use them to validate their selections, sometimes before an interview. A common mistake people make is to simply ask, (or worse, text,) contacts for a reference. If you expect someone to endorse you, tell them the type of job you are applying for and what skills it will require. Jog their memory with examples of your work so they can speak well of you. These people represent an extension of your image.
2) Write Your Story and Practice Your Pitch
You’ve landed the interview. Now what? First, realize that it’s likely 30 minutes long – a short time for the interviewer to gather evidence to decide that you are the right candidate for the job. Practice your story. Know exactly what you’re going to say about your previous experiences. To prepare, grab a pen and write down all of the jobs you’ve had – summer work, internships, volunteer– anything that offered you an opportunity to build a new skill. Next write down all of the skills you learned. For example, if you were a cashier, you likely gained customer service skills. Think about where you added value in each of your past jobs, and turn that into a skill. If you have not had the chance to be in the workplace, think about key assignments in school and extra-curricular activities where you learned new skills.
Once you have your list of skills, write down two or three sentences that summarize you. For example, “Goal oriented problem solver who delivers on time, every time.” Now you’ve got a skills inventory, and a few crisp sentences to describe your approach to work, which you can use in responding to questions or in your online profiles.
The final step is to weave it all together. Practice telling your chronological story about where you’ve been and where you want to go. This will take effort, but will serve you well, preparing you for networking events, interviews, and ice breakers with your new colleagues.
3) Make a Good First Impression. Repeat.
Seven seconds. Studies show that people form impressions about others in seven seconds. Getting good at creating a positive first impression is key to strengthening your personal brand. A warm smile, strong eye contact, and a good handshake are little things that make a huge impact. And don’t underestimate good manners, including proper attire for the situation.
On the job, it’s important to repeat this process and cultivate your brand daily, especially with the colleagues you see all the time. Many people get too familiar with colleagues and reserve their ‘game face’ for the boss. That is a costly mistake. Your reputation is something you build over time through consistent behaviors. It’s what will get you a promotion or referral for a special project. Remember, work is a group sport. Being an effective team member is critical to maintaining your brand in the workplace. Do you talk too much? Do you invade people’s space? Are you unorganized and miss deadlines, which ultimately compromises the team?
Self-awareness is a powerful tool. Use assessments like DiSC and Myers Briggs to help you better understand your natural tendencies and where you may need to flex your personality to show more or less restraint, expression, organization or the like. You can find free versions online that take just a few minutes to complete. The results will help you reflect on your style objectively and course correct where needed.
Follow these three simple steps and you will successfully boost your own professional brand in the workplace.
Robyn Tingley’s career has taken her around the world as an international executive in Human Resources and Communications. She is the founder of GlassSKY.org, an organization dedicated to workplace diversity, gender equality, and helping people succeed.
Other articles in the Series —
Millennial Envy — an introduction to this unique generation