It’s hard to imagine that in February the UK saw record employment numbers with over 33 million adults in work. That was over 350,000 more than the previous February. Fast forward just one month to March and we found ourselves facing the most extraordinary and unexpected situation most of us have ever lived through.
Everyone is talking about the ‘new normal’ and organisations are working out what that means for them and their businesses. Many organisations may be smaller after this but that does not mean they will not be in the market for new staff. New working practices will emerge and different business models will be developed.
We can also be sure that the competition for vacancies will be fierce. Recruiters will be inundated with CVs and we can also expect employers in the commercial sector not to advertise their vacancies at all as they will not want to be overrun with applications. In this landscape, the most successful job seekers will be the ones who prepare thoroughly, stand out from the crowd, are highly visible and who maintain their energy and focus throughout. So here are our top tips on building your personal brand, networking and staying positive.
A brand is a set of perceptions that people attach to a product, company or person. Or as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos put it, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’
Just as every organisation has a brand, so does every individual. Whether you actively and consciously create it or not, others will form and have an opinion of you. The most successful job seekers cultivate their personal brand just as major corporations do for their products. It’s about having a clear, unambiguous and unique proposition that employers and recruiters will trust.
As we come out of lockdown this will become ever more important. The competition for roles will intensify and those that stand out are more likely to succeed in their job search. Here are our tip tips for building your personal brand:
1. What are you known for?
This is at the heart of your personal brand. Spend some time thinking about everything you’ve done. Everything thing you’ve learnt and all the skills you’ve developed. Above all, think about things during your career that you are most proud of. Ask people you trust what their opinion of you is. And then think about what you stand for. What are your values? All of this comes together to form your personal brand.
2. Be genuine
Authenticity is a key ingredient of any successful brand. Do not try to be someone else. You are who you are. Personal branding is a way of articulating who you are and what you stand for. Be genuine and you will be more confident, more believable and more credible.
3. Tell stories
You are the voice of your personal brand. Think of all the ways you can tell your story. For example, you need to develop and practice your elevator pitch. This is essential for networking and interviews. One of the questions you are very likely to be asked in both situations is ‘tell me about yourself?’ Think of your profile on your CV as a branding statement. Likewise, your profile on LinkedIn. Every comment you make on LinkedIn, every post you share, every conversation you have in your network will contribute to your personal brand.
4. Be consistent
There will be many ways and opportunities for you to communicate your personal brand, so it is important to be consistent. Your CV and LinkedIn profile for example. Whilst they should not be a word for word mirror image, they should tell the same story. If someone was to read both, it should feel like they are reading about the same person. Be consistent with your elevator pitch. Yes, refine it and tailor it to your audience. But the core message should be consistent.
5. Be visible
Your CV needs to stand out so you are shortlisted for interviews. Make sure the first page packs a punch. If it doesn’t, the recruiter will not get to the second page. Your profile and activity on LinkedIn need to stand out so recruiters find you and think you are a strong candidate. Conferences and events (virtual or otherwise) are opportunities to stand out. Contribute to the debate, ask questions and have a view. It goes without saying that you need to stand out in interviews and assessment centres. With thought, preparation and a little bit of confidence, none of this is as daunting as it sounds.
Networking for job seekers
Networking is one of the most effective activities when you are looking for a new role and is a skill every job seeker should develop. Networking has a number of advantages. It can help you find out about jobs before they are advertised. Networking is an effective way of finding these ‘hidden’ opportunities. It can certainly give you an edge in the recruitment process if you are approaching a company via a referral or personal introduction rather than ‘going in cold’.
Networking includes connecting with previous colleagues, customers, competitors and suppliers and when restrictions allow, it could be attending meetings at a professional institute or a conference/seminar/exhibition. Right now, attend as many virtual events as you can. LinkedIn is a brilliant way to research and connect with people who may be able to help you.
Here are some things that you can think about:
1. Create a directory of your network
Think about the people you’ve worked with, old bosses, customers, suppliers, associates and other people that you know. Create a list and then rank contacts by how valuable you think they will be to you and how comfortable you feel approaching them. It’s a good idea to practice. This will help you get in the swing of networking and will build your confidence. Start with people you feel very comfortable getting in contact with but who may not be at the top of the ‘value to me’ list. This means if things don’t go according to plan you haven’t wasted a great networking contact.
2. Plan ahead and work out what you want to achieve from networking conversations
Are you looking for more introductions? Can they advise you on your CV or introduce you to someone who is hiring? Can they suggest any organisations that might be looking for new talent? Can they give you advice or information about a particular sector?
3. Get your elevator pitch right
When you’re networking, you’ll probably only get a short amount of time with someone. If you meet somebody at an event you may only have a few minutes. It’s really important you can describe yourself succinctly and confidently. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ and should only take 20-30 seconds. ‘I help companies grow sales and profits’ sounds so much better than ‘I am a Business Development Manager’ and immediately conveys the value you can add to a business.
This is one of the golden rules of networking. Many people will be open to sharing their ideas and occasionally their contacts with you, but you must be willing to offer your help and advice in return. If you aren’t willing to reciprocate you may find that people are less willing to help you.
5. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and complete
Connect with relevant people. Join relevant groups and contribute to discssions. It’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile matches your CV.
Stay resilient during your job search
Looking for a job takes time and energy. Whether you’ve recently been made redundant or you’ve been out of work for an extended period, it is very easy to lose confidence and motivation. The more resilient you are, the more productive and effective your job search will be. Here are some ways you can help to build up your resilience and help to keep your search on track.
For most of us our lives have been dictated by routine. The 9-3 of school and then the 9-5 of working life. Without the framework of a job to guide you, it is easy to lose focus. Before you know it, days have passed and you’ve haven’t made any real progress. Try to establish a routine and stick to it. Get up at the same time every day, schedule activities for certain times, for example an hour looking for relevant jobs, 2 hours networking and reaching out to contacts etc. Whatever tasks you set, try to stick to them it will help you be more productive and keep you focussed on your goal.
Looking for work can be draining, and it can easily take over all your thoughts. It’s not good to spend too much time focused on a single activity. You need to take a break. Find something you enjoy doing and make time to do this every day. Allowing your brain to switch off from looking for work will help to revive it and let you attack the task with more energy when you return.
3. Stay engaged
Just because you aren’t working don’t distance yourself from your profession. Keep up-to-date with the latest news and happenings, this will not only keep you connected but also give you relevant information and help with any interviews. If there are ICAEW and/or CABA events you can log in to, do so.
4. Stay healthy
Eating well and exercising regularly are good for the brain as well as the body. Don’t become a ‘couch potato’. Apart from anything, daytime TV can itself be soul destroying!
5. Be positive
It is easy to say but try to remain positive. Our brains can be hard-wired to think the worst and to notice and focus on the bad. ‘I’m not going to get the job anyway’ if you go into an interview or application process with a negative attitude it won’t help. Going with a positive attitude such as, ‘I might not have all the experience, but I really feel my skills fit’ or just a simple ‘I can do this’ will all have an impact on your performance.
6. You can’t win them all
When looking for work you will receive more rejections than offers. Be realistic when applying for roles, while you might want to apply for as many jobs as possible, this just means you’ll receive more rejections. Try to only apply for roles where you feel you are a good match with regards to skills and experience, to jobs that you would actually accept if you were offered. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and increasing the number of rejections you receive. Remember looking for work is business, it’s not personal. If you’re not called to interview, 2nd interview or offered the role it isn’t a personal attack. You just weren’t right for that role. As hard as it is, dust yourself off and look for the next opportunity.
This article was written by the career coaching experts at Chiumento.
CABA provides lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members
If you’re worried about the impact of the coronavirus on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.