How to develop or repair you personal brand

 What is my personal brand? It’s a question that often nags job seeking IT professionals wanting to differentiate themselves from other job hunters.

For many individuals on a job search, the answer could lie in simply flipping the situation and asking the hiring officer the following questions:

What is the company working on?

How do you make a profit?

How will my skills and contributions figure in achieving the bottom line?

Finding answers to these questions will help individuals develop a spin on their skills, training and experiences that will uniquely match them for a position they are gunning for, according to Nick Corcodilos, president of head hunting firm North Bridge Group.

Online and offline brand

Corcodilos was one of four career specialists who took part in Microsoft and IT World Canada’s Ignite Your Career Webcast series  on Thursday. The Webcast, titled: Selling Yourself – Are You Using ALL Your Resources, tackled the issue of building a personal brand both online and offline.

“It’s very tough for many technical people to determine a sense of who they are in relation to their career goals or the position they are trying to achieve. And that is basically what a personal brand is about,” says Corcodilos.

IT professionals are defined by talent, not their generation

Defining a personal brand is essentially “hanging your shingle out there” to advertise your best qualities in relation to a job position you’re gunning for or a goal you want to achieve according to Heather Hamilton, manager of Microsoft’s global central sourcing team which is responsible for the software maker’s competitive research and programs.

A personal brand is an “elevator pitch” developed over a period of time to present an individuals key differentiators both online and offline, explains Andrew Dillane, CIO of Randstand Canada, a staffing firm specializing in the IT and engineering sector.

A personal brand speaks of what you can do, what you do best and how you do it, Dillane said.

This can be developed by building your on-the-job reputation as well a developing an online presence that highlights.

Building an online brand, Dillane said, involves taking part in Internet-based community discussions, blogging, maintaining a Website and other online activities.

“You need to promote your brand, but you need to promote a relevant brand,” he cautions.

Online personal brand developers need to determine “what it is they want to sell and who they are selling to,” Dillane said.

Resume relief

Hamilton of Microsoft says she does not subscribe to so-called rules that a resume should only cover two pages.

“It is content that matters not the number of pages,” she explained.

Basically a resume should contain the following information: what you’ve done, when; and for how long.

The resume should highlight the value you’ll bring to your prospective employer, according to Hamilton. “The resume should serve as your teaser. You can expand on your skills, possible contributions and other relevant matters during the interview.”

Ditch the “objectives” part of your resume as well, advices Corcodilos of North Bridge. “I wanna gag each time I see the heading ‘Objectives’ on a resume. Managers are not interested about what your objectives are; they want to know what you can do for them.”

Candidates should tailor each resume to the person they are meeting or the position they are applying for.

North Bridge headhunter says that he typically folds in half the first page of a resume. “If I can discern within 30 seconds what value the candidate has to offer, it’s gone.”

Hunting for head hunters

How do you alert head hunters that you’re fair game?

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is contact the company who want to work for and ask them what recruiting or head hunting service they use, says Hamilton.

The Microsoft executive said this information can be gleaned from a company’s HR department of the area that you’d like to work in. “Once you’ve got a name, make contact and then ask the head hunter what sort of skills or qualities they’re looking for in a candidate and what opportunities there are.”

Hamilton also said it’s also worth while to visit head hunter online communities and forums to get a sense of what head hunters think about candidates.

Corcodilos warns that the Internet has given rise to low quality head hunters who are only out to create a database of candidates. “Nine five per cent of headhunters are people with cell phones dialing for dollars. They’re just gathering resumes.”

Do a background check on head hunters and ask for references, he said. “Some will be willing to provide their references. Most will hang up on you.”

Repairing and broken online brand

It took former U.S. president Richard Nixon more than 20 years to salvage his reputation after Watergate, says Scott Hanselman, principal program manager of Microsoft’s server and tools online department.

“He pretty much had to die before his image could be resurrected,” Hanselman said.

IT professionals with a tarnished online image might have to do the same – figuratively of course.

Hanselman suggest staying off your regular Internet haunts. “Curtail online community appearances for a while, stop regular blogs or close down your site and after a while re-introduce yourself in a different approach or style.”

Of course, it pays to cultivate a reputation for “being nice” in the first place, said Hanselman. “There’s nothing worst than head hunters finding only angry words when they Google you.”

If you have to talk about the situation that landed you in trouble, Hamilton said, focus on the positive. Bring your audience’s attention to the steps you are taking to correct the situation.

Hanselman said you might have to resurface in different sites or communities, but basically the situation begins with Alcoholics Anonymous approach. “You start with admitting that you have a problem”.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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