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Your personal brand: The key to job hunts … and beyond

MegaphoneLet's play Financial Crisis Cause and Effect. Ready?

Economic turmoil leads to corporate cutbacks. Corporate cutbacks lead to higher unemployment. Higher unemployment leaves more people searching for work.

Any idea what comes next?

That's right -- a cutthroat competition among too many job searchers who are vying for too few jobs. They're hungry, and they're looking for any edge they can get.

Luckily, there's plenty of guidance out there.

Let's start with some words of wisdom from Robert Half International. Among CEO Max Messmer's advice to job hunters:

  • Step outside your comfort zone by widening your search beyond your current industry or field.
  • Remain open to all possibilities.
  • Cast a wide net. Check not only general job boards and career sites but industry and trade association Web sites as well.
  • Sharpen both your functional and interpersonal skills.
  • Manage your digital footprint. Double-check your various online profiles and purge any potentially embarrassing information and photos. Your friends aren't the only people checking those sites.

That last piece of advice was the centerpiece of a recent "mixed reality" session hosted by the MACPA in Second Life. As part of a Financial Executives Networking Group meeting in San Francisco (held virtually on Second Life's CPA Island), Walter Feigenson stressed the importance of managing your "personal brand," especially in the digital environment.

HR departments use the Web frequently to research job candidates today, so why not take advantage by using Web 2.0 to brand yourself? According to Feigenson, you'll need to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to find you online. That means creating and managing profiles on any (perhaps even all) of the professional social networking sites. Specifically, he recommends sites like LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Ziggs and Naymz.

Once you've done that, Feigenson suggests updating your profiles frequently and using them (or your personal blog, if you have one) to publish information in your areas of expertise. Doing so will boost your Google search rankings -- and in a world where "Google" has become a verb, that's a big deal.

All of that, though, pales in comparison to the value of networking. "Your brand isn't only what people find online," Feigenson said, so he suggests attending industry events and getting active in your local chamber of commerce, community organizations, professional associations and affinity groups. Let people know who you are and what you can do, and do it everywhere, all the time.

That's great advice anytime, but especially in an age when companies are cutting costs and unemployment may rise.

How are you managing your personal brand? What are your favorite tools for doing so?


Bill Sheridan