Put your best foot forward professionally

Finishing up my 3-part career management series I want to focus on self-promotion and branding. There are several good professional marketing and branding tools that I believe everyone should have regardless of level; from intern to CEO.  My advice is based on my experience as both and employee and a hiring decision maker.

First let me discuss the resume or CV (Latin for Curriculum Vitae). There are lots of books and articles written to help you write a resume and there are also professional consultants who will review and suggest changes or corrections that I advise you to avail yourself of for more depth on resumes but let me cover a few tips and common mistakes that I see when reviewing potential candidate resumes and even a few that I’ve made over the years. Let me caveat by saying that my experience and advice is based on and targeted to corporate professionals. Some of these tips may not be suited for other industries but feel free to take from it what you need and leave the rest on the floor.

  1. Your resume is not a list of job descriptions – I used to make the mistake earlier in my career of listing all of my responsibilities and tasks. When describing your role be sure to give as much context as possible to the reader and state the impact of your work. Quantify, quantify, quantify. It is helpful to go back to your accomplishments to describe the impact of your work; how many hours saved by automation, how much new revenue generated, how many new accounts, clients, etc.  You need to articulate the value of your contribution regardless of what the role is.
  2. Use strong, active language like lead, developed, created, automated and avoid weaker, passive language like assisted, contributed, supported. I’m not advocating that you overstate your responsibilities or accomplishments but often people underestimate themselves and you need to convey that YOU ARE NOT THE NUMBER TWO PERSON, YOU ARE THE NUMBER ONE PERSON.
  3. Contact details – ensure that they are current and professional. The most common way that recruiters and hiring managers will contact you is via email. Your email address should be simple and non-descript, preferably your name at gmail, yahoo, outlook, etc. dot com. Avoid silly or inappropriate email addresses.
  4. Be succinct and respect the reader’s time. Consider the density of your resume relative to your level of experience. I can’t tell you the number of 2 page resumes that I have reviewed for college interns whose lifetime of experience consists of 2 summer jobs and a few extracurricular activities or on the opposite end a person with 15+ years of experience who’s resume is a single page.
  5. Tailor your resume to the type of position that you are seeking. Your experience may make you well suited for several different types of roles and your resume should reflect the type of role that you are applying for and demonstrate why you would be suited for that role.
  6. Your resume should demonstrate growth of knowledge and responsibility over time. Even if you didn’t receive a series of promotions that demonstrate progression through your title, your resume should still tell a story of development and progress though your description of increased responsibilities and accomplishments.
  7. Format – keep it simple. Any resume book will cover this in more detail but I’ll just say don’t distract the reader with fancy graphics, fonts, layouts or colors. One tip that I recently picked up from an article was to replace your physical address with your linked in URL. I liked this suggestion which leads me to my next subject of your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn and other sites like it can be great online professional social media tools when used appropriately. You should treat LinkedIn much like your resume in the sense that recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to identify and screen potential candidates so you want to give your best presentation. Where LinkedIn differs from your resume is that it offers decision makers the opportunity to assess you more deeply by articles and comments that you may have published or shared and the people that you are connected to. For this reason, it is important to be extremely mindful not to make inflammatory comments and treat LinkedIn like the networking and job recruiting site that it is intended to be. Here are my tips for using LinkedIn:

  1. Use a professional up to date headshot. I retook my headshot just this past week because I’ve changed my hair significantly since my photo was taken three years ago and I no longer look the same. You don’t have to use a professional photographer if it’s not in the budget, just make sure it’s not a selfie and the setting and attire are appropriate. I recommend using a professional camera if you have access to one but if not, make sure the photo is clear and you are the only subject in the photo.
  2. Don’t copy and paste your resume verbatim. Summarize your experience with a strong headline and summarize each role that you’ve had. Again refer to your accomplishments to help you highlight the benefits that you’ve delivered.
  3. Save your non-professional contacts, postings and comments for other social media platforms. LinkedIn isn’t the place to discuss your favorite television show unless its work related. Keep your LinkedIn profile and newsfeed professional.

It is important to be mindful of your comments, photos and shared articles across all social media platforms because a quick search of your name can hurt you.

The last tool that I want to cover is your bio. A bio isn’t just for top executives, everyone should have one. Your bio should be 2-3 paragraphs of your professional and educational highlights and can include personal interests, familial status and a photo. Similar to your LinkedIn page, your bio should be a summary of your current position and any key past positions held.   Like your resume you can customize your bio to suit the occasion but having a bio ready helps you to stay ready to present yourself for opportunities from client pitches to speaking engagements to board applications.

All of these tools should be well written and reviewed periodically to ensure that they are current and accurate.  If you are not a strong writer, ask a friend to proofread for grammatical and spelling errors.  I review my resume, bio and LinkedIn profile every 6 months or so, often tweaking the language to ensure that that I am constantly ready to put my best foot forward.

New headshot

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