7 Steps To Land a Great-fit Gig: Be the CEO of Brand You

If you’ve been in a job search for a while, and not much is happening, you’d be wise to re-jig your strategy, and start thinking of running your job search like it’s a business.

That’s what wise job seekers do.

They know that, when you’re job hunting, you’re essentially a solopreneur . . . a company of one.

Consider what Tom Peters, a business management guru credited with inventing personal branding 20 years ago, said in his article “The Brand Called You“:

“You’re branded, branded, branded, branded.

It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

His advice perfectly applies to job search and career management.

Think of your job search as a business. The more you do, the faster you’ll land a job you deserve.

I’ve been a solopreneur for almost 25 years, and I often write about the similarities between executive job search and running my business.

The things I do to promote and grow my business are the same kinds of things job seekers need to do to accelerate their search.

7 Steps To Land a Great-fit Gig by Being the CEO of Brand You

Below you’ll see seven steps that successful solopreneurs follow to build business. Below the list, you’ll see corresponding strategies to advance your job search:

  1. Know your products and/or services intimately.
  2. Know your target audience.
  3. Know why your target audience needs your products and/or services.
  4. Create marketing communications about your products and/or services that promote what they will do for your target audience.
  5. Market your products and/or services across multiple channels.
  6. Network your way towards decision makers within your target audience.
  7. Prepare to communicate the good-fit qualities of your products and/or services face-to-face with your target audience.

1. Know your products and/or services intimately.

Define Your Personal Brand

Of course, the product and/or service you’re selling is you . . . The things you will do for your target employers . . . Your potential value to them.

How do you go about thinking of yourself as a product?

After all, you’re so much more than that. You’re a multi-faceted living, breathing being, with so much to offer the right employers.

But that’s the beauty part of authentic personal branding. It helps you generate chemistry, and keeps your written and verbal communications interesting and lively.

Because branding is built around targeting and research – Steps 2 and 3 below – defining and understanding your personal brand will get you to a place where you can succinctly communicate your unique value to the companies you want to work for.

You’ll see how it all comes together by completing my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet.

2. Know your target audience.

Target Specific Employers You Want To Work For

In an interview with small business marketing expert Andre Palko about personal branding and small business, I answered his question “What was your biggest mistake in business?”

“I wish I had niched my business sooner. It took me several years to move from working with ANY job seekers to narrowing my focus to ONLY c-suite and senior-level executive job seekers.

The big turnaround came for me and my business when I came to understand what true personal branding is all about. It’s not just knowing what my best qualities, qualification and areas of expertise are. It’s wrapping these things around meeting the specific needs of a specific target audience, so that I’d know how to write business marketing content that would resonate with and attract those specific people.

So I embraced branding to help me market and grow the business. I went through an intense personal branding process which pushed me to niche my client base and narrow the services I offered.

Niching seemed counterintuitive to me at first. Why not keep myself wide open to work with any and all job seekers? Turns out niching is a smart move. With research, niching helps you put yourself in your target market’s shoes. You learn their pain points and what problems of theirs you’re uniquely qualified to help them solve. Since you know who you’re marketing to, and how you can help them with specific problems, you’re better able to write hard-hitting marketing materials (blog posts, website pages, articles, etc.). And businesses that niche (or specialize) typically command higher fees than generalists.”

In job search, this translates to narrowing the companies you will target, as much as possible. When you focus on a select few, you can better zero in on their needs and what makes you a good fit for them.

See this post for more information, 7 Tips to Build Your Executive Job Search Target Companies List.

3. Know why your target audience needs your products and/or services.

Research Your Target Employers for Market Intelligence & Company/Industry Insight

As noted above, you need to identify their pain points and how you will help them problem-solve those issues.

In his blog post, How to Get More Customers by Reading Their Minds, Andre advises:

“It’s important to know what customers and prospects are thinking. In short, when we understand their worries and know what they’re looking for, it’s easy to talk to them and to connect emotionally.

We need that emotional connection before we can ever make a sale. Mind-reading is a way to make all your sales and marketing efforts connect.”

Researching is also necessary for your due diligence. You don’t want to zero in on an employer and get into interviewing rounds, only to find out that this company is not a mutual good fit.

See this post for more advice, Best Ways and Places to Research Your Target Employers.

4. Create marketing communications about your products and/or services that promote what they will do for your target audience.

Write Compelling Content for Your Resume, Biography and other Career Documents

In the first 3 steps, you were gathering information and digging deep into what makes you a good fit for your target employers.

Now it’s time to sit down and begin writing your call to action.

When preparing for executive job search, your mission is to create content for various purposes, and build an executive brand communications plan that reinforces your unique promise of value to your target employers, across diverse channels online and off-line.

Beyond the first 3 steps – personal branding, targeting and research – here are the other things you’ll need to pull together:

Get feedback from others (at work and in your personal life) about the value you offer – the true measure of your brand is the perception of you held by the external world. Annual performance reviews are a great resource.

Build out your career history – for each job, detail your scope of responsibilities and key areas of expertise (using the relevant keywords you’ve uncovered) that align with target employers’ current needs.

Complete the Challenge-Actions-Results (C-A-Rs) exercise – detail your top contributions to past employers (with metrics whenever possible) that will resonate with target employers.

For details on writing the content see my post, How to Build Personal Brand Content for Executive Job Search.

5. Market your product/services across multiple channels.

Communicate Your Unique Value via Social Media and In-Person

Executive recruiters and hiring decision makers routinely search for social proof (or online evidence) to corroborate the claims candidates make about themselves in their personal marketing materials (resume, biography, cover letters, etc.)

These people will assess your candidacy and evaluate your personal brand based on what they find about you online.

They want to find as much information about you, and the value you offer, as they can . . . before funneling you into the interviewing/hiring process.

Set up a home base online where people can find all the needed information about you. A personal website is best, but LinkedIn can be a great substitute.

Whether or not you have a website, devote a good chunk of your job search time to LinkedIn. If you have time for only one social media outlet, it should be LinkedIn. Go well beyond just setting up a good LinkedIn profile and waiting for people to come. Get busy with all LinkedIn has to offer.

Another important factor – Being active on social media demonstrates that you’re up-to-date with the digital age and the new world of work.

And don’t forget to market your brand in your email signature.

But don’t just rely on online communications. Talk to people you know about how you’re targeting your job search, and encourage them to tell others. You never know who may know someone in a position to help you with your career goals.

More in my post, How a Robust Online Presence Helps You Land The Best Executive Jobs.

6. Network your way towards decision makers within your target audience.

Network Purposefully To Get To the “Hidden” Job Market

Don’t waste much, or any, time responding to job postings. Networking gets the job, not mindlessly hitting the “Send” button on job boards.

An estimated 80-90% of jobs, especially top-level executive jobs, are never listed anywhere.

Besides, when you respond to online job postings, your resume is likely to be sucked into (and lost in) the black hole that is Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

The perfect job for you may never be posted anywhere! It may only exist in the hidden job market.

What is this mystical world of the hidden job market?

  • Jobs created to accommodate specific candidates, once they connected with and had dialog with companies’ hiring decision makers.
  • Existing positions in which an incumbent is replaced when someone better comes along.
  • An open slot, waiting to be filled, that isn’t advertised outside the company. Only internal people know about it.
  • Jobs that, for whatever reason, are not advertised or visible, and can only be uncovered and accessed through networking.

Again, rely on your initial targeting and research, in which you identified the hiring decision makers (or their circles) at your target companies. Network your way towards them.

More in my post, How Do I Find a Job in the “Hidden” Job Market?

7. Prepare to communicate the good-fit qualities of your products and/or services face-to-face with your target audience.

Master the Executive Job Interview Process

You’re going to land interviews . . . if you’ve followed the 6 steps above.

Don’t blow it because you’re not prepared to speak intelligently about what makes you the best hiring choice.

Remember that many interviewers are not particularly good at it. Help them along – and boost your desirability factor – by being ready to insert key points about yourself into the conversation.

Here’s what you need to do before, during and after interviews:

Before Interviews

Get ready to answer the hard questions – like the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” query – and brand the interview.

Rely on your branding, targeting and research work to arm yourself with the questions YOU should ask, and information about the value you offer that you want to tell them.

During Interviews

Be confident and psyched. Let your enthusiasm rule the interview.

Be mindful of your body language.

Don’t make any of the typical mistakes, like checking your iPhone or forgetting to turn off your ringer.

Don’t wait to be asked for specific examples of contributions you’ve made to past employers. Work them into the discussion.

After Interviews

Follow up every interview with thank you notes to each person you spoke with.

Lots more details in my post, How to Land, Brand and Ace Executive Job Interviews.

Executive Job Search and Personal Branding Help

Land a GREAT-FIT New Executive GigNeed help with personal branding, your LinkedIn profile, resume and biography, and getting your executive job search on track . . . to land a great-fit new gig?

Take a look at the services I offer, how my process works and what differentiates my value-offer . . . then get in touch with me and we’ll get the ball rolling.

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When I first speak with potential c-suite clients, we discuss their job search target and goals, and which of the services I provide they’ll need to accomplish their career goals.

They often want to know more about biographies — what they are, how they differ from resumes, and if they really need one.

The dictionary defines “biography”:

“An account of a person’s life written, composed, or produced by another.”

I’m sure you’ve read a typical bio that walks you through the person’s career progression and provides hard facts. Aside from touching briefly on marital status and perhaps hobbies, they lack vibrancy. They give you little feel for what kind of person you’re reading about and what drives them.

A brand biography is a storytelling tool that breathes life into an otherwise flat rehash of your resume. For job search and career management, a bio affords the opportunity to reinforce your brand with storytelling in a way that a resume doesn’t allow.

What you can do with a bio that you can’t do as well with a resume:

  • Showcase your leadership and management acumen through softer skills and “good fit” attributes, and link them to your value proposition.
  • Personalize your C-A-Rs stories and use them to reinforce your brand attributes and key strengths.
  • Generate chemistry around how you use your key personal attributes, passions, strengths, and motivated skills to make things happen for employers.
  • Help employers connect with you and envision you on the job, having a positive impact.

At the senior executive level, your career bio and executive resume work in tandem as the foundation for all your personal brand marketing communications online and offline.

When I’m creating online profiles for clients, I use pieces of both their resumes and bios, mixing it up a bit to distinguish profiles from each other, and provide a little additional info in each.

My clients and I have already defined their personal brand attributes and value proposition when we start working on their career bio.

Questions to help you write your executive biography:

  1.  What are 3 or 4 defining moments for you as your career progressed? Think of events or things that shaped your career path, had the most impact on making you who you are today, and led you to add value to your companies.
  2.  Which of your personal attributes have been most beneficial to you in your career? Explain why.
  3.  How have adversity and challenges made you stronger and a more valuable employee?
  4.  What are the two or three most important lessons you learned along the way that others could benefit from?
  5.  Who have you mentored and how did your guidance impact that person, your team, your department, and your company? How do you describe your leadership style?

Move your bio from bland to brand-solid:

Pack a punch in the first paragraph.

Compel readers to want to continue to the end. Capture attention by leading with your brand positioning statement, or a quote from an industry celebrity or subject matter expert. Or compose a quote of your own that encapsulates your brand value — it could be something that others tell you you’re always saying — or a direct quote about you from someone you’ve worked with.

Or, you can be more personal by beginning your bio with a story about what led you to your career choice.

Make it a good read!

The writing should come from your own voice and follow a consistent theme reinforcing your brand attributes. For instance, if you’re known for turning around failing business, weave that driver throughout your mini-career stories.

Format the document for visual appeal and ease in reading.

Break up long, dense paragraphs into 2 or 3 smaller ones to add more white space, drawing readers’ eyes down the page and compelling them to read the entire document or web page, if it’s an online profile.

One innovative technique is to include high-impact sub-headings throughout, which is also an opportunity to build in more relevant keywords. I used this innovation in my own brand bio, which I used for my website About page.

Include a sneak peek into your life outside the workplace.

Definitely write about your community involvement and any volunteering activities. The commitment to giving back is an important trait for any leader worth her or his salt.

At the end of your bio, talk about your spouse and children noting briefly what they’re doing. Talk about your leisure passions and hobbies, but take it a little further than just listing them. Often your key brand attributes come into play when you pursue these activities. Wrapped up in a brief story, your favorite pastimes can spark interest from those who also have those interests.

4 things you can do with your career biography:

  1.  The “About” page on your blog or website, or your company’s website, is actually your bio. Remember that because most recruiters and hiring decision makers are searching online to source and assess top talent, they may see your bio (or About page) before they see your resume. It has to stand on its own as a personal marketing document.
  2.  Bios are essential introductions for speaking engagements. When making a presentation or giving a speech, give your bio ahead of time to whomever will be introducing you.
  3.  Encapsulate your full bio into a tidy one or two paragraph mini-bio to include when you guest blog, write articles or white papers, or publish anything online or offline.
  4.  Follow up networking events by sending your bio (or variation) to people you’ve connected with. It’s less formal than your resume.

You can see how executive branding and career storytelling come together in a bio I created for a client of mine, Bruce Smythe, a CEO/COO of Manufacturing Operations. He was not in a confidential search, so didn’t require that I fictionalize his identifying information.

Executive Job Search and Personal Branding Help

Land a GREAT-FIT New Executive GigNeed help with personal branding, your LinkedIn profile, resume and biography, and getting your executive job search on track . . . to land a great-fit new gig?

Take a look at the services I offer, how my process works and what differentiates my value-offer . . . then get in touch with me and we’ll get the ball rolling.

More About Executive Job Search

How to Write An Irresistible C-suite Executive Resume in 10 Steps

7 Ways To Contaminate Your Personal Brand and Doom Your Executive Job Search

29 Biggest LinkedIn Mistakes

Executive Job Search Success After 50: How to Overcome Age Discrimination

5 Ways to Keep Your Executive Job Search Confidential on LinkedIn

 

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