How Marketing Yourself May Not Translate Across Generations

In late December, Simply Hired had a good piece about marketing yourself to find a job or get ahead in your career. I appreciate their tips (shown below) and I think most of them should be readily implemented into anybody’s job search.

  • Develop a Unique Value Proposition – A unique value proposition (UVP) is a clear picture of what you deliver to those around you and how it helps them. Be specific about your talents throughout your resume and online profiles if you want to stand out to those looking for your passion and strengths.
  • Have a Strong Brand Promise – A brand promise is an expression of how a brand is different within a market. For example, FedEx’s brand promise is reliable shipping. Avis’s brand promise is that they try harder than their competitors. Make sure the aspects of your personality that set you a part are layered throughout your online presence.
  • Know the Persona – When preparing for interviews or performance reviews, get to know the culture of organizations by what they say about themselves on social media and their website. Align your UVP with the interests of a company to demonstrate how well you fit with the culture.
  • Perform Competitive Research – Research LinkedIn to find others in your area with similar interests and skills. Doing this helps you stand out even further because you’ll know what unique blend of skills and experience you bring to the table. Tip: work the name of the job title you want into your LinkedIn profile to appear above your industry colleagues in the search results of HR recruiters and industry head hunters.
  • Demonstrate Social Proof – Social proof is demonstrating the value of your product or service by letting others do the talking for you. Recommendations on LinkedIn, the number of friends and followers you have on social networks, and how often they engage with or share your content are all ways to let the words of others speak more about you than you could ever do for yourself. Tip: The best way to get a recommendation is to recommend someone else. Leave sincere and genuine recommendations and your colleagues will be sure to reciprocate.
  • Personalize to Build Relationships – Use social media to get to know your boss or your potential employer. Spend some time on their profiles to get a feel for their experience, their former employers and sometimes even their favorite books. Bringing these things up in an interview setting show that you’re interested in not only getting a job, but in the person you’re talking to as well.

I don’t have much commentary on the tips themselves – I love them and I know that I used many of them in my job search. I think that branding, relationship building, and social proof are things that us millenials grasp pretty readily but is perhaps more difficult or out of the norm for baby boomers and gen x-ers. I’ve been intrigued lately by how generational gaps affect the job search, work culture, and getting ahead and I could see these tips being lost on someone who doesn’t function daily in the social media frame of youth culture.

For example, I have a family member right now who is of the baby boomer generation and looking for work. A full 9-5 job is less appealing to this person right now because they are a bit older and have worked in that model for a long time. But the thought of building a personal brand, using networks, and consulting while absolutely appealing, is also really scary – it’s something that the young folks do. My goal with this family member has been to stress the positive of this alternative work scenario 1) working from home 2) setting a schedule 3) setting fees 4) picking and choosing the work you want to do! It sounds like a dream to me but I can see the hurdles here too for someone who may not have thought of branding themselves in these ways.

All of the aforementioned tips are age-old with a contemporary twist. Using your networks and branding yourself isn’t a reinvention of the wheel. But the pathways and the technology have changed. So in keeping with my generational gaps questions, how do we help baby boomers search for work with modern eyes and get over the fear that comes with work freedom.

 

 

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Being Interviewed

For the first time ever, I was informational interviewed, on the other end of the table, trying to spout wisdom and make connections. But I felt a little useless. Having just come out of graduate school and just found myself a job, I have a limited set of resources that I obviously hope to grow! And as much as I would LOVE to help connect someone else, my circles don’t reach that far (nationally, globally, cross generation-ally).

So this means that I mostly know youth who are still in internships, still looking for jobs, or are recently employed at entry level positions like me. One way to rectify this is by joining a group like the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN).

YNPN  promotes an efficient, viable, and inclusive nonprofit sector that supports the growth, learning, and development of young professionals. We engage and support future nonprofit and community leaders through professional development, networking and social opportunities designed for young people involved in the nonprofit community (YNPN).

YNPN has local chapters throughout the U.S. and you can find your local chapter here. I am a member of YNPNdc but I have to admit, I am not a particularly active member. That is mostly because of the whole, not living in DC thing, and partially because I have been lazy. But this interview experience made me realize I have the potential to be a better resource if I do some more networking myself and continue to put myself out there (like I said I would over here).

So I might not be the best person to informational interview YET but if you’re looking for entry level positions in women’s health or global health in Baltimore, DC, or New York, I might be a decent resource!

 

Staying in the Game

When I was unemployed (which wasn’t that long ago) I spent a good deal of time doing informational interviews and trying to expand my network of connections. Right before the wedding & honeymoon and immediately after my getting hired, one of my connections introduced me (virtually) to a fantastic group of people.

The only problem was the timing. I was just hired and about to be terribly busy or out of the country for 3 weeks. I did my best to respond to and get in touch with everyone in the group but I know I didn’t reach out to everyone. It was also difficult for me because I had just been hired and wasn’t looking to skip out of the job.

But I decided it was more worth it to stay in the game – to keep growing my network – than to take the easy road and not follow-up. I think a lot of people forget to do this when they are happily employed. Unfortunately, those people might be unprepared if something happens to their job.

So last week I had a great call with one of those connections. I explained I wasn’t looking for a new job but I still wanted to talk to her, get to learn about her career, and follow-up in the future. This call was wonderful! The woman was so sweet and so willing to be in touch. I had been worried that she wouldn’t respond favorably to a call that wasn’t going to lead anywhere but instead this contact offered guidance and future support. I know I’ve preached about informational interviews before. But I am absolutely certain that there is no harm and probably a lot of benefit to continuing network expansion even when you have a job that you’re happy with [which by the way – I have. Yay job!]

My Foray into Professional Development

Last Friday I attended part 1 of a 2-part advanced advocacy training seminar and I’ll admit, I was nervous. Through work in the past I have gone to events/talks/etc. and I was never really….engaged. So, I’ve found ways to convince myself not to go to these types of things –

1. I don’t want to spend money if I’m not earning any (or I guess, even if I am earning).
2. It’s gonna be a time waster and I could be doing better things. Well let’s be serious, I probably wouldn’t be doing better things.

Anyway — I was so frickin’ pleasantly surprised by this experience and part 1 alone was worth the $45 I spent.I took an advocacy course for my Master’s (which probably cost me THOUSANDS of dollars) and this 9AM-2PM class was more worthwhile for my advocacy skill set.

AND, even more importantly, I met people, people in my field, people with whom I made connections and gave my brand new business cards (people thought the QR code was very savvy).

Our very first activity was to give a 30 second elevator speech about ourselves. Most people there were older, more developed in their careers and so that’s what they talked about. Everyone everywhere will talk about how and elevator speech needs to be engaging & memorable so I wanted to make sure I was both of those things.

Hi, my name is Anna. I am a recent MPH graduate and unemployed Baltimore local with a very strong portfolio in economic and health policy writing. I am passionate about women’s and global health, especially in W. Africa where I lived for a semester. I am a classically trained pianist with a great love for romantic and modern music – I teach lessons. In less than a month, I am marrying a man I met on World of Warcraft. 


After everyone did their speech, the training leader asked everyone what they could remember besides names and people really took note of some of things I said, in part because I made it very personal.

But, one of the smartest things I did that day was be upfront about being unemployed. I had oodles of women come up to me throughout the event and ask what I was interested in doing – they told me about volunteer opportunities, upcoming employment opportunities at their agencies, and they talked to me about people with whom I should connect. I have an informational interview set up for next week because of this and I know that more opportunities will arise because of the connections I’ve made through this professional development training.

I’m looking forward to part 2 this week!

No Really…Informational Interviews

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of informational interviews, and then I had one.

And it was AWESOME. 

I feel like the woman I spoke with gave me everything I needed: confidence, encouragement, and a big ol’ reality check.

We began our conversation trying to get to know a little bit more about each other, our goals, and our paths. One of the most important things we talked about was networking. She brought up a statistic that I’ve seen as well and talked about over here. Roughly 80% of new hires come from people’s networks, not responding to a job post. This is really hard to stomach when you read about it on the internets because let’s be honest, it’s much easier to sit at home & respond to a job post than to get yourself out there! However, when you hear the statistic and you’re in the process of networking (having an informational interview in my case) it doesn’t seem so scary.

One important reality for me is that I am a closet introvert. I don’t think that’s how my friends would describe me but I am often terrified when meeting new people at a social event or conference or whatever. I’m no good at going up to people and selling myself, it scares me. Well one thing we talked about last night was changing my perception of networking. I was networking with her and it was fun! FUN! All you have to do is have a conversation with someone, not shmooz about and sell yourself. When you realize that networking isn’t a chore and it’s not negative, it makes that 80% statistic seem positive, not a hurdle.

Also, wouldn’t you rather have a conversation with someone than write a cover letter? Absolutely.

Speaking of cover letters, she gave me a fantastic tip,
don’t spend more than 20 minutes on a cover letter. “What!?”, I responded, “How!??”. Her response was so convincing … Since so few hires come from cover letter response to a job posting, how much time should you really put into them? If they like your resume for this position or another, they’ll call you. You’re a professional, your time is worth more than a cover letter.

Genius.

I think I knew all of this before. Deep down I knew I needed to stop writing so many cover letters, leave the confine of my apartment and comforts of my orange chair because that’s what everyone says! But here’s what made me finally listen: I was having an informational interview with someone in my field. She has the degree I have and has been through similar things; this made her words so much more meaningful because I knew they applied directly to me.

So that means you need to stop reading all the blogs (except mine!) and start talking to people who are doing what you’re doing or what you want to do and LISTEN. People love to share their stories and be heard. I’ve also noticed that people are really willing to help right now so if you reach out to professionals (at your level and at management), people will respond and try to help you out!

Informational Interviews

I’m a strong believer in the power of informational interviews. They are a great way to use your network of people to your advantage! I’m having one this evening and here is how the connection happened – I started this blog, my sister sent a link of it to one of her friends, said friend read it and suggested I connect with someone she knows, I did, now we’re having an informational interview. Thank you, blog.

I found some tips for having an effective informational interview on Lindsey Pollak’s Blog and I wanted to share them here since they are especially relevant for me today:

1. Confirm – at least 24 hours in advance to show that you are taking this seriously. This is SO important. I had a meeting set up once and did not confirm … the woman I was meeting had the date and time wrong in her calendar so I waited in a coffee shop for an hour before I was able to get in touch with her. Confirming is beneficial for you in so many ways.

2. Be on time – Duh! As a professional you should be on time anyway. To me, being 15 minutes early is on time. You want to get there and still have some time to collect yourself and your thoughts.

3. Do your research – When you’re going into an informational interview, you want to be able to ask smart questions. This does not include, “What do you do?”. You should already know that…that’s why you’re talking to this person! A quick search on Google or LinkedIn should answer this for you. Doing your research shows the person you’re talking to that you are taking this opportunity seriously.

4. Clearly & concisely explain your situation – While you’ve done your research, it’s likely that the person you’re interviewing hasn’t done theirs, and that’s okay, it’s not their job. You should be able to give a brief introduction of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re looking for. This about your job “objective” and expand on it a bit. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do; you’re probably doing this interview in part to help you find out. Just be able to communicate.

Even if you aren’t searching for a job, it’s still a good idea to do informational interviews from time to time with people in your field. Get to know people in your field, find out what they are doing and whether or not they like it.