Though professionals-in-transition face continuing high unemployment numbers, there are jobs to be had. Those jobs go to candidates who are prepared and present themselves to their best advantage. Be one of these candidates. Whether you’re currently employed or in professional transition, with the right approach you can get the job you want even in the current job market.
Dressing for Success
A powerful tool at your disposal is your professional appearance, both in person and online. Today, employers and hiring managers are interviewing potential employees, but they’re using the Internet and social media, as normal practice to research job candidates. So both kinds of first impressions are crucial in today’s competitive and tech-savvy job market. It’s to your advantage to present yourself as the consummate professional anywhere you’ll make that first impression. From the interview room, to the networking event, to your online persona, be prepared to take charge of your own personal brand and sell yourself with confidence.
The old saying “You only get one chance to make a first impression” is frequently heard for good reason. It’s true. Career counselors and image coaches agree: the way you present yourself in job interviews and the workplace is a critical key to impressing those in hiring positions. Dressing for success is alive and well. If you’re considering either a new job, or a promotion at your current company, dressing in business professional attire helps decision makers to see you in the role you aspire to.
Look at colleagues who impress or inspire you: How do they dress? Those who hold positions that you strive for are likely dressing a level up from their own position and are good examples to learn from. Even in a company with a relaxed dress policy, opportunities exist to take your appearance to the next level. While many employees dress at the lower acceptable levels of a casual policy, hold yourself to a higher standard that reflects discernment and professional awareness. Dressing to impress your employer or potential employer isn’t just about looking nice. If you dress professionally, as though you already possess the job you want, your appearance carries the message that you are serious, careful, observant, and willing to work for advancement.
If you do choose to look for job opportunities outside your current organization or are presently in transition, the networking circuit is an ideal place to build or grow your personal brand. Networking events present an environment to make contact with people who may know about open positions or can put you in touch with those who do (gatekeepers). Use these occasions to promote yourself with confident body language and a successful appearance. Some ways to do this:
1. Dress as if you are attending a job interview. Don’t wear your best interview suit if the environment doesn’t call for it, but do dress with the same level of attention to detail and grooming. Neat, clean hair and clothes with a minimal amount of tasteful jewelry or makeup allows you to present yourself at your best, even if the event is casual. (Note: minimal is key when it comes to accessories and makeup for success dressing.)
2. Shake hands with everyone you meet using a firm web-to-web handshake and maintain direct eye contact, all of which is demonstrates self-confidence and sincerity.
3. Introduce yourself with your first and last name and repeat the other person’s name to cement it in your memory. Introducing a new contact to the next person you meet is a great way to show confidence, friendliness, and helps you remember those you meet.
4. Prepare a “mini resume” calling card that features your contact information on the front, and a list of your key competencies on the back. This helps those you meet remember your objective and area of specialty. Give this card the same attention to appearance and accuracy as you do your traditional resume.
5. Remember that you are not the only person shopping for a job. Can you help someone else in his or her search? Chances are they will be willing to help you, too (and it doesn’t hurt your karma). Notice too, that the people YOU are most likely to recommend for a position are those that have taken care to present themselves well.
6. Keep your conversations professional and positive. Your disappointments in your current or previous position should be kept private. Speaking well of a current or former employer makes prospective employers and colleagues feel that you are professional and trustworthy.
7. Follow up with the contacts you’ve made in a carefully written email or LinkedIn invitation within the week.
8. Thank the host via email or LinkedIn. Consider a “public” thank you via LinkedIn recommendation or posting on their Facebook wall. This is great advertisement for them, and an opportunity to increase your public presence.
Online sites are an ideal forum in which to promote a professional personal brand in your job search. According to the 2010 Social Recruiting Survey by recruitment solutions provider, Jobvite, 83% of companies use or plan to begin using social media platforms to find and attract new candidates. If the majority of your pictures on Facebook feature behavior or activities that you wouldn’t display on a job interview, they’re unlikely to make a favorable impression upon a hiring manager who searches your name.
As with networking and presenting yourself daily on the job, you’ll want to “dress to impress” online too. Recruiters are using social media sites for research — even third place Twitter is tapped by 45% of recruiters according to Jobvite (LinkedIn leads in recruiting research activity; Facebook is second) — findings can be a deciding factor in competitive hiring environments.
Present your digital image tastefully and professionally. Practice prudence in your online postings: Remember that your posts become public and can remain online on another site, attributed to you, long after you’ve removed them from your own pages. Offensive jokes and lewd remarks won’t reflect positively on you. Also consider grammar and word choice when portraying your professional brand online. Lolspeak is cute in a note to a close friend, but is off-putting to an employer looking for a well-spoken employee who communicates professionally with others.
You have the power to conduct your search with savvy. Put your best self forward —both in person and on the Internet!