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How do I write an effective Resume?

There are few topics in college classrooms and professional offices around the world today that are as controversial and divided as what belongs in a resume. I’ve sat through countless classes, workshops, career counseling appointments and read several textbook chapters on how a resume is written and at the end of the day, there is no “right” way to write one; but there is a wrong way. Assuming you have a rough outline of your work experience or a basic resume already, the following tips will help you decide how to showcase your skills in a way that will set you apart from your peers and communicate your value as a potential employee to an employer, without ever meeting or speaking with them.

1. Avoid Using Standard Templates

If the purpose of a resume is to differentiate you from you competition and highlight your unique experience, then why would you use a template that everyone else has? It’s no secret that in a highly digital world where employers have most of the “picking” power, your competition and the number of resumes that are in your potential employer’s inbox have exploded. Using a unique design that easily and efficiently communicates how you would provide value to your potential employer will automatically move your resume up towards the top of the pile. To see a few examples of some great resume designs that will help you stand out from the crowd, check out Job Mob’s suggestions at http://jobmob.co.il/blog/beautiful-resume-ideas-that-work/.

2. Use Color with Purpose

The use of color is a pretty controversial topic in the resume writing community, but if you find yourself applying for a “creative” job, it might be closer to a requirement than an extra. Color is used in the resume design process to highlight graphic design talents and make things like name logos, another option for many resume writers, pop off of the page. However, too much color may reduce the “seriousness” of the message you are trying to convey. If you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask someone who might know, but don’t submit a rainbow colored resume without seeking out someone else’s professional opinion.

3. Think Creatively about your accomplishments

For some young professionals, finding work experience that qualifies as “professional” might be harder than someone who has been working for a few years. If you haven’t had an internship or a job that is directly related to your desired position, don’t be afraid to use the work experience that you do have. Common high school and college positions can range from customer service to life guarding and work-study positions, but if you think creatively and ask yourself “what did I do at this position that nobody else can say they did?” your resume will still stand out.

4. Avoid “Cliché” Wording

Kerry Taylor of Squawkfox.com explains how the use of language in a resume can move you from the inbox to the trash can in seconds if you don’t avoid 6 of the most common terms that professionals often make the mistake of using. These terms include:

  • Responsible for… – Too common
  • Experienced – What does your experience entail?
  • Excellent Communication Skills – Why are they excellent? Too vague
  • Team Player – Sports terms aren’t always the best way to go in a professional resume
  • Detail Oriented – What does that even mean?
  • Successful – were you not successful in everything else in your resume?

5. Communicate Results

Bosses what results. Period. The more effectively you can communicate how you have produced results in the past, the more seriously your resume will be considered when it comes to hiring the next “star” in the office. If you have experience in event planning, tell how many people came to the event. If you have experience selling, tell how much you sold. It’s a no-brainer but you might be surprised how many of your peers are using vague language rather than specific numbers and results.

6. Taylor your language to fit the position and the employer

Your resume is your “leave behind.” It’s usually the first impression that an employer has of you before a face to face meeting and it either opens the door for opportunities or falls flat before you even speak with a potential boss. For this reason, it is no longer acceptable to use the same strategies in distributing generic resumes to potential summer employers; everything needs to be customized to fit each job position. From the color to the layout, your resume should be made to communicate specifically with the individual that has the power to hire you. For this reason, don’t be afraid to read the company website or a LinkedIn profile of a company employee to find how what skills they value and how you can taylor your work experience to fit their needs. It takes a lot more work that photocopying 15 copies of the same resume but the potential payoff is worth it.

For additional resources on how to write a killer resume check out the following links:

http://www.dumblittleman.com/2009/01/how-to-write-resume-that-will-land.html

http://jobmob.co.il/blog/beautiful-resume-ideas-that-work/

http://www.squawkfox.com/2009/01/19/6-words-that-make-your-resume-suck/

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/11/07/how-to-construct-a-killer-resume-from-start-to-finish/

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4pN35w19gDoC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=resume+writing&ots=m5pvxIPAE7&sig=rsZbe9wSO2CvdqISrlrHV2bZXzs#v=onepage&q=&f=false

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Categories: Uncategorized

Pulling off an A+ Interview

The canvassing process is the most important fundamental step in the job hunt process. What do I mean by canvassing? In simple terms, canvassing is your opportunity to “cast your net” and create a buzz around your professional experience and brand that might qualify you as a potentially valuable employee to an organization. I’ve talked with a couple of my peers who are also looking for jobs right now and the same mantra keeps coming up in every conversation: “It’s all about who you know.” When it comes to finding a job, especially when the economy is in the tank, someone can easily apply for 10-15 jobs a week and never hear back from an employer. That’s why a personal introduction or a direct contact is the most valuable thing anyone can have. For every 100 people that you talk to or email or send your resume to whether they are family or friends or third cousins, it only takes one person to provide the kind of leads that you need to lock down a job and when you are as deep in the job game as I have been the last few weeks, that one person can be the one beacon of light amidst job search darkness.

Assuming you find that person or a few people that are in a networking position to mention you to an employer, the next step down the line is initial contact and continues to work for me is an email that goes something like this:

Gary,

My name is Kris Houston and I was given your information by one of my job hunt mentors, Bob Bobawitz, who mentioned you as a valuable resource for a student preparing to graduate this Wednesday from the University of Oregon and actively pursuing job opportunities in the Portland area. I was hoping you might be available sometime next week to meet for an informational interview.  I’ve attached a copy of my resume and look forward to possibly chatting with you sometime next week.

Thank you for your time,

Kris

www.linkedin.com/in/krishouston

I’ve found that keeping an initial email short and providing the contact some time to plan a possible meeting, putting them in control of the execution of the meeting step of the process is not only respectful, but tends to yield the quickest and most positive results. Providing an attached resume allows them to pass your information on to other professionals that might be in more of a position to hire and also gives them to check out some of your work experience before responding to your request (so make sure your resume is spotless).

What’s the next step after the initial email? You wait for a response. As a general rule, I don’t email or contact the person until after waiting a week to a week and a half. Once you’ve heard from them, it’s time to schedule a meeting which can be the trickiest step if you are working with several different people and you are coming in from out of town to schedule a lot of face time in a short period of time.

Once the meetings are set up, research the contact, the company and the job. Don’t go into a meeting or interview empty handed, especially since these busy professionals are taking time out of their day to meet with you. Think long and hard about how you can mold your experience into a valuable package that would be difficult for any potential employer to deny.

Next comes the meeting where all of your hard work and research should pay off. One thing that a lot of young professionals haven’t learned to do is control the formality of the meeting. The ability to communicate casually and professionally is a skill that is admired by every professional or potential employer, so you should approach interviews with the understanding that the most important question that they have in the back of their mind is “would I enjoy working with this person.” Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through as long as it’s appropriate.

The next step towards the end of the meeting is to provide them with some sort of “leave behind.” I’ve found that very few interviewers in the communications field ask that you whip out a physical portfolio of your work during the interview, but leaving behind a copy of your resume (on nice paper) and possibly a copy of 1 or 2 of your best pieces of work is always appreciated.

The final piece of the job hunt process is the follow-up. Once again, this step is often neglected by many entry-level hopefuls, especially when they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people that they are in contact with everyday, so those individuals that do send a thank you note definitely stand out. Some people would recommend sending a handwritten thank you note, but with the increase in the speed of communication and business world, snail mail isn’t always the most practical choice, so an email is often the easiest and most appropriate way to follow-up. Thank them for their time, recap what you talked about in the interview, highlight your skills and how you might contribute to the success of the organization and provide contact information incase they are interested.

These steps won’t necessarily guarantee a job instantly, but they will definitely help you stand out and ultimately reach your goal of gainful employment!

Categories: Uncategorized

Meaningful Work

I’ve hit a rut in my job hunt. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but after pounding down doors for the last 3 months, meeting with people for informational interviews, coffee breaks and “real” interviews, I’m mentally (and physically) exhausted. It’s easy in times like these to fall back on some of the constants in your life, like homework or a severely neglected social life, but one of the most important skills that I have learned since coming to college and overwhelming myself with work and school is the ability to push the “reset” button. Similar to restoring a computer hardrive to a time when everything worked properly, I take a step outside of my current situation and look back on what I have done, where I am going and most importantly, what I ultimately want to accomplish.

The last time I was this overwhelmed during my job search, I sent an email to one of my favorite professors asking him for a little advice on what I should be looking for, or atleast, how I should be looking. He kicked back a short email with an article from the MIT Sloan management review about the importance of finding meaningful work that took my jumbled pile random job search piece and re-established a new understanding and sense of direction, and I would like to share some of the valuable insights from this article with you.

The article posed these 3 important questions that any recent college graduate should ask themselves before embarking on a job search journey or accepting a position:

1. A year out of this program, what do you expect your job will be?

For anyone searching for a job or weighing the value of a potential opportunity the main question they should ask is what they expect to gain from the experience. For many college students planning to graduate during such an intense recession, approaching this question with an extreme level of realism rather than idealism based on hearsay or potential outdated sources on the internet, (particularly when compensation is factored into expectations), is extremely important. From a more holistic perspective, an offshoot of this question might be how will this experience set me apart among my peers or how will this experience propel my career forward and increase the number of opportunities that I have access to?

2. What kind of job contributes most to general well-being?

Is work-life balance critical for you to be successful, or do you feel most comfortable when you are overwhelmed with work. Are you a profit driven or a service driven person. How important in competitive compensation to you? This question addresses one of the most stressful questions that most recent grads have when it comes to choosing a career or field which is the balance between doing something that makes a lot of money versus doing something that is social responsibility. Many people feel like the choice is as black and white as socially responsible, passion driven work is generally lower paying, or that they cannot afford to take a job that pays less but gives them more satisfaction, but when it comes to an entry level job, in most cases everyone starts out at the bottom. There is plenty of time to move up and move around, so college students should look at entry level positions as opportunities to learn as much as they can in order to find a balance that contributes to their general well-being.

3. Practicality aside, if you could be doing anything 10 years from now, what would it be?

As crazy as it sounds, a lot of people forget how to dream. Job searches can suck the romance out of life long goals that no longer seem possible, and college courses can get so specific and competition among peers for internships and summer jobs can become so fierce, that many people feel more discouraged than empowered by the time they walk across the stage to receive their diploma, but it’s too early to give up on dreams now, and understanding what you want to do in the future can help guide your decisions to take on opportunities in the present.

Meaningful Work-1

Categories: Uncategorized

Meeting at the MAC

Last week, I was able to do something that most nearly-college-graduates searching for a job dream of doing: I spoke with a former CEO of a fortune 500 company. My job search has taken me on some pretty interesting adventures so far, from informational interviews at some of my dream employers in the Portland area to job offers and salary negotiations that left me feeling discouraged about how much my work experience is worth.

It was around the point in any job search that I felt like taking a break after spending hours filling out applications, meeting with potential employers and not getting many calls back about most of the positions I applied for that I first spoke with this family friend. He suggested that I come up to Portland for the day and talk with him about where I was and what I was looking for, so at 7 a.m. on Friday, I caught the MAX train downtown from a station near my parents’ house and was off to what turned out to be one of my most encouraging meetings.

At the MAC Club meeting with "Bob"

After nearly 3 hours of talking and drinking an endless supply of coffee he had reprogrammed the way I was approaching the job hunt and inspired me to follow several steps that would help guide me to achieve two of my biggest goals in my work life – to run a company and to work for myself.

Up until my meeting with this CEO (we’ll call him “Bob” for the purpose of this post), I had formed a great deal of my opinions and expectations of what a job after college would or should look like based on my formal education in public relations and my experiences working as an intern for numerous Eugene and Portland business. In most of these experiences I had learned that being the best at what I did and specializing in my craft was the key to post-graduation success and I approached job searches the same way, seeking out positions that were in-line with my experience with a primary focus in communications.

Five minutes into our meeting, Bob asked me to describe myself and what I was looking for. The first word that came to my mind was “entrepreneurial.” He asked me why, and I was reminded of some of the things that I had been reading in Timothy Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.” I explained how I had grown up with a father who worked in real estate while working full-time as a checker at a grocery store. I’d tag along when he had open houses on the weekends and helped him collect signs at the end of a long day of showings. I remembered how much he hated waking up early every morning to go work at his 9-5 position and how excited he was when the weekend came around and he could make his own schedule.

It was this fear of being on someone else’s schedule that propelled me to pick up “The 4-Hour Work Week” and was ultimately drove me to describe myself as “entrepreneurial,” or in more direct terms, seeking positions that allow me the freedom to work on my own without conforming to “normal”  9-5 working conditions. I had bought into Ferriss’ explanation of the “NR” or “New Rich,” people who had found a way out of normal working conditions to lead extraordinary, adventurous lives on their own time. I liked his analysis of retirement and how so many people work through their youth so that towards the end of their life they can finally take a break. I appreciated his concept of “lifestyle design,” finding creative ways to reduce stressful work habits and regain the luxury of time. I found the whole thing to be romantic, but more importantly, I didn’t want to end up in my dad’s position, spending the majority of my time doing something I didn’t enjoy on someone else’s clock.

I’m not saying that I expected to be wealthy and self-employed right out of college, but Bob caught on to goals of running a business and working for myself almost immediately, as tactics to avoid working for someone else for the rest of my life and redirected our conversation to how I can accomplish those goals, and what I can do right now that would put me on a path to achieving them. It was at this point in our conversation that he told me something that changed my approach and gave me a new perspective on what I need to do now so that I can live the professional life I want later. He pointed to a table full of older men towards the front of the café and said “over there, at that table, there are 4 former CEO’s, and if you want to accomplish the things that they have accomplished and that I have accomplished, you need to make a list of your weaknesses and find a way to turn them into your strengths.” He pulled out a piece of paper and started drawing a map of a typical organization. He pointed out that all of the positions and experiences that I had had fell under the “Administrative” category and that if I wanted to lead an organization, I would need to understand the other two branches: Production and Sales.

It’s a simple concept, but becoming a “generalist” as he put it and it serves as my new foundation for this job search. Aside from expanding my options to positions outside of communications and public affairs, I think that trying something new might lead to a more enjoyable, less rebellious work experience.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Time Bind: A Book Review

This week, I’d like to take a break from my typical analysis-and-sharing-of-life-experiences format by providing a brief review of a great book called “The Time Bind” by Arlie Hochschild.

In the book, the author visits a town called Spotted Deer to observe the lives of several employees in a wide variety of positions within a large corporation, Amerco. The employees profiled in her analysis of various issues concerning work and life balance range from upper management to minimum wage, hourly employees, but the underlying common factor regardless of the employee’s position or pay grade is that hard work and long hours are at the foundation of Amerco. From Bill Denton and Vicky King, two employees in upper management to Connie Parker, an outspoken receptionist and Becky Winters, a single mother of two working in the warehouse, the battle between time with family at home and time spent at work is a constant struggle.

From the individual employee’s battle for a balanced life the author shares the companies battle for increased production and profitability. The hypocritical “bottom-line” trickles down through the ranks of the hierarchy, pushing a culture that is profit-driven, valuing longer hours in the office over shorter hours and efficiency. The hypocrisy of this profit driven model and the pressure put on employees to work longer, not necessarily “better” is twofold: As seen in many corporations, the upper level employees are compensated disproportionately, with a CEO making nearly $1.5 million a year and secondly, the literature, programs and even the mission of the organization communicate balance as a high priority. While programs to give flexible hours, provide job shares and encourage part-time workers do exist, the pressure put on employees and lower managers to uphold a facade of superior production and efficiency, paired with employees’ fear of being perceived as lazy or not as hardworking if they take advantage of these programs reduces their effectiveness is creating a “healthy work environment.”

This is illustrated in a description of Bill Denton’s dilemma in his role as the company supervisor of the work-life balance campaign. Hoschild describes his hesitation to fully embrace the program explaining the two key factors that kept him from acting on his understanding of the problem, citing “his sympathy for the family circumstances of Amerco’s wokers had to compete with other urgent company concerns, such as meeting production goals; and he lived in a social bubble among men who also worked very long hours, had wives at home and assumed the normality of this arrangement.”

The concept of “escape” is brought up repeatedly throughout the book and a surprisingly high number of employees were found to use work as more of an escape from home than the other way around. In many cases, the “second-shift” most easily defined as the time between coming home from work and going to bed is shared disproportionatly between mother’s and father’s in two parent homes. In single parent homes, individuals are forced to find family members or hire outside help to take care of the home but in two parent homes, the women observed by the author at Amerco spent a large majority of their time working in the second shift, while their husbands or male partners relaxed. In the words of Linda Avery, a mother and employee at Amerco describing the role of work as an escape from home, “nowadays, men and women both may leave unwashed dishes, unresolved quarrels, crying tots, testy teenagers and unresponsive mates behind to arrive at work early and call out, ‘hi fellas, I’m here!”

In her analysis of the second-shift and how different employees looked after their families while maintaining long hours at work, Hochschild presents an interested comparison between how employees at Americo (who represent typical American workers) compare to international employees with similar problems. She illustrates this comparison of strategies to overcome time scarcity saying “Had they lived in China, grandparents might be raising their children while [they] did ‘productive labor.’ Had they lived in a Ghanaian village, a sister might have pitched in while they sold goods at the market. In the New England of the 1800s, a son might have been placed as a millwright’s apprentice in a neighboring family short of boys,” going on to say that “in this town in the middle of America in the 1990s, no such options were available.

Hochschild goes on to further break down the “feminization” of Amerco and the role of women throughout the hierarchy, having to work harder to gain the respect of their male counterparts. She explains the strategies that parents use to take care of their kids without having to be there and the disconnect between management goals and employee needs. The role of family takes on many connotations, from managers that play the role of a “work mother” or “work father” to extended family that takes care of children while parents work inconsistent schedules. The reader comes to realize how connected to family and the work are; how long hours at work mean fewer stories that are read by a parent to a young child. How work can be used as an escape from problems at home and how work can cause divides between spouses that eventually lead to divorce. Regardless of the problem or the issue that is raised by work in the home, Hochschild identifies work as a dominating, difficult to manage obligation, but a necessary obligation in order to survive.

She ends her evaluation of the time bind by offering up a few strategies to limit the “pull of work.” These solutions include organizing, or unionizing to demand more flexible work conditions. More radical strategies include backtracking or plateauing to avoid taking on more work, or even taking part in a “back to the land” movement to simplify life by throwing out time wasting agents like television and the computer. Regardless of what strategy employees use to create balance, or at least the illusion of balance, it is clear that something needs to change for many employees and corporations, in order to aide the process of regaining productive lives at work and home.

Categories: Uncategorized

Another Note on Online Branding

With everything that’s been going on in my search for employment by the end of my last term at the University of Oregon in one of the worst economies in the last few decades, I can’t say enough about the importance of a personal brand online. I know that last week I gave 5 top tips for getting started, but I had a chance to think about it and have decided that I should give 5 more, in case some of you are skeptical about the need for an online resume when you just finished printing off 10 copies of a paper one.

Aside from the amount of time that having a profile on linkedin or visualcv.com can save you when figuring out the best way to drive potential employers to your experience, these platforms are the networking parties and chamber’s of commerce meetings of the future. I’ve been to a few networking events and have spent hours of my time talking to people who were interesting, but not necessarily in a position to hire me at their company. Online branding focuses your message and experience and can help put you in direct contact with people who have the power to provide you with the opportunities that you are looking for to advance your career. The process of searching for jobs and getting contact information for staff in the human resources department used to be a process that could take days if not weeks. Now, with sites like linkedin, the process takes a matter of minutes, which give the person searching for jobs time to explore every possible opportunity.

Rounding up precious letters of recommendation and mailing them to potential employers after initiating a conversation by mailing in a resume is now as quick as posting a link to your linkedin profile in an email and attaching a cover letter.

Most importantly, online profiles are free advertising; they are working for you to seek out opportunities and helping potential employers locate you as a candidate for positions inside their company. I was talking to a friend who recently graduated from a college in the Portland area this past spring. He was in the process of settling for a job in retail management when a recruiter contacted him about a job as a business analyst based on a profile that he posted a week before on Monster.com. Without the online profile, this friend would be working in a job that he didn’t enjoy making a fraction of what he is making now. Still a pessimist? Combine these tips inspired by Lynn Altman’s Brand It Yourself with the previous 5 and see what opportunities come your way!

#6 – Protect Your Image

I can’t stress this point enough: if you lose control of your message, you lose control of your brand. If you are posting personal information on your professional profile, it could hurt your image in the eyes of employers. It’s also a lot harder to take back what you say in social media. In person you can apologize of you make a mistake and say something inappropriate. The second you post something online, it’s there forever, floating around like digital trash waiting to be plucked out of the universe later on. Don’t say something that might come back to haunt you later (the same message applies to photos. See picture below for an example). I often times find myself getting really worked up about things that I read or take in during my daily social media and internet searches, but if I posted a comment on everything negative thing that I saw during the day, people might think that I was just a grumpy person, and how many people want to surround themselves or hire grumpy people? On the other hand, avoid being too positive: it’s creepy and annoying.

#7 Provide value to your audience

“No one cares what you ate for lunch” is the first line on the first page of the social media Bible. Part of establishing an online identity is providing value to your audience. With tools like twitter, it is especially important to provide valuable information if you want to increase your followers and be seen as a resource or a thought leader in your online community. Instead of saying that you had a tasty ham sandwich for lunch, give the name of the café that you picked it up from, add a link to their website and add a hashtag like #eugenefood. Now that’s interesting!

#8 Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by social media. It’s okay to step away from the computer for a couple days sometimes when you get to the point where your brain feels saturated with social media information. I sometimes find that when I get too worked up or caught up in my social media life, my real social life tends to suffer. After all, if you don’t have a life outside of social media, it’s difficult to communicate your brand. Feed off of your experiences in real life. Tell a story on a blog about something that happened to you that day, or share something that you learned in a class or at work that might help someone else out. The last thing you want to do is get so overwhelmed and worked up that you drop social media completely.

#9 Network: Pursue Your Audience

In life, some opportunities might find you, but for the most part, you will spend a large chunk of your time chasing them. The more you network through social media, the higher the chances are that you will break into the “doer and mover” networks and, as my mom used to say “soar with the eagles instead of waddling with the ducks.” The basics of networking haven’t changed, but the tools have. Instead of meeting at the country club or attending weekly chamber of commerce meetings, young professionals are now reaching the same audiences using twitter, or linkedin. You might even find that the more you look around the more you will stumble upon new or interesting networks. Get online, stumble around and you will eventually find an audience or a group of peers that share like interests. On twitter, focus your posts so that they are all related to a certain subject. This way people will be able to figure out what you are interested in seconds, and if they share your interests, bam! You just got another follower!

#10 Take A Photo

What’s more important to you online image   than an actual image? Find a picture that represents who you are and what you want to show the world. Look for a picture that    can be used on all of your profiles to stay      consistent. In my opinion, the photo is the most important piece of the puzzle. If you want to change your profile picture on Facebook, it okay, because Facebook is a casual communication tool and people often choose pictures that are directly related to their hobbies, like motorcycles, or dancing.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Note On Online Personal Branding

Lynn Altman said it best in her book “Brand It Yourself” when she summarized the process of establishing a brand, saying “Rule number one: get your product (or service) out there ahead of the competition, and get it quickly differentiated from the pack.” With that golden rule in mind and based on the summary of Altman’s arguments throughout the book, I’ve put together a list of the top 5 tips to establishing an online identity, one of the most important steps for any professional in today’s highly competitive global market.

Before jumping right in, I’d like to point out that establishing a personal online brand is an ongoing process, not something you can sit down and knock out in one day. With a task as big as transforming your work experience in real life into a new virtual world, it’s easy to procrastinate, but like anything in life according to Altman “the more time we’ve invested to reach a certain goal, the more importance it takes on, and the more dependent we become on its success.” Don’t get caught up in the pressure of creating the perfect brand over night; the important thing is to sit down and start the process.

After all, online personal branding is no longer the tool of the overachieving narcissist: it’s a necessity for anyone trying to stay competitive in today’s unstable economy. You can’t control every element of your job search or professional career but what you can control is the message that you want to send to potential clients, coworkers and employers. With over 350 Million people on Facebook, chances are you have a profile. I might also venture to guess that you have either thought about or have already started another online profile on another social media engine, be it a blog site, a twitter account, or a online portfolio type webpage.

Like any other company hoping to spread its message, you need to create an image, a brand that will blow people away. The proper use of social media and online communication tools and a consistent brand will propel you to achieve the success and exposure that will take you to the next level in your professional life.

The following is my list of the top 5 tips for establishing an online brand:

#1 – Define Your Purpose

Before jumping in and opening a kazillion accounts on a billion different networking sites, think about why you feel the need to create an online identity in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:

–  If you were a company, how would your mission statement read?

–  What do you hope to gain from social media tools?

–  What do you know about social media?

–   What social media tools are you currently using?

–   How will I keep track of my social media profiles?

–   Who is my audience for each page?

Defining your purpose will help you keep stay focused and on top of your social media profiles. It’s easy to lose track especially when you have profiles on different sites or if you use different sites for different audiences. You might not necessarily want to tell potentially employers how drunk you got last night (that’s what a private Facebook profile is for), which is far too easy to do if you lose track of your audience and your tools. You wouldn’t use a screw driver to pound in a nail, so why use facebook to communicate with potential employers when you could be using LinkedIn? Think of social media profiles as segments of your personality. It’s important to be able to put that suit and tie on and be professional on one website and it’s just as important to relax and feel comfortable on another.

#2 Identify Your Values and Passions

What do you love to do? I had a teacher my freshmen year of high school who gave me some great advice: “Take something you really enjoy and find a way to make money at it.” Her words couldn’t be more true when it comes to communicating your interests to friends or potential employers. The more passionate you are about something, the higher the chances are that it will shine through in your brand and in the way that you communicate with others, so figure out what you really enjoy and make a list. This will serve as a critical piece in the foundation of your online identity.

#3 Get Started! Establish an Online Identity

Now that you have defined your purpose and established some of your values and passions, get out there and open some profiles! This can be the most frustrating and exciting piece of the social media identity process. It often takes a little bit of research to figure out how you will use each tool.  A site called mashables.com is a great resource for researching uses for different tools but as a general rule, here are a few suggestions for getting started:

Facebook: Friends

LinkedIn.com: former bosses, professional networking

Visualcv.com: Online portfolio/writing samples, resume

WordPress: Have some funny stories or some advice? Are you a thought leader in a unique subject? Start a blog!

Twitter: Build a larger audience and follow them on tweetdeck

With these 5 profiles established you will be able to monitor other people’s profiles, get information on jobs and other interests and communicate a solid brand. Some people like to link their profiles, like their twitter and Facebook updates. I would recommend that you keep everything separate to avoid communicating the wrong things to the wrong people. As a general rule, drinking + social media = unsuccessful online branding campaign.

#4 Use Different Tools for Different Objectives

Once you get going, it will be easier to see how you can use different tools for different goals. One great thing about social media is that there are plenty of examples that newbies can follow when they’re just getting started. Get on each website and look around. Check out what more established users are doing to communicate their brand. As a general rule, use the following tools for the following goals.

Facebook –Interesting in making some friends, catching up with old ones or stalking people you see around town? Use Facebook as your personal online relationship and social tool.

Linkedin – Looking for a job or something to fill up space on a business card? Use LinkedIn to communicate with your professional contacts. Statistics are now showing that the majority of companies are now turning to LinkedIn before more traditional tools when seeking new employees.

Twitter – Want to share information about events, projects, article or media? Use twitter to share some of the things that you discover throughout the week (But don’t overwhelm!)

#Keep Profile Data Fresh

DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR PROFILES! Think about your brand as if it were a newborn baby: it needs to be fed, clothed and taken care of. You can’t expect positive results or an explosive online identity if you don’t put in the work to maintain it. Today’s audiences expect information instantly. While it would be impossible for you to update your profile every minute of every day, you should set aside at least an hour a day to monitor and maintain. There are 24 hours in a day; You can set aside one to maintain your brand.

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