Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Category: Resume Writing

Because Hope is Not a (Job Hunting) Strategy

The old ‘post-and-pray’ model (where Talent Acquisition publishes a job on the company ‘Careers’ page and HOPES that the right candidate applies) doesn’t work well.

We still post, of course, but we’re also reaching out to candidates and actively recruiting them.

‘Apply-and-pray’, the job seeker’s equivalent to ‘post-and-pray’, doesn’t work well either (unless you’re a mid-level developer). You might get lucky if you’re one of the early applicants. But especially at manager- and director-levels, your resume might not even get read unless you’re in the first wave.

I think the way we go about finding a new job needs to evolve.

That’s where marketing steps in.

You’ve heard of marketing campaigns, right? Companies create and run a series of visibility-raising programs to launch new products or to sell more of something.

In other words, while ‘apply-and-pray’ is a possible method (except, hope is not a strategy), there are other more-proactive (and interesting) routes to take.

Here are three:

  1. Create your professional brand 

Which problems do you most often get asked to solve? What kind of work do you love doing (and get paid for, of course)? Where are you happiest and most effective? What are you known for? How do you want to be known?

Are your resume and LinkedIn profile aligned and accurate? Do they clearly showcase your talents & accomplishments?

Once you’ve got your professional brand nailed (and you don’t need to do this with me), TAKING ACTION is important.

Because otherwise, you’re just putting yourself on a shelf and WAITING.

  1. Decide how you’ll market / promote yourself. 

You can do this in lots of ways:

  • Work with a trusted agency recruiter who’ll leverage their relationships (and credibility) to connect you with the decision-maker (but beware: the fees charged by agencies can be a barrier);
  • Find and nurture connections who have relationships with decision-makers inside the company(ies) you’re looking to join;
  • Develop a relationship with the company’s talent acquisition recruiter who can connect you with the decision-maker (best to do this far ahead of need);
  • Get out there in the world and meet new people;
  • Ask how you can help others (really!);
  • Offer your expertise and opinions (by mentoring, publishing LinkedIn articles or blogging, volunteering, attending industry events and workshops);
  • Change your LinkedIn status to ‘open to opportunities’ (passive, but helpful);
  • Participate regularly in ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ relevant LinkedIn posts (especially those posted by people you’re trying to get to know)
  1. Settle in…this is a campaign

Campaigns are not flash-in-the-pan, do-it-for-a-coupla-weeks strategies. Companies, PACs, the military, and political candidates devote significant chunks of time to them.

This requires consistency, courage, and curiosity. But being visible is a worthwhile practice even when you’re not actively job seeking.

Instead of networking in a burst to find a new job, think of networking as part of your career responsibilities.

Decide to participate in the larger community and make new contacts AT ALL LEVELS regularly. Connect with them in a meaningful way, and of course, nurture your LinkedIn network.

I’ve worked with some job seekers who relish marketing themselves & networking, and others who dread it. Guess which ones land sooner? Guess which ones feel more confident in their futures?

I’ve been taking an informal poll, asking every single (former) job seeker how they found their new role.

And do you know what? 99% said they got connected through someone they knew.

 

Need a jump-start on your professional brand? Let’s chat! Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15 minute no-strings intro call.

To Cover (Letter) or Not?

question: use Cover letters (pick one):

a) always;
b) never (they’re old-fashioned);
c) to hammer home why you’re a perfect fit for the job;
d) a and c;
e) b

I know, right?

Back when resumes were snail-mailed, a cover letter was an integral part of the application process, a genteel ‘nice to meet you.’ Today’s online applications have kicked cover letters to the job-hunting curb. Mostly.

So when DO you use a cover letter? What should it say? And to whom should it be addressed?

correct Answer: use a cover letter when it’s not immediately apparent why you’re the right person for this job.

For example:

  1. When applying to a job in a different  location (out of commute range), use a cover letter to briefly address:
    • What brings you to our fair state? (ie. to be near family, partner got a job or grad school placement here).
      We recruiters are leery of relocating someone JUST for a job, especially when Minnesota has things like…winter;
    • Timing (will you find a job FIRST, then move? How soon do you expect to be local?);
    • Will you be visiting the new metro (ie. be able to interview) before your move?
    • Are you looking for a relocation package (we’ll ask anyhow). Just say you’d welcome it but it’s not required.
  2. When you’re applying for a job that’s a slight pivot from your current one, use a cover letter to address the reason why your skills/experience are a fit (pick 2-3 skills found in both and briefly talk about yours).
  1. When you’re applying to a lower-level position. Again, keep it short, acknowledging that you’re applying to a less-weighty role. Focusing on the value (experience) you can add while dialing your work responsibilities back, ie. “I’m ready to move from a leading role to a supporting role.”

That’s the ‘when’;
Some tips on what to say 

  • Select 1-2 key requirements from the job description (don’t just match years of experience ~ find something juicier: talk about similar industry, company size, growth trajectory or how you’ve successfully tackled issues your target company may be facing);
  • Craft a couple of sentences about your experience as it relates to those requirements (ie. “with experience creating scalable processes within a rapidly-growing company, my background should be a good fit.”
  • Invite: “I’d welcome the opportunity for a conversation / interview / discussion. I’ve heard great things about <company / company’s transformation / other buzz>.”

And to whom

  • Do a quick LinkedIn search on the company you’re applying to. Can you figure out who the hiring manager is? If so, address it to that person and say something like, “Based on my research, it seems likely that this position reports to you.”
  • If you can’t figure out who the hiring manager is, see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is, who’s the recruiter listed as ‘point of contact’? Use that name. If there isn’t a recruiter named, address your cover letter to ‘Talent Acquisition’ or ‘<company name> Recruiter’.

put it all together: A template
(you’re welcome)

<Date>

<first last>
<title, department>
<company name>
<city state>

RE: <position title + job / requisition number from the company’s Careers page, if you have it>

Hi, <first name>,

I hope your <weekend was great / week is off to a good start / SuperBowl weekend was fantastic!>

I’m very interested in being considered for the role of <insert job title> at <insert company name>. With my <insert relevant skill #1>, <insert relevant skill or industry experience> + <insert soft skill>, my background should be a good fit.

I look forward to hearing from you or someone on your team!

Warm regards,
<your first and last name>
c 123.456.7890
<your email address>

Want your cover letter to be read?

Keep it short, relevant and curious/confident (not ‘pick me! pick me!’).

There are no guarantees that your cover letter WILL get read, but when you’ve kept it tidy and trim, it’s much more likely.


I’m a word-nerd + recruiter who loves to help mid-career job seekers refine (or define) their professional brand.

Need some help? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute chat.

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.

 

I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

5 Quick Tips for Bias-Proofing Your Professional Brand

I recently watched a TED talk given by a fellow recruiter. In it, she quoted a study done by The Ladders, the first-ever of its kind, which measured the amount of time recruiters spend looking at a resume.

Do you know how much time that is?

Six seconds. 

All the more reason to do two things:  have a great professional brand, and cultivate other avenues to the end goal (your new job), like networking, mentoring, speaking, blogging, and generally being connected “out there” in the world.

To give your brand the best possible six seconds…

  1. Leave location off your resume.
    Provide your email address, mobile phone (not home phone), and a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Use a professional-sounding personal email address.
    Firstname.Lastname@Gmail is best, in my opinion. AOL and Yahoo addresses, Comcast.net (for Twin Cities dwellers) sound vintage.
  3. Use a modern font like Calibri. No more Times New Roman.
  4. ‘Objective’ is out.
    Use ‘Professional Summary’ or ‘Summary of Qualifications’. Unless you’re a director or above, please don’t use ‘Executive Summary’.
  5. Have a crisp LinkedIn headshot with a neutral background.
    No wedding photos, fish, or 10-year old boudoir shots. Your photo should look like you (how else are your new networking contacts going to find you at the coffee shop?)

Read more about cultivating your network here.

In the end, job hunting is marketing. And marketing is about presenting a clear and compelling product, YOU.

Don’t let subtle, bias-inducing components get in your way. Give yourself an advantage & use these tips for a great head start.

PS: If you’re struggling, I can help. Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute get-to-know-you call.

 

Tell a Better (Professional) Story

For many people, writing (especially a resume) is right up there with a root canal.

Assembling details, knowing what to include, and finding the right words to describe one’s professional achievements is…tedious. It can feel like (uncomfortable) self-promotion. Also, there might be awkward gaps and regrettable choices, and now they’re being put on display.

But being seen is unavoidable when job-seeking. Or when ramping up a side business or making a foray into public speaking, for example. Take comfort in knowing that 99% of the population feels the same way (cringey), and then tell your professional story anyhow.

I recommend the following:

  1. Meet your reader where they are: to tell a good story, assume your reader knows practically nothing. If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, you’ll recall that JK Rowling takes time in each to thoroughly describe the setting and to review what happened in the previous book. She brings her readers up to speed with context.

Do the same with your resume:  what kind of business do you work for? How many people are there? What’s the annual revenue? Is it global? National? Local? Paint a word picture. Details are important to give context: what size team were you on/did you manage? What is/was the budget you manage(d), what’s the scale and scope of your work? Include accomplishments, ROI, and measurable impacts like $/time saved or efficiencies /profitability gained.

Your first resume draft should be a brain dump: get it all out. Then, revise (which brings us to step 2):

  1. Use the best (word) ingredients: Alice Waters is a Northern California chef who’s known for her exquisite, simple food. Her secret: in recipes with just a few ingredients, use only the freshest and best.

How does that translate to a resume? Here’s how: once you’ve written a first draft, read it out loud. Be on the lookout for redundancy (words or phrases repeated). Find different ways to say things. Get rid of stock phrases that have little meaning. If you’re drawing a blank, Google ‘thesaurus’ to help get you thinking. Slow down a little, and be discerning. When you find adjectives that describe you/your work aptly, use those.

Very important side note: avoid using overly dramatic words. Let others use “visionary”, “vast”, “outstanding”, or “authentic” to describe you. When you apply them to yourself, they sound hollow and self-promoting. Meaningful (and true, not trite) words carry your resume.

Finally,

  1. When you think you’re dressed, take off one piece: Coco Chanel, an early 20th century fashion disrupter, OWNED simplicity. In an era when fussy fashion was the norm, her minimalistic style stood out. Do the same with your resume.

Cluttered, busy, overly full resumes are overwhelming. OVERWHELMING DOES NOT GET READ.

When you think you’ve finished writing your resume, find things that don’t need to be there. Ask yourself, “Does it add value? Does it contribute to the picture I’m trying to paint?”

If not, be ruthless and TAKE IT OFF. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use space to your advantage ~ it will emphasize your well-chosen words and phrases. White space invites your reader in.

A resume is an appetizer, intended to whet interest and declare relevancy. It’s a preamble to the meal (the interview, the job offer). It’s not the meal itself (or the entire story of your career).

When you remember to tell your professional story using context, simplicity, and the best ingredients, you’ll stand out.

And isn’t that what you want?

 

Struggling with crafting your resume and/or LinkedIn profile? I can help!
Check out my Professional Branding Package here

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