Fired. Not Hired.

Sometimes I think I may be the most qualified person to own an employment agency on the planet. If a good education and knowledge comes from the school of hard knocks, I should know a thing or two about work and working.

To wit:

I’ve been fired multiple times (including from my own company).

I’ve drawn unemployment in two states.

I sued a company once (worker’s comp).

I’ve screwed up so many job interviews I can’t even count.

I’ve quit jobs before I even started them. And quit without notice.

I’ve slept during work.

I’ve taken drastic cuts in pay (over 75%) to pursue opportunities that I was more passionate about. I’ve also taken pay cuts because there wasn’t enough money to pay me.

I had a boss once scream at me and throw stuff around his office in a temper tantrum.

I’ve literally pounded the pavement looking for work. For months. Didn’t get a job.

I’ve quit jobs without new jobs lined up.

I’ve had to lay people off.

I’ve packed up and moved to a new state with no job. Twice.

I’ve been told to “look for a new job,” so as to not be fired.

I’ve been a human resources director.

I’ve had non-competes enforced against me. And I’ve had to enforce them.

I’ve broken equipment.

I’ve been paid under the table.

My first 10 years out of college I had 13 jobs.

So what’s this all mean? Besides that I needed to do a lot of growing up over the years?

One of the core tenets of my employment agency, Mathys+Potestio, is empathy for the person looking for work. And empathy for the employers. Twenty years of executive management in business will provide that, too.

So, if you feel a different vibe from my team but can’t quite put your finger on it, it’s this:

We get it.

Millenials killed my Sports page

I know everyone gets news online now, or has been for a while. So have I. No one under 30 reads the newspaper, and the rest of us have had to adjust. But until recently, I still reveled in one blast from the analog past. I read the newspaper Sports page every morning with my coffee. On work days, I read it at the dining room table, as it seemed more formal and more business-like. Saturdays with my lucky college football mug and a spot on the couch. I deserved this moment after a week of work. My dog always joined me on my lap. Sundays? The couch again, this time maybe with some music and more formal of a breakfast than just cereal.

But all that changed a week ago and nothing has been right ever since. My local paper kept cutting back on content. Adding links to “read more” online and putting some stories and features primarily online. Box scores? That has always been the bastion of print. You need to sit and read them. Study them! Who went 8-20 last night with 20 points and 8 rebounds? Who went 3-4 at the plate? What’s your favorite player’s batting average now? These are things designed to be scoured in the printed word spread out in pages in front of you. Yes, sometimes even sitting on the can! When my local paper cut not only the content, but the design and size of the paper, that was the last straw as a Sports page reader. It was their way of saying, we’ll just keep shrinking this thing and taking away your fun until you join us on-line. Well it worked. I cancelled the paper and opened my laptop.

Now Saturday mornings are spent on the couch with my laptop open. I have to log onto numerous sites to find my news. Sports over here, local news and business news here. Box scores? I don’t really read those anymore. Haven’t found them and it’s just not the same. The dog? He’s still on my lap but he doesn’t really have a good space now either. He’s shoved down onto my legs somewhere having been replaced on my lap by the computer.

We’re adjusting but not happy about it. Some things, Sports pages and dogs, should just remain analog.

Your Personal Brand. Grow and Evolve your Career.

What is a personal brand? Your personal brand is not only who you are, it’s how others see you. Employers. Co-workers. Future employers. Clients.

A good way to think about this is to think about you as packaging on a shelf. I hate to take it to this level, but if you are looking for work, this is how employers think. They are looking for the “product” that best fits their need.

Now, if this sounds unappealing, think about this: Unlike the product on the shelf, you have a choice as to who’s shopping cart you go for a ride in! So while you build and develop a brand, remember your brand always has the ability to ask whether you are a fit with the organization looking to hire you. That is one of the cards you hold.

Examples of a personal brand could be:

Aspiring copywriter with a flair for humor
Account planner focused on brand strategy
Client services professional dedicated to great customer service

Things to remember and keep in mind when developing and refining your brand.

  • Be consistent
  • Define who you are/what you want. Unless you have no definition. That’s a brand too. But don’t expect someone else to figure you out.
  • If you don’t know what you want, focus on who you are. Try to have one of these set especially if you are looking for work.
  • View yourself as others will and build how you want them to see you.
  • Know yourself.
  • Be confident in your abilities.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses.

You have something to offer. It’s your job to effectively communicate what that is. There are people/employers out there that will figure it out themselves but you can’t rely on that.

What if you are still trying to figure out your next steps or what your brand is? That’s OK too, but be aware of the messages and content you are “putting out there”. Every message has the potential to influence your brand.

Social media is now where our personal brands often live.

Linkedin is your brand at work.
Facebook is your brand at play.
Twitter is your brand speaking.

If you are looking for a job, you send your resume to a company – What is the first thing an employer does when they get your resume and are potentially interested in your background? They immediately go to your Linkedin page to see what you look like. But, they are also digging deeper into your background and experience and looking for consistencies or inconsistencies in your background. If your Linkedin profile does not match or support your resume, it sends a bad signal to the employer. They are left to question why there are inconsistencies. People are busy. They may not take the time to try to figure out why you have an inconsistent message.

Your Linkedin profile is your chance to really impress, expand upon and support what is listed in your resume.
The use of Linkedin has exploded in the last 12-24 months. It’s hiring voyeurism.

Linkedin is your on-line resume and a very powerful job search tool.

Do:

  • Put a picture up. You can make this invisible to people you aren’t connected with. Why would you do this? In case you do not want people either making judgments based on how you look, privacy.
  • Write a compelling summary. Keep it short but sweet. It can grow as your career grows.
  • Write a summary/bio that tells people who you are, what you are, and some of your accomplishments. Summarize your “brand”
  • Constantly develop your network/add connections.
  • Get recommended. And recommend people back.
  • Join Groups related to your career interests.
  • Complete your profile – add details and accomplishments to your work history.
  • Be careful in selecting a title – make it mean something.

Don’t:

  • Put in too much personal information
  • Look nude in your photo
  • Use abbreviations – spell things out
  • Use Linkedin too aggressively when looking for a job – example – you send your resume to HR at a company, and then find the HR person at that company and send them a note through Linkedin. Too forward.

Your resume supports your brand. It needs to be consistent with Linkedin. This helps support and furthers your brand.

Don’t believe what they all say about employers and Facebook – yes, employers will try to look at your profile and make judgments on what you are doing. There have been many articles scaring people into believing that HR will disqualify people based on their FB activity. There has also been just as many articles that indicate employers want to see you out socializing. This indicates that you have a healthy social life and can potentially be a good teammate and connect well with clients and vendors.

Twitter is your brand speaking. Be cognizant of what you post. Try to either strike a balance between your personal and professional or consider separate accounts. If you are branding yourself an expert or have passion in a particular area, support this through your Tweets.

All this activity that you do and all this content that you are putting out there, supports what you are saying when you are in interview situations.

For example, you go into an interview as the “aspiring copywriter with the flair for humor” and the writing on your Linkedin has no humor or no flair, your brand is not consistent. If you, however, have some compelling writing, are connected with Linkedin groups that are industry specific, and have Twitter feeds and posts based on writing, industry news, ad campaigns you find are well done, etc., you begin to form a more consistent brand.

Communication and appearance are also big aspects to your brand. This can be the “experience” of your brand. The employer has taken the package off the shelf and may be interacting with the product. What is the experience they have when interacting with your brand?

If you are super casual and want to work in a place that is super casual, that kind of appearance may become part of your brand. But be aware that I may not fit everyplace. Be keenly aware of your brand perception.

In summary – your brand is your package. It’s the look and feel. It’s the wording. It’s the product itself. The benefits of using the product. How you feel when interacting with the product.

The product on the shelf. You.

What Makes a Good Portfolio? The 2012 Guide to the Portfolio.

This is a special edition for all you soon to be graduates. But, most of what is here applies to anyone with or without a portfolio. And while these are rules, remember, rules can be broken. This is more of a guide and really, you can overthink this stuff too. Comforting I know.

Some of these rules apply to physical books and others specifically to on-line. You can figure out which is which.

Make it about the work. The idea here is to not make it about the case or box your work is in. Give the case the attention it deserves, make it nice, but don’t go overboard. A vintage suitcase filled with a poor portfolio? Only the suitcase is remembered.

Only show work you like. Hopefully, this is also your best work. Don’t show work you don’t like unless it tells a successful story. The project you had to crank on all night because of a late change-order and the client loved it. In general, if you don’t like the work, or it was not successful, why are you showing it?

Show the thought that went into the work. Concepts are good. Sketches are great. People love to see how you think.

Not too much, not too little. The whole presentation should last about 30 minutes. Don’t show too much work and don’t show too little. Multiple pieces in a campaign count as one piece. It’s good to have 12-15 pieces. If you are just graduating and you are worried that you don’t have this much, try to get to 10. Fewer than 10 is too little. One way to increase the number if you are coming out of school….have friends and family “assign” you projects. Don’t do it yourself. You may pick stuff that is too easy. Try to freelance too to get portfolio pieces.

Show variety. Show that your creative mind is nimble. Don’t focus on one industry. Don’t show just one style.

Start with a bang and end with a bang. Put great work first and last. Don’t show work chronologically.

What about my photography of kittens? Hmmm….maybe not. Work that is not relevant to the jobs you are interviewing for can be great if it paints a bigger picture of who you are and the breadth of your creativity. It can also detract and backfire. Think about it. If it’s really a strong part of what makes you, your brand, go for it.

Make it easy. Realize you may not be present to walk someone through your work. Provide descriptors as to the project, the creative brief, and some words around your execution. The viewer needs to understand why you did what you did without you telling them.

Be organized. Don’t end the presentation with 15 pieces spread over a table unless you are just that crazy throwing stuff around.

Make a nice user experience. Don’t make the viewer look too hard to find the work on your site. It should be easy to access, easy to view.

Never make the viewer work too hard. They just may not do it.

If you have a freelance business, but are also looking for a job, you need to make it clear which is which. Don’t point someone to a website that comes across like an agency site if it’s just you. You may need to change things a bit. I’m Bob who runs Bob Design; I’m not Bob Design per se right now, because Bob wants a job. Get it?

Make your portfolio part of a presentation. How you show the work can be as important as the work. If you can’t speak to why you did what you did, or what problem it solved, why did you do it? Practice your presentation. You are also viewed on how you present as you may be presenting your employer’s work some day to a potential client.

Breathe. Do your best. Try to leave every meeting comfortable that you did the best you could.

…thanks for Jeremy Pair, two more points…

Give credit. Make sure you indicate your role in the project, and give credit to others when due. Believe it or not, I have seen the same piece in multiple portfolios with each person taking credit. Someone is not telling the truth!

And, indicate what is a student piece and what is not where applicable.

Enjoy!

Resume Guide 2011 – Creative Industry Edition

The golden rule – you cannot change who you are or what your experience is. But you can change how you present your background.

The resume serves one purpose – to get you the meeting/interview. Don’t do anything on the resume to hurt this.

Do not misspell anything. Use proper grammar. Have someone else proofread.

Use a pleasing layout. White space counts.

No Times New Roman. No MS Word template.

Do not over design. An identity is fine, a logo mark is fine. Graphical elements and an overuse of color are not.

Have a professional e-mail address.

Do not send your resume from your current employer’s e-mail. Do not communicate with a prospective employer using your current employer’s e-mail.

If your cell phone is listed, don’t answer your cell phone with “yo, what’s up?” “Who is this?” or other ways that sound unprofessional.

If you are at least two years out of school, educational information can move to the bottom.

There are three kinds of resumes: chronological, functional, and a blend of the two.

You should expect a resume to be reviewed in 30 seconds. Get your point across quickly and clearly.

Never more than two pages. Never.

Be honest.

Use action verbs but avoid buzzwords. “Think outside of the box” was never a good phrase.

Highlight accomplishments.

Never, ever make the reviewer work too hard to find out who you are and what you’ve done. It’s not their job to figure out who you are. It’s your job to communicate it clearly.

Your interests are your interests. Be careful what you list if you list them.

Don’t hype or exaggerate.

If you are a designer, also have a “snapshot” PDF portfolio to send as well. Don’t include your whole book. Leave them wanting more.

Write a good cover letter.

If you use humor, use it sparingly and smartly. Make sure you’re funny.

Package and market yourself with the same attention that you do your clients.

Do what I did. And other ways to not get a job.

I wanted to be a graphic designer since I was about 13 when I redesigned a poster for the movie Live and Let Die. It was cool. Had an alligator. Through high school I would crank tunes in my room and redesign logos for every band I listened to.

Once in college I began pursuing a career in advertising, wanting to be an art director or copywriter. I was going to be a star. That’s what all the professors told me. “You’re going to have a great career in advertising” they said.

So what did I do to make it happen? Nothing.

I partied. I fell asleep in class. Oh I did my work and got good grades but that was it. I assumed I would have a career. I didn’t have internships, had no summer jobs in the industry. Did not go on informational interviews. Didn’t do any networking.

Nope. I drank beer, played basketball and did not worry about my career. Ooops.

So when I graduated I shopped my advertising portfolio around town and…got a job as a busboy. Parents were really proud. It took me nine months to finally break into the advertising business.  Six years into my career I quit a job without another lined up. But I had not planned. I had no network and few job prospects. I pounded the pavement for months (yes….the old way by actually walking) and finally landed another ad agency role.

From my job search as a graduate and as an unemployed professional, I learned a thing or two about finding work.

After 7 years I became disenchanted with the ad business. I left and morphed into recruiting and staffing. I had empathy for job seekers based on my history. I could also teach from my experiences. I knew what to do and what not to do to find a job.

If you are in school still, don’t do what I did. Get an internship. Network. Engage with the school and your professors. Plan ahead.

Today it’s a challenging job market for many skill sets. But still everyday I see good candidates doing bad things. Things that do not help them get a job.

Take note.

-If I can’t find you, I can’t hire you. Do not name your resume file “resume”. Add your phone number to your e-mail signature. If I am on the run and need to pull up an e-mail to call you, I need your phone number.

-Send thank you notes or e-mails. It’s a lost art. It shouldn’t be. Graciousness never goes out of style.

-Showing up for an interview without doing your homework. If you don’t care enough to find out about the company and role, why should the company care to find out about you?

-Realize hiring is a two-way street. It’s not the hiring company’s job to figure out why they should hire you. It’s your job to present your case in the best way possible. And be prepared to interview the company. You may be showing up to work there everyday. There must be something you want to know about it.

-Package yourself in a clear and consistent manner. Brand yourself. Know who you are. Understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Be honest and realistic.

-Don’t be too timid and don’t be too obnoxious when pursuing opportunities. It’s a balance. Be confident. Hold your head up.

-Market yourself. Look for opportunities and look for jobs. Jobs exist. Opportunities are created.

-Constantly evolve. Don’t get tired. Don’t lose your edge. Stay relevant.

-The old adage is true. Finding a job is a job. Work at it every day. And if you do, give yourself a break. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Drink a beer. Go play basketball.

But then get back to work.